An Open Letter To My Teenage Female Cousins

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Lovely young ladies,

I’m older than you.  But I’m not too old.  Old enough to know a few things, young enough for you to still think I’m cool (you do think I’m cool, right?  Say yes).  So let me tell you a few important things about life:

  1. Mirrors are made of liquid metal and glass.  That’s it.  Don’t give them any power. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think “Oh no, I look fat!” or “Why can’t my hair look like her hair?” or “Damn you, large pimple!” But that’s giving the mirror way too much credit. The mirror can’t see that I’m really funny or smart or kind. Don’t let a mirror convince you that you’re not amazing, because you totally are.
  1. Boys must be good. Boys are weird, but you probably already know that because you each have brothers and fathers, and I personally know they’re weird. But they’re also pretty amazing, right? I know your dads and brothers love you like precious treasures. Not every boy will love you like that. Don’t give those boys the time of day! If they make you feel small or stupid or worthless, they are not allowed in your life.
  1. Be brave. Life takes guts. You’re gonna need to put on some courage each day. Being brave doesn’t mean you can’t show your emotions or have bad days or get scared. Being brave means doing the right thing even when you have a bad day or you are scared. Many people will tell you to be hard and toughen up, I think you should stay soft and lovely and open-hearted. But do all of these things while being brave.   Stand up for what’s right, stand up for yourself, and do it with kindness.  Always.
  1. Learn how to say NO. If somebody asks you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, say “no.” If somebody pressures you to do something that will not serve you, say “no.” If a guy wants you to do things that you don’t want to do, say “no.” If a girlfriend encourages you to be mean to somebody else in order to be cool, say “no.” You are a strong human being, and you have the right to say NO!
  1. Do what you love. Be the type of person who does awesome things. Don’t turn down opportunities to do the things you love, and never feel like the things you love to do are stupid. You only get one life, and I know it feels like you have SO MUCH TIME. And, in a way, you do. But in another way, it goes by so quickly. Don’t waste that time.  Fill up your days with things that make you smile on your face and in your heart.
  1. Interesting is better than cool; in fact, interesting is the real cool When I was a teenager, I thought being like everybody else was cool. Listening to the music everyone liked, dressing how everyone else dressed, buying things just because other people buy those things. I wanted to be cool. But if everyone else is doing it, it’s really not all that interesting, is it? It’s the same ol’ story. Be an original instead of a copy.
  1. No matter what, I love you. You are going to screw up.  You are going to fail.   You’ll probably fall in love with somebody who is all wrong for you. You’ll say rude things you don’t mean, and you’ll say rude things you do mean.  You’re a person, and nobody can do it perfectly. But you will always have a friend in me. I will always love you no matter what.  Luckily for all of us, we have a family that will always love us too. Not everybody else has family like that. So be that same source of love for other people.

With hugs and love,

Your big cousin xo


An Open Letter is part of a series to share positive, uplifting letters to the people of this world.  Open letters on blogs have a reputation for being biting and judgmental.  An Open Letter strives to bring hope and life and kindness back to the art of writing letters.

An Open Letter to My Little Brother on His 19th Birthday

An Open Letter to Millennials from a Gen Xer

A Family Cruise to Mexico

My parents took me, my boyfriend, my brother, and one of his friends on a 3-day Carnival family cruise to Ensenada, Mexico.  I’ve taken this cruise before, but this was the first time as a family trip.  We also tried some new and daring things when we were in Ensenada.

Family Cruise to Mexico

On Thursday, we filled up the day with lounging by the pool and drinking lots of drinks.  We dressed up and had a lovely dinner in which I spilled an entire glass of ice water on my boyfriend’s pants. Good times, folks, good times. On Friday, we spent the day in Ensenada, Mexico.  We started at Las Cañadas with zip lines and hanging bridges.

When they said “hanging bridges,” I thought they’d all be like this first one:

bridge

But no.  They were all very shaky, high, and terrifying.  I genuinely hated every second, and then genuinely felt so glad that I did them (the second my feet touched the dirt ground!).  I held everyone up by my slowness caution. I kept either my dad or brother behind me and my boyfriend in front of me.  They were great cheerleaders.

Obviously the people in my life are a bit crazy……

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We finished up the day at La Bufadora.

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My parents had a romantic lunch, while we “youngsters” went around to every little shop to buy food and tequila shots.

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In a little taco shop, my brother put lots of hot sauce on his taco, oblivious to the fact that Mexican hot sauce is not the same as American hot sauce.  His face turned bright red and the restaurant women AND all the shop owners near by made fun of him.  It was the best.

ensenada_mexico

We returned to the cruise ship 2 minutes after the required time, luckily they still let us in.  We spent the next day lounging by the pool.  I even convinced my boy to do the Cupid Shuffle with me on the deck.  We ate a lot, gambled some, watched funny comedy, and had a lovely time. Thanks Mom and Dad!

family

 

Click HERE for my post on Carnival Cruise’s Gluten Free Travel

I Don’t Want to be Judged by my Uterus

I Don’t Want to be Judged by my Uterus

judged by my uterus
Let’s be honest ladies, we aren’t always known for being each other’s champions. We too often place each other into categories and anybody who is out – is out. It’s like Mean Girls we don’t grow up from. Apparently, we haven’t matured out of high school cliques simply because we no longer have history exams or pass notes to cute boys.

The craziest part: all this female division, judgment, and rivalry is so often based upon reproduction. A basic scientific truth is that we can grow babies within our bodies. We have sex, then sometimes a human-creature-baby emerges in an otherwise useless body part: The Uterus. Then that human-creature-baby grows eyelashes and fingernails and eventually escapes The Uterus. Our lives are forever changed and forever divided by that truth. Women are classified by our relation to this scientific phenomenon of birth.

We have:

The Stay-at-Home-Mom and the The Working Mom camps.

The “I never want kids!” camp.

The Organic, Baby-Wearing Mom camp.

The “Let the kids eat GMOs, I did and survived” camp.

The Unwed Mother camp.

The “Oops, the condom broke” camp.

The “I want kids, but can’t” camp.

The Adoptive Mother camp.

The Abortive Mother camp.

The Young Mother and the Old Mother camps.

The Grandma camp.

The Mother-in-Law camp.

The “I’d Rather Be an Auntie” camp.

The “Maybe I want kids someday, but stop asking me when that will be” camp.

The I just have sex because I love it camp.

Sound familiar?

We are categorized as women based on our mommy (or not-mommy) status and, all too often, are judged for the camp we’re in.uterus

I don’t have kids and I don’t want them right now. I believe in birth control, lots of it. But I might want kids someday. I can see myself being strict when it comes to education, lax when it comes to cleaning up. I can see myself ordering out most meals, hiring a nanny so I can work some, and caring more about messy, glittery art projects than paying bills on time. All of this might be entirely untrue, I might surprise myself.  Or I may never have a biological child. I honestly don’t know.

But this I do know:  My worth to this universe does not hang solely on my Mommy-status or lack thereof.  My worth does not depend entirely on what my Uterus does or does not do. Neither does yours.

We each have our own stories, every woman is an individual.  But our individual stories weave into a beautiful tapestry of interesting textures and colors. Motherhood (in all its various modes) or lack of motherhood (for all its various reasons) are not the ONLY aspects of our lives.

Mothers are important and special and wonderful. But no woman is ever only a mother. In the same way no man is ever only a father. We have complex, interesting lives. And within those lives are various chapters. When we boil down our lives to one aspect, we lose out on the whole story.  And we make lots of room for attacks, judgement, and unhealthy competition.

In Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, Amy shares her motto:  “Good for her, not for me.”  This should be our response to the women around us. Good for her that she adopted that baby from China. Good for her that she decided to have twelve kids. Good for her that cooks every single organic meal. Good for her that she works that killer job instead. Good for her that she decided to remain childless. Good for her that she fosters. Good for her that she uses breast milk OR uses formula (that means she’s FEEDING HER CHILD!).  Good for her that she wants to wait a long time before having kids. Good for her.

You can know with every ounce of your being that her decision is not for you. And you can still extend a hug instead of an eye roll.

Here’s the bottom line: I don’t want to be judged by my Uterus. And I’m guessing you don’t want to be either.

Let’s cut it out.

Sometimes It’s Not Always Great

Sometimes It’s Not Always Great

Not Always Great

Sometimes it’s not always great, you know. But we always put our best faces on, don’t we?   We dry up the tears quickly enough to answer, “I’m fine” when the stranger asks us how we are. We never say, “Actually it’s all going to shit, thanks very much.”

Sometimes it’s not always great. We post pictures of our significant other being charming and delicious and never put up pictures representing fights. We caption our photos: “Here are the roses he bought me!” and “Isn’t she the prettiest?”   But we don’t seem to put up pictures of the air conditioning unit. The one that started the fight over saving money on the electric bill and lasted for days.

Sometimes it’s not always great. We look in the mirror and feel fat. Men and women. We both do. We wake up wrapped up in enough insecurity to last a lifetime, but it’s only a Tuesday. So we starve ourselves all day until we get home late at night, convince ourselves we deserve it, and binge. Then we wake up the next morning wrapped up in enough insecurity to last a lifetime, but it’s only a Wednesday.

Sometimes it’s not always great. Loved ones die. Loved ones abuse. Loved ones hurt. Or leave.  Loved ones don’t even know it, but unintentionally wound us. We hurt the most those we love the most. We have ghosts from our past that haunt us; we have ghosts in our future that haven’t popped up yet.

Sometimes it’s not always great. We can be our worst enemy, the villains in our own lives. We worry about somebody breaking into our homes and destroying all our possessions. But we break into our own heads and destroy every ounce of confidence. We say we can’t, we say we don’t deserve it.

Then we feel lonely and the car breaks down.

Sometimes, it’s not always great, you know.

The funny thing is – this lack of greatness, it’s universal. We all understand what it’s like. Yet we all hide it. “Maybe they won’t know I’m royally screwed up if I don’t tell them.” We put on masks; we pretend it’s all good. Some of us hide under religion or education or makeup. It’s like a game we all participate in. The “Who Can Hide Their Shit Better?” Game.

But if we cut the crap, we’d see that it’s sometimes not great for everyone. Then we could use the magic words. Me too. We can’t say them when we are all play The “Who Can Hide Their Shit Better?” Game.  Me too.

You’re a co-dependent? Me too. You’ve been divorced? Me too. You have church issues? Me too. You jumble your words and accidentally say hurtful things? Me too.  You have acne scars? Me too. You feel hate or bitterness? Me too. You feel bored? Me too. You worry if your life will be significant? Me too. You use negative self-talk? Me too. You fight with the people you love? Me too.

Sometimes it’s not always great? ME TOO.

Take off the mask. It’s amazing how many other people will join you.

Image via Flickr

How My Parents Accidentally Made Me a Feminist

How My Parents Accidentally Made Me a Feminist

I grew up in what many would consider to be a traditional home. My father left for work at 7am and faithfully returned around 5pm to join us for dinner made by my mother, a woman who stayed home to take care of my little brother and me. She was our teacher – taking us to the park and piano lessons, instructing us on topics from math to laundry. Also, she taught us how best to get lost in a book and the most important lesson of all: one must always play music throughout the day. Dance party.

There was love and then more love. Support, laughter, and play. My father would take my mother on dates. We would go on family vacations to Disneyland, attend church most Sundays, and say prayers before meals and bedtime. My brother and I played together and then disagreed on which movie to watch.

We were exactly what you would expect a Christian homeschooling family to be. Except that we weren’t. And for that, I will be eternally grateful to my parents.

How My Parents Accidentally Made Me a Feminist

I was a cowgirl, a girly-girl, and a total nerd.

To begin with, Dad never told Mom what to do. I can only picture my little brother and me laughing hysterically if my father were to command anything of my mother. Mostly because my mother is a firecracker, also because my father is good. My mother did as she pleased, but never manipulated or controlled my father. Even as a young girl, I never saw “my father being the head and my mother being the neck.” I saw two complete human beings standing tall, holding hands, and walking through life together. I witnessed a healthy marriage – each person listened and gave to the other. There was no imbalance. My mom was not my dad’s servant.

My mother always put her children before her housework. Sometimes there were dirty windows, smudged with our little nose prints. There were messy living rooms cluttered with Legos and building blocks. There were dirty dishes with ketchup smears hiding our favorite Disney characters in the sink. Our home was always clean and welcoming, warm and safe. But it was never perfect…Mom was too busy living. Sometimes we had takeout or breakfast for dinner. My mother never exemplified that the utopian housewife must be the ideal for a woman. A woman’s ideal was to be exactly who she wanted to be.

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Then there was my father: the provider who never bragged about being the provider. To him, it was always “our” money. My dad never made us feel like he had any more right to it because he made it. He wasn’t concerned about roles; he was concerned about his children being happy. He would take care of his family the same way my mother did. Every night my father would do the dishes (except for the grueling few months when it was my job to do the dishes; I have still never forgiven them for that injustice). My father never demanded respect; if he had, I have a hard time believing he would have received it. My father simply lived respectably. Every. Single. Day.

How My Parents Accidentally Made Me a Feminist

My brother and I would both bake in the kitchen. Evidently, we were each nerds.

Together they raised my brother and me in the exact same way. They didn’t groom him for success and me for motherhood. They supported us as we each became exactly who we wanted to be. I have heard that some homeschooling parents teach their sons differently than they teach their daughters. I have nothing but anger for this. This falls out of my typical “to each their own” mentality. To raise a son to be a doctor with math and science and to raise a daughter to be only a wife/mother with cooking and cleaning is nothing but negligent parenting. Each human being needs both – to be given all the tools for any possible life path.

My parents didn’t set out to teach me about feminism. They didn’t leave Gloria Steinem books by my nightstand. My mom didn’t forbid makeup or teach me how to burn bras. Instead, my parents taught me that each human being is equally important regardless of sex. My parents taught me that my brother and I could each reach out and grab any star we’d like and claim it as our own. They didn’t even have to speak it; they lived it. Our examples. I love men, I champion women – how could a girl with TWO equally strong AND loving parents do anything differently?

How My Parents Accidentally Made me a Feminist

In a few weeks I will be 24, and I now know two facts: I was blessed as a female child, and not everyone else is. I have spent the past few years researching and asking questions and peering into the lives others to see how women are treated. It’s often not so grand. On a world perspective, it’s downright shameful. I know there can be better, because I grew up in better. My heart beats to see real change happen globally for women and girls. So, you see, my parents didn’t tell me to become a feminist.  They just accidentally made me one.

Family Photo from dinner last night.  

And then the real family photo, taken after my brother and I embarrassed my parents.

Because we’re nerds.