Tag Archives: Adoptive Single Parents

Dreams of My Daughter

In spite of our recent struggles Hope and I persist. #nevertheless

This weekend I decided to redo my bedroom. I painted and moved the furniture. I hadn’t done this is more than 15 years; it was more than time for me to make this change. Freaked Yappy out, but I’m delighted by the change.

Hope helped me paint my room. I got up early and got started by myself. She joined me a few hours later. It was such a fun experience teaching her how to paint the walls. I’ve been working on getting her to abandon her perfectionist ways, but on this occasion, they came in handy as once she got the hang of things, she insisted on doing the detail work.

We painted. We took breaks and had veggie omelets. We painted and stopped for lunch. We painted and watched a movie. We moved heavy furniture around (#girlpower) and took Advil before bed.

Hope tapped out before everything was totally done; she retreated to her room to catch up on K-dramas. I finished painting some trim and got started on cleaning up. We’d had such a lovely day working together. Hope said she really enjoyed the painting and wondered if this was something she might do in the future…professionally. I told her how much it would’ve been for someone to come in and paint my room professionally and how people make a good living doing painting professionally. She still trying to figure out what she wants to be one day, but the fact that she’s actively trying on ideas is a lovely thing.

Of course, some of this dreaming about her future makes her anxious; actually, a most of it does. Turns out getting hooked up with a nerd mom who loves school, studied school and works with schools puts a lot of pressure out there even if I try not to. I want Hope to find her own way and to take her time doing so. She says she wants to be a linguist, but I also know that she has some natural interest and ability in physics. If she were willing to practice music more, she’s talented, gifted even, there could be a future there. Who knows what she will end up doing; I’m not worried. I know she will find her way.

What’s wonderful to me, even in the midst of her struggle, is that she is dreaming of a future. She’s envisioning herself doing different kinds of things. That’s so cool.

What’s more is Hope also dreams about how she will live. This weekend she regaled me with details about the kind of home she wants and how it would be decorated. She has good tastes.

On more than one occasion this weekend I found myself suppressing a smile of pride as she went on about the kind of life she would live.

It’s taken a long time for Hope to start dreaming about her future…or at least vocalizing the dreams she has for herself. I hold onto these moments tightly since I know we’re still roughing it. It’s reassuring to know that she is thinking about her future. Some days it’s so hard to think about the future; the past crushes us. It hangs around like a bad penny. So whenever Hope mentions the future, a part of me summersaults.

I continue to be optimistic about her healing and her ability to become this amazing woman.

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Thoughts on a Bad Night

I’ve started my fall travel-palooza. I’m only on my second leg, and I am very, very anxious about the rest of the trips.

I’m already exhausted and feeling overextended. I’m stressed, dehydrated and high or sluggish on carbs. I thought I would treat myself to a manicure and a massage at the airport a couple of days ago before my red eye, but by the time I got to my connecting airport everything—EVERYTHING—in my terminal was shut up tight. Closed. I couldn’t even get a diet coke. I folded myself up in my seat and tried to sleep.

I caught 90 minutes of shut eye at home that next morning, and then what feels like my never ending day got back on the road. I ran errands, bought food, filled prescriptions, bathed the dog, did the laundry, herded Hope to her band competition and back to fetch her at 11pm at night, tidied Hope’s room and prepped my room for the nanny. I grabbed a few—and I mean a few—winks of sleep before it was time to get up, finish packing, walk Yappy, and catch my Lyft to the airport.

But, I went left around that 11pm pick up. Actually, I didn’t go left, I went crazy.

My beautiful teen daughter is rather…messy. I was not allowed to be too messy; my room as a teen was tiny. There wasn’t much space to be messy. Hope has a decent sized room, and well, I hear that general messiness has come to be accepted as a typical teen quality.

I reject this, but apparently that doesn’t matter because at the level of my house, the data show that it is true.

Hope is a bit of a mess. I try really, really, really hard to be understanding. I swear to the Holy Homeboy that I do try to understand. I honestly believe that our messiness can be indicative of our emotional state—heck I call my front hall closet the magic closet. I swear, the lion, the witch, the wardrobe and all of Disney could possibly be in there, but I digress.

Hope’s room…Lawd.

When I’m home and can stay on top of her, she can stay on top of the room. I don’t expect it to be eat off the floor clean, but some level that hangs around “kind of tidy” is what I’d like to shoot for. That’s achievable when I’m home. Even still, I find that I have to roll through once a week with a trash bag and thin things out. I throwaway obvious trash and put personal care products away. I make her bed, pick up her laundry and put it in the hamper (literally INCHES away). I try not to go through “her” stuff too much, just align the corners of the piles. Then I hit everything with some sprays of Febreze and run the oil diffuser. I rarely comment on what I find, and she doesn’t get in trouble unless I find something really, really, really serious.

Well yesterday I had to do the trashcan routine, and Er Mah GAWD! For a kid who has a bug phobia, she has no problem creating environments where bugs would simply love to take up residence. I did what I normally do, but with the schedule and my lack of sleep, I ruminated on all the crap I had to clean up. I didn’t take into consideration that she might be stressed when I’m away and that it might contribute to the mess. I went straight tunnel vision with righteous fury that had hours to build.

And by the time I fetched her I was trying to keep a lid on my fury. I knew it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t want to spend our few minutes together bickering. I knew both of us were tired.

But I just couldn’t let it go, and not letting it go was like lighting a match to dynamite. I totally blew and I totally blew it.

Before I knew it, I was yelling and saying horrible things, things I knew hurt. I was a crazy mess, and embarrassingly, I admit that Hope was more mature than I was. And even as I saw her face, I could feel my heart cracking because I was conscious enough to know I was being a total and complete asshole.

This was not mothering. This was not who I wanted to be. I was a total mess.

And so I apologized.

Yeah, after I got in one more verbal lick. Seriously, I was so stupid. But I genuinely regret those moments. I worry about how they affected her. I worry that I’ve pushed her away. I worry that I’ve irrevocably damaged us. I worry that she won’t forgive me. I worry that I’ve dredged up old emotions that we’ve worked so hard to reconcile.

I feel like I failed in the most epic way. I know we’ll survive, but I worry that this will be a big setback. I worry that I have broken so much trust.

I wish I had been able to keep it together.

I worry that this is only the beginning of my travel season and that the challenges will only escalate as will my fatigue.

I flew to my next destination this morning. Before I left I hand-wrote my daughter a letter of apology. I gave no excuses. I didn’t dig in about cleaning her room. I didn’t ask for forgiveness. I just said I’m so sorry that I said the awful things I said, that I made her feel bad, that I let my anger, frustration and fatigue get the better of me. I asked for grace as we press through my travel season.

I asked the nanny to take care and to check in to make sure she was ok. I let them go do a little retail therapy, and I gave her some space.

I’m hoping that we’ll be able to right our ship when I get home in a few days. Unfortunately, I’ll be off again to another city by week’s end. But I’m hopeful that my resilient daughter will bounce back. I hope that we won’t be too damaged by this event. I hope that I can learn how to keep my mouth shut and how to let the dumb stuff go.

I didn’t ask for forgiveness, but I hope to God that she does indeed forgive me.

My current worst fear is that she won’t.


Drawing Her Back In

The thing I’ve found that helps Hope and I move past drama more quickly is to just draw her closer to me. All I usually have to do is text her and say, “You want to…’

Watch a movie?

Watch a show?

Show me some K-Pop videos?

Share some popcorn?

Make s’mores?

Have some cocoa?

With me.

Ultimately, Hope wants to spend time with me. She doesn’t want drama; she wants love.

So, last week, after I dressed her down about her BS excuses about school and told her she could not go to prom with her friend; Hope retreated to her room. She put on her headphones and watched videos nonstop for an hour or two. I let her be for a while. And then, knowing that we needed to get past my fussiness of school and prom, I texted her from the living room:

text

Next thing you know, Hope schleps out with her blanket, and we watch a couple of deep sea creature documentaries and all was well with the world. We were cool.

Even when Hope is in a lot of trouble, all she wants is the reaffirmation that I love her, that I want her, that she is safe and that we’ll always be cool. And we will be. We’ll be just fine.

I try to remember that when I get angry or frustrated with her; all I have to do is draw her back in.


There is No Magic

A few days ago Hope and I were in the car listening to a podcast. We were chuckling about the show, and then it ended and we listened to some of the commercials before the next podcast started. One of the commercials was about a new podcast on the magic of childhood.

I was only halfheartedly listening to the commercials. I caught the thought and let it slip through my mind.

But Hope was listening.

“There is no magic in childhood. None.”

She immediately had my attention. I didn’t know what to say.  All I could manage to say was, “Huh?”

“Magic? What’s magical about childhood? Nothing,”

We sat quietly at a light.

I quickly thought about all of her young years and the things she endured. I felt her trauma in my soul.

She didn’t say anything else, and I wasn’t sure what to say next. So, I didn’t say anything at all. It was one of the few times during our time together when I was completely stunned to silence. Usually, I can come up with something, but I had nothing. And I was just overwhelmed by the absence of magic in my daughter’s childhood.

I understand how she concluded that the magic of childhood was nothing but a farce. It breaks my heart. I have these fond memories of growing up. I remember my parents love. I remember birthday cakes and playing in the street with neighborhood kids. I remember when they took me and my sisters to Disney World and numerous other family trips. I remember feeling safe and loved. I remember so many little details that are clear to me know but seemed magical then.

I know that there are some memories that Hope has with her first family that are happy memories, but the number of those moment to moment memories are dwarfed by memories of instability, fear, and profound grief. The latter so crushing that she can barely see the good stuff in her mind. And she can’t separate those memories and just erase the bad ones. She has figured out how to reconcile the bad stuff; she can’t partition it to try to create some magic.

The magic of childhood is lost to her.

I wish I could change it all for her. I can’t, but I wish to hell like I could.

I have spent a lot of time and resources on helping Hope heal. I didn’t realize that I was also trying to create some magic in the waning years of Hope’s adolescence. I try to give her big and small experiences that will stick with her. I’m hoping they are special, magical, but knowing that she doesn’t think there’s any magic in childhood just makes me feel so sad.

I wonder will she still feel this way years from now when she has her own child? Did my silence, my failure to offer some wisdom about childhood magic, just reaffirm her grief? What can I do to make magic for her? Can I still create some magic for her?

I honestly don’t know what was I supposed to say in that moment that would validate her but offer a different narrative. I still don’t know what I was supposed to say to that declaration. I just don’t know what to say about there being no magic in childhood.


Three Years Ago

Three years ago today, Hope arrived at DCA with her social worker. She was originally scheduled to arrive the day before, but the weather on the east coast was so bad that her flight was canceled.

I remember heading to the airport that cold January night and waiting for her to emerge from security.

I was alone.

I was alone because I worried that a big group of folks would be overwhelming to a child who, for the previous few weeks, had resisted moving. Hope was afraid. She’s already experienced so much change in her life. She wanted to have some normalcy where she was for just a few more months.

Alas, all the adults thought that it was time to make the move. And so, she did.

I arrived at the airport early, snarfed down a couple of doughnuts from Dunkin’ Donuts while I waited for Hope to arrive and deplane.

This would be her second trip to see me and her final destination this go ‘round.

I remember she emerged from security looking tired, a bit overwhelmed and a bit afraid.

I hugged her. I was so happy she was here.

She hugged me back, but I don’t know if the hug really made her feel better.

We got her luggage, and dropped her social worker off at the hotel.

And then it was just the two of us.

It has been that way ever since.

In some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago, and others, it seems like just yesterday.

Hope has grown into an amazing young woman. She is creative, feisty, and musical. She is loving and kind. She is polite.

We have built an amazing life together.

We are growing and stretching. Sometimes it’s painful, and sometimes, it’s just the best thing ever.

I love Hope so very much.

This family is everything. It’s beyond whatever I could’ve imagined.

I’ve learned so much about myself during this time. I would not have ever anticipated what this life as a mom to Hope would have been like. It’s beyond my comprehension.

It hasn’t been easy. In fact, often, it has been devastatingly difficult at times.

It’s been difficult for both of us.

Transitioning to motherhood was swift. Understanding the true impacts of trauma and how to parent through it is a work in progress. Checking my anger is a learned process; I’m improving.

Ugh, and the weight gain. I’ve put on about 20lbs of teen adoption weight.

I’m older and wiser though.

Hope struggled with the transition to permanence. She got there with time. We still struggle with horrible memories and persistent grief. As she approaches normalcy we see latent issues emerge, and we tackle them.

She’s a little older and possibly a little wiser too.

We continue to observe these moments in our history; we may stop one day. I don’t know. But we still do count these milestones. We think about how far we have come. We think about how bonded we are now; we think about our futures.

We have a little something sweet.

And then we get on with the life we’ve created together.

I love Hope, and Hope loves me.


Parenting While Exhausted

sadabmSo this week Hope is back in school.

A moment of joy silence for the end of summer vacation.

She’s fine, just anxious about band stuff, but getting on swimmingly.

Me?

Getting us back on schedule and committing to exercising daily and running Hope everywhere she needs to go has damn near killed me.

I had such hopes for the week. I was meal planning just 5 days ago. I was planning on making homemade ramen (she loves it), a Kraft chicken and broccoli braid thing (she loves that too) and maybe some more pulled pork bbq.

I was going to take Yappy to the dog park. I was going to crush my walking and stretching goals.

Sooooooo, yeah, then reality hit and I’m one step above drooling on the couch by 8pm.

I have kinda kept up with the walking, but the weather turned hot again.

Hot weather meant that Yappy’s park time got cut back.

Band practices and tutoring ran later than expected.

I needed to run some unexpected errands because *someone who is not me* keeps stepping on her earbuds.

And then there was dinner….poor dinner.

After a long day, I ask, “Hey Hope, you hungry?”

“Nah, not really. I don’t want anything.”

Me silently: thank you sweet baby Jesus, because all I was only going to suggest you make yourself a sandwich out of that Costco rotisserie chicken or that salami that you didn’t eat last week. Otherwise, I got nothing but like some cheese toast to offer you.

I have relied on my daughter’s low appetite all week justify not cooking dinner.

<hangs head in mock shame>

I figure, she’s a teenager, if she’s hungry, she’ll eat, right?  There’s food in the house; she’ll be fine. It’s only a few days and no ribs are showing.

I’ve been living on sandwiches, hummus and wine or cider all week, kinda like when I was a single, no kid-having person. Next stop will be cereal, so I figure, I haven’t hit rock bottom yet.

Note to self: buy some Lucky Charms in case of exhaustion emergency.

I’m so tired, like I’m “fantasizing about sleep” tired. I can’t wait until Saturday when I drop her off for an event and let Yappy run at the park for 45 minutes. I will then retire to my beloved couch. I’m there, so there. I pray nothing gets in my way of realizing this beautiful fantasy.

In the meantime, there’s a kid pickup to make, a podcast to record and a paltry chicken sandwich to make—with a side of chips.

Did you catch that shameless plug for Add Water and Stir?

#mustgetmoresleep


Serenity in Short Bursts

I’ve really, really, really been focused on maintaining calm in the household for the last week.  And you know, it works. I have let Hope’s stank attitudes about various things just roll off me like water. I’ve very calmly let her know when she has crossed certain lines and what certain expectations are. The energy I would usually expend being emotional with Hope, I’ve transferred into dedicated self-care.

I’ve exercised every day. I made it to bed one night at 9:30pm. I ate healthy. I enjoyed the sunshine taking Yappy to the dog park.

It’s been a peaceful week; well kinda.

Hope told a whopper this week (she even lies like a little kid); I busted her and punished her.

I also signed Hope up for a commercial tutoring program this week.  I did not spring this on her. I told her; we went to the initial assessment last weekend.  When I told her how this would affect her weekly schedule; she lost her ish. She was furious; I just let her be, but she gave off some nasty energy with her icy silent treatments.

Through it all, I remained serene. It was all good.

And then, this morning, the third morning in which Hope dragged arse in the morning. The thought of her missing the bus (again) and cutting into my workout (me) time made me hit my limit. I mean…I just couldn’t do the calm thing again. I lit right into her.

And she was ready with full on teen attitude.

She still had attitude later at the orthodontist. And I had no serene patience for her.

I’m realizing that I did pretty good for keeping it chill for a whole week. It gave me some perspective; I had time and energy to invest in myself. I felt better. I slept better.

Trying to keep things calm around here is a good goal; there are going to be flares and I have to accept that and know that it’s normal. I mean, really my blow up with still so much less intense than usual. My try for this month is really going to be to focus on parenting with calmness. I gotta believe that Hope will benefit from it, but honestly, I am doing it for me.

I need more serenity—and it’s not about knowing the difference about change vs. no change; it’s really about me having a sense of calmness and happiness. That’s my goal. I want to be happy. Parenting is hard. I told someone it’s the greatest bait and switch that ever existed.

You have the amazing drive to procreate and/or raise a child healthily and with your values and so much goodness. That drive is all about you, really. The reality is parenting is about constant sacrifice. It often is thankless and a lot of time, it’s chaotic.

For Hope and me, it’s always had a sense of chaos, and I’m tired of it. No mas. No mas.

I am seeking serenity and happiness in this life chapter, and that means that I need to step up, breathe and exhale into this like a complicated yoga pose that requires you to clear your mind and just open your heart.

It kinda hurts so good.

This evening it is back to calmness and a focus on how long can I stay in that space.


Pushing & Pulling

One of the toughest parts of adopting an adolescent kiddo is figuring out how to balance the need and desire to establish attachment by pulling the child close and the need to facilitate and foster the independence associated with being a teen and drop kicking kiddo out(ish). It’s a tough balance.

I’ve been spending a lot of time and effort really trying to do the attachment parenting thing, and I can say that it’s made life at Casa d’ABM better. Lots of time together, lots of patience, lots of deliberate effort to meet Hope right where she is. I’m really trying to pull her close, ensure her safety, and strengthen our relationship. I can see the fruits of this labor; less grumpiness, more willingness to be agreeable, less general upheaval in the house.

As I do this pulling, Hope’s friends are getting dropped off at the movies, at the mall, at the ice skating rink and anywhere else teens get dropped these days. Hope doesn’t get invited—like ever, but I try to make it happen with the few friends she has. It is normal for her to try to kick me to the curb sometimes. But she doesn’t; in fact she begs me to stay. Then I am on the spot to be present but invisible, but somehow cool all at the same time. I worry about when she will develop some independence and be on par developmentally with her peers. And when will I be able to just drop her off and come home and enjoy a glass of something until time to fetch her. (*Not so secretly hoping to regain control of my couch and remote on Friday nights…..)

I know it’s not a competition, but it’s hard not to compare Hope to other kids so that I can have a sense of what she might be doing if we had always been together, if she had been my biological daughter. I find it makes me sad that her life has been such that she’s stunted. I mean, what I’m dealing with here is a bit more than just “late bloomer” stuff. I find myself wishing her classmates would genuinely befriend her, that they would just invite her to hang out, that they would give her a chance to learn how to be a good friend. Watching Hope wrestle with this developmental hurdle has been hard; I know she’s lonely. I also know that she can occasionally wallow.

I also feel like there is a lot of feelings between both of us with me being both mom and proxy for a bestie. I mean, there have been seasons of my life when, without question, my mom was my bestie, but this is different. I always knew my mom and the privilege of having grown up with her allowed me the freedom to reclassify her as my friend as well as my mom. I know that Hope and I will hopefully get there one day, but for now, I am not sure how I feel about being both mom and best friend. I just want to be a space holder for a bestie, until she can develop the capacity to really nurture a friendship along such that evolves into a bestie situation.

Welcome to Crazy Town: I'm not your friend , I am your MOTHER!!!!

I never thought about how much effort goes into being a friend until I watched Hope navigate these waters. It is another thing that I’ve spent a lifetime taking for granted—I am very social and I make friends easily. Over the years, my job has had me on the road a lot, I went back to school and I became a mom. All of these things made me assess friendships and either work hard to maintain them or realize that the friend season was over with certain folks. But it was a luxury to just make those calls. I see my daughter so thirsty for genuine relationships. I try to teach Hope good skills so that she can be a good friend, but we are really behind the 8 ball—Hope’s emotional age is simply not the same as her peers and the capacity for the level of friend sophistication of high schoolers is pretty far above her head. It’s like watching a 4th grader hang out with some high schoolers. Cute for the first couple of minutes, painful for the remaining 58 minutes of an hour.

So for now, all I can do is pull her closer and try to help her feel safe enough and loved enough to let herself learn how to be appropriately social with her peers. I’m hopeful that we will work at this and succeed such that I don’t have to go to her senior prom with her.

Been there, done that…got the flamingo colored (I called it ‘coral’ back then) dress and dyed pumps to prove it. (You *know* you want to see that lovely one-shouldered confection with the drop waist…because 90s!)


Mama

On Christmas Eve nearly two years ago, Hope called me “mom” for the first time. It was the most precious gift I could have ever received since it was entirely her choice to call me mom instead of my given name.

I love the sound of her calling me mom. It’s become so routine, so natural now that I almost take it for granted.

And then something reminds me that mom, and other names or terms of endearment, are Hope’s little presents to me. I don’t know if she knows they are presents, but they really are.

In moments when Hope and I are really connected and things are good, she calls me mama.

On nights like tonight, when I’ve been out to a group meeting talking about this adoption journey and I call her on my way home to check in and see if she needs anything, she answers the phone excitedly, “Hi mama,” and I smile.

I know she’s excited I’m on my way home. I know she’s fine, but she missed me. I know she loves me. I know she’s been thinking about me.

I know that no matter the funky BS we may have been going through, she loves me.

Mama is music to me.

Mama reminds me that we’ll be ok.

I hope to be worthy of being called mama every day by my daughter. Most of the time I feel unworthy. Like a lot of parents I fret over whether I’m doing any of this parenting well at all or if I’m just really, really effing everything up and failing miserably.

I guess I’m doing ok. I’ve had a string of mamas this week. I’ll take that as some validation.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to earn this epic term of endearment again.

I think I can.

I think I can.


Weekend of Respite

As planned I booked the sitter and a hotel room less than 5 miles from the house and fled for some much needed respite this weekend. In fact by 8:30pm each night, I was sitting in my jammies, swigging wine from a bottle in my room, contemplating my bedtime.

I slept about 10 hours the first night. I walked 3 miles the next morning while shopping. I slept 3 hours this afternoon—like back in the bed, under the covers, knocked out napping. I hit the elliptical for 45 minutes that evening. I ate carry out from Whole Paycheck [Foods], and, yes, drank wine straight from the bottle.

Gosh I needed that. I called Grammy the first evening and when she heard I napped she exclaimed, “That’s not even in your nature? You don’t nap.”

Yeah, I know. I’m exhausted.

I’ve noticed a few things while on this mini getaway.

I eat horribly when I’m stressed and exhausted. No wonder I’m at my highest weight ever. Ugh! I actually listened to my twisted mind tell myself I deserved a bunch of fatty foods (tasted good though). Today I started the Couch to 5K program. Let’s go.

My carpal tunnel has progressed to the point where I need to seriously consider surgery. How did I ignore the weakening of my hand? I mean, it’s really, really bad! Calling my doc this week.

I am really tired, like really tired. Must go to bed earlier.

The moment I get away from Hope, I actually miss her. Not enough to run home, mind you, but I do miss her, and I miss Yappy too.

I miss her but I know she was fine. I know because she texted me like 18 times and called me once. She was irritated because I could not resolve her minor problem, and she sat in silence on the phone furious when she realized that I was not going to hurry home to find the key for the bike lock. Nope, Hope, not gonna do it.

I was proud of myself that I did not buy her anything while out shopping. Admittedly, I saw a bunch of stuff I wanted to scoop up for her. I mean, the 8th grade prom is coming up! But nope didn’t buy her one thing.

I took care of me this weekend. I need to do this more often. I really do.

I see how parents get so run down; parenting, working, and running a household is exhausting. I like to think I keep up with a lot of stuff, but I forget all kinds of things—like Hope’s sports physical this past week. It didn’t make the master calendar and thus in my mind did not exist.

Cooking, cleaning, running errands, paying bills, packing lunches, emailing teachers, figuring out birth family stuff, figuring out adoption stuff, therapy appointments, medication management appointments, puppy school, band concerts, and oh yeah, my job!

I swear I don’t know how it all gets done because this isn’t even close to being an exhaustive (ironic) list. I often think it probably isn’t that much easier with a partner, but it seems like it certainly would help.

It’s hard to believe I did a better job of having respite last year than I have done this year. I can only say it’s the curse of being post-finalization and having some belief that things are “fine” now.

They aren’t.

Weekly, when I’m mindful, I see the evidence of Hope’s challenges, and although we have come a long way; there is so much further we must go.

I’m going to have to take a better care of myself if I’m going to help her face her challenges.

Two broken wheels on a bike never makes sense.

So, I’m hoping to really care for myself this summer. I’m going to try.


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