The poise of a Punk Rock Unicorn

Digging through the bag of fabric paint, she knows exactly what she’s looking for. The body of the unicorn gets turquoise blue in swirling dabs, while the mane, tail and tiny hooves are carefully added with small, precise strokes of bright pink. Next, the horn and three music notes are added in dark purple.

Smiling, she dips a slim brush into a glob of sparkly gold and begins adding dots around the large black lettering of her band name, “Punk Rock Unicorn.”

“This looks so good,” she says.

She doesn’t ask what I think.

She doesn’t worry if her bandmates will like it.

She loves it.

“Can you paint my nails?” she asks. “Some blue and some pink. Oh, and with gold tips!”

I say yes, but I struggle to make it happen. The main color doesn’t reach the edge of every nail, and the gold tips are uneven.

“Sorry,” I say.

“They are perfect,” she says while wiggling her fingers in front of her face. “Thank you!”

It’s time to leave for her band’s show, the culmination of a week of Girls Rock Camp. She is wearing her favorite leggings, a faded swirling galaxy of pink and purple with visible holes in the knees. Her hair isn’t brushed and it’s matted in the back where she slept on it wet.

“Are you sure you don’t want to wear a sparkly skirt and brush your hair? Maybe add some color?”

“I look fine mom,” she says. “I’m comfortable.”

I want to fight her.

I want her to care more about how she looks.

I want her to look more put together.

But there she is, my Punk Rock Unicorn, smiling at me without any hesitation at all, while I changed my outfit several times and still wasn’t happy with my own reflection in the mirror.

This is all I’ve ever wanted for my girl, to be unapologetically herself, to not shrink for anyone, and to rock everything she does without fear or doubt.

Her confident smile is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

At the show, I watch her and all the girls playing instruments and singing with a reckless joy I don’t know I’ve ever felt in my life.

They are brave, free and strong.

They are working together, not in competition, lifting and rising as one.

I’m so happy for them…until I’m not.

Something inside starts churning up, this voice of perfectionism and criticism.

Why is my girl singing so quietly? She isn’t smiling and doesn’t look as confident as some of the others. Why did she act shy when she was given a compliment? I’m sure it’s my fault, something I’m doing wrong. I’m ruining this perfect girl.

After the show, she runs to me and hugs me hard. She has bright blue eye makeup and sparkly lip gloss her coach put on her backstage. Her arms feel strong and solid.

“Did you have fun?” I ask her.

“Yes!” she says.

“How come you looked so shy up there? Why weren’t you smiling more?”

The words come tumbling out before I can stop them. I recognize this voice, the very same one sabotaging my writing and stopping me from doing anything I might fail it.

Shit.

I don’t want it to be her voice.

I search her face, looking for any trace of damage my words may have caused.

“What do you mean?” she says.

Her face is as radiant as ever.

“I’m very proud of you,” I say. “You really rocked it up there! It looked so fun. I bet you are proud.”

“Thanks,” she says. “I am!”

She melts into me, the warmth of her body like a blanket soothing my critical voices and giving me another chance.

Always another chance.

I remember her plan to have her bandmates and coaches sign her shirt.

“People are starting to leave,” I say. “Did you still want to get signatures?”

“Yes,” she says and runs off to borrow a pen.

I watch her go and make it happen for herself.

Her confidence isn’t loud or boastful, but calm and careful.

She gently taps friends and coaches, asking them to sign her shirt, standing still as they do.

I see many are holding the tiny pink unicorn erasers she spent an hour digging out of the bins in her room, the ones she so thoughtfully brought for them all.

My heart nearly bursts.

This girl is everything.

After the show, we head to dinner and she gives the waitress one of the teeny unicorn erasers, a light pink one with a purple mane and tail.

“Did you see her smile?” she says. “I think she liked it.”

“Yes,” I say. “You make everyone smile, just by being you.”

“Thanks mom.”

*For more information about Girls Rock Sacramento visit http://www.girlsrocksacramento.com

 

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Saying goodbye 15 years late

Yesterday, while dancing away in the kitchen to Prince’s “1999,” I was suddenly cleaning my childhood home with my mom. Dancing, spinning and singing at the top of our lungs as we dusted and mopped. Prince, his tight pants and high voice, will forever be synonymous with my mother.

Driving to the coast last week, “In Your Room” by Depeche Mode came on the radio and I had an instant picture of my 16-year-old self. I’m alone, crying in my bedroom, playing that song on repeat and thinking I’d never find true love.

Whenever I hear David Bowie’s voice anywhere, even shopping at the grocery store, I picture him as the Goblin King in “Labyrinth” and I’m suddenly a young girl again. I can feel a surge of hope, as strong as ever, that somewhere out there is a mythical lover waiting for me, busy creating a world for the two of us alone. Bowie brings out the melodramatic romantic in me.

There is a soundtrack to life. A musical memory to accompany all the events, people and emotions that have combined to create the person we are right this minute. It feels like magic to me.

Music, like water and air for my soul, is something I can’t live without. Whenever strong emotions threaten to break me, I need to find music to match my mood and reflect back what I am feeling.

Johnny Cash is for the blues, obviously. There is nothing like the Man in Black when you want to wallow. Nahko and Medicine for the People are for when I’m feeling hopeless, picking me up when I think I can’t take it anymore. I love Emily Kinney for when I want to feel youthful and optimistic. Beastie Boys, Tori Amos, Imagine Dragons, Pixies, Queen. They all have a role to play in my emotional rolodex of music.

For over a decade, there is one CD I have to hear at least once a week. It fits a variety of my moods, but is particularly good for when I just want to sing and be happy.

eye

I found this CD in a free bin at work about 18 years ago. It never had a case and I have always just called it the “eye CD.” As in “where did I put the eye CD?” and “I need to hear me some eye.”

This week I pulled it out again and was singing along when it occurred to me, I have no idea who the singer is.

Seriously.

This voice I have grown to love and cherish is a complete mystery. As a former journalist, I’m shocked at myself. I suddenly had to know what he looked like. I had a million questions. Is he still touring? What other music of his am I missing out on? How old is he? Where does this album fit with his other music? Where did he grow up? What are his musical influences?

In tiny writing under the eye, I find a name.

Josh Clayton-Felt.

Excited, I type his name into Google and within a matter of minutes I have all the answers.

I also have a broken heart.

This beautiful singer, whose voice I adore, whose lyrics I have sung a thousand times, died of testicular cancer is 2000.

He has been gone for 15 years.

I spend the next few hours looking at pictures of his young face, listening to other music he created before he died, reading online interviews, watching videos and tributes.

I discover his mother, a playwright named Marilyn Felt, created an entire musical fable based on his life and his music called “Lightsong.” You can download it for free. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.

While my heart is heavy at this loss, fresh and new to me, I’m also filled with gratitude for having stumbled upon “the eye” so many years ago.

His words are a part of my soundtrack and part of who I am. Now I have a little more of him to carry me through.

Thank you Josh Clayton-Felt.

If your road has reached the ocean
But your legs still want to go
And if they taught you how to doubt it
But you know it isn’t so

And if the moments seem to miss you
And if your partner isn’t there
And if you know you could reach the treasure
But you keep coming up for air

If you want to get through
To the other side
Let the dragonfly
Come and give you a ride
Every day you’re born
And every night you die
Let the dragonfly
Come and give you a ride

–lyrics from “Dragon Fly” by Josh Clayton-Felt

Top 5 ways to make your minivan stand out

Since it has been about 1,000 degrees here in good old Northern California, the kids and I decided ice cream was the only thing we could do to survive.

We got our cones and hopped back in the van. Before I turned on the AC and jetted on our way, there were several tasty drips needing my full attention.

Suddenly the side door of the van was opened and there stood a very frazzled looking mom with two fussing toddlers. It took her about five awkward seconds, shoving one such toddler actually into the van, before she realized she had the wrong van.

We all laughed.

The mom lugged her precious little ones down two grey vans over and continued on her way.

It is bad enough we all have the same black yoga pants and some version of the same black bathing suit; do we have to have an official vehicle as well?

Apparently, grey minivan it is.

Side note: Whoever is deciding the mom trends, can we do something cool next time? Please. You are killing me here.

vanSo I decided to write to you, my fellow moms, in an act of pity. I see you winding through the Costco parking lot clicking your alarm button as you desperately try to find the right grey van before your gaggle of tired children and your year’s supply of turnips spoil.

Never fear, Super Mom is here! (At least that is what my kids call me when I tell them to.)

Here are my top 5 creative, simple and budget friendly ways to stand out from the mom pack.

1. Stickers and balloons

For some reason stores think your children are dying for stickers and balloons. Both are useless and forgotten in five seconds. That is unless the balloon floats away and then we will mourn the loss of “balloony” for about a year. Maybe longer, depending on the age and stubbornness (I mean sensitivity) of your child. If the balloon survives, hang its limp dead form from the coat hanger/handle things in the back. They can then smack against the window as you drive providing a beautiful rhythmic sound to soothe your children to sleep.

As for the stickers, don’t throw any away. Ever! These can be used to create a very unique look to your van. You could let your child decorate just the inside windows. Make sure the stickers are varying sizes and shapes. It creates a beautiful pattern of shadows on the tinted windows that will be admired by all. But don’t stop there! Let them plaster those suckers all over the outside as well. The rain will start, maybe not if you live in California, and as they peel away it will make your van an eye sore/eye catcher for sure.

2. Don’t forget the stick family

You may have noticed most grey vans include the stick family in the back left window and you may be tempted to not have one. You might think that alone will make you stand out. It won’t. You can’t. It’s required. So you have to do it. It’s a mom thing.

You do however have options. Exaggerating the number of pets/people is one way to go. Cats all along the back, maybe several rows of cats, could work. There is also Star Wars, zombies and Disney! I personally recommend these: “We’re a hoot” and the family is all owls. “Just chillin’” and the family is all penguins. “Bear with us” and the family is all bears. Adorable.

Of course, you can go the “I’m so cool that I totally make fun of stick family figures” route. There are many such options for you. Such as “How stick figure families are made” (with a nice little humping graphic), “My stick family was abducted,” “Nobody cares about your stick family,” “Run you stick bastards” (dinosaur and monster truck version) and “The Ass Family” (Jack, Smart, Lazy, Kiss and Dumb).

This is a great chance to let the personality of your family shine through and brighten up your dull, grey van of boredom. Also, it’s required. So get it done and don’t argue with me or I’ll pull this van over.

3. Dangling mirror things

If you think the front of the van doesn’t matter, your wrong. So very wrong. Why are you always doing things wrong? What is wrong with you? The front totally matters because sometimes you walk down the row at Costco where you just see the front of cars and you will be completely lost and you’ll say to yourself, “I should have listened to the blogger chick, the front does matter.”

It’s OK. I forgive you and I have a plan. You know how your kids are always making you things out of paper, tin foil and garbage? Find one of those and hang it from your review mirror. Bam! Good mom award for not throwing out the treasure and you will be sure to recognize your child’s perfect piece of modern art. You are such a good mom. Your hair is pretty too.

4. Dents

This one is a little tricky. I’m not advocating taking the biggest hammer you can find and smacking the van in various locations to give it a more textured look. No. I’m not. Don’t do that. If you do, make sure it’s after one of your kids just did something truly terrible and your really mad. I can imagine that might feel good and they would be super scared to try that shit again. But you probably, most definitely, should not purposely dent up your van.

However, if your van does get some dents, use those to your advantage! Your dents will be an original expression of your driving and will be highly respected/feared on the road.

Caution: If you think denting up your van bad enough you have to replace it with a cooler car is a possibility, it is not. You will just have a very badly dented van. So, you know, keep that in mind when you start swinging.

5. Music

Once you find your dented, sticker-laden van of motherhood bliss, it is time to stand out more with what you choose to blare from the speakers. This is a personal choice, of course, but I have some wonderful suggestions to make you really stand out.

First, always, and I mean ALWAYS, have the bass turned up. Your kids will love it. Your neighbors will love it. The cute guy in the convertible next to you will love it. Even if you’re playing the soundtrack to the Wiggles (and for heaven’s sake, don’t do that), the bass will overpower the actual music and people will still think your cool.

Second, “Turn Down For What?” Play that. Loud. Even if your kids are napping, they will eventually learn to sleep through it. It’s awesome and you will look much younger and hipper.

Third, don’t forget that car dancing is a perfect excuse to get in some cardio between all those mom errands. The more arm movements, the higher the heart rate. Really go for it. Trust me, your kids will find you adorable and not at all embarrassing.

***

That’s it! It really is so simple. If you follow these 5 easy steps not only will you never get into the wrong van again, but I promise you will live a long, happy life.

Disclaimer: These tips have not been proven to help anyone live a happier or longer lasting life, nor have they been tested on animals (unless you consider my children animals and if you do, shame on you, my kids are perfect.)

This warrior is going to cut out her bit of sky

Tears flowed easily all morning as I felt pain radiate from my burned hand and crawl all over my body. It coursed like blood through me, stabbing me with the overwhelming sadness that has become my default emotion.

I made myself get out of my car and sit under a tree in front of my children’s school. No more tears, Bridgette. Just write your sadness.

My injured hand jerked across the paper as I wrote sappy poems about the meaning of life, letters to my younger self and declarations of finding happiness.

Then I looked up and one of my friends was standing there. The sunlight shining through the trees framed her face and she looked like an angel.

“You looked sad, so I thought I’d come over.”

We chatted for a few minutes about the book she just completed, our children and the power of music.

This is life, I thought.

Connection.

Love.

Compassion.

She picked up her boy from kindergarten and then brought over a CD of the band we had been talking about. As she pulled away in her truck, she and her joyous boy called and waved to me.

Thank you for that act of love friend.

You pulled me back.

Sometimes I feel like a caricature of sadness, like I have one of those little storm clouds drawn over my head with rain falling on me.

IMG_4031

It’s ridiculous and I want to slap myself awake.

But it is what it is.

I have been using that expression for weeks now. During that time, I’ve barely written anything. I’m not running. I’m impatient and being a crap wife, mother, daughter and friend.

It is what it is, though, right?

I’ve been telling myself that I’m using that phrase because I’ve reached a place of acceptance.

Nope.

It’s just another excuse. Another way to say “poor me” and not make myself accountable for my actions.

It is what it is.

Blah.

Enough already.

Time to fight.

That CD my friend gave me is a band called “Nahko and Medicine for the People.”

This is the stuff.

Seriously good medicine.

One song in particular, “Warrior People,” has become my rallying cry. I’ve been listening to it about a dozen times a day and singing it loudly until my voice cracks. Some of my favorite lyrics:

“I’m just a human being on another fucking journey.”

“I teach my children who to trust and how to listen.”

“I will learn to be peaceful but I keep my knife at my side.”

“Used to be restless, now I am relentless.”

“Everything you do in life is definitely relevant.”

I’m really getting bored and tired of feeling like an injured puppy lying around licking my wounds.

Time to be the warrior that I know I am.

As I write these words, I can’t help but feel like a broken record on repeat. I’ve said them before. I’ve been in this place before. I keep feeling stronger, but then…

It’s always something.

There is always another stumble down the stairs of sadness.

Always.

And it’s OK.

I have lots of fight left in me.

As I struggle along, I keep my eyes upward these days. The sky has become a beacon of hope for me. I stare up and remind myself how small I am and how truly out of my hands some things are.

“He built himself a house,
his foundations,
his stones,
his walls,
his roof overhead,
his chimney and smoke.

He made himself a garden,
his fence,
his thyme,
his earthworm,
his evening dew.

He cut out his bit of sky above. And he wrapped the garden in the sky and the house in the garden and packed the lot in a handkerchief and went off lone as an arctic fox through the cold unending rain into the world.”

–“Fairy Tale”, Miroslav Holub

sky