Marjorie Writes…

Everyday Musings of an Extraordinary Woman

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I Voted Today – Did You?

I voted today.  Sigh. I voted because although I believe it is a privilege and a right that we are lucky to have, I also believe it is our civic duty to vote. So I did my civic duty and cast my ballot.

I remember clearly the first time I ever voted. I was living in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a senior in high school, and I was only 17. Virginia allowed those who would be of legal age during the general election to vote in the primary election, even if they weren’t yet 18.

Back then, I was very politically active. So politically active that I would drag my teenage butt out of bed way too early on Saturday mornings to attend the Democratic breakfasts every week. I would have breakfast, socialize and talk with other democrats, and have way too much coffee. Then I would often go home and want to take a nap. But I went every week, and I loved it.

Back then, I volunteered on political campaigns, too. And I LOVED it.

But I digress. My point was, back then I believed in our political system, believed that the people we were electing (or working to elect) made a difference, stood up for our best interests, etc. I believed that we could make a difference, that our votes counted, that our voices counted.

I believed in the America so many people around the world admired and respected. (And yes, I believed that they felt that way.)

That fall, of 1988, having mailed in my absentee ballot the month before, I sat eagerly glued to my tv, watching the returns of the elections. Those of you who are still political junkies (as I was back then) know it’s like watching the super bowl on television, it is that riveting.

One year, after voting in the primaries at the end of the day, and finding out I had been 1 of less than 100 people voting in my precinct, I went back to the newspaper office (in college – The Houston Cougar) and writing an editorial thanking those who had not voted for making my vote count, and telling them they had no right to complain now.

This year, after casting my ballot, I experienced none of that excitement or pride that I had always loved. I felt disgusted. And frustrated. And depressed. Yes, depressed, because that ballot symbolizes freedom to so much of the world, it symbolizes a political system that works. And I no longer believe that system does work.

I have little faith in either the incumbents or the candidates. Whereas once I believed those who served, served us, I now believe they serve their own interests and those of the lobbyists and big industries who supported their campaigns. Even when I was deeply involved in politics, after college when I was worked for a political consulting company and then working on campaigns as staff, I still believed that at least when people started out in politics or those in lower offices still had our best interests at heart. And I guess part of me still believes that to an extent, or at least desperately wants to believe, that is true. But for the most part, watching what is going on in our great nation makes me sad because I no longer see this country as the country I once kept my faith in and trusted.

The America I see on the news, the political system in Washington that has become more of a joke than a system that works, is barely visible to me anymore. And yet I see more small people making big differences, I see chains of small actions making big impacts on people, and that gives me faith. Maybe one day the people will get involved and the powers that be will be composed of the people who care and want to make a difference, and then this country and this world will be a better place.

I still have a lot of years ahead of me – I can’t give up faith yet.

Boys Will Be Boys and Dogs Will Be Dogs

You know how a lot of people bury their deceased pets in their backyards? Yea, well that will never happen in my backyard again.

Earlier this summer, Broney, my son’s hamster, died. He insisted on a burial rather than my preference of a disposal of the body. So I wrapped it in a store bag, put it in an empty cell phone box, and dug a hole. We said a few words and put the box in the hole, covered it with dirt, and put a big rock on top of it to mark its spot. Oh, and to keep our dogs, who like to dig, from digging it up. My son got a Sharpie marker and wrote Broney the hamster RIP on top of the rock.

So today my son had one of his friends over. They’re generally inside and out and I don’t worry about them much – they’re good kids. Anyhow, they came in, everyone ate dinner, and I went into my room to use my laptop. A little while later my daughter comes in holding her nose. She says there is a really bad smell in the living room. Now, I have sinus issues and can never smell anything, good or bad. So I go out there to find 3 kids holding their noses. I ask what happened, since a smell that bad in the living room wouldn’t just come from nowhere out of the blue when it was fine all day.

Since I’m at a loss to find the source of the smell, I have the 3 kids “following their noses” to find the source of the stench. Meanwhile, I’m moving things around, looking under and behind everything, half afraid of what I’ll find. The kids are going around with air freshener spraying everywhere. We couldn’t find anything. They went outside to play for a little while and get some fresh air.

When they came back in, they told me it’s the dogs that stink. They had gone into the backyard and were playing with them and determined they were the cause. Apparently the living room no longer had the offending odor, thanks to their liberal use of the air sprays.

So then it comes out that my son had dug up his hamster to show his friend. Apparently he wasn’t very efficient at re-burying it, just basically putting the plastic bag on the dirt and putting the rock on top. Which, of course, allowed the dogs to get the hamster. While we couldn’t find the hamster at that point, the dogs needed to be bathed. I tried the little one first. With the hose outside set on shower, and baby shampoo (not having any dog shampoo in the house). She got away 3 times.

Finally, I carried her into my bathroom, turned on the shower, put her in the shower stall and shut the door. A moment later I stepped in, still wearing a tank top and yoga pants. I kept her calm and thoroughly washed her. Twice. Then came the fun part rinsing her. Acrobatics (on her part) ensued.  Finally, I dried her off and let her out.

Since my kids had said it was just the little one that stunk, I changed into dry clothes. About half hour later, shortly before I was going to take his friend home, they said the momma dog stunk too. So that had to wait until we got home. At which point, I lathered, rinsed and repeated with momma dog.  Then we gave them both dentastix to freshen their breath.

And then I got back into the shower, wanting to make sure that I didn’t smell like decomposing hamster dirty dog. And then I got the kids to bed, and finally got to sit back down. Ahhh.

Tomorrow we have a busy day of putting the house back together since we did such a good job of tearing it apart looking for the offensive stench. I’m sure that will be another story.

Moral of this story: next pet we have that dies will not be buried in our backyard. However, I feel pretty confident that my son did learn his lesson about not digging up animal remains.

Live, laugh, love….it makes it all worthwhile.

Seriously?!

When I left the post office today, I thought I was going to be writing a very different blog post than what I’m going to be writing.

After procrastinating over half of the day, I finally went out to run errands this afternoon, my last day of “freedom” before my kids come home.  I didn’t feel like running mundane errands like going to the bank and the post office and the grocery store. I wanted to either chill and do nothing at home but read and/or watch tv and relax, or go to the beach (not such a great weather day for the beach) but I had to get certain things done before my kids get home tomorrow. So to the post office (etc) I went.

When I went into the post office, I waited in line to buy a stamped envelope (I know, lazy, but I didn’t have any envelopes at home and I use them so rarely I didn’t feel like buying a box). I got my letter ready and then mailed it. Somewhere in there, before I left, the few of us in there were all talking. A man in there asked me what business I used to have (he said I looked familiar) so I told him. He said that was why I looked familiar. So the clerk asked what I was doing now. I replied that I was doing freelance work while looking for a “real” job.  He asked what I did, and said I should work there. Further conversation ensued. He asked for my card, which I didn’t have on me (not having my purse with me), so I wrote down my name and numbers for him, and at his request, a list of my computer and other skills. Thankfully, I forgot to write down this blog address, which he had been interested in.

I left the post office feeling great. I thought, ah, there was a reason I was procrastinating. I was meant to be there then, to get into that group conversation and find the possibility of employment.  I went about the rest of my errands with a spring in my step, thinking about how often chance intercedes and changes the course of our lives. I was thinking about the uplifting blog post I’d be writing when I got home.

After running all of my other errands, I stopped in to see a good friend while she was working. After we caught up, I was about to tell her about what happened at the post office, when I got a text notification on my phone. So I opened it. I think my mouth fell open when I read it.

“Hi Marjorie this is MICHAEL from the post office. If you like give me a call, I enjoyed talking with you.”

OMG I said to my friend, and quickly told her the story, ending with the text message. I was pretty annoyed that he had texted me. This was over an hour after the post office had closed. It was not professional, obviously had nothing to do with a job. She told me that she had been in there last week and the guy basically hit on her too. He hadn’t overtly hit on me while I was in there, I hadn’t been flirting with him in any way. It was just friendly conversation, I thought.

I came home, still seriously annoyed and posted about it on Facebook. One friend suggested in a message that I go to another post office. I said no, I’m not driving off the island just to go to a post office because of some idiot. And I’m not letting him control my actions. He’s a blip on the overall landscape of my life, unimportant.

Needless to say, I didn’t respond to his text. THREE HOURS LATER, I got another text:

“Guess u didn’t want to talk”

Ya think? Seriously? Even if they had a job there that they would hire me for, I couldn’t take it at this point – I will not go into a work environment where sexual harassment is a very real possibility. As much as I need and want a “real” job, I couldn’t work with him, not in a tiny little post office with a handful of employees.

To think when I left the post office, I thought this would have a happy ending (to borrow a friend’s comment from Facebook on the situation).

Live, love, laugh…it makes it all worthwhile!

 

Feeling Validated as a Mom

My kids have been gone for over 3 weeks now – they’ll be home in less than 2 days. When I talked to them this weekend (I’ve been talking to them everyday) they both indicated they were ready to come home. That made me feel really good, as they have been having fun with their father, but they still miss me and want to be with me, despite being with me 11+ months a year.

I should really be asleep – it’s very late and I have a LOT to do before picking them up at the airport Saturday morning (their flight comes in about 30 minutes before noon, but I’ll have to leave my house probably by 8:30 so I can get to the airport and get through security and wait at the gate for them.

However, tonight is the last night I can stay up as late as I want and sleep late the next day.  Hopefully my kids will sleep late when they come home, as I know they have been staying up very late. But I can’t count on it. And I want to spend time with them once they’re home, thus I want to get as many chores out of the way as possible. So, of course, I’m up late tonight, watching tv and playing games on Facebook, etc. You know, the important stuff.

I’m looking forward to the return of my kids – please remind me of that next week when they’re driving me nuts. But when they told me they were ready to come home the other day, it made my heard swell so much I thought it would pop out of my chest. Seriously, that’s mommy validation – even though they’re getting older and much more independent, and even though they’re with their father whom they only see for a few weeks every summer, they’ve been ready to get home to mom. Yay for me! (channeling whatshername from The Suite Life of Zach and Cody)

I have a long list of things I have to get done tomorrow, so wish me luck in that. But I know I’ll go to sleep with a smile on my face tomorrow night, knowing I’ll have my babies safe at home with me again the next day!

Live, love, laugh….it makes it all worthwhile!

Friends and Perspectives

When I first started this blog, one of the things I wrote most about was friends. I’m still grateful for my friends, that will never change. Both old and new friends are so important.

One of the great things about friends, aside from the obvious fun, sharing, being there for each other, is the opportunity to see things in a different light. And they can encourage you to step out of your comfort zones, or try new things. Or just look at things from different perspectives.

While I’m often good at doing that for my friends, I’m also sometimes not so good at doing it for myself. For instance, I’m looking for full-time work right now, so money is tight. My friend suggested we take the kids down to Washington, DC for a couple of days. When I told her I really couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money, she came up with a new suggestion. So instead of staying over, we’re driving down for the day tomorrow. It’s only roughly a 3 hour drive from here, so we’re packing up the kids and a lunch, and going. Many of the attractions there are free, and with our packed lunch and snacks, we’ll be able to have a fun, different day with the kids for a limited expense.  We’ll have dinner before we head home, and our kids should come home tired and happy, having had a fun day in a different city. (As well as them having spent the day in our nation’s capitol, which they are very excited about!)

At some point, once I’m working more (or at least have a stronger source of income) I plan to take them back. One day is nowhere near enough time to see everything there. I know it’s going to leave me wanting a lot more – I love DC, but haven’t been there for years. And this new perspective on doing things on a tight budget should translate well for the rest of the summer. A lot of the places I really want to take them in Philadelphia aren’t free. However, there is so much there that is so historical and free that we could easily go for the day and have a great time, and it’s also a great learning trip for them.

When I first decided to move up to the Jersey Shore, it was right after my daughter was born. One of the things I was most excited about was that there were so many historic areas in such a close area. I had grand plans to teach them history through trips up and down the coast. Sadly, about the only time we’ve done that was when we went to Gettysburg upon evacuating from a hurricane (which didn’t end up hitting us, thankfully). And that trip was infused with history and ghost-hunting. Very fun, even if it would have been more fun for me had I not spent half of the time preoccupied about whether our home would be there when we returned.

So thank goodness for friends. I’ve always loved my friends, and as I move through my life, I’ve always been thankful for the friends I’ve made along the way.

Live, love, laugh…it makes it all worthwhile!

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July, y’all! I hope everyone had a good day, enjoying the summer (we had great weather here!), celebrating with family and friends, watching the fireworks. I’m so grateful today to live in this great country where we have so much freedom and we are generally safe to live and enjoy our lives.

I had a peaceful, relaxing day. Spent the early part of the day relaxing with my kids, then my son’s friend came over and all 3 of them played well together – ok, so that part wasn’t fully peaceful, but it was filled with the sounds of kids playing and laughing, so it was good. I even bounced on my son’s huge bouncy ball and laughed like a child myself. Tonight, we went down the road by the bay to watch the fireworks – always a good time.

I spoke with my cousin tonight for the first time in a few years – I called to wish him happy birthday. I was so glad to speak with him because there was some discord between us a few years back, caused by my ex-husband. That has bothered me so much because he was always the cousin I was closest to, despite the 12 year age difference. It felt good to chat with him this afternoon.

Today would have been my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary, if my mom hadn’t died 24 years ago and my dad 4 years ago. My mom used to say she picked July 4 so my father would never be able to forget their anniversary. Smart woman. And that she told him it was an hour earlier than it was so he’d be on time. Now, I only remember my dad as being very punctual, but then I don’t know what he was like when he was younger.

I generally don’t get too thoughtful about the anniversary on July 4. This year, I keep thinking about it. And choking up (and tearing up) when talking about it. I don’t know why the change this year, but my guess is it’s because I’ve been missing my parents so much lately.

So many of my friends who are lucky enough to still have their parents complain about them regularly. And I was the first one to complain about my father, despite how close I was to him. He was incredibly stubborn (a family trait from his side of the family) and was always often certain his way was the better way to do anything. And while he was often right about some things, it wasn’t always the case, and it usually wasn’t what I wanted to hear. However, I would do anything to have him back. And my mom. And so I always tell my friends that as crazy as their parents may drive them, make sure they appreciate them and enjoy them and love them while they are still here.

I am so blessed to have my kids and great friends and loving, fun extended family members. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling like I don’t have family, although I keep reminding myself that my kids are my family. And they are amazing and wonderful and annoying and everything in between. I just feel every so often that I’m letting them down since they aren’t getting the whole extended family experience.

Anyhow, today was one of those days that I tried to forget about all of it and just relax and enjoy the family I have in my home. And it was a great day. But then, how can it be a bad day if it ends with a beautiful display of fireworks on the bay?

Live, love, laugh….it makes it all worthwhile!

PTSD Stinks

Funny how things happen. I had gone to the store earlier this evening, and one of the things I bought was a package of cupcakes. So later tonight I decided to open them and have one. However, they were no longer in my purse. Since I knew my son wouldn’t have gone into my purse, I figured the dogs got them. Sure enough, I found the open, empty wrapper on the dining room floor. I picked it up and held it toward the dogs and the mama dog took off running faster than I’d ever seen her run. After a good laugh, I decided to run back to the store to replace them.

As I was turning the corner to come home, I saw a man on a bicycle riding down my street, in the direction I was heading. He looked back and saw my car, and pulled into a driveway two doors down. After a brief hesitation and another look over his shoulder, he continued to ride between the two houses there (there aren’t many fences in my area) and disappeared. Now, it was a little after 10 at this point. So I pulled into my driveway and called the police. I explained to the person that the man was on bike and rode between the houses, pulling off the street when my car approached. I gave the limited description I had gotten, and went into my house.

Some time later (not sure how long, but it was a non-emergency call), I had a knock at my door – the police. I stepped outside (fighting to keep the baby dog (around 2 yrs old) inside. In the light rain, he asked what I had seen, etc. I explained it was probably nothing but this is a quiet street on the end of my island, and it’s not usual to have adults riding their bikes between houses in the dark. He said he’d look but that I had my dog here (I don’t think he got a good look at her – she’s no more than 20 or 25 lbs – not a big dog by any means).

Now, I had a pit in my stomach for the rest of the night. I have PTSD, courtesy of my ex-husband.  I have a restraining order against him and haven’t seen him in a year and a half, since our divorce was finalized (he was incarcerated at the time, from a DUI charge). I haven’t had any contact with him since I’d gotten the restraining order almost a year before then. And even though it was a very brief marriage (2 1/2 months before I showed him the door), I knew he was the type to hold a grudge forever.

Now, my daughter is out at her friend’s house and I let my son camp out in the living room tonight, sleeping on the floor. Around 1 in the morning, the little dog started barking. And jumped up on the back of the recliner closest to the front door, where she likes to perch when she hears someone here – that way she can try to beat me out the door to greet them. So I went and looked out the window, accidentally turning on the light there on my way. Nothing. So I turned off the light and sat down at my laptop again. And again the little dog ran to the chair and started barking. That went on for about 5 minutes, with intermittent barks. Now, she’s sleeping soundly next to me on the couch, my son is passed out with the other dog on the floor, and I’m writing this, hoping by expressing myself I will get rid of the feelings and be able to go to sleep.

All of this over something that was probably nothing. I haven’t had any feelings of paranoia lately, as I got when I thought he was around, no nightmares waking me up, petrified. Yet the PTSD lingers, popping up it’s ugly head now and again, like tonight.

For a time after we split up, I would sleep on my couch with a baseball bat – afraid that if he broke into my house I might not hear him from my room and be able to protect my children and myself. And I didn’t sleep well back then. Thankfully, that is all in the past.

Yet, here I sit, almost 2am and afraid to go to sleep. But little dog will let me know, right, if she hears something? I think I’ll be sleeping on my couch again tonight, especially since my son is out here. I’ll have the phone nearby, but will not go in search of the baseball bat.

Live, laugh, love…..it makes it all worthwhile!

The Big C: Hereafter

I’m still crying after watching the final episode of The Big C: Hereafter. After 3 seasons (plus a 4th mini-season, the Hereafter) the series has concluded. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s serious and funny, black humor, about Cathy, a woman diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma.

Earlier in this season, Cathy had decided to move into a hospice facility – she didn’t want her husband and son to have to take care of her; she especially didn’t want to die in their home, to have her son feel of the house as it were the place his mother died.

Several things struck me after watching the end of this episode (sorry if I spoil it if you haven’t seen it yet!). She didn’t want to die at home, but in my experience (and believe me, I have WAY too much in this arena) that’s precisely where she should have been in her final days and moments. My Mom died of stage 4 lung cancer when I was 18, at home. My step-mom died of stage 3 lung cancer when I was 30, at home. My aunt died of lymphoma (after 17 years and 3 remissions) in my uncle’s home. My father died of stage 4 lung cancer, in my home. My father stayed in his condo, on his own, for almost the full 6 months of his time in hospice. It was only when he’d gotten too weak and the morphine required to keep him relatively comfortable had grown to too large a dose that he couldn’t stay alone any longer. He fought tooth and nail, as Cathy did, but I won (he couldn’t walk at that point, so couldn’t run away). He moved into my home, my dining room turned into his bedroom, and died a week later. This just felt normal to me. They were at home, surrounded by the people they loved, in their normal surroundings (more or less), but at least surrounded by love and people who loved them, nothing clinical or cold around them.

Also, she died with none of her family immediately around her. After having breakfast with her estranged father, her son (who surprised her that morning with his principal and a year-early high school diploma), her husband, her brother and her friend/daughter/mentee who was living with them, they all scattered to take care of things. Her hospice nurse came, they were going to share pie. Her husband came home to have the nurse tell him she’d passed 30 minutes prior to her return. I remember being told that people often didn’t want to pass in front of their loved ones. Even if they’re not conscious (as she was), they somehow can sense when they’re not in the room.

So this episode made me cry. But I knew it was coming. Everything was tied up neatly, which is to be expected in any kind of series where they have the ability to create the perfect ending, unlike life. But it was still a good ending.

Remember to always tell your loved ones you love them. Life is too short and we never know how much time we have left.

Live, love, laugh…it makes it all worthwhile!

Stepmom

I just watched Stepmom. I shouldn’t have turned it on when I was flipping channels. But it’s a beautiful movie. Maybe I needed a good cry.

For those who don’t remember the movie, or haven’t seen it, it came out in the 1998, starring Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts. Sarandon played a divorced mother of two, and Roberts was her ex-husband’s young girlfriend/fiance. Of course, they didn’t get along in the beginning. But Sarandon was harboring a secret from her ex and her kids – she was fighting cancer. Eventually, it would come out and they would grow close.

The first time I saw the movie was with my Stepmom, Eileen. She and my father had come down to Houston to visit, and while he was out playing poker with his friends, we decided to go to the movies. We went to see You’ve Got Mail, and afterward snuck into another movie, Stepmom (her idea, not mine, I would never have done that not have suggested to her that we do that. (See my halo?) We didn’t know what it was about, and missed the beginning.

As we were sitting there in the dark theater and caught up with what was happening on-screen, we realized that the situation in the movie hit too close to home and it was probably as uncomfortable for her as it was for me. Of course, not wanting to make her feel more uncomfortable, I was trying to stifle my tears, which were definitely flowing.

Mind you, she wasn’t younger than my father and she had come into his life after we lost my mom. However, it was still close enough to home since my mom had died of cancer 9 years before.

Watching the movie again tonight, this time with kids of my own, touched me on different levels. I pray my kids never have to go through what I did – I fully plan to live forever. Grin. Ok, while I know I can’t shield them from the pain of losing me forever, I mean I hope they won’t have to deal with that loss until they are grown with kids of their own, who are also grown. Maybe even grandkids of their own. Great-grandkids would probably be stretching it.

Anyhow, in the movie Sarandon is talking with her daughter (middle-school age, again, hitting close to home tonight) about her not being around in the future. She told the girl that she would always be with her in her mind, that that was how people stayed around, when she graduated, she would be there, when she got married, she would be there, when she had her babies, she would be there. And I found myself talking to my mom. You WERE there when I graduated (in my case, from college, as I was lucky enough to have her until the end of my freshman year of college). You WERE there when I got married. You WERE there when I had my babies. Even though I so desperately wished she had been there physically with me, I had felt her with me at all of those times.

I had almost forgotten the memory of watching that movie with my stepmom. We lost her 2 short years later. That was just a random day in our brief history, not one of the bigger ones which come to mind when I think of her.

If it wasn’t so late, I might have a drink in her memory. She liked white Russians. Too bad I don’t have any kaluah.

Live, love, laugh…it’s what makes it worthwhile!

Scattered Tonight…

Well, not completely scattered, but my mind is in a few places. I haven’t written in way too long, as I’ve been swamped with the business of trying to provide for my family, raise my children, deal with home repairs/insurance companies etc following Sandy, etc. 

So as I sit here tonight, desperately wanting a cigarette (I quit a 2 pack a day habit cold turkey 5, or 6 days ago now), I’m torn between focusing on my job search and Mother’s Day in 2 days.

Twenty-four years ago, I spent mother’s day at the hospital, visiting my mother. I hadn’t seen her since spring break, when I’d been home from college last. My dad had warned me the day before that she looked bad, wasn’t doing well, but I guess I didn’t want to believe it. Until I saw her. And found a bathroom somewhere away from her room where I could cry and cry until I could keep it together enough to spend time visiting her. She died a week later, give or take. 

So once again, I’m faced with another Mother’s Day without her. Yet somehow, as I’ve aged and my own kids have aged, Mother’s Day has become less about my own mother, even less about me, and more just another day. Is that really sad or just normal? I’m a single mom, my kids are 9 and 11. I know my daughter made me something in girl scouts (don’t yet know what it is) and I’ll get it on Sunday. And they’ll both wish me happy mothers day. And probably let me sleep in (they also do that so they can use the computer/watch tv/etc without being told to do something more productive, etc). And other than that, I have no plans. I lost my mom 24 years ago, my stepmom 13 years ago, and my dad 4 years ago. As I was reminded tonight, I have very little family left, and none around where I live, so it’s pretty much me and the kids. Which is fine – it’s our reality. And I adore my kids. So if I choose not to do anything special for mothers day, that’s my choice, right? As long as it’s not interfering with whatever my kids don’t have planned, right? 🙂

Not a day goes by when I don’t think about my mom and miss her – I decided years ago I wasn’t going to spend any particular days mourning her as she wouldn’t want that. So if anything, maybe we’ll do something to celebrate her life, as we do on her birthday. Or maybe I’ll just sit and knit and read – my mother was an avid knitter and reader – and know that I’m spending the day with my kids doing just what she would have wanted to do on a good mothers day.

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