Monday, February 27, 2017

Curmudgeon: A Man Called Ove




Picture the crankiest man in your neighborhood.  If everyone in your neighborhood is perfect... you must live in Utah.  (Just kidding!)  Think about the crankiest man you have met in your life. 
 Got it?  

When I was growing up in Canada, we had a guy that scared the living
daylight out of me.  When I walked to the bus stop, I would give a sideways glance in the direction of his house.  I wasn't exactly sure why I was scared of him 
or why he was so cranky.  He never smiled.  He'd sit on a lawn chair on his porch 
and secretly judge every move that everyone made.
As if Monday's weren't bad enough, I knew that I would get home from school and my mother would have made several loaves of bread and it was my duty to deliver 
a warm loaf wrapped in a dish towel to the neighbor who lived all alone and rarely smiled.
It honestly terrified me!  
(If I had known about Xanax at 10 years old, I would have begged, borrowed, or stole one in anticipation of my bread bearing.)

Now that I'm grown, I realize that things are rarely what they appear to be.
I'm sure my sweet mother knew the story about Uncle Dan.
And she also knew that I needed to overcome my fears.




I just finished this book that reminded me of my neighbor of my childhood.
  Here it is: 

Meet Ove.  (Pronounced Oova) One of the crankiest characters I have encountered in my reading lifetime.  "Cranky" may not adequately cover Ove. He's more of a...

curmudgeon



Do you know what a curmudgeon is?  According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary:
"a crusty, ill-temper and usually old man"
Yup!  That's Ove.  He's the man who enforces all the rules in the neighborhood
He's the man who goes out every morning to make sure there aren't 
cars driving down the "NO CARS" lane.
He's the man who tries hard to commit suicide but fails at every turn.
(I know, that went a little dark, really fast, sorry!)
He's the man who loses his best friend over 
Saabs vs all other cars.
He's the man with strict rules for living and smiles.


But really,
Ove was mourning.  He was mourning the death of his wife.  Through 
flashbacks, we see that the one thing he loved was his wife
Sonja. 
She was everything he wasn't. Yet it worked for them.
Ove took fresh flowers to Sonja's grave every day... pink flowers.
He would sit by her grave and tell her how he loved her, what was going on in the neighborhood, and he would tell her that he'd be with her soon.
(hence, the suicide attempts)

This book shows what can happen when someone actually 
takes the time to show care for an old widower who appears to be the crankiest
man alive.
Parvaneh KNEW!
She, her husband and their two little girls love Ove.
They melt his curmudgeon heart.



I know how it feels to lose the love of your life.  
I know how it feels when people don't understand but think they do know 
how it feels to lose a spouse.
Ove just wanted to be with Sonja.
When something so significant (love, wife, husband, child) is taken from you, I think
it is perfectly fine to be a little cantankerous. 


I could go on and on and on about this story.
There is a movie as well, complete with subtitles (the author is Swedish).
But, read the book first if you can.


Finally...

I am leaving a quote that was the most impactful paragraph in the book for me.
I can relate.
I know.



“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it's often one of the great motivations for the living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.” 

― Fredrik BackmanA Man Called Ove


                      

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Numb: Photoless Edition


1,826 
days since the worst day. 

I have been completely overcome with emotion off and on since February began.  At times I feel guilt, regret, and weak.

Numb is the best word I can come up with.
I've questioned if I need therapy.  I've questioned if I need medication.  I have questioned if I should just shake my fist to the stars and yell, 
"You get this one God.  You win."


I looked up the stages of grief because, five years should make everything okay and make me "right" again.  Don't you think so?  I thought I could tick them off one by one to say, "see?  I've conquered them all and can move on now!"
(Source: http://www.recover-from-grief.com/7-stages-of-grief.html)

Let me list the "stages" of grief.  And, also let me give my own uncensored interpretations of the stages. (The numbering system that shows below has nothing to do with anything.  Please ignore!)

  1. SHOCK & DENIAL-
    You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
You will react to learning of the loss with FULL awareness that it happened... especially if you are the one who discovered the body.  There is absolutely NOTHING that you can do to "avoid the pain".   It was real... my husband was dead.

  1. PAIN & GUILT-
    As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.

    You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
Guilty feelings? Immediately following, and ever since, for not taking him to the hospital the night before.  Even now, I can't let that guilt go. I have guilt of being angry at him for being sick and if he would have just done this or that, he'd still be here.  I have guilt for resenting the life he had before mine where he raised four beautiful children and was healthy.  Guilt, guilt, and still more guilt.  It never goes away.  This is a phase that comes and goes when you least expect it.   And, probably the worst guilt of all... sometimes, a little thought would whisper in my head that maybe it would be better for him if he did die to relieve his pain, to lessen my worries.  Now, that is selfish and greedy.  I urge anyone reading this to read or watch the movie "A Monster Calls".  I bawled through the entire thing.  I almost felt it was written for me and all those who grieve in a way that creates shame and guilt and secret thoughts.


The only time I really felt anger was at the family gathering on the night before Terry's funeral.  My brother, Bruce (who had travelled from Vancouver, BC) and we ended up alone in the hallway together.  We chatted a bit and then I just said "I hate him!  I hate him for leaving us!"  Bruce took me in his arms... my  only sibling who could fully understand my anger and loss.  He just held me while I fell apart. It only lasted for a very short time.  Bruce has his own story to tell with it's own twists and turns.  I would let him tell his own story as it isn't mine to tell... except to note that he lost TWO of his children in the same car accident several years earlier.  One daughter, a young mother, and one son who was still in High School.  Bruce knew.  Bruce knows.

As far as "bargaining", I never did because I knew Terry wasn't ever coming back. Plus, why bargain with a God who would do something so cruel as to take away my first true love way too soon.

"DEPRESSION", REFLECTION, LONELINESS-
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.

During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.



Oh boy!  The one phrase that kills me over and over again is, "You will see him again!" "God needed him more than we did."  "Blah!  Blah!  Blah!"  I'm not listening to you.

This weekend, yes, I have experienced the true magnitude of my loss.  Yes, it depresses me.  Yes, I isolate myself on purpose.  And YES I reflect and reflect and reflect.  I have thousands of memories that I treasure.  Over time, I will forget them or they may become clouded.  That thought terrifies me and it's then that I mention him to real live people.  My love can't be measured or understoond.
  1. THE UPWARD TURN-
    As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slight
    Iy 
  2.  I agree with this statement.  Life does become calmer after a while. I can look at his belongings now and can sort through what I want to keep, give away, or donate  BUT, he's still there in the back of my head telling me to "Get rid of it all.  It's just junk."  No, sorry, that's not going to happen.
  1. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-
    As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.
This one happened about a week after I (along with some 60 people including some I have never seen, showed up on moving day and move me to my new home.  I have nieces who send me surprises through the mail during February)  People are good... it I let them be.

Honestly, I am an optimistic person who people look at and automatically think I'm happy-go-lucky. .. balanced.  I DO look forward to seeing and doing awesome things.  I KNOW I'm okay that way. I can find joy in most situations.  

If we could just block February, that would solve my deeply emotional anxiety concerning the big fat hole Terry left in our family.


After thinking over why I feel more upset over this anniversary is (other than marking a big year... (FIVE years!)  time is that one of my most dreaded fears from the beginning are now manifesting.  

•  I'm l feel like I'm losing touch with Terry's kids.  We text, we Instagram, we group text sometimes. But it's not like before.  People have lives to live and families to raise. Life gets busy.  I get that.  But, when I'm the last to know of a suffering  grandchild, or parents and children with celebrations of promotions, and milestones accomplished... my heart hurts.

I remember after the funeral, I hugged Terry's daughter, Melissa.  I whispered in her ear, "Please don't forget me.  You are my link to him."  His children really are a part of my life and I love each and every one of them with my whole heart.  But, people move on and... I'm the step-grami and shouldn't expect to be at the top of their lists.  I understand that.  It's hard for me to remember that life moves on with or without me.  I am dispensable .  It hurts.  But I understand. (However, I refuse to turn into Grandma Neen!)

•  I worry about my own daughters and their families.  About three darling granddaughters he never met.  He would be the doting grandparent.  I can visualize him with each one.  He would love to hear Eloise read to him.  He'd enjoy cuddles from Hazel.  He'd fight people just to hold Poppy.  He would think Zoe is the funniest little kid he'd ever met and he would melt at Zoe's toothy smile!!

•  I wondered if I would make it this far.  Honestly.  I have not exercised or been at a healthy weight for a long time.  In short, I let myself go and I'm so upset with myself.

•  Considering  I believe in (sort of) an afterlife, I worry that he has found someone else to love.  That would be awesome for him... not awesome for me.  In my church is is understood that polygamy will be reinstated in the after life in order to receive "exaltation"!  If that turns out to be true, I would rather live in Hell. True or not, I still worry about it.  And I hate the notion. (Someday I will be brave enough to write a post about my feelings toward the religion in which I was raised.)

•  I worried about contact with Terry's extended family.  I haven't seen his brother, sister, nor any of their children since the funeral.  I miss them.  


So, here I sit... numb.  I'm not feeling anything good OR bad.  Just counting down until tomorrow is over.

Monday, February 13, 2017

My Muslim Friends And A Story (Warning: long)



I have a story to tell that is 32 years in the making.  That story will start and end after I post a few photos first.  32 years ago, I was living in Colombo, Sri Lanka (11 months), Singapore (1.5 months), and Malaysia (1.5 months).  I began the journey in June of 1983 and ended in November 1984.

First, let me raise my hand high that I have, indeed, talked to a Muslim face to face.  In fact, I've spoken to many, many Muslims and have close friendships with a few.  I have visited their beautiful mosques, seen them pray (at all hours of the day... seven times, in fact).  Imagine ME!  A little Mormon girl from Cardston, Alberta Canada, strolling through a mosque, teaching English to many Islamic people, feeling the reverence as they pray, admiring their dedication to their religion by wearing sacred pieces of clothing that show reverence for their god.  

You may think I was freaked out.  NOT for one second.  I was wide-eyed, yes, to see new culture and religion but... it was the most incredible experience of my young life.  How lucky I am to have had that wonderful experience.  But, my memory is long and keen and I remember how it looked, smelled, and felt to be in the presence of so many different cultural and religious lifestyles.  

Let's take a look, then on with my promised story...


 The most beautiful mosque (and the tallest) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


 Same mosque on the inside.  These halls were silent.  The most silent moments I had ever experienced in my life.  Soft sounds could be heard in the distance of Muslims in prayer to Allah.



The Muslim women pray on long white sheets about 3/4 of the distance from the wall where the men pray. 
 



When entering a mosque, shoes are left at the door and all women must cover their heads.  Here's proof I obeyed all the rules and felt honored.  It was peaceful and beautiful.



 Outside the mosque with six lovely ladies.  There was a language barrier but the eyes can speak volumes.  I was so blown away to be standing there with them. I wanted to
hear their stories... every one.


 These three school girls were headed to their studies, at the same school.  All were Muslim.  All dressed according to their particular orthodoxy.  They each spoke English and told us about their studies in Malaysia.

Sri Lanka


 This is one of my all-time favorite photos.  This beautiful woman is Zaira!  She was in my 6-month Spoken English class.  She is a Muslim.  Her wedding was incredible. 
 Look at the love.  



This is a page from my scrapbook.  The top left is an actual "Prayer cap" purchased on the street from the men in the photo next to it.
Those cute boys were at the only "hamburger" restaurant in the city! 


I was invited to the wedding of my friends Nuzath and Amal.  It was THE most incredible wedding I have or have to date EVER been to.  They served us an entire meal of chicken biryani (all 400+ of us).  We watched the Muslim wedding rituals (which were beautiful).  So very memorable!


SO... Who is Nuzath?  
Nuzath is a jeweler.
He is the son of Zubair.
They pray in their small closet at their jewelry store SEVEN times a day on their prayer rugs.
They were the jewelers I purchased many beautiful pieces for my mother, my sister-in-law, and her mother.
They were the jewelers I took any couple or tourist stopping through on their way to India. 

They invited us to their home to feed us.
They were kind.
They were extremely warm.
They were generous...


Here they are... son with his father. 
My friends.
My friends who are Muslim.


My friends who, on one of my last days in Sri Lanka, as I was making my rounds and saying my "good-byes", they were at the top of my list.
As I tearfully said goodbye and thanked them for always welcoming me to their shop and taking such good care of my friends I had brought in over the fifteen months I was there...
Zubair asked me to sit down.
He pulled out a large ledger (no computers at this point) and turned to a page
(apparently, my  page)
He ran his finger down the figures then asked me to wait a moment and he disappeared into the back of his shop.

When he returned he had two beautiful Ceylon sapphire gems that were over a carat a piece.  He said:
"THIS is your commission for bringing us so many customers!"

I was shocked!  I had no idea, nor did I expect anything.
Just as I said... generous.
He wouldn't take no for an answer and so I took home the two stones and have looked at them in their little original box for the past 32 years!!!




This past Christmas, I decided to do something with the sapphires.
I have two lovely daughters who are now mothers and I wanted something extra special for them this year.
I searched for a local jeweler and found this guy:


Mr. John Beesly.
I LOVED his small, messy office.
His "cash only" policy.
His advice about life:  "Keep a stash of cash between your mattresses!" 
And, I loved what he did with my precious jewels for 
MY precious jewels. (awwwwwe!)

I decided on pendant necklaces with beautiful gold chains.
I hoped my dear girls understood what a long, long, journey of love these beauties have been through.
The stones traveled over 8,265 miles...
from Sri Lanka to Canada to the US then back to Canada and then back to the US.

I loved them all my life.
But when I found something I loved more, 
Melissa and Erika,
my daughters,
I was finally able to pass them on.

All thanks to my amazing Muslim friends in a little shop, in Colombo, Sri Lanka,
in 1985!







Saturday, January 14, 2017

An Update on my Bucket List

Well, let's just say that I haven't gotten very far.  I finally saw Adam Levine in concert with my girls.  It was so much fun.  I sold some doodles and made it to Europe.  And, yes, I am now past Level 200 in Candy Crush!

Three years since I wrote this list and I can see that some of my items are things I'm no longer interested in doing.  I can take them off, right.

For instance.  I no longer want to learn to groom dogs, ride a mechanical bull, nor take a week off of all things technical (I love it too much.)

I would also like to add a couple of things.  For instance:  Watch all Oscar nominated videos before the Oscars is aired each year, learn how to sew a zipper into something, live authentically to who I am inside, get healthy for my grandkids and myself, and smoke weed... just once!  (Don't be mad)

So, you see, the thing about a bucket list is... it changes.  It probably will change each year or sometimes even day to day.  We evolve.  We change.  Change is good!


• Plant a full on vegetable garden...and keep it alive!
•Visit Washington D.C
• Learn at least five "go to" origami sculptures
See Adam Levine Live
• Learn to make sushi
• See the Mona Lisa in the Louvre
Go on a cruise
• Learn to groom dogs
• Learn the Thriller dance routine
• Run a marathon Run Run another 5K
• Round out my list of continents:  Africa, Europe, Australia, and Antarctica)
• Ride a mechanical bull
• Visit the Galapagos Islands
• Go back to Sri Lanka
• Embrace Veganism for at least one consecutive year
• Watch every movie to ever win the Oscar for best picture award
• Attend a "Forks Over Knives" convention
• Ride a camel on a Wednesday  (get it?  Hump Day!)
• Stay up all night and go straight to work the next morning
• Bake a bagel from scratch
• Visit all 50 states
• Walk through a drive-thru
• Be on a game show (preferably Hollywood Game Night, The Price is Right, or Jeopardy)
• Be on a reality TV show
• Get my National Board Certification
• Attend EVERY grandchild's baptism (just like my parents did!) [already blew that one!]
Sell some doodles
• Refinish my bedroom furniture
• Do Habitat for Humanity
• Learn to play the harmonica
• Tour the "Downton Abbey" house
• Learn five magic tricks to mystify my friends
• Teach abroad for one year
• Learn to shoot a pistol
• Eat at the number one ranked restaurant in the world:  El Celler de Can Roca (Spain)
• Take a one week hiatus from technology
• Drive on the Autobahn
• Attend Mardi Gras
• Chase a tornado Chase an ice cream truck
• Try my hand at geocaching
• Chop vegetables the way professional chefs do
•  Meet up with my online/real life friend, Pam, every year.
•  Teach school abroad for at least one year.
• Learn to ski (I live in Utah!  I should know this by now)

Get to level 200 on Candy Crush (so sad)
• Become a Yogi!  (Yoga expert)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Whoa! Didn't see that coming!

First of all, let me say that I turned my calendar page.  Yay!  Go me.

Next, I have been thinking about all the things that sneak up on me and rattle me when I least expect it.  I think about Terry every.single.day.  Every thing, every place, every decision, every worry, involves me picturing what his opinion would be if he were here.  But, he isn't, and I am the ultimate decision maker about my reactions and decisions.  At least I know I'm still giving him reference.  Though I know, it is futile.

I miss him.

I miss him in a way that no one will ever be able to understand. And, though he is in my thoughts on a daily basis, in the end...it's just me.  And I keep moving.  Keep on without him.

I've been thinking that as the second anniversary of my boyfriend approaches, that I'm doing pretty well.  I've got this.  Time passes.  I should be over this by now.  Nope.  I have discovered that small things happen that show up out of nowhere and shake my soul.

For example:  Last week, we (the girls, their husbands, and children) went to Cafe Rio.  Erika and Tyler are moving to Southern California soon and taking my little darling grand girls.  We keep having "Good bye dinners"!  It's great. We laugh and enjoy food together.  Bask in the cuteness of Eloise and Hazel.  It's the best.  And, while I'm going to cry and cry when they actually leave me here, I am just drinking in the happiness we all have when we're together.  Happy as little clams.  (How are clams happy?  I never got that one.  Oh well.)

Then, when I least expect it, and for pretty crazy reasons, something happens and I'm filled with longing for Terry.  After our dinner, as we prepared to leave, I saw one of Melissa's friends from High School.  He gave me a long, tight hug.  The kind of hug that isn't just a regular hug.  I don't know if you've ever experienced this kind of hug.  I call it the "You don't have to say anything" hug.  His soul told mine that he missed Terry and that he was so sorry for the void left in my life because he had a hole in his, too.

In that five full second hug, I relived those content feelings of many weekends where our house was full of teenagers who were comfortable in our home.  The friendships and fun.  The thousands of fruit snacks and cans of soda.  The games.  The noise!  (Oh, that noise.  I loved it!) The second hand couch those kids put on our porch to have a place to hang out.  And I KNEW they were there because they loved Terry.  Of course, my daughters were gorgeous and pretty awesome and so were the other teens I helped raise who were also there.  But...in the end...they loved Terry the most.  They were there because Terry made them feel at home and special.  Sam's hug reminded me of that.  I cried in the car the whole way home.

Then, just this past Wednesday, I was rushing into my classroom to start the school day.  I had been gone from those dolls Monday and Tuesday because of meetings so I was extra excited to be back.  As I hurried along to put all of my "stuff" down, I fell off of my favorite, adorable shoes and broke my ankle.  Not pretty.  But, I didn't cry.  It hurt but I was mostly laughing at myself because I kept picturing my fall. (Why do we laugh when people fall down?  Because it's hysterical, that's why!)   The administrators and other teachers came to help me out.  But, before I could get up, I was told I had to give a call to Worker's Comp to give my information.  No problem.

That was the second thing this week that I didn't see coming.

Operator:  Name?
Me:    Tami Anderson
Operator:  Birthdate?
Me:  June 7, 1963
Operator:  Marital Status?
Me: .....umm....that's a hard one.

I looked at all the people staring at me.  Then fixed them on my best sister/friend Kathe and started sobbing as I willed myself to say:  Widow

That's a hard word to say.  If you've ever had to say it when you're describing yourself, you know what I mean.  It was really the first time I'd said it out loud.  "Widow"  I hate that word.


So, now I'm bracing myself for the coming week.  I realize it will be of no use.  I can be as strong as I will myself to be.  But, guess what?  Somethings, you just don't see coming.






Saturday, February 1, 2014

Why I Will Always Hate February




February is the pits!  Valentine's Day without a my valentine.  President's Day when all the good presidents are dead.  Punxsutawney Phil will most likely see his shadow tomorrow...six more weeks of Winter.  Erika and Tyler are moving to So. California (but, I'm not going to talk about that).  The Olympics start on the 7th (yay!) but will have to close on the 23rd (boo!).  They're in Sochi, Russia (where??) and the public restrooms there have double toilet stalls (double boo!!).

Worst of all, it will be the second anniversary of my boyfriend's untimely death.

Last year on February 1st I wrote about "Turning Pages".   Calendar pages.  I wrote about how difficult it was to physically turn the January page to February.  It would somehow reinforce that my Terry would be gone for an entire year.  Impossible.  As if not turning a calendar page could bring him back.  As if.  But, I eventually turned it and the world didn't fall apart.  Most likely because it had already done so a year before.  You can read that post here:  http://candadiantami.blogspot.com/2013/02/turning-pages.html if you are so inclined.

So, here I am facing another turn of the calendar.  It has got to be easier this year right??  I mean, two years is a long time.  I should be a little more "together" when it comes to silly little calendars.  I've learned many things over the past two years.  One being, I can NEVER just assume that my life and feelings will play out the way I imagined them.  This crazy heart inside has a mind of it's own and is usually connected to my tears.

I faced my beautiful new calendar from Melissa Rae last night.  It was like facing off with a boxing opponent.  If I turned January to February, I just knew I'd get punched in the face.  So, I left it on January again.  Take THAT, February!

Last night I reread all of my blog posts from last February...the year anniversary of Terry's death.  I was sobbing my eyes out (as I knew I would) and feeling all of those feelings all over again.  I should have stopped.  But, it felt good to hurt.  What?  I know.  I can't describe it.  Sometimes when I hurt, I feel better.  Maybe I need a therapist.

So, after reading the post from February 1, 2013, I remembered that I had Eloise with me last year.  As luck would have it, I have her this year as well.  Just the two of us.  We went to lunch with some friends then headed out to the Provo Cemetery to visit Pop Pop.  We arrived to find a LARGE group of people waiting to bury their departed loved one.  We walked closer and I started to worry that the group had congregated on top of Terry's spot.  Getting closer and closer,  I could feel all of these wonderful people actually exuding a palpable love for their dear one.  It was peaceful.  Like an invisible shield around that sacred occasion.  We found my boyfriend's spot...within three feet of the mourning family.  We'd have to make it quick.  There wasn't enough snow to fashion snowball hearts like last year.  Just some hard snow/ice left over from the last snowfall.  So, we made heart imprints with our feet, said "We love you, Pop Pop!", and that was it.  A tradition has begun.

I guess I can be grateful that it isn't a leap year and that February is just 28 days long.  Hopefully, I'll have turned that calendar page by then.


                     



This photo has me so confused.  Those hearts are actually pressed into the snow by our shoes.
I have stared at it in every possible way and I can only see them
popping up.
I'm not going crazy...am I?
Please tell me you see it that way.





Thursday, November 28, 2013

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving



I LOVE the message of this video.  Every November, it causes me to reflect about what I'm grateful for...family, friends, food, a job.  Thankful to have loved a wonderful man who shaped me into the person he left behind to wallow in self-pity every now and again.  But, I love those who have blessed my live even in the tiniest of ways.  So...thank you!  I appreciate each one of you.

                       

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