50 Thank-Yous For Mom On Her 50th Birthday

Whether she is taking care of my sibling and me, working hard to provide for our family, or making sure to help anyone and everyone we love, my mom is on top of her game 100% of the time.

You’ve always been there for me, and I am so grateful for that.

This article was originally published with The Odyssey on July 4, 2017.

My mom is the greatest mom there has ever been, and no, I’m not biased. (Well, maybe a little). Whether she is taking care of my sibling and me, working hard to provide for our family, or making sure to help anyone and everyone we love, my mom is on top of her game 100% of the time. Even when she’s not on her game, my family makes up for it because we’re a team. Mom, you’ve done so much for me, and I cannot thank you enough. I’m going to try though. Happy birthday! Thank you for:

1. Believing in me.

Even when I feel that I’m at my worst, you’re always there to not only encourage me but help me to see me at my best.

2. Encouraging me to pursue my dreams.

3. Letting me vent to you.

Even if I feel as if I am a burden to everyone I know, I know I’ll never be a burden to you.

4. Taking me to concerts.

5. Allowing my friends to seek comfort at our house.

Our house has always been that house where our friends can come to escape. Thank you for creating such a friendly and thoughtful environment.

6. Comforting me when I’m down.

7. Helping me pay for college.

Seriously – I am so grateful that you and dad are helping me as much as you are.

8. Having movie marathons with me.

9. Taking care of me when I’m sick.

(Especially in the past few months – no idea what I would have done without you).

10. Teaching me right from wrong.

11. Listening to my music in the car even if you don’t like it.

12. Singing with me.

13. Instilling morals within me.

I am very happy to credit you with the fact that I know right from wrong.

14. Baking and cooking with me.

15. Dancing with me.

Whether it be at the dinner theater, concerts, parties or our living room – I am thankful for all the smooth moves you have taught me all these years.

16. Always looking out for my best interests.

17. Telling dad not to wake me up when I nap.

Seriously – this one is a godsend.

18. Teaching me how to be honest.

19. Listening to me talk about my day.

Especially my crazy work stories!

20. Holding my hand when I’m scared.

21. Warning me about shady friends.

Your mom always knows best when it comes to shady friends – my mom always has my back – it’s amazing.

22. Confiding in me.

23. Collecting seashells with me on the beach.

We always have the best time on the beach!

24. Skyping me at college

25. Letting me make my own decisions.

It’s important to me that you allow me to be independent without forcing me to announce my full independence. Like, I want to decide what to study in college but I also want to live in your house and have you drive me places.

26. Making me food.

27. Teaching me the importance of earning money.

I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without my sense of frugality and earning money. Thank you for this.

28. Calling me out when I’m wrong.

29. Treating me to a meal out.

I always ask if you want money or if you want me to tip and you always refuse me.

30. Calming me down when I’m panicking.

31. Understanding my mental illness.

Thank you for never asking me “why” I have anxiety or “how” I can fix it.

32. Sending me care packages at college.

33. Pushing me to work harder, but not over-pressuring me.

I appreciate the incentive to work in order to gain success. I also appreciate that if I fall short of my goal, I’m not punished, but encouraged to try again. (Yes that is us with Howard Jones!)

34. Continuing to teach me every single day.

35. Teaching me to believe in myself.

Without you and Dad working hard to reassure me that my best is what’s expected, I would have never had the gall to believe in my abilities.

36. Helping me with important paperwork.

37. Tucking me in at night.

There’s just something about being tucked in that makes the sleep 10 times better.

38. Knowing I’m not okay even when I say I am.

39. Waking me up for work.

Yes, I’m capable of setting an alarm, but there’s something about waking up to a soothing voice that makes everything ten times better.

40. Driving me places.

41. Massaging my shoulders when I’m tense.

You seriously have no idea how tense I can be.

42. Bringing me on bus trips.

43. Cleaning up after me even when you don’t have to.

You are always looking out for me and my cleanliness. Even when it’s not the most important to me, you’re always willing to help me tidy up.

44. Teaching me the importance of teamwork in a family.

45. Looking at the stars with me.

Some of my most blissful memories lie on the back patio with you looking up at the stars.

46. Helping me to treat my friends and family to gifts and meals.

47. Never giving up on me.

I will always do the same for you.

48. Helping me clean.

49. Being a mom to my friends, too.

I will be forever grateful for all that you do for me.

50. Being the best mom I could ever hope for.

Never Take A Single Day For Granted

Don’t ever take a day, a minute, a single breath for granted.

Life is precious.

This article was originally published with The Odyssey on June 6, 2017. 

I am reminded every single day that life is a gift and we should never take advantage of our time here in this world. Despite the days when I feel alone, depressed or anxious beyond belief, I know that I am lucky to be here and privileged to have all the opportunities I do. I just turned 20 a month ago and I’ve been feeling incredibly reflective since. I’ve become increasingly aware that life is precious and none of us should waste a single moment.

In the past two months, I’ve seen many unfortunate things happen; both to myself and to others around me. After a traumatic visit to the ER and a terrible car crash that happened directly in front of my house, I’ve learned to count my blessings and be more present in my everyday life. Though thankfully, nothing tragic happened to me or my family, those two events, among many others, could have easily become headaches for myself and my family, headaches that would be financial burdens for months to come.

I’m not someone who believes in any certain god. I believe that there is a God, but I’m not sure who I believe they are lines up with any specific religion. I place my faith in the Universe and also in crystals. I believe in a sort of spiritual healing that isn’t quite as spiritual as institutional religion tends to be.

Regardless, I’m thankful for guardian angels, gods, the universe or whoever is constantly keeping an eye out for myself and my family. We thankfully escape and continue to escape the absolute worst scenario of every situation and circumstance we are involved in.

Life is absolutely and undoubtedly fragile. Any one of us could be here one day and gone the next; it is no secret that time is fleeting. Before a couple of months ago, it seemed kind of silly to be present in my own life.

I’ve always thought I was as present as I needed to be, you know? As a college student, it’s really easy to get caught up in the outlook of your future. You study for four years in high school to determine your post-high school future, and then if you choose, you study at least two more years in order to shape your future post-college. Being present seems like a nonsensical idea when you’re stuck in the crazy world of college curriculum and perhaps a few jobs, ones that help to ensure that you have a future in college.

I was so busy thinking about my future that I never took the time to care for myself in the present. My trip to the emergency room was likely a wakeup call and I am entirely too thankful for not only that but every other wake-up call coming my way. They’re essential when I’m attempting to focus on remaining grounded, in the present, in my life.

Our lives are fragile. Don’t ever take a day, a minute, a single breath for granted. Don’t take advantage of today and don’t take advantage of tomorrow. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from 20 years in this world, it’s that life is precious. Nothing is forever. Be thankful and blessed for every moment you have.

Replacing Apologies With Gratitude

Often, people don’t know how to tell you things aren’t your fault. They don’t understand where the toxic roots come from, and they don’t understand how to comfort you when you feel the way that you do.

“Thank You” is the new “I’m Sorry.”

This article was originally published for The Odyssey on April 4, 2017.

When I was younger, I was a sounding board for many of my friends who felt they didn’t have anyone else to talk to. I heard stories of depression, anxiety, suicide and anything else you can imagine teenagers between the ages of fourteen and sixteen have to say. It was a really demanding and heavy job; I often felt that I had no where to release my own feelings and began to absorb others’ on top of my own. Soon, I found myself in a toxic environment where I was doing everything wrong and so I began apologizing for everything, even when there was nothing to apologize for.

Being in a toxic environment is like suffocating; being surrounded by several toxic people at once is like drowning. It’s heavy, it’s debilitating and you always feel guilty and shameful. Toxic relationships have a way of bringing you down, as if you were shackled to a wall inside a tornado. Manipulative people take your fears and insecurities and their own insecurities and demons, and your life becomes a whirlwind of darkness. You feel as if everything is your fault, because they make it seem like you’re to blame. You’re not, and sometimes you know you’re not, and that’s what makes everything harder.

Leaving a toxic relationship of any kind is stressful and scary; you’re never quite sure if you’ll make it out alive. The first few steps of freedom are light and airy, and you wish you had done it earlier, if only you had known you were being manipulated. The bad times don’t stop there though. After leaving a relationship like that, sometimes you take those habits with you long after the fact.

Always feeling as though things are your fault is a common habit that follows you and weaves its way into your other relationships. The roots a toxic person digs into you are so deep, even when you thought you had severed the last of them, there are still seeds hiding underneath your memories.

Often, people don’t know how to tell you things aren’t your fault. They don’t understand where the toxic roots come from, and they don’t understand how to comfort you when you feel the way that you do. They often say something like, “Oh my god! Stop apologizing!” or “It’s not your fault.” Well, we all know it’s not your fault, but it’s become a habit to feel like it’s your fault, so you speak that feeling.

The best way for both parties to decrease the amount of apologizing and animosity toward the constant apologizing is this: simply replace the word ‘sorry’ with ‘thank you’.

When someone is speaking to you about something that is bothering them, do not apologize. Instead try saying, “Thank you for confiding in me.” When someone is apologizing for something that isn’t their fault, try saying, “Thank you for listening to me.” or “Thank you for your concern.”

The thank-you-replacement can go for other situations, too.

Instead of apologizing for being late, try saying, “Thank you for waiting for me.” Instead of apologizing for speaking your mind, or expressing your feelings, try, “Thank you for understanding and comforting me.”

Stop apologizing for everything. It’s easier said than done, of course, but it’s pretty simple to replace an apology with an expression of gratitude. You will begin to feel less heavy with guilt, and the roots of that toxic relationship will eventually dissolve as you become more thankful for your surroundings.

When I was a junior in high school, and I found myself surrounded by toxicity, I found the clearest way out of the situation and rode the solo wave for a while. It was difficult to repel the signs of red flags I saw in other people; I was always on my guard so that I wouldn’t be in a similar situation again. I was so scared of being sucked back into the darkness that I didn’t know how to immerse myself in meaningful relationships again.

When I began replacing my apologies with gratitude, it was like I had opened an entirely new door to my future. There is so much beauty in the world, and we take advantage of it every day. Expressing gratitude for my friendships, my family and myself became something I would try to build on in the future, and attempt to gain more of as I grew older. The remnants of guilt and heaviness from my previous toxic experiences soon faded away and dissolved into my past.

I am still triggered by some things relating to those relationships today, but I no longer let them weight me down long term. I remember to thank my lucky stars for what I have in present time, and what those toxic relationships have provided me with since. Gratitude in place of apology has opened my eyes up to the little things, the little bits of beauty we forget to remember.

I am thankful for the light I have discovered outside of the toxic relationships I once had. There was a time when I thought I’d never see the beauty I have. Getting away from toxicity is difficult, but it is not impossible. Know that gratitude will always be waiting for you to embrace it, even when you think there is nothing to be thankful for. There will always be something to be grateful for, and unlike guilt, gratitude is never apologetic.