From 2003 to 2004 when I was 12, my mom, Stephanie Skylar, wrote me more than 100 advice notes. We called this project “Lunchbox Letters” and I kept them in a Sketcher’s shoebox. More than a decade later I decided to curate and share our story.

This small window of time in my life was very significant. Shortly after I finished 6th grade, my family moved from a small town in Ohio to South Florida. Before this move, I was extremely shy; being a confident young woman was never something that came naturally to me. My mom wrote me these letters because she believed in the person that I was always meant to be. I am eternally grateful for these reminders.

Not all of the letters are dated, but through some dates and key events that my mom mentions, I was able to piece them together mostly chronologically. Our story is chaptered by significant “Lessons” I have learned over the decade since she wrote the letters. I hadn’t re-read the notes until I began this project, so a lot of my reflections and commentary are based off how the letters have affected me without me really consciously knowing it. Words impact us this way; sometimes they resonant with us beyond what we even thought was even possible.

I want “Advice From My Mom” to help others reflect on their own parental advice. What words have our loved ones told us over and over that we need to be reminded of? How can we forever eternalize this advice and pass it along to others? For my mom and me, it was Lunchbox Letters, but what is your method? I would love to hear from you.

Currently, I live in Brooklyn and work as a Graphic Designer at Business Insider. I can be reached at skyegould@gmail.com or @skyegould on twitter.

There are so many people I would like to thank for helping me with this project. In addition to the credits below, I want to thank all of my amazing friends who impact me every single day. You all continue to inspire and push me to be better and I am forever grateful for that. Thank you. 

Stephanie Skylar – My mother and the woman who I owe this entire project to is the most amazing mom I could have ever asked for. I hope this project is one ounce of repayment for all that you have given me.

Marty Gould – My father has been a marketing consultant for 30 years. He has been my editor for 23 years, not only for creative work, but for my life. Thank you for teaching me how to curse like a real woman and showing me the beauty of loving yourself unconditionally.

Jack Gould – My brother is a musician, videographer and music manager, but I mostly see him as a dreamer. He never gives up on his life goals and he pushes harder for them than any one I know. He truly believes in himself and that is so inspiring to me. His resilience is something we can all learn from.

Dawn Holbrook – Growing up, both of my parents worked full-time. Before my brother was even born, my parents hired Dawn to be our live-in nanny when she was just 19 years old. Now she has a beautiful family of her own, but she will always be my second mom and her family will always be my family. Dawn has taught me so much about life and love, I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to her. 

Marilyn Skylar – My Grandma MJ is one of my ultimate inspirations. At 89, she wrote and published an amazing memoir about my Grandpa David, who is mentioned throughout this project. You can find that book here.

Max Heckel – I am primarily a graphic designer and web development has always been a challenge for me. Max is a coding genius and helped me greatly when I got stuck building this site. Endless thanks to him.

Meg Vogel – The intro video and some beautiful photographs of the letters (including the one on this page) were shot by Meg, an extremely talented photographer and videographer.  

Becky Sell – Ohio University Masters’ Committee Chairperson

Julie Elman & Sam Girton – Ohio University Masters’ Committee Members 


In loving memory of Paula Gould. You are deeply missed.


This project was produced in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts from the School of Visual Communication in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University. It is produced produced for education purposes and is not for resale.