Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Hey, Ulysses.

It’s me. Well, you actually, just older. Maybe a little wiser.

You’re 16 now, right? I want to lay a few things out that are about to going to happen to you. I’ll share with you a lot of what I went through and what I think about it now. I can’t spare you all the pain and sadness. I won’t lie. It was rough and pretty ugly. But, I do hope to save you from some of the avoidable things that made things worse.

Grab a diet coke. I know you like those.

You won’t find this out for another year, but Mom is sick. She has breast cancer. Believe me, I know how close you are. I know she’s your best friend. I know she’s the one who is the glue in the family. I know you get so much of your drive and passion and stubbornness from her.

She’ll be in and out of hospitals a lot. Chemo. Tests. Other stuff.

Mom and Dad won’t really tell you what is happening, so I’d encourage you to help them talk about it. Ask them to be honest. You’re mature enough to understand and, believe me, you’ll later appreciate the extra time you spend talking.

You’ll see Mom get more tired. More fragile. Be gentle with her and be helpful around the house. Don’t wait to be asked to do some of the little things. As it turns out, knowing how to iron and do you own laundry is actually useful. Shockingly, she won’t miss a minute of anything you do. She’ll bundle up for soccer games. She wouldn’t miss a concert for the world. You’ll do a saxophone solo your junior year that will move her to tears.

A little aside....It’s actually one hell of a performance you’ll give. You’ll turn other heads and will end up being invited to tour Europe with a band. You’ll play in London. Cut a record at Abbey Studio. Jam in the Tube. Through it all, you’ll actually learn how to play for real! Your senior year, you’ll earn best performance at the state music contest and the instructor will invite you to work with the guy from the college. You know the one. The best jazz saxophonist in Chicago. I ignored the invitation. I want to make sure you don’t. Music has always been important to you. I know how deeply it moves you. Don’t pass this up. Don’t be shy. Meet the guy. You never know.

Back to the story.

In your senior year, you’re going to be offered music and soccer scholarships. Unfortunately, the soccer opportunities are out of state. Mom is going to say something like this, “No matter what happens, I want you to go to school where you want. I want you to pursue your passion and be great.”. It is at this very moment that I’m sure you’ll realize, like I did, that something really bad is going on. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck finding out about this earlier than I did. But, this was the first time I knew Mom was really sick.

I stayed. I chose the local college. No, it wasn’t as good and I gave up both music and soccer so that I could be available for our younger brother and sister. But, I think this was the right decision. It has been rough at times, but I know they appreciated you being there.

You’re going to be called at work and told to get to the hospital as fast as you can. This is the last time you’ll see her. I know you’re hurt and I know you’re afraid to lose her, but be sweet. And not just to her but to Dad as well. Talk to your brother and sister and tell them it will be okay. I forgot to do that.

I won’t lie. The aftermath is horrible. Dad doesn’t have a clue about how to handle this and he’ll initially try to overcompensate.

Don’t beat him up over this one. But, talk to the guy. I know you’re no great conversationalist (neither is he, right?) and small talk is hard for you, but try to put yourself in his shoes. You lost your Mom but he lost his wife. He loved her too and since she was the glue in the family, he doesn’t know how or what to do.

Empathize. Ask if he’s okay. Take him to lunch.

I didn’t do any of this and I regret it. You'll find out that life is about connecting. And right now, you're really disconnected. Take the time and take the initiative to reconnect with him now.

Cause guess what?

He’s going to remarry next year.

And if you don’t step up to help rebuild the family too, you’re going to really, REALLY regret it. This may take maturity beyond your years and you may not see it coming. But, unless you take an active role in being part of the solution, your family will never, ever be the same. If you take anything away from this letter, let it be this. Take the time to heal.

As it turns out, she has three kids, too. Don’t get the wrong impression. She’s actually very nice and, generally, her kids are too. But, left to his own devices, Dad is going to rebuild his life as soon as possible. I think I understand why he did this. I still don’t agree with it. It wasn’t good for us, but it must have been something he had to do for him. I get that, I guess. And even though you’re just down the road, technically, you’re “away at school” and you’ll quickly find yourself left out. Of everything.

It took a long, long time for me to come to grips with all this. I think I could have avoided the worst of it had I only asked him to take more time to help us all heal. You’re going to be fine, one way or the other. You’re going to be a good husband and a good father. You’re going to be really good at what you do. I’d offer some hints like “my top 5 things to do”, but you know what? I’m only going to give you one...

“...the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.”

You’ll appreciate the irony of that quote some day.
Good luck,


Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Dear Sunshine,

It’s been a long time since you have gone by that name. You shed it in the 3rd grade almost like you were trying to re-invent yourself; even at such a young age. This letter is hard for me to write to you because I wish I could tell you that everything is okay. But it’s not. Not like life should be.

Let me just start by telling you the good. You are happily married- going on 10 years. You adore your husband and in return he “gets” you. He understands, sometimes better than you, how you feel. He makes you laugh, he holds your hand, and he gives you space. You have 3 beautiful girls. They are the light of your life even in the dark moments when you want to run away. You are a little over protective and you sometimes yell too much, but you try to keep things in check and give them the childhood you never really, truly had.

It’s been almost 30 years since both your stepbrother and stepfather sexually abused you. You have never really let yourself deal with the pain and devastation this caused you. While you were strong enough to wake your mother up in the middle of the night to tell her, you never let her get you the help you needed. You are so strong, but that is almost a detriment to you. Intellectually you can talk about what happened, but emotionally you just don’t go to that dark place.

Sweet Sunshine… it wasn’t your fault. You never did anything to encourage this and you couldn’t have stopped it.

I wish I could tell you that you didn’t fall into the stereotype for an abused girl. You become promiscuous and get pregnant at 17. You didn’t have the baby. You end up viewing sex as a form of power, not intimacy. You deal with depression pretty much all of you life. The kicker is, most people who know you now, would never use that word to describe you. You are VERY good at hiding your true feelings. Oxymoron is your favorite word. Because that is what you are. On the surface you are an open book. You can and do thrive in any situation. You can talk about any topic. Except what you REALLY feel. What you REALLY think about. You give the impression that you are totally laidback, but really you are a closet control freak.

Please don’t be sad by this letter. You survived. You have a wonderful life that brings you joy and happiness. You have friends and family who love you. I can’t promise that the deep sadness will go away. But what I can promise is that your 34-year-old self will do everything she can to make sure that your 50-year-old self can look back and smile. I want, so very bad, for her to be proud of us. You, for surviving this horrible thing. And me for finally understanding that I had no control.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mike in Dallas

Our first letter from a Y chromosome! Enjoy!

Mike –

It’s been a while since we talked…I wanted to see how you’re doing. Things are
fine here in late 2010. Amazing how we look up and it’s November. Sorry I missed your 16th birthday last month….like I said, the year is flying by.

How is soccer going ?....you mentioned the elite team offered you a roster spot.
They see your skills, your quiet leadership too as you lead by example.
I hope you take them up on their offer ( I didn’t when I was your age ). Seeing
ourselves as others do can be difficult ….but again, they see something great there. Let me know how it goes.

What’s the latest from my alma mater, Richardson High School ? Last time we spoke I believe you mentioned that Spanish was a tad difficult. Keep at it….when I was there the Spanish teacher offered after school tutoring to improve, it lasted just 30minutes a couple days a week…Take advantage of that if necessary ( I didn’t when I was your age).

I know when your mom remarried it was difficult for you. Sure, you want her to be happy and you’re thankful for all that he can provide. You mentioned feeling guilty, worrying about your dad in NY as you and your five siblings were sittin’ pretty ( I think those were your words)in Dallas while your dad was battling his demons. I continue to pray for his recovery. Make sure you do the same ( I didn’t when I was your age ). Prayer works Mike.

Trust me Mike, both your dad and now your stepdad are wise men, strong men. When we age, we learn. That’s not to say though that we don’t all make mistakes…we do. Some (i.e. me) make more than my share : )…but in the end, and this certainly sounds generic….”it’s all good”. I’m not sure where I heard this initially but the quote “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid” is strong. Yes, easier said than done obviously…..but say it out loud now. Say it again later today.say it tonight…say it Mike…believe it….do it. Hmmm, I just researched this a moment ago…some feel that German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe penned this. Others think that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Johann Wolfgang Canadian author and pastor Basil King coined the phrase. Doesn’t really matter I suppose.

Annnnyway, I’ve rambled long enough. You’ve always said you want to do things on your own,make your own mark, be your own man. That’s admirable, but remember there’s no shame in taking advantage of opportunities that come your way. Whether you’ve earned them or you’re in need of a hand, it doesn’t matter. God put us here for each other and of course him….using both is your greatest tool ( I didn’t when I was your age ).

Take care…we’ll talk later

- Mike

Friday, November 5, 2010

Elizabeth in SLC

dear older me,

i hope we get more tattoos, but no piercings.
i hope we really do go to mortuary school and we don't just talk about it.
i hope we stop loving the boys who don't call.
i hope we stop loving the boys who drink too much.
i hope we stop loving the boys who love our friends.
i hope we don't end up alone.
i hope we shop at j. crew more (but please don't throw away our thrift store sweaters).
i hope we always have a cat.
i hope one day we grow our hair out, even though i know we'll just cut it all off again.
i hope we always smile at old people.
i hope we never stop laughing at dad's jokes.
i hope we listen to 'slow ride' by foghat every time we get a new car.
i hope you can look back at where i am now and think 'that really wasn't so bad.'
and i hope that's true.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Katie in Denver

Dear Katie,

Remember last April when the girl you thought was one of your best friends in the world decided to go on a study abroad? That was the most awesome experience for her. She loved it and met lots of new people…people she should live with this year, instead of living with you.

Right now there are about 3 weeks left of the summer before your Senior year at BYU in Provo, UT. I know you keep calling her trying to figure out how the two of you are going to live together in Provo this upcoming year. I know it seems really weird that she is short and kind of distant…that she doesn’t return your calls. The reason is that she probably doesn’t want to live with you, but feels obligated to bunk up since she said she would.

But the two of you are much different people than you were a short 4 months ago.

You used to have so much in common, but this summer time passed, you both had very different experiences and you’ve both changed. And forcing the two of you to live together will be very unpleasant.

Instead of enjoying your last year together at college you’ll start to dread coming home. You’ll argue all the time and be genuinely confused why this person you still love doesn’t love you back. It’ll end up being the most hurtful experience of your time in Provo… more painful than any other personal relationship in your life.

You’ll spent the next 5 years replaying the events of that last semester in your mind…trying to determine what went wrong and how you could have avoided it. It’ll eat you up inside every single time you have a Sunday school lesson about forgiveness.

It’ll make you think you are incapable of being a good girl friend.

Call up your friend Brittany and she if she wants to live together. I mean, sure, she recently kind of dated your boyfriend while you were away for an internship for the summer, but that’ll blow over and the two of you could have had SUCH a great year together!

However, if you don’t decide to take my advice on this, that’s ok too. Because, even though the experience was really hard, you come out on the other end just fine. You marry a red hot smokin man who is so funny he makes you laugh until you fall out of chairs.


Oh, and you have great hair, so there’s always that.

Love, Katie