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Happy Is As Happy Does

It’s funny, after weeks of not writing, I’m back with an awful lot to say, but don’t want to word vomit too many posts. I have a few posts in process (one is long, complicated and detailed) but while I’m working on the heavier posts, a little lightheartedness is in order. They say the key to happiness is someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. I suppose that explains my mood lately…I’m giddy. I’ve currently got all three.

I came into 2019 with an itch for change. A change in look, a change in the daily, and a change in scenery. So far, all three have been in process. I cut off over a foot of my hair, there have been super positive changes at work, the school project, and now I have some things lined up in the future I am looking forward to.

So, the Vegas trip? I. CANNOT. WAIT. I am unable to hide the excitement of a new experience for a few days with my bestie. We have a few thrill seeking activities in the works, and maybe a show or two. Honestly, I am looking forward to hitting the pool and wandering the strip. I was in need of a new swimsuit, and happened to find a new one (with tags) on Poshmark that I fell in love with, except it wasn’t my size and the style is discontinued. After a long, arduous search, I found the same one on Ebay, new with tags, in my size, cheap! Thrilled to pieces I bought it. It’s the little things sometimes that bring a huge smile. Hopefully I don’t look like a sausage when it arrives, but even if it looks bad, I have time to resell it and call it a day. I am realizing more and more how much I really do want to travel. I saw a meme on facebook the other day that talks about how people spend 10 bucks a day on lunch, not realizing that it works out to close to 900 bucks in 3 months. Those little extras add up, and if we cut out a few things, travel is in our reach! My goal is to take the family on a vacation somewhere every year, or maybe even two trips. There’s nothing like a fresh location to put things in perspective.

Also on the list to look forward to is a big family vacation. This one is super important because I think we could all use some downtime before the hectic season begins. This year we decided to team up with some other family members and go for a week of relaxation a little closer to home than our England jaunt. I won’t lie, I definitely want to get us all back to England (my kids haven’t stopped raving about that trip, even saying they preferred it over Disney) but I think a change in scenery is in order. Maybe next year we’ll head back. This year we’re headed for a week on a ranch near a lake. A little bit of land activity, a little bit of water sports, and something for every one of us. I’m looking forward to having downtime with the husband. He busts his ass daily and I know some relaxation would do him good. He often doesn’t get the credit he deserves for all he does, and he works insanely long hours. Time off does him good.

I managed to book a late fall trip to see a favorite drag performer of mine, and splurged a little to get a meet and greet. I always said if this particular person comes around, I’d want to do the M&G, so I stuck true to that. I’m going with one of my favorite people, and I know it will be a great time. I love a good comedy show, and I love drag queens. This is the perfect combination of both.

The combinations of trips and a show has me excited for this year. I’m excited about how well the school project has come together. I’ve got a great tribe of easygoing, no bullshit people in my life. My husband and kids bring me joy. What more could a girl ask for? Of course, life isn’t perfect, but I choose to be happy, and I always keep something on the horizon to look forward to on those tougher days.

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She’s Got Another Project

Every now and again, something touches my cold, dark little heart and warms it. Or, sometimes it digs in my eyes and makes them leak a little. When this happens, I am often pulled into one of my “projects” as they have come to be known in our house. As cynical, grumpy, and sarcastic as I am, I am almost an eternal optimist. After all, I am a mom. When you’re a parent, if you worth the honor of being called that, since so many deserving people aren’t, you have to have an optimistic view to a certain extent. We have to raise strong, kind, independent children to live in a world that frankly, is pretty messed up. Part of that optimism is living in one’s own bubble probably more than we should. After all, everyone has their own problems, their own responsibilities, and it’s easy to wrap oneself up in that little bubble because let’s be honest, you can only focus on so much at a time. Most of my projects and stepping out of my bubble happen when I probably don’t need it to.

Some of my attempts to help others have backfired horribly. So horribly, in fact, that it became a source of amusement for my family, sort of a shaking one’s head and chuckling at how bad things went. There was the time I stopped to help a blind person navigate a busy parking lot. I almost got hit by a car and ended up in a loud argument with the driver. I tried to feed a homeless woman, and then went to give her my gloves and hat out of my car since she didn’t have any and it was brutally cold. Stupid me locked myself out of my car and had to use the last moment of my cell battery to call someone to come get me. In the meantime, I was stuck in the snow with a homeless woman who turned out to be mentally ill, telling me stories about people getting cut up with an ax. Not my most comforting moment, for sure. Of course, she had my hat and gloves at this point, and I was super cold. That being said, we had a nice chat, despite the ax murder conversation, and I still think of her to this day (I didn’t see her around much after that afternoon). There was the time I helped the woman hospitalized with what turned out to be cancer by feeding her cats and looking after them. She had neglected to tell me she hadn’t changed their litter box in months, and I had to navigate and clean an entire floor of a turd minefield. I came home and wanted to light myself on fire. After getting everything cleaned, I looked after her cats and home, making sure to turn lights on and off, shoveling the snow, and a team of people helped get her furnace fixed and oil put in. When I headed in for surgery last year, the woman who took over was positively mental, and started harassing me. She ended up moving away after the state was called in and she was accused of elder abuse.

Last month, I found out kids at our school didn’t have coats, right before a polar vortex that slammed the country. I dove right in, collected over 150 coats in 4 days, as well as hats, gloves, scarves etc. This spiraled into a bigger project, where our kids in need can get items they need for free from our “kindness closet” which is currently being set up in the school. I am overjoyed by this and am so proud I got to help.

The other day, I got a call from my neighbor, who said her coworker had dropped off some supplies for the kindness closet. I went over and there were bags all over her porch filled with brand new huge boxes of ziplock bags (great for toiletries, and singling out new underwear or pairs of socks for if little kids have an accident), feminine products (some of the kids don’t have these at home, sadly, and the nurse has been buying them out of her own pocket). There were also some coats. Lastly, there were bags and bags of books. It appears the doner has kids and cleared out all their bookshelves, and by the looks of it, the family loves books. I wasn’t sure what to do with those, as they were out of the realm of my project. That being said, I was grateful to have them, as I was sure I could find a home for them.

I loaded up the car with stuff for the closet, including my cart. I have a little collapsible wagon that has been a godsend to me in my endeavors with the coats and closet. I load it up to the brim and head in the school easily (although navigating the multitude of security doors is no joke dragging a heavily filled wagon sometimes). After I dropped the items off, I wandered down to the library and met with the librarian. I asked if she would be at all willing to take used books as a donation. Her face lit up and she said she ABSOLUTELY WOULD. She asked why I was donating them and I explained I was “the coat lady” as a lot of the staff knew about the coats but didn’t know who I was, and that someone had generously donated books that I wanted to find a good home for. She and I had a chat about how exciting the closet was going to be for the students, and I headed home to get the books.

The books were in multiple bags on my neighbor’s porch. I now had to be a porch pirate and go grab them. I got really nervous someone would call the police because there has been so much package theft recently. I half expected to have the cops show up and knew it would be awkward explaining what I was doing. I shuffled back and forth with bags and bags of books, loading up my car. I then went upstairs and emptied my daughter’s bookshelves of all the books she had outgrown. There were a ridiculous amount of books. I’m a huge fan of reading and have always told my kids, “you may not always get a toy, but you may get a book”. I really try to encourage reading. I ended up making two trips to the school to drop off books.

When I showed up, the librarian had me go into a room with a counter. There were kids in the library and they came to help unload the books. They were chatting excitedly. “I can’t WAIT to read this!” “Look how beautiful this one is! Look at the pictures!” “I want to read this one FIRST! One girl was mesmerized by a pop-up book, opening and closing, her lips moving slightly as she read the words. She looked up and told me she loved that book. I was overjoyed. Seriously. These kids were just so happy and grateful. These books made them excited about reading. It was awesome!

The excitement on their faces must have warmed my cold heart again, because now that I’m not the “coat lady” I’m turning into the “book lady” for a while. I was out last night picking up and messaging people about donating books.

Now here’s the thing. Where is the bad part of such a project you ask?

The bad part is getting my bubble burst. When I was in the school, unloading books, the librarian and I got to chatting. She is clearly, like me, a lover of books. She also loves the kids. She confided how super excited she was to get the books, and kept picking up various ones to admire them all. She commented “I can’t believe this! This is so awesome! This book alone is $16 new!”. The reason for her excitement? Her annual budget to buy books with is VERY low. over 500 kids in the school and her budget is about $3k. Now, three grand sounds like a lot of money, but when you think of it, it really doesn’t stretch when you need to buy supplies and books for over 500 kids. She also lost some funds this year despite the BOE moving tons more kids into our school (I’ve talked about our redistricting in prior posts). She has to be so selective, so careful, to get as much as she can for those kids, but while staying in a tight budget. This issue was made more complex by the district moving a whole lower grade into our school, so much of the budget had to go to buying age appropriate books for those kids. I also learned, sadly, that some of the kids in the school, don’t even know their letters. This hurt my heart. Most of the kids came in from other schools, and I can’t fathom how the kids were pushed ahead from Kindergarten and first onward not knowing these basic skills. It’s as if they are being set up to fail.

I am a firm believer in the power of books. I can often tell a frequent reader from a non-reader by looking at how they express themselves. Frequent readers often pick up really good vocabulary skills, spelling and grammar. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t foolproof, as you can see by my blog. I make mistakes all the time! That being said, reading opens up new worlds and opportunities. You can learn to do just about anything by reading and researching it. Reading is a game changer. Seeing kids being passed from grade to grade without those basic skills is heartbreaking. It only gets harder for them, and frankly, the system is failing them. School will become a hardship, and those kids are more likely to struggle and dislike school. This may cause more to drop out early, or not go on to next level.

This has been bothering me to no end. I hope the kids being in our school will get the help they need that they may not have gotten before. I am hoping that some of the books taken in will be helpful to those that need them.

My son and I discussed this later in the evening, when I explained my sadness over the situation, and my frustration that our schools are struggling to get the supplies and books they need. He mulled it over and said he’s going to talk to his guidance counselor about setting up a school to school tutoring program between the middle and elementary school. They do this with another school in town (my son has been a part of the tutors) but he wants to extend it to his sister’s elementary school as well. Both children sorted their bookshelves and packed up bags and bags of books to donate.

I couldn’t be prouder.

At the end of the day, they are learning a valuable lesson here. They are learning they can make a difference. Even kids can make a difference. Small steps make huge changes. I think they are also seeing that while we don’t always have money for everything they want, they have what they need, and they are growing more aware that needs are what is important. They are seeing that others don’t always have what they need, and they are trying to find ways to help those people and make a difference in what ways they can. Sometimes, we don’t have the money or items to help, but others do, and they are willing to donate those items if you are willing to do the work. If you’re willing to coordinate, collect, and drop off, people will HELP you. If you ask the right questions, you will get the answers you need.

As for me, I learned a harsh lesson myself in all of this. Folks often hide that they are struggling. Sometimes you have to ask the right questions to find that out. I didn’t know our school was struggling because frankly, they are doing what they can and didn’t advertise that fact. They are so focused on doing what they can and I don’t think they normally ask parents for help in that way.

Our schools need help. I don’t think it’s just my school. I think MANY schools have needs that most of us don’t even consider. Unless you personally are deeply struggling, it may not even occur to you how deep the need is. I admit, I was blissfully unaware that some of the things I am now learning about were issues. I assumed things were fine. I assumed wrong.

Creating Happiness

This year I started off super antsy. After coming out of a year where the family and I took an amazing trip back to England, I came eager to travel some more. I always come back from England, where I was born, feeling nostalgic, yearning for a simpler, more country based life, and feeling a strong pull to go back. January has felt like it’s been 85 days long already, and I found myself starting the month off NEEDING change in whatever form I can get. I need some change, and I need things to look forward to. It brings me happiness.

I’ve always been a firm believer that one CHOOSES to be happy. As someone who grew up struggling with depression and anxiety, I had to make some solid life changes. It had become so bad I was in a very dark, sad place. I woke up one day and realized just how bad it had gotten, and knew something had to change. Depression is much deeper than a simple attitude shift, trust me, I know. That being said, the first step for me in learning to manage and come out the other side of depression was to find ways of changing my mindset. The first thing I needed to realize was that I can’t always change a situation, but I can change my mindset about how to deal with it. I can choose how I look at things, or research things to learn to see things a different way. Once I started choosing and really trying to look at things from different perspectives, I noticed a break in the doom and gloom. It helped me to start the process of managing things much better.

My mom once told me…”no matter how bad things get, someone is always worse off than you”, which helps to keep things in perspective sometimes. I remember my dad recounting a story of when my parents when to a huge business dinner in NYC. The dinner was a big deal, and mother, despite being in terrible pain from a degenerating disc in her spine, was determined to go. She needed a cane, and was struggling to walk. My father looked at her, struggling, and said “maybe we should just go back to the room and forget the dinner….you don’t have to put yourself through this”. My mother turned and said “I’ve been looking forward to this dinner for ages, and remember, no matter how bad things get, there is always someone who has it harder, or worse off than me. I can do this!”. Just then the elevator door opened, and inside was a man who only had one leg. My mother glanced at my father and proceeded to head to dinner. She knew that happiness is realizing what you have, that things could always be worse, and being grateful that your struggles are your own. Someone once said if everyone threw their stuggles in a bowl, most of us would all grab our own back. Frankly, we don’t know what others are dealing with, and at the end of the day, struggles are often minimal when you see what others are struggling with. I am an oft repeater of “silver linings!” Even when things are bad, one can usually find a silver lining if they look harder enough. Even if it’s a small one.

But I digress.

Winter is a tough time for many, especially those with depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. While I don’t struggle like I used to, I do make a conscious choice to plan things to look forward to. Why? Because on a bad day, I can look at my calendar and despite the busy chaos, I can see a vacation, a trip, or a school event I am happy about. This reminds me that happy days are ahead. I am excited to go visit my dad soon. This usually also entails not only a happy time with him and my step mom, but also a dinner out with my close friends I don’t get to see very often. Always fun. I am excited about a family vacation I have planned. While it won’t be cheap, it gives me a goal, something to work towards, and something exciting to share with the husband and kids. I have a few day trips planned, one just by myself, to spend a day wandering and sight seeing. There is a school field trip I am chaperoning, which made my daughter beam ear to ear when I told her.

These trips and events keep me looking forward in a positive manner. I LOVE my job and what I do, but I have stressful days like everyone else. On those stressful days, I remind myself those extra hours or that hard work is earning me money towards a vacation. When I am cleaning the house (which admittedly I’m not great at….have you seen the title of my blog?) and I find change people have left everywhere, I am at least excited to put it in the vacation fund. When January hit and stomach bugs and flu arrived at our house, I console myself that we’re getting it out of the way now and will be healthy again hopefully for the happy events planned. Having something to look forward to brings happiness.

Not only do I plan the event, I plan little, simple things about it that bring me joy. Some of these revolve around food. That probably explains why I am working on losing some weight….10 pounds down so far! For example, the trip to NYC I have in mind. I am already planning and excited to go to Tea and Sympathy for dessert. Why? Because they have one of my favorites there. It’s a British tea shop, and their rhubarb and custard reminds me of being a kid in England. When visiting my dad I always go for fajitas at my favorite place. It was a place I used to go to with my mom. While the food is delicious, the memories it conjures up are happy ones spent with my parents and friends. Happiness is a feeling, and being as sentimental as I am, I always lean towards it.

Looks like it’s going to be an exciting (and yummy!) year!

Rose and Thorn

A friend introduced me to a game called Rose and Thorn, which is where you basically lost the best and worst parts of your day. I always liked it because it allows you to vent your bad part while happily reminding yourself of the good part of your day. Sometimes, you have an awful day, and the universe seems to drop something great down as a consolation prize. Other times, your day is wonderful but then there’s something to take you down a peg or two. Feel free to post yours in the comments! Today, I’ll share mine.

Roses: my daughter attended a birthday party and while that was taking place, I got to relax and enjoy good coffee and a donut with some of the moms whose company I enjoy. I came home and managed to accomplish some yard work. My husband also offered to do a tattoo for me on his day off. Woohoo! I topped off the day with an invite from the neighbor to go have dinner at her house. She makes the most amazing empanadas! Good company, many laughs were had, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Thorn: before I get into this, note that when your day is going fabulous, sometimes the universe will drop a tiny turd on the day to keep things balanced. Today, I learned what hell is. I stepped in dog shit while wearing FLIP FLOPS. This prompted me to recoil, shriek in horror loudly while pointing at my now surely diseased foot and scream “kill it with fire!”. I bleached my own foot while wretching. Even now, hours later as I lay in my bed, I feel like one foot has shitcooties on it.

Balance. It’s all about balance.

Happiness is gratefulness, and not giving a f*{k.

I’ll warn everyone right off the bat that there will be some foul language in this post. Moreso than others, so if you’re easily offended, this might be one for you to skip.

Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit, I cannot believe it has been a year since I write my “turning 40” post, the year seems to have flown by, and I am left thinking “wasn’t that just yesterday?”. Alas, the time is flying by me, and I’m left wondering how time seemed to CRAWL when I was waiting to turn 16 but flies by at the blink of an eye now.

I recently upgraded my phone and when I did, I took a little while to scroll through the endless pictures I seemed to have taken with it the past year. I didn’t realize just how many I had taken. I also had forgotten so many of the magical little moments, the ones that you don’t write books or scrapbook about so much, but they make life worth living, There were pictures of the kids and I, mostly making “crazy faces” and then the aftermath of us laughing hysterically at each other’s crazy poses, There were random shots I took of my husband, the kids on the soccer field, and friends having a drink and enjoying themselves. There was the close up picture of my new nose ring, acquired on my 40th birthday trip to NYC, which I was nervous to get because I was always raised wjth the “what will people think?” mentality. There is one of the large tattoo I got at the end of 40′ when I cared a whole lot less what people thought.

Then there are the scrapbook moments. Pictures of my family of 4 with my dad, making me see how grateful I am for those in my life, and how lucky I am that he survived his bout of cancer.. There are ones with where my stepmother is joining us in the photos, and I am happy that we have a relationship now, and a little embarrassed by how closed I once was to the idea, I am pleased that I grew up a little and realized that she would never replace my mom, and it was ok to accept a new situation, There are pictures of my daughter and I in the lake. The idea of swimming in a lake terrified me, but I did it for her, There is the picture of my husband and I before a date night. Damn, we clean up nice. The trip to see the Steelers play that we took with my brother and sister in law, who I look at like a brother and sister to me. That was one of the best weekend vacations of my life, and we had a blast! There are birthdays, and holidays, and Halloween….God we love Halloween.

There is a picture of my friend who passed away, it’s the only picture I have of the two of us, after 20 plus years of friendship, and I am grateful to have it. That was a loss that hit me really hard, and it changed my mindset quite a bit. it’s most certainly a wake up call to one’s own mortality when a friend passes away who is the same age as you. I am more grateful now to wake up each day. I have so much to do, and to live for.

The fact is, that I have learned two very important lessons over the past year. The first is that gratitude is most certainly a key to happiness. Once I stopped to regularly take stock of all the things I was grateful for, I found I needed less. The more I focused on how lucky I felt, the less I worried about what I might not have. It was so simple. On days when things don’t go my way, I try to take a few minutes and list some people or things to myself that I feel lucky to have in my life. It helps me to see the simple things, and it makes tougher times seem not so bad.

Secondly, as I mentioned, I grew up in a “what would other people say/think?” environment. It’s ingrained in me to worry what people will say, or think. This was the year where, quite frankly, I worked on not giving a fuck. Well, let me rephrase. I make a conscious effort to be a bit more selective about the fucks that I give. It was hard at first, because, wow…I gave a lot of fucks! I cared about what everyone thought, how they would judge me, and whether they would like me. It stressed me out. Somehow though, I got fed up, and started to change my mindset. Someone might not like my nose ring or tattoo? I don’t give a fuck. Don’t like me? Oh well. Zero fucks. Got something negative to say about my looks or how I dress? I can probably top it and be funnier about it. Whatever it is, if it’s someone unloading negative shit, they can take it elsewhere, for I am barren of fucks to give about it.

I had an interesting conversation with someone today and they told me there was a poll of women that went something like this: would you rather A. Get ten thousand dollars, or B, lose ten lbs and keep it off forever? The person told me most women would choose the 10 lbs. Me? I’ve spent my who,e life wishing I was thinner. Even when I was thin, it wasn’t thin enough. Now that I am a softer, rounder size 12, I gave this question some thought. My response? I’d take the money. My thinking process actually took all of two seconds. I said I’d take the cash and take the family on a vacation, make some memories, and have a story to tell. “remember that time my stomach was perfectly flat?” has nothing on “remember that crazy week we spent in Disney and how we had the time of our lives?”. My kids don’t give a rats ass how much I weight, and my husband thinks I’m a sexy bitch just as I am. Sure, not everything fits me perfectly, and I’d like to lose a couple of lbs, but clearly not enough to forgo steak, lobster and ice cream. Life is too short!

When my friend passed away this year, it brought home that nothing is promised. I have to work, and pay bills. I have to go to the grocery store and do other mundane tasks. What I don’t have to do is let life pass me by. I can love fiercely, laugh heartily, and feel intensely. I can say yes to new things, say no when I don’t feel like it, and let loose a little. I’m still learning to loosen up. I’m still learning not to care what people think. It’s a work in process, but I’m already a hell of a lot better at it than I used to be. I used to worry constantly about being judged by other people. Now I realize that if they are busy judging me, they are missing something valuable in their own lives. Another year, another chance to say yes to new experiences. I have surrounded myself with amazing people who make me laugh, feel loved, and make me feel included. I have friends that have known me since I was a crazy, stupid teenager, and I have new friends as well. I am blessed, grateful, and humble. I’m excited for the year ahead, and all it will bring. If it isn’t perfect? Oh well. I don’t give a fuck.

How not getting what I wanted gave me everything I need.

I’m going to step away from the TV chat this morning.  I’m going to also preface this blog post by saying that I’m not a big country music fan, nor do I follow any particular religion (although different strokes for different folks!).  The reason I say that is because all morning I’ve had a very old Garth Brooks song in my head that states “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”,   If you’re not of the religious sort you could exchange God for Life and prayers for wants, and the message still stands true.  Much of what I’ve wanted in life hasn’t always been what I’ve needed. 

When I was younger, I always waffled on what I wanted to “be” when I grew up.  For a while it was a dolphin trainer, then a lawyer, then a psychologist. (None of these came to fruition).  I remember changing my mind along the way to “I want to get married, have kids, pets and be happy.”  That was my goal.  Everything else seemed like the icing on the cake.  Along the way though, there were numerous times that I wanted, no BEGGED life to give me what I thought would make me happy,  The boyfriend who wouldn’t commit that I believed would make me happy, the job that made me go for 5 interviews only to not hire me.  Even though I often say I want my house spotless, upon thinking about it this morning, I’m not sure I do.  Why?

That boyfriend I wanted to commit so bad?  He strung me along for years only to cheat and not be there when I needed him.  I swore to everyone that he was the one for me.  I wanted it to work.  Yet, I didn’t need it to. I learned a lot from that relationship.  My friends call me the runaway bride because I’ve been engaged a few times, but I always broke it off because deep down, I knew they weren’t right.  The best piece of advice my mother ever gave me was that if a man didn’t think I was priceless and “better than sliced bread” then he wasn’t the man for me.  That was the BEST advice I have ever received.  My Mr. is all I could have dreamed for, and all because I listened to my mommy and waited for the right guy rather than settling.

The job I wanted?  The one that made me go on about 5 interviews and take tests and put me through the ringer only to not hire me?  Ugh, the frustration and defeat they made me feel!  You know what happened to the person who did get hired?  Laid off, along with the rest of the office when they just closed it down!  Meanwhile, I got a different job, a few weeks later, that treats me well and I enjoy it. 

The spotless house?  Hmm. YES, the toys and clutter from everyone drives me mad, but with kids comes toys and stuff and thinks not always put away by them.  I’m an only child, so learning to share my space with not one person but 3 people has been a bit of a lesson.  I’d never trade my family for anything, and if a little clutter means I’m surrounded by love, then so be it.  If they would pick up their socks though, well that would be just dandy!

What I’m getting at, is that if I actually got what I wanted at the time, or what I thought I wanted, I wouldn’t have what I really need, or what I have now.  My life isn’t perfect. I don’t have everything I always want.  I do, however, have what I need to keep my base happiness factor solid.  I’ve learned to be happy with what I have, and to know that sometimes, I may not get what I want.  Sure, it sucks in the moment, but often what I get after is MORE than what I could have hoped for. 

Be kind to yourself, Loveys!

MissMessy xx