I talk to my mom on the phone at least once a day. Mostly she calls me at night right after her dinner. She is in a nursing home and stays busy until after dinner, then she doesn't have much to do. My mom suffered from a stroke 14 years ago this January and is paralyzed on one side. She cannot do a thing for herself except eat and read. She loves to read.

My sister lives in North Carolina and my brother in Virginia. After 25 years of a life together my mom's husband left her to go live with his daughter in California and that was the last we heard of him. His daughter called some time back to say he died, it had happened a month earlier and could we sign some papers?

So I am the person she calls daily. I like to think it's because I am the favorite, what child doesn't?

Mostly when she calls she just goes on and on about whatever she has been thinking about that day and you cannot get a word in because she has it in her mind what she wants to say and she is going to say it. Besides her roommate watches her tv so loud she wouldn't hear you anyway unless you yelled.

Sometimes when she calls she is confused, she doesn't remember that she is in Houston. She doesn't remember that her husband died, she doesn't realize that I am her daughter Dana. She doesn't realize her dreams aren't real. Those phone calls leave me tired and sad.

Sometimes when she calls she talks about things that make no sense. Sometimes she calls just to tell a joke - some new, some she has told me a hundred times before but always funny, she has a great sense of humor. I laugh and let her tell again. We talk and talk and then she hangs up abruptly every time.

She called the other night and before she hung up with me, she said something that I've never heard from her before.

She said "Dana, you are so beautiful. You really are. I was looking at this picture of you here, and I think you are just the most beautiful woman."

And I waited for the if or the but...

Because when I was growing up that kind of statement was always connected with an if or a but.

You would be so pretty if...
You really are a lovely girl but...
You could have any man if...

if...but... would just lose weight.
or could stand to lose a few pounds.
or man wants a fat girl.

This time neither the if, nor the but were said. She left it at that, said 'I love you, I really do' and hung up. I cried. No, I curled up in a ball and I sobbed.

All my adult life I was stuck with the if and the but of self-perception. There was never a day without the thought that I just need to lose a few more pounds and then I, and everyone else, would be happy with me. A lifetime of wishing I were a certain size so that I could be good enough to be loved. And a lifetime of crying because I was not. All those years of battling an eating disorder that hospitalized me more than once and almost killed me.

These past 10 years I have spent learning to love Dana no matter what the scale said. A lesson I have to learn each and everyday and even more so now that I am very much overweight. And I still hear the if and the but of every statement in my mind. A constant voice playing in my head like an endless tape recorded message. But, as a friend of mine taught me, you have to change the tape.

Since I have come to know Jesus, the wounds have slowly begun to heal but the ugly scar remains. A reminder of perhaps if...

The impact her words of acceptance had on my heart made that scar just a little less visible. And perhaps the next time I hear if or but after my husband or my mom tells me I'm pretty, the voice will be a lot less audible, drowned out by the words no matter what.

I sat down with my daughter the next day and we talked about the conversation I had with my mom and why it had affected me so. Then I told her how absolutely beautiful she is to me and that nothing she could ever do would make me love her more or love her less. I told her that her smile makes me happy and I love how smart she is. I told her that she makes me laugh and that I love the sparkle in her eyes when she laughs. I told her this is how her father feels about her and this is how her Father in heaven feels about her.

I hugged her and kissed her and I prayed that this would be the voice that she would hear into her adult years. That she is loved. No if, no but.


  1. I am so thankful for this gift you received. So often I encounter others who carry hurts and wounds. I want to reach in and give them new tapes to hear in their heads, to know how much they are loved and accepted. But I can't do that. But God can, and so I pray.

  2. No ifs, ands or buts, I love this post.

  3. Isn't it amazing how much words can hurt us??? Glad that you got to hear the words without an 'if' or a 'but' - cherish that!


  4. this left me in tears. reminds me of the last words my grandfather said to me, "you have such a beautiful smile." no if's, ands or but's. that's all i needed. and you are beautiful, no if's, ands or but's. your story reminds me of my own. i love you!

  5. Truth - thanks for your comments, keep praying!

    Nancy - was hard to write.

    LMS - words are a powerful tool. We can destroy or build with them.

    Karie - I love you too, keep playing that positive tape.

  6. I love YOU....nothing else to add! Except, you are so much funnier than me! LOL

  7. Dana,

    I love this post! And I do think you are beautiful! No 'ifs' or 'buts' about that!

  8. say it again. you want your voice to be louder than the ones your daughter is going to hear. she will always come back to what she learned at home - good or bad.

    this post is powerful. thank you for writing it.

  9. Kelly,
    I am not! You are just as funny!!

    Thank you! Coming from a very beautiful woman herself!

    I agree, and I do tell her a lot. Thank you for your encouragement.

  10. I'm glad you received the gift I never got. I would have cried, too.

    Thanks for sharing this. You are loved!

  11. Sharon,
    Don't you remember you are the one who taught me to change the tape. You have a new voice now and the old doesn't matter as much. I am sorry you never received that affirmation that is so desperately needed.

    I love you!

  12. Yes, I've had those words spoken to me as well. It's a blessing you've gotten them without the zinger. God is so good to heal our hearts and minds through Him.


    Never forget it.

  13. What a gift to receive & to give to your daughter; you are breaking that generational cycle. As another "fluffy" lass, I've heard those words myself, both audible & silent, until it becomes an internal soundtrack. Freedom is coming- slowly- thru love from my guys & my Father, & I hope to erase that tape altogether someday.

  14. i am so amazed at you dana. i love that you can pour out your heart and minister to so many people through your "ventage inklings". thank you for being transparent. you are incredible mother and i am proud of you! elana is very lucky.

  15. Poppie Girl,
    Yes, God is good.

    Praise the Lord for a loving husband and family!

    Thank you...I don't know what to say to all that. I'm honored you think that way of my messy life. So, thanks.

  16. Wow. That was one heck of a phone call. I'm so glad it happened.

    For me, it wasn't that I needed to lose weight...I was a stick figure who looked like a boy. My mom wanted me to "wear more make-up" and "get contacts so you can date." Bleccch.

    Thanks for posting that story. I'm trying to change my tape, too.

  17. Candy,
    I would dress like a boy, dark baggy clothes so I wouldn't be noticed. My mom would be so mean about it all.

    I know she didn't have very good parents, so I don't blame her. I mean, I don't use how she was then as an excuse or a crutch for who I am now. It just helps me to see why things fit the way they do.


and remember, words are my love language...