Dear Teen Me from author Jeanette Larson (HUMMINGBIRDS

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Dear Teen Me:

Let me start by saying that from the distance of several decades, your teen years don't look too shabby. Yes, there are some issues but in the grand scheme of things they are not as significant as they seem to you now. And...this is overcome the problems and insecurities you are facing and have a long and happy life filled with success and love.

So. Once again your family is moving. That is the plight of being in a military family. Actually, you'll realize later, you moved less often than some families. But come on, moving right at the end of sophomore year! Just when you finally feel like you fit in and have friends. You love hanging out with the bands at the Teen Club—remember how angry the club manager got when your parents told her it was okay for you to go off with the band? And don't forget that you were the first girl to wear a mini-skirt at Baker High School! You brought it back from New York after the last family trip to see the grands. Scandalized Columbus, Georgia! (By the way, what you consider to be a really short mini-skirt now is actually pretty LONG by 2011 fashion standards. OMG! —Sorry, that's instant messaging shorthand and it will be about 40 years before you understand what I just said.)

You'll start your junior year back in East Brunswick. Yep, Daddy volunteered to go to Vietnam early so that you all can get moved and settled before school starts. They don't want Bob to have to change schools in the middle of his senior year. Don't worry so much; yes, it will be hard to make friends—everyone is already in their cliques by junior year—but you will meet a boy who also just moved to East Brunswick and you'll go to the Junior Prom with him. Don't get too excited, though. He's not the one! He'll move in senior year and you'll stay at EBHS to graduate but the family will move down to Ft. Dix and you'll be commuting to school every day. It's okay for your parents to mess up YOUR senior year!

You'll freak out a bit at the end of senior year and start questioning why you are going to college like your parents expect you to when you don't really know what you want to do. You've thought about a lot of different things but just can't decide. After a great deal of angst, you will realize that you have to break away from your overbearing mother. You will also realize that you are not and can never be a "Jersey Girl" and you'll move away from the East Coast, heading to New Mexico (Don't pass on seeing Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here? when Joe invites you to go to the movies with him senior year. Yep, he is hitting on you a bit but mostly he is a friend and the movie will spark your interest in the Southwest and native America culture.) In New Mexico you'll meet a great guy. Forget about the fact that you'll tell him you that wouldn't marry him if he were the last man on Earth! Shortly after graduating with a degree in Anthropology, you'll marry that kind and gentle man and move with him to California. Your parents will be absolutely shocked because you've never talked about marrying anyone, much less a guy they'd never met.

By the way, while it was fun to study all those cultures, a degree in Anthropology won't prepare you for a job. While you are trying to figure out how to earn a living, it will suddenly dawn on you that you love to read and love being in the library, so maybe you should be a librarian. You'll do very well as a librarian (even winning awards) and it will lead to a lot of great experiences. Oh, and those drama classes you took. Eventually they will help you overcome your fear of public speaking...oh, a really big way! Don't start panicking but you'll be speaking in front of really big groups of people about reading and libraries—and the books that you have written—and they will be listening to what you have to say.

I wish I could tell you that you won't have to keep battling your weight. You know how your mother always tells you that you're fat even though you are 5'6" and weigh 125 pounds? I'm so sorry that you believe her; she'll eventually convince you that you are just destined to be overweight. Yes, genes are part of it...but your weight will go up and down. More up than down. With time you will realize that your weight and looks are not as important as your character and health. You are smart, self-confident, and independent and the man you marry will love you because of those traits, not your weight. (After being married for 36 years, he will still tell you that you are the smartest girl he knows and he totally supports everything you do.) Your mother will always be condescending and every compliment will always be a left-handed ones. But soon (really, just a few years from now) you will understand that while she does love you, and in her own weird way supports your independence and success, she is also a bit jealous of you because you are doing things with your life that she never did with hers.

So, dear teen Jeanette, speak your mind and don't be afraid to contradict your parents. Do what you need to and want to do. Stop fighting and live your life. You'll love it!

Jeanette Larson grew up in a military family, the second of six children. She has lived in many places, including Germany and Japan. Although she still loves to travel, she is very happy to have lived in Texas for more than 30 years.. After a long career working in libraries, Jeanette "took her pension" to spend time teaching and writing. Her books for librarians and teachers include El día de los niños/El día de los libros: Building a Culture of Literacy in your Community Through Dia (ALA, 2011) and Bringing Mysteries Alive for Children and Young Adults (Linworth, 2004). Her first book for young people, Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore in the Americas was published earlier this year by Charlesbridge. Jeanette loves reading and has served on several award committees. She is active in SCBWI and is a member of the Texas Sweethearts & Scoundrels writing group. Jeanette lives in a small town north of Austin, Texas with her husband, two schipperke dogs, and two cats.

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