Weighty Matters

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Checking In

Thank you all for your encouragement and support.

Throughout the day, friends and family in New Jersey and Pennsylvania checked in.  Everyone is okay.  My aunt and uncle’s house escaped flooding.  No word yet on whether they can say the same about their cars.  Most of my friends are without power but report no damage to their homes.  A couple of friends who, thank God, evacuated are safe but are not yet permitted to return home so we don’t know whether their house flooded.  My heart aches over the damage and the suffering experienced by so many people and towns.  It’s going to be a long recovery.  I hope they quickly receive whatever help and relief they need.

Hope you don’t mind if I sort of freewrite tonight’s post.  I have lots of thoughts and feelings churning around, too much for one post with a central theme.

Good news!  I made it through yesterday and today without going off of my food plan.  Bonus, I dropped three pounds over the weekend.  I’d been stalled in my actual weight loss for a few weeks.  This was very frustrating, to work so hard and not see the number budge on the scale.  I knew that I’d continued to lose inches because I could feel the difference in my clothes.   Some wise people pointed out that I’ve been building muscle which might have balanced the numbers of any fat loss.  Whatever the case, the number finally moved which is an enormous boost.

If you’d told me a year ago that there would come a day when I would be disappointed that something interfered with my exercise plan, I would have rolled my eyes like dice on a craps table.  However, tonight I was the only participant to show up for Zumba so there wasn’t a class.  I came home and did some time with the in-home walking program so I at least got in some cardio.   One of the things I did yesterday when distracting myself from constant storm coverage was to channel surf.  I happened upon a Zumba Fitness infommercial and, quicker than you can say, charge my credit card, I ordered the DVD set, complete with the toning sticks.  Good to have variety in my at-home exercise options!

The final grades were posted on the first course that I took.  I don’t know if McDaniel uses the letter grades, but in terms of numbers, I scored really high.  This makes me very happy.  Unfortunately, I had a teeny anxiety meltdown tonight because, even though I’m keeping up with the course work,  I’m way behind in the writing of my actual manuscript.  For the first time today I doubted my ability to continue with the current course.  I verbalized this fear in the Discussion Forum and then immediately regretted it.  Unfortunately, there is no “Remove” key.  I sent my concerns to the instructors in email too.  The fabulous Jenny responded to my discussion post with a suggestion.  I’m pondering whether I can do what she suggests.  I think I can.  I’m going to give myself overnight to ponder so that I’m sure.  I truly don’t want to drop the class or defer until the next time it’s offered.

My dogs are reacting to my emotions.  They’ve been high strung all night.  It hasn’t been fun with them barking at the drop of a hat.   More stress!

Part of me thinks it’s ridiculous to let myself get so anxious about school, storms, or anything else.  This is not my regular way.  Writing this out right now helps me to connect the dots.  I was tense because the light brush with Sandy caused damage and income-reducing closings where I work.  That rolled into anxiety over the magnitude of the storm targeting my loved ones.  I think it makes sense that, when one is already anxious, anxiety might become the “go to” reaction when something else comes up.  So, Sandy here to Sandy up North to class performance anxiety.  Yes.  I guess it isn’t that much of a stretch.

Plus, I don’t have the natural buffer of extreme amounts of food to suppress my emotions.  ODing on food can numb you out.  Somewhere along the line I forgot about that effect.  We used to say in OA that the feelings won’t kills us but the food will.  Good saying to remember.

It’s been a long, emotional day.  I think right now, the best way that I can take care and set myself up for a successful day tomorrow is to go to bed and get a good night’s sleep.

Thanks for reading.  Night!

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Fighting the Good Fight

Friends, I am experiencing a phenomenal amount of storm-related anxiety today.  Enough so that if I had access to Valium, I would take one.  I don’t feel this much upset when a storm’s cone of doom aims right at the Florida Keys where I live.  Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy is already impacting the area where I grew up — Southern Jersey Shore — and the area where I lived for many years — Central Jersey Shore, Asbury Park.

I know that there are millions of other people all along the Eastern Seaboard who are also being attacked by this storm but I think it’s understandable why my attention focuses on the areas I called home.  As of this writing, the worst of the storm hasn’t even hit yet, but Asbury Park’s ocean front is already under water.  Parts of Atlantic City and the other towns on Absecon Island — badly flooded.  Cape May, Ocean City, Brigantine. . . It’s horrible, folks.  Just horrible.

One of my Facebook friends is a producer for CNN.  She’s also from South Jersey.  You can bet that she’s tapped into the most current images.  A couple of hours ago, I felt like I needed to throw up because of the photos.  I’m actually sick to my stomach over what’s happening up there and knowing that people I love are so affected.   I finally had to cut myself off from FB and the photos and from watching storm coverage.  Any news reports that make one physically ill should be avoided, don’t you think?

Plus, I was overcome with food cravings.  I was thisclose to getting in the car and driving to the cupcake bakery for something rich, chocolatey and sweet.  I didn’t do it.  I remembered what I posted about being the person who doesn’t give into emotional eating or food compulsions, about wanting to be the one who makes healthy food choices.  I also remembered that eating a cupcake was not going to make me feel better.  If anything, it would make me feel worse to give into the compulsion.

Cupcakes don’t cure storm anxiety.  The sugar and carb rush might temporarily distract me, but in the end, I’d just feel even more crappy.

Instead, since  I didn’t have to work today,  I went to a morning Zumba class.  I came home and ate a good quality protein lunch.  I asked a friend to go out to dinner with me tonight so that I can have a nice respite from storm coverage.  Tonight I’ll settle in and watch television that doesn’t focus on wind, rain and flood images and then go to bed early.  I’m already exhausted and I’m sure that isn’t going to get better between now and bedtime.

When I lie down and put my head on the pillow, I want to feel better about the day, not worse.  I want to know that I took care of myself and didn’t let my compulsive behavior get the best of me.  I want to go to sleep knowing that, for today, I fought the good fight and won.

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On the Upswing

It’s rare that I let a few days go by without a new blog post.  Sorry for that.

I finally decided that last week was just a crap fest and gave up fighting.  On top of how I personally felt emotionally and physically, we then contended with the brush-by effects of Hurricane Sandy.  We were never in the “cone of doom” and this big ass storm still sent us winds gusting up to 40 miles per hour and drove the lunar tides up high.  Friday afternoon we needed to close for the afternoon for safety’s sake.  I came home with the headache-that-wouldn’t-quit and the aching back and took a two hour nap.  Amazing how a good nap can set a person right.

So this storm gave us some problems at work although, thankfully, nothing too horrible and nothing at all as bad as what is already happening up the Eastern seaboard.  I’m extremely concerned for my friends and family up north.  I’m from the southern Jersey Shore area originally and the island where I grew up, as well as neighboring ones, are all under mandatory evacuation.   I’ve checked in and family and friends on the islands have gone places, hopefully, safer.  Other family and friends are spread out from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Cape Cod.  I’m walking around with a knot in my stomach.  Oddly enough, I’m more concerned about all of them than I usually am for myself when a storm is heading for the Keys.  That might be because preparing for storms is second nature to us down here.  The need doesn’t arise as often for my loved ones.

To all of them and to all of you who are either in the path of Hurricane Sandy or who also have friends and family in the same situation, be safe, be well, good luck, and big hugs and prayers.

I did say I was on the upswing, didn’t I?  I am.  Really.  Storm anxiety aside, I’ve enjoyed a relaxing weekend, including a lot of time with the dogs on my porch which is nice even with gusty winds.  My food intake was good.  I exercised with a three hour Tai Chi workshop, pool dancing, and other activity.  I enjoyed working on assignments for class and writing.  I napped.  I even made a pot of homemade French Onion soup.  Life is good.

It would have been easy to cave into the ick of earlier this week and keep eating.  Honestly, any excuse will do if I let my compulsions get the bet of me.  I’m not perfect and I’m certainly not cured.  The est that I can say is that more times than not I’m able to put it aside and remember that I don’t want to do that anymore.  I want to be the person who eats right and makes healthy food and behavior choices.  I want to resist temptation and compulsion and keep losing weight.

Along with the relaxing, I checked-in with my heart, head and gut.  I think I’ve gotten myself right, am shored up against the diseased thinking and actions.  Onward and upward.  That’s why I say that I’m on the upswing.  It’s so much better than a downward trend.

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Land of Hope and Dreams

I’m pretty much convinced that my emotional state this week has been fueled or affected by hormonal fluctuations.  The food cravings, the susceptibility to stress, getting overwhelmed and weepy, plus a few significant physical twinges all add up to my conclusion.

Let me state for the record that if I end up having my period this week, I’m going to be royally pissed off.  Stupid, I know, to get pissed off about something I can’t control, but that’s the way I feel.  I’ve been perimenopausal for a couple of years.  I want the whole thing over.  I thought I was on my way to the final countdown last year when I went six months without a period.  Then last September it returned with a vengeance.  I then skipped four months, had it again a couple of months in a row and now I’m on month seven sans period.  I do not want to get it now and have to start the count back at one.

Enough of my bitching.  This post is about hope and dreams.  I stole the title from a Springsteen song.  If it sounds familiar and you aren’t particularly a Boss fan, you might have heard it in the promos for the World Series.  Anyway, a long time friend emailed me tonight that she had weight loss surgery last week.  She and I had talked about it a few months ago and I knew she was investigating the possibility, but we hadn’t spoken in several weeks and I didn’t know that she’d completed all of the pre-evaluations and actually had the procedure.  I called her and said, “I’m so proud of you for moving forward and a little mad that you didn’t tell me so that I could keep good thoughts for you on the day.”

Then, it not being about me, I listened while she caught me up on the details and how she’s doing.   I’ve known her since ’94 or ’95 and we’ve shared a lot about our eating diseases, OA experiences, weight loss/gain yo-yoing and the increasing problems excess weight causes, etc.  We speak the same language and understand each other.

Throughout the conversation, we kept talking about having hope and dreaming of our improved lives.   Experiencing hope and daring to dream are powerful acts.  They got me where I needed to be so that I could choose to have the surgery and rescue my life.  They’re what get me through and keep me moving.  I’m so proud of my friend and excited for her, too.  She’s already lost 46 pounds with the pre-op liquid diet and the week post-surgery.  She knows that she’s at the beginning of her journey, but she is already looking ahead and planning for her fabulous future.

When you’ve lived for years in dark despair, feeling your life and your body crumble under your own weight, feeling hope transforms your spirit.

Yeah, my week’s been crappy.  I’ve eaten shit today that slows my progress on my journey.   Slowed, but didn’t stop me.

There are lines in the Bruce song that I love.  Dreams will not be thwartedFaith will be rewarded.   No stressful situation, hormonal, emotional upheaval, momentary relapse into compulsive eating or unplanned food will thwart my dreams.  I’ve grown too strong these past nine or so months.  Each day is another step in my fabulous future.

I’m really happy for this friend and the one I spoke about the other week.  I know where they were emotionally and physically before their surgeries.  I know what’s happening for them, and me, now.  They’ve met me in the land of hope and dreams.

 

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Just Say No

For those of us who remember the Reagan presidency, First Lady Nancy Reagan championed a “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign.  It means something different to me these days, but there are correlations.

Undergoing weight loss surgery did not “cure” me of an eating disorder.  I’m still a compulsive overeater with a binge eating disorder.  A surgically altered stomach is a tool, not a be-all/end-all solution.  I still get the urge to overeat, but am physically limited in the amount which, thankfully, puts the kabosh on binge eating.  Can’t binge when I can’t fit a lot of food in my stomach.

The compulsive eating behavior is still something that I have to guard against all of the time.  The urge to eat something not on my food plan can hit me at any time.  It doesn’t matter if I’m not physically hungry.  Compulsion is not logical.  It’s also a split second reaction as in:  See food, grab and eat it.

There are also times when I get cravings for a variety of reasons — boredom, stress, tiredness or any emotion.  Honestly, the cravings aren’t always stimulated by emotions.  I might smell something really good cooking or my taste buds or I might merely be in the mood for something crunchy or salty, sweet or savory.  I’m human.  Today, I would have loved nothing better at lunch time than extra crispy, greasy, salted french fries.  Thank goodness nobody walked by with a plate of them or I might have ambushed them from my office.  I could have walked down to the lunch truck and ordered some, even a half portion.  Thankfully, I successfully talked myself out of doing so.

I am at my best when I’m able to mentally fight the compulsion and put on the brakes between “Want” and “EAT NOW”.   If I have enough time, I frequently can just say no, stick to my planned food or find an appropriate alternate choice that won’t throw me off for the day.  It’s the split second need to interrupt the eating behavior before the wrong food can be taken and swallowed that presents the biggest challenges.  I give myself mental pep talks in the morning and frequently remind myself during the day to “Just say no”.  Might sound silly, but it helps.

Most days I bring whatever I’m going to eat for lunch with me to work in the morning.  I realized this week that I should consider giving myself options to help battle cravings and compulsion.  For example, today I grabbed a blueberry Greek yogurt from the fridge to eat for lunch.  By the time noon rolled around I was in the midst of the french fry desire.  Blueberry yogurt is neither crunchy nor salty.  This did not make me happy.  Fortunately, I remembered that I had some rare roast beef in the fridge at the office that I hadn’t eaten yesterday.  Still not crunchy nor particularly salty, but it provided a non-sweet flavor with more chewing and texture.  I ate that instead of the yogurt and was more emotionally satisfied.  Honestly, any food in a four ounce quantity will physically satisfy my hunger.  The issues are 90% mental.

So, I just said no to french fries and other crunchy/salty/greasy choices for the day.  I have leftover meat sauce with some whole grain spaghetti ready to heat up for dinner.  If I can get through to dinner without some other inappropriate cravings, I should be all right.

If I’m tempted, I’ll channel Nancy Reagan and Just. Say. No.

 

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H.A.L.T.S.

We get a reminder in OA to HALT which means to not let ourselves get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.  Reaching our limit on any of those conditions weakens our resolve.  I’m tacking on the S at the end for Stressed because that’s how it’s been for me the last two days.  It’s ironic that I’m experiencing such an overload of work-related stress this week considering last week we all had sessions with our coach on managing our time and stress.  I learned a lot and quickly implemented some of the new tools into the way my department works.   These are excellent tips for organizing the day’s tasks.  They don’t completely shield us from stress-inducing situations, but at least we have a new vocabulary to talk about them.

The coach suggested that every morning before answering email or listening to voice mail, we organize our known tasks for the day and assign them a priority — A, B, C.  A items must get done.  B items should get done but can hold to the next day.  C items are lowest on the priority totem pole.  We can also look at things in different quadrants.  Quadrant One holds the things that are both urgent and important.  Other quadrants are either important but not urgent, urgent but not important or neither urgent nor important.

So, what caused me stress?  A combination of things.  I had some A list items that live in Quadrant One that I struggled to complete because I needed the time of other co-workers and they were busy with their own A list Q1 things.  Fact of life but stressful just the same.  I had someone at the last minute dump a Q1 that they’d been assigned on me and I wasn’t quick enough to say, “Hey, I have enough A things right now.”

We all have to be flexible.  Stuff happens.  We’re fluid.  New things arise.  That’s life and I’m okay with it, except when it feels like they’re all piling on me at once.  This morning when I made up my initial list at 8:45, I had four totally accomplishable A list items.  By 9:15, that list had suddenly grown to seven items!  Add in that one person I’d been trying to sit down with to settle one of those Q1 items kept getting pulled away or interrupted by someone else and my frustration level increased.  It is also entirely possible that I’m hormonal today.  Hormonal fluctuations are more difficult to track with perimenopause.

Anyway, before noon I felt so overwhelmed and stressed out with frustration, interrupted productivity, unexpected situations, etc. that I had to go into my office, shut the door, and have a short, mini-meltdown, complete with tears.  Twice.  Before noon!  This is above and beyond my usual mental/emotional state.  I operate on a pretty even keel most of the time and can roll with the situations.   Not today.

Remember H.A.L.T.S. and how those conditions weaken our resolve?  Let me tell you, by 2:00 p.m. I would have traded a toe for a freaking chocolate bar.  Luckily a friend keeps an emergency stash of mini-bars.  I weighed the options:  Continue to suffer with weepiness or self-medicate with a miniature piece of chocolate.  Friends, sometimes the chocolate really is the way to go.  At least I thought about it thoroughly intead of rushing into her office, yanking open her drawer and grabbing with both hands.  I took one, slowly unwrapped it, and savored every chocolate-y bite.

I’m not saying it’s the candy, but my day really did get better eventually.   I accomplished all seven of the A list items and handled a few miscellaneous Bs too.  I just took a break with a cup of tea and will handle one more small project before putting a halt to my work day.  I’m going to take good care of myself in non-food related ways for the remainder of the day.  Zumba Class after work, reading for class, and a good soak in the tub before bed ought to relieve the remainder of my stress.

Thankfully, days like today don’t last forever!

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Pound by Pound, Inch by Inch

 

Aren’t I the photo ho this week?  A friend took this last night before I left for the fundraising event for our local animal shelter.  I’m on the Board and was also on the event committee.  The only thing missing from my outfit is the beautiful sequinned mask adorned with peacock feathers that I wore for most of the night.

I first bought this dress for my nephew’s bar mitzvah 12 years ago.  It fit me back then, but didn’t look this good.  I’d shopped my closet some weeks back and decided that this dress would do for the event.   I knew that I’d lost about ten pounds since trying it on but I really didn’t expect they would make much of a difference.  See, to me, those pounds aren’t a lot.  If someone weight 120, 130 or even 140 or more and loses ten pounds they really show.  I still consider ten pounds a drop in the proverbial weight loss bucket.  I also forgot that I’ve been doing Zumba twice a week for a few weeks and have increased the number of walks I take a week.   The fitness regime is definitely carving off inches and reshaping my body.

Yesterday evening, I slipped the dress on over my head and realized that it was almost too big.  I never anticipated that it would almost be too loose.  Luckily the heavy beaded bodice made it hang really straight.   If I’d been any smaller or the dress a tad bigger, it would have looked sloppy.

It’s good to remember that many things are happening with my body at this point.  Even on weeks that I don’t see a big number reduction on the scale, I know that working out is reducing my measurements.   I’m losing lots of my physical self allll over.   My collar bones are pretty obvious in this shot.   I might need to have my necklace shortened, too.  There are a couple of rings that I usually wear each day that also need to be made smaller.

Last night was another great ego boost as I saw even more people who haven’t seen me in a while.  I honestly loved their compliments and enthusiasm.  Knowing that they’re seeing a big chunk of progress makes their reactions extra special.  I do not in any way mean to lessen the impact of comments from people I see all of the time, but I truly know that there aren’t daily noticeable changes, so daily compliments tend to lose their oomph, even though I appreciate the support.

After taking in the attitudes and responses of everyone around me at the two events this weekend, I realized that I no longer think of myself as super obese.  Medically, I guess I’m still considered morbidly obese, but that tag will eventually also melt away.  It might sound weird to some, but I can think of myself as a big woman but not a grossly big one.  It’s a subtle, but important improvement.

I talked to a few friends last night about their Pilates experience.  I’m intrigued and thinking of scheduling a consultation.  A good Pilates instructor can probably help me figure out my knee issues and help me do even more toning.  I really hate the idea of going to a traditional gym.  (Yes, I still wish someone would open another Curves in town. *le sigh*)  I think that I’d be happier going to some private Pilates sessions to see if they are effective.

I would never have considered this before, because of the amount of extra weight I carried.  Previously, I would have been too concerned that I’d break the equipment.  Now I know I’ll be okay.

Have any of you done Pilates sessions?  Do you mind sharing about your experiences and, hopefully, your successful endeavors?

I’ll keep you posted on the consult.  Until then, remember that our losing game goes on pound by pound, inch by inch!

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Dressed Up, Some Place to Go

Sorry to be away for a couple days. In addition to work, I’ve been in crunch time for a charity fundraising event. Our committee’s worked very hard and tonight’s the night! Last night I also had a Chamber of Commerce dinner to attend. Fun, of course, but less time for personal things.

I posted a while back about picking outfits to wear for these events. A friend loaned me a dress for last night. I have to say it was an NSV kind of night. I think I looked darn good and many people agreed. I received many enthusiastic compliments.

I felt great too, although I had to get over some nerves. I haven’t worn a dress with a hem above the knee in years!

Here’s a picture. I promise I’ll take another one tonight at the masquerade. It makes me feel particularly terrific that I really do see my progress!

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Replacement Thoughts

We’re doing corporate initiative days at work.  We have an excellent coach — a woman who has worked for the United Nations, mediated disputes between warring religious factions — seriously, she’s brilliant.  Today’s workshop provided tools for time and stress management.  In it she touched on some cognitive behavior therapy tools.  I know some of you are really familiar with CBT.  I have only a slight nodding acquaintance with it, but I can tell you that today I found it really interesting.

We talked about Trigger Thoughts and how those thoughts spark feelings which lead to actions/behaviors and so on.   Some of our Trigger Thoughts are about others, but often we focus on ourselves.  For an example, when I’m really busy I might think, “I just can’t take on one more thing.  I can’t handle it.”  That thought might trigger a stressed out feeling as I get anxious about what I’m supposed to do or should be doing or the thing that I don’t feel I can handle, etc.”  The tool the coach suggested us to develop is to create a Replacement Thought instead.  Then, even if we have to repeat the replacement thought over and over again, we can create, or trigger, a different feeling to lead to a more positive action.

I spent time today thinking about this process and how I might apply it to my recovery.  Sometimes I still get the old “believing I’m not good enough” (B.I.N.G.E.) thoughts although, thankfully, they are fewer and much farther apart than ever before in my life.   Old, diseased thoughts lead to me feeling down and negative and those feelings can trigger the desire to inappropriately eat.   I think it’s a good idea for me to develop strong replacement thoughts for BINGE thinking.  Instead of believing that I’m deficient or don’t measure up, I can use the replacement thought of, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me.”  (Pardon the gratuitous Stuart Smalley reference.)

Seriously, this is good stuff, replacing negative thoughts and attitudes with positive, can do, spirit.  My attitude can either propel me to win whatever challenge or situation I face, or it can stop me dead before I’m even out of the starting gate.

This doesn’t mean it’s all easy.   If I don’t move fast, I can rip right through the emotions and eat before I have time to put on my own brakes.  I think it’s extremely important to spot the Trigger thought and quickly replace it before I let it root in my emotions. That’s how I give myself a fighting chance.

The coach reminded us that we need to practice new tools at least 21 times for them to really sink into our repetoire.  This is my goal for the next month:  Identify and be aware of Trigger thoughts and how they kick off negative emotions.  Replace the Trigger thoughts with ones that are positive.  When all is said and done, don’t eat because of thoughts and feelings.

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Changing the Obvious

I mentioned before that I’m participating in a leadership program.  I’m in a class with 21 other people, plus the session leaders, etc.  I met a lot of new people with this over the weekend and got to know a couple of others a little more.  I realized something today.  When preparing for the weekend, it didn’t cross my mind even once  to pre-flinch, worry or obsess over what the strangers would think when they first saw me.

I’m used to being the fattest person in the room, at the party, on the bus — wherever.  I always assumed that the very first thought people had when seeing me was something along the lines of, “Hoo, Geez.  That woman’s huge!”  (Or similiarly true, but unflattering thoughts.)

Imagine the stress of going through life expecting that the first impression you make will be negative.  Whether that’s truly what happens doesn’t matter.  Expecting it still causes stress.  I couldn’t help but always feel bad and then feel like I had to work that much harder to overcome the negative.  I wanted people to get past my weight and relate to me just as Mary.  It felt like this was always the challenge that I had to face and overcome.

The fact that I no longer have these feelings, that I didn’t even think about this before the weekend is a great indication of progress.  It was completely a non-issue.  I’m not thin, but now I’m not the almost-400 pound gorilla in the room.  I don’t feel like I have to overcome so much for people to get to know me and relate to me as a person.

That, my friends, is a gift to cherish and another solid brick in the foundation on which to build.

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