A Letter to My Mama

November 13th, 2012 by Dionna | 8 Comments
Posted in Carnival and Special Series, Carnival of Natural Parenting

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Welcome to the November 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Service Projects

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about what service means in their families.


Dear Mom,

A few days ago, you listed a few of the ways I am like dad, then you asked me what qualities I had gotten from you. The answer is so obvious to me, I was shocked you had to ask! My whole life has been built on one of the principles you modeled for me – service to others.

From before the time I could walk and talk, you were schlepping me to your various service projects. I grew up surrounded by people who were blessed by your presence.

Most often, that involved service to our church. Like you’ve always joked, we walked through the doors of the church every time they were open. Below is a calculation for you. Let’s take a conservative estimate of the time you’ve spent volunteering for church – say, 2.5 hours a week. Like I said – that’s conservative – I’m only counting the hour plus you spend playing piano and singing on Sunday mornings, and the hour of rehearsal on Wednesday nights. That’s not counting the countless hours you’ve given organizing Vacation Bible School, helping with kids’ classes and youth group, volunteering for various service projects, etc. Every year, you’re giving a minimum of 130 hours of your time. Over my lifetime, that comes out to over 4,800 hours of volunteering simply to play piano and sing. That is incredible!

I inherited your love of music, and my life has been richly blessed by the fact that I play violin. Some of my fondest memories revolve around music – both singing in the church choir and playing violin at various venues. And again, you’ve given freely of your time to enrich my musical experiences – learning pieces to accompany me, helping with fundraisers for our school orchestra, driving me to lessons, recitals, and competitions . . . Music has always been one of our strongest connections, and I’m so grateful to share that with you.

You also have a heart for service to the elderly, and some of my earliest volunteering hours were spent visiting with the residents of our small town nursing home. You loved the smiles I elicited from my honorary grandmas and grandpas, and I basked in their attention. You knew all of our elderly neighbors by name, and we frequently stopped by to offer help, bring a treat, or just chat.

Your acts of kindness have extended to all of our neighbors and friends. You are the first to bake a casserole for a family with a new baby or a sick parent, or to offer help to a stranger who had lost a parent or a job.

Now I am the one baking goodies and doubling recipes to take half to friends with new babies or sick parents. Best of all, your influence is reaching to the next generation – Kieran loves making gifts to bring his friends and our own elderly neighbors, and one of his favorite past times is chatting with Mary next door. She calls him “her little buddy,” and it makes me think of how my grandma used to love the little ones who visited with her.


You have taken in more stray and sick animals than I can remember – from birds to squirrels to cats to bunnies to guinea pigs. Your tender compassion for animals led to some kids in my old neighborhood dubbing me “the bird lady.” Anytime they found a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest, they’d bring it to me to nurse back to health with my heating pad and dropper. And one of my only “real” volunteer positions while working in New Mexico was caring for the cats up for adoption through the local humane society – I even got Tom to help me.

You are my model of love.

During my school years you spent time as a classroom mother, you baked goodies for bake sales, you volunteered with Brownies and Girl Scouts, you helped with class parties and field trips, you made me Halloween costumes, you stayed up late helping me with homework, you mothered my friends, and you always made me feel like I was your number one priority.

These days, I’m loving my own babies. I spend quality time at home with them, I try to give them a variety of fun and educational experiences, I help coordinate a homeschool cooperative, and I am building a community of friends that they can grow up with.

Before children in my free time and career choices, your heart for service was a tremendous influence. I volunteered constantly – with church, with school groups, through TARC and other organizations. My first “real” jobs during and after college were service and children-oriented: in a group facility for children who had been removed from their homes, and as a preschool teacher for children with behavioral and emotional disorders. I spent a year serving in AmeriCorps, and I worked as a Volunteer Center Director. I went to law school with the intention of ending up in a service-oriented position. And now I am devoting time to connect parents who are interested in forming secure attachments with their own children through my work at Natural Parents Network and on Code Name: Mama. I also work to educate others about breastfeeding issues through NursingFreedom.org, and now as a member of various committees with BestforBabes.org.

So you can see why I was surprised when you asked how you have influenced me. Your heart for service has been such a gift – it helped me blossom as a musician, enabled me to secure fascinating jobs, and lead me to create communities and lifelong friendships. Thank you for exemplifying a life of service. Your impact on me – and my children – is incalculable!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter’s irritation with litter led to eekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family’s approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year’s holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she’s excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again… but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children’s generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.

8 Responses to:
"A Letter to My Mama"

  1. Luschka   luschkavo

    Oh, this is so beautiful Dionna! What a lovely, lovely tribute to your mom. I hope some day my girls will say the same about me.

  2. AltMother   AltMother

    So lovely to read this tribute to your mother. It really goes to show what a responsibility we have as parents of the next generation. I hope we can make the previous generations proud of us! :)

  3. Laura   Puginthekitchen

    This was/is beautiful, Dionna. Thank you for sharing your sweet heritage… what a legacy you get to pass on to your own children!

  4. Sarah {Firmly Planted}   Sarah_the_doula

    Tear! Absolutely love this letter. How blessed you are to have grown up in such a wonderful environment, and how blessed your mother is to have you point all this out for her. Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Lauren @ Hobo Mama   Hobo_Mama

    Well, I will vouch for you. If your mom needs another witness to your generous, thoughtful nature, I will give my testimony! What a wonderful gift your mom passed on to you. I was just thinking, reading through some of these posts, how my parents were always serving through church as well, and how that’s influenced my own ethic when it comes to giving back. Thanks for sharing your beautiful letter!

  6. Our Muddy Boots   ourmuddyboots

    I am coming to understand that modeling is the only way our children really learn. Your letter reminds me that this is true.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful stories of service from both you and your mother. I suspect you could print this letter, fold it, tie a beautiful bow around it, and it would be one of your mother’s favorite gifts of all time <3

  7. What a beautiful letter. Your mother sounds like an amazing woman.

    I hope to make service to others a big part of my children’s lives – I think it is sadly lacking these days and i love the reminder that you don’t have to officially volunteer with an organisation in order to help others.

  8. Ruth Mitchell

    I just found this again in my inbox and I read it again…and I cried again!!! You have no idea how you touched my heart with this letter!!! You are such a wonderful mother to my precious grandbabies…and it honors and humbles me to think that I had just a little bit to do with it!!! I love your friends suggestion about printing this off…I would love to preserve it so I could read it over and over again…thank you Dionna!! I love you more than you can imagine !! ( Yes you CAN imagine..you love your children in the same way!!!)

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