Kate and I are getting acclimated to each other.

I am used to how when I was coaching Kate she thought everything I said was genius. But now that she lives with me she would like me to not be so bossy.

Kate discovers that the best time to talk with me is late at night when the boys are asleep and I’m too tired to work—that’s when I’m the least stressed out. And she is getting used to me having an assistant for everything.

Jeanenne and Kate spend the morning on the sofa trying to figure out how to get Kate health insurance. But after all their effort, it becomes clear that Kate is not insurable until open enrollment for our family policy. I tell her not to do anything dangerous. Which sounds ridiculous coming from me; what could be more dangerous than her letting me buy her a plane ticket to come to my house when she has no money and she’s never been on a plane and she’s never met me?

I tell her to throw out all the clothes that have bad memories. She is hesitant. She unpacks her small suitcase. Then she takes most of it out of the drawers and gives it to me for the garbage.

I ask, “What makes these shorts bad?” and she says, “I wore them the day my step-dad threw me out of the house and I had nowhere to go.”

I want to ask about every item of clothing, but I don’t. Instead, we just buy new clothes. Kate has never owned winter clothes. Or a purse. She asks me to take a picture of her so she can post it on Instagram. I give her my necklace. It’s too preppy for me. Then I click.

Kate is nervous to leave our house. Finally I find out that it’s because her step dad wouldn’t let her leave the house to see her friends. She assumes we won’t want her to leave either.

I say for sure she should go out. “Be a nineteen year old! Nineteen year olds go out!”

My son says, “Where do they go?”

My other son says, “Bars.”

Kate says, “I am too young to drink.”

Kate goes on Tinder.

I say, “I think that is for one-night stands. I don’t think that’s good for you.”

She says she’s meeting good people on it. I think, okay. Maybe I am too old to know what Tinder is for. I think, maybe in small towns Tinder functions differently than in big cities.

She goes out with a freshman at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He takes her back to his room and she says she wants to wait a few more dates before they kiss and miraculously he does not date-rape her before he kicks her out.

While pretending that he is not waiting up for her, my son says, “Mom, I don’t think Kate should go out with guys she meets online. She doesn’t know anything about them.”

I say, “I think she can see the guy’s Facebook page from Tinder. I think it’s okay.”

He says, “She needs to meet girls, not boys. She needs to have friends.”

I say, “Uh huh.” And I wonder how a nine-year-old boy comes up with this stuff.

Then he says, “I know where she can meet girls. I saw an ad for a site that’s called Girls, Girls, Girls. And you just click to meet one.”

Kate stops looking for dates online.

She switches to dogs. She wants a husky and she finds a web site devoted to them.

My husband, who has owned about 20 dogs in his life, says a husky is a good outdoor dog because it can tolerate Wisconsin winters but huskies are not particularly loyal.

I suggest a golden retriever.

My kids want a dog that will sleep with them. But they have two beds. So they want two dogs.

“The dog will sleep with Kate, ” I tell them.

My husband makes sure Kate knows the dog will do everything with her. “A dog is a lot of work,” he tells her.

Then she announces she wants a puppy.

My husband says forget it.

I tell him I think we should tell her how hard it will be and she should make the decision.

He tells me it will ruin the house.

I tell him we can’t run her life for her. She says she wants a dog. She is lonely. She has no friends. She needs anxiety medicine to sleep at night. A dog seems like a good idea.

We pay $600 to a place that is pretty much a disgusting puppy mill only 45 minutes from our house. I consider reporting them to the police or something but my husband says it’s not against the law. And anyway, Kate is so happy.

It turns out that she’s a devoted dog owner. She wakes up twice every night to take the puppy out and assures me it’s no big deal because she did that for her nephews when her sister was in prison.

The boys love the dog and insist on being co-owners, though their part of ownership seems not to be related to walking or feeding the dog.

Kate can’t really go anywhere because she can’t leave the dog alone at home. That was part of the deal—he has to be crate trained to leave him at home.

He is not crate trained but he is good with the goats. And Kate finds herself spending lots of time with kids who are friends with my sons.

Kate is happy. The boys are happy. The dog is happy. For a moment, things are perfect.

And then things are not perfect. Then Kate realizes she will never get a life if she is with a dog all the time. Who will date her? How will she get a job? How will she ever leave the farm?

My husband says (I am summarizing here), “Duh.”

And I say, “Okay, so fine. She made a mistake. It’s okay to make a mistake. I made lots of mistakes when I was 19.”

Also, I tell him about how we should think of failure as an achievement. People can only fail when they take risks, and we can’t grow unless we take risks. I announce, “People who don’t fail are not doing anything interesting.”

He tells me how that’s great for Kate but not great for the dog.

I say, “It’s a $600 dog. I’m sure we can find another home for him.”

Melissa meets us in Chicago. She tells me that getting a dog that we can’t take care of is irresponsible.

I tell her I think it’s important to let Kate try things that don’t work. I tell her the New York Times says we are in the Age of Failure, and I am on trend.

Melissa snorts which is her version of rolling her eyes. Then she takes out a pile of New Yorkers which is her sign that she is unmoved by our conversation.

But Melissa puts down her New Yorkers when Kate walks in the room.

Melissa teaches Kate how to do her makeup.

Melissa likes the results so much that she decides Kate needs her hair straightened.

“What?” I say. “I don’t have straight hair. Why does she need straight hair?”

Melissa tells me, “You don’t need straight hair because you’re successful so you can look crazy. You don’t even change your clothes regularly,” she tells me. “Straightening your hair would be a waste.”

We all look at my clothes. And if you are wondering, I think they look clean.

Melissa says, “Kate needs to look very pulled together because in reality she is not.”

Kate is thrilled. She takes a picture the minute she leaves the hair salon.

Kate has been very expensive. I think I got carried away. She has three pair of boots and four coats and now she has hair that costs $400 to maintain.

Jeanenne thinks Kate needs a job. I brush off Jeanenne’s advice because I think Kate needs time to recuperate from traumatic living conditions. I give her books about family violence that she doesn’t read. I think maybe she’s not ready. I give her suggestions for how to teach herself about online marketing. I think maybe she is not the marketing type. I notice that coaching people is a lot easier when they are not at my breakfast table each morning.

I take her to my therapist who tells me that I should not rush Kate, and Kate needs her own therapist. I take Kate to her own therapist and then I tag along on her third session to say that I don’t know if I should push her to get a job or to go to school or just what I should do or say at all.

Her therapist says I should ask Kate.

Kate does not know.

And I don’t know. So we do nothing. Day after day. In very nice clothes.

And now I think that it’s true that mistakes are how we grow, and it’s great that failure is a badge of courage because I think I might be watching my own failure unfold right here, in this moment.

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  1. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    I loved this post until the very last sentence. I don’t think of what you did as a failure at all. I think you took a chance on someone who deserved to have someone invest in them…because it was apparent that no one else had up until this point. What you did took courage..and equally it took courage for Kate, as well. That is growth. That is progress. Not failure.

  2. brooklynchick
    brooklynchick says:

    You’re doing a good thing. And failure is necessary (ESPECIALLY when you’re 19!). Continue to be kind and it will work out. :)

    P.S. Can’t she enroll in “Obamacare” now that open enrollment is here? Or Medicaid?

  3. marta
    marta says:

    No, this is not your failure. This is probably one of the most important things you’ve done in life – taking in Kate.

    I disagree with a lot of your options regarding education and your kids’ education but taking in Kate and trying to have her stand on her own is AWESOME.

    I’m sure you’re all be allright.
    Kate will be allright – she has your family to lean on. Having a family to lean on works miracles.

  4. Morgan
    Morgan says:

    Certainly, a path to personal growth is through failure, so long as you learn from it in terms of how to avoid that same failure in the future. I’m not sure how buying someone a lifestyle she can’t maintain will accomplish this. What you’re doing for Katie is very kind, but ultimately unsustainable.

    Has your therapist suggested that you are caring for Kate in a way you wish you’d been nurtured during your own traumas?

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I think anything is unsustainable for Kate from where she was at.

      So it doesn’t matter. Just buying a coat is unsustainable when you have nothing and cant get a job to make money to buy one.

  5. Susan K. Johnson
    Susan K. Johnson says:

    Yay for dogs! Our adopted dog has stabilized our family and warmed up the house. Yes, it’s totally irresponsible to get a dog and then get rid of it. It may have been a mistake, but living through it is worth it for the human. Usually. So crate train him already! Then she can go places. Hire dog sitters, go to training classes, meet new people by walking the cute dog through town.

    • Trilby
      Trilby says:

      I made a similar mistake when I was a few years older than Kate — adopted the worst dog in the world. He literally ate everything in our apartment, including the carpet! It was a bad decision, but we stuck it out (the old guy is snoozing on the couch right next to me right now). If Kate keeps the dog (which I hope she does), it will be a good learning experience about the value in sticking things out and committing to a long term relationship with another being. It sounds like she hasn’t had a lot of experience with this so far, threw no fault of her own. I hope she finds that with her new companion, and of course, her relationship with your family. Just because we’ve underestimated how hard something will be doesn’t mean we’ve failed or that we should throw in the towel. We just need to reassess, adjust and move forward.

    • thatgirl
      thatgirl says:

      Agree! Don’t make the dog a “mistake;” Turn the relationship into an opportunity for a sense of stability, responsibility and growth–and yes, a social outlet!

      Given her former home life, Kate will learn a lot from the relationship with her dog, including how to manage responsibility toward sentient beings while maintaining one’s life–to say nothing of having a solid, reciprocal love relationship with him. Have her keep working on crate training, and engaging the boys in her care, then add new responsibilities, like a part-time job or internship, for which she’ll learn to manage that elusive work/life balance.

    • VegGal
      VegGal says:

      I diagree. I think it’s wise for her to realize that she in fact doesn’t want to have that responisbility. A red flag went up when Kate stated it’s ok because she cared for her nephews all the time too. She is recreating a similar life by assuming a caretaker roll before she has a chance to take care of herself. Good for her to realize so quickly that it’s not a good fit for her, and good for Penelope for letting her back out of a very bad long term mistake.

  6. layla solms
    layla solms says:

    keep KATE! you are doing a good thing. maybe i’m biased. i hated teaching 39 5th graders every day. i LOVE mentoring one 5th grade girl, and getting to know her family, and even secretly mailing gift cards to their trailer (which has nasty, smelly hard water, and the potholes are so deep i cringe even driving my 20 yr old Honda wagon out there). help one or a few at a time, and help them very well. Kate is watching how your family works, what is good, what is bad, how you take care of each other. she is mentally taking notes, even if she doesn’t realize it. keep her as long as you can, preparing her for independent life down the road. think of all the kids or adults she can influence after you & your family have poured life and kindness into her soul. :)

  7. YMKAS
    YMKAS says:

    Do we ever stop making mistakes? I mean sure I’m not 19 and I am a stay at home mom unschooling my kids, but now my mistakes are all parenting mistakes, I shouldn’t have yelled about that, I should be more gracious etc. I’m still waiting to meet a perfect person, and then when I think I may have met them, I think, wow this person is really boring and has nothing to talk about.

    Maybe Kate could enroll in a class that would let her be around animals… veterinarian?

    I LOVE the photos. :)

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      Animals are a great therapy for people with trauma.

      I used to volunteer in a horse ranch that opened its doors to kids with trauma history, autism, and speaking issues. I was curious so I researched how horses could help. But the rancher actually helped best by saying that the kids have to figure out how to communicate with such a receptive animal but so big that they have to get past their fear.

      Kate has to find a home for the puppy or find a way to be in charge and fix what she thinks is a mistake and train the dog.

      She may find both freedom and confidence either way but the decision and the work has to be made.

      • YMKAS
        YMKAS says:

        Yes totally. I totally feel for Kate and animal therapy is so helpful for so many kids.

        I see a lot of folks keep saying she’s 19 and what 19 year olds need to do, but probably in reality she is more like 10 emotionally/psychologically. None of us, except for Kate, can know how long it will take for that to heal.

        I do see what a beautiful girl she is and that she is a risk taker. Once she finds herself things will come together. She doesn’t need to be rushed or work on the farm or any of that. But I can kind of tell she wants to help out naturally, maybe she just needs some ideas left around the house and something will spark an interest. In the meantime just build her self-confidence. I keep thinking how wonderful it is for PT to do all this.

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          I see a lot of folks keep saying she’s 19 and what 19 year olds need to do, but probably in reality she is more like 10 emotionally/psychologically. None of us, except for Kate, can know how long it will take for that to heal.

          This is what Kate, when she is ready, should work on. Once this is sorted, while maintaining a few other outside interests (perhaps the dog caring) she will be on fire.

          Good luck Kate and try not to be afraid of yourself. Learn and go with your gut. A lot of people on here are cheering for you, 19 is confusing without your background so take it one day at a time as you are!

  8. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    I’ve had two babies without meds and a miscarriage. It was too late for any kind of meds to help with the miscarriage but I actually choose that route with labor.

    Both times i thought: I’M STUPID! THIS WAS A TERRIBLE MISTAKE! and now it’s too late to go back.

    Every time I think I’m way too over my head is right before the baby shows up.

    And I think you’re in that transition period of “I don’t know what to do! ” but things are actually moving forward. And then you’ll see results.

    I’ve done this Kate thing several times. Always trying to impose my help in a way that life works best for me with terrible results. Kate has to commit to finding out what works for her so she can communicate with the only people seriously committed to help her.

    This is her best way to help those helping her.

  9. Lynne
    Lynne says:

    Welcome to the world of teenage girls. Where nothing is good enough, not even them self. They’re a mystery that u r gonna have to have the patience to let them resolve. Talking & journaling gives their ideas a testing ground for validity. Prior to making them concrete. Just go with it; she’ll have to resolve & dis cover her mystery.

  10. Marilynn
    Marilynn says:

    Nineteen year olds can make decisions. You are guiding her as best you can. That said, offer her a choice school or work. Either choice will give her opportunities to make friends and do something productive. Both are esteem builders. Tinder is not.

    • jessica
      jessica says:


      Well, you know this woman- Kate- has not ever, in her life, had the opportunity to lounge around and be taken care of. This will open more productive doors for her than rushing straight into your definition life. Give her a break.

  11. D
    D says:

    miraculously he does not date-rape her before he kicks her out.

    Because the vast majority of men are sexual predators, amirite?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      There is an unspoken agreement that if you meet on Tinder you are meeting for a hookup.

      It seems like a dangerous situation to me to tell someone you are meeting them for one reason and change the rules in the middle, without telling the person the rules have changed.

      It actually seems like the underlying problem of many rape cases between people who know each other — people being unclear about unspoken wants and expectations.

      There’s a great article in New York magazine about rape on college campuses and how it’s very complicated to get consent for sexual contact.


      • ruo
        ruo says:

        Hmm, i don’t agree with that. Tinder is not as sketch as you make it out to be.

        Everyone my age (28) is using eharmony. The men are generally 30+.

        My family friends (girls) 20 ~ 27ish, use tinder… as a free alternative to eharmony. Their motto is can’t go wrong with free, and we know we’re great catches.

        Two family friends have met their significant others on Tinder. I was so skeptical and worried for them. Then after, I am pleasantly amazed at the quality of men… one is in banking, one is a startup founder that is worth about 20M… both totally level-headed guys that are considerate, thoughtful and caring to my friends.

        Maybe Kate can keep using Tinder, it is actually fun for her to connect with people her own age and see what options look like for someone her age. Ignoring the hooking part that Tinder is known for.

        • Kristi
          Kristi says:

          Agreed. I’m 35 and I met someone through Tinder (he was 38), and we were both looking for a relationship. I liked that the format–see someone attractive and strike up a conversation–was more like real life than reading a full profile of information before you ever contact someone.

          It’s an interesting point about how mismatched expectations can turn into a dangerous situation. That point is valuable as a explainer for why everyone in a sexual encounter has a responsibility to communicate their preferences.

          It’s shouldn’t be an excuse for going ahead with sex without consent.

      • Laura
        Laura says:

        Penelope, you are showing your age!

        You should be encouraging Kate to go on Tinder. Everyone that is single in the western world is on it right now. Most guys on it are decent, law abiding citizens.

        Anyway, you can tell by the guys photos if he is looking for a “hookup”.

        The rule is stay away from dudes that post selfies of their rock hard abs or include pics with their shirt off.

        Also if he includes his Snapchat handle within his profile also stay away.

        If Kate loves dogs she should find a guy on there that loves dogs also.

        And lastly Tinder doesn’t cause rape, rapists do. http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/tinder-doesnt-cause-rape-rapists-do-20141009-113rbc.html

  12. Nicholle Gulcur
    Nicholle Gulcur says:

    Penelope – this is my first comment ever but I’ve adored your blog for over a year. THANK YOU for your honest and realistic stance on being a woman and mother in our society.

    Your failure might be playing out in front of you. I’m sure you’ve mulled this all over, and as a person who has come to find a successful life after a traumatic childhood and adolescence of my own, I just wanted to share some thoughts with you.

    – You’re incredibly kind for everything you are sharing with Kate; your home, your time, your resources, your energy
    – If it looks like you are failing now… what would success look like? Did you think that Kate would take your advice and the opportunity to improve her life and run with it? This may be an unpopular opinion, but in my experience with traumatic roots, generally if a person doesn’t have the pragmatism and grit inside of them to get out of bad place, they don’t really know what to do in a good place. (Coming from my personal experience) If success with Kate looks like her finding her way in the world, maybe some structure, boundaries, and expectations will help re-train her habits and expectations while empowering her. I.E. if you live here, you work at least 30 hours a week. Even if it’s at Starbucks. You pay $100 rent, not because we need the money, but so you can feel like you deserve to be here. I think freedom can be limiting to those who have limiting and limited beliefs and expectations about what they can do and who they can be. Structure and habits that empower are the best and fastest path to freedom.

    I’m sure you’ll get lots of advice here and I hope this isn’t an annoying comment, especially since it’s my first!!

    Thank you again for this post and your blog. For me personally, your message today was perfectly needed. I’m reconciling my own failures right now and you’ve truly helped me re-frame the way I’m approaching this. (Just as you’ve helped me re-frame the way I look at motherhood and career.)

    Thank you!

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      I love this comment so much and I hope you’re part of the conversation in every post!

      I found it easier to launch forward when I found it easier to embrace failure. Which the post helped solidify.

      I love all your points. I do think they’ll be helpful. My brothers would benefit from it and they’re boys without traumatic baggage and people who have lived mostly in a good place. But without those boundaries they have found it hard to gain traction and move forward.

    • J
      J says:

      I agree. This is a great comment and wonderful advice. I hope you take her advice Penelope! Structure and expectations are a good thing.

    • Ann
      Ann says:

      I love the story telling in this blog post and I love the wisdom in the comments. I’m just sitting with my 16 year old son here, proud of him for studying for his up-coming (in 2hours time!!) exam. He has just spent two years unschooled and now he’s finding his way back in, trying everything he thinks will bring him success. I’m giving my opinion but supporting everything he tries. He has learnt by experience the truth that Nicholle has so eloquently expressed: that freedom is found within boundaries. Now he is finding out what works and what doesn’t work in exams.

  13. katie jay
    katie jay says:

    You are all doing great. She may look and act like an adult but she is still a teenager and her brain is still growing. There is no way to fit the fast forward button on her life right now. It will unfold in due time.

  14. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Doing nothing, day after day – torture for an ENTJ!

    What is Kate’s myers-briggs score? I bet she’s got an ‘F’ in there somewhere.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Kate is an ESTJ and she is tortured by not doing anything. It’s pretty much the worst thing possible for an ESTJ. Well, that and not being surrounded by friends. I read about her type all the time because it’s so foreign to me:


      Actually, I hope the ESTJs reading this will chime in here…


      • Jacqueline
        Jacqueline says:

        I think she needs to get out of the house and experience life–that’s how she’ll learn about herself and become strong. Which brings me to my next point: She should go to cosmetology school.

        She’ll get girlfriends, work in an extroverted profession, learn a skill that she can take anywhere, and do everybody’s hair in the house, including maintaining her fabulous new $400 hairstyle. There’s an AVEDA Institute in Madison.

        There’s something about working somewhere where you have to keep up your personal appearance. When I dropped out of college, my first couple of jobs were as a flight attendant and working at the front desk of a spa.I loved them both because I got to dress up and look pretty and feel good about myself every day.

        • A Fellow Kate
          A Fellow Kate says:

          I second this one! I know a young woman around age 24 who is a hairdresser and it’s her side gig – she is studying at university, her main job is as a youth worker for kids in care houses (she stays overnight looking after kids with severe behavioural issues), and this is what she does in her spare time. I ran a camp and shared responsibility with her for one of the bunks of 8 girls with her, and she brought her fancy hairdryer and some products just for fun and the other girls’ bunks were jealous because we had a Beauty Parlour going on in ours! Anything related to makeup or hair will allow you very flexible employment, and be fun and social.

          Kates are awesome in general and this Kate will do just fine. Listen to the Ben Folds Five song called I Wanna Be Kate if you haven’t already. It’ll put a smile on your face :)

      • Alison
        Alison says:

        [I’m just offering my work experience for questions of process to get you both out of the “stuck” phase. I am not suggesting that this would be morally acceptable once she has her own vision for her life. I’m starting from the claim that she doesn’t know what to do and needs a jumpstart.]

        I’ve been working very closely with an ESTJ for the better part of a year.

        I made 2 big errors with him that took a while to figure out:

        1.) His panic response looks like calm, authoritative, reasoned project planning. It’s actually not at all reasonable if you slow it down and analyze it. His workplace-appropriate take-chargeness is a quiet, calm manifestation of inner panic. I learned to see this as denial in action and not listen to his plan. Instead, I analyze it, actively point out deep flaws, respectfully voice its flawed nature, and use this evidence as an argument to point out that ESTJ is panicking. ESTJ always immediately agrees and surrenders, but only after I point out the evidence.

        2.) My second error was trying to include him, his ideas, his voice in the conceptualization process. It turns out he much prefers feeling calm and productive while working on what I tell him needs to be done, even if the task could be done by a 9 year old. He doesn’t feel insulted, he feels productive. Feeling like his vision is represented is far, far lower on his priority list than being able to check off a large quantity of items on his to-do list that he took action on and made happen and achieved closure on.

        While I’m conceptualizing and designing the project, I give him 100 visible micro-tasks to do.

        When I tried to invite him into the design process, he felt so distressed in the murky space that he would binge-plan a linear pathway that would *never* lead us to our outcome because it was not engaging with our complex work responsibilities. He can *do* the complex work if I give him a zillion concrete tasks, or if he copies and executes someone else’s exact model, but he can’t design it. I don’t think it’s because he couldn’t, it’s because he hates murkiness so much that he gets panicky.

        Even though he’s smart and has good ideas, I have learned that conceptualizing and designing our projects without his input makes us both happy.

        Have you considered a brief 6 week season of concrete, specific direction — on the agreement that this is a temporary jumpstart — and then at the end of 6 weeks she can come up with the next step herself?

        e.g. She could spend 6 weeks on data vizualisation with Tableau http://www.tableausoftware.com/

        Week 1 – read the entire Tableau blog, highlighting 5 data visualization models that might transfer to farming data projects, and 5 data visualization models that might transfer to Quistic data projects

        Week 2 – Get Tableau Public (the free version) and study 25 commonly used features. Spend 90 minutes per day tinkering with those features, and 45 minutes per day trying to transfer some parts of last week’s chosen models onto farm or Quistic data that Penelope has given you. Keep a list of how you have failed because this week you’re unlikely to have visualization success. Your real deliverable is to make a clear list on your failed strategies.

        Week 3, beginning: meet with Penelope and go over your clear list of failed data visualization strategies. While looking at your available farm and Quistic data, and your 10 data visualization models you sourced from the Tableau Blog, identify a likely match between your available data and a data visualization model.

        Middle of week 3: using what came out of your conversation with Penelope on which of your data and models might match, have a “focused playtime” in Tableau. Spend 3 hours per day really familiarizing yourself with these pieces of information and how the tool might support it. Write down every point of confusion. This “documentation of confusion” is your deliverable.

        Have Penelope put you in contact with a Tableau power user, where they work with you and your dataset as you draft your first version of data visualization.

        Week 4: Identify what’s good, what’s a problem, and what’s missing. Make a detailed list for each column.


        • Andrea
          Andrea says:

          Alison, you’re a bad***. Do you have a website?

          Hearing about your ENTJ client, I was thinking, wow, that’s the opposite of me, an INTP…I want to know more about what you know.

      • Tracy
        Tracy says:

        Ok, I was fooled by the puppy thing. So ESTJ then, I’ve got an ESTJ sister, definitely need to be doing things.

        I have one suggestion to offer up for Kate – look up and see if you have a local Toastmasters club you can go to. Although the demographic will be much older, by design it is a very structured and welcoming environment, with added opportunity to talk about your experiences. It varies but people there are very personal-development focused and may provide opportunities for low-key networking or just a sense of belonging or something of your own.

          • Alan
            Alan says:

            A good local Toastmasters club. Some are better people than others. I encountered one that was not nice at all. The one I’m in now is the most wonderful people ever.

        • Kristi
          Kristi says:

          I could see Toastmasters being a great activity for an ESTJ! The roles within the group are very well defined and so are the goals. My impression of the study materials is that they provide concrete examples and practice tasks. It’s specific and achievement oriented. Plus, you’re helping everyone in the group improve their confidence and speaking ability. You can choose speech topics related to the causes and issues you care about. So it can be service-oriented, too.

      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        I’m married to an ESTJ. No social life pretty much equals depression. And not having something to show for in productivity at the end of the day makes them feel awful and with drained batteries.

        She needs to get out and show off her hair cut.

      • YMKAS
        YMKAS says:

        My MIL is an ESTJ, the woman never has any free time even to see her grandkids. She runs a bank, is in leadership in Rotary, volunteers for every event under the sun. When she does take time off, she can’t just sit around… she will clean the whole house, move furniture, work in the garden… there is no down time. I’m thinking maybe do the mbti again… I know that when I was younger it gave me ENTJ when I was most definitely INTJ.

        • YMKAS
          YMKAS says:

          The one time she did visit and stayed with us, she woke up at 5am every morning and loudly did the dishes, changed the kids bedrooms and reorganized my house. As an INTJ this is unacceptable behavior…but what do you do?

          • Amy
            Amy says:

            Wow. That sounds like my ex. Entj. I thought it was ocd and etc. Which makes me think our mental issues have to affect our personality types, not the other way around. Infj here (whose type was probably a bit different pre kids, back when I was a people pleaser w. other adults). And, yeah, that’s so unacceptable…or at least, it’s one version of hell. Hotel.

      • Elizabeth Archer
        Elizabeth Archer says:

        I’m an ESTJ and, although doing nothing is pretty much the worst for us, Kate isn’t doing nothing. If I had been through what she’s been through I would need a lot of time to decompress and get my wits about me before jumping into the next thing. ESTJs are hyper-productive, but we need recovery time. However, Kate could definitely do something mindless that can give her a sense of purpose while still having lots of free mental space to process the first 19 years of her life. I’m currently a happily settled writer/editor/marketer, but I have LOVED being a barista/server at different points of my life for many reasons, only one of which was to make sure I could stand on my own two feet. There are many ways to support someone; now that Kate has a long-lasting wardrobe and a free place to sleep (for now), her other expenses should be incidental enough that she can pay her own way with a minimum wage job + tips. Or, if there’s nothing like that near the farm, maybe she could find some menial online work like data entry. The point is, there’s plenty of room in Kate’s life right now to recover AND work, at least a little, so she can contribute meaningfully to her own life.

  15. Caitrin
    Caitrin says:

    You’re doing a great thing with Kate, I’m sure in a few years this will all look very different.

    Unfortunately your rhetoric on the inevitability of her being date-raped was horrifyingly generic. Men are rapists? Especially college-aged men? Not okay. I was really disappointed to see that kind of thoughtless slander on your site.

    • DB
      DB says:

      I think the comment “without getting raped” etc, was an off handed one- but a good one…
      While its , of course, true NOT ALL men are rapists-
      date rape DOES occur, frequently…
      Its a fact.
      I speak from personal experience

  16. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    Kate- embrace your natural texture, you’ll save about 5 hours a week not straightening you hair. It really adds up. Also your hair looks fab both ways but unless you’ve got a Taylor Swift caliber hair team, stay away from bangs.

  17. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    She’s a beautiful young girl with a lot to look forward to – new friendships, marriage, work, etc. She’s VERY lucky to have found you because not many people take in random girls and then buy them 4 coats and expensive shoes and stuff. It’s a great thing you’re doing.

    But she needs to have at least one goal or two. Something so that she doesn’t feel so completely aimless — and so she can make progress into a lifestyle of her own choosing.

    Doesn’t have to be a big goal, but at least one goal that’s going to help her move into adulthood.

  18. Steve Mielczarek
    Steve Mielczarek says:

    I like Penelope. She’s fun to read. Often surprising, always authentic. Except for this post. I don’t know, but something stinks in Denmark.

  19. Katt
    Katt says:

    As a parent, or an elder of the village, one of the best things you can do for any child is show them you are willing to be inconvenienced for them. Kids understand the big stuff, speeding train stuff, the real trust comes from the little things.

  20. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    So I bought a car from my dad two years ago. The price was right and it had been well cared for and was always super reliable. Until the day I bought it, that is. The damn thing keeps breaking down, every three months like clockwork. I’m shopping for another car. So it goes.

    But when it comes to taking on living things it’s not so easy – person or puppy. If things don’t work out, can you exit the situation without causing undue harm to the living thing?

    My ex was prone to bringing home stray dogs. One stray had serious emotional issues that we could not live with and one day I came home to find it gone. I was afraid she’d just dumped the dog at the pound but fortunately she had given it to a co-worker who had the capacity to care for such a dog. Dog and owner were both pretty happy for a long time.

    Another emotionally-not-right stray ended up coming to live with me after the divorce. Frankly, given her issues she was often more than I could handle, especially being single and living alone, but I stuck it out with her. I had an obligation. She wasn’t an unreliable old Ford that didn’t care whether it was rolling down the road or rotting in a junkyard.

    Gracie died last Thanksgiving day at age 17. Here’s her story: http://blog.jimgrey.net/2013/12/02/good-night-gracie/

  21. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    She needs the feeling of forward progression, like she’s accomplishing a goal. She got that by moving in with you, but now it has to be something else.

    Hire her part-time to do chores at the farm or get her to help with your website. A detailed-oriented ESTJ would be great for all the admin work that you probably hate doing.

    Also I agree, marketing isn’t the best choice for someone of her temperament. Engineering, finance, lawyers… all perfect for estjs—but she’d need official schooling for these.

  22. Dawn
    Dawn says:

    I’m sorry but all I’m worried about through this all is the dog. I volunteer with rescue organizations and this is how dogs end up homeless. It would be good for everyone involved to do as Susan suggested and crate train the dog, hire sitters, etc. It would also be a good lesson for your sons. And you should report the puppy mill, legal or not. There are laws they should be abiding by. If you do decide to rehome the dog please find a reputable rescue organization to help.

    • DB
      DB says:

      Yes- I agree your doing a good job not failing, with the girl-
      BUT you did fail , I fear if you did indeed get the dog thru a puppy mill and NOT A RESPONSIBLE BREEDER>
      I a person (like my sister) just has to have a purebreed dog- even when so many, many THOUSANDS will be put to death this year alone- it is your responsibility to go to the breeders or AKC organizations online etc and find a breeder who IS Ethical…
      BUT please, to all your readers :ADOPT FIRST…
      but also remember “You better think twice, a dog is for life”.

  23. Liz
    Liz says:

    Brave article. Thing is I learned that when we accepted a girl that came out right out of an orphange, a girl we saw grew up. I bought her clothes, shoes, private university with the career of her choice, set her own room with a toilet next door only for her, subscribe her for extra classes to get her ready for Uni. Her only duties in return of all these: clean the house and help us with the dog whenever we traveled. Short story, after few months, she had worked hard only at one thing: getting male phone numbers on the cell phone we gave her. Forget about cleaning the house, the dog, even less studying. She got three kind warnings, the fourth was goodbye when we help her pack her clothes and gave a substantial amount of money to help her off and send her to her sister’s house. About an hour later, her sister call us to insult us, to make a story that she never arrived to her destination, threatening us. Luckily and expensively, I hired a taxi company that was willing to come back to my house and talk with this people and verify that the “girl” has been successfully delivered. Between her personal items, we also found some of our own personal items and I started to get and funny feeling about her behavior around my husband even though he could be her grandfather. I learn the lesson and got out just on time. Helping people who wants to to stuck and be helpless and not helping and can be expensive, frustrating and dangerous. Even if you’ve seen them grow up, you never know what they are really up to. BTW, they always seem to fall on the victim role to get princess privileges. You’ll see one day, catering to such parasites and friends and family will be wondering why the hell she can’t move her royal ass to help with visits, and that’s because she considers herself a royal visit and we have allowed it in the name of “help”.

  24. Anne
    Anne says:

    Is she positive she’s ESTJ and not ESFP? The portrait of Kate from this post (the dog idea) seems anti-ESTJ

  25. Liz2
    Liz2 says:

    Instead of giving Kate all of these material, superficial things, how about stopping that now and just give her love, kindness, compassion and emotional support?

  26. lynne A. whiteside
    lynne A. whiteside says:

    this is a situation where you don’t even realized that your actions now, are reserving a forward/karma for you. you are paying karma by taking this young women in and helping her, your whole family has helped her, she’s one lucky girl, you should all have good karma.

  27. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    I left my dog in the States to move to London and it was the only hard thing about leaving. But I left her with my ex who takes her to doggy daycare everyday and buys her steak on her birthday, so maybe it’s not so bad. And I met an actor on Tinder during my actor phase who is a sort of intellectual loafer which I find very exotic. He does voiceover work and buys and sells Van Gough pieces and is a landlord and I’m not really sure what he does in between, but he thinks it’s sexy when I tell him he’s wrong. And he’s wrong a lot.

    I’m not sure I would be in London if you hadn’t told me to move out of my parents’ house that time. And I did it; I think we talked on a Thursday or a Friday and by that Monday I was in my own place. And from then on I decided I was going to be the kind of person that decided to do big things and then followed through, so I ran a 50 mile ultramarathon in the mountains then two days later moved across the Atlantic with no job. After living off my savings for six months I landed the first job I’ve ever had that I really love and really fits.

    I even discovered that I’m really an ENFP after thinking I was an INFP for so long. I know everyone in our building; after 6 weeks even the girls who have worked in my office for ages will ask me who so-and-so is. And every work idea I have I have out loud and half-baked, to the amusement and sometimes frustration of my coworkers. But then a lot of the time at lunch I just want to be in the break room alone so I can read my book.

    Anyway, you’re really wonderful.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Harriet, you are so fun! I have coached a bazillion people, and lots of people send me updates, which I love.

      But no one posts their updates in the comments section, which you do routinely. And no one writes updates to their life as if they are ongoing stories to be read aloud to an audience except you… and me :)


  28. Cay
    Cay says:

    I’m trying to help someone make better decisions. She is more than a decade older than Kate, so the situations do have their differences.

    I can sense that my friend makes poor decisions because she has deep issues that she does not address. Getting Kate a therapist was a wise decision. Hopefully, the therapist will be a good match for her.

    I think that it would be good for Kate to add value to her environment. Not necessarily a formal job, but specific ways to contribute to her new community. It would serve as a baby step towards the type of social skills that she will need in the real world. I doubt that it would serve as an obstacle to her healing; in fact, it could accelerate it.

    My overall advice to my friend was fairly simple: 1) Find a safe place to stay, 2) Get stable work, and 3) Spend time with people who are running their lives well.

    Honestly, I don’t know if my friend will do it. But if she does, and decides to work through her issues as well, she will have learned a good, general formula for survival that she can apply for the rest of her life.

    Penelope, you’re so great for helping Kate. You have a really big heart.

    Kate, if you’re reading this, we are rooting for you.


  29. Tony
    Tony says:

    It doesn’t sound like she is failing, just trying to figure out what is important to her like most young women her age.
    That being said it sounds like she needs some goals and/or tasks she needs to be working towards. A job would help. Besides she is living on a farm with someone who has more ideas than time to implement them :). Between those to factors she hopefully has plenty of opportunities to find something that will help with some direction.

  30. Jude
    Jude says:

    If this is a failure then you are doing really well at failure. You are making a real difference to someone who has had a very difficult life and who come round to doing something which will make a real contribution to our world. You are making an amazing difference. Well done !!!

  31. Sharon Greene
    Sharon Greene says:

    Keep the therapist and the dog. Once the dog is trained, she can go on dates or find a job or go back to school. Is there anything she is particularly interested in that would help her focus on what she would like to pursue as an educational, vocational, employment, or career goal. Maybe some volunteer work would provide a transition to her work and social life.

    I am curious. Which one of you do you think has failed? Why do you consider this a failure for either of you at this point?

  32. Mandy
    Mandy says:

    Maybe just wait and see. Maybe rushing will be a waste of energy because sometimes things work themselves out. And in the meantime just look lovely in expensive clothes :) (I loved that line.)

  33. Alice Bachini
    Alice Bachini says:

    I think if you manage to maintain a positive and supportive relationship with Kate, you are succeeding at the biggest gift you could give her. To know if you fail you need to know your goals. If you want to solve her whole life and make her successful, that’s a big goal. If the goal is she leaves your home with somewhere good to go, she might boomerang, or disappear if she has a crisis. Maybe a good goal is staying in touch and being available, having gotten her to a place where she can support herself sustainably. That’s the goal of most parents.

    So if you are essentially trying to be a parent to a child much older than your own children, that’s hard because you don’t get to learn their needs as you go along. getting to know them as they grow from zero. But also, with parenting, there’s failures and successes along the way, and no real end goal. So as long as you don’t give up and maintain some workable bottom lines, like, don’t give up on them even if they seem to give up on you. Stuff like that.

    If she wants you to be less bossy, and the therapist tried to have you support her (like you would with an adult child) instead of telling her what to do (like you would with a counselling client), then maybe the bottom line is you should insist that she makes some decisions, and takes some actions, then support those.

  34. Dannielle
    Dannielle says:

    Love this post. She needs a job and a place of her own though. I would be concerned about having her around your family, for a few reasons. Watch Lifetime…

  35. chris
    chris says:

    So what is the mistake, here, Pen? That you have spoiled Kate a tad (or more than a tad)? That is the same kind of mistake as being a fool for love. Blessed mistake, that!

  36. Katybeth Jensen
    Katybeth Jensen says:

    What happens to the Husky pup that you bought at puppy mill when there are a number of reputable breeders close to you? The farmer must know this– he buys livestock right? Disposable? Like Kate.
    Sorry but this post seems so immature. You buy Kate clothes, do her hair and makeup. She’s a real person right? And not an American Girl Doll with a Husky pup?

  37. Maria
    Maria says:

    Growing pains. Don’t you just love it? The honeymoon phase is waning and the tediousness of routine sets in.

    First, what are you teaching Kate if she can have a dog, then quit on the dog because it’s inconvenient. A puppy is a commitment but so is a baby. When my child was 10 we got a rescued dog. It was 6 years old and had been rejected by 5 different families who adopted it with good intentions then put it outside and returned it because he barked too much. By the time he came to us, he had abandonment issues.

    I put him in the shade one day when I first got him with water in a friend’s fenced back yard while we went to a cafe. I had a bad feeling and when we returned the dog was gone. I looked everywhere for him and finally, I called the rescue organization my other friend was running, telling her what happened and if anyone contacted her, to let me know. She was silent for a moment then said, “I’m glad you called me, he’s here. ” WTF?

    This dog was so well known that when he was walking the streets, someone recognized him and picked him up and returned him to the rescue organization 2 hours away.

    My friend had been concerned when I first had gotten him because the dog and I had not bonded. I didn’t force myself on him and he didn’t come running to me. This time, when I came back for him, he recognized me and ran to me. I had COME BACK for H-I-M.

    He lived with us until he was almost 17 years old with cancerous tumors, cataracts, deaf, doggy Alzheimer in diapers. He had traveled all over the US and Canada with us. He lived on a farm, in an apartment, stayed in motels with us, in an rv, in a house and in an outside pen where he could run.

    My daughter learned to care for another living being. I emphasized it was her dog. She had to brush him everyday, she brushed his fur, his teeth, she fed him and gave him water. I walked with both of them during the day and with him alone at night before bed time.

    I taught him sign language as he taught me his own signs for what he needed. Staring at me and licking of lips meant his bowl was empty. Staring then walking to the door meant he needed to walk. Towards the end, I would blow my breath on his face so he knew it was me.

    He sneezed when he laughed, cried real tears when the food was good. He saved us when a strange man was close who showed predatory behavior. He chased a dog away from my daughter who had been known in the neighborhood to be a biter.

    What it taught my daughter was to care for another living being. Even when it was inconvenient. It taught her compassion, it taught her routine of day to day hygiene and care. When we were in Montreal, I had her listen to French tv while brushing him, so she even learned a new language.

    My dad felt we should have had him put to sleep 5 years before we did. “What will it teach her?” I asked him, that when someone is old and inconvenient we should put them down?

    When the dog was almost 17, he could no longer hold himself up. He would collapse in his food bowl (hip dysplasia?) and howl in pain. I called my 19 year old child and told her, it’s time. I am against euthanasia, but not help him pass on was too cruel. I asked her if she wanted me to do it or she would. She chose to take him to the vet with her future husband and hold him while he passed. He taught her a final lesson, on dealing with grief and letting go.

    I have no question in my mind that she will be a great parent. She now owns 2 cats and 2 dogs with her new husband. They learned through the animals about division of labor, the discipline and routine of caring for another living being. They learned about hygiene and nutrition and the importance of team work. They travel and when they do, they have friends house sit and care for their home and their animals. They hold down full time jobs each and are successful in whatever they do. They learned responsibility.

    The animals earn their keep. The cats help lower blood pressure and keep the house pest and rodent free. The dogs keep burglars away and protect my daughter when she goes for a walk.

    There is no success and there is no failure. There is simply sticking to a commitment no matter how inconvenient vs quitting too soon.

    If you still have the dog, you should teach Kate it’s OK to change your mind, but when another life is involved, you must keep your commitments.

    As for you, Penelope, if you get rid of the dog because it’s no longer convenient, what message are you sending Kate? Is she next?

    As for your assistants past and present, they are freely contributing to Kate’s welfare with no commitment. I agree with both of them. By getting a job (it could be freelancing) Kate (who is an adult, not a child) will learn independence, she will earn her own money, it will help her gain confidence and meet men and women with a variety of skills, passions and ambitions who will show her different perspectives until she finds one that sings to her.


      • Tracy
        Tracy says:

        I completely agree.

        You’ve literally moved me to tears, Maria.

        We had a ‘rescue dog’ for ten years, until she passed on three years ago.

        I wouldn’t have given up that experience, and bond, for the world, but it was physically and emotionally very hard work in the final year or two of her life.

        We’ve spent the past couple of years wondering if we’re ready – or not – to once again take on the responsibility of (and the shared love with) another rescue dog – for its lifetime. My daughter and son, both, would love to get another dog. But I know from experience it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

        But I think you might just have reminded me of why my husband and I adopted our first dog, 13 years ago. And why we should do it again, for the sake of a dog that needs a permanent loving home and family, and for the sake of my children and myself too.

        Thank you so much. Your account is beautiful.

        • Maria
          Maria says:

          Thank you Tracy. Hugs!

          The subject was about having a child and a dog. It was a moment in time. My baby is 26 years old now.

          Since then, I have rescued 3 dogs. The first spent his entire life in a pen on a farm I was a tenant. I made a deal with the owner, if I adopted him and had him fixed and trained, he would be allowed out of the pen.

          Rocky learned the pain of freedom. His third time trying to bite a hedgehog his mouth swelled and became infected (I had taken the quills out previously). I did not have the $400 for the veterinarian. To save his life, I agreed to give him up to the humane society if they would do the surgery, give him the antibiotics and have him placed for adoption. I was banned from ever adopting a dog from them.

          Sometimes, if it is a life or death situation, the hardest thing one can do is the right thing. The right thing was to give him up to save his life. To let him suffer without medical care would have been cruel.

          The owner had 2 other dogs. His sister who stayed behind on the farm one day disappeared. His mom was attacked by coyotes and had to be put down.

          I did not own another dog for years.

          When I was running a motel 4 years ago, I wanted a dog for security. I decided to wait until one came to me. One did. A woman was giving him away as she could no longer care for him. He had spent his entire life of 2 years in a pen. I adopted him, had him fixed, shots, potty trained and socialized. My daughter cared for him while I was recovering from surgery and fell in love. He’s her dog now.

          I returned to the motet a year later, once again wanting a dog but waiting for one to come to me. 7 year old Rex showed up at my door during a storm with a broken rib, malnourished with hypothermia. I tracked down the owner and made it official. Again, fixed, shots, potty trained, socialized and was walking him when I broke my leg. On the ground, while waiting for the ambulance I made arrangements for him to be cared for. He’s still with me. He’s almost 9 years old now. We rv together. He keeps my feet warm and takes me out for walks and exercise when I just want to be a homebody. I started picking bottles while walking with him. I fill a grocery bag full per walk sometimes. That’s $2.50/bag at the bottle depot for his dog food.

          Point is, be open to rescuing whatever dog that comes to you, Tracy.

          Kate and Penelope, you will own many dogs in a lifetime as will the boys. Pets teach us unconditional love, they earn their keep often in that singular moment when they would fight a coyote, protect us from predators, or simply nudge us when we are feeling down.

          Tracy, you sound like you have so much love to give, why not adopt/rescue 2 dogs so they can keep each other company? They must be compatible of course. Sometimes, they are already buddies when they were first rescued, that would be the ideal situation.



  38. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Don’t worry, your not failing. When our kids grow up, there is a huge shift from being in charge of what happens to them, because you are the parent, to a guiding/supportive role (and hoping for the best) when they start living their own lives and making their own decisions. It is weird, unnerving, and even scary at first because you are no longer in control. You just have been catapulted into that kind of role. Kate is a young teen/adult you obviously care for who brings a lot of unknowns with her. Just hang on, guide her as best you can, and enjoy life!

  39. Alicia
    Alicia says:

    Ask Kate to keep the dog and accept the responsibility that comes with it. If she agrees she will one day look back and fully appreciate the commitment. There is a long running joke in my family that my dog rescued me and it’s actually quite true!

    I wish Kate the best of luck and I hope you remind her always that the past only defines us if/when we let it.

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