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My Dearest Middle School Daughters,

With the first year of middle school, and all its new friends-boys-cellphones-social media-common core drama, nearly behind us (for summer anyway), I have found myself constantly reflecting on just how different the world you are navigating is from the one in which I grew up. The following are a few nuggets of wisdom that life has bestowed upon me, which have stood the test of time (and technology), and will serve you well in the years to come.

“People will love you. People will hate you. And none of it will have anything to do with you.” – Abraham Hicks

Know that every single person in this world is insecure about something. These insecurities can be displayed in unflattering outward behaviors, ranging from bragging and bullying to pretending not to care. You will save yourself a great deal of heartache if you understand other people’s behavior is rarely about you, but has everything to do with how they feel about themselves and what is going on in their own lives.

Never ever look into the eyes of another person (boys especially) in search of your value. Mirrors are made for such things. You are so much more than the number of “likes” you receive or followers you have on Instagram, or the labels you sport to school. There will be friends who will notice your inner awesome as well as your outward flare, but YOU need to recognize it first. You must own all that you are before your full potential can be unlocked and displayed for others to see. So put down your phone and look at yourself and the world through your own lens and not that of your phone’s camera.

Be kind and thoughtful to everyone, even those who don’t deserve it. (Especially them.) The smallest kindness, compliment or gesture could change the course of someone’s day or life even. It is as easy to lift people up as it is to put them down and it feels SO much better. The beauty of kindness is that it also makes your day. A word of caution: Kindness is not to be confused with pleasing. Pleasing is an unhealthy form of kindness and often leading to one-sided, hurtful relationships.

Listen to the tiny voice inside yourself that tells you something is right or wrong. If you don’t want to do something, don’t. No explanation necessary. Better yet, blame me. “Sorry, my mom won’t let me. And she can be a nightmare!”

Get involved and be open to new experiences and friends. Try out for a sport, join a club and learn who you are. Most importantly, try to look at those community service hours as more than a graduation requirement you are obligated to fulfill. Charity work is one of the most meaningful things you will ever do in your lifetime.

Slow down, have a ball and LOL every single day. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink (soda, slushies, cider, hot chocolate – OK, mom’s words, not Thoreau’s), taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” Don’t be in such a rush to be older. Truly enjoy and treasure this time. Soon enough you will long for the days when someone else bought the groceries, washed your clothes, paid the bills and told you to turn off your phone and go to bed on time.

Until then,

Be you, be nice and know that I love you beyond words.

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Remembering a mother who was always there

Lessons learned over a quarter-century of marriage

Enjoying the view from the other side of the gym