An Open Letter To My Teenage Female Cousins


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

An Open Letter to Millennials from a Gen Xer: You’re Changing the Heart of the World

An Open Letter to Millennials from a Gen Xer: You’re Changing the Heart of the World

I asked my mother, a talented, loving and wise Gen Xer, to write a guest post to Millennials.  She ended up writing them a love letter of encouragement, and it couldn’t be better.  Not only do I agree with every single word she wrote, I also think she conveyed herself beautifully and hysterically.  These are vitally important thoughts.  They should be read by Millennials, yes, but they should also be read by all.  ~Tay



There seems to be a human condition that I’ll wager dates back to the first and second generations of human life. It is that dreadful sense of knowing that the generation following yours is clearly insane and headed for catastrophic self-destruction. Did the first generation of cave dwellers wonder why the second insisted on wearing their animal skins so short, piercing their noses with bones, and filling their bellies with plants and seeds rather than the good, iron-rich wooly mammoth meat their fathers worked so hard to bring home?

The Silent Generation (born 1925-1945) thought the devil himself had entered their living rooms via their television sets when Elvis swiveled his pelvis while singing (gasp) rock-n-roll on live TV. Later, that rockin’ generation, The Boomers (born 1945-1964), couldn’t understand where they had gone wrong when their sons had long hair, their daughters had short skirts, and young folks were protesting all kinds of things that had just been accepted as “the way things are” up until that point.

The Boomers rolled their eyes and gnashed their teeth at the next generation – my generation – Gen-X (born 1965-1980). We were hard rockers in leather and ripped jeans, or punk rockers sporting our totally awesome purple mohawks. What’s a parent to do? My generation, in turn, gave birth to you Millennials, as well as the following sentences, “Can’t you put down that damn iPhone?” and “Get away from that video game and go outside to play!”

Each generation has its share of amazing, world-enhancing individuals, as well as a good number of people enrolled full-time at the University of Learn Things the Hard Way. Yours is no different. Even so, I see you Millennials – as a whole – as bright and shining stars. Truly. Yours may well be the first generation that will eventually be carved into history as The Generation Who Most Radically Changed The Heart Of The World For The Better. That’s a bold claim, but I like the way you’re living.

From front row seats in your living rooms, you were there to witness your parents battling valiantly to be and do all the things we felt the society of our own making expected of us. Too often, you saw us voluntarily sacrifice opportunities for exciting life experiences, and sometimes even our own families, in order to work senselessly long hours at jobs we hated just to purchase bigger houses and snazzier cars, and overstock our IRAs and mutual funds.   You watched that battle destroy too many of us with stress-induced illnesses, fractured relationships, prescription addiction, and lack of self-care but plenty of self-loathing. You experienced your own stress as we maxed-out your childhood schedules with anything we felt would help you become adults who were our idea of successful.

And you found a better way.


Life will tell you often enough that you’re screwing up. From my perspective as one who is older and supposedly wiser (stop laughing!), I want to share with you a few of the ways I think you’re getting it right. And I think your greatness – yes, greatness – comes from a combination of being wise enough not to repeat your parents’ mistakes, and courageous, creative, and honest enough to lead your own life rather than the life others may expect of you.

1. I see you choosing careers consistent with your dreams, passions, talents and personal values – even if they may never become the jobs that let you overstock fragile bank accounts. And if that job does not exist, you create it!

2. I see you understanding the importance of self-care. You’re in yoga class and running 5Ks. You’re eating clean and taking time to relax. You’re researching ways to be physically and mentally healthy, and then you’re actually putting your research into practice!

3. I see you preparing for your future while living fully in the present. Not seeking grander things at the expense of sacrificing relationships and experiences. Living your day-to-day lives modestly so you have the time and money to pursue the adventures you cherish!

4. I see you making a priority of experiencing cultures other than your own, so you may love instead of hate, understand rather than judge.

5. I see you using your time, energy and gifts to battle for the underdog. To speak for those who have no voice. To be kind and beautiful. And I think the future is safe in your hands.

I see you, Millennials, and I believe you’re changing the heart of our world. You’re fresh perspectives on a meaningful life are intriguing. You inspire me to live wiser, fuller, kinder, bolder, more purposefully and certainly more honestly.

I see you, Millennials. And I have great faith in you.


Image via Flickr

An Open Letter to My Little Brother on His 19th Birthday: A Document of Embarrassing Musings

An Open Letter to My Little Brother on His 19th Birthday: A Document of Embarrassing Musings


Dear Wyatt,

Yesterday was your 19th birthday, and I wanted to commemorate that momentous occasion with an open letter to you, my little bro.

You have been my best buddy since the day you were born.

Scan 3

Ok, are you laughing as much as I am right now?!  Good. We both know that’s a bold lie.

As the only child and only grandchild in our family for four years, I was used to having all the attention and being the Queen of the Universe.  Then you.  You came and stole my spotlight, you Glory-Stealer!  As they brought you into the house for the first time, I found myself bawling hysterically and screaming: “GOD, NO! WHY?!  WHY ME?!  SEND HIM BACK!  GOD, HELP ME! FOR THE LOVE, WILL SOMEBODY TELL ME WHHHYYYYY?!” Every cunning 4-year-old knows that if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.  And, if possible, you should find a way to profit while you’re at it.

So I sold you.

Multiple times.  Successfully.  To family members.  I would strike a good bargain:

$1 for the boy baby, $2 and I’ll throw in his diaper bag!  This amazing deal won’t last long! One good healthy baby boy and his brand new shiny diaper bag… going once… going twice… SOLD to that gentleman I call “Grandpa”!  Congratulations on your new purchase!

I’d collect my dollar bills and walk with my head held high to our car to leave for the night… just me and Mom and Dad. To my bewilderment, time and time again, you’d be cooing away in that carseat of yours ready to come home with us!  That dumb diaper bag would be there too! This was not going according to plan.

Scan 1Wyatt obviously terrified of the crazy girl who keeps selling him

After months of selling you to no avail, I decided to move on to “Plan B.”  If you were going to stick around, I might as well take full advantage of the situation.  I could have my own live-action baby doll!  You weren’t just another lame Cabbage Patch doll.  You were a real boy!  So I dressed you up in girl’s clothes, obviously.  I involved you in all my crazy imaginative exploits: sometimes you were the starving child and I the beggar mother surviving on nothing but cheez-its.

Then you started growing up and had the power to reject my play ideas.  So I proceeded to lock you in closets.  Punishment fitting of the crime.  You started talking back and telling Mom and Dad of all the “supposedly evil” things I was doing to you.  Suddenly, I knew I had met my match.  The Good Lord sent me a lesson in the shape of a human man-child.

Eventually, I came around and realized that you weren’t all that bad.  In fact, you were pretty rad… for a boy.  You were really sweet, and you were actually pretty funny and would help me plan attacks against the Parental Units.  We became the united front against Mom and Dad, which was way cooler than I ever expected.

Scan 2Real friends shoot each other

We became buddies.  Mostly because you softened me.  You were the first person to teach me what friendship means.  Friendship is a combination of sacrificing what you think you want and gaining what you actually need.  I thought I wanted to be the center of our family’s attention.  What I actually needed was a funny buddy to go through my life with.


So we grew up.  We were secret-sharers, storytellers, and inappropriate joke makers.  We played music together and watched movies together.  We screamed at each other and fought like cats and dogs.  We fought fiercely with each other and fiercely for each other.  We were siblings to the fullest.

Somehow we became adults.  Somehow you became a “little” brother who towers over his “big” sister. Somehow we got to the point where we sat on the carpet in the hallway and you gave me the best advice and encouragement to help me get through a divorce.  How did that little baby boy become the man who helped me through the hardest season of my life?


You are a good man, little brother.  You are doing great things.  You are insanely talented.  And on your birthday, I want you to know that I am proud of you.  So very proud.

Love always Wy-Wee,

Your Big Sister.

P.S.  You suck.