Dear Kai

Today’s post is written by my student, Katrina King. As a mother, I can relate to the love and pride she expresses for her daughter in this letter. I hope to write a letter like this to Maggie someday.

Dear Kai

Hey girl, so I got an assignment in my Comp class, and I think it is the best assignment yet, in my opinion of course. We were given an assignment to write a letter telling someone how thankful we are to have them in our life (on the topic of gratitude). I feel really comfortable writing this because I knew  before I finished reading the assignment that I would be writing about you.


Katrina’s daughter, Kai

I know that I am your mother, and we will always have that special bond that so few share and so many others could relate to, but not many know what we have gone through just this fall semester. You had a full course load with 14 hours, me working two jobs, taking my first online course and attending an in-class lecture so I can finally finish school. To say it has been tough is most definitely an understatement.

I appreciate how hard you worked to try to maintain a good GPA in a very unfamiliar territory. I know you have had your struggles; I couldn’t imagine some of the fears you may have faced, especially since you are a deaf child, leaving your mark in a hearing world, a world that does not always understand you. You are doing your best to have your voice heard. You have helped me with getting your brother back and forth to school–practice, tutoring, feeding him–the whole nine, while I work some crazy hours, and you have done it all with a smile and not too many complaints.

Your grace and beauty defines the way a young lady should act and carry herself. I am so proud of you. I am thankful the Lord saw fit to pair us up to do this life together. There will never be enough words to tell you how truly grateful I am to have you as my daughter, and I thank you for being a positive role model to not only your brother but to others who cross your path as well. I pray you continue to strive for greatness; your hard work will not go unnoticed at times when you think you just can not go any further or things start to get rougher than you had hoped. Just know that you have not come this far to turn back.

I love you to the moon and stars and back.



Day 17: Chère Madame Douglas

*Day 17 comes to us from my friend, role model, and mentor Samantha Hartley, Founder/President of Enlightened Marketing. I’m thankful for her letter today and even more for her willingness to spend time with me and to share her insights and experience. Samantha, the answer to the question you ask in your letter is a resounding, “Yes.”*

Chère Madame Douglas,

I’ve thought of you often over the years, but never so much as this year when I turned the age you were when you died. I wonder if I’ve had on anyone the impact you had on me. I wonder if I’d only been given this many years and not another day, if I could look back on my life as complete.

I believe that people come in and out of our lives, and each of them gives us a piece of the puzzle, or maybe they plant a seed. Sometimes they’re disguised as beggars or abusers or fools, so it isn’t obvious when they’ve blessed us. Certainly anyone who is a teacher is expected to give to their students.

Yes, you taught me literally, and taught me so much. But your impact came in the form of modeling a certain way of being: cultural immersion, passionate pursuit.

As a French teacher you moonlighted as a hostess at the French restaurant to perfect your language skills. You pursued your own career development (when?) and moved from the classroom to leadership in gifted programs. I was sorry that you left teaching but loved the dedication I saw in you. You even modeled the pursuit of unexpected hobbies, like belly dancing of all things.

Your intellectual diversity influenced me greatly. It’s amazing how much of my life can be traced back to seeds planted by you:

  • Gifted education and all the creative pursuits it opened up. I can’t imagine where I’d be had you not plucked me from the main stream and identified me as different.
  • French language and culture. Although my French is probably the worst of the languages I speak, I adore it. France has been a magical place to me and I trace my love of it all, including cuisine (which I actually studied formally in Paris) back to you.  Our visit with you to Restaurant Jacques et Suzanne created a little foodie-monster!
  • Metaphysics. No one in my life had ever talked about ideas, abstractions and philosophy as you did. It’s my whole life now, seeded by you.
  • Gandhi. You took us on a field trip to see the movie, which is my all-time favorite. Again, how is it that you are the one connected to something that changed my life? It’s uncanny.
  • Russia. Five years before I moved to Russia, a place of such transformation for me, you came to our classroom. I hadn’t seen you in ages and you were just back from Russia, full of wonder for the place and all its enchantment. Was that just to reinforce for me that I would go there?

What stands out to me about our relationship is that, as a teacher who nurtured and shaped my path more than any other, there are no gushing bursts of praise or affection. I always felt from you a kind of matter-of-fact endorsement of me as the best.  I wouldn’t be surprised if others felt that from you too.

You appeared in my life at pivotal moments with those seeds. Knowing this gives me such a strong sense of meaning and design, as if life isn’t random; as if there is a support system for me that swoops in just when I need it.

I saw you the last time just a year before your death. When I think of you there, acknowledging me with your quiet smile, I imagine you knew our exchange was completed. That you’d given all you had for me in this lifetime.

I believe we’ll meet again, Mrs. Douglas, and when we do, I’ll share my amazement at the complexity of your role in my life. You’ll laugh at how long it took me to realize how interwoven you were into the tiniest yet most significant details of my journey.

And I’ll thank you so much for launching me. I will thank you for blessing me with your warmth and confidence. And for whispering clues about what was to come.

Merci, Mme. Douglas. Thank you.

Merci et au revoir – until we meet again,


Mama DID

My mom had a rough go of it growing up. I won’t share details, because they are my mom’s to share, but trust me.

The four of us the year my parents divorced

The four of us the year my parents divorced

Despite the circumstances of her childhood, my mom chose to have four daughters, all of us about two years apart. When she found herself a single mom with four children under the age of 7, she didn’t give up or go nuts or give us away. She just kept going.

And she didn’t sit on her laurels, remaining content with never achieving any of her goals or not being able to provide for her family. She went back to college, earned her degree, and relocated our family to Arkansas after marrying my stepdad.

I’ve been writing a series of blog posts about my mom whenever the mood strikes me for a few years now. You can find them on my personal blog. The title of the series is “Mama Said.” Anyone who knows my mom knows that she has a number of infamous sayings and phrases she repeats–life slogans, if you will–regarding how to clean, how to talk, how to relate to others. How to live.

But it’s not what “Mama says” that causes me to admire her.

It’s what she does.

She perseveres through hardship. She continually grows as a child of God. She worships freely. She takes good care of her body, mind, and spirit. She forgives those who certainly do not deserve forgiveness. She goes out of her way to give to those in need. She excels in her career. She communes with nature and finds beauty in the small things.

My mom with my baby shower gift, October 2012

My mom with my baby shower gift, October 2012

I’ve noticed that in the past few years, childhood friends of mine have made comments about my mom that have surprised me.

“I still make the bunny prints out of construction paper because of your mom.”

“I started a chore chart because of your mom.”

“Your mom remembered that I would not have my own mom to tell me ‘happy Mother’s Day’ and sent a card this year.”

The young mothers who have made these comments remind me of my mom. They didn’t all have the greatest maternal role models in their homes, but they found inspiration in the way my mom cared for our family. And now, as a result, their children are receiving love, constant care, and creative discipline :).

And so is mine.

With my mom and Maggie, February 2013

With my mom and Margaret Jacqueline, February 2013

Not because of what she said to me growing up, but because of what she did, I have a huge repertoire of tricks, tools, and tips to fall back on as a mom. I don’t have doubts about how to assure my daughter that she’s beautiful, special, divinely created, and infinitely blessed. I don’t worry about my ability to make choices that will benefit her, put her well-being first, and help her grow. I have less anxiety about how to handle the ups and downs and growing pains of parenting.

I may have to Google images of rashes. I might read books on how to be a great parent and glean insights. I often talk to other young mothers facing similar issues when I need a second opinion.

But I know one thing for sure.

I know how to love.

Thank you, Mom.