Toast to Jill Clark on her 60th Birthday

Jill Patricia Beckwith Clark is my mother. She's also a wife, a sister, a friend, a coworker, a chef, a carpenter, a gardener, a landscaper, a baker, a crafter, a creator, a therapist, a dog sitter, a confidante, an advocate, a career counselor, a party planner, a list-maker and maybe a few hundred other things.

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I grew up thinking my mom was the best. She was able to guide me into building the most creative, cool projects like board games about dolphins and an inverted family tree shaped like a conifer. She took me to craft fairs where she'd sell her own amazing creations - woven baskets and multicolored broaches - but she'd encourage me to make my own little crafts to sell - like earrings made out of cereal. She upheld traditions in our family that hold strong to this day. Decorating the Christmas tree together, building gingerbread houses from scratch, celebrating the summer together with a big picnic, big family pancake breakfasts - with 2 kinds of pancakes! 

But it wasn't until I was an adult that I truly understood how amazing she really was. She made our lives so happy and full of joy, growing up. Even when things were hard, she looked on the bright side and helped us do the same. She supported us through everything we tried, everything we succeeded at - she was cheering on the sidelines. Everything we failed at - she was there with a hug and a smile. She helped us build our own lives as adults - find our wings and soar. And she celebrated us every step of the way. She made us feel as loved as when we were kids, even when I moved 300 miles away.

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We are all so lucky to have her in our lives. She makes our occasions brighter, our days sweeter, our lives happier. She cooks for us, buys us creative gifts, tells us stories, laughs with us, asks us questions about our lives, shares our joy with us. She makes time for us all, and makes us feel loved, whether we're her child, husband, friend, brother, sister, niece, nephew, cousin.

She will always be my mom. But she is also one of my very best friends, my favorite person to confide in, to bounce ideas off of, to get excited about the future with. And she is my inspiration to be the kind of woman, wife and mother she has always been and I hope to be.

Mom, you are so many things to so many of us. You are strong and beautiful and kind and generous and creative and positive and brilliant. Today, we're gathering to celebrate you. But in our everyday, in our smiles and our little kindnesses to each other, we celebrate you everyday. Thank you for being you. 

To Jill!

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Letters from Me, Day 25: Pat Renzulli, West Chester, PA

Dear Pat, 

From the moment I met your son, I was enamored, and not long after that day, I got to meet you. I couldn't believe I was meeting "the mom" on our fourth date, but when it's right, it's right. I adored you from the start, and knew if this was the kind of woman that raised the man I had met and started to fall for, then he was a truly good person and I had only good things in store.

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Pat, in our time together, I have come to love you for so many reasons.

You are warm and kind. You have always looked out for us - for all of your children, be they yours or others’. You're such a positive spirit and I love how you affect people with your positivity. When hard things have happened in my life, you have supported me, and I always know that I can turn to you. You're thoughtful in the things you do, the appreciation you show for people, and the notes you send at just the right moment. 

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You are generous, with all you have to give. You find ways to help people with all of your resources, the most precious one being time. Even though you're one of the busiest people I know, you make time to spend with people to help them, celebrate with them or just be with them. I've been so touched by your work with kids at the domestic violence center, tutoring and mentoring young people so that they can eventually spread their wings and fly. You bring them joy and confidence, and set them up to succeed. You also give so much of yourself to your family and friends. You make time to see them, spend time with them, help them through the hard times and share joy in the good times. I hope you know how much this generosity is appreciated.

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You are full of energy and spunk. I cannot keep up with you, Pat. From body combat classes to your hikes all around the world, you just don't stop. I hope to be as fit and feisty as you for the rest of my life. Even when life throws a curve ball, you refuse to lie down for too long. When you can - which seems to be right away - you're back up and at 'em. You live your life, in every moment, with great passion and never let a day pass without giving your all.

On my 31st birthday, Pat left to pick up some extra lemonade. After dropping it off to us in lightning quick speed, she informed us she just had to "head back up the park for some Zumba!" And then, she regaled us with tales of twerking upon her return.

On my 31st birthday, Pat left to pick up some extra lemonade. After dropping it off to us in lightning quick speed, she informed us she just had to "head back up the park for some Zumba!" And then, she regaled us with tales of twerking upon her return.

You are hilarious. You make us laugh with your words and wit and with the way you make situations lighter. Your dance moves inspire my own, and I can't wait to tear it up on the dance floor with you at the next family wedding.

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You are so, so smart. I try to soak up as much of the Pat wisdom and knowledge as I can when we're together. Your mind is always working and we so appreciate your expertise you share with us.

You are loved by all those around you. You bring such a bright light into our lives, and that light is spread to everyone you know. You're a wonderful mother, sister, aunt, in-law, daughter and friend, and I know that the joy you have brought the people in your life is reflected back at you.

Pat invited Jill and Ed Clark to spend the whole weekend at her house for my 30th birthday. They couldn't help falling in love with the Youngs and Renzullis that weekend!

Pat invited Jill and Ed Clark to spend the whole weekend at her house for my 30th birthday. They couldn't help falling in love with the Youngs and Renzullis that weekend!

I am so lucky to have you, Pat. It is amazing to not only have a mom-in-law-to-be who is so kind, compassionate, brilliant, funny and beautiful, but to have been brought into one of the best families I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Thank you, for all you are and all you do.

Lots of love,

Amanda

Letters from Me, Day 2: Jill P. Clark, Queensbury, NY

Dear Mom,

I sent Dad a letter yesterday, the first in a series of 365 letters and cards that I am sending over the course of the year to come.

It would have been a perfect New Year's resolution, but hey - starting in March isn't so bad, right? This springs from the writing I've been doing each day for the past 370 days (as of today). I thought - I'm already doing it, how can I make it more impactful? So I'm going to spend this 15 or 20 minutes per day telling one person in my life how I feel, what I've been up to and sending them good wishes.

This is day 2!

We had Dylan's mom over for dinner and a movie last night, and she was remarking about how beautiful you are. And how happy you look when she sees photos of you on Facebook. She's so right. These days, you are looking pretty darn happy. (And you've always been beautiful!) It just seems like you and dad have been having a wonderful time whatever you do and wherever you go.

I know much of that is that you have each other. You're such a great team. You love and support one another through everything. You always find ways to show the other one how loved they are. And you make each other laugh. I now know how supremely important that is.

Your relationship is a big inspiration for Dylan and me. You guys have a big love, a sweeping, grand love about which people write books and make movies. After 35 years, you find new ways to make each other happy and take care of one another. It's exactly what we want for our relationship 30 years from now.

I know another part of your happiness is yourself, too. You, yourself, standing on your own, are a strong, brilliant and amazing woman. I know from hearing stories about other people's parents - when they were kids and now that they're adults - how lucky I was to have a mom like you. You've passed your light on to Josh and me, and I know we owe all of our success and our joy to you, in one way or another.

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Like we hold your and Dad's relationship up as a goal post for Dylan and my relationship, I strive to - on a personal level - walk in your footsteps as a woman. I want to work hard, make a good life for my family, be creative, have fun, never stop learning, plan parties, make people happy, start traditions - and keep them going, create a happy home, support those I love and take care of the people around me. It's a lot to live up to, and I know I have a lot to learn. But the good news is, you've always been a wonderful teacher.

From learning your recipes to figuring out how to keep a clipboard of 23 lists as once, I want to soak up as much of the brains and soul behind Jill Clark as I can in the next 25, 30, 40 years.

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I am so excited for our trip this summer with you guys and Josh and Kristi. It's so wonderful to spend time with the whole family together. I know we're going to make a whole new bunch of memories, take a thousand pictures, eat some awesome meals and have wonderful adventures together. 

I look forward to our time together every time, even times like in February when I came back for just one night for dinner and breakfast with you guys. I want more nights like that! 

We will be seeing you in...is it only a month away?! John and Grace's wedding is April 4. And that's one month from tomorrow! It will be fun to celebrate with the whole family. Weddings are such a fun time to get crazy. I can't wait to dance with you guys!

I've already been getting notes from my friends about our luau picnic this summer - everyone's so excited!

By then, we'll be all settled in our new house! There's so much to look forward to. 

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Thank you, Mom. Thank you for being my inspiration for a healthy loving relationship, for a happy, fulfilling life, for being a great mom, for teaching me how to be the best me I can be. Thank you for taking time to spend with me and for loving me the way I am always. You are awesome.

And I love you more than ever.

Love,

Amanda