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Posts Tagged ‘Motherhood’

A few weeks ago, we had yet another milestone occur in our household. My seven-year old noodle lost her second top tooth. Let’s face it, when the first four or eight baby teeth come in, it’s miraculous and bittersweet. When they lose those first four or eight for adult teeth, it is just as bittersweet.

I did my part by having her write a note on the envelope for the tooth fairy as I shoved my husband out the door to run to the store. In our home, the tooth fairy brings a dollar and gum and we had no gum.

Between three kids, ages seven, eight, and nine years old, it seemed that teeth were falling out all over the place and for some reason, the tooth fairy never had gum on hand.

The next morning, my daughter came out of her room, chomping on gum and waiving her dollar about (which she lost almost immediately. My guess is, it’s in the boy’s piggy bank).

‘How does the tooth fairy do it?! When does she come in and get my tooth? Why does she give me gum?’ She asked in between chomping on her gum and handing pieces of it out to everyone.

The middle noodle piped up. ‘When I lose my tooth up in Oregon, I get FIVE dollars. Why do we only get a dollar and gum here in California?’

FIVE BUCKS?! Good grief, who does that?!

The middle noodle spends the school year up in Oregon with her mom. She comes to us during the summer and all school holidays. I chalked it up to divorced mom’s guilt. Fortunately for my pocket-book, I was not one of those moms.

The youngest looked at her pack of gum and then looked at me waiting for an answer about the five bucks. I just shrugged my shoulders and started picking lint off my sweatshirt hoping she’d drop the subject and go away.

A day or so later, when the middle child was back in Oregon, I was driving with my kids; the youngest girl started in again with the tooth fairy.

‘Mom, why does the tooth fairy collect teeth? Why does she give money? Where does she come from?’

I’d had it. I couldn’t stand it anymore.

‘Hey, you guys? Umm, about the that tooth fairy. Uh….’ I let out a big sigh.

Holy God here it comes, one of the ‘big’ talks in a kid’s life. I threw out a quick prayer hoping they wouldn’t be devastated. I had heard the stories of kids saying, ‘when I found out about Santa, the tooth fairy, and the easter bunny, that is when my childhood ended. It was all downhill from there.’

I cleared my throat. ‘I’m…….’

‘THE TOOTH FAIRY!!!’ My nine-year old son blurted out.

I let my breath out. ‘Yes. Does that upset you?’, I said, rather defeated. The response time was minimal.

‘AWESOME!!!’ My son did a little chair dance in the back seat.

‘YOU’RE the Tooth Fairy?! REALLY?? My daughter exclaimed.

‘Ya. It’s me.’ I said sheepishly.

‘Well, that explains a lot.’ My daughter said as she sat back. Everything became clear for her.

‘And about the Easter Bunny….’ I figured things weren’t going that badly, I may as well lay it all out. Kind of like ripping a band-aid off fast instead of a little at a time. One swift, but painful, movement. But at least it got done with quickly. Then the healing could begin.

‘NO WAY!’ My son yelled.

My daughter’s eyes grew wide. ‘You’re the EASTER BUNNY? YOU put the candy out?!’

Oh lord, I thought, I’m ruining her childhood. No more dreams to dream. No more joys left to experience. The boy seems ok, but I’m crushing her spirit! This is how people become addicts! Oh, God take the wheel!!’

‘Mom’, She said enthusiastically, ‘that SO rocks!’

‘Huh?’ I said. I looked in the rear view mirror. The kids were bouncing up and down in their seats. Could it be they were actually excited I was the tooth fairy and Easter bunny? Had I read them wrong? What else had I hesitated to tell them for fear of crushing their spirits?

Then, it came to me. The big one. The mother of all discoveries in a kid’s life. I didn’t even have to bring it up.

‘Mom, you have to tell us. Are you……Santa Claus too?’

I had struggled with telling the kids this one for a year or so. The story just didn’t sit right with me, and yet, I loved the idea of Santa. I loved the magic, wonder, and innocence of it all. Would I be able to keep the magic of the holidays without the story of Santa?

At the same time, I didn’t like lying to my kids. Not even this one. I let out a sigh. I crinkled my nose, as if to say, ‘do you hate me, children? Am I absolutely the worst mother ever in the history of mothers? I am worse than the mother who had a crack baby, aren’t I?’

What could be worse than lying and then having to come clean about Santa?’

They understood the look I gave. The furrowed brow combined with the sucking in of my breath through my teeth causing a hissing sound as if I had just stubbed my toe. I waited for the inevitable; the heartbreak, the crocodile tears, and the sadness of childhood lost.

Instead, loud whooping cheers, excitement, and laughter exploded in the back seat.

‘Aren’t you upset?’ I asked?

‘Upset? No way!,’ My son exclaimed, ‘Our mom is Santa Claus!! That is awesome! You’re Santa! We can just come to you instead of writing letters! I’ll start telling you what I want now.’

My son has always preferred to go straight to the source to make his wishes known.

‘How did you do it? How did you get all the presents under the tree without us seeing?! You’re really good at that!’ My daughter asked.

I smiled; got a bit smug over the kudos coming from the back seat.

‘Well, it’s not easy, you know…what, with all the buying and wrapping. It takes a lot of work…a lot of hard work.’

‘I can’t wait to go to school tomorrow and tell everyone that my mom is Santa!’, My daughter squealed.

‘Yes, child, I am…..wait. What? Well….I do, do a lot of work….’ For a brief moment, I owned Christmas. ‘No, wait…no….I’m not THE Santa…I’m not their Santa….I’m your Santa. Everyone has their own Santa, Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy. I’m yours.’

The kids settled down a bit.

‘So, you guys really aren’t upset over this?’ I shyly asked.

‘Heck no!’ my son answered for the two of them. ‘This rules. I can’t wait to tell Cassidy.’

Uh-oh. I had not thought of the middle noodle. My husband and his ex-wife had not told their daughter about the infamous three characters and their true identity. My husband had a problem with having to continually convince his daughter about the myth of Santa, but not enough of a problem to burst her childhood bubble with the truth.

I tried to explain to my kids why we couldn’t tell their step-sister.

‘Ok, listen up, guys. It’s not our job or responsibility to tell Cassidy about this, ok?’, I said firmly.

‘Well, someone needs to tell her that you’re Santa.’ My daughter replied.

‘I’m not the Santa.’ I re-iterated, ‘I’m your Santa. Her dad and mom are her Santa and it’s up to them to decide when to tell her. Not us.’

‘Oh. Can we tell her you’re the Easter Bunny?’ My daughter jubilantly asked.

‘Well,’ I thought a moment, then realized how quickly my own kids put two and two together. ‘No, we better not. Let’s just keep it between us and allow other parents to decide when it’s the best time for their own kids to discover the truth, OKAY?’

I emphasized the ‘okay’ part, because I needed them to acknowledge we were in agreement. Otherwise, the moment their step-sister walked in the front door, they’d be all over her with the news.

‘ya, ok.’ They both agreed.

The rest of the drive home was relatively quiet, except for the random burst of giggles as the two kids talked about the biggest secret they have ever held in the palm of their tiny hands. It was a good one, I’ll admit.

I tell people this story and they are blown away at my kid’s responses.

‘Wow, you nailed them with all three huh? Gutsy.’ They say. ‘How could you do that to them, all three truths at once?! Were they totally crushed?’

These are the war stories of parenthood, and so the responses are filled with the same type of emotion.

‘I told my kids when they were about 12.’ A woman told me, looking remorseful, ‘broke their pre-pubescent hearts right in two. They cried for a day or so. They’ve questioned my actions since.’

‘You are so lucky.’ Some parents say, looking at me all wild-eyed, wondering how I did it. ‘I never told my kids. I just couldn’t. They figured it out at some point. But I could never bring myself to telling them. Too heartbreaking.’

I guess I am lucky. Parenting is the hardest thing I’ve ever taken on, and my kids get all tweaky at the small daily stuff. Sometimes, I do too. Actually quite often.

Thankfully, the big stuff doesn’t seem to faze them too much. Maybe that’s the secret to parenting. Make the little stuff into big stuff and the big stuff into little stuff. Nah, it can’t be that easy. There is no reason or rhyme to it. That’s what is frustrating. Once we figure one thing out, that one thing doesn’t matter anymore. It becomes obsolete, because there is another thing to figure out..  Never ending. And this is why gray hair, or hair loss, or early death comes along.

Ok, maybe not but it sure feels like that’s why.

At least I have navigated this storm and ended up in unexpected calm waters. At least for now.

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In the last post, I had started telling you how I ended up sitting in the Family Peace Center every other weekend for an hour on Saturday. As the children were exiting from their visit, I was writing about how my mom had decided to fund a private investigator to help me discover if the ex spouse was actually sober.

The investigator told me that she would plant the bug that night and get back to me. I had butterflies in my stomach. I prayed a thousand prayers that night for everyone involved.

The next morning, the PI office called me. She said the bug had been placed, and gave me a website, a username, and password. I was told I could log in and follow the ex’s movements real-time via satellite and the computer.

With trepidation, I logged on to the computer. There, on a map of Reno, it showed that the ex was still at home. It also showed me the address closest to the bug, and the time.

When he moved the car, the map showed it, it showed the speed of the vehicle, and the address nearest the bug.

It. Was. Awesome. And scary.  It was hard to leave the computer. My heart pounded as I watched his actions. Afraid he would find out. Afraid he would just….be normal, and do normal things like go to work, go to the gym, then go home for the evening. The problem for me is, I keep thinking everyone’s ‘normal’ is like my normal.

The first weekend of the bug being placed, the ex had the children. I always held my breath when he had the children, from the moment they got in his car, until they came back to me. Especially after I had moved. Before, I was only a moment’s notice away in case of an emergency. Now, I was three hours away.

I watched on my iPhone as the ex drove over Donner Pass of the Sierra Nevada mountain range to pick up the kids, averaging 70 mph.

I watched as he drove back to Reno, with the children in his car, averaging 80 mph. I cried for their safety.

Fortunately, I know the streets of Reno like the back of my hand. I know his hot spots to drink, the stores he visits to buy alcohol.

That Saturday night, I watched as he left the home after the kids were asleep to go to the liquor store. He was drinking with the kids in his home.

I watched like a hawk, on my iPhone, the satellite readout as he drove the children back to our meeting place to drop the kids off two days later.

On Monday, the PI called to say she was going to pick up the ex’s garbage the next morning. She had a connection with the garbage company where, the garbage man would pick up the garbage and give it to the PI down the road a bit. No one would know the better. She would go through the garbage, document what she found, and then return the garbage.

I told her to look at the bottom of the garbage can for bottles. He wouldn’t use the recycling bin because, at least when we were together, he didn’t want the neighbors to see the numerous empty bottles he needed to put out.

The next morning, I dropped the kids off at school and rushed back home to get on the computer. I waited. I paced. I prayed. What if I had been wrong? What if she didn’t find anything but, well, garbage?

The call came.  My breathing was shallow.

‘Well,’ She said, ‘You know, I have a lot of people come to me with accusations about their spouse, or ex spouse, or whomever. Many times, they just want something to be true and it’s not. The evidence is just not there. So I take everyone’s story with a grain of salt. There was only one small bag in the garbage can when we picked it up.’

Oh, no, I thought. She didn’t find anything, I thought. He didn’t put any bottles or cans out, he IS sober and I’m just mad that he has joint custody now. My gut was wrong, I thought. I held my breath.

She went on. ‘You were right. He’s drinking. We found two empty bottles of vodka, a bottle of wine, 30 bottles of beer, and a can of beer. We also found an attorney bill with his name and address on it, so I’m taking the picture of the bottles and bill to prove it was all found at his residence.’

I let out my breath. I was right. He was still drinking. And a lot. He lived with his girlfriend, so between the two of them, that was still a lot of alcohol.

‘What we didn’t find,’ She continued, ‘was actual garbage. We found one pizza box and that was it. No food leftovers, no mail other than the bill, nothing. It’s almost as if all they did was drink.’

I knew that the girlfriend’s daughter was with her dad that entire week, so I figured they had gone out every night.

I told the PI, ‘You have to understand, this is just what they drank at home. This doesn’t include what they drank at the bars. I can almost guarantee you they went out drinking.’

The PI and I talked a bit more and then hung up.

That afternoon, I went out for a run to help relax. When I came home I got on the computer to watch the website. It was 2:30 in the afternoon. I stopped in my tracks. He wasn’t at home, he wasn’t at work, he wasn’t with a client. Based on the location, he was at a pub.

I frantically called up the PI and told her. She said she would do her best to get someone there as quickly as possible but no guarantees.

For three hours, I called countless friends of mine in Reno to see if they could get to the pub to witness the ex drinking. If nothing else, I thought, I could pull them into court and have them testify.

At 5:45 I had to take the kids to Aikido. No word from the PI. I took my phone with me. After dropping the kids off at the dojo I sat in my truck and watched the tracking on my iPhone. He was still there. It was 6:30. He had been drinking for four hours at that point. Then I got a call from the PI.

‘Well, I have someone there. He’s at the bar drinking. He’s done several shots, had a few beers, it’s clear he’s drunk. He’s making out with a woman who I’m presuming is his girlfriend. They are both drunk. I’ll call you back as I get more info. We’re recording all of it, which you’ll be able to present in court.’

He stayed at the bar until 7:30 pm. Even though the investigator went home, I continued to watch the ex’s movements on the computer. At 8:30 pm he went out again to another bar. Once again, I called the PI and she was able to get another investigator out to the bar. They stayed until 10:30 pm. He had been drinking for a solid eight hours.

I called my attorney the next morning, and told her what went down the night before. She said, ‘Well, you were right. I’m so glad you stuck with your convictions. You’re saving those children.’

She started on the paperwork to stop all court actions regarding joint custody and unsupervised visitation.

In the days following, the PI was able to record him drinking and driving, and did another garbage check resulting in even more alcohol for the week.

When it came time for the children to be with their dad for the week of Thanksgiving, I refused to turn them over. The paperwork had been filed with the court and we had a hearing two days before Thanksgiving.

In court, the ex had excuse after excuse, claiming that the bottles had been saved up for a year and he was just putting them out that day; that he and his girlfriend had a party with alcohol, but he didn’t drink any.  He claimed that the PI had brandished and waved a gun about as ‘he’ picked up the garbage. He claimed the tracking of his movements were a violation of his 4th amendment rights. After him and his attorney argued with the judge, he admitted he was an alcoholic and that stopping drinking wasn’t the problem. It was remaining sober that was the issue.

The judge did not feel sorry for him this time. She pulled all custody and visitation except the schedule that we have now. We go to the Family Peace Center, which is located in the courthouse for visitation. It’s a center for such situations, where the visitation must be supervised.

The ex tried to have it so that his parents would be approved supervisors but, due to them lying in court in the past, they were denied.

That was November of 2011. Since then, the ex has taken me back to court and continues to file motions in an attempt to overturn the court’s rulings.

But that voice I heard? To me, that was God. And when I heard that voice, it calmed me down enough in that situation to get my head on straight, think clearly, and get done what needed to be done. It was the voice that guided me to the right private investigator, it was the voice that guided me to being exactly where I needed to be in order for it all to fall into place.

The three hour trip? Ya, it’s a time suck. But I gladly do it. I make sure there are snacks in the vehicle, and the portable dvd player with lots of good movies. I plan lots of fun events surrounding the one hour visits. As long as I know my kids are safe, I gladly do it.

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At least it’s a pretty drive to Reno

At this moment, I’m in Reno in a waiting room at the courthouse.

Every other weekend the kids and I make the three hour drive to Reno so the children can have a one hour visit with their dad on Saturday and a one hour visit on Sunday. Then we make the three hour trip back home.

Originally, we all lived in Reno, Nevada, when I was married to my former husband. A few years after I divorced him, I was given permission by the state of Nevada to move back to California where I’m from originally, in order to get married to my fiancé. Needless to say, the kids moved with me as I was the primary parent (this was given to me due to the ex’s ongoing battle with alcoholism).

At the end of summer in 2011, we moved back to the San Francisco bay area to a small town called Martinez.

Originally, after the ex discovered my intentions to move back to California ( I had made the mistake of wanting to discuss it with him like adults), the ex demanded sole custody and, if that wasn’t accepted, he at least wanted joint custody. To everyone’s surprise, the court awarded the ex joint custody of our young children after he had jumped through hoops to ‘prove’ his sobriety.

I was shocked, devastated, and terrified for the kid’s safety.

For more than four years I had proven time after time, including catching him and his parents lying on the witness stand during the move away trial about a DUI he had received, that he was still drinking.

The court took his word after three months of him claiming to be sober and gave him joint custody. Because I was living in California, the judge had figured time would be split as such: the ex would have the kids every other weekend. He would get them every school break including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring break, and ALL summer.

It did not allow for me to see the children at all during the summer. I cried as I heard this. It was like hearing a prison sentence. I pleaded to the judge that it would be detrimental to the children if they, after mostly only being with me their entire lives, did not have access to me at all during the summer.

The judge reluctantly agreed and gave me one weekend a month.

After I left the court room I went to fill up the gas tank on my truck before driving the three hours home. I sat at the gas station and cried. I knew he would black out from drinking while the kids would be with him. I knew he would drive drunk with them in the car. I knew they would have to tolerate his fits of anger as he went through withdrawals on the days he didn’t drink. I knew all this because he had done it in the past.

I could understand why women go nuts in situations like this. But in the midst of I all, I ‘heard’ a voice quietly say, ‘It will be ok, they won’t ever see a summer with him.’

I drove home with the radio up loud to drown out my thoughts. When I arrived home I hugged my kids so tightly the told me they couldn’t breathe.

That night, their dad called them. He always called after every court date, as if being in court served as a reminder for him to do so.

He told them of all the exciting things they would be doing that next summer. He told them they would get to stay with their grandparents (on his side, who are alcoholics as well) for weeks. He promised them trips down the Truckee river on rafts and inner tubes, trips to Lake Tahoe to swim. All sorts of trips events took my breath away because once alcoholics start drinking, they forget about anyone else who isn’t drinking with them.

The kids being in freezing cold water like Tahoe or fast rapids like the Truckee river made me want to throw up.

Still, the voice kept telling me that they wouldn’t see any of it.

A few weeks passed and my head was swimming in fears. I was depressed and couldn’t sleep.

Then one day, my mom called and everything changed.

‘Remember all those times we talked of hiring a private investigator to follow the ex? I’ve come into a little money and I think it’s time we do it.’

I gasped. A private investigator. To follow the ex. Would it work? Would they be able to catch him? What if he had actually stopped drinking and it was all in my head? But what if they could catch him drinking? The judge in our case always seemed to be rooting for him, would she this time, too?

I looked up investigators in Reno and called one. It was a woman. We talked for a bit, she took down all his info, his address, description, employer, etc.

She said they would place a bug on his car. She said they could pick up his garbage and go through it to look for bottles. She also said they could tail him if he went into a bar and record him in there. But it was going to cost a bit.

I called my mom back and repeated to her what the PI had told me. There was silence on the other end.

‘Let’s do it.’, She said excitedly. ‘He needs to be caught in his own lies.’

‘Ok.’ I replied, ‘let me call the PI back and get this rolling. She said she could get the bug on his car tonight.’

Oopsie. The kid’s hour with their dad is up. They are heading out back to me. The ex canceled tomorrow’s visit, so we’re heading home after we refuel.

Don’t worry, I’ll finish telling you the rest. If you’d like to share your thoughts on this so far, please feel free.

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I posted this a bit ago on another blog I write for. I’m a huge fan of uplifting people. I love looking for compliments I can give to people. Let’s face it, we’ve all been through the wringer. No one gets out of childhood unscathed.  So I find things in my ‘spare’ time that I think others might enjoy too.

And, I usually play this kind of stuff when my kids are around. I figure, ‘good stuff in = good stuff out’. Hopefully it is sinking in without them even realizing it.

Anyhoody, here’s one of my favorites. In the coming days, I’ll post another one that’s a bit longer but will have you feeling all gooey with love and goodness. MmmmMMM gooey-ness.

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The Committee

I love to take photographs. Although, I’m not very specific with it. Meaning, I don’t use the aperture or shutter speed setting when I shoot (I’m learning to though!). I remember when my cousin posted on her facebook page, ‘I’m thinking of getting a digital camera’, her friend responded with, ‘whatever you do, PLEASE don’t just set the wheel to Auto! If you do, don’t bother getting one!!’

Well. The committee (in my head. That’s what I call ‘them’, but really it’s Ego.) started in immediately, ‘see? you shouldn’t be taking photos, you aren’t doing it right. No one would ever look at your work and want to know about it since you don’t put the settings down. Just stop now. Everything you do is half assed.’

Then the God brain kicks in, ‘Be QUIET you in there. Let her be.’

It’s a constant argument with almost everything I do. I don’t think I’m the only one because when I attended Alanon (friends and family of alcoholics) I got the term ‘the committee’ from them. Everyone had a committee running rampant there.

The committee above ruled my life for a VERY long time, making it harder than hell to be happy. I just didn’t know it was what it was, you know? I just thought I was one of those doom and gloom, rebel without a cause type teenagers.

It’s one of the reasons I love music so much. It drowns out the committee so I can do what Spirit is requesting of me.

When I was a kid, I had to have music on to do my homework. Otherwise, the committee would step in and start in with lies such as, ‘ugh, you know you aren’t good at math. This is going to take forever. You heard the teacher, you just aren’t getting it. You stink at it.’

Music comes on and it’s like holding a sock puppet in front of the committee. They focus on that instead of what I am doing. Then I can get on with things. I do it with my running, with my business, in fact, it’s on now.  Radio Paradise (www.radioparadise.com) has been a God send for me.

I wonder, when do we get our committee? Will my children have one? How do I help them to not have the same one I have? I admire creative types so much because, I don’t think they have a committee that is negative. It’s why children so live in the moment, I believe. Their committee hasn’t arrived yet. Personally, I hope it never does. I fill my children’s heads with as much positive talk as possible because I want that to be their committee, just in case that is how it works.

And once there, I’m not sure it ever goes away. If anything, we can only learn to drown it out with our God brain (higher self) or music or who knows.

I’m curious, do you have a committee? How do you work with it if you do have it? Can you shut it off, if you want? Is it positive, constructive, deconstructive, neutral, or only pounces in on really important stuff? If you have older children, do you see it in them? My kids are still pretty young, so is it at that magical time of ‘tweenhood or puberty that we are assigned a committee?

I keep telling my kids, ‘good stuff in = good stuff out’. Kind of like, ‘garbage in = garbage out’. What goes into the brain becomes what comes out in our lives. So I keep shoving good stuff into their heads, in hopes that is the case.

Any thoughts on this?

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Kids? What kids?

It’s the first day back to school for the children. Where do I begin to explain the joy in my heart that I felt as I sent these little pumpkins back into the classroom?

Summer vacation is over, wee ones, give me back my freakin’ house.

My first reality check of this day was about a month back when I walked through Wal-Mart and saw the back to school items on display and on sale. Now, I don’t buy any of that stuff, but my heart skipped a beat as I walked down the aisle, running my hands over the shiny new folders, backpacks, pencils and pens, giddy with delight knowing I would soon be walking back from the edge of being a work from home with three kids ages, 7, 8, & 9.

Was it too much that I high-fived other parents as I passed them in the aisle; that I lifted my arms up heavenward and triumphantly proclaimed, ‘Thank you, Jesus!’?  My children seemed to think so.

If I had not seen the display in Wal-Mart, it would have been just another day with three young people siphoning off of me, all vying for my undivided attention hoping to get a hit more than the other two children.

Fast forward to today.  The bonus child went to work with her dad. She will fly back home to Oregon where she lives with her mom and goes to school. She’ll be our 3rd grader.

I took the obligatory pictures of my, now official, 2nd and 4th grader. How on earth do I have a 2nd and 4th grader? How did THAT happen? I mean, FOURTH grade? That’s one year away from 5th grade and that’s one year away, in these parts, from being in junior high!

Mother Nature has a deliciously wicked way of playing with our hearts. The children drive me batty. During the summer, they turn my schedule every which way but loose, and as a certain type of personality (we’ll go into that later), I start to wring my hands at the loss of a schedule.

And yet,  when I hugged and kissed them over and over as I walked them to their new classrooms I was already starting to miss them. When I drove to the gym to teach my class, it was eerily quiet.

However, it only took me getting that class over, going out to lunch with my 79-year-old dad, going grocery shopping and TAKING MY TIME, and waiting in line to get gas without having to madly switch radio stations to a song they ALL liked in order to keep them from killing each other, that I smiled and started to feel like I was coming home and getting into my groove.

*squeeeeal*! School is back in session! dance…..dance…..dance….

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