Who Lit Your Day? Finding Light in Everyday Circumstances

Avery came home from school with the biggest smile on her face. She couldn’t wait to tell me about a kid who went out of his way to ask how she was doing. She said, “Mom, he really lit my day!”

I loved that phrase.

And come to find out, that day wasn’t particularly awesome for her. She went on to tell me about a girl who was mean to her and how she was stressed about some of her classes. But she seemed to keep those things in perspective. She talked more about how cool it was that someone “lit her day.”

Talk about filling up a mama’s heart. Not only because of that sweet boy, but also because of my strong, optimistic daughter who saw his goodness and allowed it to brighten her entire day.

It can be easy to get sucked into the negative – especially when there’s no shortage of it these days. But it’s much more productive to look for the good, the courageous, the kind, and the meaningful events around us.

The things we focus on expand in our lives.

So in order to live a more joyful life, paying attention to the positive seems to be the fastest route there.

I took Avery’s lesson and reflected on my week…looking for the light. And here are my top five moments. >>

{ONE} A Cup of KindnessA cup of kindness

The first thing that came to mind happened just this morning!

When I shuffled over to the Keurig to make some coffee, I found a freshly brewed cup waiting for me – in my “Special K” mug. It was such a sweet, quiet gesture by my husband that definitely lit my day. Dang, he’s good.

{TWO} A Moment of PrideA moment of pride

My son, Evan, is required to complete service hours for school. As we were brainstorming ideas, such as volunteering in the school library, he decided he wanted to do something more personal – like help a neighbor.

Well, we have an elderly neighbor who can’t drive, and her husband is in a nursing home, so I take her over to see him twice a week. I’ve been doing this for a little over a year now, and we’ve developed quite a friendship. One day, she mentioned how she hated her phone because she didn’t now how to use it. I told Evan about her comment, and he decided to give her phone lessons as his service project!

They had their first session this week. Seeing him sit patiently with her and teaching her how to “tap on apps” was such a great experience. Even though he was helping someone else, it lit me up inside to see his kindness.

{THREE} A Blast from the PastA blast from the past with friends

One of my dearest friends, whom I haven’t talked to in awhile, reached out to me recently. It was so nice hearing from her. She’s one of those friends that you can pick up where you left off, no matter how many months or miles grow between us.

After we connected, I pulled out some old photo albums. Because I actually had those back then. I found pictures from our girls’ trip to Germany. This picture of Kristina, DeeAnn and I above is one of my favorites. It shows exactly how we felt together…full of pure, unleashed joy. Always laughing, getting into mischief, and having each other’s backs, no matter what.

These ladies always light me up when we’re together. And it makes me want to go see them right now!!

{FOUR} An Unsuspecting QuoteBook: Today, Tomorrow and Every Day

This book has been on my “to read” list for awhile. I first saw it in a boutique in Seaside, Florida this summer and finally got around to ordering a copy. It’s called “Today, Tomorrow and Every Day” by M.H. Clark.

It’s a quick read and unfolds like a poem…using the terms “she” and “her” throughout. But as you get into it, you recognize “her” as yourself.

I had a moment of recognition when I read this page > Quote about perfection

As a recovering perfectionist, this really spoke to me. I strive to be more authentic and unapologetic every day. So this was gem. This author, this book, this page…all beams of light for me.

{FIVE} A Teddy Bear WelcomeTeddy bear welcome committeeOur cleaning lady, Brigida, and her fierce crew, whom I appreciate beyond words, are so good to our family and our home. They don’t just clean and move like ninjas, they leave little surprises for us…like this hilarious welcome committee above. Cleaning days are such a highlight, and yesterday was especially bright.

That’s a wrap! What special moments or people lit your week? Maybe take a moment to let them know – and light them up, too. <3

Many blessings,

Kate

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Five Personal Ways to Share Kindness

World Kindness Day was on Monday, but we should at least celebrate all week. Right? So it’s not too late to join, if you haven’t already.

Here are five terrific ways to share kindness – and on a very personal level.

Sometimes it’s easier to do random nice things for strangers, like hold a door or share a smile. Isn’t that strange, but true? It takes time and effort to do something extra for the people closest to you.

Hopefully one of these ideas gives you some inspiration. >

{ONE} Notice Them

Yesterday’s post is still sitting deep with me. In my 21-day gratitude challenge, I was asked to think about the people around me whom I might take for granted.

When I started running down my list, I realized a couple of things. One, I have some incredibly awesome people in my life, and two, I probably don’t tell them enough how special they are.

In an effort to share more kindness, I think the simple act of noticing can be huge.

Let your eyes light up when someone walks in the room. Put the phone down, ask about their day, and be present for them. Notice something beautiful about them, and then speak it.

{TWO} Shower Them with Cards

A very kind and inspiring girl from my sorority is fighting colon cancer as we speak. She started chemo treatments last week and needs lots of support and encouragement right now.

One of our sisters decided to organize a card party (with snail mail). She started a Facebook page to get the word out to all of the girls who lived in the Delta Gamma house during the time our friend was there. And she’s encouraging all of us to mail a card, poem, pictures, or any kind of day-maker on Monday. We hope to flood her mailbox with love.

I absolutely ADORE this idea!!

Wouldn’t this be such a great thing to do for anyone special in your life? Pick an unsuspecting day – like not their birthday or anniversary – and organize friends and family to send cards that include special messages.

How fun for them to check their mail?! Not everyone’s letters will arrive on the same day, so it could span a full week.

{THREE} Listen with Love

Everyone needs a friend who can listen…like really set the world aside for a moment and listen. It’s such an important skill, but doesn’t always come naturally.

I recently read an article about “conversational narcissism” and couldn’t believe how many times I’ve done this or had it happen to me!

Here’s how it goes. A friend shares an emotional story, like how their kid got in big trouble at school, and you can tell your friend is embarrassed and pissed at the situation. You find yourself digging through your archives for a similar incident so you can empathize and make her feel better. That’s your intention, anyway.

What can end up happening is you make her feel like you’re one-upping her situation. Even if you don’t mean to. The kind thing to do is listen and let it be about them. Instead of saying, “Me, too!” stick with, “I’m so sorry. What can I do to help you through this?”

{FOUR} Speak Their Language

Waaay back at the beginning of my marriage (almost 17 yrs ago!!) Brandon and I discovered this book about love languages. We thought it might be kind of cheesy, but we also wanted to be good spouses. While we had dated each other for several years, being a wife and husband was definitely new territory for us.

When we opened the book, it also opened our hearts. I know, sappy, but true!

It outlined five types of love languages people gravitate toward: gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch.

Once Brandon and I figured out the secret to each other’s love, it was so much easier to make each other happy.

So…if you want to truly share kindness with someone close to you, it would be good to figure out what’s most meaningful to them. Then do it, give it, be it, feel it, or say it!

Acts of service (above) is my cheat sheet for Brandon!

I happen to cherish quality time, so any of the ideas below would make me super happy. 😉

{A full set of downloadable prints for each love language can be found on this awesome post.}

{FIVE} Capture Their Kindness

Starting this week, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is sponsoring a 14-week photo challenge. They encourage you to capture an act of kindness and then post it online using the hashtag #CAPTUREKINDNESS. You can win awesome prizes and inspire more people to join.

Even better…you could double down on your kindness by taking a picture of someone you know who’s caught in the act of doing something nice. When you post the pic, you could win a prize and give it to him or her!

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That’s a wrap! For more ideas check out these posts on Acts of Kindness. You’ll find Kindness RocksMaKayla, our kindness elf, a few inspiring quotes, and more!

XoXoXo,

Kate

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Winner of the Blogiversary Book Bundle Giveaway!

I’m happy to announce we have a winner! Jamie Bronis at The Bronis Family Blog has won the drawing for the Blogiversary Book Bundle valued at $80. Congrats, Jamie!! All of these awesome books are headed your way. >

It sounds like Jamie is most excited to read You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. And I can’t wait for her to dig into this book and get inspired to do some awesome, badass things!

Thank you to everyone who entered the drawing and keep supporting the blog with your visits, comments and shares. You keep me inspired to write and I love you all to pieces.

I know it’s fun to have giveaways from time-to-time, so I’ll keep looking for opportunities to share discounts, deals and free stuff to help us all live a creative life in this messy world.

For now, have an amazing weekend, and I’ll see you next week with some Halloween-inspired posts.

Blessings,

Kate

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Hold On To Your “Ors”

For today’s creative tip, I want to focus on choices – and the beautiful fact we have them.

{via}

If you’re feeling stuck, challenged or downright uninspired, lean into the idea of choices. They don’t have to be life-changing decisions. Start with a tiny fork in the road and let it guide you to a better place.

For instance…

If you’re in between creative projects and don’t know what to do next, you could pickup your camera or sketchbook like usual or try your hand at watercolors or crocheting. Challenge yourself with a new medium, and you might discover a whole new hobby. That you love!

Have you taken on too many projects and feel overwhelmed? You could stew in your stress or take a quick minute to stop. Delegate what you can. Say “no” where you need to. And handle the rest one thing at a time. It’ll all get done in due time.

Maybe you’re writing a book and are struggling with dialogue? You could continue to sit in front of your computer and feel frustrated or you could pack up your laptop and head to a coffee shop where you can eavesdrop on conversations and gather inspiration. A simple change in location could be just what you need.

Let’s say you want to share a creative idea at your next meeting but are afraid of rejection. You could sit in doubt and smother the idea or take a chance on it working out. Like they say with the lottery, “you can’t win if you don’t play.”

And if your idea doesn’t go over well, you have the choice of feeling deflated or inspired to make it better next time.

There’s always an “or” when we really look for it. Hold on to it and maybe even see what’s on the other side?

Still need a nudge? Elizabeth Gilbert gives us this empowering thought from her book Eat, Pray, Love. It reminds us to stay in charge of our choices. >

Many blessings,

Kate

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5 Things We Can Do When The World Feels Crazy

I don’t typically post about things like this, but it’s hard not to be affected by the state of our country right now.

We just had the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Puerto Rico is in ruins, and Houston is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey…among so many other situations around us.

The fear, anger, and desperation can feel overwhelming. How do we even begin to process and even make sense of it all?

Like many of you, I want to do something. So I opened my computer and pulled out my planner, (because that’s what I do), and I made a list of how I can help. How any of us can help, really.

The list is small by comparison, and I know it won’t completely fix our crazy world, but at least it’s progress. And I’ll take that over complacency any day.

{ONE} Give of ourselves

We can do this quite literally. Blood donations are needed now more than ever in Las Vegas. You can go to www.redcross.org and click on “donate blood.” Type in your zip code to see donation sites closest to you.

There’s still a lot of need in Houston and Puerto Rico (and will be for quite some time). Maybe consider an ongoing donation to an established charity in those areas?

This list includes local Houston charities with boots on the ground and are providing some of the best support in the area.

Puerto Rico’s first lady, Beatriz Rossello, launched an emergency fund with help from private companies. United for Puerto Rico (Unidos Por Puerto Rico) lets you donate through PayPal or directly to its bank account.

Maybe you have a cause that’s closer to home or your heart? Find a way you can give of yourself. Volunteer your time, share your money, or round up much-needed supplies. Be a contributor.

{TWO} Stay open minded

I get mental fatigue sometimes scrolling through Facebook and Twitter and reading hateful posts from people who only care about their own opinion – and forcing it down everyone else’s feed.

Free speech isn’t a one-way right. It should be okay to disagree…have different thoughts about issues and intelligently work toward solving problems, but it seems like egos keep getting in the way of meaningful discussions.

I was enlightened by this article that was recently shared by a friend. Here’s an excerpt worth noting:

“…You have to read deeply, listen carefully, watch closely. You need to grant your adversary moral respect; give him the intellectual benefit of doubt; have sympathy for his motives and participate empathically with his line of reasoning. And you need to allow for the possibility that you might yet be persuaded of what he has to say.”

(Love that last line.)

{THREE} Inform our kids, with guard rails

I think it’s important for kids to be smart about life. They need to know how to protect themselves from strangers, bullies, severe weather, and people with guns. So I talk to my kids about safety tips and even talk about what’s going on in our country – but not in too much detail.

I try not to let them watch the news, which is full of terribly graphic images. I don’t want to scare them into becoming hermits or doomsday preppers. We take the Skimm approach and talk through just the headlines.

This great article outlines how (and how much) we should inform our kids at various ages. I found it extremely helpful.

{FOUR} Watch what we consume

Heavy news can be hard for adults, too. It can be hard to avoid it, though, as it fills our social feeds. And we fall into the rhythms of checking statuses so often.

When we do give ourselves a break, we might sink into a Netflix series that’s a little more violent than we’d like, but the storyline is just so good. I get it. I’m in the same boat.

All of the content we consume adds up, though, like calories in our minds. How healthy are we, really? How much of what we’re consuming is good for us?

A few weeks ago I was feeling a little down in the dumps…for no apparent reason. As I was brushing my teeth before bed, I looked in the mirror and realized I was behaving like a character in a show I had been watching. A sad, lonely dude…and here I am a vibrant woman, mother of three, with plenty of people around me to love. It really made me stop and recalibrate what I’m feeding my mind.

We’re more affected by what we see than we realize.

I’m not going to bury my head in the sand about current events, but when I’m given a choice between a murder mystery or a funny episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, I think I’m going to let myself laugh for a bit.

{FIVE} Pray for everyone involved

There are plenty of people offering their prayers right now – politicians included. And I truly hope everyone treats this word as a verb, not a noun that can be tossed about for the sake of niceties.

Prayer is powerful and necessary.

And regardless of your religion, if you believe in a higher power, now is the time (more than ever) to actively pray and ask for healing, understanding, and peace to wash over us. To help us see what’s truly going on and what’s needed from us to correct course.

I’d love to know what you think about all of this. And maybe share what your families, friends or co-workers are doing for others? There’s plenty of room in my day planner to add ideas 😉 

Many blessings, my sweet friends.

-Kate

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Lessons from My Father-in-Law

Hello, dear friends. Just as soon as I wrote about all of the joyful things going on in our lives this summer, something sad happened. My father-in-law passed away unexpectedly.

A few weeks ago today we were standing in a funeral home saying goodbye to a deeply kind and loving man. It was a tough experience, but I wanted to spend a minute remembering his life, which was so well lived.

He was an incredible father to my husband, a playful and fun Papa Don to our children, and a sweet father-in-law to me…making me feel like part of the family from the moment I met him.

We all learned so much from Don, and these are a few of my favorites. >

{I love this picture of my in-laws. Such a beautiful couple.}

{ONE} Teach everything you know

Don was a teacher at heart. So anything he was passionate about, like dancing or cooking for a crowd, he would learn to do it so well that he could teach others. It wasn’t in a know-it-all kind of way, either. He was humble about his gifts and sincerely wanted to share what he knew.

He was a dance instructor with my mother-in-law, Polly, for nearly 60 years. Teaching in studios, at colleges, and in their basement for private lessons, they’ve probably had 90% of the residents in Lincoln, Nebraska in their classes. It’s hard to go anywhere in town without someone introducing themselves as a student of theirs. They’d share how learning to dance brought them confidence or happiness in their lives. Many students, including Don and Polly themselves, met on the dance floor.

Don also loved cooking for people. He got such joy from serving up a stack of hot cakes or a plate of burgers and fries. He owned a restaurant for several years and then moved to the Nebraska State Fair where he had a food stand. Through these experiences, he also taught my husband and his sisters how to cook, count back money, and most importantly, treat people with attention and care. As a true gentleman, Don taught by example.

{TWO} Don’t settle for a desk job when you’re a dancer

Don knew himself well, and he understood the importance of finding happiness. He tried working at a desk job selling insurance for a short time, and he quickly figured out that wasn’t for him. It was probably decent money and consistent work that supported the family, but he wasn’t happy. So he moved on. I admire that level of honesty, courage, and faith.

I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves in a situation where we weren’t completely happy, but it was easier to stay put or we were too scared to move. Once Don left that corporate job, I’m sure he had plenty of challenging moments. He was willing to work through it, though, because he enjoyed the freedom he had from being his own boss. He enjoyed just being himself.

{THREE} Be generous with your compliments

One of Don’s more endearing qualities was his love of food. He would enjoy a meal and offer the most adoring compliments to the chef, and then he’d remember that meal for years. I’m not exaggerating. I served him a pot roast during one of his visits. Two years later, when he was celebrating his 80th birthday, all he asked for was another serving of my pot roast. He and my mother-in-law drove all the way down to Arkansas for that meal. Talk about the ultimate compliment.

I also loved how he would compliment Polly. Whether it was her cooking or the way she dressed, he always had a kind word to share. One of my favorite and most recent memories was when he asked Polly to play a song on the piano for the family. He told all of us how beautiful her music was, and he wanted to be sure we all had a chance to hear it. As she sat down to play, I looked over at Don, and his face was beaming with pride, love, and adoration for his lovely wife. It melted my heart for the both of them. True love in action.

{FOUR} Every gesture matters

As I listened to each family member share stories about Don after his funeral, it was clear he made each person feel important. Even when he was a young, busy father, he took time to have one-on-one breakfasts with his daughters, and he’d play basketball in the driveway with his son. He loved surprising them with gifts at Christmas and cars for their 16th birthdays. And even the small gestures, like helping with their homework, were deeply appreciated and what people remembered most.

As I joined the family and got to know him myself, I had similar experiences. Don would always take time to chat and ask how things were going. He remembered that I liked half a packet of Truvia in my coffee when we came to visit, and he’d serve it up with the most delicious donuts in town. Don’s whole life was spent loving his family one memorable moment at a time, and that’s quite a beautiful way to live.

{FIVE} Always remember to laugh

Since my husband was the only boy in the family, Don would call him his favorite son. He loved that joke. In fact, Don was full of jokes. He was always smiling and laughing. That’s something my kids adored most about him. They would play countless hours of card games and dominoes and laugh pretty much the entire time. And I loved that sound echoing through our home. Just thinking about it reminds me not to take life too seriously. It truly is short.

Even though we lived far away, Don never felt far from us. He was such an important part of our lives and made an effort to stay that way. We’re going to miss him dearly and deeply, but we know he’s in eternal peace now.

Don, we love you so much and promise to live life to the fullest, just as you did.

All my love,

Kate, your favorite daughter-in-law 😉

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Kindness Rocks + Finding Time “In Between”

Today’s post is inspired by a comment that Jenna @ Tractors and Glam shared with me on Friday. I had posted some fun project ideas for summer and included “playing with rocks.”

Jenna really liked the ideas and went on to explain that there’s a large group of people who are painting rocks and hiding them all around town, and that it has become huge in her community.

How cool is this? I was intrigued and started researching the idea.

Apparently this is a thing (and growing trend) across the country. There’s this article and this dedicated website to help us understand what it’s all about.

Essentially, the idea is to “spread inspiration and motivation for unsuspecting recipients through random inspirational rocks dropped along the way.”

Here are some examples from the Kindness Project Facebook page:

Aren’t these lovely? And what a creative way to spread some joy around the world. Not to mention, it’s an inexpensive hobby. Rocks are free and you can find permanent markers and paints at pretty much any discount store.

I’m thinking about starting a group in my hometown.

If anyone has experience with this, please let me know what to do! I’d love your tips and tricks.

In the meantime, I created a board with lots of ideas for what to paint on my first set of rocks. {There’s no shortage of inspiration on Pinterest, I tell ya.}

I’m excited to get started. Now, where to find the time to do this?!

Part 2: “In-Betweening”

As a busy mom with a job, pets, and a blog, a small part of me is asking, “When the heck will you find time to start this new creative project, sister?”

I think I found the answer in a podcast by my super talented friend and co-worker, Jameson Sheppard. He recently started a podcast called Creative Common Ground.

In episode 4, around 12 min into the podcast, he talks about the idea of “in-betweening.”

He explains that when we step back and evaluate how we spend our time (all of it, including the time scrolling through Facebook and deciding which Netflix series we’ll binge next) we’ll discover we have more time than we realize.

Look at the time between things on our schedules and engage in a creative endeavor or hobby during those small moments.

Even if it’s 5-10 min. each time, it will add up over the course of a week or month or year. Heck, you could end up learning to play a guitar or writing a book during all of that “in-betweening.”

We just need to decide and set ourselves up with the right tools to make this easy. I plan to give this a try with my rock project, so wish me luck!

Feel free to listen to Jameson’s full explanation of the idea – and check out his other episodes. They’re only about 15 min each and worth every second.

Here’s to more time being creative + spreading kindness like confetti…and rocks!!

Blessings,

Kate

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Milestones & Sweet Memories of Feeding My Kids

My precious view at dinner. <3

It’s another year of milestones for all three of my children. My twin girls are graduating up to middle school, and my oldest son will be in ninth grade. Can he really be entering high school?

Some days it feels like forever since I was cradling them in my arms or pushing them in a stroller that barely fit through grocery store aisles. The fog from all of the sleepless nights and pure busyness of having three babies under the age of three hovers low over my memories and grows dense. Other days, like today, I look across the table and remember clear.

We sit together enjoying a nice dinner, celebrating accomplishments of the school year, and I can remember them as babies. I remember the mornings so early. They would call out from their cribs like little roosters, waking the house, fuzzy heads peaking through wooden slats, wanting to be fed.

I also remember the quiet afternoons and evenings spent one-on-one holding each of them. Even though they had siblings waiting their turn, I tried to sit in stillness enjoying our time and moment to bond. I’d let their hand curl around my finger, while I smoothed out their hair and hummed the tune “You Are My Sunshine.”

Thinking back, feeding was one of the most intimate experiences I had with my children. At first, I didn’t give much thought to how I’d feed them. My mother nursed me – and all four of my siblings – so I just figured it was a good thing to do.

I started off nursing my first child for about four months. As a working mom, trying to keep up with pumping between conference calls and deadlines was a bit tricky for me. My body was exhausted, my milk was reducing, and I eventually switched my son over to formula. I remember feeling a little sad and even a bit guilty about it all. Had I given up too soon…too easily? But it ended up being the best decision for our family.

When I weaned my son from nursing, I also weaned myself from trying to be supermom. I let myself off the hook and recognized how incredible and capable my husband was (and still is today). I created room for him to step in, feed our son, and bond like no other moment in time. Even though he had been helping warm up bottles of breast milk, the process of mixing and making bottles with formula was different. We were on the same side of making milk. And my husband and I bonded as parents – through feeding our child together.

When our twins came along, my husband and I didn’t specifically talk about how we’d feed them. Initially, we were in too much shock and excitement at the news of twins to think about such details. We were already 20 weeks along when we found out! When we eventually brought the girls home, we were in survival/autopilot mode most of the time.

We did whatever felt natural, and thanks to a little experience from having our son, a few things actually did feel natural. I nursed the girls as soon as I could – and at the same time. I held them on each side, surrounded and supported by pillows. So many pillows. I had a C-section this time, so it was hard to lift the girls. My husband would bring the babies up to my chest and I’d balance and hold them like little footballs under each arm. It was an amazing sight that would bring tears to my eyes each time I fed them. How was my body doing all of this?! I always seemed to have enough milk to satisfy their growing tummies. No matter how tired I was, the milk would be there.

After about three months of nursing the girls, and two episodes of mastitis, I made the decision to switch to formula. It wasn’t an easy choice. It was also fairly expensive – everything times two and all – but it was one that helped me get some physical strength and much-needed rest. I was also reminded of how good it felt to let my husband step in and help us. He bonded more with the girls, while he and I bonded deeper still, through yet another crazy parenting experience.

I think the way my husband and I fed our kids at birth reveals a lot about how we feel about and feed them today. We realize each day holds new chapters and milestones. And we view each moment at the table as chance to bond and a time to savor. No matter what was warmed up in a bottle back then or on a plate today, it was and always will be served with our deepest love.

Many blessings as you nourish your own sweet ones,

Kate

P.S. I was inspired to share our story because of the Honest.com blog and some of these beautiful feeding stories. Enjoy reading them for yourself and thinking back to your own personal stories. Is there something helpful – a tip or new perspective – that you can share?

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