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The Adventure Begins Tomorrow!

The time has come! I leave for Africa tomorrow. As promised I will be blogging about my experiences. However, due to limited access to electricity I will be blogging “old school” (aka writing in a journal) while I’m there for content on this blog. When I return, I will post my thoughts. So you will have to wait a bit longer to hear from me on this blog. If that is too long for you, I’d like to invite you to check out these fabulous blogs that will be covering our trip real-time (as much as real-time is possible in Africa). I will be posting along with my other team members on these blogs.

The two blogs are

Helping Children Worldwide blog

Today I Saw God Blog

Thanks again for all the support from everyone!

I’m Going to Africa

“I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head…I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand…I hope.”
-Shawshank Redemption

There is a quote in Shawshank Redemption that has been on my heart these past few months. This might be because my husband watches this movie most Saturday nights because it’s his favorite movie and it’s always on some cable channel but it’s mostly due to the fact that I’m going to Africa in December and this quote fits my emotions exactly. I’m fortunate to be a member of a team going to Bo, Sierra Leone to spend time with kids living at the Child Rescue Centre (CRC). The CRC is made possible through a nonprofit organization called Helping Children Worldwide. I know several people who have gone on this trip and the stories from their trips make me long to go on a trip of my own.

“I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.”

I’m beyond excited to go to Africa. Ever since my husband returned from his latest trip to Sierra Leone two years ago, I have been dying to go on a trip of my own. My time has finally come, this is the year when I get to go to Africa and it’s less than five months away! This makes me so excited and nervous. There is so much to do to get ready and only five months to prepare. I have a passport to update, shots to get, prescriptions to fill, clothes to spray (think heavy-duty bug spray), and so much more. It’s going to be a busy 5 months but it’s going to be worth it.

“I hope I can make it across the border.”

When people go to Sierra Leone the hardest part, they say, is getting there and getting back. There is no direct flight from D.C. to Bo. Instead, we take a three-day journey to get there. It involves a (very short) layover in London, a flight to Lungi, a ferry ride to Freetown, and then a (very long) bus ride to Bo. To some, this travel itinerary would sound exhausting and impossible but honestly I believe that God has prepared me for this trip for the past four years. After traveling with three small children on multiple trips for multiple days, the travel to Bo is not stressing me out. Sure, I recognize there will be an element of adventure involved with this journey, but I’m not worried at all. I know I can do it. I’ve been training for this type of trip for the past four years.

“I hope to see my friend and shake his hand.”

When people return from the CRC, they tell stories. They tell stories about the cook who prepared delicious food every day and was incredibly nice and welcoming. They tell stories about the doctors and nurses on staff at the hospital on-site. Most memorable though, are the stories about the children. Everyone has a story about a child. Many have multiple stories about multiple children. I’ve heard so many stories about so many children that I feel like I already know them. These are children that I’ve been praying for. These are children whose smiles I’ve fallen in love with in pictures. I cannot wait to meet these children. This is perhaps the part of the trip I’m excited about the most: connecting with the kids I’ve heard so much about. I can’t wait to have my own stories. I can’t wait to come back and share my stories with others.

“I hope.”

I have so much hope for the children of the CRC. Because of the CRC, these children, who were previously victims of trafficking or orphaned due to a civil war, have a future. These children have full bellies and an education and will be offered an opportunity for a life that they never dreamed. I’m feel so blessed to be a part of that.

So, I’m going to Africa. When I go, I will be blogging as much as possible about my time in Bo. If I don’t get to post while I’m there, I will posting my entries when I return. I realize not everyone can go to Africa so I hope my stories will serve as a blessing to those who cannot be there in person. I hope to capture the joy of those children and help you fall in love the same way I have fallen in love with them without ever meeting them.

Before I can go to Africa, I’m asking for your support in two ways:

  1. Pray for me. Please pray that my team can connect and build relationships with the children of the CRC and make a difference while we are there.
  2. Support Helping Children Worldwide in my name. As part of my trip, I’m raising $3,000 for Helping Children Worldwide.
    If you break this down I need 30 people to give $100.
    Or 60 people to give $50.
    Or 120 to give $25.

I would be incredibly honored if you would consider donating in my name. All donations are tax deductions and can be made online here

I know going to Africa isn’t possible for everyone, but I think we can all agree that children deserve to live a hopeful life. The kids at the CRC have that. I can’t wait to see that hope. I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Trading Cars

The summer before my junior year in college I decided I needed a car before I returned to school in the fall. I had several reasons for coming to such a decision. The main reason being that I was taking a daily class at Cornell and I didn’t want to take the bus from Ithaca to Cornell everyday because it would add an hour to my travel time. So I did what any responsible, motivated and driven college student with a summer job would do: I tried to convince my parents to buy me a car. I started with my mom. She bought me my first car so I felt I had a good shot with her. I would still be driving that first car if it had not been totaled in an accident that both the police officer and insurance company agreed was not my fault. And yet, apparently there was a “one and done” rule with my mom because she was not budging when I came to her this time with my best pitch for a second car.

So that left my dad. A reasonable man and my only remaining chance. I knew I had to succeed with him. The man had a law degree so I knew my arguments had to be solid. I needed to have my facts together. I needed make sure he understood how much this car would benefit him too. I reminded him that once I had my car, he wouldn’t have to make the 6 hours drive to drop me off or pick me up from school anymore. I promised him that after two years, when I graduated, he could have the car back and would then he would have a larger car to be able to transport things around when he needed one. I may have also played the daddy’s girl card and exaggerated the conditions of a perfectly respectable public transit system in the town of Ithaca but I was desperate for a car.

My powers of persuasion must have paid off because that summer the two of us went used car shopping. I had done my research. I knew what I wanted. I wanted a Honda CR-V. It was large enough to hold my stuff while travelling to and from college each semester but not too much of a gas guzzler. It would handle well in the snow which is a must for a Virginia girl driving in upstate New York in the winter. I remember how excited I was when my dad bought the car. It was only three years old and it was wonderful. It had a pull out card table in the trunk if I ever randomly needed a table. Believe it or not, this was a huge selling point for me about the car. In the two years that I drove the car, I think I only used the table twice but it was great to know that it was there if I needed it.

I loved that car. I logged plenty of hours driving to and from school at the beginning and end of each semester. Driving down Interstate 81, I listened to a lot of great music and thought through a bunch of life choices in that car. It was the perfect car. For the two years that I drove that car, we were perfectly paired.

Eleven years later, my dad still owns that car. True to our agreement, when I graduated my dad took the car back and has used it as his back up car ever since. It’s a bit more banged up than it was when I drove it. It doesn’t run as smoothly, being that it’s a 14-year-old car. We borrow the car from time to when our van is in the shop because we can’t fit three car seats in the back of our compact car.

Our van has been in the shop since Monday. Which means we’ve had the CR-V for the entire week. As perfect as the CR-V was for me as a 20-year-old, it could not be more ill-suited for me in my current life situation. Our three car seats BARELY fit in the back seat and when all three kids are in the car they are sitting elbow to elbow. This works great for kids who have no desire to touch each other or pick at each other. Unfortunately that phrase does not describe my children. Also, this is the first time we’ve borrowed the car since the twins have been able to open car doors. So that was fun on the first ride in the CR-V when they both decided to open the door while we were sitting at an intersection and then didn’t know how to close the door. I have since enabled the child-locks so we’ve nipped that problem in the bud. Also, our water heater broke this week so we showered at the gym one day after school. I didn’t realize how much more space our van had until I had three backpacks and a gym bag crammed in the front seat.

While it’s been incredible helpful this week as a temporary car for us, there is no way I’d ever want it to be our permanent car. It just would not work for our family. I miss the automatic doors on our minivan. I miss the captain chairs that separate siblings that like to pick at each other. I miss the kids being able to buckle themselves in alone instead of needing my help because the car seats are packed in so tightly.

It’s tempting to let the new problems of the CR-V taint the memories of the past. It’s tempting to deem the CR-V the worst car ever. It’s tempting to hate it. When I drive the car now, I can hardly believe it’s the same car that I used to love so much. We’ve both changed. My life demands different things now than it once did. Even if I didn’t change, cars don’t stay new forever. They start to rattle and shake and don’t run as smooth.

There are a lot of things in life that work this way: hobbies, jobs, cities we live in. As we go through the different seasons of life, our needs and wants change. Things that fit one season might not fit in another season of our life. This doesn’t discredit the times from the past. Those memories will always be there. It just means that it’s time to move on. It’s time to find something that fits you better. As a college student, I never thought I’d choose a minivan over my CR-V but today I wouldn’t trade my minivan for anything.

Listening to Christmas Music Before Thanksgiving

I started listening to Christmas music on Friday. I look forward to this time of year for months. I’ll admit, I started a little early this year. Usually I wait until Thanksgiving, but I just couldn’t wait this year. So I started early. Our local radio station started playing Christmas music on Friday and I figured, if they can do it, then so can I.

I know what you are thinking: it’s too early. I disagree. Most people will only tolerate it during the month of December. For four short weeks these songs that artists spend so much time on get played. That’s not long enough for me. There are too many good songs. I want more than just four weeks.

I’ll admit sometimes around December 18 I grow weary of hearing yet another version of Do You Hear What I Hear?. But when I find myself getting sick of Christmas songs on December 18, do you know what I have also done? I have taken in Christmas. Since becoming an adult, I’ve suffered from Life Goes Too Fast syndrome. Symptoms of Life Goes Too Fast syndrome usually display in the form of phrases such as “how is it already the middle of November?” and “I can’t believe he’s already 3!” I also discovered that when suffering from Life Goes Too Fast syndrome, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas becomes roughly 2.5 days. Which is why I start my Christmas music early. It makes the weeks between the two holidays seem longer.

I’ve always been a fan of Christmas music. I began listening with dedication in college. My school schedule was such that I sometimes had exams until December 22 which meant that I came home on December 23. While I was away at school, I missed the Christmas atmosphere I grew up with at home. I missed the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree. I missed coming home from school, plugging in the Christmas tree lights and doing homework by the tree. Listening to Christmas music was my connection to home. My freshman year I made a mix CD called Kickin’ It Christmas and it was quite possibly the best Christmas mix CD ever made. I burned copies for pretty much every peson I knew. It was that awesome. I listened to it roughly a million times.

A few years, and a few moves, after graduation I couldn’t find my Kickin’ It Christmas CD. Luckily my former roommate who saves everything, still had a copy, burned me one and mailed it to me. Imagine my surprise, and slight embarrassment, when I listened to it only to discover that Kickin’ It Christmas was comprised mostly of N’Sync and 98 Degrees’ renditions of Christmas Carols. With the exception of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas and The Dave Matthew’s Band’s The Christmas Song I could not even bear to listen to the CD anymore.

Each year my tastes change slightly. Some years I favor the classics. Other years I seek out the newest versions of the Christmas songs. There are favorites from childhood that will always warm my heart and there are new ones that are added to the list each year.

I love Christmas. I love the joy that it brings. I love the hope it represents. When my schedule gets packed with extra work and social commitments, listening to Christmas music is my way of remembering that this time of year is not about a bunch of presents. It helps me slow down and focus.

Unless, of course, it’s off a CD called Kickin’ It Christmas.  Stay away from that one. Trust me.

Happy Birthday Dad

A word of advice to those considering starting a blog: plan ahead. For example, if you decide to write a thoughtful post to honor your father for his birthday, realize that a year later when your father’s birthday comes around again, you are going to want to write another thoughtful post to honor him. And that year you might feel added pressure to make the second birthday post even more special because that year happens to be a significant milestone, as birthdays go. And while your thoughts and memories are not limited to only one blog-worthy moment, you might realize that the topic you chose to write about the previous year would have been much more appropriate the following year. And so, I am admitting defeat. My father is a wonderful man. Our relationship is full of many wonderful memories, however, I’m going to reshare my post from last year, as I feel it’s very timely this year.

Happy Birthday Dad.

[Reposting from November 4, 2011]

There are some conversations with my parents that I will always remember because the content of the conversation was so memorable. The day they told me they were getting a separation. The morning my mom asked if I wanted to go buy a new car. The day they told me I couldn’t go to Japan like I had planned. The phone call when I told them I was engaged. The two times I told them I was pregnant. The conversation I had with each of them during my second pregnancy when I found out I was having twins.

Those conversations are memorable because the content was so important.

There are other conversations that seemed so common at the time, but years later when I look back on them, I realize how significant they really were. Specifically, I remember a conversation I had with my father.

It was the fall of 2000. I guess you could say it was my first adult conversation I had with my dad. I had just returned from college for the first time. I had left for college as a 17-year-old and celebrated my 18th birthday in the first few weeks of school. I was now home for my fall break. It was an election year, one that held significance to me because it was the first time I would be able to vote.

I grew up in an area where people didn’t really talk about their political beliefs too much. Or maybe they did but I was just a kid and didn’t care so I didn’t listen. Many people held jobs where you couldn’t publically take sides politically. That being said, I assumed everyone was Republican. My father had worked for a Republican U.S. Senator for several years of my childhood and I just assumed that was the right party (excuse the pun). I specifically remember finding out one of my friend’s parents was a Democrat. You might as well have told me she was a Communists. I was devastated.

So you can image my shock when I attended a liberal arts school in upstate New York. Saying you were a Republican was like saying you supported the Nazis. I went from thinking I knew a lot about politics to being very quiet on the matter. I was hearing things about the ‘Grand Old Party’ that I had never heard before. The picture they painted of Republicans didn’t quite match the fond memories I had with the former coworkers of my dad at the annual summer picnic.

But back to the conversation.

I arrived at my dad’s house in the evening. My father and I started talking about what life at college was like. I had been elected to Student Government so I filled him in on the different requests we got each week at our meetings. Different student groups arguing about different campus policies and staging protests and sit-ins. I often felt that some of these students would have been better suited growing up in the 1960′s. This was a year before 9/11. It’s funny how things that seemed to matter so much before that day seem so insignificant now.

Somehow the conversation turned to politics and I remember asking him to help me see his side of things. This was the most important man in my life at the time and I needed to know how he could sleep at night knowing he was a card-carrying Republican. So he began to explain his views. I told him things I had heard at school and he told me why he disagreed. I asked him about specific issues and he gave his thoughts. Only he wasn’t talking to me like a child. He was talking to me as an adult. I was an adult talking politics with my dad.

Eventually the conversation changed to how I was enjoying my classes. To be honest I don’t really remember what else we talked about.

But I will always remember sitting in the living room that night talking for hours with my dad. For so many years, our conversations had been about curfews, chores, allowances and school. And now here we were, talking politics in the living room like a couple of adults.

I still have to ask my dad to help me see the Republican side of things. He helps me see that life is not always black and white. It’s not that the Democrats are always right and Republicans are always wrong like I was taught by my college classmates. Sometimes both parties are wrong. Sometimes neither one has a perfect solution.  There has to be some give and take and compromise on both sides. I credit my father for helping me see that.

Happy birthday Dad.

Why I Like Living In A Swing State

I live in Virginia, one of the nations newest swing states. If you have never lived in a swing state before, that means my mailbox gets hit with two to three political mailings a day and most evenings my phone rings with concerned volunteers making sure I’m up-to-date on when the debates will be aired, where I can vote and they are ready to answer any questions about their candidate that I might have. I’m also way behind on the latest commercial products on the market because most of the TV ads in my area have been purchased by PACs or Super PACs or candidates themselves.

In addition to living in a swing state, I live in one of the Northern Virginia swing counties. This means that in addition to the mailings and the phone calls, the candidates themselves have made several visits to locations near me, providing ample opportunity for me to go see both candidates speak in person.

For many of my Northern Virginia neighbors, election season becomes quite a nuisance. They avoid the phone calls and complain about the added traffic when a candidate is in town. These added disturbances seem to be too much for them. They count the days until the election is over.

Personally, I take a different approach. I’m glad I live in a swing state. I feel like my vote matters. When my vote is counted it could be among the tie-breaking votes that decides which candidate the state’s electoral votes will go to. Many analysts would say that neither candidate can win without Virginia’s 13 electoral votes.

I don’t mind the extra phone calls or the junk mail in my mailbox. I could do without the rude political Facebook posts, but unfortunately I think that spreads further than just to people living in the swing states. I think both candidates bring some good ideas to the table. I think both candidates have some baggage they carry with them as well. Neither party has it all figured out. Both parties have supported policies that have hurt people and both parties have supported policies that have helped people. If you believe differently, my guess is you’ve stopped seeking out unbiased sources and have settled with a news source that holds that same beliefs and values as your own.

There are a lot of issues on the table this elections season.  There are issues of defense spending, economic health, human rights, and health care. Every one of those issues is important. I don’t envy the President tasked with improving any one of those issues let alone all of them. Some issues hold more weight than others for different individuals. That explains why the polling numbers are so close. Some people are choosing one candidate because of his position on healthcare while others will choose their candidate based on his position on foreign policy. As voting Americans it is our responsibility to inform ourselves as much as we can about the issues (in an unbiased way, I might add) and make a decision based on the information we have and the values we hold.

As we enter this final stretch of the election season, I hope that we can be respectful of our friends and neighbors as they make the choices that they are free to make. I hope that we can have civilized conversations with those who believe differently than us. I hope that we can model for our children how to respect elected officials, even those we did not vote for. I hope that if your candidate of choice does not win, you will continue to look for ways to support your values and causes.

So hang in there disheartened swing state friends, only seven more days. After that the mailings will stop, the phone will stop ringing and candidates won’t be making stump speeches at your child’s elementary school. But consider this: consider how lucky you are to live in an area where your voice can be heard so strongly. Your vote will be counted. Your vote will matter.

 

It’s Just Like Riding A Bike

When riding a bike, it’s important to be able to do three things: balance, steer and pedal. Balance is important because if you lean too far in either direction, you will fall. When you are not balanced, you begin to feel the pull of gravity and you will quickly fall to the ground. But when you are balanced that pull disappears and you can easily remain upright. Steering is important because when you do not steer you are bound to ride off the road. You cannot get on a bike and hope that it knows where to take you. If that is your plan, you will soon find that your bike would like to take you to a nearby bush. But when you learn to steer you can avoid tough terrain like grass and gravel and dodge obstacles like sticks and rocks that are along your route. Finally pedaling is important because you will never move on your bike if you do not pedal. You can start on top of a hill and hope that momentum will carry you a while, but eventually the hill will subside and you will find yourself on flat ground, or worse, pedaling uphill.

When you are a parent teaching a child how to ride a bike, you must teach your child how to do all three of these things at once. The tricky part about teaching your children these things is that in order to really learn how to balance, steer and pedal, you must allow them to feel unbalanced, to drift off course and to slow down. You can hold their seat behind them, keeping them balanced, but they will never learn how to self-correct their balance if you are always there to hold them steady. You can hold on to the handle bars and guide them along the sidewalk, but they will never learn to guide themselves if you make all the adjustments for them. Finally, you can run behind them and push them, but if they do not learn to pedal for themselves, they will stop shortly after you let go.

As parents, we must learn to let go. We must do our very best to teach them while we are holding on to them, but eventually, if we really want them to learn, we must let go. We must give them a chance to do the things we have taught them. We must allow them to lean too far to the right and begin to fall. Hopefully, they will feel themselves falling and slightly adjust their weight to the left. Maybe they won’t and maybe they will put their right foot down on the ground and catch themselves. Or maybe they will realize too late that they are leaning and the only thing left for them to do is fall. As parents we will watch this and it will be painful. And in that moment, the moment when our child is lying on the ground, with his bike on top of him, we can only hope for one thing. We can only hope that he will get up, wipe off the dirt, get on his bike and try again.

We must trust them to steer on their own. They must take control of the handlebars and guide themselves. We hope that they will choose the paved sidewalk because we know that path will be the easiest for them. When they find themselves headed toward the grass, or worse a bush or a tree, we pray that they will steer the other way. We hope they will remember our words of guidance; to look straight ahead and keep the tire pointed in the direction they want to go. But for some children, it will take a few times of trying to ride through the grass before they realize you were right–that staying on the sidewalk is a better way to go. As parents, our hope is that our children will spend most of their time on the paved path rather than getting stuck in the bushes along the way.

Finally, we must allow them to pedal. We can only run alongside them for so long. We usually teach them how to ride on a flat stretch of land. It’s along these paths that they learn the thrill of pedaling; when excitement and energy are flowing freely in their legs and they can ride for miles. But eventually we must bring them to a hill. We must teach them that there will be times on their bike when the hill before them is great. When it will take every drop of energy in their body to keep going. They will want to give up and stop. They will want us to push them or carry their bikes for them until they reach the top. But we must teach them to pedal. Because if they never learn to pedal up the steep hills, they will never know the great feeling of accomplishment when they reach the top of a hill and look down. They will never be able to look behind them and say: “I did that. It was hard and I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it, but I did it anyway.”

Teaching a child how to balance, steer and pedal is hard work. There are times when your patience will run out. Your child will steer into the grass for the tenth time in ten minutes and you will wonder if she is even listening to you. There are times when your energy will be gone. You will have run behind the bike, holding his seat for an hour and he still cannot keep his balance. You will want to quit. You will want to tag out and let someone else teach for awhile. You will wonder what you are doing wrong. You might even doubt that you will ever succeed.

But then the moment will come. The moment you’ve been working toward for weeks. You will let go for the last time and your child will ride away in front of you. You might stop and catch your breath, but your eyes will not look away. You will watch to see if your child remembers everything you told him. You will see him shift his balance as he starts to lean, you will see him steer away from the grass and you will watch him pedal.

And in that moment you will realize that it was all worth it.

Happy One Year Anniversary To Me!

Something happened a few weeks ago that I completely missed. In the craziness of getting my kids and family back into our school routine, I neglected to notice that my blog turned one! I can’t believe it’s already been a year. In honor of that milestone (and, to be honest, I’m stuck trying finish two different posts) I am posting one of my favorite first posts. Enjoy!

[Originally posted on 9/16/2011]
Yesterday my four-year-old asked to play with play-doh. We’ve had play-doh in the house for about two years and have played with it about five times. Mainly because I find it the most stressful activity in the world. Actually, I’m sure things like finger painting, or even regular painting with paint brushes are more stressful. But I’ve convinced my children that those crafts are only allowed at preschool. I wish I had included play-doh in that group. But I didn’t. And last Christmas, we got the mega pack of play-doh and accessories.

Read more

What NOT to Sing to Your Child Before Leaving for a Trip.

When I was little, my mom travelled a lot for her job.  Before each trip, she would sing a song to me. I always loved when she would sing me the song, but I’m not going to lie, the song was very confusing. It’s okay, I turned out fine but I almost forgot how confusing the song was until I was recently leaving for a trip away from my kids and went to sing this song. I stopped myself before I finished it, remembering all too well the mixed messages in the song.

So in case any of you travel frequently and are looking for a song to sing to your kids to comfort them, I’m going to suggest you pick something other than Leaving on a Jet Plane. Let’s have a look at the lyrics from the perspective of a four-year-old, shall we?

All my bags are packed, 
I’m ready to go
I’m standing here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye

So far so good.  As a kid, this verse is completely relatable.  My mom often left early in the morning and would tell me the night before that she would already be gone by the time I woke up.

But the dawn is breakin’, 
It’s early morn
The taxi’s waitin’, 
He’s blowin’ his horn
Already I’m so lonesome 
I could die

Again, this part of the song is safe. Of course my mom is lonesome, she’s leaving her baby girl behind. These two  days apart from her perfect little angel will probably be devastating to her.

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go.

Okay, I’m little confused because I thought I was supposed to be sleeping, you just said you didn’t want to wake me, so how am I supposed to give you a kiss? I guess you decided to go ahead and wake me up?  I’m okay with that. I’ll give you one more hug.

I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
I don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh, babe, I hate to go.

What? Excuse me? Don’t know when you’ll be back? Last night before bed you said you would be home by dinner time tomorrow. That’s one night. Now you’re telling me you don’t know? Did plans change? How can you not know when you are coming home?

There’s so many times I’ve let you down
So many times I’ve played around
I tell you now, they don’t mean a thing
Every place I go, I’ll think of you

Every song I sing, I’ll sing for you
When I come back, I’ll wear your wedding ring.

Whoa, now. You’re gonna wear my wedding ring? I’m four. Do you realize how long it’s going to be before I have a wedding ring? You really weren’t kidding about that ‘don’t know when I’ll be back again’ part, were you? And why in the world do you want to wear my wedding ring. It’s mine. You have your own. That’s kind of creepy. Plus, do you really think after you just up and left me at age 4, that I’m going to want to share my most prized piece of jewelry with you? What if I don’t want you to wear my ring? Are you saying you just want to borrow it to get a better look at it or are you thinking you’ll wear it forever?

I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
I don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh, babe, I hate to go.

Now the time has come to leave you
One more time 
Let me kiss you
Then close your eyes, 
I’ll be on my way.

I’m no longer feeling good about this little ‘trip’ of yours mom. You’re getting a little too sappy for a 48-hour business trip. At this point, I’ve pretty much tuned you out. I’m still stuck on the whole wedding ring part. Are we switching rings? If you are wearing mine, do I wear yours? How does this work, exactly?

At age 4, I thought this song was about a mom singing to her little girl. I mean, who else could the ‘babe’ be referring too? And to be fair, Peter, Paul, and Mary was the same group that sang Puff the Magic Dragon, not to mention The Marvolous Toy or any other songs from their Peter, Paul and Mommy album. Their Live Holiday Special was a staple VHS in our house. I had probably watched it 20 times. They were a children’s group as far as my little mind was concerned.  You don’t see the Wiggles recording love songs do you? Stick to a genre folks.

So there you have it. While it’s tempting to start to sing a few lines of Leaving on a Jet Plane while saying goodbye to your kids, don’t do it. Trust me when I say they will be far more confused when they hear that song than they would if you had just stuck to the basic details of your trip and the time you will be back.

You’re welcome.

Dear 16-year-old Me

I write letters on this blog a lot. I’ve written one to the woman on the escalator, to the bug from my garage, to the class of 2013, to my music teacher, and even a letter to future me. So when I heard about the Dear Me link up that Emily from Chatting at the Sky was doing, I could hardly resist. I’m a little nervous and a little excited because, to be honest, I’m not really sure how this letter is going to go. Here it is, a letter to the 16-year-old me.

Dear 16-year-old me,

Wow! Can I just take a minute to say, you are adorable. I know you don’t believe me. You look at this picture and you hate that your hair is frizzy and your cheeks are rosy. I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to have to just get used to that. I know your older family members have assured you that your rosy cheeks will go away when you get older, but they are wrong. At 30, I’m still dealing with cheeks that turn beat red when embarrassed or cold or hot or sick or, well you get the point. I will say this, eventually this won’t bother you as much. The truth is, at some point you are going to realize how great your skin is and be thankful that you only ever need to deal with the occasional zit or two. No uncontrollable acne for you my dear girl, just rosy cheeks that you will never need to apply blush to. It could be worse.

Can we talk about boys for a second? Here is the thing, I know that 16 has been a good year for you. You’ve had a boyfriend for most of the year and I’m sure you’ve noticed that your self-esteem has elevated because of that. There are days ahead when you will find yourself single and you will question your self worth. Please hear this: your value is not determined by how many boys want to date you. This will be a hard truth for you to learn. You are awesome but you will frequently assume the worst about yourself when you don’t receive the attention you desire from the boys you like. Do you want to know a secret? You aren’t any prettier just because a cute boy says you are. Stop waiting for others to praise you and start finding things to praise on your own. You are far too beautiful (both inside and out) to wait around for some teenage boy to figure that out.

There is another thing I need to bring up. You have some great friends and you will meet some more in the years to come. Years from now, you will still be incredibly close to some of these girls. But it’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows between here and there. There will be fights and tears and even some times of silence. One word of advice: a little grace goes a long way. You are not as perfect as you proclaim to be. You have not walked in the shoes of these friends you are chastising. In some ways it is admirable that you would risk your friendship to confront someone about their behavior, but you don’t always engage in these conversations with a loving attitude. Self-righteous would be a better way to describe your attitude.

I’m really excited for you. You still have a lot of great things ahead of you. Don’t stress too much about the worries of today. Trust your gut. When something feels wrong, it probably is. You’re a smart girl. Stop doubting yourself so much.

Love,

30-year-old You