To My Dear Sweet Mother

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To My Dear Sweet Mother:

Years ago, on a fresh spring day now tucked into the dusty attic of my memory, I debated about the perfect gift to buy for you. Would you like flowers? Dinner? Jewelry? It needed to be just right, of course, because the best gifts are meaningful ones, and it was Mother’s Day, after all, and so, in desperation, I asked you, “Mom, what gift would you enjoy the most?”

You said, without hesitation, “Just write me a letter.”

And I, well, I didn’t do it.

I thought about it, Mom, I really did. But I was busy, very busy. Busy with things that were so important that I don’t even remember them now.

I’m sure I bought you SOMETHING that Mother’s Day, something that I carefully selected just for you, something very special. Something that was so special that I don’t even remember it now. I am sure that you graciously accepted it, just as you doted on the lopsided clay pots that I shaped for you with little hands when I was a child. As I recall, every gift I ever gave you was the best gift you had ever received.

I told myself that my neglect of your request was no big deal because it was just a letter, anyway, and it was probably a trick because “I-don’t-need-anything-please-don’t-spend-money-on-your-dad-and-me” and you never mentioned it again, so why keep worrying about it? But I should have written it because I knew you wanted it, because you asked me to, so here it is, so many years late.

It strikes me that a letter written then would have been quite different, Mom, because then there was so much about your life that I didn’t know. I didn’t know the emotion of embracing a new baby, a precious, tiny likeness of yourself, and understanding that your priorities will never EVER be the same. I didn’t know the intense, undefiled joy of motherhood, or the constant worry, the nagging fears, the poignant hope. I didn’t know the weight of the responsibility that smacked you in the face the instant I arrived, screaming, seeking your comfort already, selfishly, before you even had a chance to catch your breath.

But now I know.

Now I know the emotional journey that I, as your daughter, subjected you to, and I stand in awe of your resilience. I am sorry, and I am inspired, and I am forever grateful for the excellent mentor you have been. You taught me how to be a wife, a friend, a sister, and a mother, more lessons than one letter will allow. But there is one lesson that I appreciate the most, one lesson that informs my parenting every day, one lesson that you never spoke but that I learned by watching you, oh-so-closely, for oh-so-many years: You teach your children the most when you don’t realize you are teaching them at all.

When you struggled with guilt and doubt but sacrificed the rewards of a career anyway to raise your son and daughter, you taught me to prioritize our family and our faith.

When you read me the same books over and over and over again and volunteered at school and befriended my teachers, you taught me the immeasurable value of my education.

When you were diligently calculating as groceries filled the cart, when you refused to buy strawberries in January or Cookie Crisp, well, EVER, you taught me to make wise choices and to live within my means.


When you embraced change as my baby face thinned and my vocabulary grew, you taught me to write new chapters in the book of life, to adapt despite the sense of loss.

When you helped me scrub (and scrub and scrub) my first car, the one that we actually bought at the junkyard, you taught me to take pride in what I have, no matter how it compares.

When you were the “meanest mom” and expected me to help around the house and work part-time and maintain high grades, you taught me to be industrious.

When you were exhausted but would not rest because the family needed clean underwear and there was soccer practice at five, you taught me to persevere and to embrace that this, too, shall pass.

When you baked bread for the neighbor even though your plate was already too full, you taught me to serve, to make time, to find a need and fill it.

When you fluffed my pillows and told me to follow my dreams on my first day at college, knowing that you would secretly sob all the way home, you taught me to be brave.

When I grew up and asked for your advice, and, with great restraint, you encouraged me to make my own decisions, you taught me to trust myself.

Sometimes, as I glance in the mirror, Mom, I catch a glimpse of you. Yes, I resemble you, but that’s not what I see. It’s your heart I see reflected, your values, your traditions. It’s all the things I learned from you when you didn’t know that I was watching.

Someday, when my boys are older and ask what I would like to have for Mother’s Day, I will say, “Just write me a letter.” It’s a great idea, but not original. It’s just another thing my mother taught me when she didn’t realize she was teaching anything at all.

With love,

Your Daughter

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“What Will You Blog About?”


“So I’ve been thinking about starting a blog.”

“Well, that’s exciting. Why do you want to start a blog?”

“I love to write and share and be creative. And there are a few bloggers I really enjoy. I’m feeling kind of inspired, I guess.”

“What will you blog about?”

(Insert “screeching tires” sound effect HERE. End of conversation.)

This, my friends, is the question that derailed my dreams – not once, not twice, but time and time again after I first heard the blogosphere calling.

“What will you blog about?”

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that question. It isn’t even surprising, really. It’s a rather mundane, rather obvious, rather predictable part of the dialogue. It seems a logical response to a friend who says, “So I’ve been thinking about starting a blog.” It’s what I would have said if I were sitting across the table from myself.

Yet it startled me – every – single – time – like the sudden burst of a jack-in-the-box that is expected but jarring nonetheless. And that uncomfortable moment was enough to redirect me, to remind me that not everyone deserves to dream. Dreams are for the carefree, the untroubled, the privileged, and I am none of those things.

Dreams are so easily squashed, charred, drowned, or dismembered.

Like eggs, they break easily before they are hatched.

And this simple question – What will you blog about? – deflated my dream every time. Because my answer was, “I have no idea.” And that just didn’t seem like a respectable response from someone who claims to be serious about writing.

What will you blog about?

It’s a terrifying idea, really, revealing your innermost thoughts, putting those ideas into words, delicately crafting phrases and framing sentences that are so personal, knowing that they are impossible to reclaim once they are shared. Like a politician’s salacious texts or a celebrity’s regrettable tweet, the words live forever, dancing somewhere in cyberspace to be rediscovered, analyzed, challenged, rejected long after the writer is gone.

Writing is a compulsion that is fulfilling . . . and exciting . . . and also as horrifying as a grisly scene from The Walking Dead.


A few times, when the air has seemed just right, just calm and safe enough, I have gently, carefully blown the idea of a blog, like a fragile bubble, toward a few friends, while I sat tight-lipped, squint-eyed, hoping that they would extend a hand where my flimsy idea might land, might be preserved a moment longer, might receive an “ooh” or an “ah” for its fleeting beauty . . .

What will you blog about?


I told you it was fragile.

And so I waited . . . for the time when I would know that it was right . . . for a prophetic dream to tell me exactly what label to slap onto this creation . . . for some miraculous sign . . . for an epiphany . . . for a prescription for confidence . . . for a note from God to arrive in my mailbox, perhaps. (Like the other men in my life, he could be a bit more direct in his communication.  I would appreciate it.)

And finally it hit me; my blog will be about SOMETHING. Or maybe about EVERYTHING. Or maybe, even more accurately, I have created a blog about NOTHING.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that . . .

Questions and fears remain, but there are no more squealing tires in the soundtrack in my head.

What will you blog about?

Welcome to Still Chasing Fireflies, my blog about guilt and joy and frustration and accomplishment and regret, about dreams and failure and hope and tears and laughter. This is a blog about being human. If you are human, you might enjoy my reflections on this life of mine, which, somehow, probably intertwines with yours.

I hope you will be a part of this journey! Thanks for chasing fireflies with me!

~Mary Ann