Look to the Future with Hope.

The year has been a hard one for a lot of people.

As we reflect through the hard things we went through, I want to remind you that even though none of this was normal and even though it sucks, a lot of people are doing a good job right now.

Some of us have cancelled our weddings, our baby showers, graduations and yes, even funerals.

We’ve modified plans, vacations, holidays, places of worship, and school programming.

Some of our houses have turned into dictatorships run by five-year-olds. Some of you are surviving on chicken nuggets and repetitive prayer.

We’ve refrained from hugs, kissing our loved ones, close contact kinship, and things that fill us up. Some have lost their lives in the absence of that connection.

Some of us are missing rent, waiting for a call back that won’t come, and letting bills pile, while some are working double with no hazard pay.

Some of you said goodbye forever to people you love. Through a video chat on someone else’s phone. Some of you were the ones holding those phones, and holding the hands of those leaving this world.

Some of your hearts are broken. Some of your grief is big. Some may never recover.

But even if your forward motion is at a crawling speed, I urge you to go on, even if you’re crawling.

Because no matter the size of the character of someone else and their story, the truth for all of us is this: this is all around just pretty freaking hard on every level and nothing about this is or was normal and you are doing a good job.

Look to the future with hope.

If this year has been hard for you, please, walk with faith knowing that you are better and wiser because of it.

Wherever you’re at, however you’re handling it, I just want you to know that I see you and I think that you’re doing a really good job.

—Wallflower Writing

The Gift You Gave Me: Words From a ‘Toys for Tots’ Recipient

The holidays and Christmas look a little different for the kids who grew up on the Angel Tree at the local Walmart, for the ones who stood in food bank lines to collect holiday dinner, the ones whose profiles hung at the Salvation Army for the months before Christmas came. Kids like me. Kids who generally grow up to be wonderful, compassionate adults.

The gifts my angels gave me changed my life’s trajectory and challenged me to grow bigger than the obstacles around me. Many programs intend to help low income and struggling families, whether an agency that provides money for Christmas shopping or charities that provide resources for specific assistance, or individuals who rise to the occasion. Angel trees, Salvation Army, Toys for Tots—all of these programs aim to purposefully put Christmas and resources back into the local communities. The biggest thing these programs have in common is that they curate the spirit of broken homes, struggling families, and above all—future adults.

It’s Not the Same for Everyone.

Food stamps don’t buy Christmas gifts. While the season fades into the many millions of dollars we spend on gifts and the lavish holiday meals piled high, the truth is that some families and children will not see the same spread on their tables and will wake with no presents beneath their trees, if they even have trees. In a world where most kids believe in Santa, there is a entire body of children who don’t have the choice to even believe. Every family has a different story. Some children are in foster care, some belong to single parents with no family, and some belong to families who are just barely getting by.

When I was a kid, I often was on the receiving end of these gifts. I remember being 14 or 15 years old writing my list…”an Abercrombie sweatshirt to make me cool like the popular kids and one for my sister, so she can fit in, too.” It was all I wanted. Didn’t matter what it looked like. We never had another gift, or a fancy dinner or family. But that morning, I opened that Abercrombie sweatshirt and my sister did, too, and I remember feeling, “someone heard me.” For some kids, this is the only version of Santa they know. And, it makes for very humble adults when they grow to be my age.

It’s More Than a Christmas Gift, it’s the Future.

The gift you gave me changed my life and the way I thought about living it. The truth is that sometimes it is not just merely a physical gift that we are gifting to these children. It is hope. It creates a mold for future angels. Future humans who have a fresh perspective of going without the experience of what it is like to be fulfilled, or who know personally what it feels like to have wishes come true after someone took the time to provide them to you.

It provides autonomy to children. For me, the Christmas presents were always carefully selected in size and preference right down to the color and brand. It took me a long time to understand this. As I grew from the programming curated to meet the needs of my adolescence, I recognized that through the years at Christmas time, even if it was just one, a present would show up for me in my size and taste. Just for me. Not some random item that would go largely unused, but something that I coveted, and really needed or wanted. Wrapped or not, I always knew someone saw me for who I am inside, not just as a profile on a public Christmas tree.

As an adult, I now understand the vitality in the gifts that were given to me and to my siblings through the years. It was about more than giving and receiving. The gifts they gave me was all about believing in the power of kindness and entirely embracing the mobility of mankind. Poverty is not an excuse to let children experience a Holiday season without the staples, love and resources that chalk it up to the “magic” that most of us know and love.

This holiday, season I challenge you to be an angel. To give the gift of hope to a child who is in need of the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of goodness. I challenge you to understand that all that is good of any of us, can be condensed into one small glimmer of hope within any one of us. I challenge you with each moment that you’re picking a name, a family, a gift—to consider just who these children might grow up to be because of your kindness. Because I promise you this, children like me, grow up to be incredibly thankful, hopeful, and compassionate adults.

The gift you gave me changed my life.

You never know the last.

One day you don’t get to pick the hair bows or the hair styles anymore. Not the coordinated outfits or the wardrobe.

Before you blink, the choice becomes theirs.

Eventually you’re folding laundry and the loads get heavier and the little clothes get less little. Just like that mental load gets heavier.

And like those long snuggles becomes short ones, and eventually – as they often do – become history.

Then everyone grows and leaves home. And soon enough, you’re rediscovering new, lighter loads of laundry.

You probably won’t even recognize your daughter through her ever-evolving hair colors and her not-trendy-to-you style.

Even when we know it’s coming, we don’t know for sure when the last time will be.

The last time you see their natural hair. The last time you’ll coordinate the perfect oufit or event. The last time they ask your permission. Or, that last load of laundry.

But one of those times, it will be.

One day, it gets less about you and what you can do for them. It will become more about them and what they can do without you. About who they can be on their own.

You’ll watch them fail and try again. You’ll watch them grow into the complex people they are becoming. You’ll see really bad outfit choices, trends and more that the kid probably won’t ever come back from.

But it won’t be your choice.

As mothers we lead them to their choices so that we can let them make it, even when we don’t want to.

All we can do is hope that through all the choices they’re bound to make – they always choose you.

So, take a lot of pictures, these outfit choices should be booked. Don’t sweat the bows, let them be who they’re going to be.

Don’t lose it in the laundry, it won’t be like this for long. Because even when you think you know it’s coming, you never really know when that last time will be.

-Wallflower Writing

Lonely Mom of Only Child

Dear Lonely Mom of One,

I see you working twice as hard to keep your child’s busy mind occupied and challenged. Your partner works full time, so you take the weight of it all, not having nearby family or another child to help with the teaching or playing.

I see you take long strolls down the aisle at Target to help pass the hours. Often, you find long ways there and leave early just to get out of the house. You would do anything to move the time along until you don’t have to do it alone anymore.

I see you, still new to this game. Some of the challenge is just the practical new mom difficulty like being inexperienced and young. It’s the internal chaos that you’re doing this with unsplit time. Some of the heartache is that you can’t or won’t have the chance to raise a baby a second time, so you’ll never really be experienced in any age of raising a child.

So, you feel immense pressure to do it perfectly this time.

I see your child struggle to reach a compromise or diffuse a situation. Their only regular practice is with you. Just you and baby every day, all day. You count their frustrations when they don’t know how to share their toys, their feelings, or, God forbid, their mama. The number is infinite.

I share your fear that our children won’t be prepared for the realness of emotions and the challenges of a social setting; they haven’t had much firsthand practice. For a lot of us, our first crash course in social dynamics comes from growing up with siblings. It also seems that some of our strongest and most reliable techniques as parents come from refereeing those experiences.

I see you when you’re leaving the park with your screaming toddler, who doesn’t want to go because there is “no one to play with at home.” You walk to the car anyway with a stiff-legged doppelganger in tow and dodge judging gazes of moms who can afford a minute to stare while their children play together.

You scroll through photos of your friends’ children running together in the backyard. They don’t even have to leave the house to play. I know you wish your child could laugh happily with a built-in best friend, too. You work double time, so you can give them that on top of being their mom.

I see your puzzled looks when your kid asks you about siblings, wondering, “Why don’t I have one, Mommy?” I watch you grow a little smaller, maybe wishing they could have that, too, whether in another season, or for some of you, maybe a different lifetime.

A three-hour round trip to your kid’s closest cousin’s birthday party gives you a lot of time to think about the people your kids are growing up without.

You shrink when people say, “They’re ready for a sibling” or “Just wait until there’s two of them! That’s when it gets hard.” They may not even consider what your timeline entails or what stands in your way. I get just a little smaller too, sister.

I see you slink down when hard working moms of multiple children receive your feelings as insignificant. You have “just” one child, and you “just” can’t hang. So, you begin to feel that way: like you’re not significant. It can feel like the magnitude of your child’s life and the magnitude of yours is lessened because there is “just” one.

But, how you feel matters. You are not less. Almost every mom started with just one.

Some day, your child may not be your only, but this season they are. In this season, there is less laundry and fewer dirty dishes. There is much more time to cut the grapes in half and more one-on-one cuddles.

More quality time together will be had, discovering the nuances of this perfect person you created. In this version of your story, your child gets 100% of you, 100% of the time. And you get all of them, too. As moms, we get to learn more about ourselves throughout motherhood, and the resilience that we come with. In this chapter, there is more physical time and space.

Sure, we have to leave the house a lot more than if our children had built-in-buddies, but we get to go on adventures, enjoy live music, and have on-going momentum to leave or get outside…even when it’s easier to stay.

We can pull up to an event, and it only takes just one second to get out of the car and into the excitement. There’s just one car seat and that takes just one moment. There is nobody else to wait for, and we don’t have to slow down.

You don’t  spend as much money on yummy treats or spend twice as much at Christmas time. There’s more routine, and with that, more consistent family traditions and scheduling.  You only have to keep your eyes on one human in the chaos of life, and you can bet, it’s all eyes on them. All the time. 

When you’re caught in defense of raising “just” one child, just know that they won’t be a child for long. As you teach them and grow with them through these first short years, you’ll learn that these first short years are “just” a season.

To the lonely mother of an only child, I’m in your corner. I know it’s just as hard for you as it is, and was, for every mom. Some day, this unsplit time becomes divided with independence, other children, and life’s experiences, and as parents, we’ll wish we could get it back. It won’t be like this for long.

I can hear you, and I promise, I can definitely see you.

Love, a Happy Mom of One

Thoughts That Manifest.

Thoughts are only a small part of this experience. But lets face it, they’re the most in our face and so sometimes they feel most personal and precedent. Mine even speak in my voice.

“I am bad.”

“I am weak.”

And they’re our thoughts, our most vulnerable truths only known to us, and so we trust that their vision is somehow adequate.

“You’re not good enough”.

“You don’t deserve this.”

But we can’t even trust ourselves to bypass a cookie when we start a new diet. 

Let me tell you this: We are not just simply *what* we think about who we are. You’re not fat just because you ate a cookie.

Why is it easier to indulge in self defeat than it is to bask in our success or glory?

You can feel bad without being bad. You can feel angry without being angry, feel sad without being sad. And the truth of it all is really this- it doesn’t have to get ugly, if you don’t want it to get ugly.

You have the power to change your version of your truth, to put your mind to work.

Be molded by the experiences we inherit and prevail from, not merely defined by them. 

The truth is life is all about becoming.

Even if you don’t understand what it is *exactly* that you’re becoming.

It’s going up against your most inner thoughts alone and fighting that good fight.

And the funny thing is that most of us will never even arrive to our becoming in full tact because most of us will listen to those inner thoughts. A lot of us will quit. 

But not me. I put those thoughts to bed. I’m one of those people embracing my becoming.

“You can do this”.

“You are strong.”

Im quieting the thoughts that talk down to me, not becoming the thoughts that I think.

“You are good”. 

“You are valued”.

You are not all of the thoughts you think about yourself.

You can do this.

You are more than this moment. More than the next. You only become what you make the choice to manifest. Think kind thoughts to yourself, after all, you’re the only one who can hear them.

Motherhood Surprised Me.

If there’s one thing I have learned about motherhood, it’s that it always surprises me.

Sometimes the surprise surfaces in tears when my daughter doesn’t want milk in her fruit loops, or when I make her say goodbye to her super relevant best friend at the PlayPlace whom she met just five minutes prior.

Other times it’s my tears when I’m stumped, wondering how I’m even qualified for this caliber of a job, even though I grew a human inside of me and brought her here.

Or when it’s quarter after four in the afternoon and nap time is a tale told long ago, I’m always shocked that I can make it that next 30 minutes until her dad is through the door without literally blowing the roof off the joint.

I’ve heard that kids say crazy things, but at times it’s more surprising the things that come out of my mouth.

Too often I’ve had to convince my kid the whole world shuts down promptly at 8 pm just so she agrees to get in bed, and I can regain enough energy to do it again tomorrow.

Many preached, “It goes so fast, take it in!” and somehow my jaw still drops that these first years are flying right by.

We all look forward to and adapt to the endless surprises of motherhood no matter what form they arrive in.

No matter how exhausted, lonely, or downright surprising it can feel, a mother somehow always finds the grace and the patience needed to raise her children.

Warrior Women and Motherhood

My grandfather’s second wife, Kathy, stayed in our life way longer than she had to.

My grandfather died and she just kept coming.

When my dad and his siblings all bottomed out before me and my cousins were even born, my Gram insisted they stay on track.

When they called from jail, rarely, if ever, did she bail them out.

And when my dad and his wife divorced because of drugs and alcohol and his wife took the kids and ran, she insisted then too.

Motherhood is about more than being biologically connected and literally maternal.

It’s voluntary closeness.

To me, it’s about warrior women who persist.

There are other mothers beyond the ones you see with children.

She could be the woman whose unknowingly guided you in roles you never saw a mother in at all.

The ones you thought really just couldn’t get “it” because they didn’t birth a child.

She could be the mother whose never had her own children but rose to the challenge of raising another woman’s.

Or my Gram – the woman who helped raised 4 children she didn’t birth at all – and whom today is burying her last.

That’s the woman warrior love of motherhood.

It’s not a one size fits all skill. Just like no mother has a one size fits all kind of love.

It’s any woman who persists in pursuit of a good life for children no matter whom they belong to, no matter what age they become.

It’s understanding that well after they are gone, a mother’s love lives and lingers on.

My grandfather’s second wife Kathy will always be in my life.

In fact, I’m sure and I hope that my Gram will outlive me, too.

Motherhood is not about where you came from, it’s about how you rise to the occassion.

To be a Daddy…

I try to imagine how it feels to be him.

Burying his daughter’s gerbil in the field- knowing her heart will be as broken as his.

He let us sleep through the night and get through our busy day before he even told us about the gerbil.

I try to imagine what it feels like to be the one to convince your kid to do brave things like ride on a boat.

How it feels to catch every spider and how it feels to tell his kid that we really should put every spider back outside, even when I personally suggested the death penalty.

To understand how he operates with tact.

I wonder how it feels to leave your family and head to work with logic and reason, when all you want to do is stay.

And how it feels to do that every day.

I wonder how it feels to take care of a woman and a girl whose growing into one.

I wonder how he holds it together – on the days I imagine we are both falling apart.

I wonder what my girl will learn from her dad and all the brave memos he unknowingly instills in us both.

I try to imagine what it’s like to be a daddy and how it feels to have to act rock solid – when sometimes life’s fleeting moments leave men just as hollow.

-Wallflower Writing

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To my little girl…

If I had all the cupcakes and treats in the word and you asked, I would give them all to you.

If I could give you all the answers in the world, I would.

If I could catch every spider and defeat every bad guy hitting main street, I would do that.

If I could get your father to stop annoying you on the regular, I would.

If I could give you dessert for dinner and double down dessert for seconds after that, I’d eat with you!

If I could make broccoli taste like chocolate covered candy–just call me “on board.”

If I could be your unlimited ‘yes man’, I’d be that for you every single day.

If I could ponies fly, I’d take you to the moon.

If I could go down in a battle royale with the boogies under your bed, you bet I would go down in a blaze of glory.

If I could let you wear your pants on your head in public without judgemental glares, I would let you.

If I could let you lick the juice up off the table instead of cleaning it myself, for the 12th time today – I would.

If I could send you to Grammys, 365 days a year, I totally would.

But my little firecracker, I cannot.

So please stop asking me.😂

Overqualified.

I’m a stay at home mom who didn’t get the job.

I imagined a steak with a double side of crispy crowns for dinner when I did.

I imagined my husband coming home from work with flowers. I imagined him saying- “Congratulations baby, you did it!”

I imagined paying off my student loans instead of paying expanding interest on the principal.

I imagined having access to health insurance and a 401k to match my skill set.

I imagined paying a mortgage on my own home – not rent on someone else’s.

I imagined stability for my kids after retreating from the workforce for four years, on one slim income to raise them.

I imagined more for my family by now, imagined my kid watching me soar.

I imagined social blooming for me, life-long friends for my kid.

A normal schedule, sunlight at the end of a very dark and trying tunnel.

I imagined being among the living again, crawling out of the cave called stay at home motherhood.

I imagined adult interactions and a brand new enthusiasm for human contact.

I imagined all the situations, education, and time leading up to this moment and how they all led to this one.

Full time mom and powerhouse, I imagined.

A first interview, a second, a third with a facility tour! It felt like it was finally in my reach.

But I couldn’t have it all.
“I’m calling with bad news.” they said.

I imagined being defined by my career – then just as quickly – I imagined being defined by a lack of one.

I imagined a complicated and lonely truth about stay at home motherhood that I hadn’t been told before.

I imagined the feeling of being 10 years old and being told that a career woman and motherhood would be mutually exclusive.

I imagined a world where going to work was a luxury for women, and staying at home was a full time, paying job.

I imagined that if, comprehensively, all the things I mastered as a stay at home mom could be listed as experience – I’d be overqualified.

“It was a difficult decision.” they said.
I imagined that it was.