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Putting the CL on that ASS!

A Bernie's Daughter Thing

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Women

My Cup

I had such a wonderful weekend! I got to go to Texas to visit with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We went to a retreat dedicated to femininity and it was so rejuvenating and affirming. I laughed. I cried. I ate delicious food. I hung out with some lovely women. And I did it all in 80 and 70 degree weather! Now that may not seem like such a big deal to some of you. But for this Chicago born and raised girl, 70 and 80 degrees in February is like finding shelter after a raging storm. It’s sweet relief. So that was the whip cream and cherry (if I liked cherries) on an already decadent and rich, brownie, fudge and caramel sundae.

The friend I visited has been one of my dearest friends for about 20 years. We have been through so much together. There’s just something to be said for having friends like her. We haven’t seen one another in ages, but whenever we see one another we’re laughing and talking as if we have never missed a beat.  I love meeting new people and making connections, but there’s just something about the ones you have with those who know you best.  My friend took great care of me over the weekend.  She told me to just bring myself and not worry about a thing. I have no idea why she told me not to worry, considering how well she knows me.  Worry is what I do.  It’s what I know.  But I did my best to listen to her.  My friend treated me to some of the best meals I’ve had in a long time, a massage, and the joy of being a passenger while she drove us to our destinations.  When I tell you this was all like sweet manna!

However, as much as I enjoyed myself, I have to admit that it did bring up some issues for me.  I didn’t have to contribute anything this weekend but myself.  All I had to do was sit back and receive.  Yet, that was incredibly difficult for me.  I wanted to do something. I even felt guilty.  It allowed me to recognize that I don’t know how to receive.  I am so accustomed to giving to others, yet I am not as accustomed to being given to.  And that’s just one more thing I need to release.

When I began examining this phenomenon of mine, I realized that it’s behavior that I learned from my parents.  See, both of my parents are givers. Correction, they are over-givers.  They give to everyone–even when not asked.  They felt like it was their duty to take care of everyone. My dad was an especially generous over-giver.  He had a wonderful heart, yet he had a habit of inserting himself where he wasn’t necessarily needed, nor asked to be.  He would go out of his way to take care of others–which would result in his depleting himself and becoming resentful.  He would resent that he wasn’t appreciated and that others didn’t go out of their way for him the way he did for them.  I guess when it became too much, he created the idea that it was better to take care of yourself than to allow others to take care of you. Always have your own and always do for yourself. Don’t let anybody do anything for you.  He taught me that and I accepted it.  I believed as he taught me–it was a sign of strength to be self-sufficient and not allow anyone to do anything for  you.  I grew up watching that behavior and assumed it was healthy until I began to follow in his foot steps.  I created the one-sided relationships.  I began to experience the resentment.  I resented being the go-to person for everyone.  Yet, as much as I resented it, I didn’t stop my pattern.  I kept doing the same thing in different relationships–romantic, platonic, associate level–expecting different results. Well, that’s the very definition of insanity.

Refusing to accept love, support, and any other good thing isn’t really strong though. It’s just something wounded people do to mask their fear of rejection.  I learned this weekend that I am so accustomed to operating from a place of lack.  I deplete myself.  And then I seek ways to recharge myself.  Iyanla Vanzant says, “My cup runneth over.  What comes out of the cup is for y’all. What’s in the cup is mine.”  I haven’t been living that way. I’ve been pouring my cup all the way out and giving everything that’s in my cup so that there’s nothing left for me to sip when I thirst.

imagesWhat I didn’t realize until this weekend is that the reason        that my father and I were such over-givers and the reason we don’t allow our cup to runneth over is because deep down we didn’t believe we could have symbiotic relationships.  We didn’t believe we could have people look out for us, do for us, be there for us.  And why did we believe this, you ask? Well, let me answer.  It’s the thing that’s behind the answer to the question I was asked this weekend, which was What do you have to prove and who do you have to prove it to?  My answer was simple and I didn’t even have to think about it.  My answer was that I have to prove that I’m worthy to everyone. But the truth is, I don’t really need to prove it to everyone.  Everyone is my scape goat so that I don’t have to face that my real aggressor is the woman in the mirror.  So the truth is that I have to prove I’m worthy to myself.  Worthy of what, you ask?  Well, let me also answer that as well.  Worthy of good things.  Ahh . . . Now you see how all the dots connect!  My issue of worthiness blocks me from accepting and receiving good things.  No matter how much I want them, I will never have them or enjoy them until I understand one simple truth.  I am worthy.  I am worthy because I am.  I don’t have to do anything, say anything, or be anything to be worthy.  I also don’t have to prove it to myself.  I just need to accept it.

I can’t thank my friend enough for taking such great care of me.  She taught me a lot this weekend. She taught me how to sit my tail down and accept love, support, and a massage (can’t forget the massage). But she provided me with a wonderful lesson that if you allow, people will show up and love you.  Good things will come to you. But you have to let them in.  It’s now time for me to get on with the business of me pouring into my cup so that it can start running(eth) over.

An Open Letter to My Body

Dear Body of Mine,

I owe you a most sincere apology.  For just about your entire existence, I have not liked you.  I have spoken of and to you in most unkind ways.  I’ve called you horrible names like fat, awful, and ugly. I’ve compared you to others and found you to fail to measure up.  I’ve wished you were something you were not.  And each time I felt you failed me, I blamed you.  I actually felt like you were a curse to me.  In short, I have hated you.

You may wonder why I have hated you and abused you.  I could pontificate about all of the underlying psychological issues and social conditioning that I may have and have possibly been exposed to.  However, the simple truth is that I’ve never thought you were good enough.

Why did I think that?  Well, I’ll admit that I just never liked the way you looked.  In the beginning, you were just skinny. Too skinny. And remember, this wasn’t during the time that it was cool to be skinny. I felt that you subjected me to teasing and taunts from others. Laughter filled advice about eating sammiches were painfully abundant for me–despite the fact that I did, in fact, eat many sammiches and more.  Yet, you weren’t filling out any time soon.

It would be many years later when you would begin to fill out.  I would be about 24 years of age.  Yet the problem with that is that you didn’t fill out the way I wanted you to.  You didn’t give me the curves I wanted.  You didn’t fill out to create the hour-glass physique I so desperately coveted.  No, there would be no Tocarra Jones’ body for me.  Instad, you kept your athletic physique, complete with its  narrow hips and wide waistline.   But you didn’t even have the decency to give me Serena Williams athletic type.  You just gave me straight body with a tire around my waist.  And I hated you for that.  Each time I saw another woman with the coveted hour glass frame, I thought you to be an even greater failure.  Why can’t you look like her? I’d lament.  You never answered me either.  Instead, you just kept calling for me to love you as you were and I refused.

Then came what I felt was the ultimate betrayal.  Pregnancy.  After the birth of The Fizzle, you developed stretch marks in places I never wanted, never even realized one could develop there.  You began to bulge and droop in places that I didn’t think were meant to bulge and droop.  And let’s not even talk about what you did to my stomach!  I worked out throughout my entire pregnancy to combat such changes, yet they were all for naught. You still drooped and bulged and you didn’t even have the courtesy to return to your pre-pregnancy state, post pregnancy. Then you gave me the dreaded C-section pooch.   It was hard enough tolerating you before then.  Now how was I supposed to appreciate you?  I swore I would never forgive you.  And I didn’t.  Until now.

Now here we are, 10 years post pregnancy. I’ve since accepted that the pre-pregnancy body is NEVER returning.  And while I don’t like it (not one bit), I realize how cruel and superficial I have been. I have treated you as if you’re good for nothing more than an aesthetically pleasing accessory.  How wrong I have been!  You are so much more than that.  You have carried me through this world.  You even brought forth life!  How amazing is that?  And thanks to yoga, I now know you can do some amazing things I never even thought possible!  You are the vessel through which this soul of mine wanders through this Earth.  You lend your hands to help others up. And what’s more, you use your hands to pull yourself up when you fall down.  You love me so much that you will pad yourself to protect me when I am wounded.  I have finally realized that your worth doesn’t lie in what you look like.  Isn’t that ironic though? I’d have a fit if someone deemed me less than worthy based on my appearance, yet I meted that exact harsh judgment on my damn self. I have no excuses or any justifiable reasons for my ill behavior. All I can say is that I was ignorant and immature.  I didn’t know.  And I’m so sorry that I didn’t know and even more sorry for the way I have treated you.  But since I am not big on sorry’s or words, I’ll allow my actions to show you how much I have changed.  I’ll affirm you when I look at you instead of cursing you for everything I hated about you.  I’ll reframe your so-called flaws.  Where I once saw failure, I’ll see Life and splendor.  I won’t compare you to anyone.  I’ll appreciate you for who you are.  I’ll feed you well and move you so that you’re as fit and healthy as you can be.  As my Daddy used to say, I can show you better than I can tell you. And while I have never actually said this to you before, please allow me to close this simply by saying I love you.

I’m Not Your Superwoman! Hell, I’m Not Even My Own!

Happy Friday to you! Today is a wonderful day and would you like to know why? Well, it’s because you’re here. I become more convinced that there really are no coincidences the longer I live. So it’s no coincidence that you exist at this moment. It’s no coincidence that you happened upon my blog. Even if we can’t connect the dots as to the why’s behind it all, we can rest assured that there is a why. This past week was good for me because I was able to offer support to quite a few of the beloved women in my life. I was able to offer the support they needed because I have walked the path they now found themselves stumbling over. Let me just tell you, it’s taken me a long time to get comfortable enough with myself to share as openly as I now do. And I do it because I know what distress, pain, heartache, failure, and all the other yucky stuff of life feels like. If I can help at least one by offering support, encouragement, or just a glimpse of what it looks like to stand in the midst of it, let alone overcome, it is well with my soul. Today’s video was inspired by so many of the beautiful women I know and love and to the individuals who love them. May you all find peace, joy, and Soul! Wait, that’s the Soul Train, but hey, all aboard! Toot! Toot!

Trigger Points

I can’t tell you enough how excited I am to be a brand ambassador for Nikki Woods Media. I’m thrilled for the opportunity. I struggled with applying. I told myself that I wasn’t going to apply. However, I have a great bestie who would not allow me to sit idly by. So, I applied. It took me 3 days to complete the application, but dammit I did it. Receiving the congratulatory email that I received days later sent me on a high. I was thrilled. I have felt that this is an amazing opportunity that will only lead to more opportunities for me.

However, having said that, I must be honest and admit that this opportunity has triggered some things in me. Foremost of my trigger points is my confidence–or lack thereof. When I say that I struggle with confidence, many people don’t believe me because I seem to possess the superpower of appearing much more confident than I actually am. But this opportunity has triggered my confidence point. I have been fearful every day with it. And to be honest, I’ve actually struggled with the feeling that I’m failing in some way. In my monkey mind’s eye, I can see Nikki Woods and her team looking over me with the disapproving eyes and careless cackles of a mean girls set. Now of course, my true mental mind knows this isn’t true. My true mental mind knows that they would not have chosen me if they hadn’t seen something in me. But isn’t it funny how they can see what I can’t see in myself?

The other thing this opportunity has triggered for me is my tendency to compare myself to others. Let me tell you something. Nikki Woods chose some amazing women to serve as brand ambassadors. Amazing, I tell you! They are smart, beautiful, talented, and funny. And I have compared myself to every single one of them in some way. I was overwhelmed with their amazing-ness (Yep, I just said that) during our first meeting. I listened intently to each woman as she introduced herself. I grew increasingly anxious with each one because I felt they were all so much more than I. I felt they were doing so much more than I. I mean they had job titles and everything! And here I was, simply saying I’m Bernie Mac’s daughter. My bestie laughed at me when I said this to her and told me, “Well, if it makes you feel any better, you can give yourself a title too.” Don’t you just love best friends?

But she was right. I could give myself a title. I could say I’m Je’Niece the Storyteller, or Je’Niece the Healing Architect, or whatever title I want to give myself. But there’s also the title of me: Je’Niece. And that title is good enough. Actually, I am good enough. That one sentence right there says so much. Woo, felt so good I need to say it again. I am good enough! There was no reason for me to feel small. I was the only person who was making me feel small. Everyone else has been welcoming, encouraging, and supportive. I am the only one who has been failing to support myself. I’m the only one who has failed to see how I’ve shown up giving my best every day. But that’s the beautiful thing about triggers. They show up–and sometimes when you least expect it–to show you what areas need your loving attention. So I needn’t get down on myself–which was my first response upon realization of my triggers. I just need to acknowledge them and give myself attention where it’s due.

I also don’t need to judge the fear. The fear is the sign that this means something to me. And believe me when I say it does. But in that, I need to detach from the outcome. I don’t need to put all of my energy focusing on the potential outcome of this. Maybe Nikki and team love me and decide to continue to work with me and refer other people my way, or vice versa. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they like me, but decide I’m not their cup of tea. And you know what? Either scenario is ok. I will be ok either way. Now, that’s not to say that I wouldn’t love the outcome to be the former one, but I am saying that I will not allow myself to swirl my mind into a frenzied state that renders me incapable of enjoying the journey. It’s only been two weeks and I have grown already. I’ve been doing virtual streaming through Periscope everyday. Every day, y’all! I found Periscope to be so intimidating and so outside of my comfort zone. Yet, I’m doing a scope every day. I’m truly owning my story. I am Bernie Mac’s daughter, and that is ok. I’ve said it before, yet there was still some part of me that struggled with that. I never want people to think that I’m resting on that part of who I am. I never want people to think that I want pity or attention because of it. But that’s the part of me who has been allowing the voices of others to rule instead of my own voice. My own voice is telling me to just be who I am because who I am is beautiful and worthy and those who get me will be drawn to me. From those people, the opportunities I seek will arise. Those who don’t get me will get out the way, which will just make more room for the ones who are drawn to me.

And just think this has only been triggered with two weeks worth of working with Team Nikki Woods! I’m onto something beautiful here, and I’m so thankful for it.

I Am Woman, Dammit! The Super Woman’s Credo

I don’t watch the news, so I’m usually late when it comes to events. You can imagine my surprise yesterday upon seeing a picture on my Facebook timeline highlighting an event from November 2015.  A young woman in Georgia took her college exam while she was in labor.  She has since  been lauded as strong, determined, having her priorities in order, and amazing for doing so.  This is not the first time a woman has done this.  Back in 2011, an Illinois woman took her bar exam while in active labor.  This woman was also lauded with compliments for her extraordinary heroism as she barreled through her exam.

I understand that we are in a culture which supports and idolizes action. We are all about doing and achieving. And when you’re done with that, do and achieve more.  That picture and those who commented on how wonderful it was only reinforced that notion.  And while I believe these women–and women in particular, for that matter-are extraordinary, I can’t help but to feel a bit sad about how much that mentality has affected us. Most  women who have given birth can tell you what an exhaustive process labor can be.  And in the midst of this, these women felt that they really had no choice but to “woman up” and take an exam instead of focusing on the task at hand–a mighty large task if you ask me.

Now I know there are some who will say “But what’s wrong with what they did?” To you I will say, there’s nothing wrong.  I’m not speaking from a place of judgment.  I do applaud these women for doing what they felt they needed.  I think women are incredibly resilient. And while extreme, these two ladies, and any other ladies who’ve done similar things, illustrate this point. But reading their stories and all the comments of those who applauded them raised some questions for me. Tyler Collins, the 21 year-old Georgia mom who took her psychology exam while in labor said, “I just didn’t want to make an excuse for not taking it, but I also wanted to keep my GPA up.” I’m amazed by her strength. But I’m also amazed that she would have considered giving birth an “excuse” as to why she couldn’t take her exam. We’re not talking about a slight sniffle of the nose here. No, we’re talking about birthing a child!  How is that an excuse? I just wonder how long we woman shall rumble and roar just to say we did? Furthermore, I wonder why we even feel the need to?

Again, there is no judgment. I couldn’t judge if I wanted to since I still struggle to retire the invisible, yet still seen S on my chest and cape that flows from my neck.  I just am saddened that we as women still fall into the trap of thinking we have to do, get, labor (figuratively and literally), and toil in order to be worthy and strong. We still don’t quite understand that strength is a quiet trait.  It doesn’t make a grand entrance. It merely shows up when needed, does what needs to be done, and exits stage left when it’s done.  And sometimes strength realizes that rest or seeming inactivity is the thing that is needed. We forget that sometimes, the seemingly “weak” thing is the strongest thing to do.  We are after all, feminine beings. And feminine strength doesn’t look like masculine strength; nor does it need to.  What’s more, Collins scored a 76 on her exam and admitted she wasn’t pleased with the score, prompting her to email her professor to see if she could retake the exam. Thankfully, her picture and story went viral, so it prompted her teacher to give her extra credit, which bumped her grade from a C to a B.  But I couldn’t help but wonder, if she’d simply focused on her labor–you know prioritize–and taken the test at a later time, would she have received a score more to her liking. But that’s the mentality that we live with.  We must do it and we must do it NOW! There is no later.  If you wait, you won’t get another opportunity. And often times we don’t see how we cause our own suffering with that mentality.

I will repeat, these women were in labor! I understand the gravity of that can be forgotten in today’s world; since women have been doing it since the dawn of time. I get that how in the midst of all the medical, technological, and societal strides the human race has made, childbirth can seem so rudimentary.  Yet, it isn’t at all.  It’s heavy stuff, Man!  I also get that when we look at some of the things our ancestors faced, we feel like we’re chumps in the face of their adversity. And why shouldn’t we?  When you compare what they’ve gone through to our stuff one can’t help but arise at the conclusion that we have it made.  I’ve heard the stories of how our ancestors birthed babies in the middle of the cotton field, wrapped the baby and strapped them to their back, and then proceeded to continue picking cotton.  Yep, I’ve heard the stories. I was saddened by them then, just as I’m saddened now. And it’s because in spite of the advances, we still haven’t realized some things.

There has been and still is this idea that in order for a woman to succeed, she must do so with masculine energy. She must act.  If she isn’t acting, she’s not achieving.  Now admittedly, women have made great strides in their careers. Yet those strides have begged the question, at what cost?  The notion that women need to be like men in order to be strong is erroneous.  We were created different for a reason.  A woman can be strong in her feminine without embodying the masculine.  We can prioritize, possesses determination, and be amazing all without putting ourselves last.  It’s not a badge of honor to deplete ourselves in our quest to get things done.  Yet, that’s the model so many of us have chosen to emulate.  My wish is that every woman knows how splendid, beautiful, and yes, strong, she is.  But we can’t realize that trying to reach it with a masculine model in mind.

I just wonder that with all that women do,  why we feel it’s not enough? I wonder how long we will have to be the Strong (and often times Black) woman giving and doing with our might before we whittle away at everything we’ve got. Why is it that we feel like carrying, laboring, birthing, and raising our children is nothing? Why do you we feel like we haven’t done enough?  Why do we feel like we have to be “on” constantly, giving of ourselves until we’re depleted, to prove how we good we are?  Why are we constantly applauding women for these acts of self-neglect?  Yes, I said self-neglect, because that’s what it is. We give and give up so much from our cups that many of us have been holding empty cups for years–scraping the residue from the bottom to give even more.  I understand that there are times when we must toil because there is no other choice.  But there are other times (probably more than we care to admit) when we choose to do it.  I know I’m asking a lot of questions.  But what I’m trying to say is deeper than the questions.  There is grace in rest. There is no weakness in recognizing that what one needs is to have a seat or two, or several more.  We need to bestow grace upon ourselves.  As far as we’ve come, we need to understand that we don’t need to fight to prove our strength.  There is no battle to wage on our life.  And again, I’m not judging.  I do believe they are strong. I believe women are strong. I just wonder how much steam that strength of ours will have to run on if we continue this way.  That’s all.

 

Gratitude Day #4

While I didn’t get to post my gratitudes for the past 2 days, I must say I’m still feeling quite grateful.  My daughter and I have gone to visit my best friend who moved away in August.  I’ve known her since we were 4 years old.  She’s been an integral part of my life throughout its duration.  I was quite happy when she received the amazing job opportunity in August–which is what prompted her move.  I was so excited for her and her son (who is also my amazing god son).  But, I can’t lie.  I was sad for me.  I was sad that my best friend was gone and I would no longer have the opportunity to just run by and sit on her couch while we talk about everything and nothing.  I was so excited to see them when they pulled up at the airport that I burst into tears.  It’s been great spending time with them.  And my Fizzle is so happy to see her “brother.” We’re reunited and it feels oh so good.  So this feel good feeling that we’re all feeling is only inspiring me to continue on with the gratitudes. So here we go.

On this day I am grateful to my mother. When I was growing up, my security relied on my parents. In my mind, we were a Love Triangle–our own Holy Trinity if you will–with my dad at the top, and me and my mom at the bottom. I didn’t want much if we weren’t all together. As the years went on, my mom and I developed an incredibly close relationship. I would tell people she was my best friend. I would nurture her and look out for her. I never told her, but I’d even get scared in the middle of the night that something might happen, so I’d get up and check her breathing. Mother-Daughter relationships are extremely complicated and can be incredibly volatile. Yet somehow, my mother and I were able to navigate through the explosive Mother/Daughter realm with ease. We were the amazing dynamic duo. We were the envy of mothers and daughters everywhere. I had several friends chastise their moms with cries of “Why can’t we be more like Je’Niece and her mom!” Of course our relationship would irritate the hell out of my dad and he’d say things like “Your mother is going to hurt your feelings one day.” I thought that was incredibly odd and quite rude to say, and I couldn’t understand why he’d say that—until he passed away

An incredible shift took place in our relationship. A distance I’d never known grew between us. It felt quite hostile. All that mushy gooey-ness we shared seemed to dissipate before my very eyes. It was incredibly hard for me. As an only child, I’d built my identity on my parental units. Now my father was dead and it seemed that my mother was (in a way) dying to me as well. I would ask if I’d done anything, did I remind her too much of my dad, and of course she would say no. But she wouldn’t offer me any thing else. We went from talking for hours every day to not talking—sometimes for weeks at a time. She had her story she was into about me and I had my story that I was into about her. It was so bad that when she got engaged, I may have been the last person to find out. She told people at the spa we both went to before she told me! I was crushed. I don’t do well when my feelings are hurt. I retreat. To others, it appears that I’m angry, but I am not. I am simply hurt and unable to move forward. It’s a simple defense mechanism, but this time I made an exception. I chased my mother. I mean I ran after her until there were holes in my proverbial emotional shoes. I couldn’t sleep or eat and it seemed like the harder I chased, the faster and the farther she ran away. Until this day we have never come to a true conclusion as to what prompted the shift. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. All I know is that I am so thankful that it occurred, because it forced me to recognize some heavy truths. While I love my mother with one of the purest loves I’ve ever felt, we had an extremely co-dependent, slightly dysfunctional relationship. My father was the center of our universe and much of our bond centered on an Us vs. Him set up. We weren’t very honest with one another either. I think we both believed my father to be a brutally honest person who would not dare hesitate to hurt your feelings in the name of “Truth” so we wouldn’t give that honesty to one another. We’d give the sweet, syrup, sugar coated version of what we thought the other “needed” to hear. I think we both also bought into the notion that the only “important” person in the family was my dad. Even before he became famous, he had this electric energy that just commanded attention. We both knew we were important, but just not as important as he. So we settled into this coddling type of relationship with one another. Neither one of us living to our true potential, but telling each other that we were. When my dad passed away, we didn’t need that anymore. We needed to move into something that would better serve us. But I didn’t get that. Hell, I didn’t want that! I felt like: Dammit there has been enough change in my life (with my dad’s death and my divorce) and if I couldn’t have at least this one relationship the way it’s always been what the hell was left for me?! But I realize now that was one of the best things that ever happened to me. And it had to happen as it did because I wouldn’t have gotten the memo any other way. Had she not stepped away from me, I probably would have moved in with her and become a spinster. I would have played safe, put all my focus on her. I would have asked permission to make any type of move in my life and only done so if she wanted me to. I remember her coming to me after my dad died. She said, ‘I had a dream that you moved to California with Jasmine and I was so hurt. I just couldn’t believe that you would do that to me.” I really did want to move to California, but I took what she said as a warning and decided, “OK well I won’t do that.” That shift in our relationship showed me that having boundaries in our relationships is one of the healthiest, loving things we can do for the ones we love. That shift in our relationship healed the mother/daughter bond and allowed me to be a better mother to my daughter. Otherwise, I probably would have repeated the very same pattern with Jasmine. Regardless of my initial reaction, that shift was the best thing that ever happened to us. We both have gone on to the paths we were meant. I now know that better days are ahead of me and that I am the only person required to give permission in my life. And while our present relationship is not what it was, I don’t love or appreciate my mother any less than I did then. I may actually appreciate her more because she helped me find my strength. So in some ways, once again, my dad was right because my mom did in fact hurt my feelings. But whether she meant to or not, she made me a better person, Woman and Mother. So thanks Mom. You were and still are a great teacher.

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