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Rated: E · Draft · Adult · #890832
A father's lessons in love, life and cooking ch. 6,7,8

It is not what we take up, but what we give up, that makes us rich.
Henry Ward Beecher

Seafood Soup

1/2/lb. cod
1 lb. medium shrimp
1 lb. sea scallops
2 dz. clams
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup fresh chopped scallions
1 bottle of beer
1/4 olive oil
sea salt

Boil shrimp shells and set broth aside. In large pot, pour in olive oil and garlic, saute garlic then add scallions and shrimp broth. Add peeled and de-veined shrimp along with sea scallops (chopped). Pour in beer and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium low and add cod and fresh parsley, add salt and pepper to taste. Just prior to serving, place washed clams into pot and cover. Allow the pot to come to low boil or until clams open. Serve over rice with lime wedge and a cold beer.

Dear Sophia,

This will be a winning meal every time, it's quick, easy and delicious! I love to prepare this on a Sunday morning and allow all of the flavors to slowly blend. I like to head out to the beach for a few hours, then come back and heat up a bowl of soup and enjoy it a with a cold brew. This is probably my favorite seafood soup because I prefer broth to a heavy cream base, and because it just tastes so darn healthy. I look forward to the day when you've learned this recipe and I'm being served a bowl of your soup after a nice day on the beach.

I've tried to include as many important virtues and lessons that I feel will be of value to you as you journey through life. Knowing full well that these observations are at least partly rooted in the situation I now find myself in. Still, these are values or lessons that I've discovered and learned along my way in life regardless of what is currently motivating my recollections. I was talking to your uncle Chris while driving back to Nana's house after church. We had just attended mass with your Nana in a beautiful 230 year old church in East Falls, which is a very old neighborhood in Philadelphia. This was the first time I had been in church with my mother since she returned from the Peace Corps 4 months ago, and I was filled with gratitude to have her home. We were seated in one of the front pews and were joined by one of your Nana's very dear friends from college; Amy LaMoure and her two children Grace and Will. I didn't realize at the time that the mass was celebrating the one year anniversary of Amy's husband's death from cancer. My mother whispered to me the significance of the day soon after I was seated; this was for me a raw look at a very sad yet beautiful scene. I knew the gravity of the moment for Amy and her children, probably Grace more than Will, as she is 7 years old and remembers her father much more then her brother.

After mass, my mom invited Amy and the kids back for some brunch, it was a gloriously sunny and cool day for August, something I was enjoying as much for the change of scenery as the familiarity of being home. I was riding with my brother Chris with Amy and her children following in their car. He made a comment to me that rather struck me; he said how much he admired Amy for her sacrifice. I thought about this comment and after a moment's reflection asked what exactly he meant by "admired"? He said he thought it was inspiring how Amy had picked up the way she had and raising two kids after such a sudden death of her husband. Amy is only 40 and her husband was only 41. I said yes, it was truly admirable, yet as far as sacrifice went I suggested that while it was admirable to pick up and move on, what choice did she have? Life does indeed go on, especially when there are children involved. With all due respect to her plight, I told Chris that I didn't beleive Amy would see her self as making any great sacrifice. The fact of the matter was that Amy had two children to raise and instinctively you do what you must to provide and nurture them through the mire of grief and loss, only then do you worry about yourself. He got my point, which was actually based on something he said to me a few months before about how he admired me for what I had been going through with regard to your mother's and my situation and how I had remained so focused throughout my ordeal. I told him then that I am not to be admired, I am not doing any more than he himself would do if he was in my situation. You have to pick up and move on, there is no sacrifice, there is nothing special that I or anyone else is doing. You just do what needs to be done.

The term sacrifice for me is reserved for those who toil for the needy, or struggle for better against all odds. Your grandmother left her home for Central America three years ago at age 63 for a two-and-a-half year year stint in the Peace Corps. She left behind her everyday conveniences, her family and her career, all things we take for granted, to serve others less fortunate and much more needy. This to me is sacrifice. Having said this, there is also a great deal of sacrifice that goes into parenting on a day to day basis, nothing that is worthy of a medal mind you, but sacrifice all the same. To be a successful parent, student or anything else you aspire to in life will require sacrifices. I am constantly at odds with your mother because I've felt that in the course of her struggle she has not chosen the tougher path, the path of self sacrifice and personal analysis. I make no claim to being any better or more in tune when it comes to self criticism, yet one area I've consistently maintained as a father is the willingness to sacrifice my needs and wants for the best interest of the family as a whole. To be successful in a marriage or as a parent you must constantly sacrifice, which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, because at the end of the day any successes at the expense of my sacrifice is all of our success.

Of course there are many forms of sacrifice Sophia, and you too will come to know this as you mature. To sacrifice for anything or any person is in itself a noble gesture if done so willingly. One thing I do know is we're all sacrificing something everyday. Some of us know it and accept it, and some of us know it and resent it. The important lesson here is to always have the wisdom to know the difference. It may be that someday you'll find yourself sacrificing for either your mother or me in our old age, or you may put off a degree to raise your family, whatever the case you must remember the noblest form of service will be your sacrifice to others. In many ways I feel as though I have sacrificed a great deal with regards to my relationship with your mother. I knew when we left Philadelphia that I would be away for at least 2 years while she continued her studies, though the "plan" was to return and start our family there.

I know now more than I could ever possibly imagined knowing then, and that is that your mother's father had no intention of ever letting her leave Florida. Of course he didn't twist arms, but he had an agenda, as such he continually built barriers to prevent us from returning. His so called good intentions were really his form of control, he used possessions and money to influence all of his children. Once your mother didn't want to leave it didn't matter what I was saying anymore. I watched as he meddled in each of your mother's sibling's lives. I witnessed a slow steady campaign on your grandfather's behalf to slowly control your mother to the point where he actively campaigned for us not to return to Philadelphia. As if his past sins were not enough, he now was determined to keep her close. I truly believe he was unaware of what your mother remembered as a child or he would never have risked his house of cards by having such a heavy hand in her personal, and private life. And yet Sophia I loved your mother very much, something that will often cloud the most important decisions in life. This now in hindsight I can see was what happened to me. I had made a solemn vow to your mother to keep her secret, even though it meant that I had to sit with the devil himself. I loved and respected your mother that much, so this in many ways was my own misguided sacrifice. In essence I had succumbed, this man had beaten down yet another who would challenge his pompous rantings by calling him to account for his actions, instead he continually bought us all off. My sacrifice was not of my own doing, instead I was maintaining the peace, which in retrospect was all a facade anyway. I watched as your mother's personality transformed before my very eyes, something that was not noticed, or at least not acknowledged by anyone in her family. There was also the superficial nature of her own mother that would not allow a good long healthy look into the mirror of her own soul. Your grandmother knew though she would never admit, that she was not the mother she should have been, nor was her husband very much of a father for that matter. What father would hurt the very most precious and innocent blessings in his life? I knew the fraud this family was and I didn't act until the ship was taking on water, for this I continue to bear responsibility.

Sophia, you my daughter will know all truths one day and it may be awhile before I can share everything with you, but this letter is a start to your understanding of a story that continues to be written. All families make sacrifices, the question thus becomes, does the ends justify the means for which the sacrifice was made? I know now in my heart of hearts the many truths that I was never able or willing to see, taht oftens serves as the clarity and wisdom that time grants us when dealing with pain. I wish now I could turn back the hands of time and do many things differently, and make no sacrifice other than the ones I would make for you-- my girls. Certainly I would never have sacrificed my proximity to my family, their support and their healthy examples of love for that of a dysfunctionaly cruel and unnecessarily selfish family living in a state of constantly shared denial of their common pasts. I in many ways feel as though I failed you and your mother for not having the moral couage to confront a man who would abuse his own daughter -- my wife.

I know the person you become and the values you will hold dear will be a direct result of the life your mother and I live, as such I will teach by my example. It is because of this fact that no parent really sacrifices, they just do what must done for the greater good of the child's interests. Since I cannot safeguard or guarantee your continued security and the examples you will be exposed to I will again sacrifice. My sacrifice is in knowing I will not live near my family for at least another 12 years until you are ready for college or become an adult. You'll find your way I'm sure; I already see your life surrounded by so many good examples of service and sacrifice to others, each one of whom will help you find your way and enlighten your path as you begin to understand the sacrifices both good and bad that have shaped your life.

Love, Papi

"The better part of one's life consists of his friendships."

---Abraham Lincoln

Golden Fried Cod Cakes
1/2 lb Fresh Cod
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Plain breadcrumbs
sea salt
vegetable oil

Steam cod and let cool in refrigerator. Break cod fillet with fork and spoon enough mayonnaise to hold it together add chives, salt and pepper to taste. Form into small "snowball" size. When done making the balls, roll them in breadcrumbs and place them in round baking from and press into patties. Place in preheated skillet with cooking
oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. Serve with lemon wedge and tartar sauce.

Dear Sophia,

If you as lucky as your Papi, wonderfully faithful and lifelong friends will bless your life. You will inevitably experience times where you will fall short of your desires and feel as though you are alone with your problems. A friend is someone who will know all of your shortcomings and still choose to be with you.

My relationship with your mother in many ways was not only one of deep love but also of profound friendship, so to lose your mother as a wife represents for me more than just the loss of a mate, it also means the loss of a friend who has been a constant in my life for 10 years. Your mother and I together, were the envy of many of our other friends, as they saw the common bond we shared in so many areas of interest such as music, travel, food and of course our generally happy dispositions. We shared with each other that which we had shared with no other; our hopes, our fears and our deepest inner secrets. This is what friends are all about.

Not too long after your mother and I began to date we maintained a commuter relationship from Philadelphia to New York. That relationship was like a scene out of an old movie, built around sorry good-byes and passionate reunions in front of the 30th Street Train Station in Philadelphia. Quite fitting when you consider that we first met at the Swarthmore train station. Every Friday I would drive my little Pontiac down to 30th Station and park in front of the beautiful facade supported by huge Romanesque columns and wait.

I'd watch as businessmen would be welcomed into their wife's and children's arms, soldiers would come out to greet their parents and every other type of people and reunion you could think of unfolded before my eyes. These were the good times for both us, life was carefree and the future seemed limitless we were both filled with the new blush of love and it was exciting to have this almost "movie like" reunion play out every weekend at the train station. Inevitably your mother would arrive late, walkman on, in a cute Betsey Johnson jumper type dress, with Dr. Marten boots looking like the cutest thing walking down the pike, I would scoop her up we would embrace and kiss as if we hadn't seen each other for weeks.

The weekend would then begin. We would be off from the word go. First we would probably go to a little Italian restaurant we loved called Strolli's, it was small and cheap, and their specialty was mussels drenched in fresh chopped garlic served over pasta for a ridiculously cheap $6.95. The ambiance was checkered tablecloths, low lights and Frank Sinatra all the way, another of our common likes.

From there we would go out and meet all my friends who had by now had instantly took to this beautiful, vibrant girl with the sultry accent and curvy figure. Of course being without children we would most likely be out for most of the night. Saturday mornings were pretty regular also. We would wake up, put on our favorite radio program called Sleepy Hollow, have some coffee and just take in the day. Most likely we'd already have plans to go to the city for lunch and once again we'd be off, back down to the city.

Often times we would be meeting other friends in center city at one of the oldest farmer's markets in America which was housed at the old Reading Train Terminal, hence the name The Reading Terminal Farmer's Market. Under this huge 19th century former train pavilion was another world filled with the usual farmer's fare for sure, but also much, much more. You could find Asian food, Italian food, seafood, and of course junk food. These offerings were all complimented by butchers, fishmongers, sushi outlets and a variety of retail stalls, artists, ice cream shops and of course our meeting point, The Beer Garden.

This is where we all would meet, often times nursing a hangover form the night before. One by one we'd all arrive from different points and by different means and we'd grab a table and a beer and commiserate over the previous nights' activities. Once all of the friends were in attendance we'd all strike out to different points in the market and choose a food, then we would all come back and share with each other, it was a great way to spend a Saturday. Outside of the beer garden, which was placed in the middle of the market towards the rear, would invariably be the piano player who would seemingly play all day for nothing more than tips. This weekend custom of the Reading Terminal Market would continue with your mother and me and all of our friends for the duration of the time we lived in Philadelphia. The market would often be our meeting place when we would visit from Florida, the difference being all of the friends including us, now arrived with children. This is how my best friend and I would spend our weekends; enjoying each other, our friends, our food and the culture of the city. Always without fail the last order of business before leaving the market was the florist.

Your mother brought to my life something this 32-year-old bachelor never had - flowers. Mami was in love with flowers and she would decorate my apartment every Saturday with all sorts of exotic and colorful flowers. The market was closed Sundays, therefore the florist would start to deeply discount all the flowers every Saturday about a half hour before closing, which is right about the time your mami would start stalking (pardon the pun) her prey. Of course the florist knew your mother, she was such a beauty and constantly drew attention by her looks and her outward warmth which she so naturally projected, he in turn would seem to give her deals which none of her girlfriends seemed to ever get. Sensing his interest in her, I usually stayed back so as not to get in the way of the discounting by his recognizing she had a boyfriend. Let me tell you Sophie, your mami would buy birds of paradise, gladiolas, irises, roses, and a dozen other flowers I would be hard pressed to pronounce let alone remember. She was a frequent buyer and thus was given a card which got punched with every purchase which would go towards future credit. She easily ran through a card a month, and was a favorite cutomer of the florist. It wasn't long before the other girls caught onto your mami's routine and started buying regularly also, never with the same discount mind you. Of course you can only imagine the remarks I would get from my friends on Sunday morning when they would arrive over to my house for the obligatory football game as they would smell the aroma and see the flowers. I didn't care, I was proud of what your mother did, and loving the new "touch" of life she brought into my apartment, and more importantly into my life.

Sundays were always a quirky day with my new girlfriend, she knew that I was to watch the football game with my father and probably eight other friends, so she would usually be off either with her girlfriend Sue or someone to shop or browse about the town of Media or Swarthmore. Of course, we both had a certain amount of dread for what Sunday also meant, the inevitable drive to catch the train for New York at 30th Street Station. I can replay this scene repeatedly over in my mind and it always ends the same way, even though we swore each time it wouldn't.

We would go on down to the station, she would look at me all sad, the way you do Sophia when I am flying away, and she would get real quiet. We would attempt to make small talk about what a great weekend etc., and then we would arrive I would walk her in, we would both see the lovers, and friends bidding emotional farewells. Just as I would embrace her she would whisper, I don't want to leave, I of course in my weakness for her would tell her then don't, and out we'd run from that station as if we just eluded the gallows and the weekend would continue!

From there, we would usually be off to see a foreign movie at the Ritz theater, another one of our shared loves. For some reason this decision could never be decided before we made the 30 minute ride into the city. This was always done at the station almost as if it were a scene from a Spencer Tracy, Kate Hepburn movie, then again your mother always did, and still does have a flair for the dramatic.

Of course Sophia I've spoken mainly about your mother, when what I wanted to talk to you about was friendship. The reason being is because before you'll ever have a lover, before you'll ever have a husband make sure they're your friend first. The person who you'd rather be with more than anyone else. This is the person you will spend your most intimate moments with, bear your most embarrassing self to; and entrust your most inner secrets, all of which you wouldn't do with a casual friend would you?

Your boyfriend should be just that, a friend. Equally true of your life's mate, make sure you can call them friend before you ever call them love or husband, even with this there's no guarantee of success, but you stand a better chance if the person you love is the person you love to be with also.

Some years ago before your mother and I left Philadelphia a very good lifelong friend named Blake was going through a horrible period in his life, his father, also a friend of mine was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which was obviously incurable. He was in the final stages of this disease that so cruelly robbed him and his beautiful wife Dot of their twilight years together, having been diagnosed less than year after retiring and moving to Florida. He was back in Philadelphia now to receive treatment and to be surrounded by the love and support that his children's presence would offer. Bob was going through chemotherapy which I suspect everyone knew was fruitless, yet somehow our nature as humans does not allow us to quit, and we persevere in hopes that somehow, some way a miracle might occur. Of course this was not to be the case with Blake's father, on the contrary the chemo was showing some signs of slowing the disease, yet the catch was that it was killing him other ways. He wasn't eating, he was vomiting frequently and as a result, he was horribly weakened. When asked what could be done to help him, his doctor told Dot that as a Dr. he cannot prescribe it, but that if she could possibly get him some marijuana, it may help his nausea and in turn help him to eat also.

Certainly one never knows how best to counsel, or what best to say to someone who is going through what my friend was going through other than to say if there is anything I can do, let me know. Today was this day as I listened on the end of the phone of my friend Bob's current plight. Blake asked me if I had any pot? His mom wanted to know if I could possibly get a few joints for Bob. Well sure I do Blake, was my reply telling him it might be kind of weird smoking a joint with your dad though . That said, I would do it if it would offer him any relief. With that I rolled a few joints, (something I used to, but no longer do Sophie) and headed over to Bob's house where the sunroom had been converted into Bob's room, complete with hospital bed and all. I had been meaning to visit anyway, though this was figuring to be an awkward moment for sure to smoke a joint with my friends dying dad. It did not deter me though; my awkwardness was such a small price to pay for a lifelong friendship with Blake and indeed his parents who had been equally good to me throughout some tumultuous years of my youth.

The air was thick, that's all I remember, I don't want to be cliché and say with the smell of death, but it was definitely thick with sadness at least. It was all I could do not to cry when I looked at what remained of this once vibrant, eternally optimistic man who had left for Florida less than a year ago and was now back at least 50 pounds lighter and looking like he was fighting the fight of his life. He welcomed me in, he wasn't uncomfortable at all, and as I fumbled for the right words to say, he was trying to make it all easy on me. Imagine, my friend is dying and he's making me comfortable. We discussed life in general and his faith in particular, he told me he is not bitter, nor was he in any way doubting God's plan for him. He told me he was ever so thankful for the life God granted him, he had five wonderful children who he guided through life and into adulthood and who now had their own families. He had a successful career, and spoke of how he married his best friend, Dorothy. That's where he veered off on me, he told me the single best piece of advice he could offer me was to make your life mate your best friend, never put the boys ahead of her, and if you find that type of woman that you'd rather be more than anyone else, marry her.

He went on to tell me his Dot was his crowning achievement in life, and for that he was eternally grateful. I sobbed at the beauty of what I was hearing and he consoled me, he told me that he knew where he was going, and then he asked that we pray a little. What a wonderful, truly enlightened man. Certainly his cup was not half empty but rather over flowingly full, I said very little as I felt as though I would be a blubbering baby if I dared put thought to word. I did however manage to tell him honestly and openly what a wonderful man he was and how he made a difference in my life. I smoked pot with Bob that day, he didn't like it, but he appreciated the sentiment nonetheless, I was already high by his grace.

My friend would lose his father a few weeks after this meeting, his and his family's loss were felt by many friends of Bob's that day. Friends are like that, you never know what their presence means in your life sometimes until they're gone, still the pleasure of their acquaintance often justifies the pain of their departure from your life.

Love, Papi

Nothing profits more than self-esteem, grounded on what is just and right.
-- John Milton

Papi's Picadillo

1 lb. Fresh ground beef
2 cloves of garlic
1 small yellow onion
¼ cup of black-pitted olives
¼ cup of green olives
2 plum tomatoes
1 tbsp of cumin
sea salt
ground black pepper

Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in large skillet, sauté diced garlic and
olives, and add ground beef. Season to taste with salt, pepper and
cumin. Continue to fry until ground is cooked through, lower heat and
add sliced olives and diced tomatoes, cover and simmer medium low for
30 minutes. Serve over basmati rice

Dear Sophia,

I have included this meal even though as of this writing you don't really like it. The reason being is that I know you will one day, and because of the amount of times you've sat near by as I've prepared it.

More importantly because it's a Latin dish, and you are after all the result of a wonderful mix of Latin and Irish American descent. I therefore feel it's equally fitting that you know the wonderful Latin dishes your mami has introduced to me that I've loved also. Enjoy this one, it is an easy, delicious meal and was a staple of our menu when you were growing up.

If ever there were ever a true tragedy that a parent could inflict upon a child it would be the destruction of his or her self-esteem. The very soul of a child is wrapped in it's own little protection, it's self esteem. This is something built with patience, trust, and unceasing love, yet which can be destroyed as easily as a snowflake. Arguably this was your mother's greatest affliction; her pain was unseen to the casual eye. This was mainly due to the outward persona people assume to hide pain.

The ten years I was to spend with your mother were without doubt, even with the final three years of pain and upset, the best of my life. Your mother was without equal in many facets of her life, and yet the very most precious thing her father stole from her was not to reveal itself until the end of our marriage -- her self-esteem. This is and will always be something very painful for me to say, and even more painful for your mother to admit. It is because of this that when I tell you, I tell you with a touch of anger in my heart. To lose the mate with whom you felt a soul connection is horrible enough, to see that person lose her sense of self is heartbreaking.

As I write this, I write with the profound hope that this is not the case ten years from now; unfortunately it is the case now.

Your mother was an extremely complex woman, incredibly strong, yet extremely fragile. Our marriage was interspersed with her longing to confront her father, and all of the hurt it would cause, along with a sense of wanting to protect her mother, which ironically she was unable to do for your mother. This was the moral dilemma your mami struggled with for years until it ultimately affected her as a person, and most importantly as a mother and a wife.

You must know that I did not then, nor do I now blame her; I place the blame squarely where it belongs, on her father's selfish and shallow soul. For what is the sum of any man who would not, once he knew he hurt his child, repent? I say this because I do not pretend to go through life with out sin or fault, yet I was witness to the most painful years of your mami's life and was helpless to do anything.

It wasn't always like this. When your mother lived in Philadelphia she was a force, she was a confident, smart, good-looking woman who feared very little. She had lived in New York on her own, moved against the wishes of her parents to Philadelphia and soon had several different jobs where she excelled at each of them. Oddly enough it was probably I who wasn't feeling so great about myself when she came into my life, questioning what I was doing and wondering what my path in life was. It was her boundless zest for life, and ability see the good in others that allowed me to see it in myself and soon I was wanting better for myself.

Your mami took a job working for Banana Republic as a salesperson, something that was looked down on by her parents, feeling as though she was above that. Not long after that, I was put in touch with a director at the local elementary school who was trying to start a pilot program for children after school teaching them Spanish. We quickly set about creating a resume and sent it off, soon after your mother interviewed and was offered the position. Once again she shone, her idea was to make it more interesting for the children. Instead of just teaching Spanish, she decided to create a fun way to teach it, by incorporating small theatrical productions for the children where they would recite what country their ancestors came from and show the flag of the country, all in Spanish. The children loved it, and more importantly the administrators did also, she was paid handsomely and started receiving inquiries from the parents to teach them privately also.

I remember well going to the school to see her production and the overwhelming sense of pride I felt for her as she directed her actors for the parents. The parents loved her ability even more than the school did. My joy was in seeing your mother really hitting her stride in life, fearing nothing, and in total control of her environment. If there were a gauge for self-esteem, I would've said it peaked at the highest point in the ten years that I knew your mother on that day.

Flashback to Florida in 2003 and your mother has finally found the incredible courage to confront her father, he of course like a coward is apt to do, denies her, claims she's making this up, trying to ruin him. Imagine the jolt to one's self esteem when after trying to offer forgiveness and extend a healing hand towards the very person who has stolen and harmed you the most denies you. I still to this day recognize April 18, 2003 as the moment your mother took back her childhood and began the long road of personal recovery, she still walks that road to this day, but as a free person. She still has far to go, although she believes she is better for the task alone, I of course don't agree, only time will bear witness to this wisdom. Soon after this confrontation your mother began her search for a job, something I encouraged because I knew she needed to feel good about herself again. What she needed was anything just to get back out into the work world, as she hadn't worked since leaving Philadelphia 7 years earlier. I helped her with her resume, and soon after she answered an ad on Palm Beach Island that if I remember correctly was for an upscale Italian restaurant waiting tables. She first needed black slacks, white shirts and bow ties. I can never forget the look of deflation on my poor wife's face when she told her mother and the reaction was again one of complete belittling by her mother and father, she ended the call in tears. I thought to myself how shallow they were to once again fail this beautiful woman, who against all odds is trying to reclaim her confidence and self esteem only to be made to feel a fool. Apparently once again this too was beneath their daughter, as if she was stooping so low by serving someone.

This was the pompousness and shallow character of her father, someone who spoke of hard work yet who was so quick to demean his own child for attempting to do so. All this while his 35-year-old son lived unemployed in his house and played on his computer all day.

It has now been almost two years since that day of confrontation and while I see your mother struggle with her self esteem, I am nevertheless of the mind that the hard work of confrontation is done. She continues to try to find the healing, and hopefully soon self-esteem will follow. Sophia this is something I must tell you, because you too will know someday the importance in cultivating your own children's self esteem as I do now. As I've said before the self-esteem is something that begins developing the very first day a child is spoken to. This is also something that must be nourished daily, and kept safe against all unkind acts and ill meaning words. For a child I was once read, "is like a window pane, and we try to not smudge them too much".

Lucky for you, your mother and I knew the importance of nourishing your self esteem from the start, while also encouraging and supporting any endeavors for which you showed interest and ability in. This Sophia is the plain truth to bringing up well adjusted kids, encouragement backed by equal doses of love.

You my beautiful daughter are the shining result of that nurturing, that and the time invested. Despite the storm which raged in mine and your mothers lives as we attempted to create a new family structure, my focus was always on you. I know I speak for both us when say how very proud and blessed we are by the beautiful little girl you've blossomed into, and how even though there remains many questions about our collective futures, your self-esteem will never be one of them.

Love, Papi

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