The Roads We Travel

A few days in a life journey.

Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Macroagressions

Today, I had a reminder that even when you try to shut out hate, it’s never far away. Many times, it’s actually lurking around the corner, just waiting for your happy ass to skip through.

My heart was full of joy to see my baby girl back from her field trip to the LA Zoo. One of the moms chaperoning already warned us that the kids were hot, tired, and too through by the end of their excursion. So, I waited for the bus with great anticipation. The driver rounded the corner, drove two feet passed where I stood and pulled in to park at the curbside next to the school. I chuckled as I recalled the days of elementary school field trips on a bus with no air conditioning… windows down. I shared that anecdote with some of the other moms standing nearby.

What I didn’t share, although it made me smirk even more, was the memory of a classmate leaning out of the window to spit just as our bus pulled off again. The snot/saliva mixture flew out of the window and into the one right behind him, landing in another classmate’s hair.

Ew! Gross!

Anyway, it was horrifying at the time (and forever changed my school bus game), but today, it was just a silly memory that made me smile.

So, we gathered our children and everyone disbursed back to their homes or vehicles. We have a five-minute ride home. We hopped in the minivan while my daughter was chattering away, talking about snow leopards, snakes, and gazelles.

She hadn’t buckled yet, so while I waited for her to get settled I grabbed my phone to check my messages. We were still parked and in between two other cars.

Then, a large black pickup pulled up to my rear driver side and honked the horn. I looked back to see a middle-aged man hand gesturing impatiently — seeming to ask if I’m leaving or staying, so I gestured that I am leaving. But, I looked back and my daughter still hadn’t buckled. She was fiddling with her window. So, I asked her to get buckled before I pull out. I stowed my phone and no sooner, he pulled up next to my window and yelled in a very angry tone, “Thank you, very much!” To which, I waived your welcome as he sped away.

Now, since I was parked across from the school. I can only imagine that he wanted my premium spot to make his after school pickup easier, but that means he’s also likely a parent with a child at the same school as mine. He should realize that as parents, we seldom hop into a car with little ones and pull right off. He should know this.

Also, having a blue lives matter sticker in the back window of his pickup, he should also be happy that I wasn’t driving while checking my messages. I was being safe.

He should NEVER feel the need to shout down a mom with her child in the back seat, over a parking spot. He should realize there’s plenty of parking on the streets nearby and try not to make an ass of himself. He should, but he didn’t.

His hateful attitude was trying to creep into my peaceful life, my happy existence.

That’s how miserable people are. They’re like the common cold or a stomach virus traveling through the air in a cough or sneeze. When you come into contact with these germs, you’ve got to wash your hands — cleanse your soul.

So, I prayed for him and continue to pray for our family and our community. God help us. Sometimes germs spread quickly.

Written by Shara

May 1, 2017 at 9:37 pm

Good Grief

Are there days when you just wake up sad?

I have those days sometimes where things just seem a bit melancholy. There’s no one thing to point a finger at — it could be the weather, a bad dream, no coffee, a late start. Any number of things may add to that feeling.

I think some days it’s a culmination of grief. Grief over loss especially — and not necessarily a dramatic loss, like a death in the family, although that certainly adds to it. I’m thinking more about the loss of small things, like time as your mind wanders over how big your kids are getting, or the loss of opportunity when I think about ideas that I have that I’ve done nothing to advance. Even the loss of money can make me experience moments of micro-grief (I made that up, I think, lol) — wasted money, unearned money, unexpected bills!

My daughter experienced loss-of-money grief the other day. She had saved up enough money to buy a toy she wanted and it was really hard for her to save the money since she wanted to buy so many other things, but I told her that if she bought those other items then it would take longer to save up for this toy she wanted.

After losing her two front teeth, she finally had enough money for the toy and when we got to the store to buy it, they were sold out. She was bummed, but we went online to look for it, she was going to be even more patient and wait for it to ship, but she didn’t like the versions of the toy that were available online. She decided to go back to the store the next day to see if it was restocked and if not she would buy an alternate toy.

Her first choice wasn’t in stock yet, so she found an alternate that she was happy with and made the purchase. We had a playdate with a friend right after and she was happy that she got to debut the new toy with a friend.

However, on the car ride home from the playdate, she burst into tears, “This toy is so boring. Why did I spend my money on this? I want my money back!”

Buyer’s remorse. Oh boy, did I feel sad for her, but I knew it was an important lesson to learn. Sometimes, we just want a shiny new thing to distract us, even when it’s not our first choice, we just want to spend money and have something new. Usually, in the end, those purchases never feel good. Why did we buy it? We certainly didn’t need it. It wasn’t even what we really wanted.

I could have let her take the toy back to the store, even though it was already out of its packaging and played with, but I thought the lesson about making wise choices with money was more important.

That brings me back to grief…

Sometimes we lose things even more valuable than money. Sometimes we lose friends. Not necessarily to death, but sometimes a friendship just comes to an end. You know the saying that people are in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Sometimes you meet a reason or season person, and when the friendship ends you feel so sad because maybe you thought it would be a lifetime friendship.

I had friendships end like that in high school, then another really close friendship in my late 20s, they were all sad experiences and I suppose that I grieved in my own way at the time — even without knowing that’s what was going on. After the experience in my 20s though, I did a lot more thinking and reading about friendships and relationships in general. I realized that I tried so desperately to hold onto relationships because ending them reminded me of the lost relationship with my dad, which I didn’t have any control over. That didn’t stop me nevertheless from blaming myself for that lost relationship and the others that would follow. So, in an effort to control the outcome, I tried holding on to friendships and relationships wherever I could without realizing that I was only one factor in a myriad of reasons why a relationship comes to an end.

Earlier this year, my daughter kept coming home from school and sharing that she had a sad day because a friend “broke up” with her. We talked about these situations a lot and it always seemed to be the same friend. I suggested that maybe things were meant to be with this friend and maybe not, but all she could do was to keep trying to be a good friend and let the chips fall where they may. I also suggested that she work on trying to have a good day despite the status of their friendship. I urged her to look to some of the other things that were going well in her day and focus on those things, even though there may be moments of sadness about losing a friend.

Don’t you know, earlier this week, while making dinner, my daughter shared with me that this same friend “broke up” with her again. She then shared, “But I didn’t let that ruin my day. I had a great day…” and she proceeded to tell me about all of the other things that happened at school.

Friends, I can’t tell you how much joy that brought me. Is it possible that my daughter has learned something at age 7 that took me 20-30 years to understand?

I mean, I know that she’ll experience greater friendship losses than a fickle classmate who’s in some days and out on others, but the framework is there for understanding that one, someone deciding not to be your friend is out of your control, and two, it will feel sad, but it won’t ruin your entire day or life.

After the recent presidential election, I lost some friends — some closer than others. It makes me sad to think about losing those friendships, and I still have to consciously have the conversation with myself about the life cycle of friendships. It’s grief or micro-grief for sure, but it’s good grief. If you can work through the sadness and understand that it’s all for a purpose — in most cases, to teach us life lessons that help us to grow and help others along their path of learning.

Today, while driving, I was reflecting on this good grief. It’s important to feel the sadness of a loss, that makes us human, but it’s also important to understand that loss is an integral part of life — we cannot escape it. We must embrace it and learn the lessons that come along with it.

My prayer today is for God to comfort anyone experience grief, any level of grief — big or small, and that God sends an angel your way to hold your hand through the experience.

Light and love.

Written by Shara

March 10, 2017 at 12:45 pm

My First Town Hall, CA-25

Being a newsie, as I’ve shared before, I look forward to the Sunday morning news shows and the arrival of my Sunday paper. It is a lot of information to take in, but I love to hear other people’s stories and learn about what’s going on in our country and in the world.

During the week, I don’t get to watch as much television news, but I do read news alerts and updates regularly. The weekend presents a great opportunity to get caught up and reconcile what I’m hearing nationally with what I’m seeing locally.

Since the presidential election, I’ve challenged myself to make more time to become involved in issues that deeply and directly impact the community in which I live. This local hyper-focus may come from a feeling of not having much of a voice at the national level. As it stands, I don’t feel that the current incumbent of the oval office has my family’s best interest in mind, nor do we have the level of representation that we need to better balance this out in either the House or the Senate. All I can say is thank God for the judicial branch.

Last week, I attended a public hearing to determine whether or not Los Angeles county would approve the massive expansion of a local landfill. Every person who showed up to testify in support of the expansion had received some monetary benefit — employees who earn a salary for working at the landfill, public officials who received campaign donations, non-profits and trade groups who receive donations and membership fees from the landfill, citizens whose families received scholarships from the landfill. They all showed up with glowing reviews and green-colored t-shirts and caps. The other side of the story was shared by residents living within the community directly impacted by the landfill. They shared stories of health concerns, air quality concerns, water contamination concerns, and corporate bullying and intimidation. I couldn’t believe that this was unfolding right in front of me — in my own small community.

The good news from the fallout of the presidential election is that more people, like me, are starting to become aware of what’s happening in their communities. I think, in the past, I was guilty of thinking that my civic duties ended after the vote, but not anymore.

There were so many people at the public hearing that it was standing room only in a junior high auditorium. Since the meeting had a hard stop at 9:30 p.m. and there were still more than 50 people waiting to testify, the committee has decided to hold a second hearing in April. It’s a really important issue and residents should have the opportunity to voice their concerns for consideration.

I hope the regional planning commission will take the residents concerns seriously. I understand the desire for a business to want to expand and grow, I’m a business owner myself. I just don’t think that growth should happen at the expense of anyone’s health and safety, and certainly not the least among us. Those in the community where the landfill is located aren’t wealthy, so they can’t speak with dollars, just words and visibility. If there are other options to bring about a win-win (like moving the landfill to a more remote, less populated location — I hear there is one already setup and ready), then those options should be fully explored.

Following that experience, my daughter and I got up early on Saturday and trekked about an hour out of town to attend a town hall put on by our congressman, Steve Knight. In my opinion, the congressman did everything possible to minimize the turnout. He picked a remote venue (one not centrally located in the district). He chose to hold the event at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday, doors opening at 7:45 a.m. and only the first 275 were allowed in with id. Not only does this discourage turnout, but it sends a message to the people he represents all over the district that he is not accessible and doesn’t care about their views.

The town hall was streamed live by the local television channel, so hopefully, lots of people got to watch, BUT it’s important for his constituents to have easy access to VOICE their concerns and ASK questions and GET answers. That doesn’t happen when all you can do is watch it online or on tv.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get into the town hall, but we were one of the hundreds who stood outside to share our concerns and rally support for another more centrally located town hall so that Rep. Knight could respond to why he says one thing to appease his constituents in person and then votes another way.

We’ll continue to stay engaged. We’re learning a lot. I encourage parents to get children involved in this process to learn how your local and state government work firsthand and to show them how to let their voice be heard on issues of great concern. This IS what democracy looks like.

CA 25 Town Hall in Palmdale, CA.

CA 25 Town Hall in Palmdale, CA.

Written by Shara

March 5, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Happy Birthday, Love.

Last night, we spent an hour at Target trying to find “a really special birthday gift for daddy.” My seven-year-old had a gift idea in mind when we arrived, but when she saw the options that Target had she felt they just weren’t special enough. I tried to calmly walk her through some other options, but she was fading fast and getting frustrated. The WHOLE of Target and NO-THING was special enough for her daddy.

That’s love.

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Yeah, I know. I should have planned it out months ago, and there wouldn’t have been the last minute rush, but if you know me, then you know that’s just my flow. I thought about it last month. I had lots of great ideas, but the planning time got allocated to squeakier wheels, and here we are, December 8, 2016.

Today, I wanted to share just how much I love my husband. Although, I feel like I expended all my mushy note writing on our anniversary Facebook post last month. That was just 8 days after the election, and I was feeling kind of emotional anyway, nevertheless, all of it was heartfelt.

Last night, I binge-watched Insecure on HBO. The show is hilarious, and I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud. At 1:00 in the morning, I was thinking, “Girl, you are crazy, you need to go to sleep… the alarm goes off in just five hours!!”

Did I mention, I am NOT a morning person?

But, I finished Season 1 and then drifted to sleep. As I did, scenes from the show had me thinking that I’m so glad I’m not in my 20s or 30s anymore. I mean we all would take a dip in the fountain of youth if we could, but there were a lot of tough lessons to be learned in those years. I’m sure there will be tough lessons in the years to come as well, but the show just reminded me of how I met my husband when I was only 23. We dated off and on for years and then finally married in my 30s.

It takes a while to figure some shit out.

I’m so glad that we figured it out together, though.

Last month, on our 9th anniversary, my son did some quick math on the car ride to school with my husband. “Cat’s out of the bag,” my husband announced when he got home. Apparently, my son figured out that we did NOT have our shit together BEFORE he was born.

It’s cool. I knew this day would come, I thought, as my Christian guilt started creeping up.

“Well, what did you tell him?” I asked, scared to know what was really said.

He told my son that he figured he already knew since he was in our wedding!!

 

 

Apparently, my son thought it was an anniversary celebration, not our wedding and let’s just say we really haven’t discussed it at length until now…

9 years later — as they stand nearly shoulder-to-shoulder.  My husband has been by his side since he took his first breath, whether we were together or not, he’s always been there for our son. I love this man.

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So, as another year marches by, we’ll turn the page and start a new chapter. I love being your wife, your best friend, your companion on this life journey.

Happy Birthday, love.

Written by Shara

December 8, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Perceptions of Racial Reality in Media

On the way to school this morning, I asked my son to name one of his favorite shows (which are mostly cartoons) that had a girl or woman of color as the lead.

“What do you mean? Like Sandy in SpongeBob?”

No… close, but no.

I explained, think of a show with human characters or human representations in the case of cartoons. Is there one you can think of where the main character isn’t what we call White. I also explained that for some reason I don’t like the words White and Black as descriptive terms for skin color, they don’t truly represent the different shades and hues in our beautifully diverse world, but they do help to get the point across quickly.

He thought some more and couldn’t come up with any.

Then, I asked what about supporting characters. He quickly named Maria from Sesame Street, who he mentioned had recently retired, and another character from Rugrats. There! He sat back with a smile and kinda proud of himself.

Good job, son, but the conversation wasn’t over. It was just beginning.

We talked about how media shapes our perceptions of beauty and how he uses terms he’s learned through media to define beauty. Terms like “hot girls” which he almost always tends to use for girls scantily clothed with blonde hair and blue eyes. So, I asked, if this is the standard of beauty set by most of the media we consume, then what message does it send to girls who don’t look like this?

He didn’t know.

He thought some more and then said. Well, it doesn’t matter to me because I don’t need to see people who look like me on television to know I look good.

Swag.

I know, son and that’s great, but much of that is because our society doesn’t use beauty as a standard of value or success for men. Not so for women. Can you see that?

Yeah, I guess you’re right, he agreed.

So, what do you think we should do about it?

I guess just like the saying goes, “we should be happy with what we have.”

Maybe, I said, but what about the saying, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

I told him that the world needs his stories and that little boys and girls who have brown skin, like him, deserve to see main characters who look like them in their media. If we don’t see them, we shouldn’t sit complacently, we should ask for them and more importantly, we should create them.

Teenage Boy Sitting On Sofa At Home Watching Television

I’m having more conversations about race with my children, in a very intentional way.

Sewing seeds.

I need my children to understand the country we live in wasn’t necessarily designed for them, but it needs them. They have an important role to play now and in the future. If they don’t understand that perceptions are both created for and skewed by a dominant culture, then they might mistake this perception for their reality. But it’s not the whole truth, far from it.

Do you have conversations about race with your children? Are you scared to talk about it? I’d love to hear more.

Written by Shara

December 5, 2016 at 8:39 pm

How to Appease Anger and Frustration

It was the same routine. This morning, my lovely darling didn’t agree with the clothes that I picked out for her to wear to school. This always happens when we don’t jointly prepare the week’s wardrobe in advance. “Okay, but we don’t have a lot of time and if you aren’t helping me out, then I’m going to lose my patience,” I warned.

I gave her a few minutes to come up with a reasonable alternative given the drop in temperature this week. She couldn’t find the right leggings to go with the dress she wanted to wear. In a rush and in my haste, I lost my patience.

“Just put the clothes on that I picked out so we’re not late!” I snapped.

I have a late gene and I’m afraid that I’m passing it down. It was passed down to me from my mother and her mother passed it along to her. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to fix it. We even got a note from her school about my affliction and I’m trying, really trying, to do better.

“Mommy, it hurts my feelings when you yell at me,” she said — after she was dressed and her hair was done. “When my feelings are hurt, my face looks like this,” she sulked. The alarm on my phone went off and I hit “Snooze” because I’m gonna need another reminder in five minutes. It’s time to leave so we can get to school with a few minutes to spare.

“I know. I’m sorry, but I did warn you that I was losing my patience. Did you brush your teeth? Let’s get that done and head out.”

I usually try to acknowledge when I’m in the wrong, even when I’m feeling under pressure. I want to have endless patience and I want to get her to school on time.

My son’s morning prep game is tight. He’s dressed, hair brushed, teeth brushed, sitting on the couch, earbuds in, head bobbing. Boys!! SMH.

As she slowly walked to the bathroom to brush her teeth, I added that I didn’t want her face to be sad and that I didn’t want anyone to have that control over how she was feeling — including me. “I don’t want you to be sad. I just want you to hurry up and get ready,” I reasoned … with a seven-year-old.

Ten minutes later, we’re in the car and I’m waiting to turn onto the road in front of her school. One final argument about what she’s wearing and how I don’t understand the kids at her school and what they will say about a jacket with thumbholes. I suggest we can donate all of her clothes that don’t match her schoolmate’s requirements including this new Justice jacket and that I’m sure there’s some kid somewhere who would be thrilled to have it. “I’ll place a call to your friend’s mom before I buy you any more clothes to make sure she has the same thing,” I added to make my point clear. “No, no, no!!” she exclaims. Then, her brother initiates a discussion about yelling at mom. The game of “I’m not/You are” proceeds.

She now has two minutes to run inside before the bell rings. I open the van door, “Okay, I love you. Have a great day!” I smiled, genuinely. I really want her to have a great day. I want the last words she hears before heading into school to be words of love and support.

As I pull away and watch her run into the school building, my son sits trying to understand why she yells when she’s frustrated, but then tells me it hurts her feelings when I yell. The apple/tree thing hasn’t quite dawned on him. He wonders if he could have said something different to get his point across to her.

At which point, I explain that when someone is angry and frustrated, they usually are not listening. Nothing you say will matter and in most cases, it doesn’t even matter how you say it. Their response will come from that place of anger and frustration. The best thing you can do is to say, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you’re feeling better soon.” Once things have calmed down, you can try to revisit the topic if it’s important, but trying to reason with someone who is angry and frustrated is a fool’s errand.

Conversations with my kids are very enlightening.

I’m still angry and frustrated about the presidential election. I have every right to feel that way. You can appease me by using calming words. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you’re feeling better soon.” But, I’ll still be angry and frustrated. I’m not listening. I’m just reacting from a place of anger and frustration.

Don’t call me a victim. Don’t call me an out of touch liberal. Don’t tell me it will all work out, just wait and see. I’m still angry.

Don’t tell me we’re all in this together because clearly some of us don’t even recognize the humanity of others.

If you can’t commiserate with me, then just limit your response to, “I’m sorry you feel that way. I hope you’re feeling better soon.” And be sure that IF you’re saying it, you mean it, genuinely. Otherwise, best not to say anything at all.

Written by Shara

November 29, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Sadness, Anger, and PB&J

My sister reminded me that I feel better when I write.

The last week has been unreal. I really thought Hillary would win. Now I’m sad, then angry, then sad again, then sad and angry all at the same damn time!

Peanut butter and jelly is my best friend. I’m eating PB&J like a five-year-old. #ComfortFood

I come from the generation of Coca-Cola teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony. You know the “We are the World” generation. I grew up watching shows on television that spoke to Black families and people like me for the first time: Good Times, The Jeffersons, and The Cosby Show. We were breaking barriers and creating new, safe spaces for people who look like me. I will never forget A Different World, which was exactly what I experienced heading off to college in the early 90s.

Everything was hope and promise, but you had to work hard and show up. I learned that I had an obligation to let my voice be heard whenever I’m in the room. I learned that sometimes my voice has to represent an entire race and culture. It’s mind-blowing and humbling at the same time.

And certainly, I’ve experienced my share of discrimination and ugliness — reminding me that though we’ve come far, we still have a long way to go. I learned about “otherization” and “hate speech” firsthand from the moment in high school when a friend said, “Hey, look at me, I’m walking like a nigger!” to the time when my college roommate had a guy friend over who called me a nigger in my own dorm room. That was painful. But even more painful, when I shared the experience with the people I trusted most, nobody did anything about it, including and especially the Black men on my campus who I thought would stand up for me (more on that later).

In college, I learned that some of the issues I experienced weren’t necessarily because of my dark hue. I learned to understand the impact that my presence had on the world as a woman. I remember a college administrator saying to me the process is like getting a new pair of glasses, once you put them on, you’ll see the world as it is and you can never unsee it. She was right.

In grad school, I told a professor that I thought women could do anything and be anything. “Why not?” I asked. My mom raised two girls all on her own without the help of my dad, who was largely absent from my life until after college. I saw my mom do everything, be everything, and never did she say “I can’t because I’m a woman.” She would just figure that shit out. I remember that same professor asking me if I was a feminist. I answered almost immediately, “No.” I didn’t want to be categorized, labeled, or regarded as some sort of troublemaker. Always the good Christian girl that I was raised to be. But she encouraged me to think deeper on it and I decided later that year that I was indeed a feminist. I didn’t want to start any trouble or burn my bra, but I was definitely a feminist.

I voted for Bill Clinton in ’92. It was the year that I turned 18 and the first election that I could vote in. I was so happy when he won. I felt like my vote helped. I remember when Hillary took on a more policy-focused position in his administration. I remember admiring her for breaking out of the traditional First Lady role. I’ve been a fan and supporter of Hillary’s for a long time. I realize that some of her issues in this election were of her own doing, but I also know that many of the problems she faced were because she is a woman trying to make a huge difference in a man’s world. Glasses on.

Remember when I said the Black men on my college campus let me down. Remember when I said my father (another Black man) was absent growing up. Yeah, he let me down too. Now fast forward to this election year and take a look at how Black men voted.

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I know there’s plenty of blame to go around regarding why we didn’t see higher numbers from everyone for Hillary, but in particular, Black men have been impacted by 90s policies that led to them being targeted by police and jailed in unprecedented numbers. Even with that in mind, I’m still disappointed that they didn’t contribute a larger percentage of votes for Hillary.

They let me down. Again.

It may be an irrational thought to have, but I figure maybe if I put a voice to it, then I can begin to resolve it.

WHY didn’t Black men vote in larger numbers for Hillary? 7% voted for a third party, which everyone warned would be a throwaway vote unless your plan was to see Trump elected and in that case, just vote for Trump. If they didn’t feel they wanted to vote for themselves, then why didn’t they at least show up for us, Black women. Clearly, my history says that it’s just too much to expect. Sad, angry, sad again, then sad and angry! More PB&J.

Now, I’m trying to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move forward. What do I tell my children about why the bully won? How do I prepare them for the mean, ugly things that they will likely see and hear in the not too distant future?

I blame myself, too, for believing that we’ve come farther than we actually have. Blind hope. I blame myself for choosing not to have those conversations with my children on a regular basis, early on. I just wanted to guard their innocence for as long as I could, build a healthy self-esteem and a natural love for their differences. Now, I have to include conversations about how their differences will (not might) make them targets of hate speech and discrimination. I also need to provide them with the tools to deal with it. It’s exhausting enough just parenting and managing normal child development stages.

That said, I think the tenor of this election and the ugly words that I’ve heard from people on the right and left (including myself at times I’m not happy to say) suggests that it’s time we all have these conversations with our children on a regular basis and starting early on. We should all be teaching our kids about the concept of “otherization” and not stick our heads in the sand as if we don’t teach them what it is and how to confront it, then they will never see it or have to deal with it. We can never have blind hope again. I can’t and you can’t. Hope still has to wear the glasses.

If we want the next generation to do better than we have for humanity, for our country, for our planet, then we have to teach them.

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This is all of the nonsense running through my head at the moment. I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you’re dealing with the election results.

Written by Shara

November 15, 2016 at 1:06 pm