March Month in Review

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Goals/Purpose: This may be on the of the first months where I accomplished most of my goals between the foundation and my publishing company. I think it was partly because I was going away at the end of the month and wanted to relax so worked extra hard, but also because I put less due in the month and broke it down.

In journaling class, Arthur said he has so much he wants to do and that can often make us not do anything. I can relate as I have so many writing projects. The main focus has been my middle grade series, The Puzzle Quests. Book three had to get to the editor. It didn’t get to my beta readers as I had wanted, but I built in time and I needed to let the book sit.

While it was with my editor, Karen Knowles, I worked on a draft of a picture book about my dog, Zoey, and my non-fiction table of contents for the book I’m writing on journaling. When my middle grade manuscript heads to the beta readers, I’ll shift focus to the pictures books, which is due in June. Learning to break down my goals within what I want to accomplish and grow based on my purpose has been key to getting so much done.

Mentally: I was edgy most of the month. I know it’s because I’m stirring things up and have been for a while. I have always listened to my gut (that innate intuition) that we tend to tamp down. I admit I have tamped it down for a long time, but now I’ve let it loose. It’s shifting my eye to writing, my goals within it, who I want to write for, and what I want to write.

Social/Me: March was wonderful socially. Family time. Stephen was home. A fabulous relaxing retreat in Sarasota with Karen filled with soul searching, writing, yoga, great food, and lounging. It was just what I needed.

It ended with a visit to Stephen and my first cousins who I hadn’t seen in a long time. I came full circle and April has me easing through the transitions March has begun.

 

Four Phases to Declutter, Create Space, and Achieve Goals

My week of Creating Space was a lesson in learning what is attainable! There were many positives like following a tight schedule and getting more done than I think I would have, but the stressful part was attempting to get it all done when life steps in.

In addition, I had this huge goal of finishing my novel to get it to the printer. That definitely ate up a lot of my time, but was part of a my business plan.

My Create Space project needed to be broken down into four phases that I will schedule for the rest of this month.

Phase One–Declutter & Clean–Go through each room and get rid of what I didn’t like, need or use. This involves removing everything, checking for doubles like having 6 wooden spoons in my kitchen drawer and 100 pens!

Handle it once. Give it away, donate it, or sell it. Right now some boxes are still in my dining room, so that is on the to do list. Cleaning each room as I went through helped to break up the monotony and emotional struggle of decluttering. All my windows have been washed, which felt good.

I didn’t finish any particular room completely. So in the future, I would declutter and clean each room as a specific goal. For example, take two days to declutter my bedroom, closet, and bathroom. Then detail clean if needed. Then that room is complete.

Phase Two–Files and Binders–This should really be first for me, because part of the reason why I took on this project was to clean my office, clear my files and teaching binders, so they were organized and the lesson plans and handouts were easily accessible.

This phase will take a full week, and I will specifically break down this goal for the week of July 23.

Phase Three–Index Journals–This is more about creating accessible history and finding entries easily. I only started indexing my journals two years ago, so I have years of journals that aren’t titled or indexed. Part of this plan is to do just that.

In addition, I currently write a separate journal to my sons, but I had previous entries mixed in with my personal journals. I managed to mark those. I will make this a project to transcribe them into separate journals. I only have a few, so this might be a winter goal.

Phase Four–Digital Decluttering and Organizing–The best way to avoid this is to go through my photos and files and get rid of what doesn’t work each month! I was great about this when I first got my Mac, but five years later I’m overloaded! I did manage to create some space, but it’s disorganized. I get very frustrated when I can’t find a file or photo. I am uploading my files and photos to Google and am doing it in what I think is an organized manner.

I need a week to do this right. I haven’t set a goal for this yet, but since my computer is vital to my job, it has to be done in the next couple of weeks.

I also made a list of what I needed to replace or never purchased–like curtains in my bedroom and now my office.

But back to my main reason for creating space–building an efficient and effective business. Next week I will focus on my files and binders. Then I will have the space to create my book promotion for Saving Atlantis, which will be published this fall.

Here is what I managed to finish:

 

Was my Create Space plan SMART?

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Click on photo for more ways to accomplish goals by Pishon Design Studio

Specific–I was very specific in what I wanted to get done and what I would do each day. That helped me to be extremely productive.

Measurable–Crossing items off my list never felt so satisfying, even though part of me was bummed for not getting everything done.

Attainable–I have to put half of what I want to get done in my calendar, because it always takes so much longer. I have a tendency to add in too much work. But at least I have a guideline to follow and know what needs to get done.

Realistic–Not in one week! Another is Relevant–I should have stuck to the ultimate reason I wanted to do this–for my business and I probably could have had my office done.

Time-based–I will break down the rest of my Create Space into longer time periods.

The most important part of my week was that I made time to take care of myself. When I chose to exercise or be with my family, I truly enjoyed those moments. I was mindful of my decisions.

Thank you to everyone who encouraged me online and in person. You held me accountable and gave great advice!

What is your goal and how are you going to achieve it? Start today!

Be Kind

My beautiful Baptiste yoga sister, Cara, recently taught a community class, and she focused on the impact of unexpected kindness. Somehow when we least expect it, a display of kindness can pull us out of the worst mental funk.

Her quote was, “Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”

Being kind to someone else doesn’t cost you a thing, but it might be the most rewarding for both you and the receiver.

In my journaling workshop this week, I shared that quote and had them write from some prompts:

What form of kindness have you recently received that was unexpected?

How did it make you feel?

What kindness have you given without expectation?

How did it affect that person? Do you know if it did? Did it matter?

How did you feel giving kindness?

Answers ranged from someone showing up at work and being thrilled to see that person, to going the extra mile to do something special for a mom’s birthday. On either end it felt wonderful knowing that someone cared and that you could make someone happy.

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When I have hit rock bottom, it took love to bring me back. We don’t know what someone else is going through and even if we can’t understand what they are feeling, we can empathize. We can show love, support, and kindness. That is mainly why I write and teach journaling, so that others know there is always hope. There is always love.

Kindness comes in all forms. It doesn’t have to be directed only to you. In my yoga class today, the teacher exuded kindness and wrapped us in her cocoon of love. Not only did I get a great yoga workout, but I felt safe and cared for–exactly what I needed in that moment. After class I told her that, because I wanted her to know she made a difference in my day.

What are other ways you can show kindness?

Smiling at someone who looks sad

Holding the door open for another person, male, female, old or young

Paying for the person’s drink who is next in line

Sending a card or to someone you haven’t seen in a long time or giving them a call

Telling people that you love them. It’s a simple gesture that can turn someone’s day around.

Give a hug.

Don’t forget to do something for yourself that makes you feel good. Kindness to yourself keeps your heart open to share kindness with others.

Think about who you have shown kindness to today. If you haven’t, make a point every day to show love, kindness, and give the same to yourself. You’ll attract the love and kindness you want to see in the world.

Thank you Cara for sharing kindness and your bright spirit!

 

I’m Ready

My journal entries are often inspired by authors whose words resonate with me. I completely agree that you will connect with a book in different ways depending on where you are in your life. I picked up Cheryl Richardson’s book, Waking Up in Winter, because of the sub-title: In Search of What Really Matters in Mid-life. I figured I could connect to some of it. Plus it was written in journal form, and since I’m working on a book about journaling. I thought I could get some insight.

 

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On page 23, she writes about how saying no after always saying yes can rock the boat of life. For those who start saying no, it can be very positive, but those “around them get upset and start questioning the new behavior because change feels scary and unsettling to the safe and familiar tribe.” (23)

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I have taken to opening a page daily in Melody Beattie’s book, Journey to the Heart. This morning I read a passage called, Are You Ready, Willing, & Able? (283) It’s dated for October 1. Significant month for me. I read it out loud to my dogs. They need daily inspiration as well! When I finished, Dakota my 105 pound rescue placed his paw on the book and stared at me. “OK!” I said. “I am ready, willing, and able!”

Melody’s entry was about being ready to get what I want. Once I know what I want I have to tell a friend, shout it out to the world, and probably let my dogs know. Then watch how I feel about it, observe what obstacles jump in my path, the fears, doubts, and distractions that prevent me from being ready.

Hmm. When two books collide to push me along my path, I have to listen. I have written about my amazing tribe. Some might clamor for me to say ‘no’ more while others might wonder what is wrong with me.

Even as I write this, huge blocks are being thrown in my way. It’s because I’m a people pleaser. I hate to disappoint even if my soul’s purpose is dying on the side of the road. The one word I would change in Melody’s passage is ‘want.’ It’s not about getting what I want. It’s about getting what I ‘need.’

Through the many years of journaling, yoga, and deep soul searching, I have learned my path is led by my words. I was meant to be a writer, to share my stories, to entertain, to offer hope. In addition, I need to share my craft with others, so that they can find their own voice, healing, and purpose.

I was on that path 10 years ago when my son became ill. Yes, I have continued to write, publish, and teach, but I need to do it more. I need to jump in and submerge myself in this world of words to follow the path I veered from 10 years ago.

Ironically, the foundation that my husband and I started in memory of Nick is in line with my passion to write. My words have helped families battling cancer. I have written about the inspiring stories that move me. I can still do this, but I have to make space for more of it.

Don’t worry, Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation is still here. But we are changing some of our focus based on what the children, young adults and families need emotionally when facing a cancer diagnosis or to heal from losing a child. How fortunate for me that my gift of expression can fulfill my mission to help children with cancer and beyond.

But to do this, I have to say no to other opportunities within the foundation, within my life, and people’s expectations of me. I know I will disappoint some and that is a block I am learning to set aside. Remember my prompt on Emotional Strength? If you need training on how to remove a block, check that one out.

Sharing that I am growing my writing and teaching career is scary, but it’s so exciting. I have characters and worlds in me clawing to get out. I have a support system that lifts me daily and urges me to follow this journey. If you notice this shift, know that nothing is wrong. Just like my husband and I encouraged our boys to live fulfilling lives, I am doing the same.

Letting go of other’s expectations of me and following my heart is truly the greatest gift I can give to myself and the world.

What are you ready, willing, and able to do now?

What have you recently said yes to that made your stomach twist? What would you have liked to say?

When can you say no, in order to create space for what you need to do?

How would you feel?

What is blocking you? Why?

Start small and build up that NO muscle. It gets easier the more you say it and the more you fill your space with what nourishes you.

Memoir Threads

Writing about your family or your childhood can be overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to start. Having a theme like holidays and family vacations or writing chronologically are two ways to organize. 

I use memoir threads to brainstorm themes. For summer I suggest favorite summer activities from childhood. 

Write the theme in the circle. Then on each line brainstorm what you loved doing as a child during summer. 

Going to the beach

Climbing trees

Riding

Bikes

Hide and seek

Catching fireflies

Vacations  in Lake George

You can add more threads as once you open the jar of memories, they tend to overflow. 

Then take each memory thread and write about it. Use all your sensory details like smell, sight, taste, feel, hear, plus who were you with, when, and what feelings did this memory leave you with?

Some memories can be painful, especially if you were forced to so something you didn’t like each summer. They can be just as powerful and may help to write about from an older perspective. 

You may renew a love of something thst you stopped doing or want to visit old friends. 

The threads are endless. Make copies of your thread sheet, fill it in, and you will always have topics for your journal. 

Volunteering–What do you stand for?

My life in volunteering started in middle school when I walked to my neighbors’ houses and asked them to buy a magazine for my school. This was a huge feat, since we only had a few houses on our road, and I basically needed a car to get anywhere else. Being a competitive person (nothing has changed), I convinced my mother to drive me around, ask friends, and basically harass everyone I knew so I could get the big prize. I don’t even remember what the prize was, but at the time that is what volunteering meant to me.

Fast forward 15 years or so and again I was encouraging people, but not to buy something, rather to walk for a cause. I really can’t remember if it was for the MS society or March of Dimes, but it was through my job and before I had children. At one point my parents, siblings, and some of their kids were involved. One time we met up at the Empire Plaza and made a whole day of walking around Albany for a good cause. It took almost all day, because in our enjoyment of the walk, we missed the turn and had to backtrack and find the route once again! It was all in fun and money was raised. We didn’t see where it was going, but we felt we made a difference or at least I did. Plus being together and having a good time mattered.

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Future fire fighters!
When I was 7 months pregnant with Nick, I helped begin the Friends of the Library in Clifton Park and served on the board in different capacities for the next 12 years.

It was important to me that my children learned to give back. Every year through our karate school, I would arrange for the kids and some adults to pack baskets for the elderly for Thanksgiving. Then we would go to a local apartment and pass the baskets out. This level of volunteering created a more personal and hands-on approach, where they could see and feel the impact they could have on another person. They may not have completely understood what they were doing or why people needed help, but they had a good feeling and that was a start.

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Malone’s Kenpo Karate School Annual Thanksgiving volunteering.
I continued to raise money for larger charities and combined my love of cycling with supporting the American Diabetes Association. I started with the 25 mile route, then Nick rode 10 miles once year. Then it grew until I had ridden, quite painfully, for 100 miles to raise money for a cause that personally affected my family. So there was that connection. Raising money and pushing myself for something I was emotionally connected to. I didn’t get back on my bike for a year after that century ride, but eventually I dragged my friends into it and continued for a couple more years after that riding 25 or 50 miles. It was that sense of a challenge and the camaraderie of riding with hundreds of other people and pushing one another when the ride became difficult.

Why do we give back? Sometimes, like when we are kids, we are forced to do it until we mature enough to understand the meaning behind it. But what has it been about giving back that has kept me involved in some form of volunteering my entire life?

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September 2008, Luke, Stephen, Nick, and Janine during Nick’s battle with cancer.
The answer became quite clear when my son, Nick, was diagnosed with leukemia, and we lost him at the tender age of 13. All my years of fighting for a cause I could relate to suddenly exploded into a mission toward something I never wanted anyone else to have to face. So when I think about what I stand for, I think about my son’s life being cut short and all the potential lost with him. I think about all the children and their siblings who struggle with a cancer diagnosis and how devastated family, friends, and those who tried to save them are after a child dies.

I see firsthand the positive benefits of what giving selflessly can do for others. It’s more than selling magazines to win a prize. Now the stakes have been raised to give people a better chance to live fulfilling lives, to have hope when they think all has been lost, and to feel empathy even though each situation is different.

I believe in the power of volunteering. I believe that giving back makes us better human beings. It’s a way to show love to those who are suffering and to connect to the essence of who we are and why we are here.

Should everyone volunteer? I think so, but for the right reasons. Right now I volunteer and run a foundation that is connected to my heart and soul. It’s a part of who I am. I’d love to do other work like help in a soup kitchen, make dinner at Ronald McDonald House Charities, help Make-a-Wish, and join Literacy Volunteers again. But helping kids fight cancer is what I stand for.

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Volunteering can make you feel like you are on top of a mountain!
What do you stand for? What are you emotionally connected to? Which organizations do you donate money to? It’s an important part of helping our foundations, but imagine if you could help someone face to face? What could it do for them? How would that make you feel? Do you want volunteering in your life and why?

When you figure out what you stand for, perhaps you will try giving back. Giving a little opens your heart and heals both you and those you have reached out to.

Leaving Home

I’ve been thinking a lot about high school and who I was when I attended college. It may be because a reunion is being planned for this summer, but I also think it’s because Stephen just went back to college for his last trimester.

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Lisa, one of my best friends in high school.

I think about who I was at 17 years old or even at a 19, Stephen’s current age, and how it compares to what kids know today. I was a very naive young adult. My brother enlisted in the Navy when I was still in high school, so he experienced being away from home quite a bit.

I was the first girl in my family to go away to school. My oldest sister commuted to college, and my school was only 40 minutes in Albany at The College of Saint Rose. For me it may have been half way across the country. I remember the first night in my dorm with my roommate, Michele. I walked out of my room and called my parents on the pay phone in the hallway. I bawled my eyes out and begged them to come get me. I wasn’t use to being on my own, and the thought of not sleeping in my bed, and the responsibility of doing well was overwhelming. It took me about a week, but I managed to slowly get into the flow of school.

 

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The Roomies, 1984, Greenville High School Graduation

The Roomies were some of my closest friends in high school, and we hung out together during our weeklong senior spring break in Florida. For a long time we stayed connected, but life gets in the way, and it becomes harder and harder to take the time to get together. I think of Stephen and how he and his close friends make sure they get together during their breaks. It’s easier at that point, but I remind him that if you want to stay connected with someone, you have to do the work. It’s easy to think we are connected when we text or post photos on Facebook, but it’s almost a disconnect. We aren’t really seeing that person or getting the true essence of who they are right now.

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Janine and Joy

Yes, that was me all Freshman year: just barely hanging on by a thread. Second semester was better, and I made friends who were more in line with my values and ways of thinking. I learned a lot about myself and that’s what college was about. I have remained in touch with a couple friends from college, but others mainly on Facebook or if I get a Christmas card. I would love to see some of my friends again, but I know I need to make the effort.

The best part about leaving home and going to college was coming home and seeing everyone I missed. Now coming home means being with my immediate family, and I need to make the effort to see those friends who meant so much to me in the very important years of my life.

I hope Stephen stays connected with his gang of guys, whom I consider to be my boys, too. They reflect different parts of Stephen’s personality, and they have been there for each other in great times, and in very tough times. It’s those heart lifting and heart wrenching experiences that produce the bonds of everlasting friendship.

You can always come home or you can create your home wherever you are and invite others into it. I guess I have some friends to reconnect with and invite to my home.

What childhood friends do you stay in touch with? How about college or those early work years? Who have you lost touch with and would like to contact? How and when will you do that? No matter how much time has passed, it’s never too late to reach out and reconnect.

It’s Never too Late

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Photo by Alysia Thomas

Both yesterday and today I have been reminded that it’s never too late to try something new, change what you have been doing, or begin again.

Last night I went to an in-home skin care class where we learned about products and what made this product more suitable to how I want to live. I have been using a skin care line for  the last 29 years. Although I think this product is safe and has served me well, I said that I felt it was too late to start something new that was completely clear of any chemicals. Everyone in the room said that it was never too late to change what I put on my skin, especially since everything is absorbed directly into my system.

So I have decided to make this small change for myself and my family so that I know that the products we are placing on our skin aren’t harming us. It’s something small to keep us and the environment healthy and reduce our carbon footprint. That is truly something that is never to late to start.

Then today in yoga, the topic came up again as we flowed through our poses and tried news ones that some of us may have never done. Even though we may have fallen over or out of a pose, the instructor encouraged us to let it go and begin again. Each time I step on my mat, I know that it’s never too late to change how I come to my practice or what I try. This goes with any form of exercise or challenge.

The questions that came up in my mind was why do we think that we can no longer do something when we reach a certain age? Or why do we think that it’s too late to change or try again. And what do I still want to do in my life that I feel like I can’t because so much of life has gone by or because I have changed?

When this goes through my mind, I think of regret. Sure there are some things in my life that I regret. And for some of those things, I can’t go back and change, but it’s not to late to change how I perceive them. I also need to accept some of them, but that doesn’t limit me in other areas of my life.

There is so much in my life that I still want and can do. It’s not too late for me to:

–learn another language

–take singing lessons

–train in another martial arts or yoga style

–ride across the country on my motorcycle, hopefully with my husband!

–go to Greece, Italy, Ireland, and Scotland

–visit every state

–have grandchildren and spoil them

–get a PhD

I think this will be a bullet page in my journal that I will keep adding to. Kind of like a bucket list, but not really. It’s more like an empowering tool to confirm that I have so much I still want to do. It’s a list that allows me to grow and gives me even more to look forward to!

What have you crossed off your list because you think it’s too late in your life to do it? Why do you think that? Without worrying about how it will happen, make a list in your journal of what you believe is not too late for you to do. Pick one item on it and make a decision to try it out. You never know where it will take you and what opportunities will open for you!

Words Matter

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Words Matter. It’s like a new slogan pounded into my heart this morning when I first heard it. Words, especially saying the right or wrong ones can make a huge difference for everyone who hears them.

It is extremely difficult to communicate sometimes. I know I have been afraid, worried, deterred from sharing what I have truly wanted to say. My journals hold my truths, because they aren’t judged and no one sees them. My journal is the holding space where I can let those words simmer, settle or dissipate the sparked emotions I’m feeling at that time.

Words can save relationships or they can destroy them. When words are spoken rashly, no matter how hard we try to take them back, they are already out there spreading like a plague often with no idea of how it started. Rashly spoken words are often ones dying to be released. They are words that feel defeated, not acknowledged, debased, and forgotten. Then once the words build up, they literally choke the holder and spew out like flash floods or spin out of control like a tornado, or burn everything in its path as a volcano does.

Using a journal to get a feel for how those words will land is vital to speaking your truth in a way that honors how you feel, but also honors the relationship you have with another person. I tell writers all the time to let your piece sit for a day, week or month then go back to it. When you read it again, you have created a distance that allows you to truly see what you have written. The same goes with journal writing. Let it simmer then cool and view it from a calmer frame of mind. You may or may not feel the same. Either way at least you have that chance to clearly state how you feel and why without the emotional  charge.

Do you notice how hard it can be to tell someone how you feel about them? It shouldn’t be so difficult to tell someone you love them. I tell my son most every time I say goodbye that I love him, because even though he knows it, I am grateful that I can speak those words to him, and he can say them back.

I’ve been quite nostalgic lately, and I think that’s causing me to express my feelings even more than I usually do. I want people to know that I care about them, and it not only feels wonderful to me that I have expressed myself, but it also sends positive energy their way. It doesn’t always have to be verbal. Texting, writing notes and placing them where someone will find them, or sending cards to those who live far away all create joy and love that is so needed in our world today.

Words Matter. At the end of my life, I want to know that I have told those I love how much they mean to me. I want to have stood up for the wrongs that I have seen in this world. I may not be able to take back harsh words spoken in the heat of anger or frustration, but I will make sure that I am complete with that person in that we have had a chance to express how we both feel and respect our differences.

It’s not easy to do all of this. It’s also not easy to find the words that can express the depths of our feelings, but we should at least try. Words can destroy, create wars, break up families, and kill. Yet, words have the power to heal, to offer hope, love, acceptance, and joy. Those are the words I choose. The words that let people know they matter.

If you are angry at someone or a situation or feel betrayed and hurt, write down what happened, how it made you feel, and what you would like to do about it. Then let it sit for at least a day. When you go back to it, does the situation still have the same level of emotion? Do you still feel the need to have a conversation with this person or group? If so, from this space of calm, write down what you would like to say. Does it convey the message and tone that you want to convey? If unsure, it may be helpful to ask a trusted friend.

Tell someone today how much they mean to you, whether in a note or face to face. Watch how it makes them feel. Do they light up, smile, and return the emotion? It can be anyone, spouse, parent, friend, family member. How did it make you feel? The more you express yourself, the easier it gets.

 

 

 

Everyone Needs a Tribe

When my son became ill, the first thing I did was gather my tribe. Everything else but the fact that my son had cancer was placed on the back burner. We gathered together even on July 4th when everyone already had plans.

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The immediate DeTillio, Cammarata, Thomas, Albin, and McCormick clan! 

 

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Janine, Michele, Stephanie, and Sal gather around our matriarch–Momma Rita!

I remember walking down to Clifton Commons where we always watched the fireworks with my siblings and many of my karate family. The rest of my tribe waited for me and my family on the sidewalks, on the fields, and back at our house offering love, hugs, and comfort.

We heal with love, but underneath that coziness was steel lined with determination. There is nothing more solid than a group of people who will do anything for you, who will pick you up without judgment, and hold you until you can find your feet again.

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Moms with a purpose and ready to fight for others. 
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Family by choice!

Throughout Nick’s illness, my tribe, especially including my group of ladies held us up by bringing us food, cleaning my house, taking Stephen when needed, visiting Nick, supporting me and Luke when we were away from each other so much, and emotionally kept us strong.

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When Nick passed, my tribe became the glue that kept me and my family together as we shattered apart.

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They let me grieve and do what I needed to do in order to make sense of this tragedy. Again no judgment. Only patience and love, even as they handled their own loss. That’s how it is with a tribe. The loss of one affects us all.

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My tribe has grown and our foundation has become stronger.

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It’s really hard to explain what we have together, but we appreciate the depths of our connections. When one of our tribe suffers, is wronged, or is ill, we feel it to our core. We have known terrible loss, but we have risen up from it to bring beauty, hope, and healing to our world. And whatever may come, we will always fight like the warriors we are.

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As our tribe continues to grow, know that once a part of the family, always a part of the family. No matter where you may be.

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Nick always a part of our tribe.

Who is your tribe? How do you support one another when you need it most? How can you let your tribe know that you are there for them? Write a note of thanks to each of them and how they positively impact your life. You don’t need a large tribe, just enough to get you through the tough times and celebrate in the good.