Nobody Said Motherhood Would Be So Painful - And Beautiful

I never thought I’d be a mom. My parents emphasized career over motherhood, and I wasn't one of those kids who experienced touching and special moments with my mom growing up.

My mom didn't fit the mold of moms you see on Mother's Day commercials. She came to the U.S. in the 1960s. She was newly married, and soon became a new mom in a new world. She was young, figuring out how to make friends, be accepted and learn a new language. She also struggled with mental illness which was most pronounced when I was young. We didn’t have much of a relationship until much later, when I was presented with the greatest challenge of my life.

 Naya with her horse, Jack,  weeks after her diagnosis and first brain surgery.

Naya with her horse, Jack,  weeks after her diagnosis and first brain surgery.

Fast forward a few decades, I had my own children and built a strong career. I finally had the opportunity to create bonds with my children that I didn’t experience when I was a child. I showed my love through meaningful gifts, daily kisses and nightly tuck ins. I put great pressure on myself to be a great mom, volunteering at school functions, attending games, and working hard to be perfect.

My idea of being a great mom changed in 2013 when my daughter Naya was diagnosed with cancer. I remember sitting with my husband in the hospital cafeteria after Naya’s brain surgery. We were just hoping Naya would live; we didn’t care about the Stanford dream anymore. None of the superficial stuff mattered. We were focused on saving Naya’s life, doing what was best for her, and keeping our family together.

Throughout Naya’s journey, we faced horrifying decisions. Should Naya go through treatment? Should Naya withstand highly-toxic, deadly treatments given how widely her cancer had spread? Was it okay to try and save her life – with no guarantees - and leave her with severe lifelong side effects? Did it matter that her growth would be stunted, she would never write in a straight line or worse yet, she could suffer from another deadly cancer later in life? Yes, but we had no choice. We had to save her life.

Naya had brain and spine radiation combined with toxic chemotherapy. She was strong and determined during her treatments. She swallowed medicine while her throat was raw from radiation, she ate even though she wasn’t hungry, and kept up her studies and love for horseback riding even while her body was battered from treatments. Why? Naya loved life and wanted to live. We wanted her to live. At first, she had good odds of surviving – around 60%. It was later we learned her tumor type had almost a 0% survival rate. If we had known, I am not sure we would have put Naya through treatment.

When Naya relapsed and her cancer returned, there were no treatment options. We faced another big decision. Should we extract stem cells from her little body in the remote case a new treatment was discovered? It was a gamble, but we took it. Naya wasn’t giving up and neither were we. Huge tubes were connected to her neck for days and a loud machine extracted stem cells.

 Our last vacation together, 3 months before Naya died.

Our last vacation together, 3 months before Naya died.

The discovery didn’t come, the stem cells were never used, and Naya’s cancer spread. One night, Naya was up all night with leg pains. I stayed up that night trying to make her comfortable, massaging her legs and tirelessly adjusting heating pads. She told me how lucky she was to have me as her mom and how much she loved me. That night was tough for both of us, but one of many special moments with Naya that I will hold on to for the rest of my life.

 The week before Naya died, after she woke up

The week before Naya died, after she woke up

Two weeks later, the day after our wedding anniversary, Naya suddenly became incoherent. We took her to the hospital, where she soon became unconscious and went into a deep sleep. We had no idea if she would wake up. Tests told us that her brain was full of cancer, and she was having seizures that we couldn’t see. The doctors said there were no more treatments or trials. She was dying.

The question became what to do next. Doctors have many tools to keep kids breathing. Steroids, narcotics, potassium, sodium and who knows what else. We had to decide if we wanted to continue giving Naya medicines.

Here’s the thing, Naya probably didn’t know that she was dying. That’s when it hit us. If we threw meds at her, we were doing it for us, not Naya. At her expense, we would have been buying one more conversation, laugh, hug or kiss. But for Naya, it would have meant more suffering.  She could have been made aware of the scary truth that she would never grow up or see us again. We couldn’t let Naya suffer anymore. We were her parents, and we had to protect her.

In her last days, Naya woke up on her own for brief periods. We brought her home, and got precious time to kiss her, hold her, and sleep next to her. She died in our arms - her dad, brother and mom holding her until her last breath. She was in peace.

I live with the grief and pain of losing Naya every day, and at times, every minute. But Naya is not grieving and is not in pain. Every parent I know would give their life for their child, but sometimes we don’t get that choice. To me, being a “perfect” mom means being there for your kids, loving them, and making them feel safe during the scariest times of their life. It means letting your child go if that’s best for them, even if you can’t fathom the loss.

I had an amazing relationship with Naya and she and I shared a deep and beautiful mother-daughter bond. I wish all mothers who have lost their child a happy Mother’s Day. I know our kids are wishing us a great day, and I know they think we are the best moms on the planet.

I wish

You knew how much people think about you and miss you every day.

You could meet the ladies on the radio who announced they were on Team Naya!

You knew we were working hard to cure childhood cancer.

You were the one interviewed for TV and radio shows.

You saw us at the Parkway Run and felt the love from your school.

You could be with me to choose our dresses for the Purple Ball.

You could see how friends have taken on your cause because they loved you so much.

You could meet Sam and laugh at his antics.

You could see Zak's room.

You could thank the doctors and researchers who are working to cure your type of brain cancer.

You could see the purple car at the Porsche dealership and ask mom and dad to buy it for you.

We knew you were okay.

I could see, hear, watch and feel you.

Ellie

I can't sleep. My mind is swirling with everything I need to do at work. I finally gave up trying and came downstairs figuring I might as well not fight insomnia.

The house is still, so quiet. I can breathe and think. The air conditioner has a low hum that's oddly relaxing.

As I sit in the quiet and observe my surroundings, I find myself immersed in Naya thoughts and stories. They are a tidal wave tonight. 

In the family room, we have the couch she helped choose. I remember the time we picked it out. It was the week before the ER trip that changed our lives. When it arrived, she took it over. It was her couch and she appropriately named it the "girls couch". It drove her crazy when Zak would sit on it. Poor Zak would be kicked off every time. Now it's Zak's couch, and Sam jumps on it. I sometimes think Sam sits on that couch because Naya is luring him to it.

I see one of her favorite stuffed animals - Ellie - on the fireplace mantle. Her favorite one, Murphy, was always with her, even as she left the our world. Stuffed animals played a large role in Naya's life before cancer. Before she got sick, she had at least a dozen stuffed animals in her bed. At bedtime, she'd spend what seemed like an hour arranging her animals. On nights when I was exhausted, this routine would drive me crazy. But it was equally adorable and lovely. Her 3 'sister' Au Pairs - Claudia, Anna and Karolina - all have their own stuffed animal that was bought with or by Naya. Claudia's is the original Ellie. 

 Naya with Claudia - the original Ellie owner.

Naya with Claudia - the original Ellie owner.

The hospital psychologist told us how familiar things, like favorite stuffed animals, were comforting to kids going through the scary journey of cancer. She was right. Naya's animals - stuffed and real - kept her happy, comforted and feeling at home. Naya was so strong and an old soul but she was a child, terrified of the word 'cancer' and thrown into a world that was out of her control. We never fought Naya on taking Ellie and Murphy on trips, even though they took up 1/2 the suitcase. 

Ellie, a Build A Bear stuffed rabbit, kept Hank company when I was sleeping with Naya. Naya eventually bought Hank his own Ellie for father's day so that he would stop borrowing her Ellie. The second Ellie is in our room and its original Build A Bear box is in Hank's closet. I wonder if the psychologist would have predicted how important the stuffed animals were going to be to us.

There's more surrounding me. Pictures of her smiling or laughing, things she made, things we picked and bought together. I've kept the important things. The things that remind me of our experiences and life together.

As I write, I'm realizing my insomnia is because I've let life get so busy that I have starved my need to connect with Naya. I don't get to hear her voice anymore, hug her or just be with her. Everything I have is stored in my memory, and the things in our home help me reconnect with her. 

My heart has a constant wound. It's like someone ripped a huge piece of it out. I know it'll never heal. I'm okay with the pain. It's existence is important and sometimes the more it hurts, the better I feel. There is beauty in the pain as it reminds me of how beautiful my life with Naya was, and the gift I was given.

Even though I can't touch her anymore, Naya is as real to me now as she was when she was alive. Thinking about her and having her things around are my stuffed animals. They comfort me, and remind me of her energy, generosity and love of life. I feel myself more at peace now. While my heart is aching and tears are streaming, the tidal wave is allowing me to reconnect with Naya.

It's 5 a.m. and the birds are awake. I'm tired but no longer starved. A good day awaits.

Zak's relationship with Naya

 Zak at age 14 wearing bands that signify his love for Naya.

Zak at age 14 wearing bands that signify his love for Naya.

It's Zak's birthday today. He's 15! He's growing up to be such an amazing you man. Smart, athletic, funny, loving and kind. In honor of Zak, I thought I'd share a little about Zak and Naya.

From the moment Naya was born, Zak was the big brother. He watched over her swing and crib, shared a room with her in Toronto, hugged her when she cried and played with her constantly. They played and fought like all kids do. But he also hugged her when she was down, and helped her when she needed it most. He gave her a hug and kiss literally every day of her life.

Zak fooled us as a kid. Hank and I thought he could do no wrong, and that Naya was the trouble maker. However, as they got older, there was a period when he tortured Naya and got her in trouble. If it weren't for Anna telling us how Zak quietly tortured Naya, we would have gone on oblivious to what he hid behind his innocent smile. 

Naya told the story of Zak's torturing to anyone who would listen. He stopped for a while when she got sick, but started up at times. He kept her feeling normal. She yelled at him, he annoyed her, and she rolled her eyes at how lazy he could be. Even when she was going through treatments, they would fight over the radio station in the car. Their fights were honestly like music to me. I wanted them to always continue. I knew when the fighting stopped, my music would stop. It meant she was gone from our lives.

Zak only cried a couple of times in front of me when Naya got sick. Early on when she got sick, and close to the time she died. He has been quietly strong for all of us. He knows when she is on our minds, and when I am lost in my thoughts about Naya, he brings me back to the real world and reminds me that life is joyful. 

There have been some statements he's said about Naya that will stick with me. 

  • 'Naya was stronger than I could have ever been'
  • 'She was determined'
  • 'Cancer did not beat Naya'
  • 'Treatments were not good enough to save my sister'
  • 'She was stronger than me'

Zak is strong too. And, Naya's memory impacts him everyday. He wears his "Fight Like a Girl" band daily in memory of Naya. Her pictures and things she made are in his room. In his own way, he quietly surrounds himself with his sister.

I'm so grateful for Zak. He's been so important to our family's joy, and now our healing. It's a lot for a kid to shoulder, but I think when he grows up, he'll realize he gave Hank and me the most important gift of our life. The gift of loving life. Happy birthday Zak. 

A Better Future

 Honored to accept Naya's award with love and admiration for all that she did. Love you Naya.

Honored to accept Naya's award with love and admiration for all that she did. Love you Naya.

On Friday afternoon, we spoke on Naya's behalf at a beautiful lunch honoring the best in Philanthropy. Naya was honored as Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy, and we proudly stood up to represent her life and her mission: No More Kids with Cancer.

We were humbled to be in the company of incredible people who, for their entire lifetime, have given back to communities and causes that are close to their hearts. From volunteering time, to giving away hundreds of millions to others, the day was full of hope, motivation and courage. There wasn't an individual that didn't feel they needed to do more, even though their life was already dedicated to helping others.

As we celebrated philanthropy, Paris was being terrorized. Out of respect for the victims in Paris and elsewhere being stripped from the basic right to feel safe, I hesitated to write about our day. Then I realized this is the perfect time to share. As social media trends about red Starbucks cups, millions, and likely more than a billion of people are in need. They are suffering from hunger, sickness, terrorism, poverty, exploitation and discrimination. Imagine what they think when we're debating about the color of a cup!

Until Naya became sick, I didn't have a full appreciation of philanthropy. To me, it meant donation dollars, and we gave more each year to hunger, diseases, schools and anyone that asked. Now, we give more money, our hearts, voices and time. Imagine a world where you would give another 5 hours to people in need, or even $5 more of your pay to causes that do good. I can. For me, giving back and the amazing people I've met give me so much hope, even as I watch TV and pray for peace in our world. 


Inaction Is a Disease

In less than 2 weeks, I've learned about five people I know either very or pretty well, that are dealing with a battle with cancer, and a battle to live. Their ages...12, 27, 40, early-40's and 43. And, if you knew them, you'd understand that each one is a person that has the ability to change the world.

I know you're thinking "Well, that's Amy. She is in the 'world' of cancer.  That's not me. Cancer is rare, especially in kids." If you are thinking any of this, realize that cancer is not rare, and it kills more children than any other disease. No disease comes close! Cancer. It's about to take over heart disease as the #1 killer. 

I ask myself everyday - why isn't this changing? What's the fundamental, underlying reason why we aren't urgent about childhood cancer? How many videos do we have to see of kids battling this horrible disease to stand up for kids?

The change in the last 20 years is incremental. "Incremental" is my latest word to define disgust. 'Incremental' represents death. Extreme? Maybe. But, maybe not. If it's you, or your kid, than not.

I've come to realize that there is a fundamental disconnect with knowledge and action. This inaction is, in itself, a disease. A disease that kills.

My time is spent figuring out why. Why is this not getting the focus it needs when the data is so clear, and the stories are so upsetting? Kids are losing their future. What's going on?

Let's figure it out together. Join Us. @nomorekidswithcancer or nomorekidswithcancer.org

Healing, Naya's Advice and Forgiveness

 Girly-girl Naya dressed as Michelle Obama in the 4th grade

Girly-girl Naya dressed as Michelle Obama in the 4th grade

Naya passed away about 9 months ago. She was 11 when she died from brain cancer. I never thought I could survive the loss of my child — a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’m in a club of survivors I wish didn’t exist.

Yet, here I am. Depending on the hour, I can be happy or sad. I am more happy than sad these days, and my mind fills with more good times and joy than the horrific treatments she endured during her illness.

I’m healing because of Naya’s own words. A child’s view on life is not like an adult’s view, as I’ve come to understand with the help of a wonderful therapist, Naya’s doctors and many hours of introspection. Naya could learn that her tumor was growing in the morning, and play in the pool in the afternoon. One week after brain surgery, her first question to her doctor was “when can I ride my horse?” Only her bald head and feeding tube gave away her cancer and illness to others. It was never her attitude. She was known for her smile and girly-girl nature, big heart, love of learning, compassion and intelligence, all while she withstood treatments and fought for her life.

If you’re in a traumatic situation, helping a loved one through a terminal illness or going through a very difficult time, I hope Naya’s words and inspirations help you feel good for just a moment, and help you heal.

At age 9, Naya purchased an engraved wooden box for her dad’s birthday with a quotation from Abraham Lincoln, “It’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years!” We didn’t know she had cancer, and we had no idea how important Lincoln’s quote would be someday. She placed a magnet on our toaster with the same quote, which serves as a daily reminder that each day is an opportunity to do something worthwhile.

We can’t predict if we’ll be on this earth 2 years, 11 years or 80 years, so now matters. More than “living in the moment”, for me, it’s about making life and time matter at any moment. At first, my interpretation of that phrase meant obsessing about curing childhood cancer through fundraising and telling Naya’s story. I wanted others to share my anger and do something about it. My obsession didn’t help me because it kept me in pain and slowed my healing. Now, I mix it up — going to Taylor Swift with a friend, shopping, strengthening my relationship with my husband, spending more time with my son, being my best at work, playing with our dogs, riding our horse AND continuing to support people working hard to cure childhood cancer. These are all parts of life Naya and I shared, and by continuing to do them, we continue to share them in spirit, between our souls and in our hearts.

Another wooden box she bought before she was diagnosed has more good phrases. She kept this box for herself in her room, and now it’s in our bedroom. Love Always. Laugh Often. Dream Together. Share Joy. And my recent source of strength, Forgive Quickly. I’ve had my fair share of hurt, pain and grief in my life. In the last three years, forgiving has been a newly developed muscle. Forgiving is very hard depending on who and what I’m forgiving. But, forgiving helps me move forward. Forgiving doesn’t have to be shared with the person I’m forgiving; it’s my secret and my freedom. As I forgive, I realize the person I’m forgiving is flawed too, and their flaws led to the actions I resented in the first place. That’s pretty powerful to understand, and creates the ability to forgive quickly again and again.

Naya also loved these phrases, and they are all present on her fundraising shirts and posters…Fight Like a Girl. Smile. Enjoy Life. Laugh. Never Give Up. Stay Strong.

I’ve stayed strong throughout my life. I’m honestly sick of being strong, being complimented on my strength and people telling me how strong I am. If you’re a friend of mine, please accept my apology if you told me I was strong. I know it was well meaning and from your heart.

Staying strong is a necessity to survive. I am trying to live by Naya’s other advice: Laugh, Enjoy Life and Smile. I KNOW Naya would not have wanted me to live an unhappy life filled with sorrow. I also know she wanted me to help other kids and help cure childhood cancer. So, simply, my daughter’s words to laugh, enjoy life and cure childhood cancer are my compass and healing remedies. Her words have given me permission to be okay, be happy and make a difference. If you’re my friend, flatter me on my smile or get me to laugh. Help our cause. You’ll make my day, and fulfill her dream.

We all have times that we remember fondly and will never forget, even in times of great loss, hurt and pain. Mine were Naya’s words…

“Mom, I love you.”

“Mom, you’re beautiful.”

“Mom, thank you for loving me so much.”

“Mom, if I don’t make it, promise me you’ll help other kids with cancer.”

“Mom, I’ll be okay. It’ll be okay.”

One of my closest friends reminded me that Naya entered this world and left this world in the arms of her parents. She told me that there is probably no better way to leave than in your parents’ arms, even though that’s not what any parent wishes. I know my friend is right. Naya wanted nothing more than to be with her brother, her dad and me. We know so because she told us.

In my experience, healing comes from the inside, but those who love my family and me, and people who shared our experience have been so important to my healing. Naya loved us, and her words have been the most important source of my lifelong journey to heal.

Raising the World's Empathy Quotient

I've been on social media sites for years. Social media was a part of my job as a marketer. Over the last two years, social media has been a lifeline for survival and therapy for me as my daughter fought and lost her battle to cancer. Now, I think of social media as a lifeline for others, and I feel a responsibility to help others in need of a voice. I'm in a position, both as a person and professional, to make the world a better and more empathetic place. My voice is getting louder as I help causes and efforts very close to my heart - pediatric cancer cures, STEM and advancing women. Recently, and with the help of social media, I've expanded my voice to areas that needs more empathy and understanding. Whether it's influencing change in the State of Indiana, sharing stories that might help others, getting the world out about Elon Musk's ideas to reduce carbon emissions, or listening to the needs of minorities in our inner cities - I'm trying to do my part to make our world a better place.

Many of you already act as a megaphone for others. For those of you who do, thank you. I've learned more about the world through your words and images, and am a better person as a result. I've also met some people who are changing the world and are heroes in their own right, and they are my source for inspiration.

But many of us still back away from stating our opinions. We're worried about losing "friends" and "followers", causing controversy, or seeming political. When I retweet or post something, I think about those things too. I don't believe the "opinions are my own" will save me from repercussions. The stakes are high the more you put yourself and your brand in the public domain.

You can state your opinion and be responsible. You can state your opinion and not be political. All you need to do is state your opinion and be human, hopeful and not hateful. Let's raise the world's empathy quotient and make it a better place.

Going to the Radnor Hunt? Buy a bracelet and support Pediatric Cancer Research

Buy a bracelet, and support kids! If you're going to the Radnor Hunt, listen up!

Tracy, a former classmate of Naya's, student, and amazing young lady, is making bracelets to help raise funds for pediatric cancer research. These wonderful bracelets will be available at the Radnor Hunt for between $1.50-$3.00. Of course, she'll accept more if you want to give more :)

Buy a bracelet from Tracy and support The Naya Foundation at the same time.

When you get to the field at the Radnor Hunt, look for our logo.  Cash only please.  Thanks Tracy for your amazing talent, love and support!

My Plan in May is to Honor Mothers and Daughters - Join in

I've been thinking about May a lot these days. Naya's birthday is this month, and so is Mother's Day. I also lost my dad in May. I know it's going to be a hard time, and while I tell myself to live each day to the fullest, the anticipation of the month gets the best of me at times. I have a plan for May to help me through it, and I hope you'll join me and contribute. This month, I'm going to write or cite great stories and videos about mothers, and sometimes, about our relationships with our daughters. There is nothing more important to me than being a mom, and I have been blessed with amazing children. You have all read about my journey with Naya. Being her mother was an incredible gift, honor and responsibility, and the most loving time of my life.

I'm going to begin ahead of schedule with a story about someone I have the pleasure to work with at TE. She's a young woman, with an amazing story that all mothers, daughters and parents should hear.

Meet Lexi...

[youtube=http://youtu.be/P5EZRp09b_g]

The Naya Foundation Site Launched!

On April 2nd, we launched The Naya Foundation with many friends, family members and passionate supporters of our family and Naya. We are excited to announce that we have alsoTEAM_NAYA_PLAIN launched the official website for Naya's Foundation!! Please check out the site at http://www.thenayafoundation.org

There are a few things we are working through which you'll notice on the site.

First, this blog will eventually be redirected to the Foundation site. We will also begin blogging in both sites so that Naya's supporters can get used to the new site.

Also, we're finalizing the IRS non-profit designation so the donations will continue to go to CHOP, with all funds raised going towards pediatric cancer research and cures.

And, finally, we are looking for committee leaders and volunteers.  Let us know if you have interest, but didn't get the notes from the April 2nd meeting.  You can email us at nayasummy@me.com

Join Us for The Naya Foundation Kick Off on April 2nd

On April 2nd, we are officially kicking off The Naya Foundation. If you are in the Philadelphia area and wish to join us (by phone or in person), you can send an email to nayasummy@me.com or comment via this blog and I will forward details to you. A dial-in and online meeting will be available for out-of-towners to participate. Over 800 people supported Naya in the last 2 years, and we want each and every one of you to join us as we help kids with cancer live the lives they were meant to live.

If you can't make the date but wish to stay informed, keep following the blog, and soon, the Foundation's website.

Seeking My Narrative

I'm going through a journey of finding out who I really am, and what I'm meant to do in my lifetime. I know many of you are too, so I thought I'd share some of my learnings so far during my journey. For decades, I've wondered what I was meant to do. When Naya became ill, I knew that I was chosen and meant to carry Naya through her life, and be strong and loving for her. My upbringing shaped and prepared me to carry her. I also know that I'm here to see that Zak thrives, survives the loss of his sister and becomes the man he was meant to be.

I believe that all of my life experiences are supposed to lead to something that helps others in a bigger way. I'm not sure what that something is yet, but I hope I see it early enough to do something about it. This month, I had the chance to meet and learn from so several inspiring individuals. Their points are helping me develop my eventual narrative, and I wanted to share them with you in case you get inspired:

-Dream big, really big -Always have a dream you are shooting for -One person can make a difference in the world. I can make a difference. You can make a difference. -A sports legend said to me after coming in second that "#2 is the first loser". True in sports, but it could be true in many places. Figure out when #1 matters, and make it happen. It's part of the dream big. -Your entire life is part of your narrative. In my case, my upbringing prepared me for the unimaginable loss of my lovely Naya, and also prepared me for being an advocate for children. In Monica Lewinsky's case, she's helping us understand the price of shame. What's your narrative? -Be compassionate -Have empathy -Have a daily dose or two of inspiration. Surround your day with inspiring people. It's a cycle...they inspire you, you inspire someone else, and it keeps going. I follow people who inspire me online, and they do the same. -Help all kids aspire to be greater. Give them opportunities to be inspired. -Every person has something to offer. Seek it out. I've learned so much from people just by tuning in, opening my mind and seeking their message. -Shedding stereotypes creates bigger possibilities for everyone.

My narrative, and yours, is the sum of all parts. Think about your life and journey. It's telling you something, and your story is in there somewhere.

Slow Down

IMG_1110 A special person I work with always says "slow down to speed up". His words are true in work, and in life.

Life passes by too fast. Multitasking, electronics, media, double-booked meetings, tasks and activities all make it fly by. I'm choosing to be fully present. It simply makes my life richer and better. And, being present actually speed some things up.

A recent vacation forced me to step back and face my changed life head on. Being in Vail wasn't easy without Naya,but I needed to do it, and I didn't know why. I think it's becoming more clear.

I made space for myself to grieve, and realized I've only just started to feel the immenseness of my loss. I continue to imagine myself with Naya, holding her in my arms, laughing with her, and loving her as only a mother can. I want her to feel my love from wherever she is, and I want to feel her love through my grief.

I've made more space for my husband, and am helping him as he gets back to being the bigger than life person he has always been. I SEE Zak as a young man with great humor, world opinions, quirks, empathy, maturity and deep intelligence. I've made time for great friends, and had meaningful conversations with colleagues and new acquaintances. I'm fully engaged at work, and bringing my whole self to the game.

I've found more and more that people are giving, selfless and caring. From a lending a shoulder to cry on and ear to listen, to donating, honoring Naya through bake sales, helping us get her foundation off the ground and more. And, there are people who suck your time, stress you out and aren't in the first camp. My trick is to make sure the time suckers don't cause me to lose perspective or be negative. It takes practice and reflection every day, but it can be done. And, you will be happier.

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