Finding Our Happily Ever After...

Finding Our Happily Ever After…  

7.16.15

Tomorrow, my husband and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe that I met him when I was an 18-year-old sophomore at the University of Kansas. He literally almost knocked me off my off my feet when he bumped into me at “The Bull,” a dive bar down the road from my sorority and his fraternity. I remember thinking that I’d never met anyone quite like him. He was tall, tanned and handsome, with these intense blue eyes. He was also kind, driven, intelligent and athletic. He checked all of my boxes and then some…

About a week later, my sorority had a date dash: we were given 24 hours to find a date for a surprise party, which was planned for the next night. My first thought was to ask Kyle. I’d seen him running (shirtless) that afternoon and he’d yelled “Hey, Kara!” to me (a good sign). With a room full of sorority sisters, I mustered up the courage to call his fraternity and to ask for him. Eventually, he answered the phone; I asked if he had plans for the next night? He paused and said that he thought he might have to study. (It was a Friday night…and the first week of school!?!). Before I could say okay, he hung up on me. Stunned and embarrassed, I handed the phone to my roommate and said, “It’s your turn. I hope you have better luck!”

About a half hour later, the house phone rang and was connected to my room. It was Kyle. He said that he was asleep and confused when I called. When he tried to fall back asleep, he realized who I was and what he’d done. He asked if I’d found another date and I said, “No. I’m still trying to recover from your rejection.”

I’m not sure why I love this story; it’s pretty humiliating! My eleven-year-old son was asking about our first date a couple of days ago and I told it to him. He started laughing and said, “I’m sure glad that Dad came to his senses and called you back!” Me too.

Today, my own dad pointed out that I’ve spent the same amount of time as Kyle’s wife as I spent growing up in my parents’ home…It’s all gone by in a blink. I constantly hear myself commenting on how fast our three children are growing up. Although I’ve started buying wrinkle cream and coloring the silver sparkles that I am beginning to spot more frequently in my hair, I rarely pause and reflect on how quickly my husband and I are also growing up. (I think that sounds much better than growing old.)

When I look at photos from our wedding, I see two kids making grown-up promises. I see two bright-eyed, optimistic twenty-two year olds who cannot wait to take on adulthood together. We could not imagine the challenges or struggles that we’d face as a team. We could not envision the beautiful family that we’d create or the friends and experiences that we’d collect along the way. I am so thankful that I’ve had him as my teammate to help navigate the bumpy road of life. We continue to pursue our happily ever after, one small (and big) decision at a time. As we celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary, I’m so thankful that he made the correct first decision and chose to say, “Yes!” to me.

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Walking the Labyrinth of Life

Waking the Labyrinth of Life

July 3, 2016

I recently visited my dear friend, who lives in Denver. Our 17-year friendship is very yin and yang. She is extremely extroverted, optimistic and laid-back; I am the opposite. She is also one of the most spiritual people that I know. Her life has been a series of unplanned blessings, while I rarely make a move without listing the pros and cons and weighing them obsessively…

Lately, she’s begun walking a local labyrinth on a regular basis; it provides a path for moving meditation and focused prayer. My friend can be quite persuasive and talked me into trying it after happy hour one evening. She explained that the winding path would untangle my mind and make my own way clear… She handed me a brochure, which provided these simple instructions:

Prepare. Before beginning your labyrinth journey, pause at the entrance and take a few deep breaths; close your eyes and focus on any aspect of your current life. It could be something that is troubling you or a goal that you are working towards; walking the labyrinth is a time for spiritual growth and personal realization. This short walk may yield fruitful outcomes and exciting prospects simply through an ancient form of directing your mind’s eye at your life’s path without the complication of personal doubt and resistance.

Release. As you enter the labyrinth, focus only on the rhythm of your breath and path set before you. Let go of the meticulous details of your life and focus on the bigger picture through silence of mind and strength of heart. 

Receive. Once you reach the center, take time to reflect, meditate or pray; open your mind to enlightenment. You may ask a question and listen for answer(s) on your way out.

Return. When you are ready, follow the same path back to the entrance.

Exit. Exit and reflect.

As I walked the labyrinth, it seemed to illustrate my own life’s path in a tangible way. As I felt myself getting closer to my goal of reaching the center, my path was pulled in the opposite direction to the farthest possible point. This pattern was repeated again and again until I found myself standing in its center and contemplating all of the twists and turns that it took for me to get there. It illustrated the importance of putting one foot in front of the other and trusting your path even when you cannot see how it’s going to get you to where you want to be.

Lately, my path forward has not been clear. At times, it feels like I’m moving in the right direction, only to be whisked in the opposite way. I often find myself wishing that I could skip ahead and skim the last chapter of my life, just to make sure that everything will end up okay for me and my little family. This short experience made me realize that life is like a labyrinth. I must choose to trust my path and to have faith that my steps will lead me to where I’m meant to be. The journey requires faith and hope… and lots of love (always).

Curious? Visit http://labyrinthlocator.com to find a labyrinth near you.

 

 

 

180 BIRTHDAY CANDLES

180 Birthday Candles and 70 Years of Marriage

6.19.16

Last night, my family gathered to celebrate two of my favorite people and three really big accomplishments: two 90th birthdays and one 70th anniversary. As my house filled with loud, loving laughter…mixed with a little mischief, I realized that none of it would be possible without my wonderful grandparents.

For as long as I can remember, my Nana has personified love. As a child, I was given the gift of spending one week at their farm in Illinois each summer. She stocked her kitchen with all of my favorite (and forbidden) foods; I loved it when she served me ice cream sundaes for breakfast! We spent hours dressing the tiny barn kittens in doll clothes and strolling them around in a baby buggy. I loved making hollyhock dolls from the blooms in her magical garden. Each year, she’d take me on a day trip to Chicago to explore a different museum; I remember being amazed by Colleen Moore’s incredible dollhouse at the Museum of Science and Industry and begging to go back to see it again and again!

Later, my grandpa lovingly built my own cherished dollhouse. He allowed me to select the design plans and colors…wallpaper and flooring, too. It was a true labor of love: I cannot imagine how many hours went into this project. When my grandma would visit, she’d take me to Miniature World, where I’d select a small piece of furniture or whimsical accessory. Eventually my dollhouse was so overly decorated that it had seasonal decorations that I’d switch out, depending on the holiday… (Maybe, I was just a little spoiled?!?)

On the flip side, my Papa has always personified laughter. I remember him embarrassing my grandma when we were shopping at Water Tower Plaza. We came out of a store and put his hat on backwards and started walking pigeon-toed toward us, pretending that he had too much to drink. He yelled her name and waved wildly. She blushed and I giggled and giggled and giggled…

At 90, he still loves to entertain both himself and everyone around him. Just the other day, he was telling me about the identity thieves that have been targeting residents in their senior living community. They’ve been calling and pretending to be representatives of a health insurance company, hoping to get personal information. My grandpa got a phone call and the game was on. He said his name was Freddie Fudpucker. He spelled it very carefully then made up all sorts of information regarding his date of birth and address, etc. When it got to the phone number, he gave them the number for IRS Fraud line and said he’d be calling it next. He started laughing; the reply was a click. I love that my grandpa can find the humor in all situations. During another recent conversation, he was laughing about how he was on Hospice for a month last summer. He truly is a miracle and proof that attitude is everything.

My grandparents met in high school and married at age 20, after my grandpa returned from World War II. Seventy years of marriage is a great accomplishment, but being happily married for seven decades is exceptional. One of the joys of having my grandparents just down the street is that I’ve gotten to know them as an adult, myself. I often leave their apartment praying that my own mature marriage will have the same loving tenderness and patience that I witness each time I spend time with them.

My grandparents are among the people that I love and admire most. I’m so thankful for those 180 candles and 70 years of marriage. I’m lucky to be a branch on their family tree. I can only hope that I inherited some of their good stuff. To be honest, I see a lot of it in my own children. I hope that love and laughter remain dominant family traits for generations to come.

Sipping the Select Sport Kool-Aid

Sipping the Select Sport Kool-Aid

6.11.16

Sometimes modern parenting feels a little bit like a competitive sport. Parents sign their kids up for organized sports at age three or four. By age seven or eight, many kids are trying out for select teams and focusing on a single sport or activity year-round; some continue to play other sports for fun, but time and financial constraints make it difficult for most kids to really focus on more that one select sport at a time.

I was raised to be well-rounded, not particularly outstanding at any specific sport or activity. My mom signed me up for weekly piano lessons, swim team, ballet and jazz classes, tennis and golf clinics, and YMCA soccer and basketball (one season to be exact)… We went on family vacations, where I learned to get by snow skiing and scuba diving. She sent me to summer camp, so that I could learn to water ski, shoot arrows and make lanyards… I never developed a drive to pursue any one sport or activity with focused ambition. But, I am thankful for the exposure and for my privileged, low-pressure childhood.

To be honest, I struggle a little bit with this new approach to childhood sports and activities. I think if you’re raising a driven kid who naturally falls in love with one particular sport, it makes perfect sense. If not, it’s nice to let kids shop the spectrum of sports before narrowing their focus. And, if the focus never narrows, I see value in being well-rounded. I like options.

I also recognize that being well-rounded does not always make the cut in high school…especially in today’s competitive youth sports world, where even select players can get cut from high school teams. Although select sports were not really around when I was growing up, there were kids who fell in love with a particular sport and worked really hard to be great at it.

When I was a freshman in high school, I tried out and was cut from my high school tennis team. My weekly clinics simply did not prepare me to compete with the girls who trained so much harder and spent their summers competing in the Missouri Valley. Maybe if I’d given up some of my other activities and really focused on tennis my outcome may have been different? Maybe not? Luckily, I was able to find other ways to get involved in high school (which is the ultimate goal for my three children).

A couple years ago, my daughter declared that dance was her thing. She loved, loved, loved ballet and wanted to work at becoming a better dancer. Following her lead, I enrolled her in a conservatory dance program at a small studio with excellent teachers; I kept encouraging her to keep playing soccer and basketball with her friends at school. A year later, she asked to audition for the Junior Repertory Ensemble, a performance group affiliated with our local professional ballet company. With the encouragement of her teacher, I let her try out and she’s spent the last year performing at various venues around our community. This year (after much discussion about how making the dance team will limit her ability to continue to play recreational sports with her classmates), she auditioned and earned a spot on her studio’s competitive dance team. She’s incredibly motivated to work hard and to see where this new experience will take her. I am excited for her, but a little nervous about closing the “well-rounded approach to childhood” chapter.

Last night, I attended one of her recitals at a local senior living center. The image of pure joy that was reflected on her face as she performed made me feel at peace with her decision… well really our decision to take a sip of the select sport Kool-Aid. I truly believe that part of growing up is discovering what brings you joy and makes you feel alive. Each person’s recipe is unique. There is something incredibly rewarding about watching your child discover his or her thing and pursue it with purpose.

TEACHABLE MOMENTS FINDING THE GOOD IN THE BAD

Teachable Moments: Finding the Good in the Bad

6.3.16

Sometimes it feels like you are sailing though life…loving your family, making new friends and feeling authentically happy. That is how I would describe the first weeks of summer: filled with sunshine and freedom.

My kids feel relieved to have a break from the rigors and routines of the school year. They’ve been enjoying long and lazy days, filled with unscheduled stretches of time that allow them to read books, play Legos and pick up spontaneous games of kickball with the neighborhood kids. This week, swim team practice and tennis clinics began; it’s felt good to add a little structure to our days… In short, our summer has been filled with abundant blessings.

Yesterday, I had a reality check when I walked into a situation where a pack of boys was treating one of my kids with cruelty. My child was asking “Why?” and was being laughed at as I walked up and stood next to him. The kids stopped and looked at me, wondering what I was going to do. I simply put my hand on my child’s shoulder and said that it was time to go home. As we walked away, I wondered if I handled the situation correctly…

This event completely sucked the wind out of my sails. My mom’s old saying describes my feelings perfectly: “You are only as happy as your saddest child.” I just cannot shake this overwhelming sense of sadness.

When your kids are toddlers and have a “booboo,” you can kiss the pain away. As they grow up, you become more of a passive spectator…a fan, cheering for them to make the right choices and to pick the right friends. You are backstage, making sure that they feel loved and supported at home; but, you realize that most of their daily experiences are completely out of your control.

Growing up is hard. Everyone wants to fit in and to be accepted. Some kids struggle more than others to find friends that click. Although I desperately wish that I could turn back the hands of time and prevent the ugly incident from happening, my hope is that this will become a teachable moment. From it, I hope that my child will learn to pick his friends more carefully. I hope that he will choose to fill his life with kids that make him feel happy and who can appreciate all of the qualities that I love most about him.

I need to let go and to move on with the understanding that all of the boys involved are also growing up and learning who they are and who they want to become. What I witnessed was a snapshot in time, not their defining story. Maybe my intrusion will create a teachable moment for them, too? Who knows? It’s time for me to focus on my blessings and to enjoy the short season of summer.

 

Frenemies

My Frenemies: Diet Coke and Facebook

 

5.23.16

Ever since high school, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Diet Coke. Despite its truly terrible taste, I’ve craved this cold, sweet and carbonated source of caffeine for more than two decades. When I was in college at KU, I loved taking study breaks and driving to Kwik in my roommate’s convertible for a 32-ounce fountain drink. I’d bring my refillable plastic cup, plop down 49 cents and leave with a genuine sense of happiness. Over the years, I’ve cut back on my Diet Coke consumption and at times eliminated it completely. But, there are moments of weakness when I miss my old “frenemy.”

If I’m honest with myself, I know that anything with that many artificial ingredients cannot be good for me. I know that although it has zero calories, it increases my hunger and makes me feel bloated. I know that I’m healthier without it as a daily habit…

I recently realized that I have a similar relationship with Facebook. I love it because it makes me feel connected to friends that live across the country. I’ve enjoyed watching the kids from our old playgroups in North Carolina grow from preschoolers into fifth and sixth graders. I feel closer to my Facebook friends who live in different parts of the country than to those who I only connect with via Christmas cards each year.

On the other hand, I know that Facebook can be a little fake; some friends portray a perfect life rather than an authentic one. It can also be hurtful; I’ve had my own feelings genuinely bruised by seemingly innocent photographs depicting  birthday parties and get together that excluded one of my kids or even me. And, although I celebrate my friends’ achievements, it can make me feel inadequate…like I’m just not quite measuring up to my accomplished friends with incredibly talented offspring…

For all of these reasons, I decided to give up Facebook and to “go dark” last January. It was a little bit like giving up Diet Coke; at first, I really missed it and felt out of the loop…I didn’t know what to do with my iPhone when I was caught up on e-mail and still waiting in one of my many carpool lines… But, over time I stopped missing it and realized that my life was richer because I had more time to write and to focus on actual connections with close friends.

I recently set up a Facebook page for GratefulandAuthentic.com, so I found myself back on Facebook. The experience has felt a lot like pulling away from Kwik with a 32 ounce cup of Diet Coke: I feel happy to reconnect and follow the highlights of my friends’ lives and to read the inspirational articles that they share. But, I also feel a little bit conflicted because I know that it may not always be good for my heart.

I am an “all or nothing” kind of person. But the farther I travel along my life’s path, the more I understand that not everything needs to be consumed in extremes or eliminated completely. It’s okay to allow yourself an occasional treat (in the form of a Diet Coke or Facebook session), but too much of anything can turn a positive into a negative – it’s all about moderation.

Can you relate?  What are your frenemies?

 

1

Treasure or Trash?

5.16.16

I spent my childhood chasing golden trophies, wooden plaques and blue ribbons. The bookcase in my old bedroom was lined with gleaming statuettes of poised swimmers and golfers; my bulletin board displayed ribbons and medals, each one representing countless hours of hard work and determination. As a young girl, I considered these awards to be my most prized possessions.

My parents are in the process of downsizing, so I spent this past weekend trying to pack all of the remnants of my childhood into a single tote that will go into my own basement (where it will likely collect dust for the next 30 years). I approached the project with the attitude that I would simply put all of my old stuff into the dumpster and move on with my day; my own storage room is a disorganized mess and the thought of adding anything else to this massive project is overwhelming.

However, as I started to sort through the boxes labeled “Kara,” I found it difficult to separate the memories from the things. I found myself saving essays written by my fourth grade self about what my life would look like when I grew up. (It included long-forgotten dreams of living in New York City with my handsome husband and adopted twins; I did not want to have kids.) I lost track of time as I went through my elementary school class photos, looking at all of the young, familiar faces of old friends and beloved teachers. And, I felt joy as I discovered my long-lost, complete set of Garbage Pail Kids! The idea of consolidating my childhood into a single box suddenly seemed draining.

So, I started with my big, bulky trophies and tossed them into the trash bin. Next, my plaques and a large zip lock bag filled with ribbons from my old swim team. It made me a little sad to see them go, but I realized that they had served their purpose and that I really don’t have space for them in my life.

As I prioritized what would stay and what would go, I found myself placing more value on my childhood journey than my accomplishments. I couldn’t part with the Garbage Pail Kids that I spent countless recesses trading with my best friend Kelly, my reflective essays with thoughtful comments by Mr. Hall (my favorite English teacher), or a single photograph. I know that there is value in setting goals and working towards them, but the real treasures of my childhood don’t include any awards for “Best Sportsmanship” or “Hardest Worker.” The real treasures of my childhood are simply childhood itself: The friends I made, the time I spent with family and the love that was given and received…all things that cannot fit in a box.

I hope that I can keep this perspective as I coach my kids through their young lives. Yes, it’s important to work hard and to maximize your potential…to set goals and to go after them. But, it’s equally important to enjoy the journey: To develop close friendships and to foster relationships with family. Because in a blink, they’ll be sorting through their own dusty boxes from my basement and wondering if their childhood treasures are trash or antiques?!?

 

5 Lessons My Mom Unintentionally Taught Me

5 Lessons My Mom Unintentionally Taught Me

5.8.16

When my oldest was in the throes of the “terrible twos,” I went to his pediatrician seeking advice and perhaps a self-help book recommendation or two. His response? “Don’t worry, he will be fine. Great parents are positive role models. They teach kindness, good manners and healthy habits by example. He will watch and learn. It really is that simple.”

I left his office feeling both relieved and intimidated. I had just been handed a prescription for a lifetime of good behavior (no pressure).

On Mother’s Day, I find myself reflecting on his advice and considering all of the things that I learned from my own mom, just by observing the way she lives her life.  Here are five life lessons she taught me (in no particular order):

Be Generous.  I was raised by a mom who always fought her friends for the bill; I never saw her offer to split anything. As a kid, I thought this was how it was done. As an adult, I can see that she’s exceptional. I love that she taught me that it’s more important to give than to receive.

My mom is also generous with her time.  As a young girl, I loved having her volunteer at my school; she was a regular room mother and served as the Community Club President.  I grew up watching her volunteer in our community, supporting local non-profits that were important to her.  She taught me that you can make the world a better place; you just have to go out and do it.

Be Proud.  I remember watching my mom carefully print “homemaker” as her occupation, when filling out paperwork for school or the doctor. At the time, I wondered why she didn’t write “stay-at-home mom” or leave it blank? Now that I stay home with my own kids and struggle to do everything well, I appreciate the pride that she took in her title. She was the one who made our house a home that was welcoming, tidy, organized and always stocked with nutritious food and fresh laundry. Without her love and devotion, it really would just be a house.

Pray.  I think one of the most challenging things about being a mom is that as much as you want your kids to succeed, you can’t do it for them. I was the child that constantly put myself out there. I wanted to be president of my elementary school’s student council. I wanted to be the lead in the school musical, despite my complete lack of talent. I wanted to win the district speech contest year after year… I think my mom would have been more comfortable with me avoiding risk and any chance of disappointment, but she supported and encouraged me…and she prayed for me A LOT. She taught me that I should work hard and pray hard.

Shop Sales.  My mom made shopping a game. The goal: to achieve the greatest value while spending as little as possible. She taught me to shop sales and to clip coupons. To this day, I rarely purchase anything that is not on sale or the best price available. My dad, who is an avid golfer, explained it this way: “For your mom, finding a really good deal is like getting a birdie or eagle; it generates the same amount of excitement. Bargain hunting is like a sport for the women in our family.”

Collect Friends. When my husband first met my mom, he commented: “Your mom has incredible social graces.” He’s correct. Rather than collecting trophies, my mom collects friends. She treasures old friendships, while expanding her circle to include new ones. She keeps their social calendar full, which makes her heart happy. For her, relationships are life’s most important treasure.

I think that my son’s pediatrician was right: children learn by what they observe. This Mother’s Day, I celebrate my mom and all of the lessons she taught me when she didn’t know I was watching. I am truly blessed to have been raised by the mom I aspire to be.

Happy Mother’s Day! xo Kara

 

 

 

 

Life is all about collecting life experiences

Life is all about collecting new experiences.

4.28.16

Sometimes an off-handed remark can challenge your way of thinking.

I recently traveled to Kansas City with my daughter’s dance group, so she could participate in workshops at various studios and perform at different venues around the city. While our daughters were dancing, the mothers made small talk.

As the weekend went on, we moved past our daughters’ dance resumes and started to have more real conversations. As I was talking with an intelligent attorney and mother-of-three, she mentioned that her family was in the process of narrowing down where they’d like to live next. She explained that her company was relocating to another city and that her position would be ending within the year. I told her that it seemed exciting to plan a “second act” for her family. I asked her how the kids felt about moving and she said, “Life is all about collecting new experiences.” I nodded in agreement.

As I consider her philosophy on life, I realize that I’ve approached life from the opposite direction. Thinking back, most of my new life experiences have been unintentional. It’s not that I deliberately avoid them; I just feel more comfortable going with the tried and true.

I remember when my husband was in medical school and was interviewing for residencies around the country. On a whim, he applied to do his internal medicine year in Hawaii. We did a quick analysis of what the residency would cost us, factoring in my loss of income, the high cost of living and the incredible moving expenses. The value of collecting a new life experience was pushed aside for practical reasons. Our decision to stay put for his internal medicine year enabled us to save for a house and to get our feet on steadier financial ground, but it cost us the experience of living in Hawaii for a year. All of these years later, I find myself wondering if the money saved was worth the experience lost?

When it came time to interview for medical residencies around the country. I was supportive, but firmly in the “stay in the Midwest” camp. I reasoned that we’d be starting a family soon and that I wanted to be close to family. When my husband matched in North Carolina, it was a complete shock. I had never been to the state. I didn’t know anyone who lived there. It was 900 miles away from Kansas City. And, it was the best thing that ever happened to us. This life experience was the ultimate, unexpected gift.

When we decided to move back to Omaha, I wanted my children to grow up near my childhood home and to attend the same elementary school. I hoped they’d enjoy swimming on my old swim team and develop a mild interest in tennis, so they could play with their dad. Eight years later, I am shooting zero for three: My elementary school was not the right fit. None of my kids embraced competitive swimming. And, the simple question, “Anyone up for tennis?” is consistently met with unanimous groans and eye rolls. In other words, despite my intentions, my children have forced new experiences on me; I’m grateful for them.

I’ve learned that as much as I’d like for my children to enjoy everything that I loved about my childhood and to embrace the interests that my husband and I share, you can’t force a square peg in a round hole; they will follow their own hearts. I need to meet them where they are, not where I want them to be. My son will choose books and robotics over organized sports every time. Given the opportunity, my daughter would spend all of her free time dancing. My youngest loves Legos, sports and learning right now; I look forward to following his journey as he discovers “his thing(s).” By following my children’s lead (not my own plans), our family will collect new experiences, friends and pieces of wisdom along the way.

Looking back, I can see that my accidental collection of new experiences has exponentially increased my own happiness throughout the course of my life. In the future, I will try to be more intentional about collecting new life experiences and supporting of my husband and children when they don’t choose the tried and true route through life. Collecting new life experiences requires a little leap of faith, but the risk is worth the reward.

Do you deliberately collect new life experiences or do you tend to choose things that are familiar? Why? Thanks for sharing your thoughts; your feedback is the fun part.  :-)  Kara

Ten Birthday Wishes for My Daughter-2

Ten Birthday Wishes for My Daughter

4.20.16

Today, my daughter turns ten. Today, she celebrates her first double-digit birthday. Today, she officially becomes a “tween.”

A tween is defined as “a youngster between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager.” There is something bittersweet about watching your daughter close one chapter and begin a new one. It marks the passing of time for both of us. Ever since she was a baby, I’ve been told that girls are easy when they are little, but everything gets flipped upside down as they enter their teen years. Although I want to reject this advice, I understand that this sweet stage may not last forever.

As I watch my daughter make a wish and blow out the candles on her cake, I find myself making wishes for her, too.

Here are ten wishes for my daughter on her tenth birthday:

  1. Develop Drama-Free Friendships. My sister always tells me to “fill up your life with good stuff.” I think that’s especially true about friendships. Fill your life with friends who make you feel happy and secure…friends who like you just the way you are, no improvements needed…friends who won’t ever put conditions on your friendship or make you feel pushed to do things you don’t want to do… My wish for you is that you will find true friends who will encourage you to be you (and love you for it).
  1. Take Chances. I know that you want to succeed at everything you do. But, don’t be afraid to fail. Ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Then, put yourself out there and go for it. You are more talented than you realize. And, you are more resilient, too. It’s tempting to always play it safe and to avoid disappointments. If you don’t try, you may not reach your true potential. My wish for you is that you won’t be afraid to chase big dreams.
  1. You Don’t Have To Be Perfect. I can see that you are a little bit of a perfectionist. I’m not sure where that comes from.😉 Speaking from experience, the problem with being a perfectionist is that no one is perfect; it’s unachievable. So, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly. Everyone makes mistakes. And, I love you because you are you – not because you do everything so well! My wish for you is to know that you are loved without conditions; nothing could make me love you less.
  1. Don’t Take Life (Or Yourself) Too Seriously. Often, your wit catches me off guard and I find myself wondering where your wonderful sense of humor came from? (Not me!) You are able to be silly and to laugh at yourself. I hope that you will never outgrow this trait because it makes the world a happier place. My wish for you is that you will never lose your sense of humor.
  1. Never Forget Your Nine-Year-Old Self. Remember our trip to Chicago to celebrate your ninth birthday? Remember the first time you walked down Michigan Avenue? At first, the enormous skyscrapers, the roar of the traffic, and all of the people amazed you; then you encountered a needy person, asking for money. You stopped and opened your little purse and handed him one of your precious five-dollar bills – a large percentage of the birthday money that you’d saved for the trip. The smile on the man’s face lit up your own and warmed my heart. As we walked to the next corner you stopped again and repeated your act of generosity. After crossing the street, you met another person in need of help; at that point you realized that you were quickly running out of money… So, you asked if you could share your lunch and dinner with them? I’ve always been proud of you, but this stands out as one of my very proudest mom moments. My wish for you is that you will hold onto your generous, caring spirit.
  1. Be Confident in Your Natural Beauty. Over the next few years, you are going to hear a lot about what it means to be beautiful. I hope you always remember that true beauty shines from the inside out – it can’t be purchased in glossy tubes or beautiful bottles. Beauty is revealed in your words and your actions. My wish for you is that you will never conceal your natural beauty.  
  1. Don’t Be A Sheep. You are one-of-a-kind. You were given your own mind, so never be afraid to use it. I know that you have a strong moral compass, with it as your guide – you will steer clear of trouble. If you are uncomfortable with the direction your crowd is moving, have the courage to step outside. It will seem scary, but the consequences of making dangerous, unhealthy choices can be much more devastating. My wish for you is that you will always have the courage to make your own choices.
  1. No Hurry to Meet Prince Charming. I know you still say, “Ewww!” at the end of Disney cartoons, when the prince and princess kiss and go off to live happily ever after. But, one day your attitude may change. When/if it does, I hope that you set your bar high, knowing that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness at all times; never settle for anything less. I hope that you’ll take the time to find yourself first. It’s okay to be a little selfish when you’re young: to focus on your goals, interests and dreams first. My wish for you is that when you’re old enough to date, you will have the confidence to be extremely selective.
  1. Say “Thank You.” We all have been given far more than we deserve. Focus on what you have, rather than what you lack. My wish for you is that you will always take time to count your blessings…and share them with others.
  1. Be Yourself. Discover what makes you happy (not me or anyone else). I truly believe that we all have a purpose and the sooner we discover it, the better. My wish for you is that you will have the courage to be authentically you.

Happy, happy tenth birthday, dear daughter!

May all of your wishes and my wishes come true!

xo Mom