Self Care During The Holidays – How To Stay Grounded

Let’s face it, the holidays are intense.

Sure, we all love the lights, coziness, gift giving and traditions. That’s what the holidays are all about, right? This is what everyone gets so excited about. Images of fireplaces, decorating the tree and baking cookies dance through our heads. We crave this time of year.

The truth is, there is a downside to the holidays. Crowded shopping malls, awkward work parties, and an overload of time spent with family – these are all an introvert’s nightmare. Not to mention the stress of the delicate financial line that many people walk during the holiday season.

Many people find the Christmas season a very emotional time – many even sinking into bouts of depression despite the eggnog and Christmas tunes.

Holiday burnout is real but also preventable. Holidays are traditionally about giving to others. It is meant to be a selfless time of year. However, it is this exact concept that pushes us out of our comfort zones and into a state of overwhelm. Carving out time to give back to yourself is essential. This holiday falls at the end of the year. Instead of trying to rush, you need to spend processing the past year. You need time to make a game plan for the one upcoming in just a few weeks. You cannot emotionally and mentally process all of this and prepare yourself to enter a new year when you are pouring from an empty cup.

Avoid Holiday Burnout:

  1. Create a budget – finances are the last thing you should be worrying about this time of year. If you feel you must give a gift and it is out of your financial reach, make a quick DIY present. Homemade sugar scrubs and baking go over really well, I hear.
  2. Limit parties – Sometimes it is nice to get out and socialize during the holidays, but choose wisely! Don’t feel obligated to attend something that you really have no interest in. Going to a party and making forced conversation is draining and this is time you could be spending on yourself. Pick the gatherings where you know you will have the most fun.
  3. Take breaks from family – You know how it goes. Your parents are having Christmas dinner at their place, your sister is inviting you over for Boxing Day, your aunt decides she must also have everyone over for dinner…next thing you know, your entire week is booked full. Have conversations early about limiting the family get togethers, or let people know in advance that you may not be attending every single one.

The holidays are the most important time of year to focus on self care.

I have always said that I love Christmas Eve but Christmas Day is my least favourite day of the year. When I was younger, I could never understand why I felt that way. I was surrounded by family, great food and tons of generous presents. Why did this day bother me so much? Why wasn’t this my favourite? Was I ungrateful?

As I have gotten older, I realized that I love the quaintness of Christmas Eve. It is filled with all of the quiet traditions that I look forward to every year. It is a reprieve from the hustle and bustle, a calm moment before the craziness of Christmas morning arrives. It wasn’t that I was ungrateful, it is that there is a stark contrast between feeling so calm and settled to entering into a flurry of people, food and  it’s just that those gifts didn’t matter. It was the time spent where everyone just enjoyed each other that mattered the most to me.

Why do we stress ourselves out when we can make the entire month of December feel like Christmas Eve? Why do we neglect ourselves during this busy time of year?

This year I have decided to take all of the things that I love about Christmas Eve and spread them out over the holiday season. The wonderful times that make you feel warm and cozy on the inside. These ideas are soothing and help you survive the Christmas season. They will also help prepare you for a potentially cold and blustery January and February. No longer will I face the season dreading parties, avoiding wrapping gifts, and the feeling of “ugh, I actually need to leave the house to go to this family dinner”. Instead, bring on the relaxing, the gratitude, the feeling of comfort, and overall holiday well being. Enjoy the eggnog, savour the season and know that you are doing good things to take care of yourself. Finish the year strong in order to start the year strong.

I have created a 12 Days of Self Care – How To Keep Yourself Grounded During The Christmas Season guide. This is packed with awesome stuff to do over the holiday season to help keep you sane and prevent overwhelm. These are the things you love about the season but can’t seem to fit them in. I can’t wait to dive into these ideas myself – I’m craving for it! Sign up below to download the guide!

 

 

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Holiday Stress – How To Deal With Finances Over The Holiday Season

*This week we are welcoming psychologist Alicja from Just Redefine*

Turkey, eggnog, decorations and ornaments, parties and gifts, songs and all the wishes. Yes, the winter holiday season is here! We’ll sing “All is calm, all is bright”, but are you really calm? Take a moment and think about it. Did your head start spinning? Are you stressed about upcoming holidays? You are not alone!

Are you alone in the space?

American Psychological Association does surveys repeatedly and they found out that “lack of money is one of the top cause of the holiday stress followed by the pressures of gift giving, lack of time, and credit card debt”. In 2004 it was 61% of Americans who admitted the fact, in 2009 the number raised to 71%.

When you are in financial troubles you are stressed. Big discovery, huh? Stress is the natural reaction of your body. The whole concept of stress has a very bad reputation, but the truth is that feeling is probably the reason humankind still exists. Have you heard about fight or flight reaction? To make it simple: stress is what causes your body to quickly respond to the potentially dangerous situation you are in.

Remember that feeling when you walked to pick up your child from school and you saw PTO lady looking for volunteers? Yeah, that tonicity, sweat on your palms, spasm of a jaw muscle, the only one thought in your mind: run and hide. That how it works.

Of course, we are reasonable human beings and we should consciously decide how we react. In our example you don’t hide in the bushes until PTO lady goes away, do you? Of course, you don’t, we are all civilized people. You pick up the pace and look away, waving at a stranger! I’m joking. The thing is that you may redefine how you see stress.

So how to deal with stress?

Preferably: just don’t. In the perfect world, you should avoid it, reduce it to a minimum or eliminate it. How to do it? I’ll get to that in conclusion. Why read the whole text then? Because we don’t live in the perfect world. We are in constant stress, holidays only intensify it. In result your health is in danger, your relationships are in danger, honestly – your life is on a line here.

To get more specific, because let’s not forget we’re talking money here, please remember there is no shame in talking about financial issues. Especially, when we’re talking about repairing our situation! I’m not saying it’s easy emotionally, I’m saying it’s admirable.

The worst you could do is to pretend nothing is going on. If you don’t acknowledge your financial situation most likely your debt will only get bigger during the season and so is your anxiety.

Time to take control

Let’s stop any emotional shaming yourself or blaming others. Just sit down, analyze the situation you are in and prepare a plan of action. Very detailed plan. Take everything under consideration. Try to remember what you did last year and how effective that was. Be proactive. You must be prepared for all the stressors that are waiting and have already prepared response. Take decisive actions.

You know that your friend with five children will invite you to Christmas party and will expect you to have fancy presents for all of the chubby cherubim? Not in your budget this year? Buy five chocolates, visit your friend before she invites you and tell her all about your December’s plans and how sorry you are that you’ll miss her annual party this time. And that leads us to number two:

Be assertive

There are lots of expectations around the vision of perfect celebrations. Those expectations are usually quite expensive. To avoid financial missteps, you need to prepare a realistic budget, based on realistic goals. You need to be assertive, selective and learn how to say “no”. Easier said than done, right? Ask your spouse for help, ask anybody close to you. Not for a loan, but for help in planning, in all holiday tasks. You don’t want to be overwhelmed. And to accomplish that you need to:

Remember what is important (for you!)

If it is all about recreating the taste of Grandma’s filling – focus on that. If all you care about is Jesus reborn in your heart – even better, concentrate on your spiritual needs. The pressure of gifts, Pinterest-level decorations (obviously better than the neighbor’s), twelve-course meals for your guests can easily overshadow true meaning of holiday season. Remember – overspending increases your stress and then with snowball effect causes emotional problems, relationship problems, communication problems, not much time, but lots to do, which cause what? Yes, more stress!! Vicious circle!

Take care of yourself

Aren’t you like a little hamster running in the wheel, looking into the wallet, working hard, spending money to de-stress just to wake up next morning to look in the wallet… Stop! Pay attention to what you have, budget for what you need, whatever is left – plan with what you want in mind. Being aware of what you are going through is very helpful. Go for a long walk and focus on your feelings. If you need to relax, do that. You don’t need to spend money on that, lay down and listen to some music. Eating healthy and engage in sports activities usually help too. Being outside in sunlight additionally stimulates the production of serotonin, which protects you from seasonal affective disorder, so-called seasonal depression.

Volunteer

Despite the obvious benefits of volunteering, you can also see your own problems in perspective while helping others, less fortunate. This is also an opportunity to teach your kids about the values you want to share. Work together and put all the stress in a broader viewpoint, build stronger relationships with your family and friends

Seek connections

Talk with others about the holiday-related stress. You might just find out that you are not alone. Remember the intro to this post – financial stress concerns more than half of the population. You don’t have to navigate the overwhelming season on your own. Set aside differences and find common ground. “Hey Uncle Joe, my car broke. I am not able to fix it this month. Can we carpool to Aunt May this year? Next time, we’ll take you guys!” Maybe reconnecting with family members may actually alleviate the stress in opposition to what you see in all the movies. What brings us to:

Go as tech-free as you can

Social media, TV, all the commercials. Do I need to say more? You are exposed to chaotic incentives all.the.time. Do you really need more reasons to be anxious? All you need is an ad of a tropical island vacation to relax after the holiday season? NO! All you need is to draft next year’s budget!

Did you guess my final thought? This year start preparations for the next one. Make plans as you go through the season. Always have a notebook with you and write down your reflections. Try to find out what amount of money will you need next year and start saving now! It’s easier when you have 12 months for everything, rather than figuring it out last minute. That is my best advice to avoid financial stress – being prepared and in control way before the season starts.

 

Alicja is a wife, mom of three, coffee and pizza addict and recently also a blogger. Her educational background in psychology and finances helps in her trials of maintaining control over all mother/housewife responsibilities. She created Just Redefine fulfilling the mission of supporting other moms in being proactive about their goals, mindset and redefining their reality so it matches their expectations.

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Make Your Life Awesome: How To Choose Which Goal To Crush First

 

If you’re anything like me, you may have a hard time choosing which goal to work towards first.

 

I mean, I’m pretty sure I have a gazillion thoughts going through my head at any given time. Maybe I should blog, maybe I should start an online store, maybe I should start teaching ESL, maybe I should set up an artsy cafe in my town. All of these things are on my bucket list, and they go through varying stages of importance to me. Maybe I’ll give it all up and go live on a beach on some fabulous tropical island. You just. never. know!

 

I have been struggling with this since September hit because I had really been feeling like I wasn’t settled with how my life was going. Things (read: children who never want to be put down) were preventing me from spending focused time at this blog and I just kept thinking “you know, maybe this isn’t it. Maybe this isn’t working for me because this isn’t my groove”.  I started focusing my time and energy into other avenues.

 

Know what happened? I was miserable. It turns out that this blogging gig is my thing because I love every second of it. I love networking, writing, promoting, image creation, I love every last nitty gritty bit of it.

 

I have talked to some of you (you lovely, lovely people), and here’s what I heard you want to work towards: paying off debt, starting your own business, figuring out a way to work from home so that you can stay with your children, getting your game together so you can aceeee the heck out of university. These are all exceptional goals. All consuming, but exceptional.

 

I hear you, guys. I really do. But still there is this burning question:

 

How do you decide? How do you choose what is the right goal to approach at this particular time of your life?

 

As I keep saying, I’m on this journey to be the person that I want to be, and to live the life I know I’m ready to live. So I’m very willingly saying that I am not an expert at this stuff, but here’s what I did

 

Hammer It Out In Your Brain

 

I know, this is really complicated. I don’t mean meditating or spending time on a yoga mat contemplating life. I didn’t meditate. I listened to Scott Helman and Joel Plaskett on repeat for three days while I painted my kitchen. Same thing, basically. For real though, get in tune with what is going to make you happy. For me, zoning out to music that makes me feel great puts me in a place to assess what else makes me really happy. It isn’t a good idea to make life decisions when you’re in the middle of a rut. Make them when you’re at your happiest, feel like you’re in a good place, and go from there! Even if that happy place only lasts as long as your song, follow your gut, your intuition knows what it’s doing, promise. When you feel like your chest is tight because your heart feels like it’s just going to burst, stop right there! That’s it, you’ve found it!

 

Think Logically

 

Once you’ve realized what you want to do, figure out logical steps to get there. Is there a situation that needs to be dealt with immediately? For example, say that you’re in a dire financial situation. Choose the option that is going to get you to a place where you can continue on the path you want in the least amount of time. I need to pay off some debt before March in order to work from home (my ultimate goal). Imperfect Individuals is ranked as my #1 priority, but I also need to find a good way to make a little extra money, so I started the process to teach ESL. Ideally, I would have chosen another goal (let’s go back to that beach, shall we?) but I know that I have to adult, so teaching ESL is my next step. Maybe I can teach from the beach…hmmm.

 

Discuss With VIPs

 

If you’re in a position where you don’t consult with anyone over your life choices, feel free to skip this step! For the rest of us, major life decisions probably need to be discussed with your partners and families. This isn’t to ask permission. No, no. I don’t ask permission (ask my partner, he’ll tell you). This is your life decision, not theirs. This is how I handle a conversation like this: tell them what I’m doing and ask them how they can support me in it. I include my oldest daughter in this. I always make it very clear to her what my goals are and what I need to do to meet them, and what she can do to be part of it. We have similar conversations with her about her goals, and my partner as well. If you are living with your family (partner or not), it is super important that everyone feels that their needs are met and that everyone feels supported in what they’re trying to achieve in life. I’m a firm believer that nothing will be achieved if there isn’t mutual support. So for example, right now our plan is that he gets certain days of the week for sports and the things he wants to work on, and I’m working my schedule around that, which gives me uninterrupted time to do what I need to do.

 

Make A Plan

 

Would this be Imperfect Individuals if I didn’t type these words? Of course, make a plan. Choose your first step, but then also make a rough plan for your future goals. It doesn’t have to be “On May 21st 2018 I’m going to open a store”. I mean, it could be like that. But having a general idea of what you want to do and when you want to do it will help soften the blow if your situation calls for you to choose a goal that was lower on your list. You aren’t making the wrong the decision, it is coming, you just have to get there first. It is nice to be able to “rough draft” your life so that you know what you truly want isn’t out of sight.

 

So, there you have it. My super official and not-exactly-professional method of making a life choice. What do you think? What do you do when you’re faced with making a huge life decision?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Simplify Your Life and Keep the Holidays Cheap – Imperfect Individuals

*We are welcoming Tana from Debt Free Forties as a guest poster today!

Last year holiday retail sales during November and December increased to $658.3 billion*. That’s billion, with a B! And that’s just retail and doesn’t include charity contributions, holiday events, mailing gifts, or anything else. While the holiday retail sales numbers went up 4% last year, what’s even more shocking is that 56% of Americans were planning on taking on debt to pay for these gifts**.

I admit that in the past, I have taken on new debt for the holidays. I bet we can all safely say we’ve done it, right? While we’re all imperfect individuals, why not strive to make this year’s holiday season different?

If you take the time now to plan, organize and budget, you’ll be sitting pretty after the holidays. Just imagine how much different your January could be without that extra debt to worry about! Here’s a list of 13 ways to save money and simplify your life for the holiday season:

Plan to shop early and be done by mid-December

We all want to grab the best deals, right? Past years have shown that the best sales have all happened by mid-December. Plan on being done by then (if not earlier!) to get the best sales.

Mail packages early.

Since you’ve completed your shopping early, get those packages in the mail early as well! Shipping costs are astronomical as it is, but to slap a rush shipping cost on top of it afterwards because you want it to get to family in time is just nuts. Wrap and ship those packages as soon as you have them purchased. Or, better yet – buy online and get them shipped directly!

Take advantage of stores that price match.

My husband did this little trick a couple of years ago and still brags about it. Walmart had a big sale on a particular Xbox game he wanted, but had sold out in the store on Black Friday. He waited until later in the day and took Walmart’s circular with him to Target. Not only did he avoid the long lines, he got the game from Target at Walmart’s price!

Check with the stores you shop at and see what their policy is – some will let you pull up pricing on your phone to show them, others request that you bring in a competitor’s circular. This works for items you’ve already purchased as well, and you can get a refund on the difference. Again, each store has a different policy so check and see what they’ll do. It never hurts to ask!

Subscribe to email lists for the stores you want to shop at prior to the holidays to receive coupons.

Last October I started subscribing to emails from the stores I knew I wanted to do my Christmas shopping at. Not only do you get the latest info on all their sales, you often get coupons and discounts that the average person walking in off the street wouldn’t. Just remember to unsubscribe once you’re done shopping so that you’re not tempted to buy more items that you don’t need!

Shop with a list in mind and know the general price of those items.

It can be tough to figure out what to give everyone prior to shopping, but try to figure out the big-ticket items prior to stepping foot in the store. Check Amazon.com to see a general price on those items, so you have a decent comparison point to know if something’s overpriced or not. Or, while you’re in the store, look up the price on your phone so that you can see if you’re getting a good deal or not.

Buy discounted gift cards online.

There are several reputable gift card resale websites, such as Raise.com, where you can purchase discounted gift cards up to 11% off. You can also sell your old or unwanted gift cards there too in exchange for another store’s card that you know you will use.

Begin budgeting and saving early.

Even if you start in October, that’s 3 months to budget and save for holiday shopping. While it’s not much, it’s still enough to avoid putting the majority of your purchases on credit cards, right? Next year you can start in January so that you have a full 12 months of budgeting and saving to make it a cash only Christmas!

Start a list of gift ideas for each person throughout the year.

Starting a list of gift ideas for everyone you need to purchase for is a double win. First, you can shop for them throughout the year, ensuring you get better deals. And second, you aren’t stuck last minute wondering what to get. There’s personally nothing worse than buying something that you’re not sure they’ll like because you ran out of time and money.

Start planning air travel now.

There are differing opinions on when to purchase flights. One thing agreed upon is that Tuesdays seem to be the best day to buy. I’ve also read that either 52 or 30 days out from your trip is most likely to give you the cheapest rates as well, though 30 days out from Christmas seems cutting it close since the busy travel season has already started. I would opt for a bit further out, and then make sure to book the trip for “off” days – meaning, try traveling on Christmas when it’ll be cheaper, or mid-week.

Give homemade gifts, experiences, or give the gift of time.

One of my favorite money saving ideas for the holidays is to give experiences. This year, we’re treating my in-laws to a train ride instead of giving gifts. My father-in-law is a huge train buff, so I know they’ll love it. We usually end up gifting cookies and homemade treats for coworkers, and have even given babysitting as a gift. Figure out what they really need – like a date night – and then work on the best way to give it to them. Trust me, they’ll really appreciate it!

Talk with your family/friends about doing a Secret Santa instead of individual gifts.

On the other side of our family, we do a gift exchange for the adults so that we each only have to buy one gift. It takes the stress and cost out of the holiday so that we can focus on just enjoying our time together.

Use all your rebate and cash back apps like Ebates, TopCashBack, and ibotta.

Make sure to sign up for rebate apps like Ebates, TopCashBack, or ibotta. There’s rebates available for everything – including your baking supplies! November and December are a great time to stock up on baking supplies, between sales, coupons, and rebate apps.

Consider other ways to give to charity.

A lot of people are moved by the holiday spirit to give donations at this time of year. However, remember that it doesn’t always have to be money. Charities need folks to physically help just as much – whether it’s ringing a bell in front of a store, or serving up hot meals. Approach your favorite charity and ask how you can help them, and bring the kids along. Not only are you helping others, but you have a great opportunity to teach your children empathy and how to help the less fortunate. Truly a win-win for everyone!

These are just a few ideas on how to keep the holidays cheap and simplify your life as well. All it takes it a little bit of planning and organization to pull off holiday savings. Start now so you can enjoy your holidays debt-free this year. Your bank account will thank you come January!

*https://nrf.com/resources/consumer-data/holiday-headquarters

**https://www.fool.com/retirement/2016/12/01/heres-what-the-average-american-spends-on-holiday.aspx

Tana blogs at Debt Free Forties, a personal finance and lifestyle blog which helps her stay accountable with her own debt repayment. Her goal is to educate others on how to take control of their money and find their own financial freedom. You can learn more by visiting http://debtfreeforties.com or download your free debt and savings tracker printables here! https://debtfreeforties.com/free-debt-savings-tracker-printables/

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Super Effective Time Management Tricks For Goal Getting Moms

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links*

 

Being a work at home mom is tough. Especially if you have very young children at home. You know, the ones that need every second of your attention every second of the day and start asking for snacks the moment you sit down to get work done. You’re overwhelmed, can’t seem to finish anything, and you can’t figure out how other people manage to raise a family and have a successful side gig. Trying to be the best mom possible and working your tail off at the same time is a delicate balance.

It is very important to me, and I believe it is very important to you as well if you are reading this, to have an identity away from being a mom. For me, that is the whole reason I started this blog. It is the whole reason I am driven to work at this every single day, even if my day has been hectic and crazy and the only thing I really want to do is go to bed and sleep. My desire to be “me” and not just a “mom” overpowers my need for sleep (most times!). I love my children, but I also need my own goals to strive towards and be passionate about. I bet you feel this way too.

Chances are, you have already tried to figure out a schedule that works for you. Maybe it worked. Maybe it didn’t. Hopefully you have already read my post on Time Blocking and found that an effective way to plan your day.

Time blocking is an incredible way to stay focused and get through more work in less time. It helps you zone in on exactly what needs to be done and helps get rid of distractions. You don’t spend your time trying to balance work and your family. Work and your family are separate. You don’t take away from your time spent trying to be a mom boss, and you don’t take away from your kids by trying to fit in random bits of work when they’re wanting your attention.

So, this time blocking method is great for your daily schedule, but where it really shines is when you can use this method to help run your business and your home.

How To Stay Organized As A Goal Getting Mom

Get Strategic

The very first thing you should do is make sure that you do in fact know what needs to be done when you sit down to work. You can check out my Productivity Plan to help work through and identify your goals. Let’s face it, you are working with limited time, so you need to be more organized than most entrepreneurs. As parents, we don’t have the luxury of uninterrupted working time. We are on call every second of the day and working within the hours that most people are relaxing. You can’t do it all if you don’t know what you’re doing! Set aside a day to create a strategic plan for what you need to get done. Identify main goals and weekly goals. Plan one month at a time if 12 weeks seems overwhelming, but I am a huge believer in planning quarterly.

Second is making your weekly schedule for getting work done. List out the various types of tasks that you have to complete, and choose how they fit into your calendar. But you’re only going to focus on one topic per day. This is known as batch planning. It helps to have two entirely different schedules – one for your work and one for your home.

Get Themed Obsessed

For your work plan, assign each day a theme. If you’re a blogger, take one day to pound out the writing and editing of posts. Take another day for image creation. Yet another day for curating content for social media. The list goes on according to how many days you are working a week and how many things you are focusing on. My first thought when I discovered this method was that it seemed a little counter-intuitive. Why wouldn’t you finish your entire blog post, image and all on the same day? Well, I could spend hours pouring over the tiny details of each post and in the end not getting a whole lot done. If I can focus just on content creation, I get in a groove and when I go to sit down for my images, I have a bunch of posts already almost done! It really speeds up the process.

In my home life, I think what I have struggled the most with is being able to do it all – making sure lunches are packed, laundry is done, the house is clean, everyone is fed and bathed and dressed, and also working my butt off at trying to be a success. The method that has worked the best for me is having a strategic plan for the house. The goal isn’t to have a spotless house. The goal is to make sure that it is orderly enough that it doesn’t take time away from working.

I recently read How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House’s Dirty Little Secrets by Dana White. I really, truly feel like this lady spoke to my naturally messy soul in this book! Dana is funny, ladies. She’s a recovering slob who has it all figured out. She speaks about having a “day” for household tasks instead of trying to do a little bit of everything. She suggests tackling all of the laundry on one day because it is more like a project that has a beginning and end, and once it’s done, it’s done. I can truly credit this entire philosophy with changing the way I manage my home, family, and life in general.

Whether or not you pick up Dana’s book, I do highly suggest you come up with some kind of household management schedule. You are less likely to be distracted during your dedicated working hours if you are sitting down in a semi-clean house. Get all those messy, cluttered procrastination strategies out of the way so that when you are read to work, you are 100% game on!

Family First

Finally, make sure you are working these plans around your family. Family always comes first, and all of this planning and hustling you are doing is ultimately to benefit your family. If Mom is happy and content in her life, then the entire family benefits. A manageable work/life balance is essential. Too much work and you will burn out too quickly, causing stress and negativity within your family unit. Not enough time spent with your family will cause them to crave time with you even more. My trick is to never try to multi-task my family life. I don’t overlap my work with my time with my kids. I’m a single focus kind of gal, and it seems to be working for me.

On that note, I’m off for a much needed coffee date. What are you doing for your family today?

 

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