Dear 17-Year-Old Me,
I think I should probably warn you: nothing is going to turn out the way you imagined.
That guy you’re dating? He’s going to dump you next summer (and by the way, your mom was totally right about him).
That college major you picked? You’re going to get a D in computer-programming and be weeded out.
Don’t worry, though. I’m not writing to you to give away the farm or anything — doing that would take away all those golden learning opportunities. And, trust me, you’ve got a lot to learn.
No, I’m writing to you because I want to share something with you that you need to hear. That a lot of 17-year-olds need to hear, actually.
I know that you think that up until now, a lot of things have been unfair. The divorce wasn’t fair. All the anger, and resentment, and name-calling going back and forth between your parents … totally not fair. Your mom’s illness … that wasn’t fair, either. Your dad’s second wife that turned into a big ol’ witch the moment she said “I do?” Completely unfair. Your older sister always looking at you as though you are a wad of gum stuck to the underside of her shoe? Not fair. The friends who love you one day and hate you the next? So unfair. That family member you still have to see on the regular even though you know he belongs in jail? The most unfair.
I’m not writing to tell you that you don’t deserve to feel shitty about all this stuff. Because, believe me, I know how shitty you do feel. I know that along with your clothes and the new sheets your mom bought you, you’re also packing up your bitterness and resentment and taking it with you to college. Taking it with you as you embark into the world on your own.
You’re going to spend a lot of time dwelling on all of it. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. Right now, you think that once you drive away from the home you grew up in, and the people who were so unfair, that all of these things will stop making you feel like crap — like a gigantic, do-over, second-chance eraser or something. That won’t happen.
Instead, all the unfairs are going to grow — festering inside of you until all of a sudden, you get really mad about it. Really, really mad. And once you get mad, you’re going to start doling out blame. All the bad choices that you are going to make? You’re going to find some way to blame that on someone else, you’re not going to take responsibility for it. You won’t hold yourself accountable. Because you think that you were dealt a shitty hand, and it’s just not fair.
Accountability. Remember in high school when that was your step-dad’s favorite word? Remember when he would say, over and over and over again, that he wanted you to take accountability for your actions? Remember how you thought you knew what that meant? You didn’t.
So I’m going to help you out, and I do hope you’ll listen to me.
The first thing I think you should know is this: you’re not alone. The world is filled to the brim with people who’ve been dealt a far shittier hand than you. In fact, someday you will realize just how good you had it, even with all the unfairs. But you’re not there yet.
The second thing you should know — and pay attention because this is the most important thing — is that you, only YOU, are responsible for your happiness. Not your parents, or your friends, or your boyfriend, or anyone else. YOU. Just you.
The people who’re closest to you … are highly flawed, because they are human. They make mistakes, some bigger than others. You’re going to spend a lot of time wishing that your mom was more mellow, or that your dad was more patient, or that your boyfriend was less jealous. But all that wishing is never going to get you anywhere, because trying to change people is simply an exercise in misery. Stop wishing. Start appreciating. And if you find there’s nothing to appreciate — then walk away. It’s really that simple.
You’ve been told before to “get over” some of the things you’re hung up on — and at the time it sounded harsh. It sounded like you were being told that your hurt didn’t matter. But the truth is, you do need to get over it. Or at the very least, learn to live with it. Because holding on to grudges is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.
One of the best pieces of advice you’re going to get someday will come from your best friend’s dad. You will call him on what will arguably be one of the scariest days of your life. You will lie in a dark room and tell him how afraid and unhappy you are. And he will tell you that the absolute most important thing you need to do is self-preserve.
He will tell you that nothing else matters if you don’t take care of yourself. And he will be so right.
Self-preservation means different things for different people. But what it will mean for you is this: you need to let all the unfairs go. Dwelling on them is only going to make you miserable. It’s more than forgiveness, because forgiveness, for you, has always been easy. It’s making the choice to cut away all of the things that are dragging down your happiness, and starting over. It’s about not apologizing for your beliefs, and accepting that there are always going to be haters. It’s about being okay with not being liked. Because people not liking you isn’t unfair; it’s life.
You will also find that even though people, for the most part, don’t change, circumstances do. And sometimes the people who are responsible for the most hurt will turn out to be the people responsible for the most happiness. If you don’t open yourself up to that possibility, you’ll miss out.
The last thing I’d like to tell you, dearest 17-year-old me, is that you are going to wake up on far too many mornings to count wishing that you could take back what you did/said/acted like the day before. You are going to be embarrassed and ashamed and mortified by some of your actions. Barring your instinct to blame it on someone — anyone — other than yourself (as previously discussed) you will find the only person to blame is you. And, trust me, that is not fun.
The solution for this is also simple: apologize when needed, and move on. You’re not perfect, and the people who truly love and accept you won’t expect you to be. Everything else is just gravy.
With warmest regards,
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Yesterday was a day to celebrate the men who raised us, who support us, who love us.
My own dad did all of these things, and I am his grateful daughter. But yesterday, I was especially proud of him, and I want to talk about that here, even though it might be too fresh, and I might not have the right words yet. Because yesterday my dad did something for me that he hasn’t done in a long time – he fought for me.
Anyone who reads my blog knows that I have a downright contentious relationship with my dad’s family. And when I say my dad’s family, I’m actually referring to four of his five sisters.
My aunts. The Tias.
One of the things I’ve realized as I’ve opened up more about my own struggles with my family is that I’m not alone – almost everyone I meet has a story to tell about the family members who make them feel like shit. I could fill an entire blog with the details of the psychological warfare my aunts have waged on me over my lifetime, but that’s not what this post is about. Suffice to say that my aunts have often — especially in the past few years — made me feel like the most unlovable person, ever.
I’ve been asked a lot during this time what my dad has to say. And the answer has always been … nothing.
This has been a tough truth to face – my dad is not generally the kind of man who sits back and does nothing when someone makes one of his girls upset. In fact, I still remember vividly having to talk my dad down after a particularly bad waitressing shift in college, where the cooks had yelled at me (anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows this is par for the course). As I walked to my car, feeling like the dam was about to burst at any second, my cell phone rang – it was my dad and he could tell right away I was upset. When I ‘fessed up the reason why he wanted to know the names of the cooks and I knew he was getting ready to drive over to that restaurant and give them a piece of his
My dad is not a man to be trifled with.
But when it comes to his sisters, he goes mysteriously silent. At first this made me angry. And then, it made me sad. And then I just accepted it. Because my relationship with my dad is more important to me than his mean sisters.
Throughout the past seven years that I’ve butted heads with my dad’s family, the script has remained the same: we’re family. Family is the most important thing. That’s just the way we are. Deep down we love you. If you really needed us, we would be there.
Translation: we’re going to treat you like crap, until you’re a helpless pile of low self-esteem, and then when you get hit by a bus, we’ll show up at the hospital.
You know, when I was a kid I used to read stories about cults and think to myself how do people not see how crazy it all is? But now I kind of get it – when everyone around you is saying the same thing, it starts to become the truth. And if you dare to have doubts about whether or not this is the right way to live, something must be wrong with you.
It took becoming a mom for me to realize that the ugly cycle of emotional abuse in my family had to stop. I took one look at my son, and realized that I could not allow him to feel the way I had felt for so many years. So I started to fight back, hoping that I could carve out a new place within my family.
No, it’s not okay for you to tell me something’s wrong with me for not being married. Mind your own business.
No, you don’t get to pick and choose who I love. That’s my choice.
No, you don’t get to make me feel bad because I’m succeeding in life, in spite of you. Positive thinking goes a long way – you should look into it.
You can imagine how well all of this went over.
Eventually, I realized that this just wasn’t going to work. That the only way I was going to be happy was if I emotionally and physically distanced myself. That the solution was not to carve out a new place IN my family – it was to carve out a new kind of family.
It’s been a struggle, and a balancing act — because I wasn’t about to leave behind the man who raised me, and loved me. Or, for that matter, the grandparents and cousins that are truly the redeeming members of my family.
And so began the tricky maneuvering of maintaining my relationship with my dad, grandparents, and cousins, while simultaneously trying to leave behind my relationship with my aunts. This has been a particularly painful process for my dad because he’s still in it – he still believes in those archaic notions of family that tell you no matter how bad it gets, you never turn your back on blood.
And so we tread carefully, my little family and I. We show up when it really matters to my dad, and we try our best to be polite, without compromising the limits of what makes us comfortable. No I’m not going to hug and kiss you when you just got through spewing the most awful lies about me to the rest of our family – I’ll politely say hello, from a comfortable distance.
Yesterday was such a day, and we showed up. We said our polite hellos to everyone sitting outside eating, and then we sat down to eat inside, by ourselves.
A few minutes into our meal, we heard shouting. And then the kitchen door burst open and my dad stormed in, followed by various family members, trying to talk him down. And somewhere in between all the shouting, I heard it – my dad, yelling I’m tired of this, this has to change.
He was talking about me. He was fighting for me. And he was really, really mad.
My own instincts to protect my dad kicked in, and I joined the family members begging him to calm down. Papi, I told him. They’re not going to change. Getting mad doesn’t do anybody any good. You should just ignore them, ignore whatever they say. Because I’m not here for them anyway, I’m here for YOU.
No, he shook his head. This has to change. This isn’t right. We’re family.
My dad spent the rest of the afternoon avoiding my aunts, and everything eventually calmed down. And believe me, I don’t have any illusions of this being some kind of permanent game changer – my dad loves his sisters, and that will never change.
But I was proud of him nonetheless. Because my dad finally saw, if only briefly, what I see – that family is not supposed to behave this way.
Family is supposed to pull each other up, not tear each other down.
Family is supposed to cheer you on, not hold you back.
Family should remind you that you are loved, not that you are tolerated.
This is the family that I’m in the process of building, from the ground up. This is the kind of family that I will fight for, until my very last breath. This is the kind of family that my dad fought for, yesterday.
Yesterday, our war cries were the same.
Best … Father’s Day … Ever.
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That “scrape” I got (I put it in quotes because I have been trying to convince Aidan that it’s not just a scrape, that it hurts far too much to just be a scrape) was from hiking at Griffith Park. I bent down to pick up a flower while Gabriel was in his baby carrier and rolled my ankle and fell. I’m a wimp when it comes to blood (that’s why Gabriel’s accident was extra hard) and I almost fainted when I saw it–true story, I had to sit and breathe for a long time to let it pass. Aidan has since been tending to my “scrape” and trying not to laugh when I treat it like a gunshot wound.
I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s day weekend. We’re spending Saturday at my dad’s house swimming and Sunday, we’re not sure yet, but I’m sure it will be awesome. Let’s celebrate dads!
ps. Another favorite from this week? Gabriel is saying his name… although it’s more like “gay-b-yoh” which is totally close enough.
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We were in San Francisco for a bit last week, my brother-in-law and his high school girlfriend tied the knot. Isn’t that so sweet? They actually dated in high school, broke up and more than a decade later they get married! That was actually the best part of my week, but I don’t want to post pictures of them since I think they’re pretty private about their internet presence. There was also a WORST part of my week, but I’ll save that for another day.
I had some more faves from this week, but for some reason my instagram is failing me. Eh, what can you do? I refuse to sit here and fight with technology… It always wins. I’ll be sure to share more pictures next week and share my horror story.
Looking forward to this weekend!
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We have a new contributor on a sprouting acorn, allow me to introduce Andrea Rangno of the OC ‘Burbs.
I wanted to bring in a contributor because I wanted other perspectives on our blog…I figured you guys were getting bored with just me blabbing away. I also really love Andrea’s blog and I thought she’d be a great addition! Thankfully she agreed!
Andrea and I met in high school. We became friends about a year ago. There’s a difference. Back in high school, Andrea and I ran in different circles and as far as I was concerned, we had two things in common: our names and our genders. That was it. We didn’t really pay attention to each other.
One day we were in our English class, taught by Mr. Barnes, this weird but sort of fun teacher that looked like David Arquette. Andrea was probably making some poignant remarks about the assigned reading and for whatever reason, it irritated me, so I said, “Andrea, could you please just shut up.” Super rude, and not cool. Mr. Barnes didn’t say a thing and Andrea, in fact, did shut up, so I felt justified. Then Andrea did something uncharacteristic of a 16 year old girl–she was mature. She approached me privately after class and said, “Andrea, I felt really humiliated by the way you spoke to me in front of our entire class.” I was rendered so speechless by what she said. How did I react faced with her maturity? I rolled my eyes and walked away. Super lame.
High school ended. College began. We never spoke. Andrea and Erik had Noah sometime while I was still in college. I spied her pictures on MySpace, because you could do that on MySpace. Then everyone switched over to Facebook. Damn, I couldn’t spy anymore. Does this mean I’ll have to friend her? Shoot. Ok, friend her.
So I send her a friend request on Facebook with a note that went something like this:
Hey Andrea, I’m sorry for that super lame thing I said in Mr. Barnes’ class a million years ago. Your son is really cute. I’m glad your life has turned out as well as it has. I’m really happy for you. I hope we can be friends now. blah blah blah, warm fuzzy comments.
She responded with something like:
Hey Andrea, If I remember correctly, I deserved what you said. Thank you for the sweet words about Noah, life is pretty awesome. blah blah blah, sweet words.
Then Andrea and Erik did something really awesome and they had Eva. I was in Rangno cuteness heaven all over my news feed. Have you seen these kids? They’re ridiculous.
So we remained facebook friends, until I got pregnant, then we started to be real friends. Andrea was really supportive of me, even when I told her that I might steal Noah’s name for my own son. She came to visit me 5 weeks after Gabriel was born and even brought her kids with her. I told Noah that Gabriel just didn’t look like a Noah, but he looked more like a Gabriel, so we named him that instead. Turned out that Gabriel was a top contender for Noah too! Weird, right?
Andrea has become the kind of friend who will drive to Los Angeles at 1am from Orange County to bring you a tiered cupcake platter for your son’s birthday party the next day and LIE to you about it so that you don’t feel bad. She has become the kind of friend that will send you boxes upon boxes of her most beloved hand me downs with a story about each super soft cotton t-shirt just because.
We send each other text messages, we attend each other’s kid’s birthday parties and we just genuinely like each other these days. Our husbands are fond of each other and while I can’t speak for Noah and Eva, Gabriel definitely thinks they’re super cool!
Welcome to a sprouting acorn Andrea! We’re super glad to have you and I know our readers will enjoy reading your words. Look out for Andrea Rangno’s posts here and if you haven’t already, please check out her blog, OC ‘Burbs.
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Have you ever checked out the blog, French By Design? It is a really inspiring stylish blog. It’s a pretty good one. Today’s Tuesday Etsy Spotlight is the store run by the same woman that runs that blog. She scours around to find vintage pieces that fit a sort of minimalist meets South of France aesthetic–such a good look, in my opinion.
a vintage American flag, with 48 stars! That’s pretty cool. I’d want it in our dining room. We have a little vintage thing happening in there these days.
She has lots more fun stuff in her store, I hope you check it out here.
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Mother’s day morning was not so great. Gabriel kept me awake virtually all night, and was up and ready to start the day at 5:30am (let’s just blame it all on the one who can’t defend himself). But by the evening, Aidan actually saved the day by giving me an ultra sweet card, new little mixing bowls to match my cake stand, a wire basket, shortbread cookies, and a new Marc Jacobs romper that I was eyeing the day before at Bloomingdales. He also left at some point and brought home a feast of crab and shrimp. I talked to my little sister and she wisely said, “life is always just a little better with new clothes and sugar.”
I have to admit, she’s totally right.
Have a fun filled weekend! We’re going to go and see Chris Burden’s Metropolis II at LACMA tomorrow. Gabriel might just FREAK!
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Today’s Tuesday Etsy Spotlight is Bitezzz, a sleeping bag store hailing from Palmdale, Ca. Inspired by her daughter’s obsession with animals, Ashley Sullivan created these hilarious sleeping bags.
How fun would these be at a sleepover! Or if your kids go camping!
I hope you check out her store!!
And don’t forget to “like” Sammy & Claire’s facebook page to get a chance to win $100 for the store!
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Today’s etsy spotlight features wooden dolls by goosegrease. A family project, goosegrease prides itself on it’s sustainable business featuring a fair trade agreement with a Colombian craftsman who provides supplies! Bravo!You can custom order dolls to look like your own little (or big) family, or maybe even just you and your loved one! Or if that sounds boring to you, why not play pirate checkers with the wooden dolls!?
I think these dolls are so beautiful and really, the kind of toys that you’d want to keep and display well after your little ones are done with them! Another cool thing, wood is naturally antibacterial, so slobber away!
I hope you check her store out, Anna Donado’s goosegrease is one of my new favorite etsy stores!