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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.



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.


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,


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.


A poem by Marlene:


When you are lost, shaking inside,
wobbly and rudderless
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.



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,


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,


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!



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)



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