Lent Letter #40

Dear God,

Another Lenten season behind us. Today is Easter Sunday. When I woke up this morning, the first thing I thought was that I didn’t get my letter in yesterday. I was not planning on Saturday being an all day event. But then, I reconsidered. I know that the plan was to blog every day and tell the people in my life how they have influenced me. This was my sacrifice, my trial, this religious term. However, I’ve thought it through and I don’t think that it is the doing that pleases you. Of course I should strive for excellence, but I think, as with many things, it is the trying that is the whole point.

Sure, I didn’t do this every day as I was supposed to. But I did write 40 distinct letters to people in my life, past and present. From the writing, I think that I have grown. I have had to stop my life, my focus on myself to consider my life as a whole. I have had to think about who I am and who I have become and then trace it back to figure out how I got there. I had to consider the things about myself that are the best points and the things that I don’t always like so much.

It was a period of reflection. It was a period of love. Not only love of God and love of self, but love of life, love of others, love of those who aren’t necessarily the ones we love the most. It is this, this realization that aligns most closely with your teachings. I believe, more than any previous Lent, more than anything I’ve ever given up for you, that this exercise truly brought me closer to you. I think it made me a better version of myself, in your name.

I think that I am still a long way from perfect, as evidenced in my failing to post promptly and on time, but part of your teachings show that we are all a work in progress.

These were letters to 40 people who have helped shape my life, but there are so, so many left to discover. I will change and grow and my life will continue to be shaped by others’ influences, and perhaps now I will be a bit better about recognizing it in the moment.

Happy Easter!

Thank you for being part of my life,

Olivia

(to see why I am doing this, read here)

Lent Letter #39

Dear Dad,

As with Mom, you’re obviously one of the biggest influences on my life. I like to pretend that I’m exactly like Mom, but I think we all know the truth. I’ve got so much of you in me. From you I get my pragmatism, my sense of humor, my affinity for math and numbers and music, my stubbornness, and my work ethic, just to name a few.

You’ve been this quiet, steady, presence in my life. You’re not one to insist or jump in with input or advice, you just quietly live your life and offer me a sterling example. So many things I’ve learned, just by seeing how it is that you live your life. This is a powerful example that too many overlook. Aside from that, you are my guide to practicality. When something needs to be decided, when it is something big, I always go to Mom first. But mom responds emotionally to things; while that can be useful at times, it doesn’t always help me decide. After I think about what she says, I ask you. Your advice is tempered, measured, considered, thoughtful. It is to the point and straightforward.

Does that mean I always take your advice?

I think we both know better.

But what it does mean is that I walk through this world with a smart, strong, and savvy mixture of emotion and knowledge, courtesy of my parents. I’m an equal blend of you both. That is something I’m very proud of. I guess you could say that the best thing you ever gave me was you for a father and the fact that you chose Mom to be my mother. I’m grateful. I’m proud.

I love you and I’m glad that you’re my Dad.

Thank you for being part of my life,

Livi

(to see why I am doing this, read here)

Lent Letter #38

Dear Arionna,

Happy Birthday babycakes. You’re three years old today. I can hardly believe it. You’re smart and beautiful and funny and sassy and just about the sweetest girl I’ve ever known. It’s really kind of crazy how much I love you.

What’s crazier still is how much you love me. You like to tell people I’m your best friend, and I am. And I always will be. You also like to say that you’re going to marry me when you grow up. It melts me when you say that. I always tell you that I couldn’t do any better. That’s true.

Our relationship is just so easy. There’s nothing hard about being friends, about being godmother/goddaughter, about being auntie/niece. We are just easy and comfortable and so very much in love with each other. Spending time with you makes my days brighter. Seeing you brings a smile to my face. Being around you pretty much always elicits belly laughs. No one can get me laughing like you.

Three years into our relationship and it’s going better than I ever even dreamed. I could not be more pleased with you and with our relationship. I could not be more pleased to be a part of your life and to have you as one of the very best parts of mine. You are my buddy, my pal, my friend, my sweetheart, my one and only niece.

I love you bunches and bunches, my girl. Never doubt that.

Thank you for being part of my life, and the very happiest of third birthdays to you,

Auntie Livi

(to see why I am doing this, read here)

Lent Letter #36

Dear Maureen Bell,

The last of my professional influences; Maureen, I’m forever indebted to you. You are my mentor. When I first considered the idea of becoming a librarian, I had no idea what to do. I was completely lost. My mom told me that she cleaned the house of a woman who is a librarian and said she would ask you. I remember that feeling so awkward, but when asked, you were willing, nay eager, to help. You sent your contact information.

I called you, a perfect stranger, and asked you to help. You met with me, you toured me around Southdale (where I would eventually go on to work!), you patiently answered every single question I asked, then answered some I never even considered. You even ended up writing me a recommendation to get into grad school.

You kept up contact, even after I moved for school. You offered to help me with getting an internship and ended up recommending me for the ultra-exclusive internship in HCL, which you tailored to me and my schooling. You were my intern director and I don’t think I ever learned so much as in those two months working for you.

Throughout every stage of my development as a librarian, you have always been there. You helped me get my first job and have met with me, discussed options with me, explained politics to me and just plain been someone I can trust and rely on. I’m a firm believer in paying it forward and I’ve done whatever I can do for young librarians I’ve met along the way, but I’m still hoping for the day that I will get to mentor someone and pass along what I’ve learned from you.

I’m forever grateful to you and the chance you took on a young woman you’d never even met. Your grace and kindness, not to mention your generosity of both time and spirit, are an inspiration to me every day.

Thank you for being part of my life,

Olivia

(to see why I am doing this, read here)

Lent Letter #35

Dear Gramma Conway,

When I started to write this letter (yesterday, when it was due) I just sat for a moment, thinking about you, remembering you. I immediately got all teary. You’ve been gone for almost 15 years now, but sometimes I still miss you like it was yesterday.

You were a major influence on my life, I think you must know that. There are many, many people that helped me grow my love of reading, but none so much as you. You loved to talk books with me. You loved to give me books. You loved to loan me books. You loved read books that I suggested. It was a passion that we shared equally. As a matter of fact, it was to me that you bequeathed your beloved, well-worn, book collection. I still have many of them. Not all, because, let’s face it, you had a lot of books. But I still have your bookcase, it’s in my home. I remember it from my childhood, in the poker table room (which I also have, btw), bulging with books. I’d visit and race into that room to see what was new from last time, what you’d let me borrow.

There were some you wouldn’t let me read until I was “older” and I’d stare at those spines, wondering about them and what mysteries that they could hold that I was not yet ready for. By the time I was, they were simply good books, the mystery somewhat lost on my teen years.

You are also the one who taught me poker, and how to gamble, and how to play every card game known to man, and you played dress up with me, and always said a prayer over me before I went to sleep at your house, and you bought me my orange mustang, and always, always had endless time to play with me. Life was never rushed with you. Time seemed endless and filled with hope for what was to come.

Then Grandpa would come in and do something funny or brash and he’d scare me or make me laugh or do anything at all to interrupt our play. And then you’d scold him, but in a tone that was clear to me, even as a child, that you were not serious, and then he’d laugh his booming laugh and you’d sneak your arm around me and cuddle me close as we all laughed together. The times I spent at your house are truly some of the very best memories of my childhood.

I could go on an on with this letter, but it’s actually harder than I though to write this. What it boils down to is this. You have been a huge and lasting influence on my life. You are one of the people I was closest to growing up. You loved me so well, as I loved you. I still miss you and always will.

Thank you for being part of my life,

Olivia

(to see why I am doing this, read here)

Lent Letter #34

Dear Kranz Family,

You know, when I first started this, I didn’t write a list of people I would write to. Then, a few letters in, I sat down to make a list. It was harder than I thought to come up with 40 influential people in my life. You’d be surprised, just try it.

At that point, I actually considered writing to each of you individually, just to pad the list. But, in truth, your influence on me came more as a family than as individuals. Growing up, you were our family friends. Well, you still are, I suppose, but it was different then. Frank and Kathy, you are my parent’s best friends and your kids were our friends. It’s funny how we expect our kids to get along just because the parents are friends. I think we got very lucky that we all actually like each other.

Spending time with your family always felt like watching my own life in a mirror. That sounds weird. Let me explain. You were the only family we knew like ours. Lots of kids, close together in age, family vacations, weird jokes, etc. Most of my friends, nope, all of my friends came from smaller families. They didn’t have the background that my family did. They weren’t wild and crazy on weekends. They were quieter.

You guys were not. You were like us. So watching you helped me to see how others saw us, but more importantly, it helped me see my own family more clearly. That’s an invaluable gift. I still use that “mirror” these days. Sometimes I look at your family and think it is so perfect, but then I look closer and see that you’re still a family, you still bicker and fight, and sometimes things aren’t perfect. And I feel better, because my family makes more sense to me.

I know that’s a fairly convoluted way of saying thank you, but it’s an important quality that no other family on earth could have given us/me. Then you add in the mountain of memories we made growing up together and it is no wonder why we are all still friends as adults. When we all get together, it’s more of the loud, laughter, beer, giggles, memories, bickering, and in-fighting of the childhood, ringed with the love of two overwhelming and loving families. I’m glad to be a part of both of them.

Thank you for being part of my life,

Olivia (Liv – depending on which of you is reading this)

(to see why I am doing this, read here)

Lent Letter #33

Dear MFA,

One of the things that is best about getting older is the way things change. When I was a kid, you were my aunt. You were a little kooky (still are, don’t worry) but just an aunt. I remember various things about growing up, playing at your house on Orchard La!, playing jarts (the real ones, with steel tips!), but nothing really stands out as overwhelmingly special.

Then, I grew up. Suddenly things were very different. When I moved to DC, I emailed everyone brief updates. You emailed back. Before long, we were email pals. Talking regularly, not just catching up on family gossip, but actual conversations. You flew out to visit me.

I was nervous before your visit. I’d never spent any significant time alone with you before. I didn’t know what on earth we would talk about. My fears were for nothing. We gabbed nonstop. We did tours and visits. I took you to eat at Hooters for Thanksgiving dinner (it was the only thing open!). We traveled to Baltimore and met up with Uncle Ralph who drove his truck into town. I took you to Kramerbooks, my favorite place in all of DC. You were the only one I took there.

We spent every minute together for days and twittered like girlfriends the whole time. That trip changed so much. We became true friends. Now that we’re back living only minutes from each other, we see each other less, but we still communicate. Often times I’m the one passing gossip to my family because I heard it first, from you. Your knack for gossip is one of your special skills.

Also, you inspire me in the way you live. No one would know that you are 72 years old (ok, not until June, but still) upon meeting you. You have a vibrancy and a life to you that makes you seem years younger. A young soul, perhaps? Watching you, knowing you, lets me believe that youth is in the heart and the mind, not in the numbers.

But my truly favorite thing about you is your laugh. It is so bold and vivid. I could pick it out anywhere. Lucky for me, you find me very amusing so I often get to hear that fabulous laugh of yours. I’m so delighted that I could grow up so that we could become friends. You’re probably never growing up, so this one’s on me.

 

Thank you for being part of my life,

YFN

 

(to see why I am doing this, read here)