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A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
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I have a mental disorder. This is what happened when I tried to buy a gun.

How does buying a gun actually compare to getting psychiatric treatment? I decided to find out for myself.

It’s 7 a.m., and a police officer stops me at the gate of the only road that leads to Moon Island.

She asks me for my pass, which I scramble to retrieve from my messenger bag in the backseat of the car. Moon Island is a restricted property controlled by the city of Boston, even though it’s technically in the city of Quincy. But this is hardly the most bizarre or confusing part about my day. Because Moon Island is also the location of the Boston Police shooting range, and I’m here to take a target test so I can get my gun permit.

The officer furrows her brow as she checks my range pass, and I wonder if it’s that obvious that I’ve never actually shot a real gun before in my life.


She tells me to wait outside for 10 or 15 minutes because the range instructors don’t like it when people are early. This is the exact opposite of what the licensing officer told me when I scheduled my appointment three days earlier: "Try to arrive about 15 minutes early," she said. "The range instructors are nice guys, but they don’t like to be kept waiting."

Obviously, I’m off to a good start.

I drive across a land bridge and stand outside for a while, making small talk with some police cadets who are also there as part of their training. "You here for your permit test?" one of them says to me. "You’re the smart one." I’m not sure if this is meant as positive support for obtaining a gun permit or a joke about slogging through police academy. But it’s 7 o'clock in the morning, and I’m really not at my best.

When I finally walk inside the small classroom cabin at exactly 7:15 a.m., I make a mental note of the other people there to take the test — a white guy who looks to be in his 50s or 60s, a Hispanic guy in his 20s, and a straight white couple in their 20s or early 30s.

The instructor looks up at me, shakes his head, and says, "You’re late."

Then he hands me a bucket with 30 rounds and a .38 revolver.

Wait. Let’s back up. There’s something you should know about me before I go on about the shooting range: I have ADHD. And it has a huge effect on my life.

My brain is a massive ocean of too much information. Without my medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it’s easy for me to get lost in the undertow. No matter how hard I try to fight the current, I still get overwhelmed and distracted by every strange texture I feel beneath my feet. This never goes away.

All illustrations by Kitty Curran.

And the medications that do manage to help me a little? They aren’t easy to get.

One of those is Adderall. I remember back in the spring of 2013 waiting around at CVS when a frowning pharmacist called me to the counter. Thanks to its status as a Schedule II controlled substance (such as barbiturates or opioids), there are no automatic renewals for Adderall prescriptions, and the doctor can’t call or fax one in either.

So every month, the routine goes like this: I call the doctor’s office three to five days before the end of the prescription cycle (but no sooner than 21 days since my last prescription was filled), then wait a few days for the request to get from the receptionist to the doctor. Then I travel in person to pick up the new prescription and hand-deliver it to the pharmacy.

But it doesn’t always go smoothly — like on that spring day in question. I was sitting in the CVS after I’d already gone a few days without my medicine, which made me all the more eager to get back to my "normal" functionality as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the pharmacist informed me they were out of stock and weren’t expecting another shipment for a week. D’oh.

With my prescription in hand, I biked over to another CVS, but they too were out of stock and would be for a while. This time, the pharmacist explained that the country was in the midst of a national shortage of Adderall, which had apparently been caused by some confusing collision of agendas between the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and big pharmaceutical companies.

So I showed up at a third CVS that day and was elated to learn they actually had the medicine!

But 10 minutes of waiting turned into 15, then 45, and I went to check if everything was OK. It wasn’t. Massachusetts law requires pharmacies to substitute generic-brand medications unless otherwise specified by the doctor. But it turned out that my insurance only covered the name-brand version of Adderall, which they couldn’t give me because my doctor had not written "no substitutions" by his signature.

"Can’t I just write 'no substitutions' by myself with a pen? How would you even know if it was the doctor or not?" I asked.

"Well, I would know now," the pharmacist said. "And that would be fraud."

She had me there.

So I got back on my bike, went back to the hospital where I’d already been once that day, and waited in line again. I explained the whole scenario as I asked the receptionist to please just write "no substitutions" on my existing prescription. Because remember: These prescriptions aren’t accepted by phone or email or fax, and they’re only allowed to write me one a month.

After some five hours and 15 miles of biking back and forth (and enough stress to kill an elephant), I got my prescription. But that was just for one month. And while this was certainly a worst-case scenario, it’s unfortunately not so far off from every other month.

If you’re wondering what my monthly quest for ADHD meds has to do with buying a gun, you’re not the only one.

On Oct. 4, 2015, I was sitting in my parents’ couch, sipping on a whiskey, while my father watched CNN's coverage of the Umpqua Community College shooting that had claimed 10 lives just a few days earlier. We had just returned from a suicide awareness walk, and I couldn’t help but cringe each time the shooter’s mental health was brought into question by the news anchors, police chief, and other pundits. At one point, a reporter even questioned the shooter’s father directly about his son’s "mental makeup" despite the fact that the man was clearly in shock and mourning.

It’s the argument made famous by Ann Coulter: "Guns don’t kill people, the mentally ill do."

But the truth is far from that. Here are the facts:

People with mental illnesses make up about 20% of the population, and they are significantly more likely to be victims than perpetrators of gun violence in the United States. And more than half of gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides.

Realistically, less than 5% of gun-related killings from 2001-2010 were perpetrated by someone with a diagnosed mental illness, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2015. Mass shootings in particular account for less than 1% of firearm deaths, and some sources project mental illness figure into only about half of those.

I mean, it’s just kind of hard to draw any useful predictions or conclusions from those kinds of fractions.

So as I sat and listened to yet another dour cable news expert rattle on about how the 20% of Americans who are like me are basically tragic but indisputable monsters because we have psychiatric conditions, I decided I'd just about had enough of this unfounded link between mental health and gun rights. I grabbed my laptop and decided right then that I wanted to investigate this system.

Within five minutes, I’d found a listing for a Cobra 380 Derringer Big Bore pistol in Kentucky. It was hot pink and only cost $114.95. I made a burner Google phone number and email address and sent a message to the dealer that I was interested.

He called me 10 minutes later.

People with ADHD — we tend to be a little bit impulsive. So it’s a good thing I live in Massachusetts.

Gun laws vary from state to state, and — as I would eventually learn during the licensing process — this is a major factor in our nation’s gun problem. While Kentucky’s laws are very loose, for example, all online gun sales in the country must be shipped to a licensed dealer in the buyer’s home state. This meant that my little pink Saturday Night Special was going to be harder to get than I had hoped because I’d have to obtain a Massachusetts gun license first.

But it didn’t take long for me to learn that there are plenty of simple and semi-legal ways around this, too.

Most gun-control rankings consider Massachusetts to be the third-strictest state for guns in the union; by comparison, Kentucky ranks around 42nd. Massachusetts also has one of the lowest rates of gun-related deaths per capita, although it’s only fair to point out that correlation isn’t necessarily causation.

But if I was really determined to get a gun, I could have just applied for a Utah gun permit (which is available to any U.S. resident by mail for just $49 and is recognized in 36 other states) then driven an hour north to New Hampshire and purchased a rifle there. Or, I could have changed my legal residence to my in-laws' house in Vermont — I do spend enough time there, even if it is legally questionable. In both cases, I could still purchase and own a gun, even though I legally could not use it in my actual home state of Massachusetts.

This a pretty good summation of how confusing, obnoxious, and generally manipulable our country’s state-by-state gun laws are.

It's important to note that I didn’t actually want this pistol. I didn't plan to use it all. But I wanted to know if getting a gun really was as simple as they said it was, especially given the bureaucratic frustrations that I’d already lived through in my attempts to get proper mental health care. Gun control advocates and gun enthusiasts always seem to be talking past each other, and I thought that if I actually learned firsthand about how to buy a gun, I would be better able to understand the arguments on both sides of that debate and communicate with people instead of at them.

(Also, the city of Boston offers a gun buyback program that pays $200 no questions asked, and I thought it would be kind of hilarious if I could make a profit off of a cheap, crappy gun.)

As tempting as it was to try and skirt the system just to say I did it, though, I decided to go through the proper Massachusetts licensing process to see what it was like. So I signed up for the next available gun safety course in my area — which was eight miles away — and started the course 16 hours later.

That's how I ended up at a plastic folding table in a desolate warehouse just outside Boston at 9 a.m. on a dreary Saturday morning.

The bulk of this wide-open industrial space was a lobby of sorts, littered with gym mats and home exercise equipment. There was an empty glass display case to the left where inventory should have been and a few decorative firearms hanging on a section of the wall. The classroom part was sectioned off, with a few NRA posters to add pops of color to the otherwise bland drywall.

I took a seat toward the center-back, behind a friendly middle-aged couple from the nearby suburb of Tewksbury. I was genuinely impressed by the diversity of the room — seven women, including a black woman and a Hispanic woman, and 11 men, including one Asian man.

The three-hour NRA-certified class cost $100 cash, and the first half-hour consisted entirely of an instructional safety video created by someone with the National Rifle Association. Maybe it was my ADHD, which in my case, is accompanied by auditory processing problems, but it was really hard to sit still through 30 minutes of things like this:

"When a gun’s trigger is pulled, a specific sequence of events occurs. First, the firing pin strikes the primer or case rim and ignites the priming compound. The flame generated by the priming compound ignites the powder charge. The powder burns rapidly and generates a large volume of hot, high-pressure gas. At this time, the case walls expand against the walls of the chamber to form a gas seal. Finally, the high pressure gas propels the bullet out of the barrel at a high velocity."

Did your eyes gloss over? Mine did. It felt like a driver’s ed teacher explaining the combustion sequence of the engine, which might save you some money at the auto shop but isn’t necessarily going to make you a more responsible driver. It's certainly helpful to know how a gun works, but these dry and overly technical hardware explainers didn't actually teach me much.

The "safety" aspects of the video were mostly focused on gun ranges, proper home care, and storage for the firearm. And there were occasional mentions that yes, you should also be carrying it on your person at all times. According to this video, all gun-related incidents were "accidents," which were only caused by ignorance or carelessness.

So what exactly constitutes "safe pistol operation"? This was made explicitly clear:

"Knowing all the gun's safety rules is not enough to ensure safe shooting. Having a safety-oriented attitude is the most important factor in shooting safety. Thus, you should focus not only on learning the rules, but also on developing the type of attitude that ensures that you will follow them at all times."

In other words, safety is the practice of being safe, which you should do because it’s important and, thus, safe. Got it!

Oh, and there was something else about how you’re not supposed to operate a firearm under the influence of recreational drugs, prescription narcotics, depressants, or stimulants. But even with my Adderall, I was having trouble paying attention to the stale mechanical language in the video.

And there’s no way that it could be safer and legally required for me to be off my medication when shooting a gun ... right?

After the video, the instructor explained the basic local laws to us.

He was a heavy-set Italian-American man in a matched grey jumpsuit with a thick North Shore accent, and he did not hesitate to add the disclaimer that he was not a legal expert and that if anyone had any real questions about gun laws in the state of Massachusetts (which he only ever referred to as "Stupid-chusetts" and made us repeat that un-clever nickname back to him several times), they should consult a lawyer.

He explained that there are three different kinds of gun permits you can get in Massachusetts: the firearm identification card (FID), which limits the user to a rifle or a shotgun; a restricted license to carry (LTC), which allows for handguns and semiautomatics as long as they’re kept in the home or in the trunk of your car; or an unrestricted license to carry (LTC), which allows you to conceal-carry anywhere you’d like.

As for how to get each of these licenses? That’s where things get a little more complicated because it all depends on the laws of the town in which you reside, not the town you’re in when you’re carrying that gun. And when pressed on the details of what happens when, say, a Kentucky resident with a conceal-carry license shows up in Boston, the instructor just told us to repeat: "Stupid-chusetts."

For the most part, the instructor seemed to be less concerned about gun safety or etiquette than he was in helping us to not get arrested.

"You have to cover yourself," he explained. "Remember: It’s your gun. No discharging the gun within 150 feet of a home or a highway. So if you see Bambi running across the highway, you do not go over and start shooting at her. Everybody understand?"

He then reminded us that we cannot exercise our right to bear arms while in prison. In general, "exercising our right" did seem to take priority over, erm, anything else about guns.

While the instructor did insist that we do our best to follow all laws and signs that restrict us from carrying a gun with us into certain places, he also made it clear that this was stupid, even though it was the law. "Picture your kids in a classroom right now, some maniac comes through and starts shooting at everyone. There’s no such thing as shelter."

As if right on cue, he said, "The only thing that stops that guy is a gun. So they need to change that law so that teachers can start carrying guns. Everyone should be carrying a gun. If they haven’t realized that now, something’s gonna happen and they will. 'Gun free zones' do not work. They only bring the maniacs in."

Then he sighed and conceded, "But if you do see a sign that says 'no guns allowed,' it’s best to just obey the rules, OK?"

Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned that day was that it is, in fact, illegal to own a grenade launcher in the state of Massachusetts.

This is part of the reason that Massachusetts is considered such a strict state for gun owners: Even when you have obtained that license to carry, there are some extra rules about what you can and cannot own thanks to a statewide ban on "assault weapons."

Our instructor explained that the state restricts the length of your gun barrel, for example, and has an outright ban on high-capacity magazines of more than 10 bullets (which rules out anything made after September 1994, and these laws have been tightened even more since I took this class).

To be fair, there’s no clear evidence that banning semiautomatic weapons affects gun violence rates either way. In criticizing this law, the instructor did make a valid point: If someone is intent on murder, it’s not going to make much of a difference whether they have a 27-inch barrel or a 29-inch barrel.

But the rest of the class seemed particularly appalled at the idea that the government would dare impede their constitutional right to a grenade launcher. In fact, there was some brief confusion about which amendment, exactly, guaranteed our right to a grenade launcher. The instructor assured us that it was the Second.

10 weeks later, I checked off my next "gun owner" box at the Boston Police headquarters, where I swapped stories about day drinking during the Boston Marathon with an officer while she rolled my fingerprints.

That’s another fun detail about Massachusetts’ gun laws that you won’t find in most other states: You have go down to the police station and meet with an officer for an in-person background check. There’s no mandatory waiting period for this — you could feasibly show up the very next business day after you’ve taken your safety course — but since I’m a resident of Boston proper, things were booked up pretty far in advance.

One officer told me that it used to take two to four weeks to make an appointment in Boston. But ever since President Barack Obama announced his executive plan in January 2016, the phones had been running off the hook with residents who were eager to get a gun before the government took that right away from them entirely.

They said they were processing upward of 30 new LTC requests per day, and a surprising amount of them were from 21-year-old college students who were eager to accomplish this particular rite of passage. Car at 16, gun at 21 — for some people, that’s just how it goes, the officer said.

The actual interview and background check process was … fairly simple.

My small talk and banter with the licensing officer was surprisingly delightful. She explained to me that the Boston Police Department isn’t interested in preventing people from exercising their Constitutional right to bear arms. They just want to make sure that those who are armed fill a very basic and mostly objective criteria of competence and character.

What this meant was a few basic questions: Had I ever been convicted of a felony or violent crime or anything involving alcohol, narcotics, or operating under the influence? Had I been dishonorably discharged from the military, or had I ever been the subject of a court-sanctioned restraining order? Had I ever been committed to a hospital or institution for mental illness or substance abuse?

The formal part of this questioning lasted all of 15 minutes. I wrote "personal safety" on the official paperwork as my reason for obtaining an LTC, and that was good enough; no questions asked.

After the officer took my photo — and after I approved of the webcam-quality mugshot that would appear on my physical license — I asked what would happen if I had answered "yes" to any of the necessary questions. She said that some of them were dealbreakers while others simply required a written explanation and subsequent fact-checking.

I was surprised to learn that anyone who had ever been imprisoned for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence was banned for life from obtaining an LTC in Massachusetts. Felonies, restraining orders, and other situations, however, were evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

This might sound concerning, but the officer made a valid point in her explanation: People do dumb stuff all the time, and we’re all human, so you shouldn’t lose your rights just because you were a stupid high school senior who got caught with some pot or a stolen candy bar.

The only trick was, and still is, figuring out where to draw the line. Unfortunately, there's no objective criteria for what causes gun violence — and even if there was, the government wouldn't be allowed to find it. It would technically be discrimination if we didn't allow innocent people with psychiatric conditions (or disabilities or brown skin) to exercise their Constitutional rights. And it's not the job of the police to pass moral judgment on every would-be gun owner — nor should it be.

So that was that, I guess.

Then, finally, I ended up on Moon Island four days later, at the Boston Police shooting range, to try to pass a target test even though I’d never shot a gun before.

That’s the other thing Boston has that the rest of Massachusetts doesn’t: a mandatory shooting test. If I lived across the river in Cambridge — or in any of the 36 states that recognize that Utah gun license — I could legally get my hands on a firearm without ever actually touching one. But as a resident of the city of Boston, I also had to prove a bare minimum basic competency with a firearm before they’d let me buy one for myself.

At one point during my test, one of the range instructors saw me struggling to steady the .38 revolver in my hands, possibly because I had never held an actual gun in my hands before that morning. (And also I wasn’t on my Adderall because it’s illegal to operate firearms while under the influence of any kind of medication.) He walked over to me while I was reloading and offered some friendly advice. "Focus on the sight, not the target," he said. "Don’t pull the trigger, squeeze. Just breathe, relax, and keep it steady."

I did what he said — or tried to, anyway. Then I heard a loud pong come from somewhere near my target paper. "That was a pole," the instructor said. "You’re supposed to hit the target. Not the pole. And what’d my pole ever do to you?"

Oops.


That first time I took the shooting test was my first time handling a gun. 14 of my 30 bullets didn’t even hit the paper, let alone the target in the center of it.

In order to pass, you have to score a minimum of 210 out of 300 possible points on a standard target with rings for eight, nine, and 10 points. If you fail the first time, you can try again within two weeks; and if you fail the second time, you have to wait six months to try again.

They wouldn’t even tell me what I scored the first time around because it was so embarrassingly low. But they did make sure to tease me about losing to a girl — as it turned out, the only woman in our five-person group got the second-highest score.

Passive-aggressive sexist bravado aside, the test administrators were still surprisingly encouraging. They said they were confident I would pass the next time as long as I was relaxed and focused.

"We want everyone to pass, but if you can’t do it, we can’t pass you," one of them said as I left.

"And you know, if you’re close but not quite there, we’ll bump your score up for ya. We’re nice like that," said the other.

"We don’t actually do that," said the first one, with a glare.

When I returned two weeks later, I managed to score 256 points out of a possible 300, making me the highest sharpshooter on the range that day.

All I had to do was relax, take my time, keep both eyes open on the gun sights, and squeeze the trigger when I felt ready.

It might sound silly to enforce that shooting test requirement if someone like me can pass with flying colors the second time around. But I’d counter by saying that it taught me how to respect handling a firearm, which could make a difference for the hundreds of people who are killed and the tens of thousands more who are injured each year by "unintentional" firearm incidents. And frankly, that sounds a lot safer to me than letting any ol’ American walk into a gun store and leave with an M82, having never so much as ranked a high score on Duck Hunt beforehand.

As the licensing officer explained to me before I took (and re-took) the target test, only about 1% of applicants actually fail on both tries — not because of an inability to hit a target, but because they displayed dangerously questionable behaviors or attitudes on the range. If they acted like they were in a Western or a Quentin Tarantino film, for example, the officers on Moon Island would call up the licensing department and say, "That guy? No way." Even if they did ace the test.

That might be a bit subjective, but it's also a pretty low bar, so I'm totally OK with it.

So that's how I, Thom Dunn, someone with a mental disorder and who tends toward impulsiveness and distractibility, was granted a license to carry by the state of Massachusetts.

In these highly specific circumstances, a successful gun licensing process like the one in Massachusetts takes about as much time as it does to get a mental health diagnosis or to find an available therapist — about six to eight weeks if you’re lucky and up to six months if you’re not. And that’s in one of the country’s largest hubs for medical and life sciences. Most other states have fewer health care options and looser gun requirements.

And that's really the crux of it: Once you have a gun license — if your state even requires that much — you can buy a gun, and you’re good to go. $500 will get you a decent semiautomatic pistol and a box of bullets.

Mental health care, on the other hand, is an ongoing treatment. It’s not like a cold or a broken leg that mends over time. You have to keep up with prescription renewals, with therapy, and so on. You might learn to manage it over time, but it never really goes away. And when you're treated like a leper or made to feel like you're broken or weak just for seeking help — which tends to happen in this country — that only serves to make the problem worse.

I embarked on this whole journey because I was fed up with the link between guns and mental health. And now that I have a gun license, I'm still fed up with it.

Before I got my license to carry, I wasn’t a big fan of guns. And to be fair, I’m still not.

But I also have a whole new understanding of just how complicated the gun violence issue really is and how hard it is to determine who can or can't have a gun.

Blaming violence on neurological conditions like ADHD or schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is about as ridiculous as saying, "It's not guns! It's Fridays!" Sure, there's been some overlap, but not enough for us to make any useful conclusions about it. People with mental illnesses are fully capable of leading happy, healthy lives, and their decision-making processes aren’t necessarily affected by their conditions. (And if they are, it doesn't usually manifest as flying fits of violent rage.)

But the question still stands: How do we stop guns from getting in the hands of would-be killers?

After learning how to handle a gun, I am more comfortable with their general existence, and I’m glad to have had the chance to speak with normal, rational human gun owners who, like me, were concerned about safety. Perhaps I shouldn't be so surprised by that last part — after all, 74% of NRA members agree on the need for stronger universal background checks.

But to fix this, we can't punish or restrict innocent people before they've ever committed a crime. What we can do instead is the bare minimum due diligence in making sure that those who do have access to guns are of sound physical and mental condition — regardless of whether they have a psychiatric condition.

I actually think that a system like the one in Massachusetts could be a good place to start for that, but I'm open to a dialogue.

(There's also that issue of states' rights, which enable people to legally obtain illegal firearms just by driving to another state, but that's a whole huge conversation in and of itself to table for another time.)

As much as we like to think of ourselves as rational beings, research shows that our personal perceptions color the way we look at the world — for better and for worse.

Unfortunately, our public discourse about guns tends to revolve around mass shootings, which only make up a fraction of the overall gun deaths in the country. Often, we ignore the evidence to the contrary and convince ourselves instead that anyone who kills another person has to be mentally ill. But "being a murderer" is not the same as having a mental illness.

These fears and perceptions are why some people do actually feel safer with a gun despite the mounting evidence to the contrary.

They're why we talk about "criminals" and "bad guys" with guns like they're a faceless, monolithic evil. They're why attempted suicide is a felony in some states but killing someone based on a subjective claim of self-defense is legal in others.

And they're why we keep wrongly equating gun violence with mental illness.

It sounds strange, but these perceptions are a natural part of "healthy" human brain function. However, they also contribute more to our continued gun problem than mental illness ever will because they prevent us from having a productive conversation.

Perhaps the biggest roadblocks in addressing our nation's problem with gun violence, then, are fear and a lack of empathy — on every side of every argument.

As we've seen throughout history, one bullet has the power to change the world.

But so does a single idea. And it all comes down to the difference between those two things.

Bullets are made for destruction, even when they're used in self-defense. But ideas can be used to create. And I think that's a much more powerful thing.

There's a lot of complicated ground to address around guns in America. But it all boils down to the fact that violence only ever begets violence. If we want to live in a safer, saner world, then we need to stop exchanging bullets and start exchanging our ideas instead.

Ileah Parker (left) and Alexis Vandecoevering (right)

True

At 16, Alexis Vandecoevering already knew she wanted to work in the fire department. Having started out as a Junior Firefighter and spending her time on calls as a volunteer with the rest of her family, she’s set herself up for a successful career as either a firefighter or EMT from a young age.

Ileah Parker also leaned into her career interests at an early age. By 16, she had completed an internship with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, learning about Information Technology, Physical Therapy, Engineering, and Human Resources in healthcare, which allowed her to explore potential future pathways. She’s also a member of Eryn PiNK, an empowerment and mentoring program for black girls and young women.

While these commitments might sound like a lot for a teenager, it all comes down to school/life balance. This wouldn’t be possible for Alexis or Ileah without attending Pearson’s Connections Academy, a tuition-free online public school available in 31 states across the U.S., that not only helps students get ready for college but dive straight into college coursework and get a head start on career training as well.

“Connections Academy allowed me extensive flexibility, encouraged growth in all aspects of my life, whether academic, interpersonal, or financial, and let me explore options for my future career, schooling, and extracurricular endeavors,” said Ileah.

A recent survey by Connections Academy of over 1,000 students in grades 8-12 and over 1,000 parents or guardians across the U.S., highlights the importance of school/life balance when it comes to leading a fulfilling and successful life. The results show that students’ perception of their school/life balance has a significant impact on their time to consider career paths, with 76% of those with excellent or good school/life balance indicating they know what career path they are most interested in pursuing versus only 62% of those who have a fair to very poor school/life balance.

Additionally, students who report having a good or excellent school/life balance are more likely than their peers to report having a grade point average in the A-range (57% vs 35% of students with fair to very poor balance).

At Connections Academy, teens get guidance navigating post-secondary pathways, putting them in the best possible position for college and their careers. Connections Academy’s College and Career Readiness offering for middle and high school students connects them with employers, internships and clubs in Healthcare, IT, and Business.


“At Connections Academy, we are big proponents of encouraging students to think outside of the curriculum” added Dr. Lorna Bryant, Senior Director of Career Solutions in Pearson’s Virtual Learning division. “While academics are still very important, bringing in more career and college exposure opportunities to students during middle and high school can absolutely contribute to a more well-rounded school/life balance and help jumpstart that career search process.”

High school students can lean into career readiness curriculum by taking courses that meet their required high school credits, while also working toward micro-credentials through Coursera, and getting college credit applicable toward 150 bachelor’s degree programs in the U.S.

Alexis Vandecoevering in her firefighter uniform

Alexis, a Class of 2024 graduate, and Ileah, set to start her senior year with Connections Academy, are on track to land careers they’re passionate about, which is a key driver behind career decisions amongst students today.

Of the students surveyed who know what career field they want to pursue, passion and genuine interest is the most commonly given reasoning for both male and female students (54% and 66%, respectively).

Parents can support their kids with proper school/life balance by sharing helpful resources relating to their career interests. According to the survey, 48% of students want their parents to help them find jobs and 43% want their parents to share resources like reading materials relating to their chosen field.

While teens today have more challenges than ever to navigate, including an ever-changing job market, maintaining school/life balance and being given opportunities to explore career paths at an early age are sure to help them succeed.

Learn more about Connections Academy’s expanded College and Career Readiness offering here.

Science

A juice company dumped orange peels in a national park. Here's what it looks like now.

12,000 tons of food waste and 21 years later, this forest looks totally different.


In 1997, ecologists Daniel Janzen and Winnie Hallwachs approached an orange juice company in Costa Rica with an off-the-wall idea.

In exchange for donating a portion of unspoiled, forested land to the Área de Conservación Guanacaste — a nature preserve in the country's northwest — the park would allow the company to dump its discarded orange peels and pulp, free of charge, in a heavily grazed, largely deforested area nearby.

One year later, one thousand trucks poured into the national park, offloading over 12,000 metric tons of sticky, mealy, orange compost onto the worn-out plot.



The site was left untouched and largely unexamined for over a decade. A sign was placed to ensure future researchers could locate and study it.

16 years later, Janzen dispatched graduate student Timothy Treuer to look for the site where the food waste was dumped.

Treuer initially set out to locate the large placard that marked the plot — and failed.

The first deposit of orange peels in 1996.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"It's a huge sign, bright yellow lettering. We should have been able to see it," Treuer says. After wandering around for half an hour with no luck, he consulted Janzen, who gave him more detailed instructions on how to find the plot.

When he returned a week later and confirmed he was in the right place, Treuer was floored. Compared to the adjacent barren former pastureland, the site of the food waste deposit was "like night and day."

The site of the orange peel deposit (L) and adjacent pastureland (R).

Photo by Leland Werden.

"It was just hard to believe that the only difference between the two areas was a bunch of orange peels. They look like completely different ecosystems," he explains.

The area was so thick with vegetation he still could not find the sign.

Treuer and a team of researchers from Princeton University studied the site over the course of the following three years.

The results, published in the journal "Restoration Ecology," highlight just how completely the discarded fruit parts assisted the area's turnaround.

The ecologists measured various qualities of the site against an area of former pastureland immediately across the access road used to dump the orange peels two decades prior. Compared to the adjacent plot, which was dominated by a single species of tree, the site of the orange peel deposit featured two dozen species of vegetation, most thriving.

Lab technician Erik Schilling explores the newly overgrown orange peel plot.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

In addition to greater biodiversity, richer soil, and a better-developed canopy, researchers discovered a tayra (a dog-sized weasel) and a giant fig tree three feet in diameter, on the plot.

"You could have had 20 people climbing in that tree at once and it would have supported the weight no problem," says Jon Choi, co-author of the paper, who conducted much of the soil analysis. "That thing was massive."

Recent evidence suggests that secondary tropical forests — those that grow after the original inhabitants are torn down — are essential to helping slow climate change.

In a 2016 study published in Nature, researchers found that such forests absorb and store atmospheric carbon at roughly 11 times the rate of old-growth forests.

Treuer believes better management of discarded produce — like orange peels — could be key to helping these forests regrow.

In many parts of the world, rates of deforestation are increasing dramatically, sapping local soil of much-needed nutrients and, with them, the ability of ecosystems to restore themselves.

Meanwhile, much of the world is awash in nutrient-rich food waste. In the United States, up to half of all produce in the United States is discarded. Most currently ends up in landfills.

The site after a deposit of orange peels in 1998.

Photo by Dan Janzen.

"We don't want companies to go out there will-nilly just dumping their waste all over the place, but if it's scientifically driven and restorationists are involved in addition to companies, this is something I think has really high potential," Treuer says.

The next step, he believes, is to examine whether other ecosystems — dry forests, cloud forests, tropical savannas — react the same way to similar deposits.

Two years after his initial survey, Treuer returned to once again try to locate the sign marking the site.

Since his first scouting mission in 2013, Treuer had visited the plot more than 15 times. Choi had visited more than 50. Neither had spotted the original sign.

In 2015, when Treuer, with the help of the paper's senior author, David Wilcove, and Princeton Professor Rob Pringle, finally found it under a thicket of vines, the scope of the area's transformation became truly clear.

The sign after clearing away the vines.

Photo by Tim Treuer.

"It's a big honking sign," Choi emphasizes.

19 years of waiting with crossed fingers had buried it, thanks to two scientists, a flash of inspiration, and the rind of an unassuming fruit.


This article originally appeared on 08.23.17

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

@kellyvellly/TikTok

Talk about a win-win-win for everyone involved.

Default parents need a break. Back-up parents need opportunities to bond with kids. Kids need fun weekend activities. Meeting all these separate needs might seem impossible, but one mom has shared how she and her husband make it happen.

In a video posted to her TikTok, Kelly Irene explains how implementing “Dadurdays” (cute name, right?) were a game changer. In fact, they’ve “slowly become one of the most anticipated days of the week.”

Here’s what a typical Dadurday looks like:


“Basically every Saturday ... we do this where my husband will take our toddler, and they will just go off on these little adventures together. I am not invited. This is just daddy and daughter’s special time, and they go and they have the time of their lives. They might go to the beach. or they might go to a waterfall or go on a hike. Or they might just go swimming in town, like whatever. They do whatever they want. I don't even ask. None of my business. They are going off and having the time of their lives,” Kelly says.

She goes on to say that both her husband and daughter “live for it,” since it makes up for lost time during the work week.

“When Saturday rolls around, it's his time to shine.”



And when Dadurday is complete, their daughter is thoroughly wiped and ready for a long nap, making for a very peaceful Saturday night.

“It's just a great experience for everyone. All around. Couldn't recommend it enough. And I do recognize we only have one child. So I'm sure as our family expands, Dadurday is probably going to look a little different. It's going to evolve!” Kelly concludes.

Kelly’s family is apparently not the only one to implement this type of strategy. Soon other parents shared their own spins on Dadurdays.

“We call it Public Transportation Day because both my son and husband love the bus,” one person wrote. “They go wherever they can go on the bus or the subway and come back with stories of adventure.”

“We call it Saturdaddy,” added another.

Several dads chimed in to share how much the value getting to have Dadurdays.

“Saturdays are the day my wife sleeps in, I get up with the baby and we go to the hardware store, run errands and get doughnuts! Come home mid-morning when mom’s rested!” one commented.

Another said: “Girl dad here.. I’m totally doing this. Love it.”

And of course, just because the fun name is new, the concept has been around for a minute.

“When I was a toddler my dad took me to zoo, McDonald’s, and target for a my little pony every Friday. I’m 22 now and this was my favorite thing that I did with my dad to this day!” recalled one viewer.

As for what Kelly does during Dadurdays, she said in a follow-up video that it always changes.


@kellyvellly Replying to @Sandy how im spending #dadurday ♬ original sound - Kelly Irene


“Some days I just rot, and I don't do anything productive. I just lay around. If that's what I need — to be a potato for a day — I'll do that. But other days like today ... I'm just doing a bunch of laundry and getting packed because we leave for California in a couple days. My very best friend is getting married, so I'm just getting ready for that. It's a lot easier to do that when I'm all by myself.”

But one thing remains the same: “Dadurday is just as much for me as it is for dad.”

Family

Mom explains the common Boomer parenting style that still affects many adults today

Many are relieved to finally have a term for this experience.

“What they want is dishonest harmony rather than honest conflict.”

There are certainly many things the Boomer parents generally did right when raising their kids. Teaching them the importance of manners and respect. That actions do, in fact, have consequences. That a little manners go a long way…all of these things are truly good values to instill in kids.

But—and we are speaking in broad strokes here—being able to openly discuss difficult feelings was not one of the skills passed down by this generation. And many Gen X and millennial kids can sadly attest to this.

This is why the term “dishonest harmony” is giving many folks of this age group some relief. They finally have a term to describe the lack of emotional validation they needed throughout childhood for the sake of saving face.


In a video posted to TikTok, a woman named Angela Baker begins by saying, “Fellow Gen X and millennials, let's talk about our parents and their need for dishonest harmony.”

Barker, who thankfully did not experience this phenomenon growing up, but says her husband “certainly” did, shared that when she’s tried to discuss this topic, the typical response she’d get from Boomers would be to “Stop talking about it. We don't need to hear about it. Move on. Be quiet.”

And it’s this attitude that’s at the core of dishonest harmony.

“What that’s showing is their lack of ability to handle the distress that they feel when we talk openly about uncomfortable things,” she says. “What they want is dishonest harmony rather than honest conflict.”



“Keep quiet about these hard issues. Suppress your pain, suppress your trauma. Definitely don't talk openly about it so that you can learn to heal and break the cycle,” she continues. “What matters most is that we have the appearance of harmony, even if there's nothing harmonious under the surface.”

Barker concludes by theorizing that it was this need to promote a certain facade that created most of the toxic parenting choices of that time period.

“The desire of boomer parents to have this perception that everything was sweet and hunky dory, rather than prioritizing the needs of their kids, is what drove a lot of the toxic parenting we experienced.”

Barker’s video made others feel so seen, as clearly indicated by the comments.

“How did I not hear about dishonest harmony until now? This describes my family dynamic to a T. And if you disrespect that illusion, you are automatically labeled as the problem. It’s frustrating,” one person wrote.

“THANK YOU SO MUCH! I'm a 49 yo biker sitting in my bedroom crying right now. You just put a name to my darkness!” added another

Many shared how they were refusing to repeat the cycle.

One wrote, “This is EXACTLY my family dynamic. I’m the problem because I won’t remain quiet. Not anymore. Not again.”

“I love when my kids tell me what I did wrong. It gives me a chance to acknowledge and apologize. Everyone wants to be heard,” said another.

Of course, no parenting style is perfect. And all parents are working with the current ideals of the time, their own inner programming and their inherent need to course correct child raising problems of the previous generation. Gen Alpha parents will probably cringe at certain parenting styles currently considered in vogue. It’s all part of the process.

But hopefully one thing we have learned as a collective is that true change happens when we summon the courage to have difficult conversations.

Identity

Formerly enslaved man's response to his 'master' wanting him back is a literary masterpiece

"I would rather stay here and starve — and die, if it come to that — than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters."

A photo of Jordan Anderson.

In 1825, at the approximate age of 8, Jordan Anderson (sometimes spelled "Jordon") was sold into slavery and would live as a servant of the Anderson family for 39 years. In 1864, the Union Army camped out on the Anderson plantation and he and his wife, Amanda, were liberated. The couple eventually made it safely to Dayton, Ohio, where, in July 1865, Jordan received a letter from his former owner, Colonel P.H. Anderson. The letter kindly asked Jordan to return to work on the plantation because it had fallen into disarray during the war.

On Aug. 7, 1865, Jordan dictated his response through his new boss, Valentine Winters, and it was published in the Cincinnati Commercial. The letter, entitled "Letter from a Freedman to His Old Master," was not only hilarious, but it showed compassion, defiance, and dignity. That year, the letter would be republished in theNew York Daily Tribune and Lydia Marie Child's "The Freedman's Book."

The letter mentions a "Miss Mary" (Col. Anderson's Wife), "Martha" (Col. Anderson's daughter), Henry (most likely Col. Anderson's son), and George Carter (a local carpenter).

Dayton, Ohio,
August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee



Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jordon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy, — the folks call her Mrs. Anderson, — and the children — Milly, Jane, and Grundy — go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams's Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve — and die, if it come to that — than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,
Jordon Anderson

Learn more about Jordan Anderson here.


This article originally appeared on 11.03.17.




Pregnant.

There it was, clear as day, two blue lines staring back at me from the small pregnancy test I had just purchased.

I double-checked...

One line = not pregnant.

Two lines = pregnant.

Photo via iStock.



Yup, I was definitely pregnant.

My heart was pounding.

My head was spinning.

My stomach was churning.

I was nervous, excited, scared, and ecstatic all at the same time.

Photo via iStock.

This was actually happening! After years of dreaming, preparing for, and anticipating this day, it was finally here. I was going to be a mother.

Little did I know that in nine short months, I would begin the most exhausting, life-changing, heart-wrenching, but indescribably rewarding journey of my life.

In nine months, I would learn the price of motherhood firsthand. I would know exactly what it takes to be a mother. I would gain a whole new understanding of and gratitude for the beautiful woman I call Mom.

I would learn about things mothers experience that their children often know very little about.

Here are 10 things your mom never told you.

1. You made her cry ... a lot.

She cried when she found out she was pregnant. She cried as she gave birth to you. She cried when she first held you. She cried with happiness. She cried with fear. She cried with worry. She cried because she feels so deeply for you. She felt your pain and your happiness and she shared it with you, whether you realized it or not.

2. She wanted that last piece of pie.

But when she saw you look at it with those big eyes and lick your mouth with that tiny tongue, she couldn't eat it. She knew it would make her much happier to see your little tummy be filled than hers.

3. It hurt.

When you pulled her hair, it hurt; when you grabbed her with those sharp fingernails that were impossible to cut, it hurt; when you bit her while drinking milk, that hurt, too. You bruised her ribs when you kicked her from her belly; you stretched her stomach out for nine months; you made her body contract in agonizing pain as you entered this world.

4. She was always afraid.

From the moment you were conceived, she did all in her power to protect you. She became your mama bear. She was that lady who wanted to say no when the little girl next door asked to hold you and who cringed when she did because in her mind no one could keep you as safe as she herself could. Her heart skipped two beats with your first steps. She stayed up late to make sure you got home safe and woke up early to see you off to school. With every stubbed toe and little stumble, she was close by; she was ready to snatch you up with every bad dream or late-night fever. She was there to make sure you were OK.

She stayed up late to make sure you got home safe and woke up early to see you off to school.

5. She knows she's not perfect.

She is her own worst critic. She knows all her flaws and sometimes hates herself for them. She is hardest on herself when it comes to you, though. She wanted to be the perfect mom, to do nothing wrong — but because she is human, she made mistakes. She is probably still trying to forgive herself for them. She wishes with her whole heart that she could go back in time and do things differently, but she can't, so be kind to her and know she did the best she knew how to do.


6. She watched you as you slept.

There were nights when she was up 'til 3 a.m. praying that you would finally fall asleep. She could hardly keep her eyes open as she sang to you, and she would beg you to "please, please fall asleep." Then, when you finally fell asleep, she would lay you down, and all her tiredness would disappear for a short second as she sat by your bedside looking down at your perfect cherub face, experiencing more love than she knew was possible, despite her worn-out arms and aching eyes.

7. She carried you a lot longer than nine months.

You needed her to. So she did. She would learn to hold you while she cleaned; she would learn to hold you while she ate; she would even hold you while she slept because it was the only way she could sometimes. Her arms would get tired, her back would hurt, but she held you still because you wanted to be close to her. She snuggled you, loved you, kissed you, and played with you. You felt safe in her arms; you were happy in her arms; you knew you were loved in her arms, so she held you, as often and as long as you needed.

Her arms would get tired, her back would hurt, but she held you still because you wanted to be close to her.

8. It broke her heart every time you cried.

There was no sound as sad as your cries or sight as horrible as the tears streaming down your perfect face. She did all in her power to stop you from crying, and when she couldn't stop your tears, her heart would shatter into a million little pieces.

9. She put you first.

She went without food, without showers, and without sleep. She always put your needs before her own. She would spend all day meeting your needs, and by the end of the day, she would have no energy left for herself. But the next day, she would wake up and do it all over again because you meant that much to her.

10. She would do it all again.

Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs anyone can do, and it will take you to your very limits sometimes. You cry, you hurt, you try, you fail, you work, and you learn. But, you also experience more joy than you thought was possible and feel more love than your heart can contain. Despite all the pain, grief, late nights, and early mornings you put your mom through, she would do it all again for you because you are worth it to her.

So, next time you see her, tell your mom thank you; let her know that you love her. She can never hear it too many times.


This article originally appeared on 05.27.16