OMG, Time Magazine- You’re So Cray Cray

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I can't believe...

“Done, done, on to the next one

Done I’m done and I’m on to the next one”

-Foo Fighers, All My Life

Oh, Time Mag. You’re like, literally, so smart. I read your annual word banishment poll yesterday and I can’t even…

I love your witty and oh so patronizing list you publish every year. You’re so hip and cutting edge. I wait with bated breath every year to hear what the bastion of cool-ness has to say about words that no respectable Chick Fil A manager would ever utter again. Like, ever.

‘Cept this year you kinda ‘effed up. This year you (spoiler alert) added FEMINIST to the list.

And every intelligent equality-loving non-hater was like “Whaaat???”

I mean, for seriously, WTF Time Magazine.

Lemme clue you in. Equality. Bam. ‘Nuff said.

Imma quote you here “Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.” Aw, you’re using snarkiness. I do love me some snark. Except when it’s used as a tool for ignorant speak.

Quick history lesson: Susan B. Anthony was one bossy bitch. She was bad-ass. She didn’t shrink away from thoughts and ideas and labels that may have been considered unsavory by those who willingly trudged through the murk of ignorance and hate. She and countless other women fought for basic equal rights for women. Rights that we all apparently take for granted every time we eschew the Feminism label. Kind of important rights. Like the right to vote. The right for women to own land. The right to not be raped by their husbands. We’re talking 94 years ago this went down. Except for marital rape laws. Marital rape wasn’t considered a crime in all 50 states until 1993.

In the history of our country, we’re still in the adolescent years of women’s rights. Feminism isn’t fully grown yet. Feminism still has a lot of maturing to do. We still need equal pay. We still need to do something about the fact that women are objects for some men to use and abuse and objectify and discard and demean.

When will feminism be fully grown and not a “thing” anymore? When one in four college women aren’t raped or sexually assaulted. When 3 women don’t die each day at the vicious hands of domestic violence. When girls aren’t shamed for wearing leggings to school. When women in the gaming world don’t have to endure death threats and threats of rape. When women can go online without fear of being stalked and harassed to the point of having to flee their homes and the on-line world for safety. When nude photos of women aren’t gleefully shared and spread around like a copulating circle jerk.

When? When women around the world are no longer subjected to genital mutilation. When women aren’t victims of “honor killings.” When women don’t have to brandish baseball bats to go after abusers because police shrug off their reports of attacks. When girls aren’t punished or killed for trying to get an education.

When… when… when I can look at my daughters and know that they will have the same opportunities and rights and safe passage that my son will have. When I can tell my children that women and children around the world are treated as humans. When boys and men don’t have to subscribe to some ridiculous and oppressive notion of being “tough” and non-emotive and hyper-masculine.

So you see, Time Mag. We’ve got a long way to go. You may be annoyed that the Beyonce’s of the world are declaring their Feminist position. Maybe you don’t like all the Feminist women out there doing all the talking and tweeting and writing and stuff. I get it. Skeptical Baby memes are a lot more fun. They make you LOL. They don’t make you really think. ‘Cause, you know, all this Feminism stuff just makes you think about icky stuff instead of totes adorbs cat videos on YouTube.

But when you throw Feminist in this list along with trendy slang like bae and basic and obvi and YOLO you’re really showing your ass. Whether it’s a shameless attempt to garner page views or an authentic exasperation with all of the people out there who are claiming to support equality, it’s kinda pathetic.

Deep down, I think you know this. Deep down, you know that there’s still lots of work to do. Having fun with the “label” just isn’t cool, m’kay? That label has been Limbaughed and spun into a twisted meaning that was constructed to perpetuate over hyped and trumped up stereotypes.

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So hear this, and pay close attention. Every time you want to demean the word. Every time you suggest it’s non-relevance. Every time you play into this mindset you are reading from a script you didn’t even write. You are joining a chorus of ignorance and misogynistic oppression. Your inclusion of this word tells me that you have willfully and blindly gone the way of the sheep and bought into the misinformation and propaganda that has been slowly oozing it’s way through our culture over the last few decades. Like a bad smell, this has been wafting around enough that you don’t even notice it anymore or realize it’s noxious nature.

Feminism isn’t some foul thing that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

That would be the bitter taste of lies and obfuscation.

Feminism is the basic fight for equal rights for women.

Equal pay for equal work.

The right to vote.

The right to join the military and not be raped.

The right to not have your body exposed and recorded by some creep with a cell phone.

The right to go to college and not be sexually assaulted.

Basic human rights of decency.

Sorry, Time Mag. But you’ve just jumped the shark. You’ve taken a cheap shot. You’ve played a bad hand. You’ve just shown your ass.

#sorrynotsorry

I Hit Him

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“Hanging on, You’re all that’s left to hold on to.”

-U2, Red Hill Mining Town

I hit my son.

Something I never thought I would do. I had never been hit as a child. Not spanked. Not “popped.” Nothing. My mom was able to raise three kids without laying a hand on any of us.

But I hit my son. I did it out of frustration and helplessness. And yes, anger.

My oldest, my son, was strong-willed. Feisty. Spirited. All the positive spin-words we could think of to describe his behavior and temperament. He was also a beautiful, sweet boy who filled my heart with more love and joy than I ever thought possible.

But he was not an easy kid. He tried me every day. From the age of two until he was about five years old.

He would throw fits in restaurants and have me dragging him out the door before the food had even arrived.

He would wake up from naps and scream and cry for over an hour. It was more than a tantrum, he was unreachable, enraged. I would carefully step around his flailing body to carry books and toys out of his room so that he wouldn’t throw them or hurt himself with them. I would stand outside his door with tears burning my eyes, the contents of his room lined up in the hallway, waiting for it to pass. I even recorded these fits of rage in case I needed to show them do his Pediatrician.

One day when he was three years old, he flipped out after we left a play date. He screamed and kicked my seat continuously as I was driving. I tried calming him down. I tried turning up the radio to drown out his screams. At one point I pulled over and parked on a side street. I felt like I was going to lose it. He screamed and kicked while I leaned my forehead on the steering wheel and took deep breaths. I sat there for a few minutes until the person who lived in a nearby house came out on their front porch to see what was wrong. They had heard his screaming from inside their house and were understandably concerned. I gave a small wave to acknowledge them and slowly drove away. He screamed the whole way home.

Often, in order to leave a park or a play date, I would have to hoist him up like a giant sack of potatoes, one arm clamped over his arms with my other arm clamped over his legs. He would kick and scream and hit. I would wrestle him to the car, re-adjusting and trying to keep my grip, all while getting hit and kicked.  He was almost stronger than me. He was a big kid, at four he was the size of most six year olds.

Most days I felt beaten down and exhausted. I dreaded him waking up from his naps and the impending tantrum. I worried about what was wrong with him. I worried about the issues that may be lurking. Anger issues. Psychological problems. I worried about when he would be too big for me to wrestle into the car. What would I do then?

I cried on the phone to my mom on many afternoons. I asked her how to get him to respect me. I needed words of wisdom and some secret mommy tip that would help me, that would give me some control over my son. All she had were words of support. Encouragement that I was doing everything right. Assurances that if I kept doing everything right that he would respect me and that I wouldn’t always have to wrestle him into the car. I wanted to believe her, but I wasn’t sure.

Then one day I hit him. I “popped” him on the leg. He was bucking like a bronco refusing to let me strap him into his carseat. I spent the better part of 15 minutes trying to strap him in. Nothing was working. Exhausted and sweaty, I lost it and I hit his thigh and yelled at him in my ugliest voice. I’m sure my “pop” stung. I’m sure my words cut.

He paused briefly in shock and I watched his face change from defiance to sorrow. I saw his eyes speak of betrayal and shock. I knew I hadn’t physically harmed him. I knew the sting of my slap was momentary. But I had hurt him nonetheless. He started crying tears of sadness. I felt indescribably horrible.

I numbly climbed into the front seat to buckle in and drive. I felt sick to my stomach. I was appalled with myself. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. I knew I did what many parents would have done. But it didn’t matter. The tears being shed in hurt and defeat from the backseat were all the incrimination I needed.

This isn’t what I had wanted. This is not how I wanted to parent. It didn’t matter what was “normal” or “acceptable.” It didn’t feel right to me. At all. I didn’t want my son to behave or listen because he feared he would get hit or “popped.” I wanted him to do it because it was right. Because I’m his mother and he needed to listen to me.

I don’t want to rule with an iron fist. I don’t want to control my kids. I don’t want them to fear me.

I don’t want them to ever feel shame.

No good has ever come from shame.

I want to guide my kids. Teach them. I want them to learn self-control. Not control at the hands of a parent.

My son is 13 years old now. He’s a good kid. No, he’s a great kid. He makes mistakes. But he studies hard. He works hard. He’s considerate and respectful. He has not once, in 11 years of schooling, had a behavior issue. I’ve had other parents tell me that they hope their young boys turn out like him. He has a happy, easy-going nature and tons of friends who love him.

I know I’m lucky.

I’ve forgotten how scary and trying those early years were. As I write this, I’m so grateful there wasn’t a bigger issue lurking behind those screams and tantrums. Now, all these years later, I have an idea of what was causing his behavior. He was diagnosed with pretty bad allergies. Allergies that kept him stuffy and miserable year round. He also had some speech delays early on a learning disability that was stymying his communication. Once we started him on allergy shots and speech therapy and specialized tutoring, his behavior problems disappeared. Dramatically.

Knowing what I know now, I would be riddled with guilt if corporal punishment had been  part of our parenting.

Knowing what I know now, I wonder if it would have changed him. Would he be different? Would he be the sweet boy with the easy smile? Would he be the boy who carries himself with confidence?

I don’t know. I will never know. But I am glad I didn’t risk who he was, who he is.

Knowing what I know now, I’m grateful. Parenting is hard. Every kid is different. Different challenges. Different issues. Who’s to say the right way to handle each situation. But knowing what I know now, I’m not glad that I hit my son. But I am glad that was only once.

Playing On Repeat: The Kooks

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Music On

“You say you want it

but you can’t get in,

You’ve got yourself a bad habit”

-The Kooks, Bad Habit

It’s time to bring music back to tha blog! For unexplained and unexamined reasons, I haven’t posted about one of my favorite things on the planet in a while. Anyways, let’s get to it!

The Brits have been putting out some good stuff these days. Arctic Monkeys had the best album of 2014. Royal Blood is currently exploding with their new album. Alt-J just released their sophomore album. Good stuff happening across the pond.

When I heard The Kooks new song Bad Habit, I was instantly hooked. A hand-clapping opening, vocals that crack slightly, a little dapple of a falsetto. It’s danceable rock. It’s fun. It will have you wanting to move…

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I spent a little quality time with The Kooks on YouTube watching videos and live performances. And now I’m a fan. Luke Pritchard has a -dare I say- Mick Jagger type of presence when performing. If they come anywhere near the southeastern U.S. I will be seeing them live for sure. Until then, I’ll crank up the music and enjoy. Hope you like it too. If you do, head on over to tha ‘Tube and check out Forgive & Forget, Down and  Around Town.

As always, listen to it loud…

Five Rules For The Jackholes Trying To Ruin Halloween

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halloweensandy

“All I wanna do is have some fun, I gotta feeling I’m not the only one”

-Sheryl Crow, All I Wanna Do 

Can we not suck the fun out of Halloween?

Can we have one day? One day where it’s just about having fun and there are no guidelines or parameters or judgement or rules?

I’ve been hearing plenty of grumbling on both mainstream and social media. Things that annoy people about Halloween. “Rules” for trick or treating.

There’s been an abundance of people who seem to have a stick up their candy bowl.

They have been lamenting the kids who trample their grass, don’t ask politely for candy. The ones who take the candy and don’t say thank you. People who wonder at the wisdom of giving candy when more kids are overweight. Remember the lady who handed out fat shaming letters to trick or treaters? And there are people who think it’s their job to determine how old is too old for trick or treating.

As a public service and as a person who loves this holiday, I am going to share some thoughts.

Halloween is supposed to be the bad-ass holiday. It’s about being scary. It’s about being scared. It’s about running around in the dark. It’s about playing pranks, having fun. It’s supposed to be harmless mayhem. I don’t want to see Halloween morph into some nauseating Elf On the Shelf type of watered-down cuteness. I don’t want the pre-planned manufactured fun borne of Martha Stewart and Pinterest. Let’s not ruin Halloween.

On behalf of those who like this holiday and aren’t mean fun-sucking candy haters, I’d like to share a few of my “rules.”

1. Turn Off the Lights This one’s really simple, you don’t have to participate. You can turn off your porch light. In fact, if kids and their seeking of candy really bother you, I’m going to ask that you turn off your lights, close your blinds and go to bed because it sounds like you could really use a good night’s sleep.

2. This Ain’t No Disco. And It Ain’t No Country Club. And it’s not a dog and pony show. This is not an exhibition in which kids curtsy and look cute and act proper and display their good grooming and well-appointed manners. It’s not a test in ettiquete or in ANYTHING. Even the most well-disciplined well mannered kids will possibly- nay probably- forget a “Thank you” in their haste and excitement to run off to the next house. Don’t take it personally. Really, it’s not about you. They’re just excited, mkay?

3. You Can’t Guess No One’s Age So Don’t Even Try. Don’t be coy. You know what I’m talking about. The big kids. You know, the ones with a five o’clock shadow and awkward gangly limbs? They travel in packs. They mumble. They look at the ground when talking to you. They look like they might be too old for such childish antics. I’m going to try to appeal to your sympathies as someone who once went through this yourself. Please understand that the kid with the mustache might only be 13. The girl with the ample bosom may only be 12. Kids this age are impossible to identify by age. I dare you to go to any middle school or high school and try.

They are going through the most confusing and awkward period of adolescence. Their brains are sucked dry by the hormones that are running roughshod over their whole existence. They are uncomfortable in their own skin and they probably debated about even going trick or treating. They are at that stage where they still want to be a kid and have fun, but know it might not be cool. So don’t make them feel completely uncool by sneering or asking their age or refusing them candy. Even if they’re not dressed up. They may not have planned on going trick or treating. They may have had their friends knock on their door at the last minute pulling them out of the house. Let them have this. That kid that looks like he could be changing the oil on your car may be still watching Sponge Bob and cuddling on the couch with his parents. Don’t make him think he’s too old for any of it.

4. Kids From Other Neighborhoods ARE Allowed. I honestly can’t believe I have to even say this….

But we cannot segregate Halloween and trick or treating by class or by race or by neighborhood.

If you are bothered by “others” encroaching on your precious ‘hood, then I am going to politely point out that you might be an asshole.

And by this I mean that your head is so far up your McMansion that you may need to seek professional help.

I live in a neighborhood with sidewalks and houses close together. Around our ‘hood? It’s largely rural. We have carloads and vans that drop their kids off to trick or treat. From (gasp!) other neighborhoods. We have to buy insane amounts of candy to give out. I’ve heard grumbles from some. But those grumbles are drowned out by the rest of us. By most of us. You know, the ones having fun. The ones who don’t care where a kid is from. Those elitist whiners are muffled by the all of the houses that put on interactive displays in their front yards. By the neighbors that go to a lot of trouble and time and expense to put on haunted houses in their garages. By the parents that sit at the end of their driveway and chat with the adults passing by. Sometimes handing a cold one to a weary parent. By the people that want others to enjoy the holiday, no matter where they’re from. If all of this welcoming and camaraderie is disturbing to you, please see Rule # 1.

5. There Are No Rules. Yes. There are no rules. Other than the basic rules of conduct. Like no vandalism or stealing. Rules that don’t even need to be stated because they should be an intrinsic part of being a decent human being. Rules like don’t judge parents or kids based on where they’re from and if they belong on your doorstep. Rules like don’t be mean to a growing kid. Basic civility and decorum. Try it. Try having no expectations and just go with it. Have fun. Laugh with the kids. Laugh and chat with the adults. You may find yourself enjoying Halloween more than ever.

Me? I love Halloween. I’ll be painting my kids’ faces, helping them with their costumes. I’ll be managing a sleepover of 4 teen age boys who want to play video games and watch horror movies. And I’ll be scrambling to help them piece together last minute costumes when they decide to go out to “just a few houses.” I’ll be lecturing them about being respectful and letting the little ones go first. I’ll be holding my breath hoping that ALL of my kids, younger and older, listen to their Mama and do right.

I’ll be enjoying all of the adorable kids, younger and older, who end up on my doorstep. I’ll visit a few of the haunted houses in my ‘hood. At some point I’ll put a giant bowl of candy on my porch with a little sign asking the kids to take just two. And I’ll do this knowing that some kid’s going to dump the whole bowl in their bag. That’s ok. I’m not gonna sweat it.

I’ll be down at my neighbor’s. I heard they’re passing out cold ones.

All the Stuff… 5 (Costumes, Dress Codes and Love Stories)

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All The Stuff

So I’ve emerged from the fog of illness and stench that plagued our home for a week. Time to get crackin’ cause Halloween’s coming and we all know that it is THE most exciting holiday of the year! And by exciting, I mean candy and parties and dressing up. And the kids… they get to do some fun stuff too.

This year we’re dressing up, Joe and I. We haven’t done an adult Halloween in a few years and I’m super excited! We tried coming up with a group costume with some friends, but no one loved my ideas. Why they didn’t want to dress up as the other members of Fleetwood Mac are beyond me. I’m the obvious Stevie Nicks. Who doesn’t want to be Christine McVie? Pfffttt.

Wouldn't this be the coolest group costume???

Wouldn’t this be the coolest group costume???

So we decided just to do couple’s costumes. I won’t tell you ours. Not yet. After this weekend I’ll maybe share a picture – unless it turns out completely lame – then I’ll just lie and describe something cool and amazing. I have a feeling I’ll be “explaining” it all night. I mean, I think it’s an iconic pop culture reference everyone should get. But I realize I will likely get a good amount of “um… okay” type of looks.

So, the last few weeks of blogging were pretty exciting. I wrote a Feminist Friday post about Dress Codes. There was so much more I wanted to say, but, you know. Word count. The bane of my (blogging) existence. There was a great discussion in the comments and there were a few interesting things that happened as a result of my post.

These girls rock.

These girls rock.

I got a ping-back to another website, a news/opinion site for a large city. A writer was discussing school dress codes and quoted me.  I was all excited until I read it. It followed my words with the phrase “upside down logic.” Whatevs dude. He either didn’t read my whole post or he conveniently pretended not to have read it and used a snippet to make his point. I was going to respond and clarify my point of the whole damn post that he completely misrepresented, but it was one of those sites where you have to set up an account just to comment. Not worth the five minutes. So I decided that it was a benchmark type of moment. If my writing stirred someone up and angered them, that’s not a bad thing. I stand by what I wrote and knew it would be controversial and rile people up. Now I can check “piss someone off so much they must write about it” off my blogging bucket list.

Luther of Infinite Free Time is a teacher, blogger and author. He read my post, commented and then wrote a two- parter on Dress Codes. His makes sense. So much sense. He’s in the trenches every day with these kids. He boils it down and lays it all out here and here.

Then, I stumbled across this from The Salt Collective. Someone seriously needs to do something about all the guys in suits. A girl can’t get nothin’ done when guys are parading around in all their handsome debonair-ness. And if they have facial hair too? Are they trying to drive us to madness?

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And last. But so not least. Helena Hann-Basquiat. You may know her as Dilettante Supreme, as author of The Memoirs of Helena Hann Basquiat. As the writer behind Jessica B. Bell. As the quick witted and sharp tongued FaceBooker who cannot abide by bad music. Anyways, THE Helena made me go all fan-girly when she asked if I’d like to be included and host Part Two here on this little ‘ole blog. I responded that Why yes, I would be inclined to have you make an appearance at a pre-determined time. Ha! It was more like Me? OMG yes! Really, me? OMG, OMG!!!  (see I was even speaking in fan-girl).

So, here are all the links to her story. Her real life love story playing out as we speak… Part 1: Lizzi’s place. Part 2: Right here! Part 3: Samara’s place. Part 4: Mandi’s place Part 5: Hayley’s place Part 6: Beth’s place.

Go forth my dear friends. Read all the links. Write all the stuff. Do what you do. Because all of you make me think and make me laugh and inspire me.

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How To Survive An Outbreak: A Survivor’s Tale

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“You feelin’ alright

I’m not feelin’ too good myself”

-Joe Cocker, Feelin’ Alright

I don’t want to be an alarmist. And there’s already enough hysteria floating around like airborne microbes through a misting fan. But you guys- it was bad. Fever. Puking. Other stuff that polite southern women don’t talk about.

Four out of five Kelly’s were sick. No, it wasn’t Ebola. But I feel like I kind of understand it, from both ends. And no, I’m not being coy, I mean I was both patient and nurse. Because I’m a mom.

Patient # 1: It all started with the little one. So innocent and cute. She didn’t understand what was happening. She peppered me with questions in between yakking. She didn’t understand that correct protocol does not involve breathing directly into my face after emptying the contents of her stomach all over the bed.

Patient # 2: My son. Thirteen years old. Vibrant, strong boy. Which means that he gives new meaning to the word “projectile” as the contents of that night’s dinner make a second appearance. The victim: his bedroom rug. This is when things get really ugly. This is when you realize you failed at containing the virus. This is when it’s time to get serious. Luckily for you, I’ve been through it and I’ve come out on the other side to help you. Hopefully you won’t be affected or infected, but in case you are, take heed.

  • First, you must maintain composure. As you turn for help and see your husband’s retreating back, you realize you’re in this alone. You’ll want to panic. But you can’t. This is it. This is no time to lose your shizzm. The faster you act the better. Don’t allow time to think or smell. Paper towels and trash bags are your friend. Do the best you can with these tools. You will likely realize that you have held your breath and squealed and sympathy-vomited through this stage of cleanup only to realize you’ve barely scratched the barf covered surface. Time to improvise. Grab the oldest towels you can and cover that rank. If you can’t see it it’s not there. Truth.
  • Second, employ those killers of the environment, the plastic grocery bag. Yes, you feel guilty that you have an entire closet in your laundry room stuffed with them. You tried reusable grocery bags and you really liked them, but your husband “accidentally” threw them out and you’ve been too lazy to buy more. Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah. Dealing with children who’ve suddenly turned into Linda Blair from The Exorcist. So yeah, those pesky little bags you’ve been hoarding can now be “recycled.” Line the trash can that you put by your kid’s bed with a triple layer of these. Just like lining a roasting pan with foil. Clean up will be easy.

Except it’s not. Your methods are necessary but clean up will be treacherous at best. The worst part is the nausea you feel just from seeing and smelling things that can’t be unseen or un.. er… not smelled. But you must forge ahead. The rest of the family is counting on you to keep them safe. Especially your husband who’s snoring from the bedroom. It’s time to disinfect.

  • Before this step you must protect yourself. You have to keep yourself well or things will really fall apart. You know, take oxygen before you assist fellow passengers. I don’t make these things up. You’ll want a face mask. Surely you have these on hand for the impending pandemics that crop up yearly, right? Good. You’ll need rubber or latex gloves. And an old shirt – or your husband’s favorite t shirt – whatever’s handy. If wretching is still in progress (how much did those kids eat today?) you may want a hat or scarf to cover your hair.
  • Now you will need a bucket and bleach. You will need to coat all door handles, light switches, faucets, toilet handles. All of it. Don’t listen to that crap about 2 teaspoons of bleach per gallon of water. You want to show this virus who’s boss, right? We ain’t playin’ around. So you go halfsies. Your eyes will burn and your house will smell like  an indoor kiddie pool with poor ventilation, but that’s ok. The bonus here is that your nose will be incapable of smelling the foul smells that emanate from those towels on your son’s carpet.
  • The next step is laundry. While still suited up in your homemade hazmat suit, grab the comforter your son managed to soil as well as any washcloths and towels that may have been contaminated. But NOT the towels on the floor! DO NOT move those! You will want to shove as many of the offending linens into your washer as humanly possible. Put in extra soap. Lots of it. Wash on highest heat, sanitary setting. Side note: anything that needs rinsing before putting in the washer needs to be thrown out. I don’t care if it’s wasteful. There’s nothing that is so special that can’t be replaced. Seriously, I don’t care if your grandmother’s wedding dress got caught in the cross fire, there are limits to what one should be expected to do. Throw that shizzle away.
  • Sometimes your methods are met with a little hiccup. A little stumble if you will. In my case it was water seeping from under the washing machine. It’s ok. Freaking out about what curse has been placed upon your pure heart is not going to help. Take a deep breath. Backup plans are in place for such breaches. Take all remaining contaminated laundry that has not been stuffed into your washing machine like a Paula Deen pork chop and dump it on to the floor of your garage. It is out of the house, technically, which is the important thing. Until the washing machine gets fixed, your family can practice holding their breath as they dash through the garage to the car. This is a healthy exercise that will only save them from possible drowning one day.

Congratulate yourself on a sanitized and clean environment in which your family can safely ride out this harrowing ordeal. Rest easy as you drift off to sleep with the comfort that you’ve protected the people you love with your knowledge and fortitude in the face of utter grossness. Drift off to sleep with the last few precious hours left before daylight.

Except you can’t. Because you realize that the nausea you’d been feeling wasn’t imaginary. You’ve been infected. As you race to the bathroom to take your turn at the hurling olympics, grab a towel. That tile’s cold and you’ll be laying on it until this passes.

Eventually the fever wears off and the nausea calms to a quiet roar. You emerge from your oddly comforting enclave curled up next to the toilet, to realize that no one realized you were gone. As your son recovers from the worst of it upstairs, your five year old seems remarkably well and full of all kinds of fun energy. The family went about their business in the few hours since you cleaned and painstakingly disinfected. You try not to be irritated that it looks like John Belushi just hosted a toga party in your kitchen. Because look at them. Healthy. Blissfully unaware. This is why you do it. Then you see your husband. He’s looking a little green…

Just turn around and go back to bed. You’ve done your part. It’s every man and child for himself now.

Do stomach bugs freak you out? Have you been traumatized by cleaning up your kid’s puke? What are your tips for surviving an outbreak?

Is It Time For Dress Codes To Grow Up? A Feminist Friday Discussion

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School is fraught with all kinds of issues. Standardized tests to pass, social and behavioral issues to navigate. Bullying. And clothes. Don’t forget the clothes.

Apparently clothes are a big danger to our children. Specifically our boys. Well, not just clothes. But the girls who wear them. Their bodies and the clothes that they put on them are a distraction to our boys.

This is what the dress codes in many schools imply. It’s also what is frequently cited as justification for singling out girls in violation of dress codes.

Some girls are fighting back. A group of middle school girls from Evanston, Illinois protested when their school banned leggings. More than 500 people signed a petition and students showed up for class wearing leggings and yoga pants carrying signs that read “Are My Pants Lowering Your Test Scores?” Another group of middle school girls from New Jersey started a protest via social media with #Iammorethanadistraction.

Both stories have gone viral. And in doing so have opened up a discussion on the way that dress codes sexualize young girls…

They sexualize young girls.

The bulk of school dress codes are aimed at girls. No tank tops or spaghetti straps. No exposed shoulders. Skirts must pass the “finger tip test.” No cleavage. No tight fighting yoga pants or leggings.

Girls are being singled out at school. They are made to line up and pass the fingertip test  when wearing shorts and skirts. One administrator even asked some of the girls to bend over in their skirts to see if they were “immodest.” This particular “educator” also referred to girls dressed immodestly as “skanks.” One school dismissed all of the boys from an assembly and proceeded to play a scene from Pretty Woman and lecture the girls on dressing appropriately for school.

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Girls are being forced to wear “shame suits” in some schools. They are being kicked out of proms because chaperoning dads think a dress is too provocative. They are being told that walking around in their bodies is too much for boys to handle. They are being told that they will give boys impure thoughts. That they’re very existence, unless covered appropriately, is responsible for other student’s education and behavior.

These girls are being embarrassed.

Shamed.

Sexualized.

Objectified.

It’s a story as old as time. Women and girls bear the burden of covering up. Women are walking temptations. Victorian times had women covering their ankles. Some religions require women to swim in full length dresses. Some tout the phrase “Modest is hottest.” The irony in that phrase is worthy of 1000 words unto itself.

But girls are fighting back. These young girls are reminding everyone that they are more than their bodies. That their bodies serve real practical functions, amazing feats, power and strength. Their bodies are more than objects to be ogled.

And let’s not forget. These are young girls. These are girls just trying to understand their growing bodies. These are girls going through puberty much sooner than previous generations. These are girls just trying to dress comfortably or maybe fashionably.

Let’s try to remember that these are growing girls who’s bodies change overnight. The skirt that fit last week might be noticeably shorter this week. The shirt that wasn’t tight last month might show cleavage this month. Let’s remember how hard it is to go through these teen years with ever changing bodies and moods and temperaments. And let’s acknowledge that girls who are more physically developed than their peers are getting called out more often.

Let’s remember that these are girls.

They are not trying to seduce.

They are trying to learn.

They are not aiming to distract.

They are usually trying to fit in and fly under the radar.

They don’t view their bodies as sexual. They don’t think of their bodies as a means to produce “impure thoughts.” Not until you suggest it, imply it, or outright state it as you wave your sacred dress code in their confused faces.

Many of us rail against objectification of women in media. Many of us rant about the sexualization of women’s bodies and how that contributes to rape culture.

Yet, we’re letting it happen in our schools. To our young girls. By people we pay to educate them.

What effect is this having on our girls? Well, we’re teaching them young. We’re teaching them that society will view them as sexual even as they try to learn.

But what about the boys? Exactly. We’re not giving boys much credit. These policies tell them that they are easily distracted. They tell them that they have little or no self control. They imply that they shouldn’t even try to have self control. It’s also suggesting ideas that may not have been a part of their mindset to begin with. 

A bra strap is not going to send them into a dizzying flurry of hormones that will render them unable to be educated. Leggings or yoga pants or any tight pants are not going to cause such a distraction that they won’t be able to function. No. But do you know what does cause that kind of disruption and distraction? Singling the girls out.

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We’re sending our kids off to school, entrusting teachers and administrators with educating them. We want our kids to learn to follow rules. To show respect. To respect the educators. To respect others. To respect themselves.

I’m not so sure that these dress codes are serving that purpose so well. Maybe it’s time for the school dress code policies to grow up.

We need to remind our schools. These girls are more than their physical appearance. They are more than temptations. They are more than distractions. By the looks of these protests, they are much more. They are a force to be reckoned with.

What do you think about dress codes?

Are they necessary?

Do you think they send the wrong message? Or is this much ado about nothing?

What is your personal experience with dress codes?

Bad Behaviour

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Today I’m opening up my home (because this place is very much like my home) and inviting someone very special in. This is one of those guests you make a of fuss over. You break out the good wine and the best glasses. You light the candles and put on some funky new music because you really want to impress her. You play it cool while trying not to jump up and down and squeal. So in my best casual voice, I’ll invite you to join us. Sit down, pull your feet up and get cozy because our favorite Dilettante, Helena Hann-Basquiat is here. And she has a story that will entertain and delight you. It will leave you wanting more, which is good since the next chapter is only a few days away and will be appearing on Samara’s blog. This is the second chapter so if you haven’t read the first, you must go over to Lizzie’s place and read the beginning. Enjoy my sweet friends and be sure to comment and tell Helena how much you adored her story…

***

“Do you think he could be the one?” the Countess Penelope of Arcadia (which would appear to be a quiet little town where people frequently break into song) asked.

“What?” I laughed. I’d been hearing the name Spenser in association with pretty much everything for the entire week after my brief encounter with the bartender who had been nice enough to find me ruby red grapefruit juice so that I could have a proper greyhound. (I actually had three, darlings, and loosened up nicely).

“You know,” Penny said. “The one to break the curse so that you don’t have to remain a beast the rest of your days and I don’t have to be, um… hey Helena, if I were part of an enchanted castle, what kind of furniture do you think I’d be?”

“A toilet,” I said, rolling my eyes at her. “Now eat your pancakes, Lady Flushington, we’re going to be late for the train.”

“You know, I’m going to let that slide, Helena, because I love you so much,” Penny said, frowning.  “After all, it’s a castle, right, and as all of the humans have been enchanted, the only person who would need a toilet would be the beast – that’d be you, by the way – and so I’m sure you’d have your own toilet. I would be a toilet in one of the guest bathrooms that never get used anyway. So if you want to shit on me, you’ll have to find some other way.”

I resisted the urge to change the subject into the dangerous messages for girls in that movie, or to suggest that the whole thing is akin to Stockholm Syndrome, and should have starred Patty Hearst as Belle.

Instead, I changed tactics.

“You let him call you Penelope,” I said.

“Oh, I didn’t let him do anything,” she replied with an eye roll of her own.

“Yet,” I winked, and Penny had no words. She just gaped at me, her mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. Finally she laughed at me.

“Whatever,” she said, and downed the rest of her coffee. “Let’s go.”

Penny knew already what I hadn’t even considered. Penny is far more attuned to what’s going on than I am – I quite frequently have my head up my ass, and not in a good way.

Is there a good way to have your head up your ass, Helena?

I think there is in France, darlings.

But as for me, I thought that Penny had fallen for the handsome bartender – the way she was going on about him, I’m sure you would have thought that, too.

So when Penny showed up with him that night, I was sure that my suspicions were confirmed.

Here’s where I confess to some of that bad behaviour I alluded to before, darlings. I don’t know whether I was jealous (and in retrospect, isn’t that a laugh and a half) or if I was just feeling maudlin and bitter, but rather than be my charming and entertaining self, I spent the evening complaining about men. In fact, I pulled out my stories, some of which you’ve already heard, as case studies as to why men cannot be trusted, why men are dogs, and why the only good thing about a man is between his legs, and how thanks to modern technology, I could buy one of those at the store.

I got caught up in heartbreak, self-absorbed and full of poison, and talked all about old boyfriends, but most especially Robert, who I’d left my home for and moved all the way to California to be with. I reminisced about a time we’d found ourselves drunk and naked on the private beach of some music producer in Malibu, and how we, as I so charmingly put it, re-enacted the zodiac symbol for Cancer in the moonlight, with the surf crashing on the beach behind us.

A hint for you, darlings – it looks very much like the number that can be expressed by the mathematical equation 70 – 1 = X.

Solve for X.

I got drunk, and railed about love. I was a complete and utter mess. I talked about wonderful things, and I talked about horrible things, and the underlying theme began to slowly come into focus, and that was:

“Why am I alone? What’s wrong with me?”

Spenser looked shell-shocked, but then he did something that made me feel both silly and at the same time a little better.

He shrugged, and then crossed his legs in the Lotus position, and lowered his hands, palms up, onto his knees.

“Om, llama llama llama,” he deadpanned, and I confess I broke out laughing, and then excused myself. I locked myself in my room and cried into my pillow. I was embarrassed and angry with myself. I felt like I’d just vomited all over Spenser, and as, at that point, I was still pretty sure Penny was interested in him, I felt terrible. If I ruined it for her, I’d never forgive myself.

When I re-emerged, Spenser had left, which was the plan all along, and Penny was waiting for me on the couch, watching Sherlock and no doubt fantasizing about her beloved Cummerbund Bandersnatch.

“Well, that could have gone better,” she said, and the fact that she hadn’t slipped into her trademark Dickensian street urchin voice told me that she was serious.

“I’m sorry, Penny, I don’t know what came over me,” I hung my head. “I hope I didn’t screw things up for the two of you.”

“The two of us?” Penny laughed. “Are you blind. Excuse me – are you fucking blind? It’s not me that he’s taken with. God, Helena, you really are rusty. You’re all he talks about – where’s Helena? When are you going to bring Helena back around? Take me to your Helena… and so on.”

“Oh, please,” I said, waving her away with the back of my hand.

“Oh, please yourself,” she snapped back, and then put a hand over her mouth. “Oh, wait, is that what you were doing in your bedroom all this time?”

“Not amused,” I said.

“That’s my line,” the Countess said, slipping gently into a posh, Windsor Castle-esque accent. “Cheerio. Tut tut. Yes. Quite. Off with her head.”

“He’s a child,” I said, not meaning to be cruel, but Penny nonetheless was not amused.

“We are not amused,” she said. See – I told you she wasn’t amused. “Besides, my good woman, he’s not a child. He’s actually…”

She mentioned an age that was almost, but not quite ten years younger than I. He was about mid-way between Penny and I, and to me, the logical choice would have been Penny. Penny’s pretty awesome, and don’t ever tell her I said so, but damn that girl is beautiful. Like, traffic stopping gorgeous. She doesn’t see it, and certainly, hers is an unconventional beauty (you may recall her black, sometimes pink, sometimes blue, sometimes green, sometimes orange hair, and her penchant for dressing like a gothic version of Alice in Wonderland) but for those with eyes to see, Penny is something to fantasize about.

“But what does he want with me?” I asked. At some point – perhaps it was earlier in the evening when I’d spilled all my messy past all over the floor – I seemed to have lost my self-esteem.

“Well, with the way he was looking at you, I’d say he wants…”

Penny mentioned a few things that I wouldn’t find objectionable, and a few I’d never heard of.

“Do people really do that?” I asked her, intrigued.

“Well, I may have made that last one up,” she admitted. “But doesn’t it kind of sound fun?”

“I’d be worried about getting toothpaste in sensitive areas,” I said.

“Yeah, but his breath would be minty fresh afterward.”

“You’ve given this quite a bit of thought, haven’t you?”

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I don’t exactly have a boyfriend,” Penny explained.

“And I don’t know if I’m ready for one,” I said, giving Penny an awkward grin.

“And yet, you’re curious,” Penny said, brightening. “Admit it. You’re like that monkey that goes on an ether bender and bites the man in the yellow hat.”

“I don’t think George ever bit the Man in the Yellow Hat, Penny.”

“Well, not in the actual books, no. It was in one of the deleted scenes.”

“I see,” I indulged her. “Well, sure, I’m curious. Curious enough, I suppose.”

“Great,” she said. “Then tomorrow night, you and I will be going out. There’s this ‘80s cover band called Duckie’s Pompadour playing at a club downtown, and Spenser will be there.”

“Duckie’s Pompadour?” I laughed. “John Hughes is spinning in his grave.”

“Not at all,” Penny said. “You’ll love it. They play pretty much every song from Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller, Sixteen Candles, you name it.”

“Oh, but Penny – I made a fool of myself tonight,” I said, shaking my head. “Don’t you think I scared him off?”

Penny laughed. “I don’t think you get it – he’s positively enamoured with you. It’d take more than a little maudlin misandry to frighten him away. Just wait until he sees you in the midst of a depressive episode, or – hey, you want to get some Chinese food? Huh? Get that all-important MSG headache experience out of the way for the poor guy?”

“Gee thanks, Penny. I don’t know about this. I don’t know if I can face him again after tonight.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t know. You had no idea he was here to see you.”

“I don’t know,” I repeated.

“And you won’t know until you give it a chance,” she said, staring at me with her big brown eyes. “Please Helena? Say you’ll come.”

I didn’t want to, darlings. I tried to say no.

“I am disinclined to acquiesce…”

“Great, it’s settled!” Penny interrupted. “Tomorrow night at nine!”

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The enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has. She’s written cookbooks, ten volumes of horrible poetry that she then bound herself in leather she tanned poorly from cows she raised herself and then slaughtered because she was bored with farming. She has an entire portfolio of macaroni art that she’s never shown anyone, because she doesn’t think that the general populous or, “the great unwashed masses” as she calls them, would understand the statement she was trying to make with them. Some people attribute her with inventing the Ampersand, but she has never made that claim herself.

Earlier this year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and has finished Volume Two and is in the editing process.

Volume One is available HERE in e-book for Kindle or HERE in paperback.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat

All the Stuff… 5 (In Which I Love All Of You)

All The Stuff

I love you guys. Seriously. Every one of you. Sometimes you are lucky enough to feel so much support. So much love. So many people trying to lift you up. Last week I felt all of that.

Last Monday marked 15 years since my brother had died from Cancer. It was a day I dreaded. That morning, through tears, I wrote a tribute to him. Funny stories and memories. It felt really good to write it. I did it to force myself to laugh even though I was sad. I did it because he always wanted us to “remember him with a smile.” And it helped.

What I didn’t expect was the response. From so many people, here on my blog and on FaceBook. From phone calls from friends who’d read it. I had so many comments that were supportive and tender. People saying that they felt like they kind of knew him after reading what I wrote. People laughing at his antics, people commenting on what an amazing person he was.

I spent the day getting these comments. I spent the day wiping away tears, overcome with warmth and emotion. I felt completely lifted up by all of it. I wanted to hug random strangers. I felt something… something I’m not sure my writer’s heart can describe. But it was wonderful.

The feeling stayed with me all week. I realized a few days later that it was kind of like a memorial service for my brother. Only this time I wasn’t in shock. This time I wasn’t keeping a death grip on keeping it together. This time I could hear it and feel it and absorb it.

So, thank you. All of you.

That is all.

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My Daughter’s A Mystery… And That’s O.K.

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“You are the most beautiful thing, I’ve ever seen. You shine just like sunlight rays on a winter snow.

I just had to tell you so. 

Your eyes sparkle as the sun, like the moon they glow. Your smile could light the world on fire, or did you know? 

Your mind’s full of everything that I wanna know,

I just had to let you know.

You’re my butterfly… Fly High… Fly Fly Fly…”

-Lenny Kravits, Butterfly

I get nostalgic and weepy on my kids’ birthdays. I remember every stage of labor…  This time, 11 years ago, my water broke. I watch the clock and think about that day. I drive my kids nuts with my reminiscing. Because I don’t say these things in my head. I say them out loud. To my kids. All day. Every year. They don’t love it.

But this is what moms do, right? We relive moments and cling to our babies at the very moment that we should be letting them go. Because my baby is actually not a baby. She’s 11 years old as of yesterday.

And she’s almost taller than I am.

So I guess I can’t call her a baby anymore. (Though I will. I always will. But that one I’ll do silently in my head.) The little girl who’s turning into a young woman in front of my very eyes. In spite of my holding on for dear life, she’s growing up.

***

She was born an old soul. We could just tell. They laid her on the scale and she stared silently into my husband’s eyes. He still gets emotional if he talks about that moment. The nurse swaddled her up and brought her to me. I wiped my eyes of the tears that were a combination of joy and pain. I held her and started to meet her. Examining her tiny hands, her sweet lips, her intense eyes. They gazed at me in studied  concentration. Searching my eyes. Holding my gaze. She was meeting me. She was checking me out.

She rarely cried. She was a content baby, easy to please. She would wake up in the morning and just hang out in her crib until I would hear her cooing and gurgling over the baby monitor. Her older brother would clamor into her room with me and greet her with his marble mouthed “Hello sunshine.”

I loved her with everything I had. But I didn’t feel like I knew her. She was a mystery to me. I would stare at her, watching her, trying to figure out what was going on inside her head. I had a sense that there was more going on than was obvious to the rest of us. I spent those first few months nursing her, playing with her, singing her songs. Trying desperately to understand her.

This may sound a little crazy. But I need to know my kids. I need to understand them. I knew how my son’s brain worked. I just knew him from the moment he was born. I was struggling with the fact that it didn’t come as easy with my daughter.

At three months old she got sick. It started as a cold and developed into something worse. I couldn’t sleep because I was worried. Something didn’t seem right. She was still smiling, still happy, but her breathing seem labored. One afternoon I watched as her breathing became more raspy. “She’s wheezing!” I yelled to my husband. I packed her in the car and headed to the pediatrician’s office. My heart was starting to race and I was on the verge of panicking. I drove, watching her in the rearview mirror. She looked blue to me. Her breathing was getting worse. Much worse. I made a sharp u-turn and pulled into an Urgent Care.

I ran into the building clutching her baby carrier “I need help, I don’t think my baby’s breathing.” The receptionist stood up to peer over her counter and took one look at my daughter and called the nurses to come get her. As the nurses whisked her into the examining room, I followed in a state of disbelief. I was worried, that’s why I’d brought her here after all. But seeing the concerned look on the nurse’s faces was freaking me out even more. As the doctor whipped past me to assess her, I pulled on his sleeve. “Is she going to be ok? Is my baby going to be ok?”

Her oxygen levels were low but not dangerously so. They wanted to send us to the hospital for chest X-rays and a flu test. They wanted her to stay overnight and be monitored. They offered to have an ambulance transport us but I told them I would drive. They admitted that the ambulance was more for me. They were worried that I was too upset to drive.

X-Rays, tubes down her nose to extract fluid, blood taken. My calm, serene baby was now screaming and flailing, fighting to break free. I held her arms by her head and whispered words of comfort to her.

Soon we were in our hospital room, waiting on a diagnosis. All of the scary tests came back negative. The diagnosis was R.S.V. A respiratory infection. She would be ok. The told me she’d need breathing treatments with a nebulizer. OK. That we could do. They told me that each time she got a cold we would likely have to do the treatments. OK. They said it was not serious and she would outgrow it. Thank god. Relief flooded me.

The doctor and nurse left us to rest. I finally let myself relax a little. I started to come down off of high alert. I was breathing again after holding my breath for hours. I felt the fear start to drain out of me, exhaustion taking up residence where adrenaline had been.

As I was unpacking the diaper bag I heard a noise. I looked up and my daughter was staring at me. Looking me steadily in the eyes, she was struggling to form words. I could hear her little voice, for the first time. Beyond the coos and the gurgles. I could hear her experiment with sounds as she rolled her tongue around and moved her lips. She was trying to talk. She had a look of amusement in her eyes. My three month old baby stared at me and babbled for 10 minutes.

I started to laugh. I walked over to her and caressed her head with both hands as she continued to stare at me and babble. I was laughing and crying with relief. I was weak with gratitude. I responded to her through salty tears. Urging her voice and kissing her forehead. I felt like we had been through a battle together. Just the two of us. We had just experienced some scary moments. And we came through it together.

I cried and laughed. I felt different. All of the questions, all of the searching for the last three months, trying to figure out my daughter. None of that mattered. I knew that she was a part of me. She had a hold on my heart and that was unbreakable. I didn’t need to understand everything about her in that moment. I just needed to know that she was ok. I needed her to know that I would stop searching and would just be. I would let her be and grow into whomever she was supposed to be. I was ok not knowing how that was going to play out. All that mattered was that she was ok and that we would go through the journey together.

***

My daughter just turned 11 yesterday. I’m still trying to figure her out. She’s still a little bit of a mystery to me. I have to be patient with that. She’s brilliant and beautiful and funny and creative. She’s so much more than I ever imagined her being. She’s who I want to be when I grow up. She’s her own person and she doesn’t need me to “get it.” She just needs me to love her. To support her. To be there to guide her when she needs it. And to back off when she doesn’t need it. And to be patient. To be patient with the fact that I’m still figuring her out. She knows that. She watches me. And every once in a while I get that intense soul gazing stare. When I “get her,” when I understand something about her, she gives me that look. It’s her way of saying thank you. It’s her, knowing that I understand one more piece of her that I didn’t get before.

I’m ok with not knowing everything about how her mind works. I don’t think I’m supposed to. I’m just walking through life with her – now just one step behind – letting her make her own way. But I’m watching. Closely. I’m still studying and still trying to figure her out. Only now with more patience. With a little more understanding than yesterday. Some things you have to wait for. Some things, often the best things, you have to wait for. I’ll be waiting and watching and guiding. And I’ll never stop.

Happy birthday to my artist, to my old soul, my pajama pant wearing, book devouring daughter. My “I’m not a princess, I’m an artist”, “I don’t have time to brush my hair”, my laugh at any thing with the word “balls”, dry humored,  crazy girl. My beautiful spirit, my sweet girl, my baby. I love you.

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