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My Friends Are Married

23 Jan

Dear Little Man,

One day you’re going to reach a magical age. It’s not when you turn 16 and get a license. It’s not when you turn 18 and you can vote. It’s not even when you turn 21 and you can drink (if you so choose. And if you do choose, try the Brews Cruise in Asheville — Beer City USA).

No, this magical age is “magical” because it doesn’t just last for one year. It doesn’t even last for two. It’s at least a solid decade of your life. A solid decade of an age I like to call, Everyone I Know Is Getting Married.

Now, I love weddings. I really, truly do. I like being invited to them, I like being in them, I like the dressing up and the celebration of love and the pretty decorations and the vows and the dancing (especially the dancing. Cupid Shuffle!). Weddings are something that I always look forward to, and even though it’s the festivities that bring me out, it’s the declarations of love that make it meaningful.

One of the best weddings I’ve been to was the only wedding I’ve ever been in. Your Aunt C married her Hubby in September 2011. The day of the celebration we ate cheeseburgers while we got ready and I saved the day by running down a grassy hill in heels (harder than it sounds) to retrieve tequila out of the car so the bride could, ahem, calm her nerves before she walked down the aisle. The ceremony (like, the entire ceremony) lasted less than 10 minutes, but the food and celebrating went all night. We set up tents outside and camped at the site once the reception was over. The sun was shining, the decorations were beautiful and all of our friends were there.

I was 20 years old at that wedding. It was the second one I’d been to that year, but I’d been invited to three others. Since the age of 21, twelve of my Facebook friends have gotten engaged. Since the beginning of 2013 (as in 23 days ago), I’ve already received two wedding invitations. The Age of Marriage has begun. It’s really exciting…

…but also not. To be blunt, on Facebook, weddings get pretty annoying. Partly because the repetition gets tiring (12+ Facebook friends posting about the same thing…it’s like the 2012 election all over again). But also because brides-to-be post status after status about caterers and locations and dresses and dates and stress and excitement and…then I’m not sure what they talk about because I’m too busy drooling on myself after falling asleep at my keyboard.

I understand that this will eventually be hypocritical. I know I’ll be excited and I’ll post pictures and maybe even a wedding status or two (or three) when I become a fiancé. But I’m going to do my best to save the Facebook world from my agonizing decision over whether the tablecloths should be cream or off-white.

Aside from the sometimes aggravating social media reminders, weddings themselves are generally great. Free food and cake and a wonderful thing to celebrate — as an attendee, it’s a no-brainer. But I sometimes wonder if people see past that. The ceremonies and receptions have gotten so hyped up in the past several years that, when the question is popped, we immediately think about celebration…and not the actual marriage that follows it.

Though I was never the little girl who planned her whole wedding by age six, I did always think that I’d get engaged at 26. Why 26? At the time I decided that, I had no clue. I think I just wanted to pick a mid-20’s number and 25 seemed too clean cut. But as I (slowly and ever so agelessly) approach my mid-twenties, I realize that I chose my mid-to-late-twenties because by then, I’d be mature enough to see past the wedding.

By then, I would have gone places and done things and had adventures and be ready to quiet down (a little). I would understand that when you’re proposed to, you think about the guy — not the ring, not the color of the bridesmaids dresses, not your next Facebook status…you think about this person asking you to spend the rest of your life with him and you understand that “yes” means for the rest of your natural life. If you’re mature enough to really comprehend that at 21, full steam ahead! But — not to doubt my own age group — I’m not sure if most 21-year-olds can do that, myself included. I’d start thinking about what kind of cake I want and that would be the end of it.

I’ve seen it happen, though. I follow a few high school friends who are not only married, but also have kids, and they remain in very happy marriages. I have close friends who are married or engaged and, though they are all older than me, I feel very confident in the solidarity of their relationships — as do they. I’m definitely not saying it can’t be done. I’m positive it can. I’m just saying that personally, I wouldn’t mind taking the next 5+ years to think about it. Not surprisingly, The Boyfriend is okay with that. We love each other very much. We’re together. We’re happy. We don’t share a bank account. That’s what matters.

I think relationships are all about taking it day-by-day. But just in case you end up with plans, I was wondering if you could block out some time for me between the ages of six and twelve? I may not know what color tablecloths I want, but I’d really like you to be the ring bearer ;)

P.S. — My Friends Are Married is a hilarious tumblr, and I say that as a (relatively) taken woman.

A Legacy of Liams

22 Jan

Dear Little Man,

Currently, I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their name is very aptly given (just Google them and you’ll see) but the mountains aren’t just fantastic scenery (which they so are) — they also make for great hiking!

Yesterday was one of the warmer winter days we’ve had in a while, so I got together with a few friends to hit up the trails. Your Aunt S and I joined your Aunt L, her Hubby and their baby…Liam!

Yep — your Aunt L loved the name Liam — just like me — and when her son was born last February, she and her Hubby bestowed the world’s best boy name to their little man too! A lot of women are possessive about their baby names (our gender can be fiercely competitive about really weird things) but I love sharing mine, especially with a friend that I care about so much. We have fun sharing the namesake…although when we talk about “Liam” with our friends, we have to specify which one we’re referring to :)

I always think of you when I’m around her little guy. He’s such a happy baby — he was all smiles, giggles, and playfulness during the hike…when he wasn’t sleeping — and happy little boys remind me of my own (especially since you have SUCH a great laugh). I hope that I can take you hiking through these beautiful mountains someday. The B’s love ’em so I’m sure it won’t be too tough ;)

And when we go, hopefully Aunt L’s Liam will come with us because I’m loving the alliteration in “Legacy of Liams” and now that I’ve come up with it, I’d like to use it as often as I can.

 

It's Little Liam!!!

It’s Little Liam!!!

photo 3

Aunt L and her Hubby :) Cutest couple EVER. And Little Liam’s arm hanging out of the side of the carrier. He was passed out.

photo 2

Your Aunt S and I :) My best friend!

Aunt S's Dog is really good at Hide N' Seek

Aunt S’s Dog is really good at Hide N’ Seek. Me…not so much. Apparently.

photo 3

Aunt S using the wind to determine our location. Except not really.

photo 2

One of the many beautiful rivers in the mountains :)

Brought Together at the NFL Playoffs

20 Jan

Dear Little Man,

Today, you and I are going to be doing the same thing — just not in the same place. And no, I’m not talking about running around in our underwear.

I’m talking about watching the NFL PLAYOFFS!

At 3 p.m. the San Francisco 49ers are going the beat Atlanta (who I pulled for in their last game…but not now. Sorry Georgia) but at 6:30 p.m, I have a dilemma. I was born in Baltimore, but I was raised a Patriots fan. I had this problem last year — the Ravens played the Pats in the same exact game. Last playoff game. Winner goes to the Super Bowl. What to do?!

Last year, the Ravens kicker screwed up and lost them the game. But this year, Tom Brady’s passes remind me of those “trust exercises” where you blindfold yourself and let other people lead you around. Only they’ve ditched you so you keep walking around in circles and running into things. So we’ll see about Playoff Game 2013.

Either way, I know your brother Sports Man wouldn’t let you miss a big football day like today. You probably won’t watch the game (something about having a 5-second attention span), but you’ll be there while it’s on. To me, it’s kind of like being separated from someone you love, but at night you can look at the moon and be comforted by the fact that they’re looking at the very same one.

Only in this case we’re watching football. And that’s way better :)

BlogHer and Blog Bling!

19 Jan

Dear Little Man,

We’re sooooo popular. This past Monday, my letter “The ‘F’ Word” was featured on BlogHer! It’s a lovely site full of wonderful women writers — moms, chefs, college students, world travelers, entrepreneurs, poets, artists — all kinds of women with all kinds of interests.

But our letter was an Editor’s Choice and now “The ‘F’ Word” is a Featured Member post! I mega blushed when they told me. So exciting!

It’s a small victory, but hey…we’ll take ’em where we get ’em. Plus they gave me “blog bling” (check it out on the right hand side underneath Little Man’s e-mail address).

Any day where you get bling is a good day.

 

My Son Was Adopted…Now What?

15 Jan

After a baby is adopted, a birth mother doesn’t just go home and pick up where she left off. Everything is different then. Nothing is “normal” anymore. The bed where you slept so comfortably is now the place where you spent your first few minutes of labor. The porch where you like to sit on summer days is now the place where you took all of your maternity pictures. All of your Facebook friends with babies seem like they’re rubbing your face in their motherhood. The sun streaming in through the kitchen windows doesn’t make you smile anymore. Everything feels…off.

That’s how I felt. I felt like I was coming home, but I didn’t belong there anymore. I didn’t fit anymore. Everyone was going about their business but my entire perspective had shifted. My world was different from everybody else’s but I was still expected to live in their world with them. My sense of belonging wasn’t the same. I think that’s because I felt like I belonged with you.

After you went home with The B’s, I made a lot of changes. Not because I planned them, but because I realized I had to. I had to change. I had to do something. Anything to distract myself. Anything to keep moving forward, because if I didn’t, I might get stuck in that sad place forever.

Though I planned to keep living with my parents while I “recovered,” I moved onto campus. Since I lived with them while I was pregnant (my first semester at The University), I had yet to get involved in campus-type stuff. Suddenly I realized that I wanted that college experience (and I do mean suddenly). I decided that I wanted to be the college student that everyone else got to be. So that weekend (yes, that suddenly), I moved out of my parent’s three bedroom, two story house into a single room I shared with one girl and a bathroom that I shared with three.

I became a workaholic. I worked at a restaurant as a server at the time, and I dove into it. I picked up shifts, worked late even if I didn’t have to and went out after my shifts with my co-workers just to make it last longer.

I started running. I ran around campus, and once I discovered the university gym, I ran there. Sometimes, I kept a workout journal to log my miles. Sometimes, I just put on my running shoes and took off and didn’t bother to count.

I joined clubs and went to campus concerts and took up snowboarding (and fell down a lot) and signed up to go to Greece the following summer and declared my major and went on midnight trips to Cookout and basically said ‘yes’ to everything. Except drugs of course. Nancy Reagan need not be ashamed.

You know that saying, “You can sleep when you’re dead”? I took that saying to heart. If I was already in bed and someone called asking me to come out, I got up.

I don’t know if this sounds good or bad, but part of the reason why I became so “do or die” that year was because I figured since I gave you up — since I was going to have to live without you — I might as well live. I was going to live as fully as I could. I owed that to you, but I also owed to to me. I owed it to myself to live a wonderful life.

I hated missing you. It always hurt so bad and since I missed you everyday, I hurt everyday. So whenever I would miss you, I tried to think of how happy you were, growing up with your family. Then, I tried to think about me…I would think about me and how I could be happy too.

For quite a while, I felt guilty for giving you up. I felt like I was being selfish and that if I was less selfish, I would have given everything up to raise you myself. But even then — even thinking that — I still knew I loved you. I loved you so much. And the reason I could never bring myself to give everything up to keep you was because it still wouldn’t have been enough. It wouldn’t have been enough to give you the childhood I had, the life you deserved.

But placing you for adoption didn’t give me “freedom.” It was a sacrifice. It hurt. And while the pain has lessened through the years and through my incredible relationship with The B’s (who I truly owe for taking that pain away), I still miss you. Every day.

But instead of hurting when I miss you, I can smile now.

I can smile because I have updated pictures. I can smile because I can think about how I saw you last weekend. I can smile because I can write to you. I can smile because somehow, missing you gave me new life. You went to a loving family to live a beautiful life and though I felt broken and left behind, I was able to put a new me back together. Someone you can be proud of; Someone who will be able to tell you amazing stories of her Grecian adventures or funny stories about her midnight Cookout runs with her dorm buddies.

And at the end of the day, I want to be able to tell you that all of those stories — of adventure or triumphs or just plain silliness — were thanks to you, and my desire to be someone you take pride in. I’m already proud of you. It’s only fair that it goes both ways :)

Recovery happens. Sadness ends. Time heals. Birth mothers get better and adoptive parents can help them. New life is created…in the form of you and, now, in the form of me. That’s why I have hope. That’s why I have never regretted my decision. Because you are happy — and because of that, so am I. We’re survivors, you and me, and we have our whole lives ahead of us to be incredible. I know you will be. So…now what? :)

Places in the Heart

11 Jan

Dear Little Man,

A good friend of mine (who also writes a wonderful blog!) sent me this quote earlier in the week. She said it made her think of me, and now, it makes me think of you :)

“I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.”

The Mentor

10 Jan

Around the time you were born, I didn’t know any other birth mothers. The closest I had gotten to one was a friend who considered adoption, but then decided to parent. I still have yet to meet very many — I think I’ve only met three in my entire life.

But the first one I met — who I will very aptly name “The Mentor” — was such a huge help to me when I was going through my ten-day interim period, and in the many months after.

Ironically enough, we still have yet to physically “meet.” She was a college friend of one of my best friends, Miss Manhattan. Now, Miss Manhattan had told me about The Mentor and her story, but I had never thought to ask for her information. The Mentor had better foresight — she found me on Facebook and sent me a message a few days after you were born. Our relationship remains Facebook-based, but we follow each others lives (and sons!) like close friends would do.

The very first thing she ever told me was that I was a wonderful mother.

She went on to tell me her story about placing her son, and her feelings about her decision. She didn’t sugar coat anything but she wasn’t harsh either. She was honest. She told me about the days when you feel like you made the right choice and she told me about the days where you feel like you’re signing the papers and watching your son go home with someone else all over again. She was very open with me about her post-adoption experience (which was and continues to be a good one!).

We messaged back and forth a few times. I was able to relate to her in a way that I hadn’t been able to with anyone else. So much of what she said she went through was exactly what I was feeling at the time. She knew what it felt like to know you made the right choice, but to still feel broken over it. She knew what it was like to hate being away from your child but to find peace in knowing that he would know you some day. She knew about the sometimes awkward dichotomy of feeling like a mother but not feeling like a parent. It was so refreshing to know that I was not alone — a saying that J and I ended up building our relationship on.

Her son is almost three years older than you, so she had some comforting messages to relay — like how her son kissed and hugged and loved on her. She talked about when her son started to recognize her and how incredible that makes you feel to know that you are known. She said the older her son gets, the more he understands, and that is the way it would probably be with you too. So far, she’s right about that :)

We talked on and off over the next year or so, but whenever I had trouble adjusting to certain aspects of “adoptionhood” I would message her. I messaged her when you started calling J “mom” instead of me (definitely anticipated, but still a kicker at first). She told me how she got through that period and how she spent quality time with her son. She was able to relate, but she also gave me advice.

It was just so…wonderful to be able to tell someone about my conflicting feelings towards motherhood and have them say, “I know exactly what that is like and you’ll be okay.” Our adoptions were fairly similar, actually. Both of our adoptions were open and are with families who want us “up front and center,” as we called it. The B’s have always wanted me involved in your life (and theirs) and The Mentor’s adoptive family was no different. We both lucked out in that department.

But one thing I will always remember is that at the end of her very first e-mail to me, she told me this: “Just know you are not the only one, and know that I think you are an amazing and strong woman for your choice.”

It was that one line from The Mentor that partly inspired this blog. Though I mostly started it for you, so that someday you could know anything you wanted to about your adoption and growing up, I also started it because other birth mothers deserve to have a mentor too. Having someone to talk to — someone to truly relate to —  can make all the difference in the world for a birth mother.

Though I had many (many, many) supporters — The B’s being a huge one — The Mentor helped to pull me off of the ground and onto my own two feet after your adoption was finalized. She helped to feel not alone. Her help has been more than appreciated over the past couple years, though I don’t think I’ve ever told her enough.

And as I watch (ahem, Facebook stalk) her and her son, I see all of the beautiful things you and I have to look forward to.

It looks like fun :)

Fate and Bookstores

7 Jan

Good things always happen to me around books. I love, love, love to read, so I suppose it makes sense. But the past few times I’ve been in book stores, strange (but wonderful!) things have been happening: I run into old friends (I saw one from middle school the other day) or very helpful strangers (the author of one of the books I was looking at just happened to be in the store and struck up conversation with me).  I met The Boyfriend in a library. Plus, most book stores have coffee shops in them, and if that’s not a good sign, I don’t know what is.

Last Saturday I was in a bookstore with Aunt S. We had just come from lunch and decided to stop in at the Book Exchange. It’s a great little place. The walls are made entirely out of bookshelves and there aren’t really “tables” so much as there are “nooks” with comfy chairs or couches, tucked away behind the shelves, perfect for curling up and reading while you sip coffee or wine. Aunt S and I love to study there during the semester.

So on Saturday, we found ourselves a tiny table with some comfy chairs in between two massive bookshelf-walls. As we’re sitting and talking (which we can do marathon-style for hours) I happen to glance over at the bookshelf right beside our table. It was a glass case filled with books that were over $50 — classics, vintage copies, signed copies of American classics by the original authors. I think we found one for $550!

As we’re looking, I turned my head and sitting (quite literally) just beneath my nose was this:

Little Men

I know it says “Little Men” instead of “Little Man” but still…too close to be coincidence. Speaking of which, I got to see you later that very same day for dinner while you were in town to see C, your biological father. But it’s moments like these — finding Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Men” sitting right beside me at a random table we happened to have chosen — that make me smile and give a nod to the Big Guy (or Girl or…Entity) Upstairs for some truly excellent planning.

It’s nice to be reminded that Someone Else watches over us too :)

A Baby for Christmas

22 Dec

Sitting in the doctor’s office that chilly, December afternoon, all I was thinking about was how pretty the decorations were. There were four or five trees in this one waiting room alone, and they were each adorned with sparkly lights and their own theme. One had a pinecone theme. Another was covered with the pink breast cancer ribbon. They were very festive, which fit with my happy, holiday mood.

This was my second visit to this OB-GYN office. I had been referred there by my regular doctor when a certain Monthly Event stopped showing up, despite the fact that I had been taking…ahem…preventative measures.

Now I’m nobody’s fool (although I do a strikingly good impression of it sometimes). This first month I went without this particular “Monthly Event,” I noticed. And when I say, “I noticed” I mean by day two of the no-show, I was going to the bathroom 20 times a day, hoping (wishing, praying, hoping some more) that it had finally shown up.

It hadn’t.

After waiting another 24 hours (still nothing), I couldn’t take it any longer. My stress level was too high and my patience was naturally on the thin side. I took an at-home pregnancy test. It came back negative. My stress level went back down.

Those results were further confirmed by my first trip to the OB-GYN. After performing an internal ultrasound (which is almost as comfortable as taking a ball point pen and shoving it up your nose as far as it will go), even the doctors didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. The words “endomentrial thickening” were thrown around, but they assured me that that probably meant my Monthly Event was on it’s way. My jittery nerved had been calm ever since then.

So on this second, follow-up visit to the OB-GYN — about one month after my last visit, and a full month and a half after that negative pregnancy test — I was not expecting anything surprising or out of the ordinary. Grandma M had come with me on her lunch break. I figured we’d go in, they’d run a few tests, throw some more medical jargon at me, and I’d be on my way. Maybe Grandma M and I would have time to have a quick lunch before she went back to work.

Eventually, they called my name and I went into the back. When we reached the ultrasound room, Grandma M stayed outside (it’s not something you want to witness, trust me) and I went in and got situated on the chair next to the ultrasound machine. The nurse performing the procedure angled the computer screen toward her (away from me) and began talking to me about holiday plans. We chatted happily about family, holiday traffic, Christmas presents, and other seasonally related things.

Then she asked me this: “So when did you take your last positive pregnancy test?”

Having had it confirmed twice that I was not pregnant, I let the “positive” keyword slip by. “Towards the beginning of November,” I answered, nonplussed. We began talking about how I was starting at a new university in January, while she pressed buttons, clicked the mouse and took still-shots of a screen I couldn’t see.

The next part went by in a blur. I’m constantly amazed that my entire life absolutely changed in less that 30 seconds. That’s all it took. It was one of those moments in life that happens in a flash and in slow motion at the same time. It went like this:

The nurse smiled and exclaimed, “Alright! Everything looks good. The heartbeat is strong.”

Heartbeat…heartbeat…heartbeat??? “Um, what?” I was totally confused. What had a heartbeat?

Next thing I knew, she was turning the screen toward me. “Would you like to see?” she asked me.

And then I saw this*:

Eleven Weeks of Liam

It was you.

“What is that?” My heart rate sped up. I swear I could hear it accelerating.

“That’s your baby,” the nurse said, still smiling, but the first signs of confusion were visible in the creases of her forehead.

Silence. It was palpable. I didn’t know this until afterwards, but Grandma M (who had been listening to our chatter through the door, though she hadn’t been able to make out anything that was being said) thought the immediately discernible silence meant that they had found a symptom of ovarian cancer.

“I’m…pregnant? I’m pregnant?” I was frozen with shock. A tingly feeling was starting in the tips of my fingers and toes and was spreading steadily inward, and frozen though I felt, I realized I was shaking.

That poor nurse — she must have apologized to me a dozen times for “revealing” my pregnancy that way…she had no idea that I hadn’t known, and felt terrible that she had sprung it on me like that. I think I told her not to worry about it. By that point, I was so deeply in shock that I don’t remember what I said. But I remember that I told her I wanted to tell my mom. I remember that she printed off the still-shots she had taken of you (and labeled “baby,” you know, just in case anyone forgot) and said she would lead me to a private room so I could tell my mother.

I didn’t actually, verbally tell Grandma M. I just showed her your picture. She — overjoyed that I didn’t have ovarian cancer — wrapped me in a big, tight hug. And then I hyperventilated.

——————————-

After reading about how shocked I was, I know this may be hard to believe, but I loved you from the second I saw my little black-and-white tadpole-baby and it’s tiny heartbeat. Oh, your heartbeat was the best. Hearing it became my favorite part of my OB-GYN visits later on. But I remember that day, December 22, 2009, I saw your heartbeat and I was amazed. I had helped to create life. I was no longer just me, I was me and someone else. I was going to have a baby. Better yet, I was going to have you.

No other Christmas present will ever top that one :)

————————

*This is Little Man at 11 weeks, not the 8 weeks he was when I discovered him that day. His first ultrasound pictures had a fight with the scanner. They’re no longer on speaking terms.

The No-pocalypse

21 Dec

Dear Little Man,

As I’m sure you’ll hear many years from now, the world was set to end (for the hundredth time) on December 21, 2012. That’s today. I haven’t perished yet, as far as I can tell.

J and I planned out Christmas get-together last week and without really thinking, we said, “Hey, Friday works for me!” not remembering that “Friday” happened to be the end-all-be-all of world happenings.

 

Here is why I don’t accept the December 21st apocalypse theory (a.k.a The No-pocalypse):

– I haven’t graduated college yet. I’m set to graduate in May. I want recognition for all of the gray hairs I’ve earned in the past four years. The world cannot end until I graduate.

– I already bought Christmas presents with what little money I have. I did not buy presents with the anticipation that they would incinerate before they could reach their recipients.

– You can’t rent a car until you’re 25. For some reason, I’ve always wanted to achieve that milestone.

– I want you to be old enough to understand your circumstances: all about your adoption, how it came about, everything since then and everything in between :)

– I want you to be old enough to hug me because you wanted to, and not because I chased you down.

– I want to be a grandma someday. Not for 25+ years mind you, but still.

– I STILL haven’t found out who Ted’s wife is.

– I want to know how mortgages work before I die.

– Actually, maybe I don’t.

– I have never been to see the circus. Neither have you. Go together?

– I’ve always wanted to plan one of those super cute, kid birthday parties that you see on super-mom blogs and Pinterest. You know, the ones with the incredible handmade decorations, adorable cupcake toppers, cute gift bags, etc. In other words, I want to plan a party like J can.

– I’ve never read The Lord of the Rings series. The Boyfriend has informed me that this is unacceptable and possible grounds for a break-up. But I went to see The Hobbit with him earlier this week, so I think we’re still solid.

– I want to see what you’ll look like in a year. And in five years. And ten years. And twenty.

– I want to watch you graduate!

– I want to see if Sports Man grows up to work for ESPN someday. I’m putting money on that.

– J’s craft shop Out On A Limb is just getting started, and is WAY to cute to go up in flames today.

– Because Grandma M, Pop-Pop and I still haven’t decorated our Christmas tree yet.

– The Boyfriend is in a far away land called Cleveland, or The Part of Ohio Where the Browns Are. I’d at least like to give him a good-bye kiss.

– I want you to fall asleep on me like you did when you were a baby, just one more time. It’s the sweetest thing ever.

– I want to provide you with a half-sibling (or two) someday :)

– Because watching you grow is way too much fun to stop now.

 

But here’s the really good news about today. Whether it’s the end of the world or not, I get to spend it with you :)

And no matter what day it is — universally significant or not — there’s no place I’d rather be than with you and the rest of my lovely (extended) family!

Happy No-pocalypse Day!

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