Dear Mr. Governor,
I do believe I am quite overdue at writing you this thank you note. As it turns out, I’m not the best at remembering such things. I was fairly certain I’d written you one (at least in my head) but it wasn’t until your latest correspondence with the pretty gold seal and finely inked hand-written signature landed on my kitchen counter that I questioned whether the note I’d penned had actually made it your way. If it’s any consolation, a few weeks ago I ran across a beautifully embroidered hooded newborn towel I’d bought for my friend’s baby – that child is now five.
In the event that you are unable to place a face with the name, I was the one that hobbled onto your stage with the cast on my leg. You not only gave me an award, but were classy enough to make a last-minute change and also place one around the neck of the fine young man helping me onto the stage. Apparently, you’ve learned a thing or two about success and marriage… Between the bright lights and massive crowd the details of that initial interaction were a little lost on me, but fortunately there were plenty of people documenting the day and writing articles like this to remind me of the things we both said.
You used words like “innovation” and “entrepreneur” and “young” and then looked me in the eyes and thanked me for what I was doing to advocate on behalf of families living with severe food allergies. I was honored. Still am. But, quite honestly, I was worried I would disappoint you. I was broken (quite literally) and weary and wondered how I could live up to your high expectations if I wasn’t always able to keep my own child safe. How could I represent all those things you called me when my best efforts weren’t always good enough? What did you (and others) expect to see from me in terms of how I would shape my personal and professional goals and serve as a representative of someone “Thinking Big” for our great state?
And so, when all the cameras left I hobbled back to my car and did the only thing I could think to do at the time – I took the shiny medal you gave me and tucked it the center console. For the past year and a half, it’s sat there to see when I open the compartment, like a secret note just from you to me.
That was before I knew though. Before I’d taken the time to read about the ups and downs in your life. How you’d been the skinny, short kid as well, or how you’d served your country and also served a whole lot of donuts. (All things which make me think we would have a lot to talk about.)
I need to tell you what a difference you’ve made by believing in me though. First and foremost, you’ve raised awareness of food allergies through all the press the award received. (Bless you for that.) Secondly, you encouraged me to continue to be an example of someone “Thinking Big” and never back down from looking for ways to improve upon the world instead of simply being okay with how it is. That one took a while to sink in because a) that’s a lot of expectations to have on your shoulders and b) having such a perspective can make one seem a little… different. And, dare I say, very misunderstood at times.
But then you did the unthinkable… You followed up with me. Twice, actually. Despite the fact it took me some time to start working through my own “spiritual awakening,” you didn’t forget me. You made a point to say “Hey you! I care about you and haven’t forgotten you. Keep being different. You’ve got this! Whatever you decide THIS is!” Although perhaps the literal translation varied slightly…
Now, finally, I can look back and be comfortable with what you and others saw in me. My own attempts at having a safe and happy family have shifted from trying to juggle multiple businesses and being quite so focused on food allergies and more about balancing my life in a way so that life as a food allergy mom is just a part of who I am. I’m finding people to help guide me and reign in my need to constantly improve on the world and instead focus on savoring the goodness of the way the world as it is today. People who are bold enough to remind me that solving world hunger isn’t within the scope of something I should tackle quite yet – but if I choose to do so then I need to be better about letting others in on my thought process and, most importantly, to always be kind. Along the way there have been little signs that I’m headed in the right direction. Remember that baby boy of mine we talked about? Yesterday he had an allergic reaction and was able to communicate it in a way that grownups were able to understand. He’s ok. We’re ok. Most importantly, he is growing up learning that that he needs to be his own advocate and that living with severe food allergies is just one part of his sweet little life.
As for your faith in me? Well, I’ve heard you loud and clear. That medal and all your shiny letters have served to encourage me to trust my instincts and never be afraid of thinking big, even if it makes me a little… different. The fractured foot I had when we met has been restored and so has my faith in knowing that God has his own direction for my life. I’ve found ways to dedicate my efforts towards a few of our common interests – our families, our country, healthcare and donuts. (Only I’ll take mine gluten-free, please.) This week marks a month since I ended up temporarily paralyzed from the waist down – don’t worry though, I’m on the mend now. During the time I spent staring at the ceiling I decided I couldn’t just lay there, so I created an online campaign to raise money for researching rare medical genetic disorders by selling cute t-shirts. Can you believe my family and friends managed to raise almost $1000?
What I didn’t tell them is that I had the Governor’s words of encouragement in the back of my head, always reminding me to think big and use my unquenchable desire to make the world a better place. You’ve reminded me that even the tastiest donut once started as a pile of mush and had to be shaped by the loving hands of others that believed it could become something more. For that, I’m grateful.
p.s. – If you know of any newborn babies named William then please let me know. I have a beautifully embroidered hooded newborn towel they are welcome to.
***7/25/17 Addendum: The “Write Your Own Story” campaign has been so successful that after my diagnosis with Guillain-Barrre (GBS) we decided to do a “push goal” of raising money for GBS research and advocacy efforts. Same t-shirts, another great cause! Check it out here.***