Over The Picket Fence

I originally wrote this column for my daughters in The Crier on January 21, 2004 — my youngest daughter’s 12th birthday. Today she turns 21 and I have a few additions. To Jillybean and Sugar Shake… I’ve italicized the new stuff.

I hope you dance. To whatever beat you hear. Dance with grace. Dance with gusto. Dance with a smile in your heart. And keep your shoulders back and head high. Computers do terrible things for your posture. Hang from your birdcage.

Travel light. Travel often. And travel in your dreams. Jill, I’m so proud of your once-in-a-lifetime summer. I pray you have many more enthralling, eye-opening experiences. Jackie, you’re next.

Embrace firmly. Embrace often. And embrace the idiosyncrasies that make you your own. Embrace change. Embrace tradition. Surprise what you fear with a firm, hearty embrace. And know that what makes you different makes you special.

Give of your hands. Give of your heart. Give to yourself every day.

Trust in God’s graces. Behold God’s power. Be grateful for God’s forgiveness. Walk proudly in God’s eternal light.

Collect memories and save them in a journal or a box. Gather friends at every opportunity. Surround yourself with people who bring you higher through their energy, their laughter, or their need for yours.

Pay attention when you find your heart singing. Then follow the song. I am excited about the paths you’ve both taken. Follow those songs into the work force and I can’t wait to see how far you go. Know that if the song ever changes, you’ve got the power and the right to make a change too.

Create art. Create fun. Create a sense of mystery. Create a life you love.

Stay up late. Go to bed early. Sleep ‘til noon. Wake long before the sun.

Try your best. Then pull from the deepest part of your being and try again. Break it into pieces if it makes it more palatable. “Raja’s Rice,” Jill. And remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Accept invitations. Accept blame when it’s yours. Accept your shortcomings, but springboard from what you hold in spades. Anytime you are faced with crisis or panic, stop and remind yourself that you are smart enough to figure out what to do, and strong enough to be okay on the other side.



Stay to the end.

Sit on the fence if you’re not sure. When you’re ready, be thoughtful and strong.

Choose carefully. Wait until you find yourself high on a pedestal and you still see eye-to-eye. Choose very carefully. And don’t rush it.

Care. Care deeply for what you can and do. Care enough for what you can’t to let it go.

Understand that mistakes are forgivable. But ignoring them may not be.

Blaze your own trail. Stand up straight. Grammar matters. Vulgarity is the crutch of the weak and the ignorant. Drink lots of water. Always keep your wits about you. And be true to yourself in every way.

Work to raise the bar, even to heights you might not personally attain. That’s where greatness comes from. No one wins when the bar is lowered to accommodate all.

Organize a little piece of your world every day. Pen your best moments when they happen and re-read them when you’re feeling blue.

Pass when it’s safe. Try hard not to pass judgment. And surpass when you see the opportunity.

Then just keep on flying.


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