What Are You All About?


I’ve got some fun news (and a VIDEO) to share with you below, but for now I have a question. How do you feel when you are asked: “So…what do YOU do?”
 

I am not a fan. Not at all. 

The “what do you do” question seems to be the go-to at parties (when they are happening), “networking” events”, and anywhere small talkie chit chat is encouraged. But is it necessary? To me, it seems pretty reductive. 

Here’s what I really want to know: What are you all about? Underneath this question lies many others like:

  • What are the threads of passion that weave through your life?
  • What makes your eyes light up when you talk about it?
  • Where and when in your life are you filled with awe and wonder?
  • Who do you love? What about them do you adore?
  • What does your ideal day look like? What are you doing or NOT doing? Who is there? 
  • What do you believe to be absolutely true?
  • Who are you really?

I had the chance to bypass the small talk and go straight to these deeper questions a couple weeks ago when I had the pleasure of speaking with Katie Baptist. Katie is a therapist and heart-centered entrepreneur whose eyes light up when she talks about women’s spirituality and sexuality, nature, rites of passage, and connecting to our own bigger truths. 

We have a lot in common.

I’d love it if you’d take the time to watch or simply listen to our conversation over on YouTube. You can also visit her on Facebook HERE.

And as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, conversations whether they be face-to-face, over Zoom, or by old-fashioned letter writing are the food that so many of us need right now. That’s why I created Deep River Talks (more info HERE). If you haven’t signed up for your talk yet, head on over HERE to sign-up. I still have some pockets of time available before the year ends.

Finally, a story. As you’ll see in the conversation with Katie, one of the things that lights me up is women’s stories. Serendipitously, a book by one of my favorite authors came out recently…and it’s ALL about women’s stories!

I highly recommend Cassandra Speaks: When Women are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser if you share my passion for changing the narrative. You can purchase it at Deep River Books, my very own online bookshop! I’m just starting to stock the shelves, so I hope to be sharing book recommendations more often…including (fingers crossed) my very OWN book one day.

Thank you for being part of my story,

Holly

Do You Remember?

When you think about things that heal, what comes to mind? Medicines? Exercise? Talk therapy?  Nutrition? Massage or other body work? Yoga? 

What would you say if I suggested writing as a way to heal? 

Last week, I brought the poem, Queso de Patas by Benjamin Garcia to my writing groups (you can read it here). The poem was intended to connect us more deeply with our five senses, inviting us to write from that primal, human place. After hearing me read my piece aloud on Friday, one of my writers said:

“This just shows the healing power of writing.” 

Yes! When we let writing prompts take us to the vulnerable places that need to be healed, we are often surprised about what comes out. Things like grief, anger, and fear are released. It’s like the old wounds are drained word by word.

And when we share what we have written, the healing power is exponential. Because although we definitely need time alone to reflect and rest, we need a healing community to complete the circle.

The piece I wrote completed a circle for me that I didn’t realize was there until I wrote about it. Maybe sharing it with you will extend that circle. 

Feet

The yoga studio is the realm of bare feet. This bare-footed comradery was the communal yoga experience for decades until the shut down of 2020. In March, someone declared that practicing indoors with other people was non-essential and dangerous. The shift was so rapid, I still find it amazing that we as teachers found our way onto Zoom so quickly. In less than two weeks, we had moved the “studio” into our own homes, using our personal computers to teach to little black squares, people suddenly shy and reserved about being seen doing their practice.

There is something about the big, electronic eye, isn’t there? Being watched in this way is eerie. When in a class full of people, everyone but the teacher has their eyes on the mat with only an occasional glance at their neighbors. And even the eyes of the teacher recede from consciousness as the rhythmic hum of breath and movement encase the room. When we practice together, we breathe together, and there are not many things as powerful as that.

Of course, breathing and feet are not always the most compatible dance partners. I remember unlocking the front door of the studio after it had been closed up for a few hours between my evening class and the more vigorous morning classes and walking straight into the wall of waft. Foot smell,the pungent memory of a practice well-done. I crinkled my nose and thought, “time to get out the essential oil spray!” and got to work.

The smell of shared humanity is something I didn’t think I’d miss, but it, like the chiming of the indian bells hanging from the door as I opened it and the feel of the bare wood floor under my own bare feet, were the container for my practice – our practice – for nearly 20 years of my life. And more than the physical, it’s the energetic that is missing now. I have had to depend on my own energy to feed me for the past eight months. I have had to depend on the energy of only my husband and son at close proximity as an exchange of lifeforce, and I think we’re all withdrawing more than we can afford.

I did not know that this was how I felt about it all until I started writing about feet of all things, but I do remember when this all started, this shelter-in-place, this quarantine, this shut down of America. Although my naturally introverted tendencies rejoiced, my nervous system felt like exposed wires next to a puddle of water. I felt especially jangled after teaching my first few yoga classes online. I remember the loss of peace that I used to receive after teaching in-person. I have become used to teaching online and see the value in it for me and my students, but I also feel the grief. I can’t believe it, but I long for the smell of other people’s feet.

Before I go, here’s the strange thing I’ve experienced with writing groups online. It’s different from yoga. For me, there is an intimacy in writing online together. We start another series in January (look for dates to be announced soon).

I’d love it if you joined us to experience the strange healing power of writing in community.

With encouragement and support,

Holly

Learning to Use the Other Hand

In these last few months, we’ve discovered that we are adaptable. It might not feel like it, but we are. 

Along with….everything, a few weeks ago, I started getting shooting pain down my arm originating somewhere in my shoulder and neck.

It has only gotten worse.

Wow, that could be the theme for 2020. “It’s only gotten worse!” But what I know from experience is that the healing process takes us deep into pain and suffering – it gets WAY worse before it gets better – before the wound truly heals.

As part of my physical healing, I’m wearing a new fashion accessory. Think of it as a cross between one of those really wide 1980s belts and something a female action hero might wear. My left arm is strapped to my side and…

I’m learning to use my other hand. 

You see, I’m left-handed, and this injury is on the left side, the HEART side. For so many reasons – both collective and personal – my heart hurts. As a highly sensitive person, 2020 has been brutal because along with feeling my own pain, I feel the pain of the collective, too.

The difference these days is that I have learned to create boundaries so I don’t let the feelings of others engulf me like I used to do. We all have our own healing work to do, and although we can definitely be with each other through this painful time, it is our responsibility to find our own way though it.

Honestly, my ego saw my role as a conduit for other people’s healing, and I have learned that it just doesn’t work that way. My big plans were to offer more yoga, writing circles, and a listening ear. The writing circles have been nourishment for everyone in the group, but my other plans? I have had to make adjustments to expectations. 

So, in the spirit of self-healing, I have had to take a hiatus from teaching yoga Tuesday mornings and several Sundays in a row. Given the unpredictability of the last few months, I have no expectations about when or how my going back to teaching (or not) might unfold in the future. I have a feeling my yoga offerings might look very different from what they were in the past.

This is one way I’m learning to use the other hand so to speak. How about you? What unwanted, unexpected adjustments have you had to make lately?

Wishing you health and love,

Holly

When You Create, You Are Singing To Your Ancestors

When we do our creative work for our sisters, mothers, grandmothers, or daughters, we are singing to our ancestors.

Every woman who dares to let her voice be heard tears open the fabric of the created universe.

For me, this work looks like pressing words onto paper. For others, it takes the form of knitting, sculpting, cooking, woodworking, collage, or something else one might call “handwork.”.

If you are a writer at heart, I offer the following prompt in the form of two related questions. If you are not a writer, you can use this prompt for reflection or meditation. You can dance your answer. Paint it, sculpt it, use it in the way that serves you best.

Questions:  What have these hands made? What have these hands held?

In shared vulnerability, I offer what I wrote in response to these questions three years ago:

Her hands, these days resembling S’s more than L’s, slip bead after bead onto wire, onto string. She thinks of sisters, mothers, friends as she mixes blues, purples, and greens. 

Who is this one for? She thinks as she squeezes the plier to attach the clasp.

She imagines a tall woman with long black hair. Yes, she thinks, this is the woman who will wear the amethyst. And another — a small woman with a wide face, pale hair brushing the back of her neck just below the ears — she will wear the peridot. 

And my daughters, my daughters, she thinks as she strings bead after bead, what will I make for them?

Turns out, I answered these questions from another woman’s point-of-view. You can, too. However, you decide to work with these questions, find a way to love your beautiful hands today.

And if your writing needs some company, join us for Word Gathering starting next week. I’ve got one spot left for Friday mornings and two for Thursday evenings. Sign-up HERE.

With love and support,

Holly

How Will You Do It?

This 2020, this bathroom break in history, this time of Nothing, is not just a pause between chapters. It is a reckoning. And a time to get real with ourselves. How will you do it? 

Some of us are running from the Nothing that presses in and in and in. Some of us run toward it, dance in it, bathe in it. Some of us are writing letters, pressing into our history to feel words in our bodies again. And even the souls who usually want to wander the vast, empty landscapes of possibility are tired now. 

We are finding our feet again on a new earth, our shoes worn out or thrown out in favor of bare feet. We are relearning kindness inside this dystopian nightmare because what else can we do? Even the fighting; the violence; the bodies dropping from the virus, the police, fires and explosions invite us to learn active kindness. 

And yet, the old-fashioned grief still exists. Daughters are losing their mothers. People are misbehaving. Parents don’t sleep at night because, despite everything else, they are haunted by the mundane idea that they are ruining their children.

Even as we sit inside our own pain, even as we walk more miles than we have in years, our cells are reorganizing, settling into this forced meditation. 

Those who say they want life to go back to normal know that they are lying. They, too, have felt the fingers of the Pause brush against their skin. They have heard the new song humming like a hymn in their ears.

The silence isn’t silent anymore, and we can run from it no longer. 

Thanks for taking the time to listen,

Holly

Why Do We Do What We Do?

Remember last week when I said I was focusing on getting the first three chapters of my novel ready to send out to publishers and agents?

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In my head, the chapters are DONE, emailed out, and the “just right” publisher is reading my pages, smiling. In my fantasies, the magic is already happening.

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…and yet, not one page has been sent out. Depending on how your mind works, you either think I’m a healthy procrastinator or a delusional dreamer. The truth is somewhere in between.

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What I have learned as I have become more aware of my personality patterns is that I have the certain propensities: I long for the ideal scenario, create wildly, and then hide under the covers because I think no one will ever understand me.

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I am an Enneagram type 4.

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Stevie Nicks and I supposedly share the same type: romantic, creative individualist.
What do you think? Maybe?

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As I’ve been preparing my chapters for lift-off, I’ve also been spending time with my friend, Tami Hackbarth, talking about the Enneagram on her podcast, 100% Guilt-Free Self-Care.

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Tami and I got to know each other through yoga, and continued our friendship when we realized that personal growth was a passion for both of us. The Enneagram came to me when I was going through a particularly challenging time in my life a few years ago.

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Since then, I have read everything I can get my hands on, watched countless videos, and attended a week-long Enneagram Summit. If all goes as planned, I’ll be either attending and/or hosting an upcoming Enneagram workshop.

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If you’ve been feeling stuck doing the same thing over and over and not knowing why, wondering why some people drawn to you and others give you the side eye, or you are just plain curious, join us over at the podcast HERE.

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With love and acceptance for exactly who you are,

Holly

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P.S. In other news, The Seasonal Journal starts again on Thursday, March 19 (Enneagram 4s LOVE self-explorative journaling). If you signed up in December, no need to do anything now. If you are in for Spring, join us HERE.

What Aren’t You Doing?

“How are you?”

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“Oh, I’m so busy!”

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How often have you heard this interchange? When someone asks you how you are, are you the person who answers with, “I’m so busy!”?

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If so, here’s my question for you:

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Is “busy” standing in the way of your purpose?

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I got to thinking about this after two recent conversations with friends. They both asked me about my book(s) and my work as a group facilitator. Was I ready to take my work to a new level, one that would sustain me and create an even deeper connections with others?

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Yikes! Next level? That feels scary, so what have I done? I’ve kept myself occupied with busy work.

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All I could think was, I’ve been doing all the other things! I asked myself (and I’m asking you):

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What aren’t you doing?

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This is the work I do with people. I provide spaces for you to slow down and find your own answers. How does this work? One experience at a time.

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Join me for the next round of Word Gathering Women’s Writing Circle which starts on Friday, February 28. This non-confrontational way of writing just might open something in you.

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Or perhaps you need a nap to find some clarity. I’ve got all the cozy props (blankets, bolsters, and more) to ease you into relaxation and receptivity at the upcoming mini-retreat, Yoga for Seasonal Self-Care, Saturday, March 14.

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And when I’m not supporting you with your own clarity, I’ll be sending proposals and the chapters from my novel to agents and publishers – ack! – because that is what I haven’t been doing!

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With love and support for you and your purpose,

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Holly

P.S. If you’d like to take a look at my creative writing, visit me over on Instagram @hollyholtwrites.

How Are You With Transitions?

In early 2018, completed interviews for a project called 101 Core Conversations. Over the course of almost two years, I interviewed women about transitions in their lives. I’m just now beginning to revisit the interviews, and I cannot tell you grateful I am for these vulnerable and oh-so-real stories.

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What I see over and over is that every single story of transition is a story about struggle. When we talk about transitions, we are talking about “the hard stuff.”

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Some might say that we make it hard on ourselves. Even though the only constant is change, most of us would rather things stayed the same or, at the very least, didn’t get too sad, complicated, or messy.

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But there is also the reality that our human systems respond to transitions in a very visceral way. Our bodies often get sick or tired. Our minds can feel scattered. Our emotions, erratic.

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This is all part of being human. The more in tune I get with my own human system – body, mind, heart – the more in tune I become with how my whole self still struggles with things like the phases of the moon and the seasonal transitions.

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This is why I created two seasonal offerings. If you haven’t joined The Seasonal Journal, we start again on March 18th. Here’s the link to the secret portal to join.

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AND I would love it if you joined me for an afternoon mini-retreat on Saturday, March 14 from 2:00 – 4:30 pm at the Orangevale Community Center.

Come and feel supported as you transition from winter to spring.

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We’ll practice Restorative Yoga with all the pillows, blankets, and nap-inducing quiet as we can. I even have a few goodies to share about how you might make the transition just a *little* more easeful.

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This afternoon retreat is limited to 10 people, so if you are interested, sign up now. You can register HERE.

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If we didn’t get to talk three years ago and you want to share your story of transition with me, let me know! I’d love to add you to the archive. And who knows when this research might become a book?

What Are You Ignoring?

My son and I were having one of those side-by-side conversations in the car the other day. If you are a parent, you know that this arrangement becomes essential in the teen years because adolescents will not speak if you are looking directly at them.
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Luckily, we are past that now and my adult son and I chat together often whether or not we are facing in the same direction.
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Our conversation, as is our usual habit, moved quickly from the theoretical to the fantastical. Somehow, we ended up talking about body swapping.
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“Wouldn’t it be amazing,” I said, “to actually be able to move into someone else’s body for a few days?”
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Before I could go any further into my reverie, he announced:
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 “We would immediately be in pain.”
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“Huh?” was my articulate response.
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“Mom,” he said, “we all have pain that we mask or ignore or deny. If we suddenly inhabited someone else’s body, we would feel their pain right away.”
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I almost had to pull the car over to the side of the road. 
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We would feel their pain right away. 
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As I was catching my breath, I began to feel the ache in my hip, the tightness in my shoulder. I began to feel my body as if I had just climbed into it for the first time.
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This is what we do – if we let ourselves – every time we step onto the yoga mat. 
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So, if you haven’t done it in a while (or ever)…s l o w  d o w n. Pay attention. Notice.  
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Ask yourself, “what have I been ignoring?”
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What have you called “no big deal” when, maybe, it is? What pain have you masked with pills or booze or food or “fun”? What do you deny over and over and over again?
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And this is just physical pain. What about the unseen and, sometimes, unseemly thoughts? What about the unresolved grief of the heart?
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What would it feel like to stop stuffing, masking, ignoring, and denying your pain because nobody wants to hear about it anyway?

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What would it be like to own all parts of yourself, the painful AND the pleasureful? 
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What would it feel like to slow down enough to FEEL? 

New Year, New You? Not So Fast.

This past weekend, my son said it didn’t feel like 2020 yet. He was going to give it another week or so to sink in. 
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And just yesterday, a friend told me that she spends the whole month of January reflecting on the past year and planning for the year ahead. The whole month. S L O W.

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Neither of these people in my life were trying to become *new.* They were simply feeling it.
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What if each day got to be a new beginning? What would it feel like to actually celebrate the small wins?
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Here’s one: My dad is 90. When we ask him how he’s doing, he replies, “I woke up this morning, so I’d say pretty good.”
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When I was younger, I was on constant alert for the BIG win. If, say, my teacher gave me positive comments on my poetry, I wanted this to translate into POETRY PRIZE, FIRST PLACE. Otherwise, it didn’t count.
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HALT!
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As I’m writing this, I’m catching myself in a lie. I still grapple with this very thing. Here’s what I wrote on social media the other day:
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“Sometimes, I feel like I’m screaming into an empty room when I post on social media. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. 

We all want to be seen. We all want to be heard. We want to belong AND be significant.

I wish you all a million followers, 1000 true fans, and at least 1 bonafide best friend and soulmate.

May we all feel like we are chosen beloveds.”

www.instagram.com/hollyholtwrites

Yes, my words tapped into the isolation and loneliness of this modern world. I was certainly reaching out, but truth be told, I also wanted the modern American internet dream. 
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I wanted B I G. Gold star. Prom Queen. Nobel Prize. Pulitzer. One million followers. I wanted validation. I wanted to live the “new year, new you” dream.
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If I could start 2020 with more social media followers, I would suddenly be…what? No different. Same old me.
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But when I looked back on 2019, I realized that there were so many small moments worth celebrating.

  • I met wonderful new friends and students.
  • I kept chipping away on the second draft of my novel and helped others start theirs.
  • My family was blessed with three new members of our household.
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There was that one time I laughed with my husband and son about some silly thing. That other time a friend texted me just when I needed it. That other time I woke up and the sun was shining after three days of gloomy clouds.
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None of these small moments made me a new person, but they made me a grateful one. When I took the time to NOTICE, when I traded in BIG for SLOW, something shifted. 
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Maybe that’s all it takes to become new. Small shifts.
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Let’s forget about becoming *new* people. We just need to be ourselves, together. 
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Wishing you a year of small shifts, tender moments, and big gratitude for the little things. 
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With love and support,

Holly