#21

Dear Zoey,

It’s been a good while since I wrote one of these, but today has given me the perfect opportunity.

Today’s May the 4th. Also know as Star Wars Day. #maythe4thbewithyou

You found out about this wonderfully nerdy holiday last week when your school announced that May 4th would be Star Wars Day, and that anyone who wanted could dress up to celebrate.

Us being the nerdy family we are, of course, jumped at the chance. You said, “I want to do my hair like Rey!” Because Rey has been your hero ever since you saw the latest Star Wars installment. Of course, I agreed in full support and that was that.

This morning, however, you woke up and said, “I don’t think I want to do my hair like Rey anymore.” I asked why and you broke into tears, “I don’t want –insert little girl that has given us trouble from day one name’s here– to laugh at me. And she told me yesterday that I shouldn’t do anything for Star Wars Day.” Of course, I go into mama bear mode, and immediately want to rip this little girl apart (and did I mention this is not our first issue with said girl?!) But instead, I asked you, “Why does it matter what she thinks? Do you want to do your hair like this?” And after 15 minutes of going back and forth about it. I finally said, “You know what? Her opinion does not matter.” Then, you got sad because you thought I was being mean. And here was my response…

It is not mean to call it like it is. It is not mean to be aware of people and their actions. And then I asked you, “why do you like Rey?”

And you said, “Because she’s awesome and saves BB8 and is brave.”

You’re right, she’s brave. She saves numerous beings, she kicks ass, she takes names, and yet she is still kind and good. Her circumstances are life and death, and I’m sure the idea of kids laughing at you for being authentically you feels like life and death. But being brave means battling those things that scare us and challenge us. Sure, this all started over a silly hairstyle, but standing up for what you want, and being authentically you will be a battle you face your entire life.

And that’s why I will always encourage your nerdy interests, because they’re mine too, but also because the Reys, Leias, Hermiones, and Wonder Women (to name a few) of the world should be noticed and valued. You are Rey. You are Leia. You are Hermione. You are Wonder Woman. You are Zoey.

You ultimately decided to wear your hair like Rey. And you questioned that decision the entire way to school…”What if I’m the only girl?” , “What if they laugh at me?” , “What if they don’t get it?” When we arrived to school, you opened the door, got out and were greeted by at least 3 other girls who were dressed up as Rey or Leia.

Continue fighting to be brave. You’ll be doing it your entire life.

Love you,
Mama

When You’re Contemplating Homeschool…

This is a really difficult blog for me to write. Mostly because I never thought, for a second, that I would ever legitimately consider homeschooling for Z.

Here’s the thing, we will soon be relocating (halfway across the country). And the relocation is inspiring some extra thoughts in me regarding her education. I am finishing my degree in a few months (YAY!!!) and have always looked toward working from home (virtual assisting, proofreading, my Etsy shop..etc). This thought is really exciting and really scary. It takes a lot of motivation and endurance to do something like that, but I very much believe in creating the life you want, not allowing life to create itself. And so, over the past few months, I’ve been slowly building up my knowledge, my items, my ideas to do just that. I can be a dreamer and an idealist sometimes, and I’ve had to be painstakingly honest with myself about what will really be required of me to pull this off–and it’s a lot, but it’s certainly not impossible.

To Homeschool of Not - Questions, Concerns, and Solutions for a Non-Homeschooling Mom

But back to homeschooling, and why I’m considering it. Z hasn’t had a bad school experience at all. She’s had 2 wonderful teachers (and 2 great pre-k teachers before that) that have been inspiring, supportive, and all-around amazing. She’s active, has friends, and has taken to school really well. So, why would I want to change that? Especially since I’ve always been an avid supporter of public schooling (for a long time, I was going to be a teacher…) Well, I think our education system is a really broken one. This is a soapbox issue for me, so I’ll try not to sound too preachy, but bit by bit over the last 10-15 years, America’s education system has whittled away inspired teaching.

And let me  say this — I have no problem with teachers. In fact, I wholeheartedly support and value them. But I think they have been put in a near-impossible position. Their value as educators is now tied to (and almost completely built upon) testing. Mandatory state testing. Every time I read those damn words, it infuriates me. I was so fortunate in my schooling (public education) to have teachers that were able to creatively reach their students. Who could uphold standards without being suffocated by arbitrary testing. Who didn’t have to tailor every piece of their lesson plans toward some testing goal.

And while Z hasn’t reached the age that demands testing yet, I have already seen the ways they start to prepare the students for those tests (beginning in 3rd grade, where we live currently, and where we will be moving). And I don’t like it. I don’t like the amount of homework that a 6 year old has in a week. It’s absurd to me that a 6 year old even has homework (yep, I’m one of those). And when ranking America against other countries, we continue to fail. So, we think…more tests, get to them younger…and it has done nothing but suck every bit of inspired creativity out of education, in my opinion. In fact, I would say my educational standards are closely aligned with Finland. And I need to point out one of my favorite pieces from this article, when a Finnish principal responds to many of America’s leaders and businessman pushing for competition in testing between schools to gain money for their program, he says,” ‘I think, in fact, teachers would tear off their shirts,’ said Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience. ‘If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.'”

And that is really the core of my desire to homeschool. Sure, there are plenty of other things I like or find appealing, but when it comes down to it, that’s the heart of it. I want to teach Zoey how to learn to be a student of life, not a student for a test. I want practical application to be at the heart of her education, not scantrons. I want her life to be inspired by play, wonder, and creativity. And that is something that is just not available to her in America’s current education system.

Alright, there’s my soapbox. 🙂

Now, for my concerns with homeschooling.

CONCERN #1 – Socialization

Z is an only child (and may or may not stay that way, who knows), so socialization is a BIG concern. Z is a kid that thrives off of people. She quietly observes, but she is energized by people and interaction. So, I’m an outgoing introvert…she is a quiet extrovert. Funny, how that happens.

I know that Z would make new friends, experience new environments, and adapt well to a new school. She has an enormous amount of resiliency with new situations, and I’m confident she’d adjust to a new school just fine. In fact, when I asked her, “Would you ever want to be homeschooled?” She thought about it really hard and asked, “Well how would I make new friends?”

SOLUTION

Homeschool co-ops, outside activities (sports, enrichment classes…etc), and parent groups could all help with that. I’ve already found a couple that are in the area we will be moving to. I’ve also started researching activities, costs, and such. Luckily, I’m pretty good at this research thing, and where we’re moving has great weather nearly year round, which helps even more. Z has already played a few seasons of soccer, is currently in gymnastics, taking piano, and has plenty more interests. So, I think, if I budget well, socialization will not be a concern.

CONCERN #2 – FINANCES

Like I said in the beginning, I’m all about creating a life you want, not waiting for life to happen. I’m an English major (Creative Writing emphasis), and have always wanted to be a writer in one way or another. I have also have extensive knowledge and experience in office work & research, which I plan to use to my advantage.

I also have two Etsy stores that I’ve been working on nearly non-stop the last 2 months to get up and running.

So, why am I thinking about all this now? Well, for one, I’m a planner. But more importantly, I am also well aware that if I want to make money and be able to live the life I want, I have to work tirelessly for it. And the chance to be able to do that not only gives me a better quality of life, but it gives me the opportunity to build a life for Z that I want (and think is necessary).

How am I going to balance homeschooling with working from home? I don’t quite have those nuts and bolts figured out, however this post was incredibly helpful and inspiring to me. Also, this one. It’s not impossible. It just takes some planning.

CONCERN #3 – STANDARDS or AM I ENOUGH?

I’m walking into this idea of homeschooling with the knowledge that it may not work out. It may not be the cup of tea that I’m expecting (and Z is, for that matter). It may not fit Z the way I think it will. And in that case, she may be put back into “normal” schooling.

And this gives me the most anxiety. It’s the question that I’m sure burns inside many moms, parents, homeschooling or not. Am I enough? Will I be able to provide her with everything she needs to know (standards-wise) so that if she does go back into regular schooling, she won’t be behind or overwhelmed? And this can even go down the line. Say, we stick with homeschooling and it really works for us, what about college? Will she be prepared for it? Can I take that sort of pressure on? Will I be able to provide what she needs.

SOLUTION

The answer, I know, is simply yes to all the above questions. I am enough for her. But I am not the only person that will be available to her. We will have a community of people that can teach and guide and invest in her (ya know which also helps with concern #1).

And let’s be honest, one of my strengths is research. I can research til I am blue in the face and still be inspired to research more. I enjoy it. I’m good at it. If I don’t know the answer to something, I know how to find it. Whether it be through a group, a search engine, or a person. I know that I do not have to do this on my own. And frankly, Z is a pretty well-adjusted kid. If I continue to support the things that make her unique and interesting and valuable, I do believe that she can adapt to anything that comes her way. And isn’t that the main reason I wanted to begin this homeschooling journey to begin with?

So, there you have it. My thoughts, concerns, and ideas for homeschooling with Z. We still don’t know if this is the route we will take, but I want to be as educated and aware of all sides of the coin, before landing anywhere.

What would you all suggest? For those that homeschool, did you come from traditional schooling or did you always know that’s how it would be? Any other helpful hints, articles, tips you’d like to leave are greatly appreciated as well!

#17

Dear Zoey,

Yesterday was a rough day. A rougher day than what I’ve had with you in a long time. I’ll remind you of the story. You started gymnastics almost a year ago. You’ve loved it, but this session, you’ve switched to a small class with a coach that really challenges you. And man, you work hard. You listen, you fight to learn stuff, you are an active participant. It’s fantastic to watch, seriously. But last week, you hurt your foot. And by hurt, I mean you bent it back a bit, so it was a bit sore, but nothing to worry about. And suddenly, you want to quit. You say it’s too hard. You say you can’t do it. You say you don’t want to “get hurt again.” I’ve always made it very clear that if you start something, you finish it. And after it’s done, if you don’t want to do it again, you don’t have to.

You continued to whine about it (and lawd knows how much I hate whining). So, I gave you an option…you either go to gymnastics (last night) or you go to bed for the night (at 6:30pm). You chose to go to bed…and you cried and screamed and cried and cried some more. And I stuck to my guns. You went to bed.

Here’s the thing, it broke my heart. I hate hearing you cry. I hate making you sad or angry. I love our relationship and that majority of the time, I get to be the cool mommy because you behave in a way that makes it possible. However, I refuse to succumb to your every whim. My entire job as a parent is to make sure you are safe and that you grow up to be a conscientious human being. Anything else is icing on the cake. And I am a firm believer that when parents continually succumb to their kids, those kids end up being privileged assholes. Let me tell you, you may grow up to be a lot of things. But privileged will not be one of them.

You will know what hard work is. That life rarely hands you anything for free, and usually, what’s free is rarely worth it. You will know that the more you fight for something, the better you will eventually become. You will know the importance of graciousness. You will know what resilience is. I’m a fighter, and I raise fighters.

And this isn’t to say that I don’t succumb to you. I do. Every parent does. But the important thing is to pick and choose your battles. Life is all about balance, and last night, I had to choose the life lesson over being the “fun” mom. And funny enough, you woke up this morning in a great mood, gave me a million hugs and kisses, and talked my ear off like you normally do on our morning walks to school.

Keep being a little fighter. It’s worth it.

Love you,
Mama

#16

Dear Zoey,

Today is your first day of 1st grade. And I know it’s cliche to say, but I really have no idea where the time went. These years are flying past me, and I feel like I’m constantly grasping at moments and locking them away, so I don’t forget anything. Today, I don’t have any advice, at least none that I haven’t already written about. Today is more about you, and what I see in you.

You are so bright. And I don’t just mean in the traditional way, I mean it in every way. You radiate. You have such a deep enthusiasm for people and life and knowledge. You also have an incredibly soft and kind heart. It’s one of my favorite things about you, but also one of those things that scares me. I know what it’s like to grow up with that same heart. The one that bleeds for people that hurt or struggle. The heart that wants to fix and help. The heart that wants to open wide for anyone and everyone. These are good things, but they are also things that require boundaries.

I’ve struggled with my boundaries my entire life. Always searching for a balance between give and take. And it’s tough. So, I have one big hope for you this year. I hope you learn how to speak for yourself. I hope you learn that you can (and should) be kind to everyone, but that kindness is not weakness.

You are kind and brave and strong. I am so proud of you and all that you are!

Love you,
Mama

#15

Dear Zoey,

Several months ago, a dear friend of mine texted me out of the blue with a question (I’ll be majorly paraphrasing) that hit me deeply,”If Zoey came to you and told you she felt like she was born in a body that wasn’t her own, what would you tell her?” I immediately assumed, based on the personal story of this friend, she was asking me about gender identity (she might have stated something about it, I can’t really remember). And this was the first time that I came face to face with the gut-wrenching question–if you’re child chose to be honest about his/herself (let me be clear that I don’t believe anyone chooses their sexuality, but there is a choice in living who you really are), and it meant possibly facing a world that didn’t understand him/her and could, quite possibly, be very cruel…what would you do? Would you join in the ridicule? Would you try to convince her otherwise? Would you love her less? Would you abandon her?

The answer actually came really easy for me. I told my friend that I would be there for her and love her. That I would find a therapist that would help guide her in whatever transition she needed to make. If my little girl found that her body was not a place where she felt safe or truthful, I would want her to find the truth. I would love her without any condition or disapproval. I think my friend asked me this because she knew I would show only love and acceptance. At least I hope she did. A few weeks later, my friend made the decision to be truthful and is now a transgendered man. And to see the freedom he now experiences is a really beautiful, incredible thing. Another friend of mine just shared how her beautiful daughter is now her transgendered son. To see a mother embrace, support, and love her beautifully brave child is inspiring, to say the least.

Zo, there will be a lot of things in coming years that you learn and see that might make you uncomfortable. Let me tell you this: they make you uncomfortable because you don’t understand it. I think there’s some sort of instinct that people have which ignorance into fear. Or maybe people create it, I’m not sure. Either way, I will fight every day to show you a world in which acceptance  and love fuels our actions. (Here comes a cliche) Knowledge really has power. Educating yourself on people and their stories is absolutely one of the best things you can do with your life.

While we may not face the same circumstances, it doesn’t mean they are not real for someone else. I will never know what it feels like to walk in the shoes of a transgendered boy or girl and I’m pretty positive I’ll never know what it is to raise one (as long as you’re my one and only), but I do know what it feels like to try and hide pieces of who you are…I think everyone does to a certain degree, and let me tell you this, I never want you to hide or shy away from the incredible human you are. I know what it feeling alone is like. I know what being judged feels like. And that is where I can find common ground. I can say, “This feeling of loneliness or emptiness or condemnation or need to hide feels awful…I would never want someone else to feel this way.” And in one sentence, compassion develops and we break down all the identifying features of a person, able to see that we are all more similar than we know.

It goes back to the basic sentiment…treat people the way you want to be treated. Value and love people for how wonderfully different and similar they are.

Love you cuddlebug,
Mama

The Case for the Only Child

I recently saw a post on Facebook titled, “Reasons to Have a Second Child” or something like that. And I get it. I get how great it is to have another kid around, and that siblings can form bonds that last through the ins and outs and ups and downs. As of right now, Zoey is an only child, and she might end up being that for good. I’m not really sure what the future holds, but what I do know is that only children get a bad wrap a lot. Here’s the top 10 list of reasons to have a second child, and my response…to each of them:

ONLYCHILD

1. They learn to be selfless. Sorry, I wasn’t aware that I needed another child around to teach my kid not to be a selfish asshole. I understand the whole “I feel protective of this little being now,” however, I’m not sure that’s an innate sense of selflessness, I think it’s interest and curiosity (depending on how old the eldest kiddo is). It may develop into selflessness, but I certainly don’t think having a sibling is what forms that. I think it’s being surrounded by family and friends that promote that sense of compassion and loyalty to people who matter.

2. They learn how to share. Very few things irritate me more than the stigma that an only child doesn’t learn how to share. Z is 6 now, and I remember very few (actually I don’t remember any) instances where I had to remind her to share. This is, again, something you teach as a parent. You teach them by example, by showing what sharing looks like. You don’t need another kid to somehow cement that idea in their head. Also, do people just keep their only children in isolation so they never interact with other kids or something? I certainly didn’t, and I would venture to say that most parents of only children don’t either.

3. They learn how to resolve problems. Again, up to the parents.

4. They learn about teamwork. Hello, organized sports, preschool, and school?! And I actually find it quite fun to “work as a team” with Z.

5. They will have a built-in playmate. Okay, I can’t argue with this one. Not sure if this is a necessary reason to give your kid a sibling though.

6. They have someone to learn from or teach.  I will say, Z has older cousins that she spends a lot of time with, and that aspect of their relationship helps a lot. Again, this is also something that parents can (and should) do.

7. They have someone to talk to. Sure, but again, are they in isolation if they don’t have a sibling? Can they not talk to their parents or friends from school/playdates or other family members or neighbors? It seems like there’s a lot of “all or nothing” when it comes to teaching social skills to only children, according to this list.

8. They have someone to celebrate with when things go great. I love celebrating with Z. Nothing is better than celebrating occasions, milestones, and accomplishments with her. And sure, it could be fun with another, but there is something to be said for being able to fully invest all my energy and excitement into one kiddo.

9. And lean on when times get tough. See #7.

10. They have someone to grow old with. The article also says, “Friends come and go, but family is forever.” It’s nice in sentiment, but in reality, you never know is going to come and who is going to go. Friends can become your family, crazy things can happen.

Don’t misinterpret me, I think having more than one kiddo is more than okay. It’s just not right for every family, and frankly, I’m a bit jaded with these “10 Reasons You Should…blah, blah, blah…” Part of me really loves that these lists can be succinct and specific, however…life isn’t always that way. And it’s time to break the silly stigmas attached to people who decide to go against the norm. I could write a million reasons why I like my one-child family, however, those are reasons that work for me and aren’t necessarily someone else’s ideal. It’s time to stop judging and labeling the choices individual families make for themselves.

#14

Dear Zoey,

It’s the last day of twenties, so along with my letters to my former child and teenage self, I figured I’d end this era with a letter to my “20s” self, and a bit of what I’ve learned along the way.

In a matter of 10 years, I have managed to get married, divorced, birth two babies, raise one as a (mostly) single mother, join the military, discharge from the military, and am on the cusp of getting my degree (FINALLY!) Talk about a whirlwind. Zo, so much happens in your 20s, regardless of what you choose to do with those 10 years. Who I am at 29 is so incredibly different from who I was at 20, but in so many ways, so much the same. If I could talk to my “early 20s” self (this is pre-Zoey, we’re talking). I’d tell her to stop planning everything! Yes, it is good to have goals. It’s good to have clear visions of where you want to be, but don’t get so wrapped up in trying to make life happen that you forget that life is right now. I would tell her to stop spending money on stuff and spend it on traveling or experiences instead. Life is meant to be experienced, not just merely observed. I would tell her to stop being so damn regretful about everything. I lived so much of my early 20s in shame and fear, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that regrets are bullshit. You can’t change the past, so stop beating yourself up about it. Holding onto shame only stunts your growth. Inhale all the pain and bitterness, and exhale all the goodness and positivity.

Around 26, I started to feel like a failure. I didn’t have a husband or a degree. I wasn’t a homeowner, and money was a constant struggle. I kept thinking, “I have nothing to show for success.” And then around 28, I realized what my definition of success was…and it was different from other people. From that point on, I’ve become more and more comfortable in my own skin, comfortable with my choices. I still have self-doubt sometimes, but it doesn’t seem to invade me like it used to. I’ve learned that like everything else, it will come and go. You get to choose what your success is — that is powerful.

Which leads me to one of the best lessons I’ve learned. It’s from a simple quote that a former technical director at JCCC had posted on his door, “No excuses, only choices.” It seems like a simple idea, but it really was revolutionary for me. The minute that you can hold yourself accountable for your own actions, you are unstoppable. By not allowing yourself to make excuses, you are suddenly in control of your life. Sure, you won’t always make the best choice, but when you own your choices, and stop blaming outside people or circumstances, you find a whole version of yourself. You are no longer a victim to your circumstances, and that is so incredibly pivotal.

Your 20s will be some of your hardest, most rewarding, weirdest, most fun years of your life…no matter what you choose to do. Don’t pressure yourself to have everything figured out….because love, you will never have it all figured out. I think that’s one of the biggest indicators of “growing up.” You will never get all the answers, but keep striving to learn and grow. Invest in people that invest in you. Love and friendship involve a great amount of choice — You choose who to give your energy to, so believe in those choices. Don’t allow people to influence your decision making, if they won’t be affected by the outcome. Trust that life is a constant ebb and flow. Bad things will happen. Life will blind side you, just live it. Don’t be a spectator of your life. Engage in it with no regrets. Breathe in this moment because it’s gone before you know it.

Love you,
Mama

#13

Dear Zoey,

So, I talked last time about what I would tell my former child self, and today, I’m gonna talk about what I would tell my former adolescent self.

Adolescence is hard. For anyone. The obvious changes physically and emotionally make you feel like a walking moron half the time. You feel like no one understands you, and it can get really lonely. You never feel pretty or valuable or interesting. And I would tell my former self: you are beautiful and vibrant and enthusiastic. You are valuable and interesting. Don’t doubt the impression you can make on the world because you may be young, but you are fierce and you can change the world. I would tell her that you should never settle for friends that treat you poorly or belittle you. I would tell her to slow down, life goes fast enough, stop trying to speed it up.  I would tell her that kindness is not weakness. You can be bold and strong, but also be compassionate and kind. In fact, true kindness comes out of a deep strength of character. I would tell her that her body is beautiful, not awkward. I would tell her that karma will always work its magic. Keep giving out positive energy, and it will be returned to you.

I would never want to relive my pre-teen or teenage years. Ever. And I have some great memories, and some great friendships were born out of that time, but those years were tough. So, when you come home from your first real heartbreak, I will let you cry on my shoulder, or lock yourself in your room while you listen to sad songs. When you feel chubbier than all of your friends, or hate your new haircut, I will look you in your eyes and tell you that you are the most beautiful thing in my world. I will recite one of my favorite slam poems from Kate Makkai,

“This is about my own someday daughter.
When you approach me, already stung stained with insecurity begging,
‘Mom, will I be pretty?’
‘Will I be pretty?’
I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer, ‘No!
…The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be!
And no child of mine will be contained in five letters.
You will be pretty intelligent.
You will be pretty creative.
Pretty amazing.
But you…will never be merely pretty.”

When you can’t figure out your emotions, and end up angry…all the time. I will try to be understanding. I’ll snap too. I’ll be reminded of all the times I felt misunderstood and realize that I now must step back and allow you to grow. I mean it when I say…I will be here for you no matter what.

Love you baby girl,
Mama

#12

Dear Zoey,

Around birthdays, I tend to reflect a lot. I’m an insanely nostalgic person, and I think as long as you don’t live in the past, it’s good to look back and see how far you’ve come.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would tell my former self. So, I thought it’d be fun to break it down into different “eras” of my life. If I could talk to my child self…the one right before puberty, the one who played hockey with the boys, but desperately tried to be girly enough for the friends around me. I would say this…

Don’t spend so much of your childhood trying to grow up. I know it’s natural to think about how much greater it is as an adult, and in some ways, it is. I mean, I get to eat chocolate almond ice cream any damn time I want (which usually means, I’m sneaking away in a room away from you, so you don’t steal any of it…sorry, I know…I’m cruel). Anyway, I was always obsessed with being older, trying to be more mature, pushing the boundaries of what it meant to be a kid. And if I could talk to that girl right now, I would tell her, “Slow down. You have plenty of time to grow up. Breathe in the summer air, run with your shoes off, get dirty, play until it’s dark outside.” Because those moments of childhood, are the ones you’ll remember. If I could talk to my 6th grade self, I would tell her…you are not as awkward as you feel. You are kind and interesting and valuable. I would tell her that she was smart for enjoying time with her parents, that those Barnes & Noble dates with your mom and dad would be something she would cherish forever.

In fact, I think I would tell my former self, in just about every era…to slow down. Life goes by quickly. I see it every day in the ways you change and grow. I mean, you are READING entire BOOKS now. It astonishes me daily what you have learned and how you have grown in a matter of 9-10 months. So, enjoy being a kid. And enjoy having a designated bed time. Trust me, you’ll regret all the hours you fought (I just wrote “fighted” by the way…phew, it’s been a long day) sleep.

I love you, baby girl…

Love,
Mama

#11

Dear Zoey,

I’ve neglected these letters recently! Time to get back on track.

About a month ago, we saw the new Cinderella. We both loved it, but what struck me most was the film’s very clear thesis: “Have courage and be kind.” I don’t know that there is anything more that I want for and from you than kindness.

Baby, our society is plagued with injustice and misunderstanding and cruelty. It feels like every day I read or hear something, particularly from people I love and care about, that makes me cringe. You have no idea how many times I want to shake people around me and say, “SHUT UP AND BE NICE!” Just be nice.

And I don’t mean a passive nice. I mean an overwhelming, passionate kindness. I hope you overflow with love and empathy for all types of people. I have to remind myself of this. Because it’s easy for me to practice kindness to the downtrodden, misunderstood, and alienated people, but it’s not so easy for me to feel the same on the opposite end of the spectrum. What I remind myself every time I read articles of people justifying discrimination in the name of religion, or hear conversations attempting to justify racism (These usually start with, “I’m not a racist, but…), or see the degradation and alienation of the poor….What I remind myself is that kindness is not a one-way street. Kindness requires that you sacrifice the self-righteousness in your own gut. It means letting go of your pride, taking a breath, and choosing not to take part in things that are divisive. It means viewing every single person you come in contact with as someone with a story. It means offering compassion to everyone–especially those that anger you and make you want to scream. It is not brave to be kind to those that you agree with. That’s easy. What takes courage is choosing kindness. When being kind to someone does not come easy, but you choose to be anyway, that is brave. (And as a side note — this does not mean you aren’t open about your opinions and ideals. It means that when you come to a place of dissension, you choose kindness over your pride. Believe me, it is possible).

This is not easy for me. At all. But I’m getting there, and your sweet heart continues to inspire me.

So, above anything else, please always be kind. What you put out into this world is what will eventually come back to you — make it good.

Love you,
Mama