these things i know

Jul 1, 2015 by

There are some things I know – a few things that are rock solid in my soul. I came to know them in the aftermath of a difficult time when everything I thought I knew come crashing down around me.

Last night we watched The Cokeville Miracle and quite unexpectedly it brought back all the feelings of that long ago summer of 1986 – the summer my life and all the things I thought about the world were turned upside down.

In the twelve weeks following my twelfth birthday, a series of events occurred that broke my heart in a million pieces, changed my perspective, and sent me on a journey to discover what I really could depend upon.

First, my dad left. My hero. My favorite guy. My world. He drove away to a new life with a new woman far across the country. The gut-wrenching tears that racked my soul are indescribable. In spite of the fact that there were challenges in my parents’ marriage, our family being torn apart and ceasing to exist as a FAMILY had somehow not occurred to me as a real possibility. When it happened, when he actually drove away and stayed away, I no longer knew what was real, what I could depend on and what I couldn’t.

The next week, the tragedy in Cokeville happened. Even though it didn’t happen TO me, it did happen just 90 minutes away in a tiny, sleepy ranching town that seemed perfectly safe and secure. And it crumbled my remaining foundation a little bit more. If a madman could go into a school, a tiny, safe school very close to my home, hold children hostage and attempt to blow them up, and it could be on national TV, anything was possible. ANYTHING. In my young, twelve-year-old mind that was trying desperately to make sense of the world, it meant my little sleepy town might not be as safe as I thought. It meant it could happen in my school and my friends and I could be the ones living that nightmare. It meant the world was full of crazy people. It meant I might not be safe any longer.

A few weeks later, I went on a trip and was molested. Once again, my world turned on its axis and I had no idea which was up or down, good or bad. All the attention by an older boy was flattering and it certainly felt good, at least physically, but my soul was full of blackness and revulsion.

About a month after that I was sent across the country to visit my dad. It was wonderful and hard and scary all at the same time. It was so, so good to see him and to spend time with him. At the same time, I could see clearly that he had a whole new life and it didn’t include me, not really anyway. He had a girlfriend and a new job in a new state and I could see he wasn’t ever going to be standing behind the plate umpiring my games or playing football on Sunday afternoons or unloading the semi-truck full of goods at our family’s grocery store again. As I watched him in his new life, it became crystal clear that all of this wasn’t just a bad dream and he truly wasn’t coming back. That hard, cold, bitter truth sunk deep into my soul and I felt completely adrift from what I thought life was supposed to be like.

While I was gone to visit my dad, my mother was raped. A man from our church congregation, a man I KNEW, came into our home, MY HOME, a place I thought was safe, and dragged my mother out to the field and raped her. I cannot begin to comprehend the fear and pain my mother went through that night and for many years following. It is beyond imaginable to me.

However, I do know what I went through. Life no longer felt safe in any way. This penetration of the wall of safety of my home changed me, terrified me and hardened me all at the same time. Just a few months prior, I had a family, a home, a family business, a church, a community, and a state that felt safe, secure, and protective. Those things were full of loving, strong, moral people who loved me and on whom I could depend.

My mother’s rape was the final blow to that picture in my mind. I no longer had any idea who was safe, what was good, what was strong and permanent and dependable. My foundation was gone, blown away like dust in a windstorm.

On the outside, I still functioned. For the most part, I probably looked okay to many people. But inside, I had died. I had no idea what was real. If family and home and church were not what I thought they were, maybe God wasn’t real either. Maybe He was just an idea that people clung to without really knowing if he existed or not. Or maybe He did exist, but instead of the loving God I had imagined, was mean and vengeful. Or maybe He did reign supreme, but He simply didn’t care about me. Without anything solid to hold onto, I was like a puff of dandelion seeds, being blown to and fro, trying to find someplace to land and plant new roots.

It took years for me to allow God to rebuild my foundation. Piece by piece He gave me solid bits of truth to give a mooring to my soul.

Sometime in that twelfth year I stopped praying. I could not open my heart to a being I didn’t know was real or if he was real, wasn’t concerned enough with me to protect me. Then I stopped crying. I think it was an attempt to stop feeling. In some ways, it worked. I was able to go through life, get straight A’s, put on a show of happiness that almost convinced even myself, and succeed in all the quantifiable measures of life, but my heart was mostly dead to feeling the good things and underneath the surface, a volcano of anger boiled ready to explode whenever a person would make some comment about how wonderful men are or how I needed to spend more effort preparing for marriage. Then the anger would erupt and frighten me with its passionate vehemence.

Truth be told, I was a mess. I knew all the Sunday School answers and I had great hope that the idea of a loving Heavenly Father and eternal families were true, but the evidence around me told a very different story and my logical mind could not discard the proofs surrounding me that God didn’t care about me, that men were despicable, and that the only thing I could count on was myself.

Through that pain and pride and sorrow, God began to speak to me in quiet, almost imperceptible ways. He would send a feeling of comfort, an act of kindness, or a moment of inspiration. He told me clearly in the scriptures that He did love me and that He sent His son to die for me and all of His children…even the ones who had hurt me so terribly. I remember one day sitting in seminary and reading these words.

Behold, it is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

Moses 1:39

As I read them, God spoke to me. He whispered powerfully to the deepest parts of my soul that His entire purpose in being is to bring His children home to Him and that He was doing exactly that with me. He filled me with a certainty of His goodness and sureness of His capability to do His work. I can’t adequately describe the pure knowledge that flowed into me. In those few moments, I felt His peace and His love and came to know that He knew me personally and would do everything He could to bring me home.

That experience stayed with me. It changed me. It gave me several solid pieces of my foundation. One, I knew God was real. Two, I knew he knew me. Three, I knew he loved me. Four, I knew He was in the process of and would continue to teach, purify, and redeem me. Those are some pretty solid foundations and they have carried me and given me strength for many years.

Throughout the years, those bedrock truths have been strengthened by many more experiences with the Spirit and God’s hand in my life. He has guided me through the forgiveness process and taken the anger and hatred out of my heart. He has taught me again and again that I can trust Him and I must depend on Him. He has taught me that He is greater than any other power or force. He has shown me both His goodness and His glory as He heals my heart and changes my nature. Those original foundations have been added to with pieces of trust and reliance and miracles and peace.

I don’t know everything and I still have a long, long way to go in understanding Him and becoming like Him, but I know He is real. I know He is a God of miracles. I know He lives and loves and heals and transforms.

Last night, I sobbed through most of the movie. My feelings of fear and pain and sorrow from that harrowing summer came to the surface and poured out of me. My heart ached for the little girl I was who was trying her best to make sense of the destruction of all she held dear. And then, my heart filled with gratitude for those months and years of searching for something I could truly stand on and know it would not move. God gave me a new foundation, much stronger than my little girl hopes and dreams. He gave me His goodness and plan for all His children and continues to show me He is able to do His work to bring me and each of us home.

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Aug 17, 2014 by

Back in May I was given a new calling at church as the secretary to the Stake Primary Presidency. It is busy and full of meetings and I knew I could not add this calling into my already very full life without letting something else go.

But I didn’t know what to let go. I love all the things I do. LOVE THEM. In fact, it is pretty much impossible for me to do something if I am not passionate about it. So giving up something is really, really hard. I don’t have a list of things to say “no” to that I don’t really want to do – I have a list of things that are deeply important to my soul that I want to keep investing my time and energy in.

It has been hard to think and ponder and work up the courage to let something go. But I have done it. In July I officially resigned from the iFAMILY Board of Directors and over the past seven weeks we have been transitioning me off of the board. I have wept deep, heartfelt cries of anguish that no one really understands. iFAMILY has been my baby…I helped birth it and nurture it as it grew and now I am walking away from my position and trusting that the foundation laid is sufficient to carry it onwards. Oh, the heartache.

In spite of the pain of leaving, I know I needed to do this – I feel peace about it. I cannot serve my church in this calling and serve iFAMILY and have enough time with my children. For some reason I don’t yet understand, God is asking me to serve the children and leaders of my stake at this time. It is not my dream calling. It is not something I would have ever wanted to do. I am not very good at it. I continually say the wrong thing at our meetings. I come home feeling like I am not really making any sort of impact for good and wondering why on earth I am spending my time here instead of spending my time at iFAMILY where I can visibly see the impact of my service.

But I know God has asked me to do this. His Spirit has poured over me and told me God has called me to this position. So I will serve and try my best to love and learn and listen to His voice teach me.

And I will still cry.

And God will still love me.

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loveliness on a summer morn

Jun 23, 2014 by

Oh my, ten days without posting. Besides the fact (haha) that you are missing my words, it is entirely unhealthy for me to go that long without processing my thoughts through writing. Note to self: for a healthier psyche, write, write, write.

The sun is shining through my eastern window, filling my bedroom with fresh morning light. The sky is a radiant blue. The trees are full of cotton, which normally blows all around our yard like a soft-summer snowstorm, but this morning, in the stillness, the cotton hangs in the trees waiting for a breeze to release it. I hear the sprinklers shooting water all over the lawn, the chitch-chitch-chitch sounds of the rotating heads bringing order to my morning.

And all of this brings me hope. The morning comes. A new week is here with the promise of possibility. A clean slate waiting to be written upon.

This week I have a few goals.

  • Remember to be a fun mom.
  • Smile…a whole lot.
  • Get outside every single day. I can’t even tell you how many days I have spent living in this house. In this bedroom. I need to soak the summer air into my soul.
  • Figure out what classes I am teaching at iFamily (or not!)
  • Make the iFamily schedule.
  • Get the iFamily website done.
  • Get my new business website done.
  • Start a new read-aloud with Fisher and Annes…yes, we finally finished Hanne!
  • Make a decision about gymnastics for this fall.
  • Get my bedroom clean.
  • Get Richard’s summer special for SimplyHealed on his website.
  • Spend an hour every morning doing genealogy.
  • Organize my new school basket with Fisher’s and Annesley’s daily learning materials.
  • Spread joy.
  • Introduce our Happy Jar.
  • Rearrange and give the upstairs living areas a deep (overdue) spring cleaning.
  • Finish reading My Name Used To Be Muhammed
  • Find a location to hold my new classes on How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.

My jaw is improving, I can eat soft foods instead of drinking everything. Talking doesn’t hurt as much as it did a few weeks ago. Smiling is still pretty painful and laughter really hurts, but I will gladly take this over the condition it was in three weeks ago. My ankle is improving, still taped, and still limping a bit, but it is not hurting as much. If no other injuries happen, I will be able to start riding my awesome Elliptigo in the next few weeks.

Blessings abound.

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hearts and brains

Feb 28, 2013 by

hearts and brains

I love this picture so much. Mary Engelbreit is one of my favorite artists and her whimsical style always brings a smile to my face. This year I have her calendar on the wall in my kitchen and I am actually changing over the months in a timely manner (versus last year when I changed from April to October right before Halloween!). February features this Follow Your Heart picture and has had me thinking all month long.

Something about these words has worked its way down deep in my soul. I have thought and thought and thought about the balance between heart following and brain following, about reason vs. faith, about logic vs. passion, and have decided there is no “versus.” At least there doesn’t need to be. We don’t need to have reason or faith. We don’t need to have a heart or a brain. We need to have both. At least I do. I am most happy when my logic and my passion take me to the same result, but that doesn’t always happen, so I try to navigate my way through this life with both sides of me working together.

I taught at church on Sunday on this talk and was so grateful for the picture of airplane wings working together gave me.

Bearing in mind that faith and reason are necessary companions, consider the following analogy: faith and reason are like the two wings of an aircraft. Both are essential to maintain flight. If, from your perspective, reason seems to contradict faith, pause and remember that our perspective is extremely limited compared with the Lord’s. Do not discard faith any more than you would detach a wing from an aircraft in flight. Instead, nurture a particle of faith and permit the hope it produces to be an anchor to your soul — and to your reason.

Isn’t that a beautiful visual? Both parts are necessary. Both can work together to help us find peace. I want my airplane to fly with my heart and my brain.

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that awful place

Jan 20, 2013 by

Last night I fell apart. I traveled to the dangerous land of Everything-Is-Awful-And-You-Will-Never-Measure-Up. Have you been to that place? It isn’t on any tourist guides’ maps because no one wants to admit it exists. But it does. It is real. And sometimes I go there. Usually only on the day before my period starts and my progesterone levels are plummeting, which was the case last night, but sometimes I visit for no obvious reason at all.

Well, last night I did more than visit. I bought a house and applied for full-on citizenship.

I tried to convince Richard that I am a complete and total failure as a wife, a mother, a teacher, a homemaker, a meal cooker, a laundry washer, a goal setter, a disciple of Christ, and a body owner. I told him over and over and OVER again how terrible I am doing at EVERYTHING and how I am ready to leave so he can get someone in here who will do a better job. I knew he would say he wouldn’t marry anyone else, that he adores me, that there is no one else he would ever or could ever want, that I am wonderful and amazing and yada, yada, yada. So I preempted him by saying I could just leave and then he would HAVE to replace me. He would have to hire someone to teach our children and cook our food and clean our house and wash our laundry because he loves our children too much to not have someone take care of them. I told him I don’t have the skills or the knowledge or the brains or the SOMETHING to succeed at this motherhood thing and it is just too hard. I need to be my grandma, to have her skills and knowledge and ability to love, but I don’t have any of it and I am so tired of trying to figure it out and failing over and over again.

Then I really fell apart (is it possible to fall apart more?) and said I hated being me. I hate my broken body and my stupid ideas and I am SO DONE with trying to improve and trying to make changes and insisting that tomorrow will be better and I will be better and I will do what I set my mind to do and then failing again. I told him I am ONLY a burden to him, only a liability, that I give nothing good to anyone, and especially not to him. That my stupid body takes all of his money and all of his time and all of his emotions and I can’t handle being a burden to him or anyone else anymore. I cried and cried and cried.

It was a doozy.

This morning I tried to revoke my residency and citizenship in that awful land, but it wouldn’t give me my traveling papers and allow me to leave. Two more hours of nonsense this morning. Two more hours of tears. Two more hours of me hating being in bed for another day and having people take care of me again. AGAIN. I am so tired of all of this.

Then, I decided to listen to this talk by Sheri Dew. I sensed I needed her straight-shooting words and absolute reliance on Jesus Christ.

And it worked. She somehow worked her magic and got me released from the before-mentioned land and back into the land of gratitude and growth and love and peace. She talked about how when she was made President of Deseret Book she felt completely overwhelmed and that after several years she went to President Hinckley and told him she needed to be replaced by someone with the skills and knowledge and acumen that she didn’t have. She presented her case very logically (just like I did) and was sure he would see her point and replace her. But he didn’t. He called her back and said “Sheri, you will figure it out.” Just like Richard said to me. And she did. And maybe I will too.

Richard thinks I am doing a great job. He loves me. He believes in me. He understands how crazy-making this whole being-in-bed thing is. He understands how scared I am. He truly believes I am a smart cookie. He helps me catch of a vision of how God sees me.

Today I am going to immerse myself in that vision and rely on my Savior to keep me far away from that land where I will never be good enough and never know peace.

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inner voices

Jan 17, 2013 by

Just read this article and am now bawling. Read it. Let it sink in.

My children certainly have been suffering from my comments lately. This is a wonderful reminder to me of who I really want to be and what I really want them to hear.

I shudder to think of the things I have said that could be playing on their inner tape recorder.

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Jan 5, 2013 by

This is not a complaining post. It is a pondering post.

Yesterday at gym I felt great. Strong. Capable. I ran with the kids and did forward rolls with no problems. I jumped and danced and laughed and had a wonderful time. I still can’t walk well on the balance beam and when I went up on my tippy toes I fell off, but that is to be expected. My whole center of gravity is in my pelvis and my pelvis isn’t in the best structural condition. I felt so good I did a cartwheel. It pulled on the hip socket just the teensiest bit. A few hours later I did another one and it didn’t hurt at all.

Then I started to drive home. Stabbing pain. It felt like my hip socket had been stitched up with thread and someone was using a seam ripper to yank the threads out. Throughout the night the pain increased and my whole hip and thigh area ached. I drove out to a going away party for my friend, Liz (who is off to an adventure to Russia!), and the stabbing was awful. Just awful. I ended up lying down and giving in to a few tears while we talked the night away.

I don’t know what to think. How am I to know what I can and can’t do if in the moment of doing it everything seems fine? How am I to listen to my body and receive accurate information? How will I ever know if I am better? I have modified so many of my body’s movements that I really have no idea what my pain level would be if I were moving like a non-injured Tracy would move.

I asked Richard if perhaps my capabilities would continue to increase, but the pain would still be present…if I will be able to DO things, but do them with pain. And as I thought those thoughts I tried to imagine a life of pain. I have been doing everything I can to heal the labral tear *knowing* I would be out of pain when it was healed. Now I wonder it that is true. Maybe the pain is here to stay…and right now that thought feels unbearable.

This pain is such an interesting thing. I can smile and talk and laugh and live, but it is here. Always here. It weighs on me. It is heavy. I can’t always think clearly or focus on what is happening in the moment because my mind is on the pain. Sometimes I want to throw it off me and yell “No, I will not hurt anymore. I will not be part of this anymore!” I don’t know if distraction or engagement is the better course. To be honest, I really don’t know anything anymore. I know I am tired of hurting and tired of talking about hurting.

All of these feelings and thoughts swirl around me this morning and make me think of dependence on Christ. I cannot take this pain away. I cannot solve it. Only He can. I cannot solve the myriad other pains in my life either. I cannot solve sin. I cannot solve sorrow. I cannot solve my weaknesses, mortal state, proclivity to judge, the pain I have caused others, or desires for things of this world.

But He can.

Maybe all of this pain is to remind me once again to give it all to Him. My pain. My sorrow. My weaknesses. My heart. Everything.

Maybe this is one long journey to my Savior.

Maybe there are more lessons I need to learn.

Maybe this is the biggest blessing I could be given.


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my quest – an unexpected journey

Dec 16, 2012 by

Last night Richard and I went on a real life date! We have been planning for at least one year to go see The Hobbit on opening night. Well, we didn’t make it on opening night, but the third night isn’t too shabby for these once-a-year-movie-people.

Having just finished reading the book (check out this lovely hardcover edition for $8.66!) to my family on Thursday I knew the story and was pretty disappointed at all the changes made in the screen version. The movie stretches even the most creative imagination and puts forth several completely implausible scenarios that in my mind diminish the power of the message that a small band of people can work together and change the world…because any thinking person can see that this small band of people (dwarves, really) did not change the world in any believable way, the events are far too incredulous to apply to one’s own reality.

Having said that, I still loved the movie. I loved it for the powerful lines. I loved it for Gandalf’s vision, Bilbo’s courage and simple goodness, Thorin’s determination and leadership, Fili’s and Kili’s open hearts, Balin’s loyalty, Galadriel’s depth of soul, Elrond’s wisdom, and so much more.

Jackson added some scenes to the movie that Tolkien didn’t create in the book and while I know some people didn’t like the additions, I loved them. I think they added a great deal to the story and paint a broader picture for the events of Middle Earth. I loved seeing Dain in all its glory. I loved seeing the evidences of the Necromancer in Mirkwood.

How many times can I say “loved” in this post? Hmmm, I will try to come up with a different word. No guarantees though…my brain is running on fumes at the moment.

One line that jumped out at me was in the beginning of the film when the dwarves and Gandalf are making their plans and trying to get Bilbo to join them. Bilbo listens to the plans with their accompanying dangers and says “You’ve got the wrong Hobbit.”

Boy, did that jump out at me. I cannot tell you how many times I have said, “You’ve got the wrong wife.” That sentiment usually comes up when I am overwhelmed with a task in front of me or with regret over a behavior behind me. Sometimes I just *know* that I am not up to this life of wife-ing and mothering. Sometimes I am scared to give it my best shot because what if I give it my all and fail. Sometimes the whole thing seems so daunting, this raising up of souls, that I want to run away and do something else with my life because I *know* I can’t do it. I never planned on being a mother. I especially never planned on being a stay-at-home mother. I really, really, really never planned on being a homeschooling mother who cares about every bite her children eat, every song they listen to, every book they read, and every life they touch. I never planned this. I never wanted it. I still don’t know if I am up to it.

And that is when I say, “You’ve got the wrong wife.”

Richard chuckles and wraps me in his arms and tells me he absolutely has the right wife and he can’t imagine any better wife for him or mother for his children. I usually respond with a long list of traits that would serve this family better or a long list of people that would make him a much better wife, but he just holds me and encourages me and reassures me that I am doing a great work in a great cause for a great purpose.

And then I wake up and try again another day. Because not only do I know God has called me to this life, I love being a wife and mother.

I think he did pick the right wife, if only because I need him so desperately to be my companion and to teach me about Christlike love, humility, patience, and forgiveness.

Ultimately Bilbo decides to join the dwarf company and aid them on their quest. On the journey he discovers what he is made of and is changed into a new Hobbit. My hope is that just like Bilbo I am changing into a better, wiser, stronger, surer, deeper, humbler woman on my journey. For that is my quest.

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while there’s life

Dec 8, 2012 by

While there’s life there’s hope.

This line from The Hobbit jumped out at me and spurred all sorts of thoughts in my brain. Bear with me while I try to sort them out and share them with you in some semblance of coherency.

I think this theme of keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep working, keep trying, keep doing, keep becoming, keep on keeping on, no matter what the odds are against you, has become my take home message from Tolkien’s writings. It doesn’t matter how hopeless it looks. It doesn’t matter how absolutely impossible it appears. Our job is to keep trying…and to believe in some small recess of our soul (or our whole soul if we can muster it) that there is hope. Our task is to let God do what He will and to keep on working so He can do what He will. I must need to hear that lesson because it continues to jump out at me whenever I read his works.

There is not much hope that Bilbo and the dwarves will succeed in killing Smaug and reclaiming their treasure. There isn’t even much hope they will ever even get to Smaug alive in the first place. Despite the odds against them, they feel called to redeem their land, their home, their treasure, and their family’s honor. Time and time again it seems there is no way out of their predicaments and time and time again they are rescued or shown a new way or provided a solution to their obstacle.

Every single time.

In The Lord of The Rings, the task is even more impossible. It is completely ridiculous for anyone to believe for a moment that the nine members of the Fellowship have any chance of success in their quest to destroy the ring.

And yet, they set out with determination to do their best. They keep trying. And God works miracles. He delivers them. He sends help. He gives them small pieces of encouragement. He gives them ideas. He places people in their path at just the right time.

Just like He does for us.

They keep moving forward even when injured. They keep trying even when members of their fellowship are kidnapped and killed. They keep their faith alive even when darkness and evil appear to be winning. They keep doing their part even when Frodo is bitten by the spider and wrapped up for her to eat. In a last-ditch effort to give Frodo a little more time to reach Mt. Doom they mount a distraction effort at the Black Gate where they “know” they will be killed.

Galadriel tells Frodo “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” I believe that. I want my children to believe that. I want each and every child of God to know they have power and influence and capability to change the world. This saying hangs on the wall of our school room and I read it almost every day. It inspires me to live truer to my ideals and to keep hope alive in my heart that each of can bless and serve and love and that those things CAN and DO make a difference.

The key to this, I think, is Bilbo’s father’s advice, “While there’s life there’s hope.” There is always hope. Even when it doesn’t look like we should have any hope, we can still have hope because we are alive and can keep doing small and simple things (or big and wonderful things) to change the course of the future. There is hope because other people are alive and doing small and simple things in their lives and those things change the course of our future and the future. Most of all, there is hope because Jesus is alive and His life is the source of all hope. His life provides the way to peace and joy in our lives. His life is the roadmap for our return to God. His life and his atoning sacrifice provide the only hope we have.

What gives you hope?

p.s. I took this quiz the other day to see which character I am most like in Tolkien’s writings…pretty funny results:

YOU ARE MOST LIKE A: WIZARD. You’re a peacemaker, a do-gooder, a leader in a land fraught with peril. Like a wizard, you’re a bad*** cloaked in the body of an average joe. You never turn your back on a friend or a crisis. You’re selfless, intelligent, and you enjoy a well-lived life on the road.

I love that…a leader in a land fraught with peril. Exactly what I want to be!

If you take the quiz, I would love to know what your results are!

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