Balance Deconstructed

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When people talk to me about balance I want to throw things at them.

For real.

Certain words have become catch-alls, cliches, if you will, and full of well… nothing. If you google “quotes on balance” everyone from Buddha to the dude that just taught the yoga class with the crazy abs has a quote about how you must find this thing, it’s something you create, not a destination, blah, blah, blah. 

I’ve decided they have no idea what they are talking about and have simply surrendered to a cultural norm.

I have a love/hate relationship with cliches and quotes. I’ve come to think of them as fillers. They are sugared words, glazed and mostly well intentioned. I do believe that life experiences create these phrases and ramblings and some are incredibly beautiful, insightful. I also think that the person delivering the quote has no idea of the history or intention of the person quoted nor the inner workings of the person they are hoping to help. Maybe it came from a man who survived a war, the death of children, syphilis and amputations and you are telling a clerk at Target. Maybe it was a Taoist who had never experienced love and a divorcee is your audience. Maybe it was a writer with a drinking problem and a thesaurus, the odds are high. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t care for the copy/paste quality of them when they’re offered in a prescriptive fashion. I sometimes wonder if they’re not proffered as a very kind exit strategy from conversation, a way to acknowledge, but remove the need to dig in and truly relate.

When I was in my early twenties I remember ruminating on the word “balance,” wondering what my life would look like when I achieved it.

I still have no clue.

So, I’ve decided to take the power away from the word, dear God, please don’t offer me another quote. I’ve decided, instead, to deconstruct it and make it less zen idealism and more of a word with letters, realizing that no matter how you look inverted, you probably struggle with balance as well, so let’s just call a spade a spade. Instead of striving for this otherworldly word that is seriously just some vowels and such, I have divided my life into my roles as a mother, career gal, woman, friend and writer. I consciously strive to simply be present in each of them. I have days when I’m running between things and Liv wants a mama moment. Rather than snapping that we’re in a hurry or telling her that I have chores to do, I stop and remind myself, “THIS is my life. I am living it right now.”

It helps to reframe things.

My life is not whether or not I get laundry done. It is not whether or not she eats yogurt for breakfast tomorrow or I’ve checked a box from a To Do list that never really needs to get To Done. It is the extra smiles and moments we spend snuggling. It is the living that makes a life, the interactions, the blessed conversations she wants to have right before bed when she relaxes into her prayers and tells me who she is and who she’s becoming. It is not the fact that it is three minutes past when I told her to be quiet. It is when she asks God to make sure her heart stays kind and that our dogs will stop stealing her food. It is the sweet moments when we’re at Target and instead of telling her to behave and be quiet while she yammers on in the cart, I catch my nugget sweetly say I’m a great mom and I’m really pretty, can I buy you these cute pajamas, mom?

Sure, baby.

I have caught so much just by reminding myself that THIS is my life.

I have also realized that in order for me to be my most present, most engaged self, I must first take care of myself. This is something I require of myself. I fill up my bucket first and those close know that while I may work my tail off and love my daughter like my life depends on it, I also find a way to run to the gym, hit a yoga class and take small trips to fill up my soul. I am healthier and happier for others when I am taking care of the person that does the taking care.

I learned the hard way.

When I was going through my divorce and running in fifteen different directions I was anxious, sickly and a raging insomniac. I didn’t even like me. We have a tendency to think of ourselves as “selfless” if we put everyone else first.

Nope. Forget that right now, drop it, email me if you need a pep talk.

My loves, the best thing you can do for the people that depend on you is to take care of yourself first and foremost. They will benefit from your enhanced health, mood and overall demeanor.

I promise, Get on it.

Give yourself the space to forget things. To leave the dry cleaning at the cleaners. To be out of dryer sheets. Forgive yourself if your body says nap when your clock says gym. Turn your To Do list into Suggestions and Reminders. The only person in between you and YOUR life is you.

Forgive yourself. Love yourself. LIVE.

Balance be damned.

 

 

 

 

 

Insecurity Is A Waste of Time

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A few times over the last few years I’ve been asked for a favorite quote or expression that is important to me. Once was for a female small business owner who was building her own blow dry bar. She wanted a wall of famous women’s quotes to act as a backdrop for women who’d just had their hair done. A few months later I stood before it while celebrating the opening of Blowout Dollhouse with a proud new business owner.

Last week I was asked again for quotes for an event where I’ll be speaking this week. I took a few days, mulling over all the gifs and pretty sayings that decorate my phone and my office. I again found myself drawn to the same one and I always smile to myself when I share it.

The back story is a good one, if I do say so myself.

It was roughly four years ago. I’d flown in from one city to realize that while changing out dry cleaning to fly to another, divorce was on the horizon. I wiped tears as I headed to West Palm Beach. I sank into the Florida humidity upon arriving, feeling as if my home state was going to help soften the blow. I had to get it together and fast. I was going to spend a weekend with the most successful women in financial services. They wore Laboutins and sparkling things, all brains and verve. I was intimidated in my state.

I prepped for my mission: looking like them. I would seem poised and polished while my insides were caving in upon themselves. Yes, definitely. They wouldn’t notice that I didn’t belong.

Then a funny thing happened.

They were honest about all the things on my mind. There were maybe twenty men to the thousand women and my God, how women speak differently when we are around our sisters. Yes, there were talks about economies and global trends, but there were also talks about how you have to take time for yourself, how it is hard to juggle career, marriage and children, solidarity sister.

One woman shared that while she had gotten kids to school, ran meetings, thawed dinner, made soccer and took a red eye out of New York, all she wanted to do was fill her brain with mindless drivel. She tucked herself into an InStyle magazine. Her seat mate, however, had her laptop out and was making notes while flipping through graphs and reports. After realizing they were heading to the very same conference, she told the very focused woman, “Wow, I feel incredibly lazy.” The woman laughed and I will never forget what she said, “No, you don’t understand. I’m the keynote speaker tomorrow. I just had a baby and she’s sick. My husband has been sending me updates every few minutes. This is the only time I’ve had to prepare.”

She was the Chief Economist for a large firm.

They then talked babies and balance.

She nailed her keynote.

Every woman at the conference was her most beautiful, natural, smart and nurturing self. These women were so enlightened and encouraged by the way a male-dominated industry feels when the men aren’t in the room. When women come together to inspire one another, to make you feel less alone, less anomaly, its a beautiful thing.

We talked about the guilt, my God, the guilt. We talked about marriage and personal relationships, messy and glorious, I try so hard to be present. We talked about the children we were raising, I try so hard to be present. We talked about who we become when the men are in the room, the layers we put on, the children we forget for a lunch meeting, because you can’t be a mom. We talked about the health concerns we don’t share with our male colleagues and clients, because then you are a woman. We talked about how you are scared to take maternity leave, because then they look at you with the wondering, soft eyes.

The weekend ended with a final keynote by Diane von Furstenberg. She had a Power Point presentation with pictures of herself as a child, as a Princess, as a mom and finally, the pinnacle photo of the wrap dress that turned her into a design house. She talked about her regrets as a mother, her role as a grandmother, her career frustrations and failures.

When asked what she lived by, what drove her to continue, she said as self-confidently as you can imagine a former princess to espouse, “Insecurity is a waste of time.”

Isn’t it just?

Can you imagine if every woman in that room confidently owned each relationship she had and all the hats she wears, no insecurities? I think through conversations I’ve had, meetings I’ve walked into, moments I’ve silenced myself and worried that I was too… something. Too soft, too hard, too feminine, too masculine, too talkative, too expressive, too… all the things that make me who I am.

There sometimes comes a time in your life and in your career that you find your value. And, most will tell you even when you find it, life has a funny way of saying, “Are you sure?” and offering you missteps and ego to dig through so that you finally find your footing and say, “Yes, I’m sure. This is who I am and what I do well. And you know what? Here are the things I don’t do well. I’m going to own them too.”

Ms. DVF herself, in her very poignant, clipped comments, asked us to learn who we were, all our iterations, and own them. Own who you are today, find your why, your reason, your gifts.

Then stand up and introduce yourself.

No apologies allowed.

 

Dirty Little Liar: Beating Negative Self Talk

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I was an awkward kid; string bean skinny, butter teeth, a plague of freckles and the fairest skin most people have ever seen. Some joked that I was so fair you could see my blood flowing through my veins. I had a lot of nicknames, none of them kind.

My sister was “the cute one” and I was “the smart one.”

I was confused when an adult neighbor looked at me as if he’d seen me for the first time when I was about thirteen, “Good God, girl. You are going to be a knockout when you’re older.”

I thought he was gross.

I never thought of my appearance because I was ugly. I knew I’d have to rely on my wits and developed a biting sense of humor to compensate for what my mama didn’t give me. When I did get attention from boys I was suspicious and then I shrunk from it. I had faith in my smarts and a quiet confidence that may have been ill-placed, but served me well. I relied on being a nerd with the hopes I’d land an equally nerdy husband. We’d make informed decisions, listen to NPR and have the best jokes; a match made in nerd heaven.

It wasn’t until I was 18 that I realized attractive, popular boys were interested in me. I remember the first time a very good looking 20 year old made it clear he wanted to take me on a date. I was the girl that looked over her shoulder both ways to see where the pretty girl was, and upon realizing I was alone pointed to the center of my chest, “Me…?”

I don’t get it…?

Many years later my husband would tell me that a colleague once said, “Jeanette has no idea how pretty she is, does she?”

He’d smile, almost proud, “She’s my ugly duckling.”

So, I turned into a swan, yada yada, good for you.

Well, not exactly. While the little girl in me is happy that my freckles faded, Crest invented White Strips and self tanner doesn’t stink as bad as it did in the 90’s, I’m still an ugly kid on the inside. I just feel a different kind of pressure and I think every single woman knows it intrinsically. While I would like so much to tell you that my brainy confidence transitioned to every other part of me, you can be like me too, I suffer from an ugly little secret:

Negative self talk.

I notice the things about myself you may not. I’m self conscious about the little gap in my teeth, the way my right eye looks a little squinty when I smile, the lines that are coming with age, the size of my waist, the fact I have no pigment in my face after I wash my make up off and I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I don’t really recall negative self talk when I was a kid, Is this a grown up thing? I would like to return it, please.

I’ve tried a few things to combat it and at my best I tend to defeat the beast. At my worst I typically whine until a girlfriend tells me to get my head in check. It’s like a little flash bulb goes off, Oh yea. This is me being mean to myself.

I thought I’d share in the hopes this may help when your inner critic decides to show up with a magnifying glass.

I try to be thankful for my body in this moment, knowing in ten years I’ll wish I looked like I d0 today. I thank my strong legs for keeping me going, my healthy body for creating a life, my clear skin, my freckles for being only lightly freckly. I thank my smile for not only being large (One of my nicknames in high school was The Joker. Let’s move on…), but bringing light to those I love when they see it.

I try to be aware of the negative self talk that sneaks up on you. These are the things you didn’t consciously realize were there, but something stirs something deep. A rebuff or a rejection has you suddenly questioning whether you are lovable or worthy? A question or criticism suddenly makes you question your intelligence or motivation? See it for what it is in the moment. This is war talk. It is your dormant inner critic. Don’t allow it to fester. Do the work if you need to, but do not start to believe it. It is a dirty liar. I give you permission to treat it as an enemy.

I try not to obsess. At all.

My right eye will probably always water and staring in the mirror for fifteen minutes, hating it, worrying about my soon to be off-kilter eye makeup, is silly. Throw the extra mascara and liner in the makeup bag and get the day going. I’ve learned to love my watery eyeball. It gives me character and I will always have a conversation starter, “No, I’m not emotional. My eye just waters. Allergies.”

I deserve to love my life and sometimes that means the taste of decadent things. I also feel strongly about health, so I don’t overindulge, but I’m not going to make myself feel bad because I ate pasta. It was delicious. It’s in the past. Let it go. Tomorrow I will make (mostly) good choices.

I refuse to be mean to myself or anyone else. I may say, “I should probably hit the gym more and eat cleaner,” as opposed to staring at myself in the mirror, “Look at your disgusting (enter body part here).” There is never anything positive about bullying yourself or anyone else for that matter. One of my girlfriends and I recognized that we were in the habit of pointing out what we hated about ourselves to each other a few years ago. We were doing it in front of our daughters, so we created safe phrases and compliments to get each other back into check and remind ourselves that a dimple here or there was not what made a woman. If she started in on herself I would smile, “You have beautiful eyes. You are such a good cook.” If I did, she’d respond, “You are such a great writer. You have such a beautiful smile.” We only had to do it a few times before it stuck.

If someone else feels the need to tear into another individual, I refuse to be part of that as well. You don’t know the struggles and negative self talk of others. Let them figure out their own path and quiet their own dirty little liars. You do you.

I smile as I write this, thinking back on an encounter with my daughter and our Target cashier a month or so ago. Olivia is four and as the woman was ringing us up, she asked very loudly, “Mommy, why is that lady so old?” I tried to give her a look she hasn’t yet realized is the “be quiet” look, so after the second time I had to handle it.

I leaned in, “Liv, what you are saying may hurt her feelings. Don’t say it again and we’ll talk about it in the car.”

We did. She understood that if she wanted to tell the cashier that she had a nice necklace or she liked the color of her shirt she could do that, but saying something about her being old or having wrinkles may not be the nicest way to interact with someone. A few hours later I was on the phone with a friend, laughing about how time was flying. When I got off the line, Liv was ready to have a talk with me.

“Mommy, we don’t tell people that we’re old. It’s not kind.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You told that person, ‘We’re getting old.’ Maybe that wasn’t the nicest way to talk to her.”

Or to myself.

Out of the mouths of babes.

Be good to yourselves, friends.

 

 

 

 

Letters From Readers: Alyse Ellman

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Every few days or so I receive an alert that I have mail in the Lore and Little inbox. I always open it, curious. The Love Letters project is still relatively new, so when it turns out to be an unsolicited letter I immediately get that, he likes me, he really likes me, kind of feeling. A few weeks ago it was from Alyse. We met in Maui at a mutual friend’s wedding and while Facebook friends, haven’t talked since. Her note made my day:

Because we are Facebook friends, I have the wonderful opportunity of reading your posts and it prompted me to write the letter you will find below. I wasn’t planning on sharing it, I wrote it for me, but there’s something about sending it to you that makes me feel like it may travel back in time and get to my younger self, sort of in a way you would want your Christmas letter to actually get to the North Pole.

I’m all about trying to make magic happen, so whether this letter travels back in time or makes a woman nod her head in agreement, we owe it to ourselves to share. I told Alyse that I truly appreciate her acknowledgment of both our relationships with men and our own bodies. I don’t know that we’re always willing to tackle those head on and we don’t talk about them enough, yet every woman thinks about both.

Thank you, Alyse, for your love letter. I hope it inspires more women to share.

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Dear Younger Alyse,

First, and most importantly, you make it out alive and not only with a heart beat, but with a beating heart that is full of love and happiness. You should know this immediately. I share this important message with you because I know you don’t think this will happen. You avoid a plan almost certain you won’t live long enough to see it through. You are lucky in that the universe seems to provide for you by putting opportunities within your reach in mysterious and exciting ways. Your job, my younger self, is to listen, be open, and act.

Depending on your current age reading this letter, you will tempt fate and take risks that you should not. You are probably thinking that you will not live to see 30, but you will, at least 43, with no signs of stopping. Please don’t abuse your body and your mind. Both will be so important to you when we get older, and since we’ve already established you have a long life ahead of you, keep those things sacred.

Listen to mom. When you get older, you will actually have a healthy and supportive relationship with her. She will be your rock in many ways that you cannot imagine. Stop testing boundaries long enough to appreciate her. You’ll thank yourself later.

Also, you are not fat. You will struggle to appreciate your body, your curves, your big boobs. You are beautiful and you will be told this again and again. Please believe it every time you hear it.

Be wary of men. This is your weak area. Attention, excitement, acceptance – all things you crave, and lets face it, we always have. You will enter relationships and they will tear you down and you will have to build yourself back up several times. Its ok, its how we learn. But, please, for our sake, protect your fragile heart.

Last, and I know this will come as a shock to you, but your strongest and most meaningful relationships are with women. You will meet and become long-lasting friends with some of the most amazing women who are creative, intuitive, passionate, caring, and you love them dearly. They are your support system and you could not survive without them. Covet these relationships.

Younger Alyse, you have so much to look forward to in life. I can’t wait for you to see that for yourself.

Regards,

(Not So) Older Alyse

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My name is Alyse Ellman and I am originally from New York. I’ve lived in Boston, NYC, Las Vegas, and now Chicago. I most recently left Wynn Las Vegas after twelve years and now work for United Airlines in Chicago. Change is constant in my life and I’ve come to accept that, which is where some of my advice to my younger self comes from. I am single and travel frequently both personally and professionally. I have wonderful friends and a terrific supportive family. I am a lucky girl.

 

A Letter To My Younger Self by Jamie Little

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I met Jamie Little when she was pregnant with her son, Carter, and she is one of the most badass women I know. I am so honored that she wrote a love letter and while I knew many of the things included, there is something about the written word that crystallizes the strength you see in a woman. I once told Jamie that if there is any type of apocalypse, Zombie or otherwise, I’m coming to her house. She laughed, “We would survive.” She is afraid of very little and has such a strong sense of self that I’m so thrilled she can share this side of herself with you too.

Jamie asks us not to allow ourselves to be labeled and it is such sage advice. Had she allowed labels to stick she may not be the first female pit reporter for the television broadcast of the Indianapolis 500, the first female to cover a televised Supercross and Motorcross event, and one of the first female reporters in X Games history.

Ladies and gentlemen, the badass Jamie Little –

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I was a strong minded only child raised by a single mom. For some reason, I always had gumption. I was always brave and never feared. Maybe it was growing up in the outdoor paradise that is South Lake Tahoe, California. Maybe it was having a strong mom who never took no for an answer. Maybe it was not having a father around to give me the idea that I NEED a man to do things for me. Whatever it may be, that strong, independent spirit has never let me down. It’s led me astray at times, gotten me in trouble a time or two but it always brought me back to the “right” path. With that, here’s a letter to my younger self, a list of explanations you could say. This is for the girl who loved horses, loved boys (at a very young age!), never settled for no, loved her mom to a fault and missed having a father, her father, more than she could accept until much later in life.

Dear Jamie:

DON’T BE ASHAMED that you don’t have a dad around. Most of your friends at your young age still have a two parent household. It’s ok to have the love of two parents wrapped into one. You’ll use that void left by your father to fuel your passion to succeed in a male-dominated world such as motorsports television. You’ll yearn to have acceptance by men for your character, hard work and accomplishments. You’ll get it.

THAT LOVE FOR RACING ISN’T WEIRD. Your friends and classmates won’t understand why, in High School, you started bringing dirt bike magazines to class. Your mom will be shocked one day to discover all of your precious, innocent horse posters have been replaced by dirt bikes, racers and autographs. Just because you don’t have a brother or father around to promote something like dirt bikes, it’s ok. One day everyone will understand your love and passion for something so rough and “unladylike.”

THOSE TEARS, LONELY NIGHTS ON THE ROAD AND SMALL PAYCHECKS are all part of the plan. Suck it up and keep your eye on the prize. The more you endure and the harder you work, selflessly, the bigger the reward. It’ll all lead to true happiness, but it’ll be a long road. Keep digging.

DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF and trim the fat while you’re at it. Your stepmother may have “taken” your father away and tried to keep you out, but being angry, sad and disappointed won’t help. Just accept your relationship with your father for what it is; surface conversation between two blood acquaintances. Ironically, the day will come that you are all your father has. You’ll end up burying his wife. That will leave him alone, broke and depressed with nobody but you to lean on. Take it as “God’s work” to be there. Don’t judge, don’t walk away. Be there. You’ll be your father’s shining light in his darkest days. Funny how life works out sometimes.

YOU ALWAYS WANTED A BABY BROTHER OR SISTER. Although it won’t happen, one day you’ll have the chance to hold, love and care for a baby of your own. It’ll be hard to fathom while you’re keeping your head to the grindstone, hardly coming up for air, but it’ll happen. Just be sure to open your heart, enjoy dating, don’t take yourself so seriously. In the end, it’s not ALL about your career or becoming wealthy, although that’s nice, it’s really all about the circle of family you create around you. So, don’t wait too long, but don’t settle either. Oh and don’t keep people in your life just because. Cut those who are toxic, drama or who zap your energy. Life is too short. Keep your circle tight.

DON’T BE LABELED. In life, people will want to characterize you into a category. “She’s a pretty girl. She’s a tomboy. She’s a hard ass. She’s a classy lady. She’s a partier. She’s a country club-type of woman.” Don’t be afraid to be ALL things. You can and will be a woman who can wear a dress, heels and interview anyone on TV. You will be a country girl who loves her country music, cold beer and swearing. You’ll like riding dirt bikes and you’ll enjoy golf. You’ll hang with millionaires while sipping expensive red wine. You’ll also wear your sweats and feed the homeless on D Street or walk homeless dogs in the impoverished part of town. Be ALL things. Life is so much more exciting that way.

RESPECT YOUR MOM. She’ll drive you crazy, you’ll drive her crazy. You’ll be angry at her and hold grudges for things she did as a parent. Let it go. The only things that’s important is that you have each other. She’ll be your number one fan your whole life. She’ll be your cheerleader when you call her with self doubt and disappointment. She’s done it all. She’s your best resource. Stay close to her always. Help her in times of need. She’ll need you in a big way. The husband of hers that you call “Pops” will see the bitter side of life. He’ll one day look at death in the face, but his attitude and the love of you mother will steer him away. It’ll end up being the biggest challenge in all of your lives. Stick together. It’s the ONLY way.

Love,

Jamie

Veteran motor sports reporter Jamie Little joins FOX NASCAR in 2015 for its 15th season, bringing 13 years of broadcasting experience and a lifetime of racing knowledge to her pit reporting duties in the NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES and NASCAR XFINITY SERIES. Her assignments also include select additional races and special events throughout the year.

Prior to joining FOX, Little spent 13 years at ESPN/ABC as a reporter for NASCAR (2007-’14), IndyCar Series (2004-’14), Winter X Games and Summer X Games telecasts. Her television career began in 2002 as a reporter for ESPN immediately following graduation from college. She also has worked for SPEED, NBC and TNN.

The move to FOX after multiple years with ABC and ESPN represents a “homecoming” of sorts for Little. She covered a variety of motor sports events for FOX Sports’ SPEED in 2002 and 2003, including the network’s live coverage of Daytona Supercross, which marked her live national broadcasting debut.

She was the first female pit reporter for the television broadcast of the prestigious Indianapolis 500 (2004), the first female to cover a televised Supercross and Motorcross event, and was one of the first female reporters in X Games history. Little has covered 11 Indianapolis 500s and eight Brickyard 400s and has hosted a variety of non-racing sporting events ranging from Paintball Championships to the Great Outdoor Games, in addition to live announcing roles in Motorcross and Supercross.

Little credits her lifelong passion for the sport and affinity for dirt bikes as the springboard for her entry into television. While still in college, she reported on various motor sports for ESPN2 and also served as a live announcer in Supercross.

The Las Vegas resident is well-rounded outside the four corners of a race track, as well. In 2013, she released her first book, entitled Essential Car Care for Women, and has worked the red carpet for the ESPYs, in addition to hosting numerous NASCAR events away from the track. Furthermore, the popular racing video game “MX World Tour Featuring Jamie Little” bears her name and likeness. She also held a cameo role in the 2005 feature film, Fantastic Four, and Supercross the Movie starring Channing Tatum.

Little spends her free time volunteering at The Animal Foundation, Nevada’s largest animal rescue shelter. Her first solo charity project is a 2016 calendar titled “Las Vegas to the Rescue,” featuring Las Vegas celebrities, such as Wayne Newton, Carrot Top and NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan, posing with homeless pets from the shelter to promote adoption.

A graduate of San Diego State University with a degree in Journalism, Little grew up in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., and currently resides in Las Vegas with her husband and son.

You can follow Jamie on Twitter at @JamieLittleTV.

 

Love Letter to My Younger Self by Chelli Wolford

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I’ve bit my lip in anticipation of this post.

Chelli estimates that she’s rewritten this love letter 27 times. We’ve had approximately 7.3 conversations about it and she’s watched one documentary that inspired at least one quick overhaul. We had one drink each while we chatted about it on New Year’s Eve. It took one voicemail, three texts and three emails to confirm that this post would go up today.

All big stats and for bigger reasons.

It’s important.

1 in 3 women will be sexually or physically assaulted in her lifetime. That’s your girlfriend at the end of the table. A man recently heard this statistic at a conference and approached the speaker, stone-faced, “I have three daughters. All I could see was their faces when I heard that stat and wondered which one it would be. What can I do?”

1 in 4 college women will be the victim of sexual assault during her academic career. That’s your neighbor next door, the woman you share carpool with and the lady who underwrote your mortgage.

It may even be you and if you are triggered by such topics, please note that this is a message of hope. Of awareness.

I shared the above stats with one of my close girlfriends one night and she paused, giving me the fortitude I needed, “This is important. These are our friends.”

I’m making the decision not to avoid hard topics because they’re uncomfortable, but instead embrace them because they should be brought into the light. What I adore about Chelli is that when she reached out to say she knew what she wanted to write about, it was so clear that it was a message of hope for every little girl, every teen, every woman. It was so soul-baring and earnest and in her own words, “I don’t want it to be dark.”

I called her this morning after reading it, “I’m so proud of you.”

These are our friends.

Ladies and gentlemen, the brave and beautiful Chelli Wolford –

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My Dearest Chelli-Belly:

(This nickname is going to stick – you will eventually find it endearing.)

First, and I need you to really get this, like in your cells, know this: It’s not your fault. Your Mother leaving you when you were just a baby. Being molested when you were a child. Getting gang-raped your first year of college. None of it was your fault. It will be easy for you to blame yourself, to shame and convince yourself that it was somehow your fault, that you were being punished, that God forbid, you deserved it. Sweetheart, it just wasn’t your fault. Stop asking why and start looking to transform your pain into a purpose. This is how you will eventually find peace and become of service to the world.

Learn to forgive like it’s your job. Forgive those who have hurt you, forgive yourself for those you have hurt. Forgiveness is freedom. The older you get, the less you will have to forgive yourself – it will take you longer than you like, but you will learn to live intentionally. Everything will fall into place.

“When people show you who they really are, believe them the first time.” ~Maya Angelou
You won’t learn this quote until your early- thirties and you won’t fully grasp it until your late-thirties, but please, for your sake, breathe these words in and live them. People will give you all the information that you need to make decisions about whether or not you should allow them into your life and heart. Not only will they show you, sometimes they will also tell you, don’t think you can “love” them better, you can’t. Don’t justify bad behavior.

Marry that kind guy that you think is too good for you. This will change the trajectory of your life. Having a supportive partner who will assist in your “becoming” will be everything. Trust me on this.

Some things are never going to make sense – and that is okay. Your Mother not choosing you is going to perplex you most of your life. Instead of asking why, just know that she did the best she could with the tools she had. You will do better because you know firsthand what it feels like to be left behind. It will take you a little while, but eventually you will see it as a blessing. Your worst days will become the best days that shape you into the woman you are today. I promise.

You don’t need to prove yourself to anyone. Full stop.

There will be this moment in your late twenties, when you are talking to your Granny and she says to you: “You know you were your sister’s security blanket, right? I don’t know what she would have done without you.” That moment is going to give your life meaning and be your purpose. Doing and being for others what you always wanted is going to be a driving force for you, don’t change it. Ever. (It’s also going to serve you well when you become a Mama).

I’m not going to lie to you, the first several years are going to be challenging, but my love, it’s going to get so sweet. The darkness will diminish. You will only see the light. Your heart will grow bigger. You will laugh way more than you cry. You will experience things that you cannot even imagine right now as you lay in your bed in a junkyard in Ohio dreaming big dreams for yourself. Hold on. It gets so much better.

Finally, thank you for being a brave, bad-ass, risk-taking young girl. You got me here. But now I got you. I’m holding you so tight. You are safe and you can trust me completely. You can be vulnerable and soft and feminine. I will not judge you. Cry if you need to cry, say your scary things out loud, be your most authentic self. I will be with you every day until the day we die and I will forever be your biggest fan. You saved me. And I saved you. It will take you a few years but you will realize, I’m the love of your life. Now go share that love.

So much love & light to you,

Chelli

Chelli Wolford is a Strategic Business Consultant combining over 20 years of experience in the military, business and entertainment worlds. Chelli was the youngest and only female Retail Sales Manager for Sprint PCS when she moved to Las Vegas at the age of 24, building 5 retail stores for the Las Vegas market and managing nearly 100 employees. She quickly advanced, managing several different sales channels within multiple organizations and became known as a “fixer” turning around flailing sales channels through key position hires, team building and lead by example style of management.

After leaving the corporate world Chelli was chosen by international superstar Pitbull to join his team and help take his organization to the next level. Chelli created processes for vetting business opportunities, delineated clear roles for team members within the Pitbull organization and worked closely with Pitbull aka Armando Perez to ensure his brand was consistent throughout his social channels and that he had a direct, authentic connection to his fans to ensure channel growth. It was during this time that Chelli Co-Founded Acento Digital Media, a company that supported and connected music artists and brands in aligned, mutually beneficial relationships. Acento’s revenue grew to half a million in less than 4 years of business.

Chelli recently moved back to Las Vegas after 8 years in California and is focused on empowering women entrepreneurs to achieve their goals through her new company, Illuminated Moxie.

You can find Chelli on Twitter @illuminatedmoxy

 

 

Somewhere Between The 10 & The 1

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I want tomorrow to come like a page in a book that I can’t put down because I have to know what happens next. I’ve always been this way; always wanting more, curious about the sequel, who will be left standing, who will sit out, who who who? My dad said I was in a hurry to grow up. He told me not to wish for time to fly because one day it would be gone, “Enjoy your youth, Catfish. You’ll never have this time again.”

Auld Lang Syne – times old long since

Beautiful lyrics, if you really listen. I stand almost on my tip toes every New Year’s Eve. I can’t wait to count it down. I want to yell, 10, 9, 8… I want my kiss. I want a picture. I want a moment standing on another one because new things are going to happen, don’t you know? Something is going to happen and something else. Maybe I’ll fall in love. Maybe I’ll travel somewhere exotic. Maybe all sorts of magic will happen that I can’t even imagine.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

I come up with my New Year’s Resolution and assign my friends their own, “Your New Year’s Resolution is to be on time more often. And, you! Yours is to forgive yourself, it is about damn time.” I have to have champagne, we have to toast, you have to tell me what you loved about the year we are leaving behind us because I need to know.

Then we follow the traditions and we sing words that didn’t mean anything to me until recently. On the cusp of a new year the song changed. It isn’t a celebration of what is to come. It is a toast of what has been. All the time I spent jumping up and down and pursing my lips in Auld Lang Syne I didn’t realize that the people singing along to my left and to my right could be gone by the following New Year.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne?

I didn’t think of the fragility of life or how I should spend a second between the 10 and the 1 thinking of the souls that have come into my life, taught me, loved me, molded me and then moved on. I didn’t think of how fast time would begin to fly; that time dad told me to treasure because it wouldn’t last as long as I thought it would. I didn’t know so many of my friends would spend the close of the year short one person they loved more than anyone in the world. One person that wouldn’t enter a new year with them. They had no idea when they sang the song together last year. None at all.

I had no idea that I’d celebrate the close of a year short people that were glimmers, whispers and heartbeats earlier in the season, some having left in body, others because it was time.

I couldn’t imagine it as we laughed, glasses in the air.

For auld lang syne dear, for auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness, yet
for auld lang syne

I would like to believe they are there, spirits all around, as we look forward. I’d like to believe they are releasing us from grief and wishing us well as we build a new year without them next to us. I’d like to believe those that still walk this earth raise their glasses to our memories as well, thanking us for who we were to them.

And there’s a hand my trusty friend
And give us a hand o’thine!
And we’ll take a right goodwill draught

For Auld Lang Syne

Somewhere between the 10 and the 1.

Happy New Year, lovers. A toast to those who have taught and loved us and glasses up to a beautiful 2016. May it be filled with love and a little bit of magic.

You Are So Powerful: A Love Letter by Jessica Leigh Lyons

 

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A few have asked if I’ve written my letter yet and while it is in my heart, it hasn’t hit paper, it’s complicated.

As I’ve tried to figure out what I want to say I realize there is too much. I find myself hoping that the collection of letters will scratch some of the topics I’d like to cover. You see, my letter wouldn’t just be to my younger self, it would also be to the girls that grew up in my poverty stricken neighborhood. While I was raised by a minister, the girls across the street weren’t so lucky. My letter would be to the women and girls who were trafficked out of my neighbor’s houses. It would be to the women who were beaten and choked when they got too mouthy.

I would tell them they are not where they came from and not the things that have happened to them even though they can’t imagine deserving anything more.

I would tell them they are not the person described to them by those who have taken ownership of them.

My letter would be to all the little girls who don’t yet believe in themselves, and may not, if they’re not guided to find the squeaky little voice inside. This is why Jess Lyons’ letter below resonates with me.

I hope someone who does not have access to the women writing earnestly each week stumbles across this site and realizes there is so much more. It is like a viral hug from women that hope you figure it out much earlier than they did.

Please send your love letters to loreandlittlethings@gmail.com

I reached out to Jessica upon finding her Twitter feed filled with positivity and girl-centric messages of hope and asked her to write from her heart.

She did that in spades.

Ladies and gentlemen, Jessica Leigh Lyons

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A teenager blew me away this weekend.

Sitting in a circle of women at a workshop, a 16 year old woman shared her thoughts on power. She spoke about the girls at her school. She watched as her girlfriends changed themselves to be like the boys; joking like boys, tearing each other down. They changed their dress, their makeup, their hair. The girls actively morphed themselves into some contortion of what they thought boys wanted.

This young woman looked each of us — 30-somethings and 40-somethings — in the eyes as she spoke.

This young woman was courage — unafraid to be in the wrestle.

Women of my heart, I cried.

I cried for my younger self who knew about my deepest heart’s desire, which I contorted to fit into my surroundings.

I cried for the journey of my 20s — finding myself, losing myself, selling everything, traveling, moving, and returning home.

I cried for the tears that I had spent, for the shame-talking I had engaged in.  

I cried because in this space, I could. I was surrounded by bad-ass women who grieved the losses of their younger selves and had risen stronger.

I cried because this young woman is so beautiful–in her deep knowing, in her courageous wrestle, in her coming of age.

I cried because she will go on her journey, too.

I cried because watching her, I deeply wanted to reflect back …

You are so powerful.

I shared this reflection with her.. I wrote her a letter which doubles as a reminder to my younger self AND to my future self; for those moments I feel as though I’ve lost my power.

It is this:

“I know you will be afraid that you are doing the ‘right’ thing. There will be angst because you must walk through YOUR OWN LANDSCAPE. The first time will be difficult and you will not know what to bring. But the second time will be easier, you will have more tools for the journey. And finally on the four-hundredth time, you will speak lovingly to yourself even through the difficult passes.”

And you must distinguish your truth from what women are told and what women are not told.

We are told to get it together, figure out your life, your passion and your purpose in order to achieve fulfillment… yesterday.

We are told that you are only worthy of success if you figure it out on your own.

We are told that we must stay happy and positive in order for others to love us.

We are told to say yes to what comes along because we might not get what we really desire.

I do not believe what we have been told. Rather, I’ve found my truth in what we are not told.

WE ARE NOT TOLD that OUR POWER COMES from FEELING, from SHARING, from BEING SEEN.

WE ARE NOT TOLD that TRANSFORMATION COMES from being with, from expressing our deepest emotions & letting them run their course through us, from emptying so that we can be full again.

WE ARE NOT TOLD that WE MUST CRY-LAUGH in a cycle, surrounded by women and their curves, and their fierce, and their nurturing in order to experience deep healing.

WE ARE NOT TOLD that we can BE WITH ALL OF EACH OTHER AND THEREFORE ourselves.

WE ARE NOT TOLD that anyone can handle you IF you want to be handled.

WE ARE NOT TOLD THAT WE CAN BE WITH ALL THAT IS AND THEN SOME because we are powerful just by being.

To all the 16 year olds, and the 6 year olds, and the 56 year olds: your truth is your power. This is an invitation to share the story of your journey and proclaim your power.

It is only by being SEEN — in the struggle, in the wrestle– by speaking what is true for ourselves, that we heal.

You NEED NOT KNOW YET for what purpose.

You, my sweet, wild, fierce, courageous woman, are powerful regardless of your knowing.

Please trust in your path. Please ask, seek, beg, open, receive, and create the support you desire. We are here to bear witness to your power.

In so much love + deep healing belly laughter,

Jess

Jessica Leigh Lyons is a life coach dedicated to liberating women from their stories of self-doubt and creating the biggest boldest vision of themselves. She leads an event called Storybowl, a place for women to gather and speak truth, which she is taking around the country in April 2016.

In addition to her private practice, she regularly leads training on mindfulness and happiness at Bossed Up Bootcamp, a workshop to create sustainable success and she is the Director of Desire, Goals, and Planning for Inner Glow Circle, a powerful sisterhood of possibility and personal development.

Jess can be found on Twitter @JessLyons_ and Instagram @JessicaLeighLyons

Dear Young Amy Jo by Amy Jo Martin

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Every love letter seems as if it was written to or for me, arriving at the moment a question arises within or another idea regarding content is tucked into my iPhone Notes. The thing that makes my heart soar and shine, however, is that every single woman that has approached me has found a letter that resonated as well. Over the course of the past several weeks I have had people approach me at work functions, charity events and holiday parties to say, “Kimberly spoke to my heart,” or, “I use one of Jessica’s points as my daily mantra,” or, “Tracy was in my head!”

Forget Marc’s. His went viral and was picked up by God Updates.

The magical part? I am having conversations with people I don’t know about how we are all connected. We are talking about failure and freedom, why don’t we believe in ourselves more?

Another thing I’m finding that I didn’t expect is that letters are promised, but delayed. Every person that wants to share insists their words be meaningful, “I know what I want to say, but I have to get to a place.” There is a vulnerability and an openness that speaks, but it can be a scary journey.

Be scared.

Fear is the fraud, not us.

We are lighting the way for others; inspiring, impassioning, incandescent.

Send your love letters to loreandlittlethings@gmail.com 

We’re waiting.

I reached out to Amy Jo Martin after seeing a few of her empowered posts, but was blown away when I watched her Inbound talk, THE RENEGADE FACTOR: EVOLVING “PRETTY” TO “PRETTY DAMN RAD” FOR THE NEXT GENERATION. MEN REQUIRED.

When I received her letter I was sitting in my car outside of my daughter’s school having just dropped Olivia to her teachers with a hug and a kiss and a promise that swim class is tomorrow night, don’t worry. Preschool conversations, share day and my next meeting fell away as I read Amy Jo’s words, nodding my head, eyes watering.

This is good stuff, y’all, and I love Amy Jo’s voice. It is math brain meets soft soul.

Ladies and gentlemen, Amy Jo Martin

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Dear Young Amy Jo:

I write this letter to you on a plane as I fly back to U.S. soil after spending time in Asia. As I boarded the plane in Hong Kong, yet another mass shooting in the U.S. topped global news. The more we’re exposed to in this world, the more we realize how little we know or understand. That said, please take what’s useful from this advice and leave behind what is not. You will create your own journey which makes you unique.

Btw, we’re quite stubborn and it’s possible you won’t listen to the advice below. Regardless, you will still live a fulfilling life (at least until you’re 36). And, we think in bullet points and absorb content best in the form of bullet points so here goes . . .

  • You’re going to experience some amazing things. Humble yourself or the universe will do it for you. The world is much bigger than us and it doesn’t revolve around us. The people we respect the most, including our mentors, are the humblest people we’ll ever meet.
  • We can’t bank sleep. Meaning, we can’t deposit and save up hours into a fictitious sleep account and withdraw rest when needed. This strategy simply doesn’t net out well regardless of what grades we earn in math. After averaging 4-5 hours a night for several years, our 36-year-old version has finally learned to respect sleep. She guards it fiercely. I encourage you to protect your sleep at a younger age. (PS – math is one of our sweet spots. It’s our jam. We like black and white answers and scenarios. This poses challenges for us. Read on.)
  • Learn to push your own buttons. Inspire yourself. Everyone else is busy. It’s wonderful and convenient when others inspire us but there will be droughts between the supply and demand. Subsidizing with a self-sufficient supply of inspiration serves as our safety net. This is how we make inspiration sustainable and scalable. Personally, our strongest source of inspiration is nature – being outdoors.
  • In third grade, you will be put in a ‘special’ reading and writing class because you’re not quite performing up to par with your classmates. Accept, listen and learn. We will apply these skills years down the road when we write our first New York Times bestselling book. We must always appreciate the opportunity we are given to slow down, listen and learn. Timing is everything. Trust the process.
  • Where purpose, passion and skill collide, bliss resides. This sounds like fluffy BS but it’s your reason for not worrying about knowing what path or profession you want to choose when you enter college – just be open, try everything and listen to how you feel. Purpose. Passion. Skill. Collide them. (Heads-up, they change so don’t get too comfy)
  • Don’t let other people rent space in your head for free. That’s valuable real estate. What other people think of you is none of your business. Be you and let go. Repeat. This is a tough one for us. It requires constant practice. We struggle and trip over this one at times.
  • Learn when to make things happen vs. when to let things happen. When you’re feeling strongly about one or the other, move confidently in that one direction. Down the road, if you don’t like that path after you’ve given it a red hot go, then simply choose again. If you are torn on whether to let something happen or make it happen then sit down at the fork in the road and pause. Hint: We have a tendency to make things happen (force it) at times. Ease up, sister.
  • Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is extremely powerful. It takes daily practice. Take risks. When in doubt, ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that could happen if I try ____? And then what? And then what? Also ask: Is ____ safe enough to try?
  • Read. Read. Read. Make it a part of your day, your world. Surround yourself with people who also love to read. Give books as gifts. The benefits are unmatched.
  • Travel. Even if it’s an hour from where you live. Exploring will open your mind. If you have an opportunity to travel due to your career, take the ticket and explore while working – especially while you’re young and have less geographic anchors. Don’t spend 36 hours in Australia for the first time because it’s a “quick work trip”. Add a few more days and explore, chances are that nobody will question the request. Hint: You just have to ask.
  • Words matter. With all relationships, exchange “we” vs. “me” as much as possible.
  • Try not to worry so much about: your career, your weight, your finances, your future, etc. It all works out. We are warriors, not worriers.
  • Your career is going to take off, but please, please don’t get caught up. Make family a priority. I didn’t attend my grandmother’s funeral because I had a business trip that was “critical to my career.” We are one of 19 grandchildren and only two of us didn’t make it to the funeral. To this day, I don’t remember what that very important “career-altering” opportunity was. Show up for family. It matters.
  • Be kind and smile. It’s good for the soul, it’s a mood-changer, it’s contagious and … it attracts. Kindness and a smile are the ultimate positive boomerangs.

I love you and hope you learn to love yourself at an earlier stage than I did.

Ajo

Amy Jo, author of New York Times best-seller Renegades Write the Rules, founded Digital Royalty in 2009 to help corporations, celebrities and sports entities humanize their brands online through social communication channels. Amy Jo has worked closely with world-renowned brands such as Hilton Worldwide, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal to successfully humanize their presence. Her motto is, humans connect with humans, not logos.

Amy Jo herself has a social media following of more than a 1.1 million people and was named the third most powerful woman on Twitter by Forbes. She travels the world to speak about the latest trends in innovation, the future of social communication and women in business.

In 2012 Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, and Baron Davis, NBA player, invested in Amy Jo and her company. After a successful seven-year run as the Founder & CEO of Digital Royalty and growing the business globally into ten different countries, Amy Jo recently exited the company.

Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Amy Jo began working for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns during their 2005-06 season. These were the wild wild west days of social media and there were no rules or regulations in place. After asking for a lot of forgiveness instead of permission she became recognized as a social media pioneer while trailblazing through this new unchartered territory.

As a young female building her career in male-centric industries, Amy Jo has developed a passion for helping women thrive in business leadership. She is currently spending her time investing in other female entrepreneurs so they can reach their full potential.

Amy can be found at www.amyjomartin.com or The Guild Agency. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AmyJoMartin.

Dear She, Love He by Marc Graham

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This one really needs no introduction.

Just read it and then make yourself aware of the #heforshe campaign that is growing in strength and numbers. These are men that are standing up for women. It’s gorgeous.

So is this letter.

Please click our Love Letters link for details and email yours to loreandlittlethings@gmail.com

If you work with at risk populations, have worked with (or are) survivors of domestic violence, human trafficking, are a woman that has overcome adversity – we’d love to hear from you.

We’d love to post love notes from students to their moms and teachers. Email them, screenshot them, send them our way!

When I received this letter I could only sit quietly, moved. I couldn’t wrap my head around big, feeling words, simply emailing Marc, “It’s beautiful.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, Marc Graham –

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Men are strange creatures. Frankly, I don’t know what you people see in us, or why you put up with our shenanigans, but I’m grateful you do. Much of what we truly feel goes unsaid, and what we try to say comes out wrong most of the time. So, for the times I’ve misspoken, when he said the wrong thing, when we completely biffed a conversation because our tiny brains were trying to process a message from our big hearts, here’s this.

Dearest She,

Thank you.

Among the many things I forget to say, this is right up there. You do so much every day, every moment. Things that aren’t necessarily your responsibility, but that need to be done and if you don’t do them, who will? So (1) please know that you don’t have to do it all and it’s okay to ask for help. And (2) I recognize all you do, and I’m so thankful.

I’m sorry.

Two words don’t adequately cover it, but there it is. I’m sorry for the times I judged you, rather than trying to understand you. I’m sorry for the times I made you feel less ­than, rather than celebrating all that you are. I’m sorry for just hearing you instead of listening to you, looking at you instead of seeing you, touching you instead of feeling you. Mostly, I’m sorry for when I acted like a boy instead of a man.

You balance me.

It’s become a lovely and sentimental notion to say, “You complete me.” It’s also unfair to you. Boys­, ­those needy, selfish creatures­­ naturally look to woman as a source of nourishment. That’s straight biology. But if I’m the man you deserve­­, whether my role is brother or partner, friend or lover­­, I’m complete already. Still growing, still learning, still changing, but complete. What I need is balance, and you do it perfectly. You counter my weaknesses with your strength. You temper my arrogance with your sound judgment. You smooth my rough edges with your gentle touch. You make me better, and you make me want to be better.

I’m proud of you.

Let’s face it, I’m awfully proud as it is, so I hesitate to use this phrase. Male pride is too often focused on self rather than others. But this is all you. You awe me. You’ve accomplished so much, in the face of challenges that would have had me cowering in a corner, tucked into a fetal position. The world puts so much on your plate, and you handle it with grace, which amazes me. And where you really shine, what makes my heart burst with admiration, is when you gently and courageously say, No. When you set your needs and higher goals above the expectations of others. When you recognize that, astounding as you are, even you can only do so much, and your energies are best spent on those things that matter and that feed your soul. You are a rock star.

You’re beautiful.

I mean it. You have a gorgeous soul, and when you let that shine through, when you’re being authentically Who You Are, you take my breath away. That way you smile and your eyes light up, because there’s so much Light inside you that has to come out. That way you laugh too loud, because your joy must be expressed. Even when you ugly-­cry, because you’re capable of feeling so much and so deeply that your body can’t contain it, that’s beauty. Oh, and those little things you try to cover up, those blemishes you try to hide? Don’t. Not for me. Those scars, those wrinkles, those stretch ­marks, all those so ­called imperfections tell the story of you, and are part of how you came to be who you are. Who you are is beautiful, and they are all part of that.

I love you.

Nothing more, no elaboration or justification. I just, plain love you.

Always,

He

Marc Graham is a writer, actor, singer, engineer, bard, and novice alchemist. His debut novel, Of Ashes and Dust, is slated for publication in 2017. He and his wife, Laura, live with their Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in Colorado’s Front Range.