I recently finished reading a book written by Alexandra Stoddard called “Things I Want My Daughters To Know.”    I originally picked up the book because, having three daughters, I feel a huge responsibility to teach them everything they need to know to become successful women since I am their primary female role model.  I will take any advice or help I can get!  In the book, Stoddard lists about 55 “life lessons” she hopes to have imparted to her two daughters.  Some of the pearls I agreed with; some I did not.  However, it got my “wheels turning” as I thought about all the lessons I want to teach my own daughters.  So – you guessed it – I came up with a list.  (Not to worry – there are nowhere near 55 items on my list.)  Here are the top 20 things I hope my daughters will learn from me as they grow and mature into beautiful women, professionals, wives, and mothers.

1)  Appreciate your history.  

Unlike the good ol’ portrayal of the stork with a baby in a sack, you were not just randomly dropped on this earth.  You came from somewhere; you came from someone.  Be proud of that and cherish it. Professional acquaintances come and go.  Friends come and go.  Family is constant.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements or differences, but family is family – you are tied to them forever.  Appreciate them.  Love them.  Stay connected to them.  Always.  When everyone else disappears, they will still be there.

2)  Be a Lady.  

This one is about how you present yourself to others.  (And it is not just a Southern thing – at least it shouldn’t be!)  You never know who is taking notice of you.  Therefore, always present yourself in a way that is appropriate.   Don’t take part in gossip or ridiculing others.  You shouldn’t compromise who you are in an effort to “fit in.”  Don’t do something you know is wrong just because “everyone else does it.”  All of this sends the message that you do not respect yourself.  If you do not respect yourself, neither will anyone else!

3)  Be Confident in Yourself.  

This is one with which I struggle to be a good role model.  I worry about my weight, my clothes, my housekeeping and my cooking skills.  I often lose sight of what it says in Psalm 139:13-16 – “. . You knit me together in my mother’s womb. . . I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . ”  As the old saying goes, “God don’t make no junk!!”  I was made by God; you were made by God.  Therefore, we are perfect.  Your curly hair, your freckles, your crazy energy, your wittiness, your laugh – everything about you is wonderful and perfect.  Never doubt the beauty God has created in you!

READ MORE: Lessons I Learned In My Dad’s Taxi Cab

4)  Do What Makes You Happy.  

If you want to play sports, play sports.  If you want to play music, play music.  If you want to be a doctor, study hard and be a doctor.  If you want to be a teacher, give it your all and be a great teacher.  Do what makes YOU happy – not what all your friends are doing; not what will earn you the biggest salary.  Friends and money are worthless if you are miserable.  Do what makes YOU happy; what brings you joy.  You will receive rewards much greater than money or fame.

5)  Be Financially Responsible.  

Money is never constant.  Sometimes you will have more; sometimes you will have less.  Often, it takes a long time to recover from mistakes you make with your money.  As they say, money is a necessary evil – you must have some of it to survive in this world.  While money does not buy happiness, mismanagement of your finances can lead to stress and strife.  Learn to create a budget and stick to it – regardless of how much money you have (or don’t have).  Learn the difference between what you want and what you need.  You will save yourself lots of turmoil and worry if you learn how to be responsible with your finances.

6)  Keep Order in Your Life.  

As you probably know, I am a little fanatic when it comes to organization.  There is a reason for that.  I have learned that keeping order in my life makes things easier in the long run.  It is easier to run out the door in a hurry if you know where to find your shoes and your purse.  It is easier to pack for an unexpected trip if most of your laundry is clean.  It is easier to entertain unexpected guests if you have a clean house and a stocked pantry.  It is easier to get children to bed if you follow a predictable schedule.  Keeping order to begin with will keep you from stressing and scrambling later.

7)  Laugh.  

This is something your father has taught me a lot about.  When you laugh, you can’t help but feel good.  Some of my best memories of your childhoods, so far, are of times when we laughed together or times when you made me laugh until I cried.  Laughter will help you get through the tough times, too.  Bill Cosby said, “You can turn painful situations around through laughter.  If you can find humor in anything then you can survive it.”  Keep laughter in your life – it is good for your soul!

8)  Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself.  

As women, we are often expected to take care of others.  That is impossible if you don’t first take care of yourself.  Once in a while, buy yourself something new even if you don’t really need it; get a manicure; take a nap.  Never feel guilty for taking a moment to “recharge your own batteries.”

9)  Follow Through.  

Finish what you start and keep your commitments.  What’s the point of reading a book if you skip the last chapter??  Finish the book.  Finish the project.  You may discover it’s an activity that you do not want to do again, but finish anyway.  When you tell people you will do something, you must follow through and keep your commitment – someone is counting on you; don’t let them down.  If you do, they will learn that you cannot be trusted.  Only under extreme or emergency circumstances is it ever acceptable to break your promises.

10)  Do Not Wish Your Life Away.  

While you are a child, enjoy the lack of responsibilities; enjoy the carefree nature of things.  Don’t spend it wishing to grow up faster.  When you are young and single, travel; enjoy spending time with friends; enjoy being independent and free.  There is no need to spend your time fretting about when you will meet “Mr. Right” or when your life will become bigger and better.  It will happen – be patient.  Take time to enjoy being a wife – just a wife.  Your time as a mother will come.  When you are a mother, enjoy your children.  Don’t wish for them to grow up faster – it will happen soon enough.  Each stage of your life is a unique gift.  Be wise enough to recognize the beauty of each stage and enjoy it while you can – it will not last.

READ MORE: Dear 16 Year Olds: Life Is Harsh And 5 Other Things You Need To Know

11)   Be Strong.  Be brave.  

As much as I would like to, I cannot shelter you from bad things in life.  You will experience failure.  You will experience loss and sorrow.  You will experience disappointment.  When you do, it is o.k. to cry.  It is necessary to grieve.  However, you cannot let the bad times define you.  Be strong and be brave.  Face the obstacles head-on.  Learn from the tough times and find a way to move forward.  When you come out on the other side, you will be proud of yourself and you will appreciate the beauty of the good times even more.

12)  Know your limitations.  

Superman is a mythical character.  No man (or woman) can do everything.  You have God-given talents.  You also have God-given limitations.  This is why one of my favorite prayers is the Serenity Prayer.  It says “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”  If you are not artistically inclined, you can change that by learning new skills, but do not expect to paint a masterpiece right out of the gates.  If you are only 5’3″, do not expect to be the star center on the girl’s basketball team.  You cannot change your height.   You should most definitely expect greatness from yourself and set high goals, but sometimes you must be realistic and adjust your goals to fit your skills, talents, and physical abilities.  Everyone has a certain amount of time and energy as well.  Do not commit to so many things that you end up running out of time or energy before you are able to complete the tasks.  Also remember that there is no shame in asking for help.  It is not a sign of weakness.  On the contrary, it shows that you are self-aware and realistic.

13)  Learn to Cook.  

It doesn’t have to be gourmet and it is not necessary to do it every day, but being able to prepare a meal for yourself, your guests, your family, or a friend experiencing hard times will give you a sense of accomplishment and pride.  By preparing meals yourself, you can be more healthy and more frugal.  You can experiment with tastes and textures.  You can adjust recipes to your own personal liking (or the liking of those you are serving).  Food is everywhere in our lives.  Learn to enjoy the creative opportunities it offers.

14)  Proofread!  

There are few things I can think of more frustrating that turning in a paper, sending an email, or posting a blog only to realize later that you made very basic mistakes.  It is also quite annoying to receive a letter or an email and see that the person who sent it didn’t take the time or put forth the effort to write it properly.  It shows laziness and apathy.  Proofreading is simple and doesn’t take much time, so do it.  Then, do it again.  The more important the document you are writing, the more times you should proofread it or have someone else proofread it.

15)  Learn Proper Grammar.  

Learn when to use I or me; when to use he/she vs. him/her; the difference between there, their, and they’re; the difference between your and you’re; the difference between it’s and its.  Don’t end sentences with a preposition (i.e. Where is he at? = nails on chalkboard).  Don’t start sentences with conjunctions like but or and (these words are meant to join things, not begin things).  The rules of grammar are not terribly complicated and will eventually become natural if you practice them regularly.   Using proper grammar (and spelling) is an indication that you have paid attention to details.  It shows that you are intelligent and educated.  (If you are ever unsure ask Memaw!!)

16)  Present Solutions, Not Just Problems.  

There is nothing wrong with speaking up when there are problems that need to be addressed whether it is in your job, in your home, or in your relationships.  However, do not just complain and whine.  State what you see as a problem and then present a solution.  Your solution may not be utilized in the end, but being able to present one shows that you have carefully considered the situation.  It proves to others that you are not just complaining, but that you are trying to help solve the problem.  Your “complaints” will get more attention and respect if you can be helpful in reaching a resolution.

17)  Surround yourself with good people.  

You cannot choose your family, but if they bring you joy and peace, embrace them.  Turn to them in times of need or anxiety – big or small – and they will give you the insight and comfort that you need.  You can choose your friends, so choose wisely.  Surround yourself with positive, supportive, intelligent, morally ethical people with whom you share a mutual respect.  Choose friends who see your beauty (inside and out) and who make you a better, happier person by bringing you joy, laughter, insight, and peace.  (Remember, too, that your eventual husband should be your absolute best friend.  If he is not a good friend he will not be a good husband.  He should bring you joy and peace as well as romance and love!)

18)  Stand up for your beliefs. 

If you are liberal, be liberal.  If you are conservative, be conservative.  Once you have chosen a stance, stick with it.  Don’t be wishy washy and change your opinion to please someone else or to avoid confrontation.  That shows others that your are weak and easily influenced.  No matter which side you take on any issue, be educated and be able to intelligently defend your position.  Don’t be afraid to speak out – in an intelligent, ethical manner – to defend your cause.  If you are educated about the topic and can express your thoughts clearly, people will respect your opinion even if they disagree.

19) Use Common Sense.

As the old saying goes, “common sense is not that common.”  It is a simple rule, but one that many people fail to follow.  If something seems like a bad idea, you probably shouldn’t do it.  Common sense.  If certain people or activities make you unhappy, stay away from them.  Common sense.  When trying to solve a problem, don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be.  Common sense.  You are all wonderfully smart, intelligent girls, but intelligence cannot be substituted for common sense!

20) Have Faith. 

Faith in God.  Faith in yourself.  Faith in people.  Faith in humankind.  Bad things happen.  During your life, you will experience sadness and anger and fear and loneliness.  If I could protect you from it all, I would do so without hesitation.  But, I can’t.  When you face adversity, remember that there is always good in people and there is so much good in the world.  Find it.  Hold onto it.  Have faith that, eventually, the good will always overcome.

As I read back over these, it is painfully evident that I am not perfect.  Although I try, I don’t do all these things all the time.  However, I think I do them more often than not.  Some of these pearls I have learned the hard way. Some I am thankful to have learned from my parents.  Some I have learned form others or just from experience.  I know there are things you will eventually add to your own list of “Life’s Rules,” but I hope this gives you a good start and a solid foundation.  Above all else, remember that you are loved more than you will ever know – by me, by your Daddy, by your family, and by God.  I pray that love will give you the strength and courage to be the best person you can be – always.  

This post was originally featured on Lisa’s blog, The Golden Spoons. Photo via.

I love the Internet. I love Facebook, email, Twitter, Instagram, and I’m even warming to Google+. But, not much replaces talk.  Especially with women friends.

It used to be get togethers, the “Girl’s Night Outs.” And I still love those but the reality is, those are now few and far between. People are busy; some have minimal access to childcare. Evenings are tough if you have young kids, or you’re a single mom, or it’s late after a long day. Also, many of my friends live far away. Not south on the freeway, but hundreds or thousands of miles away, in other cities or countries. But these are women I consider close friends.

Some are friends from Philadelphia, where I grew up, and some are from Seattle. I recently relocated to Austin leaving behind two decades of Seattle friends. And some are new friends, women I have met through blogging, Facebook, writer’s groups, Twitter. I feel close to these women as if I had sat with them on my couch, drank wine and shared years of friendship.

Recently, I was anxious about something, thinking, wondering. I wanted to talk it out with a certain, special friend. She lives in Austin, but she’s busy, she has a little one. I’m busy, we live in different neighborhoods. I considered “not bugging her.” And then I thought, if she wanted to talk to me, just run something by me and hear my voice, I’d do it in a heartbeat.  So I texted and asked if she had a minute to talk. She did.

Thirty minutes later, there was clarity and the true give-and-take that is friendship—she helped me, and I asked about her life, I listened, I was there for her. We laughed, we connected. We touched each other’s souls. I’m not one for small talk, and neither is she so we wrapped it up without any BS. But what I got, and what I hope she got too, was the power of talk, the power of connection through voice, inflection, hearing another’s laughter, soothing another’s pain with words. There’s something spectacular in the power of talk. Women, we have it. We do it online, we do it over the phone, we do it in person, and we even do it just knowing she’s there. Now that’s power.

This post was originally featured on Jenny’s blog. Photo via

Shyness is a common issue among both children and adults.

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How many books are written about break-ups? What about songs or movies? The end of a love affair is big business and is universal. But what about the end of a friendship? How do we break-up with a friend? Sometimes, the evolution of a friendship is organic and easy. We take the hint, phone calls go unanswered and we realize we’re not close anymore and it doesn’t hurt. We let it be. We move on. Lives change, things are fluid. You used to work together and now you don’t. Your kids aren’t in the same class anymore. It’s not a huge issue, it just is. This happens a lot. These changes, they are often not break-ups at all. You might cross paths with this friend again, be it years or even decades later, and pick up right where you left off. Circumstances have brought you together again and it’s pleasant, or even wonderful.

Other times, there is an awkward shift. Whether gradual or sudden, expectations no longer match, values change, someone does something or, quite simply, one person wants more out of the friendship than the other. Feelings get hurt. I’ve been on both ends of this. As I write this, I am thinking about a woman, a friend who I can no longer call a friend. We broke up, really she broke up with me simply by being unresponsive. I used to tell myself it was her nature (and, it is, she’s scattered and can be unreliable, even when we were equally invested friends). But I know definitively, that we are no longer constants in each other’s lives because she does not want it. Being connected to me isn’t important anymore and that makes me sad. And, it makes me question just how close we were. What did I mean to her? I think we were close. And, finally, is this line of questioning akin to self-inflicted paper cuts followed by a shaker of salt?

Most likely, and I am proud to be able to be both objective and adult enough to write these words, we have drifted apart. We no longer live in the same state. We met at work many years ago and clicked easily. We trained together for my first triathlon—she pursued me as friend and training partner; the thought of doing a triathlon had never entered my mind. I was terrified and she quickly became a close friend. To say our training runs were like therapy sessions does not do them justice. Those soul baring early morning runs were the highlight of my day. My workout partner had always been music. Instead, I had a new friend and we soaked each other in with reciprocal love and respect. It sounds romantic; it was nothing of the sort. I don’t think we give friendships enough credit for just how intimate and deep they can be. I was real with this friend and she with me.

So, perhaps that is why I still, over a decade later, feel a twinge as I write this and see her name come up on my “Chat” drop down box on Facebook. There she is, right now, just a keystroke away. But in fact she’s much farther still. And, through the fishbowl that is social networking, I see she is still in touch with other people from that time in our lives. And I am not, at least not in the same way. But in the writing of this post, I have realized, I don’t want to be. I can let her go.

I made attempts at re-connection. She did eventually respond years ago, but her response felt defensive, like an excuse and not a true reaching out. It was, again, another explanation of why so much time had passed between us. “Doc, it hurts when I bang my head against the wall.” I think I get it now. It may be me and it may not but it’s time to back away from the wall. I have set her free. I am going to remember with fondness and love the years of friendship we shared, and let go of the disappointment I felt because of what is not now.

Remember Helen Seinfeld’s refrain on “Seinfeld?” Jerry tells his mother, “Not everyone likes me.” “Oh, that’s ridiculous,” she says “how could anyone not like you?” It is possible for someone to not like me, or to have liked or loved me once but to have moved on. And for it to not be about me.There’s no bad blood, no need for closure or emotional rehashing. It just is. Things change, people change. And I will always have the memory of early morning runs, ours a beautiful wooded path that wove past a creek, horses, a serene duck pond, light on our feet and in our hearts, talking and laughing with my dear and special friend.

This post was originally featured on Jenny’s blog.

I’m not trying to bum you out with all this grief business. But it’s life, right? And I didn’t quite finish what I wanted to share in the last post.

And that’s this: Sage advice for friends who want to help, but aren’t sure how.

I was a third of my way through the first draft of Shelter Us when I discovered/decided that protagonist Sarah Shaw, a mother of two boys, had an infant who died. Up until then, she was just a woman struggling with an unnamed loneliness.

I decided to make Sarah­­ virtually friendless. (Okay, I admit that part of this decision was connected to the fact that this first-time novelist wanted to juggle as few characters as possible. This may also explain why Sarah and her husband are only children, with one living parent each).

But a weightier part of the choice to make her friendless was my intuition that a mother who had lost an infant would lose friends, too. It was too easy to see living examples of this situation. I could look at myself to understand a person who, in the presence of great loss, did not know what to do or say, who shied away from facing another person’s pain directly.

While doing me the enormous favor of reading my manuscript, GriefHaven founder Susan Whitmore confirmed this phenomenon. When, in the story, a neighbor withdraws from Sarah, Susan wrote in the margins, “Sadly, this is so common. We lose friends – they think ‘it’ is contagious or it makes ‘them’ too sad to be around us. Another huge issue of anger and loss we deal with. It is very sad.”

Susan made sure that GriefHaven would not only offer resources to grieving parents, but to the friends wanting to support them (as well as these resources for children.).

In How to support grieving parents, Susan guides, “What you can do is this:

Just “be” with the parent when they are grieving. Share your own feelings about the child’s death, such as, “My heart aches for you. I wish there were something I could do.” or “I care so much,” or “I miss Joey too. I remember him running down the street with his friends,” or “She will never be forgotten.” Those types of comments are real and come from your heart.

Also, just listen. Listen. Listen. Listen.

Also, cry with the parent. You don’t need to be stoic. Your tears will not upset the parent. Quite to the contrary, your tears show them that they are not alone. We often hear that crying with someone is healing for the parents and siblings. This also applies to grandparents and other family members.

As part of trying to help parents and siblings, avoid trying to help them see some kind of “silver lining” in their lives, such as pointing out all of the “blessings” the parents still have. For instance, you would want to avoid saying things like, “You have other beautiful children” or “At least you had her for seven years” or “She’s in a better place” or even “You need to be strong.” What is true strength anyway? We would say that it takes real strength to feel the pain, deal with it on a daily basis, and let it be expressed in whatever way works. That is true strength.


One more shout-out on this topic, then I’m done. The brilliant, funny, wise Judy Silk wrote a beautiful piece after her husband Dan died. She said, in a nutshell, “Please talk about him. Say his name.” As much as death is a part of life, we don’t really know what to do or say, what will help. So I am grateful for the wisdom, hard won, of two extraordinary humans, whose lives and words can shine a light down the darkened path we may all walk down one day.

This post was originally featured on Laura’s blog, Confessions of Motherhood. Photo via

Well here we are… it’s back to school time again. This is our 11th first day of school and we have 6 more to go before we’re completely done. I love the first day of school more than I love the first day of the new year but not why you think. To me (and most moms) this day is really the start of the new year. We have fresh new day-timers, pencils, notebooks and a chance to make a good great first impression.

The first day of anything is always a day full of excitement and nerves. From the first day of school to the first day of college to the first day of a new job. How do you make it easier and calm those nerves? I have no idea.. I usually just take a deep breath and wing it but every year, I try to have little pieces of conversations with my girls and hope that somehow, someway, it makes them feel better and sets them up for success.

Save the Drama – Not even your mama wants it. If there’s one thing that is detrimental to your success, it’s drama. It is so easy to get sucked into the drama and so hard just to walk away. But that’s exactly what you need to do. Trust me, when you look back on it one day, you’ll see that nothing good comes from drama or gossip.

Stay away from trouble – In the wise words of Maya Angelou, if you see trouble coming across the road and get away. You can always tell the bad seeds from the good seeds and while that bad boy may seem hot and exciting, the best thing that you can do is just leave him alone.

Make friends – If you see someone without a smile give them one of yours! I know it sounds cheesy but the best thing you can do sometimes is to extend some kindness to someone who is new or might be having a bad day. Think back to a time you were the new kid and someone did the same to you. It’s a scary world when you think you’re all alone.

Do your part to stop bullying – Don’t be a bully and don’t let others bully other kids. Bullying is an epidemic in our schools right now and it is almost impossible for teachers and school leaders to keep up with it. Do your part and if you see someone being bullied or being taken advantage of, be the big person and step in to help them.

Get involved – I promise you school is a lot more fun if you’re involved in things other than just your circle of friends. Join a club! Whether it’s a social club, an academic club or something like robotics, expand your horizons and widen your circle. You will be a better person for it.

Care about your grades – I know it seems silly to say in the sixth grade that grades are important, but they are. While the grades may not end up on your high school transcript, you need to develop good study skills as well as how to juggle a bunch of things at once. When you get to high school and the grades do matter, you’ll be better prepared to hit your goals.

It may seem silly, but… I know that you may think that you’ll never use certain pieces of math or English or science and you’re probably right. But in the meantime, not only do you have to learn them, but you have to do well in the classes – so do what you need to do to memorize it and pass the test with really good grades and then move on with your life. You can forget it all later when you do realize that no, you don’t need to know the Pythagorean theorem to survive in life.

I just dropped each of you off and I hope that you have a magical day. I hope this year is the best year that you’re ever going to have until next year and then I hope that year is the best year that you’re ever going to have. Smile, make new friends, make great memories, but most of all – learn and have a good time and know how proud I am of each one of you.

I love you,


This post was originally featured on Kristen’s blog, Four Hens and A Rooster.