Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Serenity Prayer With A Twist By Ed
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Serenity Prayer With A Twist
By Ed

As a parent and longtime volunteer at Gateway Rehabilitation Center Greentree in the Family Night Program for families of adolescents having substance abuse problems, I have observed many family members, including myself, who have found Serenity while surviving in the midst of all of the chaos surrounding their loved one’s addiction, and many more who have not. It has often baffled me as to why some can find it, and many, many others just cannot.

While reflecting upon the Serenity Prayer recently, I was struck by one of those thoughts that immediately elicit the mental response, “Surely, someone has thought of this before now!”. But, I have never seen or heard it expressed in just this way, so here it is.

Perhaps the first two lines of the Serenity Prayer became reversed somewhere along the way.

That is to say that possibly…........

“God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change those things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference.”

should read……….

“God grant me the Courage to change those things I can,
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
and Wisdom to know the difference.”

Now, why in the world would that kind of a twist in the Serenity Prayer occur to anyone? I think that this is why...

The Serenity Prayer in its original order, as we are used to seeing it, seems to be a bit passive. In other words, we are asking God to grant or give us Serenity, Courage and Wisdom with no particular stated effort on our part.

Well, does the old saying “God helps those that help themselves.” have any validity, or not? I believe that it does, and should be taken into consideration when praying the Serenity Prayer.

As you probably know, Habitat for Humanity facilitates the building of homes for folks who, otherwise, could not afford to acquire a home of their own. However, each recipient of Habitat’s charitable work must, themselves, complete a required number of hours of work on their home in order to receive the benefits provided by Habitat. Plain and simple, if they do not help, then they do not receive. This perpetrates a kind of “sweat equity”, if you will, creating more of a sense of ownership and responsibility.

My experience in working with family members of adolescents with substance abuse problems has been that those who have been pro-active in their approach to the issues involved are the ones who have had the most success in finding the frequently elusive Serenity. Summoning the Courage to change the things that they could has been, for them, a giant step in their search for Serenity. They have chose to act first in making needed changes, and have been rewarded with more Serenity sooner than those who have not.

So, what changes have they made, those who have, indeed, found some of this elusive Serenity? Well, they have changed themselves. They have changed by choosing to react differently to the addictive behaviors of others, more calmly and more reasonably, in a more thoughtful manner. And, they have changed by choosing to eliminate their own enabling behaviors, both active and passive.

Take Courage and change those things that you can, and just feel the Serenity come rolling in. That’s the Wisdom!

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Are You Having Trouble Leaving a Comment?
Posted by:Rocco--Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Are You Having Trouble Leaving a Comment?

[I just noticed that this post is the most widely read this week; therefore, I have updated the email link and reposted it as current. I think the comments are still helpful. It was originally Posted by:Rocco -- Sunday, October 10, 2010] L. Woodward

We have received some feedback lately that people are/are not able to leave comments on the various posts. It seems to be running about 50/50. Sometimes we have heard if you log off and then log back on a second time it works.

The easier solution is to look to the top right of the PSST Blog right underneath "Search This Blog." Go to the "E-mail your story to gopsst@gmail.com" and e-mail your comments to us.

We want to hear from you so please keep sending in your comments, questions, observations or a personal experieince that you would like to share. If you want to listed under a pen name or as anonymous just let us know in your e-mail.


(Click "Read More" so that you can read the comments.- R)

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Gaming (or what does People, Places and Things mean?)
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, September 15, 2013

Click to see source
At our Wexford meeting the question came up, "Our Son is obsessed with Internet Gaming. Should we allow him to continue gaming once he is discharged from the rehab?"

No doubt if your son was obsessed with gaming he certainly played games high. Probably his preferred method of playing internet games was high. While we can all debate the value or problems associated with internet gaming by teenagers who sometimes prefer the dazzling screen action over going outside on a nice sunny day, one thing appears certain: gaming will be a trigger for the addict who is trying to stay clean post discharge from a drug rehab. He will not be able to play without feeling urges to abuse drugs.

Therefore, one approach is to ask for a 90-day commitment prior to discharge to refrain from all game playing. After the first 90 days we could have a discussion about "limited play."

A second approach was to limit game playing right from the start, using internet gaming on Saturday only (for example) and then only if all other recovery and behavior goals are met. This second approach trades some triggering on Saturdays in hopes of getting a more-highly motivated youth Sunday through Friday.

There is no single recommended method. Knowing your teenager is important. It is also important to know what you are willing to enforce. For example, if you know that you are going to cave in and allow gaming anyway once your youth gets home then it's better not to make it part of the contract. If you do make it part of the contract and your teenager realizes that you have caved on that item it sends a message that the contract isn't worth the paper it's printed on.

At the point of our role-play we did at PSST, release was not imminent. Because there was weeks before discharge it allowed the parents to just express that they were "NOT COMFORTABLE" with the gaming. They did not yet make a final decision on gaming, but it's starting to not look to good for gaming and of course the teenager is beginning to panic. This gave the parents to a chance to practice one of our basic parenting tools, "I'm not comfortable with that."

Not only is this tool good for addressing the topic of gaming, but it is good structuring in general. In other words, it shows that it matters whether or not the parent feels comfortable. Too often the comfortability level of the parents have meant nothing. If there is an argument about whether or not Johnny can go out, the debate focuses on what Johnny says he is going to do, who Johnny says he is going to hang out with, and whether or not the parents can trust Johnny to do that. It sort of goes unspoken that the parents are not really comfortable, but if they can't prove that something bad is going to happen they sort of have to give Johnny the benefit of the doubt.

Somehow as parents we have bought into the premise that if we can't really "prove" that a certain thing is bad, then it would be unfair if we did not allow our teenager to go ahead and try it. Therefore, we argue about it. And our teenagers are relentless debaters and more often than not, we lose the debate.

On the other hand if the premise weren't about proving anything, but was rather about whether or not parents felt comfortable then there would be no argument (except in certain circumstances where things could change to the point where a parent would feel more comfortable.)

Note: Feeling "uncomfortable" is not exactly the same as feeling "Not Comfortable." Saying, "I'm not comfortable with that" carries more weight than saying "I'm uncomfortable with that." Being uncomfortable is riding a water ride at Kennywood and now your socks and underwear are damp. Instead, looking your teen in the eye and stating "I'm Not Comfortable with that," and putting the emphasis on "Not" is stronger. Either will work, but one is stronger.

The following role-play was inspired by the one we did at PSST; however, this went in a somewhat different direction than that one did. As is so often the case, once I start writing a role-play the characters seem to have a mind of their own and I just go with it.

Mom: I'm Not Comfortable with the idea that you will be discharged from this drug rehab, and go back to your obsession with gaming.

Teen: You mean I can't play x-box? Why?

Mom: I'm just not comfortable with it.

Teen: Well if I'm being punished then, at least give me a reason. I mean I agreed to come here, now I'm being punished.

Mom: OK, OK, you are right.

CTeen: I am?

Mom: Yes, you are- you deserve a reason but all I'm saying is that you won't like the reason.

Teen: Well, what is it?

Mom: Parent leans in, [lowers her voice, looks her son right in the eye]"Son, I'm NOT comfortable with you returning to People, Places or Things of your addiction."

Teen: What? that's stupid!

Mom: Yes, I suppose it is stupid in some ways.

Teen: If you agree that it's stupid, then why?

Mom: I just think that this whole addiction thing has taken us through the looking glass and lot's of things just seem ridiculous now, nevertheless, I am Not Comfortable with you returning to People, places and things of your addiction!

Teen: That's stupid. Mom, I got high a lot right here in our house. Right up in my room, in the bathroom, and in the basement. Does that mean I can't go in the bathroom to take a crap anymore cause if that's what you're thinking I got to find a new place to take a dump, don't I?

Mom: Yes, that is an excellent point.

Teen: It is?

Mom: Yes, because it shows how ridiculous this whole thing has become. I can't expect that you don't use the bathroom can I?

Teen: I hope not.

Mom: So, you're saying that since I can't stop or control you from going back to some of your People, Places and Things that I shouldn't try to stop you from returning to any of them?

Teen: Yes, that's what I'm saying. Don't try to work my program for me.

Mom: OK, there's another good point. Regardless, I have to tell you I am Not Comfortable with you going back to gaming after you discharge from here.

Teen: So what? I'm going to game anyway.

Mom: I'm not comfortable with that.

Teen: So what?

Mom: Well, I was hoping that while you were in here you'd made significant changes.

Teen: I have! Ask my counselor if you don't believe me! I've made tons of changes, for crying out loud, I'm Community Leader here now, you know that right?

Mom: Yes, I know that Son and I'm very proud of you for all that you've done in here. Still, I'm disappointed too.

Teen: Oh geeze, there really is no pleasing you. You'll always find something to complain about.

Mom: Yes I am good at that somtimes, huh?

Teen: [rolls eyes] Let's hear it, what are you disappointed about?

Mom: Well, it never used to matter to you what I was not comfortable about. If I told you not to bring your friends over you'd do it anyway. If I told you to lower your music, you would refuse. Remember?

Teen: Yeah, but I was using then.

Mom: True. Regardless, I am not comfortable with you returning to gaming for the first 90 days after your discharge and that apparently means nothing to you, just like before. You know in some ways I'm not so sure that you've really changed that much. OH sure hold on, I am very proud of you for being Community Leader. I just wish I saw more of a commitment from you to follow rules and to accept my being in charge- especially when you don't agree with the rules or if you don't like th rules. But instead, I think we are going to bump heads a lot, do you think I'm wrong?

This can go on and on. The point is that mom is going to have this discussion about whether or not her teen has changed and Jeanne Ann from Gateway, who sat in our Wexford meeting, pointed out that it's important to have the discussion with the teen about whether or not the teen has changed. And remember too that if it appears that the teen has not really changed some strong consideration should be given to not coming right home after rehab but going to a halfway house first.

Teen: Well if you think you're calling all the shots after I get out I got a news flash for you Mom!

Mom: Oh?

Teen: You're not coming up with a bunch of new rules cause I'm not going to even pretend that I'm going along with that! Look, I came here, I became Community Leader and now I'm better, and I get to come home and resume my F***ing life!!! And you're not going to stop me. I won't do drugs but I'm doing it my way, you understand?

Mom: Oh I hear you. Loud and clear.

Teen: [glares]

Mom:: I'm glad we had that out.

Teen: Why?

Mom: Because you told me where you stand. I like that. You're right too, there's no sense in pretending that things have change.

Teen: Things have changed! I'm done with drugs.

Mom: Well that part I'm very happy about. But I mean things between you and me. You did what you wanted to do no matter what I said before, and now you are honest enough to clue me in that none of that part has changed.

Teen: No, that's no what I said! You're putting words in my mouth!

Mom: I'm sorry?

Teen: I will follow your rules completely as long as they make sense, but I'm not following the stupid ones.

Mom: OK, so that is a little different, you are willing to follow the rules that you agree with. OK, well Son I've got to be as honest with you as you've been with me, OK?

Teen: What?

Mom: I'm Not Comfortable with you coming straight home after rehab. I think we need to talk halfway houses.

Teen: Are you F***ing crazy?

Mom: Yes, probably I am but also you used to use all that profanity at home before rehab. Son, I'm Not Comfortable with that language either. That's another thing I had hoped you would change.

Teen: OK OK, see that's rule that makes sense, I'll watch the way I talk to you, but halfway house now that's not even recommended by my therapist! Do you realize that I'm Community Leader here?

Mom: You mentioned it, yes.

Teen: Well you can't do this to me! I'm definitely playing my X-box when I get home!

Mom: I'm not comfortable with you coming straight home.

Teen: What? Where did that come from?

Mom: I just think you're going to need more help and you and I are going to bump heads a LOT!

Teen: OK, OK, I'll limit the gaming like on Mondays I will not game at all; OK you happy with that? You are such a [pause] wait I won't say it right now, but gee whiz Mom I think if you don't ease up I am going to have to go back to getting high just to deal with YOU!

Mom: Good point!

Teen: What?

Mom: Well I am a trigger for you too. Look, honey I'm going to tour that halfway house, I'm thinking that this is too important not to trust my gut on this one and I'm just NOT Comfortable.

Teen: OK, look I won't hardly game at all, just on weekends if that makes you happy but please Mom, please do not say anything to my counselor about a halfway house. Please, I'm begging you please promise me that you'll keep this between us? OK?

Mom: Exactly! Because honey that's what just what I used to do! I used to not tell you father, your grandparents, your teachers or your friend's parents that I was worried sick about your growing drug problem. I was wrong. I was really wrong and that was such a big mistake. Today, I'm Not Comfortable keeping secrets. So yes, I will be speaking with your therapist.

Teen: I'm so done talking to you. You need help. You need to go see someone I'm going back to the unit.

Mom: OK, well we'll talk about this later! Bye honey...

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Son, lemme get your advice on something...
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, September 12, 2013

Last Saturday at PSST we talked about how to build a closer relationship with our teenager. As our guest Jean Ann from a local inpatient programs pointed out, "As parents we are so locked in to the struggle to get control of our drug abusing teenager that we forget how to stay connected."

How much of your time with your teenager is spent on control issues? Ten, twenty-five, fifty, even 75 percent? Higher? Of course there are extenuating circumstances, the biggest one being that your teens behavior needs confronting all the time. Even so, how much of this is repetitive? We think that by repeating our lectures and messages etc. that they will have more impact; however, the more we repeat ourselves with teens the more we might be counter-productive. Perhaps our teenager has nothing to say. Maybe they spend all their time in their room? Still, in this post I want to challenge you as to whether or not you can have more "not teachable moments" with your teenager.

When our teenager is actively abusing drugs all focus naturally is on trying to help him decide to stop abusing drugs. It doesn't feel like we have the luxury of chit chat. Once our teenager stops abusing drugs we sometimes just don't know how to get back in that "let's get to know each other mode."

Another window of opportunity to get to know our teens is when we become Straw Bosses. If for some reason our teenager doesn't live with us and we no longer have the same power to exert over them, we become Straw Bosses. Now we do have the luxury to build a better relationship but we might not know where to start. Now we aren't the family policemen but maybe we don't know what to say.

This is where we can consult the ordinary teen/ parent relationships for information.

For example, I found this five questions You Must Ask Your Teen Right Now. The author calls these character defining questions.

What is the most important quality a person can have? I love that one. Hazard a guess as to what your teen will answer and then go ask your teen. If you're surprised,that's a good thing to admit to your teenager. We all like to be a surprise, and none of us like to think of ourselves as being too predictable.

"What is the hardest thing about your life, what do you worry about most?" Too many of our teens would say "Probation!" Or would they?

"What are three words to describe you?" Hmmm,I'm not sure I can give you three words to describe me but it really does make you think. I guess that's the point.

Sometimes these are points from which discussions happen. They can't really give you a wrong answer. It's their opinion and you are showing them by asking that you value their opinion.

In the role-play we did in group, the parent asked the teenager for his opinion about an important decision that the parent was going to make. It wasn't something threatening like, "I think I'm going to leave your father" or "I think your Dad cheated on me, what do you think?" Obviously, you would have boundaries regarding what you ask your child for advice. Some things should be off limits. But it was something about the parent considering whether or not to take on a new job. The parent showed that he cared for for the teen's opinion. If we want to raise children who have the ability to form good opinions, then it follows that we treat them as though they have opinions that we value. Also, like these conversation starters they help us as parents to develop a different interaction with our children that isn't all about controlling their behavior. If over 75 percent of our interaction with our children is about teachable moments the maybe we can boost the not teachable moments interactions.

Another thing that I've considered. If I wanted my teens to talk to me, I should be willing to talk to them. Not that there is anything wrong with periods of silence, but sharing things with my teenagers like what I'm going through perhaps at work or in my personal relationships is sometimes OK, depending on what exactly it is that I'm sharing. I'm letting them get to know me and my values. I'm teaching values and at the same time I'm modeling for them how to share things with each other. Then I try to be very patient. There will come a time when they talk. Hopefully, it will happen from time to time.

Let's keep this in mind too. Talking and sharing is a voluntary act. Yes, you are the parent and sometimes you are entitled to information especially in 911 situations like failed drug tests, stolen money, and other accountability issues; however, squeezing kids for information about what happened in sports or what happened in school, what's going on with their friends is a good way to set up resentments. We have to respect that they don't want to share everything. Sometimes they are afraid that they will look bad or that they will open themselves up for criticism. Don't forget that when you sense that your teen is feeling bad about something that they are trying to share use a supportive phrase like, "Don't beat yourself up." This seems to help the teen share more and now he feels that you are on his side. Or you might also say, "Hey, I'm on your side." That does not mean that you agree with everything they say. For example, if your child feels that they are the reason their team lost the game and you believe that might be true because you know they should have passed the ball more and not tried to make every goal all by themselves you might say it like this:

Parent: "Hey, don't beat yourself up. It's one game.

Teen: Yeah, but it's my fault we lost. I played bad. I don't want to talk about it."

Parent: Well, yeah it's hard when you feel that way, but like I said, don't beat yourself up. Sure next time you'd probably try to pass more.

Teen: Oh yeah, I thought I could win the game all by myself but I'm a screw up. When the pressure was on, when it really counted and when the coach and all my teammates were counting on me, I couldn't come through.

Parent: Well yeah, that's hard. You're harder on yourself than anyone else.

Teen: Na, they all know I screwed up. They hate me.

[Pause] [Parent does not want this to turn into an argument about whether he is a screw up so he just thinks quietly for a second. He wants to make an "agreeing statement" but he is keen to avoid coming right out and saying "Oh yeah, you are the screw-up of the year aren't you?"

Parent: Look, I'm not sure it matters to you what I think but I'm just going to say it. The way you feel about the game going badly and how willing you are to take responsibility for the loss, it just shows how passionate you are about the game. You're really a competitor, a real fighter.


Parent: That's one of the things I admire about you.

Teen: What?

Parent: That you are a fighter. You know there are going to be times when you lose, and boy when that happens it really hurts. But you take that chance. And you keep coming back. Right now it really hurts, but just so you know, I love it that you're willing to get out there and risk all that hurt just to compete, to play, and you know, to leave it all out there on the field.

We will be imitated. It's inevitable. For example, if go through spats where we are punishing our children by giving them the silent treatment, then don't be surprised when they are teenagers and they are upset with us, that they return the favor. Now we are on the receiving end of the silent treatment. Once again it's also important to consider that in everything we do we are modeling behavior for our children.

Dr. Phil has this to say:

"For Parents: How Well Do You Know Your Teen?

"The questions below address how much you know about your child. They can be answered with either "yes" or "no." Make sure you can truly answer each question if you are going to write "yes." Often people assume they know the answer, but when pressed, they really do not."

Click here to go to Dr. Phil's Connect The Parent, 20 things that you should know about your child.

Keep in mind that if you are firing off questions one after the other your teenager may be defensive. Also, don't ask things that are traps or in other words, don't ask things for which there are no good answers. For example, "I want to know why you cheated on the test." I mean, c'mon the teen knows that there is no good answer and somehow we believe that by asking them a question for which there is no good answer we create a teachable moment. If it were that easy we could just go tell them to stand in the corner.

In fact, a good idea is to throw the word "why" right out the window. Teens might not know why and if they do they are not likely to tell you if they feel that they are being judged. Instead, ask open ended questions such as tell me about ____. Open ended questions can't be answered in one word, so it leads to more open exchanges.

Also, everyone is really passionate about something. If and when we get a chance to talk about something we feel really passionate about, we almost can't help talking. That's where we want to go with our teenagers. Of course if the only thing that your teen is passionate about is drugs, sex, and what we consider to be bad music, then that might not be the way to go. Most teens are also passionate about one or two other things: a favorite movie, book, TV series, sport, hobbies, etc. Even if it is a video game! If the video game is the one thing that our teen is passionate about and we immediately say, "Oh I don't like video games, and you spend way too much time playing them," then we have shut ourselves off from one vital avenue. We don't have to become avid video player to just listen and show interest. "What's your most favorite thing about the game? What's one way you would improve the game if you were the game designer? If you designed your own game what would it look like? Do you think the violence in the game is problem for some of the players? Is there anything in the game that you think is too over done? etc.

Whatever it is good luck in building the relationship. Keep the door open. Keep talking. And when you are stuck, it's OK to say, "You know I'm not sure what to say about that. Let me think about that one." That means that there will round #2. :-)

Click here to go to the post on minimizing resentments in teens.

There is a place where you can go to get advice from teens. You have to pay for it. Click here to go to Advice From Teens page. Or if you want to save a buck just ask the one(s) you have at home.

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Roxie's Relapse
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, September 08, 2013

Roxie’s Relapse – Living Life through Lenny
                     by Roxie


I never thought I would reminisce on Lenny’s various three-year placements with affectionately fond memories of celebrating his birthdays at juvenile facilities. That was a cakewalk compared to the spiraling relapse that Lenny is currently experiencing. I was told that relapse is part of recovery, but was not prepared for its harsh reality. I’d rather not remember that sobriety is the leading cause of relapse.

Lenny’s twin sister, Lena, has handled his deterioration by picking up the habit of smoking cigarettes. That is something I am grateful for. The smoke is Marlboro and not a new friend named Mary Jane. Last year, that would have been an infraction that would have dire consequences. Not anymore. She’s 18, has a job, and living with an addict brother who has the utmost respect for her. Consequently, neither twin smokes or drinks in front of me. In that and many other ways, I am blessed.

I deal with Lenny’s relapse by repeatedly running away. My mother is 77, so I use that as an excuse to remove myself from the home from early morn until 8pm to ‘take care of her.’ Even mommy asked, while anxiously jabbing in the air with her cane, “Don’t you want to go home?” Premonition is one of her innate Indian qualities, for I certainly did not tell her about Lenny!

I acknowledge that I have become part of Lenny’s relapse lunacy. When his addict friends are hungry, Lenny cooks them dinner quickly while they wait in slobber on my back porch. “They’re hungry,” he stated compassionately, while flipping a burger that looked reddish raw on the inside. I peered through the window and recognized one of the boys from Lenny’s placement days. I almost asked if he wanted cake…. he would eat it, too.

During his current relapse, Lenny used to come home every three days for food, water, and showers. He has become much better since telling him that I talked to the Sheriff and I do not need an eviction notice to remove him. Additionally, I called the local Magistrate to see when a warrant for his arrest for unpaid fines would be issued. “You act like you want one today,” stated the Magistrate’s secretary. “I cannot drop everything and draw up a warrant, but it will be soon.” Since I am unemployed, I wanted to become a magisterial temp, just for that day, while she drafted up the warrant. Even with the law breathing down his sun-drenched neck with numerous ‘hickeys’, Lenny is not fearful enough to change. I need to modify how I respond to this relapse, for it is sheer stupidity to think this is his final setback.


Roxie knows to:

  1. Stop feeling that she is the woman who lost her soul; and her soul’s name is Lenny.
  2. Turn up the heat on group meeting attendance, such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or PSST, to solidify my own sanity. Church is good, but being with parents in groups who understand is exceptionally better.
  3. Realize that Lenny joining the military probably won’t happen due to him being unable to provide a clean blood or urine sample.
  4. Accept that I may answer the door one day for officials who want to arrest him.
  5. Continue to let Lenny go, but include his famished friends in the release!
  6. Realize that Roxie is not alone in this circumstance.
  7. Talk, talk, talk, to anyone who will listen.
  8. Draw strength from God or your higher power.
  9. A shoulder to cry on is always available, from friends, for the asking.
  10. Understand that between the ages of 18 and 78, there are still 60 years of hope available.


Similar to never being prepared for death, one can never be prepared for relapse. Roxie is learning to roll with it, realizing when enabling is happening, and getting rid of that behavior at least on a temporary basis. I even had an unorthodox idea of trying the “if you can’t beat them, join them” method, with me having a few beers with Lenny. I imagined that he would be mortified that I was getting ‘high’ with him and he would become sober out of absolute embarrassment. It would work! Unfortunately, my bloodline indicates that I would befall addiction similar to my Lenny.


“The men [Native Americans] have a good and an evil side. Sober they are angels.  Drunk, their evil side comes out, and they are drunk a good part of the time.”

(Mary Brave Bird, Native American Quotations.)

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