love

An Ode to Tuna Noodles

Dear Tuna Noodles,

Thank you, for being you. Thank you for your egg noodles. Thank you for your tuna. Thank you for your cream of mushroom soup. But most of all, thank you for your 100% not organic or diet friendly or doctor recommended Velveeta cheese.

Thank you for all of the evenings that you cooked in the oven at my grandparents’ house, in my childhood homes, and in friends’ kitchens. Thank you for your heaping portions on the plastic plates that my cousins and I decorated and my grandparents kept on a shelf just for us; and for those on the spring pallet glass plates that my parents still have in their cupboard to this day; and even for those in deep set bowls that somehow still managed to encourage a second and third helping.

Thank you for being easy to make, for giving me something I could cook with my grandma and my mom, and by myself when I studied abroad and wanted a taste of home. Thank you for the memories you unlock with every bite—be it a weeknight conversation at my grandparent’s long, padded dinner table, a lazy Friday night sat on my parents’ kitchen stool with the broken leg, or a living room crowded with family, pets, and TV trays set up in front of a Dodger game.

Thank you for teaching me what comfort food is, and for giving me a recipe to share at every bridal shower I will ever attend. Thank you for giving me something to fall back on and to build up from. I’ve come a long way in my cooking, and I can only hope I have a long way to go, but you will always be my first love. So thank you for all the love. And again, for the Velveeta.

A Little Prayer for You (And Me)

Praying has never been my strong suit.

Ever since I was little I have been taught the value, importance, and power in praying, but I have never been a “good” (eloquent, confident, etc.) prayer, especially out loud or in front of other people.

But lately I have been feeling like I want to pray, for those who have faith, for those who don’t, for those who have a different faith or any degree of spirituality, anyone and everyone who might be reading this, or even those who aren’t.

Ironically, after starting this post about a week ago and then getting too nervous to post it, the pastor of my church gave a sermon all about praying. I was caught off guard listening to him, noting how some points he made seemed to directly address the fears I was having, but I was also encouraged to take a step out of my comfort zone, which brings me here today. So, if you, or anyone you know might need prayer, this is for you, and for me, and for all of us trying to find our way through this trying time.

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Dear God,

I know these last few months have been difficult for most of us, some of us more than others. And I know that I am among so many when I say that I am not just scared of what is happening now, but what could happen, tomorrow or the next day or the next—all the days ahead of us that seem so scary and unknown. There is still so much we have to learn, so far we have to go until we can regain a sense of normalcy, and the imposed limitations have begun to feel suffocating. And so, I pray that we can find a sense of peace. A calmness that doesn’t blind us or numb us to the challenges ahead, but keeps us encouraged to work through them and help one another along the way.

I pray for a peace that abides on the frontlines, bringing confidence and endurance to our nurses, doctors, and frontline workers, helping them find strength and encouragement in their work.

I pray for a peace that reaches those struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction, or any number of mental health struggles that may be exacerbated by this pandemic and its side effects.

I pray for a peace that can overshadow the panic and fears associated with losing a job or being unable to do one’s job efficiently, and can provide courage to those who need to ask for help.

I pray for a peace that can heal the hearts of those who have lost a loved one or who don’t get to see their loved ones for fear of putting them at risk.

I pray for a peace that can keep us united, even as we step further into the unknown. And I pray that we can find compassion and strength alongside each other rather than at odds with one another.

I pray for a peace that can illuminate good moments of mundane days. Whether it be a phone call, a successful pastry bake in the kitchen, a sunset, a smile, or a cool breeze.

I pray for a peace that can give us each a long, deep breath, and encourage us to keep going, along with a confidence that there is not only goodness to be found up ahead, but even right here, where we are.

Amen.

30 Good Things that Happened in April

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in

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1) Author James Patterson set up a fund to help Indie bookstores.

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2) This house had fun:

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3) This woman accidentally turned herself into a potato during a zoom call.

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4) This man survived the coronavirus and then celebrated his 104th birthday.

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5) This dad brought a birthday tradition home.

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6) The Getty asked people to recreate paintings with household items and they delivered.

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7) This Australian family simulated the 15 hour flight they would have taken for their planned vacation.

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8) This grandson organized a parade for his grandpa’s 100th birthday.

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9) After supplying over 20 million facemasks, Apple went to work on producing and delivering facemasks.

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10) This dad built a ramp to help ducklings out of his pool.

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11) This man made his last run of ski season from inside his home.

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12) Matthew McConaughey hosted a virtual bingo night for a senior citizen home.

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13) This:

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5 nuggets costs 1 smile.

A post shared by Good News (@tanksgoodnews) on

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14) This man played the trumpet for a woman on her 104th birthday.

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15) This man made art with food.

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16) People in Australia started dressing up in crazy outfits to take their trash barrels out.

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17) This bar owner took over $3000 worth off bills of the wall to pay her unemployed staff.

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18) This man went to get a coffee:

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19) This 99 year old veteran raised $9 million dollars for UK’s National Health Service by walking.

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20) This life hack was revealed:

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21) This delivery driver sanitized a package for an at risk girl.

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22) Coffee chain, Dutch Bros donated 100% of their April profits to first responders.

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23) Ashton Kutcher & Mila Kunis released a quarantine wine and 100% of the profits will be donated.

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24) This dog played volleyball:

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25) This 10 year old donated 200 gift cards to his local police officers.

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26) This boy 3D printed ear guards for medical masks.

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27) This boy said, “Good morning!”

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28) This couple got married in the middle of their street.

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29) This girl was sad about missing her prom, so her dad asked for a dance.

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30) And finally, if you haven’t already, please check out John Krasinki’s Some Good News.

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Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what May brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

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Meet Jimmy June, My Tin Can Robot

When I was 10 years old, my family and I drove to Arkansas to visit my great aunt. About ten years later, my mom, sister and I flew out to visit again, and then when my cousin and her husband moved out there, we tried to make our visits more regular.

Four or five years ago, my great aunt was moved into an assisted living facility where she would live for the remainder of her life, and so when we went to visit, we could no longer stay at her house. As a result, we often stayed with Jim and June, close friends of both my great aunt and my late grandparents—who we called Grammie and Papa.

When my great aunt got sick and eventually reached a point where she didn’t recognize us, and would often sleep through most of our visits, Jim and June (and my cousins! 😊) were the reason that our trips were still full of light and laughter. They are the reason why, when people ask about my favorite places in the world, I immediately think of their living room, curled up in one of their chairs, watching the sun set off the front porch. I think of simple drives to the store, or sitting down at one of their favorite restaurants, always giggling and talking and feeling happy and relaxed for what always seemed like the first time in a long time.

On one trip, while walking into a restaurant just before the sun started to set, I saw this tin can robot hanging on a hook and I immediately fell in love with it.

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“Do you think I could make this?” I asked my sister as I snapped a picture of it.

She and my mom agreed that I could try, and we decided to start saving cans as soon as we got home.

In the first or second week of this quarantine, I found that stack of cans, patiently waiting to be upcycled.  It was almost 11:00 p.m. but I couldn’t help it, I sat down, spread them out, and got to work. While the state of the world would prevent us from traveling anywhere anyway, we had recently found out that Jim and June moved to Texas to be closer to their family. It was the right move, a move that we supported and encouraged in our last few visits, but it made me sad to think that I would no longer find myself in that Arkansas house, walking around their property on a humid summer afternoon to go see the neighbor’s horses, or continually trying to photograph the house in a way that would show people the way it made me feel. And so, I decided it was about time I made my robot—to re-find that feeling.

While the original is screwed together with nuts and bolts, I worked with what I had (and avoided any trips to the hospital due to possible clumsiness with the drill) and I hot-glued him together. I also found some washers I could use for eyes, and an extra allen wrench to give him a smile.

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Call me crazy, but I have now fallen in love with two tin can robots in my life.

One is probably still hanging outside that restaurant we visited on almost every trip, where the five of us always ordered the same thing and talked about what we were going to have for dessert before we even finished our meal. And one is now sitting, smiling, in my house, reminding me about every time we pulled into that driveway, primed to hear stories about the neighborhood cats, and every time we pulled out of that driveway, praying there would be a next time.

I still hope there will be. Maybe this time in Texas.

Until then, I have this robot, who I named “Jimmy June” to remind me of who I consider to be my third set of grandparents, and of all the times we spent sitting on the couch, watching the sky go purple in a thunderstorm, and drinking margaritas until all hours of the night, giggling and plotting what mischief we could get into the next day.

31 Good Things that Happened in March

Well, hello there.

It seems things are a bit different since the last time I made one of these posts.

But that hasn’t stopped the world from showing unmatched kindness, compassion and love to those who need it most. This was actually one of the easiest “good things” posts to put together, which makes me so proud. Let’s keep that good coming, y’all. heavy-black-heart_2764

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1) Adam Driver, who plays Kylo Ren in the Star Wars films, helped save the day for Ben Affleck on his son’s birthday.

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2) The people of New York applauded first responders and health care professionals.

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3) This little girl with alopecia was thrilled to meet a bald model.

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4) This boy dressed up as his school security guard for “Dress As Your Favorite Person Day”.

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5) A malfunction at this Italian winery caused wine to leak through the towns pipes and faucets.

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6) This man brought the internet a taste of sports:

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7) As did this man:

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8) Hallmark gave away 1 million cards to help connect loved ones separated by the Coronavirus.

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9) This boy, who was bullied for his love of reading, started a book review account and got over 100,000 followers.

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10) This girl got an R2-D2 prosthetic arm and was called a hero by Luke Skywalker himself

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11) This girl’s family found a way to spend time with her even though she was in quarantine.

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12) This New York pizza company put pictures of dogs on their pizza boxes to help them get adopted.

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13) This woman launched a makeup line that is specifically designed to help those with Parkinson’s apply makeup more easily.

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14) The people of Italy sang together during quarantine.

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15) These YouTubers gave away toilet paper for free.

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16) Netflix launched “Netflix Party”, a way to stream the service with friends online.

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17) This woman found beans

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18) Meals meant for a cancelled Ohio Sports Festival were donated to tornado victims and first responders in Nashville.

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19) Animals devastated by the Australian bushfires found a new home.

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20) This girl caught a fish.

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21) This customer left an extremely generous tip to help restaurant staff during the Coronavirus shutdown .

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22) This car dealership offered a safe place for people living in their cars to sleep.

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23) Chick-fil-a began selling their sauces in stores to raise money for their employee scholarship program.

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24) Distilleries made hand sanitizer from their in-house alcohol and gave it out for free.

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25) This man donated COVID-19 test kits to 54 countries in Africa.

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26) These two friends snuggled.

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27) This woman in North Carolina—who is now working from home—started shopping for her elderly neighbors during her lunch break.

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28) This school district in Cleveland provided two free meals every day for anyone under the age of 18.

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29) This:

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30) This Italian hospital started 3D-printing respirator valves for free

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31) And John Krasinski started a news network dedicated to good news

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Wanna know the best part? There is seriously SO much I didn’t include.

Check out Good News Network and Tank’s Good News for more good stuff, and also check out Good Good Good, which not only sends email newsletters, but also “Good Newspapers” which I just opted into start receiving in the mail.

There are lots of good things happening y’all. Let’s do our part to keep them coming.

You can view the last edition of this series here.

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For Laycee

This past weekend my family lost our dog, Laycee, who was a vibrant, beautiful member of our family for nine years. It was a hard day, one that we’d dreaded, but ultimately knew had to come, and we are happy to know that she lived a good life, full of love, both given and received.

When thinking about how I could honor Laycee, and the love that we all receive from pets that come into our lives at just the right time, I knew I had to turn to my sister Natalee. She had such a special relationship with Laycee, that my mom often interchanged their names in conversation. They were destined for each other, and just as any love story changes the world, so too did theirs. And so, as a final goodbye to our pretty girl, I wanted Natalee to tell their story.

This is what she wrote:

 

To My Perfect Angel,

It was a chilly day in early December of 2010. My whole family piled in to the car and set out on what ended up being a long, confusing drive. I don’t even remember the story my parents told us about where we were going, but I do remember feeling slightly concerned that the deserted, off the beaten path location we eventually found ourselves in might be the place of the Koehn family’s demise. I later found out Kim and our brother Troy were feeling the same way. Much to our delight, however, we soon learned that our parents had pulled a fast one on us! We hadn’t driven out there to meet our doom, we had driven out there to get our first family dog!

Soon we were flooded with the exciting and overwhelming scene of dogs barking, tails wagging and eyes begging to be chosen. I remember being in total disbelief. I had wanted and asked for a dog for SO long. I couldn’t believe we were actually getting one! We immediately dispersed and started looking for the one we would take home with us. Troy liked a black lab with giant paws and an even bigger personality. Kim loved all of them. I had no idea how I would ever walk out of there with just one.

 Until you walked over to me.

 With your head slumped down and your whole body shaking, you walked up to me, you let me pet you, and you stole my heart. My whole family saw the instant connection, and not 10 minutes later we were walking back to the car with you in my arms.

I know it sounds cliché, but that day changed my life. It was the beginning of winter break in my senior year of high school, and those days were truly some of my worst. I was in a dark place, and the punches were only just starting to be thrown my way. But you made all the difference. No matter what happened during the day, I had a loyal, loving, anxious little angel waiting for me at home, never questioning my character or making me feel like I wasn’t worth anything. I had a companion. Trust wasn’t an easy thing for either of us, but I had yours, and you had mine.

As it turns out, my parents knew what they were doing all those years they said no to letting me have a dog. They knew the right time, and the right pup, would come along. And for me, that was and will always be you. See you soon my precious angel. I’ll love you forever.

From One to Ninety (And Beyond)

It was 12:30 p.m. and I was sitting at a table, breaking a cookie into a bite-sized pieces as I sang happy birthday to the man of the hour. With big eyes, he looked out at all of us, not sure what to think or what to do. His mom held a candle in her hand, the small flame flickering in the afternoon breeze, and she and his dad stood in front of him, encouraging him with puffed cheeks to blow. Instead he reached for the candle, noticing when we laughed, and again when his mom blew out the candle for him and we clapped. Then his eyes shifted to the cake before him and he dug in.

At 4:30 p.m. I was sitting on a couch, spooning my way through a hot fudge sundae as I talked baseball with the man of the hour. He donned a Dodger hat, and the rest of us wore jerseys, shirts, and hats to match as we all watched our favorite team play their final game of the regular season. A cool breeze snuck in the back door, making it easy for us to sit close to one another as we whispered stories or shared them with the whole room, the light and easy conversation the kind that Sunday dreams are made of. Then, with timers set and everyone in their place, we took a group picture to commemorate the day.

It was a one-year-old birthday party and a 90-year-old birthday party, back to back. My sister and I attended both, with a minor costume change in between.

As we celebrated Berkley, we watched as he pointed at balloons and curiously poked his bare feet into the grass in the backyard. We told him all the reasons there were to celebrate and looked into his beautiful eyes, excited for all that they were destined to see.

As we celebrated our grandpa, we barbequed Dodger dogs and passed around Cracker Jacks, recreating one home inside another. We glanced from cousin to aunt to sister to parent, thankful for all that my grandma and grandpa have built, and hopeful that it will only continue to grow. We hugged my grandpa, knowing 90 is not nearly as easy as one or 20 or 40 or even 89, and we looked into his beautiful eyes knowing that they’d seen so much.

I myself have had 29 birthday parties. Some have been small, some have been slightly bigger than small. Some years I feel pressure to do something special, something exciting, while other years I’m perfectly content doing absolutely nothing. All that I hope for, all that we can ever hope for, is exactly what I found at both of these birthday parties: love.

For birthdays mark both an end and a beginning, and we want that transition to be shared with people, in places, surrounded by all that we love. Over time, those people, places and things may change, but if we’re lucky, we’ll always have that love. From the time we’re only one year old and we aren’t even sure what love is, to when we’re 90 years old and we know that love is all there is.

So, to you on your birthday (whenever that may be) I wish you love. For your first birthday, Berkley, I offer you love. And for your 90th birthday, grandpa, I thank you for love. For you’ve given it to me, to all of us, and each and every year, we watch it grow.

Just a Reminder that You Matter

Over the weekend, Disney Channel actor Cameron Boyce died. He was only 20 years old.

While I wasn’t familiar with all of Cameron’s work, I had seen him in Grown Ups and The Descendants series and knew he was a talented guy. When I heard of his passing, my heart went out to his family, unable to comprehend a tragedy of this magnitude. I also thought of his friends and fans and costars and I read through countless tributes and emotional farewells. Then, yesterday, I saw this video posted by his Descendants costar Dove Cameron.

Watching the video, your heart can’t help but ache. Losing someone is impossibly hard, especially someone you love. But as I listened to her describe Cameron and all of the wonderful things that made him him, and all of the reasons why the world was better because he was in it, I couldn’t help but wonder if he knew.

We spend so much time in our lives trying to better ourselves and succeed and move forward and win and improve. We focus on our flaws and our weaknesses while other people marvel at our strengths.

Dove Cameron mentions how kind Cameron was and how that kindness helped not only her, but everyone he showed it to. She talks about how much darkness he saw her through and how much light he brought into the world. More than anything, it seemed, she just wanted to express how much he mattered.

He mattered.

I hope he knew that.

And I hope you know that you matter.

You matter.

The world is a better place because you are in it. And the world would be worse without you. You are making a difference in people’s lives. You are changing people’s lives, just by being you.

You are exactly what someone needs today. You are the reason someone has that memory to smile at. You are the reason someone has the courage to do something they never thought they could.

You matter.

So be kind, love each other, and allow yourself to be loved in return. Shine your light and let the world marvel.

Just a Little Valentine’s Day Reminder

Today is just a day.

And no matter if you love it, hate it, celebrate it, skip it, or just now remembered it’s anything more than a Thursday, I hope you know that you are loved.

You are loved.

You are important.

You are worth appreciating.

So no matter how you spend today, tomorrow, and every day after, if it makes you feel like the diamond crusted, chocolate covered, rose petaled, champagne fountained person you deserve to be, you’re doing it right.

Dear Baby,

I know we just met, but I thought I’d go ahead and tell you that I love you.

It’s funny, love isn’t always an easy thing. Sometimes it’s messy and hard and confusing, but when it comes to you it’s as simple as can be. I thought it would only be this easy when I became a mother. I thought it would take me all those years and then nine more months to finally have that moment when I can love something, someone so instantly, and yet there I was yesterday, holding someone else’s baby, holding you, and I felt it.

I can probably blame your mom for that. I’ve known her a long time. We all have. And by the time you can read this, I hope you’ll know good and well who we are.

We’re a group that’s been through a lot together. Some good times, some bad, but mostly good. We love each other, and now we love you.

I tell you this to let you know now, and to remind you every day here after, that you’re not alone. You have so many people behind you, rooting for you, and admiring you.

We’re a unique tribe. We laugh hard, mostly at our own jokes, and then at the jokes we make off of each other’s jokes and so on and so on. We come in all shapes and sizes, with our own trail of fails and successes behind us. We all try our hardest and we have all been the one needing a shoulder to lean on. But that’s what makes us great. We care. We listen. We love. And just by being here, baby, you’re one of us.

We’re here for you. We are here for you and your mom and your aunt, and everyone else that makes up this big circle of ours that we call a family.

So dive in, baby. Dive into this thing we call life.

We’re so happy to have you in our world, and we can’t wait to see you build yours.

 

 

 

 

 

Also, about the jokes…

At least give us a courtesy laugh.

It would mean a lot.