My parents, Raim and Lily, in late 2017, still in love in their 90s.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

On January 1, very early in the morning, I shared with our Kidpower International Community that I had decided to adopt the New Year’s tradition of picking a “Word of the Year” as my theme for 2020.

As someone who likes to use many words, I had thought that finding just one word would be difficult.

Instead, the word that immediately found me as MY Word for 2020, or maybe even for this whole decade, is LOVEbecause LOVE is what gives me joy in the good times and courage in the hard times, and is where all my power comes from.

So, in celebration of this Valentine’s Day, I want to share with you how LOVE is what has carried me though some recent big life events with both great happiness and great sorrow, including:

Here I am on the deck of my parent’s home of more than 30 years, with the view Lily fell in love with behind me.

  • The great joy of having a small gathering of our son and his fiancée’s friends and family to celebrate their beautiful on-the-beach wedding in early January, with everyone getting along and having fun being together.
  • The heartbreaking honor of supporting my dear 92-year-old mother during her last days of life on earth until she died peacefully on January 15, the 2-year anniversary of my father’s death, at a moment entirely of her choosing.
  • The huge happiness of having 31 talented and committed people coming to our 2020 Kidpower Core Skills Training to learn how to bring Kidpower to their communities in Bangladesh, Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Nepal; and in the US: in Alaska, California, North Carolina, and Texas!
  • The laughter and tears of working with my brother and our spouses for the past 10 days on the consuming job of closing our parents’ home where they have lived for over 30 years, emptying, sorting, and figuring out what to do with thousands and thousands of treasures and, um … not treasures.

Some of the sweet love letters we will cherish (shown without the alligator purse!).

One sweet and much-treasured discovery was a very old alligator skin purse in our mother’s dresser. Inside, were a few faded love letters in my father’s scrawled handwriting, including one from early 1948, when she was pregnant with me, that her husband of two years had started with “Dear Mommy,” and ended with “I Choose You! -Daddy.” (And, oh my, we are pretty sure that her purse was covered with skin from a real baby alligator! How times have changed!)

Knowing that LOVE is my word for 2020 has helped me to stay in the moment every step of the way, to keep my balance, and to remember what is truly important. And NOW, I would LOVE to know: What is YOUR word for 2020 and maybe beyond? 

With loving wishes for a wonderful Valentine’s Day for you and your loved ones,



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Published: February 14, 2020   |   Last Updated: February 14, 2020

Kidpower Founder and Executive Irene van der Zande is a master at teaching safety through stories and practices and at inspiring others to do the same. Her child protection and personal safety expertise has been featured by USA Today, CNN, Today Moms, the LA Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Publications include: cartoon-illustrated Kidpower Safety Comics and Kidpower Teaching Books curriculum; Bullying: What Adults Need to Know and Do to Keep Kids Safe; the Relationship Safety Skills Handbook for Teens and Adults; Earliest Teachable Moment: Personal Safety for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers; The Kidpower Book for Caring Adults: Personal Safety, Self-Protection, Confidence, and Advocacy for Young People, and the Amazon Best Seller Doing Right by Our Kids: Protecting Child Safety at All Levels.