Welcome, new Yogi

I watch you cautiously enter the studio – a place that at first glance can seem so intimidating, I know. You’re not sure what to expect or if you wore the right thing, or if you’ll even be able to make it through the hour you’ve set aside for you. I can see you are nervous, almost timid.

You’re greeted with warm smiles from the volunteers and instructors gathered hospitably around the front desk, waiting to help you sign up for a class, answer your questions, show you where the facilities and different tempered rooms are. These friendly faces put some of your fears to rest, at least for the moment. You can feel the shift of energy in the air as more students flow into the studio.

I  keep observing you from across the airy, open, sunny front room. I see your shoulders relax down your back slightly, ease entering your eyes and recognition of something almost home-like about this place  flashes in them. We catch each other’s gaze and share a small, but sincere smile.

You wander down the hall into the change room, where I am sure you’re talking yourself into class. Not sure what to expect, not sure if you’ll like it, not sure if it’s for you. Scared of the heat, the poses, the unknown.

I know this feeling all too well. I think every new yogi does.

What I want to tell you is that what you will find in the heated yoga studio upstairs is going to surprise you, maybe even scare you a little.

I want to tell you of the life-altering feeling you are about experience, the wash of emotion, the shift in perspective, the gains in confidence, compassion and strength you will feel.

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I want to burst at you with stories and antidotes of feeling yourself truly shut your brain off for the first time and the exhilarating calm that comes with that freedom.

I want to tell you, that if you just let it, this practice, those poses, this studio, will change your whole life and lift up your soul in ways you didn’t think were possible.

I want to tell you that it will only take a moment for you to fall so deeply in love with your practice and you’ll know exactly when it happens.

I want to tell you that it is okay to let go, especially here, and sometimes that very act might even come out as laughter or tears in class – and that’s okay.

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I want to share with you that the people that live, work and love here will become a second family to you, this studio a second home, if you let it, if you welcome it with open arms.

I want to calm your fears with tales of the incredible lives that have been changed by this bit of magic you’ve found, allowed into your life.

I want to warn you that you are about to challenge your ego, but it will be the best thing you ever do for your soul.

I want to tell you that you’re going to find out things about yourself that you didn’t know existed, had forgotten once were, and feel more you than you ever have in that 60, or 75 minutes of pure bliss.

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I want to tell you about the calm in your soul that will come when you become more aware and more present, at first in class, and then soon every area of your life.

I want to tell you that you will feel more in control and out of your mind in the most calming way, at the same time, in that room.

I want to tell you that when you adopt the true practice of yoga in areas of your life outside of the studio will be when you will truly understand what you’ve found.

I want to tell you to breathe your way through class and that you’ll soon realize that it’s necessary to breathe through life in the same way.

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I want to tell you so many things about what you’ve started by stepping onto your mat for the very first time.

But I don’t.

Instead I share one more silent smile with you as we both enter the room. I watch you find your place on your mat, sprawl out on the floor, fidgeting a bit as you start to relax. As I settle onto my mat myself, I say a little prayer for your practice and mine today, sending a little love, light and energy your way.

I can’t wait for the journey that lies ahead of you, the breakthroughs and breakdowns, the freedom from what is resting on your shoulders. I am so excited for you and your practice to unfold and the blessings it will so abundantly bring.

Welcome, new Yogi.

~ Toni

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Working to a better me

I am not the biggest fitness guru in the world, not even in this sisterhood, but I do have a few things that I love doing as I work my way to a better me.

1. Hot Yoga:
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I have Toni to blame for this one. I didn’t think I would like it at all. I thought I would hate the heat, and just hate the fact that my body can’t do all the yoga poses. However, the first night I attempted this I felt so calm and at peace with my body and myself afterward I knew it was love. I love my body for all its largeness, but know it can be better. And now I can listen to my body better than I have in the past.

2. Crunches:
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I have a love for them. I can do 96 of them in a row, which I am pretty damn proud of myself for. For this I have to thank my old burlesque teacher, Miss Sassy Ray. She is wonderful, and showed me that no matter what size you are, you can dance, crunch, and wiggle with the best of them.

3. Eating Better:
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Less fast food, less junk overall, and just trying to put more veggies where there is too much starch. This one is hard because I live with so many people, with varying likes and dislikes, but I have found ways to sneak in the healthy stuff.

I am not the best at being healthy or treating my body well, but I am on a road leading to a better me, and working on a better happiness for who I am, what I look like, and my size.
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~ Andreah

Get what you need

I don’t always have good days, but since being back they have been more frequent, which is nice.
1My one counselor told me to find something that puts a smile on my face and make it a part of me.
2One of those things for me are inspirational sayings.

They’re little sayings usually on photos that capture your eye, and quotes that can spur you forward.
3Every once in a while I need these little signs to help me and give me an up.
4I do my best, but I feel like it is never good enough.

I feel like it isn’t going to get better.
5But wait, the universe is vast, so vast we literally don’t know what it all is or what makes it all up. We don’t.
6I know I can do this, and these little things and sayings in my life help and give me some form of peace, even if it’s only for a little while.
Inspirational
~ Andreah

The great 2015

Well, we are back full force everyone, and more than just that it’s a new year! A fresh start – or more like a continuation of the changes I have made over my many years on this earth – a whopping 25, if you didn’t know.

There is so much that 2015 has to hold. Not only are Cody and I getting hitched come June, but our group of friends is GROWING!!! That’s right – we have two amazing couples in our circle of friends that are expecting beautiful bundles of joy! This, if anything, is the most amazing thing to look forward to. Yes, I am excited to marry the man of my dreams, my best friend, but if anything says “You are growing up” it’s when baby showers are in your future.

Normally resolutions are made and then broken. I honestly believe this. Resolutions at the start of the year are pointless when you don’t know what the year holds for you! How can you say that you are going to set a goal if you can’t foresee the future and know that those goals are obtainable? So, this year I have decided not to make any, but rather enjoy everything this year is going to bring. There are so many events that are going to unfold that making a list of what not to do and what needs to be done by the end of the year is just adding to an ever-growing to-do list that I already loathe. I want 2015 to be a year of happiness, love, friendship and family.

It is a widely known fact that the number 1 resolution every year, over and over and over again, is to become healthier and to exercise more. Just drive past any gym on January 2nd and see the numerous cars that were once not present but now are abundant. These cars will slowly diminish. People’s lives are simply too busy,

I sound pretty cynical and negative; however, every year this has been my goal and the only reason that I have stuck to it is because I slowly over the last two years have exercised more and it has become easier for me to the point where it has become a lifestyle choice, rather than a resolution to be healthier at the end of the year. I want to be healthier at the end of every day!

I was pretty interested in what other bloggers thought and what resolutions they were making. I found a lot, and some of their points of view made me think twice. Let’s Talk New Year’s Resolutions is keeping things positive, and instead of seeing resolutions that were not kept as failures, she simply adds onto it and tries for next year. Just like this, most blogs are following the same suit – positive resolutions for the new year. Starting off on the right foot!

Whether you are making resolutions or not, I wish you all the best in 2015 – health, happiness, family and friendship.

~ Jacqui

Welcome, 2015

Ah, 2015.

Welcome. I’ve been waiting for you.

First and foremost, waiting for you to watch my baby sister plan her wedding and become a wife.

Waiting on you to help determine my next steps in my career path and even make some surprising changes.

Waiting for you to give me opportunity to reflect on the mixed bag that was 2014, with some very intense highs and very dark, lingering lows.

But mostly, waiting for you to see what adventures you have prepared for us, unbeknownst to our planning and projecting human natures.

In the name of honesty, the end of 2014 wasn’t exactly my favourite. In fact, if I am being completely open with our readers, the last quarter of 2014 can SUCK IT.

Man. That felt good.

For 2015, I personally have begun to mull over some goals – resolutions, if you must.

Not so much things that I will resolve to change about myself such as kicking a bad habit, but a little more of an ideal of what I would like to focus on to get the most out of this beautiful New Year we have been gifted:

1. Setting clearer, more specific intentions. At the beginning of every yoga practice, we are asked to set an intention for that session. As opposed to setting long-term goals, these are supposed to be your short-term focus of what you most want from that session, the benefit you are personally seeking when you step onto your mat. They can be as simple as wanting to be quiet for an hour, more physically specific such focusing on mastering my breathing, or even seeking a deeper spiritual need to be met like letting go of something heavy on your heart. Sometimes I am very successful in setting and meeting my intentions at the mat. But sometimes, and lately more often than I would like to admit, I’ve been struggling with setting clear intentions while settling into savasana.

As my practice is still in its infancy, I’ve granted myself a lot of patience with my growth; however, I’ve come to the conclusion that adopting the same practice of setting my intentions at the beginning of class to the beginning of my day might be the key to me being more successful when I do reach the mat. And in turn, I’m sure it won’t harm me to have a clear intent for the day for which to boomerang myself back to when the world gets to be too much.

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2. Practice self-forgiveness…sooner. I have a hard time letting go of my own mistakes. I’m quick to accept an apology and hope for the best the next time around from those that I love when a wrongdoing is experienced, and even those that I don’t necessarily love receive it sooner than I tend to allow myself. I’m a bit of a martyr in this way and will torture myself relentlessly when I screw up with someone I care for. But it’s come to my attention that I have to cut myself a break too and realize that I am just as, if not more, human than anyone and the furthest from perfect you can imagine. Self-forgiveness is required for survival, but more importantly it’s required for growth and true fulfillment in life.

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3. Focus in faith. My relationship with God has, for the most part, been a good one. Even when man-made religious parameters and beliefs failed me, I have yet to lose complete faith in the love God has for me. As with any good human-tainted relationship, there of course have been times of doubt, times I’ve struggled with understanding and times I’ve wondered if he’s still with me at all. Human thoughts from my very human mind. This year, I hope to explore and experience more in my faith and my relationship with the Father. I hope to build in my trust and commitment to Him and grow more in the image He desires of me.

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4. Become and stay flexible. While both a lofty physical goal as well as an internal one, I desire to work on and improve upon my flexibility. Flexibility with my need to control what I can. Flexibility in my hand-stands, back bends and splits. Flexibility when things don’t go as planned. Flexibility all around. For my sanity, my self-improvement and for my body, heart and soul as they age. Flexibility in my ways, my opinions, and my beliefs. Flexibility in my needs, wants and desires. Flexibility in the way I stay active and fit. Flexibility.

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I hope whatever goals, dreams, desires or resolutions you have for this calendar year of 2015, you above all are kept safe, find joy, feel love and grow more than ever.

~ Toni

Scaleless

On one of our crazy-early morning hikes, the conversation switched to growing up without a scale in our house. I can remember going to friends’ houses and the idea of weighing yourself seemed so alien to me – why weigh yourself? Are you a doctor? Ignorance is bliss, is it not?

I can remember the handful of times I have ever weighed myself, because frankly I would be overweight based on my body mass index. Let me tell you there are days I feel that way, but they are few and far between. I work out because I feel good afterwards, I know how to eat healthy and I do treat myself to the occasional chicken nugget meal. I run/hike/insert any active noun to keep my mind clear. It’s a bonus that my waist benefits as well.

So I asked my sisters, Kim, Toni and Julia…Do you regret not growing up with a scale? And would you have a scale in your house?

Growing up our mother never fat-shamed herself. She may have felt ugly, as we all have as we see ourselves starring back at us, when our pants are fitting a little more snug, or our shirt is pulling in the wrong places, but she never let it leave her bedroom. I don’t remember her making comments about our weight, but we also didn’t have a super active lifestyle. We were always outside but we were not in sports, and I can’t remember either of my parents uttering the works “gym” or other than to ask how our gym class went that day, and my mother never uttered the word “diet.”

My mother is beyond beautiful! She has curves, an infectious smile and the warmest heart. When she hugs you, her perfume and warmth engulfs you and suddenly everything seems to melt away. She has inner and outer beauty.

So when I asked Julia about how she is raising her girls, the response was easy and took no thought. She stated that she loved how mom did not ever talk about diets, that there was no scale. That the emphasis on us growing up was feeling good instead of what the scale said.

Julia continued to elaborate and also said how she loves that Sophie and Lillian play exercising as one of their role playing games, and Lillian and Sophie both love to run like Mommy. Isaac will also grow up knowing that both his parents run, workout, have a healthy life style, but yet they don’t have a scale present for the girls.

There is no template for how to raise your children. In fact, it’s a hot topic when you compare how kids are raised today with tablets, iPads, cell phones, and game consoles versus the previous generations’ upbringing of coming home when the street lights turned on.

You can raise a child telling them that they are beautiful just how they are, and yet you never know what will influence a child.

For me, looking back, I did go through normal adolescent insecurities. I was worried what others thought of me, how I looked and how I felt, but I don’t regret growing up without a scale.

I think that maybe if we had had a scale, that my workouts and runs may be more for the physical goal rather than my mental and physical health. That if the number I saw staring back at me is what I was worried about more than how I am feeling in my own skin, I think I may get more deterred and give up easier.

I am proud to be a part of a scaleless childhood, and am going to be carrying on this tradition.

~ Jacqui

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The one year feat!

In the world of epilepsy they calendar milestones in years, although to an epileptic a day could feel like a year. For instance, you lose your license when you have uncontrolled seizures of any kind, something about automobiles and seizures not mixing? I am not sure, but the MTO in Ontario states that if a person has been seizure-free for a year then they may reapply for their license.

 To this epileptic this year was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am proud to announce I am one year seizure FREEEEE. 

I thought, what better time to look back on where I was a year ago?  Most people were starting school again and I was facing starting a new medication and talking about whether surgery was in order to further find out WHY I was not responding to any medication. There was a theory that was not very popular with my neurologist – I could be possibly be taking too much medication. It was a scary thought, to be over medicated. How could that even be? Modern medicine teaches doctors to treat symptoms, but what if it is a vicious cycle of treating a symptom that is being caused from a medication with more medication?

So I made a decision. I was going to get healthy on my own, sorry Doc!

I was going cold turkey, people. I was…what the fuck was I doing? I was being bold? I was being brave? I did it for me! For future babies!  For Cody!  For my family. I did it so when I called in sick to work, it would be simple – I was just sick, get better! Rather than “Are you home alone? Do you need me to come over? When will Cody be there? Does your mom know?” Hey, I am not complaining – I put this in place. I told my workplace what I needed medically and they were all in. I guess I am just that darn special! I did it for so many reasons and I kicked this year’s ass.

How? Well, I said no. I said no to a lot of things. I said no to when I knew it was too much to handle, I said no to trivial small things. I stopped sweating the small stuff, and it really is all small stuff. I said yes to me. I said yes to going to bed early if I was tired, I said yes to the cues my body was giving me. I said yes to spending more time with people who supported me instead of tearing me down. Who were looking out for my well-being as well as their own. I have an AMAZING support system all around me.

I started to watch what chemicals I was putting into my body in terms of processed foods. I said yes to more whole foods and tried to get rid of as much processed crap.

Let me tell you this journey was not easy. I am a people pleasing person, I like to do what you want me to do, I like being asked to do things and being leaned on. But when my own health became backseat, I had to kick everyone out of the bus.

I DO NOT RECOMMEND DOING THIS without the support of your neurologist. If you are reading this and think that this may be your case, then talk to your doctor first – do not throw out your medication because NO two epileptics are the same.

I commemorated my one year feat with a permanent reminder that I came out of the darkness – but I am not out of the woods yet. I am still very much an epileptic, and I can’t live life thinking I am invincible. Every decision I make, everywhere I go, everything I do, I am epileptic. I have epilepsy. BUT IT DOES NOT HAVE ME!

~ Jacqui

If you would like more information in regards to my journey, leave us a comment and I will be happy to email you.

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Can we try a little acceptance?

Remember the old saying ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me’?

Well, I call bullshit.

It’s hard being plus-sized, and times don’t get any easier when younger generations seem to get harsher.

When you walk into a store, and hear people talk about you, your size and the way you look, it doesn’t hurt any less than when I was a kid and all my playground to high school bullies would comment on my size over and over again.

It hurts and the flashbacks aren’t any more fun than experiencing it the first time.

I am trying and working on loving myself, but when I hear from four teenage girls who I don’t even know, “Can she get any bigger?” I think it’s gone too far.

When you tell your child, while I am looking through the plus-sized section, not to eat too much because you don’t want to look like her, well I just say that goes too far, and although I don’t make a comment, and just try and brush it off, it still gets to me. It still hurts.

Made by Epic Designer Carol Rossetti!!

Made by epic designer Carol Rossetti

I just want to say one thing when people out in the world make me feel like a tiny insignificant speck of nothing – Screw you.

I like food, and although I am working on cutting down the fat, I love good, delicious, healthy-for-you food, and didn’t get this way by eating fast food. I got this way by having poor eating habits, not eating choices. I got this way by being severely depressed, wanting attention, and getting it through the wrong means. And yes, I am paying for it now, but I didn’t do anything to your child, you, or anyone around you, so why must you comment? Why comment on people’s lives, their weight, or anything else about them? Why can’t we all just be nice to each other regardless of what they look like, and why the hell can we not appreciate who they are?

That person who you are talking about? Yes, they may be overweight, but they can still hear you!

Made by Epic Designer Carol Rossetti!!

That person may be wearing outrageous colours, but maybe it makes them feel good, and what right do you have to comment on how they look?

Granted, I am a firm believer for dressing according to my body size, but just because I don’t think I can’t make a tube top work, doesn’t mean anything about you! It means that I can’t flaunt all of me yet. I will get there, and I will learn to love my body, but it doesn’t happen overnight and weight loss doesn’t happen in one swift moment. Trust me, I know.

But one thing that would probably make everyone’s lives a ton easier is to stop judging based on appearance.

Made by Epic Designer Carol Rossetti!!

Stop belittling other people because you think it makes you sound better than you are. One day those teenagers are going to learn what it feels like to be on the other side, and the next time I may actually say something. That mom in that store may one day have an overweight child and will learn to accept their faults and love them regardless.

I may not be able to teach you these lessons, but I hope one day we all can learn to accept faults in ourselves, because that’s where we should be looking first.

I do want to end this blog post on a high note – that no matter what I think of myself and no matter what anybody says, I know Joe thinks I am beautiful; he says it to me every morning when we wake up and every night before we fall asleep.

~ Andreah

Everyone remembers their first

I remember my first seizure like it was yesterday.

There are very few that stand out to me, mostly because I choose to forget them – they aren’t the warm fuzzy memories that mark a special occasion – but everyone remembers their first.

I was 17 and getting ready for prom. I had bought a gorgeous coral dress, which was a little too big, and my mom had picked myself and Andreah (Dee) up from school to get it hemmed. She took us to an apartment in a nearby city, which stood adjacent to a mall. Whose apartment it was I couldn’t tell you, but I do remember that my mom found the seamstress through someone at church. I remember that she had just had a baby. Before we went up the elevator to her floor, I remember telling my mom I was hungry, to which she promised to pick something up once we were done. I don’t think I was actually hungry, but I couldn’t put my finger on what I was feeling.

The seamstress had just finished placing the pins with precision in the fabric, making a map for herself later to follow, when she asked how I thought the dress looked… That’s when it happened…

I tasted copper, or like a penny was on the back of my tongue, everything got hot, I was falling, and I couldn’t grab anything.

Then pain, the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. I wish I could compare it to something else, but there is nothing I have ever felt before that could come close to it. The best I can do for you is a muscle spasm, but much more intense, and just as it came it was gone. My mom will tell you it was longer than what I felt – when I am having a seizure, tracking their length is the last thing on my mind.  I was tired and I wanted to do nothing more than to sleep, but the pain kept me in a state of between, as if I was awake, but still dreaming.

I felt hands, familiar hands, the hands of my mom who was now calmly telling Dee to call 911 as she was taking the dress off. I could feel the pins scratch against my skin and it was a comfort to feel something other than that pain.

“It’s okay I am here, I have you. It’s okay. Andreah you are going to need to tell them the apartment number and the floor. I am here, I have you.”

My eyes wouldn’t open…sleep, my body was telling me, just sleep.

“Andreah, grab her clothes and give them to me. You need to calm down, I have to take care of Jacqueline. She is going to be okay, just breathe and talk to the police.”

Then more hands, hands of someone I didn’t know, and my mom was giving the hands my information.

“She fainted and hit her head, she started to shake, I don’t know what happened, she was saying she was hungry, she is hypoglycemic.”

Warm air – I was outside – then a woman’s voice unfamiliar to me, “We are taking her to the hospital. You can meet us there.”

I was alone, blood was being taken from me, something was being pushed into my arm, another needle. Then dark and quiet.

I remember waking up in a wheelchair, I was in a waiting room, and Julia and Toni were there, and Ben… Oh, Ben. Andreah was sitting, staring at me. I looked up and saw Julia, I wanted to say hello, but I couldn’t find the words. Instead a classy stream of drool came out of my mouth, and tears from my eyes. I was so tired, and sore, then sleep came again.

I was in a bed being woken up by a nurse – if I had a concussion I wasn’t allowed to sleep (which is a stupid rule). Mom was still with me. Thank God – there would have been no way without her. My protector, fighting for me with nurses, and the doctors that I saw. Waiting for me through the numerous scans throughout the night. All the while holding it together.

Later, I was up and fully functional. The first one is always the hardest to get through, at least in my case. I took them like a champ after that! The doctor told me I had had a tonic-clonic or a grand mal seizure. He recommended we follow up with a neurologist as soon as possible, because they couldn’t see why I had had one. Thus started the battle that is epilepsy.

There have been so many seizures after that, and soon after my first grand mal seizure, I would come to find out I had had many more before it called complex partial seizures.

I don’t like talking about it, because I hate the look of sympathy in people’s eyes and I in no way have it worse than many other people with epilepsy. I have never had to have major surgery in order to improve my way of life. Yes, I have been yo-yo’d from medication to medication, but I found what works and now I am four months strong seizure-free with no medication.

I have the utmost empathy for those who live and fight epilepsy every day, constantly looking for a cure, medication, therapy, or treatment that will help them cope with their seizures. The brain is a tricky mistress and she is constantly changing and challenging us. I also know that a lot of us couldn’t do it without our amazing support systems, taking us to appointments, watching helplessly as we go through yet another one.

I am so lucky to have someone in every corner of my life who has been there for me during an “episode”. I have been babysat by my best friends when I was changing medication and couldn’t be alone, and held close by Cody while I was having yet another seizure in the middle of the night. My mom, who has driven from Waterloo in the middle of the night because I was having too many or getting calls midday from work, letting her know I had another one and she needs to come get me. Toni and Julia, who babysat me when Cody was away, especially Julia who has dropped everything to come pick me up from work so I can go home and sleep and she can watch me. Dee, who I first tortured, and who ever since has called me whenever I have one just to make sure I am okay.

And oh my goodness, my supervisors Terri and Andrea at work, who literally put in place a procedure to help me get through a seizure (some of my work family still have the procedure pinned to their desk areas, emergency numbers and all), especially Andrea who was designated my seizure buddy at work, who watched as I worked through one, and waited time and time again for me to wake up.  All the many mama bears (you know who you are) who waited until the bathroom was no longer “out of service” to know I was okay.

You all mean so much to me! There are no words…except these I have to share:

Before you can see the light, you have to deal with the darkness. - Dan Millman

Thanks for being my light. ❤

~ Jacqui

Ed. – For more information or to find out how to support epilepsy research, visit www.epilepsy.ca. Show your support for epilepsy research and people who live with epilepsy by wearing a purple ribbon on March 26, Purple DayWe LOVE you, Jacqui!

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