A is for Attitude

Dear Soph-
There are two things hanging in my cubicle at work that have followed me since I left college.

One is a picture of a beach in Hawaii overlooking the ocean that I tore out of Oprah’s O Magazine. I thought it would help me remain calm during stressful times on the job. Jury’s still out on its effectiveness. The other is a quote I printed out by Charles R. Swindoll. This tattered piece of paper has followed me as I changed jobs and changed cubicles because it is such a great reminder:

Kid, I can’t stress this enough. The mind is a profoundly powerful tool and attitude is really everything.

This is true for any phase in your life.

You cannot control if someone is mean to you at school; you cannot control if someone doesn’t like you; you cannot control whether or not you make a sports team or a play; you cannot control whether or not you get accepted to a certain college or you get hired for a certain job. There are no guarantees in life. The one thing you have complete control over is your attitude. How you choose to react to situations in your life is all on you.

It’s a lesson that I’m still learning and one that I definitely do not have perfected each and every day. Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that you walk around with a smile plastered on your face looking for ways to spin every negative to a positive. You are entitled to bad days and a bad attitude now and again. You’re human. No one is immune to negative thoughts lurking here and there.

But as a general rule, own your attitude. And realize the power of your mind and the critical role that your thoughts play in your outlook on life and your day-to-day disposition. It’s not always easy, but I truly believe that by simply changing the way you think, you can change the way you feel.

Love, Mom

Life is More Fun When You’re Easily Amused

Dear Soph-
I read a saying once “small minds are easily amused.” Or maybe it was “little things please little minds.” Either way…it’s pure BS.

To me, being easily amused as an adult is the greatest. I’m not talking fart jokes and boogers…I’m talking about finding joy and excitement and interest in the little things around you. As a kid, you have this nailed down. Everything is new to you, so everything is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen. Right now, at 5 months, I have you laughing hysterically by hiding behind a blanket and shouting “Peek-a-boo” as I pull the blanket down with a flourish. We did that for, like, 15 minutes straight yesterday. And every “Peek-a-boo!” elicited the same belly laugh from you. I tell ya, kid, you are quite awesome.

But as you grow up, everyday things begin to lose their shine. When you’re caught in the daily grind that is “being a grown up” it often takes bigger and better things to get a smile out of you. Obviously, as you mature, things like a game of “Peek-a-boo” aren’t meant to be as amusing anymore. But when you’re no longer able to find joy in the little things, then – in my humble opinion – that’s when life starts to get dull.

I’ll give you an example. Shortly after I started my second job out of college, a colleague and I were sent to Atlanta for a proposal writing conference. I’d never been on a business trip before. I had a hotel room all to myself…and it had two rooms! A living room area and a whole separate bedroom! I didn’t know they even made hotel rooms like that. And it had a king-sized bed! And a jetted tub in the bathroom! If you can’t already tell by my use of exclamation points, my mind was officially blown. My colleague could not stop laughing at me. Our conversation on the way to dinner went something like this:

Me: Jessica! Do you have a living room too?!
Jessica: Yes, I do.
Me: Two rooms! With a door to the bedroom and everything!
Jessica: (laughing)
Me: And did you SEE the jetted tub in the bathroom?!
Jessica: (more laughing) Yes, I saw it.
Me: And a king-sized bed! Did you SEE all those pillows?
Jessica: (even more laughing) I’ve never met someone so excited over a hotel room before.

To this day she still laughs about how jazzed I was over some simple hotel accommodations. And maybe I was a bit overzealous…I mean, we were at a DoubleTree in Atlanta, not the Ritz Carlton in Hawaii. But to me it was THE COOLEST THING EVER. There I was, at the ripe old age of 25, on a business trip! Staying in a hotel room, all by myself! With a corporate credit card! I mean, if that’s not grown up then I don’t know what is. And I took a moment to let myself be excited about it and to express that excitement. Even at the risk of having my new colleague think I was a bit “off.”

Some may call me naïve…or maybe I’m just not “worldly” enough. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what people think because I’m too busy being excited about the free margarita I just got checking in at the Hyatt in Scottsdale. Free booze! (#WINNING – but only when you’re 21)

And that’s what I want for you. Even after you’ve grown and finished school and moved out on your own. When you have deadlines and bills to pay and chores to get done. Try to hold onto a small piece of that excitement over “Peek-a-boo.” Reflect on how cool something is no matter how big or how small. Take note of when you are happy, even if it’s for a silly reason…but take note, and allow yourself to be excited.

I promise, kid, it will make life more interesting and a hell of a lot more fun.

Love, Mom

The First Letter

Dear Soph-

Well, here you are. My baby girl. You’re, like, a real person. With real hands and feet and teeny tiny fingernails and astonishingly long eyelashes. And I created you. I created a perfect little person. It just blows my mind how awesome you are.

It’s strange because you’ve been on this Earth for five months and it somehow feels surreal and yet totally comfortable at the same time. You are my daughter. Even saying “my daughter” takes some getting used to. Like when you progress in a relationship and have to get used to saying “my fiancé” or “my husband.” I’m surprised at how much I like the sound of it…my daughter.

I have to admit, I never thought I would have children. I hope you don’t think bad of me for saying that, but I just was never a “kid person” growing up. I didn’t babysit, I didn’t ooo and aaah over babies on the street. I really never felt any maternal urges at all. I actually found it annoying when little kids would simply do what little kids do and just stare at me. Drove me nuts. Looking back it was probably a lot like an animal smelling fear. Those little ankle biters would take one look at me and somehow just know I wasn’t a fan.

Look at me, digressing already. I have a habit of that, kid, so my apologies in advance.

I read a lot when I was pregnant with you. I read book after book, and blog post after blog post, about how moms had never experienced a love so deep as they have with their children. I heard it from strangers, I heard it from friends, I heard it from family. It is a love like you’ve never known. And while it was impossible to actually comprehend this feeling or truly believe this love would overtake me upon your arrival, I figured if every single mother said the same thing, then it must be true.

And you know what, kid? They were all right. I love you so much it hurts. It is an overwhelming love. A love that I am, quite frankly, surprised by. But it’s real…and it’s here to stay. And you are, without a doubt, the best thing I have ever done and will ever do in my life. We’re still getting to know each other, but I can say that with complete and total certainty.

Which is why I decided to start writing. There is so much I want to remember to say to you as you grow up. Basic things that every girl should know; amazing advice I got from my own mom and dad; important lessons I want to teach you; truths and other reminders that I pray you will discover earlier in life than I have. I want to remember it all. And I want to use it to build a solid foundation for your amazing life…as you make your way in this great big world and become the remarkable woman I know you will be.

I will always be here for you.

Love, Mom