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California Essentials for Childhood Initiative (CA)

The California Essentials for Childhood Initiative uses a public health and collective impact approach to align and enhance collaborative efforts to promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for children, youth and families through systems, policy and social norms change.

Showing UP for Sophia: Dear John,


Dear John,

Watching Marriage Story on New Year’s Eve was the ending I needed to witness in order to understand our own. Like Charlie and Nicole, we have history, we share a child, and we both want our child to be raised in an environment where she can thrive. While our similarities don’t stop there, the difference in how their ending started inspired me to follow suit. A mediator encouraged them to write a note of positivity to remember why they got married (together) in the first place. Here is mine:

I love how excited you get whenever sharing your fishing adventures, explaining every detail to bring others into your world. You are masterful at telling corny jokes and laughing out loud when others miss the punchline. Your passion for preparing and cooking meals, no matter how many people you need to feed, is admirable. Not to mention, the dishes you’ve introduced me to have been delightful. Watching you listen to music, audio books, and podcasts would often inspire me to take time to listen to my own. I had never even listened to an audio book or podcast before meeting you, which makes you responsible for helping bring me into the modern world. Your taste in movies and network series made it easy to become your Netflix-and-really-chill-binge-watching-buddy, plus you expanded my library. You’re a romantic who had the ability to lift me with your words, your tokens of love, and your big, strong kisses. Thank you for the way you wept my tears and listened without judgment, no matter what I confessed. Considering the chaos that was taking place when you first entered the scene, I appreciate the way who accepted my oldest daughters and my mother as the people they were. While you didn’t understand our history of trauma, you made countless efforts to. Thank you. I adored the way you made me feel special in private and public, complimenting my brains and beauty when I had practically convinced myself I didn’t have either. You taught me how to breathe a little bit longer and stress less when things got out of my control. The way you showed up and showered me with support for being a survivor of violence made me feel seen in ways I feared men never would. I am grateful for you. Eternally grateful… for your help, your wealth, and yourself.

Along with my gratitude, I acknowledge my accountability for our ending. I haven’t been the kindest person during our relationship. I’ve taken things personally and lashed out and hurt you. The same way a feral kitten would react when calling out for love, but scratching and biting when given. I didn’t know how to receive. Especially from a man. Initially I reasoned that I was taking "baby steps" toward learning to trust you, but what I was really doing was stalling. Running to change some things, while dragging my feet with others. I knew they existed, it was just easier to react and go back to what I knew. I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for causing you pain by placing expectations on you. It wasn’t fair of me to assume you’d be able to fit in a fantasy I had created based on what I thought I needed. I wasn’t aware enough to know how to handle the consequences of my traumatic past. Instead I expected you to love and support me enough to know I was worthy of love and support. Then sadly, I took my disappointment of you not fulfilling my expectations personally, and did what I did best… fight, take flight, and freeze by doing nothing. You didn’t deserve my reactions. I’m sorry for not taking the time to get the help I needed sooner. I’m sorry for not appreciating what you were providing, which was immense. I’m sorry for not allowing you to settle in, feel safe, or be comfortable in our home. And, I’m sorry for ever blaming and shaming you into staying.

Now it’s time to focus on how we move forward with each other as parents. How will we show up for Sophia? You want to move back to Illinois, and I can’t afford to leave California. Where will she go? How will we co-parent? Is it possible to be better partners as parents? I’m trusting we can.

With love and gratitude,


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