Dear Sadie: TWO…and a half.

Little girl, I cannot believe you are halfway between two and three. Turning two felt reasonable–still basically a baby, just getting a little bit older. You still had pretty short hair then and leaned on the petite side of things, but now…now you’re a little girl.

Your hair is still taking its time to grow, but these days you rock a little half-up, half-down ponytail that adds about three inches to your height. You *probably* have enough hair to wear other styles, but your hair-inept mom is too nervous to take on the cowlick right on your hairline.

Right around the time your hair started to grow, your body kicked the growing thing into overdrive-strangers tell me all the time : “She’s so tall!” I don’t really notice how tall you’re actually getting until I see you in someone’s arms, or you reach up and grab something off the counter I was certain you couldn’t reach. You’re wearing size 3T now, which still floors me, daily. You are “long and lean” like your dad these days, showing now signs of slowing down. You have a sweet little gap between your front teeth that just melts me, and the way you run is so amazing. You seem to just launch yourself forward and then let your momentum propel you. When you stop, you literally jump to “land.” Your favorite toys these days are the race track and cars your Papa got you for Christmas and your trampoline (which you called a “jumpoline” for the first two weeks you owned it). You love coloring and stickers, and are known to decorate the whole family when you get your hands on a sheet of them. If we remove the stickers, you will ask where they’ve gone. You miss absolutely nothing.

Speaking of Christmas, your third one was magical. You were old enough this year to help me pick out a little green and gold dress, and watching you twirl, with your white tights and gold Mary Janes just melted me. You seemed to understand that Christmas was a big deal, and loved our Christmas tree and making cookies with your grandmothers. Seeing you dump half of a container of sprinkles on a single cookie was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Did I mention that it SNOWED? A white Christmas! You’ll learn as you get older that our area is not known for such things, and the whole scene was just surreal. You opened your presents and forever cemented your love for the holiday. As the adult family members opened their own gifts, you stood on a box with your new toy microphone, belting out song after song at full volume.

I guess this brings me to your personality–it is magnificent. You are equal parts sweet and spicy. You love, LOVE to sing–this thrills me to no end. You have learned songs I never taught you, and can perform pretty much any song ever sung on an episode of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” (which, BTW, has been replaced by “Dinosaur Train” as your favorite show). You sing without any hesitation whatsoever, and your joy is contagious. You are a big talker, and we no longer count your words or sentences, because you seem to have moved on to full conversations. We can chat about traffic (“No thank you Mommy, I dont think I want traffic right now”), or the weather (“It’s such a sunny day,  I think I need my glasses!”), or body parts (“Mommy, wow! Is that your nipple? Daddy has a penis. Where’s your penis, Mommy?”) You tell me when you’re scared, when you’re sad, when you’re happy, etc. When we’re playing a game or doing something silly, you start laughing and shouting, “this is fun, this is fun, this is fun!” ad nauseum until the activity is over. You are a toddler, as as such, you have plenty of moments of not listening, whining, screaming a piercing scream out of nowhere for (seemingly) no good reason. Most nights you sleep well, but sometimes you’ll still rouse us in the middle of the night. If it’s a particularly difficult night, your Daddy ends up sleeping on your floor, but those are growing fewer and fewer.

Generally, you have an incredibly sweet disposition and love your friends and family so much. You are a pretty easy child to take in public–if I bring snacks, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll behave well and enjoy yourself. You’re so observant and interested in your surroundings, outings are an adventure for you. You love being outside and going to the park, which I’ll confess we haven’t done much of recently on account of rain and your mom being a wimp. Your dad and I are hoping to welcome a sibling for you at some point, but have some fears that a second child will be a terror (if you’re reading this someday, second child, we love you!). What I mean to say is, while we are trying our best to raise you well, we’re fairly confident that you just came to us this wonderful, and so much of your personality is inherent to YOU.

A couple of other details: Your molars are almost all in. You still sleep in your crib and have (to my knowledge) never attempted to escape. So, we’re in no big hurry to promote you to a toddler bed–we all like our sleep. You aren’t potty trained and show zero desire to be. You’ll tell us when you’re peeing or need to poop, but will refuse to do so anywhere but a diaper. I’m doing a fair amount of deep breathing on this, but know when you’re good and ready, you’ll tackle potty training like you do everything else–your way.

Sadie, you are becoming a real, live person- I’m so proud of the one that you are. I love the way you share your thoughts and sing out loud. I pray every day for the patience and wisdom to encourage every sweet and strong quality you possess, so you will never lose the spirit you have now. It’s true what they say about kids- EVERY age is the best age.

Thank you for the honor of being your mommy-I’m grateful for every single minute.

Love you forever,



Dear Sadie: TWO

Oh, my sweet girl.

You are TWO years old. Actually, you’ve been two for about 6 weeks now, but nevermind that. And we love you, SO MUCH. Your birthday falls in the heart of summer, so celebrating you fell in the midst of many other adventures.

In June, you started attending day care twice a week. Just the very act of putting you in the care of strangers wasn’t in the plan when you were born. But as my time in grad school has unfolded, and it became clear that my internship would require me to be away for at least 2 days a week, we made the decision to try it out. Because I used to teach preschool and know that putting on a brave face and staying consistent were key to your adjusting well, I kissed you goodbye on your first day and walked away as your cries echoed after me. Know this, my love–you stopped crying before I did that morning. I locked myself in a bathroom stall and tried to get it together. Waves of guilt washed over me, wondering if I was doing the right thing–was I being too selfish? After all, you didn’t NEED to be there. I hid out in the coffee shop operated by the church that houses your day care, and ducked behind pillars whenever your class walked by. I did a double take the first time I saw you. You fit so well in that little group of toddlers, yet managed to stand out, chatting loudly and happily to anyone who would listen. I was so proud of you in that moment, and so relieved that I cried again. Once again, as always, you showed me: “Mommy, I’ve got this.” In a moment where I did not feel at all like I had this, or had anything at all, you did.

You have a knack for that, kiddo: proving to me that I’m doing just fine here as your mama. You are two now, and are further spreading your wings, testing your limits and my patience. And on the days I feel like a failure, like I’m failing you and failing the world because you keep yelling “STOP IT!” at the top of your lungs, and I’m convinced that I’m the mom raising an asshole, you somehow find ways to remind me that really, we’re doing okay. After screeching with frustration, flailing about when you don’t get your way, literally kicking and screaming for most of an afternoon, you’ll suddenly remember to say “please” before demanding another snack. Then you’ll say “thank you”. You might help me clean up your toys when I ask, or give me unprompted hugs and kisses. You might say, “I luh you, Mommy” and shatter my heart a little, but those are the times I know: I’m doing okay. And for the record, every mom of toddlers is raising an asshole at some point or another. Everything you do is developmentally normal and appropriate. God help us all.

You are a natural caretaker, Sadie. You are constantly rocking your baby dolls, covering them with blankets and giving them “pats” (read: smacking them repeatedly on the back). When Daddy or I stub our toes, you’ll say “Daddy, you ok?” or “Mommy, need a kiss?” Yesterday, I was carrying a stack of boxes into the kitchen and you exclaimed, “Whoa, Mommy! Be careful!” The way you love the people in your life brings me such sweet reassurance that Daddy and I, for all of our imperfections, are doing something right in this whole parenting gig.

It will surprise NO ONE who knows me that you are a big talker. You’ve been speaking in full sentences for months, and are still rapidly picking up language. When we visited our family in Ohio this summer, your 8-year-old cousin Cooper was frustrated with his video game and shouted, “Oh, come ON!” No less than once a day now, you still say, “Oh, tum ON! Cooper says ‘tum on!” Needless to say, we watch we say around you now, and marvel almost daily at the words you know. As your abilities continue to grow, I am always both impressed and a little sad when you master something new. For months, when you were done with dinner, you’d say “All Dee!” Then one day out of the blue, you threw your hands in the air and proclaimed, “All done!” And we cheered you on, but I was sad. You used to say “Oh no, I all down!” whenever you fell. Now you clearly say, “I fall down!”, and I mourn another little bit of you I won’t get back. For the longest time, your feet wouldn’t leave the ground when you attempted to jump. When they did, I knew we’d left another sweet piece of your story behind us.  I bet that’s how it will always go, where you are concerned–desperately missing what’s gone, while breathlessly anticipating what’s to come.

Sadie, there are so many Sadie-isms I’d like to immortalize here. The way you sing to yourself when you think we aren’t paying attention to you in the car. The way you laugh and jump when you’re excited, and the gap in your teeth that shows best when you’re screaming mad. The way you say, “applesauce”, “Microsoft”, and “Mooooommy!”, 756 times a day. I want to remember forever the way your feet sound as you run around the house from one activity to the next. I want to remember the way your eyes light up and your eyebrows raise when you hear Daddy come home from work. And please, dear God, don’t ever let me forget the way your little body stills fits against mine when I’m snuggling you at bedtime. The way your hair smells after a bath, and your morning breath in my face early in the morning. Baby, I want to memorize every single second with you.

So much of your future in this world is uncertain. History will show the early years of your life as tumultuous at best. I won’t detail them all here, but suffice to say that I have so many things to fear about the planet you’re growing up on, and the impact it will have on you. But kiddo, you keep making me braver. Every single day. I’m praying that together with your Daddy and all the people we love, we can navigate it all. I have to believe that you’ll just keep showing me:

Mommy, I’ve got this.

On to the next year, my darling.

Love you forever,


Sadie 2


On Self-Care.

It seems that my last post resonated with some of you…thank you to all who reached out to share your own stories and encourage me.

I’m learning that honesty is the best policy. I mean, definitely don’t lie…that one seems simple enough. But I’m talking about that brutal, scary, “I can’t believe she just said that out loud” kind of honesty. The more I live, the more I believe that withholding your truth is more damaging than an outright lie.

So, dear readers, the truth is what you shall get.

In my intended field of counseling, “self care” is vital. My professors and textbooks have all driven home the fact that mental health professionals have an ethical responsibility to take care of ourselves, and to do it well.

Do it WELL. That’s where I’ve gotten a little off -track. You see, I know what self-care is supposed to look like: Exercise, eating well, rest, treating yourself! It looks different for everyone, but those are some of the biggies. So for the last two semesters of graduate school, I’ve found myself in a fun cycle of binge eating in front of Netflix (Rest! Treat yo’ self!) and then out of guilt for said junk food and TV binge, shamed myself into a week or so of eating well and overexercising.

Word to the wise: The word SHAME should never enter into a successful self-care regimen.

After one particularly nasty week of crap eating, I had something of a revelation: This is not self care. It’s self-indulgence followed by self-loathing. So I had to ask myself: Where are your attempts at self-care coming from? What motivates them? And all I could come up with was, “Because I have to, and because it’ll fix what’s wrong with my body.”


So I thought some more about care in general. I thought of the person I care for the most, and care for the best: My daughter.

I make sure she gets enough sleep. I feed her well, but let her have a treat from time to time. I am always ensuring that she stays hydrated, gets enough exercise, spends time outdoors, wears sunscreen, and doesn’t watch too much TV. I make every effort, EVERY DAY to tell her that she is worthy and loved. Not a day goes by that she isn’t held, hugged, kissed, and cherished.

Why do I take such good care of my daughter? Well, that’s easy: I love her.


There it is. Why am I failing at self-care? Because true care doesn’t come from a place of obligation or ulterior motive. It certainly doesn’t come from self-loathing or indulgence.  And regarding indulgence: It’s important to note that not all effective care is permissive. Sometimes it does take discipline. Sometimes it’s flossing and getting in bed at 8:30, when the indulgence would be to grab a remote and the other half of a chocolate Easter bunny. My daughter may not like that we brush her teeth despite her protests, but it keeps her healthy–so we do it.

Effective, lasting self-care can only come from sound knowledge of a single truth: I love myself.


So much easier said than done, am I right? But each day, I’m taking steps in that direction. I’m trying not to ask “Is this the best or perfect thing?” and instead am trying to discern, with each choice I make, “Is this loving?” It might mean skipping a workout for a conversation with my husband. Or choosing yoga instead of a run because dammit, I’ve put on 15 pounds and my knees are killing me. It could mean a myriad of things for each of us, but it should never include guilt over what we “should be” doing, or what someone else might be doing.

I’m not an expert at this. It’s been like a week since I’ve had this little epiphany and three days in I got a cold and ended up on the couch, drowning my sorrows in a quesadilla while my third episode of Big Little Lies ran in the background. And believe me, the post-game analysis of that lapse in judgment was not kind.

But today, I’m trying again. I’ll try again tomorrow too. I will keep speaking words of love to myself until I believe them, because they are TRUE.

Let’s take care of ourselves…and start with love.


Alright, Jess. It seems you’ve hit something of a crossroads here. Something about your way of living this life isn’t working. You’ve spend so much of your energy studying who everyone else is and what they’re doing. You’re desperate to be loved for who you are—and in your best moments, when you let your own clouds part and you shine, you ARE. But more often than not you mope around, scrolling through social media, trying to figure out what you “need” to be so that you can somehow become that and then take part in everything you think you’re missing out on.

You are anxious, discontent, and bitter. And reading those words, you’re thinking, “No! I’m way more than that! That’s not fair!”

Honey, you are so right. It’s not fair at all. It’s not fair how often you don’t see the little miracles that make up every day of your life, because you’re worried about how social media may perceive them.  It’s not fair that you spend all your money on overpriced coffee and food to fill a void you created in yourself. It’s not fair that you deprive the world of so many of your gifts and talents—truly, some of the best parts of yourself– because you don’t think you’re thin enough, or cool enough for other people to appreciate what you have to give.

Girl, you haven’t worn jeans and a t-shirt in nearly a year. Yes, your body has grown and changed, and instead of accommodating it and decorating it with clothes that fit, you’ve worn leggings and sweatshirts, hoping they’ll stretch just enough to contain you. And you….you keep stretching too. You’re ripping apart at the seams with all you’re trying to hold together.

But what if—stay with me here—your body wasn’t meant to be contained? What if YOU aren’t meant to be contained? I mean, obviously you need to get dressed every day. But really, what is so wrong with a size large t-shirt and size 10 jeans if they’re what you need to feel okay right now? Why are you living in stretchy pants and flowy tops, or wearing actual indentations into your skin from pants that just don’t fit you anymore?

And more importantly, why are you blending in, holding your breath, and wearing tracks into your soul with a life that just doesn’t fit you anymore either?

It’s about so much more than weight. You must know that by now. You’ve known it all along, I bet. But you’d never be able to put your finger on what it really IS about. So you’ve gone back to the treadmill, back to the scale, and back to the fridge, willing just one of them to give you some mother-loving answers, or at least a little bit of relief. But the scale only gives you higher numbers. The fridge, empty calories. And the treadmill has most recently given you a mean case of shin splints. They have all leveled at you a heavy dose of shame.

FUCK. Aren’t you tired of this? Can we move on from this game you’ll never win? Please?

So okay, enough. But what now? Yesterday you sat in your counselor’s office, paralyzed by your inability to figure this all out. It comes down to two questions, he said:

  1. What do you want?
  2. Why do you want it?

Twenty-four hours and counting later, you’re learning that answering question #2 brings you to a fresh incarnation of question #1—so many of the things you think you want are merely empty promises. You’re still digging to uncover whatever it is you really need. Something that is real and sustaining. Something true. But you’re not digging down. You’ve dug yourself into holes before. It’s dark, scary, and flings dirt all over everything. This time, you’ll need to dig yourself OUT, until you can find solid ground to stand on again.

That’s bound to burn some calories, yeah? You DO need to be healthier. Go ahead and buy the next size up, but know that your physical condition IS important. And you’ll get to that—but not before you start the process of bringing yourself back to health in every other way—emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Grab a shovel. We’ve got some work to do.

Blog Pic

Ghost Town.

This morning was one of those mornings where everything is clicking. Through a glorious combination of waking up early enough and a toddler who slept a little longer than usual, I was able to work out, shower, and have her breakfast made before I retrieved her from her crib. We planned to visit my grandmother  in a rehab facility, where she’s been recovering from a stroke.

But since things were going my way and the sun was shining, I decided we’d leave early and take a detour to the beach in Edmonds, WA. “It’s an Edmonds kind of day”, I thought.

Edmonds is a sweet little town nestled into the beaches and hills on and above Puget Sound, north of Seattle.  It has a main street with cute shops, a ferry dock, and train tracks running right along the water. “It’s an Edmonds kind of day” is an ad slogan from the 80s and 90s, and many longtime residents still proudly display it on bumper stickers and faded, coffee-stained mugs. And in addition to all it has going for it, this charming little town holds so much of my history.

My grandmother grew up there, and her father worked as a baker downtown at the Edmonds bakery. She and my grandpa settled there after raising their six children, first in a giant house on Vista Way, and then a condo with a panoramic view of the sound, the Olympic Mountains, the ferry, and the trains. When they weren’t snowbirding in Arizona, they lived out their days together to the rhythm of foghorns and train whistles.  Her sister, a widow, lived just a mile or so away until she passed in 2010. My grandfather died four years later. In his living room, surrounded by his wife, his children, and me, while the trains and ferries kept up their schedules outside.

As my grandma recovers, their condo sits empty, but spring is in full bloom all around it. Driving into town today, I passed the Chinese restaurant where all 20+ of us used to crowd into the back room, stuffing ourselves with potstickers and chow mein, and my cousins and I would order Shirley Temples with like 9 cherries. I passed the ice cream shop my grandma would take us to, and the park where we held her 60th birthday party…26 years ago. I passed the churches where funerals were held for both of my grandfathers, and the house my uncle lived in until last year, where we’d spent the 4th of July with the best view of the fireworks in town, for so many summers. I smiled at the brewery my grandpa would take us to so we could make root beer, every Christmas. I passed the library where my cousin got married, and the hospital where I was born. I can’t turn a corner in that town without a memory of someone, or everyone, I love.

And for a few aching moments today, it felt unfamiliar and sad. The backdrop to so many of my sweetest days so far felt like a ghost town, empty of all of the people who made those days so precious. For a second I wanted to turn around. I didn’t want to face this place that wasn’t the same anymore, because that would mean that I’m not the same anymore, and I’d have to admit that those sweet days are over. But I glanced in my rear view at my tiny passenger. I’d promised her a beach today, after all.

Sadie Edmonds


And suddenly, like so many things do, this place so sacred to me became fresh again through her eyes. It wasn’t sad, and it wasn’t empty of people I love. The person I love the most in the world was standing right next to me, full of life and joy and exclamations of “Boat!” and “Choo-choo!” And just like that, I made a brand new memory in Edmonds.

We left the beach and visited my Grandma. My mom met us there, and I watched in awe as my tiny girl interacted with them both, and felt the blessing of four generations of women, still living and breathing in the same room, together. As I drove Sadie home, I made peace with my ghost town, somewhere in my soul. The apparitions of my past aren’t there to hurt me or make me feel sad. They’re there to comfort me, to make me strong and remind me of where I come from, and where I’ll always belong…where my little girl will always belong, too.

I hope I never fail to see them.

After all, some ghosts are friendly.


Dear Sadie: 18 months…ish.

Hey kiddo.

Yeah, I know. You’ll be 20 months old tomorrow. TWENTY. As in, 4 months away from two. But I can’t let this season go by without trying to record some of the sweet things you’re doing, and how we (somehow) love you more every day.

Presently, you have 13 teeth, with the 14th threatening to appear at any moment. You have started to run, a gait that seems propelled by sheer momentum, and is often accompanied by your sweet chatter. Sometimes, I’ll hear your little voice wobbling “whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa”, in perfect rhythm with the thundering of your tiny little feet. You love to dance, which involves holding your hands in the air and twirling, slowly, in a circle. It’s possible that you get this from me. You “jump”. As in, you swing your whole body in a sort of distorted gallop, with the biggest grin on your sweet face. Your feet have yet to leave the ground, but you don’t seem to mind. And really, neither do I. The day will come when you finally execute a real live jump, and as I celebrate your victory,  I know I’ll start missing your grinning and galloping. You’re loving to pretend these days. When we go to your playroom, you’ll make a beeline for your play kitchen and say “eat!” while you build sandwiches and scramble eggs with your wooden food and utensils. When you determine that the meal is ready, you enthusiastically jab a toy fork at my mouth, encouraging me to “bite?”

You love puzzles and are pretty good at them. In the past week, you’ve discovered your Mega Blocks and will spend 20 minutes at a time building, taking apart, and rebuilding your “towah”. You can identify all of the (capital) letters of the alphabet…almost entirely due to your “laptop” toy. While we cook or do dishes, you stand perched on your learning tower, pressing the buttons over and over. We like to call out, “Sadie, where’s the ___?” and watch you race to locate and press the corresponding button.  You can identify the numbers 1,2,3,5, 6, and 9. Usually. You’re getting pretty good at color identification, though blue, purple, and–your very favorite–yellow, are your most consistent. You love to learn, and we love to watch you.

And oh, my girl…how you do love to talk. When we are home, you are rarely silent. I’ve lost count of the words you know, and you’re adding to your vocabulary every single day. You have started speaking in 2-3 word sentences, and your current verbal masterpiece is the 4-word Whopper: “I bush ma teet” (I brush my teeth!) Kiddo, you are so full of smiles and spunk. While you are a true toddler and can throw down an exhausted tantrum with the best of them, you still manage to maintain your sweet and happy demeanor most of the time. So far, you’re a pretty good listener. I’m doing my damndest to keep you that way, even as you test your boundaries. Your new favorite protests involve diaper changes and getting dressed. You’ll run laps around your bedroom in a diaper. When we repeat our requests, you often wander in the corner and stand facing the wall, occasionally turning around to shoot us a frown. The first time you did it, I forgot all about effective parenting and burst out laughing. Never a dull moment with you, kiddo. I love that we can communicate with you now, and hearing you respond to our questions melts our hearts, even when your response is an emphatic “NO!”

It still takes you awhile to warm up to new people and situations. When I leave you in the church nursery or with friends, they’ll often report that you were happy but quiet. It makes me a little sad to hear this, because I worry about you feeling anxious and nervous without Daddy or I around, and because I want other people to get to see the side of you that I do–the loud, boisterous, hilarious girl I love so much. But like you do, you are teaching me in this. You’re showing me that you and I are different…for all of the ways you ARE like me, with your love for music and books and letters, you are SO MUCH your own person. When you are reserved in new situations, I’m learning to find comfort in your temperament, and learning to champion this part of you and protect it. You have an innate ability to keep the best parts of yourself close until you, and only you, are ready. I will always do my best to keep you safe, but there will be times in your life when I can’t protect you…In your tiny little soul I see the beginnings of a young woman who will know to protect herself, as much as she can, until she is sure she can trust her surroundings. I pray that I will keep celebrating this part of you, even when I wish that the whole world could know the you that I know. You will only share the best of you with the people who have earned your trust…that, my precious girl, is something I learned far too late, and some never learn at all.

Speaking of when I leave you places…you’re starting  part-time daycare in two months, and I’m not coping well. I’m starting my internship this summer, and we need to make sure you’ll be taken care of. I’d wanted to find a way to keep you home and close, but financially and logistically, daycare was the right answer. I can’t tell you how often fear just grips my heart when I think about leaving you for the first time. We’ve never left you in the care of anyone but family or friends, save for the church nursery…and on those mornings, we don’t leave the building. The idea of spending the entire day a 10-15 minute drive from you makes me cringe. The fact that your caregivers will have numerous other children to supervise and won’t be able to monitor your every move terrifies me too. The “what-ifs” that have run through my thoughts range from mildly neurotic to completely paranoid.

But the thing is, and I’ve said it before: Your safety is never fully in my hands. Your life is ALWAYS in God’s hands. I am clinging to this truth as we prepare for this next chapter in your life. I pray that above all that you’ll stay safe. And I pray that you’ll adjust quickly and well, and that you’ll feel happy and loved and secure in the knowledge that Daddy and I love you more than anything in the world.

This season, sweet girl, is a tough one. Nearly two years after becoming parents, we are still struggling to figure out how to balance jobs and school and housework with being good partners for each other and good parents to you. Baby girl, I feel like I’m failing more often than not. Someday I’ll be able to tell you why I decided to pursue this graduate school dream when I did, and all the ways it’s stretching and growing me into a better woman, who is slowly starting to resemble the person I’d like to be. We can talk about the state of our world, and why it’s so important for our future, for YOUR future, that I learn how to help people, especially women. And I hope you’ll understand. And I hope you’ll be proud.

Lord knows I’m proud of you. As always, my love, keep on growing, full speed ahead.

But take your time.

Love you forever,


Dear Jess: What you know now.

I have a thing with dates. I remember them uncannily well- If we went to elementary school together, or worked together for a year or so, chances are high I remember your birthday. I remember the days I met certain people, took certain trips, or saw certain movies (Titanic: December 27, 1997).

Some think it’s impressive, some are understandably creeped out…but I remember dates, especially those that have held significant meaning to me over the years. And it always makes me smile (or cringe) when those days come around each year, because I still remember who I was when that significant event occurred. I remember, vividly, how I felt, and how more often than not, the sky seemed to be falling and nothing would be right again. And I think about what I wish I knew. What I wish I could go back and tell that girl, or that young woman. For starters:

September 26, 2010

Dear Jess,

You’re sitting in church next to the latest in a long line of guys that wastes your time and gets your hopes up. The 11am service just started, and as his eyes wander around the room at other women, it’s become clear he’s just here to be your friend and avoid sitting alone. And you’re just so over this shit. I know. Keep your head up. Keep smiling. In 45 minutes, you’re going to meet your husband, and he will never hide his intentions from you or leave you confused. In less than two and a half years from right now, you’ll be taking your wedding pictures in this very building. Just keep going.

July 29, 1996

Dear Jess,

Oh, sweet girl. Your Grandpa passed away today. You’re only 10, and this is the first loss you’ve ever experienced. I see you crying on your twin bed with the pink comforter, wishing you could have just one more day with him. I won’t lie to you…you’ll never stop wishing that. But hold on, little one…19 years from now, you’ll greet this day by pushing and fighting through the worst pain you’ve ever known as you bring Sadie Lorraine into the world. Your heart will break that her arrival and her life are another thing Grandpa will miss. But you will understand the aching beauty of this life we live. You will hurt so badly with the knowledge that life leaves this world, while you are filled with wonder and hope…because life comes back in.  Just keep going.

February 2, 2004

Dear Jess,

You cried yourself to sleep at 3am this morning because your first real boyfriend dumped you last night. I’m tempted to tell you that you should have known…that an 18-year-old boy will take all that you’re willing to give him, whether he loves you or not. But you couldn’t know that, not yet. Frankly, you won’t know that for many more years. That’s a lesson you’ll need to learn the hard way, and that’s okay. The first cut is the deepest, precious girl. I know you’re pretty damn sure you will never, ever recover from this. You’re going to spend some months with no makeup on, wearing sweatshirts and ponytails, hoping and hurting. And then one day you’ll wake up and that pit in your stomach will be gone. You’ll feel like you again. And because you are young, you will dive right back into another relationship, and your heart will break again–all before your next birthday!

You will take longer than you should to realize that the right love only comes when you love yourself more than the idea of a guy in your life. For such a smart, capable, beautiful young woman, you will suffer more than your share of heartbreak because you didn’t prioritize falling in love with YOU before falling in love with them. But you’ll learn from it, and be better for it. 13 years from now, you’ll be sitting in the beautiful home you share with your husband, watching your perfect daughter sleeping. You’ll see the sunrise from your living room window, and be so grateful for it all…Precious girl, I can’t wait for you to see this life. Just keep going

February 2, 2017

Dear Jess,

This day is mostly unwritten. On the docket is a preschool tour, a meeting, and class, as you work toward your master’s degree. The last weeks and months of your life have been tainted by anxiety and often all-out fear over the future of your country, of the world. I can’t tell you it will all be okay for certain, but I am so hopeful. So many days in your life have been marked by pain, uncertainty, and worry. But remember, and never forget how many more of your days have held unbridled joy, laughter, and hope. So do what you’ve always done: keep your head up, and keep smiling.

My prayer is that 5, 10, and 20 years down the road I can write to you and say, once again:

I can’t wait for you to see this life. 

Just keep going.