Martha BoltonWe have a special treat for you today! Let’s give a big hand to one of our newest NABBW members, Martha Bolton.

You may not recognize her name or face, but we can assure you that Martha Bolton has made you laugh.

She is a woman who loves to laugh, lives to make people laugh, and who has successfully made a career utilizing her genius writing skills and her ability to find the humor in everyday living.

Martha has not only had the opportunity to work with some of the funniest people of the past century, but they are not hesitant to share their appreciation for her ability to make them look good. Here are just a few of the things her peers have said about her:

  • “Martha Bolton finds the fun in the familiar, the mirth in the mundane, the belly laughs in the bellyaches of everyday living.” ~~  Bob Hope
  • “Martha is one of the funniest writers alive today.” ~~ Phyllis Diller
  • “Few people can drive home a point with humor the way Martha can. She lives life in the laugh lane.” ~~ Mark Lowry
  • “Martha Bolton brings her genius writing skills to express hard truths that we all need to chew on. Her unique gift of humor makes the going down so much sweeter.” ~~ Kathy Troccoli
  • “Martha makes you laugh the old-fashioned way–with her cleverness, wholesomeness, and realism.” ~~ Ann Jillian
  • “The best comedy writer I’ve ever worked with.” ~~ Jeff Allen
  • “Martha Bolton is a terrific comedy writer and I consider her a wonderful friend as well. Her characters rock!” ~~ Karen Knotts
  • “As nice as she is funny. And she is very nice.” ~~ Jimmy Brogan, comedian and former head writer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
  • “Martha Bolton has an attitude that makes her writing special – she cares about her audience. That makes every reader part of her writing and makes it that much more enjoyable for anyone who reads or listens to any of her work.” ~~ Gene Perret, staff writer for Bob Hope and 3 time Emmy Award winner for The Carol Burnett Show
  • “Martha Bolton is a consummate professional and a joy to work with. Talented, extremely funny and clever, she deserves all of her success.” ~~ Brad Dickson, writer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

In other words, if you’ve laughed at jokes cracked by Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller,  Jeff Allen, Ann Jillian, or anyone else quoted above, it’s very likely Martha was somehow involved in crafting that joke…

But there’s more to Martha’s career than TV comedy writing. She’s written humorous books focused on finding the humor in life, and especially in being a baby boomer, received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Music and Lyrics, and written books for children, including JESSE and the SUPER SENSORIFIC SEASHORE, A Day in the Life of a Boy with Autism, which was recently named Book of the Year in the Special Needs division, by Creative Child Magazine. And Martha’s children’s musical, A LAMB’S TALE, written with Dennis Allen, also received a Dove award nomination.

But let’s allow Martha speak for herself. Here are her answers to our favorite NABBW questions, for your personal enjoyment… Or maybe we should have said, Ladies and Gentlemen, please give it up for… (drumroll please) a very seriously funny woman:  Martha Bolton!

Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself?

Bolton World ChangingI was the first full-time female staff writer for Bob Hope, and I’m also a published and active playwright, as well as the author of 88 books of humor and inspiration.

My books include humorous books for the boomer market, such as: Didn’t My Skin Used to Fit?, The Whole World’s Changing and I’m Too Hot to Care, Cooking with Hot Flashes, Growing Your Own Turtleneck, and If a Woman’s Hair is Her Glory, Why am I Tweezing My Chin?

I write comedy and drama, as well as inspirational, and I was the librettist for three musicals currently playing in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. They are: Half-Stitched: The Musical, Our Christmas Dinner (with Wally Nason), and Josiah for President. I was also the librettist for The Confession Musical, based on Beverly Lewis’ bestselling trilogy. Most recently, I wrote the script for another new musical, The Home Game, which will be opening in 2016.

Tell us about your family; married, divorced, children, grands, boomerangs or parents living with you, etc.

I’m married to my high school sweetheart. We have three sons, seven grandchildren, and one great grand.

What is your favorite childhood memory that is reminiscent of growing up in the 50s, 60s or 70s?

Sitting in front of our black and white television set (when it was working) and watching the old television shows – The Honeymooners, The Monkees, Gilligan’s Island, The Andy Griffith Show – too many favorites to list. My dad would “fix” the antenna with clothes hangers. I also loved Bit o’ Honey candy bars, hula hoops, and long skateboards.

bolton half stitchedWhat qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?

I believe in hard work, keeping a positive attitude, and appreciating the benefits of humor.

Bolton HopeWhat inspires you?

Stories of perseverance, faith, and hope.

What brings you the most pleasure in midlife?

Writing. New adventures. Stretching myself creatively. Traveling and doing fun things with my family. Laugher – love a good belly laugh.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

Collecting friends. (You can find them everywhere and their value goes up every year!)

Do you have a favorite book or movie? If so, tell us why it’s your favorite.

Movie: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Every word is sung in French with sub-titles, and it makes me cry every time I see it.)

Books: Right now my favorite is Dr. Phil’s “Life Code – The New Rules for Winning in the Real World.

Do you travel and if so, who are your favorite travel partners and where do you like to go?

I love to travel. I usually travel with my husband, and sometimes with the whole family or with good friends.

Do you practice preventive medicine? Please elaborate.

I try to remember to take vitamins.

Martha Blue AngelsWhat do you stress about?

Remembering to take vitamins. Actually, I try not to stress about much, except I don’t want a single day to pass without my having taken note of it. Live in the moment. Enjoy your life. If we don’t know it already, there will be plenty of tears in life. What we have to watch for, and sometimes plan, are times and places for us to get enough good belly laughs.

Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks, and if so, to what degree are you willing to go?

People tell me I still look the same as I did in high school. But if they went to high school with me, then I’m figuring they may have had their vision diminish a bit over the years. : ) I do try to look my best, but I’ve never, and still don’t, wear a lot of make-up. No, plastic surgery, but I am waiting for the perfect skin crème that truly works miracles.

Have you re-invented yourself, and if so, how?

A few years ago I wrote my first novel. I was always afraid to try it, but it surprised me how much I loved the process. My philosophy is—never stop learning.

Bolton BookDo you plan to retire?

I don’t think so. Writing is such a part of my life now, and I’m having too much fun writing the scripts for these musicals, as well as my new interest—novel writing. If the pen ever drops out of my fingers, friends and family will know I’m gone.

Are you doing anything to GO Green?

I used to write out everything long hand. But I’m starting to do more of my creating on the computer.

Can you pinpoint major turning points in your life that led to your life’s work/play at midlife?

Interestingly enough, it was the sad times in life that set me on a trajectory to pursue writing. It was after a full term still birth that I found myself accepting a job as a church secretary to keep myself busy. That led to writing church plays and “roasting” the pastor at church banquets. The comedy writing that I was doing for my church led me to try writing for television and the inspirational book market.

Do you still have unfulfilled dreams, and are you doing anything to accomplish them?

I would like to continue writing novels and to have some of them made into movies. I am working on my second novel right now, and have written the screenplay for my first novel, Josiah for President.

How do you make a difference in the lives of others, your community, your world?

I try to spread the message that laughter is one of the best survival tools in life. Also, I enjoy encouraging other writers. My Facebook fan page, listed as Martha Bolton, Author, offers a writing tip per day for both published and unpublished writers. The musicals have encouraging messages, too. You can find additional information on those – including shows, venues, tickets and auditions – at: www.bluegatemusicals.com

Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

People who have encouraged me along the way. It may have only been a simple comment, but they set me on a course to a career that I have loved. Some of these are:

  • Martha Gene PerretMy English teacher who read one of my poems aloud to the class, while I sat in the back, ducking my head from embarrassment (I’m shy, but the validation did feel good).
  • My pastor who read another one of my poems aloud to the church during a Wednesday night service when I was about twelve years old.
  • My sister Melva who bought me a Writer’s Digest magazine when I was a teenager. I had never even considered writing as a profession.
  • My cousin who used to spend the night at my house and read my poems that I had taped to the wall above my bed. She always had an encouraging word to say.
  • Gene Perret who was a huge influencer on my life. (That’s us at NBC, in the photo on the right.)
  • Other friends and family members.
  • At the top of the list, my husband who has always supported me.

If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be? Feel free to be as serious or fun as you choose.

“Life’s tough, God’s good, and laughter is calorie-free.”

 

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Olfet  AgramaA warm, international welcome to Olfet Agrama, who is, as far as we know, NABBW’s first Egyptian-born member.

Though she lives an international lifestyle now, Olfet was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up during the 1950s, a time when the country was at a cultural and political crossroads.

Traditionally the Muslim women of Egypt – just as they were elsewhere – were raised in a very cloistered manner, trained to be subservient, second class citizens, governed by a strict religious ethic and male dominated society. The goal: to prepare for a life dictated to them first by their fathers and later by their husbands.

But just as happened in other parts of the world, right after the Second World War, cultural changes began to brew in Egypt. It was a time of military revolution and cultural upheaval. As a result, Olfet  was able to attend a private school, where she was exposed to girls who led more emancipated lives.  Scrambling to enjoy these freedoms herself, she eventually earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Ein Shams in Cairo.

Next, she broke with tradition by teaching English literature and grammar at the University of Cairo. And when she was 24 years old, she came to the U.S. and received a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of California.

Olfet_ Henna-Cairo These days, Olfet also enjoys playing the piano, reading, painting and sculpting. Some of her favorite artists are the Fauves: Henri Matisse, Andre Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Raol Dufy and Georges Braque. Like the Fauves, she paints nature and people in her own bright palette, which reflects an optimistic view of the world.

After taking art courses in Los Angeles, Spain and France she has had single and group exhibitions showcased internationally in cities including Paris, Madrid, Nagasaki, Japan and Los Angeles, California. (A few of her paintings are reproduced here.)

Later, Agrama became CEO of Intersound, a dubbing and post production studio in Los Angeles where she still sits on the board of directors at Harmony Gold, a television production and distribution company.

Most recently, this pioneering woman has tackled a new creative medium, novel writing. And since all authors are advised to write about what they know, Olfet’s first book, “At the Crossroad,” is loosely based on the people she knew growing up, and the experiences they lived, during that volatile transitional period of the 1950s and 60s. She’s currently working on a second novel.

We heartily recommend At the Crossroad. It is a book that provides you with a realistic front row seat to a time when the young Egyptians were attempting to straddle two cultures. The question they needed to answer being: will they rebel against their parents or submit to tradition?  An eternal question, that many other authors, in other evolving cultures have also addressed.

Using four characters, friends who each have slightly different backgrounds, Agrama skillfully depicts a range of emotions – from  loneliness to elation, from confusion to fulfillment, from humiliation to hope,  she tells their revolutionary Egyptian story.

Meanwhile, we caught up with Olfet during one of her recent trips to the United States, and asked her our favorite NABBW blog questions. Here’s what we learned:

Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself?

Olfet_one more paintingI was born in Cairo Egypt to a conservative family. I got married very young and went to college after my marriage. I immigrated with my husband and two children to the USA at age 24. I earned a Master’s degree in English literature from UCLA.

My life was nomadic. I lived in Lebanon for four years, Italy for eight years, London for one year and Spain for too many years. Now I divide my time between Paris and Los Angeles.

Tell us about your family

I have two brothers living in Cairo and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. I have two children and five grandchildren all living in Los Angeles. We have a private family business – film production and distribution.

What is your favorite childhood memory that is reminiscent of growing up in the 50s, 60s and 70s?

My favorite early memory is the celebration of the Moslem feast. We all went to our grandparent’s home and each received a silver coin worth about a dime. We then went out into the street and bought candy and watched the itinerant puppet show.

What qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?

I think I share with today’s women the fact that I raised a family while pursuing my education and having a career. It was not common in Egypt while I was growing up.

What inspires you?

The women who fought for women’s rights in Egypt. They succeeded in gaining the right to vote and just as important lifting the veil off women’s faces.

What brings you the most pleasure in midlife?

My children and grandchildren bring me pleasure.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?Olfet Crossroad

Other than being a writer, I enjoy playing the piano, reading, painting and sculpting. I like the Fauves and I paint nature and people in my own palette. My paintings reflect an optimistic view of the world. I have had single and group exhibitions of my artwork in galleries in the U.S., Far East and Europe.

Do you have a favorite book or movie? If so, tell us why it’s your favorite.

It is difficult to say which is my favourite book. In Arabic I love Naguib Mahfouz and I also love the Bronte Sisters. Wuthering Heights was my favorite book as an adolescent. I also like Balzac for his down to earth, realistic portrayal of the human comedy.

Do you travel and if so, who are your favorite travel partners and where do you like to go?

I travel a great deal. I like to go to exotic places like Africa for a safari; Iceland and Greenland for the whales, hot geysers springing from the earth and the Inuit culture. Europe is always a cultural experience. It feeds my passion for the art . I enjoy ancient cities like Rome and Athens.

My favorite trip of all is up the Nile to Luxor and Aswan. Nothing equals the magnificence of the ancient Egyptian monuments nor the full moon reflected on the Nile.

Do you practice preventive medicine?

I exercise three times a week and I watch my diet. I take vitamins and supplements. I don’t smoke and rarely drink alcoholic drinks.

What do you stress about?

Everything, I try to do too much and feel frustrated when I don’t accomplish what I start.

Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks, and if so, to what degree are you willing to go?

Maintaining a youthful look is a losing battle but I would do anything to preserve it — surgical operations, creams, diets, massages anything that promises a miracle-though I don’t believe in miracles.

Olfet_ Bedouin-WomanHave you re-invented yourself, and if so, how?

  • I went to college in a society that looked down and feared education for women.
  • I followed my husband to the New World at the cost of losing the comfort of a secure home and the loss of family and friends.
  • I changed my career to work in the movie business after studying for years to get a Ph.D in literature.

Do you plan to retire?

I am semi-retired from the business world but I am very involved in writing and painting. There is no question of retiring.

Are you doing anything to GO Green?

I don’t drink water from plastic bottles. I have two bags in my car for grocery shopping. I drive a hybrid car that reduces emissions. I recycle paper and cans. I eat organic food.

Can you pinpoint major turning points in your life that led to your life’s work/play at midlife?

The first turning point was marrying for love against tradition and custom. Then it was going to a University after getting married. The third was immigrating to the United States and adapting to a different culture. The fourth turning point was I rejected all religions as such.

Olfet_Fatma's-HandsDo you still have unfulfilled dreams?

I would like to write more and better books and paint more and better pictures.

How do you make a difference in the lives of others, your community. your world?

I support organizations that help women to gain their rights and their dignity.
I support human rights organizations. I support Arab American organizations that promote the Arab culture and seek to improve the image of Arabs in the USA.

Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

First and foremost it was my husband, who pushed me to be independent and encouraged me in whatever endeavor I started.

Also, I’ve been influenced by the brave Egyptian women who, at the turn of the century, fought for women’s rights and for their freedom from archaic customs.

If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be?

I would like to live life to the fullest. I’d like to inspire my children to be better than I am. I’d like to leave behind lasting memories in the form of literature and art, and to contribute to a better understanding among people of diverse origins and beliefs.

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LBjorseth_w_mikeToday we offer our Baby Boomer Women friends an opportunity to meet Lillian Bjorseth, a newer NABBW member who has made a profession of training business people to network effectively.

These days, Lillian is putting her expertise to work to help 50+ women, a demographic group who have been long been under-appreciated in the workplace, but are now finding even more challenges due to issues like ageism, and the need to stay current and be relevant.

As Lillian puts the finishing touches on plans for her current venture, a day-long conference dubbed “Maximize Your Career – Business Tools for Women over 50” to be held April 17, 2015 at DePaul University, on their Naperville, Illinois campus, we knew  it was high time we introduced you to this marketing dynamo with a powerful message for all of us.

Especially because it’s not too late to sign up to attend this event, and benefit from her roster of top-notch speakers who are ready to share the ways they are walking their talk, expanding their networks, expanding and nurturing their connections.

As Lillian says, “As empty nesters, we have plenty of time to work on our careers but we often don’t know how to do this effectively. That’s why I’ve designed this conference:  To benefit you in your career, especially if you want to grow, advance and prosper during what is a very remarkable time in your life.”

You should plan to attend if you know that you want to:

  • ​Nurture your confidence, the number one skill for business success.
  • Brand yourself for where you are in your career and what you want to achieve.
  • Acquire executive presence tips applicable to all levels corporately and as an entrepreneur.
  • Develop better corner office business politicking skills.
  • Use social media to your advantage as a woman over 50.
  • Learn to network in the right places.
  • Put your strategy in writing.

That’s precisely what Lillian and her wonderful speakers will be sharing with you — a fellow 50+ working woman — in Chicago. Because we all need to know how to benefit from showcasing our wisdom, not our age!

Lillian is a woman who has always practiced what she preaches: Well before she developed this event, the Chicago Tribune called her a networking expert, and the Association Forum of Chicagoland dubbed her the business networking authority.

But let’s be clear about what Networking actually is. According to Lillian, “Networking is so much more than schmoozing or exchanging business cards. It’s knowing what to do strategically before an event, how to work it and what to do afterwards.”

In other words, relationship-building. A top graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Lillian did executive speech writing and public and investor relations for Nicor Gas and coached top AT&T executives in communication and media relations skills before starting her own firm, Duoforce Enterprises, Inc. in 1990. Which means that during her career, Lillian has helped tens of thousands of people build high-value relationships.

At Duoforce, Lillian and her staff train people on methods for honing their business development, networking and communication skills.  Training which includes learning how to improve your people-reading skills and communicate better verbally, non-verbally and through e-mail. as well as how to polish your professional presence and network strategically.

Always willing to share her expertise, Lillian is the author of Breakthrough Networking: Building Relationships That Last, 52 Ways To Break The Ice & Target Your Market, and the Nothing Happens Until We Communicate CD/workbook series. She’s also a contributing author to Masters of Networking, a certified trainer for the DiSC’ assessment tools and a member of the National Speakers Association.

Lillian’s strong work ethic has led to her being recognized by many organizations. Here are just a few:

  • In the Fall of 2014, she was featured as a local inspirational leader in the first edition of Chicago’s I Inspire magazine.
  • She was also named to the 2014 Top 100 Women in Ecommerce by WE Magazine for Women.
  • She was honored three times by the National Speakers Association-Illinois Chapter including Member of the Year.
  • She was named Outstanding Chicago Speaker by Red Carpet Concierge.
  • Lillian, a member of Engaging Speakers, was named one of their Great Woman of the 21st Century and an Influential Woman in Business.
  • And last but not least, in 2013 she was honored as a Distinguished Alum of her Missouri high school.

Ever the consummate producer, Lillian found time to answer our favorite questions, despite being “hip deep” in the last minute preparations for her newest venture, the Chicago conference “Maximize Your Career – Business Tools for Women over 50.” We spoke with her recently, and here’s what we learned:

Using one paragraph, tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m an energetic, enthusiastic, inspirational, well-connected Chicago-area entrepreneur, speaker, coach, author and event producer.

Tell us about your family; married, divorced, children, grands, boomerangs or parents living with you, etc.

I’m married and have two sons and three grandsons.

What is your favorite childhood memory that is reminiscent of growing up in the 50s, 60s or 70s?

I grew up on the outskirts of a town of 83 people in rural Missouri. In fact, the road ended at our house. There were no children within miles of me. I’m the youngest of four sisters all of whom were gone from home for most of my childhood. Being the gregarious person I am, I was delighted any time we had guests so I had someone to talk with … or listen to. My dad spent a lot of time in the fields, and Mom in the kitchen and garden so “company” was special!

What qualities do you have that speak of our generation of women?

Inherited German work ethic, integrity, honesty, loyalty, “no quit” attitude,

What inspires you?

Getting up each morning to a new day and new opportunities. I love spontaneity and that I am never sure what the day might bring (other than what is planned) and how one call or email can lead to another and another. I believe all of us are always selling … and I love selling!

What brings you the most pleasure in midlife?

Having so much time for myself, a wonderful husband to share life with and the good health to keep on trucking with my job and personally.

Do you have any interesting hobbies?

Love doing crossword puzzles, plus I understand they stimulate the mind!

Do you travel and if so, who are your favorite travel partners and where do you like to go?

Yes, my husband and I travel. Our latest adventure was a 12-day cruise in the Baltic and North seas where we took excursions to Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Estonia, Gdansk and Copenhagen … plus we spent a day traveling through the Kiel Canal. What a real-life history lesson! My husband prepared a thorough annotated photo album so we will enjoy the trip for years to come. We’ve also done a Mediterranean cruise that was great!

Do you practice preventive medicine? Please elaborate.

I exercise, eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. Two years ago I had a bilateral hip replacement and set a record for recovery in rehab … so I am sticking to my routine.

What do you stress about?Lillian book

Not a whole lot!

Is it important for you to retain your youthful looks, and if so, to what degree are you willing to go?

Since people decide 10 things about us within 10 seconds of seeing us, it is imperative to make a good impression professionally and personally.

That decision is based on our image, a combination of our appearance and behavior. Part of the appearance quotient is our dress, which usually covers about 90 percent of our body (especially at our age!), with the rest being our face, skin and hair.

It’s important to use skin care products geared for your skin and age as well as makeup that highlight your features and is also appropriate for your age. Hair style is another key ingredient. If you haven’t changed your hair style in 20 years, chances are it makes you look dated.

When you look dated, people often get the perception that your skills are dated, which can be detrimental in the work place.

MYCC logoThat’s why I created and am producing the Chicago area’s first all-day business conference for Boomer women … and beyond. The “Maximize Your Career – Business Tools for Women over 50” conference.

  • It will be held from 8:15 am – 4:00 pm April 17, 2015, at DePaul University, Naperville Campus, 150 W. Warrenville Rd., Naperville Illinois.
  • The day will be jam-packed with insightful presentations and also provide the opportunity to build relationships with other women over 50 who will bolster their support network. Building relationships is one of the central themes that will be discussed by Sarah Donahue, recently retired vice president Allstate Life and Retirement, who will bring first-hand experience to her presentation.
  • I’ll discuss networking in the right places (vs. just networking) on a panel discussion that will also focus on rebranding and reinvention by Susan Fignar, and Pat Price sharing what women over 50 really need to know about social media.
  • Entrepreneurs and those thinking about it will benefit greatly from Bonita Richter’s experience and knowhow as she will ask and answer, “Are You Wired for Entrepreneurial Success?”
  • Since thoughts are the first step to action, Christine Suva will help attendees master their mindset as she helps them clarify their calling so they can move full speed ahead.
  • Emcee Trisha Svehla will make sure attendees leave on track as she helps them create a realistic action plan from the information they have garnered.

You can get more details at www.bizwomenover50conference.com

Have you re-invented yourself, and if so, how?

Somewhat. While I still speak and coach on building better business relationships by honing your face-to-face networking and communication skills, I am concentrating more on producing events. Another I have planned is the 13th Greater Chicago Networking Extravaganza. It will be held May 14,2015, at TechNexus LLC, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Suite 1200 Chicago. Details at www.greaterchicagonetworking.com

Do you plan to retire?

Not yet!

Are you doing anything to GO Green?

Definitely recycle.

How do you make a difference in the lives of others, your community, your world?

I like to inspire others by my thoughts and deeds. I walk my talk.

Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?

That would be my high school sophomore English teacher who first recognized my oral and written communication skills and encouraged me to dream big.

I had no immediate role models as my dad had to quit school in third grade since he was the oldest son of a big farm family. Mom wasn’t allowed to go to high school because she was a girl and none of my sisters were allowed to go to high school since Dad didn’t believe in higher education for women.

I got to go because Missouri passed a law that you had to attend school until you were 16. From there it was on the University of Missouri School of Journalism from which I graduated in the top 10 percent.

If you were to have a personal mission statement, what would it be? Feel free to be as serious or fun as you choose.

To inspire others to build professional and personal relationships through networking and good communication skills … orally and in writing … both of which are challenges to many, many people. And, I have found that advanced degrees do not assure success or great talents in any of these areas. We can all achieve good relationships!!

 

 

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