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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cue dramatic drumroll...

I'm speechless. That's what has taken me so long to post this. I know there are many people out there on pins and needles. But, I'm at a loss for words. (Anyone who knows me may be slightly alarmed.)

When we started this project about a month ago, I had no idea that it would become a MOVEMENT. An action. Healing both the letter writers and the letter readers. I had only hoped that one person out there might benefit from me naming my own demons. The beautiful responses, the intention behind each letter and comment have warmed me to my core. You have proven that this world can and will change for the better. You've proven that inner beauty is alive and well across the globe. I'm so proud of all of you.

In the month of this project's short existence, we were published in two newspapers and mentioned in countless blogs. We've had over 2,700 visitors from over 30 countries around the world. We received over 1,000 votes! Seven hundred of those happening in secret during the last 12 frenzied hours of voting.

So please cue the dramatic drumroll! The winner of the Inner Beauty Project is Laurel P! Laurel wins our Empowerment Prize Package and I can't wait to actually meet her in person! (I feel like I already know her from her amazing letter.) Stay tuned for some beautiful pinup photos of her megawatt smile! If you haven't read it yet, book your adorable tushie over to her letter and read every word. And if you haven't written yourself a letter, please do! We will still be posting letters and sharing comments. I would love for this site to become a forum of strength and support.

In second and third are Des G and Elena C! And since I wish that everyone could win, I made the last second decision to offer both runner ups their own $500 pinup shoots!!! Please go read their letters as well and be inspired.

Hugs to everyone for making this experience so amazing. It would be nothing without your support.

Muah!

Iman

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Get your votes in NOW!



We are now accepting votes for the letter that you find most powerful, inspiring and beautiful!

Cast your votes by leaving comments on the letters that move you. The letter with the most comments by midnight (MST) March 21st will win the $2,000 prize package, including a photo shoot with Iman Woods.

Pass the link on to your friends, and keep the votes coming! You can vote as many times as you want.

PLEASE NOTE: We are still accepting letters for the Web site, so please keep writing. Any letters received now will not be eligible for the contest, but we will still post them on this site after the contest is done. That way, your words can continue to inspire other women.

PLEASE ONLY SUBMIT YOUR COMMENT ONCE. Comments are moderated and will be posted at the end of the contest. Thank you for voting!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lisa B

Dearest Lisa,

I love you so much, Wheesy. You have faced such a life….and I am proud of the way you are coming through the harder times.

Not everything is hard. You and I-- we know that. Some days are so wonderful. You wake up and go to the car to go to work and a man is sitting on the curb. Undaunted by his presence, you ask, “Are you okay? Do you need any help?”

He looks up at you and smiles, “No, I just came early for the show.”

“What show?” you ask. “Listen,” he says.

You listen. Birdsong fills your ears and heart and you know you are in the presence of many angels.

“Amen”….and you leave for work with a smile on your face.

But life isn’t easy, is it?

Marrying Phil at 19 years old---just a month before turning 20---you knew it wouldn’t be easy. He was the single father of two daughters. Jenny was 3 years old. Kelly was 18 months old.
Still, you married that broad-shouldered, gruff, tender, talented, difficult, wonderful man. For 33 tight-budgeted, difficult, marvelous, creative, growing years we lived together. Phil! You will never know how much I miss you!

Your cancer was so insidious. I never listen to a cancer diagnosis now and say anything like, “Oh, you will be okay. Cancer is beatable.” The truth is—it is not. It kills. Cancer provides slow and cruel death. It steals you. It steals love…..or tries to.

Your death started off as a hand—the hand I loved, the hand I knew, the hand that held me and loved me and was my companion.

The best thing was the wedding ring—the last thing I removed from his purple-mottled flesh.
Just when I thought I couldn’t bear another moment, when I was stuck between you and the wall on that tiny hospice bed. Just when I could barely move, or think, or sing another note—just then…you sat straight up, glared at my face with fury and fear and self-defense—you did not know me. I was your mother, the mother you loved, the one who had already crossed over.

What did I look like to you? Was I a skeleton? Was I angry or dangerous?

I know I lay there smiling a goofy smile—trying to soothe you, trying to placate you, trying to find the answer to your fear, and then you spoke, high-pitched, loud, fearful words, “WHO ARE YOU?” before your hands, those hands I have loved from the first time I saw them until I pulled the wedding ring off of your purple finger—those hands descended on my neck and squeezed.
No Phil, No, No Daddy, no,no, no.

I escaped to cry in the heat of the parking lot, where motorcycle Dawn, so attracted to you, soothed me. Where I rebuffed Dan’s placating embrace with my own turmoil, where I sat, so bewildered by this, by you.

It wasn’t you.

Then I went in and saw you, yellow-diapered and sitting on the side of the bed, hands holding your head as you shook it back and forth weeping, “I thought my wife was my mother. She looked like my mother.”

Well, it took time for the recliner where I slept to creep closer to you, but finally it did and I held your hand again. And I stroked your arms again, and I kissed you again. And then, one moment of clarity, one moment of clear and transparent sweetness arrived and you reached for my face with gentle hands and pulled me down to you once, twice, three times.

“I am going to miss you so much,” you said, and I squeezed out “I love you.”

Oh Phil, I do love you.

So often I have wondered why I can’t lean on you. Why I can’t call you and lean on your common sense…ask for your reassurance. Know that you are championing me; my life. Championing the lives of our four children and five grandchildren.

Oh I miss you.

And now I am marrying again. Dean. The man who came into my life a year ago and both enriched and complicated things.

Dean knows I am a find. I know I am too.

Dean knows he is a find. I know he is too.

In our mid-fifties, not afraid to be alone, not afraid to raise our children alone….we find solace in each other’s arms. We know that laughter, and walks, and dinners and silly TV shows are good. We know about balance and talk and listening and good embraces. We know we are each enough….and yet not enough.

Sigh.

Lisa, you are beautiful. Please keep loving your children well. Please keep loving Phil well. Please keep loving Dean and grow that love well. Please keep loving your grandchildren and siblings and your late fabulous parents and aunts and uncles and colleagues and friends well.
Be a good steward of your good life.

I love you so much,

Lisa

Cheryl BW


My dear sister, friend, daughter, mother, beautiful woman,

All the negative voices have made you feel worthless, beaten down and spent. Fear of rejection or judgment made you always afraid to let your light shine. You've never felt like you were good enough, beautiful enough, strong enough or smart enough...until now.

You always felt different..and abandoned, due to your adoption even though you were raised by a family that loved you. They CHOSE you! They adore your unique personality and strength. You never felt connected to anyone, anything. You allowed yourself to be abused and beaten and kept the secrets because you felt it was all your fault. You didn't deserve it. Not one time. Not ever. And you know this now.

As you were growing up, you kept thinking that "One Day" you would wake up and feel that connection. That, and the love of your family, was the only thing that kept you from taking your beautiful young life. You thought too many times in your deepest sadness how easy it would be to just slip away because no one would ever notice. How truly wrong you were. And you know this now.

You always longed for acceptance by your friends and family but never let yourself feel it. You didn't let yourself feel the love you so deserved and was there for you. You made choices as a young adult that harmed your body and soul but you thankfully are still here to share your experiences and knowledge with your friends and darling daughters so that they may learn from your mistakes and experiences. You are stronger than you ever imagined you could be. And you know this now.

Your free spirit, endless energy and fierce loyalty to those you love is something to be admired. You put your heart out there over and over, only to get it crushed and played with, but yet you pick up the pieces and come back with a happy vengeance to put it all back together and try again. And you do this with a smile. You run circles around much younger people and they look at you with amazement. You make them tired! You are admired by your friends and family because of your contagious laugh and fun personality. And you know this now.

You have spent a couple years worth of time in bed, recovering from over 30 surgeries. Your body and an evil depression responded by doubling your body weight. Your normally small body was enveloped in a protective shell that made you feel safe. So you ate and kept that shell because then no one would expect you to do anything but be the happy, overweight girl or pay you any attention as the woman you so longed to show to the world. But, you decided you wanted to change this destructive cycle and you did! You are now healthier than you've been in decades and are as beautiful outside as you are inside. You aren't a perfect size 2, and are covered in scars, but you have a confidence now that spews out of you when you enter a room. People like to be around you. You radiate fun and positive energy. And you know this now.


Just because you have a failed relationship does not mean you don't deserve to share your life with someone. One day you will find that person who will love you for you and allow you to shine to your brightest level! They will celebrate you!! They will "get" your quirky sense of humor, be able to keep up with you, laugh with you daily, challenge your mind and soul, and you will be happier than you ever thought possible. You will make them feel the same. You will be able to drown out the negative thoughts and truly experience someones unabashed love and admiration for you. You deserve this! You will experience a beautiful, full life with them and they will always thank the moon and the stars you were brought into their life. You will feel the same about them. Always remember that you are a gorgeous and spiritual being. And you know this now.

With love and admiration,

Cheryl ♥

Erika W

Dear Erika,

At seven years old, you are my favorite version of myself. Strong, fiercely independent, with a mind as stubborn as concrete, complete only with scabby knees. My very own superhero. You got the highest grade on math quizzes and ‘wowed’ parents at the science fair. At twenty-four, you’re a little different. Buzzed off of anti-depressants and spending most of your free time in bed, counting the days as they pass by.

Dearest girl, what happened?

Do you remember the day they took your daddy away? You hardly blinked.

“I’m strong” you assured your grandmother as she broke the news to you.

Never mind that your daddy had slit someone’s neck in the woods. His face would be plastered all over the news, “Colorado’s Most Wanted”. You would be labeled an orphan. You were tough, sweet girl, you could handle it. You went out to submerge yourself in the French language, in music, and in God. Quiet whispers of judgment all faded to be background noise.

At age ten, the voyage to California took another stab at your strength. You would be away from your little brother indefinitely, your rock. Two days in the back of a crowded Toyota Corolla, passing the Great Salt Lakes and pushing a hundred mpg, you make it to a run down, white-trash destination, where dreams had seemingly had come to die. Abandoned hope and trailer parks; this was your new reality.

You didn’t blink an eye, love. “I will be above this.”

Sixteen. Your first broken heart. Feeling even worse after coming home to your mother with a needle in her arm. You had just graduated high school, two years before scheduled. You were a diamond in the rough, showing so much promise, earning straight A’s your first semester of college. You soothed yourself with tears and apricot jam. You fell asleep in the shower. Do you remember?

“It will get better.”

Eight years later, in an apartment overlooking the San Francisco skyline, you’ve lost yourself. Drunk, alone and disheartened, you’ve fantasized about plunging into the ocean for far too many months now.

Your little brother is lost. Your grandparents are gone. Your sister has cancer. Your dad is still gone. Your mother is still stricken with addiction.

It is in this moment that I dare you to find your seven-year-old voice.

I AM strong.

I WILL be above this.

It will get better.

Take your life back, my love. It is waiting for you. Happiness hides behind the corner, slightly out of sight. Without depression, we will never know exhaltion. Call on friends, call on Jesus, but most importantly, call on yourself. The precious gift of life has always been yours for the taking.

Your favorite version of yourself has always been inside you. It’s waited to surprise you again and again. Re-bloom, rebirth and experience all that this life has to give you.

I love you always and I will never leave you,

Erika W.

Marlene R

Letter to myself:

I’m telling you, Self, it’s time to take charge of your life again. Face the facts: I am what I think. So my mind is my own and I need to keep thinking on a positive path. My spirit is mine alone. When I start the slow slide into depression, it’s time to sit quietly and invite God’s spirit to fill me with healing and joy. Other than eating healthy food and exercising, my body takes it’s own road. And I have to learn to live with the results.

When that gray shadow of depression starts creeping into my self, I need to remember the past. So I say, Self, you’ve encountered a lot through the years. That horrid time in our late thirties when our marriage went through an emotional earthquake. Remember, Self, crawling an inch at a time out of the pit of depression and with God’s good help standing on the plateau. Remember how that turned out. We rebuilt stronger and better than ever. WE WON. And we proved the synergy that one plus one equals a hundred, a million, a billion.

Good years flew by and then came the devastating news that I had stage IV ovarian cancer. It took a year of tests to identify the reason for a small pain in my right side. I remembered back to 50 years ago as a surgical nurse assisting with an abdominal operation. The surgeon opened the woman’s abdomen and sighed. She was full of cancerous tumors. He grabbed my hand and thrust it into her abdomen so I could feel the hard balls of anti-life. Sadly he said, “Let’s sew her up and send her home to die.”

But that was fifty hears ago, and medicine now waves magic wands. My surgeon cut me from stem to stern and took out all my innards. He examined them carefully and removed all the cancer he could find. Four weeks later I started eight weeks of chemotherapy. I lost all my hair, but not my sense of humor. I felt miserable with aches and nausea, but daily slayed the dragon of despair. After six months I was cancer free. Whoopee, I WON. Then I worked like the devil to regain muscle strength and the joy of life.

Another six months and a new PET scan showed a cancerous spot on my liver. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I had cancer licked. There goes the old bod again, taking it’s own path. So another round of chemo, but not so harsh this time. Then another PET scan proving I was cancer free again.

I think the second round damaged my spirit. I think I lost trust that all will be well. Depression started creeping into my psyche again. I had no energy. I felt gray and useless. And now it’s time to slay the dragon again. So I sit quietly with open mind, heart, soul and let God’s healing spirit flow through me. I become my own cheerleader again. I turn mental flips and cartwheels. I say, Self, here are the facts:

You were born to be joyful, living, giving, loving. Now live in the spirit.
A month ago, I went on zip lines through a forest in Costa Rica. I whooped and hollered and yelled, “Thank you. Thank you.” Over and over again. “Thank you.”

The real me is back in residence. Halleluiah.

Marlene


A poem by Marlene:

DO NOT YET DESPAIR

When you are lost, shaking inside,
wobbly and rudderless
someone
somewhere will appear to show the way.
Once turned in the right direction,
you will magically arrive
to lead the way for another’s
dark night.
And so it goes, like a round dance.
Strangers come and go,
friends weave in and out.
Strangers become friends.
Believe in serendipity and
do not yet despair.

Laurel P




Dear Laurel,

You are loved. Even when you don’t see it, even if you don’t hear it, please look within yourself to feel it, because I promise you, love surrounds your entire being. You have worked so hard through so many difficult things and still somehow along the way you have surrounded yourself with genuine people who truly care for you. You did that. You dive in head first to every relationship 150% without fail, and I love you for that. You are honest, intense, funny, strong, empathetic, true, and passionate.


You are loved.


The dream of the person you will become someday inches closer with every passing moment and I see the look in your eyes with pure excitement of the unknown to come. You have pushed yourself harder in the past eight months than you have ever been pushed before and you did that, no one else. You have kept yourself accountable and look what you have done. You have transformed yourself inside and out and you continue to make great strides in your personal growth every single day.


You amaze me.


Your courage to continue on with the intensity in which you live life is a wonder in itself and you give me hope. I am going to say that one more time to make sure you heard me.


You give me hope.


You give me hope in what people are capable of in their darkest hour. You give me hope in what mankind can achieve. You give me hope in the idea that things will get better. You give me hope for love, hope for life, hope for yesterday, hope for today, and hope for tomorrow.


What I want you to remember, what I need for you to remember, is what I have written to you today, because it is all so easy to forget when trouble rears its ugly head. You are so much more than you give yourself credit for and it’s about time you start. You are going to change lives for the better. You are going to help people. You are going to take this world on by storm. I love you more than you will ever know. You are my strength, my light, my soul, and my eternity. You are me, and for that I love you even more.


Always,

Laurel

Petra P

Dear Me,

You’ve been doing a good job for ten years being a mother to two motherless boys. You are a lovely person to do that. No one asked or continues to ask you to do this at your age ( 61 now), but as there are no other candidates, what’s a grandmother to do? No one says, Petra, this isn’t easy (and it sure isn’t ) but look how well they’re turning out! Well, I’m telling you, they are awesome most of the time and it’s all because of You. You care about their schools, their teachers, their friends, their homework, their clothes, their food, their vitamins, their orthodontist, what to do when the school is out (again), their happiness, their sadness, their safety.

You could be devoting more to yourself, like looking for another job, or trips to the gym (heaven knows, you need it, girl!) And you could really use a new hair style (so 70s) even though you take them for their Bieber “trims”. You could be, should be, spending evenings with your own friends, your mother, or taking a cruise to Cabo, but instead you know how important it is to help the kids with their science projects and math. You organize boy poker parties, magic shows and birthday surprises for them. Lucky dudes, they have no idea. You’re the one who makes sure they eat vegetables and fruit. You’re just Marvelous to do that! They have no idea how much food costs, so I’m happy to see them eat everything you put in front of them… except the dreaded mushrooms. You could be savoring mushrooms in France, ma cher amie. You could be getting a French manicure twice a month, but it doesn’t matter because your nails would look like an old fence, picking up all the toys and washing all these dishes. You take them to music lessons when you could be reading the New York Times at the coffee shop. But the news is getting too hard to hear, so that’s okay, and besides, you are too tired sometimes to lift the New York Times. No??

You took care of them when they were little and when they had the flu and when they go to the emergency room from dislocated elbows and broken arms. The ER people tolerate you and know your name. So does the pediatrician. You are almost Popular, Petra… in certain circles. () You picked up their bikes and yours and shoved them all into and on top of your small car and had a backache for a week. You found time to go on field trips for social studies when the real mothers were too busy. You went skiing with the boys (oh, now there’s a story for the future great-grandkids, if you live that long, sweetie). And you’re building a “freaking” (their word) 3-stage rocket -- from a kit -- for them to launch and you had to buy more replacement parts that you messed up with the glue gun. Remember the full-moon lake hike you went on (into the dark with flashlights) to explore the wilderness but you forgot the food? That’s okay because they were just happy you were there, and besides, you found wild blueberries to sample. You are braver than Brave. You are stronger than Strong. You are grander than Grand, grand-mother.

And there were so many night-time stories you read, after the soapy baths, lying between them in the cozy bed you made for them and the stuffed bears. Hugs and goodnight kisses. They gave them back too, when they were little, didn’t they? But now, you have to live on memories of those bedtimes. Really, that’s okay, too, because they’re sweet memories.

You’re Lucky, Petra.

Reyna C




Dear Reyna,

You need to learn how to put everything in God's hands! And most of the time you are good at it. But birthdays, and holidays, and the day they went to heaven you just can't help your emotions! YOu need to become stronger and learn to keep your emotions to yourself until you get home! Everything is so fresh in your mind right now, even though 3 years have went by, but that's because it's the anniversary of their deaths!

March 8th 2008, the worst day of your life. You hate yourself for wanting to pull over. Would they still be here if you didn't? Would that drunk still have ran into you anyways because he was following your tail lights? So many questions, so many what ifs! You need to quit questioning yourself and put it all in Gods Hands. And believe that he knows what he's doing!

At times even just a smell or a song brings back vivid memories of your children, you refuse to ever quit thinking of them. YOU feel guilty for being alive, You don't even want to be alive but know you are stuck here until God chooses to bring you home! You wonder why, why were you left here to suffer! There is no other pain worse than losing your kids!!! Nothing, You always have questions and no answers.

You think you are being judged by others, when in reality you are judging yourself. You feel bad for asking your husband to pull over and let you drive! As soon as he does and steps out the car, the last thing you remember before the crash is looking into your daughters face while she was smiling at you, and hearing your sons laugh behind you!

At that moment, Bam, drunk driver slams into the back of your car killing your 13 year old daughter and your 14 year old son instantly, severing their 3rd vertabrae! And why, because you pulled over... NO, because he was Drunk!

In one second your whole life changed for the worst! Just seeing your childrens lifeless bodies in the backseat was too much for you to handle! Too much for your husband to handle that he goes to the man's vehicle and beats him to death!

Hardest thing you had to do ever, and will ever have to do is bury your children. How can this possibly be happening! Your kids are only in Jr High! They got taken to young! All you can do is cry and cry! All you want is your babies back. They still had so much life to live! It's not fair, it's not fair! You don't want to do anything, you don't want to eat, laugh, talk! You just dont want to live. It's been three years and you still don't want to live!

10 months later, your husband gets taken to prison for killing the man who killed your kids!
That just adds to the angry, jealous, person you are becoming. Life as you once knew it is gone, you need to learn how to live again. You have to move from the place you lived with your children cause you can no longer afford it with one income, or I should say, unemployment because you got laid off. The little amount of money you received from the accident went to lawyers, A beautiful headstone because your children deserve nothing less!

March 8th 2011 was three years since your bebes have been gone! Your husband gets out May 7th 2011 and you don't know how to feel about that! You want him home, you Love him! But you know that you are still on a journey, you both need to learn how to live with one another again!
You need to learn how to love youself again but feel like it's impossible. When you look in the mirror you see a heartbroken woman! You feel old, you feel like you have aged 10 years in the last 3. you know it's from all the crying and missing your babies!

You Reyna, Need to learn and trust in God, That is the only way you are going to make it here in this world, while you are stuck here, you might as well represent your kids to the fullest! You can stop writing now, cause with everything you have to say you could write a book.

Love yourself,

from Me

And as always, I Love and miss you Angel and Damien with all my heart! Life is so hard to live without you! I can't believe I have even lived 3 years without you! I hate it. Tell God to hurry up and have me do what he wants me to for I can be by your sides again, I just want to hug you, and kiss you. talk and walk with you. I want YOU Back!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dorthy S

To my beloved daughter,

Child of mine, you do not belong to me, you belong to yourself. Just as you have trusted me to guide you, to lead you through troubled moments, to protect you when I could, now you must trust yourself. There will be times when you will want my support, times when you will need to share your fears with me, and times our tears will mingle though we cry for different reasons. At times, perhaps, we will communicate without speaking; sharing a special understanding with a look, a wink, a nod, or a smile that locks the world outside the two of us.

But child of mine, you belong to yourself. Let no one own you, no one stop your dreams, no one shut you off from yourself. Never let pain substitute for joy, failure overwhelm success, or allow curiosity to be replaced with knowing or believing you have nothing left to learn. We learn from our mistakes, but never let them rule your life. Learn from the past, because it belonged to you, just as today is yours, and tomorrow is but a breath away. I have not lived my life for you, do not live your life for me or others..

Own your own disappointments and guard jealously the secrets you tell to no one: they are yours to keep under lock and key, let no one use them against you---they are as much a part of you as you are a part of me. Life will deal harsh blows and treat you most unfairly at times, and you must choose to be your own protector. Remember your strength, for it is your best defense.

I cannot promise you forever. I will not always be there for you, but child of mine, you belong to yourself. Remember this, for it is your right and the heritage I leave with you. I make no promise that love will bring you happiness because love can be painful. Any risk you take has consequences, both gain and loss, and I caution you only not to risk all that you are for anyone.

You owe no explanation for the choices you make, and I owe no apology for who I am or whatever decisions I make regarding my own life. If I have shielded you from harsh realities, I knew would cause you pain, forgive me. Try to remember that I sheltered and cared for you until such time as you were free to try your wings. If I had expectations of you or for you that seemed unfair, if I challenged you beyond your capabilities, it was because I love you and dreamed bigger dreams for you than I had for myself.

And in all this, I choose to take away whatever pain I've caused you and replace it with all the love you have known from me, and all the joy you have given me these many years. I have one last thought to share with you before I go to sleep this night: You've grown up well, my child, and I am proud of you. You are no longer the child of my dreams for you have dreams of your own, but I
will always keep a special place in my heart, a space that is yours alone.

Child of mine, I have loved you well and known much joy in loving you and in your loving me.

With much love,

mother

Gayle M

March 10, 2011

Dearest Gayle,

The past few months and the couple years before this have been a challenge. You have put a lot of consideration into your decisions and examined your reactions to every very difficult situation the likes of which you have never had to deal with at any other time in your life. Just the incident of your cousin’s death would take pages to write about and how you managed to listen with a prayerful heart to doctors, nurses and your own personal feeling regarding removing his life support system. All the while you were dealing with your mother’s deteriorating health and mental state. The shock of her turning on you while you were in the midst of burying your cousin was difficult not to take as a personal slap-in-the-face and abandonment.

You got out books to read about aging and dementia, you continued to write in your journal, your computer files that read: This Is Insane and My Thoughts Regarding. Each time reaching outside of yourself from the deepest part of yourself was your lifesaver and helped you in every circumstance. In every area of your life you studied other people’s reactions and tried to remember to breathe and observe without getting upset and lashing out. Long walks, warm baths and shampooing your hair were as important as a long vacation away from it all.

Through all of this I knew you had the resources and self-awareness necessary to work this out for yourself and if ever you felt like you could not handle it, you would go to someone for deeper understanding on how best to cope.

You are so much brighter, stronger and more lovable than you imagine and don’t ever doubt yourself, you are a survivor and whatever you come up against, you will be able to work your way, if not through it, you will work with it.

I admire you and I love you. You are my mother, sister, daughter, my hope and my love.

Always and ever,

ME

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Jess M


Dear Jess,

Well, pumpkin, it’s been a frustrating couple of years.

Four and a half years ago, when you said “I do” to the man of your dreams, you felt that nothing could go wrong and all possibility lay ahead.

Then it started. The thing you call the gnomes. First the leg pain began and started spreading, like a slow moving river, to your pelvis and then your other leg.

Then, a year or two later, because of the constant pain, your body developed muscle spasms and tremors. Now you are trading in your car for an automatic because your leg is too weak to always work a stick shift. And, damn it, you have always loved the fact you could drive a stick shift. It felt powerful and sexy. But now you’re 32 going on 85, and the future looks beyond bleak and depressing.

You sit and hope, every time you go to one new doctor, that he or she will provide a glimmer of something beyond this life of constant pain killers, fatigue and memory loss. Every new doctor you’ve seen has caused the light to dim so slightly. Every time their arrogance and lack of empathy has struck you to the core and made you question your own sanity. You have tattooed your whole back – hoping to take control and make a choice to have pain. To have that catharsis for even an hour or two.

You constantly worry about your husband deciding to leave you for someone who can live – who can run around with energy and fire. Someone who can have children - something you never may be able to do.

But you must remember that very few people would have handled this situation with your humor and your positive attitude. Other people would grow weepy at the knowledge that he or she might fall asleep in their filet mignon at any time; you call it getting “steak facey” and laugh. You pretend to be Quasimodo when your leg is weak and wander around asking for sanctuary and continue to believe that the right shoes or scarf will make the pain even marginally better.

Sure, you get tired and whiny, but you are persevering. And you’ve refused to give up. Every time a doctor shoots you down and condemns you to live a life that is not really living, you turn to the next possibility.

You’ve learned to stand up for yourself and to give up on people who are hurtful to be around because you now understand the need to protect yourself. Something you never knew how to do before your body needed you to be its shield.

And you will someday accept that your husband, Ryan, loves you dearly - because you make silly jokes and are stubborn and tenacious. BECAUSE you pretend to be a Parisian hunchback when things go bad. “You” haven’t changed just because your body has created limitations. You are still the woman he married, and he still calls you every day to tell you how much he loves you. Here’s a secret: he really does.

The other day a little girl you had never met came up to you and lay her head in your lap with complete trust and love – letting you stroke her hair. While others may have considered it odd, you felt it was a sign of things getting better. The universe telling you it will be okay.

That faith will get you through this and any other battles along the way. Knowing, deep inside, that this MUST end because it has no choice. You have a life you want to live and DAMN IT, it’s about time it got started!

Love,

Jess

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Elena C


Dear Elena,

I honestly don't know how to start this letter to you, that is the truth. I don't know if i need to tell you all the things that I have wanted to tell you for the past 32 years or do I tell you the things that you might want to hear. I am not sure if the brutal truth is something that you are ready for. As, I wrote this I had tears in my eyes for the pain of knowing what you have been through. So, please remember to not shut me out and to listen for I fear if you don't then you might lose yourself forever.

Well,I am here to tell you even though the circumstances that you were born into were not like most others. You were wanted more than anything in the world I know this. For when I look at the precious angels that I have there is no doubt that you weren't loved. You were given a second chance at life with the one person who has been there to hold your hand throughout most of your life. Take pride in knowing that the sacrifice that your birth parents made was the right choice and no matter how hard you wish it to be another way at times you are better for there sacrifice of love and life for you.

You were given the best family on the world for you. They love so deeply and unconditionally it is scary to those around you. For others often wonder why and how a family can be so tight. Hold onto that love for it will get you through almost anything. I know that right now you are heartbroken over the loss of your mom, she was and is truly proud of you. Now hear me when I say this there is not a day that she didn't love you and not a day went by that she didn't tell others of all the things that you have accomplished. Yes, she is proud of you and only you can take credit for that. Without your papa, mom, and brothers you would not be who you are today.
Remember that every painful moment that was handed to you, well simply said makes you a stronger you. Your hubby is right when he said that he married his best friend for there is not a moment that his love is not shown for you(except maybe when you drive him batty) I know that you at times have doubted how and why you were so lucky to meet your other half that has always loved you for you. Now it is time for you to do the same...

I have never met anyone that is so willing to love those around you that at times it hurts to see the pain that it might cause when you see them hurt in anyway. It hurts to see you put yourself aside as if you don't mean anything. Elena, you are loved, you are worth it and you're AMAZINGLY strong! Do not ever give up on yourself for I have not.

All those painful moments of not being able to protect yourself from those that sought to hurt you and humiliate you. Those moments were your turning point... you decided then that no matter what in life was handed your way that you would never lose sight of who you are. DO you remember that promise you made yourself? I do I feel that I need to remind you so here it goes. You promised to always believe that you are a child of God, you are beautiful inside and out, your laughter or smile can light up a room full of 2 people or a room of hundreds, you are Forgiving no matter what , you love with no limits or expectations, you can always see the greener side even when there is no grass, you are funny, you make people want to be better. You are that person that people will remember for the fact is you are a good, honest, loving person.

So, ignore the love marks that your children have left on your body and know that you are beautiful even on those days that you feel that you aren't. Remember that you have 4 people that need you and love you more than you can comprehend. Yes, I sound as if you should be a bit conceited. We all should, for beauty really comes once you have become your own best friend.
Last but not least I love you and I stand amazed at the trials that you have overcome and not once have you failed at being you. So, keep up the fabulous job and remember that God doesn't make no junk! You are loved more than these words can ever truly make you realize. Chin up,shoulders back stand up straight and be Proud of who you have become.

I love you!(don't forget to tell yourself these words often)

Peace,

Elena

Annie B


Dear Annie -

I'm very proud of the strides you've made in the past four years to come to a place of love and acceptance of your body, your "flaws," your weaknesses and your power. It's a freeing thing to accept what you are and what you are not and find the peace in that.

You are: strong (literally and figuratively), smart, kind, funny, thoughtful, sensitive, and sentimental as well as a good partner, friend, sister, daughter and employee.
You are great at: diplomacy and tact, showing love and appreciation, busting your ass in the gym.
You have: a nice ass (thanks to that gym-busting thing), great skin, strong muscles, a nice smile and pretty eyes.

I'm not going to focus on the things you're not, because who cares? You yourself wrote a great piece on how NOT focusing on the negative can make those negativities fade.

Growing up can be hard. 35 is staring you in the face in 2011 and it's scaring the hell out of you. Don't let it. Revel in the fact that you look at least five years younger than your age. Revel in the fact that people all around you say things just keep getting better with each passing year. Revel in the fact that you are healthier than you've ever been. Revel in the fact that you've committed to putting yourself first, to saying "no", to being your own best advocate, to setting clear boundaries, to telling people what they can and can't expect from you, and to living your life in the way you want to.

And now a to-do for you: be open to the possibilities, be more adventurous, follow through on your goals (aka STOP eating sugar, for god's sake. Focus, Brokaw!).

Anyway, there you have it. Like your mama says, you are a glow worm. Keep glowing, doll!

Love, A

Friday, February 25, 2011

AnneMarie A

Dearest AnneMarie,

Sweet girl - even writing your name gets me teary. I love how your heart loves reading letters from other women and how that sisterhood has been a theme in your life. You are so loved and you have fought like hell through a lot of peoples' darkness to embrace who you are. Where you are.

I love that you are no longer sabotaging yourself and that you are comfortable and even celebrating the way God made you. Inside and out. You are small physically, but not spiritually. Even if someone were to hurt you again or approach you in a way that is crude or violent, NO ONE can hurt your soul and destroying yourself will NOT prove a point to ANYONE nor will it bring justice!!!! If someone approaches you, SCREAM AND KICK AND WAIL AND TELL THEM HOW MUCH YOU DON'T DESERVE THIS AND BELIEVE IT IS THEIR PROBLEM!!!!!! NOT YOURS!!!!!

Don't take it on, any more, how people react to you. weather good or bad, it is not up to you to take care of everyone and their own stuff is their own stuff. SEND OUT THE SPIRIT THAT WILL ATTRACT FELLOW LIGHT dwellers - RENOUNCE< once and for all, the notiion that you have a magnet some how, in your heart that almost draws dark people towards you to prey on that sweet soul that used to laugh and spin and tell people the TRUTH!.

You have faith that is a gift, you have a husband who fought through darkness himself to be with you and deny his own fears, you have two amazing kids and there is much to do with what you've been given and NONE OF IT is in the dark.

Remember that day in '02 when you didnt' think you could get up anymore? Remember how I was there to pick you up and gave you just the right words, just the right friend, to get you to the next day?

Remember back when you were in college and dared death to snuff you out? I was there. I was so sad and wanted to tell you how much you're loved. All of those situations that you found or that found you - they weren't who you are.

They were just you walking in the darkness. But look, AnneMarie! We still made it and made it with love and grace and mercy.

Isn't that amazing? I can't wait to see how many women you can relate to and love while they are in their darkness.

A light shining in a dark place.

Renounce agreements that are not from Love, AnneMarie.

PS. This is the beginning of a BEAUTIFUL friendship!

Rachel C


Rachel -

First, my apologies for putting off this letter for longer than I should have. You deserve to hear the things I've wanted to say for years but never had the courage to accept and say out loud. I know now that everything I am about to say is absolute truth. It's hard to put pen to page and express things in a manner that is honest and exposed, but I will do the best I can.

It goes without saying that in the past 5 years you have gone through hell and back. You're world has flipped upside down and everything you ever imagined for your life has been taken away... repeatedly. I understand now that your struggles with infertility have left you raw and vulnerable...and right about every 28 days you receive a cruel reminder of the fact that you may never know the joy of holding your first born in your arms. You may never experience the wonder of creation and feel the flutter of your growing child in your womb. I understand that every time somebody else is blessed with the ability to share in the challenge of parenthood, a piece of you dies. You have experienced the hope of infertility treatments only to have your heart broken and your relationship with your husband fall apart because it was too much for you to go through and still find optimism and happiness in your life. I know you morn for the life that could have been, hate yourself for being broken, doubt your husband could love somebody so flawed, made deals with a god you are now unsure exists (how could any "god" allow anybody to go through this), feel resentment for those that are blessed with the gift of becoming a mother, and experience guilt because you secretly wished it was you instead. Life is not fair, or easy...

For that I am sorry...and I know that no matter what I say, it will never take away the pain in your heart or fill the void in your soul. But there is light at the end.

You are, and always have been, entitled to have every single one of those feelings and any other feeling that may have spread across your heart and into your mind and soul. You have, and continue, to experience things most people take for granted. The miracle of life is just that, a miracle. But so is your ability to move forward. In the past year I have seen you emerge from a fog of depression with a blinding light surrounding you. It is a sight to see! You have proven yourself to be AMAZINGLY strong, come to terms with your depression, and worked on finding happiness in life...and you've found it. You have come up with a plan. You are taking care of your body, mind, and your heart. You are being honest with yourself for once in your life. Not only that, but you worked through an unbelievable hardship with your husband...proved to yourself and to him that no matter what, you are in this for the long haul. You are persistent, never giving up on yourself, on him, or your dreams...despite being handed every reason to throw in the towel.

Whether you see it or not, your life and experiences...ALL of them...have molded you into a strong, beautiful women capable of handling the most heart wrenching challenges life can pass you with beauty and love in your heart. And when the time comes for you to embrace your child or walk forward in a life spent entirely with the man you love, you will do so with optimism and excitement for what life has in store for you.

You are AMAZING...an INSPIRATION. Know that, embrace it.

R-

Amber (Everywoman) M

Dear Amber,(and Erika, and Lil, and Aimee, and Iman, and Mom)…

Dear every Murphy Girl past present and future…

Dear every woman in the world that ever felt like you might not have lived the life you were meant you live:

You always believed in yourself. Face it, it’s true.

Some days it didn’t feel like it, and in the last few years that was more days than you thought you could handle. The days your mascara ran, the days your fat girl jeans didn’t zip, the days the bullies picked on you. Do you remember the one thing about you that day that made you smirk or smile? No????

Remember it now.

In kindergarten you told the teacher she drove you crazy and were sent to the corner. You believed it then and you believe it to this day.

That day when your teacher told mom and dad in parent-teacher conferences that you were “too outspoken” and your parents took your side. How important is your family? They are your strength and your center. They made you who you are, even if you didn’t appreciate it until later in life. Some even when it was too late to tell them you loved them.

Remember the day in sixth grade that the mean girls in math class cut your hair off while the bullies laughed and egged them on? That day you realized that the people in this world you hold dear will fight for you. That made you learn the inescapable need of a true friend.

You remember your first broken heart, and it still stings. And you remember every broken heart since. Yes all of them. The first love, the first time, the first “it’s not you it’s me,” the first cheat (and the second), the first marriage, the second marriage, the soul mate. A broken heart only makes you stronger and more discerning and so you take the sting of each broken heart as a badge of honor. Each broken heart makes you more aware of what you want and what you deserve. The fact that your tolerance for B.S. is low is an asset!!

Remember working three jobs, living in a slum, and selling every CD in your collection to make your tuition payment? You’ll never be able to repay yourself the gift of education but the gift alone is priceless. Keep learning, it’s the best time and energy and money you’ll ever part with.

Remember the way that even when your jeans were too tight…you had a beautiful womanly body that someone found sexy. Every gorgeous curve!!! And if he didn’t? You did, and to this day you believe you are one sexy bitch.

You remember the ache in your heart of the baby you couldn’t carry.

Never forget the way that even when the old boys in the old boys club made you think you weren’t strong enough to “roll with us”…You proved them wrong and made your own way in this “man’s world.”

Think back to that even when your baby was crying, and there was nothing in the world that could console him or her…You created this perfect little being and brought it safely into the world to learn how to laugh and love and dance. And to be!!

Remember fighting to make your marriage work? Good job! Remember deciding you couldn’t keep fighting to make your marriage work? Way to take one for the team!

Remember watching your friends fight cancer? You’ll never know how much your love and support meant to them. Remember fighting your own cancer? You made the determination that being feminine was not based on breasts alone.

Believe it or not, you had it in you all along.

Admittedly, you are the last to see it because you never put yourself first. There are too many roles in front of “me.” But you, the mama, the daughter, the breadwinner, the nurse, the family CEO /bottle washer- you are the most amazing person you know.

And the most amazing person I’m still getting to know.

Al the love in the world for you,

Amber
(and Erika and Lil and Aimee and Iman and the Murphy Girls)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Amber R




Darling Amber,

That’s the name that one of the best people in your life gave you and you still don’t believe it’s true. You have to really try sometimes to see the amazing person you are, covered in scars (mental and physical) and hiding behind a tall steel wall built to hold people out. That wall really holds you in and separates you from the beauty of your life and the wonderful experiences you have had.

Sure you have had heartache and truly desperate times like your divorce and the abuse and his adultery and lies that led to it. While he took away your identity and broke you down you learned how precious life was. You stood tall against the wind that threatened to tear you apart and you dug deep down to your roots and weathered the storm, coming out the other side stronger and healthier. You decided to take the negative energy and use it for good, earning your first of two college degrees and proving that you could be successful as a single mom in the world.

You have served your country with honor and bravery and been in places most people can only imagine, and some not in a good way. You experienced SERE training in the desert with rape simulations and POW interrogations and you were strong enough to pass and earn a career in the military that many men don’t undertake, much less women.

But strength isn’t all of you.

You look in the mirror and see an overweight and out of shape woman with acne and scars and no hope. Your kids tell you that they love you and you wonder why? What do I have to offer them but a past full of skeletons and a future of uncertainty you often say. The amazing part of you is that you work to give your children the best life you can, the life that you wanted as a child. The music lessons, the sports classes, the cooking academy are all things that will prepare them to be amazing adults. You teach them rules, structure and how to be fabulous, just like you.

Sure you aren’t magazine beautiful but who really is? An airbrush and good lighting can make anyone seem alluring, what you have to offer is inner beauty that shines from your grey green Irish eyes. Your hips have carried three beautiful children and your stomach with it’s scars and stretch marks is more a treasure map than a disappointment.

It’s said that those who never experience difficulty can never truly treasure life and that’s true for you have seen and felt the worst of the worst but when you cuddle your children or your new husband gives you a certain look you realize that you are beautiful just the way you are. Beautiful in the way of the caterpillar that must endure weeks of confinement to become the magical being it is. You have endured you have prospered and you are amazing.

Lauren K




My lovely Lauren,

For better or for worse I am with you. I was there with you when no one else was, and even though there were times in which you rejected me I hugged you even harder. I love you Lauren. You are one of the most amazing, intelligent, beautiful, generous, and unique girls I have had the pleasure of knowing. I have one hope for you; it is that you remember this moment, this one right now. I know that this very second you believe that what I just said, but I know also that you haven't in the past. This life of yours hasn't been as easy as you might have hoped it would be, but ultimately you haven't allowed the little things or the big things stop you from becoming this wonderful woman that I have known for the past 27 years.

I remember you when you were at your worst. You were like a superhero that turned to the dark side; you used your power of medical knowledge against yourself. You grabbed those medications and took just enough to feel your breath slow down, your eyes glazed over as you stared at the ceiling. Lying on your bed, your thoughts of death brought a comfortable discomfort to you. I know you didn't want to die. I whispered to you that this was not to be the end. As much as you wanted to disregard that little voice of mine, you didn't. You cried for help, and help is what you received. You have always been strong. You didn't let go. Spending those few days in the hospital woke you up. Your eyes were opened to new possibilities. You received a call on the third day that you were accepted to nursing school.

A few months later, you learned that nursing school was to be delayed a year because of a missing course. You looked at the brighter side to life, and realized that there was an amazing person in your life that you wanted to get to know better. Things were going to be okay. On February 19, roughly 3 months after you learned about the nursing school delay, you began to have conscious, seizure like activity. You were rushed to the hospital. The seizure like activity continued after your release. After countless more doctor and ER visits you had racked up a large medical bill, had excused yourself from your job as an EMT at a local ambulance service, and had been diagnosed with PTSD that caused uncontrolled muscle movements at random. This is how your brain and body dealt with the past. Your devastation and frustration broke my heart. I knew your past and how far you had come from it. You thought you had started a new life away from HIM. And though you had, you needed to confront some issues head on in order to start living, actually living and not just walking through the motions of life.

You had to learn, the hard way, that his abuse was not your fault. You never once deserved to be hit in the face, thrown out of bed, talked down to with such fury and anger, suffocated, and raped. It was two years of terror with one of those years being completely isolated from your friends. I held your hand through it all. I was in that shower with you as you slumped to the floor and cried. I was in that classroom that kept you distracted from your life at “home”. I was in that ambulance with you as you laughed with your working partner. I was with you when you came “home” to work only to be yelled at and criticized that you didn’t do a mundane chore correctly. I was there when you finally had the courage to leave. In all the time I have known you I have never known you to be a statistic, to be like the majority. This is one of the things I most certainly love about you. Your courage, determinacy, and independence saved you. I knew these traits were going to come to play in your future again, and when the PTSD showed its ugly head you took it straight on.

You did not feel sorry for yourself. The new person that you had just met, who was going to be your fiancĂ©, was there by your side. Your new look on life was a vibrant one. You used the advice from a psychiatrist on how to handle this new situation, and gradually you began to control your uncontrollable muscle movements. You began nursing school, but because you had not been able to control these muscle movements completely you were asked to leave the program after a semester and a half. You were disappointed, but knew that things would be okay as long as you kept your head held high and let nothing come in the way of your personal success. Nothing would ever hold you down again from fulfilling your dreams. Have I told you that I think you are amazing?! You are AMAZING! Not everyone can do what you have done. I couldn’t be more proud of you! You immediately enrolled in a pharmacy technician certification program the following semester, graduated, and are currently working in a prestigious hospital. I know you haven’t forgotten your dream of becoming a nurse, and I know in my heart that you will become one. Your determination and motivation has not let you down.

The road ahead of you, my dearest, will not be easy. No road of life is ever made smooth, but with your new found confidence, determination, self acceptance, and humor you will make it to the end. I will be with you through the next many years just as I was with you in the past. I love you Lauren.



With all my love and confidence,

Lauren

Monday, February 21, 2011

Laura D



February 18, 2011,

Dear Laura,
Pondering your inner beauty. You are very gifted at avoidance of such things and have honed yourself into thinking on the surface. Surfaces only show one face. You are worthy of all of your dreams, you are passionate beyond control and that is a good quality. You are loved. Period. People love you and are drawn to you. You reach out to others and give them all you can. You expect little in return and are infinite in your forgiveness. You see positives in others. You see the positive in everything, and can find the shiny in any situation.
Your laughter is contagious and you like to spread humor. Your children are gifted because of you. You have taught them so many life lessons and refuse to stop teaching them even during their hours of angsty resistance. You have truly loved and lost and have lots of love to give. Love is all around you.

Refusal to accept those who do not take all of you can be a noble trait, an enviable trait. You have lots to give and give freely. Sometimes you may give too freely, but you reach into the places of others and help them through there humdrum days. Giving is noble. You were a gifted teacher and need to teach again, the students you touched continue to think of you positively and thankfully. Teaching was an excellent outlet for your loving and caring ways. You saved children, taught them to share and be themselves and taught them to succeed in society. You even found successes in failures.

You love all creatures with a heart that can see into even the most reluctant soul. Not all reluctant souls can be reached as easily; you gave many years, your best shot. A chasm, not a chasm, a whirlwind, an eddy is opening. Jump in, you’ll survive. Not only survive, you will float and sunbathe and make the absolute best. You are taking a new direction with your life and it is okay. You are okay, you’re better than okay and you know you will be stronger and more loving than ever.

Sometimes temper tantrums can lead to revelations, tantrums are releasing, freeing. Sacrificing yourself for another will drown you. Think of your happiness and what you truly need to be surrounded with. Your mother loves and accepts all of your decisions and shortcomings. As you grow as a mother of teenagers look to her for love and guidance; she cried for you, with you and beside you. As a teenage mother you had much to overcome. By cooperating with your best resources, you overcame wonderfully, and your sons are the benefactors.

Look to your girlfriends for sanity. They will also cry with you, beside you and let you comfort them to comfort yourself. Cry with them, for them and let them cry for you. You are surrounded by gifts; gifts of friendship, gifts of love and gifts of beauty in all things.

You will accept your inner self as not a flaw but an asset. An asset that not only allows you to grow and give, but allows others to grow freely. I think you are orange inside, a fiery orange. A fiery flame that can never be extinguished. Don’t let anyone one put out this light. It is needed for your children. It is needed for your mother, your family. It is needed for your best of friends. It is why people love you. Cherish this orange. You need this fiery sparkle for you.

Love you!

Laura

Stevie P



Dear Stevie-

You look at yourself in the mirror daily and can only pick out the flaws you believe you have. You let the world eat you alive. You let people tell you your dreams are impossible as your heart screams to you to believe. You let people judge you constantly and cannot shake the words in which you hear. You walk to the beat of a different drummer but who cares girl. Who CARES!

Stevie, sometimes I wish you would wake up and exude all the greatness you have within you. For, a 22 year old women, Stevie you have stumbled, you have fallen, but you continue to get back up and strive towards your destination. Some people can’t even do that! You truly do live your life the cowgirl way. You get knocked out of life’s saddle and girl you climb back aboard.

Yes, your life is pebbled with heartbreaking stories that you could write into best sellers but yet girl you never let anyone see the true pain you feel.

It’s never easy growing up without a father but you found out that a real father doesn’t have to be blood to love you. You look back at your first boyfriend. You feel you could have changed how it ended. You couldn’t sugar and what he did to you was never your fault. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY. IT’S BEEN SIX YEARS IT’S TIME TO GIVE UP THE GUILT. Now, you face an even bigger challenge. Your two years out from losing your best friend. Your eyes still hold the haunting memory so crisp and pristine for all to see. You have to let the guilt of her accident leave you. You have to quit blaming yourself for her families’ loss, for your loss, and the loss of all who cared about her. SHE LOVES YOU; LINSEY LOVES YOU STEVIE.

Stevie, the next time someone calls you amazing. Do not brush it off. Take a moment and let it settle in that you did something good. Hell girl you helped an international student come to the Lord. What kind of greatness is that? Stevie, you care so much for people. That gift is almost obsolete today. With everyone you meet and get to know you leave a bit of yourself in them. You sprinkle there life with the happiness you have always been searching for. Your positive thinking and drive helps others when times aren’t easy for them to endure. You are always a shoulder they can lean on, an ear that will listen, and a heart that genuinely cares. What is more amazing than that?

However, girl, don’t go getting a huge head. For the Lord wishes to keep you humble and wholesome in all you do. He gives you the strength to fight the good fight.

Stevie in times that the tears need to fall let them fall. I know, I know…Cowgirls don’t cry. BUT GIRL EVEN COWGIRLS ARE HUMAN. When you need a good laugh? Laugh at yourself. Your sense of humor is quite impeccable if you ask someone. Stevie have faith. In your darkest moments you broke through by believing. So, now as you embark on a different way to your dreams believe it will get you there.

Beautiful girl, love will finds its way to you. Love will help sustain you, and love will never fail. Right now I know you love a man who most would say is “out of your league.” What do they know? He thinks you are amazing and his mother relied on you during a tough time in her life. If that isn’t love I don’t know what is. Plus, think of your strong willed mother. She placed all the love she could in the garden of your heart. Yes, it grows with sweet-smelling wildflowers but even when you feel like she may not be there she is. She is your mother and SHE LOVES YOU STEVIE.

Honey, there is so many great things manifesting inside of you. So, many dreams, adventures, and stories waiting to be written; written by you. Stevie, do not be afraid to dance in storms and to seek peace in the eye of them. Stevie…do not stand outside the fire. DO NOT LET OTHERS TELL YOU WHAT IS POSSIBLE. A smart woman named Eleanor Roosevelt once stated “The Future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Your dreams girl; THEY WILL COME TRUE FOR YOUR PASSION FOR THEM IS INCREDIBLE! TANDY WOULD BE LUCKY TO HAVE A MEMBER OF HIS TEAM WITH AS MUCH FIRE AS YOU! DO NOT LET SET BACKS PREVAIL OR DISCOURAGE YOU!

STEVIE FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE LISTEN! LISTEN TO YOUR HEART! LISTEN TO THE MUSIC THAT SURROUNDS YOU! LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE WHO MATTER MOST! TAKE THE TIME AND LISTEN AND YOU WILL FIND THE ANSWERS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR!

I LOVE YOU GIRL…LOVE YOU WITH MORE THAN YOU KNOW.
KEEP SMILING IT’S THE GLUE TO SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE!

Elle P

Dear Muse,

Hi, how are you?

…boy, this is awkward…

Look, I really want to apologize for not recognizing you. That must have made you really feel like shit. But I want you to know how much it means to me to know you just played along that whole time. You didn’t try to prove me wrong and you didn’t screw with my head like you could have and I appreciate you not taking advantage of me.

All along, I was afraid you’d leave me, and I didn’t realize you ARE me; my breath, my passion and my spark.

I feared your voice was tainted and your opinions were set to misguide me, and I’m sorry I told you to put a sock in it. I didn’t realize it really was YOU being genuine – I thought you were the whispers of someone else trying to trick me.

I haven’t been able to look you in the face for ages. In fact, it’s been so long that I fear I wouldn’t even be able to pick out your face in a crowd. And I’m embarrassed to admit I wasn’t even actually looking in your direction because I was star-crosseyed trying to keep focused on another lover.

Look – I realize now how legit you are. You’re not just shouting arbitrary hogwash to me because you want to see how high I’ll jump. You’ve been asking me to jump because you know I can fly. Before I realized who you were, you couldn’t have paid me to have faith in what I was jumping into. And now? Now I’m purposely waiting on the cliff for the most perfect burst of air to rush up and meet me from all the breathtaking beauty below and toss me into a freefall extravaganza of faith.

I’ve been dense and stubborn, convinced I was running the show and acting like I knew what I was doing. You’ve been patiently raising your hand, waiting for me to take notice and ask you to stand up and share your thoughts with the rest of the group. What I’ve only just realized is how in love I’ve fallen with you.

I’ve fallen in love with you by falling into myself.

You are my inspiration, my passion, my intuition, my heart – you are ME.

Like, literally – I’ve been falling in love with myself this whole time. No more middle man. No one else gets the credit for this one – this was all me.

I can’t wait to keep falling in love with myself over and over again.

Muse, keep it real. Remember I love you. I’ll see you soon.

Thank you for loving me.

LYLAS,

elle.

Crystal D


Dear Crystal,

Well here you sit. 31 years old and single. Beautifully single. Probably more beautiful than you've ever been.

Why?

Because you did it.

You finally took your head from under the blankets and looked at the world around you, realizing the fundamental truth of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness. You took that step, the hardest of hard steps, and you put yourself first. You walked. You walked when it was hard, you walked when you thought you couldn't do it, and you walked when everyone gave their opinion. In the face of heartache and guilt, you were able to look deep inside yourself and realize that staying would be easier, but it wouldn't be right.

Because you walked, you are beautiful. Courage is beautiful. Strength is beautiful. Confidence is beautiful.

When the panic sets in and you feel like the world is burying you alive, with all the 'what ifs' and the 'now whats' tumbling into your brain faster than your synapses can register - you don't give up. You breathe, cry, run, shower, or hug your babies. You pace, flutter, worry, and tremble, but never once do you consider that this will beat you.

When the pain attacks your muscles and you shrink into a shell of yourself, lacking the strength to get out of bed, you do it. You run. You work. You bitch, moan, and complain. But you do it. You alone get it done.

You lived as a daughter.
You lived as a wife.
You lived as a mom.

And now ... well now you live as you.

I am proud to know you. I am proud to see you succeed, and to try again when you don't.

Your children may not understand why you asked him to leave. You did a wonderful job protecting the world from the truth that was your relationship, to such a degree that no one knows the depth of your sadness. Your husband claims the same, to not know where this came from, to have been blind-sided, to have never been given a chance to fix things.

But inside, you know.

Your heart remembers the pain of the fear, the fear of the unknown, and the hopelessness that held you together as a couple.

You deserve love. And love deserves you.

But not a love of coming last, working harder, or fighting every day to make a smile.

Your smile is beautiful, and your laugh is a sparkle. Sunshine beams out your eyes when you light on something that makes you happy. You are contagious.

Life is hard. Guilt is harder.

No one has walked in your shoes. No one has heard your silent tears at night, or felt the anxiety that suffocated you on such a regular basis.

You are strong, wise, and independent. You are a mom to three precious children, and a substitute mom to so many more. Every day you make a difference.

Keep smiling.Don't let the guilt of your leaving weigh you down, when your heart continually tells you that this was right. Accepting life for what it is, with out the romanticism, the expectation of perfection, and the fear of letting someone else down, is the greatest accomplishment, and you've done that.

Don't look back in sadness. Look back at twelve years that started off glorious, and ended in the beginning of a new you. Stop thinking of the hurt feelings and the harsh words. Stop dwelling on his feelings and how broken he is. Focus on you - the rebirth of you, with strength and confidence and a biting desire to conquer the world.

Love will find its way into your life.

But, remember what you tell yourself: You like you! If you love yourself, it opens the door for others to love you.

Keep on keeping on. Cry when you need to, laugh when you will.

31 is not too old to start over. 31 is the perfect age to embrace yourself, and get out of the shadows you've buried yourself in.

You are fantastic!

Love, Crystal

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wendy F



Dear Wendy,

I want you to know I love you, and think you’re a beautiful person. You need to hear this now, because there are times I know you doubt yourself and I want you to have this letter to read during those times.

The last year has been difficult for you, I understand. There will be more difficulties and struggles to come, as this is the nature of life. Everyone has struggles in their life, and you are one that tends to focus on the struggles of others vs. your own. I want you to know it’s not selfish to invest in yourself.

It’s okay to acknowledge your struggles and fears; you are just as deserving as anyone else. It’s also necessary to take pride in your courage and determination to face those fears, because it wasn’t easy. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished and the person you are – you are an inspiration to your daughters and if your mother was still alive, she’d tell you how impressed she was with your attitude towards life.

To focus on the subject of outer beauty, specifically for a moment…

I know this is a sensitive subject for you, and some of what I’m going to say will probably make you cry, but I’m going to say what you need to hear anyway:

•    There’s nothing wrong with trying to look pretty.
•    You are not pretending to be someone you’re not, if you want to style your hair or put on makeup.
•    You won’t look stupid.
•    You won’t do it wrong.
•    You’re not trying to attract sexual attention by trying to look attractive.
•    It’s not “safer” to wear jeans, t-shirts and tennis shoes so you can fade into the background.
•    You won’t be rejected if someone is interested in getting to know you better based on your looks.
•    People will not think you’re shallow for trying to improve or change your appearance.
•    You are beautiful no matter what you look like.

At the age of forty, you’ve learned many things. You’ve learned that your body never stops changing, whether intentional or not, and you also know that someday, your outer beauty will fade. You’ve experienced this first-hand. You carried and bore four beautiful children, and each pregnancy wreaked havoc with your body.  You developed cellulite on your thighs and buttocks. Your breasts stretched to monumental proportions, only to shrink, shrivel and sag after nursing your children. You developed a map of stretch marks across your belly, hips and thighs when your skin overgrew its bounds. You have wrinkles now, your hair is getting gray, and your teeth are not as white as they used to be.  Yet, you are more beautiful now than ever before. Did you hear me?

You are more beautiful now, than ever before.

Your beauty lies within your capacity for love, the courage, integrity and determination you show…not the length of your eyelashes, or the size of your thighs.  

You should be proud of yourself! Over the last ten years, you’ve grown so much!

•    You took care of your mother while she was dying of lung cancer. You were strong for her, and made her last months of living more tolerable, and full of love.
•    You learned to live without your mother’s emotional support after she died.
•    You took over the care of your grandmother after your mom died.
•    You provided your grandmother with love, care and companionship while she was dying.
•    You forgave your ex-husband for lying to you about your financial situation during your marriage.
•    You forgave yourself for trusting another person too fully, and learned from the experience.
•    You are stronger after losing your home and the money you invested. You recovered. 
•    You never speak poorly of your children's father in their presence. You encourage their love for him.
•    You forgave your step-father for ignoring you and your children after your mother died.
•    You repaired your relationship with your father.
•    You made it through the struggles of the last six months, in particular:

o    You were terminated (“laid off”) in retaliation after 5 years of faithful, exceptional service after expressing your dissatisfaction with unethical and illegal company sales techniques. Your “friend”, HR Director, lied to you and said your position was being eliminated due to “cost-cutting” reasons, but promptly advertised for a position similar to yours online not a month later. You cut your losses, and focused on the positive. You considered it a blessing in disguise and you learned to temper your trust in co-workers. You cut household expenses, you sacrificed, and you meet your financial obligations regardless.
o    You and your husband were in a motorcycle accident and survived. You broke your foot, but didn’t need surgery, only a cast and you were grateful. Your husband broke his leg, but you were grateful that was his only injury and that you would be able to spend another day with him. You were happy you lived, and didn’t think twice about the cost of medical care or repair to the motorcycle despite being unemployed and living paycheck to paycheck. You knew you’d make it through somehow.
o    And finally, you showed amazing strength and courage during your oldest daughter’s TERRIFYING onset of manic depression and subsequent hospitalization. When she was afraid of you, you were strong and didn’t cry. When her eyes, wild with fear, didn’t recognize you, you were strong and didn’t cry. During her psychosis, you were strong and didn’t show your fear to her...only confidence and love. When she screamed, lashed out and tore at her hair, you were calm and reassured her that you were there to help her and make sure she was safe. You were exhausted from no sleep, but you stood by her bed for hours so she would not be afraid. You moved her back into your home, and you support her recovery with love and patience. Your strength knows no bounds.   

You are a beautiful person; you show kindness to others, and bring joy to the people in your life. You deserve all the happiness you might find; every success, every compliment, and every opportunity.

You are an inspiration to your daughters, and they learn from you what it is to be beautiful. They know their beauty lies within themselves, and you have taught them not to rely on their appearance because it is always-changing.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said “ People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

You have that Light. You are beautiful, and I love you.  

~Wendy

Lilly R


Dear Lilly,

It's been so long since I've said something to comfort you, since I made a commitment to make you feel valuable, since I lauded your successes and your victories. Actually, it's not that it's been too long. It's that I've never done this before. I know you might not believe a thing I say in this letter, it's the way you are. But I beg you to open your mind and your heart and believe the things I'm about to say.

You are out of a job, I know. Months and months of hope and struggle and rejection and frustration are evident from your once-bright face, your once-straight posture, from your once-frequent smile. You've heard the word “no” every single day. You've offered up your experience and your willingness to work to everyone who is willing to accept a letter, an e-mail, anything. The sad, sometimes cruel responses whittle away at the belief you once had that you were meant for something great. All you want is an opportunity to work, to help. And as the bills pile up on your desk, and you feel small pangs of hunger when you know you can't buy groceries until next week, you come closer and closer to believing that perhaps your whole life has been a series of mistakes. There was once a little girl who acted on her dreams. Now that little girl is curled up in a corner, beaten, exhausted, and doesn't want to dream again.

There are other ways of seeing yourself, just as you are, without focusing on what is negative, what is missing, what was lost... and to that end I wanted to remind you of a prayer that you used to read to yourself, when you were younger and full of fire, when you believed that you could make a difference in this world:

“Our Father, who has set a restlessness in our hearts and made us all seekers after that which we can never fully find, forbid us to be satisfied with what we make of life. Draw us from base content and set our eyes on far-off goals. Keep us at tasks too difficult for us that we may be driven to Thee for strength. Deliver us from fretfulness and self-pitying; make us sure of the good we cannot see and of the hidden good in the world. Open our eyes to simple beauty all around us, and our hearts to the loveliness people hide from us because we do not try to understand them. Save us from ourselves, and show us a vision of the world made new.”

Eleanor Roosevelt is said to have recited that prayer every night. And why did you do it? Because, like Eleanor Roosevelt, you wanted to be a force for change, to fight injustice with acts of kindness. You wanted to dedicate all your strength and all your energy to making a difference in people's lives. And you did, tirelessly, work towards that goal. You worked with women and children who were downtrodden, physically and psychologically abused, changing their lives towards independence, self-sufficiency, and joy. You traveled to lend your service for the cause of human rights. You went to law school, trudging through days of immense difficulty and uncertainty, and you emerged a lawyer. The girl whose mother picked coffee as a little girl is a lawyer. You were not satisfied with what life gave you, you were not fretful, you took on tasks that seemed impossible, and you made it through. You strove to find kindness and beauty in the most difficult situations. You saw the world, made new.

So the job hasn't come yet. So the world is a dark place right now. Fill it with the light you have inside of you. Illuminate it with all the fire that fueled you to the place you are now. I know there is passin in you yet, and I know that if you just let it shine through, everything will get better. The world is not a force pitted against you. The world is the place where you blossomed. So don't look back with regret at what could have been – look back with pride at what you accomplished. I don't want you to cry anymore. Wipe those tears from your eyes, so you can see what you've become.

All my love,

Lilly

Kimberly U



Kimberly,


If what doesn't kill you makes you stronger than you have the emotional strength of a super hero. 


I know how lonely you are. You always have been, even as a little girl growing up with all boys isolated on a farm who would criticize you for being who you were, a girl. Isolated is a good word for your childhood with a father who was emotionally distant and a depressed mother that criticized you even more than your brothers did. It’s not a wonder that you didn't think you were worthy of love because you never heard the words “I Love You” spoken to you. As a teen you would hang out with anyone who would allow you to and do things that were not safe or healthy because no one told you not to. The people who were supposed to protect you should have cared more.
  
 When your mom died at Twenty One, you weren't prepared and you were too young to go out into the world alone.  I know that’s why you clung to the first guy to say he loved you... even though it wasn’t true. You looked the other way when he cheated and chose to believe when he lied because you convinced yourself for a long time that it would be better to live a life with someone who had no respect for you than to be in the world alone. You spent way too many years feeling unimportant. Just because he made you feel insignificant didn’t make it true, you were a good wife and gave him much more than he deserved from you.


 I’m glad you finally chose yourself and decided you no longer believed what you have been told your whole life; that you are unlovable. It took way too long for you to embrace your loneliness and I know you are scared that you may never find a soul that will truly connect with you. I want you to know that I love you. Even if you remain alone for your entire life you are here to learn something deep, self love. 


 On order to truly love others you must first love yourself. If your soulmate does come along he will be the luckiest man on earth because any man who shows you the love you truly deserve will be deeply rewarded with kindness and a deep love that you have been waiting an entire lifetime to give. If Mr. Wonderful doesn't arrive it’s going to be OK! You have been blessed with two of the sweetest little boys and you hare a great example of strength and courage to them. You also need to remember that you are an awesome mom who tells her boys everyday that you love them and because of you they will know how important honesty is. I’m sure they will grow up to be strong, confident, good men because look at the example you are showing them.


Lastly be proud of what you have accomplished on your own! You are a strong woman who is following her dream and making a wonderful life without the help of anyone!


You have me and I Love You

Monday, February 14, 2011

Lindsey B



Dear Lindsey

You need to let the past go. I know your life has been one medical disaster after another but you need to stop focusing on worrying and begin to focus on living. Before you we diagnosed with Burkett’s Lymphoma at age 14, you were a vibrant and outgoing little girl. You loved to sing and dance. After the intense treatment and remission, you became a shadow. You never commended yourself for surviving the fight. You did it! You beat a tough form of cancer and you are still here! You won. It is gone!  Standing in the corners is not for you. Eventually when you got to college, you started to step out, but still found yourself focusing on fears and were too scared to get attached to anyone. Yes, you did well. You graduated magna cum laude – but did you ever let go of your fears? Not really. 

When you got your first job teaching, I began to see the real Lindsey . The Lindsey that loved to rock climb and sing. When you sang in the talent show for the kids, I was so proud of you. You faced your fear of rejection and did it. And you did it well!  But then things fell apart for you again with the postpartum depression. When you were hospitalized, you became a zombie. The next year, it felt like you were just a shell. Like no one was home. You had this beautiful little baby, that they said you would never have, but you were missing. There was no light in you anymore. But you fought. You fought hard and with every ounce of your being to get back. And you did. You made it. You smile. You laugh. You love. You hold your son and sing him to sleep. But still, the fear is there.

As your son is growing up, you are learning. You are taking things as they come, day by day. You are trying to keep a positive attitude and last year, when they told you it was another tumor, you made it through that as well. It was scary and it was not fair, but you did it. Congratulate yourself for all of the fights you have won. I know you feel alone all the time. I know you think that you are broken. But you are beautiful. The way you look at your family and hold your son close is beautiful. Despite the weight gain from all of the medications, you are beautiful. I know you hate the mirror and see a monster in it- but you are beautiful. You have made it through so much in your life and have come out of it a better, stronger, woman. You need to realize you have no control over the future and to stop worrying about it. You need to focus on the now. Have fun with your family now. Hug your husband and son often and Now. 

You are a survivor Lindsey. You have so much more to do. Stop being scared – scared of illness, scared of being alone, scared of life. This is no way to live. You need to get out there and enjoy life. Be the girl I know is in you. The girl who loves triathlons, the girl who is going to attempt her first half marathon. I know that scares you and that you are procrastinating on your training. But do not let the fear win. Train! Lindsey, you are a survivor. Survivors are strong. Be strong. Live life as you want to. DO NOT LET FEAR WIN. Teach your son that fear cannot hold you back. Teach him to live life and to go for it!

Sincerely,

Lindsey B 
(p.s – I love you!)