My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Throwback Thursday - May 24

It's that time of week again... time to look back over my blog history and see what was going on in my life that was blogworthy on this day.

If you take this link from this day in 2009, it will let you follow a link to an old Youtube video of my niece Jamie singing the Backyardigans. She was home sick from church and I was watching her... and she was just so darn cute! She's already, just nine years later, become quite the performer and I am proud to say I have a video of her way back when she was just an adorable little four year old who already had perfect pitch!

On this day in 2011, I was already struggling with the back pain and struggling with my responsibilities as a single mom. Fortunately Austin was helping out a bit and I was as grateful then as I am now. We have had to lean on each other a lot and it doesn't always look pretty but it works.

In 2012, we were looking forward to Austin's graduation from high school. I wrote my own commencement speech and I still think it's pretty durn good advice. You can read it here.

On this day in 2013, I was adjusting to disability and mom was adjusting to life at the mountain house. It breaks my heart to pieces that she had such a short time in this beautiful house and was sick for so much of the time. She worked so hard all of those years in the little house on Sherwood Drive and finally she had the time and space to do whatever she wanted. As much as I miss her... I'm more sad for what she's missing. And of course, she probably has so much better now... it's selfish of me to want her back but I can't help it.

We had a brand new Cosette back in 2015 and I was struggling with migraines... as usual.

I don't know if any of you are following these links to read the old blog entries.. I know it's quite the rabbit hole to chase... but for me, it's good to look back. I've had a hard time lately allowing myself to feel all the feels because it does hurt to not have my mom around any more. But it's good to see how precious those last few years with her were. Thanks for allowing me to reminisce a bit! Love and hugs, y'all!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Cute Cosy Moments

 I took Cosy to Dunkin' Donuts on Tuesday morning to get our usual... iced coffee with hazelnut for Nana and a pink donut with sprinkles for Cosy. I have a blue tooth apparatus in the car I'm driving because it allows me to do handsfree on the phone and also play the iPod that Marvin has fixed up for me over the car sound system. When I first turn on the car the blue tooth says, "pairing... pairing... pairing" until it matches with my phone and then it says, "paired." When we got in the car as we were leaving Dunkin' Donuts the blue tooth started up with it's, "pairing... " and from the back seat Cosy hollered, "PAIRED!!!". It totally cracked me up.

Marvin started this game with her in the car when we got through traffic lights. If it's red he will say, "goooooooo green!" and it turns green. The trick is that he watches when the other side is changing and doesn't say, "green" until just before it's about to turn green. This absolutely amazes Cosy! She is sure that Marvin is magic. Even if Marvin isn't in the car with us she will say, "goooooooo.... green.... gooo... green..." until it turns green. If it takes awhile she will say, "Marvin says.... gooooooo green" and usually by that time it does turn so she is convinced that Marvin has done it.

Well, today while we were on the way home from Dunkin' Donuts, as we approached the intersection at the Courthouse the light was already green. Cosy said, "THANK YOU, Marvin!!!". Because he is, after all, the keeper of all traffic lights everywhere. As we were driving away I said, "Did you know that Marvin is Nana's boyfriend?" Cosy responded with, "Did you know that Marvin is my BEST FRIEND?"... Of course he is! He's the Magic Man who pulls the car off the road when we pass pastures with horses and cows so she can get out and see them. He took her to see an emu and a Brahma bull and then... on her birthday he took her to see all the fishes at the Georgia Aquarium (all of us took her but he drove...) So there you go... want to be Cosy's best friend? Show her lots of animals and make the traffic light turn green for her. It's all she requires.

Another really funny moment for us... I got partials Monday, which somehow Austin didn’t realize were false teeth until that day (that's a funny one in itself)... on Tuesday I was showing Cosy how I can take my teeth out. She studied on it for the longest time and kept trying to figure out how to pull her own teeth out. When that didn’t work she tried to take her dad’s teeth out to no avail. Then Pop pulled his out and really blew her mind. I’m not sure how long it will take her to sort it out but it’s sure a fun party trick! Later that night her mom told me she asked mom to take Cosy's teeth out after she brushed them. Ha! That kid is a deep thinker, I'm telling you.

I also love that she knows our small town really well. When I pull up in the Ingles parking lot where our little in store Starbucks is located she starts asking for Starbucks. When I turn on the dirt road she lives on she tells me that her mama lives on that road and starts looking for her house. She asks to stop and see the horse who pastures near our house and if she can't find it, she tells us to shhhhh! because the horse is sleeping. If Pop's car isn't in the driveway she says, "Pop's playing golf" which, about 80% of the time is correct. If she hears a car in the driveway she runs to the window to see who is there... and if it's Pop she has to run downstairs to give him a hug.

She's definitely a bright spot for all of us and I feel so blessed to be her Nana. I'll put together some Oliver stories for you soon! I'd love to hear your favorite kid/grandkid moments! Love and hugs!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

When Harry Married Meghan

Oh, dear, I do love a good Royal Wedding, don't you? The way I see it... the next big televised wedding will be when Prince George marries which... he's turning 5 this year so probably in nearly thirty years, which would make me 80 so... who knows, this may have been my last. If we're still around for the next one, let's get together to watch it, ok?

My first Royal Wedding was Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer back in July of 1981. I was 13 and still believed in fairy tales. Di was only six or seven years older than me which seems insane... such a baby. Of course, I was 17 at my own first wedding so... eh.

I know I watched Andrew and Sarah Ferguson's wedding but I don't remember being particularly moved by it. It happened just a few months after my own first wedding so maybe I was beginning to get over the whole fairy tale thing by then, who knows?

The truth is I am pretty much a devoted Anglophile. I'm interested in all things royal, even way, way back in history. I can trace my lineage back to a few direct ancestors who were queens and kings and things and quite a few more Lords and Ladies and such. There is something about the tradition and history of it all that appeals to me, although, I'm sure in reality... if I were paying taxes to support them and such, I might not exactly love it. Benefits of my ancestors having left the Island many centuries ago, I suppose.

My impressions of Harry and Meg's wedding are as follows:

  • Getting up at 4am is harder than it used to be.
  • I was insanely excited and did a lot of pregaming the day before by watching lots and lots of documentaries on the British Royal family.
  • I watched the coverage mostly the BBC America channel but also some CNN and some of the E! coverage. Too much fluff on the second two channels, more straight to the chase on BBC. Maybe that's what I like about Brits. No, honestly, if you've read my blog you know I'm way more fluff and bother than I am likely to get straight to the point. Who am I kidding?
  • If you watch my Instastories, I did a little coverage during the wedding. I made a point of explaining why Marvin wasn't joining me for the viewing party... because he DOES NOT CARE.   I said that because he was so very much over hearing about the Royal Wedding that he started playing me this little soundbite from... Kevin Meaney's stand up routine... of him singing this "I don't care..." song. I don't mind him not caring. Obviously, I want to date a man, not a clone. I hope this link will work for you, if not, try this 
  • I was really, very sad for Meghan about how her family acted in the week before the wedding. Maybe they did need a bit more public relations training but honestly, her half sister and half brother are perfect asses. Her dad had known about his need for surgery for quite a while and even had the surgery scheduled for the week after the wedding. With family like she has, who needs enemies? I can absolutely understand why she only invited her mother. 
  • Seriously, with her father... as a dad you have ONE JOB on your daughter's wedding day, ok, maybe two jobs... write the check and walk her down the aisle. Since he didn't have to pay for it he had ONE JOB and he couldn't manage. That's poor planning. 
  • My stone cold heart toward Prince Charles melted a tiny bit at him walking her down the aisle. It melted a good bit more at him escorting her mom and Camilla the Hun out afterwards.
  • I'm sorry. Camilla is still the Other Woman in my book and her hat was completely excessive. Too extra, as they say these days.
  • The Duchess of Cambridge, on the other hand, (Princess Kate for those who aren't up to date on these things) was completely gracious. She wore a dress that she has worn in public at least three times before, way to go not trying to upstage the bride! She did look a bit puffy still but she has just had a baby in the past month sooooo... I'll give her some leeway.
  • How much do you love Princess Charlotte's outgoing personality? I love that George is reserved and shy and Charlotte is waving like a queen. It will serve her well.
  • Kudos to Prince Philip for recovering from hip replacement well enough to attend. He's aces in my book. 
  • I didn't love Meghan's dress. I would have like to see it fitted a bit better. It seemed like the fabric in her arms and torso was a bit too loose. Maybe that was the look they were going for, what do I know about such? I just liked Catherine's wedding dress better. 
  • I wish the television coverage had shown more of the children in the wedding. 
  • I also hate that the television coverage missed Meghan's curtsy to the Queen after the ceremony. That's a big moment and it made it seem like Meghan DIDN'T do it when reportedly she did. 
  • I loved Meghan's low, loose bun. I thought it was a good look for her. Some people were bothered by the loose strand of hair but I thought it made her look more relaxed and natural. I also thought her makeup was good. 
  • While I thought the chapel was beautiful, I missed them being at Buckingham Palace on the balcony afterwards. Those photo ops after Royal Weddings are iconic. Yes, the kiss outside the chapel was lovely but it wasn't the same. 
  • I liked her second dress more than the first. 
  • I know lots of people loved the American preacher but ... meh. I thought his energy was fun but his remarks wandered quite a bit, in my opinion. 
  • I also didn't really love "Stand By Me". It was too choral. 
  • I'm really happy for Harry. He's always seemed a bit lost since his mom died. I watched a documentary from last year where he said he had only cried a few times over his mom's death. That seems terribly unhealthy to me. I cry a few times a week over my my mom's death and I'm grown and it wasn't a shock and... well, you get it. The same documentary really made me feel that William and Harry HATE the press and who can blame them... except I feel like the press is for us, the weird Americans that go nuts for the Royal family which makes me feel guilty and a bit rejected. 
  • I fully expect them to have a baby in the next year. 
  • As much as I love the big royal affairs, I fear that the next big thing will be the Queen's funeral and that makes me sad. And then of course, King Charles' coronation and I'm still not over him not loving Diana like he should have. I'll be happier at William's coronation if I'm still around for that but I realize that makes me sound like I want both the Queen and Charles to be gone and that's not true at all. I love the Royal Family. At least I love watching them.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about the wedding, Harry, Meghan and all things royal. Love and hugs, y'all.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Reasons To Love Monday

This Monday started too durn early after too little sleep. I was dreaming that I was working at State Farm and it was close to the end of the day. A client's family came in wanting to add coverage for a newly acquired vehicle and had lots and lots of questions. In my dream I didn't remember how to work the quoting system and all my co-workers had left/were leaving for the day. I panicked and then remembered I just had to wake up to get out of the situation. Ahhhh!

My life doesn't involve dealing with last-minute demanding customers any more... it doesn't involve co-workers who sneak away leaving you to deal with stuff beyond your pay grade... would I trade all of this fabulous life of living with pain for the opportunity to work again? In a heartbeat.

But then I got up and took the pain meds I need to even think about getting out of bed... I realized that once again I'm starting my day with a migraine for the upteenth day in a row... and I remembered that line from Les Miserables that says, "Truth is given by God to us all in our time, in our turn."  I'm living the life I was meant to live and therefore, even in the painful, early mornings, I need to find reasons to embrace every day as it comes... I need to find reasons to love Monday.

  • 1. Today is THE DAY I get my partials. After years and years of smiling very carefully to try to keep people from seeing gaps in my teeth... after lots of pain and lots of dollars, today I'll leave the dentist office with more teeth than I went in with. That's a good feeling. I know it will take some getting used to. I just feel very blessed to have been able to get to this point. I will be grinning like a Cheshire Cat in future photos. Hope you don't mind. Somebody needs to buy me a steak this week! 
  • 2. I have to take Austin to work this morning as we're a two car family and have to go in three different places this morning but that won't always be the case. Matter of fact, I could just have him run me back home after my appointment and then he could have the car for the rest of the day and drive himself home. He's doing a great job and growing in confidence and I'm confident in him. It's a whole new world for us! 
  • 3. I am starting the day with a headache but once the dentist appointment is over, it's a quiet day for me. I can rest and maybe this series of headaches will end. If not... I'll be heading to Urgent Care tomorrow for a toradol shot - or something - to get this thing in check. And for once in my life, if I'm not well enough to drive myself there, Austin can take me! 
  • 4. Tomorrow is Tuesday! There have been several moving parts as we looked forward to this upcoming weekend (which starts on Tuesday night for Marvin) and fortunately, his schedule works out this week that if I can't go to him, he will come to me. We've only done that a few times over the past 8-9 months that we've been hanging out. I usually go to him because it's easier... he's usually playing softball on Tuesday night and working Wednesday and Thursday night but this week he can come up on Tuesday night and I love that our weekly date night(s) are important enough to him that if Mohammed can't come to the mountain, the mountain will come to Mohammed (metaphorically speaking). He's a good egg. I'm glad that our time together means as much to him as it does to me. That's the part that warms my heart the most. Most of my past relationships have meant me working my butt off to keep things together, putting the other person first but not being put first. I don't feel that way with this man. I feel like he works just as hard (probably harder) at making sure we have time together, whether on the phone or in person. It means a lot to me, maybe even more than he knows. 
  • 5. Barring another migraine, tomorrow is another Cosy day. We had a really great time with her yesterday (Sunday). She did a great job going potty. She helped her dad wash the car which made for an adorable photo op for me. She is just an adorable, funny kid. I feel so blessed to be her Nana. 
  • 6. I'm also still basking in the joy of a great FaceTime with Oliver last night. He had tried to pull his shirt off and it got stuck on his head. I got tickled at him and the more I laughed, the more he performed. He has a brilliant sense of comedic timing and he is also a very, very, funny kid. I posted a picture on Facebook and Instagram of his predicament. Marvin said his favorite part of the picture is how much I'm laughing... I love that even at a very young age my grandkids have a good sense of humor and actually like making me laugh. What a treasure they are to me! 

Although I'm going boldly forward in optimism, embracing the new week... it's with sadness in my heart. My mom's brother John passed away last night. He is the fourth of her siblings to die. I'm glad that he is reunited with mama and David and Linda and of course, their amazing parents... but I'm sad that Uncle John is lost to us here on Earth. I'm sad for his kids, especially my cousin Jason who I have had the opportunity to get to know better and visit with in the past few years. I'm sad for my sweet Aunt Ginger who has lost the three siblings closest to her in age in the past three years. I'm sad for John's lovely wife, Gerri, who has been such a joy to him in his later years and such a blessing to our family. I'm sad to lose another link to my mama, who I miss more and more every day. Marvin called right after I got the news last night and I was a tearful, snotty mess. He and I have had to walk through so much death in the short time we've been together: his son, my mom, his grandma, my Uncle... and I know that we are at the age and stage of life where that happens more often... and I'm glad that we have each other to turn to in those moments. My biggest RTL this Monday is that I'm not walking this path alone... I have my sweet man, who brings me so much happiness... my hilarious grandbabies... so many loving family members and now, once again, I feel reconnected to all of you. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you'll find plenty of your own Reasons to Love Monday this week!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Weekend Recap

Yikes.... I didn't blog yesterday! I had things swimming right along last week, with all of the weekday blogs written by Monday afternoon and then... Harry and Meghan got married and I was so caught up in the magic that I couldn't even stop to blog. That's not entirely true. Last week I struggled quite a bit with migraines. I had a significant headache almost every day. FORTUNATELY... I had already written several blog posts so it didn't matter. I did not have one written for yesterday and I had a miserable headache so... there ya go. Real life strikes again.

Today my head is a tad bit better but there's still a headache lurking. I can function to a certain degree with a headache but one problem I have is that I can't focus my vision. This makes blogging or reading really tricky. Please overlook any spelling mistakes in this blog post. I have a theory that every time I stop drinking powerade/gatorade, I get headaches. Last week I thought I'd try flavored water instead and... it may very well be a coincidence but all I know is I have had a headache every day. You better believe I'm pounding back the powerade today!

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this in my blog - I've definitely mentioned it on Facebook - but Austin got his drivers license last week! For so many years he has just not felt confident enough to take the test and all of a sudden on Monday he decided to go the next day. He was off on Tuesday so we picked up Cosy and headed to Toccoa, a small town near us where there is a Department of Drivers Services office. Honestly, I thought... no way he goes through with it... but he did. And I thought for sure, if we just show up without an appointment there is no way they'll fit us in... but they did. And then we realized there wasn't current proof of insurance in that car but they gave us a fax number and I was able to call one of my lovely former co-workers at State Farm who kindly and quickly faxed over proof of insurance. I figured with as little experience as Austin has had driving, he surely wouldn't pass but I hoped that they would help him know what he needed to work on and we could return in a few weeks but... he passed. He actually did very well, including parallel parking which he had never done before. And lastly, I thought that even if he passed he would probably not be ready to start driving right away and would still take quite some time yet to be confident enough to drive independently. Well, that has just not been the case at all. He has driven himself to work and back twice, he has driven to friends' houses, he has gone into town a few times and he even picked Cosy up this morning all by himself.

Austin driving is a GAME CHANGER for me! I have struggled so much over the past few years with  being unable to take medication on schedule because I had to wait until after I picked up Austin as a few of my meds make it impossible to drive. I have had so many days where I really just had to suffer until he got off work. In turn, he has had many days where he would have stayed later at work but he knew I really needed to be "finished with my day". My dad helps some, especially if I'm struggling but my dad is gone ALL the time! He plays golf more days a week than not and he has so many obligations at church and in the community that he's just not available a lot of the time. It has been such a blessing the past few days for Austin to be able to get himself where he needed to be because my head has hurt so bad and driving was not going to be safe or comfortable for me.

I am definitely struggling with letting go of my last baby. I've been responsible for my kids for nearly 32 years now - literally my entire adult life. I don't know how to NOT have to worry about getting folks where they need to be. It's an empty nest syndrome that I wasn't prepared for because I truly had no idea that Austin would be driving NOW all of a sudden. I've had to be more involved with Austin than the others and I've had to be involved so much longer but he is definitely ready. I was a bit bummed last night when Austin told me he was going to pick Cosette up this morning because... that's MY THING... getting my sleepy girl first thing in the morning and having our little chats alone in the car on the way home... it's a very precious time for me. I felt... like nobody needs me anymore. But Marvin was sweet and practical and reminded me that I am still very much needed in their lives and of course, today Cosy ran straight to my room as soon as they got her and I still dressed her and fixed her hair and helped her go potty today (no accidents the whole time she was with us! Yay!). It's an adjustment but it's time for me to be able to take care of myself (and maybe finish the embroidery project I started for Marvin back before Christmas...)

Yesterday while I was feeling so awful Austin was able to run to Walmart for me. It's been so long since one of my kids has been able to do the shopping for me. Pop picked up meds for me this weekend while I was feeling poorly but I hate to send him with a list, especially a specific, picky one. I literally took pictures of the products I needed Austin to buy for me and, of course, he shops with me frequently so he knows what I buy and roughly the price range I find acceptable. He's a good shopper. I had thought so fondly of the potential of not having to take him back and forth to work but I completely forgot about the awesome aspect of having someone to run errands for me. WHAT a bonus! And as much as I love my sweet time alone with Cosy when I pick her up... by the time I take her home I'm usually absolutely wiped out. To get a break from THAT chore is awesome! And... also good for her to have time alone with her dad which is really, really rare.

Tomorrow I have a very important appointment that I'll talk more about when I blog in the morning! Hope you've had a great weekend. Tell me about your own empty nest moments... when that last little chick stopped needing you as much... love and hugs, y'all!

Friday, May 18, 2018

Questions And Answers...

I thought it might be fun to use a few questions I found on the internet as a writing prompt for blogging. I don't always wake up feeling creative with the words just pouring out. In fact, today I woke up quite sick from a migraine so my only thoughts were ... ugh. Fortunately, I had written this blog a few days ago. Hope you enjoy! I'd love to see your answers to the same questions!

1. If you had the opportunity to change one thing in your life, what would that be and why?

Just one thing? Can I make my one wish to wish for a thousand wishes? If not... I would wish to be really wealthy. Although my first thought is, "I'd like to be healthy and strong," I feel like having money gives you opportunities to improve things in your life. I would be able to have access to better doctors (no shade toward my current doctors intended there) and possibly find answers to some of my health challenges. I would be able to afford people to do some of the things that cause pain for me. I could afford someone - a chef, maybe, or even just one of those meal subscription services- to help me eat better and possibly lose weight which obviously would make life easier. My back needs less of a load to carry. Money could change some of the situations that bring me stress. I could make it so that Marvin doesn't have to work as much - or at all, up to him - and we could travel or... just hang out together more. I need a car in a bad way as the one I'm driving is difficult for me... it's hard to turn and I feel exhausted from driving it.. grateful to have it but you know, if I'm wishing... I would have the best mattresses to sleep on and massages and ... oh, I think I need an inversion table. It seems shallow to thing that money could change everything because, obviously, that's not true but it could make some things easier...

2. What do you find yourself thinking about the most?

I definitely can't make this just one subject. I think about Oliver and Cosette every single day... and my nephew Finn and his baby sister due later this year... and how much I want to love these babies the way that my mom would have loved them if she had the chance. I think about Marvin and how he's feeling... if it's a rough day for him emotionally or physically. I think about our relationship uh LOT... not in a "where is this going?" kind of way, not like you might think... I think about things we can do together, even as simple as where we might go to lunch this week. I think about how I can be a good partner for him and what would make him happy. I think about my kids and each individual relationship... not just my boys but also my girls... Ryan's fiance Sara and Cody's wife Marquee... and also Tasha, even though she and Austin aren't together, she's the mom of my granddaughter so I think about how she is doing. I think about my dad and his happiness... his health... and so forth. I think about my brothers and their families. My nieces and nephews are so precious to me and as they're getting older I get to communicate with them on a more adult level. It's quite a lovely bonus. Sarabeth has a blog you can click the link to see it (be kind if you comment) - it's amazing considering she's grown up on my blog. My nephew, Cory just recently got married and we've enjoyed a much closer relationship as he's gotten older. And of course, watching Jamie blossom as a performer has just been such a joy for me. I think about all these moving pieces to our family.  I still think a lot about my estranged brother and his family and how much I want them to return to the fold, so to speak.

But there's so much more... I think about my friends, in real life and people I know only (or mostly) online. When one of my online friends went through a hard time recently there were about a dozen ladies who rallied around her and prayed for her and encouraged her and just really cared on such a deep level. I realized how invested we are in each other's lives and how unique that is to our generation and the ones that follow because of the relationships we've been able to form online... and it made me want to nurture those relationships more. Whether friends or family... I think about whether or not I'm giving people enough love and support. But I also think about whether or not I'm being kind to myself, remembering my limitations and respecting my boundaries. I have a tendency to push myself too hard when I have the chance to be with others and then I end up feeling very isolated and lonely when I am in too much pain to keep up.

I also think about a lot of superficial stuff like the upcoming Royal Wedding and who will walk Meghan down the aisle if her father doesn't. I think about the political climate and racial issues and just all the hate there is in the world toward people who don't think like us or look like us or love like us. I think about what makeup colors I want to try and whether I have enough yogurt to get through to the next day when I feel like going to the store. I think about whether my meds are all filled and if they're working. When I talked about my schedule I talked about staying mentally busy and this is exactly what I mean... my brain is never quiet until the ambien kicks in at night and then, and only then, does my mind stop racing.

3. What are the things that bring you the greatest pleasure?

The things that bring me the greatest pleasure aren't things, they're people. It's weird because as an introvert I so greatly value the time alone to rest and recharge but I love the time I spend with the people I love. I love texting with people... and facetiming with Oliver... and the long talks Marvin and I have on the phone when we're apart. I LOVE being in my nest but I also love the nest I have at Marvin's and how safe and loved I feel there. I love every single minute with Oliver and Cosy although I am definitely worn out when they go home. I love hearing from friends (I love it more via text than on the phone, though... ) But I also love a good meal out... (or in)... going to concerts with my honey because it makes me feel so alive... I love traveling, even if it's not a major travel destination. Marvin and I took an overnight trip to this place in East Nowhere, Tennessee to handle some business he had. We did no sightseeing (there were no sights to see) ate in a really average BBQ place, spent the night in a basic hotel and it was just fun to have a change of scenery... although I am 100%  homebody and love to be in my nest. We had a really good time.

4. What is your biggest accomplishment in life?

Bringing my children into the world and helping my mom leave this world. It all took so much strength and courage and faith... and in all of those moments I felt so empowered and capable. Those events make me believe that I can do anything. I also feel like having the courage to wake up every day and keep going is a huge accomplishment. There are a lot of things that have happened to me that should have taken me out of the game... made me bitter and jaded... and I feel like the fact that I don't allow myself to feel defeated is a battle I win every single day.

5. Where are you most comfortable?

Two places: my nest at my house and my nest at Marvin's. They are the places I feel the most calm and relaxed, the places that I have the least amount of pain... they are the places that allow me to be my most authentic self and to take the time I need to introvert and recharge.

I would love you for you pick any or all of these questions and answer them! I know it's easier to comment on Facebook, rather than on the blog and that is perfectly fine. I think we all would draw strength from seeing each others answers and it's a really cathartic exercise to stop and think about these things. I've got more questions like this if you're interested in seeing my answers... let me know! Love and hugs, y'all!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Throw Back Thursday - Blog Entries from May 17th

Just for the record, I'm total Yanny - until Marvin changed the pitch higher and then I heard Laurel. Honestly, I thought I had some kind of hearing loss... but anyways...

I thought it was so much fun looking back at old blog entries last week that I am going to do it again... let me know if you're looking back with me! Can you believe I did not post on this day in the past three years? But I have a nice long list prior to that if you'd like to venture back with me.

I wrote a nice long blog post on this day in 2014, giving a lot of detail about my life here and things I was doing. When I read it... it seemed like a lifetime ago but honestly, it was just four years.

On this day in 2013 I had officially stopped working for ... well, at least until now... and actually my disability just got extended by Social Security, I'll write a blog update at some point. I was juggling parenting Austin long distance and getting ready to make the move to the mountain house ... where I have lived happily ever after since.

In 2012 I was struggling to collect unemployment, wondering if I should go for disability instead (the short answer is no, that last attempt to work was immensely valuable in proving my disability case)... and feeling grateful for the things that were happening in my life.

May 17, 2011 had me learning to adjust to living with chronic pain... and dealing with chronic lack of child support. My life was one big logistical nightmare, balancing work with running a household and trying to handle my responsibilities when I was in terrible pain. I'm so grateful for disability (pay, not the actual disability) and having help around the house.

Apparently there was a time when I didn't work as hard to find Reasons to Love Monday. This post from 2010 just smacks of misery. Also... I'm eating those words about Obama taking the presidency seriously. Live and learn, chickadee.

May 17 was a Sunday back in 2009 and I churned out this literary gem... don't bother getting a snack first, it won't take long to read... Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tell me what makes this day special in your world!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

What I'm Watching With My Fella

I have a lot of down time... a lot of "don't feel well enough to do anything except rest" time and that means I watch a lot of tv. Since I hang out with my fella on his "weekend" we also do a lot of tv watching together. I'm not exactly the kind of girl that he can go roller blading or mountain climbing with... so tv watching is our jam.

He discovered (and I realized) that I have missed out on a LOT of movie standards that most people of our generation have seen. I can only say that I have been single for most of my adult life and have been too busy raising kids and working to watch a lot of movies. Marvin has made it his mission to educate me on those movies / tv shows that he thinks I should have seen. Here are a few that we have watched together and my thoughts on them:

  • Silence of the Lambs  - glad to finally understand the references to this movie and there are SO MANY. It was suspenseful and interesting... but not my favorite movie ever, for sure.
  • Sling Blade  - worth watching just for the amazing voice that Billy Bob Thornton gives to his character. So many great, great lines in this movie! 
  • Pulp Fiction - not my favorite. I found it really confusing and Marvin had to sort of reconstruct it to help me understand. I would be embarrassed that I needed help but it's like all the times that my niece Jamie has had to explain Disney movies to me. Sometimes I just don't get it.
  • Shawshank Redemption - I love a movie that gives you closure. I felt like this was such a great story and I loved the ending.
  • About Time - this one had us both in tears, like, a pile of kleenexes stacked up between us tears. It's the sweetest story but I'm not going to give you the plot, I'm going to just say, go watch it! 
  • Safety Not Guaranteed - it was a bit science fiction, a bit chick flick. It had a really sweet story line and I think you would like it. 

He has also introduced me to several television shows that he enjoyed and we have watched them together... or I have watched them and discussed them with him. Those include:

  • Shameless (he was watching it in real time so I started at the beginning and binge watched until I caught up so we could watch new episodes together)
  • The Wire - this is sort of a police drama but it's a good story line and the actors are really amazing. 
  • Breaking Bad - Everyone knows what this one is about. I had sort of written it off but I'm glad I ended up watching it. It's one of those that makes you think. 
  • Better Call Saul - It's the prequel to Breaking Bad. I'm not caught up to current on this show because it isn't up to date on Netflix yet and that's where I've watched it but so far, I think it's as good as, maybe better than Breaking Bad. 

We just recently finished watching a show set in Post-Katrina New Orleans, Treme. We love the show for a lot of reasons... it includes the music that he loves - sort of a jazz / blues / R&B / second line / funk genre- and artists that he loves and I have come to love like the guy we saw in concert on New Year's Eve, Tab Benoit (pronounced Ben-wah).  Treme delves into a lot of the New Orleans traditions such as Mardi Gras and the Mardi Gras Indians - I could do a whole post on my fascination with the Mardi Gras Indians. It includes a lot of footage of New Orleans food. Treme gives you more of an inside look on life in Post Katrina New Orleans and although it is fictionalized, a lot of what they show is based on true stories and things that did happen. It's been such an enjoyable show. We watched it on Amazon Prime Video, I'm not sure where else you might find it but if you're looking for something to binge watch, Treme is a good 'un.

We have also discovered / enjoyed a number of programs together... some of my favorites have been:

  • Black Mirror (although, trust me, you need to watch this with someone because you're going to need to have a little debriefing, therapy, or discussion afterwards)
  • Big Mouth - it's animated and I'm not a fan of anything animated but this show is about puberty and it is HILARIOUS. Very honest and a bit graphic so, maybe don't watch it with kids, at least not little ones. 

Marvin is a huge... HYUUUUUJJJJJJ!... music fan. He's worked in radio for a long time, although he is currently at a sports talk radio station, he has worked for music stations in the past which exposed him to a lot of music that you might otherwise miss. He loves such a wide spectrum of music and he loves introducing me to things that he enjoys. He fixed up an iPod for me with over 3,000 songs... and he even included some of my favorite musical theater for my listening pleasure! Sometimes we fall down this rabbit hole of watching music videos, usually on YouTube and although I don't always love the music he shows me, I love his passion for music. I love seeing things that excite him and hearing the stories behind the music and learning what makes it special for him.

Speaking of YouTube... Marvin made the switch from cable to YouTube TV last fall. YouTube TV offers most of the channels he had on cable for a fraction of the price. The only thing they didn't have was the MLB (major league baseball) channel, which my guy watches every night to fall asleep during baseball season. They finally added MLB network this Spring and he was all set! At my house we still have satellite tv but honestly, it is so rare for me to watch broadcast channels in real time. Mostly I watch Netflix or Amazon Prime or YouTube. On the odd occasion I watch broadcast tv, it's usually something I've recorded. I think I could easily live without satellite and I wonder how far away we are from doing away with that kind of programming altogether. It's as outdated as land-line phones now. Not an ad for YouTube TV but I think it's worth checking out if you're trying to spend a little less money on  your tv viewing.

I'm interested in knowing what you're watching... especially what you watch with your significant other. Leave a comment here or back on my Facebook post about this blog entry! Love and hugs, y'all!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Update on Cosette and Oliver

When I was a kid I thought of grandparents as the "little old lady" and "little old man" although, to be honest, I had one older grandma who was probably more traditional and one younger grandmother who is still living at the ripe, young age of 94. Now we live in an age where Granny is more likely to be called Mimi or Missy and ... things are just different.

My "babies" (as I still refer to them) are 3 and almost 3. Cosette just turned 3 on April 29 and Oliver will be 3 in July. I see Cosy a couple of times a week and I see Oliver once or twice a month. I talk to Oliver on Facetime once or twice a week so... we're in close contact, even if I don't see him as often as Cosette.

Because Cosette's parents have sort of a fluid, make it up as we go along, joint-ish custody arrangement, and because Cosette's dad lives here with me and doesn't yet drive, I have more responsibility for Cosette than I do for Oliver. I do a lot more actual parenting of Cosette where with Oliver I have more of a traditional Grandma relationship. Things with Cosette's mom are currently pretty good. We have had struggles in the past and when things are going well, I am relieved and appreciative and NEVER take it for granted. It's been a lot of emotional, frustrating work to get to this point. Cosy is shy and introverted and can be a bit more clingy than Oliver... who is a free spirit and (at least for me) rolls with the punches. Cosy though, is my girl. She loves watching me do my hair and makeup. She loves dresses and tights and hair bows (finally). She hangs out in the bathroom with me while I take my shower, watching videos on YouTube and chatting with me. We love to go to Dunkin Donuts and get "pink" donuts for her and coffee.

Cosy is still very attached to her pacifier, although we are trying to substitute chewing gum instead. She is no longer addicted to Frozen. Minnie Mouse is her ride or die chick now. She loves animals and flowers and her daddy. She is happiest when she's outside working with her dad in the yard. She is also a mommy's girl. If we've been gone for awhile she will ask to go to mommy's house (and whenever it's practical, I will take her home... I want her to feel that I support her relationship with both of her parents, they are both important). She is a girly girl who likes having her fingernails painted (by her dad, of course) and loves to watch me put on makeup and fix my hair. She loves anything pink or sparkly.

Potty training with Cosy has been... complicated. She goes through spells where she goes potty for me like a champ and other times she screams bloody murder if I try to sit her on the potty. I would say she is mostly in big girl undies when she's with me during the day but is one hundred percent in pullups at night and about 90% in pullups when we leave the house. She hates diapers and pullups and wants to wear "Minnie Mouse undies" all the time when she's with me but... she can be sketchy about cooperating going potty.

Despite the additional work involved with getting her to go potty... I absolutely love the time we spend together while she's on the potty. I have a little stool I sit on in front of her and we talk while we are waiting for something to happen. I have been taking her to the potty with me since she was a year and a half so... I'm used to her company in the bathroom. My latest trick with her is to suggest that she try to "toot" while she's on the potty. It seems to get her to relax more and engage the right muscles to get the teetee out too. And as my honey always says, "farts are just funny".

Oliver is ALL BOY! He is funny and likes to make people laugh. He loves sports (just like his dad) and Mickey Mouse and superheroes. He loves the Toy Story characters, Buzz Lightyear and Woody. He will say, "to uh-finity and beyond!" like Buzz does. He likes to run and climb and has never met a stranger. He sometimes gives his mom a hard time and he cries when it's time to leave my house (which breaks my heart). He has infinite patience for Cosy who can tend to have a harder time sharing toys (because she's used to being alone with me) and who doesn't like hugs (the whole introvert thing). He has the most gorgeous, long curly hair that his parents haven't been able to bear cutting. One day, eventually. Right now it's sort of his trademark although I do with him the same thing I do with Cosy which is, immediately pull it back out of his face so that he can play without hair in his eyes. He is started to go potty... they use a combination of English and Spanish with him so instead of "undies" like Cosy wears, he wears "chonies". He will also tell you body parts in Spanish and English and sometimes instead of "I love you" he says, "Te amo" which... melts MY HEART!

I knew that I would love being a grandmother but I was completely unprepared for how intensely I would love these tiny humans. I can not imagine a world where I don't see them as often or where I might not get to talk to them as much. They are my people... my reward for putting up with their dads... and they bring so much joy into my life. It breaks my heart that they will probably not remember my mom because she loved them so very much and every milestone with them is bittersweet because she's not here to share it. I just try to love them like she would and I just hope I'm even half the grandma that she was.

Tell me about your grandkids (if you have them)... your favorite things to do together and your experiences with potty training! Love and hugs, y'all!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Reasons To Love Monday

I have a headache. That's the only thing I can think of to say this morning. I'm out of advil and I have a headache that is not yet a migraine but it has migraine potential. That being said... there are still reasons to love today and I'm going to dig deep to find a few to share...

1. Austin brought me a vase of roses cut from the yard this morning. My mom's roses seem to be even more beautiful than ever this year and it's a lovely legacy of her. Having a little vase of them in my room is precious and what a great way to start the day! And seriously... how thoughtful of Austin?

2. Other than the Austin transportation responsibilities today, I have absolutely zero/nada/nothing on my agenda today. That was sort of what yesterday was like, too and I don't feel the least bit guilty for it. I had to get over the guilt about the amount of rest my body needs a long time ago. I need more rest because I live with more pain... it's that simple. I am going to bask in the luxury of it today.

3. I freaking love my Amazon Firestick. It is, without a doubt, the best purchase I've made all year. Once the smart part quit working on my tv, I had to hook my laptop up to watch any of my internet based viewing... Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. To be able to just chill in my nest and watch whatever I want by clicking my little remote... well, I feel like the Queen of Sheba. Wherever Sheba is.

4. We are only five days away from the Royal Wedding! You may remember that I took the day off when Prince William married Kate. I'm THAT into the whole Royal Wedding extravaganza. It's like I told my guy last night... it would be like... if the World Series only happened maybe 4 times in your whole lifetime. How many Royal Weddings do we get to see in our lives? SOOOOO few! I'm going to soak it all up and not be the least bit embarrassed that I'm an American who is nowhere near royalty and this wedding has zero to do with my life. I just love the pageantry and majesty of it all. And what an amazing fairy tale - an American woman marries a Prince... could it get any better?

5. Tomorrow I get to see two of my favorite people in the world - Cosy and Marvin! So today when it's just me and the cat and the dog all day... I know that I can look forward to lots of cuddles and kisses tomorrow! And Cosy might hug me too.... *wink*

6. There's another Mother's Day gift coming from Cody and Marquee and Oliver. One came on Saturday but would you believe a spider got into the box... and when I opened the package that durn spider liked to scare me to death! Cody promises that he did not order the spider. Teehee. And part two is on the way today or tomorrow.

7. I did laundry yesterday - or rather Austin did my laundry yesterday - so I don't have to bother with that today or tomorrow. I've got plenty of clean clothes to last me for a week or so.

8. Austin watched The Greatest Showman this past week and loves it so we are enjoying listening to it in the car. My sweetie fixed up an iPod for me with lots of stuff I love... including The Greatest Showman... so Austin and I had a blast blasting it on his way to work this morning.

All in all, despite the headache and a few aches and pains... this Monday is not such a bad deal. I think I might be able to love it....

Let me know why you're loving Monday this week! Love and hugs, y'all!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

My Weekly Schedule -

It's been a long time since I've talked about what I do with my time. As you probably know, I've been on Disability since May of 2013. I haven't worked in FIVE YEARS! It took a bit longer to get Social Security Disability approved but even that has been nearly three years. Actually, it's time for Social Security to review my case... but I got a notice recently that they were not going to review me at this time. They're satisfied, I guess, that I'm still unable to work and I think that's a fair assessment. It would be impossible for me to consistently go to a job several times a week. My back pain is worse than it was when I was approved and my migraines are much more frequent. I would be a lousy employee. 

I DO stay busy in my own way which is... mentally active but physically I have to be very careful if I want to be able to keep my pain manageable. I generally find if I have a busy day then the next day or two I'm going to feel pretty lousy. Austin still doesn't drive (anyone want to teach him? Please? It's so hard for me!) so I am still responsible for his transportation to work... I am still responsible for picking Cosy up and taking her home when we have her most of the time, although Tasha's parents have been good to get her back and forth when I'm not at home. 

A normal week usually looks like this for me...

  • Monday - take Austin to work, pick Austin up from work... take him to the bank if it's payday but otherwise it's usually a quiet day for me. I watch a lot of stuff on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. I play games on my phone. I love watching Instagram stories. I watch stuff on YouTube. I study my Italian... those things are true for most days when I'm home... and true in smaller amounts when I'm at my sweetie's house. 
  • Tuesday - pick Cosy up whenever she wakes up, run errands like grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, get gas, do laundry, take Cosy home... pack and then go to Marvin's house in time for his softball game. I refer to Tuesday as date night although I'm there longer than just Tuesday night. For dinner we usually will go to Twisted Taco either by ourselves or with his softball buddies. Tuesday is a long day for me and I'm usually wiped out by the time softball is over. Sometimes we will watch tv together after softball but most of the time I'm just ready to go to sleep so he watches sports while I fall asleep.  
  • Wednesday - Marvin and I usually sleep as late as we can and then watch a lot of tv. We go out for lunch and sometimes do a little shopping then come back and review his questions for trivia that night. I always love going over the trivia questions with him... I'm really, really bad at it so it's more fun for me if I ask him the questions but it's faster for him to ask me (or just read over them) so he can get them in the order he wants to ask them. If there's time we will watch tv or sometimes we just play on our phones or listen to music until time for him to leave for work. Once he leaves I commence spa night and soak in the tub / do face masks / shave my legs... all the girly maintenance stuff that I don't manage to do when I shower at home because Cosy usually hangs out in the bathroom with me while I shower. On Wednesday nights he gets home fairly early so we will usually watch an episode or two of whatever series we're binging on at the time. It's a late night for me but I will have slept late that morning and I will sleep late the next morning so it's ok. 
  • Thursday - is another day to sleep in unless we have chores / errands to run / things to do / people to see. Depending on what he's got on his agenda we might go out for lunch or sometimes we cook at home. I usually go home mid/late afternoon. It makes me a little sad to go home BUT... I'm always happy to be at home, if that makes sense. I could probably do a whole blog post on this. I love being away from home for a little bit every week. It's good to have a break from the responsibilities, it's a healthy thing for me mentally to not be at home ALL the time, especially since I don't work. But I love my nest. I love my own space. I love not being underfoot at Marvin's and not having to be dependent on him to entertain me all the time... which wouldn't work at all be because he works SO much! I love being around for my dad and the needy little dog. I love being close enough to Cosy to see her often. Home is good. What we're doing works for us at this point... so on Thursday I go home. Not gonna lie... sometimes I'm a little tearful on the way home... but just because I know it's going to be several days until I see him again. 
  • Friday - I take Austin to work and pick him up from work. Friday looks a lot like Monday but I'm usually a bit more ragged on Friday and less likely to do anything beyond taking Austin back and forth. Sometimes I'll pick up groceries or run little errands here and there but mostly... I rest up from the activity of the past few days. 
  • Saturday - Often on Saturday I will pick Cosy up when she wakes up and let her spend the morning with me, especially if it's a Saturday that Oliver is coming up, which happens about once a month. Cosy HATES that we take her dad to work on Saturday. She gets really depressed when he gets out of the car because she LOVES her daddy. I try to cheer her up by doing something special for just the two of us like going to get donuts or playing in Nana's makeup... going to Starbucks... whatever. The main thing is that I like having a couple of hours where it's just Nana and Cosy... or where it's Nana and Cosy and Oliver. These are important relationships for her and also... she lives with her other grandparents and they need a break every now and then. She is really cooperative with me but still... between in and out of the car seat, on and off the potty, etc, it's rough on my back so I don't usually keep her much past lunch time. Sometimes on Saturday if my dad isn't golfing he will pick Austin up from work so whenever Cosy goes home, I can rest. 
  • Sunday - is a true day of rest for me. Friday night, Saturdays and Sundays I talk to Marvin on the phone several times a day. Monday / Tuesday / Friday during the day he's at the radio station and we can't really talk. When he's doing trivia we obviously can't really talk, although I do usually talk to him on his way to trivia every night. But when he's delivering pizza... we talk A LOT. I'm usually watching tv / playing games and talking with him on the phone like we're a couple of teenagers. Sometimes Cosy with us on Sunday since Austin is off but usually he has her Tuesday / Thursday and likes to have Sunday to do chores around the house. Most Sundays for me are lay in bed / talk on the phone days. 
And then I go to bed and wake up and do it all again the next week. Every week isn't absolutely identical but I'm a creature of habit and do tend to live life in the same rhythm every week. There are doctors appointments and various other things that happen along the way but for the most part, this is my week. I sleep later now than I used to... most days I'm asleep until 7am. I generally am getting ready to go to sleep around 9pm. I play this online trivia game - HQ - on the phone with Marvin and then I usually am ready to go to sleep when it ends, around 9:15. It may take me a half hour to wind down but it's rare that I'm not asleep by ten. Would my life bore you to tears? I feel like I'm always mentally busy, even juggling several things at once but I rest an awful lot. If you have any questions about what I do... how things are going in my life, feel free to ask... 

Hope you had a good Mother's Day. Mine was exactly what I wanted - quiet. I heard from all my kids but I didn't really "celebrate" so to speak. It's what I needed. Anyways... thanks for reading... love and hugs! 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

What I Ate Wednesday

When I began to consider blogging again, I tried to think of topics that would be interesting for my blog readers to see. I think my life can be pretty boring - or, at least I think other people would find my life boring. I AM NEVER BORED! I can always find ways to pass the time.... watching tv, Facebook, Instagram (I am addicted to Insta-stories!), working on my Italian. Yes, I'm still trying to learn Italian. I am still really bad at it but I keep trying.

At any rate... one topic that I thought might be fun to share with you is what I eat in a day. I wouldn't want to record what I eat EVERY day because then you will see how completely redundant my diet is, especially while in the midst of this dental work (see previous post here if you want to know what's going on in my mouth).  So I decided to pick one day a week to share with you what I've eaten in that one day. Since I typically spend Tuesday night through Thursday with my fella, Wednesday is probably the most diverse day of the week food wise for me.

I am not sure what day of the week I will post my "What I Ate" post because I like doing the Throw Back Thursday to look at old blog posts from that day in "history" or in my case, "HERstory". (lame joke, I know.) I can do the Throwback Thursday in advance so that I'm not ignoring my honey for the sake of the blog during the short time we have together. It worked out well for me this week to do sort of a free style, "what's on my mind" post for Friday, so I'm telling you what I ate Wednesday on... Saturday. It might be that way in the future or... who knows. We'll just see what happens. Ultimately... I could just call it, "What I Eat In A Day" but that's just too vague for me... and untrue because Wednesday is not typical for me.

Longest introduction ever. I hope my former teachers who read my blog (and anyone who cares about things like grammar and punctuation and appropriate paragraph structure) will forgive me for rambling. I've been battling a migraine most of the day and I'm feeling a little bit out of sync but I thought this would be an easy blog post to put together since I'm just listing food. I didn't take into consideration the thousand word disclaimer I would impose on myself first. *eyeroll*

Do you want to know what I ate Wednesday? Here's the story:

We slept in a little on Wednesday (since it's his "weekend" and we had a late ball game the night before) so we ate breakfast around 10am. I am absolutely addicted to the chobani flip yogurts... greek yogurt with add-ins. My favorite is almond coco-loco... a coconut yogurt with dark chocolate pieces and sliced almonds to mix in. For me... if a little is good, a lot is better so I add in additional chips (right now I'm using salted caramel morsels but I also have used semi-sweet chocolate chips) and additional sliced almonds. I make it a really chunky yogurt so it's filling. On Wednesday I also ate a tangerine and had one of those Bolthouse Fruit Smoothies that has around 3 servings of fruit per container. I drink one or two of those smoothies a day because my fresh fruit and veg servings are almost nil most of the time. I also sipped on powerade all day, I usually have one or two powerades a day but don't drink near enough water. I've got to work on that.

(by the way... if anyone is interested in what HE ate Wednesday, he had a bowl of super sugar crisp cereal for breakfast)

For lunch we went to a little local Mexican place near his house. We had the usual chips and salsa - because you must. Their lunch special was the carne asada - grilled steak, onions and peppers that they served with flour tortillas, guacamole, sour cream, pico di gallo, etc. It also came with Mexican rice and refried beans. We both went for the special and it was really, really good! To drink we had the house wine of the south... sweet tea!

He works on Wednesday night - I know I call it his "weekend" because he doesn't work during the day but he hosts a trivia show at night on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. I use Wednesday nights while he is at work as my spa night... I take a long bath while watching stuff on my phone... I do a face mask and shave my legs and basically just enjoy a little time to myself. Dinner for him is always something from the restaurant where he does trivia... Wednesday night is Mexican and last week, if I remember correctly, he had zuppa di pollo... which, is basically chicken soup. I may have used the Italian for that and not the Spanish... but you get the point. He said it was really good and since then I have been wanting some chicken soup with fresh avocado and tons of cilantro and all that. Wednesday night - back at the "spa" I had leftover shrimp fried rice from our favorite Chinese place near his house. The shrimp fried rice was my dinner Tuesday night... they give us so much that I can make 2 or 3 meals out of it easily. The food is above par for strip mall Chinese and they are really sweet there. I forget the name of the place... it used to be Lucky Seven (or maybe Golden Seven or Happy Seven... can't remember) but they recently changed their name so now I have no idea what it is. After dinner Wednesday I also had another chobani flip yogurt because... I'm really addicted. He brought home Little Debbie Nutty Bars for a treat that night and they were so good! We usually have a little something-something sweet before bed, either chocolate or ice cream or... just a few bites of something to hold us over until morning, especially when we're going to be sleeping in the next morning... which we definitely did!

And that is what WE ate Wednesday for this past week. Let me know how well you do with getting in your fruit and vegetable servings because it is SO HARD for me! We want to cook at home more in order to eat healthier and cheaper but I love going out and having a nice meal and conversation together. I also just really hate to cook / clean up. I don't have much of an appetite so when I find something I like that is easy, I get into a rut with it. I would love to hear your fast/cheap/easy/healthy meal ideas! Thanks for stopping by, Love and hugs, y'all!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mother's Day and Other Things

I hope you have enjoyed my return to blogging. For so long it was just too hard to stop and put thoughts together in any kind of articulate flow. I've always just blogged off the top of my head, whatever I was thinking and that became difficult for so many reasons. I'm finding it helpful to use a few writing prompts like... Reasons To Love Monday... and Throwback Thursday but I know that ultimately, who I am as a blogger is the girl who just types out a stream of consciousness for the world to see. I thought I might give that method a shot today.

The past nine months have been a very weird mix of highs and lows for me. Highs, from the standpoint of being in a loving relationship for the first time in a long time and honestly, being in a relationship where I can be myself for the first time ever. It's an amazing gift and it's made the lows not so low for me. I miss my mom so much. We always had a complicated relationship but she was the one person in the world who I could always turn to and losing that... leaves me emptier than I ever dreamed possible.

I'm finding myself processing grief in a whole different way as Mother's Day approaches. I feel the same sort of frustration toward the holiday as I did toward Valentines Day for all those years as a single woman. Despite the fact that I am a mother, I don't feel the same connection to Mother's Day that I have for the first 49 years of my life. I'm as disconnected from Mother's Day as I am to Ramadan. Or Passover. It's just not for me. And it's the first time I've ever been angry about a holiday. We got through Thanksgiving and Christmas just fine but this one... it's killing me. It's a manufactured, random consumer holiday that seems really unnecessary to me at the moment.

My fella and I have been lucky enough to have each other to get through the rough spots of grieving. Planning the trip to New Orleans for New Year's really got me through Thanksgiving and Christmas. Any time the holidays were just too sad to face, I could focus on the excitement of the upcoming trip. Last week he faced his son's birthday - the first one since Nick has been gone. It's also my brother David's birthday so it's a day of grieving in my heart too, as my brother is completely estranged from our family. A grown brother making a choice to abandon his family is completely different from a nine year old son who dies tragically... I don't mean to compare, just to say that it's a hard day for me, too. While Marvin and I are deeply tenderhearted toward each other's pain, we do tend to grieve separately. There have been only a handful of times that we have cried together, it generally is a matter of mentioning the storm once it has passed. It's like... "I had a hard day..." and then we move on to whatever thing is coming up next for us or we share a laugh over an inside joke or share a song that means something special... we just move on.

Last night though, he called as he was driving to work and he caught me in the middle of a really tearful moment, almost to the point of not being able to speak. I blew my nose and told him to keep talking because I wanted to move on from the emotion. It's ok to feel... I just don't want to linger in those moments too long because it's too easy to let it overcome you. I want to keep moving forward and reaching toward happier days ahead.

I have a precious, dear friend who is recovering from a really sad time in her own life. She attempted suicide and came dangerously close to succeeding. As I've talked with her as she recovers, I keep reminding her that there are so many days ahead that she's going to be glad she's alive to see. That's the thing... you have to keep putting yourself in the path of life, giving yourself opportunities for joy and happiness and ... living... even when you're not sure how you could possibly be happy again. Every single day with my grandkids makes me grateful that I managed to stick around. It's worth every sad day I ever had to live through. And Marvin too... every adventure with him makes me glad that I found the strength to take a chance on love again.

I feel so lucky that Marvin came into my life again the day before my mom died. I hate the reason he came into my life again, (to let me know his son had died) but to have that something else - someone else to focus on in the darkest season of life was literally the light at the end of the tunnel for me. And while it's sometimes tricky to navigate the emotions of a romantic relationship (especially with as much baggage as I have) in the midst of the deep, brand new emotions of grief that we are both walking through, it's been such a beautiful gift for me. His own grief is raw enough that he doesn't think I'm nuts for breaking down to snotty tears on a random Thursday. It also helps that his grief and my grief are not for the same person... I can grieve my mama without dragging him down. He's sad for me because he cares about me... just as I'm sad for him when Nick is heavy on his heart. But it has given me a safe place to feel whatever I'm feeling... and I'm grateful.

I had a hard time deciding to return to blogging because of the depth of my feelings, good and bad. I wanted to be in a healthy and happy enough place that every blog entry wasn't gloom and despair... nobody wants to read that. And I wanted to have a good enough handle on my feelings for my fella to be able to talk about him without feeling like I'm oversharing... and without making him uncomfortable. It took me a good long while to be able to even tell HIM how I felt about him, much less share it with the internet! Relationships are so much more complicated when you're older. They're more complicated when you're recovering from a loss. Obviously, he could never take the place of my mom... and although I bring a lot of family to the table, nobody is ever going to replace Nick for him. When people would ask me about our relationship, I would always just say, "we're having a lot of fun together"... because although it is a generic answer, it's the foundation of who we are together. I mentioned that to him the other night... and he very sweetly responded, "but it's so much more than that..." and my heart melted. Of course it is... so much more than fun.

I spent so long protecting myself from feeling anything and for awhile, empty felt good. I loved where it was safe to love, my grandbabies and my family... and there are definitely times I feel vulnerable for allowing myself to care about a guy... loving has cost me a lot in the past. If this ended tomorrow, I would be devastated, there is no doubt, but I would still be grateful for the strength he has given me over the past nine months. Sure, I could have done it without him but I'm glad I didn't have to.

Whew. I'm exhausted from sharing all of these emotions. I'll leave it here for now. I'm not sure if I'm going to post over the weekend but I like the idea of blogging every day. It's easier if it's a part of my every day routine. Thanks for stopping by and letting me get all this out. Love and hugs, y'all!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Throw Back Thursday - Blog Entries from May 10th

Just a quick post as I'm hanging with my fella today...

Thought it might be fun to peek back in time two years ago when I was recuperating from hosting Cosette's first birthday party... You can click here to read the post

Also... another fun flashback was this day in 2015 when I did a baby clothes haul... Click here for all the cute stuff

I always set links up to open a new window for you, in case you're afraid you might lose your place here.

I had to go all the way back to 2011 to find another entry for this day in history. It's one of those "stream of consciousness" blogs that may seem irrelevant now but... that's part of the fun of looking back, right? Newsday Tuesday 5/10/2011

And believe it or not... that's all in the blog history for May the tenth! Hope you enjoyed our look back. Is there anything special about this day for you?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

My Dental Health

If you've been around for long, you probably know that I've spent the last dozen or so years trying to get my dental health sorted out. I spent a lot of years without dental insurance / as a single mom struggling to make ends meet and unfortunately, there was never money to do what I needed to do with my teeth. About fifteen years ago I got an estimate that it would take $13,000 to completely fix my mouth and to be honest, that was pretty accurate.

Once I got my Social Security Disability lump sum payout, I got busy sorting out my mouth. Things didn't go well. I had a lot of complications... it ended up being more expensive and more painful than I could have ever imagined. I LIKED my dentist but there were some decisions he made that probably weren't the best for me... things that probably should have gone to an oral surgeon instead of being done by a regular dentist.  We had discussed my pain situation at length in advance and he was fully aware of what medications I was taking. He called and talked to my pain doctor and they sorted out what meds I could take for the dental procedures. I confirmed with my pain doctor that he had talked to the dentist and that the dentist had permission to prescribe additional pain meds as needed. This is very important since I am on a Narcotic Agreement with the pain doctor. I literally cannot take anything for pain without his permission.

Then in the middle of a very painful complication from an extraction, when my pharmacist called the dentist to verify the prescription he had written for me, he told her that he had "no idea" I was on the other pain meds. This was a complete lie. I was so frustrated... it's hard enough to keep from being labeled a pill seeker when you have chronic pain and then the dentist makes me look like a drug addict... so I stopped working on my mouth for awhile because I honestly just couldn't face the pain and worried that it wouldn't be treated appropriately. I was afraid to be in pain and not be able to have it treated appropriately - or be refused at the pharmacy. Then my mom got sick and I just flat out didn't have the time to spend recovering from the next dental procedures.

SOOOO... finally last October I got my wits about me and went to a different dentist to get things finished up. I had one more major procedure to go through before I could get fitted for partials and finally, after all those years, have a mouth full of teeth. My dentist recommended an oral surgeon because I had so many complications in the past. I did my pre-op visit, we were all ready to go and.... two days before my last procedure was schedule... the oral surgeon was in an accident and broke his femur. He was out of work from October through February! You really can't make this stuff up! I struggled for a while trying to decide if I should go with a different office but... I trusted this guy. I had already gone through all the preop (and more importantly, PAID for the pre-op) and by the time I realized it was going to be such a long wait, we were already close to Christmas and then our trip to New Orleans. The LAST thing I wanted to do was go to New Orleans while recovering from oral surgery!

At any rate, in March I was finally able to get an appointment and have the last bit of surgery done. The Oral Surgeon was UH-mazing! The procedure was so fast that it was over before I realized he had really gotten started. The pain was completely bearable, I had no infection, no complications... it could not have gone better. I probably had about 3-4 days where I was uncomfortable but I was well enough to go to Marvin's the very same day as the surgery.

I have about half the teeth I should have so it is not easy to chew... I'm living on yogurt and softer things but I can manage just about anything... it just takes longer. I went in two weeks ago and had a mold made for my partials... I went in this past Monday to have the next fitting and in two weeks they will have the whole thing completed. I CANNOT wait to go out for a big, thick, juicy steak! I will probably gain twenty pounds in the few months after my teeth are ready and I don't even care. I'm just so glad to be past this. Now... of course, I still have some teeth that need work and there is still some additional expense (and pain) ahead. Chewing with half a mouth puts additional stress on teeth so there will be more work ahead, it's inevitable... but I'm glad to be past the worst of it.

So be prepared for lots of selfies with big toothy grins! I'd love to hear about  your dental experiences, bad and good, especially with partials since that is a whole new world for me. I also wanted to sort of set aside the stigma involved in all of this. I wasn't able to take care of things when I should have and there's no shame in that. I did my best to get my boys raised- mostly on my own- and I prioritized their well-being over mine. I'm sure I'm not the first mama to do that. I also imagine I'm not the first person to be terrified of dental work. It has taken me a long time and I'm really glad to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Shop around, the second dentist was far less expensive than the first dentist I used in my town. He also made me feel more confident. Be honest with your dentist about your fears and past problems. That made a huge difference for me. And if you can't afford it all at once, just keep plugging away. That's what I had to do and I'm glad now that I did. I'm also grateful for the support from my mom and dad along the way - driving me to procedures, helping with expenses I couldn't afford, etc. And to my fella who helped me recover from this last procedure.

I hope you're enjoying my return to blogging! Thanks for your support, it makes me WANT to blog!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Living With Pain / Just Your Average Tuesday

I want to do a detailed post explaining all the intricacies of my various and a sundry medical conditions because ...

  • some people are curious
  • it's helpful to me to record the progression of things
  • people search the internet for people who have similar conditions to their own

There are lots of diagnosis' involved with me. Unfortunately, today is not a day where I can dig that deep into things like that because today.... I AM IN PAIN. I never have a day without pain, ever, but I definitely have days where I am better able to function than other days. Today is one of the lowest functioning days. At this moment I am currently experiencing the following:

  • left sided migraine
  • left eye blurry and weak and running
  • excruciating pain in lower spine
  • muscle spasms shooting out from tender part of spine
  • it feels like there is a wire between the tender part of my spine going up to my left temple and every inch of my body along that imaginary wire is extremely sensitive 
  • hip pain on both sides, most painful on the left 
  • my lower belly hurts... this happens a lot when my spine hurts and the general consensus between gyn, primary care, pain doctor, radiologist is that there is nerve damage that wraps around me there
  • my left shoulder hurts as if someone has a knife into the joint
  • when I stand up I feel horribly dizzy and weak
  • every step shoots pain up along that imaginary wire so even just walking to the bathroom is miserable. 
  • light sensitivity
  • and as a result of the meds I feel really sleepy but also restless

Usually Tuesday is a big day for me. I pick Cosy up from her mom's when she wakes up and we spend the day running errands and getting Nana ready for date night. I do the usual girly things like taking a shower, shaving my legs (sometimes, sometimes I forget) shampooing, drying and flat ironing my hair... makeup, packing for two nights away from home... gathering whatever snacks and stuff I need to take down with me, load the car... meet my fella at his house after he gets off work and then we head to the ballpark for his softball game (or two- tonight is a double header). Depending on what time the ballgames are over, we may go to Twisted Taco for my favorite - ahi tuna on wonton tacos and his favorite - korean taco, ... yikes, I can't remember his other two tacos... then we run by Kroger to make sure we have a small something for breakfast the next morning AND THEN we go to his house, get tucked in and watch tv until midnight.

When I woke up with the migraine this morning ... initially it was one of those that make me spill my guts (and not in a chatty, girlfriend sort of way)... so I sent a text to Tasha letting her know that Nana is not up for Cosy Duty today and I set about doing the things that make me feel better... smeds, sleep, ice... I was going to just post a short little Facebook message describing my trials and tribulations but I thought this would be a good opportunity to explain for my blog readers what life is like when things aren't going well for me.

And now the dog is barking at some imaginary something. His face is covered in a blanket so it's not something he sees.

I am FULLY expecting that I'm going to stay in bed until noonish and then be 110% better. I'll get that shower, do the glam routine, handle my errands and make it down to the boyfriend's house in plenty of time to cheer his team on/spend two hours playing on my phone while he plays softball. So far I have never postponed date night because of illness... at least I don't think I have. And... bottom line, once I get to him, he does the driving, the toting... and I just have to be. He takes good care of me.  Stay tuned to see if I make it to date night!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Reasons To Love Monday

I always feel a *little* bit guilty complaining about Mondays because... honestly, my Mondays don't really suck as much since I'm on disability. However, I tend to be a bit of an empath and I know a lot of you are facing a busy workweek / week of parenting / whatever and I do feel your pain. I really do! So even though we have to drag ourselves out of bed, knock the pollen off our cars (except for Wendy in Oz because I think it's not Spring down under currently, is it?) and commence this first full week of May... I found a few reasons to love this Monday! Here goes!

  • 1. I'm bloggggggging! I haven't done a RTLM post in a really, really long time.
  • 2. I DO have to take Austin to work (or Pop might, he sometimes does on Monday) and I DO have to pick Austin up from work... but at least he has a great job that is convenient to our house and they are so nice to him.
  • 2.5 Austin gets paid every other Monday and this is not payday so I don't have to drive him into town to the bank today. It's the little things. (By the way... if anyone wants to let Austin practice driving with you, let us know!)
  • 3. It's not cold and it's not hot yet.
  • 4. I'll probably get some Bonus Cosy Time today since her mama has to work and grandma has a doctor's appointment this afternoon.
  • 5. Today is fitting number two on my partials that I have been working towards for nearly fifteen years. I am so close to the finish line on this whole dental nightmare! I think there's one more fitting after today and then I get a full set of chompers near the end of the month. (I have a blog post written that will sort of summarize my dental journey... it will be posted some time this week, probably)
  • 6. It's Marvin's Thursday... so, basically Friday Eve in his (our) world! He is off from his day job on Wednesday and Thursday so that's serves as his weekend. His weekend = my weekend since I usually stay with him when he's not working. He does host trivia on Wednesday and Thursday night but... more on that in a future post! But Monday means I'm only one day from seeing him again and that makes me happy! 
  • 7. It wouldn't be RTLM if I didn't include some kind of food love... I LOVE the Bolthouse Farms fruit juice smoothies. They aren't cheap - usually $3.09 for 15.2 oz at Ingles, $1.94 for the same size at Walmart. BUT they were buy one get one free at Ingles this week so I did a mini-stock up and will be able to boost my fruit/veg intake this week. Chewing has been rough for the past month or so SO having juices helps me feel better. It's fresh juice so I don't think I can stock up too much because they will go bad but I may swing by and pick up a few more.
  • 8. I woke up with a bit of a headache but I'm going to just trust that it WILL get better before I have to go to the dentist this afternoon. Advil is a Reason To Love Monday because it gets me through a lot of them. See also, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so forth. 

How's that for my return to Reasons To Love Monday? Can you pitch in with a few of your own? It is much easier to post a comment on the Facebook link to my blog post - and it's actually easier for me to see them so feel free to add your RTL there! Have a great day, friends!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Dating at Fifty

I have a list of things I want to blog about but I'm going to guess that the subject you're most interested in... at least the one I would find most interesting is dating, so I'll start there.

In the midst of all the exhausting, humbling, terrible time that was my mom's last few weeks on Earth, I got a text from a guy I had dated before. His nine year old son had died in a tragic, terrible accident the day before and he wanted to let me know. His son, Nick, died on August 16. My mom would die on August 18. I got the text from my fella on August 17. Those dates are relevant for you to understand the intense emotional circumstances he and I were experiencing.

Marvin and I had dated back in early 2009 but... both of us were still legally wed, although we were not living with our spouses. It didn't feel right and... in retrospect I realize now that I was in absolutely no condition to enter into a relationship. His son was an infant. My kids were not happy with the idea of me dating anyone so... it just didn't work.

We sparked up again at the end of 2010... started chatting, etc then on January 18, 2011, my world completely changed when I woke up with horrible back pain. That was the beginning of this nightmare of physical pain that would eventually force me to go on disability and change EVERYTHING in my life. He came to see me once after the pain started but... I just couldn't begin to understand how a relationship with anyone would work while I was dealing with my new normal. He was the last guy I kissed for... many, many years.

Over the years I would see him post pictures with women he was dating and... not gonna lie... I felt jealous. As far as I was concerned I would never, ever, ever date again. I could not imagine a situation where anyone would want to deal with the restrictions I live with on a daily basis... making plans that you have to cancel because of pain... being afraid to go more than twenty minutes from home in case the pain becomes to much to bear and I'm unable to get back home... avoiding anything and everything that could cause pain. I drew a very close circle around myself and shut pretty much everyone who wasn't family outside the circle. I didn't trust anyone to be able to deal with me and my pain.

So when Nick died, I had spent the past month- maybe month and a half- learning to grieve. I was ready. I knew a lot of stuff about grieving... the death of an older, sick person. Knowing that a perfectly healthy child went off on vacation and came home in a casket was beyond any level of pain I could possibly comprehend. My heart just broke for my fella (who was not my fella at that time, of course). I didn't have much to offer him but I did have time and so whereas normally I would not have responded to texts or answered phone calls, I made a point of being one hundred percent available to him. By helping him, I helped myself because I had someone who I could talk to who understood where I was in a tragically real way. We talked and texted a lot. He came to my mom's funeral which, honestly, was the most precious, selfless thing I could possibly imagine. He had Nick's funeral to attend the next day but he made the effort to be there for me. We weren't in a relationship, of course, at that point, so it was basically just a few minutes of chatting after the service and then I had the family stuff to do but just seeing him there... that was one person who was there purely out of concern for me... he had never even met my mom. It was such a precious thing to me.

I can't really say for certain at what point along the way I began to see us as a potential couple and not just two really broken people talking each other through a really painful time. We have tried to figure out what our "anniversary" is and the closest we can determine ... September 16th he came up to see me. We watched football and talked and... you know, hung out together... so it was somewhere between August 17th and September 16th that we decided we might like to spend time together. He came up again on September 30th and... same thing, basically.

I think it was the first or second week of October that I started going up on Tuesday nights for date night. Due to his work schedule, his weekend is basically Wednesday and Thursday so Tuesday night in his world = Friday night for most folks. He lives about 45 minutes away so... I can drive down and back in the same day if necessary but... we're grown ups so I usually stay overnight. I think we have kept that midweek date night fairly consistently ever since October. There have been a few exceptions where I came on Wednesday instead of Tuesday... and at some point it expanded from just Tuesday night to Tuesday and Wednesday night. Basically, though, that's the time I have set aside for my fella every single week and woe be unto any human who tries to come between me and "date night". It's essential for my mental stability.

**Disclaimer** I asked my fella if he wanted editorial control over any blogging I do about him, us, our relationship, etc and he said, "no.". He's a relatively private person and I would rather cut off my left arm (I'm left handed) than do or say anything to hurt him so believe me, blogging about our relationship has been something I've put a lot of thought into over the past few months. I do think that our relationship is unique for a lot of reasons that I'll go into in future blog posts and I think it might be interesting for those who might be entering the dating world as a more mature person... or a less-abled person... or a person who is dealing with grief and therefore a little more vulnerable than the average person. I think what we do, how it works for us, etc. is worth sharing and I'd like to do that if you're interested. I'd like to explore topics that are unique to more mature folks... and to explore the ways that dating is the same, no matter what your age!

For now, I'll just say that I'm having a great time and I really appreciate having a significant person in my life. He's a good man, he treats me well, he puts up with a lot and I think most of you would approve!

Welcome Back!

If you're reading this post it means that I have decided to start blogging again! Before I post this I want to have a few blog entries ready to go so... it may go up today (May 6th) or it may be significantly later! I updated a few things in the side bar but this page needs a drastic overhaul. It's going to take some time to get things fully up and running so lets just say we are currently under construction.

My blogging hiatus had a lot to do with the current political climate in our country (the United States, just in case you don't know exactly who I am or where I'm from). Things are so volatile and people take things so personally. There has been so much "people talking without listening" to quote the song, The Sound of Silence. There's a level of vitriol and a lack of empathy that doesn't jive with my non-confrontational personality. It became frightening for me to speak my heart openly because I felt like any strong opinion one way or another could be offensive to someone I love on one side of the argument or another. While my fella likes to "poke the monkey" (as he likes to say)... I don't. I'm a lover, not a fighter. I like to bring folks together and that just wasn't happening.

My blog style has always been sort of a daily mind dump... whatever was on my mind that I could share (without telling stories that weren't mine to share), that's what would make up the meat of my blog. Then all of a sudden I couldn't just say what I wanted to say... and I was also dealing with a brand new set of emotions as my mom's illness was progressing. Everyone wanted to argue about politics and I was in such a raw, vulnerable place emotionally that politics seemed trivial and ridiculous to me. I didn't have the emotional energy to have political discussion in the midst of things like making life or death decisions about mom's health. It was too much so I just shut down.

Once mom passed and that battle had ended, I just felt so stunned and ... alone. I didn't have words to describe life in those days and weeks. Fortunately, I had started talking to my fella and we both were in the same weird place of "what now?"and we were able to sort of fill in the blanks for each other. He was someone I could talk to without having to talk about things unless I wanted to and vice versa. We grew really close really fast and he is still the person I talk to about everything every day.

Losing my mom made me feel like I lost the one person on the planet who loved me unconditionally, who was there for me no matter what. I lost my safety net. As a woman without a life partner, my mom was the one who held me together when I was falling apart. Nobody else has the emotional investment, the inclination or the time to deal with "real Heather". My dad handles the financial stuff but not the emotional stuff - and he just doesn't get the pain and suffering involved in my life. Austin is good at the physical stuff like carrying in the groceries or taking out the trash but he will never have the magic cleaning and sorting powers my mom did. My sisters-in-law touch base with me periodically about how I am emotionally and that helps but they're both busy raising children and being career women and supporting my brothers. My fella is awesome at filling the empty hours. He is good company, he is a naturally positive (and funny!) person who is tender enough to shed a tear with me occasionally but he is also grieving and working and... not my mom. What I am is saying is there is no one who could ever take her place and there is still a big ol' hole in my heart that I don't think could ever go away.

I say all of that to say this: I'm not the girl I was before. Sometimes I'm more of a bitter brew than I used to be. I'm a bit rougher around the edges. I joke that my dad lost his filter when my mom died... but the truth is that I lost mine too. Some of the things I might not have said before because I ran everything through the filter of "what will my mom think about this"... I might just say now. She got a rotten deal there at the end and watching her suffer was the hardest thing I've ever lived through and I'm forever changed by it. In some ways I'm more sensitive to others than I could have ever been before and in other ways... I'm like, get OVER yourself!

I'm going to work on a few posts now so that you have a little something to look forward to. Once I know they're ready to go, I'll publish this bit. I'm going to need A LOT of encouragement! Let me hear from you... share my blog with people who you think might enjoy it. Ultimately, it's not worth it to me to expend the emotional energy of blogging if nobody sees it or responds or give a flying flip.

So here we go again!