This Woman Is Tired: Female Competition and Her Role In The Patriarchy

 

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There are times when issues are swirling around me, leaving me disquieted, confused, and I can’t quite put my finger on the source. I find myself tucking words, sentences and articles in the Notes function of my phone, hoping it will all make sense at some point.

But, some things don’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense that women are using their voices to out their abusers, marching in solidarity, hash tagging our support and love, and then finding ways to also hate or shame one another. I revel in all of this stripping away of silence, adore the cultural move from one of shame to one of insolence and action. I hoped it would bring us closer to one another, but was smacked by the reminder we don’t all feel the same. This week I have been, over and over again, reminded of how far we have to go.

I walked into a meeting and another powerful woman refused to look at me when I spoke. Over the course of the following four hours we spent in one another’s company she refused to acknowledge me, and then belittled me to another when I was in earshot.

I introduced myself to a woman who then gave me the once over, head to toe and back up again, shaming me for wearing a dress that shows, God forbid, I have a body. A body that was fully covered, neck to knee. I felt my shoulders collapse into one another, becoming insecure. My only sin was that I had a dress altered to fit me.

Another woman called me a curse word because she didn’t like the way I showed up in conversation.

My daughter’s step mom showed me a group text in which she was completely obliterated by a long-term friend, called unfortunate descriptors, and reminded that everyone has had a baby so she’s not that special.

None of this makes sense and for a very good reason. It is much harder to unravel cultural and social bias than it is to play along, continuing the story that sits within our bones. This is about power and the unconscious bias against women, and more specifically, powerful women. We hate women. All of us. Even those of us who believe we are die-hard feminists. We have been programmed to compete with one another for jobs, men and security and, my loves, we have to get this part right. It is easy to say you want women to succeed, but then hate the woman next to you who is vying for the same job, man or social status. It is a static within us, deeply enmeshed into the folklore of our lives. It’s time to untangle ourselves from it.

Another very large issue that has come to light is the way women choose to dress with all these claims of sexual harassment and abuse. Both men and women have asked, “If she doesn’t want to be harassed, why is she trying to be seen?”

First, and most importantly, we all want to be seen. But, what does “seen” mean to each of us in a world rife with competition? Competition led by cultural and social belief systems and served up in a neat (and devastatingly cutting) advertising bow. This hits very close to home for me and I have remained quiet while I’ve tried to wrap my head around my thoughts.

Growing up I was taught that my body was shameful. That it made men do things. So I hid it. I am a curvy woman and have been since I was sixteen. I have worn extremely loose clothes to make sure I didn’t bring about unwanted attention. As I got older and wanted a partner, I was told that I had to look sexier, wear more makeup, never let my roots show, flaunt those curves so they knew what was under those “rags.” I found a way to hint at a body, while still remaining covered up. Then I began to rise up the ranks of Corporate America. I learned that the men at the table have their own opinions of women in the room. If you are too sexy they don’t take you seriously. If you are simply attractive they don’t take you seriously. If you are anything other than a big old bookish nerd covered from head to toe, they don’t take you seriously. Then you are just brainy, but, girl, you will never get a man, you need to try harder.

What man has ever walked around with such bullshit in his head about who he has to be and how he shows up in every aspect of his life?

Dear Men, here is a little known secret: Women have to figure out who we are going to be for you every single day.

We have been told that we have to figure out how to dress so as not to get raped, sexually harassed or be considered “dumb” and unworthy of your attention. But, we also have to figure out how to be beautiful to get or keep our partner’s attention, feel confident and seen. But, not be too seen, because then we are “extra.” We’ve been told that if we don’t keep up the maintenance there is another woman in the wings waiting to take our place. We have to figure out how to express our opinions without being considered bitchy. We have to figure out how to be heard without coming across as arrogant, full of ourselves or bossy.

Men can be assertive and aggressive, bless.

Women have to be chameleons to survive.

Unraveling patriarchal and unconscious bias will not happen easily. It was created by men, but ladies we are complicit in its toxicity. It will require us to be more aware of our internal talk as we find ourselves put off by one another. It will require self awareness of not only how we view other women, but how we raise our daughters to believe they have to show up for men and for one another. Big idea? Let’s start by refusing to call one another “bitch” and talking to our girls about their power, healthy friendships and their voices.

I will not be a mean girl. I will not raise a mean girl. Say it with me.

We have so much work to do, but I have such hope. I see the glimmers of change, the conversation shifting. I just ask that we don’t let it end in the headlines and instead do the internal work to unwind the patriarchal belief that we are in competition with one another.

This woman is tired.

Xo,

J

The Best Things In Life: Moving Toward Purpose

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“What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?

It is a question that continues to surface. I’ve answered it a thousand times, yet, again and again, when life seems difficult, it arises. I’ve included it in my book as a guidepost when understanding self, and offer it as same in workshops I’ve facilitated.

Yet, here I am again, ruminating on the same question.

At first, and much like most parents, I immediately answered, “My daughter,” when I thought about the best events or experiences in my life. Becoming Olivia’s mother, has been the best, albeit hardest, thing I’ve ever done. This little person made me a mother and a much better woman. I am calmer, more insightful, and conscious of the being I’m gifting to the world. When once asked what my job is, she told her teacher, “My mom is my guide and protector.”

Olivia knows I’m a banker and an author, but to her, my job is far more complex and soulful. I have written since I was thirteen years old, but becoming her mother created a focus I never had before. I always knew my words were powerful, but raising a girl in a world made for men gave them direction and clarity.

The next thing that came to mind was my faith. I was raised in a very religious family, but never once felt as if I was connected to the God of my childhood. Everything was rote, prayers were memorized, allegiances feigned. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties and someone asked, “Jeanette, you keep saying ‘I was taught to believe.’ What do you believe?” that I realized I had no foundation of faith.  I was stunned, “I’ve been told what to believe my entire life. I have no idea.”

I was connected to nothing. I was jealous of those who would kneel before alters or offer their supplications to a God I couldn’t wrap my head around. I wondered what it was like to have that feeling and to believe in something. Then, in a very quick span of time I lost three friends in death, one to the messiness of life, and my husband in divorce. I needed to hurt, to bleed my stories and be stripped down to the flesh and marrow before I was ready or able to fully open myself up to something bigger than me. I have often said, “I found my faith,” but it would be more correct to say that faith found me and has not let me go.

The third best thing that has ever happened to me was finding my voice. They say you pick your parents. If I did, I picked a mother who kept me small, quiet and frightened, so that I could rise above, squeak, warble and then sing. I had to be held tight, silenced and shushed so that I could truly understand the power behind the words that sit so deeply within my chest. She once asked me not to write about her when I’d posted about being raised in the shadow of addiction. Rather than fight, I asked her to allow me to own my story. She thought I was writing about her, not realizing that she gifted me this story as it was the framework of my childhood. I’d received three messages from women who were also raised by alcoholics and addicts just that day, thanking me for finding the words they themselves couldn’t. I shared that with my mother, explaining that by using my voice I’d helped someone else.

My voice, it seems, is my most powerful attribute.

I have words within my veins like lace and cobwebs. They were put there by something bigger than me and they want desperately to be seen and heard. It has been through my daughter, my faith and my voice that they have found their way out of me and onto the page, the stage and into the hearts of others.

The best things that ever happened to me brought me to my purpose.

Now tell me, what is the best thing that ever happened to you?

Xo,

J

Las Vegas: Let This End With Us

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Let me tell you about my city.

In the long shadow of the strip, beneath the glitz and glam, is another community we don’t tell you about. It would ruin the allure the ad men work so hard to create, and let’s be honest, tourism is our lifeblood. The city I’ve called home for the past fifteen years is tight knit, philanthropic and we have enormous heart. We are all a few degrees of one another, referring to ourselves more often as a town as opposed to a city. As a close friend said today, “Las Vegas is big and worldly, and small and tight. It’s what makes us magical.”

We don’t advertise it when we convince you that the things that happen in Vegas stay here, but you got a glimpse of it late Sunday night when a man chose to use our hospitality against us, picking off friends and loved ones from his perch on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. An FBI profiler was interviewed on the national news as he referred to the venue on the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Tropicana as “a killing field.”

What happened in Las Vegas did not stay here. It moved the world, and sadly, close to 600 families who are either mourning or holding vigil for their loved ones as I write.

While my family is safe, I have too many friends who have lost someone. After seeing how the national news coverage of Irma varied from my family’s local news coverage in Florida, I tuned in to watch our local news stations. They did an amazing job. Yes, there was panic and rage, but there was humanity that you didn’t see. There were heroes and volunteers. There was incredible leadership. I am proud of our community leaders for their class, professionalism and poise as the day unfolded. I have heard many times that our police force and casino security teams have trained and prepared for a terrorist attack. They were at their best as was our entire city.

You saw our secret weapon: our people.

My Facebook feed looked much different than yours did on Monday. We used it to find each other, find loved ones, connect families, get to volunteers stations, raise money and inform. Thousands turned up at United Blood Services and volunteers arrived to feed them while they waited up to 8 hours. Allegiant Airlines stepped up to cover flights, casinos and hotels covered rooms. Our city raised over $2.5 million through GoFundMe.com in one day. Matches up to $1 million were offered by Zappos and the UFC announced their own contribution of $1 million.

We met hate with love.

While tragedy and humanity were intersecting in our town, national correspondents and commentators turned our city into sound bytes and stirred up frothy political debates. I picked a fight on Twitter with a guy in Chicago. He argued the #vegasstrong trending hashtag was as “vapid” as sending prayers and thoughts. It was personal and I had to step away from the keys. At that moment we’d take your prayers, your cash, your blood. But, I knew what he meant. The world was ready to talk Second Amendment, but we weren’t. We just wanted to make sure everyone we loved was alive and the ones who were clinging to life had the best chance of survival.

As we work to stabilize, my thoughts are shifting from response, grief and healing to those of action. Just a week ago I was in Sun Valley, Idaho at Alturas Institute’s “Conversations With Exceptional Women.” I thought many times today of the one piece of advice actress and activist, Patricia Velasquez, shared with the audience as she talked about global humanitarian efforts and the complacency we have to avoid, “Don’t get used to it.” 

This cannot be our new normal. We cannot get used to mass shootings and gun violence.

I never thought I’d see the words Massacre next to Las Vegas in a headline. I am unable to travel to Arizona, having forgotten my Allegra D, and get more at another pharmacy. It doesn’t matter how bad my eyes are watering or how scratchy my voice is, there is no sympathy. There is a system that tracks my allergy med purchases across the country, yet one man was able to amass an arsenal of military-grade automatic weapons and thousands of bullets designed to explode inside human beings that allowed him to murder or seriously injure almost 600 people. 

Let this end with us.

Use your voice. Use your votes. I don’t care what side you are on or if you have guns at home, today should never have happened. This is not a partisan issue. This is a human issue. 

I ask, for every single person who has been touched by this tragedy, please contact your representatives. Utilize this link to find out who they are based on your address and let them know we aren’t interested in testing the love, light and emergency preparedness training of another city.

Let them know you are not interested in further loss.

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members

A revolution begins with the people.

Please do your part.

 

Back To Me: Honoring The Answers Within

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Every New Year’s Eve I assign resolutions for the coming year. 2017 was the first year I decided to instead pick a word, something I could aspire to, grow into, rather than a list to check.

I chose the word HONOR.

I would honor myself, honor my voice, honor my gut, my heart, my instincts.
I would also honor others. How they show up in my life, in love, in all things.

I’ve thought about the word HONOR so many times in these last six months, but as life goes, we tend to get stuck in the muck. We get covered over by it, suffocated by decisions, bills, frustrations and we forget the vision board, the Wish List, the promise we’ve made to live a bigger, badder life.

I have very much felt stuck in the muck and I have been searching. I’ve been searching for answers, for someone to save me, for someone to have it all figured out, be it a friend, a stiff Bourbon “sexy rocks” (which just means a big round ice cube), a psychic, a book, a visionary, a guru, a vacation.
Oddly enough, every book that has found its way into my hands lately has been about taking your own lead, trusting your own instincts and intuition. So, I buy another book, unconvinced. I watch talks online, I go to bed early, I bathe in Epsom salts and Lavender, I journal and then I wake up and I search some more.

Until this weekend when I found the answer I was looking for, but not in the way I expected.

For the past ten years I have made a pilgrimage to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City whenever I visit. It began as a way to connect with something grander, which also scared the ever-living-bejeezus out of me. I lit a candle, I prayed. It felt good. Something about Saints felt comforting. They were human. They’ve messed up. Better to ask for absolution through someone who could be like, “Look, she’s trying.”

I know my Saints, where they are placed throughout the cathedral, and they have brought me great comfort for a very long time. I prayed to one for my daughter. Another for my family. Another for my own pains and plights. As I entered St Patrick’s on Sunday, steps sure, and a calm I’ve never quite been able to explain settling over me, I found each of them to be behind plastic sheeting, covered in scaffolding. I would leave one, defeated, simply to walk behind the alter to find the second and the third all covered, kept away and under construction.

I stood in the middle of this grand place of worship, hope and peace feeling as if I’d been abandoned, how is it that only MY Saints are under construction?

Then I sat down, and while prayers were offered for peace in our current global climate, the tears came as I said a real prayer. The messy kind where something in you breaks open and you realize you’ve just been found. The prayer, the offering that doesn’t require circumvention, a team, a conduit, a guide, I get it. I don’t need to search outside of myself. I need to honor myself.

I’d allowed myself to get caught in the noise, other’s opinions and smudged words and intention. No more paralysis while I await the person, the book, the Saint or sinner to tell me where I am or where I’m going.

I am the person. I am my guide. I am my best advocate and advisor. I just forgot.

In my almost obsessive searching I was led back to…. me.

A thought leader may inspire. A friend may provide comfort. A prayer is a beautiful way to connect to that which is bigger than you.

But, without our inner compass, our compassion for our soul’s wisdom, our connection to whatever you call God, our respect for the answers within us, we are merely lost and looking, searching.

And, as the Delta Sky Cap told me today as he searched my name while checking me in for my flight home, “….And my dear, you have been found.”

I smiled, “Yes, I have, thank you.”

Be led back to yourself. Then HONOR that beautiful, alchemical self that is likely equal parts stardust and dry shampoo. You already know the answers.

Trust them.

Co-Parenting: My Daughter’s Two Mom(s)

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These are Olivia’s moms. Plural. I’m on the right. Jess is on the left. She met my ex-husband two years after our divorce and now they have a little boy named Luke that my daughter loves more than me. She told me so and I adore her for it. Nothing makes me happier than to hear her voice become nurturing and sweet when she talks to her brother. As moms of siblings, Jess and I are nailing this co-parenting thing. Olivia has recently tried to order another brother or sister and Jess announced that it was my turn, “You’re up, Sister Wife.”

“I’ll pass, thanks.”

Jess has a killer sense of humor and we spend every Christmas morning together making our weird little family work.

She also loves my daughter which makes me love her. She sent me a text several months ago to let me know she was concerned about some of Olivia’s comments surrounding body image and beauty, “She said no one cares about smarts. Not ok.” She immediately changed messaging in their home and asked for advice, “Liv is gorgeous, but she’s also brilliant and hilarious. We need to talk about how smart, clever and funny she is and dad is on board. No more telling her how pretty she is…”

Jess was there for Liv’s school orientation, she’s there for school plays and once she was there dealing with a bully when I was on a business trip. She picked Liv up that day, handled the fallout and was ready to go toe to toe with the parents if needed. The best thing I could have ever hoped for was that my daughter would be surrounded and raised by strong women who want the absolute best for her in life.

This is unusual, I know. It shouldn’t be.

Mutual friends give each of us the heads up when we may run into one another, concerned for a scene or an awkward encounter and we both laugh. Sunday night we ended up in the same suite at TMobile Arena to see the wonder that is NKOTB. Jess immediately gave me a hug when we saw each other, “They warned me you were going to be here and I was like, ‘I like Jeanette! We’re cool!'” Other mutual friends have called me before big events to warn me I’ll run into her and my ex-husband and I immediately announce, “I love Jess.”

When people respond with confusion or say, “I couldn’t do that,” I argue that you can, but you have to get out of your own way. I often remember the advice I was given in the required parenting class I had to take when I filed for divorce, “You have to die to the relationship you had and create a new one. You are in the business of raising a child together. No more who did what.”

You have to forgive the past, shed the hurt and there is no room for jealousy. You also pray the woman on the other side is secure, mature and willing to recognize your role as a parent. She has to be willing to meet you in the same place. Before Jess there were girlfriends who were uncomfortable with my frequent conversations with my ex-husband, our Christmas morning tradition that was created both out of divorce and a joint promise to our child, the photos we would text one another as milestones or memories were achieved. Those who have never had kids don’t realize that the ex doesn’t want your man anymore. She doesn’t show up to insert herself in your relationship or remain on his mind. She just wants him to be a good dad to their child and it takes a secure woman to understand the difference.

There is also a hell of a lot of respect. Jessica makes it clear that I’m mom and what I say always goes. She will always defer to me. I also back her up when Liv is in trouble with her and we both recognize that we need breaks. We all know that we are healthier parents when we have vacations, time to work on our own relationships and interests. It brings us back to the most important person in the equation with a much stronger, healthier mindset.

I always prayed that the woman that would end up in Olivia’s life would love her (almost) as much as I do. It would be the best thing for all of us.

We lucked out.

And Liv lucked out. She has an(other) amazing woman in her life and a baby brother that looks at her as if she herself hangs the stars.

And, if I’m honest… another thing I didn’t expect, but which has been a pleasant surprise?

I love Olivia’s brother too.

Life can be beautiful in all it’s weirdness… as long as you let it.

Dear Dads: An Open Letter to Men Raising Women

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Dear Dads:

They say there is nothing like the relationship between a daughter and her father. You are our heroes, our dragon slayers and The Keepers; you keep us safe, guard our little hearts and build the foundation for the woman we are to become. When we are little you are the strongest man we’ve ever met. You can do no wrong. Until we get a little older and boobs and boys come knocking.

Then you turn crazy.

Well, my dad did. I hope you managed to keep it together better than mine. Boys completely knocked him off his Superhero game. In the event you haven’t gotten to those days of dating and independence, let me give you a little insight taken both from personal experience and interviews I’ve conducted with women on the subject of self esteem and messaging.

You, dear dads, will teach us boundaries and how we should expect to be treated by men. You alone are the example we will weave into our relationship fabric and we will either be subconsciously conditioned by your messaging or consciously decide we want the exact opposite of you and what you’re trying to sell.

Wouldn’t you rather consciously navigate the years where we scare you the most?

How you speak to women, be it our mother, the women in our community and those that work for or with you, we hear you. We hear the compliments. We hear the scorn. We hear the, “Oh, you women…” or “Just like a woman…” and the teasing smile on your face doesn’t make it any less impactful, What about us women? Do all guys just put up with us? We must be a real handful. I should just be thankful to have one that deals with me.

We also hear the way you talk to or look at women when you are with your friends. If you flirt with women other than our mother, degrade women, even jokingly, we are being told we are lesser, other, and if we have our wits about us, we begin to lose respect for you. That hero you once were suddenly looks weak, flawed. Our foundation begins to shake because we could trust you when we toddling, eating solids and writing letters, but navigating social circumstances are the bigger lessons, dad. They’re the ones where we need you to come through for us. We need to see men who respect us behind our backs. Now more than ever.

When puberty begins, please don’t roll your eyes, disappear or leave it to our moms. We need to believe we’re normal and still your little girl when our bodies are betraying us. That’s how it feels. Did you know that? We are mourning our little girl days and scared of new attention. Men begin to look at us differently and we aren’t ready for it. We need our fathers to treat these moments as milestones and have the hard talks. When you hide from us or tell us to cover up the bodies we don’t know what to do with, you are telling us there is something shameful about what is happening. In my interviews with women there is a direct correlation between self esteem around sexuality when parents don’t talk to their children about the “birds and the bees” or act as if a woman’s body is shameful. It breeds the understanding that a woman is for the pleasure of men, which leads to promiscuity, when puberty and conversations around sex are ignored and pretended away. Please don’t fail us here.

In the past 72 hours I have had conversations with two very different women from two very different walks of life who attribute their self image to comments their fathers made about their bodies. One worried she may be betraying her father’s legacy by acknowledging that his warnings about her burgeoning shape, and hips more specifically, colored the way she viewed her body for the rest of her life. The other also shared that her diminished relationship with her body was a result of the “Freshman 15-ish” that her father aggressively encouraged her to lose.

Both dads were great dads. Neither realized their messaging was doing damage in a society that teaches a boy his body is a machine and how to fuel it for maximum performance, yet teaches a girl that she is her size and gender. The ad men are not kind to us, dad. We need you to take that into account.

My father didn’t talk to me about weight. That never came up and for that I am thankful. It was his viewpoints on modesty and men that did me in and it wasn’t intentional. I was taught that my body was something to hide because of what it could cause men to do or how they would respond to me. It was shameful and I believed any attention I got was a direct result of how I presented myself. My dad, a good man and a great father, had no idea I began to disconnect from my own body. I have spent most of my life hiding under clothes too big for me so as to not bring on unwanted attention. It took me until this year to wear yoga pants outside my home or the gym and it was because of a dare.

Oh my God, yoga pants are so much more comfortable than jeans on a four hour flight. Bless you, Jess, for that dare.

Dads, please don’t be scared of us. Don’t disconnect. We need you when you think it is time for mom to take over. Maybe you can’t have the same conversation, but you can be the man that, through your presence, convinces us that no man who thinks we’re gross or annoying simply for being a woman is worth our time. That is part of your charm –your protective nature. You are the first man in our life. We just ask you to consciously set the standard for the ones who come next and realize your words are indelible.

After all, we will always be your little girls at heart.

Love,

J

 

 

My Dearest Livi Rabbit on Your Sixth Birthday

 

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My Dearest Livi Rabbit:

Yesterday you turned six and my heart hurt a little. In that bittersweet mom way that includes memories and pride. In that way that makes me want to wrap you up in my arms and tell you that I’ve got this, you don’t have to grow up any more, I’ll take it from here. You’ve already told me that’s not possible and I love the way you are so logical and so funny at the same time. You have the best sense of humor and dear God, girl, sense of self. I won’t have to worry about you in life. You know who you are and I promise that I will always honor that about you.

I love watching the new facets of your personality shine forth. I giggled inside when you hit the Emergency Stop button on the escalator at Dillards and then pretended you didn’t know who did it when the alarm went off. You slid your little hand in mine, your co-conspirator, eyes straight ahead as you trusted me to get you safely away without telling on you, “I won’t do that again.” I love that you trust me and oh how I hope that when you are hitting life’s Emergency buttons in the future you will trust that I’m still a soft place to land.

When you downloaded over $300 worth of Apple apps I shook my head. You very responsibly helped with chores around the house until we “paid off” your debt. Your heart hurts that I hide my passcode from your sneaky little eyes now, but we had a gorgeous conversation about responsibility and I saw how conscientious you are through and through.

I love what a big heart you have and I have adored watching you become a big sister to your dad’s new baby. Your voice becomes very soft and nurturing when you talk to him. You have a maternal quality about you and he is very lucky to have you. You will be the most important influence in his life and I know this because I know you. You leave little pieces of yourself with everyone you touch.

The other night you crawled into bed with me because your growing pains were keeping you up. You snuggled your head into my neck and told me I smelled like lavender before your breathing slowed and you fell asleep. I felt a tear slide down my cheek as I remember a very specific night in your nursery when you were only a few months old. I had just slathered lavender lotion on you, fed you a bottle and swaddled you. You dug your little upturned nose into my neck and made the same little sweet sounds as you breathed deeply at first and then fell asleep. I know these moments will be fewer and farther between, but I will always be here to comfort you, lavender or not.

As I told you the morning you were born – I will always choose you. I will always be here to advocate for you, hold you, help you, be your biggest cheerleader and safety net. I will try to do it in a thoughtful way so that you are wise and prepared when you experience the bad things we all have to in order to grow. When those lessons and heartbreaks come your way, I will be there with bandaids, snacks, be it Goldfish or wine, and a soul’s worth of support. You will never doubt that you can slide your little hand in mine.

You, my love, are so bright. You have the world awaiting you and I adore your strength, your voice, your inquisitive nature. You have pure light running through your veins. I am truly honored to be your mother. Thank you for picking me.

Love you to the moon and back, bigger than the Universe, deeper than the Ocean and more than chocolate or shoes,

Mom