Why the World Still Needs Fiction

I sat across the table from her and gave the pitch. I’ve been doing this a long time, so I had it down pat. I gave her the background for the story, my passion for the characters, and a brief synopsis of the plot. When I finished, she narrowed her eyes as she carefully chose her words.

“I like your passion,” she began, “and it’s clear you’ve done a lot of research. I’m willing to look at the first few pages, but I don’t want you to get your hopes up. I rarely take on fiction manuscripts because fiction is just such a tough sell.”

And my heart deflated like a balloon.

fiction

I worked on my novel, various different drafts and rewrites of the same story, for ten years. A decade. In those ten years, I also had three babies, so it was a slow process, but the story was real, and I needed to tell it.

Three years ago, I typed the words THE END, and my husband and I uncorked a bottle of wine because finishing that book was a victory. I didn’t celebrate long, though, because the work of trying to get the book published proved to be harder than writing it.

Time and again in the last three years, I’ve been told by multiple different literary agents and publishers that they liked the book and the concept, and that it was well written and engaging, but…

Always but.

“Fiction is a tough sell.” For three years, this was the phrase I heard over and over, and I began to fear I had missed the boat. The wave of fiction was pulling back, and it was going to be tough to get my book to shore.

In this digital age of fast paced, online sound bites, book readers have shifted their literary demands. We want our information to be informative, pertinent to every day life, and quick and easy to read. And it’s true, fiction has become a very difficult genre, because fewer people are reading stories.

It’s not that no one is reading fiction. The Young Adult genre is in a boom right now thanks to blockbuster series like The Hunger Games, Divergent and Twilight. Post-apocalyptic settings and strong female leads are what sells.

Kitschy beach reads are also a constant welcome on bookshelves. Simple plots and engaging characters (and yes, strong female leads) make their way into beach bags across America in the summertime.

But as a whole, fiction has experienced a wide decline in the past twenty years. Where once writers were able to share the deeper messages of life through symbolism and dialogue, now readers just want to be told what to think on any particular subject in succinct, blog-style paragraphs.

But the world still needs fiction.

The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. 

Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. . . .

C.S. Lewis: An Experiment in Criticism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1961)

Good fiction pulls us away from the reality of this world, while still offering us an inner glimpse into mankind as a whole.

We’re reminded of the thrill of love, the sting of death, the hopelessness of evil, the beauty of nature, and the magic of imagination. We hold entire worlds right there in our hands, and we’re taken into them. And when we return, finally placing the book back on the shelf, somehow we see our own world through new eyes.

While a non-fiction book might challenge your thinking in one particular subject, fiction can do so in a myriad of ways. There is little satisfaction in life that’s greater than putting a book down after getting lost in the plot, and missing the characters as if they were old friends.

All of life is told through story. As memories and experiences are passed down from one generation to another, it is story that keeps them alive. We need fiction to preserve history, to remind us that imagination is the heart of the living.

A month after I sent my agent the manuscript for my book, she wrote me a short text. “I just finished your book and WOW can you write a story. Give me a little time. We’re going to do something with this.”

My first novel releases Spring, 2016 with Kregel Publications.

 

Get Outside: 5 Ways to Feed Your Kids’ Adventurous Side & Teach Play

Outside.

The great outdoors.

The sunshine. The grass, the trees, the parks…the opportunities for PLAY. In our home, Summertime means heading outside to enjoy all things imagination and kid-based fun….not sitting inside watching tv, playing video games or carrying one device or another around. I simply don’t allow it….I just know that the play is too good for their growing souls.

So, when the crew at Clif Kid reached out to ask if I wanted to host the very best kind of kid playdate with my friend Cheryl from That’s What Che Said, I loved everything about the idea. The truth is, kids (and parents) LOVE playtime…especially when it is simple and happens with friends.

OutdoorPlay1

Here are a few tips for feeding your kids’ adventurous side and getting them outside for a perfect day of play:

Explore different locations – Sure, it is great fun (and easy!) to just send the kids in to the backyard to play, but a change of scenery is always an imagination-sparker. Heading to a tree-covered local park…one that is new to many people…is a great way to encourage kids to explore, run off their excess energy, roam wide open spaces, and even climb a few trees.

OutdoorPlay7

Invite Friends – your good old-fashioned playdate doesn’t have to be formal. You can gather friends with a text, an email or even a message on Facebook… the more kids involved, the more fun it will be to watch the older kids encouraging the younger ones, teaching them new games and making sure the littlest ones stay safe.

OutdoorPlay3

Don’t forget the Food – Clif Kid recommends that our small people refuel every three hours so they have the energy to keep running, jumping, hula-hooping and just all-around-playing. For our outdoor fun, we had some of the most fabulous Clif Kid snacks, plenty of fresh fruit – a definite Summertime staple – and cold water to keep everyone hydrated in between moments of fun.

OutdoorPlayFood2

OutdoorPlayFood3

Get Outside with your kids– don’t let the sight of all the little ones stop you from joining in. My small girl knows she can beat me in a race, but I can still out hula-hoop her. (It is the small victories that keep me feeling young at heart!)

OutdoorPlay8

Bring a few favorite toys – Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you pack up your garage and move it to your local park, but it is a breeze to bring your favorite frisbees, balls, bean bag toss and bubbles for the little ones along for the ride.

OutdoorPlay6

OutdoorPlay2

What is the best part of outdoor play like this? I’d love to tell you that it is that I saw no devices, that the morning was a perfect blend of beautiful and breezy in the shade of the trees, that kids were being healthy while having fun or that they were making new friends, but for me, the true success was written all over their faces….it was in the smiles and the laughter.

Kids can’t fake having fun….and that is what true outdoor play gives them… pure, healthy, imagination-based fun.

What do you love most about outdoor play?

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by CLIF Kid in partnership with One2One Network. As always, all thoughts and opinions are mine and mine alone. 

Summer Dresses to beat the heat

Summer is here and if you’re not a huge fan of shorts, you’re probably looking for another way to beat the heat. I don’t blame you, I feel like this summer is going to be hotter than usual! One of the best ways to stay cool is by wearing a dress. Think about it, they’re comfortable, they ‘breathe’ and they can be modest. I’ve got three different dress styles to share with you today; hopefully you’ll find some fun inspiration!

Summer dress styles

simple summer dress ideas

sunnies // bag // dress // watch // bracelets // wedges

Once I saw this fit and flare, I knew I had to feature it (eh-em… buy it). It’s cute, preppy and mostly casual which is why I love it. You could pair it with some sandals if that’s more your speed, but I think the wedges are adorable. The little saddle bag matching the tan details is so stylish right now and a perfect fit for the dress. The watch matches the belt of the dress and stacking bracelets creates a little arm candy. Add some sunnies and you are all set! This outfit could go for a day in the park, day date, or even work depending how fancy your work attire needs to be. One thing for sure is that you’ll stay cool and look cuter than if you stayed in your yoga pants!

Maxi Dress style

Summer maxi dress style

bag // dress // hat // bracelets // sandals // necklace // sunnies

Everyone loves a good maxi dress. They are seriously as comfy as yoga pants but you look more put together and they’re a little more airy. A black maxi dress should be a staple in every lady’s wardrobe just for those days you need something to throw on, be comfortable and look like you did something to yourself. I personally love brown with black like this, but it’s black so you can add whatever you want!

Feminine Date Night

summer feminine date night outfit

kimono // dress // bag // earrings // watch // sandals

This is my favorite. I mean that watch! The whole look is so feminine and pretty. It’s perfect for a summery night in the park, simple date night, or even night out with the girls. If it gets chilly you can throw on the kimono but either way it won’t be too hot. The wedges are actually TOMS with lace, flowering detail so they are cute and you know that you’ll be comfortable too! White is also a great summer color because it really highlights just about any tan that you have, even if it’s not much!

So what do you think? I’d love to hear which your favorites were! Leave them in the comments below.

Have a great day!

Tips for Healthy Summer Hair

Summer can be hard on your hair. Extra sunshine, chlorine, and salt water do a number on your locks, leaving them dry and frazzled. With these tips, you’ll be back to healthy, shiny strands in no time!

Tips for healthy Summer hair

1. Condition daily

I’m sure you’ve heard that over-washing your hair can strip it of its natural oils. If you’ve been skipping the daily shampoo to save your strands, make sure you keep up the daily conditioning! Don’t worry: that doesn’t mean you have to deal with wet hair. Just spray your ends with a leave-in and comb through for a little extra TLC.

2. Reduce heat styling

I know this is a hard one, but with all of the beautiful braids and easy Summer updo options, heat styling is rarely necessary during the warmer months. Need easy style ideas? Check out my post on heat-friendly hairstyles!

3. Deep condition

Take your game up a notch with a deep conditioner once a week. Don’t want to add time to your shower routine? Add the deep conditioner to your ends before hitting the pool or the beach and let the sun’s heat aid the conditioner for a super-quenching treatment. Kerastase’s get rave reviews or you can try Garnier’s Instant Melting Conditioner at a bargain!

4. Don’t skip your trim

Regular trims maintain your hair’s healthy appearance and keep your strands stronger by eliminating split ends. You may be tempted to skip your trim for extra growth, but the additional damage at the ends could actually result in your losing more length once you finally do get a fresh cut.

5. Sun protection spray

Just like slathering on your SPF for your skin, sun protectant spray can prevent damage from the sun’s rays. Aveda’s is water resistant and offers UV defense!

What are your tips for healthy Summer hair?

Welcome to the 40 Club, Sweet Husband: My Wishes for You

Dear Sweet Husband of Mine~

40 years.

14,600 Days.

350,400 Hours.

21,024,000 Minutes.

That is how long you have graced this planet.

And I’ve only had you for 5190 of those days.

Lucky me. (stop trying to check my math and keep reading….)

Lucky small people.

We get to count you among the greatest teachers, the heroes in our world. You make us better by prioritizing laughter in our home, by putting us first, by being present.

DisneyCruiseFamily2

Your gifts are many, but these are my favorite.

Fatherhood. I remember the moment, long before we were married, that I knew you would be an outstanding father. What I didn’t realize was that ‘outstanding’ would grow to be an understatement. You are both kind and firm. You teach and hug. You PLAY like it is your full-time job. Delaney and Cooper LIVE to make you proud – in the very best way….and they are equally proud to point you out as their Dad. You would rather spend two weeks with them at Disney World than go any where else on the planet because THEIR joy is YOUR joy. You hurt when they hurt, you pick them up when they fail, you guide when they need direction and you celebrate when they succeed. You are magical in this role.

JeffKids

Passion. Baseball. Coaching. Our children. These three things, not necessarily in that order, (though somedays it may be a toss up) have stamped your heart. You give everything you have. It is incredible to watch how you are capable of a single-minded focus, of committing yourself, your time and your vision to helping others. Certainly it is easy to dedicate your energy to your own children, but I can SEE how you love to coach kids and I can see how they benefit from the time they spend with you. You have a gift. The lessons they learn from you on the diamond transcend nine, ten and eleven year old baseball and softball. You are coaching baseball, but teaching life lessons too. That matters. You matter. (to us and to them.)

Jeff Coach

Laughter. Sure, you make fun of me (all the time). Sure, your emails (to everyone) always have a joke in them. Yes, you laugh at your own jokes. And true….we don’t exactly have the same sense of humor. But it is part of your charm and honestly, it all makes you…YOU. You keep the light and laughter in my world. You have created a comedian in Delaney. Your levity is beautiful and brilliant. (and what would our family be without funny-face pictures?)

Smith Funny

Support. You slept on the floor of my office as I struggled to write my second book. I sat at my desk, crying….watching you sleep, grateful that you knew to just be there, reminding me I could do it. You sat with the kids and watched my last talk live on your computer from home while I was in New York City and then called with a compliment that made me tear up….I know you don’t easily commend public speaking, so it meant so very much. You tell me I can when I am certain I can’t and tell me to toughen up when I’m taking the soft route. You believe in me. Thank you.

Danielle and Jeff

My wishes for you…. one for each decade you have lived and one for the decade you are now entering…

That your ‘5-9pm’ gig continues to fill your soul and drive you to be a better human being as it does every day right now.

That the dreams you are squirreling away for ‘after’ everyone else is taken care of be allowed to take a front seat every now and again.

That the ‘good days’ continue to outnumber any other kind of day you have.

That you never stop laughing every hour (or more) or trying to make others laugh – you have such a gift.

That you recognize and feel pride in the amount of love that surrounds you each day in our home.

Happy, happy, 40th….

I’m so excited to celebrate with you this weekend.

Love,

Danielle

The Love Conundrum: Teaching Siblings to Love Well

“Mooooooooom!”

She tore into the room, face splotched and eyes blazing. I braced myself for the barrage of accusations as her brother flew in behind her, already in defense mode.

“He ate my pie!” she yelled, pointing her finger accusingly at her brother.

“Did not!” he yelled back.

Holding up my hand, I asked the first obvious question. “What are you talking about? What pie?”

“My pie! The pie I baked for Justin Beiber!” my then five year old daughter wailed. My son smirked.

“Um,” I began, trying to figure out how to formulate a proper response. “Is this a pretend pie we’re talking about?”

“It was my pie to give to Justin Bieber,” she cried again. “And he ate it! He ate it all gone!”

“Can you just…um….bake Justin Bieber a new pie?” I asked.

“No! I’m outta ingredients!” she stomped her foot and stuck her tongue out at her brother.

This is an actual argument that my children had a few years ago. And it is this level of absurdity that often makes me feel as though I might lose my mind.

When I hear my name screeched from across the house, my typical response is to hang my head, because really? Again?

There’s a certain inflection in a child’s voice that immediately sets off the Mom Sensor telling me that this is not an actual emergency, but rather the indignant cry of a child who feels compelled to tattle.

I have four children. Well, three and a half, really. The youngest is only nine months old. She can’t talk, yet, so she just sits on the floor and grins like a happy little Buddha. And she’s my favorite for it.

I’m kidding. I don’t play favorites. But if I did…

The older three are in the thick of the growing up years. And they have an extreme love/hate relationship with one another. They are in that phase where fighting and arguing takes on creative, and often baffling, shapes.

Though I will say that, thankfully, we haven’t argued over pretend pies again since that fateful day when Justin Bieber apparently didn’t get the sustenance my daughter hoped he would.

Living under the same roof with one another means that conflicting personalities must interact on a daily basis. There are some combinations of children that work swimmingly in our home, and some that are toxic. And learning to love one another despite the differences is our daily challenge.

Maybe you have the same problem. Perhaps your children simply cannot get along, and you lament what appears to be a lack of love between them.

Here are a few solutions to the love conundrum between siblings:

T&Lsweet

1.) The Smiling Time Out

When my kids are just at each other’s throats all day, and I find myself ready to beat my head against the wall, I pull this little gem out of my back pocket. I make the offending children sit cross legged on the floor just far apart so that their knees aren’t touching. Then I set the timer for five minutes, and tell them to smile.

They aren’t allowed to stop smiling until the timer goes off. They can’t move or touch each other or talk. Just smile. Usually, by the end of the five minute time out every one is laughing, and tensions are broken.

2.) Fines

We are now in the name calling phase of child rearing. It’s super. 

This is the time when frustrations run so high that releasing the steam generally occurs in the form of a really biting name.

“Idiot.” “Stupid.” “You’re ugly.” “I hate you!”

Each time I hear a hateful name said to one another, I fine the offender two dollars. If they don’t have two dollars, they owe me a chore.

My baseboards and toilets are sparkling white throughout much of the summer.

3.) Separation

Sometimes they just need to be sent to their respective corners of the house. This helps my children, and myself,  cool off and chill out for awhile. Win-win.

4.) Compliments

In the same way that poor speech is punished, kindness toward one another is noticed and complimented. “I saw the way you helped your brother today. That was awesome! You’re such a good sister. You guys are going to be such good friends.”

I tell them what I want them to believe, because at the end of the day my heart’s desire is that these kids have one another’s back. Because when all else fades away, and friendships falter over time, family is the one constant.

Loving one another isn’t an option – it’s a necessity. And some days, it’s nothing more than a simple requirement, always with the prayer that the love will prove genuine when they’re all grown up.

How do you handle sibling arguments? I’d love to hear your creative ideas!

Beach Braid Hairstyles You Can Do

There are so many things to love about summer. No school, the sun is out, pool days all day, fun with friends, vacation, and so much more! But it seems like the quintessential summer activity that most people love it has got to be the beach, right? So I thought it would be fun to share three different hairstyles that are perfect for the beach.

3 Beach Hairstyles

beach hairstyles

As fun as the beach is, it is also hot, sandy, and sometimes even windy. If I could chose one word for the best beach hairstyle it would be containment. If not, you’ll most likely end up with a hot, sandy mess. That’s why braids are great because they look cute and they contain the craziness! Without further adieu, here are my favorite beach hairstyles.

Braided Top Knot

Braid top knot

Top knots and beaches just go together. Add a braid and it’s simply perfection! For this one you just flip your head over and braid starting at the nape of the neck all the way to where you want your top knot. You can do a Dutch or French braid, both are pretty. Then secure on top in a messy bun or regular bun and you’re done. All your hair is up and off your neck and contained in a bun.

Fishtail Bun

Fishtail bun for the beach

This style is perfect for those of you with long hair. First you secure your hair on top of your head with an elastic. Then braid, fishtail braid, or rope braid the ponytail part. All three options are beautiful and will result in different looks when you’re done. I did the fishtail braid. Then secure that with a smaller elastic and ‘pancake’ the braid. This is where you pull it out so it isn’t as tight and it will give your bun more volume. Then wrap that braid around into a bun and secure it with bobby pins.

Braided Side Messy Bun

Side French braid

This is a simple go-to braid for the summer for so many occasions. Just part your hair to the side and French braid the front portion back and stop French braiding when it’s right above your ear. When you’re at that point continue the regular braid all the way down. Secure with a small elastic. Then with the remaining hair, bring it all to one side and secure in a messy bun. If messy buns aren’t your thing than you can also just wrap it all around and secure into a regular bun.

There you have it! Three simple beach hairstyles that you can wear this summer. They are perfect for the beach, pool, playground, and well, truly perfect for anything this summer!

Which one of these styles would you wear? Any favorites you have that you’d add? I’d love to hear what you love.

Pool-friendly Makeup Tips

When it comes to hitting the pool and the beach come Summertime, I’m a big advocate of keeping my skin as au naturale as possible. But that doesn’t mean I don’t reach for my makeup bag for a few products to help me feel my best. With sweat, humidity, and chlorinated water to deal with, your typical, everyday makeup routine can fail you, but with these tips you can feel confident that your makeup will make it through those long Summer pool days.

pool-friendly makeup tips

1. Keep it light!

A full face of makeup will never look natural at the pool (and will most likely melt off with hours in the sun), so try to keep it as minimal as possible. For me this means ditching heavy foundations, eye makeup, and blush. Stick to your essentials!

2. Always, always incorporate sunscreen

And don’t just rely on the one in your makeup! Most are SPF 25 or under, and that’s just not going to cut it for an afternoon outside. I always use Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen in SPF 55 under my makeup in place of my typical moisturizer. It’s not greasy and, since it’s formulated for your face, won’t cause break outs.

3. Go for a liquid

Although it may be counterintuitive, liquids are often better at staying put in the heat than powder formulas. Be sure to start with a good primer (I love Smashbox’s!), and try a water-resistant formula like MAC’s Studio Face, Makeup Forever’s Mat Velvet+, or Dior Airflash. Remember to apply lightly to prevent melt.

4. Stain it.

If adding a little color to your cheeks or lips is a non-negotiable, be sure to try a stain. They’re long-wear and not at all goop-y. Benefit’s Benetint is a favorite, but they also offer several different shades.

5. Waterproof your lashes.

Waterproof mascara is my Summer must-have, but not all are created equally. Maybelline’s Great Lash Waterproof consistently receives top reviews, but if you’re unwilling to part with your favorite mascara, try Anastasia’s waterproof topcoat to make any mascara smudge-proof and water resistant!

What are your top tips for Summer-proof makeup?

Feed their Imagination: Let them Play with their Food

Summer is by far my favorite season. And these past few days it has ARRIVED. Everywhere I go, someone is commenting on the heat….and frequently not with the same affection I feel. You know what you won’t hear me complaining about? THE HEAT.

Yes, I know our temperatures have been well over 90 degrees with humidity to match. But you know what we don’t have?

Ice. Snow. Wind chill. And at the moment? RAIN.

This has been one of the rainiest summers on record. It seems as though Mother Nature took her time shifting from cool to warmth (we had a 58 degree day in early July for heaven’s sake!) so, no….you won’t hear me complaining about the heat. I’m kicking back and enjoying it.

As far as I’m concerned these days of Summer are supposed to be hot, they are supposed to be packed full of summer camps (in my kids’ case – that’s baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, field hockey and even acting), LOTS of time outside playing with friends – just yesterday, the small girl taught her little brother to ride his bike and I’m certain I’ve never been more proud –  and even more time at the pool.

Cooper Delaney Bike Riding 2015

At nine and eleven, this is the first year there hasn’t been someone extra in our home helping to guide the kids through their day, monitoring what they are doing and helping to keep them from being ‘bored’.  As both Jeff and I work from home, we have the luxury of being present, but giving the kids the freedom to plan their days, do the work around the house we’ve asked and be independent enough to grab small meals and snacks.

HorizonPlaywithFood

Summer outings…especially those to the pool require snacks and this is the year I’ve put them in charge.

HorizonPlaywithFoodPrep

HorizonPlaywithFoodPour

Knowing that I am passionate about raising independent, confident kids, the good folks at Horizon encouraged me to feed my kids’ imagination….so I told my small people we were heading to the pool and that we needed snacks that would be good for us, that they would enjoy and that wouldn’t melt in the heat.

Horizon Play with Food Ready

And I stood back and watched. And they didn’t disappoint. (and Delaney even kept her sunglasses on the entire time…)

Horizon Play With Food Pool

You know what they especially love? That I trust them to make decisions, that they each have favorite snacks…and well, that I let them play with their food.

How are you encouraging your kids to have freedom with the food decisions in your home (even with your guidance?) I’d love to know. And while we’re at it…. what is your favorite thing about Summer?

Be sure to visit Horizon’s website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter to for more imaginative ways to encourage your small people to confident in imagination and play.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Horizon Organic. The opinions and text are all mine.

The Small Girl is Growing Up: A Letter to My Daughter on Her 11th Birthday

Sweet Girl~

I’m not quite sure why this letter seems harder to write than others. It isn’t as though you are turning 18 and prepping for your first year of college.

You aren’t leaving me an empty nester for goodness sake. (I may have choked a little as I typed that.)

I mean….I can still picture you the minute you were born, as well as the fear I experienced for both of us.

delaney-week-1-068

I can picture you as a toddler.

Delaney Toddler

Those curls and that smile? Stamped right here on my brain and heart.

delaneybrowneyes

I have it all memorized… the upturn of your nose, the curve of your ears, the sweetness of your smile.

delaneymiraclepic

It could be that I’ve noticed you look older. Your freckles are still the same (thank goodness!), but your eyes are changing. Your Delaney-smile and aptitude for funny faces and eye-crossing is uniquely yours, but I can see the teenager simmering beneath the surface. Your goofy often gives way to a young girl.

Delaney Funny Face

You still hold my hand, beg for time with just me, ask to watch Gilmore Girls, snuggle in and tell me that you love me without prompt…but I’m trying to nail down that little ‘something’ whispering that the minutes are slipping by, that your heart and curiosity about the world around you continue to flourish as the calendar flips to another birthday.

Delaney Mom Funny FAce

In the past year, my ‘shy girl’ has morphed in to one with a far more superior sense of self than I would have dreamed. You are both confident and stubborn, intelligent and witty, bold and beautiful, kind and curious…and yet still aware that there is so much more to learn.

DelaneyWish

I’d love to believe that I can place a permanent hold on you just as you are….the easy giggles, the minor tantrums, the hormones just beginning to surface, but I know you are meant to keep growing, journeying in to the young girl and then eventually the young woman you will become. Each baby step you are taking along the way is helping you build the character that will captain you in to adulthood and beyond. I’m lucky to witness it, to learn from you and to have a hand in guiding you along the way.

Sweet Girl, as you turn eleven today, I have a few hopes and wishes for you.

Keep smiling – your heart and your laughter will set your path. You will comfort friends who are having a tough time, you will remind yourself that you are in charge of picking up and starting over and you have the ability to make a stranger’s day.

Remember that L-O-S-E is not a four letter word. When you lose….in a game, on a test, in a friendship, you are given the opportunity to learn and grow.

Stay in your lane. This goes back to my favorite ‘Worry about yourself’ video, right? There are only so many things in life we can control. The older you get, the more you realize how important it is for you to compare yourself only to YOU. If you want to improve, be better than you were yesterday, not better than your neighbor, your friend or your teammate.

Keep that sense of humor. You are just like your Daddy and that is GOLD. Both of you have a gift for making others laugh, for seeing the bright side in any situation, for having a quick wit and seeking out the ‘funny’. (Don’t tell your Daddy, but you just might be the funniest person I know.)

Continue to love that little brother of yours. I know it isn’t always easy….he IS the little brother and sometimes he is good at it. But Sister, you are pretty darn good at your role too. Try to remember, as you work your way through this next year (and beyond) that being his champion is a good thing. You two make a good team and nothing makes me happier than seeing the two of you being good to each other.

You will never regret being kind. A good friend gave me this quote recently and it has stuck with me. As you know, kindness has always been a priority in our home, but I hope you will carry it with you, not only this year, but for a lifetime. You have a beautiful heart, continue to share it.

Keep playing like a girl.  Keep believing in your soul that ‘playing like a girl’ is as magical as you and your friends make it every time you hit the court, the diamond, the field and the pool.

Delaney Basketball Action

DelaneyPlayLikeAGirl2015

Last one: Be Grateful. I trust this doesn’t need an explanation.

In many ways, it feels like we vacillate between ‘friends’ and ‘mom/daughter’ right now…and I admit that I love it… but we are heading in to tricky territory in the next few years as my job isn’t to be your friend, to make the decisions you like, to be the ‘most popular mom in the neighborhood’, but rather, to keep you safe, to make the decisions that I know in my heart are the best for you…and Sweet Girl, those won’t always be the ‘popular’ ones and they won’t always be what ‘everyone else is doing’.

DelaneyMom2015

Let me tell you something very important: It is hard to be loved.

And I am going to keep loving you very, very hard. No matter what.

You will always have me. I love you, Mini.

Happy, happy birthday.

Love,

Mom