What Are You Waiting For?

clipartclockSeveral years ago I had the wonderful adventure of sorting through 60 years’ worth of my parent’s stuff for the purpose of organizing, sorting, and preparing for an ultimate sale. Once I got past the cabinets full of every coffee can, glass jar, Styrofoam container, and magazine that ever entered the house I moved on to the land of appliances that don’t work, recipes saved but never used, buttons in jars, and shelves of fabric saved to make things that never got made. Needless to say, this has made me examine what we save and why.

Something that really stood out were the items carefully wrapped up and tucked away or stored on high shelves that I had never seen before in my life. They were nice items; a never used lace tablecloth, crystal stemware and sets of dishes, enough bath and body products to open a store and much more. These were the things my mother was saving to use for a special occasion, a special dinner or special company. I have to tell you, that revelation changed my life.

Besides the fact that I immediately started letting my daughter use the good glasses instead of plastic ones obtained from restaurant chains, I am slowly changing the way I handle my life. I had to ask myself, “What am I waiting for?’ and I came up with lots of answers.

I was waiting until I was:

-thin enough

-old enough

-tall enough

-successful enough

-happy enough

-loved enough

-bright enough

-rich enough

and just plain ENOUGH!

As a recovering perfectionist, I realized I am never going to be ENOUGH of whatever it was so I’d better just do it, use it, try it, get on with it now! If I fall on my face or get laughed at, who cares? I’ve always learned to live, learn from it and move on, so what’s stopping me now?

How about you? I believe we all have a mental list of things we are waiting for, and like my list and my mother’s treasures, instead of being true and precious, it is only keeping us from achieving, enjoying and becoming what we were meant to be.

So make your list, challenge it, tear it up, throw it away and stop saving yourself and your talents for some ‘out there’ magical time that will never come. NOW is the time and you make your own magic.
“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

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7 Ways to Beat Summer Stress

sun

 Wait a minute; summer and stress in the same sentence? Am I the only one that feels stressed out in the summer? While summer is perceived as a time for vacations and fun it also brings added responsibilities that leave us feeling more stressed than blessed. Some top summer stressors include: heat/humidity, activity overload for parents and kids, over commitment to social obligations, childcare/supervision concerns, yard work, bored kids, work interruptions, family reunions, and less sleep.

Here are some strategies to keep summer stress at bay:

 1. Make sleep a priority.Increased daylight hours, kid’s sleepovers, and numerous parties can result in sleep deprivation. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night and prevent fatigue, weight gain, daytime sleepiness, decreased cognitive function and short tempers!

2. Drink more water.Long summer days filled with sun, outdoor activities and alcohol or caffeinated drinks can quickly lead to trouble. Make it a habit to carry a water bottle or icy glass of water around with you to prevent headaches, dizziness and other signs of dehydration.

3. Get a jump on the day.This is my favorite. The peace and quiet of the early morning hours combined with the psychological boost of being ahead of the game gets me off to a good start. Even if you can’t do this every day, try for three times a week and reap the rewards.

4. Eat light.Heavy lunches mean sleepy/zoned out afternoons and a severe case of the three o’clock slump. Up your energy level by eating light during the day and stay productive and alert.

5. Set limits.Too many summer fun activities with no down time can be stressful. Don’t be afraid to say no to some invitations and carefully choose what you want to do with your time. Seriously, do you really need to eat that much bbq?!

6. Plan a ‘staycation’.Fast paced, busy vacations can leave you feeling you need a vacation from your vacation! Try a few small staycations filled with time to relax and short day trips. The result is less stress plus more money and time.

7. List it.To prevent arriving at the end of summer with a whiny list of could’ve, should’ve wishes, take time to list major activities, events or experiences that you truly want to do.  Your list might include; weekly family bike rides, books you’d like to read, finally clean out the attic, visit local attractions (see #6), or have a regular cool off movie night. What you put on your list isn’t as important as actually doing what you put on your list.

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”  ~Pooh’s Little Instruction Book, inspired by A.A. Milne

 

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Confessions of a Worry Wart

This Too Shall Pass

I can be a Worry Wart and I know from experience that worry is a learned behavior. If one of your parents was a worrier, chances are you will be too. My father was a worrier and I have fought the worry habit off and on for much of my life. My mother, who was not a worrier, tried to calm my worry brain by singing a song entitled “Worry is but Thinking Double”. I liked the song, agreed with the message and knew it by heart, but I still worried.

Most psychologists today agree that much of the world exists in a state of worry.  The result is an anxiety culture suffering from panic attacks, sleep problems, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, weakened immune systems, migraine headaches, cardio-vascular problems and much more.

Worry is never useful and totally functions from a place of fear that causes stress and handicaps our effectiveness. If you are a seasoned worrier you understand when I say worry is the fear of what might happen and fear of what won’t happen if you don’t worry. We mistakenly believe worry fulfills a valuable purpose in our life that keeps us accountable, but that is a lie.

What I know for sure:

– You won’t stop worrying if you think it serves you in some way.

-Worry is vague and becomes draped in an unknown fear of ‘something’

-Worry robs you of mental and physical energy.

-Worry is a mental habit that can be broken and you have a choice.

-Worry keeps you stuck in the past or in anxiety about the future preventing you from living in the now.

-Worry is repetitive and nonproductive. (Thinking double as my Mom would say!)

What can you do to counteract the worry habit?

1. Retrain Your Brain: Keep negative, repetitive thoughts out of your mind by replacing them with grateful, productive ones and watch your life turn around! Consistent practice is the key.

2. Tune Out: Contrary to what you hear, the world will not end if you decide to turn off your smart phone, your news feeds, or your television for a few hours. You can’t solve the world’s problems and adding them to your own can be overwhelmingly stressful and, well, worrisome!

3. Make a List: Earlier this year I found myself becoming a multitasking worrier.  My solution was to create a column of ‘Problems/Concerns’ and a corresponding column of ‘What Can I Do About It Now?’ Downloading my worries to a list and using my brain to focus on solutions rather than the helplessness of worrying was powerful and it worked!

4. Move It: How many times do you have to hear this before you take action. Regular physical exercise clears your brain, improves your mood and makes the impossible seem doable. Choose something you like to do and get out there. Read more on how this worked for me.

5. Meditate: Get comfortable, get quiet and clear your mind of clutter. This works immediately and practiced over time can result in better focus, a calm sense of clarity and no worries. You don’t have to chant or wear special clothes to meditate so what are you waiting for?

“I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened”                   -Mark Twain

“This too shall pass.” -Dorothy Arni (My mother, who passed away in May 2013)

Original artwork by Darla Arni, https://www.etsy.com/shop/FullPlateNoFork

 

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Attitude Matters

IMG_0701

Do you have a special coffee cup? You know what I mean; it’s the one you reach for even though your cabinet is full of clean coffee cups. If might have a chip, it probably has a few stains, but to you it spells COMFORT. It fits your hand just right, or it has a particular message or design that rings true for you, or it was a gift from someone you care for deeply. As I write this newsletter I’m sipping my morning coffee from my special cup. A cup I bought for someone twenty six years ago, but never gave away.

I met Melinda when we were both students at the University of Missouri.  She was wacky, energetic and a definite risk taker. We hit it off immediately. For the next three years we shared frustrations, dreams, and all the other bizarre things that happen to you in college. We very much had our separate lives and worlds, but we would regularly check in and update to make sure we were on the right course. Melinda was a total original. If I heard rocks hitting my dorm window I knew it was Melinda and she needed to talk. When she was chosen to represent her sorority in a formal beauty contest competition, she whisked me off to The Wardrobe used clothing store to buy a hand-me-down formal so she could make a political statement about priorities.

Over the next twelve years we would graduate. She would marry and move twice.  I would marry and move once. She would divorce. I would separate. She would find herself alone in Minneapolis with breast cancer and move back to Missouri. I would divorce. The fall of 1986 found us sitting together in her hospital room at Ellis Fischel Cancer Hospital in Columbia, Missouri having our own group therapy. She would listen for hours to my woes and regrets. I tried to make her comfortable and smuggle in foods she wasn’t supposed to have. I brought drawing paper, color swatches, and other art supplies so we could brainstorm and create. We were both a mess but we were still having fun.

Thanksgiving of that year my mom and I made our usual marathon-shopping trip to Kansas City. I found a Christmas gift for Melinda, a coffee mug. The entire outside circumference was filled with graphic renderings of artist’s brushes, a paint palette, tubes of paint and colorful paint pots done in primary colors; the perfect gift. Two days later her mother called to tell me she had died.

I don’t share this story to bring you down, but rather as a reminder. It’s not what happens to us that’s important, it’s how we handle what is happening. Melinda was fun and hopeful through tragedy and pain. In my ‘Attitude Matters’ presentation I share my top ways to improve your attitude with #7 being ‘Encouraging Others’. Melinda and I each had a lot on our plate, but by encouraging each other we not only got through it all, we were able to enjoy life. Our attitudes made the difference and it was a choice.

I left the mug wrapped up for a long time, but finally decided Melinda would have wanted me to use it, and that’s what I do. I have other mementos of Melinda in my home, but this one reminds me everyday to get outside of myself, encourage others, make the choice. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad attitude days, we all do. But having the tools to deal with them makes all the difference.

As an experiment, try encouraging family members, co-workers, siblings, friends, the mailman, neighbors and basically anyone you encounter for one week. Make it a point to notice the positives about someone’s work, appearance or behavior and tell them about it; you will be amazed that something so simple can make a difference.

 

 

 

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February Fresh Start

Fresh start

It’s February and my question for you is “How did that New Year’s Resolution thing work out for you?” The idea of resolutions has become so archaic and fraught with failure that many of us choose to bypass the process altogether. While I love to make lists and check them off, it is useless to make a list of changes you want to make on the outside until the inside is in better shape.  Instead of focusing on exterior resolutions such as start an exercise program, organize my office, or lose 10 pounds, I chose these five steps to a fresh start that came to me at 4 a.m. when my brain refused to sleep. Even after reviewing them in the harsh light of day they make sense to me and I hope they do to you!

 5 Steps to a Fresh Start

 1. Let go of hurt-Little ones take hours or days; big ones might take years. Releasing the hurt, resentment, and anger you have over an incident or about a person will in turn release yourself to grow. I realize that sometimes there is no closure or perfect solution to what is bugging me so the best alternative is letting go.

2. SHH Do a secret good deed for someone at least once a week-It helps get rid of the “Hey look at me!” attitude that seems to plague our society and will make at least two people feel better. This is kind of like random acts of kindness done with a purpose and a mask.

 3. Stop being a Drama Queen (or King!)  No matter how cute it looks on t-shirts and hot pink pillows trimmed in sequins or feathers it doesn’t play out well in real life. In reality it is a lot like a saying my mother used to tell me over and over, “Don’t make mountains out of mole hills.” Exception to the above: It is okay to play the Drama Card if you are doing it with humor and effect to make a point, just don’t make it your personality.

 4. You are a collection of all your experiences Take charge of the experiences you have so you don’t turn out to be a pile of junk. Value yourself enough to decide what is worthwhile and what is not. Make good connections to others and be choosy about who you open your soul to.

5. Be of service Any way, anytime, anywhere. I’ve never felt as useful and alive as when I’m stepping outside myself to make a positive difference for someone else. Opportunities for service are everywhere. It doesn’t have to be in another country or another state; it can be next door, at work, or for a family member. It will become habit forming and it can change the world.

So what if these five steps don’t make you thinner? They will improve the quality of your life and put you in a much better position to make carefully considered improvements to your whole self. The goal is not to be a beautiful facade; the goal is to be an authentic whole.

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At Your Service

As part of my Attitude Matters presentation I stress being of service and how each of us should consider ourselves in the service industry no matter what our job title.  It is easy to be of service to others from November through December, when the media and local causes focus on helping others, but I challenged a recent audience of college students to come up with ideas that make a difference to others year round.  After giving them a few suggestions, I asked for their ideas of what can be done, no matter what our income level, to be of service to others each day.

Their response was amazing and included:

-Smile at someone today, it costs nothing but makes a big difference.

-Give anonymous gifts throughout the year that help others as you see need.

-Have a positive attitude when dealing with others improves their day too.

-Donate clothing and items throughout the year to shelters/clothes closets.

-Participate in service projects through organizations they belong to.

-Give of your time not just money; everyone has time even if they are broke.

-Send someone an encouraging note or thank you card.

I was impressed with their answers for two reasons; they understood that the little things we do each day can make a big difference and that income level has nothing to do with the difference you can make in another person’s life.

I have expanded on their train of thought with my ‘Little Things Mean aLot” list. Look through this list and pick several to incorporate into your daily life and watch the world change.

Little Things Mean a Lot

1. Smile at everyone you meet today.

2. Send someone an encouraging note or thank you card each week.

3. Ask someone how they are and wait to listen without interrupting or telling your woes.

4. Open a door for someone who needs help.

5. Let the person with fewer items get in front of you in the checkout line.

6. When you take a coffee break, offer to fill up someone else’s cup.

7. On your daily walk or run, move someone’s morning paper from the street to the front door.

8. When you buy groceries or supplies, buy at least one item extra each time and donate to someone or a cause such as homeless or women’s shelters, local food pantry, etc.

9. Find out what your local schools are in need of and donate something each month. This could be as simple as boxes of Kleenex, paper, pencils or office equipment when you upgrade.

10. Contact a local nursing home and see if your talents or time could be of use.

11. Save your change for a month and donate to a local cause of your choice.

12. Make it a point to ask a family member or colleague, “What can I do to help you?”  It might throw them off at first but they will be pleased!

13. Clean out a closet, a storage box, your basement or attic and find places to donate items you no longer need.

14. When you are out for a walk or just walking across a parking lot, pick up trash you see along the way and dispose of it. I carry extra plastic bags in my car just in case there is no waste container in sight.

15. Call someone you haven’t talked to for a long time and listen more than you talk.

This is only a beginning.  How can you help? Send your ideas of “Little Things” to darla@darlaarni.com and I’ll create a master list to share.  Maybe it’s not that we don’t have the time or money, maybe it’s that we just don’t an idea of what to do.

 

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5 Ways to Cope with a Bad Day

It happens to us all, you wake up feeling out of sorts, crabby or cloudy.  You don’t know why, you just do.  If someone asks what’s wrong you have no answer.  If they ask you more than once you might bite their head off!  You don’t want to feel this way but you can’t seem to shake it and it’s just not in you to fake a good mood.  When those off days happen and you’re not your best self, there are ways to manage yourself so your mood doesn’t get out of hand and ruin your entire day.

 1. Bite your tongue!  Don’t say everything out loud that pops into your head.  Activate your inner filter and block statements that could sound hurtful, out of line, or crass.  This is no time for bloviating; say what needs to be said with the least amount of words and move on.

 2. Do no harm.  Lashing out at others physically or verbally, will make matters worse and could escalate into conflict you will regret later.  In every situation there is a choice point; choose to deal with your mood in a positive non-confrontational way instead of blowing it out of proportion.  I still struggle with this and beat myself over the head later when I realize how one comment or attitudinal gesture left undone could have saved the day.

 3. Breathe.  I’m not talking about the shallow, automatic, keep you alive breathing we take for granted.  Sit back in your chair, close your eyes and breathe deeply, from your diaphragm, in through your nose and out through your mouth ten times.  It sounds simple and you’ve heard me say it before but millions of people tap into this powerful practice that brings relaxation and clear thinking, and I believe you are worthy of it too.  Just when you can’t stand ‘it’ one more minute, purposeful breathing can bring calm to your chaos which is why it is often a key component in anger management programs.

4. Don’t fight it.  Your off feeling will not last forever and soon this bad day will be history.  As my mother always said, “This too shall pass”, and while I hated hearing it I have to admit she was right. (But don’t tell her that, okay?)  Accept your feelings as transient and get busy with life.  When I have off days I draw a sad face or write the words, ‘bad day’ on my planning calendar; more often than not, a week later, I have no idea what that bad day was about!

 5.  Be antisocial.  Really.  If you are having one of those days it’s a good time to avoid the water cooler, put off lunch dates and isolate yourself.  The time alone can be rejuvenating and keeps you from being aggravated by others.  Retreat into your personal cave of choice and emerge tomorrow a better person.

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Blame Game

I see a terrible trend developing, the lack of personal responsibility and how it impacts those around us. Whether it is a national crisis or a fingernail breaks, we are quick to blame someone else. And it’s not limited to adults or politicians, if you have the opportunity to spend some time around children, especially in a group, you will frequently hear the excuse, “It’s not my fault.” While admittedly there are times when something truly isn’t our fault, more often than not there was an element of choice involved in the incident and we made it.

Blame doesn’t solve the problem or offer valuable insight; it just gets the spotlight off of us for a while and shines it on someone else. Passing along the blame to someone else doesn’t even make you feel good; it just makes more people feel bad.

Maybe our problem is comprehending the difference between blame and responsibility. Being responsible is being accountable, reliable, distinguishing right from wrong. Blame on the other hand involves putting the responsibility on someone else, accusing and (I love this part), failing to find sympathy or understand.

Here is a perfect example. At one time I needed to move my mother’s phone service from one room to another within a nursing home facility. Because my mother has severe dementia and I wanted to be able to check in with her without interruption of service, I called several days ahead to schedule the change and was assured there would be no problem.  My mother was moved down the hall and no phone service. OK, I can be reasonable, so I check the next day, no service. After three days of no service, meaning I cannot check on my mother and she cannot call me, I called the phone company. I was told there was a problem with the initial order, and it would be another week before the phone was connected.

At this point I was still calm so I asked what the problem was and was told they really couldn’t say, but it was internal, nothing I did. I asked to talk to a supervisor, they gave me the same story, no one could tell me why but it would be, at the earliest, a week. I explained I was anxious about it taking so long because of my mothers dementia.  I also pointed out that the move is down the hall in the same facility in a town of 2,000 people.  How hard can this be? (Perhaps by now I am getting testy.) She can’t tell me anymore than that, would I like to talk to her district manager?  Of course I would! After going relating my story and getting the same response I began to plead, “Can you understand why I am upset and concerned? This is a safety issue, my mother has severe dementia.” The very curt reply was, “Well my mother is dead.”

At that point I realized I was getting nothing from this exchange. Did I want to find out why it happened? Maybe a little, but more important to me was I wanted someone to understand, I wanted someone to say, ” I don’t know why this happened but I am so sorry and I will do what I can to fix it as soon as possible.” It wasn’t just that it was taking longer than expected; it was that with every call to the phone company all I heard was blame passing with no hint of empathy and understanding, no personal responsibility. I knew I couldn’t change the outcome, but I would have been satisfied to have someone treat me like a human being.

We all want the human touch. We all want to feel the incidents of life, big or small, matter. Every encounter with another human being gives us a chance to practice personal responsibility instead of passing blame. Sometimes it just requires being quiet and not adding to the whininess of the world.

 

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Integrity Matters

thewoodenshoes / Foter

There was a time I considered integrity a given; a man’s word was his bond and most people had personal integrity.  Similar to thinking everyone in the world has the same value system, same code by which they live and make decisions for their lives. Unfortunately that is not the case.

In the past year several public figures and entities have fallen from grace due to their lack of integrity: John Edwards, Bernard Madoff and Claremont McKenna College officials who lied about its students’ SAT scores to boost its position in the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of colleges to name a few. Our economic situation has brought to light questions of integrity as it pertains to large financial institutions, big business, and politicians.  Have we become a nation that lacks integrity or are our expectations simply out of touch with reality?

A common theory is that people want to fit in, be seen as successful or become famous and will sacrifice their integrity to do so. Corporate Attitude Strategist Kevin Burns sees it this way, “Anyone who gives up their personal integrity in the workplace in order to fit in really doesn’t seem to stand for anything. I mean, how could you? If you are prepared to give up your personal integrity in order to be liked and in order to fit in then you really don’t have anything that you stand for do you?”

In the workplace, home and relationships, integrity works. Why does it work? Because integrity is tied into everything that makes people feel valued, safe and good about themselves. And when people feel good about themselves in a grounded, non-superficial way they are more productive, more creative, more responsive, and in turn want to do their best to make others feel good also.  When integrity exists you can say goodbye to the mob mentality that tells you in order to fit in you must take on the attitudes, opinions and beliefs of everyone else. That sort of thinking reminds me of high school, not adult America.

So where are you on the integrity scale? Take the following quiz I found on www.cheatingculture.com and see how you score.

1. You’re a young lawyer who could lose your job if you don’t bill enough hours. All your colleagues are padding their hours. Do you pad yours?

2. Your next-door neighbor offers to hook you up with free cable television. Do you take the offer?

3. You’re an accountant who discovers that a company you’re auditing is inflating its earnings. Your boss says to go along or you’ll be fired. Do you comply?

4. You move to a state where auto insurance is sky-high. Do you keep your car registered at your old address?

5. You’re a CEO with a chance to make $100 million by cooking the books. The worst penalty you could face is two years in a country club prison – and you could keep the $100 million. Do you cook the books?

6. A friend offers you a dirt-cheap illegal sublet in a prime apartment building with a waiting list. Do you take the offer?

7. You don’t have enough money to pay your taxes at the end of the year. Your accountant recommends some made-up deductions, saying the IRS doesn’t audit anyone these days. Do you go along?

8. You’re a minor league baseball player trying to make the majors. Most of your teammates are taking steroids to hit better. Do you also dope?

9. An HMO denies a certain treatment to a patient under your care. Do you lie to the HMO to make the patient’s condition seem worse so they will get the treatment they need?

10. You’re a car salesman paid on commission. All the other salesmen are saying that the next shipment of the hot new model everyone wants is due in three weeks – when it’s really six weeks. Do you also say three weeks?

Score

You are:

Ethically Challenged – if you answered yes to all questions.

An Ordinary American – if you answered yes to half the questions.

A Saint - if you answered no to all questions.

Why not make integrity matter in 2012!

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.” – W. Clement Stone

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Lessons Learned

Camdiluv ♥ / Foter

My daughter turns seventeen today! Seventeen isn’t a milestone birthday for anything in particular; you don’t start school, or get your license or become legal to drink, but it is very important to me. I did many things in my life before I got married and started a family, and at the age of 38 I was truly blessed with a daughter!

She would say I have been a great mom but I haven’t felt that way myself and maybe all mom’s think they could always do better.  I like the way we are and even if she wasn’t my daughter I would want to be her friend. I admire her courage, integrity, spontaneity, intellect, height (she is 5 inches taller than me), tenacity, spunk, opinions, and heart.

For the past seventeen years I believe I have been more the student and she the teacher. At each stage I have learned valuable lessons from her and in honor of her birthday am sharing some with all of you.

Lessons I’ve Learned from My Daughter

  • Onions are round and look like a ball, but they don’t bounce very well.
  • Even though powdered cocoa looks like chocolate, it doesn’t taste near as good!
  • Pumpkins are round and look like a ball, but they don’t bounce very well either. (And it is very embarrassing to your mother if you choose to try it out on live television!)
  • Just because you like peaches one day, doesn’t mean they won’t end up on the floor the next.
  • Spoons are nice, but sometimes your hand works better when you’re really hungry.
  • Boxes of cake mixes make great building blocks and step stools.
  • My most expensive silk negligee  looks better on a toddler as a Halloween costume than it ever did on me.
  • A piece of masking tape can occupy a person for at least 10-15 minutes.
  • Sliding on the tile floor in your stocking feet is really fun.
  • Everything doesn’t have to be done a certain way to be right.
  • Relaxing is not a crime.
  • You can accept others easier if you accept yourself.
  • Perfectionism is overrated.
  • Family traditions are important and very comforting.
  • We can agree to disagree and still be okay.
  • Mom’s aren’t always right and that’s okay too.
  • It is fun to share makeup and clothes!
  • Families are happier with a puppy in the house.
  • Privacy is important!
  • You never get too old to need your Mom.
  • We will learn from each other the rest of our lives.
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