Motivation Monday

Motivation Monday

There’s a Chinese proverb that says:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.

The second best time is now.

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I often beat myself up for things I meant to do, want to do, forgot to do, etc., and I’m usually right: It would have been easier if I had done something differently in the past. But the fact is, I can’t change what happened then, but I can change what happens now.

Now I can plant seeds – whether they’re the seeds of work I want to see done in the future, seeds of fun, love and laughter with my daughters, seeds of health and wellness and all the other things I want to be cultivating in my life. I can plant those seeds every day.

This week I’m already feeling the change of season from my Florida “winter” to Spring. It’s the end of the month. The beginning of the season of lent. It’s a time of new beginning. A perfect time to put some water on the seeds of the things you want for your life.

Happy Monday and have a great week!

Projects

Something Swell on Saturday

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

Not every week lends itself to smiles; this one didn’t. But here’s what I think is good about my Something Swell series…it forces me to remember that even if a week seemed abysmal as a whole, there was good if I root around a bit. It’s similar to those gratitude journals that people keep, I think, in that it requires me to consciously name the grace I find in my life. So here are just a few things that made me smile this week:

Walking outside in unseasonably warm weather and talking on the phone with Maggie one day and Jillian the next (my dear friends of the 3:30 Project)

A FaceTime call with my sister Emily.

A walk in Central Park with my dear friend Val

A lovely catch-up on Monday with my roommate, Laura

A text message from my cousin

There’s a theme here if you haven’t noticed.  People. No matter what happens in the week, I seem to find myself surrounded by people I love that bring meaning to this enigma I call my life. I know something of who and why I am because of you. When I go searching around for something swell, I don’t reach far, because there you are. So thank you.

 

3:30 Thursday

Remember the Ladies

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three lifelong friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. In the United States, we celebrate President’s Day on the third Monday of February to honor the contribution our executive leaders have made to our country. Today we wanted to reflect on some of our First Ladies and the impact they have had on our country both in supporting their husbands and the impacts they’ve had on our country in their own right.


Maggie

Abigail Adams: First Lady 1797-1801

abigail_adamsAbigail Adams had me at “remember the ladies.”

If you’re not familiar with this quote, here’s where it comes from: when John Adams and the rest of the Continental Congress decided to declare the American colonies’ independence from Great Britain, Abigail wrote to her husband and said:

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

I have a real affinity for women who don’t “know their place.” Abigail Adams voiced political opinions, believed in equal rights for women and the abolition of slavery way before it was cool. I don’t know that I agree with her that “all men would be tyrants if they could,” but I do believe that when we all have a voice at the table, we get better results.

Throughout their marriage, John and Abigail Adams exchanged letters discussing politics and policy. Abigail kept John informed about news and public opinion when he was overseas, at the capital and throughout the Revolutionary War. She challenged his opinion and encouraged him, as she does in this letter, to live up to his highest ideals. John Adams’ political opponents targeted her for being “too involved” and being “too opinionated.”

I think we all know people (and sometimes are those people) who can’t keep their mouth shut or turn off our desire to advocate for the causes we believe in. And I also believe that we need extremists like Abigail Adams to push us forward as a nation.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Abigail believed this, too, and wanted our government to reflect this belief from day 1. I am still astounded by how revolutionary the idea of equality was and is. I have a hard time believing that it was self evident in 1776 that “all men are created equal.” America was a land where there was slavery, where only white men could own land, Native Americans were routinely kicked off their land, and women didn’t have a seat at the table in the Continental Congress. Equality hardly seems self-evident. And yet, we wrote it into our founding documents and Constitution anyway. We were and still are in the process of becoming America because equality is not always clear, easy or practical. Equality is a fragile and moving target. Even if we catch or touch equality for a moment, it wrinkles like your clothes, gets dirty like dishes and flies away like butterfly  –  we must constantly seek, maintain and protect it.

I also find it reassuring that although the speed and mediums of our conversations have changed – we have television, social media and blogs to amplify our voices in ways that the Abigail Adams would never have dreamed of – over 240 years later the substance of our debates and national drama remains remarkably consistent. What do we value? How do we include everyone at the table? What do freedom and equality look like? How can we make our country look more like the vision we have for it?


Mary Margaret

Abigail Powers Fillmore: First Lady 1850-1853

abigailfillmoreNo longer being in possession of my First Ladies’ Coloring Book, I approached this topic the way any self-respecting Millenial would: Google search “List of First Ladies.” And instantly I discovered my topic! The wife of our 13th President Millard Fillmore was Abigail Powers Fillmore! Powers! A kinsman! So now I present some scintillating tidbits on Abigail Fillmore…and I’m not just referencing the fact that she had siblings named Royal, Thankful, and Salmon!

Born to humble circumstances, daughter of a Baptist minister in New York State, she became a schoolteacher in public and private institutions. She taught until the birth of her first child, making her the first First lady to have salaried employment as a married woman! While her husband served in Congress, her love of learning seems to have found fulfillment in the cultural and intellectual pursuits of Washington, where she attended Congressional Sessions, concerts, lectures, galleries, theatres, and museums. Her contributions to the White House also point to her love of arts and books; much credit is given to her for expanding the White House library, and for her pianos and music room.

Developments of the era made her one of the first First Ladies to find herself positioned as a truly public figure, exceedingly uncommon for women in the mid-19th century. The death of 12th President Zachary Taylor in 1850 thrust her into First Ladyhood, and by 1853 you could purchase a full-length photograph postcard of her…

Bringing me to an unfortunate point about First Ladies and visibility. On one hand, they are uniquely positioned to influence public opinion and confront important issues. On the other hand, as often happens with women, visibility creates heightened emphasis on physical appearance. Indeed, her new position led Abigail to hire a maid for hairdressing and a seamstress. A woman who delighted in intellect, in advising her husband on politics, in hosting Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, and Washington Irving at her home— she also felt that common female pressure to “dress the part.”

I admit that the costume historian in me is nerdily thrilled to learn she was the first Presidential spouse to wear clothes made by a fabulous new invention-the sewing machine!! But the feminist in me realizes that this necessity to be a fashion plate echoes down through American history, plaguing women married to politicians, and now female politicians themselves. As much as I loved my First Ladies Coloring Book, which did contain historical “blurbs,” I recognize in it our tendency to reduce First Ladies down to one simple question: what did she wear?

Oh, Reductionist History. So often we distill people down to dress-styles, portraits, quotes, lists of accomplishments and embarrassments and forget the complexity of individual human experience. Abigail may be a name on a historical list, but reading even a tiny bit about her reminded me of the fullness of personhood. There was a woman behind the daguerreotype print. She had a past, a personality, a family.

Perhaps this President’s Day, let’s fight our tendency to reduce—both historical AND modern figures. Would it change the way we view news if we remembered that behind every President, every First Lady, every politician in an age of constant visibility, is an entire life?

Some of them even have siblings named after fish species!


Jillian

Edith Wilson: First Lady 1915-1921

800px-woodrow_and_edith_wilson2

In the seventh year of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, he suffered a debilitating stroke. But just how debilitating, we’ll never really know.

We know that his wife Edith dutifully cared for him as he remained confined to his bed for the last year and a half of his presidency. But was he able to speak or write or read? Mentally, was he able to contemplate complicated matters of state and make well-considered choices? We’ll never know, because for those last 18 months of his second term, no one saw or spoke to him except Edith.

Edith claimed that her husband’s doctor instructed her to guard his rest and his emotional wellbeing very carefully. She did that by having anyone who would meet with the president meet with her instead. She would then decide which matters were important enough for the President’s attention, and she would pass the information along to him personally, and privately. Later, she would emerge from the President’s room and relay his decisions to his staff. At least, that’s how she characterized whatever was happening behind those closed doors.

How this was allowed to happen is an interesting question. Partly it was due to the loyalty of the vice president, who refused to assume the role of Commander in Chief without the express written endorsement of both Woodrow and Edith. He stood by this position even as rumors poured from the White House that the president wasn’t governing at all – Edith was.

More interesting to me than the political aspects is this question: What in the world was Edith thinking? Why does an ordinary person just suddenly and unconstitutionally assume the full powers of the presidency of the United States?

Her background up to that point doesn’t suggest that she had a ruthless ambition for power. Did she fear the people’s prejudice against the disabled would ruin her husband’s lasting reputation if he were to give up the presidency? Did she not trust the vice president to carry on her husband’s campaign to establish the League of Nations, the project that was most dear to the President’s heart?

Or perhaps, did Wilson himself ask her to represent him? Is it possible that he was in his right mind, that he was making his own decisions, and that he just didn’t want to be seen in a severely disabled state?

Then again, did Edith just see an opportunity for power and seize it?

Whether it was in loving service to her husband or in selfish pursuit of her own gain, she put the two of them above the Constitution. That took guts… and a pretty ambivalent view towards just governance. We’re not likely to ever know what went on between Woodrow and Edith. But today, when historians call her “America’s first woman president,” they’re only half joking.

Motivation Monday

Motivation Monday

This weekend, I watched the movie Trolls for the first time. I’ll be honest, this was a movie based on a toy and 80s music, so my expectations were low.

But wow, I was impressed.

I not-so-secretly love children’s movies because in children’s movies we highlight our best ideals. We want our children to know that stories have happy endings, and we want them to learn to be loving, accepting, kind and (as we see in Trolls) happy.

(Spoiler alert)

This is a clip from one of the most beautiful moments in the movie, the Trolls have no reason to be hopeful and all the good that Princess Poppy (the pink troll) set out to do has turned around and gotten way worse instead. At this moment, her curmudgeonly companion, Branch, sings to her to encourage her to cling to her hope and happiness, even in the face of despair.

I think of myself as an incurable optimist, but sometimes, I do feel like I’m trapped in a pot with everyone I care for and am about to be eaten by the Bergens. I would like to think that even in that moment, there is still a reason to be hopeful, to cling to love and cherish happiness. Because, as the movie says, happiness is something you can give yourself not something you take from others.

 

Have a great week!

Projects

Something Swell on Saturday

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

Today happens to be my darling friend Val’s birthday, and she is amazingly swell! If you know Val, you know her to be an amazing tap dancer and enthusiast of all things tap! One time she shared this video with me, and it is also incredibly swell, especially for those of us who may not have much experience with tap. So in honor of Val, in honor of the exuberance of dance, I give you this:

Projects

Strangers in a Strange (and getting stranger) Land

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three lifelong friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. Given the recent events in our country, we felt it would be a fitting moment to reflect on immigration, refugees, and what it means to be an outsider. 


Jillian

America’s not-so-arguably best loved contemporary poet, Billy Collins, has a poem titled “To a Stranger Born in Some Distant Country Hundreds of Years from Now.” (You can find it in his books Sailing Alone Around the Room or Picnic, Lightning.) In it he describes a wet dog wandering around a crowded pub, looking for a friendly pat on the head, and he describes how each person she approaches pushes her away. Then he addresses that distant, unknowable stranger of the future to whom the poem is written, saying,

Whatever the shape of your house,
however you scoot from place to place,
no matter how strange and colorless the clothes you
may wear,
I bet nobody there likes a wet dog either.
I bet everybody in your pub,
even the children, pushes her away.

It is in our human nature to despise the pitiable. We do it now, we always have, and hundreds of years from now, strangers in distant countries will be doing it still.

But we don’t have to. And isn’t that what Jesus came to teach us? To show us our worst impulses and direct us toward our better angels instead? To teach us to be better than we might be? To inspire us to show grace and love to even the most despised among us. To show grace and love to the drug-addicted, the homeless, to prisoners, to “thugs” and “losers,” to the jobless, to the illiterate, to welfare moms, to kids who come to school in dirty clothes, to illegal immigrants, to people who don’t speak English. And to strange, dark-skinned foreigners in headscarves and beards, who practice a strange faith from a far desert that, to us, is shrouded in mystery and darkness. Foreigners who may even be dirty and destitute, carrying stories of graphic, bloody tragedies we don’t want to hear.

Nobody loves a wet dog. Even schoolchildren – over the course of the 2016 election – have begun spewing racist hatred at their own classmates. Children as young as kindergarten have been reported taunting their Latino classmates that they should “go back to Mexico.” Some of those Latino children may be illegal immigrants, some of them aren’t immigrants at all – but just looking like someone who might be an illegal immigrant is enough reason to be despised.

I bet everybody… even the children… pushes her away.

In just a few years, the kindergartener receiving that taunt could be my own beautiful, brilliant, bilingual, biracial, Latina, American niece.

I really hope we learn how to love a “wet dog” by then.


Maggie

In 2007, I spent 8 weeks in Siena, Italy. The trip was amazing. I learned how little Italian I knew. I learned that it’s great to learn how to ask for directions in a foreign language, but it’s more helpful to be able to understand the answer. I learned to appreciate really good food. I learned about art. I learned an awful lot about myself. I also learned how much I like America. But, the single experience that has stuck with me the most over the past 10 years wasn’t the gondola ride in Venice, it wasn’t visiting the leaning tower of Pisa, it wasn’t seeing the Palio, hiking the Cinque Terre, or the amazing cuisine – it was my flight home. I happened to be seated next to an Iranian-American woman who told me about her life, her faith, her family and gave me the gift of seeing the world through her eyes.

She practiced Baha’i and fled Iran during the cultural revolution. She went to Italy with her husband and expected that she would be able to return after a few months, but never was. She attended college in Italy and eventually moved to the United States to become an American. She called herself a “baby American” because she was the first American in her family. Her children had grown up bilingual and were able to speak Arabic, English and Italian. Her son was a doctor, and her daughter was a CPA.

I was amazed by her story. She had left her country with nothing, but went on to have an incredible life. I was also moved by her faith. She told me that she believed men and women should be treated equally because the human race is like a bird with two wings: one male and one female. If one is kept weaker, the bird cannot fly. She told me that our years on this Earth are like the 9 months we spend in the womb before birth – a time for conception and growth. A baby in the womb doesn’t understand what her hands or ears are for, but if she is born without them, then she will be handicapped in this life. A baby cannot control how their body develops, but in this life, we are responsible for developing honesty, friendship, generosity and kindness, so that we have them in the next. Those who fail to develop these qualities will suffer in the life that comes next, not because they are tormented by fire or demons, but because they didn’t prepare themselves.

I don’t know that I agree with her philosophy, but I admired the gratitude she had in her life and her ability to appreciate the blessings she’d received in hardship.

She also told me that the one thing she still missed about Iran was the fruit. Fruit that grows in the desert, she told me, is sweeter and more flavorful than any other because it must overcome hardship.

I think that this experience has stuck with me was because this woman was unlike anyone I’d ever met. Like the Iranian fruit, she had become sweeter and more flavorful through her struggles, and I will always be grateful that I was able to meet her.


Mary Margaret

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt… –Leviticus 19:34

Looking up this verse was an education in and of itself, because the various translations read like the semantic confusion of our modern 24-hour news cycle. Foreigner, stranger, immigrant…alien? In the wake of President Trump’s January 27 Executive Order on immigration and refugees, I’ve realized there’s a surprising amount of confusion about terms like refugee and immigrant, visas, and green-cards. We have gotten so used to tweeted rhetoric about “illegal immigrants” that some seem to have forgotten the vast international process through which non-citizens legally enter and exit our country.

To be truthful, I cannot think of any government action in my lifetime that has so instantly made me less proud to be an American citizen. It made me want to cry out to the rest of the world: this man does not speak for me!

In a rush to minimize the impact, people began saying: calm down, give the president a chance to work, the order didn’t actually hurt anyone. I’ve been fixated, though, not simply on the direct impact for the 7 listed countries, but rather wondering how many people dramatically felt their world had closed, become colder and less welcome in the wake of the order.

I keep thinking about my high school German teacher. She was a Muslim immigrant refugee. Pregnant with her eldest son when she fled war-torn Bosnia, she was given sanctuary in Germany. Fluent in Bosnian, Russian, English, and German, she obtained legal resident status in the US when she wasn’t able to renew her German visa, due to their strict immigration laws. Leaving a lucrative career as a professional translator, she became a public high school German teacher for awkward middle-class suburban teenagers.

Hearing kids complain about homework or difficult assignments, sometimes I perceived her underlying frustration- incomprehensibility at the laziness and lack of appreciation of our situation. In our privilege and material wealth, living safely without the threat of air-strikes and landmines, why did we not recognize and make more of ourselves in this abundance?

Regardless of her true opinions of the American teenager, she taught me an enormous amount in four years, giving me enough proficiency to achieve the highest score possible in my AP Exams. She taught me to learn language in new ways, inspiring a confidence that would later help encourage me to study and volunteer abroad. Beyond that, knowing her opened my eyes to what it meant to be a refugee, demonstrating starkly what the United States was able to offer both her and me. In a way, knowing her made me more appreciative and proud of my country— a greater sense of patriotism born of the awareness that my country was vast enough to embrace both her and a US-born person like myself.

There is common theme of associating refugees and immigrants with bringing crime, terrorism, and a drain to our social systems. I see the exact opposite in her; she brought knowledge, kindness, and invaluable contribution to our public education system. I think most people, upon reflection, actually know someone directly in their life like her- a stranger in a strange land-that impacted them. I would challenge us all to stop and think about that person. Then consider how they probably felt when they heard about a ban on immigrants and refugees.

And then consider whether anyone was hurt.


Projects

Triangle Tuesday

Maggie, Jillian, and Mary Margaret are fond of saying that anywhere we are, we form a triangle with one another. It’s just our way of saying we are connected- always. On Tuesdays we’ll present some of the triangles we encounter in our world! 

Happy Valentine’s Day friends! Today for Triangle Tuesday, on this day that we celebrate love, I wanted to invite you to participate in a quick bit of mindful visual meditation.

Sit somewhere quiet, and close your eyes. No wait, open them back up! Read through the end of the post. Then close them again.

Think of someone you love. Someone who fills you with warm, fuzzy, affectionate feelings. Someone who would do anything for- who you love deeply and unconditionally.  Now imagine a connecting line running from you to that person, a line representing the good things you hope for that person, and all the kindness you can give that individual.

Now think of someone else. Someone in your life that fills you with a sense of irritation, anger- even animosity. Someone who’s voice, presence, and actions drive you crazy or set your teeth on edge. Someone who is difficult to love.

Now slowly draw out the line of love you made between your dear loved one and this new person, forming a little mental love triangle (a new kind of love triangle!). You’ve now expanded and created an open space connecting all that kindness, caring, and hopeful intentions you feel with your beloved person to your challenging person.

The truth is, we don’t have to like someone to display love to them. So this Valentine’s Day I encourage us all to reside for a moment in a love triangle. Love the people in your life that give you life, that are easy to love. But also, let’s think about the people who are not so easy to love, but that we are called to love nonetheless.

 

 

Motivation Monday

Motivation Monday

During certain seasons and experiences in my life, I’ve gotten a real sense that there was a lesson that life was trying to share with me.  One of life’s lessons for this season in my life is:

There are downsides to just about everything.

I’m really prone to thinking, “If I only made had this new gadget/this much money/a new place to live/a different car/more time for this/someone to do that/etc., that would solve all my problems.”

And you know, I may be right. It’s possible that this “missing puzzle piece” would solve a lot of problems or issues in my life that are currently out of balance and causing me frustration. But, the reality is, any solution will bring along with it new problems of its own. A new job, relationship, puppy, house, car, planner, elected official – There is a fresh opportunity with these new things and people, but when the dust settles, you’ll either have new and different problems, or the problems you had before will resurface.

The reason I find this motivating is because if I recognize that there are downsides to everything, it helps me slow down and realize that maybe I just need to get into my problems rather than try to get out of them. Or if I decide to try a new approach, a new gadget or some other new thing, I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t solve all of my problems. To me this has been a liberating realization, and I hope it helps you, too!

 

Projects

Something Swell on Saturday

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. On Saturdays, Mary Margaret plans to post something from the week that made her smile.

This week I thought I would share something that I think is important to hear. The topic from this past weeks “This American Life” podcast does not make me smile, but the fact that people are doing motivated and conscientious exploration of these issue does. I appreciate the way this program is always trying to put a human face on what is happening in our country. Also just a teaser: this might have a little something to do with our 3:30 topic for next week… So if you get a chance, give this a listen!

http://audio.thisamericanlife.org/widget/widget.min.js

Projects

Let’s talk about Sex, baby…Let’s talk about you and me…

The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three lifelong friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. Jillian will soon embark on the (exciting) task of teaching sex-ed to middle school students at her church. Even though she has a curriculum to follow and has received training for the course, it’s a heavy task. With Valentine’s Day approaching, the 3:30 Project reflects on our own experiences of sex-ed and offer what we think we might hope to convey to the younger generation about sex, love, relationships, and the amazing changing human body.


Mary Margaret

“My body’s nobody’s body but mine. You run your own body, let me run mine…”

Did anyone else learn that little ditty of self-possession in elementary school?

I don’t exactly remember when, but at some point, the school system decided it was appropriate to acknowledge that children have bodies. Bodies that change. Bodies that can do things. Bodies that have things done to them.

These bodies must be addressed!

(And dressed appropriately as per the school handbook.)

Oh, sex-ed. So complicated, since people have such vastly diverse relationships with their own bodies. Philosophers have exhausted the limits of language attempting to describe the experience of inhabiting the physical form, the connection of mind and body, and the intersection of the soul with these two aspects. I suppose this a funny topic for me to tackle, because I tend to take my body and its mechanisms for granted, dwelling more in my brain. Pain, illness, change- often these are things that call attention to the flesh, which is why teenagers in puberty are so hyper-aware of bodies in general.

In the face of this physical change (and necessarily mental and emotional change, as well!) I suppose what I would say to the growing human teenager is this: There is no such thing as “normal.”

Just trust me, it’s not a thing.

When it comes to how you feel about your own self, or about changes you notice in yourself, or how you feel about other people, or how you feel about the concept of sex, or how you think you should feel about any of these things…there is an entire spectrum of human experience- ALL of it valid. We like to define categories and we like to know what to expect, but honestly there will be aspects of yourself that you will not see reflected back at you from the wider world. Let me emphasize that no matter what you seem to be experiencing, even if it is dramatically different from what they mention in health class, no matter if it doesn’t appear in the corny low-budget puberty movie they make you watch, no matter what anecdotes you hear from your Mom or Dad or sisters or brothers or friends, no matter what you witness in movies or TV —you may be quite different.

But that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you, or that you are weird or abnormal, or that you have any reason to feel ashamed. The song had it completely correct in that regard- your body is nobody’s body but yours. There is so much to learn about what that means to you, because having a body is a responsibility. You have decisions to make about what you do with that body, who to love with your body and how to love them.

But don’t expect your body or your experience in it to be “normal.” Because that’s not a thing.

You are you. Just as it should be.


Maggie

I got a lot of really terrible relationship advice from Disney movies growing up. Don’t get me wrong, if I hear a song from The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast, I am going to sing along. But…don’t get your relationship advice from them. In a Disney movie, a relationship develops very quickly and you know right away that Beauty and the Beast are destined to be together (I mean, it’s in the title). In real life, there’s a lot more trial, error and uncertainty.

My high school boyfriend turned out to be “the one.” I got engaged my freshman year of college. We had a long distance relationship for 3 years, and we finally got married. That may sound like a Disney plot, but it was a lot more complicated than that. We broke up once or twice; we had to learn to work out our differences; we had to decide how to balance our different desires and goals for our lives. We both had to give up things that we thought were important because we decided our relationship and being together were more important. And when we made those decisions, we didn’t know how it would work out.

I’ll be honest, it felt weird to be engaged at 19. Not because of the person I chose to be with, but because I knew that, for a lot of people, marrying their high school sweetheart would be a big mistake. It was hard for me to accept that what might be a huge mistake for one person, may turn out great for me. As you embark on this journey of young adulthood, I think that’s a really valuable lesson to keep in mind. When you’re making decisions about your body and your relationships, you need to make the decision that is the best for you. Not the decision that is right for your best friend, your boyfriend, your mom, your favorite celebrity or whoever else is in your life.

I also think it’s important that you know a little bit about heartbreak. I mentioned that before we got engaged, we broke up. And it broke my heart. A broken heart hurts. It hurts when you really love someone and maybe you were stupid and bad at relationships, or maybe they were stupid and bad at relationships, or maybe your circumstances brought out some problems that you had to work out before you’re going to be able to be in a relationship with anyone, but for whatever reason you feel vulnerable and broken.

What I learned during that time was that the one person who I was definitely going to be spending the rest of my life with was me. For that relationship to work out, I needed to be someone I liked and, ultimately, loved. Self-love sounds selfish, but it’s important to know what you like about yourself, to do things that feed your soul, to be a person who makes you happy. And what’s really beautiful about that is that when you have given love to yourself, there’s more for the people in your life that you love. I know that sounds like a Disney movie, but in this case, it’s true.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Further Reading:

The program Jillian’s church uses was developed by the Unitarian Universalist Church and is called Our Whole Lives.

Description from OWL website: Honest, accurate information about sexuality changes lives. It dismantles stereotypes and assumptions, builds self-acceptance and self-esteem, fosters healthy relationships, improves decision making, and has the potential to save lives. For these reasons and more, we are proud to offer Our Whole Lives (OWL), a comprehensive, lifespan sexuality education curricula for use in both secular settings and faith communities.

Another useful resource for Parents who want to have accurate conversations with their kids is Amaze Parents. It provides factual and entertaining videos about puberty, relationships, safety, reproduction and more.