Category Archives: love

made it 12 months. so we’ve got 12 tips!

And they said it wouldn’t last!

Actually, one of my bridesmaids and her (soon-to-be, well then) husband told us during our wedding, “You guys are the horse we’re betting on.”  It meant a lot to me to hear that, and of course no one thinks about divorce on their wedding day.  (I was mostly thinking about cake balls.  Ahhh!)

We don’t plan on getting divorced.  That might not even need to be said.  But we all know that even the best marriages fail.  Shit happens.  We don’t like to think about it, but it does.  There’s no foolproof plan, and we’ d be stupid to think that there is.

When we moved into our apartment here in WM in 2010, we had another recently engaged couple an our favorite fifth wheel help us.   Fifth wheel, who is also kind of a know-it-all, asked all four of us coupled folk if we thought our eventual marriages would last.  We all said yes – of course.  He said, “Half of you are wrong.”

I told him he was full of shit.  His sample size is skewed to couples who are educated, essentially middle class, and marrying slightly later in life (31 & 28, and then 29 & 32, respectively).

And via the CDC, well, they don’t detail much in terms of who gets divorced, but as marriage rates rise, divorce rates do too, and the same goes for falling marriage rates. (These patterns are very likely tied to the American economy, although the wedding industry has not fallen off at all.  Trust me, I know.)

My husband and I came to the decision to get married relatively quickly, but not lightly.  To be truthful, we essentially knew we would marry one another maybe less than two months into our relationship.  On a vaguely related note,  I got some shit on facebook for criticizing some really stupid advice I read that has been spread far and wide about saving your marriage.  The guy who wrote it sounded like an unrepentant asshole.  Two days later I read more viral “advice” from a blog post that told me to pray with my husband and to put a dollar in a box every time we have sex.  Um, no.

So I’m countering.  With my own non-bullshit advice about having a successful marriage.  But what the hell.  We’ve only made it 12 months.

1. Get cats.

They are entertaining.  They are loveable.  They are a shared responsibility (although being in particularly sensitive ovary years, I have an excuse to not change the cat litter for awhile), and they are something that creates a little family altogether.  When my husband is in a bad mood, nothing lights him up like goofing around with our two cats.  He mostly plays with the orange one, who’s kind of a dick, but who has a strong bond with my husband.  Said love for cats was almost reason enough alone to marry the dude.

They bond over moving furniture!

But always.  Pet adoption is always a good idea, and I personally think it creates a bond between partners.  Just my thought.

2. Don’t let others get you down.

After our wedding, we experience what we referred to as Friendpocalypse 2012, centering around friends’ divorce.  Suffice to say, it was bad.  It sounds like a high school problem to have, but crap like that only gets nastier and more complicated when there are marriages and houses and property involves.  Yuck.  The people involved had all been guests at our wedding.  We had been to a Christmas party with the whole gang the week before the bottom fell out.   It hit a little too close to home for me.

But it really shouldn’t have, although it does for a lot of people when their friends divorce.  I didn’t think that we’d hit the “everyone gets divorced” phase of our social life so soon after we got married, and so many of our other friends got married, but man.

It was, however, a case of “need not worry, idiot.”  Time has passed, everyone is not all back to being best friends, but things have calmed down significantly.  People have come and gone.   Other friends have moved away, but we’re still here.  Husband and I.  Social survivors.

3. Recognize that you’re each going to have strengths and weaknesses. 

I quoted Patti Smith, from  her gorgeously wrought book Just Kids, awhile ago on this very blog.  But it’s true.  When one of you is weak, the other will be strong.  When one of you falters, the other will pick up.  Take care of each other to the best of your ability.

4. Do what you want to do.

I went away for six weeks, within the first year of my marriage, and started working on my master’s degree.  It wasn’t a permanent choice, and I was the one person in my program who was like that kid in college who goes home every weekend, and you’re not sure is going to make it.  But I made it through the summer, and I got back to my husband and it was like we hadn’t missed a beat.  We talked about it a lot, we made a plan, and we dealt with it.  Not only do you have to have your physical space, but your mental/goal-oriented space, as well.

5. Don’t think about cake balls.

I love cake balls.  I love cake pops.  I love making them.  My husband hates it if I leave 45 plates and bowls and pot and pans out in the aftermath and he feels the need to clean them up.  The process of making them usually takes about 3 days and at least 2 other baking-savvy friends involved.  And let’s be honest: he’s not being an asshole if he gets mad because I left out 45 dirty bowls.

I’ve made them on occasion since I’ve been married, but let’s be honest here: they’re completely superfluous.  I spent a good portion of my wedding week making cake balls for extra favors, but they were completely superfluous on our wedding day, mostly because they got left behind in the hotel and didn’t make it to the reception.  It didn’t matter.  Life will carry on without cake balls.  Sometimes, life is better without cake balls.

They made it to the post-wedding party, though.

This advice also carries out to chipped nail polish, putting away all of the clothes, making menus for the week, and properly editing your blog when you hoped you would.

6. Accept compliments.

“YOU’RE JUST SAYING THAT BECAUSE I AM CRANKY AND CRAZY AND HATE MY JOB RIGHT NOW AND AHHHHHHHHHH!!”

Um, sometimes, no he’s not.  Accept the fact that someone loves you and appreciates you, even at your snot-nosiest, crying-jaggiest,  world-hatingest.  If he tells you that you look good, then take it.

I’m also firmly not on the side of “dress/do your nails/shave/wear perfume/bleach yer bits for your husband’s pleasure”, but a compliment that he gives out also might be his way of gently saying that he might like it again if you wear that certain outfit again.  Like on a date night or something, i.e. a night that is specifically focused on you, him, and your relationship.  Y’know what I mean?  On my end, T-storm has this leather jacket that he wears that I love love love love love seeing him in.  I cannot get enough of it, and I start to squee a little when the weather gets cold enough so that he wears it.  But I’m a little more overt with my compliments.  His are always more subtle, but I do try to take notice.  These compliments are even helpful, when I pilfer my closet and can’t decide what to wear – I’ll think of his comments about a certain dress and will reach for it.  Even past my 25 other dresses.

Which leads to my next point.

7. Get rid of shit.

We’re still working on this.  We are both packrats, and we came with lots of books and music and old CDs and what not.  I’m way more attached to stuff than he is.  And the books he gave me out of his car on the day we first met (that he was trying to donate somewhere anyway) are still on our shared bookshelf.  But yes.  I imagine that hoarding can lead to divorce, as well as other things.  So start donating that shit.  I suggest this place, as it’s their job to find a use for any damn thing they can give you.

And, of course, emotional shit too.  That comes later.

8. Your spouse cannot read your mind!

This seems so freaking obvious.  But we forget it.  All the time.

I don’t know.  I’m dumb and I used to think that romance involved “getting it” all the time.  Knowing what the other person was thinking, always.  And that’s bullshit, and it’s also kind of creepy.

If you’re upset, tell your spouse.  Express yourself.  Share part of who you are and you’ll get something shared with you from someone else.  Maybe more than you were planning on getting from that other person.  They just needed an opening offer before they spilled their guts.  (This was a lesson I learned early on in college, from someone who is now still one of my best friends, and need to keep in mind more often.  And it goes for more than just spouses.)

9. Sometimes you have to agree to watch John Carpenter’s The Thing, even if you fall asleep a third of the way into the film.

You are not going to love everything your spouse loves.  And visa versa.  No disrespect to Mr. Carpenter; T-storm had sat me down to watch In the Mouth of Madness early in our relationship, and I really liked it.  (But who can really argue with Sam Neill?)  He has come to see a lot of stuff he otherwise would not because of me, and visa versa, again.  Even if, as previously mentioned, you fall asleep a third of the way into the film, you tried.

This is also a good place to insert the term “movie narcoleptic”, which I like to pretend my friend N came up with, because she rules.

10. Accept the things you cannot change.

This kind of goes without saying.  I am horrible and lazy in the morning, and my husband makes me coffee without fail.  I sort of put it on with the a.m. laziness, mostly because he is so damned good at making coffee (it’s genetic; his father is a pro as well).  I am okay with him being indecisive about many things.  Sometimes I want him to give input so it doesn’t just feel like I’m railroading him constantly, but sometimes he is just happier not making a choice and so I get to say what’s what.  This is something that ideally should be worked out probably before a couple gets married, but it’s important to remember throughout the course.

On the whole it’s a stupid show, although we’ve watched it beginning to the last season on Netflix, and all episodes many times over, but there’s a really beautiful moment in season 6 of How I Met Your Mother.  I don’t just identify with the characters of Lily & Marshall because Lily is a teacher and I adore Jason Segal – there is some real emotional heart there.  The scene takes place in a natural history museum, and Lily starts talking to “college Marshall” as though he is on display as an extinct creature.  She sighs, telling the extinct Marshall that she wants him back, and that he’s changed.  Shocked, “college Marshall” asks her hastily if he cheats on her in the future.  She quickly tells him no, and he asks her more questions, all of which lead to the conclusion that despite the fact that he’s changing and growing, his love and commitment to her have only cemented in the intermittent years.  It’s quite the realization for her.  I love the way that scene is done.  And it’s true.  Some of the specifics change, but as long as the core is still in place, other things you can learn to live with.

How do you NOT love Jason Segal!?

Which brings me to my next point.

11. Don’t let the past confine you.

I am a sentimental schmuck.  I moved to South Florida on what was essentially a whim five years ago, and found myself stuck here.  But we’re here now, I met my husband here, and although it was never my #1 choice for place to live in the world, and I’ve missed home and my past and my friends and all the things I loved for a long time, my husband is both a) accepting of my sentimentality and b) gives me constant reason not to compare now to my past.  I have the memory of a memoir writer, so sometimes it’s hard for me to let go of the past, even if I only hold onto it for comparison’s sake.  My husband has taught me that it’s okay to co-exist with past lives, but (even if not in so many words) that I don’t have to be held up by a dependence on nostalgia.  He has, in his own way, taught me to live for the future while not forgetting who I am.

12. Sense of humor.

This is one of the best reasons I married my husband, and it’s the most likely reason I expect to stay married to my husband.  Take lots of shit with a grain of salt, and you’ll be better off.

And that’s what we’ve got so far.  We’ll surely learn a lot more in forthcoming years, but we’re excited to have many years to figure everything else out.  Wish us luck.

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annoying blonde tropes, part II: Fred Willard film festival

So back to our Netflix queue, and annoying romantic comedies.  We’ve watched two so far this week, one that I had wanted to get off the queue for some time, and then one that just struck my fancy for the moment.

Both of these films had Fred Willard in a bit part.  Which I guess is not uncommon.  He might have the second longest list of IMDB credits, immediately after the cast list for Law & Order.  (I shit you not.)

We’ll get to the third film in just a moment.

Let’s discuss the first film.   Ira & Abby: a film about a guy who wishes he were half as funny as Woody Allen and this blonde blythe spirit who he marries within a week of meeting.

Yes, I sang along to the first Rilo Kiley song that appeared with opening credit sequence, but I got tired of the all-Jenny Lewis soundtrack less than a quarter of the way through the movie.  I would have had a better time just listening to More Adventurous while reading wikipedia articles.   The same philosophy that inspired Kubrick to repeatedly feature the work of the brothers Strauss in 2001 does not work with Ms. Lewis.  Sorry.

Anyway.  In short, the film is an “irreverent look at marriage”.  And it’s irreverent indeed.  It basically states that marriage has no point, and is not something that lasts and is not worth pursuing.

What an inventive concept.  No idea how they came up with this one.

But the really really annoying part of the film is that it introduces another Blonde Romantic Trope, even worse than the Melanie Griffith/Meg Ryan/Kirsten Dunst MPDG: Jennifer Westfeldt wrote herself as the Manic Pixie Dream Wife.  Ugh.

Her character insists that she (Abby) and her anxiety-ridden Jewish future husband (Ira, obvs) get married upon one day of meeting: he is “looking for a change”, or so he tells his therapist, and she offers this wonderful new path in life.  (Male protagonist resists change: main qualification for the female lead being an MPDG.)   One of her oh so polite requests upon being married is that she and her slightly schlubby husband have sex, every single day.  A streak they go to great lengths to maintain.  (Forcing yourself to be intimate when you’re not really feeling it is not exactly the key to a healthy relationship.  But this movie isn’t really focused on healthy relationships – it’s got that indie flick moral core of “do whatever you feel.”  No movie really gets that across better than Harold & Maude, and lots of films just keep trying, working in the same aesthetic, and fail miserably.  It starts to make me cranky.)

Abby is friends with everyone she comes across, and has this wonderful, loving family  – her parents are Fred Willard and Frances Conroy, both of whom I usually love.  She brings a feminine wonder to Ira’s apartment, which she moves into.  Eventually the couple divorces twice, and there is a whole lot of inter-familial melee (the best part of the film is the interwoven character montage of everyone at therapy; and the “let’s get in a circle invervention” scene further on ruins the effect).

The best performance in the film is from Judith Light, of Who’s the Boss fame, as an uptight New York psycho-analyst, who is strong and knows what she wants through the whole film.  Sorry, but I’d rather be her than Abby, who argues with husband Ira about having no ambition, and says, “What if I just wanted to be your wife?”  How post-feminist twee.  Gag me.

By the end of the film, she’s no longer his wife, but they’re still together, and everyone’s okay with that.  And she eats McDonald’s everyday and is still thin.  OF COURSE.  Because that’s a medically sound probability.

But that’s why she’s such a Dream Wife: she throws caution to the wind, she eats like crap and doesn’t gain weight, she cares about the sex, and the loyalty, and not the whole marriage business.  And she’s friends with her exes but faithful to Ira, who wasn’t even given much of a fair shake in a hasty end to the movie.

Doesn’t every guy want a ragingly hormonal lady-friend who wants to be his partner for as long as they last, and doesn’t ever bother him about the wife thing?  And refuses to go to therapy (because therapy never helps anyone, of course)?  Women, we’ve got to cool down about the whole ambition and marriage thing.  Obvs.  Or not.

The movie had its charming moments, but it was also annoying as all get out.  Yeah, yeah, I get it.  It’s just a movie, she’s just a character, everything is fine, nothing is ruined, whatever.  There is still the possibility that pop culture characters are more than just characters but whatever.

I know that indie film producers and screenwriters and Manic Pixie Dream Girls everywhere out there want to make us think that being happy is all there is to life, but it’s so much more complicated than that.  Referring back to annoying blonde tropes, part I, I will say that Ira & Abby are just as screwed as Joel & Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  Maybe Ira and Abby are just more okay with being obnoxious about it.   Either way, I really disliked even the grown-up version of the MPDG.

Next.

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so what exactly do you believe in?

Today, while at work, exhausting things were happening and making me cranky.  And some of them have to do with religion.

That should not be, whatsoever where I work, and I like where I work because religion plays no part in what we do.  Or at least, it absolutely should not.

But today, it did, and I got mansplained to by some preacher as to why kids act a certain way, and for the sake of being affable I thanked the dude for the work he does with our kids.  Because often, religious workers do great things for many kids.

Religion is not all hurt.  Religion helped me through a lot when I was younger.  I was little Catholic girl, CCD superstar (my nun teacher told my mother I was “brilliant” close to my confirmation), sang in the children’s choir, played in handbells forever and absolutely adored it, and even directed a chime choir when I was in high school.  Loved it all.  It got me through a lot.

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productivity, contribution, and self worth

I guess it came with growing up relatively poor, or having good role models, that I don’t tie my self worth to having a fancy car or fancy clothes (although I do have a lot of clothes – many of them still secondhand) or how much money I make.

But how do people define their self-worth?  How much you mean to your friends?  How much you mean to your husband (wife/significant other/etc.)?  What a good mother you are?  How clean your house is?  How healthy you are?  How much you contribute to charity?  How much you know?  How educated you are?  How much your job, or your beyond job activity contributes to society as a whole?

The job thing and the education thing contributes a great deal to how I tend to feel about myself.  As an overachiever child, this plays out in bizarre ways in adulthood.

T-storm talked a lot awhile ago about Erikson’s theories of lifespan development.  I never considered a career as a psychologist, but of all the things he’s come home with from his counseling grad classes, this to me is the most interesting.  Hooray lifespan development!

(This is also kind of funny, as we re-watched Scott Pilgrim vs. the World last night, full of slow motion silhouettes indicating the vs. battles.  Now I’m going to think of things like shame & stagnation dissolving into a giant flurry of coins.)

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our cat

It occurs to me that I haven’t shared any photos of him, at least via this medium.

the M on his head is for MALEVOLENT

This photo was from when we first brought him home.  He’s grown a bit, but he can still be a cranky kitty, especially if you alter the physical state of any blanket anywhere near him.

One of my VE (varying exceptionalites; students for whom it is recommended they not be mainstreamed) kids found out I was almost 30, and said, out loud because some of these children especially lack any sort of filter, “Thirty!?  That’s when the loneliness comes!!  You gonna be all alone at home!”

I stopped, laughed, looked out at the teacher aides in the class, and said back to him, “Sweetie, you know I have a husband and a cat at home, why would I be lonely?”

He was insistent.  “You gonna be sittin’ at home, pettin’ the cat, waitin’ for your husband to come home from work.  It’s gonna be lonely!”

I laughed again, and the aides were about to double over.  “I’m here with you guys all day!”

“But when you come home from work, you gonna be pettin’ the cat and be lonely!”

Of course, I tell my husband this, actually after I told other people because we haven’t had nearly enough time together lately to share hilarious stories and it’s a pretty hilarious story, and the husband responds, “Tell him it’s typically the other way around.”

(In case you haven’t figured it out, “housewife” is a misnomer.  I work entirely too much, yet strive to maintain a rich domestic life.)

Well.

Right now T-storm is in grad class, and he’ll be there until 10pm.

The freaking cat is sitting on hubs’s  chair, waiting for him to get home.  He squeaked and squawked when I got home, but NOTHING like he will when the hubs comes home.  He will go berserk.  He will run and jump and be excited for hours.

Sure, the cat likes me, and he likes it that I’m the one that feeds him (because of things we’ve read/heard about toxoplasmosis, and how that can even affect women of child-bearing age, T-storm will be on litter duty for probably the next 5-7 years).  But nothing, nothing can match the cat’s excitement when my husband comes through the door.  Nothing.

That cat loves my husband more than probably anything else in the world.

Good to know we’ve got something in common.

(Today’s alternate lesson: it’s okay to laugh at students.  Even ones with severe autism because sometimes they say the most hilarious things.)

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ng + afp = less than three

So when I was a teenager I got into Tori Amos.  We’ll talk about why or why not that is later this week.  As a result of being into Tori Amos, in college-ish I became familiar with Neil Gaiman.  After college I started actually reading his stuff (not just the liner notes for Strange Little Girls).  One year for Christmas my (not-yet-then) husband purchased me the short story collection Fragile Things, with the aforementioned SLG inserts as a part of them.  (As for his liner notes, many of them are better than some but not all of the songs on that album; sorry you guys, but Tori’s cover of “Heart of Gold” is among the worst of all time.  “Reigning Blood”, however, is a thing to behold.)

“October in the Chair” is one of my favorite bedtime stories.

Anyway.  Almost two years ago I found Neil on twitter.  And thus found Amanda Palmer, and was like “WTF why haven’t I been listening to her for years!?”  (I know why – I was too preoccupied with twee & Sonic Youth throughout college.)

I’ve been rabidly following their relationship like it’s a tabloid, proving again that people writing their own shit on twitter is so much better than 90% of mainstream news publications.  And just yesterday, Palmer posted their epic, epic wedding blog, marking their one year anniversary.

EPIC.  http://blog.amandapalmer.net/post/15120706154/the-wedding-blog

Two things that she writes apply to well, everyone and everything.

nowadays, at some level, everybody loves a bride.
and everybody loves a bride, i think, because a bride symbolizes hope.

in a world filled with NO NO NO NO NO and fear and terror and doubt, a bride fills up the space in the minds eye as a giant white tulle YES, and you don’t need to know the romantic backstory. somehow, through some miraculous chain of events, this woman has decided to throw herself into a life commitment. and it means something different now than it did 100, even 50, years ago. because nowadays she has a choice.

SIGH.  I walked down the street in my white tulle poof on my wedding day and felt exactly exactly exactly that way.

Also, this is the kind of house I want to have one day:

the third inspiration was to call upon neil’s other writer friends, michael chabon and ayelet waldman, whose home we’d already been welcomed into the year before.
michael and ayelet have a kind of a dream-home, filled with four astoundingly awesome children, random instruments, rugs, books and all manner of homey-goodness. we asked if they would have us and armistead and lance and company over to dinner and by the way get married right before we eat and by the way would rosie possibly mind being our flower girl. they said yes, and rosie, age six, began aggressively plotting her outfit. things were officially underway.

(Yeah, we plan on one day having children, and I totally want to have a cadre of little girls who aggressively plan outfits.)

Anyway, the whole piece is beautifully wrought.  Insightful and just wonderful.  This is why people still get married.

Also, a video of AFP playing with the Boston Pops, as she mentions earlier in the post.

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so this is Christmas

Today was my first Christmas away from my mother.

When I went to college, I didn’t go very far away.  And almost immediately after I graduated high school, my mother moved down and almost sort of followed me.  When I played in concerts for the next six years, she’d always be there.

Ever since I graduated high school, Christmas had always been homecoming.  That first post-hs Christmas, it was a friend coming home from Parris Island, and everyone reconnecting after our first six months or so apart.  Last year, my brother had a fiance who had a kid, and for what it’s worth, Christmas with a kid involved is always more fun.  It’s about kids, anyway, even when they are horrible sometimes, to see their faces light up is always something magical.  His fiancee and her kid are no longer in our lives, but I do miss having a little, super excited kid around on Christmas.  And after the kid Christmas, it was me and my two best friends together, with T-storm as well.  It was really something special.

The lines about Christmas being too commercial and too whatever are quite honestly, tired.  Are you doing anything to change how the holidays are celebrated?  Then STFU.  Most of the time, whatever’s going on during the holidays, I just sort of give in.  It’s good to be surrounded by warmth and love and friends and family and I personally don’t care that I now ignore the religious aspect of it altogether.  It’s a good enough excuse to get together with family and loved ones and appreciate each others’ company.

And yes, this Christmas, I went to my husband’s parents’ house, and had dinner and hilariously fun card game time and even watched an episode of The Real McCoys (now on DVD!) with them, his brother, his brother’s fiancee, and her mother.  And the hubs, of course.

And then we watched the second half of Fellowship of the Ring (we started last night – from the extended cut DVDs) tonight and he fell asleep on my lap while the cat jaunted around the couch.

(Wait – you haven’t met the cat yet.  You will in a day or two.)

And I laid on the couch being grateful for all I had, and all I’d been lucky enough to receive this year.  Whatever homecoming and friendship rededication or whatever we usually wait until Christmas for, we had tenfold at the wedding in November.  I should watch our wedding slideshow again and remind myself of these things.

But I go to bed, not long after T-storm, for once, and I realize quickly that I cannot sleep.  It’s a futile effort.  When I’m out I’m out, and there is never any joy derived from waking me in the morning, but when I can’t sleep I know better than to let my mind wander while awake in bed.

In the last week before the holiday, I sort of overdid it on Christmas a little bit.  On sentimental things in general.  Rewatched all of the Christmas episodes of 30 Rock several times.  Must have listened to The Pogues “Fairytale of New York”, The Smashing Pumpkins “Christmastime”, and The Waitresses “Christmas Wrapping” at least a dozen times apiece.  I made a dining room full of Christmas bunting in one night, and even a line of holiday card bunting.  I went through a Gilmore Girls greatest hits rundown.  I baked like a madwoman on Christmas Eve.

But nothing could be going home.  Nothing could be best friends, nothing could be having a morning of making fun of parades with my mother.

In all honesty, I wasn’t terribly connected and affectionate to my husband this Christmas morning.  We had gifts last night, and I think some of my last-minute holiday cheer sort of wore thin on him.  I was back in craft focus mode, and not marriage focused partner mode.  I can’t blame him for not being thrilled with that.

But we watched Fellowship and laughed at the cat, and all was better.  And now I can’t sleep.

Part of it is just the shift of moving toward being the old married lady.  All of our friends seem to be heading in all different directions.  Once I graduated high school, I was amazed at all of the different directions everyone would take.  I guess I’d never thought about it before then.

I continue to be amazed at all of the different directions everyone’s lives take.  But I guess it’s more important to be grateful for the bonds that keep us together, somehow.

A good end to this would be me going back to bed, into my husband’s arms, but I have a feeling there will be a few rounds of Peggle between me and that happily night after.

Merry Christmas, anyway.

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