The Hope

Today my oldest child turns 18. He is embarking on the adult stage of his life with a respectful dedication and desire to serve his country. He leaves on his new journey in just three short weeks. I can’t be more proud of the young man he is becoming and the heart and mind he has developed. I envision him as a father when I see him interacting with other children and taking them under his wing. I see the leadership he possesses when he talks about the goals he hopes to achieve in the service.

Getting here hasn’t been an easy task. The road has been marred by obstacles; lack of significant male guidance, motivational challenges, and general lack of belief in himself. He has recently actually referred to himself as a child without a father figure. He was discussing goals for working with kids, namely boys, who had a lack of father figures in their lives and said it was because he could identify so closely with them. That comment in itself reinforced the feelings I have had originating so many years ago.

I lament the choice I made for a father of my children. I didn’t realize at the time that his feelings toward “family” (his own and in general) were as premonitious of the realities to come. I was young and naive. I had heard before that you should always look at how a man treats his mother…I just didn’t see the signs clearly enough. Or really give them enough credence.

Even now, my ex sees his mother as a chore. She is a blighted responsibility that he avoids or throws money at to assuage his own guilt of his true feelings of disdain. His latest comment about her was telling when he mentioned that she had again used money he sent for something less than worthy in his eyes and “what can you do, it’s that or let your mother live in a box I guess”. He and his sister have relentlessly “kicked the can” (in their own words) down the street a bit farther so as to not have to face any real problem head on regarding their mentally handicapped mother. As for his father, he has no real relationship with him at all, and hasn’t for much of his life. His father is a socially awkward sort and interpersonal skills are lacking to say the least. I feel that most of my ex’s life has been spent trying to overcome and prove himself to be better than his beginnings. It is sad and I have felt sad for him along the way.

I see now how coming from that place caused him to behave in a preservation of self mode, though I don’t really excuse his behavior.

While my son was growing up, my ex was spending his time trying to prove that he was worthy to the world. He was accepted into what he deemed an elite club of sorts, and turned his back on his family to show that he deserved to be there. He essentially left his family behind as he sought out his new adventures and promoted himself in his own mind. Whether he believed that we could take care of ourselves or not, he checked out. Long before the marriage was over. Luckily, I think I’m a pretty strong woman, and I was able to take care of us pretty well. Not always, and at some significant costs to myself and to the kids along the way, but nonetheless we managed pretty securely. I only know this because the divorce wasn’t really the break that some families experience. I think truly because ours had begun occurring a few years previously and was a slow steady decline.

The divorce was really just a break in me. A finality to something that I had known to be building for quite some time and the final marker of a dream that died. For me, the dream was a big deal. The dream entailed a legacy. A bond with a family that I hoped would start a new tradition for a lifetime. The family unit being myself, my spouse, and our children. To last generations. To break cycles.

I still have trouble to this day with the death of that dream. I don’t lament the loss of my ex, he isn’t worthy of my sorrow with his lies and deceit and selfish ways. But I do lament the lack of father for my children. I see the pain in them sometimes that I can’t erase and it breaks my heart. While my ex has attempted to become a better father figure in some regards, I don’t know that things will ever be as they should have been all along because it is difficult for a child to forget when they have been abandoned and betrayed. However I have seen the forgiveness and acceptance in them which is healthy and necessary, though heartbreaking that it is.

I still have hopes. Our new family unit is defined differently than I had hoped. But I still have hopes for our legacy.

I have endeavored to instill a love of and bond between siblings that I hope endures the tests of time and life getting in the way. I hope to be the “grandmother” that I desire for my children’s children and pass down the love and bond to their children to hopefully develop the extended family love I never knew, but always dreamed of. I just won’t be doing it with a spouse that shares all those same aspirations, life goals, or history.

As my son enters into this adult stage of life, I only hope the seeds I have planted in him for what a family can be will bloom and flourish. I can’t wait to see the wonders to come! I love this little boy, now turning man, more than life itself and I pray his future is full of love and hope.

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Sleepless

I took a short nap today…that always does me in. Then I can’t sleep and end up missing more sleep than if I’d just struggled through the mid-day sleepy, thereby creating more tired rather than solving the “tired enough to need a nap” issue to begin with! But I’m on summer break, so I guess I have the time to mess up my sleep a bit.

I also haven’t written in awhile, but since I’m awake, I can use the time to explore something I’ve been thinking on a bit more recently…

I’ve been doing some self reflection of what type of person I want to be and the type of person I think others perceive me as…

I used to believe that introversion was an affliction of the less than desirable genre. I also associated extroversion with being confident, whereby introversion must, by design, mean unconfident since they are antonyms, right? In order to be liked, to be accepted, to be strong, to have power, one must be extroverted. Therefore I presented myself and believed myself to be extroverted.

I am beginning to rethink that mindset. While I do believe I had confidence (in some regards) and I was certainly willing to talk to people if/when necessary and speak my mind freely with minimal discomfort, I never really recognized my preference for smaller, more intimate groups as introversion. I didn’t really recognize the need I had for my own space and to retreat to a comfort zone once I’d ‘had enough’ social, nor did I attribute it to introversion.

In my youth, I always sought to be out with friends and doing fun things with others. My sister was the homebody sitting around reading books while I preferred to be out and about. We were polar opposites and didn’t get along (and still don’t really have a relationship) so I certainly didn’t want to be “introverted” like she was. As a child I would leave my house at dawn and return when the sun went down, seeking any neighborhood adventures I could. I even remember putting up with the neighborhood boys taunting and ruthless tormenting just to be away from home. I see this now as an escape from an uncomfortable home life more so than a need for social stimulation.

In high school I was involved in multiple clubs and organizations with social outlets. I guess I had many friends, though I don’t know if I ever really trusted that they were fully my friends deep down. I was more likely to trust the boys who were friends than my girlfriends. I think I believed people to be more superficial and dishonest then they purported to be, which was truly my own insecurities I see in hindsight. Though believing them to be that way, then created a truth in me that came through in the relationships that became a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. I guess it wouldn’t be a surprise then to know that I couldn’t wait to get the HELL out of the town I grew up in once graduation came. I had had enough of the people I went to school with and their small minded ideals (in my own self absorbed belief system). I wanted better things. I was confident, and “extroverted”, and destined to be something “MORE”, though I had no idea what that meant or how I should go about getting it…I just knew I wanted to be something else. Someone else. Something important. Thank you Oprah and your daily special highlights of people making a difference.

Once I got to college, I acted as though I had it all figured out…I think I was probably bossy and self-absorbed in only a way a truly insecure person can be. But my quiet, mousy, studious roommate who didn’t really want to frequent frat parties or approve of my boyfriend visits was the “introverted” loser in my book. I gravitated towards loud, popular girls who I thought could ‘rub off’ on me and help me become something “MORE”. Little did I recognize my different interactions at parties to be contrary to the behaviors of my idolized “extrovert” friends. I didn’t really desire to do the all night party thing. I could never sustain the interest required for the duration of small talk or never ending socializing that went along with drinking games well into the night. I chalked it up to getting bored easily. I always left early before the party was officially over. I see now it was a desire to be alone. To recharge. I wanted to have more interesting conversations that went deeper than superficial, silly antics. My relationships with the “extrovert” girls had their cycles. Mainly they just didn’t last. They would find someone else interested who could ‘hang’ with the best of them and I was quickly dismissed. I took offense rather than recognize my own identity and the needs I had.

I think the introvert in me was a major draw to the string of ‘boyfriends’ I had throughout high school and college. I sought out serious relationships and can’t really say there was much time where I didn’t have a serious boyfriend. Having a steady boyfriend allowed me to have those more intimate conversations as well as excuses for being less social…and not in a creepy introverted way, but an “I’m an extrovert with a boyfriend, so I can’t go to the party” kind of way. Claiming the social butterfly identity while deep down I just wanted to hang out with some good, honest people who I knew where I stood with them and I enjoyed their company.

Once I began relationships in my adulthood, I continued to form relationships primarily with outgoing people who pursued friendships with me. I notice as I look back, however, that those relationships tended to be stepping stones to other relationships that I developed and didn’t always last long. As I am understanding extraversion now, I realize that the one owning the room (those people I befriended) were the truly extroverted ones and I was just a wannabe. I guess I thought that if I rubbed elbows enough with them, then I’d also be considered worthy, acceptable, and powerful. I certainly never wanted to be considered weak. And for whatever reason, I associated being an introvert with being weak.

I don’t really know where the association came from. I think my childhood was marred with a significant amount of discord and insecurity with my home life as well as my own personal insecurity. I knew I didn’t want to be weak. My mother was strong. Strong opinions, strong emotions, strong personality. She used it against my dad often. He seemed weak. He never fought back really. He allowed her to steamroll. I didn’t want to be rolled over. If I was going to be something, I wanted it to be the roller rather than the squashed. Therefore I wanted to be strong, and since I viewed extroversion as strong, I needed to be associated with extroverts and also being extroverted.

Over the past few years I have seen a shift in me. I have begun to embrace my ‘alone’ side. I think more by situational reality than by choice. Dating has been a whole lot of disappointment for me, as well as a brewery for insecurities. I’ve spent a lot of time alone, especially since I have to share my kids with my ex. I’ve become more accustomed to doing things alone if I truly want to do it badly enough. Though I still would prefer to do things with another I feel connected to… Sharing something special with someone special. I miss that. Immensely.

I’m learning the art of sitting back and being more a part of the scenery rather than trying to be the sparkle. It just doesn’t fit me and I wish it hadn’t taken me this long to figure it out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still outspoken and confident in many situations, I just try to feel authentic more often than contrived. I truly desire an authentic life, and now I’m starting to recognize my own needs and accept some of the realities of what that means.

Ok…I’m going to try to get back to the sleep thing now…wish me luck! Night.

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Dying a bit more each passing day

I try.

I really do try.

I think positively about being here for my kids.

I try to see the “everyday qualities” of the area and what it has to offer in the “big picture” as well. I seek out time with people I respect and admire and I understand that meeting people somewhere else will be even more difficult as a new person all over again. I think rationally about how problems don’t go away with a scenery change. I explain to myself how I have come to romanticize being somewhere else and that quality is not reality.

Unfortunately it does nothing for my deep soul.

I feel that I am slowly dying inside from the rut of my current station. I feel trapped by my own self imposed immovability. I know the choice is ultimately mine to make about how and where I choose to live my life. However, I am first a mother and the needs of my children come before my own. They are only in my charge for a short time and I owe it to them to be a decent parent and provide a stable environment they can thrive in to become the best adults they can be. Part of that environment includes their father in the vicinity. I’m not naive about that need for a child. Nor am I willing to sacrifice their need for my own need to change my environment. The window grows smaller…only 5 more years. Though the tunnel seems so long and I feel like when I reach the other side I will have lost the vitality of life that I will need to start over.

I will be in my late 40s. My children will all be grown and out just beginning their lives when I will feel like I can finally begin my own. I feel tired regularly as it is now. There is never enough to do all the things that demand time and money. And the future prospect of money becoming a major life issue for me is debilitating. I am working on ways to save over the next several years so I can have a cushion, as well as ways to increase my pay by getting extra certifications. Unfortunately with the late entry into my profession, it will be awhile before I see a decent level of manageable income for a single person. I will most likely have to contemplate a roommate in order to afford to live on my salary. In order to break the $50,000 mark, I need to have over 15 years in my county. I’m not even half way to that time due to staying home to raise my kids. Not to mention the rising cost of health care that continues to eat into earnings. I think I’ve heard from fellow colleagues that they have progressively been making less per year with the rising costs and the lack of increases over several years.

Every few months I do a search for “teaching in a small town” to see if there has been some article published to help direct where I should try to land once I’m able to move away from the community I’m currently drowning in…

I’m not a city girl. I never have been. The congestion of the people makes me feel crowded in and claustrophobic. I also don’t do well with the societal excesses of people needing to “keep up” or the falseness it breeds. I desire to be around honest, hard working people who don’t need to put on faces for fifteen seconds of fame or to show off their status. I prefer local businesses that do good work and take pride in themselves over the dirty, lackadaisical ‘working stiff’ places that provide low wage work to the masses. I like ‘off the beaten path’ kinds of things over glitz and glamour to impress.

I don’t need much. I’ve decided a small, modest home is probably the best idea for me. Not even really interested in over 1000 square feet. I’m so tired of seeing all these 3000-5000 square feet homes going in for half a million dollars and up and it being the golden apple for people to attain. I want a few things. An efficient floorplan, a small fireplace, many windows and possibly even a sunroom area with cozy seating, and outdoor space for sitting as well as cooking/eating. I don’t need a huge yard. Though I would like to plant some of my own vegetables someday when I have more free time.

I want to be able to travel to see my kids, though I hope they choose to live in close vicinity to one another so they can create the family dynamic we have always discussed where they get together often and their kids know one another and we have “family get togethers” on a regular basis. I actually look forward to being a grandma one day. I want to see my children enjoy their own lives and families and to be a significant part of their lives. I want to be a source of support and stability for their lives.

I also want to find contentment that it seems eludes me and has for several years now. I hate feeling that this is somehow my fate and I just need to resign myself to it. That many people have it so much worse and I should be more thankful. Knowing I should feel differently and working to remedy it is very different than actually feeling differently. I just want to find the place where I belong…and soon before my light fades so dim I can hardly notice it myself.

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Been such a long time…

I can’t even remember the last time I wrote…

things have been hectic and crazy as a life of a divorced mother of three teenagers an a full time working elementary teacher can be.

My oldest is graduating from high school this spring, and has come to the conclusion that he needs to enlist in the Marines. I am happy he feels settled and excited about the prospect, and deep inside me I know this move is probably the best one for him to make at this juncture in his life. Having said that, I also worry for him and hope that it doesn’t all blow up in his face (literally and figuratively) but I also realize he needs to make his own decisions about the direction of his life – and this is his decision. I know in the end he will find his way and be a great man…he has such a good heart.

My oldest daughter is flowing along – continuing her academic drive for near perfection, strengthening her artistic talents, and growing her relationships with friends and a “boyfriend” that she previously felt was out of her league until they started dating a few months ago. She has been committed to bi-monthly therapy to help deal with her anxieties and she seems to be doing well. I have two more years with her until she determines the fate of her own future and goes off to pursue it. I’m proud of the good head she has on her shoulders.

My youngest is lamenting middle school. As all children do. The immaturity of peers, especially boys, and the uselessness of teachers that she feels don’t ‘reach her intellect’ in the ways that she desires. She is also voicing her disappointment in me lately which is leading to some self doubt of my own. I don’t spend enough quality time with her. She is feeling neglected. Some of it is normal teenaged drama and not true, but there is at least an element of truth because our schedules are so filled with running here and there, not to mention visitation with her dad limiting the available time to spend ‘quality’. I am looking to find time to carve out very soon.

The ex is maintaining his usual “let’s be friends” routine and even went so far as to pose a suggestion that in order for me to save money and also help him out with costs for the house he can’t afford without a roommate; that I move in and rent the downstairs from him…he must not have heard me the first time he suggested back in October that it was nowhere in the realm of possibility for me to ever consider living with him, because he again suggested it about a month ago. Some may think it’s an attempt to “get me back”, however I can attest, he has been dating a woman (I actually met her for the first time back in November) for well over a year. Though the first time he suggested the roommate scenario, he also made sure to assert that he “wouldn’t date anyone while I was living with him” – which didn’t make sense to me, (and hasn’t made any attempts to stop dating her since I haven’t agreed to the roommate situation) but I digress.

I’ve dated off and on…more off right now because it just gets too cumbersome for me to deal with. I don’t meet eligible men in the normal comings and goings of my life. All my friends are married, and even many with small children, and not in similar stages of life. I get together frequently enough with a couple different groups of these women, but there are no “men friends” to speak of in any sense of the word. I don’t even have a group of mixed men/women couples that get together. So I certainly miss the interactions of men in my life. Which takes me to online dating.

I’ve met some men, messaged many who never responded to me, and blown off several that were nowhere near good possible candidates. Of the men I’ve met, I was either not attracted sexually at all, or found that we were incompatible in maturity or expectation of dating, or saw red flags with issues of communication – a definite deal breaker for me. I try not to take the ‘not finding someone’ thing personal. I really do. But that’s hard. I definitely feel often that there must be something wrong with me…that other people seem to find common ground with someone who wants to invest in them, but I just can’t. I try to analyze how I’m going about it to make sure I don’t emit desperation (I certainly don’t feel desperate because I don’t want to settle for the guys that could be just a ‘warm body’) and I try to think of my expectations and determine if my expectations are unrealistic. However what I come up with each time is that I just want to find someone I’m excited about getting to know and spending time with who is just as excited to do the same with me. I’ve come to the conclusion that that isn’t too much to ask. But it DEFINITELY is easier said that done.

Work is challenging me enough lately anyway. I have been navigating my new grade level and am anticipating testing this spring that I hope I am adequately preparing my students for, while at the same time hating the machine that makes it necessary for me to administer said testing and squash my professional talents with unrealistic expectations of 8 year olds. I am also going for my National Board Certification, so there is that added workload as well as the questioning of whether I will achieve the goal in the end.

More often with my ‘down time’ I spend it sitting on the couch vegging out to mindless television. Not that I have much down time, mind you. Often I am grading papers or lesson planning while watching as well. However, this does wonders for my mental and physical state, thus contributing to some of those aforementioned feelings of inadequacy for the dating pool. I feel stretched thin, and long to be away from the rat race. I want my own little space and peace of mind. I want to feel freedom from my burdened thoughts and responsibilities, and to feel more joyous about my situation and free to experience life with a different perspective. Maybe someday. Small steps.

Right now, I just need to finish lesson plans for the coming week, plan something special for my daughter’s birthday, work more on my teaching portfolio to send to the Board, clean my house, and watch just a bit of mindless television before heading into another week of the same stuff.

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Smooth Sailing

I haven’t written recently because things have been generally going along smoothly and I typically turn to my keyboard when I’m working through a tough moment. The summer has been going by fairly well though. I am teaching summer school (only 1/2 days Mon thru Thurs) and spending time with the kids and recharging. I switch grade levels next year, so I’m planning my new year also. I guess I have things to distract me. Plus, I took myself off the online dating sites. I think the stressors of dating removed help to even me out also…I’m not judging myself and coming up short because I don’t have the kind of activity I want happening in the dating world. I’ve started trying to resign myself to understand that I may just be designed to be alone. I don’t really hope that’s the case, but it seems to be the reality and I choose to be a realist so I’m surrendering to the truth.

The kids are doing well enough. I’m enjoying having my son back with me more regularly because I have him since I’m home more often. My ex did have them for a week and a half which was difficult because I missed them terribly, but that’s passed now so I’m enjoying the time we do have. He is preparing for his senior year, which is making me sad, excited, and apprehensive all at the same time. I love him and know he is a great kid…but great kids can frustrate parents just as easily as problem children…just maybe not as often or to as severe a degree. I truly am thankful for that blessing.

I still pine away for a better location/community. I’m not feeling any more connected to this area the longer I stay, which helps fuel my research into other areas within the US to move once the time comes…six years isn’t really that long. Not to mention that I need that time to prepare for the financial burden that will result when the supports all end and my income is reduced by more than 50%. I think that is going to be the most difficult for me, but hopefully living on my own with the kids all grown will be significantly less expensive in many regards. I’m counting on it at least!

So, I guess I don’t really have much going on to tell. I went back and read some earlier posts and I always find my story to be like an out of body experience…like it must have happened to someone else…but the reminders are there that it is the reality I live daily. I still sometimes wonder how I got to this place. I just try not to throw a pity party as often if I can help it. I realize I truly am blessed in so many ways.

Well, I wish you well blog friends…hope you’re going along smoothly as well!

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Life Interrupted

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Ramblings and Doubts and Rationalizations

I think I have been disengaged with myself for the better part of the past three or four years.

That’s a long time.

I’ve been stuck in a rut of devaluing myself and going through the motions of life.

I spend ‘free’ time escaping through mind-numbing Netflix and Hulu time to avoid thought. When I do pull myself out enough to think, the thoughts are not typically positive. I feel stuck, I act stuck, I am stuck. The replay button must have molasses on it…

I don’t know who I am or who I want to be. When I try to spend time thinking about it in a positive and meaningful way, I get caught up in all the regrets of not being present and not knowing how to correct myself…and then the disengagement comes again. Fixing my life seems daunting and insurmountable because the things I want to fix seem out of my control and impossible to attain.

I tried to make a list today of times when I’ve felt happiness in my life to see if I can see any patterns and possibly start seeking experiences akin to what caused happiness previously. I wish I had more moments from my marriage that stuck out to me as being happy.

I don’t.

I think that also makes me sad and want to retreat too, because of the weight of the failure to recognize that I sucked at marriage. The evidence of me sucking at marriage makes my thought process look toward the present and feel that the reason I haven’t found anyone to be interested in dating me is because of that suckiness. Though I want to believe that I didn’t suck and that I deserved to be loved for who I was and what I had to offer – the bottom line is that I wasn’t…not really.

In the past several years I have had some good friends come into my life, and also go out of it. Some due to proximity limitations when you move far away from someone, but I feel that mainly it’s because I’m not a terribly ‘supportive’ friend. I feel capable of little compassion, most likely because I think I have been so wrapped up in my own head. Close friends need that compassion and when I can’t supply it, they need to move on to others for that close friendship. I become relegated to the ‘acquaintance’ level or removed from their lives completely. Then I rationalize that THAT is what must have happened with my ex. I wasn’t compassionate enough or thoughtful of what I needed to do/be for him as a wife.

Then rational thought says WTF? as the list of random neglect and withdrawal my ex perpetrated on me comes swirling back to thought.

See.

The thoughts.

Then I want to disengage.

My mother often begrudges me that I don’t have some ‘hobby’ to spend my time in a worthwhile endeavor. She quilts and cleans and gardens. She has always had hobbies because she has always been a stay at home mom/wife and she needed things to fill her time. She doesn’t realize that my job and my kids are a HUGE hobby time filler. I definitely parent very differently than she did…I’m much more present. It’s not that I don’t recognize the value of having a hobby to put efforts into…I do. I just don’t know what that hobby for me would be. I try different things and there’s a level of detachment even when I’m doing it. I’m not like her. I don’t have desire to sew, or meticulously clean, or tend a garden, or other domestic seeming tasks. I also don’t run, or exercise, or do other ‘group societal’ activities that are mainstream these days.

And not doing those things makes me feel like I’m not ‘normal’ and therefore not appealing to the opposite sex. (at least not the ones I want to be appealing to) Like I somehow should be making myself into something more appealing or I am definitely going to end up an old spinster. Not that I have opportunities in my life to meet interesting men anyway…

I have social groups. There are women I work with that I consider good friends. We get together outside of work and I lean on them, and they on me. I have another group of women I was accepted into that get together socially once a month and I see them randomly in other areas of life via kids or work activities also. They’re all awesome women, but I don’t really feel connected to them directly…more of an interloper of sorts. It’s a lonely existence for me, and I don’t know if it’s my own doing, or if people just aren’t drawn to me for meaningful relationships.

I feel lonely in a crowd. Even a crowd of my own ‘friends’. Last night was one such occasion. I was the host of the evening. I prepared everything for a group of 15 and the house was full of laughter and conversations. I was there, but I felt apart. I know it’s me and not them…I just don’t know how to fix it and make it different.

I don’t like my community (not my immediate ‘people’, but the quality of those living in the area)…I often wonder if people anywhere I would go would be the same. I think not because of the strong connection I had to my community several years back before the move to this state and before the divorce changed my ‘station’. There’s a rat race that exists here with the proximity to the HUB of city and government that disgusts me. There is also a “high school” level maturity to how adults act with other adults and a lack of parenting responsibility that seems rampant. There’s also what I consider a following of hypocrites that proclaim the spirit of their savior as they go out and sin willfully with the knowledge that their sin is forgiven…and I’m not supposed to judge. Plus they act like they’ve got it all figured out and they’re happy and God is leading them and then it makes me question myself again in that why do I feel so forsaken by Him. And I’m sure it’s due to my own doubt. God can’t fully reside in a doubtful heart.

So bottom line…I don’t feel fully present. I don’t feel happiness. I don’t feel fulfilled. I feel empty and disconnected.

And I know it rubs off into my relationships with others.

And I don’t know how to fix it, and honestly I try.

And fail.

Over and over again.

And then this shows up in my FB feed…

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