My beautiful eldest granddaughter at age 9

My oldest granddaughter turns 16 this coming weekend.

For this milestone birthday, I wrote her a letter and I listed 16 life lessons. I hope she soaks them in.

Dearest Shelby,

How can it be that my very beautiful and oldest granddaughter is turning sweet 16?!

I remember exactly where I was when your dad called me to tell me you had arrived– training some volunteer teachers in the gallery at the art museum where I worked; and after I got the great news, I am pretty certain was too excited to complete the training! I became Gigi that day!

For your 16th birthday, I thought I’d share 16 life lessons with you, things your “old” Gigi here has learned in her years on this earth.


  1. Put God first in your life. You may not understand Him or His place in your life, but He’s there, and you are divinely loved. I wouldn’t have made it through some of the trials in my life had I not leaned on Him.
  2. Practice forgiveness. You’ll get your heart broken in life. I’ve been there a few times. It’s all too easy to hold a grudge, but as my dear Daddy—your great-grandfather always said—unforgiveness is like a cancer that will eat at your soul. Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it can give us much peace and lower our stress.
  3. Love yourself, not in a narcissistic way, but in a healthy way. There is no one like you and there never will be. Own your brilliant uniqueness!
  4. Shine brightly and do what you do best. Sometimes we want to be and look like others, but again, there is only one you, so do YOU as best you can!
  5. Take care of your skin! I am so proud of the way you take care of your skin now, but always wash your face at night, moisturize, minimize sun exposure, and never smoke!
  6. Get enough sleep. I know in high school you have to wake up early and spend evenings on homework, but make sure you are getting plenty of sleep. It’s important for good health and your skin.
  7. Be nice to your sisters. You three love each other, but I know you can all annoy each other, too. Always keep that love at the forefront.
  8. Your body is YOUR body. You have ZERO responsibility to share it. Boys will be boys. Be careful.
  9. Make up your bed before you head to school and even when you aren’t in school. It’s just a good habit, and the joy of pulling back the covers at night makes sleep all the sweeter!
  10. Respect your parents and treat them with love. They only want the best for you, so listen to them and be kind.
  11. The best things in life are free: Walking in the woods or on the beach. Sitting by a crackling fire in fall and winter. Loving on a pet. A long conversation with a good friend.
  12. Always be curious! I’m puzzled by people who have no sense of wonder about life or the world. Ask questions and keep learning!
  13. You never fail. Sometimes when things don’t go our way or we bomb a test, we think we’ve failed, but it’s just a temporary step back. Reset and move forward.
  14. Have compassion for those who are less fortunate than you. There are young women in this world who live in places with no water and who don’t have the means to shop at Ulta or even go to a good school. Have a heart for them.
  15. Find causes you believe in and support them, either through volunteering or little monetary donations. One of the best ways to make ourselves feel better is to help someone in need.
  16. Don’t give into peer pressure when it comes to alcohol, illegal substances, vaping, smoking, etc. Period.



I am very proud of you, beautiful soul, and am so honored to be your Gigi. Whether it’s walking the streets of Waikiki, gazing at the Austrian Alps, or just hanging in the backyard, we’ve had some great times together; and for that, I am very grateful.

Happy, happy 16th birthday, Shelby Grace!

I love you,



Amy Walton is a certified Christian life coach, author, and yogini who raised two sons but still is clueless about girls. She ponders life by a little canal in coastal Virginia, where she shares a home with a large cat named Pablo and a bunch of dust mites. Connect with her at