Tag Archive | letter

An Open Letter to My Daughter on Her 21st Birthday

Dear baby girl,

Happy birthday, my love. And congratulations on making it in one piece to this incredible milestone in your life. That’s not to say there haven’t been some bumps and potholes along the way, but then who in life can say they haven’t experienced the same? Now that you’re an adult, there are some words of wisdom I need to share. Much of it comes from my own experience. And some comes from just paying attention to the world around you. So pay attention.

  1. Your siblings are your lifeline. Friends will come and go, but your siblings are forever. Lean on one another during the hard times. Cry on each other’s shoulders for comfort. Call them first when good things happen. And never judge their choices, behavior, or decisions harshly, because one day you will need them to be just as non-judgmental when you do something questionable. Never ever take that bond you have for granted. It’s possibly one of the greatest gifts that we as parents can give you…a friend for life.
  2. I know that getting up every morning for work isn’t easy and that sometimes dealing with other people and their crappy personalities can be rough. Stress will become an everyday companion as you enter the adult world, but it doesn’t have to control you. Remember that your job is just that…your job. It isn’t your life. Leave work at the door.
  3. Do what you love. Love what you do. For goodness sakes…don’t work in a career field you hate for 40 years. Your sanity and happiness are worth more than money.
  4. Responsibility sucks. But so does living paycheck to paycheck. Never ever quit one job before having another lined up. Trust me. You’ll never find a new job as quickly as you think you can.
  5. Get rid of the toxic people in your life. Being an adult can be tricky, but having the right people at your side can make all the difference in the world. If there are people in your life sucking the happiness out of you, separate yourself from them. For good. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
  6. Never rush into anything important. Rash decisions are usually a bad idea. Buying a home, buying a car, getting married, having children, choosing a daycare…..always take your time.
  7. Be spontaneous. I know, I know. I just contradicted myself. But hear me out. Go out for dinner at the last minute with the man you love, even if you aren’t wearing any makeup. Wake up on a Saturday morning and drive for 3 hours just to eat at a burger place in a different county. Have fun. You’re only young once.
  8. Find your tribe. A tribe is a group of people who like you and will support you no matter what. They will lift you up and encourage you at every turn. When you fall down and feel like you can’t get up, they’ll be there to help you get back on your feet. I can’t begin to tell you how important this is.
  9. Follow your dreams, whatever they are. My entire life was spent trying to fit into a mold of someone else’s design. I was told that I could be anything I wanted to be so long as it was exactly what they wanted me to be. In the end, I spent the majority of my life trying to make other people happy while I was making myself miserable. And being miserable just made those close to me miserable as well. But once I surrounded myself with a supportive tribe of people who truly believed in me, and I started to live my dream, life began to fall into place. And I was happy.
  10. Never give up. When you fall down, get up. When you fall down again, get up again. Repeat as necessary. Eventually…you’ll stop falling.
  11. If you never try, you’ve already failed. So regardless of how afraid you are of something, give it a shot. You have nothing to lose.
  12. Fear is not your enemy. Complacency is.
  13. The older you get, the faster time flies. Trust me. One day, you’re minding your own business thinking how young you still are and suddenly you’ll look down and realize you have the hands of an old woman. It catches up to you fast. Don’t be in a such a hurry to get to Friday each week. Those Fridays add up. Don’t be in a such a hurry for your children to talk, walk, and start school, because one day you’ll look up and they’ve left the nest. Time is an unkind mistress. Make every day count.
  14. Be grateful for what you have and don’t pine for what you don’t. Let’s face facts. We can’t all be millionaires and live in giant home, drive fast cars, own registered horses, and go on expensive vacations. As much as we’d like to have those things in our lives, it isn’t realistic for 99% of us. Instead, be happy with what you have. And most of all, don’t go into debt trying to attain that perfect life. Perfect is a relative term.
  15. Never…and I can’t emphasize this enough…never ever compare yourself to anyone else. It’s exhausting. And the funny thing is this — while you’re comparing yourself to other people, wondering why you fall short of their perfection, someone is looking in your direction thinking they need to compare themselves to you.
  16. Figure out who you are and be that with everything you have. Never apologize for being you.
  17. When you find THE guy, make date night a priority. Even if it’s only once a month. Make the time to be a couple. Don’t get so consumed in your lives that you forget why you’re together in the first place.
  18. Life is full of pain. We all have it in one form or another. But it’s how you deal with that pain that will define you. If you focus on the pain and things that are completely out of your control, that’s all you’ll know. Instead, focus on the things you do have control over. Focus on the good. Place all your energy into making your life and the life of others better.
  19. Stay out of debt. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.
  20. Trust your gut. As a woman, it will rarely fail you. But you have to listen to it.
  21. Write down your goals. Look at them often. Figure out how to achieve them.
  22. Never tell yourself you can’t. Always ask yourself how can you.
  23. If you’re rude to a server at a restaurant, just know they’re spitting in your food. Kindness begets kindness. Being a jackass has repercussions.
  24. A crockpot can be your best friend.
  25. Get a pet. Stop worrying about the hair. That’s why you own a vacuum. They’ll love you unconditionally. Trust me. After a bad day, they can make it all better.
  26. Take care of yourself. Take care of your teeth. Work out. Drink plenty of water. Use moisturizer. Take vitamins. Eat a balanced diet. I’m telling you…you don’t want to look back and wish you’d taken better care of yourself. By then, it’s too late.
  27. Never buy generic toilet paper.
  28. Always buy generic dry noodles.
  29. Target is the most addicting place to shop. Never ever think you can simply go in for one item and leave with just that one item. You’re just kidding yourself.
  30. Smile more
  31. Cry more
  32. Love more
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An Open Letter to my Niece as she Starts College

My dearest niece,

Today is you birthday, and you are headed off to the hallowed halls of higher education. You thought being a freshman in high school was rough? Well, pull up your big girl panties and get ready for the ride of your life.

College is a whole new world filled with fun, stress, and changes that will forever shape your future.

Since I’m the queen of unsolicited advice when it comes to you and my daughters, I thought…”Why not offer up some useful advice about how to get through college without screwing it up?”

So…here it goes.

1) College isn’t for everybody. But you decided to further your education and attend a school that is hours away from your parents…and me. So, my first bit of advice is this: Don’t forget WHY you’re going to college. You’re going there to learn. You’re going so that when you get out, you have accumulated knowledge that you didn’t have before you went in so you can find a career you love. Remember that. College = Knowledge.

2) This brings me to my second point. In college, there will be men. Notice, I didn’t say boys. Boys no longer exist in your world. They can be a wonderful distraction, but they’re just that. A distraction. Refer back to #1.

3) Speaking of men, there are some that will do or say anything to get what they want from you. Now, I said ‘some’. Not ALL men are pigs, but unfortunately there will be guys with selfish intentions who will try to sweet talk their way into your life. It is your job to figure out which ones are crap and which ones are worth your time. I can’t give you much advice on how to determine which is which. But, I will say this…a woman’s gut instinct is rarely wrong. Listen to yours. If you get even the slightest bad vibe…tell him to take a hike. A really long one.

4) Make friends. Make all kinds of friends. Don’t just make friends with the people who are just like you. That’s boring. Make friends who have different interests than you – people who like different kinds of music, movies, and books. Learn what makes people tick – learn their passions and their dreams. People like that will teach you what the real world is like. Because one day, you will be out in the real world with a real job and “spoiler alert”…you will work with people who are vastly different from you. If you can’t figure out how to get along with different kinds of people in college, the real world is gonna suck.

5) Study

Your Aunt BJ, headed off for college. Don't laugh...that outfit was very chic.

Your Aunt BJ, headed off for college. Don’t laugh…that outfit was very chic.

6) You’ll have a roommate. You may get along with her. Then again, you may not. This is a great way to learn what marriage is like. Living with someone you don’t always see eye to eye with in a small, confined space? That’s almost exactly like marriage. Have a fight? Talk it out. You’re right and they’re wrong. Guess what? It doesn’t matter. They’re messy? They snore? They don’t like how you make your bed? Welcome to being an adult. Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and apologize, even when you’re not wrong. Show an interest in what they’re doing. Tell them how much you appreciated them cleaning the bathroom. It’s all about compromise, give and take. Like I said – just like marriage.

7) Study some more

8) Learn how to prioritize. This will be one of the most valuable things you’ll ever master. Classes and schoolwork before play. Hard work before fun. Which paper to write first. Figuring out what takes priority in life is part of being in adult, so learn this now.

9) You’re not in high school anymore.

10) You won’t get awards in college for participation. If you want something, you’re going to have to work for it.

11) If you screw up. Own it. People will respect you much more if you admit failure than making excuses for what you’ve done.

12) Keep studying

13) Back to those men. Don’t date someone just because he’s popular, well-built, and hot. Because that’s just stupid. Popularity goes away after you graduate, even the best built guys eventually gain a bit of weight, and sometimes hot guys lose their hair. You date someone because they make you laugh. You date someone because they would rather stay in with you than hang out with their friends. You date someone because they’re the first person you want to call when something good happens. You date him because he makes you smile and isn’t jealous, rude to waiters, and secretly cries during your favorite chick flick. And you continue dating him because it turns out he’s your best friend.

14) Have fun. Up until now, I’ve talked about hard work and remembering that college is there for you to learn and not screw around. But it’s also a time to find yourself. But do it intelligently. Don’t do something that could get you arrested or killed. Drinking is prevalent in college. Be smart and use your head. One day, you’re going to be married and have children of your own. When you’re about to do something, ask yourself this question: “Will I be able to tell my children about this one day?” If the answer is no…don’t do it.

15) Refer back to #1

Your Mother

Your mother

16) Call your mother at least once a week. Mostly because she will miss you and because you love her, but partly because if you don’t I’ll never hear the end of it.

17) Remember to sleep once in a while.

18) I  know I mentioned it before, but don’t drink. I would hope you’re smart enough that I don’t have to mention the drug thing.

19) Go to the store with your friends and buy ridiculous costumes. Put them on and spend a Saturday in downtown making fools of yourselves and taking pictures and doing goofy things. You are only young once.

20) Listen to me or don’t. It’s up to you. But let me leave you with this – high school wasn’t the best years of your life. College won’t be either. Your best years are yet to come. Have fun. Be silly. Be yourself, and find yourself.

 

A Letter to an 18-Year-Old Me

Dear BJ,

The age of 18 is going to be a rough time for you. Life for any teenager can be hard, but only I can understand how out-of-place you feel in a world that sees you as someone that you’re not. People laugh at your pain and the constant cloud over your head. Unable to express how you truly feel to anyone, you are trapped inside your own mind while the real you is desperately trying to figure out how to exist in this crazy world.

18 years old. It's a big world out there.

18 years old. It’s a big world out there.

I promise you…one day you will find that place.

But until you do, you will fail many times in life. Against your better judgement, you will make countless mistakes and hurt people you love. But don’t let that define who you are. When someone pushes you down, get back up. When you feel self-doubt taking over your thoughts, push them away. When people around you tell you that you’re a failure, smile and walk away. But most of all, be confident in yourself and the abilities that God gave you. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

People will try take advantage of your trusting nature and your desperate need to belong. It will send you down the wrong path more than once. And yet, you will turn yourself around and start over, because that’s what you do. You are an expert at starting over. It’s all right to feel bad, to cry and even be angry, but whatever you do…don’t blame others for your failure or the predicament you find yourself in. Take responsibility and own your mistakes. People will respect you for it.

You are much smarter than you think. Stop sabotaging yourself at every turn. Be of aware whom you share your aspirations with since most people don’t believe in dreams. And more times than not, you will find yourself being talked out of everything you want in life by people who claim to love you. Turn those people loose. Stop letting others dictate what you believe you can accomplish in life.

Later in life, people you love will hurt you deeply, but that is no excuse to push absolutely everyone away for fear of getting hurt. Life is lonely without good friends.

BJ...college bound.

BJ…college bound.

Follow your gut. If it feels wrong, don’t do it. If you’re not sure, don’t say it. If they seem fake, they are. A woman’s intuition is rarely wrong, and yours in particular is always spot on. Trust yourself.

Dream. Never stop dreaming. Dream bigger than you can imagine.

You know that desire you have to discover your ultimate purpose in life? You will find that purpose one day. You will become a mother, and it will be the most important task you ever take on in life. And as a mom, you will make mistakes…but your children will learn from you and those mistakes. They will go on to make you proud and will accomplish amazing things. One will influence and affect the lives of special children who will rely on her for her softness and kind heart. Another will one day influence the world with her words and her creativity and will carve out a niche of her own. And yet another will show the world what hard work and determination can do while making everyone around her smile. They will be your legacy, and they will always, always make you proud.

Your 3 biggest achievements back in 2007.

Your 3 biggest achievements back in 2007.

But you have another purpose in this world as well. One day, life is going to kick you when you’re down. And just when you feel you’ll never get up again, you will find a way to climb out of that hole and discover a new lease on life. It will once again give you a reason to dream. Even when doubt sets in and you feel that what you’ve done is rubbish, push through and continue to believe in yourself. When people around you laugh and talk about it behind your back, walk away with your head held high. It’s those same people who try to discourage your dreams that are bitter about failing at their own.

Despite a life full of ups and downs, one day you will succeed. And in that moment, you will look at yourself in the mirror and declare that you have finally figured out who you are. But if I tell you who that is now, you will never get to experience the adventure that is about to be your life..the good and the bad. Because in the end, it’s the combination of joy and angst that ultimately makes you the person you will be become.

So, I leave you with this one piece of advice. Open your eyes wide, spread your wings and fly. You are a shooting star. Allow yourself to believe in your dreams. You won’t be disappointed.

Love,

You

An Open Letter to my Daughter on her 18th Birthday

(The following is an open letter to my eldest daughter today on her 18th birthday. It is unedited and stands as is…a testament of a mother’s love for her child.)

Dear Sky,

Today, you turn 18 years old. You have reached a major pinnacle in your life, but it has only just begun. I eagerly wait with anticipation to see what your life has in store for you. Of all the things I am capable of giving you today, I feel my words are the most valuable.

These are exciting times for you: finishing high school, going to college, moving out on your own, starting a career, paying your own way, dating, marriage, having kids. The possibilities are endless. But, I’m not going to lie. At times, life is going to get rough. It’s inevitable; however, it’s all in how you handle the stress of life that determines whether or not you will succeed. Having a negative attitude toward the stress and being pessimistic will not, I promise you, resolve anything. Taking deep breaths, keeping an optimistic attitude and developing a character that doesn’t quit will take you much further in life than anyone tells you.

I remember back 18 years ago to the day you were born and smile as I recall my first words upon your arrival. “She’s beautiful! She looks like a troll doll!” (I blame the drugs, but who could blame with that little tuft of hair sticking straight up like that!) From that moment on, my life evolved around you. There was nothing I wouldn’t do to keep you safe. I know I’ve told you this before, but being adopted myself I looked at you as my first real blood relative. That moment of your birth was the day I realized I wasn’t alone in the universe. I had you.

When I look at you, I see my own eyes looking back at me. They are thoughtful, ambitious, spontaneous and quick to find the good in others. I can only hope you learn to find the good in yourself. People will disappoint you. It’s in their nature. It’s the ones who disappoint you, own up to it, apologize and never do it again that are worth keeping around. At the same time, be careful with whom you choose to associate and don’t be so naïve to believe that you can trust just anyone. Make others prove their worthiness to be trusted as anyone of sound mind will ask of you. Be someone people can rely on, but don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of either. Stand up for yourself and for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

Love yourself and don’t allow anyone to make you feel less of a person through their words or actions. You, and you alone, are in control of your emotions and well-being. By allowing someone else to taint your self-worth, you give them power over you.

Choose your battles. Life is too short to be arguing with someone all the time about everything. This goes for friends and family as well as any future romantic relationships. Be empathetic and put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to see things from their perspective. You will be rewarded in ways that you have yet to understand.

Don’t be a bystander…ever. Get involved.

A smile at the right time will always go a long way.

When you find the love of you life and eventually get married, let go of the little things. The toilet seat doesn’t matter. Who forgot to unload the dishwasher means nothing. Whose turn it is to change the baby’s diaper isn’t worth the argument. Most things in life are “little things”. By learning to go with the flow and learning to laugh at the appropriate moments, your marriage will be successful.

You have potential for great things. Your love of children and kids with special needs is one of the things that make you amazing. Remembering that they are the reason you have a purpose in life will take you far…farther than I think you realize.

Marry your best friend. Don’t settle. He should make you laugh. Whatever you do, don’t allow him to place you on a pedestal to be worshipped, because when valuables fall, they break. Make sure he sees you as an equal and is willing to walk beside you and not force you to the rear. Make your marriage first and your children second. By doing so, your children will see what a real, loving marriage is and will be all the better for it.

If it feels wrong, don’t do it. If you know it’s wrong, don’t go along with it.

Be a leader, not a follower.

Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. Yes, you’re now officially an adult, but that definition goes far beyond just being a number. Being an adult means being responsible with all aspects of your life. There is plenty of time to move out and live on your own. Other than your current job after school, your only other job for the next few years should be discovering who you are as a person, going to school, and learning from the mistakes of the adults around you. There are many of us who came before you that have made plenty of mistakes, me included. Don’t make the same ones just because you want to be treated as an adult.

Think long-term and not short-term. The mistakes you make now can haunt you forever. You don’t want to live with that kind of guilt.

Ask for advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness…instead, it is a sign of maturity that shows you know the depth of your limitations.

If someone gives you constructive criticism, don’t assume they’re being critical. Take it for what it is and smile. It may be the best advice you ever receive.

Above all else, remember you are loved. Even though we can’t be together today, a huge milestone in your life, you are surrounded by people who would each give their own lives to protect you and keep you safe. None of us want to see you fall, fail or get hurt. Your family is forever.

Follow your dreams. Never give up on something you desperately want. Ever.

Don’t make the same mistakes I’ve made in life.

You are my first-born. You are love and all things good in my heart. When you hurt, I hurt. When you have joy, I have joy.

Happy birthday baby. I love you…forever.

Mom

Pen to Paper

For a week now, I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember the name of my favorite author from the fifth grade.  Yep.  You read that right.  Fifth grade.  Why?  Well, because there was only one time in my entire life that I wrote someone a fan letter, and I was in the fifth grade when I did it.  In my neatest cursive, I wrote a carefully worded letter to an author and mailed it. Now, so many years have gone by that I can no longer remember his name…and that makes me sad.  How is it that someone who meant so much to me once is now a forgotten blip in my memory?

Weeks later, a letter arrived…addressed to me.  Hand written. The author had written me back.  He didn’t type it.  He put pen to paper.  At that moment in my young life, it became the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me.  A successful author of a popular children’s book series had taken time out of his day to write to a ten-year-old farm girl in Iowa, thanking her for letting him know how much his stories meant to her.  I was on cloud nine for weeks.

Shortly after receiving his letter in the mail, I attempted to pen my first book.  It was a horribly written story about a young girl trying to make it to the Olympics as a gymnast.  It was cheesy and optimistic.  (Give me a break – I was ten.)  But, from that moment on I dreamt of seeing one of my stories on a library shelf or on display in a bookstore window.  It was then that I began to realize that I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up…and I wanted to be a writer.

My mother kept the letter (she never throws anything away), but through numerous moves over the years, it’s sadly been misplaced.  So, for the past few weeks, I’ve searched Google for any clue as to his name or the name of his books only to come up empty-handed.  I’m not giving up though.  What I do recall is that the author took his true boyhood adventures with his friends and turned them into fictional stories of mischief and discovery.  Every time I picked up one of his books, I was transported back in time where he allowed me to watch his childhood unfold.

Today, if someone wants to reach out to their favorite author, they simply Tweet a message in 140 characters or less and click Send on their smart phones or post a comment on the author’s Facebook page.  And, if you’re lucky, the author will Tweet or comment back.  It’s an incredibly simple and effective way to communicate what you feel, but somehow it just isn’t the same.  A handwritten letter will ultimately always be more personal, but I fear it is a long-forgotten media.

Thirty years later, here I am with two manuscripts and a short story under my belt.  And, even though I don’t have any of my work on bookstore shelves as of yet, I still consider myself a writer.  I don’t want to be anything else.   While I may not remember his name, I do remember the impact his work had on me at the time.  For now, hardly a day goes by where I don’t think of that man who took the time to write to a young girl, thanking her for her support.  Hopefully one day I’ll remember his name, and I will write to him again…thanking him for his.