To The Woman Who's Shouldered All The Thankless Jobs By Choice, Mom

To The Woman Who's Shouldered All The Thankless Jobs By Choice, Mom

The woman who will unconditionally listen to your hits and misses in life, then invite you to stay for dinner.
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I admire the woman who dumpster dives for items that should have been recycled.

The woman who goes up to the anonymous large tattooed man in the grocery store and strikes up a conversation about the meanings behind his ink.

The woman who helped the neighbor kids with long division, armed only with chalk and a quiet paved country road.

The woman who walks with open hands.

The woman who taught her own kids to save frogs and salamanders from the road and place them close to water.

The woman who taught me that being a woman means being capable and fearless, gracious and kind.

The woman who does more for others than for herself.

The woman who takes tequila shots like a champion.

The woman with the greenest thumb you've ever seen.

The woman who will unconditionally listen to your hits and misses in life, then invite you to stay for dinner.

The woman who taught her kids to bring the tired, poor and huddled masses we found and give them love and shelter. Even if it was a snake and it got loose in the house.

The woman who made me the woman I am today, my mom.

Thank you for always doing the thankless jobs.

Thank you for being you.

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Sundell

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To My Little Brother

Six things I want you to know.
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I am not your mother, but I am your big sister.

I cannot even apologize for it, I am always going to act like your second mom. I am going to keep yelling at you to (please) put down the toilet seat and to clean up the mess you made in the kitchen. It doesn't matter to me how often you say "I am not your mother," because you're my little brother and I'm always going to be the boss.

I never mean it when I tell you to grow up.

I hope that you have taken, and continue to take, full advantage of your childhood. As often as I complain about your maturity level, my wish for you is to put off growing up for as long as possible. The closer I get to real adult life, the more I miss home and all of the worries I didn't have. You shouldn't rush through the years you have left at home, you are doing just fine the way you are.

No, I didn't tell Mom.

All of our secrets will always stay secrets. I may have ratted you out to Mom about being the one to break her new vase, but I hope you know that our brother-sister bond protects all of the private things we share. Please, never forget that I'll always be here to listen to you.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry for giving you your first bloody nose, and for laughing at you afterward. I'm sorry for every time I have blown you off for plans with a guy, or to get an extra hour of sleep. I'm sorry for yelling at you to leave me alone and for slamming the door in your face. I'm sorry for all of the times you asked me to play outside that I didn't. I'm sorry for all of my broken promises.

I forgive you.

I forgive you for all of the “little brother" insults you have used. I forgive you for using all of my paints and letting them dry out. I forgive you for embarrassing me in front of every guy I ever brought home. I even forgive you for cutting off that piece of my hair in fourth grade.

I am so proud of you.

It isn't said nearly enough, but I am so proud of you, little brother. I am envious of the passions that you have and the way that you pursue them with no fear! I am excited to see where you go in life (but don't go anywhere too quickly). Keep working hard and doing what you love, no one can fault you for following your heart. I love you so much, and I will always be your biggest supporter and fan!

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A Word of Advice: Treasure The People and Places That Feel Like Home

Norfolk is somewhere I always look forward to visiting, no matter what time of year. It is one of a few places where I can truly relax.

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My family and I have been vacationing in Norfolk, Virginia for almost a week. I have been going to our house there ever since I was young. Norfolk is one of a few places where I can truly relax. I don't have to worry about school, jobs, appointments, or social obligations. My family and I try to make it to Virginia at least twice a year: once at Christmas and once during the summer. This year, due to my sister's knee surgery, we couldn't spend Christmas in Virginia so we decided to go for spring break instead. I am so happy we did.

Virginia is the place where my mom grew up. In fact, we bought her childhood home from my grandparents and stay there every time we visit. My mom's high school bedroom is now my bedroom. The yearbooks and photographs are all still neatly stacked on the bookshelf, and her art portfolio is wrapped in plastic underneath my bed. The windows are old and rattle when a storm hits. At night, you can hear the tug boats bringing the ships in at Lambert's Point. During the day, the birdsong is happy and you can see the whole West Ghent neighborhood walking their dogs or running on the Elizabeth River trail.

Norfolk is a beautiful part of the world. Our neighborhood in particular is an especially wonderful place to grow up. My mom spent her high school years here after moving around frequently due to my grandfather's career in the Navy. My grandmother built her small business in Norfolk: Rowena's Jam and Jelly Factory, which soon became Virginia-famous. We still visit with my mom's high school friends who all live in the area. We go to Smartmouth Brewery on Orapax Street and drive to Taste Unlimited for the best sandwiches you'll ever have.


Virginia BeachGrace Bellman

There is a lot of history in Tidewater. Even better, there is a lot of family history in Tidewater. If I have learned anything from coming to this area my entire life, it is the importance of maintaining a connection with your roots, with home. I, like my mother, moved around a lot as a child due to my father's job. If I wanted to, I could easily claim to have three or more "hometowns." But it is much easier to just say my most recent home: Dallas. I know deep down that London, Hong Kong, and Norfolk, Virginia mean just as much to me as my home in Texas.

Traveling home is so special. You are surrounded by people who have watched you mature and develop. They have witnessed all your weird and awkward stages, your not-so-graceful moments, and your most impressive achievements. Some of my favorite memories are with family and friends in our backyard in Norfolk on late summer evenings. The mosquitoes are annoying and the humidity is a little brutal but the childhood stories and laugh-until-you-cry tales are worth it.

The Elizabeth River TrailGrace Bellman

As a college student, I have found balancing my connections with home and making friendships at school challenging. I love all the people I have met at college and I know that I have found some future bridesmaids in my sorority sisters, brothers in my guy friends, and mentors in those older than me. But there will always be that tug home, whether that home is London, Hong Kong, Dallas, or Norfolk/Virginia Beach.

Right now, I am spending the week in Virginia. I am trying my best to live in the present and worry less about the future. We have walked along the trail at First Landing State Park, dipped our toes in the ice cold ocean at Virginia Beach, and eaten over half of my grandfather's almond pound cake in just two days. I feel blessed to have a place like this. Norfolk is somewhere I always look forward to visiting, no matter what time of year. Wherever it might be, I think everyone has their own form of Virginia. And it doesn't have to be a place. It could be home in the form of a house, person, or memory. Whatever it might be, I urge you to treasure it. Keep that connection strong and present no matter where your current circumstance takes you. I feel so fortunate that Norfolk will always be that place for me.

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