A Note on Love and Hate

I have written a lot about how hate and bigotry really bother me. I think in part that 1.) it bothers any decent human being and 2.) I’m an empath so seeing these types of hateful behaviors really has a physical impact on me.

When I tell people I avoid the news, often they tell me I’m being an irresponsible citizen or they continue to fill me in on every horrifying detail of a news story. Here’s the thing, I stay informed with little snippets sent to my phone from NPR, but I cannot fully immerse myself in a news story. Anyone who has known me for an extended amount of time knows that I’m sensitive and feel all emotions very deeply. All emotions, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m a very empathetic person and if I fully immerse myself in these stories or follow everything Trump does constantly, I would not be able to get out of bed.

I feel like this part of myself became even more amplified when I start teaching. Suddenly, I was absorbing the feelings and thoughts of 30 little people every day, 8 hours per day. And as a teacher, you are told to not show your political affiliations. In fact, at my school, it is specifically stated when you sign your contract for the year and it is in the handbook. Normally, this has been very easy for me. This past election, however, has made it incredibly difficult. Every day I walk into my classroom which contains students from Mexico, Congo, Ethiopia, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Somalia, and several more that I may not be aware of, and see and feel their fear every time something hate fueled happens in this country. They have questions and concerns that I am supposed to answer with “That’s a discussion to have with your family,” but they have not gone to their family they have come to me for help in navigating this scary time. A lot of times I cannot just try to pass it off, their parents are probably just as scared and confused as they are. They came to America looking for hope and freedom and now have been met with some terror. The terror that has been fueled by our own leader.

I realize now that my job is more important than ever. Every teacher’s job is. We must make sure that they feel smart, and loved, and safe every single day. We must be the face of peace and goodness to show them that it still exists and to provide them with hope. We are human, so this is not easy every day. We are tired and frustrated some days so, it is hard to be kind and loving all day every day. Yet we must try.

I would urge every adult, teacher or not, to really consider how they are presenting themselves to the children around them. It is more important now than ever to let your actions speak louder than words. Show humanity, love, and kindness in every interaction possible. Yes, we continue to see and hear horrible things but that is not the majority and more importantly, that was a learned behavior. I’m glad to have seen this quote floating around a lot lately, but I will include it here as well:

 

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Photo Credit: quotestank

 

 

We are all teachers at this point. We need to teach love, especially to those who are showing love the least. Be an example to our children during this time. They hear you, they see you constantly. Be the light for them.

Bucket List Update

I haven’t spoken about my “year of single bucket list” in awhile. It is still a work in progress even if some things have changed slightly. I’m not quite ready to write publicly about some of those changes, but soon enough. Here are some things I have accomplished:

7.) Meditate daily. I miss a few days here and there, but I downloaded the app Simple Habit and it helps so much. Yes, sometimes I only meditate 5 minutes a day but that is alright and it truly does help. I noticed a huge difference a few weeks ago when we started the school year. Yes, there were work irritations, but I was handling them so much better. My first instinct wasn’t to grab a glass of wine and climb into bed. Anyone who works in a school knows this is huge. The obstacle I wasn’t anticipating is meditating with cats in the room. Has anyone ever tried this? It is borderline impossible. They have no idea why you’re sitting still and not petting them.  I mean look at this drama queen right now:

 

12.) Work on my vegetarian cooking. This is still an ongoing work in progress. I have tried and failed plenty of recipes, but also had some successes. I still haven’t figured out the art of a roasted Brussels sprout that doesn’t make me gag, but I’m working on it. Right now my focus is on my overall health and making sure my body is balanced and healthy. So yes, sometimes that still includes chicken. I’m at peace with that.

28.) Refurbish more stuff. I did do this quite a bit this summer. In fact, I have a set of nightstands sitting in my living room that need some work. I’m back at work so finding time is hard, but I do enjoy it so I need to make the time.

29.) Have a patio herb garden. I had basil coming out of my ears this summer. I would still like to add some more herbs and make it a windowsill herb garden as we move into fall and winter. I also have a strawberry plant that is crushing it out there. My jalapeño plants are essentially useless and I killed my tomato plant a week after I got it. I think I’ll stick to herbs.

30.) Practice listening more than talking. Another work in progress but I’m really trying. One area that I’m really working on is trying to avoid giving unsolicited advice or at the very least asking before I start telling people what I think they should be doing. It’s really hard once you become aware of how often you do it.

There are still other things that are ongoing but haven’t been accomplished. Buying my own condo, for example, is a big one. Luckily, I have a few people in my life really encouraging and pushing me to do it. Honestly, this is my new priority. I’ve realized there is a lot of old mental blocks in the home I live in (that’s a story and a blog post for another time).  I really do need a new space to create new memories in. I added a new bucket list item recently and accomplished it, but I will be posting about that separately.  I received such a positive response at the start of this from both friends and strangers and I really appreciate all of you! I even had some women reach out who started their own lists. I am still open to other bucket list options as needed as well or tell me about your lists, I love hearing about them.

A Story of Why I Teach

As I am back at work this week and going through my classroom as well as sitting through the endless professional development sessions, I keep reflecting on why I teach. I keep finding items from past students and looking forward to my new incoming students. I’m trying to maintain my focus this year and put all my energy into my kids. This is the story that was published in the Chickensoup For the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers book this year. It is a true story about a student I had about 3 years ago. The name has been changed to protect the student’s identity.
I will always remember the day that Josh walked into my fifth-grade classroom.
The scowl on his face made me realize I was in for a long year with this boy. Josh was
brilliant. He was doing seventh-grade math with ease. He was an incredible artist, a
beautiful writer, and a great athlete.
Josh was also failing every single class. He would not do what he did not want to
do. Telling him to do something multiple times made the scowl appear and his obstinacy
grow deeper. Even when I went to put my hand on his shoulder, he would recoil like I
had burned him.
Our first few months together were a constant cycle of me encouraging him to do
better, Josh getting angry, and me getting frustrated and feeling helpless. One day, when I
was walking by his desk, I noticed that Josh was drawing instead of writing. As I was
about to redirect this behavior, I noticed how beautiful the drawing was. It was better art
than I had seen some professionals do. I told him how beautiful it was and kept walking
around the classroom.
At the end of the day, all the children packed up, and we walked out to the
parking lot together. After they left, I went back to my classroom and sat at my desk. The
picture that I had complimented was there. My eyes began to tear up as I realized that this
was the first sign of the ice breaking between us.
The next day, knowing very well that he would not want any public
acknowledgment, I privately thanked Josh for his artwork. For the first time all year, I
saw a smile. I noticed as the day progressed that Josh would strike up a conversation with
me, even though it was brief. This from the boy who had avoided me from day one.
These small conversations escalated to jokes and real talks about life.
I soon learned that Josh’s life was not easy. He, like many of his peers at the
school, had been forced to grow up too fast. He was doing his best to stay out of trouble
and make sure his older brother stayed out of trouble, too.
Josh liked a challenge. To motivate him to write an essay, I challenged him to a
race. If he completed the essay, I would have a foot race with him. He accepted the
challenge and completed the essay. As promised, I brought my running shoes the next
day. I had another teacher watch my class while we went outside to race. I knew I was
going to lose but went through with it anyway.
He beat me… terribly. He felt so bad about how easily he had beaten me that he
asked if I wanted a redo. I did not want to be embarrassed twice, so I politely declined.
When we arrived back in the classroom, all of the students wanted to know who won. I
was fully ready to publicly accept my defeat, but Josh announced to the classroom, “That
is between Ms. Blake and me. You do not need to know.” I was stunned by his
kindness and mature attitude.
At the end of the day, while I was walking the kids out to the parking lot, Josh’s
stepsister ran up and gave me a hug as usual. Shortly after, I felt another pair of arms
wrap around my waist. I turned to see Josh, the boy who did not want me to touch his
shoulder, giving me a hug. He looked at me and said, “Thank you for getting me,” and
then ran off to get into his car. That was when the final barrier between us fell.
To this day, I keep in regular contact with Josh to make sure he is doing well at
his new school. I am also the proud owner of several of his original works of art. I had
them framed, and they hang in my home. He is one of the many students who taught me
to never give up on a child. They all want to succeed, and they all want love; all it takes is
a little patience.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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A few weeks, I was laying in bed thinking about relationships; romantic relationships, friendships, and relationships with family. I had just finished reading Geraldine DeRuiter’s memoir (seriously, probably one of my top 5 books right now) and she did a beautiful job describing her relationship with her husband. The ups and the downs and even the point just 4 years into her marriage when she thought it was over, but really they were just going through a rough patch. She could not imagine her life without her husband, they were just struggling.

 I was thinking about the evolution of relationships. I was thinking back to brunch with two of my oldest friends. We met up a few weeks ago and it was wonderful and I loved every second of it.  However, I did notice that I had to adjust my thinking from time to time. We would fall back into old conversations that we had been having for the past 7 years. I remained silent during these parts of the conversation because I realized I just couldn’t contribute anymore. And you know what? It was ok. I just silently listened and enjoyed being present with my friends. In the past, I probably would have gotten irritated announced loudly that we’d already had this conversation 100 times over the past 7-10 years and ask to switch subjects.  Never acknowledging the fact that, if they want to have this conversation again it’s probably still relevant and they possibly still need to talk about those topics. Just because I have changed in those areas doesn’t mean they have and I should not take that from them.

Here was my other revelation, in the past I would have written it off as a loss. “Well, we clearly have nothing in common anymore, guess we aren’t friends.”  I used to be terrible about cutting people out of my life. Now some may argue that you need to do that from time to time and I agree, but the frequency in which I did it was not good.

Regarding romantic relationships, there have been moments where I have wondered if I ended a relationship too soon or if I did it for the right reason. In my adult life, I usually find that I did it for the right reason. It is tricky navigating relationships when you hit that rough patch. It’s hard to decide if that annoying thing about your significant other is a deal breaker or just something irritating you because of another issue you need to work on. As humans, there will be moments of conflict with the people we love and when spending enough time with them, not to mention living with them, they will find new and interesting ways to drive you up a fucking wall. I personally think, (and we all know I’m no relationships expert) is that you have to take the time to breathe and figure out what you are truly feeling about the situation. I’m the queen of “sleeping on it.” I think after a number of failed relationships I have gotten better about listening to my own instincts on whether it’s time to walk away or not. This has been the most important lesson from my “failed” relationships.

You have to know when it’s time to let go and when you’re just going through a rough patch. When you need to put in a little extra work and figure out how to salvage it. Or even better, realizing that you’ve grown into slightly different, better people that you now have to get to know.

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Relationships and Health

I have a very interesting relationship with food and my body. 4 years ago, I was in the best shape of my life. I was working out regularly and eating pretty decently. I also did not drink nearly as much as I do now. Happy hours were an occasional occurrence. My friends and I had other methods of socializing. We went to the gym, we went hiking, and we even went on walks or got coffee. Then, I moved further from those friends. I was in a relationship with someone who did not put value in his health so I began eating like he did and working out less and less.

To top things off, I made friends with other teachers (whom I love more than anything). Happy hours became weekly if not several times per week.  I was drinking way more than I used to. I gained 30 pounds in the first 2 years that I moved to my current city.  Frankly, I felt like shit about myself too. I became an insecure mess of a human being. After my relationship ended, I started to get back into the swing of things with m body. I still felt off. I was spending more time with my friends, therefore drinking more.  About 8 months after my break-up, I wound up in another unhealthy relationship; another person who wasn’t putting as much value on healthy food and someone who enjoyed drinking. In fact, I feel alcohol was what kept our relationship together for as long as it was. That’s typically not a great sign in case you were wondering. Without alcohol our relationship would have flat-lined sooner, hindsight is 20/20. When you are going to happy hours or really any activity where alcohol is involved, bad food choices happen too. I will not say no to a plate of fries or fried cheese if presented with the opportunity.

However, in moments of exploring my health, I came to discover awhile ago that 2 of my favorite food groups destroy my stomach: bread and cheese (really all dairy, but I don’t drink milk often). Yet, I still continue to torture myself with these foods.

Four years after moving, switching jobs, and ending two relationships I am up close to 40 pounds from where I used to be. Obviously, something has to change. I began working out regularly about a year ago without much visible change to my body. Sure, I can do push-ups like a beast and I can sprint for days but there is still something wrong. So now I have to admit what is really wrong, what I eat. For the most part, I’m very conscious of what I eat and I eat relatively healthy. I do still eat (regularly) the foods that make me feel like shit and I definitely drink more than I should. Here’s something else I have noticed, my past relationships have not supported me in a healthy lifestyle. Whenever I become unhappy in relationships my weight goes up. It’s kind of my gauge for how bad a relationship is. So before I get into a relationship too seriously, I want to work on my relationship with food and how I view it.

Recently, I was introduced to Kelly Leveque‘s method of health. I picked up her book Body Love yesterday and I have to say after devouring nearly 170 pages in less than 6 hours I’ m a fan of her message. Food is about balance. It is not about dieting, it is not about shame, it’s about balance and figuring out what your body needs.  She does not advocate for cleanses and crash diets, but education on what food does to your body and more importantly actual science of nutrition. Obviously, that is something that I can get behind.

So today, I start my newest bucket list item that really should have been #1, to begin with: #31- Redevelop a healthy relationship to food and nutrition.

REMINDER: I am moving. Check me out over at likelyspinster.com and on instagram at likelyspinster

Why I’m tired of Overgeneralized comments about Millenials.

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I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about dating and relationships. I came across this one on Forbes “The Return of the Spinster,” from 2015. This article was an interesting read and some of the information was valuable. The article mostly points to be Gen Xers and Baby Boomers being unmarried and childless. It does eventually circle around to Millennials and stating that it is too soon to tell if there is a marriage crisis or baby bust.  I was interested in the topic so I went on a search for more information out there about Millennials and marriage.  This is when shit got real and I almost launched my computer across the room, several times.

The first article came from the website Psychologytoday.com and the article was titled “Too Much Self-
Esteem May Be Keeping Millennials Single.
” Let that sink in for a second.  Millennials are also reportedly the most depressed generation in a long time, yet we may have too much self-esteem? I continued reading about how much self-esteem I apparently have and why it would prevent me from being in a relationship. The article is super patronizing so if you want to be real irritated, please read it. According to the article, Millennials were raised thinking they were perfect and that they only need to worry about themselves, that self-love is all we care about and we lack the ability to connect with other humans. First of all, speaking as a Millennial, I am very well aware that I am a deeply flawed human being. I know what flaws I need to work on and which ones, unfortunately, might be sticking around because that shit is rooted deep. I never in my existence have ever thought of myself as perfect and not needing to grow or change. I’m a fucking train wreck, I get that. I do not feel I am an anomaly because the people I’m closest to understand that about themselves as well. Secondly, I have formed some of the best relationships both romantically and platonically, some of which span 10+ years.

I continued to find more articles repeating the same information, over and over. “Millennials aren’t open to growth and change,” “Millennials aren’t open to criticism,” “Millennials aren’t compassionate or empathetic.”  Apparently, this is why we are single. However, I keep thinking back on my own personal relationship journey. I ended relationships based on very important things, differences that could not be overcome. I wasn’t bored, I didn’t want something new, I would have worked on that shit until the day I died in any of my past relationships. However, they became very physically draining for me; it was stuff that couldn’t be worked on. I do not think it is too much to ask to want to be with someone who can be a good life partner and not settle for less. When you think back to the original purpose of marriage it was a business deal. There wasn’t choice; it was a negotiated deal by your parents. Women didn’t work, their parents were over supporting her so they needed to find someone who could. Fast forward to now, women work. Women hold high-salaried jobs and can take care of themselves. They don’t need someone to help them survive.  Marriage is something entirely different now. We don’t need marriage we either want it because we’ve met some amazing human being we want to build a life with or we don’t want it because we haven’t yet. And you know what? That’s ok. It’s not a Millennial fuck-up, it’s just the way life has changed.

Sure, maybe there are a few Millennials who fit this very general stereotype, but I’m really tired of the blame game. We all come from different backgrounds and we have experienced life differently, we are not all going to be exactly the same. We are not all socially incompetent and self-centered. Everything we do is not necessarily a generational flaw; it’s just how life has progressed.

Note: My website is moving soon. I will continue to post here for awhile as well but if you would like to keep up with me, check out the new blog “Confessions of a Likely Spinster

 

This Is Why I Blog

I am reposting this blog post that I had posted a few years ago. This story is the reason I started writing about my dating experience. I have learned you have to have a bit of a sense of humor to be out in the dating world. Luckily, I’ve had many more bad dates over the years, just none that would potentially get me on an episode of Dateline. Enjoy:

A few years ago I was working at the hotel on a quiet Sunday morning. An extremely attractive man (Seriously, Bradley Cooper’s twin) came over from the restaurant to steal some of the lobby coffee. He was super hot, I wasn’t going to stop him. I started my friendly guest chatter “Good morning, how are you?” etc. We had friendly banter for a few minutes. As he was walking away I said: “Have a good day!” He stopped and came back to the desk. Apparently, that was a trigger of some kind. He asked me how old I was (22 at the time) and told me I “didn’t look a day over 16.” (red flag) He then went on to tell me how beautiful I was and asked if he could take me to dinner I said “yes” against better judgement (he looked like Bradley Cooper quit judging!) He then stayed for awhile and asked me what I was working on and at one point went and sat at the edge of the counter so that he could “have a better view of me” (red flag). He left and 15 minutes later I walked into the office to look at my phone…2 text messages and voice mail from him saying “He’d never felt this way about anyone” (RED FREAKIN’ FLAG).
I still went on the date (I really wanted to be on Dateline). We decided to meet at Macaroni Grill, I had put my friends on call knowing I might end up in the trunk of this guys car (ladies, if you ever think you could be kidnapped or murdered on a date, just don’t go). We walked in and everything seemed fine until the hostess went to seat us. We walked to the first table, however “the lighting was no good”. This happened three more times. 10 minutes later we found a table that was “perfect” by his lighting standards.(red flag) We order drinks. I ordered water not wanting to have any alcohol in my system when he decided to kidnap me. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the evening:

Him: “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”

Me: “I just don’t currently. Why aren’t you seeing someone?”

Him: “I am married…well currently separated. My wife can’t imagine raising children with me because she thinks I’m bipolar. I’m not sure if I am or not. I think I’ll get evaluated but not tell her the results.”

My thoughts: WTF WTF WTF have I gotten myself into????


Him: “I’m sorry I keep staring at your forehead”

Me: “Ummm I guess that’s ok?”

Him: “I just keep picturing you as a little girl fixing your bangs in the mirror. Did you have bangs as a little girl?”

Me: “At one point yes…”

Him: “I thought so…”

My thoughts: Oh god I’m going to die tonight.


Him: “Do you have any Scandinavian ancestry in you?”

Me: “I think I might…”

Him: “I knew that’s why I’m fucking crazy about you”

My thoughts: Again wtf??

Let’s just say the date lasted an hour and I got away as fast as I could. Never heard from him again, never tried to talk to him again. Then about 7 months after that he and his wife came to eat at the restaurant attached to the hotel…with their baby. Not only did they come and sit in the lobby he actually said “hello” to me and waved. Was I an idiot to go on that date? You better believe it. Have I learned to trust my instincts? You better believe it. Given the chance to date another Bradley Cooper look-alike would I put my life on the line? More than likely.  Is it an entertaining story to tell? Absolutely.

What does it mean to be in a relationship?

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Someone recently asked me what it means to be in a romantic relationship with someone. I have to say, I was really thrown off by that question because I had never really thought about it.  You have the conversation where you both agree that you are exclusively in a relationship with one another, that person then receives the “official title” of girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other/partner. But, what does that mean? How do you define that?  Trust me, I struggled with this. I am no relationship expert by any means. I’m not married, but I do love talking to my married friends about their relationships. I do a lot of reading on the topic of relationships too because it does fascinate me, but it is very clear I know nothing about them. I’m learning, like most of us are.  Here is how I would define being in a healthy relationship with someone:

  • Being with someone who knows your flaws and accepts them as is. Sure, they may be super annoying and frustrating but they know it is who you are and tolerate those flaws for all the good qualities you do possess. The reverse is also true; you accept their flaws without trying to change them.
  • On the other hand, if you do want to work on something about yourself, your partner is the person you trust the most to help you with that. This person makes you want to be the best version of yourself.
  • Your partner should challenge your thinking. They will make you consider other possibilities that you never considered. You will not always agree, but if you can at least consider the other person’s perspective I believe that is a good partnership.
  • Over time, this person becomes your best friend and your confidant. The person you trust with your innermost thoughts, hopes, dreams, and fears.
  • You will both have good and bad days; when the other person is feeling weak the other person needs to help them be strong. If you are both weak you need to support each other the best you can. The longer you are with someone the more shit you will go through; you need to be able to support each other.
  • You are with someone whom you can laugh with about really stupid stuff and have inside jokes with that no one understands.
  • When you enter into a relationship, you should be able to picture future with them. If you cannot, get the fuck out.
  • You should feel comfortable communicating your wants, needs, and desires to them. If communication is broken (as I have learned from past relationships) the relationship is broken.
  • You feel safe arguing with them. Again, you won’t always agree but you need to know that a person isn’t going to bring up something from the past in a desperate attempt to hurt you.
  • Hell, you just feel safe with them. A healthy partnership should bring about some amount of peace in your life.
  • There will still be moments where you just suck as people. Someone will say something out of frustration, the other’s feelings will be hurt but you will work through it. Have grace for your partner and understand that sometimes they screw up and so will you. Apologize, work through it, and move on.

These are just some general things that I think need to be part of a relationship. I don’t think you can define what every relationship looks like. I recently read The Real Thing: Lessons on Love and Life from a Wedding Reporter’s Notebook by Ellen McCarthy. Everyone has different advice for relationships, but defining them is another thing. I think the underlying message I would take from the book is that a solid, healthy relationship is one built on mutual respect, trust, compromise, appreciation, laughter, and love.

Vulnerability- why it sucks

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Vulnerability- the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

Being vulnerable is hard and it sucks. I’ve always felt a little vulnerable. I’m the kind of person who wears her heart on her sleeve and cannot hide my emotions. Trust me, I’ve tried. I’ve tried to go into meetings with superiors and have a strong conversation about my needs and then break down crying out of frustration 2 minutes in. I will never be able to be emotionless. I also know that being someone who is highly emotional; I tend to throw up roadblocks for people who are trying to get to know me. I make communication difficult because I do not want to be vulnerable all the time. I don’t like people knowing everything I’m thinking or feeling…again vulnerability is hard and it sucks.

However, it is even more difficult when you are put in a situation with a new person. Someone who doesn’t know you well, but it is trying to get to know you. It is incredibly embarrassing to be sitting across someone having a conversation about life when they say something touching or tell their story and you start tearing up. Or they ask you a question that really cuts to some emotional shit and you try to answer like a normal person but then it happens, you cry and get all sappy.

It’s a whole new layer when that person is someone you have been on a few dates with.  It is a terribly frightening place to be when you meet someone you enjoy talking to and you realize that vulnerability is inevitable. A conversation is going to go to a deep place that triggers something. And fuck… let’s not even talk about how incredibly scary it is to let someone go to those deep places in your brain. That. Shit. Is. Rough.  No one wants to be on a date with the woman who gets super emotional.  At least that’s what I thought. I’ve been on several dates with a man recently who is not exactly an overly emotional or vulnerable person; however, he is patient with my stuff. And let me tell you, we’ve both been down some dark paths in each other’s brains. There have been many late nights, long emotional conversations for both of us. We just share it differently.  I express through tears and him through calm conversation. It’s both emotionally exhausting and emotionally freeing.

It’s a learning experience for me. I’m working on my communication and allowing people to see me as I am, vulnerable and unedited. I realize that you will never find the people who are meant to be in your life if you aren’t 100% you. If they can’t handle you or don’t appreciate who you are, they don’t belong in your life. I’m working on not forcing people to stay in my life or trying to convince them that they like me. You either do or you don’t. I come as is no upgrades here. It’s not easy and I sometimes try to fall back into people pleasing and apologizing for being myself. Again, it’s a journey a long and exhausting one. But I’m learning, we all are.

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