A Tribute To The Farm Guy From The Farm Girl Who Loves Him

The farm guy is not like other guys, but that's okay. The farm girl who loves him is not like other girls. #farmguy #farmgirl #farm

My farm guy

This Valentine’s Day there’s a lot of talk about grand romantic gestures and movies.  And, I’m okay with all of that, but I’m blessed to be loved by my Farm Guy every day.  A farm guy doesn’t always show his love like other guys, but that’s okay.  Because his girl isn’t like other girls.  I mean, she loves flowers and all, but if you really want to make her happy, bring vegetable seeds or fruit trees… And throw in some new Carhart bibs, baby chicks, and maybe a new coop while you’re at it.  🙂  So, today, I’d like to take a minute to thank Mister for being my Farm Guy.  Here’s a little of what he does for me all year.

 

farm guy siding our house

 

 

A Farm Guy is a master of “redneck ingenuity.”  After all, a trip into town costs time and money, so, he will dig through one of his many “material piles” and find a way to make it work.

 

 

 

My farm guy chicken coop

 

A Farm Guy will show his love to his woman by building her that new chicken coop or goat pen that she’s always dreamed of, then moving it when she changes her mind.

 

 

 

Farm guy duct taping the rv window

 

 

A Farm Guy can do anything with duct tape.

 

 

 

 

 chicken coop flip

 

A Farm Guy is the kind of guy who will work a 15 hour day, then come home and turn your chicken coop right side up after a wind storm.

 

 

 

 

Farm guy putting on roof

 

 

A Farm Guy doesn’t shy away from doing a job just because he hasn’t done it before.  He will draw from his vast experiences of fixing things and figure it out.

 

 

 

 A Farm Guy may not take his girl on elaborate dates to hoity-toity restaurants, but he knows the power of a sunset.

amazing sunset

Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!  I hope you are blessed with a Farm Guy of your own.  🙂

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But What About The Kids? What My Kids Taught Me About Contentment.

So many times, we worry about giving our kids THINGS. Find out how my kids...yet again... taught me what was really important! #parenting #minimalism #simpleliving

Anytime we make life decisions, our kids and how they will be affected is a big consideration–as it should be. Our great escape to “the middle of nowhere” was no exception. We knew that in the long run, moving to the country would give our kids amazing childhood memories and help them learn responsibility sooner. However, from our perspective they had a much more comfortable life in our city house. They had their rooms, a playroom, the oversized backyard jungle gym, their friends, their video games, a neighborhood pool, frequent trips to restaurants and other fun kid places, and way too many toys. Even though we tried to enjoy the simple things in life, we were the typical overindulged American family. And, honestly, we still are. But, we’re getting better…

As parents, we worry about giving our kids the latest and greatest of everything. But, our kids have a completely different perspective! Learn what my kids taught me about contentment. #parenting #minimalism #simpleliving

Our move into the garage-house required them to share sleeping areas. Many of their toys have been put into storage. There is no playroom. We often trip over each other. We wait for our turn in the one bathtub, and taking a long, hot shower is a treat. We limit our trips to restaurants and other entertainment. There is no jungle gym. Seeing friends, or anyone for that matter, requires planning.

 

Like any momma, I worried that they would have trouble with the adjustment and miss the things they previously had. I was concerned that going from spending their days in decorated rooms and landscaped yards to a living space designed with functionality in mind would be too much. I fretted about them feeling isolated or bored, especially since we were ditching video games and most t.v.  I wondered if they would grow up deprived because we wouldn’t have time for all of those cool crafts in my “For The Kids” folder on Pinterest.

Despite any misgivings, inside we knew that this would be the best move for our family. I figured that we would survive our temporary arrangements–sacrificing now so that we could have so much more later. But, how well do kids grasp the concept of delayed gratification? A month is forever in a young child’s mind. Can we help them keep their eye on the prize for months… Or even years? Those were the things running through my head–yet again–on that fateful day when we walked away from our old home for the last time, then again as I assembled our beds and lined them up along our South wall in the garage-house.

But, the next morning, as the sun roused me from my semi-conscious state, I awoke to giggles… Then all out laughing. I looked over at my oldest child, who was stretched across his bed, gazing across the prairie to the adjoining ranch and asked what was so funny. “Cows.” he responded, “There are cows out there.” And, for millionth time in my kids’ short lives, they taught me something… PERSPECTIVE.

Happiness has little to do with our circumstances, and everything to do with us. <Tweet that!

 

We know this intellectually, but our kids live it. Because, where I see a tight living space, they see togetherness. Where I see land that needs landscaping, they see hours in the dirt–or mud–with their favorite dump trucks. Where I see no video games, they see a life-sized Angry Bird game made from a leftover lumber tower, pvc pipe and bungie cord slingshot, and $1 grocery store balls. Where I see the loss of a neighborhood pool, the see a water trough and a garden hose. Where I see the loss of their own rooms, they see the opportunity to chat and giggle late into the night. Where I see no jungle gym, they see a great climbing tree with the perfect branch for a tire swing. Where I see fewer trips to the restaurant, they see more time to play. Where I see less time with friends, they see each other…

Have your kids surprised you with their reaction to a major life change?  When was the last time you took slowed down and enjoyed life through your kids’ eyes?

My kids have taught me so much.  Here’s what I learned the day I found them making Bucket Lists and why I think every kids needs one.

goal setting for kids

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Let Them Struggle

Struggling to achieve a goal or working toward a purpose builds important character traits. Sometimes it's important to let our kids struggle. www.ourlifeouthere.com

chicken feed haulersI watched from across the field as my 11-year-old tried to wrestle the 50 pound bag of chicken feed out of the wagon and into the chicken house.  The mom in me wanted to run over and help him.  After all, I hate to see him struggle and it would only take me a minute to lift the bag and dump it into our automatic feeder.  But, I knew that it would be best to give him a chance to figure it out–to do the hard thing.  

A little while later, he came to me and told me that he had figured out an easier way to fill the chicken feeder.  He sat the bag on the ground, opened it, then scooped out bucket loads of feed and dumped them into the feeder until the bag was light enough for him to handle.  Then, he simply poured the remaining feed into the feeder.  He has successfully repeated this process weekly for the last year.

This experience is one of many that has taught me to allow my kids to struggle.  Because, as he told me how he overcame that challenge, I saw a change in his countenance–a growing confidence in his abilities.  With each success, he holds his head a little higher and walks a little taller.  He trusts his problem solving skills more.  He grows in his knowledge of who he is and what he is capable of.

Sometimes in order to build confidence, we have to let kids struggle with the hard things in life. #parenting #dohardthings  Now, I don’t purposefully assign my kids jobs just for the sake of making them struggle, but, I do give them tasks that are at the top of their abilities.  And, I always make sure that they understand how their work benefits our family, our homestead, others, and themselves.  Loading the washing machine gives our family clean clothes to wear.  Planting trees will give us shade and fruit in a few years.  Helping build a fence at church keeps younger kids safely away from the parking lot when they play outside.  Feeding and watering our chickens keeps them alive, healthy, and laying eggs (which I allow the kids to sell for spending money).  Because, work that has purpose is fulfilling.  Busywork is drudgery. 

tilling mason dadStruggling towards a goal gives us the opportunity to develop intellectually and to build important character traits such as independence, confidence, perseverance, and problem solving skills.  So, when we don’t rescue our kids at the slightest hint of difficulty, we give the the gift of character traits that will benefit them throughout their lives.  We teach them that failure isn’t final or even a bad thing, but simply an opportunity to try a different approach.  We help them see struggle not as weakness, but an opportunity for growth.  And, most of all, we help them take another step toward becoming a successful adult.

Here’s how I learned to let go of perfectionism and let my kids “help”.

kid chores

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The Forest of Lost Dreams–The Story of the Dunstan Chestnut

It was a normal morning of feeding animals, doing math, and washing dishes when Mister called to tell me about the trees that his co-worker bought.  There is a limited supply of this particular tree, and they are only shipped out to certain stores across the U.S. once a year.  Fascinated by their story, I began to do some research on the Dunstan Chestnut tree.

plant dunstan chestnut trees

The American Chestnut Tree has been called the most important tree in American history.  Residing in the Eastern Hardwood forest, every part was valuable in early America.  It’s plentiful, high carbohydrate nuts provided food for North American settlers and wildlife alike.  It’s wood is rot-resistant, which made it a popular choice for everything from fence posts to furniture.  And, its tannin was used in the tanning industry.

Sadly, in 1904, a bark fungus (which causes chestnut blight) was accidentally introduced from the Orient, and, over the next few decades, up to 3 billion American Chestnut Trees succumbed to the disease.  The American Chestnut Tree seemed to be lost forever.  However, in the 1950s, a blight-free chestnut tree was found amongst a grove of infected trees.  Through grafting and cross-pollination, plant breeder, Dr. Robert T. Dunstan, was able to breed a blight-resistant chestnut tree–the Dunstan Chestnut.  These trees have now been growing and producing nuts every year for over 50 years and are the first chestnut trees to receive U.S. Plant Patents.  Every year, when they arrive in stores, there is a waiting list, or they are gone within a couple of days.  And, yes, by the way, I now have 5 of these beauties! (Bucket List #45–Grow some sort of orchard.)  Oh, and special thanks to my mom for loading them in her car in a torrential downpour because her hometown was the only place that had any within 3 hours of me.

As I spent my Saturday afternoon on the business end of our post hole diggers, I couldn’t help but think about that healthy American Chestnut tree hopelessly lost in a forest of death.  So much time had passed that no one even looked for it anymore.  Tragically, our dreams are often the same way–lost and dying in a forest of stress, fear, the trials of life, and monotony.  But, there is hope. 

The American Chestnut was found and shaped into something stronger than it ever could have been without going through trials and almost certain death.  In the same way, we can let the pain, heartache, and rejections we have experienced force our dreams into extinction.  Or, we can rise above and allow our hard experiences to propel us forward with more passion, drive, tenacity, and hustle than ever before. 

Myles Munroe said it like this:  “The wealthiest places in the world are not gold mines, oil fields, diamond mines or banks.  The wealthiest place is the cemetery.  There lies companies that were never started, masterpieces that were never painted…  In the cemetery there is buried the greatest treasure of untapped potential.  There is a treasure within you that must come out.  Don’t go to the grave with your treasure still within YOU.”

Shared on:  Homestead Blog Hop

Why Are There Snakes On The Fence?

Snake impaled on barbed wire fence

Snake impaled on barbed wire fenceA few weeks ago, we were walking the fence along the back corner of our property when we saw the strangest thing.  There was something hanging on the fence.  Actually, there were several somethings.  Ribbon? Pieces of feed sacks?  No… Snakes!  Small, dried out snakes!  There were SNAKES hanging on the fence!

Somehow, they had been hung on barbs on the fence and left to dry.  Once we got past the obvious creepiness factor, we started trying to figure out how on earth they got there.  They were at the back of the property, far from the road, on a fence shared with our single farmer neighbor.  It was seriously doubtful that he made time in his busy day to catch garden snakes and impale them on the fence.  Were hawks accidentally dropping them, and they met their fate on the barb of a fence?  If so, how were there eight of them within 20 feet of each other?  Could coyotes put them there?  Why?  Thankfully, a quick Google search solved the mystery.

Loggerhead shrike impales snakes on barbed wire

Photo credit: www.birdsofoklahoma.net

 

 

It was likely the work of the Loggerhead Shrike!  This cute little guy lacks talons, so it catches it’s prey and impales it on thorns or barbed wire.  Crazy, right?

 

 

 

A few days later, I was thinking about the snakes hanging on the fence.  They didn’t get there on their own.  They don’t belong there.  Sometimes I feel that way.  I look around at everything I have and am, and I wonder how I got here–4 kids, a house (albeit a garage), cars, a barn, land…  Do I belong here? 

Fence snake mystery

 

Sometimes I feel like the awkward teenager trying to do life perfectly, not understanding that the pursuit of the perfect life is futile and will only ruin any chance I have of living a great life.  Sure, I want to do my best to live a life in service to God, be a great wife, love my kids well (which is much more than simply making them happy), and do work that matters.  But, pursuing perfection will either paralyze me with fear or prevent me from ever having authentic, meaningful relationships. 

 

No, like the snakes, I did not get here on my own.  I have been blessed by God with so much.  Without Him in my life, I would have surely done something so dumb by now that I would have lost it all. However, I DO belong here.  God has chosen ME for this life…  For THIS time and THIS place.  For this marriage.  For these kids.  Even for this little square on the map, to care for this land and these animals.  Like Esther, I will proclaim that I was born for such a time as this.  I will not doubt my place here, but will do the hard work and face the hard things.  Because, yes, somebody did put me here–the God of the universe that set this whole world in motion carved out this place and chose me.

Shared on:  HomeAcre Hop, Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

Live Free Range

Live Free Range Chicken

Live Free Range Chicken

Free range. Whether you’re a homesteader or someone who pays attention to where their food comes from, you hear that term a lot.  As homesteaders, we understand that free ranging our animals comes with a greater risk–loss to predators.  As consumers, we realize that free range products come at a greater cost financially.  However, for the most part, we agree that the rewards far outweigh the costs and risks.  That’s why I immediately fell in love with this new commercial from Reebok.

The commercial starts with a barn full of chickens in individual cages.  However, there was one red hen that wanted more.  She was not satisfied to live out her life in a cage.  Perhaps, she had planned her great escape for weeks.  If she discussed it with the other chickens, they undoubtedly told her to forget about her crazy ideas, don’t rock the boat, just stay here with the rest of us and lay eggs until you die…  After all, we are out of the rain and food is brought to us daily.  It’s safe.  You don’t know what is outside of this barn.  You could be killed…or worse.

But the red hen couldn’t be deterred.  Her day of escape finally came, and, as she busted out of her cage and ran for freedom, the other chickens cackled even louder…  “Don’t do this.  Come back while you can.  Stay here where it’s safe.  Why can’t you just be happy with the way things are?”  As the farmer comes to see what all of the commotion is about, the red hen is faced with her moment of decision, give up or run after her dream with all that she’s got.

She chooses freedom.  However, her moment of victory is short-lived as she faces obstacle after obstacle.  But, at this point, she’s all in.  Her only choice is to keep fighting.  So, she runs.  She falls down.  She gets back up only to stare death in the face and run some more.  Then, when she finally has a moment to rest, she sees more “caged” individuals, just like the ones she left behind.  But, just as she begins to wonder if she is the only dream chaser in the world, she finds her tribe. 

How often are we like those caged chickens?  Sure, life is boring and not fulfilling, but it’s safe.  However, it’s better to die pursuing your purpose than of atrophy.  So, whatever your dream is, do one thing today to get you closer to achieving it.  Find your tribe.  You know, those crazy people that aren’t willing to accept the status quo either.  Because, nobody will understand your burning desire for something more like they will.

Oh, and if your dreams involve homesteading, join our Homesteading Challenge Group.  We are working together to learn a new skill every month this year.

Shared on:  Homestead Blog Hop, Homeacre Hop, Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop

Kind Strangers, Lake Huron, Introspection and an S-10 Truck

lake huron st ignace

lake huron st ignaceThis post is a continuation of the story of our RV Road Trip.  If you’re just now joining us, start at the beginning.  🙂

As we returned to the campground from Castle Rock, another camper approached Mister and asked him if we needed anything from the grocery store.  Mister said that we could use some milk.  His response left me speechless!  (Shocking, I know.)  He handed us his truck keys.  Just like that, a total stranger gave us his truck!  His generosity both humbled and overwhelmed me. 

The last couple of days had given me plenty of opportunities for introspection.  In addition to the kind stranger, our friends back home were collaborating to get our truck back to Oklahoma if needed and researching our options in the area through their connections.  One of the camp hosts brought me a list of businesses that could possibly help us–everything from mobile diesel repair to rental cars. 

I’m probably the girl that, if injured, would drive myself to the hospital instead of relying on an ambulance.  My blood pressure rises slightly if someone leaves me at the grocery store and runs to get gas while I shop.  I frequently spend hours trying to figure something out before I ask for help.  I strive to be able to deal with or get out of any situation myself. 

Some of it’s a necessary mindset when you don’t live 5 minutes from stores and emergency services.  Some of it’s learned when you deal with 100 living creatures daily.  You don’t take a $10 chicken to the vet and acquire a $75 bill.  You deal with sickness, injuries and death.  You research.  You do the best you can with what you have. 

So, being in a strange place without transportation was a huge stretch for me.  Self-reliance is a good thing, but there is a point where it leads to pride.  There’s nothing like being in a situation where you have to rely on others to keep you humble and remind you that no matter how much you plan, God is sovereign.  On the other hand, I’m blessed with so much, but I’m not nearly as open-handed and trusting as the kind gentleman with the S-10 truck.  At that moment, I vowed to trust a little more, be a little less suspicious and open my hand a little wider.

We piled into the truck and had a lovely afternoon in town buying groceries, exploring, shopping and trying some delicious pretzel burgers at a local restaurant.  And, for the moment, nothing else mattered.  My heart was full. St. Ignace MichiganTo be continued…

Shared at:  Live Free Thursday

Do Your Kids Need A Bucket List?

Find out how having a bucket list can help your kids achieve great things in adulthood! #bucketlist www.ourlifeouthere.com

One of the most sobering things about being a parent is the realization of how much our kids imitate us. We’ve all had that proud moment when we secretly witness our older child comfort a younger sibling in the same way they’ve seen us do it.  We’ve also hung our heads in shame as we saw a 35 pound version of ourselves yell at that same sibling for a perceived wrong.

I came to that realization again several months ago when I started my bucket list.  I walked into the living room to find my two oldest boys working diligently at something.  When I asked what they were doing, they informed me that they were writing their bucket lists.

bucket list

Because they had seen me prioritize making a bucket list and checking items off of it, my boys, who hate to write, deemed it important also.  But, the coolest thing about their bucket lists was seeing how they dream with reckless abandon.

Fire the cannon on a tank? Sure.
Buy a BMW? Why not.
Publish a book? No problem.
Skydive with a LEGO MINIFIGURE? I’ve got this.

The thing about kids is they usually don’t have the life experience to know that something is dangerous, extremely hard, or even impossible.  They don’t consider that their dream job doesn’t pay well (or at all), or the fact that their chances of making it as a rock star or into the NFL are slim to none.

As adults, we know this.  So, we pat them on the head, give them a “that’s nice, honey”, and exchange a knowing glance with any other adults within earshot.  We know that they’ll learn someday.  Someday they’ll have a house with a mortgage, student loans, babies screaming, and a leaky hot water tank.  Then, they’ll trade in that dream job for whatever pays the bills and spend all of that skydiving time and money on their kids’ little league games.

But, what if we expected more for our kids?  What if, instead of placating them, we helped them make a plan for achieving their goals?  Now, I’m not saying you can coach your 5’2″, 100 pound 18-year-old into the NFL.  But, there are things on their list that you CAN help them achieve.  Writing a book is a big undertaking, but it’s doable.  Give them the time and space to write, help them with brainstorming and editing, research self-publishing along with them, and use your contacts to find someone that has published a book and would be willing to encourage them along the way.

If you can help them achieve a big goal now, before life beats them up a little, they will learn that it’s okay to dream big because with perseverance, a little ingenuity, and a lot of hard work, they can accomplish great things.

And, don’t worry.  The NFL thing will work itself out.

goal setting for kids

photo credit: Imagining via photopin (license)

Do you or your kids have a bucket list?  If not, I recommend checking out the Live Your List show.  It’s family friendly, entertaining and inspirational.  Plus, it’ll get you started on your bucket list.  🙂

Need some motivation to check some items off of your list?  Check out this post!
photo credit: Weinlese via photopin (license)

photo credit: Weinlese via photopin (license)

2014 In Review

bucket list blogging

bucket list bloggingToday I went out to the barn and drug in the Christmas tree box so that tomorrow when the temperature drops to single digits, I can stay inside packing everything away… Well, except for when I’m outside busting ice.   :-/  Packing away the Christmas decorations always gives me a feeling of closure.  The previous year, with all of it’s triumphs and trials, is gone forever.  The dreaming, planning, resolutions and goals are in place.  And, the pursuit of those goals has already thrown a few challenges my way, putting them at risk of becoming another New Year’s Resolution statistic.

As I look back on 2014, it was basically a year of maintenance and waiting around the homestead–saving just a little more money to build our dream home, improving our pens and shelters for our existing animals, making our garage-house more livable, cleaning out our storage container.  Honestly, I was getting a little too apathetic and comfortable with where we were…  Enter an e-mail invitation looking for adventure seekers.  I signed up for the challenge and two days later I was on a 30 day quest to define and take action towards my goals. 

It was a crazy month!  I rolled out of bed hours before the kids so I could work.  I stayed up late.  I accomplished so much that the next month, I launched this blog!  Blogging is something that had been on my mind for years, but I had too many things holding me back.  I secretly wrote my blog post in hopes that someday somebody might read them.  Then, Day 13 of Challenge Month 2, I was supposed to “do that thing that scared me”.  So, I closed my eyes, posted a link on my personal Facebook page and invited my friends to join me.  I had high hopes of getting 100 likes in 2014. 

I was humbled by the response.  That goal of 100 likes was surpassed within a few days.  We closed out 2015 with over 500 Facebook likes and almost 3,500 page views!  Now I realize that in the blogging world, those numbers are considered NOTHING-BURGER.  Thousands of blogs get that kind of traffic in a day.  But, I don’t see it that way.  It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers, but every number represents a person… A person who gave part of their most important commodity–their time, a piece of their day.  A person who has work, and kids to pick up, and a house to clean, and little league games to attend, and deadlines to meet, and a million other things to do, but they cared enough to stop and take a look into our lives–to celebrate our successes, to mourn our losses, to laugh at our antics, to share our story with others and even to share a piece of their lives with us by commenting on blog and Facebook posts.  What a blessing!  Thank you!

So, as we charge into 2015, can I encourage you to do that thing that scares you?  Find your tribe–your group that will cheer you on as you run to the finish line, pick you up when you fall, and give you a good, swift kick in the pants when you need it.  There are online communities for every goal out there.  If your goal includes homesteading, homemaking, or self-sufficiency, we can help.  Join our homesteading challenge.  If not, find a community that is aligned with your goals.  Either way, if you need encouragement, you know where to find me.

Much Love,

Mandi

 

I Have A Confession To Make

Chicks gossipingI have a confession to make.  I am a sucker for Facebook Group Challenges.  You know, those “10 Days to a Clutter Free Closet”, and “One Month to a Healthier You”, and then there’s always “Have a New Child/Dog/Donkey/{Insert Whatever You’re Longing For Here} In 7 Days”.  There’s something awesome about the comradery when you’re all working on the same goal.  I imagine it’s the closest thing we have to the by-gone days of housewives chatting over the fence as they hung their laundry and homesteaders working together on butcher days, making soap or building fence.

Now, the world moves at a faster pace and skills that were once common knowledge are no longer common.  Even though more and more people are trying to return to a simpler life, physical distance separates us.  With all of it’s challenges, the internet and social media has brought us back together to share knowledge, answer questions, encourage when things get tough, and just chat with people that are on the same journey.  We personally have learned how to do everything from roof our house to butcher our Thanksgiving turkey on-line.  In fact, there are so many wonderful skills to learn that sometimes I can spend hours researching only to get paralyzed when it’s actually time to do that thing I’m researching!  The amount of information and differing opinions can be mind-boggling!

So, this year I’m issuing myself a challenge, and I would love for you to join me.  I am going to spend 2015 learning and developing a new skill each month.  Just one thing at a time.  Focus, focus, focus!  The skills will include animal care, preparedness (basic first aid, food storage, etc.), frugality, reducing chemicals by making homemade cleaners, and many others.  If you are just getting started in homesteading, this challenge will help you build essential skills and build connections with like-minded people.  If you are an experienced homesteader, we would love to have your knowledge to glean from, and, in return, I hope as you build relationships with us newbies, we rejuvenate your passion for this wonderful life we live.  Last of all, you don’t have to have land and a barn full of animals to join.  Homesteading is a mindset.  It can be done on hundreds of acres or in an apartment.  We’re all at different places in life, and we can all do our best with what we have.

So, if you’re ready to make 2015 a year of focused growth, subscribe in the left-hand sidebar of the blog for additional information.  Thank you for being brave and amazing!

P.S. – I am in no way setting myself up as an expert, but as someone who is striving to learn all I can and grow as a person.  However, I am human and get lazy and fearful…  So, accountability is a must.  Let’s do this together!  <3