Dear Holly,

Every year until you were twenty-one I made you a birthday crown on your birthday!

At first with colored paper and crayons and gold stickers and then later on with quotes and inspiration and dreams of the year to come. This year it’s a birthday blog! And it’s not to inspire you (although I hope it does) but to thank you for what you’ve taught me and how you’ve inspired me as we’ve grown into women together.

Happy Birthday! I wish you a day full of gratitude and appreciation for being born at this time, in this place, on this great earth, to do just the work you are doing!

I love you so much, Gretchen

Ten Things I’ve Learned About Life From My Sister Holly

Honesty trumps being sincere or nice. There have been moments when I really didn’t like what she had to say and she said it without sugar-coating it. Like when she told me, “He’s not the one!” or when I asked, “Do I look pregnant in my face?” And she said, “Yes you do.” Being honest builds trust and she’s someone I know I can count on to set me straight. When I need an ear that will not only listen but hold me accountable to being my biggest and my best self I call Holly.

When Holly moved from Georgia to California by herself, got her undergraduate degree in Holistic Health, and become a massage therapist, I was inspired. She opened the world of holistic healing to me and her boldness inspired me to go back to school to study herbal medicine. I’ve learned that life is an experiment. There are no wrong turns and no mistakes and every new chapter is an opportunity to learn.

Nana always told us, “just smile!” And it’s true. Holly’s smile lights up a room, her laugh makes you laugh, her storytelling is hilarious, and her dry humor often makes you pee your pants, o.k. maybe just me. But there are things that only sisters who have known each other intimately for more than a quarter of a century laugh at together and I love that I get to share that kind of lightness with you.

You don’t have to climb to the top of every mountain. If there are mosquitos in your face biting you and you don’t have good shoes and you’re slipping on a steep slope and you have cramps and you’re hungry for lunch and you didn’t pack enough water and you’ve gone 80% of the way and you have a great view and you have gotten great pictures (to show your friends) and you’ve climbed plenty of other mountains all over the world and you’re just plain tired of the climb. You really can turn around. It doesn’t mean anything about you, your toughness, the mountain, or any of the reasons listed above, it just means you’re choosing to turn around. In other words you can choose powerfully to create your future in any moment.

Life doesn’t have to be serious or significant. One time I made Holly a journal for a road trip she was taking, I think the move from Georgia to California. It had little inspiring quotes on different pages and a map and drawings of things she might see along the way. She joked at me about how I had written her out a plan to follow, “You will have this discovery on this day” and “on this day you’ll become very wise and have all the answers!” Humor and lightness about the journey we’re on is essential and I’ve learned that from Holly!

Huge life lesson: don’t compare yourself to others. Holly always reminds me of that. It’s a dark alley and a bad place for your brain to go alone. It takes you away from all that you have, the present moment, and what’s possible in the next moment.

Be kind to people. Sometimes people need extra kindness and tenderness and love. Sometimes they need extra attention and support and compassion. Sometimes they need holding and snuggling and tea. I’ve learned that being kind is important and definately more important than being right.

Following your dreams takes great courage. My sister is now going into her second year of a Master’s program in Acupuncture. Moving back to Maryland, living with family, taking out more loans, working a part-time job, making new friends, life hasn’t always been easy. Holly has shown me that you can go from difficult to blossoming, from unsure to being a healer, from worried and stressed about yourself to getting out there and making a difference with other people. She’s taken herself and her life on and done the work within herself, in her relationships, at school, and in her job to truly live and dance in the present moment and that inspires me.

Be gentle with life. As older sisters do, there has been more than one occasion when I’ve hurt my little sister. I’ve learned that being gentle will get you farther than being angry.

One time for my birthday Holly got me the gift of jumping out of an airplane. I went first and was absolutely terrified. I swear I wouldn’t have done it if she hadn’t been down on the ground, watching, waiting for me to go first. Be daring! Even if you’re scared and don’t want to. Just do it! This is your one wild and precious life so you might as well jump!