Years ago, my friend Kay said I needed to overcome my paralyzing need to people please. She said that I should practice on people who don’t matter. She suggested that I say “No” when I didn’t want to do something, send food back in restaurants when it was gross, and ignore criticism from strangers.
But honestly, the statement kind of made me recoil.
I’m a middle child. A peace maker. A placater. I’ve been taught that if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. I believe that everyone’s opinion counts. I should care what people have to say. Maybe it is from God?
I’ve been told that I should be “all things to all people” so that I can be a good Christian. Conform. Suppress. Self-sacrifice.
My confident friends would say, “Don’t worry what other people think of you.” And I would parrot it back with false assurance. I would use my blogger tone, the one that belongs to a confident, secure, Christian feminist girl who is unfazed by the silly, petty comments that life in the blogosphere tends to offer. This girl doesn’t care what people think.
Truthfully, I cannot even comprehend disregarding what people think. I have been believing their opinions for FAR too long.
My problem is not JUST that I worry what people think of me. My mistake is my BELIEF that dismissing their criticism is wrong, sinful, prideful, and defensive.
About a year ago something significant happened here in my writer-dom that I didn’t realize at the time. The number of strangers who read this blog surpassed the number of friends who read it. Despite receiving wonderfully positive feedback from many readers, occasionally, a tiny little pinprick of rejection would find its way into my inbox from a reader.
My writerly persona may have pretended that she didn’t care, but behavior revealed my actual BELIEFS.
When my work was criticized or even questioned, I deleted my posts, backtracked on my assertions, or softened my stance. I simply could not dismiss the harsh comments. Could I?
Hey you. Complete Stranger, I NEED you to like me.
Hi Person Who Disagrees With Every Single Post, thanks for reading even though your barbs make me cry.
Hi Unknown Individual Promoting Your Own Blog, I will bend over backwards for you when you embarrass me.
Uborganic Raw Milk Tyrant, I will keep pretending that diarrhea is okay by me.
Do you share my brand of crazy? Because if you do, you are probably pretty exhausted.
I was exhausted. I was insecure. I was paralyzed by the fear of being disliked, disrespected, or disregarded. I still kind of am.
Unwittingly, I had bitten into, chewed up, and swallowed down the lie that other’s opinions of me mattered. Those opinions sat in my gut and rotted. I could not dismiss their words. I could not dismiss them.
(Have I said “I could not dismiss them” enough that you are getting my point?)
Eventually, I stopped writing.
Last week, I had an e-mail conversation with my brilliant friend who told me to “Practice on the People Who Don’t Matter.” We were talking about my six month blog hibernation and why I was having problems with insecurity and fear. Here’s what she said
You’ve conformed and you’ve tried in so many areas. Your family. Ministry. The blog. And you keep running into these walls. All this stuff is broken, and that’s why none of it works and just makes you more frustrated.
You feel empty and depleted and shallow because you’re not the restorer of your own soul. Your performance will never, ever be enough.
And you’re low energy, because why would you want to have energy for a bunch of crap that doesn’t work anyway–and you know it!
But it comes at the cost of disappointing a bunch of people, and I think that’s what the struggle is here.
Are you going to choose the Lover of your Soul, or a bunch of people who need you to do the macarena so they can feel better about themselves? You need to stop being their god, and they need to stop being yours.
The other day, I wrote my first blogpost in six months about U-pick strawberries. I thought it was a fairly safe re-entry. Inevitably, however, I got a comment on my Facebook page that I didn’t like, and it made me feel bad. So, I decided to practice on the people who don’t matter.
People who are not my god. People who don’t know me. People who don’t love me. People who don’t define me. People who aren’t helping me grow.
I deleted the comment.
And I immediately felt bad, so I decided to keep practicing.
I went through lots of old blogposts and I deleted a lot of the comments that hurt me, made me angry, or just plain annoyed me.
Maybe that sounds callous and closed-off and bitchy. Insecure-me is afraid that you will think so.
But this is my blog. I am the writer. I created it and I am going to protect it.
God created me with a love of words and writing, and I work for Him.
I am a writer.
I am a writer.
Maybe I don’t believe that yet. But I will.
How do you handle criticism of your work whether it’s your parenting, your writing, or your art?
64 thoughts on “Practice on the People Who Don’t Matter”
I am a people pleaser – the kind of person who just loves people whatever they believe. Like people can say the meanest things to me, and I feel just like you, but at the same time, I just hardly ever find something worth nitpicking about like the disagreeables do. I just don’t voice it and when I do voice something contrary, I do so, so very timidly and then backtrack and delete posts or whatnot. Usually, I agree and agree some more.
I am learning that sometimes even if I don’t want to be controversial, I will still say something that is controversial to somebody. *sigh*
That’s me. So you doing what you need to do and writing this post – awesomely brave and I love you for it.
Jamie S. Harper recently posted…“May”king Rest and Quality Time a Priority
Thank you! I know what you mean about controversy. I think the blogosphere can be very dangerous because it gives jerks the anonymity to hide behind while they bully others for silly stuff. But even though our blogs are public, I am realizing that they don’t BELONG to the public. It is okay for me to stand up for myself and my work. I mean, if I was in an art gallery and people were throwing trash at my art, I wouldn’t put up with it. Oh, btw, I did not feel brave. I cried the whole time I wrote this, but I’m glad I did. 🙂
So glad you’re back and yes, I am also your brand of crazy. A great reminder.
I, like you, have always been a people pleaser. People who aren’t, don’t understand us any better than we understand them. It is hard not to take things personally, I am cheering for you as you try and overcome this challenge. I am a testament to the fact that it is not easy, but it is possible. I’m pulling for you…….and I love your blog! Keep on writing!!!
Thank you!! 🙂 So how did you do it? How did you overcome?
Prayer and support from my husband. He is my sounding board for when I get overwhelmed. He makes me take a second look at what (or who) is creating the distress in my life and helps me to recognize and deal with it. I don’t think it will ever go away, I have just been learning to see it for what it is and try to let it go.
There should be a group for people like us (kind of like AA). We could encourage each other.
Shawn, I’m totally onboard with joining PPA (People Pleasers Anonymous) whenever you start it. 😉 “Hi. I’m Katrina. I’m a people pleaser.”
I have missed reading your writing. I pray for you. I have no answer for your struggle as it is mine too. Like maybe my comment isn’t the right thing to be said and that I should just be quiet…anyway. But you are a writer! A very talented one. And it is obvious to me that you love God. And I look forward to your writing. So here I am. 🙂
Thanks, my friend. That means a lot to me. 🙂
I am one of the strangers that reads your blog. I just wanted to encourage you and thank you for your honesty! I am, as well, a people pleaser. I appreciate your candor! I hope you are encouraged to continue to write. God has obviously given you a talent!
Oh my dear. You are not alone! : ). I’ve also been a people pleaser for as long as I can remember. I was raised not to dare ruffle mom or dads feathers, so I took that into adulthood with me. Until I realized how extremely exhausting it really is. It’s impossible to please everyone, even those who are closest to me. I’m getting better! I can honestly say, I don’t give a rip about other people’s opinion who aren’t close to me. My family on the other hand, still matters. Baby steps. I don’t want to get to the point, however, to NEVER listen to them. JUST incase I start making some bad choices (who me???). I’m trying hard not to get my undies in a wad when The Lord uses someone to offer some constructive criticism to help me grow. Thanks for sharing your heart. I missed your posts. We have a lot in common. Your blog attracted me when I read that you were trying to live off of a teacher’s salary too! :). I like your sense of humor and your desire to live simply in order to bless others. I also like that you do your best to provide natural meals for your family without becoming the organic Natzi. :). Life is hard and beautiful all wrapped up in one. Thank you for sharing your with us. :).
Yes, I do want to listen to the people who DO matter, who know me, who God has placed in my life to care for me. Finding the balance is a big job, but I realize now that I need to tackle that job rather than giving up and hiding. 🙂
I totally hear you. For some of us it’s paralyzing. I have 3 daughters. I’m beginning to see “people pleasing” patterns 2 of them. Both my husband and I are pp’s. Which honestly, isn’t all bad. 🙂 But, do you know how difficult it is for a pp to be an example to our kids NOT to be the wimpy kind of pp? Ha! Lord help! 🙂
One of the first things I ever had published in a magazine generated my first piece of fan mail, forwarded to me from the publisher. It came in a pretty pink envelope and I was so flattered that I had this confirmation in front of me of my wonderfulness (yes, I made that word up).
I opened the envelope to find a long diatribe on how I am harming my children and not homeschooling properly. That was part of it. She was kind enough to include pamphlets that reinforced her position and let me know where I could purchase materials to more properly educate my children.
The more I read, the more I fretted about it. Then, at the bottom there was a sentence that sent me into the giggles. “I am planning to homeschool my daughter who is now 2 months old…” Oh, yeah. Right. I’m getting criticism on lesson planning from someone who has a 2 month old child and nothing else to do with her time.
Come on, Sista, when you’ve got a half dozen or more at home, call me and we’ll talk.
And that was that. I try and see both sides when I get negative feedback, and I try and make sure I’ve represented my information accurately, and when that is done, that’s it. Some people troll for the fun of stirring people up. They are the same people you would choose not to sit next to at a potluck. Try not to let them rent space in your head, it just isn’t worth it.
Rose Godfrey recently posted…From Clutter to Joy–My Journey Through a Pile of Stuff
Try not to let them rent space in your head, it just isn’t worth it. Amen sister. Amen.
Well I’m right there with you. I think that is why your blog speaks to me. I get it, I understand how you feel. Grew up feeling the same way and still battle it. Praying for you.. for me… and my friend who is in the trenches with us! I shared this post with her. Thank you for sharing your heart and giving others permission to “Practice”. I took your re-post last winter to heart about giving up disclaimers. Can’t tell you how many times I have said something and thought no – that is a disclaimer – not truth. Stilllll working on that one 😉
I’m glad to see you back blogging!
Love your post, I think I should try the same thing! Thank you for posting 🙂
We can do it!! 🙂
While I think I still struggle with people pleasing, I did learn when I had my One Tree Hill fan blog that you just have to delete the haters in the comments and ignore their emails. Realize it’s them (they?) that have the issue and it’s not a reflection on you. They just need an outlet to spew their hatred and for that day, it happened to be your blog. Having a commenting policy gives you an out and lessens the guilt a bit when you hit that delete button. And I would say a very broad commenting policy–something like, I reserve the right to delete any comment. Period.
Good for you and so glad to see you popping back up in my feed.
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Oh I needed this! Thanks for being honest and letting me know I’m not alone. 🙂
Awesome, Katrina, thank you for your transparency and authenticity. I am often insecure about my parenting, or have been especially early on, and whenever certain people, mainly my parents, criticized how I do things, I get defensive and occasionally blow up. Really I need to trust God that He is guiding me and training me to parent. And if I depend on Him it doesn’t as much matter if other people have different opinions (people who happen to state their opinion as the gospel truth!). When I am doing it in my own will, without praying throughout the day to maintain that dependence on God, then I fall into the trap of caring what others think. Also, your comment, practice on people who don’t matter sounds like the premise for the concept Boundaries, by Cloud and Townscend. If you have not read it, it is excellent and addresses these exact issues of people pleasing and saying No.
Kara, you make a great point–that it is hard to know how to take criticism from people WHO DO MATTER. I struggle with the same thing in my family. I think part of the key is to have been listening to truth, so we know where our confidence lies. When I am torn down and exhausted from ALL the false critique, I cannot even bear constructive and helpful remarks from people who love me. I’m hopeful that if I learn to reject the “junk,” then maybe I will be able to discern the good advice that God sends my way from opinions that I can graciously tolerate without adopting. 🙂
Thank you for being so open and honest about what you are going through.
I completely understand your frustration. Within the past few years I have been dealing with my Ex, his family members, and some not so healthy relationships. What I have learned so far is that…
Ultimately, my hope, faith, and comfort should always be in God first. I can’t look to my Husband or any one particular person or thing to feed my need to be loved. It ultimately needs to be fed by God alone and to find comfort in his word. He created us to lean on him and have a close intimate relationship with him. Much like we do with our own children. 2) After this I realized I didn’t have many good friends. Most of my friendships I had at the time were one sided…I gave and gave of myself (time, listening, helping). Ever heard of the Love Bank concept? If you keep filling someone else’s Love Bank by constantly being the encouraging person and yours isn’t getting filled by getting some encouragement…then your Love Bank will eventually be empty and you will have nothing more to give. Soooo….I went on a mission to find deeper relationships with God, Old and New Friends. Healthy friendships are awesome!!! 3) I read the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. This book and workbook were so freeing for me!! 4) I started to do studies on Jesus. I soon started realizing that if my desire was to learn to be more like him, then I had to pay attention to how he interacted with people in the bible and had to start doing the same. Jesus was not a coward by any means. He was very loving in his responses, yet very bold and spoke the truth in love. 5) I started changing areas of my life. I started setting boundaries in toxic “friendships”, speaking the truth in love, and responding to people out of concern for each of our characters and not based on my emotions. I am learning how to be open with others about things that I do not appreciate, ways I am not going to let them talk to me, or certain things I will not allow. (My Ex (15+ years) and his family would send me and my children inappropriate messages etc and so I just stop interacting with them because they refused to stop after being asked). The Bible does say to not throw your pearls to swine. There are MANY people who are hungry for healthy relationships. God has given us gifts to share and sometimes I feel it’s not wise to keep wasting them on people who basically trample on them. I truly believe God wants us to find avenues to inspire and encourage others. We are all here for a purpose. I think it’s to bring light to those we come in contact with. I do not think we should indulge ourselves or allow Satan to tear us down by such negativity, emotions, and impurity that waste our time and efforts. I hope you keep letting your light shine. Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Sorry for the long post 😛
Good reminder about not throwing our pearls to swine. I think we all have to remember to protect the gifts (relationships, people, abilities) that God has given us and not let them be torn down.
The first blog I ever read is Suburban Turmoil and she got huge over the years by writing for lots of columns and hosting a very popular Cheeseburgher party at BlogHer every year. She picks controversial subjects and the most interesting to me was her clash with Christians who judged her harshly for some language that had been used in the past on her blog.
In the past year she took a full time job and largely stopped writing. When she came back her base was down to a small group of loyal readers. I’m afraid your blog concept got big before you knew how to handle the criticism that comes with being a bigger blogger. Perhaps with this 6mo break you can start over with a smaller band of loyal readers who read because they truly love your content.
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I hope so. I think smaller blogger is more my style anyway. 🙂 Thanks for being one of the loyal readers who has stuck by me. Love you!
I love your blog and feel like we could be friends if we attended same church or lived in same neighborhood. It makes me angry that ppl have hurt or made you angry about some of their comments. Personally I love your blog and agreed and admired what you and your family are trying to do. Pls don’t let a few yahoos keep you from readers who learn from and love your blogs.
Thank you! I am going to try to focus on all my wonderful, loyal readers like you. 🙂
Good job deleting the yucky comments! And SO HAPPY to see you writing again–it truly is a gift from God and a HUGE encouragement to TONS of us out here!!
Thank you! You are a true friend. 🙂
Many of these people you are afraid of disappointing aren’t even giving this a second thought. Many most likely simply disagree with you. That is to be expected in life. God made us in all different makes and models. It’s okay we don’t all see things from the same view point. We all have different experiences. Give yourself a hug and realize no matter how other people see things, your value does not change!
So true! I am fine with differing opinions and need to get better at not taking things personally. On the flipside, I also need to be okay with just flat out DISMISSING opinions that don’t belong here on my blog. I’m not saying that they can’t exist in the universe or in someone else’s life, but I can’t let them in my head anymore.
You know the reason I can say these things to you is because I had to make these mantras up for myself, right? I’m super excited–YOU WROTE YOU WROTE YOU WROTE!!!
Oh, and mostly I would handle criticism by crying. Criticism hurts. So I would cry. And then I would do the right thing and learn to live with a little criticism.
kaybruner recently posted…what i got instead
Learning to live with a little criticism . . . It sounds easy, but it’s not. 😉
You’re right, it’s not easy. I’m still practicing all the time, only now I’m trying to do better with the people who DO matter, after practicing on lots of Starbucks baristas and Wendy’s waitresses. One of the things I didn’t expect as a counselor is all the ways that people could be mad at me–it still makes me anxious. But I just have to breathe through it and move on. I still feel sad and scared, but those feelings don’t have to control me.
kaybruner recently posted…what i got instead
I’m a stranger who reads your blog, and I just wanted to say, I’m glad you’re back and I admire your courage. You said above in a comment that you weren’t brave and this was hard to write; well, I think that’s true bravery — doing something that’s hard and scary for you. And good for you for deleting negative comments. For my part, as a reader I cringe every time I see a negative comment on someone else’s blog. There’s a world of difference between expressing an alternate opinion and criticizing someone else for not believing/doing what you believe/do and I think people should think about that difference before they post a comment. I’m sorry you’ve had readers who didn’t take that time and care before posting and I’m very glad you’re writing again despite those negative experiences. Isn’t it so true that you can have 1,000 positive feedbacks and one negative one, and the negative feedback is what you zero in on? Being aware of that dynamic is the first step to putting it all in perspective, I think.
Sorry, this is an extremely rambly comment. Feel free to delete and ask me for something more coherent *g*.
Lee, you don’t count as a stranger anymore because you have been such a faithful reader! You are definitely right about keeping things in perspective with regard to encouragement and critique. That is my goal. 🙂
That’s one of the nicest things anyone’s said to me on line. Thank you!
I had some of the same problems as you…until I read this. Changed my blogging career. 🙂
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Stacy, this article was GREAT! Jon Acuff is so smart. (And much more concise than I am. :))
I just do not get the concept of following a blog just to criticize every post. I would love it if every blogger I followed deleted all the miserable comments. I think it’s awesome that you’re doing that…keep it up! I really believe in eating real organic food, but the organic food czars make me crazy. Trolling the Internet to tell people they are going to get cancer and die from what they are eating has to be a sad life. God wants us to to care for our bodies because they are a gift from Him. When the gift becomes our treasure, it also becomes our source of hope…that never turns out well. Keep writing and keep deleting!!!
People take food VERY seriously. Unfortunately, I think for some people it becomes kind of an idol, an issue of control and worship. Talking about food can be very threatening for many people, so I often feel like I’m stepping into a minefield. The longer I blog, the less I want to tell people what to eat. 😉 Thankfully, I have some other things to say that aren’t so incendiary.
Thanks for sharing and exposing your vulnerability. It is in that sharing we can all grow. I have been there…beating myself up over a comment the preschool teacher made about my child, being judged about being ‘too granola’ bc we eat organic, even those FB comments that hurt.
I’ve learned that we are all on different paths and we will do our own healing in our own time. Sometimes there are truths in those comments and we need to contemplate them. After doing some self-work and connecting
to my divine love, I see people differently. People who are nasty are hurting. I think we need to step back and say, wow…they need even more love. I also find the more secure I am with myself and the more loving and caring I am to myself, the easier it is to let go of other’s negativity.
Keep writing and sharing…the people who you reach may not even be commenting, but your divine message will reach them! XO
Food, I have come to realize, is a VERY personal subject. People are surprisingly ready to attack each other over what what they do or don’t eat. I have to remember that moderation is the key–not just in food, but in the way we discuss what is really important. People’s feelings are WAY more important than what they eat or feed their kids.
I’m so glad you have begun to write again. I have been inspired by your posts in the past, and I look forward to more in the future. I don’t understand why some people feel the need to be hateful, but I know there must be some emptiness inside them that only Jesus Christ can fill. I will be praying for you and your family:)
I have read this post twice yesterday and once today, just trying to soak it in and apply it to myself. I always say that I don’t care what other people think, but deep down I know that I do. On the blogging side of things: I believe God also made me a writer, but I get so many doubts- no one wants to read what you have to say…what would your blog even be about…you have zero experience writing in “public”…you can’t punctuate worth a BEAN! So maybe I am not meant to be a blogger. =) But somehow I do want to write.
But back on the track of what people think of me. It is hard not to internalize criticism. I always think to myself (or say out loud), “Is this what God says about me? Who does He say I am?” I have to focus on my identity in HIM, and not my identity according to others.
Thank you for being so open and, as always, vulnerable. I will begin to practice on those who don’t matter.
I’ll tell you what my encouragers have said to me. Write! Write! Write! If God gave you a gift, you should USE it. 🙂 Punctuation is overrated. (And that’s coming from a former English teacher. ;))
Katrina, I love your honesty! If I may share & someone may have already posted this … I once heard Joyce Meyer say “hurting people hurt people”. When someone says something hurtful to me & initially hurts my feelings, I work very hard to quickly pray for that person & forgive them. However, I am not always successful. I’m a work in progress. 🙂
Very true. I actually think “hurtful” comments might be easier to forgive than the snarky or obnoxious ones. Those are the ones that I have the hardest time with that I realize I just need to eliminate. 🙂 We are all works in progress.
so well said! and so helpful to myself, yourself, and so many of us “people pleasers”! i have been praying this for myself for sometime in the form of setting better boundaries for myself, and speaking up earlier rather than later for what i believe in, need, like or dislike. now, you’ve opened my eyes to see that i need to pray for that for all of us people pleasers. thank you so much for sharing your heart, and keep moving forward, and keep deleting the ugly!
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Thanks! Yes, boundaries are what I need. Deleting words that encroach on what God says about me is my first step. 🙂
Yesterday I searched online for a recipe for ciabatta bread, along the way I saw someone post about whey… I started reading that and before I knew it… The posts were getting nasty, rude and offensive. About WHEY.
I thought, seriously… Who are these people? Who has the time to sit around writing negative things to strangers, to spark controversy over cheese making by-products, to engage in useless criticism over protein content.
They are the same people who make useless comments about your strawberry farm.
I’m not going to say that they don’t matter, but their comments don’t. And if they dont matter, Why delete them? Maybe this is part of the exersize?
I’m glad you are back to writing….
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I love you even more today! You are speaking what we all live and pretend we don’t. High fives!
Doing a little happy dance over here on the other side of the world, because you are back blogging again and because I love all these comments above. So much truth and love in one place. God has given you a unique voice in the blogosphere my friend, and you give him glory when you use it.
Katrina! I’m sitting on my hands trying not to shout with wild abandon in full agreement!! 🙂 I’m right there with you… people pleaser, all the way. (Sounds like there are loads of us… ;)) I’ve been working through these same sort of issues myself and was just so encouraged and challenged by your post.
I’m so glad you’re back! You challenge me, give me great ideas, and make me laugh. Maybe when we live in the same town we can be buddies… but for now I’ll happily settle for the blog all the way over here on the other side of the ocean. 🙂
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Katrina, I just wanted to say I’m SO glad to see you back here! I have missed your voice.
No one has the right to be hurtful to you, even though the internet makes that so easy. Good for you, standing up for yourself! I’d delete those comments too. 🙂
How I have missed you! so pleased you are back. Whenever I am having a guilt/people pleasing glitch moment (actually more like day) I have to say, I go back to the Good News. We’re never gonna be enough, and do better/work harder ain’t gonna cut it. Guess who took care of all of it? Yep, Jesus. So thankful for your writing and your honestly and most of all your love for Jesus.
Thank you! It’s good to be back.
Love to hear your thoughts – always have. You are passionate about things and that’s always going to conflict with other people’s opposite passion. There was once a point in my life that I didn’t have many strong opinions about things and everyone liked me. That was nice. But I also find it more fun to not have everyone like me and live free and wholeheartedly pursue things I believe in. There are too many apathetic people out there who don’t want to tackle the big issues so they are safe and their blogs are safe and happy feeling, but they don’t have what it takes to ever make a change…you do! Hope I get to drink coffee with you again someday. 🙂
HOORAY!!! You are BACK!!!! I am so happy!!! YOU ARE A WRITER, KATRINA! I don’t care if people dislike my all caps writing; I am just too excited! You are a GIFTED writer, not just a writer. I love you, and I know God is using and blessing your gift and will continue to do so for as long as He wants you in the writing business. And of course I love it that I know your Cheeto-loving kids, especially the smallest one (who I can totally picture standing there with her hands on her hips). Wish I could visit you all and have a chat over a cup of coffee, knowing you’d be working in the kitchen the whole time and fielding small people’s requests. 🙂
Hugs!!! Carrie (I’m so proud, I’m bursting)
My dearest Carrie. People who rave about me can use as many capitals as they like. 🙂 Also, I wanted to tell you that I’ve been thinking about life with five 3 year olds and I have vowed to myself to fly to PNG to feed your quint-lets Cheetos should the need arise. That is just the kind of friend that I am. I MISS YOU.
I loved your strawberry post btw 🙂 And missed your writing. I love your honesty and the way you are trying to navigate through the land of organic on a budget! You’ve inspired me.
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