Walking Inside

“You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.”Brené Brown

Dearest Wee Beauty,

When I told you that I am on a medical leave from work, you understood without me having to explain why. Instinctively, you have known for a long while that my body hasn’t been able to do all the things that it is usually able to do. You didn’t question me one bit; you just said “thank you for sharing with me, mama” and went on loving me fiercely.

Coming to this decision has felt very difficult, because I have always “hustled for my worthiness.” I continued to work while fighting and recovering from anorexia nervosa; I continued to work while fighting and recovering from PTSD. I continued to work, because who would I be if I wasn’t?

But this time, my body won’t let me. This time I can’t throw myself into trying to do everything for everyone in an effort to try to grasp at worthiness, because my body won’t let me. Physically, I just can’t do most of the things that I usually do. And when I try to do even the most basic of things, my body rebels. Even writing this blog post makes my fingers go numb from the act of typing, but writing is how I make sense of my world, and so I will do this bit by bit with plenty of rests sandwiched in between until it is finished.

Walking inside this story of who I am now is terrifying for two very different reasons. The first is probably very easy to understand: I am so scared because I don’t know what is happening to my body, or where this journey will take me. Once I know, I can make a plan (because as everyone knows, your dear ol’ mama is a whiz at the planning and hopelessly lost when she can’t), but until that day comes, until I have some answers from doctors (which could take a good while), I am stuck.

Stuck in the second scary part of this story– my story. Stuck in this body that can no longer hustle and bustle and do all of the things, because right now, I can barely do any of the things. And while I pray and have great hope that this won’t be the case forever, I am quickly understanding that this is, in fact, an enormous wake up call that my life will end up looking different.

And while it is, indeed, scary to reimagine living a life in a way that is entirely different from what I am used to, a life that doesn’t include my old sidekick Perfectionism, at this point, there is no other option than to embrace this (not so) radical idea that we are all worthy, just by being here. It’s funny, because I have never loved others because of what they do or how well they do it. So maybe it’s time to give myself that same grace, too.

Loving you forever and always sweet bee, just because you’re you. Love, Mama

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Eight Can’t Wait

My dearest wee bee,

As I sit here, writing this love note to you on your eighth birthday, I cannot believe you are eight.  Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were, my wee beauty, only seven? (Here I am imagining you giving me a silly look and saying, “yes mama, I was!)

I remember I used to write these love notes to you, typing one handed, while you slept curled up beside me against my other arm.  Still to this day I can only type on my phone with one hand.  It’s a good Mama-trick, I guess…  But now I am typing this love note to you on my computer because I finally have both hands free to use a keyboard, a day that I didn’t think would ever get here (seriously- at one point, I even started to do all of my graduate research notes on my phone with just one hand), and yet…here we are.

I remember we used to read board books together, and you would say “I do, I do” as you tried to turn the pages too quickly ahead.  And I would long for the days when I would be able to read my own book, just for five minutes, by myself.  But now we sit, cuddled up side by side, each reading our own favourite novels.  A day that I didn’t think would ever get here and yet…here we are.

I remember taking you swimming for the first time, you splashing delightedly, me holding you in my arms, wondering when you would swim off on your own and I would be able to dive deep underwater for just a moment.  And now we swim, diving deep underwater, having tea parties and hand stand contests.  A day that I didn’t think would ever get here and yet…here we are.

I remember planting zucchini seeds with you for the very first time, cupping your tiny hand beneath mine, and placing each seed one by one into your hand and then…well…you already knew what to do at age two because you dug a tiny hole with your finger, plopped the seed in place and covered it over.  (I guess sometimes things do stay the same, sweet bee!)

The long and the short of it, my darling girl, is that while it makes me wistful, longing just a bit for the days a few short years ago when you needed me that little bit more, it also fills me with this huge sense of gratitude for being able to witness you grow into this person that I always knew you were meant to be.  It is by far the biggest and brightest and bestest gift that I have ever been given.  Here’s to another trip ’round the sun for you, wee bee.  Keep shining bright and bold.  I love you more than anything in the whole.wide.world.

xx Mama

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All In Good Time

Oh, home, let me come home/ Home is wherever I’m with you- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (lyrics by Alex Ebert and Jade Castrinos)

Dearest Wee Bee,

Life often (always) has different timing than we might have planned. Heck, life often has different plans than what we might have wanted. But you know what the amazing thing is, sweet girl, is that life knows best.

For what feels like forever, my heart has been searching for Home.

Now, while this is typically the time in these love letters (AKA blog posts) when your dear old mum (that would be me!) waxes philosophical and spins a story of how Home is a feeling; how Home is the people you’re with and not where you are; how Home is Belonging To Yourself; and then even wraps it all up in a neat bow and publishes it online, satisfied that it is not tangible things that are needed but feelings, emotions, people….while typically that is my M.O., in this case I’m going to take a sharp right turn.

Because…there’s this thing called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. And shelter is so important that it goes alongside air, water, food and sleep– basically not having shelter is the equivalent to not being able to breathe the air around you. The need for shelter is akin to the need for food and water: it sustains you on your journey called life.

And while it is true that shelter by definition is very different than Home, if you’re lucky, your shelter and your Home can be one and the same. If you’re lucky, with a bit of magic and a whole bunch of roll-up-your-sleeves effort, you can take the shelter you need, and turn it into your Home.

And if you’re really, really lucky, you’ll have the ones who make your heart happy waiting for you behind your door.

Here’s to new adventures, sweet bee.

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The Dark Is For Dreams

“The dark is for dreams…”

“The dark is for dreams–and morning is for making them come true”- Chris Hadfield, The Darkest Dark

*originally I was going to post this on The ROHO Project but it felt like more of a “mama saying thank you to wee bee” post than an official ROHO Project post, so here it is, just for you:

Dearest Wee Bee,

This summer, we took a dream that had been percolating for a reallllly long time and made it come true.

It seems so simple, typed up there in that single sentence.

It seems simple, and yet that single sentence does not begin to reveal the incredible importance of this moment for The ROHO Project, and especially the value of this dream becoming reality in my own life.

And while I’m not sure if I can put this into a neat and tidy package of words because it is a big tangle of feelings right now, me being me I will do my best and fumble through an explanation.  To do this, I’m going to take us all the way back to a day well over a year ago doing CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) in my psychiatrist’s office.

For those of you who are not familiar with CBT, one of the big parts of this framework involves pulling apart your core beliefs- the things that you believe about yourself that form the basis for how you view yourself, others and the world.  Having experienced various types of gender-based trauma over the course of multiple, successive relationships in my past, these core beliefs were deeply entrenched due to being repeatedly reinforced.  After all, we always look for the evidence to prove those things that we believe, right?  And for years this evidence was handed to me on a silver platter.

And yet…

Sitting there, working through these core beliefs with my incredibly insightful psychiatrist, something kept nagging at me.  Pulling apart core beliefs was, for me, not quite enough.  The thought that kept swirling around in my head was this idea that maybe our core values are just as important as our core beliefs.  Maybe the idea of what we value most is just as important as the long-standing beliefs that we hold about ourselves.  And I can tell you, the numero-uno-top-of-my-list-always thing that I value? My ability to take what happens to me and give it meaning and purpose in my life.  It is the only way that I have been able, time and again, to make sense out of what happens in my life.

As Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant write in Option B:

“It’s not surprising that so many trauma survivors end up helping others overcome the adversity that they have faced themselves…after undergoing a hardship, people have new knowledge to offer those who go through similar experiences.  It is a unique source of meaning because it does not just give our lives purpose– it gives our suffering purpose.  People help where they’ve been hurt so that their wounds are not in vain”

Because often we can get stuck (myself very much included!) in all those bad things.  But when we can look back on those bad things and say “so THIS IS WHY it happened- so I could bring this good thing into the world,” somehow, it gives you the strength to carry on.

And so these six Welcome Home Kits, the first of many that The ROHO Project hopes to spread out to women and their children to support them in rebuilding their lives, represent years and years of dreaming and seeking advice and finding support and researching and planning and DIY-ing.  They didn’t just appear overnight.  But they did, indeed, begin in the dark.  And now that it’s morning, with huge thanks to a tremendous group of supporters and encouragers, including the bestest and brightest wee bee, they have come true.

*Our first six Welcome Home Kits contained not only gift cards to The Home Depot and HomeSense but also copies of The Darkest Dark by Canadian Astronaut and Spaceship Commander Chris Hadfield, an incredibly inspiring Canadian children’s book.

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“If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be”- Maya Angelou

Seven.  Wow!  It may seem unbelievable, dearest wee bee of mine, but when you were making your way out of my belly and into the world, seven years ago to this exact morning, I didn’t picture Seven.

All I wanted was for you to be out in the world and in my arms, safe and sound.

I pictured a tiny wee babe, who needed me to support her head and hold her all the time.  I pictured a bigger baby, belly laughing and babbling and making intense eye contact with everyone around her.  I pictured a curious tiny being, putting everything into her mouth with food all over her face and in her hair (and all over me!).

But I didn’t really picture anything more than that.  I think, as parents, or at least I know for me, as your Mama, I couldn’t.

Because if I had pictured anything past those sweet baby days I might have missed them in the blink of an eye, rushing ahead towards the “I don’t know how it could be better than babyhood but it is” stuff.

Now, as a brand new mama, I have to tell you, the thing that confused me the absolute most was when other (usually much older) mamas would say to me: “enjoy this time- it goes by so fast and you can’t get it back!”

I remember repeatedly thinking: wait- what happens when she gets older? DOES IT GO DOWNHILL FROM HERE?! (Seriously, I wondered this a lot given how many times people told me this!).  In fact, I have probably even mentioned this before because it confused me so very much.

Spoiler alert: it gets so, so much better.  Even though I didn’t think that that was possible.  But turns out, it does.

You don’t know when you hold a baby in your arms how they will turn out.  You hope.  You even get some kind of an inkling.  But you don’t know, yet.

I didn’t know for absolute certain that you would be full of love and joy and laughter and silliness and dancing and love (did I mention love?).  I didn’t know you would be full of fire and brilliance and courage (*as I come back to finish this post after a tiny break during which you just yanked out your own tooth-number 5 to come out! Talk about being brave!).  I didn’t know that you would have the biggest heart and the most empathy I have ever been privileged to witness in my life.  I didn’t know how much YOU-ness could be packed into one tiny wee bee.

And yet…There You Are.

I’ve read that after seven years, our body is a completely new one.  Our cells have completely regenerated and we are a brand new being.  Apparently this isn’t actually true, but…it’s kind of an interesting idea to think through here, especially as we honour and celebrate your seventh birthday.  Maybe it means that, if we want to, we can grow and change and get back to the person we are always meant to be.

What I know for certain, sweet girl, as I watch you grow into your seven year old self, is that as you have shown us all who you are, I have grown and changed and gotten back to who I was always meant to be.  Because I have the brightest and best role model of just how to be myself in You, Zoe Elyse.  Happy Birthday to my ambassador of “being yourself.”  I love you more than anything in the whole, wide world.






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When We Fall

…as someone who has spent a lot of time in the arena, I’d like to focus on one particular piece of Roosevelt’s speech: “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood”- STOP. (Imagine the sound of a needle scratching across a record).  Stop here.  Before I hear anything else about triumph or achievement, this is where I want to slow down time so I can figure out exactly what happens next- Brene Brown

And so, we fall.  Often

The process of living a life means that, practically automatically, we will be taking risks and consequently also sometimes making mistakes. Can I cross the street safely now? Should I tell that person I love them/ am angry at something they said? Should I try eating oysters/ olives/ cilantro?

Some risks are bigger than others. Some risks will leave you more vulnerable if you fall. Some risks will take every ounce of courage and bravery and effort you’ve got and yet you still might end up face down in the arena, wondering what on earth comes next.

This happened to me on Friday. And I want to share what’s been going on as I pause, here in the figurative dust on the ground, waiting and thinking and processing, instead of rushing ahead to my old friends Shame and Unworthiness.

I decided I should make a concerted effort to learn how to drive, after not driving since failing my road test twice over twenty years ago. That little (actually, huge!) detail meant that getting behind the wheel of a car again has taken a heroic effort of courage, an incredible driving instructor, and a tremendous amount of time and effort. I passed a full and comprehensive driving course plus did extra lessons, in addition to living my regular life of teaching full time and parenting my most favourite bee in the whole world (that would be you!). The sheer effort of all of this has left me even more tired than I ever thought possible, and then…

I took the road test for the THIRD TIME in my life and failed, again.

I wish I could say that I came out of it feeling graceful with my head held high. I wish I could, but I didn’t.

I held it together in front of the examiner and then sobbed all the way home in front of my incredibly patient instructor.

And then the shame stories started. “You’ll never learn to drive! You’re stupid! You suck! You’re embarrassing and a huge burden on those around you because you don’t drive and they drive you everywhere! You are less than others and simultaneously far too much extra work all at once.And the worst one of all: you, Carrie, are not worthy of your life or of those around you.

Now, you might (most likely, in fact) read those shame stories and think: holy moly what baloney!

But they are there.

And instead of rushing to the triumphant ending (*side note: at this point, there IS no Hollywood “Carrie passes the driving test on the 4th try and goes on to drive for the rest of her days” ending), instead of rushing past feeling all the feelings and hiding the shame stories (only to have to carry them around for 20+ years, which is what I’ve been doing by the way), I’m just letting them out in the open and thinking them through.

Because, dear bee, what if those shame stories aren’t true?

We can’t all do all the things. And to be honest, it would be boring if we did do all the same things. But when there is something we get to choose to do, we need to make sure we’re choosing to do it for the right reasons (*I say choose because sometimes things will happen or sometimes we will have to do certain things that we have no choice over except to accept and give it all we’ve got. Driving is not one of those things for me, though).

I told myself that I was learning how to drive for legit reasons this time. Turns out I was not. Turns out I was listening to the shame stories and learning how to drive because I’ve felt ashamed and unworthy for so long that I wanted to try to fix it by getting my license.

And you know what I’m realizing, lying here in the dust and dirt after my third failed attempt?

Getting my driver’s license wouldn’t have fixed any of those stories because it is so easy to find reasons to feel unworthy that I could probably list 17 different things before breakfast. And as soon as I had passed my driving test I would have latched onto one or two or seventeen of those other reasons.

And so I think I’ll stay down here, on the ground, for a bit longer. Because I want to make sure that when I get up and brush all the dust off a bit of the unworthiness brushes off with the dust, too.

And while I don’t know if I will take the driving test again, let alone pass it on my fourth attempt, at this point I’m not even sure if that’s the right or the most brave answer.

Maybe the most courageous thing I could do at this point is to live my life feeling proud of being brave in the attempt AND most importantly not ashamed that I can’t drive, yet.

I don’t know yet, and the truth is, dear girl, I don’t need to know just yet. When I figure out the next right thing to do, I’ll do it.

And in the meantime, I’m going to celebrate – not the third failed attempt, but the courage to share the story.

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Saving the Animals- A Note from Wee Bee

Dear Friends,

I want you to keep the oceans and water clean for the animals.  If the water is dirty or polluted with garbage and extra plastic, it will make the animals sick or they might even die.  Here are some tips for using less plastic:

*first, you can re-use plastic grocery bags for things like your garbage

*second, you can re-use plastic containers (such as yogurt containers) for digging in the dirt and sand with your kids

*third, you can use paper bags to carry your lunch or groceries instead of plastic

*fourth, you can use a re-usable water bottle instead of buying plastic water bottles

*finally, you can re-purpose “garbage” to make crafts (for example, you can use egg containers to make a boat)

So you can see that there are many ways of re-using plastic and cardboard to reduce garbage.  If we all work together we can save the animals!

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The Reward Is Great

You are only free when you realize you belong no place- you belong every place- no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great- Maya Angelou

Dearest Wee Bee,

When I first read this quote by the phenomenal Maya Angelou, right at the beginning of Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness: The Quest For True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, I didn’t know what to think. Much like Brene herself writes about how she didn’t know what to do with these words when she first heard Dr. Angelou speak them during an interview, I have to admit that I, too, have been wrestling with them for well over a year.

I have known these words are important– quite possibly the touchstone to hacking away at my new path– but still…they are words that take a great deal of reckoning.  Because they mean the difference between fitting in and belonging, something that I am, at 2 weeks shy of 40 years old, only just starting to really understand.

The only way I can think of to accurately describe what this fitting in thing really means is to go back to something I use all the time as a teacher.  We have this thing that we teachers do, when we’re trying to get students to picture what “X” (writers’ workshop or readers’ workshop or math conferences or…you get the idea) LOOKS LIKE, SOUNDS LIKE, and FEELS LIKE.  So, fitting in, for me, if I wrote it on a piece of chart paper and turned it into an anchor chart, would be:

*it looks like everything from wearing the uncomfortable “cool” pants instead of the snowpants to stay warm to starving yourself with an eating disorder to make your body, quite literally, fit in with the “ideal”

*it sounds like staying silent when every cell in your body is screaming at you to speak out and use your voice

*it feels like…one tiny step away from falling off the edge of the tiniest tight rope in the world…like anxious to the Nth degree, because you question every single move you make or word you say or emotion you feel or tear you cry, because it might mean the difference between fitting in or being excluded

But you know, when you write it out in an anchor chart, it looks and sounds and feels…really icky.  While you might, for a moment or two or seven, fit in with everyone else, you lose belonging to your own self.  Fitting in never actually feels good- it only serves as a distraction to who you really are: complicated, messy, beautifully human.

And so each day, I wrestle a bit more with what Maya’s words might mean, with how this idea of belonging everywhere and nowhere all at the same time might look if I can use it in my own life. Because, wee girl, what she really means is that once you belong to yourself, and nowhere else, you actually find that you DO belong everywhere, because once you’re your own, no matter where you are or who you’re with, you’re always your own- that doesn’t change.  You become your own anchor.  You become your own measure of worth, as you stop asking yourself: does this make me fit in?  And instead start asking yourself each day: does this “belong” with ME?

It is deep change, way down to my bones, peeling back layer after layer of fitting in as I figure out who I am, so I can truly belong.  For someone who spent the better part of her life trying to fit in, instead of truly belonging to myself first and foremost without wavering no matter what– this is HARD.

And yet, in the same breath, easy.

Because, my wee beauty, when you belong to yourself you get to wear the super comfortable overalls instead of the gorgeous but circulation-cutting-off dress pants.

And while it took me to almost 40 years of age to figure it out, I have found, once I am wearing overalls, that I can do pretty much anything, even the hard (and easy) work of just being myself.

And I know that you will find this same truth, too. Because, my sweet girl, you already are You, every single day.


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Now You Are Six

When I was one,

I had just begun.

When I was two,

I was nearly new.

When I was three,

I was hardly me.

When I was four,

I was not much more.

When I was five,

I was just alive.

But now I am six,

I’m as clever as clever.

So I think I’ll be six now

Forever and forever. – A.A.Milne

My darling wee girl–

I have always, always, adored that A.A. Milne poem. While I know he is so well known for creating stories about a certain honey loving bear, I have always loved that poem the best. And yet…today I am filled to the brim with knowledge of something that has been creeping up on me, all week, all month, really the last few months: tomorrow, You Are Six.

As you have crept closer and closer to Six these last few months, I have been trying, even more than I usually do (and so you know that is saying a lot!) to soak up every last bit of Five. Because I have absolutely, positively, one hundred times infinity without a doubt loved Five. Even more than I loved Four. Even more than I loved Three. Even more than I loved Two. Even more than I loved One. And dare I say it, even more than I loved minutes-old Zoe Bee.

And no, if you had asked me the moment after you were born (heck, if I’m being honest, the moment after I found out you were growing in my tummy) if I ever thought I would love you more than that moment, I would have sworn up and down and sideways that you stole my heart from that moment on and I couldn’t possibly love you more than I already did.

And while that is sort of true, it’s also sort of not true. Because with each moment we spend together, each time you grab my hand walking down the street or indulge me in dancing to “Welcome to My House” by Flo Rida while we’re out for dinner (since you had just told me, moments before, that that was the only song you would dance to in public with me), each time you’re a compassionate friend or a brave soul who remembers that “[she] can do hard things” (Glennon Doyle), I love you a little bit more –even when I thought my heart was full past the brim with love for you, my wee beauty. And in fact I like you just that much more each day. Because you are this joy-filled, beautiful soul who makes me burst with pride each time one of your friends calls me “Zoe’s Mum.”

But back to this Six thing.

You see, Six is kind of a biggie. It’s a leap in clothing divisions (Six is not a toddler size anymore); it’s a leap in school (Grade One instead of Kindergarten); and, as I’ve noticed these last few months, it’s a leap from little kid to actual child.

And so, if I seem a bit wistful it isn’t because I doubt, for even a millisecond, that I won’t love Six. Because I have seen it peeking out from behind Five’s shadow for quite some time and I see all the incredible things it brings along with it. I have seen glimpses of the person that you have always been and yet are still growing into and my gosh, wee girl, You Are Love.

So no, it’s not Six that is making me wistful. It’s just that once in a blue moon your mama wishes she could hold onto a little teensy piece of Five.

Except that as I write this, I realize that that’s exactly the point of writing this blog-maybe I write these posts not just for you but for me, too, so I can keep the teensiest bit of Five and Four and Three and Two and One and Just-Born Wee Bee tucked away in a corner of my heart, right next to where Six is sneaking in tomorrow.

I love you more than anything in the whole wide world. Happy Day You Are Six, Wee Bee.

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The case for being a lobster

Lobster 101: Molting

Lobsters don’t grow the way people do. Unlike humans, a lobster has a rigid exoskeleton that it must get rid of before it can grow any larger.

During the molting and post-molt period, it is vital for lobsters to stay hidden because they are unable to protect themselves when they lack a hard exoskeleton. There is no definite period for how long it takes the new shell to harden…

-the Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance

Dearest Wee Bee,

I have to be honest. When I first started thinking about just how I was going to write to you I had been thinking of calling this post “the case for being a turtle”, instead of the much more compelling title of “the case for being a lobster”.

(The turtle post might still be coming at you in the (near) future, but in the meantime did you know that when part of a turtle’s shell is injured or sick it sheds that part of itself so that it can heal?)

Animals do allllll of these incredibly fascinating things all of the time, just going about in their daily lives, that we miss if we don’t pay attention.

And sitting here, writing this blog post to you, so early in the morning, I remembered back to our very first trip together (first time in an airplane! first time touching the ocean! first time tackling a new part of the world together!) last summer in Prince Edward Island when we did a lobster fishing boat tour.

There were an awful lot of firsts on that trip. And mostly I remember being simultaneously elated and excited and ridiculously exhausted the entire trip.

And…I also remember mentally knocking myself down for the ridiculous exhaustion part. I remember thinking to myself: this is your first trip with your beautiful wee beauty- ENJOY IT- don’t be overwhelmed with exhaustion.

You know what I was forgetting, dear girl? I was forgetting that by taking that first trip together, we were growing. You were learning and growing in the bigger world around you, and I was learning and growing about what it’s like to be a single mama on vacation with a small child.

Because the truth is…maybe humans are more like lobsters than we realize.

In order to grow, we have to shed our too small shells. And I think, for the most part, we know this. But I don’t think we honour it. We don’t give ourselves as much time as we need in a quiet, protected place while we grow our new shells. Because “there is no definite period for how long it takes the new shell to harden”- not for lobsters, but also not for humans.

And so, my wee beauty, when you hit points in life where you get uncomfortable in your shell, when it feels small and too tight, like it doesn’t fit right, do yourself a favour and give yourself protected time to shed your shell and grow a new one. Because having the capability to recognize when we’re in need of changing and growing, and being able to actually change and grow? That’s an incredible gift we have, just because we’re humans. And with this gift comes a responsibility to take especially extra good care of ourselves so that we CAN do it.

With so much love as we learn and grow and shed our shells together,

Your Mama

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