About Andrea

http://un-edited.com

Andrea is a native San Franciscan raised on a heaping dose of colorful truths and beautiful stories. A freelance writer at heart and a public health social worker by trade, she makes the truth look pretty even when it isn't. Her work has been featured on The Guardian, Huffington Post, JETmag.com, Clutch and xojane to name a few.

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If ‘Insecure’ Season 2 Episode Two Was a Poem

Since 2005 I’ve narrated my life in journals.  On occasion I like to carefully flip through the well-worn pages, some dog-eared, and gauge how much I’ve grown and how much I am quite the same.  

On a recent flight I flipped through the pages of one of my first journals whose cover affirmed that “I’m too blessed to be stressed.”  I sat in between two men and giggled aloud as though I was engaging in “Remember when…?” conversation with one of my best girlfriends. Because, well, I was.  My journal has been one of my most non-judgmental friends never interrupting my thoughts but apt at confronting me with hard truths reminding me of the times I promised to humble myself and not hide behind foolish pride.  

In a row with extra leg space mourning the end of a vacation gone by too quickly, my journal let me be a young lady of over a decade younger sitting on a twin bed on a spring morning in May reckoning with the idea that even before HBO’s Insecure I was channeling Season 2 Issa with a Tasha lean. 

11:19 am                               May 30, 2005

He doesn’t know that I think of him

or care beyond belief

He doesn’t know I want him even when he doesn’t want me

He has no idea how I would engulf him and wrap him up inside of me

He doesn’t know the songs in which I sing 

or the notes that I can hit

He doesn’t know the arch of my back

or the sway of my hips

the feminine rounds of my body

the softness of my lips

He doesn’t know I am his biggest fan

He doesn’t care that I am in awe

You see, his nonchalance is part of the appeal

not motivation for my withdraw

How could he know?

He’s practiced erasing us from his memory and burning the prologue of our unfinished chapter

He doesn’t know that I am afraid of him having no reaction, no love for me after

He doesn’t know the depths of it all

Nah.

He doesn’t know me at all

not a poem

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Tank and The Bangas Introduced Me to the Taste of Love

If I were to be asked what love looks like I might possibly attest to seeing it in an embrace, an exchange of banter and laughter, the joy of a couple learning they’re pregnant after living for years with infertility, or a strong but gentle hand placed on the small of a woman’s back.  I have witnessed love.  But before listening to New Orleans’ artists Tank and The Bangas I had never tasted love.  To taste love I  had to first hear it.  Listen to it carefully. Repeat.

It was the whispers of small nothings in my ear, the percussions and the melodies that travel to my prefrontal cortex to retire, indefinitely, to my long-term memory each time I hear a song that bookmarks the milestones in my life.  It’s the melodies and the memories that guide me to the exact place I stood in the gymnasium at a high school dance when I heard Tyrese’s “Sweet Lady,” or the smile on my face as I laid beneath a dozen glow-in-the-dark stars when  Selena’s “Dreaming of You” was dedicated to me on the radio.  Or the tears I cried listening to Lauryn Hill’s “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind” while silently talking myself into moving on in the face of defeat.  That’s been my experience with love.

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Love tastes bitter. It tastes juicy and lush.  Sometimes so spicy that it makes my eyes water uncontrollably. And so sweet that it dissolves on my tongue like cotton candy; but famine isn’t relieved by cotton candy. Love is as unpredictable as the sampling of strangers’ macaroni and cheese or potato salad at a friend’s fish fry. Love’s aftertaste is a reminder to be more thoughtful in your selections or to never try it again, lest the chef adds just the right seasoning, the perfect wine pairing, and the declaration of “satisfaction guaranteed.”

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But I am charmed by what I hear—the sweet nothings, the melodies turned memories, turned nostalgia, turned escapism, turned false reality. What I hear is what I eternalize and house in the safeguards of my memory, beside foregone days and nights when Love ate with me over breakfast in bed and dinner and drinks when the going was easy and the food suited my palate. Even when I’m alone I set a table for two so that love can pull up a chair should hunger strike at any time between the blessing of the meal and the last dish is set out to dry.  I dine on oysters and sip lemon drops in honor of Love. But love isn’t sustained on a memory, in the same way that cotton candy doesn’t cure a grumbling stomach or an insatiable appetite. Damn if cotton candy and memories don’t taste good though.

Love can taste like edibles you devour when you’re so hungry that even your least favorite food tastes delicious. Desperately longing to give and receive love is like grocery shopping on an empty stomach: every aisle offers one seemingly delectable treat after another.  Even the eggplant you’ve never quite learned to prepare appears to be a good purchase.  You think a new eggplant dish has the potential to be the star of Sunday’s dinner. You scan your Pinterest recipe mentally confirming that you have all of the necessary ingredients to make a wonderful  eggplant parmesan only to realize on Sunday morning that you forgot to add to your grocery cart the virgin olive oil. You substitute the olive oil for margarine. It doesn’t taste the same. One missing ingredient can make all the difference between  disgusting, tolerable, and great. 

Love tastes like that.  

And it sounds to me like: …the butterflies and the fireflies fighting in my stomach. I’m scared to fly. I might come down. I think I’m ready now. I’m getting back in line.”

Thank you to Tank and The Bangas for their amazing artistry.  It was their art that served as the inspiration for this post and as a reminder that sound and sight are gateways to taste. ~Andrea

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The Inner Conflict of Being a Black Gentrifier

I’m from the part of San Francisco James Baldwin dubbed, “The San Francisco America pretends does not exist.” Gentrification in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood is likened to the despair and plainness that happens when Christmas decorations are taken down and the tree is left barren, shrunken, abandoned and unremarkable.

While I mourn Bayview and its neighbors that once were, I find myself a transplant in someone else’s neighborhood contributing to the reason generations of locals are being displaced.  Many young Black professionals find ourselves journeying from college to a new socioeconomic status that has landed us in a place where we have become the modern day “invisible men”— Black gentrifiers criticizing gentrification for its polarizing effects on hometowns we left behind to attain the American Dream, though benefitting from the effects gentrification has on the neighborhoods in which we’ve chosen to live, work, and raise families.

Being a Black woman at a time when so many women who look like me are silently dying with no one being held accountable, I have no choice but to stay “woke.”  To be anything less than conscious is dangerous. And so here I am simultaneously awake and invisible, disheartened by the recent headlines from my hometown about the racial tensions, cultural, economic, and class divides that are becoming as much a part of San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge. Yet, I find myself 3000 miles away, living in a historically Black neighborhood and somehow removed from the struggles of longtime residents who are being displaced because of the very tensions and divides that ravage my hometown.

Read more at Ebony.com

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A Woman Is A Man’s Best Accessory?

Can men survive, or thrive, without women? Methinks not.

Years ago I decided to boycott music videos not only because I was hard pressed to see a lead woman of my complexion, but also because I was desperate to avoid video images assaulting senses other than my vision. Watching horrible, degrading music videos totally impacted how I heard the song.

It is no secret that the heavily male dominated rap culture cannot survive without women. The culture of this new era rap genre is dependent on the female body to create music videos and alleged tales of sexual exploits and conquests in their lyrics. Women are the consumers of rap music, the muse, and the abused of the misogynistic customs adopted by rap culture, even if only for public display and consumption.

What has now become evident to me is that men in general can’t seem to survive without women. I reached this conclusion a few times in my life, but most notably on a recent trip to Miami when my girlfriends and I were offered seats in the club’s VIP section paid for by a group of men who seemed to be “collecting” a female entourage to sit pretty on the sectional while tapping our pointy toe stilettos and sipping on whatever was being offered.

Had I not been so bored that I began creating a mental list of the many reasons why I am no longer about that “club life,” I would not have noticed how the ladies drafted to the VIP section served as ornaments on a Christmas tree. The particular brand of men who use women as accessories serve as the metaphorical Christmas trees:  dry, overbearing, with a definite shelf life, and ever welcomed in the home past a certain time.

Sitting in the club I began to feel a little disgusted at the thought that we, not just my friends and I, but women everywhere are so commonly used as accessories. Without us many men are incomplete, and not a fairytale love kind of way.  They are fully dressed but without shoes, a watch and tie. Needing women to make oneself look and feel better is seemingly an issue of low self-esteem and envisages the lame and destructive “pimps up, hoes down” concept. 

Should we be flattered? I’ll admit that being arm candy and being “shown off” isn’t so bad when that man who is showing off the beautiful woman in his life recognizes and treats her as if she is more than just a cardboard cutout offering of an image fulfilled. But being used as a shiny ornament or for the benefit of a nice ass shot in the latest tip drill-esque music video negates whatever sense of flattery that may have been intended and felt. 

That night in the Miami club VIP I realized that 1) the drinks are pretty watered down when being shared among an entire harem in a Miami nightclub, and 2) men truly cannot survive or thrive without women.

via GIPHY

“This is a man’s world. But it would be nothing without a woman or a girl.” ~James Brown

 

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3 Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance: Who Wants Some?

Who doesn’t want it all? I have yet to meet a person–lazy or ambitious–who has denied wanting it all. One person’s “all” may differ from another’s, but we all desire good health, wealth, and maybe even someone to keep us warm at night.

Trying to devise the perfect work-life balance is seemingly impossible. Trying to do all things, and be “every woman” has caused me to flounder like a fish out of water in every area of my life. I thought that fewer Post-it notes in my purse, car, night stand, and planner that I only look at to keep track of how many more days till the weekend, was evidence that I was becoming more organized.

In my world, fewer Post-it notes equate 1500 (and counting) e-mails–with at least one-third sent from me, to me with reminders to check on this activity or that event. In my disillusioned little world, I am Chaka Khan.  Otherwise known as “every woman.”  And under the belief that it is indeed “all in me.” My reality is that fewer Post-it notes only signify that there is a growing pile of dated magazine articles ripped from the pages of some of my favorite glossies all promising to instruct me how to teach my child to master Singapore Math, or trick my husband into speaking my love language, or get the perfect fleeky eyebrows in 5-steps or less.

Walking briskly, ignoring phone calls, splurging on 2-in-1 facial cleansers and shampoos, and outerwear that can be worn on Monday and used as a floating device on Thursday, does very little to increase productivity and decrease stress. If anything it results in one skittish, exhausted, and frumpy looking shell of woman. Not very Chaka Khan-like at all. I tried doing all of these things, minus the outerwear bit. I do have my limits, and wearing a coat that doubles as a floating device is one of them.  In the end I found myself still exhausted, still fairly unproductive.

via GIPHY

After experiencing some burnout and dissatisfaction with my productivity in my personal, professional and side-hustle life, I’m re-evaluating my priorities, my processes, and my purpose.

If I were a writer full of ingenuity here’s where I would insert a clever listicle guiding readers to The Promised Land of work-life balance. If I were, then I would…instead I’ll fight the waning need to be clever and give you the real: Pull it together!

Merge personal and professional life. If there is a work deadline on the same day as your child’s science project or recital, keep track of home and work events all on one calendar or planner. I’ve spent too much time ineffectively managing two planners and bringing far less than my best self to my home and work life. Merging calendars will help prompt bringing your complete self to the home and the workplace. Sounds too simple to work, but give it try.

Timelines, deadlines, flexibility, and inflexibility serve a purpose! Remember this when scheduling and organizing the ONE planner. Be unforgiving in taking time for self, time for work, and time for family.

There’s only 24 hours in a day! Do more of what you are called to do, and less of what others tell you you should do. Don’t waste hours waiting for others to come into agreement on your vision and what you have been called to do. If by the end of the day something important has not been completed or reviewed, then take that as a hint that not everything on your list of “important” things should be a priority. The number of hours in a day won’t change.  You, however, can.

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Breaking With Tradition: Jesus Isn’t White & Student Activism Should Be Encouraged

Much like political affiliations and whether you prefer Target to Wal-Mart, religious beliefs are very much learned and passed down from generation to generation—a precious heirlooms, though treasured, may not be real.

As the mother of an inquisitive 5-year-old, it is now my time to continue the tradition of gifting my daughter with the same religious foundation that was given to me by a mother who held firm in the belief of training “a child in the way he should go.” Only I’ll upgrade my family’s heirloom with a shiny new gem: Jesus, like Santa Claus, is not a white man. Nor is He a convenient chameleon that morphs into whatever ethnicity, race or gender of the person who seeks Him. My understanding and belief is that He is a feeling that cannot be accurately illustrated despite the centuries-long depictions perpetuated on paraphernalia and stained glass windows in places of worship.

CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER, TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA - 2015/03/15: Jesus on the Road to Emmaus: Beautiful stained glass windows at the Church of the Redeemer in downtown Toronto. (Photo by Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images)

via Getty Images

My mother, who received the same ideals from her parents, gave my religious beliefs to me, only she didn’t explain to me that the porcelain-skinned brunette on every other page of my Sunday School book was merely an illustration—a single perspective, an image cultivated from the imagination of someone with something to gain from the image, be it money, power, or both.  Overlooking the discrepancy between the imaginative physical concept of Jesus and the interpreted directive of the biblical scripture in Deuteronomy 4:16 (NIV):  “…so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman…”– caused me a great deal of confusion and severed my prayer life and spiritual connection for many years.  My experience with being “churched” in such a way that resulted in my spiritual inadequacy has served as the catalyst for laying all the cards–the ones I hold, at least–on the table and visible for my daughter to see. 

At age five, many children still view parents as the apples of their eye.  The raggedy robe that I don the moment the day’s work ends and my bra hits the floor, is nothing less than queen’s garb to my daughter. That said, wielding the words and recycled beliefs of her father and I as her shield and armor, my little one will go to battle with anyone.  As she is currently enjoying her first fall as a kindergarten student at an Episcopalian school, I keep my phone nearby in anticipation of the day I will receive a call from an insoluble school chaplain telling me that my daughter has started a riot (with Jesus’ birth approaching, I’m expecting that phone call in the upcoming weeks).  I imagine my little one waging war on decades of inaccuracies, misinterpretations and traditions.  She’s been known to upset an entire pre-school class by telling classmates  that McDonald’s fries are poison. Good. Dang, good. But poisonous. Her father–the health and wellness coach–taught her about pesticides and agriculture and that was all she wrote…

So yeah, I’ve practiced my speech, polished up my inflections and rehearsed my facial expressions in preparation of the day that the roles will reverse and I will have to back my daughter’s words up and treat what have become her beliefs as the truth, the gospel and the way. 

There are so many horrid examples of what it looks, feels and sounds like to be accused of hating another individual, group of people or sets of beliefs for simply exercising your right to believe, to love, to think, to have a perspective, to just be. If you tout that #blacklivesmatterthat somehow means you hate law enforcement and any person who does not identify as black. If you support, or better yet, if you do not loudly condemn gay marriage you are unequivocally rejecting Christianity and making reservations for a seat in hell. Similarly, if you teach your child that Jesus is not an image meant to be drawn, duplicated and idolized and can instead be felt in your heart, in music, in a flower growing through a crack in the cement, you may be accused of intentionally teaching your child to hate, to cause disruption and confusion.  

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But alas, the beauty of perception, individuality, freedom of speech and thought, and prayer–much, much prayer–has allowed me to feel at peace with teaching my daughter to question what she is being taught. Question third-hand knowledge and when able, seek the answer for herself. Accepting others’ truth, including the heirloom of truth passed down from generation to generation, is not a pressure she has to suffocate from.

In honor of activism and student activism and not accepting behaviors and traditions because “it’s how it’s been done for years,” I salute the students at the University of Missouri who aren’t afraid to demand change, to confront history and to spark a movement. I salute my daughter, the 5-year-old activist who fearlessly questions “truths” until she finds comfortable resolve. 

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For now, I await that phone call…

 

 

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#30Layers30Days–Not Every Puzzle Is Meant to Be Solved

The next puzzle piece has yet to be created

This is why we wallow in a chronic state of violence, oppression and hatred

There hasn’t been an antidote, a vaccine or legislation

that has rendered us kind, empathetic and gracious

The piece is still missing

And we’re paralyzed and broken

Making me a token hasn’t placated me: IT’S NOT WORKING

“The next puzzle piece” indicates that the last piece was found

But the puzzle is a puzzle because it’s meant to confound

Confusion and defeat are comfortable and addictive

They blind and constrict us, two of the reasons we have yet to locate the pieces that are missing

But it’s American for the wrongdoers, the voluntary blinded and constricted to be absolved

Because not every puzzle is meant to be solved

The next puzzle piece has yet to be created

We’re all waiting on a solution when we each have the power to make it

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This post is Day 11 of a 30-Day Writing Challenge, #30Layers30Days

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How ‘Being Kara’ Reminds Us that Motherhood is a Game of Survival

Every parent damages his or her child in one-way or another. Even the most successful and well-meaning parents do something to their children that will undoubtedly follow them from childhood into adulthood and possibly a welcoming seat on the therapist’s sofa.

The theme of the latest episode of Being Mary Jane was motherhood and survival. The episode, titled, “Being Kara” shows the character Kara attempting to juggle a budding relationship, an entitled Mary Jane, an annoying ex-husband, a demanding career, and two children, one of whom may have a learning disability. We see Kara struggle to be “every woman” and attempt to bring her best self to every aspect of her life, but she soon realizes that shit is just way too trill.

As a full-time employee, mommy and wife with too much gall and too few psychotropic medications to call it quits on the whole blogger-freelance writer shenanigans, I saw glimpses of my life being played out on television. Kara’s feelings of failure, regret, anxiety and trepidation are shared. Her near breakdown after burning brownies and failing to join the ranks of “together moms” who seemingly care perfectly for their perfect children and bake Pinterest-perfect goods for the school bake sale is simply Thursday ‘round these parts. Only none of my friends bake, leaving me to walk the dirty linoleum floors of the nearest 24-hour Wal-Mart searching for the least sugary cupcakes that can be pawned off as homemade. No one is fooled, but I feel like a better mom for having gone through all of the effort. 

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As I struggle more and more with how I parent, my ability to be a decent role model, and how, without being too abrasive, to teach my daughter valuable life lessons, I wonder what will be the definitive effed up thing(s) I will do or say to eventually be the cause of my daughter’s a) recurring therapy appointment, b) the muse behind her award-winning art, c) the reason my future son-in-law will hate me or d) all of the above.

Being Kara means being a headstrong mommy and an “every woman” who hasn’t quite learned that every hat worn doesn’t complement her outfit. Being a parent means accepting that you will likely be the subject of more than a few of your child’s journal entries. Being Kara, being a parent, being a mother means being a survivor. I survive by unashamedly taking moments for myself.  Kara survives by climaxing and managing her anxiety with prescribed anti-depressants.  We survive. 

So Kara, from one mother to another, you are understood.

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Signs You’re Involved in a One-Sided Friendship

The epidemic of one-sided friendships didn’t begin with Girlfriends’ Joan and Toni or Being Mary Jane‘s MJ and Lisa.  If ongoing celebrity Twitter beefs and chart topping songs, “Loyal” and “No New Friends,” are any indication of the state of friendship and the constant balancing act it takes to keep them afloat, then the epidemic of one-sided friendships deserves a hashtag and a spring cleaning, fall season be damned.

Even with the demands of life—especially as adulthood and parenthood have the tendency to seize a great amount of our time—those demands shouldn’t be built-in excuses to suck as a friend.

Because I’m a bit dramatic and have a penchant for remembering great quotes, I like to reference friendship to that of oxygen. Lauryn Hill was quoted in a glossy whose name I can’t recall, stating that people are like oxygen. From my experience friends—the real kind—are like oxygen; much needed to survive.

Friendship, while very subjective, is at its core reciprocal. Although #ByeFelecia has become a hashtag-turned-television series, we who know the ’90s hit movie Friday to be a modern classic, realize the reason Felecia was so often dismissed is because she came around only to receive, never to give.

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So in an effort to begin early spring cleaning, use this list created by Rise by Design Coaching as a litmus test to gauge if it’s time for you to say “bye Felecia” to a few of your friends.  You may even discover that you’re the Felecia amongst your friends. 

Signs You Are Involved in a One-Sided Friendship:

  • Your friend is always asking favors of you, but never returns them
  • You initiate contact most, if not all, of the time
  • Your friend invites other friends to share activities instead of you
  • Your friend always has an excuse as to why they can’t get together
  • Your friend rarely calls you back
  • You take the time to reach out and be there for your friend during hard times, but your friend doesn’t do the same for you.
  • Your friend justifies their lack of thoughtfulness & engagement to “I’m just not that good with keeping in touch”.
  • Well wishes, such as for birthdays or holidays, are not reciprocated
  • Your friend doesn’t follow through with what they say they are going to do
  • They only surface when it’s convenient for them
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BMJ Season 3 Episode 3 (Photo: BET)

How Lamar Odom and ‘Being Mary Jane’ Should Have You Considering an Advance Directive

It has been over two weeks since former Los Angeles Laker Lamar Odom was hospitalized following a reported overdose at a Nevada brothel.

But you knew that already. How could you not? Mainstream media has brought Lamar Odom—man, son, father, two-time NBA champion and 2010-2011 NBA Sixth Man of the Year—and his woes closer to us than most second cousins. Talk of his health and what many people have rationalized as the “curse” that befell Odom the moment he said “I do” to one of the members of “America’s First Family,” has made it to our dinner tables, our water cooler conversations and social media space.

Since reports of Odom’s alleged overdose and the grim prognosis that followed, it has been clear that the real focus is not Odom’s health and well-being and his rise, fall, rise, and fall again story that mirrors so many men and women we encounter daily.  Instead, the epicenter has been the affairs of those on the peripheral of his near death experience. Media has focused on Odom’s wife and the rest of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, Odom’s father and his mottled past, and even former teammate Kobe Bryant. The headlines of Odom’s ordeal have been a regular game of “Where’s Waldo,” Kardashian-style.

But this post is not to lament over mainstream media’s lack of compassion. This post is the silver lining of a medical and mental health situation that resulted in the hospitalization of a man who had been separated from his wife when he was declared comatose and unable to make decisions for himself. Recognize Odom’s health crisis as a learning opportunity and the silver lining of a tragedy that could have been worse.

  In my profession there have been countless times where I have witnessed a comatose, brain dead or otherwise medically incompetent patient’s fate be decided by strangers, unwilling medical agents or family members whose judgment was clouded by guilt, selfishness and pain.   Despite Lamar Odom being nearly divorced from Khloe Kardashian, she is still legally his next of kin and medical decision-maker. This situation is not unique to Lamar and Khloe.  In many regards it was almost repeated on the most recent episode of Being Mary Jane when one of the characters committed suicide…because the black community also falls victim to suicide and mental illness. Had that character’s farewell been botched, or had she avoided death only to fall into a coma, her mother—the mother she hadn’t spoken to for years—would have been the person to decide her fortune. This is often the scenario when individuals do not take the time to educate themselves, evaluate and define “quality of life,” and establish medical advance directives.

If you’re at least 18 years of age and capable of reading this post, then you’re of sound mind and able to decide–in advance–the person or persons you wish to enforce your medical wishes in the event you’re ever incapable of doing so on your own volition.

April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD), but today I encourage you to define what quality of life looks and feels like to you. Advanced care planning is the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones.

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For state specific resources and information on how to complete an advance directive please visit NHDD.org.

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