A Jew During Lent

Being Jewish during Lent means I automatically get to pick up a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free-Cardand Pass Go—straight on to the pink Peeps. But my daughters are Catholic, and it’s vital to our family to instill in them the importance of the Lenten season.
Growing up, watching my Catholic friends and relatives (yes, we’re a mixed bunch!), I always got the impression that Lent meant only giving something up (i.e., chocolate or fast food) just to witness them gobble down a half-pound chocolate bunny and drive through McDonald’s after Mass. Sometimes for fun, I would join in with my friends to see what I could give up for forty days, too. It was like a fun little game for me.
As I got older I began to learn that you’re not limited to only picking something to give up for Lent, but rather you can choose to add something significant to your life—such as waking up earlier to go to the gym every morning, or finding a new program to volunteer for, or reading the Bible before bed every night.
A couple of years ago, around this time, someone asked me what I was giving up for Lent to which I laughed and facetiously replied, “I’m Jewish—I get to do whatever I want!” 😉 I continued on to say that Lent wasn’t just about giving something up for the sake of “It’s Lent—quick! I’ve gotta give something up!” but can also be a time to switch gears and refocus on becoming a-better-version-of-yourself.
At the time, the thought of giving up fast food or chocolate seemed insignificant in comparison to adding something meaningful to your life; but really, don’t both ends of “giving up something” and “adding something” guide you in becoming your better self? I can take it a step further, too, and add that if we are becoming better people ourselves, we are also helping to serve others. If I’m working towards becoming a-better-version-of-myself, in turn, I’m also becoming a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and citizen.
And isn’t that the whole point of humanity anyway?
My youngest isn’t even nine months, so she really does get a Free Pass, and since my oldest is only four, I don’t think I want to take the route of “giving something up,” but rather enlighten her character by adding something meaningful to her life. At her age, I feel it needs to be somewhat tangible since feelings can sometimes be hard to grasp and measure when you’re in preschool.
Not to get all preachy, but the last thing I want is for my daughters to grow up thinking Easter is about The Bunny and baskets. (Even though those are fun, too!) I don’t want materialistic things to trump the true meaning of Easter. But I digress. This post isn’t about The Resurrection, per say, but about the practice of Lent.
Just because I’m not Catholic, doesn’t mean I can’t participate in Easter-y things. Sure, there are definitely rituals reserved for Catholics, and I’m always respectful of that (i.e., not taking Communion), but there’s a lot every individual can learn about the ritual of sacrificing for Lent. I have realized that giving up something often results in a person practicing self-denial and “suffering,” reminding him or her what God was willing to give up on his or her behalf. 
As an outlier throughout the Lenten season, and someone who can only partially participate, I personally take away the message that this is a time to turn down self-gratification, and reflect and ponder on sacrifices I can make as an individual, as well as healthy habits I can choose to do to help me become a-better-version-of-myself.  
loyally,
katie
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I Challenge You

ATTENTION: If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the latter statement. It applies to a couple different situations in my life.

The first one being: I like friends who challenge me to become a better person. I don’t want superficial friendships, where my conversations are merely floating on the surface. I want to sink deeper. I don’t want friends who only tell me things like, “That’s a cute outfit.” Sure, it’s nice to be complimented, and I’m not asking my friends to stop being sincere in that sense, but I want more.

If you are my friend, whether old or new, I want you to challenge me. I want you to help me be a better person. I love having conversations with people where I stop to say, “Wow! That’s so interesting… I never thought of it that way before… Thank you for teaching me that… Thank you for sharing your knowledge with me… What a gift…”

I have come to realize that sometimes I may come across as–I dunno–strong? (…overpowering, maybe??) in conversations, but that’s because I like to challenge my friends, too. Not in a Ichallengeyoutoadeathmatch sort of way, but in a I challenge you to be a better YOU sort of way.

(I’m sorry I’m not sorry.)

I’ve also come to realize that some people just aren’t ready to be challenged and make life changes; and try as you may, there’s just nothing you can do about it. Man, this really saddens me. When I see people slipping down a path that is dark and scary, I become anxious, and my passion rises.

I have been in a dark place. I know that you don’t initially think it’s a dark place, because you can only see one step in front of you. But then things start to unravel. And that’s when it’s harder to get out.

It’s like running in the mud. On the surface you see a shallow puddle and think, “This will be easy to cross. I don’t need any help.” But as soon as your feet hit the mud, you start sinking. You realize that it is a lot harder than you ever could have imagined, and you wish you would have come prepared. You wish you had a plan. You wish you had a support-system in place. You wish you had the right equipment and gear to help you through the tough spots.

Are you going through a rough time in your life? Do you want to know why things aren’t getting better? It’s because you are not making changes in your life. You’re only planning to get through a puddle, while you should be preparing for a mud run.

Yes, it is hard to make changes. There’s no doubt about that. But if you want to have a better quality of life, you have to take the first step. It’s scary. I know. I know... But I promise you it’s worth it. I cross my heart to you that it’s so worth it.

I challenge you to make the changes you need.

loyally,
katie

What is something you want to change in the near future? Do you know what changes you need to make to get there? Do you have a support system in place?

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I Have a Favorite Child

I have a favorite child. There! I said it!

If you don’t have any kids, or you have an only, you may be saying to yourself right now: How on earth could she say such a thing? She’s a terrible mom…

But, if you have multiple little ones running around 24/7/365, then you may be singing: Yes! Yes, me too! I’m not the only one! Finally, someone said it out loud. I’m not crazy…

Do you want to know who my favorite child is?

My eight month-old.

Why?

Because she doesn’t sass me. She doesn’t leave a mess all over the floor for me to trip over. She doesn’t scream in my face when I tell her she cannot have eleventy more crackers. She doesn’t throw herself on the floor when I tell her she cannot watch four more hours of Sheriff Callie. She doesn’t say things like, It’s all your fault! or I don’t want to brush my teeth–stop touching me! or my favorite, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Nope. My eight month-old doesn’t do any of that.

Instead, she’s sweet and smiley and cuddly and laughs at all my jokes and animal noises. And she doesn’t run away when I sit her down on the floor.

But. Then comes nighttime, when my eight month-old is tired and fussy and plays The Don’tYouDareTakeMeOffTheBoobOrIWillScreamEvenLouder Game. Oh you know it? It’s a Classic.

That’s when I pass her off to Daddy and climb in bed with my SassyPants (a.k.a. my four year-old) and read books to her. That’s when she gives me butterfly and Eskimo kisses and says things like, Today was the best day ever! or Daddy and I are getting married ‘cuz we’re in love! or my favorite, I love you the biggest much of all, Momma!

And that’s when my four year-old is my favorite child.

loyally,
katie

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A Mother’s Sanity

My emotional well-being is important to me, and I’ve come to realize that in order to take care of my family, I have to start with me. I cannot let myself become an afterthought. If I don’t take care of myself, how the heck am I suppose to take care of anyone else? I’m not just talking about eating healthy and exercising frequently, but about A Mother’s Sanity.
 


Do you find yourself being pulled in many different directions? Do you feel obligated to make beautifully homemade and hand-crafted cupcakes for your child’s birthday celebration at school, to be the Room Mom, the coach for your child’s basketball team, and the first to volunteer to go on every field trip?

Why? Why are you trying to do it all? Is it so you won’t look bad to the other mothers? Are you worried about disappointing people?

Let me ask you this: Who the hell cares?

No one–that’s who!

The only pressure you feel is the pressure you put on yourself.

SO STOP!

Do you want me to tell you what trying to do it all will look like at the end of the road?

SPOILER ALERT: It doesn’t end well. It ends with gray hairs, wrinkles, and dark circles under your eyes. It ends with missing out on enjoying the small things in your child’s young life. Or even worse: stress-related symptoms such as depression, constant colds, and rage.

YOU matter. Homemade cupcakes don’t.

YOUR sanity matters. Being Room Mom doesn’t.

Buy the store-bought cupcakes. I guarantee the kids will be just as happy. They totally don’t care that you spent hours searching for the p e r f e c t picture on Pinterest, then spent an hour or more meticulously putting them together.

Why are you trying to make your life more difficult than it already is?

Let me ask you this: If you say YES to something, what are you really saying NO to?

If you say yes to spending over an hour baking and decorating cupcakes, what are you saying no to? You are saying no to spending an hour playing with your daughter’s new doll house. You are saying no to an hour of quality time with your husband. You are saying no to an hour of sleep.

Isn’t your emotional well-being more important than trying to impress other people?

Let me answer that for you: YES!

Quit making excuses for not taking care of yourself.

Your sanity is more important than pleasing other people. I know you’re having a hard time letting the guilt go. I know you want to be there for everyone who could use a helping hand. I know you want to do it all. But the truth of the matter is, Is it worth your own sanity? Is it worth your own health and happiness? Is it worth missing out on time spent with your kids? If it is, then by all means, drive yourself into the ground.

The saying, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is a bunch of croc, if you ask me. Do you know what no sleep does to a person? Crazy things! Your body needs sleep to fight off illnesses, to have a clear mind for making critical decisions, and to stay healthy overall so you can be your best you.

So stop trying to be a martyr. Stop trying to impress other mothers. Stop worrying that you’re letting other people down. Because you’re not.

You are taking care of YOU, which in turn, is taking care of your family. And that’s the most important thing there is in life.

loyally,
katie

Do you know a mother who could use this honest advice? Share it with her!
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Mommy, I want to look pretty

This morning, my four year-old daughter said something that completely stopped me in my tracks. I saw her excessively fiddling with her hair, which made me cringe because she was really just creating a bird’s nest, and I dreaded having to comb through all those knots. I asked her what she was doing, to which she responded: “I’m doing my hair because I want to look pretty.”
 
I cringed again, but for a much deeper reason. I hate the idea that my little girl thinks she has to have her hair a certain way in order to look pretty. I immediately said, “But you’re already pretty.” My mind immediately flashed back to all the times I’ve unintentionally put emphasis on her looks.
 
Ninety-five percent of the time people will open up a conversation with me by saying, “She’s so cute,” or “look how pretty she is.” No one ever says, “Look how smart she is.” Eventually, once they get to know her they will comment on her strength, imagination, athletic ability, and/or manners. But their initial comments are always superficial.
 
I’m just as guilty of doing the same to other children. As a society we place beauty above brains. But we’ve got it all wrong. The emphasis should be on brains and inner beauty.
 
Looking back, there have been many situations in which I’ve made “good looks” a priority for my daughter. Oh, just yesterday, I bribed her with “a treat” (two yogurt covered pretzels) just so she would put on tights and a bow in her hair to have her picture taken with Santa. I loathe bribing kids with food–especially sweets, and it went against my intuition, but I was desperate for her to look a certain way. Why? Truthfully, I have no idea. I cannot come up with a un-vain reason for why she had to be dressed the way I wanted her to.
 
I provide my daughter with a multitude of compliments unrelated to her outer beauty, everyday. But her comment this morning got me thinking about the number of times I tell her things like, “That’s such a cute dress,” or “I like your hair like that,” or “I wish you would wear this instead.”
 
Now I’m not saying to stop these comments altogether; I mean, I like being told I look lovely just as much as the next gal, but I truly believe we shouldn’t be so quick to make comments only on good looks to impressionable young girls who absorb our every words like sponges.
 
So, the next time you feel the urge to make a vain-ish comment to your daughter, try to replace it with one of these alternatives:
 
– I like the way you play nicely with your friends.
 
– You’re using such good manners at the dinner table.
 
– You’re such a kind friend for sharing your toys.
 
– I like how you’re using your imagination.
 
-Wow! You’re so strong when you climb those monkey bars.
 
– It was very responsible of you to put your shoes away.
 
– You’re such a thoughtful young lady.
 
– I like how you got dressed all by yourself. (Even if she’s wearing plaid with stripes!)
 
Will I stop telling her she’s adorable and pretty and stop brushing her hair? No. But I don’t want to reward her for her good looks. Life shouldn’t be a beauty pageant. So what if she goes to school in mismatched clothes? Really, what’s the big deal?
 
Don’t worry, I will continue to teach my daughter good hygiene (I don’t want her to be the smelly kid in school!), but I vow to place much less emphasis on her looks. The important thing is that she’s developing into a confident young lady with healthy self-esteem, and is a kind human being.
 
What do you think?
 
 
loyally,
katie
 
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I’ll Say a Prayer for You

When you share a story of struggle with a friend do they ever respond with, “I’ll say a prayer for you.”? Do you ever wonder if they really do say a prayer?

I often ponder this. Sometimes I think, Don’t tell me you’re going to say a prayer if you’re not really going to say it. Then I started thinking maybe they don’t think I actually say a prayer if I promise to keep them in my prayers.

But I do. I really do.

If I’m having a conversation with someone, perhaps via text, and I write, “I’ll say a prayer for you,” I literally pause whatever it is I am doing and say a prayer for that particular person.

Every time.

If someone asks for prayers over Facebook, I don’t scroll on by. I pause and say a prayer for him or her.

Every time.

If I can *waste* time watching a funny cat video someone shared, then I most certainly have time to pause for prayer for a friend in need.

How many of us actually do that? Do my friends do that for me? I used to throw out the phrase, “I’ll say a prayer…” and then had the best intentions on doing so later in the day, but let’s be real: my day would get busy, my mind would get busy, and a lot of the time I would end up forgetting to pray for whomever I said I’d pray for. Sound familiar?

I realized this was happening frequently so I decided that whenever I told someone I would pray for them, I would. Right there, in that moment.

I challenge you to do the same. No doubt our lives are busy and chaotic, but anyone can take sixty seconds to pray for a friend in need. If you are not in the right frame of mind to say a prayer in that exact moment, then write the person’s name down where you know you’re going to see it before you lay your head down for bed.

And if prayer isn’t a part of your life, at least stop to send them good vibes. Every bit of positivity is powerful.

When I tell a friend I will pray for them, I feel like not only am I making a promise to them, but a promise to God, as well.

I pray all my loyal friends, family, and followers have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving.

I really do.

loyally,
katie

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Adelaide Quinn, 6 Months

My little Adelaide is six months old! Say it isn’t so! A whole half a year–WTF?! Seriously. It’s too much for this momma…

Adelaide is such a laid-back baby. I guess she doesn’t really have a choice, being the second child. She basically follows along whatever her big sister’s plans are, and is happy to do it. (Although I cringe every time I have to wake her up from a nap to pick Emmalyn up from school.)

There have been many “firsts” over the last six months:
-Trip to the library
-Birthday parties
-Three trips to Disney
-Rode It’s a Small World (twice!)
-Fireworks on The 4th of July
-Met tons of family
-Baptized
-Ballet class with mommy
-Rolling over
-Science Center, Children’s Museum, & Aquarium
-Kid Zone at the gym
-Traveled to: Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa, Satellite Beach
-Toes in the sand
-Pumpkin Patch
-Met the Blue Angels
-Halloween (you were Anna from Frozen)
-Sat up in a shopping cart
-Swinging in a swing
-Real food

Whew! That’s a lot for a little baby!

Adelaide’s first food was an avocado, just a few days ago. I love the faces babies make when trying food for the first time. I’ve let her little baby gums gnaw on a tangerine and celery stick. She has sucked on a watermelon and apple, and has tried a banana. I haven’t pushed food yet because she isn’t quite sitting up by herself.

We are still exclusively nursing, and to be quite honest, it amazes me that we still are. Six months was my “long-term” nursing goal. Back at the three-week mark, six months seemed like a lifetime away. Now that we are here, I don’t have any urge to stop. I am just going to follow Adelaide’s cues.

I am having so much fun with Adelaide! She is delightful 95% of the time. She loves getting a bath, letting the water trickle down her face, and laughs hysterically when people make funny faces and noises. The only time she cries is if she’s hungry, wet, or overly tired. She is very easy to bring with me wherever I go. She is still waking up a few times a night, but at least she goes right back to sleep after nursing. I look forward to the day that we are both sleeping through the night, but I know this is only a short phase in the long-run.

My favorite part about having another baby is seeing the interaction between my two daughters. Emmalyn is obsessed with Adelaide, and Adelaide just admires her big sister. Emmalyn loves to hold and make her laugh, and it melts my heart every time. I wish I had a permanent videographer following me around to capture these precious moments for me! 

Six months has gone by way too fast. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. Adelaide makes me so happy, and I can barely remember life before her. She’s a blessing to our family, and I love her so much!

loyally,
katie

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Dear Emmalyn

You are four years old.

FOUR!

I am in awe of the little girl you’re growing into.

My favorite moment over the last year has been watching you become a big sister to Adelaide. You jumped into your new role seamlessly, as if you were always meant to be a big sister. Sure, there have been trying times, where you poke her in the ear or pull her socks off. But mostly you just love too hard. You squeeze her with hugs and suffocate her with kisses, but I know it’s because you love her so much. I know this because nearly everyday you make up songs about loving her “sooooo much!” She is quite lucky to have you–to look up to you, always, for life.

Three was both fun and difficult. It was trying because you learned how to push my buttons and polished your tantrum skills. There are things you did and said that I never imagined my own child saying. But you served me up some fresh humble pie and taught me to never judge another yelling mom at Disney. I’m excited to see what interests you develop over the next year. Right now it’s pretty clear you don’t like soccer, but love gymnastics and dance. You love putting on nightly dance recitals before bed for Daddy, Adelaide, and me, and it warms my heart every time.

You are super girly and say things like, “Shirts are ugly. Dresses are beautiful.” I swear I didn’t push you to be stereotypically girly. It’s all you, baby. You had your mind set on a Frozen Tea Party for your fourth birthday party with your girlfriends (and best boy friend) and there was no stopping you! You do jump on opportunities to get dirt under your nails, too, though!

You have gotten super close to your daddy over the last several months, and it’s incredible to watch. At such a young age you already exude kindness towards others, and make me laugh multiple times a day, every day.

I know without a doubt you were born into this world to make me a better person. Before I had you, I was repeatedly stressing over small stuff; I could never just “go with the flow”. But you have put things into perspective for me. You have made me realize that dirty dishes and laundry rank very low on the To-Do list when there are much more important things like saving the princess from the scary dragon in the castle.

Yesterday you told me, “Mama, you’re a good teacher for teaching me.” Emmalyn, I know it’s the other way around.

I love you so much, sweet angel baby. More than you’ll ever know…

Have the happiest fourth birthday!

Love,
Mama

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What My Father Has Taught Me

Throughout the years, my father has taught me many valuable things, whether purposefully or inadvertently. In honor of November being the month to raise awareness of men’s health issues, I’d like to share just a few with you:
Always write a “Thank You” note.
Or even better, call them on the phone. When I was younger, I dreaded calling people on the phone to thank them for a gift they sent—especially to people like my dad’s-great-aunt’s-sister-twice-removed-whom-I’ve-never-met. But now, I see the importance my dad was imbedding in me. I always write a thank you note, and if for some reason you didn’t get one, then it got lost in the mail.
Use a person’s name.
Whether it’s the cashier at Target or a server at a restaurant—if you can see the person’s nametag, use it. Say, “Have a great day, Erica,” when dropping change off at the tollbooth. It takes no effort on your part to add in an extra syllable or two, but it goes a long way to the person working tirelessly on the other side of the counter.
Tip or pay employees bonuses for special occasions.
If you want someone to like working for you, and want to continue working for you, give him or her an incentive.
Be financially sound.
My dad lost his father when he was only nineteen, so my dad has always had a plan. He has it down to a “T,” what he wants and where his money will go, when the time comes. He has even gone so far as to open up a savings account for his granddaughters, which my husband and I cannot be more appreciative for.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
This one is a little backwards because my dad totally sweats the small stuff! I think the phrase “cry over spilled milk” was invented after him. While I’ve never actually seen him cry over spilled milk, I haveheard him throw out a few fancy four-letter words on many occasions. Whenever I see (or hear) my dad begin to get stressed about something I consider small, I try to lighten the situation by facetiously saying something like, “Oh no! It’s the end of the world! There’s no more cereal? Whatever will we do?! How will we ever survive?!” It usually breaks up his “fit” and puts a smile on his face. And lowers his blood pressure.
Do what you like, and like what you do.
My dad’s hobby throughout the majority of his life has been the Ham Radio. It’s a hobby he doesn’t share with my mom, but that’s okay. I didn’t realize it until much later in life, but we don’t always have to share the same hobbies or interests as our spouse. It’s okay do have something only you like to do. In fact, it’s nice to have something just for yourself.
Love, unconditionally.
When my husband (then boyfriend) and I announced to my parents I was pregnant, I swear my dad’s face turned a shade of green only seen in the Amazon. I don’t know what went through his mind at the time, nor do I really need to know. It was a difficult and testing time in our lives, but my dad never once said anything appalling to my husband or me. He loved me unconditionally. My Jewish father walked me down the aisle of a Catholic church to marry the love of my life. That gesture right there, meant the world to me, and showed me that you love your kids unconditionally.

My father is a great man. He is wise, selfless, hard working, goofy, and loyal.
He’s my hero.
I love you, Daddy.
loyally,
katie

Guest Post – Learning to Be a Better Me

The following is written by my friend, and former collegue, Vanessa. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at a large university:

It was the day after Halloween. I kissed my husband goodbye as he left me to deal with two kiddos who had just been out Trick-or-Treating and full on candy. He was going away for the weekend–about two hours west, to participate in his monthly Navy Reserve drill weekend, like he had for one weekend a month, two weeks a year, for the last eight years.

I was a bit mad. Frazzled actually. He had been gone two weekends before that, and was going away two weekends later. He was gone half the days of August and September. I was frustrated in that moment because I knew I was in for a fight getting the kids bathed and to bed, and I was exhausted from working full-time, helping other people solve their problems all day and all year. I’m a mom, a Navy wife, and a full-time therapist. To be fair, my husband also works a full-time job, in quality assurance/IT for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, so he basically works two weeks straight every month.
Our little family has been through a lot recently. 
The kids are used to going places and staying with others, sometimes because I am also out of town. Both our one year-old son and four year-old daughter can fall asleep easily, almost anywhere. My daughter knows that Daddy flies on an airplane to Bahrain and where in the world on a map that country is located. My son knows that Daddy works at what is essentially an airport/seaport and is obsessed with my husband’s Dixie cup hat.  They are resilient kids, just like most other military kids. They are “go with the flow” type of kids. They make me laugh every day. But, they also make me pull my hair out and get easily frustrated. 
Because I am alone with them so much due to my husband’s travels, I have discovered something about myself…
I have learned that I have low distress tolerance levels and am easily set off by something little. Spilled milk? Check! The dog runs loose around the neighborhood? Check! I locked my keys in the car when out to eat with both kids alone? Check! 
I often wanted to yell at my kids or to cry. Sometimes I did both. I had to get it together. I teach distress tolerance skills to my clients: Things like learning to self-soothe and finding things to distract yourself “in the moment” in order to calm down. This helps college kids to stop cutting or drinking, and get their lives together. 
I just wanted to be a better parent.
I started working on myself. 
I took a few deep breaths before responding to anyone to check my tone and formulate my response. I adjusted my work schedule to get thirty minutes of alone time before picking up the kids every day. I learned to laugh or make due with a lot of situations. I practiced mindfulness (the act of going within oneself; purposefully doing things one at a time to practice being in the present moment). I laughed at myself practicing mindfulness. I laughed so hard one day when the dog licked my face while doing yoga and no one was even home to hear me. 
I became happier, less stressed, and more confident. My kids and husband noticed, and things were going well.
Back to the day after Halloween: I felt that frazzled feeling coming on. I felt sorry for myself that I was going to be alone again for a few nights. But, I took a step back. I didn’t say something spiteful or curse the Navy. I thought to myself how thankful I was that my husband could be home to Trick-or-Treat with us, as many military families are separated for much longer. I thought how grateful I am to be living in my childhood home. I took stock of what my life has become, after marrying that handsome Sailor eight years ago after his first deployment. 
I can be proud of our family. 
I am not perfect. We’re not perfect. I don’t ever intend for us to be. 
But, we—and especially me–have been working really hard to be on our way.
***
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