Tag Archives: while loving the people in it

My Word for 2018 – Simplicity

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“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” Hans Hofmann

Simplicity is my word for 2018. The term showed up in a private Facebook message from a friend asking about my blog. Agnes and I talked about growing our readership, then she added, “… while keeping it simple.”

The word “simple” stood out, which is typically how finding my word for the year happens. It simply shows up and I know it. I wasn’t totally convinced it was the word, though, until I was sick a couple of days later.

When I didn’t feel well, I kept things simple. I slept when I was tired. I ate when I was hungry. I gave myself permission to only do what was necessary, like the quote at the beginning says. I set out to accomplish one or two things on my to-do list instead of 10.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Confucius

My day felt manageable even though I felt bad. I didn’t have enough energy to complicate it. Looking back, I completed more tasks on my sick day than on the days leading up to it. Looking back makes me wonder what I could accomplish if I practiced simplicity on the days I felt good.

Since 2012, I’ve chosen a word for the year in place of making resolutions. It dawned on me how simple a practice this has been, taking one word to work on for 365 days. Here’s my list since I began in 2012.

2012 Incremental
2013 Ponder
2014 Content
2015 Revise, Momentum
2016 Love
2017 Self-care

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When I looked up simplicity, it had more to offer than I anticipated and probably more than I can imagine for 2018.

Simplicity @ Merriam-Webster

  • The state of being simple, uncomplicated, or uncompounded
  • Innocence and sincerity
  • Freedom from pretense; candor
  • Directness of expression; clarity
  • Restraint in ornamentation; austerity

Synonyms @ Thesaurus.com: ease, straightforwardness, naturalness, openness, effortlessness, easiness, minimalism, cleanness, and clean lines.

Antonyms @ Thesaurus.com: complexity, complication, and difficulty.

Keeping life simple means in the place of telling my husband I don’t want to hear a family member tell the same story, one I don’t agree with, a dozen times, I directly say to them, “I don’t want to listen to this anymore.”

Simplicity.

Rather than discussing with family and friends the quandary of getting our own lives, I’m candid about a self-imposed deadline I didn’t meet. I reset it and finish my book proposal this month.

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Simplicity.

Instead of agonizing about buying fewer presents for our family at Christmas and rallying for a consensus, I restrain myself (except with our grandbabies, of course) and simply buy fewer presents.

Simplicity.

I minimize confusion in my head by focusing on one thing to accomplish today. I worry less if others disagree with what I say and write. I set boundaries about how long I’m online and honor them. When I don’t want to participate, I say “no thanks.” When I do, I show up.

These things sound as simple as sleeping when I’m tired, like on my sick day, if only I lived so simply.

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I keep work simple. I do what my husband suggests when he’s editing my blog posts. He asks about a sentence or paragraph that’s unclear, “What were you trying to say here?” I explain it simpler and he says, “Then why don’t you just write that?”

And painting too – I paint in grays because gray is my favorite color.

Simplicity.

Simplicity.

Simplicity.

“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” Frederic Chopin

I believe God meant our lives to be simple (humble is its synonym). My dear friend Betty used to say, “Your first thought is from God and then you mess it up.” She sounded negative until I noticed how right she was.

I write down my next day’s plan before I go to bed, but then I mess it up. I intend to start my morning with an inspirational reading instead of Facebook. I mean to shower before answering emails. I promise myself I’ll walk before sitting down to work …

But then I mess it up.

That is, unless I keep my day simple and listen to what Betty suggested – do the first thing I think about before I mess it up.

It’s simple when we don’t get in our own way.

I’m practicing “simplicity” starting now and into 2018, so I’ll keep you blog posted. Feel free to choose simplicity as your word too and we’ll share our progress. Or let me know your word so we can work towards making next year simply the best it can be.

Do you need to simplify life by choosing one word for the upcoming year? What word makes the most sense to work towards during 2018?

In This Together,
Kim

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The Benefit of an Emotional Meltdown

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“Sometimes it takes a meltdown to cool down.” Evinda Lepins

A recent meltdown I had wasn’t a public scene or even a really big deal around our house. It was significant enough, though, that I realized how important something was to me that I’ve been ignoring. I try to be preventative about these sorts of things, but sometimes prevention doesn’t work because of others’ reactions. My solution sounds something like this until I calm down, “I can’t believe I’ve let this go on,” “Never again,” and “I’m done.”

By my final fit, I’m left with what I used to think was an unusual outcome, but now I’ve come to expect it – an emotional hangover and a spiritual awakening. Like what Terrell Owens said, “Instead of me having a breakdown, I’m focusing on me having a breakthrough.”

Since I grew up in a silent family who shut up about their emotions and shut down everyone else’s, meltdowns ended up being the only way to figure out how I felt. It shouldn’t come as a surprise I married into a family that did the same thing because we’re attracted to what we know. They’re screamers, so I hoped they’d scream about their emotions so I could finally talk about mine. As it turned out, their screaming was also about shutting up and shutting down.

Shy on role models, I eventually learned to appreciate emotional meltdowns for what they were – a gateway to my emotions. Even though I’m still shaken by their messiness and hung-over feelings, and I fear I’ve made things messier instead of mending them, meltdowns haven’t let me down as long as I handle them constructively. I stop looking at what everyone else needs to do and, instead, I look at my part in the meltdown. I get in touch with how I feel and I decide what changes I want to make.

So, what’s actually melting away?

I used to hate to cry in front of people. I still do, but it helped when a friend said, “I love when you cry. You’re melting.”

I knew what she meant. I relaxed a little each time I cried around her. She could see me softening and I could feel it. For years I tried keeping up a happy pretense and a façade of being distant from my emotions by laughing off how I felt and saying, “I’m fine. Really, I am.”

I’m like Elf, “Smiling’s my favorite.” However, weightiness surfaced when I recognized emotions have a life of their own if we ignore them. Instead of being happy like Elf, we numb out with food, zone out on Facebook, and distract ourselves with problems we can’t fix, disturbing news reports, and our own bad habits. Sometimes we want to die when we already feel emotionally dead or our emotions (the ones we think we’re not supposed to feel) feel too out of control. I dislike being called “too sensitive” and hearing I overreact, but I dislike even more not being true to who I am and what’s going on inside of me.

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So, I melt.

I ask myself things like: What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What do I need? What do I want to change?

When I ignored the answers to these questions or didn’t bother to ask them at all, I ended up in a depression I almost didn’t survive. It’s like the anonymous quote, “I froze because frozen hearts don’t feel pain.”

I tried to give up feeling pain so I wouldn’t inconvenience others with my emotions. The result of freezing my pain was freezing almost all of my feelings. I was robotic. I went through the motions of life without emotion, or tried to. I felt like one of the walking dead and wondered what the point was of getting up each day.

This is when I had the meltdown of all meltdowns.

“On the other hand, I believe there’s hope, because the breakdown and the repair are happening simultaneously.” Kathryn Bigelow

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I cried for two years, or so it seemed. I broke my silence and told a couple of trusted friends about my depression and not feeling anything except hopelessness. I let my family know I felt desperate even though they didn’t want to hear it, not because they didn’t care, but because it was scary to listen to. I contained my meltdowns to our living room and limited the best I could my accusations, name calling, and cuss words. The more I talked, the more I was able to share my emotions constructively by talking about myself and how I felt and my plan for feeling better.

I stopped trying to get a thicker skin and focused on being kind to myself and talking about my pain. I got in touch with what my heart longed for instead of the chaos in my head. I had less severe emotional hangovers and more startling spiritual awakenings. I started healing from my meltdowns because I saw their value and handled them right.

When you melt down, do you know why it’s happening? Do you see its value? Do you ask the right questions? Our emotions and handling them right are key to melting well.

In This Together,
Kim

On the Side: My manuscript is about emotions and the value of getting in touch with how we feel. I’d love feedback from you about what to include and about what you’d like to read more about.

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

It’s An Attitude: make it an asset, not a disability

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“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” Scott Hamilton

It’s easier to recognize a bad attitude in others than to convince a person they have one or to see it in ourselves. It’s like selective hearing. We ignore what we don’t want to deal with.

I figured this out several years ago during recurring arguments with a family member. We ended up at an impasse again and again that neither of us could figure out until one night I said, “It’s your attitude. It’s bad.”

Our behaviors were similar.

I listed things they did wrong. I focused on them when I should have focused on myself. I defended myself when the right thing would have been to apologize. However, at the end of the day, I was open to having a conversation, wanted solutions, and tried one more time.

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They sat scowling and with arms folded until the day they figured it out, “I didn’t realize until now how resentful I’ve been. I guess I should have spoken up instead of letting it build up.”

One of several problems with a bad attitude is it’s a hard thing to prove when the other person refuses to look at their part. Unfortunately, pointing out the obvious, explaining, lecturing, giving examples, playing courtroom, and fighting don’t help until the person with the bad attitude wants to change.

I was at dinner with a friend who frequently talked about how much trouble she has holding onto friendships. After a second glass of wine one evening, she told me about a couple of ruined business deals. The third glass of wine is when she shared she’d attended a retreat that focused on self-improvement and she recognized something about herself – she was arrogant. After drinking no glasses of wine myself, I recognized that our times together had gotten less and less enjoyable because of what she just admitted to, her bad attitude. I understood her failed friendships and business deals. She disclosed her problem, but she didn’t mention fixing it.

We all go through bad days and difficult situations and stressful times, but when these turn habitual and we’re all-around hard to be around, we’re likely to lose business and friends and even family. Not much wears down a relationship like a bad attitude.

The other piece to this equation is the person who puts up with the bad attitude and adds to the problem.

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We can help turn people we care about into monsters by seldom confronting their behavior until it’s out of hand, and then becoming monstrous ourselves when we fight to change them back into kind people (if they ever were).

The quote at the beginning reminds me of teaching disabled children mainstreamed into my classroom. I watched in awe the ones who tried hard and showed gratitude even when their needs were high maintenance. I felt guilty about the disabled children I disliked until I noticed it wasn’t about the disability they couldn’t help, but the one they could change – their attitude.

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Here are a few insights that help me avoid becoming disabled by a bad attitude, my own or someone else’s.

 

  • Think about what behaviors make for a bad attitude. We don’t all agree. Some people think sarcasm is funny. I hate it.

 

  • Decide what we need to change. There are those of us who need to hear and heed, “You have a bad attitude. Change it.” The other half of us needs to know we can’t be kind enough to initiate a change in someone else’s bad attitude. By trying, we eventually get frustrated and unkind too.

 

  • Answer these questions to figure out what to change, which sometimes means changing a relationship status to inactive for a while or forever. Do we both want the relationship? Are we both willing to work at it? Are either of us feeling sorry for ourselves or blaming the other person? Are we both willing to talk and to listen?

 

  • Evaluate if there’s anything else I can do to fix or improve my attitude or offer help for theirs. We’re only helping them when they ask for help and want it. Otherwise, we’re enabling. We should avoid working harder on their attitude than they’re working at it because this never works.

 

  • Recognize we all have an attitude. Make it a good one as often as possible. Hang around others who do the same. Good attitudes rub off. So do bad ones and they’re harder to shake.

I’m harping lately on how we act and who we hang around since these matter wherever relationships matter – at home, the office, church, on the road, at the post office, everywhere.

Are you disabled by your bad attitude or by someone else’s? If so, how can you help yourself? #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit #selfcaringin2017

In This Together,
Kim

Where Have I Been???

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“Sometimes the person who’s been there for everyone else needs to be there for herself.” S. Kim Henson

I’m funniest in the shower, like this morning. I asked myself a slightly revised question from the movie Sabrina, and in the same tone William Holden asked it of Audrey Hepburn, “Where have I been all my life?”

I laughed, and then, giving it a second thought, genuinely asked it out loud, “Where have I been all my life?”

By the time I wrapped myself in a towel, I sounded annoyed, “Where have I been all my life?”

An hour later, I scrolled through Christmas photos on my phone and found the one I shared above of my three-year-old granddaughter. Her self-studying picture reminded me I hadn’t answered my question, and to answer it gently.

A friend’s suggestion to evaluate my life in seven-year scenes, or thereabouts, seemed a good idea for coming up with an account of where I’ve been. Aside from specifics, maybe you’ll relate.

I spent the first eight years or so of my life – Scene One – growing up on military bases in New York. Mom disliked being away from her family in South Carolina, which meant Dad tried appeasing her until he could get her back to the South. Homesick wasn’t all that was wrong, so I set out at a very young age to figure out and fix us.

I confused a playful childhood with child labor – trying to be silly enough, cute enough, and obedient enough to give Mom and Dad reasons to lighten up, laugh, and be happy in place of her crying and him covering his pain with anger.

Dad was stationed in Vietnam the first year of Scene Two, around the time I turned nine. He moved Mom, my brother, and me to Mom’s childhood home in South Carolina, which also meant being moved in with my great aunt who raised my mom. I cherished Aunt Viola, but I think Dad felt differently. When he returned to the states, he bought a motel in a nearby resort town and lived there seven, then eight, and finally nine months out of every year.

By then, I was hiding out because we weren’t normal anymore. We no longer had a dad, a mom, and siblings living together while Dad worked 9 to 5. Being “not normal anymore” also meant my mentally ill uncle moved in and out of my great aunt’s house, so he lived with us on and off. His disturbing behavior left behind even more to hide.

During Scene Three, I graduated from high school, chose a local college since I was too anxious to move away, and attached myself to my future husband to help me escape the house I wouldn’t leave. We eloped at age 20. Mom gifted us baby presents because she was certain I’d run off to get married because I’d gotten pregnant. Our first child was born five years later.

I ran, although uncertain where I was headed. In retrospect, I was making a run for the metaphorical white picket fence, a place where I convinced myself I’d feel loved enough, taken care of enough, and safe enough.

For the next 28 years, the next four scenes of my life, I moved back to my hometown to live close by my parents who I eventually distanced myself from. I made up a fairytale marriage. I birthed and raised two children (who, by the way, are my two accomplishments that are “enough”). I worked determinedly and went back to school for degrees to teach, counsel, supervise, and write so as to increase my income and my self-worth, and to prove myself to people who weren’t paying much attention. I chose some wrong friends who made me feel important for the same “wrong” reason I picked them – their prominence, not their praiseworthiness. Most of my actions were okay, but my motives, well, not so much. I did a lot of what I did in hopes that I’d earn enough, buy enough, elevate myself enough, help enough, be seen enough, be needed enough, accomplish enough to ultimately persuade myself I was enough.

I immersed myself in other people’s scenes so I wouldn’t have to engage in my own conflicted ones. I lost myself in their lives because I wasn’t sure how to get my own.

It wasn’t until my most recent scene, preceded by Dad’s death and when I was coming up on 50, that I began showing up the way I believe we’re supposed to – for me, for my life’s purpose, and for my God. I stepped back from being confused, hiding, running, and immersing myself in others. I’m excited you’re still reading because this is the scene with the hashtags, the ones that help us focus on ourselves. #selfcaringin2017 #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit

But first, before I worked my way up to wondering Where have I been all my life?, I wondered where all these people, places, and things in my life came from. At half-a-century-old (that’ll get your attention), I was no longer able to disregard uncomfortable questions that kept surfacing.

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Questions like …

Why am I living in this big house? In this town? Why do I do for others what they can and should do for themselves? Why do I spend time with people I discern aren’t friends or even kind, for that matter? Why’d I spend money on that? Why do I tolerate disrespect? Lying? Others calling me crazy when they’re the ones driving me there? Why don’t I feel emotionally safe? Why don’t I fit in at church? Any church? Ever? Why do I rise to others’ expectations, but not my own? Why am I avoiding the gym? Why do I sidestep genuine friendships? Why am I procrastinating when productivity makes me feel good? Why don’t I pick up the phone when I need someone? Why don’t I like to cook? Why do I make writing difficult? Why am I eating a third Reese Cup?

Nine years of “cleaning house,” sometimes literally like the time we downsized from 4,000 to 1,000 square feet, and I’m finally asking the foundational question that undergirds the rest, “Where have I been all my life?”

 … and how appropriate for it to pop into my head at the start of 2017, the year I’ve committed to self-care … and how appropriate during a shower because water is a big part of my self-care.

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 So, where have I been all my life? Answer the question, already.

I’m where most of us are right now, no matter our ages – I’m right here (like on the map in a shopping center: “You are here”) and doing all I can to make my story better. Aren’t we all? Isn’t “being better” what most of us attempt daily in our lives? We try to look younger, eat healthier, get wealthier, promote louder, work harder, act calmer, help further, workout longer, treat others kinder, connect deeper, pray profounder, feel stronger, and all so we’ll be better.

We just want to “arrive,” and though arriving is impossible this side of heaven, I believe one inroad to being better is self-care. I hope you’re with me since it’s easier to get better together. #selfcaringin2017

In This Together,
Kim

I’m inviting you back next week to read about acceptance and tolerance. #selfcaring2017 #whilelovingthepeopleinit

Create Something Besides Chaos

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“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.” Thessalonians 4:11

I took my own advice about being quiet, voting, and being creative until I let people I care about (on and off of Facebook) overturn my week. I meant to watch the results of the election on Tuesday and onward move. Instead, I spent from Sunday until today either in bed or online trying to make sense of how others were acting – not about me, not anything I could control, nothing that was my business.

This is a lifelong habit of some of us humans. Actually, it’s probably original sin at its most obvious. I want to understand (the reason Adam and Eve – let’s blame them – ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge in the first place), so I can decide whether you need acceptance or straightening out, and whether my feelings should be hurt. I need to understand why you’re being unkind, or at least make you understand why you need to be sorry. If nothing else, certainly we all understand I’m justified in judging you for judging me first.

It’s all beyond our limited understanding, even when we’re worldly, and kindness, humility, and acceptance are challenges when we don’t understand each other. They have their reasons. So do we, and they’re trying to figure it out too. I read an article that actually speculated I voted the way I did because I haven’t traveled more than 200 miles from home this year. Really? I need another apple.

“Martha, Martha, there you go again, letting their lives distract you from your own,” from “Choose Well (a distracted Martha in a world that admires merry Mary).” #GettingYourOwnLife

I heard Jesus’ voice this morning like he spoke this out loud, but I went ahead and reasoned how easy it’s been to get sucked into other people’s junk. I justified it because I’m sensitive. I explained it on Facebook – I’ve been kind while hurting for a long time, so why can’t you?

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Thankfully, I have a friend who listens when I complain (using the polite word here). She listens, but she also redirects when she can. Sometimes I’m like a derailed train and I’ll send her six long messages riddled with pronouns (after all, it’s your fault), negativity, and not-so-nice words because the problem is out there. However, her steady compassion, spirituality, and humor remind me I’m sitting with the problem, staring at the problem, being the problem.

It’s difficult to recognize, though, and challenging to admit because I’m so sure it’s you, not me, especially after the way you acted about election results.

By now, it’s Thursday. I’m discouraged and exhausted, but probably not as much as rioters using their energy to destroy instead of create things. Although, looking around, I haven’t created anything except chaos this week either, which is usually when I either nosedive or decide to pull out and do something different.

I’ve been here and “rioting,” like so many times before, when I’ve had no idea what to do with myself. I’ve felt hurt to the point of shaking and lashing out, frustrated enough to physically not be able to sit still, eat, or sleep, and so scared, alone, and misunderstood, I didn’t want to live. I was most afraid of the hole I’d fall into if the darkness kept on, and lots of times, it did. A friend reminded me, “It’s a tunnel, not a hole. Walk through it.” I trusted her, but, too often, it turned into a hole anyway.

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But that hasn’t happened this week because I’ve had more practice walking through dark places and, like my friend who redirects me said this morning, instead of a dark hole, I’m finding my “holy hill” – a place to go where I’m safe and guided and close to God. For me, this place is Creativity.

If you’d like to read another of my blog posts, here is the link to “Holey (holes and tunnels and holiness).”

When I think of being saved by Creativity (and my Creator), I think about what a friend told me when she found out I majored in psychology. She said, “Psychology is fascinating. My mom worked as a counselor for the Radar Institute.” In her next breath, she said, “I used art to navigate my way through my insane family dynamics. Art is an awesome way of communicating.”

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” Marc Chagall

My friend’s quote, coupled with Marc Chagall’s, helps me understand myself even when no one else does and even when psychology and well-meaning friends with advice and church fall far short. It shows me the way to my Holy Hill. Get out of my head, into my heart, and Create.

Write it. Paint it. Take a photo of it. Sing it. Sell it. Record it. Dance to it. Build it. Bake it. Organize it. Travel to it. Draw it. Calculate it. Meditate on it. Decorate it. Collect it. Clean it. Teach it. Decoupage it. I used to decoupage everything except my waffle at breakfast.

Create something.

This is big. When we create, we biggie-size our breaths. We make what we do larger than our problems, bigger than what we dwell on, greater than what bothers us. Creativity is healing. It’s living a quiet life, minding my own business, and working with my hands. Sometimes writing, my version of living out loud, seems contradictory to living a quiet life, but it’s not when I stick with heart work instead of messing with the “Tree of Knowledge,” trying to figure it out, and overthinking. When I do it right and leave the apples alone, timely things happen like my art instructor sending a message just now, “I hope you’re playing in the paint every once in a while during our hiatus from class.”

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I’m reminded of Elizabeth Layton, also known as Grandma Layton. The 68-year-old spent much of her life suffering from feelings and coping with depression and bipolar disorder until she signed up for an art class at a local university. It saved her life. Grandma Layton overcame her difficulties when she began drawing contour art in 1977, which the Washington Post said “is good.”

Like God created us, we’re called to create because we were made in his image. When I do, I get caught up in a space far from needing to understand and a long way from judgment. I get caught up in creating, and time stands still and life feels magnetic and restorative and energizing.

Creativity is my Holy Hill. My guess is, it’s everyone’s holy hill. May we find that spot and live there often.

And heal … God, help us heal. 

In This Together,
Kim

The Images:

Rebecca Zdybel, thank you for your painting, your instruction and encouragement, and the image you created that goes along with this blog post.

Joel, I knew I had to use at least one of your photos. You’re photography not only seems like your holy hill, but it provides that same kind of space for others.

Grandma Layton’s family, I appreciate you reaching out when I wrote about depression the first time and offering her artwork for use on my blog. The piece I shared here is called Garden of Eden – November 1977. For more about her, check her out @ Grandma Layton. She describes Garden of Eden like this, “Women have had the blame all through the ages for everything. You know that’s not right. Now a woman would not listen to a snake, she’d run, wouldn’t she? This is Adam, he’s got a Band-Aid where his rib came out. This was my first E.R.A. picture. I was just objecting to being blamed for all of the sin of the world.”

The Quotes:

Jenine, there aren’t enough grateful words to describe and thank you for our friendship, your support, and for all things funny and good and sacred we talk about like belts and space and holy hills.

Maria, I appreciate our friendship more and more. It’s been fun getting to know you.

Betty, you’re gone and I miss you terribly, but nothing you ever told me has been forgotten. I remember when I need it most.