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Je Suis Charlie

I was horrified today to learn the news of the shooting at Charlie Hebdo, a French newspaper known for its satire and comedy. As a writer, I stand in solidarity with those who risk their lives in order to express their thoughts and feelings via the written word. I am heartbroken for the families, friends, and colleagues of the lost, and I hope that the suffering of those who perished was brief. I send my love and prayers to those who are grieving right now, and to a world in such desperate need of peace.

I am a writer. I write for a living. I write for pleasure. I write whenever life and circumstance bring me joy, bring me heartbreak. I wrote a book about someone very special. I feel so tremendously blessed to have been given the gift of the written word, and to have been born in a country where I am able to express myself freely in my writing and in a time where women and their thoughts, their musings, and their contributions are met with acceptance and appreciation. In nearly 43 years of life, the possibility that I might be murdered for expressing my views was never within my realm of possibility. That someone would be taken from us merely for expressing his or her views breaks my heart in every single way.

I will not use this space or my voice to argue politics or to bloviate about the Muslim faith or those who choose to practice it in a radical, violent fashion. I simply want to say that I am one person, one among many, who stand with those who are hurting today. I stand as well with those who do not have the blessings of the freedom of expression. Please do not let your circumstance silence you. Your courage is our learning. Your bravery, our growth.

Envoi de mon amour aux personnes touchées par le tir à Charlie Hebdo à Paris. Prières pour la paix.


Thank You, Tiffany

Hi Everyone,

I am overwhelmed by the incredible show of support and love that so, so many of you have shown me over the past few days following the events of last Friday evening.  This has become a wonderful habit, you coming out in droves with the “Team Jennifer” banners and the loud cheers!  It is a beautiful blessing to be the continual beneficiary of your friendship and support, and I so appreciate it that whenever my inclination is to look downward, there you are to encourage me to hold my head up highly.  Thank you.

I wanted to let you know that my voice was heard.  After posting a link to my blog post on the Tiffany and Co. Facebook page, I received a message from the company asking for the opportunity to speak with me about my experience.  This afternoon, the Store Director called me.  Her kindness and commitment to resolving my concerns and hearing my voice more than made up for the inconsiderate manner in which her employee treated me.  She immediately thanked me for the opportunity to discuss this situation, and apologized for the manner in which I was treated.  She explained her commitment to customer service, and expressed that her expectation is that everyone who enters her store is welcomed and acknowledged and treated with respect.  She emphatically stated that outward appearances should never be used to make a judgment about another human being’s worth, financial status, or intention, and said that regardless of whether or not someone in the store is “there to buy or to browse,” that person is to be greeted and given an offer of assistance.  I was thrilled when she asked for my blessing to utilize my experience as an opportunity to provide training to her staff on customer relations and sensitivity, and heartened when she said that she never again wanted anyone to feel in her store the way that I felt last Friday night.  She ended the phone call by thanking me again for speaking with her, and by asking me to personally request her assistance the next time I came into the store.

I couldn’t help but feel good inside after I hung up the phone.  In my heart, I know that there could have been no better outcome. All I wanted was for that salesman to recognize the impact of his actions on others so that no one else would ever be made to feel insignificant or small by his hand.  I am thrilled that Tiffany is allowing me to be the spark that illuminates change, and I am very grateful, both for their recognition and their desire to rectify a hurtful wrong.  I am so looking forward to returning to Tiffany and buying my next piece of sparkle and shine, and I will wear it proudly knowing that not only is it a reflection of my own beauty, but that it is a product sold by a company with an unblemished dedication to customer service and quality.

Thank you, Tiffany.


Discrimination Hurts: The High Price of the Little Blue Box

Hi guys.  I know, it’s been 100(0000!) years since my last post. I really do love writing and blogging!  Please believe that!  I wish I was one of those daily blogger sorts with everything all organized and the ability to juggle a full-time job, two-hour commute, and endless (and awesome) Mommy tasks and still find the time and the oomph to blog.  If one of you amazing Blogger Mommies can give me any tips to help me accomplish this lofty goal, I’ll gladly listen and thank you with batches of the cookies of your choice.  Thanks to those of you who continue to read and post comments when I blog, especially over on Facebook.  I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas, and that 2013 is blessed and beautiful for you and those you love.

I had a disheartening experience last night, and, well, I handle disappointment best via the written word.  Writing is my catharsis, and it’s certainly healthier than drowning my sorrows in ice cream.  Something many of you may not know about me is that I generally tend to be conservative with money.  I don’t like to spend it on myself, and when I do, I almost never spend very much.  I’m a mother and a wife with a mortgage and financial responsibilities and a heart that feels much happier when buying for and spoiling others than when making selfish purchases.  That’s just who I am.  But with the benefit of some Christmas cash as a beautiful and generous gift from my parents, I decided to do something special for myself.  I wanted to treat myself and to make myself feel pretty, and I wanted to buy something that would be a lasting memory of an incredible year.  If it brought a little sparkle and shine into my life, all the better.  Where do women go when they want to add a little sparkle and shine into their lives?  Tiffany.  I spent a few days doing research about Tiffany’s products – everything from swooning over photos of their jewelry to talking to (many) of my girlfriends who own and love Tiffany’s pieces. I hadn’t made my mind up what I would purchase, but I knew that my new little piece of memorable sparkle and shine would be a gift to myself in the popular little blue box from the quintessential pretty place, Tiffany.  Before going into the store, I was a little nervous.  On two occasions in the past, I’d been a victim of size discrimination in retail facilities, both somewhat swanky.  I am not a thin person, as you know.  Nor do I adorn myself with expensive jewelry or designer label clothing.  I’m not frumpy.  I’m not ugly.  I’m just a regular, normal (but overweight) person.  In the two prior instances, I was made to feel inferior, and other, thinner and better-attired customers were helped while I was left to walk around the store in heartbroken amazement.  I worried so much that this would happen again at Tiffany, and hoped with my whole heart that I would have an incredible experience at this beautiful, generally out-of-my-reach store.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.

When Curtis and I walked into the Tiffany and Co. store on the Country Club Plaza in downtown Kansas City, we were both overwhelmed by the beauty of the jewelry.  Overwhelmed might be a bit of an understatement, actually!  Everything was breathtaking and gorgeous, and I felt like a queen in the midst of such incredible beauty.  Sadly, that feeling didn’t last for long.  Never having been in the store, I didn’t realize that there was an entire back portion filled with additional pieces.  I walked around (and around and around) the front of the store, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the gorgeous pieces and muttering aloud, but softly, how beautiful things were.  That was my way of hinting to the tall, African American salesman (who wasn’t thin either, let me add) that I wanted to be shown some jewelry.  When I said, “Wow, that’s beautiful,” what I was really saying was, “Please come show me some of these gorgeous pieces so that I can buy some!”  The salesman clearly saw me walk around the store multiple times, and yet made no effort to help me.  Instead, he talked and laughed with the store’s doorman.  It wasn’t long before I heard the door to the store open, and an older, seemingly more affluent couple entered.  In an instant, I knew what would happen.  And I was right.  The salesman walked right past me, nearly brushing against my coat as he did so, and approached the couple, saying something akin to, “How are we doing tonight, folks?”  I was heartbroken.  I walked toward the back of the store, where several salesladies were busy helping other customers, and browsed the incredible pieces on display, but my heart was broken and looking at these gorgeous necklaces and pendants had suddenly lost its luster.  A few moments later, a saleswoman approached me with a big and welcoming smile, and answered every question I had and showed me multiple pieces.  She took the time to get to know me, and tried to find things that she thought would be meaningful to me, but that also fell within my price range.  I ultimately decided on a pair of tiny, but beautiful earrings, but left the store feeling anything but beautiful and special.  Even though our amazing salesperson was kind and apologized for the behavior of her insensitive colleague, I still didn’t feel very good…about myself, about the experience, or, honestly, about the beautiful new earrings I had purchased.

To the salesman who refused to help me last night, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you.  Your discriminatory behavior bore heartbreaking results, and turned what should have been an incredible and memorable experience into a disheartening and sad one.  Even after purchasing those beautiful earrings and having a little blue box of my very own, I was still heartsick.  Even an hour later at dinner with my husband at our very favorite restaurant, I was still disheartened.  Even the following morning, when sleep evaded me and the compulsion to write you this letter took over, I was still sad.  Every woman deserves to feel beautiful.  The entire reason that your Tiffany store exists is to give women the opportunity to feel glamorous and beautiful.  As a woman who works hard and who doesn’t ordinarily have the opportunity to be surrounded by such exquisite and beautiful jewelry (let alone purchase any!), I was so looking forward to the experience of being mesmerized and, dare I say, pampered at your beautiful store.  Instead, I was the victim of unfettered discrimination undoubtedly fueled by ignorance.  We are each responsible in this life for helping others to learn and to grow and to become better people.  So this is my gift to you.  My message will be your growth, and, if your heart is open and you take this in the spirit that it is intended, your behavior and the motivations behind it will change for the better.  Remember that each person is worthy of your smile, your attention, your recognition.  That’s your responsibility as a human being.  It’s doubly true for you because you work in a retail capacity and the very existence of your position is to extend your kindness and assistance to others.  Don’t judge people by the way that they look.  You don’t know anything about me.  Yes, I am overweight.  No, I don’t wear designer clothes.  Yes, my sweater had a slight stain on it when I came into your store last night.  That’s because we had a potluck lunch at work for the few of us who were working over the holidays, and my plate broke.  I’m not a slob.  I am not dirty.  I was the victim of an unfortunate paper plate malfunction.  You might be surprised to know that (many!) others look (far, far) past my weight and see me.  And that “me” is a pretty amazing person.  I’m pretty funny, actually.  I make people laugh, and that makes me feel good.  I’m a writer, as you can probably surmise.  I have a huge heart, and am at my happiest when I am giving to and doing for others.  I’m an incredible wife and mom, just ask my husband and daughter.  They tell me so all the time, so I’m sure they’d tell you the same thing.  For nearly a year, cancer was in my everyday vernacular as my doctor and oncologist did everything they could to prevent me from getting uterine cancer.  While their efforts were incredible, a huge and amazing group of family and friends lifted me up in love and prayer, and although medical science might disagree with me, I know that they are the reason that I, in March of this year, was given a clean bill of health.  You were not my first experience with size discrimination.  Undoubtedly, you won’t be my last.  I experienced significant and terrible bullying as a child because I didn’t fit the mold that others thought I should.  The difference is that today, at 40, I can look at those who treat me differently with love and compassion, and see their behavior exactly for what it is – an outward demonstration of ill-informed misperceptions of how others should be.  Everyone, regardless of outward appearance, is worthy of love.  Don’t look down on people.  Use your energy to be a source of light and love for others.   Kindness and respect speak volumes for you.  So does bigoted and discriminatory behavior.  The beauty here is that the decision is yours.  You get to make the choice about how others will receive you, and, ultimately, how the world will remember you.  My name is Jennifer.  I’m a human being, and I deserve your respect.  And, quite frankly, I deserved much better from you last night.  Let me be your lesson.  Never again treat anyone with the blatant insensitivity which you showed me last night.  I am your mirror.  Look at me and see the impact of your actions and your attitude on others.  This is your learning opportunity.  I can’t wrap it up for you in a little blue box, but it does come from the heart.  Mine.  Which, by the way, beats just like yours does.  I bet it looks the same, too.

Thanks for reading, everyone.  Love to you and yours in the new year.

Bubble Up Pizza

Food, glorious food!  I’m really digging this whole “find-a-recipe-online-and-give-it-a-try” thing!  After the success of Wednesday night’s Bubble Up Enchiladas (they were so, so incredibly good!), I decided to head back to Plain Chicken and see what other incredible recipes Steph had posted on her website.  Being a nut for those rise-as-you-bake-’em flaky biscuits, I was thrilled to find another “Bubble Up” recipe.  This time, we’re doin’ it up Italian style…

The Bubble Up Pizza recipe was good, but nowhere near as good as the Bubble Up Enchiladas recipe was.  The beauty of recipes like these is that they allow for you to be as jazzy and spicy or as plain and simple as you wish.  Because I am a finicky eater who doesn’t like spicy food, I kept tonight’s recipe simple and rather plain.  Maybe some sausage would have made this dish a little more oomph-y.  My husband agreed that it was good, but not as good as the enchiladas.  Still, it was a satisfying meal that was filling, inexpensive, and super easy to make.  I think that the next time I make this, I’ll try sausage.  And some Italian seasoning.  Maybe some Canadian bacon?  Anyway, here is the recipe.  If you make it, please let me know how you jazz it up and make it your own!

Bubble Up Pizza

2 cans (12 oz. each) of Pillsbury Grands Jr. biscuits (I used Pillsbury Grands Flaky Layers Original)
1 jar (15 oz.) of pizza sauce (I used Ragu Pizza Sauce Homemade Style)
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
Your favorite pizza toppings (I used browned ground beef and pepperoni)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the biscuits in to fourths and place them in a large bowl.  Toss the biscuits with the pizza sauce.  Add the pizza toppings and one cup of the cheese.  Toss until well blended.  

Spray a 9″-by-13″ pan with cooking spray.  Pour the biscuit mixture into the prepared pan and top with the remaining cheese.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the biscuits are done.

I Made The Team!

Hooray!  In my last blog post, I bloviated on and on about my NaNoWriMo worries and shared at length with you the doubts that are plaguing me about this amazing challenge.  I also told you about a new book, @Wrimo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers, and that I had requested to be on the launch team to help get this inspirational e-book off the ground.  Guess who was selected to be on the launch team?!  HOORAY!  The author, Kevin Kaiser, sent me an EMAIL today with a link to the e-book, which my hubby is downloading on to my Nook as we speak.  I am looking forward to reading it, and hoping that it will help me to quell some of these awful doubts and quiet the voice inside me that continually tries to talk me out of NaNoWriMo.  I’ll be posting a review of the book here on my blog, on Facebook and Twitter, and at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  I am also looking for creative ways to help Kevin network this book.  All of the proceeds go to the Office of Letters and Light, a nonprofit organization whose aim is to increase a love of writing.  If you can think of a way we might spread the word about this motivational book, please let me know!

Coming Full Circle Again

Hi guys.  Should I even bother to begin my blog post tonight with yet another apology for failing to honor my commitment to blog every day of my fortieth year?  (No?  I didn’t think so, either.)  It’s now or never, as they say.  Tonight is the last night of my fortieth year, and tomorrow brings with it “the big 4-0” and another new year of life and love and adventures.  Thanks for sharing in mine over the last year.  It’s because of your prayers and love and pep-talks and hugs and endless support that I made it through.

I came full circle today.  As you know, my birthday last year brought with it the beginning of a scary and uncertain adventure (refresher course available here).  I went back to see my amazing doctor today for my annual exam.  I wasn’t expecting to feel overwhelming nervousness and fear going in to today.  After all, it’s just my annual exam.  No big deal.  The “H” word probably won’t even be mentioned, and I’d have bet a fortune that the “C” word wouldn’t even creep in to our conversation.  All day yesterday, however, the fear took my otherwise calm and happy demeanor and replaced it with worry and sadness.  I think I was scared for multiple reasons.  With so much time between appointments, sometimes it’s easy to forget that I am sick.  Life goes on.  There’s (always) work to be done.  Days turn to weeks and moving forward becomes effortless and normal as the events and business and busy-ness of the days capture my time and energy.  But now, here we are again.   Time to face the unknown.  Time to confess weight gain.  Time to be poked and prodded and to have my entire body and soul bared.  (I believe they call this “reality,” don’t you?)  So much pre-appointment hesitation (almost) for nothing.  The news was good.  Very good.  Everything looks and feels great.  Cervix is great.  Uterus feels good.  No breast lumps.  I’d already scheduled a mammogram, which my doctor promised me wouldn’t be as uncomfortable as I’d dreaded.  She wants to do D&C #3 right now, and Elaine from Billing will soon be calling to get the ball rolling.  As is usually the case with my doctor, we talk and laugh more than we poke and prod, and so it was a good appointment, one from which I should have emerged thrilled and delighted.  Unfortunately that was not the case.

You may recall that last year, I encountered significant difficulty getting my first surgery scheduled (details here).  That was a horrible experience.  I remember feeling like someone else’s greed and a bad economy could very well thwart me from getting a surgical procedure that could diagnose my symptoms, allow me to move forward, and ultimately, save my life.  I wasn’t very kind to poor Elaine, who did relent and schedule my surgery.  But here I am again, very early in the year and with a (very, very) unpaid deductible.  In an effort to prevent another emotional call with Elaine, I explained to my doctor what had happened and (attempted to) enlist her help in assuring that it doesn’t happen again.  She did explain that the clinic’s policy is to secure the entire (or remaining, if a portion had already been met) deductoble before scheduling any surgical procedure.  She said that patients have skipped out on payments in the past, necessitating this policy so as to ensure that the medical staff is compensated for their work.  I love my doctor and would never dream of taking anything from her, but this little policy of theirs is a matter of exceptional distaste for me.  Someone else’s bottom line is more important than my wellness.  The medical industry is in no way hurting for money, and I felt confident that the number of patients who had failed to pay for former procedures couldn’t have been very high.  I have worked of my life since college.  I worked full-time when I first started out.  I worked full-time in graduate school.  I paid my insurance premiums and continue to faithfully pay them to this day.  To deny or delay me the treatment I need to move forward with (and ultimately, SAVE) my life is just wrong to me.  Our deductible is sky high, and we don’t typically have this kind of money just laying around collecting dust.  It screams “shamefully and heartbreakingly wrong” to me when someone who hasn’t contributed a day in his or her life can get the life-saving treatments he or she needs and someone like me cannot.  I hate (I wish I could double-underline that) the thought of making this blog in any way political, but this fact hit me as my appointment ended and stayed with me as my afternoon and evening continued.  It put a dark damper over what should have been a wonderful afternoon.  I love my doctor and I want her to think highly of me.  I felt so embarrassed bringing this subject to her attention, but the only way she can give me the best care is if she knows everything.  She was wonderful, as always, and promised to work with us in order to get my procedure scheduled.  I am grateful for her kindness, but dammit, the entire situation is just infuriating to me.  Either Elaine will give us a break or we’ll find the money.  But what if we couldn’t pay it?  The underlying thought: why should someone who has worked every day of her professional life and who has paid for insurance and who is responsible be left behind in the quest for the healthcare she needs to save her life?  Why should any hard-working family be forced to live in a state of delay and worry, wondering both if their loved one will be OK and how to pay for the medically-necessary procedures to save the life of the one they love?  I have a very good (and very expensive) insurance policy.  I am a long-time patient with this clinic, with a documented history of fulfilling all of my medical obligations.  Why is this happening to me?   Again, it isn’t my intention to politicize this blog or to offend anyone.  But this has been on my mind all day and I needed to get it out.  Keep your fingers crossed for me that it all goes well with Elaine and that we won’t have “Annual Shouting Match About Jen’s D&C, Volume 2.”  I read somewhere that only in America is a middle-class person terrified of getting sick.  Sad, but look at me.  Art so clearly imitates life.

On a happier topic, I’ve had two wonderful pre-birthday celebrations and have received flowers and cards and well wishes from so many of you.  THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH and know that I love you for thinking of me and remembering my special day.  Thanks again to the MANY people who sent love and warm thoughts and supportive hugs in advance of today’s appointment.  Most of you have been with me from the start of this scary journey, and I love you for it so, incredibly much.  How do you repay that kind of kindness?  “Thank you” seems terribly lacking in conveying what I want to say to all of you.  Quick, someone invent a word that means, “super-duper, incredibly powerful, tremendously-endously grateful!”

Have a good evening, everyone.  Try not to be too mad at me if you disagree with me.  Remember, there’s a lot goin’ on inside my spirit right now.

Confessions Of A Binge Eater

Happy New Year, everyone!  Every year, I find myself in and around this time of the year in a state of astonishment that the previous twelve months have gone by as quickly as they did.  Perhaps that’s a sign of age?  (As if the gray hairs and laugh lines weren’t bad enough!)  As the first day of our new year winds down, I wanted to give you a piece of my heart.  My love and well wishes for you this year.  Health.  Laughter (the deep, belly-laugh, oh-my-God-I-can’t-breathe kind).  Love.  Joy.  Blessings before and beside you.  As the days and months move forward, I am looking forward to sharing in your lives.  Hearing your stories.  Laughing with you.  Orange drinky and karaoke until we have no voices left (that one only applies to a select few…you know who you are!)  Thanks for having shared in my journey in 2011.  2012 is ours for the taking.  Let’s make it amazing.

As you can probably guess, my little “twenty-five pound weight gain” has been paramount on my mind for the last few days.  My goal was to start right away…walking and eating better and returning to the health-conscious Jennifer I was last spring and summer.  The one who meticulously counted her calories and drank enough water to single-handedly keep the Aquafina company in business and walked and pushed herself to move faster and to go farther.  I made a small start yesterday, but today was the big day.  The start of the new year.  The beginning of my return to health and wellness.  I was ill-prepared for just how hard it would be.  Although it was bitter cold and windy (and I had no voice and only felt like a “six” on the unpublished “ten-point scale of wellness”), I ventured out in to the cold for an invigorating 20-minute walk.  It felt good.  Hard to get moving at first, but once I hit my stride, I felt and did great.  Once I got home, though, the “hard” kicked in…in a big way.  One of my hurdles in dieting throughout my life has been the struggle to manage my eating.  In all honesty, I am not a big meal eater.  I can’t finish a plate, be it at dinner at home or out at a yummy restaurant.  My problem lies in my binge snacking.  In fact, “snacking” is wholly inadequate in describing my behavior.  Throughout my lifetime (and over these past few months following my fall from grace from the diet wagon), I’ve been binging.  On anything I wanted and in any quantity and without regard for my health or how it made me look or feel.  That behavior became a part of who I was.  Like any other commonplace behavior, I did it without thought and when the urge would strike.  And the entire thought of giving that up and forcibly managing my eating is one of the things that held me back from dieting throughout my lifetime.  During my weight-loss peak last summer, it wasn’t a problem.  Sure, I had my moments where I wanted to tear in to anything chocolate or salty or go face-first in to a pan of fudge brownies, but the momentum of my weight loss and the dedication to making myself more healthy always won out.  Since falling off the wagon this fall, I’ve been binging.  Hard.  Twenty-five pounds of binging.  And today, it was all I thought about.

I wanted to eat.

I wasn’t hungry.  I had eaten breakfast and a modest lunch.  There really wasn’t any reason for me to eat.

Except I was bored.

And I wasn’t feeling well.

And I was happy.

And I missed my parents in Indianapolis and wanted to see them.

And I loved my new Nook Tablet (thanks, Santa!)

And I am a binge eater and that’s what I do.  And that’s what I’ve always done.  Binge eaters have food on their minds all the time.  Wanting to eat and when-can-I-eat and do-we-have-any-maple-fudge-left and similar thoughts.  All the time.

It took me everything I had not to give in and just pig out.  Chocolate or anything confectionery or a big bag of Doritos…I didn’t care.  I wanted to quiet the continual voices inside me that kept telling me to eat-eat-eat and to stab-to-death that part of me that was fixated on food.  I had a moment of clarity amidst my insanity.  This is like a withdrawal of sorts.  A self-imposed rehab.  A period which I’d have to walk through to get to the other side.  Not too unlike when I gave up soda and all-things-caffeinated last spring and it damned near killed me in the early stages.  Once I got through that first phase of violent headaches and bottomed-out energy, I felt great.  Maybe this is something similar.  I’ve been binging for almost 40 years, with a break this spring and summer when I actually ate and exercised like a healthy person.  For four months, I allowed myself to return to binging.  Today was my rehab.  It’s 5:52p.m. as I type this, so I’ve still got a bit ahead to go, but that’s where I am right now.  Thinking of it this way is helpful.  It’s normal.  Of course it’s normal for the body and the mind to fight back when you take away a behavior so inherent that it has become a part of who you are.  Knowing this is making it easier.  Also making it easier is knowing that if I give in today, tomorrow will be so, so much harder.

I am so embarrassed to admit this to all of you.  (Personal accountability, Jen?  Check!)  I am a binge eater.  I suppose this isn’t a secret to any of you.  It’s not like any of you look at me and think, “Wow, I bet she limits herself to only 1200 calories a day!”  I guess today was my “a-ha” moment.  My moment of adult clarity.  I am a binge eater.  I knew it deep within, but now I am facing it head on.  Giving it a label.  And exposing it to you.  Like my fears of being seen last year, I am bringing this part of myself out in to the light.  No more shame.  No more hiding it.  I’m hoping that getting through this first 24-hours and shining this light on this part of me will help me to let it go.  It isn’t healthy.  It isn’t normal.  And I’m tired of allowing it to impede my judgment.