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Happy Monday, dear reader. Wow, what a weekend! Is it me, or did the Fourth of July celebration last forever? My little introverted self is looking forward to a week of uneventful normalcy. Most of the time, I view being an introvert as a character flaw. I am awkwardly uncomfortable in social situations. Conversations with strangers can sometimes feel forced and fake. As I talk to others, I have a constant script running in the background, like bad music. The script goes something like this: Why did you say that? How should you respond? Do you come across as sincere or weird? Don't stick your foot in your mouth. Focus. Say something funny. Don't be a boob....and so on. I like writing because I can edit my thoughts. I can revisit my written conversation, edit, add, reword, and erase anything that doesn't sound or feel right. Conversing with someone face to face doesn't allow for error. I am highly self-critical. After face-to-face conversations, I often replay them in my head and analyze everything. Most of the time, I could kick myself for what I consider social blunders. However, all that stress and self-criticism disappears when I am with my people.

I've spent the past four days with my people, and although I feel mentally drained, I also feel fulfilled. The Bibbed Wonder and I spent the Fourth of July at Stutzman's Blueberry Farm. I consider Abbey June, my people. Although I only have the pleasure of seeing her for a few short hours every summer, I naturally feel at ease with her easygoing personality and relaxed approach to everything. Thursday was a good day, and seeing so many friendly faces and loyal supporters was so good. We finished the day with the one and only GB (GramBarb) and watched the local fireworks display.

Friday, The Bean and I took the rare opportunity to leave the farm and spend the day in Greensburg with her long-time friend Destiny and Destiny's mom, Missy. I forgot what it is like to spend hours in a shopping mall. However, two teenage girls can spend serious time in a retail mecca. Missy and I have so much in common. We joke that we are the same person. We share everything from similar health situations to loving Halloween to wanting the same make and model of desirable cars. It's uncanny how much we have in common. Friday was a perfect day. My daughter was happy and laughing. We joked around, teased, talked, and shared details we don't usually share. I felt like I got to know her better, and I hope she feels the same.

Saturday, I was surrounded by my market family. Spending time with my best friend Tricia has always been good for me. We can laugh, make fun of each other, have serious conversations, and grouse about our troubles without editing. You will find me in Tricia's tent when I have had my fill of The Bibbed Wonder's and The Bean's shenanigans. Although I don't enjoy the 3:00 a.m. wake-up on Saturday morning, I enjoy my market family.

Even more rare than leaving the farm to go shopping all day is leaving the farm on a Saturday after the market. However, that is precisely what we did. My friend Marie hosted her annual Fourth of July celebration at her beautiful venue, Cherry Run Lodge. If you require an event venue for a wedding, shower, or celebration, I gently encourage you to explore all this gorgeous event hall has to offer. My beautiful friend and her husband, Jason, work tirelessly to create a stunning oasis. This place is magical, from its lovely cozy log cabin lodge, complete with a stone fireplace, to the amazing covered deck that overlooks stunning scenery, the picturesque pond with an adorable little cottage, the perfect swimming pool, and the gorgeous surrounding gardens this place can add to the magic of any special day. The night ended with a fireworks finale that exceeded our small town's fireworks display. It was indeed a good day.

Last but not least, I hosted my dear friends, Monica and Marie, along with their families, on Sunday evening. I have not hosted a get-together with friends that is not holiday-related since COVID. Me hosting anything, especially during the market season, is a rarity. Although I found myself stressing about having enough food, the appearance of the farm, and the idea of having people in my home once Jenna arrived and then my friends and their families arrived, all the stress disappeared. I was surrounded by people I genuinely love and spent the evening laughing and talking. One feels at peace and comfortable when surrounded by what my sweet friend Monica calls kindred spirits. Kindred spirits we are. I have been friends with Monica and Marie for more than thirty years. They do my heart good.

I love that my child has such a broad, open-minded, and strong sense of family created by those who surround us. Jordan and I were discussing people from Marie's party. She asked who the young man who was there was. I told her it was Marie's son-in-law. She had Marie's son-in-law confused with another young man who is often at get-togethers. When I explained that the young man she was thinking of was a family friend, Jordan responded, "Oh, so we aren't related to him?" It took me a minute to process her response. I almost corrected her that we weren't "related" to any of them, but I stopped myself. I merely smiled and responded, "No, baby. We aren't related to him." I love that my girl considers my friends her family. We have a very open and broad sense of family, and she simply accepts it. Love is love no matter how it comes about or what the ties.

I read somewhere, and where escapes me, that the saying blood is thicker than water is misinterpreted. The version I prefer explains that the water referred to in the saying represents the womb. We are surrounded by water in the womb, representing our biological family. The blood referred to in the saying represents blood from the battlefield. Thus, it is inferred that your ties to those who stand beside you in battle or who are there for you when you bleed from the wounds life inflicts upon you are stronger than biological ties. Accurate or not, this is the interpretation I choose to believe. This interpretation speaks to me on so many levels. First, my daughter and I do not share biological ties. I did not carry her in my womb, but I have stood with her unbendingly as she has fought the battles of her young life. Our bond is forged in steel and could not be stronger. Secondly, those who have surrounded me in my darkest times and celebrated me in the glory of good times have proven far stronger than any biological ties that now exist. As the song goes, "So show me, family, all the blood that I will bleed. I belong with you; you belong with me..." I will willingly bleed for my people.

I hope, dear reader, that you are blessed with an army of your people, kindred spirits, and people who will bleed for you. If you read this page, I belong with you; you belong with me.... On this lovely summer day, stay safe, be smart, may you be surrounded by those who bring you comfort, and of course, keep washing your hands.

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Tomorrow is the day we celebrate our independence as a country. The Bibbed Wonder and I will celebrate Independence Day with the Stutzman family at their beautiful blueberry farm, weather permitting. If you are so inclined, you can join us for fun, food, festivities, and, of course, blueberry picking from 8:00 to 1:00. We are always thrilled to join our friends and other local small businesses to celebrate Red, White, and Blueberries.

With the upcoming holiday, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be independent. Merriam-Webster defines it as the quality or state of being independent, freedom from outside control or support. Being independent is a fantastic feeling. However, with independence comes a lot of uncertainty, which can lead to fear. Watching my beautiful daughter grow into a young adult and gain her independence is so rewarding, but it is also worrisome. Being a bit of a control freak, I worry about how the world will impact her, how she feels about herself, who she surrounds herself with, and her choices. There is part of me that wants to swoop in at the first sign of conflict or strife and fix everything for her so she doesn't have to feel pain, anxiety, or fear. However, the rational side of me knows that for her to grow, mature, and be genuinely independent, she must learn to navigate the world around her, as well as challenging situations and conflicts. As parents, our ultimate goal is for our children to be independent, right?

For The Bean, I hope and believe she knows she can always come to us if she needs anything. As a parent, there is a fine line between being there for our children and being controlling. I have to work harder at not swooping in and taking control of the situation. Sometimes, the best thing I can do as her mom is to listen. Lately, I have found myself, correction, forcing myself to take a step back. Stepping back is difficult. However, I know my girl. She has to feel that she is in control and has to come to her conclusions through her process. She has been this way since she was a toddler.

A memory stands out from when she was just a toddler. She was sitting on the floor in our dining room in our big old Victorian in Brookville. Jordan was playing with one of those balls with holes for the different shapes; the goal was to fit each shape correctly through the holes in the ball. She was stuck trying to fit an octagon block into a circle hole. She tried unsuccessfully to force the block into the circle hole. I stepped in and turned the ball so that the octagon shape was facing her, pointed to the hole, and said, "Try this." She looked up at me with a stubborn little gleam in her eye, turned the ball back to the circle shape, and unsuccessfully tried again. Once again, I turned the ball to the octagon shape, pointed to the correct hole, and said, "Try this one, baby." Again, she ignored my advice, turned the ball back to the circle, and tried to force the octagon into the circle hole.

After a few minutes, she started to cry, tossed the block, lay on her back, and had a good, old-fashioned, frustrated meltdown. I could have stepped in and fixed it for her. I could have picked up the block and shown her how to put it in the correct hole. However, instinctively, I knew that was not what I needed to do as her mom. Instead, I picked up the block, laid it beside the ball, wiped her tears off her cheeks, and gently said, "If you are frustrated, walk away from it for a little bit. When you are ready to try again, go back to it. You can do this. You're just feeling frustrated right now, and that's okay. When you don't feel so frustrated, try again." She lay on the floor for a few minutes, sniffling and crying. I went about my day picking up toys and crayons, all the while keeping an eye on her and giving her some space.

Eventually, she tried again. However, this time, she turned the ball over, found the octagon hole, and tried to fit the block into it. Finally, she made it work, and her smile was priceless. If I had fixed it for her, she would not have experienced that feeling of success. It would have been easier to do it for her, but she would not have learned anything. By allowing her to struggle and meltdown, all the while acknowledging her feelings, she discovered that she could do hard things, that feeling frustrated is okay, that expressing her frustration is okay, and she learned a valuable coping mechanism. After she began to speak, one of her most common phrases was, "I need to take a "bwake."

As The Bean grows, she needs space to make mistakes, figure out her process, and create her own healthy coping mechanisms. As her mom, it's time for me to trust that I did my job and taught her well, and I hope that at least half of what I taught her has sunk in and impacted her positively. It's hard to watch her struggle. It's difficult to see her make mistakes. However, so far, she has come to what I consider the right decisions on her own. Would it be easier to swoop in at the first sign of strife? Yes. However, she would fail to thrive, mature, and grow. Someday, I won't be here to swoop in and save the day. What would happen to my girl if she didn't develop her independence and I am no longer here? I hate to think of that. Instead, I will have honest conversations with her. I will gently guide her and not try to strong-arm her into my way of thinking. Mostly, I listen and cautiously ask if she wants my insight. Most of the time, she says yes. I try to word it carefully, usually beginning with, "If it were me..." fully acknowledging she is not me. So far, so good.

Being independent is a good thing. This year, I am looking at Independence Day a little differently. Being the mom of a teenager has given me a new perspective. I don't want to be Jordan's King George III. We all know how that turned out. On this day before Independence Day, stay safe, be smart, don't be a George, independence is a good thing, and keep washing your hands.

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Today, our spotlight is shining on The Bean's creation, Fairytale. Fairytale is a colorful soap scented with baby powder and raspberry. When she told me about her scent blend idea, I was skeptical. However, once I smelled it, I was blown away. Baby powder is one of my favorite scents, or my comfort scent. I love the softness of the scent, but when blended with the light, fruity raspberry oil, it is taken to a new level. Fairytale is soft, lightly fruity, fresh, and comforting.

When my favorite human created this soap, we automatically thought pink was the color. However, everyone loves a fairytale, so my girl incorporated a deep indigo blue, a fushia pink, and gold because all fairytales need a bit of magical sparkle. The Bean's sophisticated nose, good eye for color, and creativity are well-suited for soap design. She has an intrinsic ability to know what will be popular. I have learned to trust her judgment and roll with her ideas. She has not been wrong yet.

This week, exclusively on the website, save 25% on Fairytale soap and moisturizer. Although considered a "kid's" soap, Fairytale appeals to young and old. I currently have a jar of moisturizer in my cabinet. It is a wonderful time to save on a favorite, try something new, or purchase an affordable gift. On this lovely summer day, stay safe, be smart, enjoy the savings, and keep washing your hands.

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