Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

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Dear Soph-
You will never guess what I did last week. Wait for it… A hip hop dance class.

Stop laughing.

I went with your Aunt Megan and Aunt Missy. And barring the fact that I may be coming up on being considered old and not, at all, “hip,” I had fun…and picked up the routine pretty quickly.

But the point of this letter is not about my sick dance moves.

The class was crowded…I’d say, conservatively, there were 35 women there. All different ages, shapes, sizes and levels of dance experience. Despite the crowd, there was one woman I could not stop watching. She was about 55, with a slim build…short, salt and pepper hair…and the cutest pair of hot pink workout shoes.

She didn’t know all the moves. She didn’t have the best rhythm. But she was absolutely, positively WORKING it. And I could not take my eyes off her. She was having so much fun. She didn’t care who was around her, who was watching and potentially judging her. She was looking at herself in the mirror, smiling from ear to ear, and working it.

I instantly admired this woman. She lived up to one of my favorite sayings:

Sing like no one is listening. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth.

It was a sharp contrast to something I was surprised to be feeling in the moment…self conscious. I could blame it on any number of things. I still haven’t lost my baby weight (in fact, some of the weight I’ve lost, I’ve gained back). My cheeks get so red when I workout (like fire-engine red…like people stare at me wondering if I’m about to pass out, red). My shirt was too short and kept riding up (exposing the ever popular post-baby “pooch”). As a result, I avoided looking at myself in the mirror. I didn’t put all the “oomph” I could have in my dance moves, because I was afraid someone would look at me and laugh.

And while I did have a good time, I had nowhere near as much fun as this woman. And that is unfortunate for me. It was my loss. I let my insecurities rob my potential.

So the moral of the story – the lesson – is something that will only come with time. I pray that you will develop the confidence, peace of mind and positive attitude that this woman in my dance class displayed. Believe me, I get that this carefree mentality is not at all easy when you’re growing up. Especially during adolescence when it seems all anyone does is judge. It’s still hard for me…and I’m in my thirties. But at some point in your life, do yourself a favor and dance like nobody’s watching. Do your very best to not give a crap about who is around you and what they may be thinking about you. Don’t let your insecurities take away from getting the most out of every experience.

And, kid, if you do catch someone staring at you, I think it would be safe to assume they’re taking notes on how to be fabulous.

Love, Mom

“Life’s About Changing…Nothing Ever Stays the Same…”

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Dear Soph-
Your dad did something today that I never thought he would do. He sold his 2002 Pontiac TransAm WS6…with a Corvette engine (dad requested I add that fact in here).

Now, seeing as how they stopped making that car in 2002 and Pontiac went out of business several years ago, this will, most likely, mean absolutely nothing to you.

But let me tell you…this is a big deal.

Your dad loved that car. And when I say “love,” I mean I’m pretty sure there were days when I came in a close second. He only drove it in the warmer months of the year…April 2 to October 2 to be exact. That Spring day in April became like another holiday in our house. We would have a countdown to April 2…I’m surprised a special calendar wasn’t displayed on our fridge. And in the fall and winter I would catch him opening the garage to just take a peek…or sitting in the driver’s seat and revving the engine, no doubt daydreaming about tearing out of the driveway for a joyride.

I must admit the car was a head turner. I felt “cool” riding in it. And I know your dad did, too. Your dear old mom never drove it, as I am incapable of driving stick (a skill you should probably learn one day), but I have many fond memories of riding shotgun as your dad sped around our little town.

While I don’t have an affinity for cars like your dad and Grandpa Don do, I can certainly appreciate the uniqueness of that car. Other car enthusiasts seemed impressed by it when we were out and about…often stopping dad to ask him questions. What year? How much horsepower? What kind of engine? I thought it was cute how much your dad liked the attention.

What I realize now, as I see your dad struggling with his decision, is that the TransAm was a part of his identity. He was a different man when he got it back in 2002. With a different outlook on life, a different job, different challenges and priorities. The car represented freedom and it made him stand out.

But I think he has realized that, over time, he has taken on a new identity. He has grown up and changed in so many wonderful ways. He has different priorities in life…different interests. And there are so many other things that represent the incredible man he is today.

There is something to be said for nostalgia…for holding on to our past. For holding on to the good memories and a piece of that person we were. There is a comfort in it. A type of security blanket.

But there is also something to be said for looking ahead. Making hard decisions and choices to benefit the new life you’re living and the wonderful new direction you are headed.

Change can be scary. But change is a part of life. It’s necessary, though uncomfortable, at times.

You will be faced with so many choices in your life. So many decisions to make. Some will be effortless and some will really make you think. But don’t shy away from those hard decisions. Don’t shy away from change. And hard or scary as it may be, don’t let nostalgia stop you from moving ahead.

I am so proud of your father.

Love, Mom

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My Views on Make-Up: Less is More…and Sometimes None is More

Dear Soph-
One of my absolute favorite things to do is kiss your cheeks. Especially when you are sound asleep in my arms. They are the cutest, chubbiest, smoothest, most perfect cheeks I have ever seen.

You have such beautiful, smooth skin. It’s amazing. It’s so soft! It’s so blemish free!

It so does not need make-up.

So here’s the deal. When you – inevitably – come to me in junior high (hopefully no sooner than that) asking me to buy you some foundation or eye shadow or mascara, I will tell you what my mom told me.

You don’t need it.

And be glad you don’t need it. Because there will come a time – way down the road – when you actually will need it. But what’s the rush? Milk this time for all its worth. You’re young. You should look young. You have the rest of your life to be a grown up and look the part. It is such a privilege to be a kid…and I will do everything in my power to make sure you have plenty of time to just be a kid. And that includes not letting you clog up your pores with unnecessary make-up. Or make yourself up to look any older than you are.

All it does is cover up your natural beauty. You’re perfecting what’s already perfect. And that’s just a waste of time.

That being said, I will (as my mom did) make exceptions for special occasions…school dances and the like. But, please, no black lips or overuse of eyeliner. You are a young lady – not a raccoon.

Consider this fair warning, kid. Please don’t beg me in the aisles of CVS to buy foundation. I won’t do it. Because you don’t need it. You are flawless without it. You are a natural beauty – inside and out.

But I will meet you in the middle and buy you some tinted moisturizer…with SPF 30.

Love, Mom

Getting Your Priorities Straight

Dear Soph-
One of my favorite quotes is from Mark Twain: Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.

Take a minute and let that marinate.

Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.

I found this quote when I was about 23. Living on my own, done with college, working my first job in marketing. I loved living on my own. I loved my apartment. I was (and still am) a very independent person and was thrilled to be in the real world. I was dating someone at the time who didn’t put me first. I was the option. And I was doing everything in my power to make him the priority. And you know what? It got old. I started resenting the way I was being treated. But I held on for a little while, thinking…hoping…that he would change. That one day he would realize how awesome I was and start making more of an effort. Start doing things that I wanted to do. Start wanting to really get to know me. But it didn’t happen. And I put forth all the effort. And went out of my way to make him happy. And it was never really reciprocated.

So I decided one day that I would rather be alone than be an option. If I was going to go out of my way to make anyone happy, why shouldn’t it be me?

This is so true for any relationship you have in life. Friendships and romantic relationships. Don’t allow yourself to be the option. And if you do find yourself as the option, I pray you find the strength and the confidence to make a positive change and walk away. You’re better off by yourself, finding ways to make you happy. Exploring the world around you and discovering what makes you tick. What you’re passionate about. What makes your life worth living. Because when you do find that someone, then you’ll know exactly what you want from them. And why waste the energy on someone who can’t find the energy for you?

So please remember that you are quite a catch. Anyone would be privileged to call you a friend or girlfriend or wife. Don’t waste your time or your tears on anyone who does not see that or who doesn’t fall down in prayer, thanking their lucky stars that you chose them.

Because I thank God every night that He chose me to be your mom.

Love, Mom

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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:

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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

The Art of Fitting In

Dear Soph-
This may come as a shock to you, but your mom was never part of the “in” crowd.

(I’ll pause so you can pick up your chair, which you no doubt knocked over in utter shock and disbelief)

It’s true, kid, I couldn’t be classified as “popular.” And while I can’t exactly say that as a young girl in junior high and high school the thought didn’t cross my mind that being popular had its merits, I never went out of my way to try and be the “it” girl. I gave it a shot, I suppose. I was a cheerleader in junior high and on the pom squad in high school. So I was always somewhat associated with those who ranked higher on the popularity scale. And while I genuinely enjoyed being a cheerleader, I never became real friends with many of my fellow teammates. I was too socially awkward. It felt like a lot of pressure to me. I often found myself trying hard to put on a persona…someone I thought these girls would like or be able to relate to. But, to be perfectly honest, I found that changing myself to try and meld into their world was simply exhausting. And not worth the trouble.

I’ll paint you a picture that sums up your adolescent mom:

There I was in eighth grade. Out of the blue, Pam (a member of the elite) called and asked if I want to go shopping with her, Julie and Rachel. WHAT?! Pam wanted ME to go shopping with HER? At first I thought she was playing a prank on me, but then I thought…Hallelujah! What on Earth will I wear? All was going well on the car ride to the mall, until Rachel noticed that she, Pam and Julie were all wearing the same shoes. Some sort of brown, leather, lace-up ankle boots. Everyone in the car then looked at my shoes to see if I was continuing the trend, only to be disappointed to see my white Keds sneakers. They laughed at me. “Keds? Who wears Keds anymore?” they asked incredulously. Pam turned up her nose as if I had tracked dog poop throughout her mom’s car.

I didn’t quite know what to say…so I said nothing. I was embarrassed. Their scrutiny and judgment made me uncomfortable. I had already failed at fitting in and we hadn’t even gotten to the mall yet. But in that moment, instead of thinking I needed to run home and beg my mom to buy me those leather lace-up ankle boots so as to save me from future humiliation, I thought “well this will be the last time I go shopping with these bitches.”

Ultimately I found acceptance by the most amazing, intelligent, supportive, funny and loving group of guys and girls. I remember high school fondly because of those friends. And while we may not have been the “it” crowd, I think we had more fun.

So here’s what I learned and what I want to pass along to you. Don’t try so hard. You will fit in where you are easily accepted and where you can be yourself. You will fit in with people who are like-minded…who find joy in the same things…whose friendship is effortless. You should not have to jump through hoops or do anyone’s bidding or try to impress anyone into liking you. You are awesome. Period. And if someone doesn’t realize that, then it’s 100% their loss.

You are perfect just the way you are. You are worthy just the way you are.

And no matter who your friends are, popular or not, I will take every opportunity to embarrass the hell out of you when you are with them.

Love, Mom

Life is More Fun When You’re Easily Amused

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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