birthday

Dear Little Girl.

Little girl

Dear Little Girl.

You. Are. Beautiful. You are braver than you think, kinder than you know, and smarter than you give yourself credit for. You have gifts inside that are just waiting to be uncovered and unearthed. But it's up to you to do it.  

I know you. And I know you are scared. I know you somehow took on the notion that you weren't good enough, smart enough, pretty enough... I understand that you don't feel right in your skin. Too big, too loud, too different than the others that seem to float together like a school of silvery little fish, floating in a rhythm that seems to sync up perfectly while you float alone, trapped in netting you are just too tired to try to escape from.

My whole life, I have been watching you...your strength and your whole-heartedness are unmatched. I have seen you do the impossible. Given these circumstances, who could possibly survive? Yet... still, I have seen you bravely carve the most unique life path - not knowing what's next, not knowing where it's leading. I have watched as this world stripped you shamefully bare and expected unrealistic things of you. And through your tenacity and utter heart, I have watched as you delivered every last one. 

It's not you who is failing. It's the world who has failed you. It has destroyed hope in all the places you were supposed to feel safe. But still, here you are. On the eve of your birthday, still smiling, still full of heart, still courageously standing in the storms of life.

You are mine. And I am yours. And I am here to guide you through the rest of this journey, full of love and void of fear. I am here to show you how to navigate the rest of this twisting, unchartered path of life. So take my hand. Don't be afraid. We have got this...together.

Love,
Me

 

Sixteen

Graham-100.jpg

Here we are...sweet sixteen.

I'm not sure it feels as sweet from this end.  No longer my snuggly little boy. Not yet a full independent man. But you are well on your way. It's inevitable. The clock just ticks along...and with each passing day, change is eminent.

You tower over me now. At 6'1", you are man-sized. But its your spirit that remains so sweet. It's still got the innocence of you when you were a toddler waking up from a nap – bleary-eyed and drunk with thoughts of dreams that made you full of wonder and curiosity. Sometimes, it makes it hard for me to see you as the man you are becoming.

This past year was hard. It was a year of growth. A year of hurdles. You gave up a little, and then you gave it all you had. You learned such big lessons about life. You know when to ask for help and where to look for it. You know what struggle looks like and how it feels to be hopeless. More importantly, you know how it feels to be empowered. Strong. Capable. And in control. You know how to change the story with mindset, grit and grace.

The year ahead will be something you remember forever. I often reflect on my 16 year-old self and what she did. The mistakes she made and the trails she faced. So this is my advice to you: Make good choices.  You are ready for the year ahead, but the world will test you - pushing back like a the bully it can be. That's how it works. Stand resilient in it's face. Just keep remembering who you are.

You are good.

You are kind.

You are strong.

You are smart.

You are talented beyond your years.

You are gracious.

And yes, you are beautiful. Full of heart. Full of soul. And full of wonder.

 

You are wonder-full.

I love you, sweet Graham. Happy Birthday.

 

Fifteen.

Fifteen.

How did we get here?

You are now well into in high school. A full-blown teenager. A rising sophomore. You are a rugby player and really close to becoming a full blown adult black belt – a true testimony to your grit. You are almost driving now - which scares the heck out of me. You are 6 feet tall (or more) and truly more beautiful than anyone I know - inside and out. You are kind and compassionate. You are braver and far more daring than most people I know. You are more patient than anyone I know - despite what your last name indicates. And you are so gentle and sweet with animals that it truly melts me.

I can't believe what an amazing human being you are. As much as I hate the passage of time and mourn that little baby that grew up way too fast, I am inspired and full of awe at who you are becoming. It's such an incredible thing to witness from this side of life.

I don't worry now about the the things that regular parents think about – the trouble you'll get into and the mistakes you'll make. That's how we learn, grow, evolve and become. What keeps me up at night now is whether this world will break you. I worry that it will convince you to be something you are not, or stifle that which you are. Because what you are is truly one of the most beautiful spectacles I have ever witnessed.

Your gifts are great, Graham. Your heart is huge. On your birthday this year, all I wish for as you blow out the candles is that you keep that with you forever. Don't let this world break you. Don't let them take you over. Own YOU... because what you are is a beautiful soul.

Fifteen is big. Take precious care of this age. But mostly, enjoy every last second.

Love,
Momma

 

Fourteen.

Graham

You are 14 today. Fourteen. No longer a little boy, and well on your way to becoming a grown man. In a few short days, you are off to high school – out of the little bubble and into a whole new world full of choices and decisions and some of the best and most lasting memories of your lifetime. These are special years, indeed. At this point, all I can do is hope I have built you a solid foundation. The rest is up to you. Well...mostly up to you. Hopefully, you are ready to face the teenage hurdles and roller coaster ride ahead of you.

Before you step off onto this next path, I want you to remember a few things. Just some simple advice I have gathered for you after going through my life as I watch you spread your wings into becoming your own person.

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Go with your gut. It won't let you down. It never has. You will always have the right answers within you. Trust. And let go.

Remember your family. They will be here. No matter what. And remember that family can be defined any way you choose.

Trust yourself. You will make the right choices. You always have.

Speak up. If someone is doing something they shouldn't be, say something. To them. To me. To someone who can help. You will always find someone willing to help.

Respect yourself. Respect your body. Treat it well. Don't feed it junk. Brush your teeth. Floss. Shower. Take care of yourself. Rest when you need it. Exercise as much as you can. Be in tune to it's needs. It will tell you everything you need to know.

Respect others. Respect their space, their land, their customs, and their cultures. This world is full of all sorts of people. We are only a small portion of that.

Stay curious. You won't stop learning this year. Or in college. Or as an adult. And just so you know, learning gets better with age. Never lose your curiosity.

Stay creative. Everyone is creative. Not just artists and writers and chefs and scrapbookers. All jobs require a level of creativity. It's a necessary part of life in any field - motherhood, fatherhood, doctors and road workers. Everyone needs a little creativity. 

Love deeply. It will hurt sometimes, but it will also be the best thing you've done.

Have a plan, but don't be afraid to wander a lot. It's important. Having a plan let's you have a roadmap as to where you sort of want to go. Write it down. But let it change. And don't be afraid to wander. You will always always always end up where you were supposed to in the first place.

Have confidence. But don't be cocky. Know you have got whatever it is you want. That test. That job. That new belt in karate. Half of the battle is having the confidence to say that you can do it. The rest is up to hard work and perseverance.

And last, but certainly not least...

Don't let this world change you. Don't stop being kind or considerate or compassionate. It's who you are. It's why you exist. The Graham I know was born to love hugely and feel deeply. That's a good thing. That essence will project you into the human you were meant to be. Don't let life take that away or change that part of you. Don't let anyone tell you who you are supposed to be other than who you are in that moment. Not me. Not your teachers. Not yourself. YOU DO YOU! And the rest will take care of itself. Remain authentic and the world will rise up to meet you.

I love you, big guy! Happy 14th Birthday! I can't wait to see what this world has in store for you!

gman

Thirteen

thirteen

Here we are again...another year has gone, tucked away into our memories now. Hidden behind Christmases, vacations and birthdays and beachtrips. These days that pass often seem so long when we are in the middle of them while life steals precious seconds away from us. But our years together seem much too short for my aching heart as I watch you change overnight these days.

You are 13 now. Thirteen. Well on your way to becoming a man. No longer the little baby I held so close all those terribly short and fleeting years.

Where did it all go? It slipped by us in a flash, didn't it?  Karate lessons, school projects and carpool have given way to the young man I am looking at everyday now. Years slip by too quickly. But they have yielded a lovely and empathetic boy who is growing and already taller than me. It doesn't seem possible. This is never what I imagined. Yet, here we are. At thirteen.

I am not sure where we go from here. I am not sure what the next years look like. I fear the speed will start to pick up at a pace I cannot keep up with. Soon, college will be looming and I will not know what happened to these sweet, long days filled with cartoons and and too many screens. I will wonder why I didn't drag you kicking and screaming to the beach to watch more sunsets and let the warm waves wash over us. I will wonder how I have known you for so long, yet is seems like yesterday they handed me the chunky little baby who didn't look at all like a newborn in that hospital room all those years ago. Thirteen years ago.

Thirteen is new territory. It marks a definite change in things...in you. No longer a little boy. But yet not quite grown up. I stand here clinging to the past, yet so excited to see what the future holds for you. I know it will be filled with love and joy and strength - just as you are.

I hope this world doesn't change you too much. I hope you remember to stay as you are -  strong yet soft, curious and cautious, big with the knowledge of how small you really are in the grand scheme of it all. Mostly, I hope you remember all these wonderful gifts you have carried since birth. You have so many gifts - and they are far too big for wrappings and bows. They are real. They are what counts.

Today, I wish for you to blow out the candles on your cake and dream big. Make it count. And don't let anyone tell you that you can't have those dreams - not even me. Especially not me! I am sure I will do it. We parents make silly mistakes. We have our fears and beliefs. And we try to protect you from them as well. But those dreams are yours. Own them! They are real. Today is the day to start believing that. Today is the day to start believing in yourself even more than you ever have before. Because you are going to do great things. You are capable of anything.

Remember that I love you. There are 13 years between us on this planet, but an endless amount of years I have known you in my heart. And everyday, that love grows impossibly and exponentially bigger.

Happy Birthday, Graham. I am looking forward to every single long day and short year ahead.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

A photo of my dad - taken 12 years ago today.

A photo of my dad - taken 12 years ago today.

It never gets easier. The hole is always there, waiting to be opened up again. It's all at the surface - or just below - waiting for me to trip across some memory. Waiting for me to remember how many days, weeks, months, years it's all been since we last held hands...since you last called me "Love."

Years. How can it be years?

It is though....long days yield their way to short years. And it still all feels so fresh.

But today - today we celebrate. Because if it wasn't for you, none of us would be here. Not these babies you held in your lap so proudly. Not me. Not my sweet house on a quiet street with the light fixture we wrestled with that hot afternoon that still hangs over the table - just a little dustier now. The memories wouldn't be here of swims in the warm, southern ocean or grilled fish in the evening sunlight in the sweet house by the sea.

Without you, I wouldn't care about golf or tennis. I wouldn't have memories of roller coasters or road trips. I wouldn't know about puzzles or checkers or cards or counting change from the dryer. Toasting bread in the fire on those long, northern winter nights never would have happened. And I never would have learned how to sled or shovel snow or cuss like a sailor when I stubbed my big toe.

Who would have taught me to ride a bike or swim or sing silly songs in the late afternoon light. Who would have tucked me in safe to bed each night when I was always wanting to stay up just a few more minutes. And who ever would I have loved as much as all the stars in the sky and grains of sand in the ocean?

So today, I rejoice in you, Dad. I remember the good and not the bad. I remember the joyful and the sad. We had such great times together - so much time I am grateful for.  I only wish we could have carried on that party a little bit longer, just a little bit later into the night...just a few more minutes.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I miss you ever so much.