Dear Jayce and Jenna,
Over this last week your Aunt Neelie’s good friend passed away. She was young, healthy, and a mother and wife that left a family behind. In thinking through all of the things that she will never get to say to her kids again it made me realize all of the things I want to make sure you both know. While I fully intend to be here to show you these things throughout your lives, I wanted to take a moment to make sure you knew today, and every day, how I felt about you guys and just about life in general.
I spend so much time talking about you and bragging about you both to other people but realized I should spend just as much time telling you both just how I feel because you should know how truly special you both are.
Jayce, you came into my life when I was young. I didn’t know how I would support myself, let alone a baby coming into the world. But from the day I found out I was pregnant with you, you brought meaning and purpose to my life. I could not wait to meet you! Everything I did was for you, around you, and with you. You were always my little buddy, my sidekick, and full of love and cuddles. You’ve seen a lot of change in your young life, more than what I would wish upon a child, but you have always handled it so well and adjusted like a champ. You are wise and mature beyond your years and I love watching you grow up and evolve into such an incredible young man. You are so talented in your arts and every time you finish another picture I want to show the world. I am amazed at your abilities and am proud that you share the art passion with me….even if you surpassed my artistic abilities several years ago! I love that you have a diverse group of friends and you see good in so many people that are all so different and unique in their own ways. You are so well rounded and have a great range of interests between music, arts, sports, movies…the list could go on. Never give that up! Continue to find your passions and explore them! I love that we actually have quite a bit in common even though I’m just your mom. We have shared experiences running mud races, going to sporting events,hit balls at the batting cages, drawing,jamming really loud in the car to the “Final Countdown” song, laughing at funny things (many of which are probably inappropriately funny for us to be laughing at)…all of these are memories I treasure. You are smart and have so much potential in your future, and you are also pretty funny. (Obviously you get that from me. Ha ha) Above all, however, you are courageous. You have given me some of the most real, profound, and honest feedback that I have ever received in my life. You have told me respectfully and from the heart where I was falling short as a mother at a critical time that you needed me. While it wasn’t something I wanted to hear at the time, it was something I needed to hear. Jayce, I am a better person and mother because you had the maturity and courage to speak from the heart and confront something that was bothering you. For that I am so proud of you! Don’t ever lose that courage as it will serve you well in life. Be kind, be respectful, be honest, and speak from the heart…but do speak up! Say what is on your mind and in your heart. Have the courage to say not just what people want to hear, but what people need to hear whether it is to peers, adults, and yes, even your own mother. I can’t wait to see each year that comes next for you and who you continue to become. And in those moments where I seem to nag you about school work or say no to you for things you wish I would say yes to in the moment, please never forget that it is not because I think you are failing and aren’t good enough, it is quite the opposite. It is because I see you are far better and more capable than you may even realize. It is because I love you!
Jenna, where do I even start with you?! I always wanted a boy and a girl and after having Jayce I was so incredibly excited to find out I would also have a daughter. You were planned and I spent time preparing for your arrival, but what I wasn’t prepared for was just how truly blessed I was about to be with you. You are so incredibly special Jenna, in ways you are too young to realize. There are so many things I love about you. First and foremost, you are one of the most kind natured people I have ever met. You are so nice and loving to everyone and everything. It is why anyone who meets you loves you. It is why teachers, friends, and family gravitate towards you and why people all over stop me and tell me “she is the sweetest girl”. Your kind heart is magnetic! You are also so positive. I never EVER hear you complain about anything. Even adults get caught up in silly things and complain about things that really don’t matter, but not you, not my 7 year old. You simply enjoy every moment and make the best of it where you are at and whatever you are doing which is so admirable! You never talk back, EVER, and always do what you are told. I never have to tell you anything twice and never get even an ounce of attitude from you. If I say “clean your room” you happily say “ok” and skip off to do it. You just go with the flow of life and have nothing but positive energy all the time. You are so loving and cuddly. I love how every day you come give me and Jayce hugs and every day you tell us you love us, because we love you so much too and you remind us how great and important it is to say it and show it! I love that you are also so compassionate about other people. You are the first to talk about going through your toys to donate them to other kids or the first to bring home the flyers from church about the families and kids that need help. But you don’t just bring them home and talk about it, you follow up to make sure I don’t forget to bring the items the families need when we go to church. You are such a beautiful little kind spirit and a blessing to anyone who knows you. You are only 7 years old but you truly inspire me to be a better person. Your pure heart and innocent, simple, and positive view on life is so refreshing. I hope I can live up to the greatness you are and while I am your mother, the one that is supposed to set the example, it is you who sets an example for all to follow. I aspire to be more like you my beautiful girl!
As you both continue in this world and navigate through your childhood into your adult life you will go through many things. You will go through ups and downs and good times and bad. But through it all I hope you will take away some key life lessons. Life is a wildly crazy, fun, sometimes difficult, yet amazing journey. As I’ve gone through the journey thus far I’ve learned many lessons along the way. Many of these I’ve learned by failing miserably and doing the exact opposite of what I’m about to share with you…but sometimes it is through failing that you learn to succeed and you ultimately learn what is right. So of all the things I will say to you throughout your lives and all the lessons I hope to pass on to you, these are the ones that are near and dear to my heart. These are the ones that I hope my two wonderful kids will believe in and keep as guiding principles in their own lives:
Difficult times- Sometimes life will knock you down and there will be difficult times. Sometimes they will be the result of choices you have made and other times they will just happen to you. You will feel frustrated at times and not understand why something is happening to you. Sometimes you will feel like it isn’t fair…and you may be right….but things will happen all the same. While you can’t always control when life knocks you down, you and only you can decide whether it keeps you down. Don’t stay down! Don’t give up! Get up slowly or even crawl if you must, but keep going! Life can knock you down but it can’t keep you down. Be bigger and stronger than anything you face.
Be true to yourself- Know who you are, know your non-negotiables and never EVER sell out! There will be times throughout your life that you will be in situations that may push you to do something that goes against your beliefs or goes against what you know is right. There may be times that people may try to get you to do things that you know are wrong but everyone seems to be doing it or people in high positions of authority might even be doing it. Don’t let that define you or change you. Don’t let money or title or even large numbers of people make you go against your beliefs. It won’t be easy at times but of the many times in my life I’ve been put in these situations it is one of the things I am most proud of…I didn’t give in and didn’t give up. Never stop learning, seeking feedback for consideration, and self-reflecting for personal development and opportunities to be a better you,…but don’t seek permission or approval to be your true self. Only change you for YOU, not to meet the approvals of anyone else. You are good enough. In fact you are far better than good enough!
People are good at heart- You will come across people in your life that can simply seem mean. They may say mean things or do mean things, whether to you or other people. But I truly believe that at heart everyone is innately good. They act how they act for a variety of reasons, insecurities, and their own issues based on their own life experiences. They may not choose to behave the right way and it may hurt some people along the way, but do your best to still always try to find the good in people. I promise you it’s there, sometimes it’s down deep, but it’s there. And should those people cause hurt to you, learn to forgive. It may require accepting an apology you never got or forgiving someone who may not be sorry at the time, but forgive anyways. Do it for yourself. Carrying resentment, anger, or feelings of hate is bad energy and only hurts you. SO forgive often! Believe people can change that want to change, that want to be forgiven, and are willing to put forth the effort to make changes. Don’t go in blind and don’t let people walk all over you, but give them a chance to be different. Be the catalyst and encouragement that helps people be better and change for the better, not the anchor that forever damns them for their mistakes. You just never know when you might be in the situation where you want to change a perception and ask for forgiveness and would like that same sentiment returned.
You reap what you sew- I believe that you get back the energy you put into the world, that what goes around comes around. Yes, sometimes less than great people have a stroke of luck or wonderful people encounter unfortunate events, but overall what’s right does prevail. So no matter what happens to you or around you, stay you, stay positive, and be kind to other people. Sometimes people might even be cruel to you and you may feel they deserve to be punished. That may be true, and they may deserve whatever comes their way in the future….but don’t take any part of being vindictive. You can believe that Karma will come their way, but that doesn’t mean you need to be the one to administer it. Remember, how people treat you is a reflection of their own character and karma, but how you respond is yours. There is no free pass or justification to be mean to someone else, rise above it. Be sensitive and empathetic as to why someone may be the way they are, but don’t let them change you. Don’t let them bring you down and as hard as it may be at times, always still try to see the good within them.
Own your mistakes-You will make mistakes along the way and that’s ok, that’s normal. But know that making mistakes and having regrets are two different things. I believe that regrets are simply mistakes someone has never learned from, and if you learn from mistakes then there is nothing to regret. Those mistakes can become building blocks in your life and lessons that help you become better, stronger, and smarter the next time around. So learn from everything and do things different the next time if you must, but don’t waste time or energy on regrets.
Money can’t buy happiness- it is so easy to get caught up in the hype of money and the “things” that money can buy. All over you are splashed with the underlying pressures to have more, buy more, and keep up with everyone else and everything new. I know we are fortunate to be able to have things and do things that require money, but make no mistake, those things and experiences only supplement what is at the core, they don’t define it. We could lose everything but would still have what is at the core. We still have each other, our health, our family, our character, our integrity, and our beliefs. Money might help make a living but it is the people, relationships and love that makes a life. Those are things money can’t buy. I heard a quote once that said “that man was so poor that all he had was money”. Don’t be THAT person. Don’t sacrifice love, beliefs, your integrity, dignity, and who you are to chase the dollar. Stay true to you and never sell out. No amount of money is worth losing yourself and the things or people you love. Do what makes you happy, find your passions, and the rest will fall into place.
Be humble-while you may stumble and fall at times in life, I am certain that both of you will also have great success. You will do great things and accomplish great things. You will probably receive many accolades and get recognized throughout your life for all of your greatness…but don’t let it go to your head. Don’t rise so far up that you don’t still have two feet on the ground to remember where you came from. My dad once said to me “if you’re as good as you think you are you won’t have to tell people, they will see it and tell you.” Be so good and so consistent that if anyone were to talk bad about you, no one else would believe it. Be proud of yourself, and be confident in all that you are, but don’t be arrogant.
Live life to the fullest- Life goes by fast and truly is a gift. There are things you HAVE to do along the way to get by and to make a living, but don’t get so busy making a living that you don’t take time to make a life. Find your passions and explore them. Try new things, seek adventure, open your mind to new ideas and new ways of thinking, and learn something from everything you do and everyone you meet. Make sure your should’ve, could’ve, and would’ve list is never longer than your did it, tried it, and experienced it list. Don’t just go through the motions of each day to simply SURVIVE and pass the time. Go through LIVING and experience life and everything it has to offer to the fullest!
Challenge the status quo- There will be things you think, feel, or want to do that are outside of what others may think…and that’s ok!! If you believe in something then you fight for it and don’t be afraid to challenge what might be the “normal” to other people. Too many people go through life doing things because it’s what everyone else does or the way something has always been done. The fact is sometimes things aren’t done right or aren’t the best way to do something. Sometimes things are done a certain way because at the time they started it made the most sense but maybe it no longer does. And when you find those things and you believe passionately about doing something different then do it! Fight for it and don’t let the nay-sayers stop you. Do it right, do it humbly, and do it respectfully…but still do it! The most profound and necessary changes that ever occur in life never come from choosing the path of least resistance, the easy path. They always require having faith and believing more in the possibilities of what could be than the comfort of what is. It takes courage to blaze a trail and to lead into unchartered territory, and it can be a lonely place at times, but it is those courageous leaders that change the course of their life and change the world. Be that person that leaves a mark and sees it through. Be the people you have the potential to be and never let the status quo or the popular vote hold you back.
Broken hearts-At some point you will, undoubtedly, have your heart broken. I’m not going to lie and tell you it will be easy because it won’t, it sucks. It sucks really bad! In that moment you will probably feel like it’s the worst kind of pain ever and it will seem unbearable. You will feel like you don’t understand or don’t know what you did and might even second guess yourself in that moment. But as much as it hurts at the time, you WILL get through it and you will be better because of it. At some point it will all make sense and you will realize why it didn’t work with that person who broke your heart. You will come to see that the heart that is meant to love you will come around at exactly the right time in your life that it’s meant to happen. Things have a way of working out how they should, when they should, with who they should. And when that special person comes in your life, cherish it. Good and true love is so special and so hard to find so never take it for granted. So while you wait and while you go through the journey, never give up! You may end up hurt by love at times, but never stop loving whole heartedly. Because when “the one” comes along, they will deserve it and so will you. . There is nothing greater than to love and be loved in return.
Last but certainly not least, believe in GOD and believe there is always someone watching over you with a greater plan that will work out exactly how it should and when it should. There are people that will question it and people that have different beliefs, and that is ok, respect their differences and their right to believe as they choose. But believe all the same. Because of all the reasons to believe, I know that the only possible answer as to why I am so fortunate and so blessed to have two kids as amazing as you both in my life is because there is something far greater and bigger that has blessed me!
I know we have many years ahead of us in life to learn more, do more, and be better. I can’t promise I will do everything perfect and won’t make mistakes (in fact I can promise I will make plenty) but I can promise that not a day will go by that I won’t try to do better and be better. And not a day will go by that I won’t think of you both and love you both. A lady, Angela Schwindt, once said “while we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about”. Thank you to both of you for teaching me what life is all about. Thank you for your patience along the way as I navigate life and being a mother, and thank you mostly for being yourselves. I wouldn’t change a single thing about either of you and I thank God every day that I am lucky enough to have you as my kids. I love you Jayce and Jenna!