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But I took a BuzzFeed Quiz!

Oh mannnnn, but that quiz TOLD me I’m 100% Empath!! Of COURSE I am! I’ve seen an overwhelming number of “but I’m an empath!” posts soon followed by “but why aren’t we talking about this?!?!?!?!?” posts and I’m about to hit the roof, because I fall directly in the middle of both. First, we will discuss the toxicity of the empath-cop-out, and then how dangerous that is when dealing with our traumatic culture and times.

Friends, I’ve got some truths coming your way, and I can guarantee that a good portion of you will not enjoy hearing this. In this age of “new age religion,” especially as so many of us who grew up in semi-traditional Christian, potentially even obligatory Catholicism, are embracing in adulthood, it is tempting to want to immediately imagine ourselves as part of a secret sect of individuals with highly-tuned abilities. We’ve expanded our spirituality well beyond “traditional” religion. And within that, includes many categories that are not traditionally accepted or witnessed in Christian sects, particularly. I’m not saying you’re not an Empath. But the magnitude of what a true empath is, is much broader than “20 signs you might be an Empath.” I’ll note that I appreciate that they say “might” haha like a little wink that says “you could totally possess all these qualities and actually be a raging narcissist so, good luck.”

We all possess narcissistic “skills.” We’ve all used them to win an argument or get our way somewhere. Someone might be a veritable saint and still be a raging narcissist. Lets face it though; most people fall somewhere between the two, usually a healthy combination.

There are levels of “being an Empath.” All too often, so many people accept their intuitive empathy as empath skills and allow it to bowl them over in an insanely unhealthy manner. It becomes a crutch and an unfortunate excuse for having absolutely zero self control and even lower boundaries.

True empaths often come from very traumatic pasts. There is some debate that an empath is the opposite of a narcissist and empaths also attract narcissists. In my opinion, most of us are struggling with deep-seated traumas that we have not made any effort to tackle and resolve. Building healthy boundaries is crucial.

Now, let’s examine the hair-on-fire culture that seems to expect us to be absolutely screaming about every topic, ever.

Right??? Doesn’t this sound absolutely absurd? It IS absurd. That’s why it sounds and feels incredibly unreasonable! When, in recorded history, could anyone ever be obsessed with every issue, ever? They can’t. That’s the answer. In the digital age, we have this instant access to alllll the information. Our job is to decide what is valuable enough to enter our bubble. And its more difficult than ever, when we scroll through our social media platform, noting people absolutely screaming about eight million different things, all insanely offended that everyone isn’t also screaming about them too.

Look; bottom line, there are absolutely some issues that should be elevated more than others. Especially when it comes to human rights, being violated right in front of our faces. That’s not just my “personal preference,” either. Every person is welcome to get wound up about their own topics, but the absurdity of expecting everyone else to jump on board… as they say, “the audacity.”

Friends, this is where these two topics intertwine. Empathy is paramount right now. Embracing and utilizing it makes life bearable. We are collectively experiencing a whole new level of WTF right now. Don’t be a mask bully, protect other’s health, save children, don’t be a racist, figure out what to do with your kids when you have to go back to work, the list goes on and on. You can absolutely be worried to death about a smattering of everything. But, in case I’m the first to tell you, it is incredibly unhealthy to live consumed with stress all the time.

Figure out what is important to you and run with it. But do not shame others if it is not their passion too. Not everyone will be overwhelmed with vigor for the same topics as you. Bottom line: you cannot force or manipulate people into caring. And if you should happen to win, they will burn out rapidly. Be aware of how you’re handling everything. Allowing that “I’m an Empath!!!” trope to overwhelm you and be your excuse for not drawing distinct boundaries will literally destroy you. Create boundaries. Its not too late. Its not too hard. Its not impossible. It is vital. Create yourself a conscious life that values peace but is also highly capable of being activists and allies.

Much love & light ~ Jess

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Evolving, Slowly

I’ll start out today by apologizing that its been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve allowed myself the opportunity to sit and write. School has been kicking my butt, hard. I am absolutely thrilled though, that in a few days (10), my semester is over (not that I’m counting) ((10 days, 2 hours and 28 minutes)). After spending 6.5 years fumbling around in college, I’m leaving this spring semester with my first degree – Associate in Sciences, Health Sciences. Apparently, if you keep coming back to it, take enough science and math courses, you eventually get some kind of degree out of it. Conveniently, I needed all of these classes for Nursing school, which I’m starting in the fall!

Fret not, I won’t be discussing my personal Corona stance; my brain is exhausted, I have read too much, witnessed too much, and I am not up to discussing it beyond my best friends and therapist.

Today is April 26 – 3 years to the day that my life went from average to unimaginable. I once had a friend tell me “I don’t ‘do’ dates. I just don’t ‘celebrate’ them, and then they won’t bother me. I just ‘forget’ about them.” Convenient, right? Just set my brain to “delete.” Sunshine of the spotless mind, I’ll just never recall the day my husband killed himself! I can’t believe I never thought of that! Purposely forgetting wreaks havoc on the brain. Ask me how I’m still dealing with the mental fallout from three decades of “purposely forgetting.” If I sound a tad bitter… well, I won’t deny it. One of the things I want most for my friends is to EXPERIENCE and PROCESS their emotions. Stuffing things down in dark chasms of your soul does nothing but guarantee that they will surface at the most inopportune moment.

So, I want to use this unfortunate anniversary to really talk about PTSD here. No, not like a veteran who hears a firework and is instantly transported back to a warzone. I’m talking about post-traumatic stress as it pertains to a lot more people than you might think. Trigger is such an overused word. Its used to mock sensitive people. Its used especially to mock people who think that a person should be prioritized over money. Its overused to warn people to turn away if they’re sensitive to topics or that they might find offensive.

But here’s what it means for me: out of no where, I might have a sensory experience (one or more combined of the five senses) that transports my brain somewhere. You might be familiar with the experience, but hopefully good ones. For example, smelling a campfire takes you back to an idyllic summer with friends. Baking cookies, back to grandma’s kitchen. A certain flower takes you back to your favorite aunt’s garden. If you aren’t acquainted with the dark side of these memories, let me demonstrate: I once bought him a jacket. Just a simple windbreaker, but it was very distinct; navy blue with yellow trim. Nautica. I don’t even know where that jacket ended up. I didn’t have to handle it. About a year later, Nicky and I were grocery shopping and I stopped dead in my tracks: standing about 10 feet from me was an older gentleman, approximately the same build, but in no other way similar to him at all, except he was wearing “the jacket.” I was instantly sweating, the room was spinning, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think straight or logically, at all. It took me a few moments to ground myself and regain focus. It wasn’t him; he couldn’t hurt me, he wasn’t alive anymore.

Let’s take another less sensory-related example. Trust is quite possibly the most difficult thing for me to genuinely do. Sure, I can gab with a friend about “personal” topics. But over time, I have learned to never trust anyone with all of the information. Loose lips sink ships, right? Every. Single. Person. I have ever trusted with every part of me has betrayed me. I learned that my sensitive soul was never to be entrusted to anyone, because no one would care for it. I learned too late, as usual. Now, its taking hours and hours of therapy, self-work, and self-care, to make use of this damage. Note, I call it “make use” not “undo.” Just like blogging and sharing my trials is therapeutic, in the hopes that someone will read this and begin to help themselves similarly, there is no part of my lessons I want to “undo.” I could do without the pain, without the deeply seeded, sharp triggers, but they have propelled me into a wildly self-sufficient badass that I never thought I could be.

Having been essentially “single” for three years, I have discovered this painful truth about myself: I have virtually zero idea how to just exist in a relationship. I’d say “anymore,” but I don’t think I knew how to do it effectively before. Thus far in these three years, the longest I shared time with anyone was 6-8 months, and we’d see each other one, two times per week? Everyone is busy. Somehow I always get entangled with either a) the busiest of busy people or, b) the person who lives at least an hour away, or c) both. None of those things help you to actually learn someone. And even so, I am still trying to wrap my head around the concept of “one day, someone will love me so much, that they will not only love me wildly and unconditionally, but will also love, tolerate and want to help raise my wild animal of a child!? When you’re entangled with a biological parent of your child, its pretty natural to just say “it’s your obligation” because, well, it is. But perusing excuses for men who can barely care for themselves, expecting them to be able to handle a child who is chaos-embodied and an overtly and undeniably, opinionated, driven, responsible, overthinking, never-take-your-foot-off-the-gas, Gemini… wow. All I can say is, I never thought that I was offering much. I have learned that, despite my harrowing flaws and struggles, most parties I have dated just were not evolved within themselves enough to cherish everything “Jess.”

Then I find myself stressing bizarrely over things that have not yet materialized. What is it like to be with someone who supports me constantly? What is it like to never fear that my partner will never leave me with no home, no income, and a shit ton of questions? What is it like to *live* with someone?? Is that weird? I’ve lived with my son; I lived with my husband; my husband and his parents; my husband, his parents, his kids; my husband and his kids; my husband, his kids, and our son, and finally my husband and our son; and yet I’m sitting here after three short years going WHAT IS IT LIKE TO HAVE SOMEONE WHO COMES HOME TO YOU EVERY DAY, or vice versa? And simultaneously wonder WTF is wrong with me, that this is suddenly so foreign, that it terrifies me that I will have to adapt. Its not that my habits are so horribly offensive. I have never been able to depend on someone to care for me in the way that every single person deserves. Mentally, physically, emotionally.

I’m about to enter nursing school; obviously, I’m no freeloader. I’ll have a beautifully stable career, no matter where I go. I always know that if the bottom falls out, ya girl got herself, you know? But how do I trust someone with the rest of it. The sticky, black, dense hurt. The tangled triggers that send me recklessly over the edge, overthinking, trying to fill in blanks that I obviously need the other person to fill in for me, but my brain can’t wait for. For now, I struggle to stop myself when the swirling, drowning, temptation to come unglued happens. I notice it sooner, but I still find myself consumed with catastrophic thoughts and questions. Its improving. I catch myself sooner. I know when I need to work something out. The most we can ask of ourselves as we sort out trauma and heal is to allow ourselves grace and pray that we are presented with the right people to handle it with us. And that seems to be constantly evolving, but I am thankful. The right people have found me, and I am grateful. Everything has changed and it has been much akin to a violent car wreck, but it has put me on a path I wanted, but never thought was attainable. Three years later, I’m still echoing prior years; I am grateful, and I know I’m headed exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Much Love & Light,

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Redefine it

I have heard “it needs to be redefined” so many times in the last few months, I could scream. Let me explain. Ever do something you love, lets say bowling, with someone who you really care about, and then you break up, or they die, or some other catastrophic event, and then bowling is dead to you? Or you traveled somewhere with someone, and when they aren’t around anymore, you couldn’t even consider returning, even though you still love the place?

This is where redefining comes in. For me, a metric crap ton of things have been ruined. And I am simply exhausted by the expectation that I’ve placed on myself, that I can’t enjoy stuff anymore, simply because I enjoyed it with someone prior. Its silly, at the end of the day. There’s no reason why I couldn’t continue to do things.

Many of you know my story. I am a widow of two and a half years; my husband and I were together for over 6 years total, so we shared many things in our time together. When he chose to take his own life in April of 2017, I was lost. My life had been completely directed for so many years, I barely knew where to begin. I say “directed” because manipulated, dictated, held hostage, don’t feel genuine to me. In reality, though, they would be the best descriptors. I was manipulated into staying. I. Was. Stuck. I’ll bet that someone is reading this and shaking their head, “yes I know how that feels.” Check out my most recent post on narcissists, if you’d think you might be stuck with one, too.

Long story short, I was diagnosed with PTSD, finally diagnosed with anxiety, and regained the “depression” tag. I was mad as hell! Mad at myself for “allowing” it. I was more mad that I was left here, not only picking up the pieces of our life together in their entirety, but now I had to put my own head back together and find the woman I had never become. Slowly, I’ve been purging things that make me feel less than, and redefining things for myself that I’ve loved, but need to re-embrace.

Well, today, 10/19, is our 5th anniversary.

One of the things that has been in my closet, driving me slowly nuts, at least for the last two and a half years, if not since the day I wore it, was my wedding dress. We had a small ceremony, small, calm reception; it was exactly what we wanted. I had very few friends and had invited literally anyone who I was close with at the time. This dress, as many women will relate, bears an intense amount of weight; emotional, often physical, and in my world, headspace (and closet space). I’ve been talking about doing a “Trash the Dress” photo shoot forever now, but it felt disingenuous. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I wanted to value the fact that it wasn’t ALL bad. I wanted to honor the part of myself that was willingly a part of that life. More than anything, I didn’t want to be a gross American who just wastes the most expensive garment I’ll ever own (sorry Gucci). The energy imbued in this dress was overwhelming and I absolutely could not bring myself to do anything with it, except hide it in the back of my closet, while all that negativity and sadness was attached to it.

I came up with the “in between” option; I decided to gather my best girlfriends and do a ritualistic cleanse of my dress. One of the most powerful parts of the process is the mental release, of course. Not just entering icy cold waters of Jordan Creek, splashing the frigid water over my head, and dipping into the water, while the chilly autumn breeze is already nipping at my bare shoulders. Telling all that negative energy to beat it; it serves no purpose to me anymore. With my best girls (not all of them, of course, but close), my strength when I can’t pick myself up, some who have been there for me for years, but have taken on even more critical roles in the last few, some who have just blessed my life for the first time more recently, but have been vital to my success and stability, we cleansed the dress, the moment, the date, of all of the heavy, toxic, unnecessary weight.

I recommend this process to anyone who is struggling; redefine it. How is that negative energy serving you? If it isn’t, stop carrying it around. It’s heavy, isn’t it? Its not necessarily an overnight process. Not everyone can just dip into a frigid creek and have the same symbolic experience. Maybe you haven’t reached that point. This is a finality for me; I’ve worked a long time to get to this point – it didn’t happen overnight. Its been a lot of tears, a lot of thinking, even more beating myself up for things I can’t control. I have given myself the permission to let it go. And I think that everyone deserves that, and some incredible friends too. Stop letting these things control your life. You deserve peace, just like everyone else. Give yourself that grace.

“Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, however, is for those who are substantial enough to move on”

Criss Jami

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Much Love ~ Jess

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Some of you may have caught my recent Facebook post where I implored local haunt-enthusiasts to please skip Pennhurst Asylum’s haunted attraction.

Pennhurst lacks no evidence of its otherworldly activity. The weight of sadness that patrons experience can be overwhelming. Countless “ghost hunts” have taken place on the historical premises, documenting thousands of events. And long before the facility closed its original operations, this heartbreaking documentary was filmed:

In this article by the Inquirer, you can see a detailed account of just a fraction of the institution’s horrifying history. Not that long ago in our history, persons who were deemed “less than” were stowed in facilities like this. They were considered an embarrassment, a burden, and not fit for society. Parents were encouraged to place disabled children in homes where they would be appropriately cared for. However, that was rarely the case. Facilities were dramatically overcrowded, understaffed and what staff was present was poorly equipped to care for anyone, let alone medically complicated patients. Doctors routinely performed experiments. Patients could be restrained constantly.


Some of the articles state that patrons of the haunted house attraction aren’t put off by it because the “atrocities didn’t happen in the areas they’re walking through.” That’s like saying its ok to be disrespectful in a courtyard of Auschwitz because the atrocities didn’t happen right in that area!

Pennhurst and other “schools” and “homes” for disabled, criminally insane, mentally unfit, and the like, speckle the history books with an embarrassing history of mistreatment. Mental health is a waning taboo in 2019, but is still a touchy topic that requires sensitivity. The real issue at hand is that there is someone capitalizing on this mistreatment. I won’t sit here and be some ridiculous mouthpiece for reparations or some other penance. A preserved, respectful memorial to those who were mistreated and lost their lives would be well more than enough.

Credit: Antiquity Echoes

In the discussion the other week, it was mentioned that, despite astronomical profits topping over a million dollars a year, none of it was donated to further services for the disabled. When facilities like Pennhurst began to close due to understaffing, overcrowding, and general misuse, the burden was again placed on the families, with little support offered. My own family has benefited from Early Intervention and Intermediate Unit services, but it doesn’t truly offset the heavy responsibility of caring for a child with any type of disability. Since I worked from home, I was not eligible for any type of respite care – one would think that a mother who is solely responsible for a child 24/7 would be the first to qualify for a break, no? Apparently not. Childcare services require you to be below the poverty line. Daycare’s require one-on-one aides that you have to conjure up (good luck with that; we are still waiting 5 months later). Leaving your child with someone requires an inordinate amount of trust in someone to understand your barely-verbal child. Friends who’s children have meltdowns and outbursts require caretakers who have mountains of patience and who are equipped to handle these incidents. Institutionalizing my son would have absolutely never been an option for me, but I can certainly understand the societal pressure to do so.

Now, all of that said, if the current owners of the Pennhurst grounds were to donate at least a large portion of their profits to improving services for the type of patients Pennhurst once housed, I could stomach the profiting off this tragic era much better. It still wouldn’t sit completely right with me, but I would feel better knowing that perhaps the entire state of Pennsylvania’s special needs care system would fare much better, as a tribute to its tragic history.

More reading on Pennhurst Asylum:

Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance

NPR: Haunted House Has Painful Past as Asylum

Philadelphia Inquirer: Thrills or exploitation? Pennhurst Asylum open for haunting season

Trigger warning on this article, but very well written piece by someone on the spectrum: PAranormal (and True) Crime

A&E To Premiere Record-Breaking Special On Pennhurst Asylum

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Those Freaking Millennial’s

I finally figured it out, guys. I figured out what Millennial’s are doing right! Take a seat and a deep breath because this one is gonna sting.

We are having difficult discussions and waiting to get married (or remarried, as the case often is)! In today’s post, we are going to talk about the child-bearing and -rearing portion of this topic. Catch the conclusion soon!

So yes, you’re probably rolling your eyes, Karen, its ok, hear me out. Yes, I did say “remarried.” Remarried is actually my favorite category. Most of us in this early 30’s dreaded millennial category are stuck between these two generations. Stuck between the “OMG YOU MUST BE MARRIED HAVE 2.5 KIDS A DOG AND A PICKET FENCE BY THE TIME YOU’RE 25 OR LIFE IS OVER” generation and the “Wtf I can’t have responsibility, I’m just a 25 year old baby, Mom, can you make my doctor’s appointment for me please!?!?” generation, Millennials have gotten an absolute shit reputation. Often accused of being indecisive, childish, and not wanting “traditionally American valued lifestyles,” we are a much maligned generation.

Pushed into educations we couldn’t afford, because it was “the only way to go,” some were fortunate enough to hate school enough to never finish, or never even start. Some of that crowd was fortunate enough to find an actual career, especially in trades. The rest of us floundered with debt and miserable jobs, because “it was just what you do.” We hurried into relationships because “its just what you do.” Granted, for many of us, its what we wanted. However, those who buck this tradition; the purposely childless, the avocado-toast-eating-heathens, who pamper their rescued Schnauzer-doodle, who rent apartments, who are drowning in school debt but don’t want to or can’t find a career in a field they chose when they were 18 but hate at 30…. those are the people that the traditionalists hate. I don’t fully fit into this category. I’m stuck in this generation largely by age only. However, I am fanatical about bucking tradition.

Tradition is what YOU make it. Its wonderful that the Boomer generation got married straight out of high school to the first person they laid eyes on, could afford a Bachelor’s degree working part time, could afford a house as their first living experience away from their parents; its great, really, I’m so glad that at one point in time, that was a reality! However, my generation is seeing the fallout from that. We are witnessing people staying married sheerly out of absurd stubbornness. We are witnessing kids who are dealing with the emotional and mental consequences of growing up under stringent, emotionless conditions. We are witnessing people still retiring with nothing, or working until they’re completely broken because their finances and plans fell apart. We are witnessing men and women alike staying in horribly mentally and emotionally abusive situations “because its what you do.” Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone… the same goes for my generation, FYI. We aren’t all childless, marriage-hating assholes. Some of us still want a career for 40 years, a marriage for longer, and kids who are stable, secure and happy.

What I am seeing my peers doing now inspires a lot of hope in me, though. Lately, I’ve been seeing some incredible awakenings and truths occurring. People are realizing they cannot hurt someone else when their own psyche is suffering. We surged forward after high school, armed with the experiences of our parents and grandparents, doing “all the right things,” getting our oh-so-important educations and often marrying quickly and having children quickly, but have the perspective of being far more aware that there are other options, and no, you won’t die.

There’s two categories of people to discuss here: One is that category I mentioned. We did “all the right things” and are now ending up either “woke” or broken in our 30’s. The second is the Waiter crowd, the Avocado-Toast-Renting-Plant-Lovers. These aren’t the only two categories that exist, but for today’s purposes, they’re the ones we are focusing on. Of course there are outliers, who are living fabulously wealthy, fulfilled lives… and the people who just lie to themselves.

Consider this: in today’s economy, its nearly mandatory to have a two-income household, if you’re interested in living above paycheck to paycheck. Financial security is no longer a big part of deciding to marry and combine households. No longer are women leaving their parents at 18 and immediately marrying off because they don’t have a career. Now, they need that career, because its a financial necessity. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle doesn’t exist anymore. The climate is as unstable as the financial climate – if you have children, will there even be a world for them to live in? Kids are being mowed down in their classrooms; diseases, cancer, allergies, developmental issues are rampant. Kids are expensive. Every parent is nodding their head right now. Even if you do the bare minimum – no sports, no travel, nothing extravagant – feeding, clothing, caring for them, the occasional night out without them… it adds up.

Lets address another huge elephant in the room here: it used to be that those couples without kids were limited to the rare “weirdos” who just never had them, and the couples who were physically unable. Now, its becoming acceptable to admit that you don’t actually want them, and not have to explain to everyone why. Its a topic of conversation when you first start seeing someone – do you want kids? More frequently, men are voicing their desire to have or not have them. But more importantly, women, who have long been seen as motherly, regardless of their desire to actually be a mother, are able to say, “its just not for me.” Traditionally, child rearing is easier with a consistent partner, as in, the other parent. Since women are expected to want children, its nice that this comes up so quickly. It can be discussed openly immediately, since this is a fairly non-negotiable area for most people.

Its not hard to see why reproducing is still such a touchy topic. There’s so much at stake. A whole new person who depends on you is no joke; we are also the generation responsible for the declining birthrate too. Less unplanned children in fewer unplanned or unwanted relationships is a GOOD THING, SHARON. Of course there are a whole lot of people who are not trying to repair any of this damage. I am no sooner lumping us all together, saying “yay, everyone wants to grow and improve themselves!” than I am saying “millennials are all the same.”

One thing we’ve figured out, if nothing else, is that what’s been happening simply doesn’t work. Its a hard reality sometimes, when you feel like you’re connecting with someone so well and major, non-negotiable things like children come up and you disagree. But that’s one of the things that makes this generation so powerful. We are having these conversations, early and often, and aren’t afraid to speak up.

This becomes especially important when I talk about marriage and re-marriage later on. Children coming as “part of the package” in a relationship is just about the truest test of a relationship there could ever be. As a widow, I’ve been put in a challenging position of handling my child solo in the meantime, but also the freedom to make choices based exclusively on what’s best for myself and my child. I count myself blessed that I do not have someone interfering, making our lives difficult, manipulating my child, manipulating my feelings, at every turn. I feel incredibly blessed that I can meet someone, and while I come with the “cute kid” package, I know that whoever that person is, does not have to also carry the burden of my late husband’s treachery. We are free to experience life without someone making things difficult, simply because they can.

It tears my soul up when I hear friends experiencing that level of childish manipulation. Loving a child is a selfless act; using a child as a pawn is disgusting. I’m hoping that even just ONE person reads this and if they aren’t already going “I need to be the best I can be for my child and I want to peacefully coparent so I can enjoy a successful and happy relationship in the future,” that maybe it will jostle something, and they will. I’ve been on both sides of the situation, and they’re both challenging; lets give each other a break and just do what’s best for the children without being a baby ourselves. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our future generations to grow up and own our bullshit and HEAL!

In my next post, I’m going to dive into why millennials who are slowing things down and repairing themselves before marrying or remarrying are doing something our generation can be proud of!

Much love & light ~ Jess