Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

Claim Your Place September 10, 2018

I am not a stranger to the dark

“Hide away,” they say

“Cause we don’t want your broken parts”

I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars

“Run away,” they say

“No one’ll love you as you are”

{All italics are lyrics from the song This Is Me in The Greatest Showman}

 

 

People get uncomfortable when they come face to face with – different/new (or new to them).  People don’t like to be uncomfortable.

 

A woman should be cute and quiet and lady-like and know her place.  She shouldn’t be loud and assertive and stand up for herself.  

Black people shouldn’t bbq in the park and gay couples shouldn’t publicly show affection for each other.  

Tattoos and piercings don’t belong in board rooms or operating rooms or holding a gavel.  

And definitely, people with disabilities/physical abnormalities should not be brought out into public spaces where they might disturb other – normal – patrons.  They are loud and people want quiet.  They are fidgety and people want stillness.  They speak in an unusual way and people want what they are used to.  Their wheelchairs take up so much space.  They move at their own, maybe slower, pace and people want to rush through.  They look funny with their protective helmet or dwarf fingers or extra hairy faces and it might scare the children. 

 

 

But I won’t let them break me down to dust

I know that there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

 

 

“What are they doing?” Jay asks as we lie in bed watching The Greatest Showman. 

“They’re putting up posters because they’re looking for interesting people to join the show,” I tell him.  

A few minutes later, he’s back with more questions.

“Why are those people ripping the posters down?” He wants to know.  I am in my element now.  Well, I say, those are people who want to be in the show because they have something special to offer so they need the poster since it has all the information on it. 

 

 

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out

I am brave, I am bruised

I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

 

 

I continue softly, “Those people were all told they were weird and now they can join a show that celebrates them.”

 

One of the most fierce and powerful scenes is the singing of This Is Me when they are denied access to the high society party.  They were done with being hidden in the shadows and were ready to claim all their beautiful weirdness.  I loved it.

 

Look out cause here I come

And I’m marching on to the beat I drum

I’m not scared to be seen

I make no apologies, this is me

 

 

If I could make one song the anthem for my family, this would be it.  Oh how I want my boys to be strong and secure in who they are.  I don’t want Ace’s sensitivity to make him shrink away from speaking up.  I don’t want Jay to purposely exclude himself out of fear that he’ll be called weird.  It takes a lot of bravery to boldly say, this is who I am, just deal with it. 

There were so many times when there were people who probably wished that they didn’t have to deal with the likes of us.  The day at the supermarket when Jay had one of the biggest meltdowns he’s ever had.  The day at his neighborhood school where we fought over him zipping up his jacket himself.  The morning at Church where we both left sobbing.  In classrooms where Ace put his teachers through the ringer.  Going through security at the airport.  Trying to leave the zoo.  At my own wedding.  You name it. 

We never quit trying.  I didn’t have it in me to stifle my boys adventures because I was worried about making other people comfortable. 

Yes, we went to autism friendly movies and we chose aisle seats for Thomas Live so we could make a quick and easy get away if necessary and we turned down some invitations and Jay was in a self contained special education class for a while and Ace got help for his ADHD but every single one of those things were for US and to make my childrens lives better.  NOT to appease strangers. 

 

 

Another round of bullets hits my skin

 

 

On Facebook, my friend tagged Shaunie and I in some pictures from her wedding.  In 1 of the pictures from the photo booth, we were kissing; just as most of the couples who took booth pictures had done. 

Two women kissing is still weird for many.  “We love you guys and we want you to be happy,” they say “we support you, but why do you have to be so public about it?”  How easy would it be to ask the friend to untag us or take the picture down altogether.  As easy as it was for Zac Efron to let go of Zendaya’s hand in the movie when his father saw him with her; a “beneath him” circus performer.  In that moment it was easier for him to love her behind the curtain, out of everyones view.  In the end, his love was strong enough to drown out his shame and he loved her openly and proudly.  That.  That’s what everyone deserves.

 

 

Well, fire away cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in

We are bursting through the barricades

And reaching for the sun

We are warriors

Yeah, that’s what we’ve become

Won’t let them break me down to dust

I know there’s a place for us

For we are glorious

 

 

Parents coach and remind and give advice all the time.  Among the most important of these is for me to teach my boys to be true to themselves.  To not be followers.  To not dim their shine to make someone else happy. 

Boys:  Don’t hide away.  Not even the supposed broken parts.  The right people will love you as you are.  Be a glorious warrior.  There is space enough for you.  All of you.  March to your own beat.  Don’t be scared.  Be seen.  Be you!

 

Oh and the last thing … Be sure to make fun of your moms singing by howling like a wounded dog every time she dares belt out a tune. 🙂 

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Exactly the Labor Day, Birthday day that I needed September 4, 2018

The last couple of weeks have been good in some ways but trying in others.  Even though I share a lot, there are some things that are way too sensitive for public consumption so my blog has been quiet.  Ya know; while I stewed and processed and deep breathed and soaked in the fabulousness that was getting to spend time with my best friends from near and far.  That part (the time spent with best friends) was truly awesome.

 

Yesterday Ace turned 12 years old (Yay!) and it was exactly the Birthday, Labor Day, Unofficial End of Summer day that I needed.

Shaunie had left out 2 new boxes of Legos and a new book for them the night before so they’d have something to occupy them until we woke up.  At 7:45 on the morning of the birthday, I walked into Ace’s room, to find him and Jay in his bed, reading the new Dog Man book and laughing together.  Swoon.  I wished my boy a happy birthday and then Jay told me that he had offered Ace his new Lego as a gift.  Seriously … How sweet!

Next, we revealed Ace’s real gift – A PS4 gaming system.  To say he was happy is putting it mildly.  He then opened a birthday card containing a Game Stop gift card so yeah, later in the morning, after he came back from getting a fresh to death haircut, we went to Game Stop and then to Target where Jay spent his own pocket money buying Robux (video game currency) and Ace splurged on the biggest Nerf gun they had.

Back at home, everyone just kinda hung out.  The boys were happy to play with their new toys, I was happy to have them home and know that they were happy.

In the afternoon, we hit the pool for a bit, made a cake, had a Nerf war, played a board game and chit chatted as we all got ready for the next day.  Jay wants to be something scary this year for Halloween.  Possibly that guy from Scream.  Ace initially thought he wanted to be a paper boy, but has now switched to Dead Pool.  Quite the pivot.  Jays really big news is that he has expanded his food repertoire and now eats rice, chicken, sausages, scrambled eggs and corn.  What in all the hell???  For the first time EVER, we all sat at the table and ate the same meal for dinner.  This is great but I’m still kind of stunned.  Ace will need to change clothes for gym class this year and he’s not excited about that but he IS looking forward to all the other things that 7th grade has to offer.  School did not used to be a place he felt comfortable.  How far the boys have come.  I love it.

 

I spent a little one on one time with each boy before they went to sleep and everyone was out like a light by 9pm.

It was a simply delightful way to spend a day.

 

This morning, Ace was up and ready.  Jay let me know that he would not be posing for any pictures because he was not happy about going back to school and this was not a day to celebrate.  *spoiler alert*  He posed for pictures because this mama is not above bribery.

In the end, he was glad to see his old friends and the day started just fine.  I got my first pumpkin item (a muffin) of the season and there are no work events on my calendar for this week so it shouldn’t be too bad in the office.

I’m looking forward to seeing the boys later and hearing about their first day.  Oh, and also, eating more of that birthday cake.  🙂

 

The Hole In My Lid June 28, 2018

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Life on the Jay train,Marriage,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 11:56 am
Tags: , , ,

Soooo, what’s been up?

It’s been a while since I wrote.

Whatever I’ve missed is going to have to remain missed.  Today, I’m diving into our most recent news.

 

My boys have been away for just about 2 weeks and I feel empty.  I miss them something awful.  I always miss them when they go to spend extended time with their father but for some reason this trip has been extra hard.  I can’t get my stomach to settle.  It could be because we’ve been hit with a series of bad news over the past few months so I am feeling more emotional than usual (which is saying a lot).  It could also be that time is inexplicably speeding up and they are growing up faster than they used to and it’s making me a bit panicky.

Ace happily and artfully sailed through his entire 6th grade year like a champ and it only took about 2 weeks.  It was just last month, (wasn’t it?), that we were touring the middle school and everything about it seemed so daunting.  I was so worried about how my baby would navigate that new environment.  He amazed me in all the ways.  Socially and academically.  His final report came in and I am blown away.  It’s the best report he’s EVER gotten and my heart could just burst.

I haven’t gotten Jays final report as yet, but I have every reason to believe he did a great job as well.  He’s going to enter his final year of elementary school in September and then he too will be off to middle school.  I’m really struggling with that.  Let’s not talk about it.  Thanks.

 

In other news

Shaunie and I went to Jamaica to:

  1. Attend her Grandfathers funeral. It was really great and sad, but wonderful.
  2. See my Aunty. It was awesome and heavyhearted.  I was happy there but leaving was hard.  Really hard.
  3. Attend my uncle’s high school graduation. (My Grandad had a son when he was 72).  It was good but weird.

 

I’ll write a post about the trip later.

In the meantime, while we were gone, Grandma in New Jersey underwent surgery.  Some sad medical news hit my family.  Also, there were big shake-ups at work.  How the work shake-ups may or may not affect me is still to be determined.

 

I know this post wasn’t that interesting but I needed to “stick a hole in my lid”.  You get that reference right?  In a coffee cup lid, there’s the one hole that we drink out of and then there’s the (very important but easily dismissed) hole on the other end that lets the steam out.  My internal steam was building and this blog is my tiny hole.

 

If you are the praying type, please keep our family in your prayers.  It can’t hurt.

 

My boys come back this weekend.  I am ready to see them and hug them.  That’s the good news, so I’ll end there.

xoxo

 

 

We Are All X-Men April 17, 2018

I didn’t spend much of my childhood watching super hero cartoons, and I wasn’t a comic book reader, other than when we visited my Grandads sister, whose son had a box full of Archie comics.  Thanks to my sons however, I am now well versed in all things super hero.  I know real names, side kicks, back stories, powers, enemies … the lot.

I very quickly figured out who my favourites were.  The X-Men.   Of course, you gotta like Wolverine’s willingness to fight for justice, even with all his emotional brokenness and you gotta feel sympathy for Rogue who’s just a young girl who wants to be normal and experience normal things, and anyone with any decency can appreciate Charles Xaviers outreach efforts and desire to be peaceful but, personally I really relate to Magneto.  Techniclly, he’s the “bad guy”, but in terms of ideology, I’m with him.

 

“They wish to cure us. But I say to you we are the cure! The cure for that infirm, imperfect condition called “Homo sapiens!”

 

Magneto, or Erik if you’re cool with him, makes no apologies for his Mutation.  He revels in it;  Celebrates it; And has no tolerance for those who would look for ways to control mutants or worse, make them extinct.

 

His methods may not be on the up and up, but think about how many people who are different, live their ENTIRE lives feeling the pain brought on by other peoples fear?  Think about how many children are told that yes they are loved, but can they just tone themselves down a bit.  Be less obvious.  Blend in.

So much of autism therapy is aimed at stomping out as many of the Obviously Autistic traits that a person has.  We train our children not to stim, to make prolonged eye contact, to play only with “age appropriate” items.  We use words like, cure and fix and broken and hardship and nightmare and burden.

So many LGBT+ youth spend years trying to be something they are not.  They know what will be tolerated and what won’t.  No pink anything for boys and no buzz cuts for girls.  No talk of same sex attraction.  Definitely cannot question gender.  I mean, we barely expect boys to wash dishes or for girls to take out garbage.

 

And what do we do?  Those of us who are broken, sissies or otherwise not what we know our parents wish we were?

We pretend.  We hide.  We lash out.  We detach.  We self-harm.  We self-medicate.

None of it is good or sustainable;  And whether those unhealthy behaviours come to an end in a good way or a bad way depends on many factors.

 

Archangel, (in the comics), comes from millionaire, mutant-bigoted parents who sign guardianship of him over to Professor X.  In the movie, The Last Stand, however, Angels father has developed an inoculation to suppress the X-gene that gives mutants their abilities and offer the “cure” to any mutant who wants it.  We see Angel as a child, who knows his fathers negative views of mutants, trying to saw his feathered wings off his own back.  He has grown up thinking there is something wrong with him.  He does not want to be a mutant.  There are tears and blood everywhere.    When he is discovered in the bathroom, his fathers disappointment and horror is evident.  “No!  Not YOU !

We see Angel as a young man, very reluctantly agreeing to have his mutation stripped away by his fathers injection.  For his whole life, this thing has caused him unnecessary emotional and physical trauma.  He tries to hide, then he tries to mutilate, then he pretends – until finally, even though he knows how much it will anger his father and he understands that his action will likely mean their relationship is over, just as he is about to get the shot, he breaks free and flies out the window unable to take it all anymore.  Nothing is worth more than being his true self, in all his winged glory.

 

Replace the words mutant and powers with autistic or gay and (Arch)Angels story could be anyones story.

 

…Angels father developed an inoculation to suppress the X-gene that gives autistics their traits and offers the cure…

…He has grown up thinking there is something wrong with him.  He does not want to be autistic…

…He is ashamed of his struggle with sexuality and tries everything he can to numb his feelings and to prevent his father from finding out, including constant lying, avoiding being at home – even if that means sleeping in his car, cutting himself or drinking himself into oblivion…

…We see Angel as a young man, very reluctantly agreeing to go to conversion therapy, just to please his dad, even though he doesn’t feel like there is anything wrong with him…

…We see Angel as a young man, knowing that he would benefit from ADHD medication but choosing not to take it so as not to upset his father because taking it would mean admitting that something was “wrong” with him…

…Until finally, even though he knows how much it will anger his father and he understands that his action will likely mean their relationship is over, he just cannot take it anymore and decides to live a free and open and honest and healthy life…

 

I’ve lived some of those scenarios above (or something resembling them) and was well on my way to passing them onto my children.  It took me years to see Jays autism, as something other than a tragedy.  To be able to give him a sense of pride in his autistic brain.  I fought so hard against Ace being on any time of ongoing medication.  Not my baby.  That’s for other parents who want to change their kid and make them into a zombie.  It took me over 20 years to stop spouting out the anti-gay rhetoric that I was raised to believe in and another 15 before I willingly admitted to being in a relationship with a woman.

What a waste of time it all was.

 

Certainly, not all the mutants are good.  Just as not all autistic people are nice and not all gay people are loyal and not all women are reasonable and not all straight, white men are ethical.  That doesn’t mean that illogical and unreasonable fear of those who are different from you should be excused or justified.  That thinking is damaging to the vast majority who are just trying to live their best lives.  I whole-heartedly believe that people should be free to be themselves and that we should all be comfortable asking for help if we need it and be proud of who we are, as long as we are putting respect and compassion out into the world.

 

 

Lastly, in case you were wondering why the heck I chose to spend time writing about the X-Men today of all days?

Honestly, it’s just cause I had some free time last Sunday and it was on Hulu so I watched it.

 

Finding Their Thing February 27, 2018

We’re still trying to find what the kids thing is.  That one extra curricular activity that they can excel at.  For some people it’s soccer, for some it’s an instrument for others it’s drama or art.

 

As a kid I did dance and brownies.  I took piano, I joined the Junior Red Cross, the 4H and the debate team.  I even spent time learning how to make lace by hand. *yawn*.  I was a cheer leader for like 2 days, I joined the track & field team because for some reason I thought I would be good at long jump.  NOT!  I still don’t have a thing.  I am more like the jack of all trades, master of none type and I wish it were different.  I wish I had one thing that I was good at.  A part of my issue is that the opportunities just weren’t there where I grew up.  I loved dance, but by 6th grade I had gotten to the point where if I wanted to learn more, my Grandparents would have had to drive me into Kingston (a one hour drive away) during the week after school and they weren’t willing to do that.  Another issue was that I am not musically inclined so while I had taken 8 years of piano, I was horrible.  The only thing I can play today is the C scale.  The sports that were easily accessed (track and netball) weren’t my strong suits.  I like to think my problem with netball was that I was kinda short; not that I lacked the athletic ability.  I think I would’ve enjoyed being on a swim team, but neither my school nor my home town had one of those.

 

So far, my boys have tried soccer and martial arts.  Both were a no-go.  We’ve checked out swim teams but the practice times don’t work for us.  The same with baseball.  Ace enjoyed being in the drama club and would love to audition for a role in the Spring play but it’s just not doable due to transportation issues.  He would need someone to pick him up at 4:30 and that’s not a commitment we can make.  Jay fortunately is able to be in his schools art club so that’s great for him.

 

Now we are trying tennis.  They meet on Saturday mornings at 9:30.  This we can handle.  I actually am a fan of tennis myself and make my way to a court whenever I can find a partner, (not that I’m very good but that has never stopped me before), so IF they like it and WHEN they get a little better at it, I would really enjoy playing with them.  So far, they’ve had one lesson and they both loved it.  It could be a really good event for them.  It takes a lot of energy and stamina – which they have.  It relies on individual effort, there’s little to no contact and they practice in small groups so they get some individual attention – which suits their personalities.  It doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment – which suits my pocket.

 

Wish us luck!

 

On Hamilton – A Family Affair December 15, 2017

I have a bit of a parenting dilemma and I’d be curious to know what you all think about it.

 

I am a big fan of live shows in general.  Musicals, plays, concerts … I’m into all of it.  There are several Broadway shows whose soundtracks I know by heart.  Les Miserables.  Chorus Line.  Aida.  Dear Evan Hansen.  Rent.

I also know all the lyrics to Hamilton.  I mean, as much as is reasonable to expect.  It’s a VERY wordy show.  I don’t want to call it verbose because that implies that some of the words aren’t necessary.  I wouldn’t get rid of any of them.

Singing along with show tunes is usually something I do when I’m alone in the car.  It’s not really the coolest thing to do (apparently) and people can be judgy.  Not that I care what people think but I can’t exactly dive into my most emo self during ‘On My Own (Les Mis) the way I want to while someone is in the room rolling their eyes or putting their fingers in the ears.  I also cannot belt out ‘Tits & Ass (Chorus Line) while my children are in the back seat for obvious reasons.

*Side note* – One of the people who judge my love of show tunes is a fan of techno music so there goes all her credibility. 🙂

 

So anyway, in school, Ace was introduced to Hamilton.  He came home singing the opening song.  It’s kind of a Cliff Notes version of Alexanders life.  It made me happy.  It made Shaunie roll her eyes even further back into her head and stick her fingers even further down inside her ears.

 

I think it’s great that schools are using the show to get kids interested in learning history.  We all know that history class has a reputation for being boring – But it doesn’t have to be.

In drama class they also use it.  The kids were broken into groups and given a part of the show to recreate.  Ace got the role of Philip Hamilton at the time of his duel.  I gave him some back story and then we had fun imagining how Philip would be feeling in that situation and then practicing how it would play out.  So much better than math homework.

 

I’ve said a lot so far without actually saying much of anything.  Talk about burying the lede.  OK, here’s my concern:

Ace has taken that inch he got at school and gone the whole mile with Hamilton.  He is now interested in knowing all the songs.  He’s only 11 and the show does cover some adult-ish topics and includes some adult language which I don’t know if I’m comfortable with him singing about/along with.

 

But is one little “shit” the worst thing if he’s also learning the meaning of words like anarchy and intransigent and unimpeachable and deniability and civility and quagmire and abrasive and reticent?

Is a fairly mild wading into the topic of adultery so bad for him to be exposed to, if, because of this show, he’s also curious about other historical figures and events?

Is him singing “pain in the ass” really so bad if it means we are doing a duet?  Me playing the role of all the women and him playing the men in ‘Take A Break’?  It’s quality time and I love having someone to share my love of history and show tunes with.

Lately the 2 boys have been listening to ‘Aaron Burr Sir’ over and over and over and yes there’s a line in it that says “it’s hard to have intercourse over 4 sets of corsets”, … *yikes* … but I don’t think they really know what they’re singing when they get to that line and Jay absolutely delights in it when Ace gets to the part where he sings “Ooh who are you? Who you? Who are you? Ooh, who is this kid? What’s he gonna do?

The no-fighting bro time is worth it … Right?

 

Help me out here.  Tell me that it’s all fine and that I should just go with it.

 

 

 

————————————————————————————————

P.S.  Lin-Manuel is killing me.  He put out a new song about the life of Benjamin Franklin.  I was super excited because:

A) Lin-Manuel and B) Another cool way for the kids to learn about yet another founding father.

Except, I listened to the song this morning and it’s great and very educational but he drops more than a couple F bombs.  Like, a lot of them.  That’s a hard no for me.  Come on Linny;  help a mama out and make some kid-friendly history songs.

 

One Pot Post December 14, 2017

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Life on the Jay train,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 12:35 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve let myself fall behind again and now there are too many things to talk about.  I fell behind though because I was struggling to write.  Nothing felt right.  I didn’t feel like pouring my heart out and talking about how I had a great weekend but then turning around and saying that I spoke to my Aunt on Sunday evening and even though I love talking to her sometimes it makes me sad.  I didn’t want to talk about the happy without acknowledging the sad and vice versa.  But it also felt odd putting them all in one post.

 

Here’s the thing – I love my Aunt beyond measure.  Always have.  She’s always been physically small and delicate.  She’s sweet and caring and soft spoken.  But man she is fiercely independent and brilliant and adventurous and steadfast and reliable and hard working.  I have respected her my entire life and tried to be like her.  As much as I loved my Grandma and my Grandad, it was my Aunt that I wanted to emulate.  Just by being who she is, she earned the respect of thousands of students and countless teachers and girl guiders and Church group members and pretty much anyone who ever met her.

I have so many great memories of her and still can feel the excitement in my body when I remember eagerly waiting to see her car pulling into our driveway when I was a kid.

 

She’ll be 90 years old next month.  Her heart is not doing well.  She’s been in and out of the hospital a couple of times in the last couple of months.  It’s no longer safe for her to be left alone so arrangements have been made so she always has company.

Her faith in God is strong and she is very connected with her Church but has been unable to go.  This bothers her.  Her church will have an intimate, watered down Christmas service for “shut ins” that she will attend next week.

That she is being well taken care of and has access to these things is great – That she needs it, makes me sad.

 

OK, so I spent more time on that topic than I thought I would.  That’s how writing goes I suppose.  Words come spilling out.  Like vomit.  And then you feel better.

I don’t want to make it seem as if it’s all gloom over here though.  You see that same Aunt sent a cake all the way from Jamaica and Ace was super excited to get it because he loves it.  (She sends one every year).  Jay decided he’d try it and when he tasted it, he said “This is making my tongue happy.”  I relayed that information to her and she thought it was awesome.

Jay had a great time at his friends birthday party and now wants to have a party of his own.  We’ll see about that.  His birthday is in less than a month.

Ace got braces put on his teeth.  Braces on their own are not cheap.  (Thousands of dollars).  Add in several more hundreds of dollars because he needs to have some extractions.  I am concerned about how he’ll handle the pain at the same time as I am stressing out over how we’ll pay for it all.  He was excited but nervous about the braces.  Understandable.  It went pretty well even though he was sore the whole next day.  He chose red and green rubber bands in honour of Christmas.  Extractions happen next week.  Send us good vibes.

 

There are other things too, of course.

Passive aggressive racist things I’ve heard lately from “good people” that made me think of passive aggressive racist things I’ve heard my whole life from people who let down their guard and got comfortable and made comments in my presence;  Probably assuming I wasn’t paying attention or maybe just flat out not caring that I was the lone black person in a room otherwise full of white people.   *sigh*

 

There was our holiday card photo shoot.  It went swell.  We dressed the kids in matching red sweaters and took pictures of them in front of our tree.  We got some funny pictures and some perfectly posed ones.  I’m so grateful that we can even do things like this at all.  Picture taking was once a cause of much stress in my life.  For some reason I really let it bother me that the kids wouldn’t pose for cute pictures when they were little.

Now, I just need to make it to a place to print them off and drop them in the mail.  We’ll see if it happens.  If not, I’ll just post the pics online.  I am the same person who still has the gift I bought for my sisters first mothers day sitting in my living room.  I meant to mail it to her back in May but that never happened.  I’ve also seen her twice since then and both times forgot to bring it with me.  I’ll keep you posted on when she actually receives it.  Gonna include it in the box I’m sending for my niece.  Really making an effort to get it to them in time for Christmas.

 

So there you have it.  I just threw everything in the pot; like a paella or a jambalaya.  Hopefully things are going smoothly for you and yours.  I love you all for reading.  Truly.  Enjoy what you can about this life we’re living and especially at this time of the year when it’s so tempting to do, don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourselves to make things perfect or to impress other people.