On Being Humble…

imageDear Soph-
I have no doubt you will be a talented woman. Be it music, art, athletics, writing, science, math…whatever it is, I know you will find your talent. And you may be so talented one day that you stand out from the crowd. No one will be more proud of you than me and your dad.

I want you to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. I want you to have confidence in your abilities. I certainly wouldn’t want you to shy away from the spotlight.

At the same time, I want you to remember that too much ego will kill your talent.

Stay humble.

I can’t think of a better person to illustrate this point than Mr. Kanye West: hip hop artist and wannabe clothing designer.

I – along with a sizeable portion of the population – am wishing on every shooting star that by the time you are old enough to read this, Mr. West is but a distant memory. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t wish any ill will on the man. But if he fell from the spotlight and decided to hole himself up in a remote cabin deep in the back woods of who-the-hell-cares, I certainly wouldn’t lose any sleep.

The thing about Kanye – or “Yeezus” as he prefers to be called – is…well…it’s just that. He gave himself the nickname “Yeezus.” And wrote a song called “I am a God.” And considers himself to be the “nucleus of all society.”

Really.

He thinks he is God’s gift to the Earth. He thinks everything he does is genius. And he never hesitates to let the world know. The phrase “overinflated ego,” while true, just doesn’t seem to cover him. He is beyond full of himself. He lacks even the smallest ounce of humility.

To my surprise, there are many people out there who agree with him…that he is a genius in the music world. In all honesty, what the hell do I know? Maybe he is. I know nothing about what it takes to write or perform hip hop music.

But I will never be able to get past his attitude. Any appreciation I might have for his music or his talent is completely overshadowed by my all out dislike of him as a human being. Because he lacks the ability to be humble. And I find that obnoxious.

His recent performance on Saturday Night Live was actually what sparked this letter. Your dad and I sat through two songs, watching him hop around on stage, mumbling incoherently into the microphone, surrounded by a group of truly gifted singers.

I realize he has many fans who would have considered that performance “genius” or “inspired.”

All I saw was an egomaniacal asshat in a bedazzled letterman jacket lying face down on a mirrored stage while the choir behind him sang their asses off and showed him how it’s done.

But here’s the thing kid, I’ll be the first to admit that I fall short when it comes to this concept. Only I skew the other way. I struggle with confidence.

I was blessed with the ability to sing…and sing well. And I don’t just mean I can carry a tune. When I was in high school and college, my focus was opera. A genre that doesn’t exactly make room for karaoke queens. I was even awarded a scholarship to a relatively competitive school of music.

Even writing that makes me a little uncomfortable. I’ve never been good at tooting my own horn. It feels strange to me. Maybe Kanye could loan me some of that confidence.

I guess what I’m saying is this: You can be confident in your talent and your abilities and, at the same time, refrain from commandeering the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards waxing lyrical about how you’re so awesome that you’ll be running for president (Google that reference when you get older…I wouldn’t classify it as “entertaining” but it was certainly a spectacle).

But really…be proud of your accomplishments. Be confident. Toot your own horn, when it’s appropriate to do so. But at the same time, remain humble. Appreciate the gift that is your talent. And try to be mindful of how often – and how loudly – you sing your own praises from the rooftops.

I’ll be up there doing that enough for you anyway.

Love, Mom

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On the Subject of Dating…

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Dear Soph-
While running an errand on my lunch break today, I was stopped at a stop light when a group of high school kids walked by (apparently they get half days every other Wednesday…who knew). There were six of them…three boys and three girls…all paired off like they were marching towards an ark. The couple leading the pack walked hand in hand. He chomped on some gum like a baby calf while she gazed adoringly up at him.

Normally, I wouldn’t give much thought to this, but I was so distracted by what this kid was wearing. Gray sweatpants. And no shirt.

I instantly assumed the poor boy had fallen, hit his head, and woke up confused thinking he was Mark Wahlburg circa 1991. That was the only logical explanation I could think of for him looking like a complete douche. But upon closer inspection of his mediocre attempt at swagger, I realized this look was intentional.

Where was this young man’s shirt? I thought to myself…suddenly concerned that his Justin Bieber physique looked chilly.

And that’s when I noticed his girlfriend. Hanging onto his hand and struggling to keep up. Why was she struggling to keep up, you ask? Because she was carrying both of their book-laden backpacks.

And his shirt.

At this point they were walking past my car and the young man looked directly at me. I made a huge deal of rolling my eyes at him – like the judgmental old person I’ve become. And I couldn’t help but feel sorry for his girlfriend. She probably thinks she’s happy. She probably tells herself she doesn’t mind toting his crap around like a pack mule. But I refuse to believe that. Now, I could certainly be wrong here, but just this snapshot in time told me this was a one-sided relationship.

I immediately thought of you. I would never want that to be you.

I have a lot of advice on the subject of boys and dating that I will share at the appropriate time, but after witnessing this spectacle, I felt compelled to say the following:

Number one… Don’t date someone who thinks it’s acceptable to walk around in public with his nipples hanging out.

Number two… Don’t EVER be with someone who treats you like his own personal butler. You carry NO MAN’s backpack. And certainly no man’s shirt.

Respect yourself first. Respect whomever you date. And demand respect in return.

Love, Mom

Knowing Your Worth in the Real World

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Dear Soph-
I was two weeks away from college graduation and interviewing for my very first “real” job. It was a publishing company and I was interviewing for a position on their promotions team.

It started off well enough. The interviewer seemed funny. She regaled me with personal stories of promotional events, projects she’s worked on, authors she’d met. She talked and talked. And I listened. I would try to interject a question here and there to show my interest, but mostly, she just talked. Aaaaaaaand talked.

Then came the pop quiz. And it went something like this:
Her: “I’m going to give you a scenario – you tell me what happened and how you would handle it. You have a book signing set up. You and the author are there, a line of fans is quickly forming, but the author’s books are nowhere to be found. Even though the delivery service confirmed delivery. What happened?”
Me: “Ummmm…maybe the store manager received the delivery and accidentally put all the books out on the shelves for sale?”
Her: “Possibly…but, no, that’s not what happened. What happened?”
Me: “Were they delivered to the wrong location?”
Her: “Could be…but no.”
Me: “Okaaaaaaaayyyyy…” Awkward silence.
Her: “What happened was another manager had put the box of books in a back storeroom, but didn’t tell anyone.”

More awkward silence. Me nodding, with a perplexed look on my face trying to appear engrossed. The storeroom, you say? Fascinating.

After I’d miserably failed her whodunit caper, and she realized we were coming up on our hour time slot, this is how she chose to end the interview:
Her: “You know, I don’t think you’d be a good fit here. We need someone who can be a leader, not a follower.”
Me: “And I’ve given you the impression that I’m not a leader?”
Her: “Let me put it this way…if you came to work one day and you saw one of your coworkers wearing a black leather mini skirt, fishnet stockings, sky high stilettos and a dog collar, I think you’re the type of person who would come to work the next day wearing the same thing.”
Me: “A dog collar?”
Her: “Yes, that’s what I think.”

I could have told her she was wrong (which she so obviously was). I could have tried to defend myself. But what was the point? She was clearly the type of person who was quick to judge and yet a terrible judge of character. And not only that, she thought it appropriate to voice that judgment to me. After allowing me to utter a grand total of about 7 words during the entire “interview.” You may think I’m exaggerating when I say the only questions she asked me revolved around the “mystery of the missing books.” But I’m not.

So why would I  want to work for someone who took so little interest in me, but was ready and willing to trash me as a person? All that mattered is that I knew she was wrong. I couldn’t have cared less if she knew it. I would be successful – and happier – without her. This laughable misjudgment on her part would, ultimately, turn out to be her loss. I was a mere infant in the professional world, but I had enough respect for myself to realize that.

And you need to realize that, too. Even when you’re just starting out. When you’re nervous about your first real job. You’re scared no one will hire you. You’re intimidated or worried about how you will be perceived. The whole weight of this “grown up” thing is bearing down on you. Believe me, kid, I’ve been there. But keep that respect for yourself. You have a tremendous amount to offer. You are smart. You are accountable. You are hard working. You are kind. Know your worth. If they don’t see it, then it’s their loss. And don’t let ANYONE disrespect you. Don’t let anyone make you feel inferior. I don’t care how important their title may sound.

So, instead of launching into a passionate defense about how I would never be a follower – how I always strive to be a leader and encourage others – blah blah blah, I simply thanked her for her time (knowing when to pick your battles is another lesson I need to teach you). She smiled, walked around the desk and held out her business card for me to take. I smiled,  took her business card and crushed it in my hand.

Dog collar, my ass.

Love, Mom

Oh the Places You’ll Go…

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Dear Soph-
At some point in your life – most likely during high school – you will start to give serious thought to what you want to do and where you want to be when you grow up. You may head in one direction with certain ideas and aspirations for where you’ll end up – and you may stick with those aspirations. Or, like me, you may discover a year or two down the road that your goals and dreams have changed. And that’s ok.

When it came time for me to apply to colleges and start thinking about what I wanted to do with my life, I thought I had a solid plan. I loved music. I loved to sing. I was accepted to a music school with a hefty vocal scholarship. Seemed like a no brainer. But shortly after I started my freshman year I changed my mind. It wasn’t an easy decision…I love to sing, I just didn’t want it to be my career. Once I decided to change my major, my college career went as follows:

I went from being a music major with a sizable scholarship to an English major with no scholarship. I then decided to switch schools completely and declared that I could not live my life in a cubicle, so I became a film major. For one semester. During which time I discovered that having an appreciation for watching movies did not at all equate to possessing a true passion for creating them. So I changed my major (for the fourth and final time) to Marketing and Advertising. I now sit in a cubicle. But I have to say, kid, I could not be happier.

My point in this history lesson is this: you may take many different paths throughout your life. Or you may find one path that suits you and follow it to the end. Whatever direction you head, it’s ok.

Don’t ever feel like you are out of options. Your options are endless. Don’t ever feel like the decision is out of your control. It’s never too late to change your mind and change course. And please know I say this with more than just college and career in mind.

As you find your way, your father and I will always be here for you. Although I may find it a bit more challenging to avoid “helicoptoring” than your dad. One of the best gifts my parents gave me was their trust and confidence in my life decisions. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them to stand by and watch as I flip-flopped my way through two colleges and four majors. And while they did question me along the way, they never told me I was wrong. They knew I would find happiness and success in life, however winding my journey may have been.

I promise to have the same trust and confidence in you.

I have never once regretted the decisions I made. Because I know that had I stayed where I was, I would not be where I am today. And I love where I am today. I may never perform for millions (although who knows what life will bring), but I am perfectly happy performing for one. Especially one who seems to appreciate Billie Holiday and the Rat Pack as much as I do.

You may look exactly like daddy, but I think you got your mom’s old soul.

Love, Mom

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Wise Beyond Your…Year

Dear Soph-
Happy Birthday! Today you are one. I really don’t understand how that happened. I mean, just yesterday we were driving you home from the hospital – playing “Coming Home” by Diddy featuring Skylar Grey – because, you know, we’re cool like that.

What a year it has been, kid. You are no longer a “baby”…you are becoming your own little person. And, though bittersweet, it’s pretty awesome to witness. I love watching you learn and grow. Everything is new to you…literally…everything. And that is just so cool to see. What a privilege I have been bestowed to help you discover the world around you.

And with all things I may have helped teach you throughout this past year, I also see that you have taught me just as much – if not more.

What Love Is
Oh the love. It’s indescribable, really. I haven’t found the right words…I don’t believe there are any to do it justice. It did not happen overnight. It has grown – exponentially – over this past year. And just when I think I couldn’t possibly love you any more than I already do, my heart grows a little bigger, and I find myself tearing up just thinking about it.

It actually hurts sometimes. It has made me so incredibly vulnerable. But with that vulnerability has come a strength I never knew I possessed. What started out as daunting – the thought of being responsible for someone else’s well being, their growth, their happiness, their dreams, their fears – has now become something that I wouldn’t trade or give up for anything in this world.

Spirituality and Gratitude
The whole concept of having a baby – that I carried you for nine months – you grew from cells into a human. It’s a miracle. It truly is a miracle. We created you. Mind. Officially. Blown.

And the way I look at it is this: God chose me to be your Mom. He has given me the greatest privilege. And with this privilege he has made me realize how unbelievably blessed I am. I have a healthy, happy, thriving daughter. I am surrounded by the most amazing family and friends. I have my own health. I have a warm, loving home. I have a great job with the most supportive boss.

I have truly been blessed much more than I deserve. When you were born it was like a light bulb went off…and those things that I once took for granted are now the things that I stop and thank God for every single day.

So that’s why I pray. Every night. I have a ways to go…I’m still not in church every Sunday (as Grandma Barb can attest to!)…but I make it a point to pray every single day. And when you are a little older, I will be in church on Sundays and you will be there with me. I want to instill that sense of gratitude in you.

Patience
I’ve never really thought of myself as a patient person. And while I think you will continue teaching me this lesson as you grow up, there is no doubt in my mind I’m becoming more proficient as time goes by (don’t get me wrong…I have my days).

This includes patience with myself. As I continue to grow in this role of “Mom,” I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself. I’ve learned that “this too shall pass” and to understand that every day is a new day.

Let it go
This is something that your dad has helped me with over the years. The old adage “water off a duck’s back” (as I often heard my uncle saying). Your dad has helped me become more lighthearted. He’s taught me that I don’t need to let everything get to me…some things you should just let go. You’ve brought this concept to a new level for me. Looking at you, it’s easier for me to see what’s important and what’s not. What’s worth my time and what’s not. Who is worth my time…and who isn’t.

You’ve helped put my world into a different perspective.

Fun
I will do anything to see you smile. That includes dancing like a crazy person in the middle of Michael’s Craft store to Kool and the Gang’s Celebration. Or cha cha-ing around the dining room while you eat breakfast and we listen to Paul Simon’s Late in the Evening. I can make a complete fool of myself. But if I can elicit a smirk, a giggle, or a belly laugh you better believe I will keep up my antics.

Your dad and I always have fun together…we can make each other laugh easily. But you’ve upped the fun factor, kid. For both of us.

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So in your short time on this Earth, you have become quite the professor. I am not the same person I was a year ago and I have you to thank for that. I am so excited for the next year…and the year after that…and the year after that…

To borrow a lyric from one of my favorite musicals: “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?”

Believe me, kid, I have.

Love, Mom

I Am THAT Mom

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Dear Soph-
I saw a sign outside of your daycare room when I dropped you off this morning asking parents to sign a form if they wanted their kids to wear sunscreen when playing outside.

Naturally, I immediately tracked down the Director of the center and requested a new form, where I could write in the exact brand of sunscreen I wanted you to wear (rather than have them use whatever they stock up on at the center). Not only did I write down the brand, but – being the long-winded type of gal that I am – I took it a step further and used all of the extra blank space they so kindly left at the bottom to elaborate on exactly what I expected whenever you are taken outside. Part of those instructions included that you are to wear a sun hat at all times when out of doors. Sorry, kid. I am that mom.

Your dad took one look at the form, laughed, and said “After reading this they probably won’t even bother taking her out.”

While I hope that’s not the case, I admit I went overboard on my instructions. I own it. But I don’t feel bad about it at all. There are certain things I am particularly sensitive about when it  comes to your care and sun protection is very high on my list. I am that mom.

So I thought I should prepare you, kid. Here is a list of some additional things you have in store for you as you grow up:

I am that mom…who will probably tear up (or weep openly) when I watch you do something you love, or achieve something new, or learn how to read, or go to your first school dance, or…you get the picture. Have the tissues ready because I can be an emotional gal.

I am that mom…who will act like a total goof in front of your friends because, not only do I think it’s funny to embarrass you ever so slightly, I’m also hoping it will ensure you don’t take yourself too seriously.

I am that mom…who will make you write thank you notes after receiving gifts – for any occasion. Because, gratitude is important.

I am that mom…who will not let you stay home from school unless you are REALLY sick. I come by it honestly, kid. I grew up with an ER nurse for a mom – an ER nurse who worked the night shift – so unless I had a disturbingly high fever or a much-needed appendage dangling by a tendon, I went to school. As my mom always used to say: “The walk to school will do you good.”

I am that mom…who will arrive an hour early to your recitals (or performances of any kind) to ensure I am seated in the front row, on the correct side of the stage (or sports field?) so we have an optimal viewpoint of my baby girl. In dire situations, when I’m concerned about jockeying for the best seats, I will not be ashamed to have my mother fake a minor asthma attack – as she had my grandmother do – to allow us even earlier entry than the rest of the parents so your dear sweet Grammy can sit down in a comfortable chair to rest and catch her breath. And if that comfortable chair just happens to be stage right in the front row, then so be it.

I am that mom…who will not allow you to have a cell phone before junior high (I prefer high school, but I realize I must pick my battles), nor will I really believe that the absence of said cell phone is costing you friends.

I am that mom…who, upon hearing you have been invited over to a friend’s house for a party, will call your friend’s mother to thank her for having you over and to ask if you can bring any refreshments – no matter how many times you INSIST your friend’s parents are aware of the shindig and will be home to supervise. My sister was caught many a time with this little trick I learned from my mom.

I am that mom…who will insist on family traditions – like bedtime rituals, game nights, Christmas Eve activities, secret handshakes with your dad, summer reading competitions and the like. I love thinking back and remembering things we did as a family when I was growing up and I want the same memories and traditions for you to pass on.

I am that mom…who will make you volunteer when school is out for the summer. Nursing homes, hospitals, animal shelters – you can pick the what and the where, but it’s happening.

I am that mom…who secretly wishes you grow up with the same passions that I did – playing the piano, singing, writing, reading – and I may ask that you TRY some of these things, but I will be your biggest supporter no matter what strikes your fancy.

I am that mom…who will never let a single day go by without telling you – out loud – how proud I am of you and how much I love you.

Love, Mom