A Letter to My Children


Recently our country has erupted with news stories, staggering across the bottom of our tv screens, and finding their way into our news feeds, police brutality, another shooting of an unarmed black man or woman, Black Lives Matter rallies, violence against police. And my children have begun asking questions.

My eight year-old son Demetrius keeps asking me “ Mama, are they going to start segregation again?”

I have avoided his question for a long time. And I think the reason I’ve avoided it is because if I want to be honest, I have to answer him, “It never actually ended bud.”


And how do I begin to explain that dark history? How do I begin to explain that what they’ve taught him in school is not the whole story, or even an accurate portrayal of part of the story?


I feel super inadequate as a white woman, trying to communicate to my Black and American Indian son that the history of our country is full of darkness and oppression for his people.


Yet my avoiding his question, my unwillingness to feel uncomfortable and inadequate is problematic in this goal I’ve set to be a stone catcher. It speaks volumes of my privilege. So I am starting today, while sitting on the airport floor in Chicago, after binge listening to my hero Bryan Stevenson, I am feeling like I have to begin somewhere. So here is my letter to you Demetrius, and to all of my children:


You know how we’ve been talking about what is going on in America, about why police have been shooting black people who didn’t have guns? You know how I’ve talked to you about how you need to act around police? You know how sometimes I yell at you when you loose your cool, and I start crying and I usually say something like, “Demetrius! If you act like that out there, you will get shot! You have got to learn NOW how to be respectful, because you don’t have the luxuries that Tre has.” And you always scream back at me, “That’s not fair!”


And you’re right!

It’s not fair.


And yet it is still true.


D-D, you keep asking me if they are going to start segregation again. But I want to tell you something. Something that th
ey haven’t told you in school, something that makes people uncomfortable. D-D, segregation hasn’t really gone away. We can call it different things now, it looks different than water fountains and schools. And yet it doesn’t at all. Because black people still don’t get the same water (Flint, Michigan) or the same access to education (http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/01/28/us-education-still-separate-and-unequal ). And although we don’t have signs that hang outside of restaurants any more, we still have restaurants where you wouldn’t be served, just based on the color of your skin.

It’s awful. Really really awful.



Here’s what I haven’t told you:


  1. There is a politics of fear and anger in America. Our leaders have fought to keep us afraid and angry for a long time. And when people are afraid and angry they will tolerate injustice, abuse, and cruelty. I don’t want you to be afraid and angry. I as your mom want to make sure you are a man full of hope. Because where there is hope, there is no longer a place for fear and anger. And then truth can reign. It is important that you, even as a little boy, begin to understand that identifying the ‘bad guy’ isn’t as clear as the news, our president, or your teacher makes it out to be. If we become afraid of a group of people, we will begin to make decisions that don’t represent our God.
  2. All people are equal. They aren’t treated equally though. And that is not what God wants. In my opinion, the worst part of slavery was that white people acted as if they were different than, better than, and superior to, black people. And we aren’t. And unfortunately that hasn’t much changed. The slaves were freed, but white people in America have continued to treat Black people as if they are inferior. It looks different than indentured servitude these days, usually, but it isn’t.
  3. Terrorism isn’t new. Terrorism has been occurring in the United States since the very beginning, it began with white people committing acts of terror on your American Indian ancestors. Terrorism didn’t strike in America for the first time on 9-11. Terrorism has been woven into the history that blankets our land. And without us being honest about what we, as white people have done, our country can never heal. The lynchings of black men, women, and children were acts of terror that infiltrated our country since the end of the Reconstruction in 1877 up until the 1950s. Muslim’s aren’t the first terrorists on this dirt. We are.


Buddy, I know that when we talk about these things you cry. I don’t ever want you to loose that. I want you to forever feel how awful this is. I want you to forever feel the weight of injustice. I pray that your dad and I can encourage you to not run away from what feels hard. I pray that we will teach you through our own broken paths, that you, D-D Luke, were made to do hard and holy things. Please be brave brave brave.


I love you to the moon Bub.

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(This letter was spurred after listening to a talk given by Bryan Stevenson at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California.)


We did it!

Well, it happened. Summer is almost over. School emails keep dinging in my inbox. School fees have been paid, boxed lunches, uniforms, all of the #2 sharpened pencils and Crayola 24-count crayons, they’ve been bought.
And now it’s time to make that decision that we as parents of kid’s from hard places struggle with making every single year at this time. What do we say to the new teacher? Anything? Everything? Some where in between? As a parent, I am looking for the right combination of words to fill this teacher with deep levels of understanding on developmental trauma and it’s effects on the brain, compassion that will carry them through some tough days, and huge levels of thanksgiving, because teachers are heroes.


So here is a note to all the teachers who will help us parent our children from trauma, from all of us parents, foster parents, kin parents, adoptive parents, and all of the other beautiful ways we find ourselves parenting these amazing kids. Here’s to you teachers!


Dear Teacher,


I am so sorry that you don’t get paid your worth in gold. If I could change that today, I would! You are a hero in our home!


I wanted to give you a little insight into my kiddo. I am not sure if you have heard things from previous teachers or not, but I wanted to give you some info that I hope will help you in creating a fun and safe learning environment for him, and everyone else in your classroom, this year.


My kiddo experienced lots of trauma before he came to us. We are one of many many homes he has lived in, and that’s not counting the many shelters that he called home as well. The traumas that he experienced as a young child have made him different that the average kid in our upper-middle class school. His brain literally looks different in a brain scan than that of the average child of his same age. And yet he looks just like the other eight year olds in your class this year.


With that in mind, if I could encourage you with just one thing it would be this: connect. It is hard for him to trust people, and his self-talk is really horrible. He thinks he is undesirable, that he is the worst in this class. He thinks no one likes him, and that he is stupid. But when you, and I, connect with him- we have a chance to change this inner-voice of his. If you lead each day with a point of connection for him, he is much more likely to stay connected, and feel safe, so that he can learn and grow like the other kids in your class this year. When you are not sure what to do with him, when he is acting angry or aggressive, my guess is that he is probably afraid and feeling shameful. It might feel really foreign to you, but would you please try to just connect with him? Just help him calm down, and speak over him the words that we want every child to think about themselves. Remember, he didn’t have anyone to teach his little baby brain and body how to calm down, no one spoke over him that he was precious and smart. No one helped him learn how to calm down when he was upset. So we, as his parents, have some catch up work that we are working on, and if you would help us this year, we would be eternally grateful.


If you are interested in other tips and tricks, or ways of getting to know him before school starts, please, let us know. We’d love to send you some more info.


Again, we are so appreciative of what you do, thank you for devoting yourself to teaching our kiddos!

With all of our hearts,


The Purvis Family.




Make it count.

“I trust that you understand how this is a story that we are living- not a story that we are telling.”

I read that quote by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, in an article about her recent split from her partner whom she fell in love with and subsequently wrote about their relationship in her books Eat Pray Love and Committed.

The quote stuck because we are currently living a story that we cannot tell. And in the past it has been a story that we have talked (somewhat) openly about.

Our teenagers have moved from our family. We are utterly devastated.

My hope and prayer is this: Make it count Lord. Because all of this unnecessary pain, and this suffering that we are all experiencing is really awful, so I am choosing to believe that the story you are writing is bigger than what I can currently picture.

Please, make this count.

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Morning Moms

I have been parenting toddlers for what seems like a decade… oh wait, it has been. And now we’ve also added teenagers to our repertoire. So after parenting toddlers to teens for a few months now I have had a major revelation. Mornings with kids SUCK. I remember rolling over to my husband at 5:30 am after hearing multiple babies and toddlers awakening under our roof, and I would groggily say “Why does God hate us more than anyone else? What have we done?”

We would try to remember to “enjoy it” because “it will go by fast”. But it didn’t go by fast. There were some mornings that were more blissful than not, but mostly it was just a comedy of errors in which I was braless and trying not to cuss, while attempting to keep multiple small children quiet, so that they wouldn’t awaken the other multitudes. I would cook, what felt like 15 rounds of oatmeal and eggs and smoothies and Kix, some how waffles and omelets, and even Cinnamon Toast Crunch made appearances as well. And eventually I would conclude that everyone had awoken and everyone was sufficiently nourished-  we could now shift into something that should have felt like a productive day…

But this “twilight zone” of waking up with small children and trying to feed everyone and not accidentally kill anyone or say any words that you didn’t want them using in preschool- it seemed to last hours each morning.

We would consistently remind ourselves that this stage would not last. At some point our children will sleep in, though the morning and we won’t even have to make breakfast! Ever! We would smile and become giddy at the mere thought of it.

That was then.

This is now.

When I wake up, on the rare occasion that an alarm is jolting me awake, and meander out to the living room/kitchen/dining room area of my home this is what I see.

ImageThese children who sucked a decades worth of mornings from me have “made themselves breakfast”. The thing I’d always hoped for. And all I see is empty things. Empty syrup. empty boxes, empty juice carafes and empty milk cartons. Doors are missing and there are ALWAYS a lot of blankets. Everywhere.

The mess might consist of entire loaf of bread, with each piece having one bite taken out of it. Or Kix being found in every drawer and crevice of my home. If I am lucky it was “just eggs” and there are only a few that didn’t make the pan.

Image-1In case you’re wondering. This isn’t better than being woken up. It isn’t really worse either. It just is.

Now, the teenagers do not wake up for breakfast. When given the opportunity to sleep in, they do. This is wonderful. But this is also a predicament. I have never once seen them eat breakfast. Before a big test, before a day at the gym, before a dance competition, never. They just quietly get ready and stumble out the door. And I wonder, “Did they get any nourishment? Will they survive?”

The moral of the story is this: The morning time routine with kids doesn’t ever get easier. It just changes. So those moms out there spending HOURS with small children before the sun has even made an appearance. The moms who have served three meals, to the same child,  before 8 am. This to shall pass. But what’s coming is just a new crazy town. You might not be in your pajamas for a few hours before day break. But it is still just as crazy. Being  a mom in the morning is just plain hard.



Just Mercy

This year a lot has changed in our lives. And I knew going into this year that because of these amazing changes I would HAVE to grow. If I stayed where I was at on a personal level, I could not do the things God was asking of me. And with growth comes growing pains.

As a part of this process I decided that I would take up reading again. I love to read, but had lost that over the ten years of little kids ruling my brain and sleep patterns. So I made an easy goal, I want to read 12 books this year. So far I am ahead of schedule. But one of the first books I read this year was Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  (This link is the first chapter and where you can purchase the book!)

I don’t plan on writing about each of the books I read, but this book is life changing.

Just Mercy is a non-fiction book. I really love fiction books. And I am reading those too. But I am trying to add to my list of books, non-fiction books. This was a non-fiction book that I couldn’t put down.


Just Mercy is written by one of my heroes Bryan Stevenson, a public interest lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative. He and his organization are responsible for helping to overturn some of the most cruel and unusual things that have happened as a result of our justice system in America. “Mr. Stevenson has successfully argued several cases in the United States Supreme Court and recently won an historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.” In my social-worker point of view, he is doing an amazing job of changing systems at a macro level, while also helping people at a micro-level and has won reversals, relief or release for over 115 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row.

He is a hero.

I have blogged before about the article he wrote in The Smithsonian Magazine, I read during Christmas break 2012 in my in-laws kitchen. This article started me down a path of discovery, both of self and of history. This is the first time I heard the idea of being a stone catcher. This idea has become a central focus for me, helping to guide our family and our decisions. In the book he tells the whole story of meeting this elderly black woman, and her version of being a stone catcher. This idea is pivotal for me living out my faith.

He quotes to me from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says of the woman who committed adultery: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” He tells me an elderly black woman once called him a “stone catcher.”

“There is no such thing as being a Christian and not being a stone catcher,” he says. “But that is exhausting. You’re not going to catch them all. And it hurts. If it doesn’t make you sad to have to do that, then you don’t understand what it means to be engaged in an act of faith….But if you have the right relationship to it, it is less of a burden, finally, than a blessing. It makes you feel stronger.

In chapter 12 of this book, entitled “Mother, Mother” Bryan tells a few stories of some of the women he has represented. I couldn’t read this chapter. I stopped after angry tears so thick began spilling onto the pages, and I couldn’t make out the words any longer. But then I realized even skipping over this chapter was an exercise in privilege. I literally can’t fathom living these stories, so heavy and unjust, so I just skipped it…  That isn’t what a stone catcher would do. So I forced myself to read the chapter. It took many many tries. And left me feeling angry and saddened for days. But ignoring this, sweeping it away, or pretending it doesn’t exist is not an option for me any longer.

This book is life changing. It isn’t “a good read” or “enjoyable”, it’s none of those. It is gut-wrenching and sobering, and eye-opening, and essential, it is the definition of an interrupter to those of us living lives of privlige. Especially if you believe yourself to be a person of faith. Because fighting for the vulnerable is what we’re called to do. And that fight begins, for many of us, by opening our eyes to what the vulnerable are experiencing, in our back-yards.

Personally, I believe that God has put me here- on this earth, and on this little place of the world wide web- to fight for vulnerable children. Children who have been used and abused by adults and systems. And a part of that fight is understanding our justice system, because the trauma that these vulnerable children experience, often puts them in direct contact with our justice system. And until we can right the way we deal with children who have experienced trauma, we can not call ourselves just, fair, or free. And ultimately for me, I cannot call myself a disciple of Christ without helping to fight for the traumatized and vulnerable in my midst. I do this every day as a mom, I do this every day as a social worker, but there is more I can do. There is more we can do.

Read this book.

Birth Story

Today our baby turns 4! I can’t believe she is four. But I also feel like maybe she is 14. Because she is quite a character, already. She runs around on her toes, claiming she’s a famous ballerina, and won’t enter a room without an announcement and a grande jete. She is a lover, a snuggler, she is strong and powerful, and likes make-up and princesses and only wears dresses. (Except when on the mat- in her jiu jitsu ghi.) She really is our “warrior princess” as I call her. And we all are pretty smitten with her. 0206

I wanted to re-share Charli’s birth story today on the day of her birth. SO here is my post from a few days after her birth:

Note: This is a post about giving birth and does include pictures (no naked pics), if that’s not your thing, don’t read on!
I want to document the story of Charli’s birth, while it’s fresh in my mind and heart, for several reasons… The first being that I want to have it for her to read. Hearing my mom and grandma’s birth stories have been incredibly special to me and is something I see as a part of our family’s story.

Secondly, when you are pregnant reading birth stories is therapeutic. It gives you hope, that this baby will come out! And it gives you strength. Knowing that women you know and love, and women across the globe you’ve never met, have done this, their stories bring strength.

This story is a story of natural birth, at a licensed midwifery center. Charli was born in the water, making it a water birth. Tre’s birth was very different. A more “typical” United States birthing experience. I was enduced, pitocin, epiduril, etc. And I was so happy. We had a beautiful baby boy. So this story is not to pass judgement on anyone who decides or needs to give birth in the hospital setting, as I am that woman as well. But when we found out that we were going to have another baby I knew I wanted to give birth differently than I had the first time. I wanted to feel empowered and in charge of my birthing experience. I wanted to be treated as normal. I wanted to feel as if pregnancy wasn’t a disease, but something my body is made to do well. All of this lead us to Mountain Midwiferey Center in Denver. Which is where Charli Kate was born.

Saturday March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. David was out of town until early evening. I had had a bad back ache since the night before and was debating whether or not to get ready for a wedding I’d been hoping to attend for about ten years! Around 2 pm David texted me and said he’d be home early, around 4, and to pick him up. I had a babysitter coming then and was excited he’d be home. We met at the airport and decided to call it an early night because I knew I was close. We went to the mall to buy a phone cover and walk the mall, by the time we made it to the Mac store my contractions were pretty regular, but still doable.

(You see, it’s never too late to take a quick peek in Anthropologie!)
We then decided to walk to PF Changs across the parking lot for some appetizers, still just seeing what would happen. We sat at the bar. By this time we had begun timing contractions and they were about six minutes apart. I eventually had to stand at the bar because I couldn’t sit through them anymore. At this point David got excited and started telling complete strangers that I was in labor:) which totally freaked the man sitting next to me who had earlier taken my chair because I insisted since I was standing! I eventually went and waited outside because I needed to walk. David got his food to go and we headed home to get our bags and Tre! We helped put the other three kids to bed and met my parents at the birthing center. Our babysitter stayed till Laurie could come and relieve her for night duty.

At the birthing center there are three rooms, I had picked my top two that I wanted to labor in. My top choice was the log room, but the tub was not warm in there. So we went to my second choice, the blue room. There was another woman laboring in the room next door and she was close to having her baby. I was feeling bad because Tre and all of us were there making noise. I ended up walking the stairs from about 9 pm to 2 am. (At some point we sent Tre and my parents home to sleep.) If I laid down, I could still rest. During this time I went from being three centimeters dilated to five centimeters dilated. I wasn’t making very quick progress. So we decided, along with the midwives, to go home and sleep as much as possible because we would be having a baby within the next 24 hours, but it was slow. We decided to go to my parents house, since it was closer and we had someone at home with the other kids. I spent from about 3 am – 6 am sleeping/breathing through contractions in my old bedroom. David and Tre slept upstairs. During this time I was dreaming that my mom was coaching me through these contractions and ensuring me that these were just the little ones, and that I had to birth these four smaller things before it would be time to have my baby. And she would just encourage me through the contraction, “keep sleeping Manda bear, keep sleeping, don’t wake up!” I truly believe that because of these few hours of sleep I was able to tackle the hours that lie ahead! At around 6 am things had changed and I knew it was time to wake David. He called the midwife and they told us to come in. I think we got there around 7am. This time we were the only people there, and we went to the log room, my favorite room.

I think one of the reasons my labor stalled out a bit the night before is that I wasn’t feeling completely comfortable, I wanted a certain room, and I didn’t want anyone else there. So it worked out that I got to rest a bit, David got to rest a bit, and then we had my idyllic setting for giving birth when we returned. Over the next 6-9 hours I labored in the birthing center. I used big bouncy balls, mostly walking, and a birthing tub. At around 2 pm they decided to give me some herbs to help move me along (I had been at an eight for quite some time). The reason it was taking so long, and was extra painful was because Charli was “sunny side up” meaning her head was facing up, rather than back which causes things to move very slowly and results in back labor. We tried many positions at this point to get her to turn, she eventually turned her head a little bit, enough for her to completely move down and I could finish dilating.
Then came the hardest part. I had an anterior cervical lip as a result of her position, which just means that the cervix hadn’t completely made it over her head, because it wasn’t in the easiest position for it to do so. Usually this just requires the midwife to push it over the head as you push during a contraction. Unfortunately for me this part lasted for at least an hour and over several contractions because it kept slipping back over her head. (I was in the tub at this point.) This is the part where I “lost it”. They talk about how at some point in labor you might “loose it” and this usually means that you are in transition and very close to having your baby. I always wanted to be that lady that silently breathes her way through labor, looking calm and almost meditative… Nope! The other night at dinner I asked Tre to tell Demetrius and Laila what I was like, he thought about it for a minute and then said, “kind of like a dying pig.” Yup, that pretty much sums it up.
Thank God I’m not a Scientologist, I’d have been kicked out!
They decided to move me to the bed and break my water to see if that would help her change positions. As soon as they broke my water two things happened. Number one, they saw that there was meconium in the water. Most likely a result of the long labor. Number two, they told me they’d need to transfer me to the hospital in the next few minutes if the baby wasn’t coming…This is the part that David told me he could tell was unusual. As soon as the midwife told me that, I just got up and said, “I need to move.” I pretty much just ran to the tub. Afterwards the midwife told me she doesn’t think she’s seen anyone move so quickly at this stage of labor. I just had a bolt of adrenaline and knew what needed to be done. Seven minutes later she was born in the tub!

I pulled her up out of the water and David and I went and laid in the bed with our new baby.

Tre and my parents were all there, and Tre joined us on the bed! It was amazing. We had learned about “the newborn crawl” and how if left alone on their moms belly, a baby will make their way to breast and begin to feed. Without bathing them they are still covered in the amniotic fluid and vernix, which quickly soaks into their skin and helps keep them moisturized. This smell also is the same smell as mom’s colostrum. They will continue to find their hands, to smell/taste what they are looking for, until they find the breast. It was amazing to experience! And we just laid there and got to know our new baby, it was surreal, and the best part of the birthing center experience. Just getting to relax and experience our new baby without interruption or unnecessary things happening for a bit.

Tre got to “experiment” with the placenta. The midwives laid it out for him and explained all the parts to him, he measured it with legos, and touched it, and was so fascinated! He also brought it home to put under his microscope! (Side Note Treism: He told David on the way home as he was holding the baggie with the placenta in it that he couldn’t wait to collect all the placentas from all the babies we will have and fill our house with placentas! David broke it to him that this was the first, and last placenta coming home to the PPP.)

At some point we decided to have Charli transferred to the hospital one block away for observation because her heart rate had remained a bit high. She and David were transferred there and my mom and I met them a few hours later. She was observed in the NICU for about 20 hours and then we came home!As I begin to process this experience several things come to mind… First of all I felt so much closer to David. He was a rock to me throughout the experience and I know that I could not have done it without him. He was truly amazing. I really do feel so much closer to him as a result of the experience.

I also feel really proud of myself. I knew this would be the hardest thing I have physically done. And it was harder than even that. But I did it, and it was amazing!I see God at work in so many of the details of the experience, when it happened, how it happened, everything. It reminds me that he cares so much for me, even in the little things! For instance, right after I gave birth the power went out, it was a HUGE wind storm and we were without power for a few hours. But this did not effect us at all. We were in a sunny room and it was late afternoon. And by the time it got dark, the power was back on. If I’d been in labor It would have been a different story because they couldn’t have kept the tub warm, etc. (all emergency equipment is run by batteries so it wouldn’t have been dangerous, just unnerving maybe.) Another thing that I see was God, is that I was able to labor all day long just me, in the birthing center. From the time I had Charli to the time the nurse was leaving the hospital after dropping me off to see her three mamas had come to give birth!

And lastly, I am so grateful to have a place like the birthing center where I was surrounded by women believing in me and my body and the power of birth. I felt so supported and empowered and safe in their care.

I am woman.

I got a job.

I haven’t had a “real” job in 10+ years.

In my final interview, they asked me about my experience “managing people”. I laughed. And responded, “Unfortunately I doubt you want to hear about my experience managing five children under five, and a household. So I guess I have “no” experience.”

My first day I called in sick, Charli had a double ear infection and David was out of town.

When I took Charli to her first day of preschool last week I bawled the whole way to work. I called Celina and cried. I called Ingrid and cried. Charli was excited. I was just sad. I was sad that my baby was ready for school, and I was sad that I put her in because I wanted to work. But I do. I want to work.

There is this mommy vs. mommy war out there, the working moms and the stay at home moms. I don’t get it. At all. Being a  mom is so hard. And so messy. Being a mom is like being a super-human. And I am always so amazed by the strength we all have, the way we do it. I cannot imagine homeschooling my children, and I love so many homeschooling moms, they amaze me. I cannot imagine cooking dinner every night, or having a cleaning schedule and vacuuming every day. I am amazed by these moms. I love women who are nurses and work nights, and then go home and mom all day. I love women who are executives and CEO’s, who run schools, and corporations, and make lunches and take kids to practice, and kiss boo boos.

This is me laboring with Charli in the tub, and four women watching and willing me through for 24 hours these women watched and willed, helped and labored with me.

Guys, we are amazing! We do this. All of us. And more importantly, it takes all of us. Celina has helped me so much these first two weeks of working, and so has my boss (and friend) Jill. I am just amazed at how amazing the women in my life are. When I was preparing to have a natural childbirth I read stories about women who had given birth naturally (here is my birth story with Charli). And was reminded that women for thousands of years have been doing this, that our bodies were made for childbirth, and one of the most beautiful parts of my birth experience was being surrounded by so many strong women who willed me through it. I remember laboring and imagining women all over the world laboring at the same time with me. How we were all in this together, I remember feeling this sense of togetherness and strength from women I’d never met. And as I reflect back on my first two weeks of work that is exactly how I feel. I feel this sense of pulled strength and awareness of women all over the world who do this. I feel such a gratefulness for women in my life who have offered to help me as I figure this out. I feel like I’ve been laboring, and there have been these amazing women surrounding me, and willing me to get through, they’ve been silently watching and praying, they’ve been counting breaths with me and checking my vitals, they’ve been talking me through it, and calming me down when I panic.

I am just overwhelmed by how strong we all are. We are amazing.  And I need all of you. And our kids need all of us.