#26

Dear Zoey,

 

My heart hurts so much right now, Zo. I’ve sobbed on and off for majority of the day (I started writing this yesterday, the day of the election). It is a dark day that your kids will learn about in history books.

I don’t know what country we’re living in right now. You and daddy are asleep in the other room and I’m out here sobbing because…

I have to face you. And I have to watch your face when you find out Donald Drumpf is president.

 

But now it’s morning…I’ve had…two hours of sleep. My heart is still hurting. My eyes are swollen from tears. And many people will find this dramatic or overkill.

 

They’ll say that we’ve had bad presidents before.

They’ll say give him a chance.

They’ll say, he doesn’t speak like a politician, that he tells it like it is.

 

I’ll say, tell that to my daughter who has personally heard him say some of the most vile things and has covered her ears and cried because of it. Tell that to me, a veteran, who has heard him mock a man who was tortured for this country or has told injured servicemen and women that he always wanted a Purple Heart. I’ll say, tell that to a Muslim American family who lives in fear every day because they practice a different religion, a mom with a transgendered son who is simply trying to navigate a life she never thought would be hers. Tell that to the incredible amounts of LGBTQ friends in my life. Tell that to the Christian who was finding faith again, but now has no one and nowhere to turn because this doesn’t look like the Christ she read about.

You know what though? I still woke up, took Rocky out for a walk, said good morning and smiled at my neighbors. Those yappy dogs a few buildings down still barked their heads off when Rocky and I passed. I still came home and made sure daddy was awake, and in a little, I’ll wake you up and we’ll go about our day. The world is still moving. It hurts me, but it’s moving.

This is the effect of feeling everything so deeply. It’s not something I particularly like (in fact, majority of the time, it makes me nauseated…) But in the face of a future that seems really bleak and scary. One that will surely bring about more turmoil and stress, I can only teach you the values I know to be true.

Being kind changes people. You can choose to be kind or you can choose to be bitter. I choose kindness.

Hard work does eventually pay off. We don’t always see it or believe it, but it does.

Having courage means facing the fear head on, and having conversations that may be hard.

Social media won’t institute change. It may bring awareness, but it can just as easily become a vacuum. Use it wisely and with grace.

When the world is scary or dark or bleak — I will always be here for you. Every step of the way. When the odds seem stacked against you, I’ll be the whisper in your ear saying, “One more time.” I’ll always be in your corner.

 

 

Love,
Mama

#25 – Letters to Zoey

Dear Zoey,

Whenever I finally give you these letters, I will have given you a billion things to think about, to reflect on, to hopefully inspire you. You will hopefully see years of life pouring out through my words. And I hope, no matter what, you see joy and hope.

There is a lot to be angry about. A lot to be sad about. A lot to be disappointed in. But there is this amazing thing called hope. Cling to it. It is so easy to get cynical (I have to talk myself back from cynicism practically every day), but there is something so much more beautiful about rising above. Looking ahead. Making something from ashes.

Hope and joy. Not happiness. Not glass half full, or half empty, or no glass at all. Hope and joy are the ultimate goal. Those are the things that will hold you together when your world gets torn apart. Those are things that will make you savor the human, vulnerable, and beautiful moments you stumble on. Hope and joy are born out of pain, grief, and broken things. In order to gain them, you’ll have to know suffering. And when you’re going through the suffering part, you’ll want to say,”to hell with it,” but then that little thing called hope will whisper in your ear, “Keep going.”

I know the weight these words come with. If I’m wishing hope and joy for you, I know that carries a double-edged sword because I will have to watch you be hurt too. And that kills me. Every time. (By the way, it’s amazing how you reflect on your own mother and father when looking at your daughter. Knowing all the things I’ve experienced that your grandparents have had to watch me go through. Being able to reflect on that — it’s a really incredible thing). And when you’re going through the fire, if you need me to remind you, I will tell you that beautiful things come from broken places.

Sink your teeth into this incredible life. Know what you’re against, but promote what you’re for. Seek the type of joy that fills you up, and gives you resilience. The one that says, “This may be a dark world, but I am light and power and peace and beauty.”

Your name means life. Remember that.

Love you,
Mama

#24

Dear Zoey,

This is a letter for you for the days when you feel sad, and don’t know why. Or do know why, but they don’t make sense. Or you feel out of your mind. Or not like yourself.

There will be days like this. A lot of them.

There will be days when you look at your life and it is so good and so right, which makes you feel guilty for being sad.

Don’t. Try not to feel guilty for the emotions that make up your every day life. That’s a lot easier said than done. In fact, if you figure out how to do that, fill me in.

Allow yourself to stay in a hot shower for 30 minutes, just so you can cry. Allow yourself to lie down in the fetal position and find your breath. Don’t call yourself crazy or psychotic. You may feel that way, but you are are not those things. You are an amazingly flawed human being comprised of life and dreams, grandeur and sadness — and sometimes all those things crash together and you have to piece together what to keep and what to breathe away.

Some days will be tough. And you won’t know why or how to fix it, and so the best thing you can do is breathe. Some days you’ll feel strong enough to get up and put one foot in front of the other. Other days you’ll know that life isn’t something you can wrap your head around. Stay in your sweat pants on those days. It’s okay.

The thing about having tough days is they build empathy. They grow your compassion. Hopefully, you’ll allow them to make you kinder because life is tough…and there are so many of us paddling like hell to keep afloat.

Breathe. And keep on keepin’ on, my love.

Love,
Mama

#23

Dear Zoey,

I wonder how many shootings and attacks I will have to write about over the course of these letters.

All over social media and the news today are the reports of 50 people being shot and killed at a gay night club in Orlando (And last I saw, 53 injured). I’ve had to avoid TVs and my normal social browsing because I just can’t.

It’s not that I don’t love and cry for every single one of those people and the friends and family they leave behind. It’s not that I’m not f***ing irate that assault rifles are still legal or that you can’t have a reasonable talk about common sense gun laws without being slaughtered for “trying to take away a right to bear arms.” It’s not that I’m not completely heartbroken for my beautiful, incredible friends in the gay community.

It’s not. I’m all of those things.

I just can’t. I can’t see more thoughts and prayers. I can’t see people cover their eyes and close their ears to active and honest change. I can’t take another “from my cold dead hands,” conversation or argument.

But I’m gonna have to. Because I don’t want you to grow up in a world where we succumb to evil. Or stupidity. Or bigotry. Or hate. I want you to grow up believing that goodness can always be found. That hope is worth fighting for. I want you to grow up allowing evil to anger you — anger you enough to do something about it.

Unfortunately, I know that this is not the last mass shooting or horrific act of violence I will write to you about. There will be more pain and heartache and evil. But we will fight to be the good in the world. We will speak love into the darkness and brokenness. We will fight for change. Always.

Love you,
Mama

#22

Dear Zoey,

 

There’s a lot in the news and media recently about consent, rape, and privilege. A 19 year old was recently convicted and given an unbelievably light sentence for the awful things he did to his victim. In light of all of this, I think I need to make very clear what consent means.

Z, if you ever get insanely drunk at a party — it doesn’t give anyone a right to your body.

No matter what you wear, where you go, or how far you go — it gives absolutely no one a right to your body.

You alone decide that. I don’t care if you flirt. I don’t care if you get naked. I. Don’t. Care. You and you alone get to decide what you do with your body and with whom. And if there is ever a time when you don’t feel comfortable with what is happening, you have the sole right in saying no. Don’t allow the pressure of being a tease push you into situations you don’t want to be in.

All that being said, we still live in a society where rape culture is extremely prevalent. I used to play into the “she was asking for it” bullshit too. Then I had you. And I realized all of the rules that girls had to abide by. The rules that become so ingrained in your head, they’re second nature. It becomes habit to put your biggest car key in between your fingers when you walk outside alone. It becomes habit to have a wingman checking your drink. It becomes habit to assume that because a girl is wearing more revealing clothing that she is an open door for sexual advances. It becomes habit to question a girl’s truth if she was drunk. It becomes second nature to not trust any male that you first meet, especially in a party setting, because he might rape you. Seems dramatic, right? But  until society makes rape a black and white issue, we will be forced to live this way.

But my beautiful, sweet baby girl — rape is black and white. There is no grey area. Consent is a really simple concept — if you want something, you agree to it. If you don’t, you say no. And if you are inebriated to the point of blacking out, that’s an automatic no (in case that ever comes into question). And if anyone, in your life, questions this — you can tell them to go straight to hell.

Love,
Mama

#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

#20

Dear Zoey,

Sometimes, it’s all just too much.

Today, at least 120 people were killed in terrorist attacks over in Paris.

And I’m sorry.

I’m so sorry, baby girl. I’m sorry that you have to grow up in a world where hatred is rampant. I’m sorry that every week there’s a new story of senseless violence. I was in 4th grade (maybe 3rd?) when the Oklahoma City Bombing happened. I was in 8th grade when Columbine happened. I was a junior in high school when 9/11 happened. You were 4 years old when Sandy Hook happened.

And these are only the “big” ones in my history. Each of these times, the world has seemed so dark and evil. And sometimes, it feels unbearable.

But there is light. And there is kindness. And there is goodness. It sometimes feels impossible to attain or reach or grasp.

As you grow older, you will see scary things. You will doubt your safety in normal places. And “normal” for you will be much different from what normal meant during my childhood. And frankly, I hate that.

But kindness matters. Continue shining your light in all the darkness. Cling to our mission statement, “Have courage and be kind.” It is always braver to be kind. Always.

I’m not nearly as eloquent as I want to be. Mostly because this world is a scary place to be anymore. The paranoia is baffling to me sometimes, but we can’t succumb to fear. Hatred is born out of fear, and we won’t live that way, my love.

Love you,
Mama

#18

Dear Zoey,

There’s a lot to be outraged about in this world. A lot of bad things happen to great people. Injustice seems to surround us wherever we go. And believe me, I’m the first one to pipe in when I see something that is cruel or unjust or mindless. (Okay, I’m an introvert, so actually I observe for days and days and days after tons of research and thinking, and THEN I say something…)

However, what I’m finding with the ever increasing consumption of media in our lives…is that people become enraged about EVERYTHING all the time. And what seems to be happening is a little like the “boy who cried wolf” story. If you become enraged about everything, and are quick to scream and protest and raise your red flag, you will eventually fall on deaf ears. And unfortunately, some really important issues are pushed to the side because of this.

So, I think there’s a delicate balance to find. Standing your ground and being firm in your belief system is important. It’s important to script out what our “personal” mission statements are. What we value. How we want to be treated. And most importantly, how we want to treat others. But there has to come a point where you stop talking and start doing. As cliche as it’s become, Gandhi had it right when he said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

So, I guess what I want for you is to not be afraid to speak up. That’s usually the first step in change — acknowledging the problem, but then take action. It’s easy to repost articles and memes and quotes and hashtags, it’s a lot more difficult to stand up and say, “This is wrong, and I’m going to do something about it.” And frankly, I’ve failed pretty hard at this, but I’m learning. And I hope that you and I can change the world.

Be the change,
Mama

#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