My Greatest Race

I want to tell you the story of the greatest race I was ever a part of.

A race that solidified my devotion and respect for one of our land’s most amazing birds.

Sometime in my early teen years my parents took us on a trip to a park that was having a wild bird demonstration.  We got to see owls, hawks and even an eagle.  I’ve always enjoyed this rare glimpse at birds of prey and was all pumped when they brought out a bird I didn’t really like….at first.

The Turkey Vulture.

He was a big one, with beautiful gleaming black feathers.  When his wings expanded I imagined he could block out the sun while in flight.  His head was fleshy and pink and barren of feathers.  His large beak seemed curled into a smile as he considered the audience with ancient eyes.  I was struck immediately by how perfectly gorgeous he was.  

Not a normal reaction to Turkey Vultures, I know.  

But I loved him.  When the handler asked if we would like to see him in flight I responded most emphatically and was then chosen to race beside him.

They wanted to show just how fast he could fly – as they had with the other birds – but in comparison to a human running.  

I nervously waited beside the handler, the Vulture staring down at me.  I wasn’t afraid of him at all – although close up his size was a bit intimidating.

They counted to three and gave me a head start.  I was to run across the field as fast as my feet could carry me.  So I did.

Behind me I could hear cheers and shouting as wings thundered in the air.  Mr Vulture was in flight, gliding effortlessly and closing the gap between us.

Then he did something no one expected.

When he reached me he dropped down to the ground and ran alongside me, his wings outstretched for balance.  He’d make a squawk every now and again and look at me as we ran together.  I had dropped my pace a bit so we were side by side.

It was one of the most unique and wonderful experiences of my life.  I’ll never forget it, or forget the beautiful bird that refused to fly ahead or behind me – but preferred to be at my side.

To this day I’ve always looked in the skies for signs of Turkey Vultures.  Whenever I see roadkill I look around hoping to catch just a tiny glimpse.  I bought a necklace with a turkey vulture on it to wear.

They are unique and special birds – and face a myriad of dangers.  International Vulture Awareness Day hopes to show people ways they can help.

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Turkey vultures heating up in the early morning sun by Linda Tanner (Creative Commons Attribution licence)

So everyone else can keep their ravens and robins, their parrots and their doves.  For me, my heart will forever be captivated by the Turkey Vulture.

Depressed And Tired

“Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. It is also tiresome. People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief: you are irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re “not at all like yourself but will be soon,” but you know you won’t.”
― Kay Redfield JamisonAn Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

I am depressed, and I am lonely.

People will ask me how I’m doing and I’ll always reply “fine” when I really want to break down into exhausted sobs until my body falls and my brain shuts down.

People will ask me what’s going on and I will say, “oh, nothing.”  When really I want to scream and yell in frustration and break open my soul for them to peer inside.

But I don’t.

I smile and chirp cheerfully about weather, or comics, or my son.

I’ve gotten good after all these years at faking it.  Faking interest.  Faking happiness.  Faking being well.

It’s hard for me to read positive thinking threads – where people are learning to love themselves, their lives, their bodies.

I can’t fathom what it’s even like to LIKE those things, let alone love them.

I’m so goddamn tired.  I want to sleep as much as possible because in my dreams it’s not like this.  In my dreams I’m a Ghostbuster or a Time Traveller or something equally as cool.

Unless I’m having nightmares.  Then I don’t want to sleep at all.

It’s so damn hard for me to put this down in writing.  To express what it’s like to feel worthless all the fucking time.  To look in the mirror and hate oneself so much.  To drown my depression in food and slowly kill myself with obesity.  To avoid drinking and smoking because I know, I fucking know, I would drown myself there too.

I feel like my marriage is falling apart because I’m this big ball of fucked up ness.  I feel like I’m failing my son because I just can’t seem to get a handle on anything.  I think I’ve managed to keep the worst of it from him so far but….

And I’m so FUCKING TERRIFIED that if I do open up, that I do start seeing someone that there will be repercussions.  They’ll deem me an unfit mother and take me away from my Bean.  I’m a depressed mom, someone who possibly has bipolar, and we aren’t painted kindly in the media.

Bean is my only sunshine.  He’s the only thing that keeps me gripping so tightly to the attempt at a “normal” life.  He gets my genuine smiles and all my patience and my love.  He is my touchstone to the future where I’m stable and happy and drawing again.

Gods, I miss drawing.

I don’t even know what do do anymore.  I don’t know how lost I am … and I don’t know when there will be a “coming out the other side”.   Trying to get help is a long and drawn out process.  Three months I have been waiting to see someone.  I want to find someone I can forge a professional relationship with, someone with whom I’ll feel safe, someone that can help guide me back from the edge.  I’m so tired of being shunted around from place to person to place.

The depression, the loneliness, the anxiety and the anger…it’s eating me up inside.  I can’t cover it forever but for my Bean I will keep swimming.  I’ll keep my head just above water so that I can still breathe and I will begin my long swim back to shore.

Because even though I think I’m not worth it, I know that he IS.

“In every way that counted, I was dead. Inside somewhere maybe I was screaming and weeping and howling like an animal, but that was another person deep inside, another person who had no access to the lips and face and mouth and head, so on the surface I just shrugged and smile and kept moving. If I could have physically passed away, just let it all go, like that, without doing anything, stepped out of life as easily as walking through a door I would have done. But I was going to sleep at night and waking in the morning, disappointed to be there and resigned to existence.” 
― Neil GaimanFragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

Feeling Like Myself – A Mystery

When or where do you feel most like yourself?

This is a tough question for me.  In fact, the whole theme of self is tough – my sense of self is still in flux most of the time, or buried beneath a thick veneer of depression.

I define myself by the people and things I surround myself with.  I can change to fit in with almost any crowd – though admittedly that skill gets worse as I get older and less tolerant.  

Thinking about it, right now, there are two when and wheres that settle my anxiety and have me feeling comfortable in my own skin.  

The first is my alone time with my precious boy.  Bean is growing up so fast and there’s nothing I love more in the world than being his Mamabean.  I love taking him to places and sharing in his new wonder of the world.  

The second time I feel mostly comfortable with myself is surrounded by my people.  Geeks and nerds – comic book readers and manga aficionados.  People who share my squees over Doctor Who and understand why I choose to watch My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic over almost anything else on Tv.  There’s nothing quite like sharing the same space with people who share your obsessions.

I realize this is a short post, but admittedly I’m very tired tonight.  I’m probably going to head to bed as soon as I’m done typing.

Goodnight to all my readers, old and new, and I wish you well.

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NaBloPoMo Kick Off – 5 Interesting Things About Me

I’m really bad at these lists.  I don’t consider myself to be particularly interesting.  I mean, I probably used to be but these days it’s a never ending stream of toddler tantrums, dirty diapers, stressed out husbands and tired mommy.  With a bit of comic store tomfoolery thrown in for good measure.  But I committed to this NaBloPoMo thing so here goes:

5 Interesting Things About MamaBean*

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Sailor Moon sparked my New Age interests

When I was sixteen I used to light incense and pray to the Goddess Venus because I felt an affinity to an anime character.  Sailor Venus to be exact.  My five friends and I had chosen (or, to be fair, had chosen for us) a character to represent us from the popular anime Sailor Moon.  Mine was Sailor Venus, partly because of my astrological sign being Libra ruled by Venus, partly because I wanted her long blonde hair and adorable blue eyes.  Around this time I became interested in astrology and tarot cards and created my own small ritual in which I would light some incense, say a small “prayer” to Venus and do a reading.  I hadn’t yet been exposed to the pagan community or even Wicca at this point, so I was doing this stuff blindfolded.  Venus/Aphrodite remains with me to this day though my connection to her is not as intense.  Oh, and I also still love me some Sailor Moon anime.

My very first crush was on Dan Akroyd – but as Ray from Ghostbusters

If you know me you know it’s no secret I love Ghostbusters.  If I had to discard all other fandoms and only choose one, it would be that.  When I was growing up I watched the Real Ghostbusters religiously and my parents always let me put the movie on around Halloween.  I made a proton pack out of an old cereal box and paper tube and ran around catching ghosts in the local park.  As I got a bit older I started to look at the Ray character in a different light.  I thought Mr Akroyd was cute.  I was happy when he was happy and always eagerly anticipated his on-screen appearance.  I loved the character’s enthusiasm, his ability to believe first and ask questions later, his child-like innocence.  If I could have made Ray Stanz into a real person I’d have married him.  That’s right, I was a crazy fangirl before it was cool.  What, it’s not cool?  Well at least before the internet where I could find others like me and collectively squeal.  This gal had to squeal over Ray all by her lonesome.

The first time I ever went to a male strip club I nearly died laughing.

No, really.  Sorry fellas but floppy penis’ just don’t do it for me.  I mean, it started out good when a handsome fella strutted out on stage wearing some form of uniform (I had a soft spot for the fire fighter) but it went pretty much downhill once the clothes started coming off.  Then all the clothes were off and the guy is only wearing a white towel and playing peekaboo with his penis while he smiles and thrusts about on stage.  Not to mention the flap-wap sound that echoed over the techno beats as said penis thwacked the dude’s thighs.  Other girls were eating this act up whilst I had to hide myself in the corner and drown my laughter in a fruity pink drink.  I had to leave when the karate dressed guy started doing naked back flips.  I couldn’t take anymore hilarity.

I am deathly allergic to cats.

I like cats but I don’t have much experience with them as being around them for any period of time could kill me.  Heck, even being around someone who has enough cat dander on their coat sends me into asthmatic fits.  There is no pill, no shot, no puffer that can cure this.  I’ve looked.  I hate not being able to go to a friend’s house and chill, seeing as it would be the last thing I ever do.  Also, this has to be one of the suckiest allergies to have when part of the Pagan community.  Because if there’s one pet witches have in common, it’s cats.  Also in the realm of truly fucked up allergies – I am allergic to the adhesive used in medical tape and band aids.  Because having a cut isn’t enough, my skin needs to break out in a painful rash while treating the injury.

I used to be a raver.

You know in the 90’s those crazy people walking around wearing brightly coloured clothes with the top too teeny weeny and the pant legs really fucking huge?  The same people who wore a baby soother on a string and could often be seen munching more than their fair share of candy?  Yeah, I was one of those.  Give me a lolly, a glowstick and a funky necklace and I rocked that dance floor.  It’s still somewhat ingrained in me as I have a fondness for happy hardcore, loose jeans and judge my son’s pacifiers on chew-ability.

So there you have it.  Five things about me.  If you aren’t satisfied and want to know more, feel free to leave me a question in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer.  But fair is fair…tell me one interesting fact about you in exchange!

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I still think he’s adorkable. Look at that poof!

*degrees of interest may vary depending on reader.

My Love of the Ocean

When I was a little girl I was fascinated by the ocean.  My favourite animal was (and still is) the humpback whale and I dreamed of the day I could see one in real life.  I loved the sound of the ocean, waves crashing against the shore.  I loved the look of the moon rippling on the water late at night.  Colourful fishing boats floating just off of the shoreline.

Thing is…I had never seen the ocean.  Everything I knew about it I knew from pictures and National Geographic specials.

It was the one place I wanted to go.  The one natural thing in this world I desired to see with my own eyes.  I especially wanted to visit the East coast of Canada – Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland.  I was fascinated by the beauty in the pictures I saw and I thought where better to see the ocean and possibly…whales?

In my early 20’s two beautiful friends of mine took a trip to the East coast.  I couldn’t go due to financial restraints but they brought me back a little something that, to this day, is one of my precious things.

The risk is if we open this now it'll probably kill us all.

The risk is if we open this now it’ll probably kill us all.

They’d gone to the ocean and packed a small jar full of findings and seawater.  I opened it once or twice when I first got it just to smell the salty water.  I think this is still one of the nicest gifts I’ve ever gotten.

My first attempt at seeing the ocean was when I accompanied my boss on a trip to an anime convention in California.  I told him how I’d never seen the ocean so we took a trip to the shore as the sun set and dusk fell.  I could smell the sea and hear the waves but I didn’t get close to the water.  There was a palm tree and I excitedly hopped over to see it.  Which is when I was accosted by the buzzing of some sort of insect flying at me.  It was probably some kind of beetle but seriously – the sound of it’s wings made me picture something the size of my head.  I’m not good with bugs normally but when one is flying right at me and I’m in a skirt and I’m picturing the mutant june bug from hell – well let’s just say I didn’t stop moving till I was back in the car.  My boss got a good laugh over it.

It wasn’t until a few years later, after I’d met Fred and we took our first vacation together, that I got to get my feet wet.  We traveled down to Rhode Island to visit my best friend and her husband.  About an hour out from Rhode Island is…OCEAN!

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The waves were fun and quite big!

It was windy and rainy that day so the waves were deliciously big.  I remember squealing and giggling like a little kid as the water pushed me this way and that.  I’m not a great swimmer so I didn’t go in too far but I still got wet from head to toe.  I tasted the seawater and got sand and rocks between my toes.  I reveled in the beautiful blue hues of the ocean ripples and danced in the frothy sea foam.  It was so much fun and I was in love even more with the ocean.

This bridge went OVER the ocean - it was nailbitingly HUGE.

This bridge went OVER the ocean – it was nailbitingly HUGE.

I still haven’t seen a whale in real life.  Or the east coast.  But now I have someone with whom to share my childlike wonder at the ocean and all of it’s contents.  I’m looking forward to when Arthur (and any future siblings) are old enough for a trip out East.  Because I believe it’s important for them to experience the country we live in from coast to coast – so they know why we must love and protect it.  I want him to have the joy of splashing in the waves and fond memories of days at the beach.  And I want to take him whale watching so he will understand how very, very important it is to protect the whales of the world.

But most of all I want to share with him all the things that I find wondrous and exciting because sharing those things – that’s one of the best things about being a mom.  And the ocean is the most wondrous and exciting thing of all.

Missing: Inner Artist

When I was little my parents indulged my flights of fancy when it came to classes and sports.  I tried various types of dance (ballet, tap), various sports (baseball, soccer) and other types of activities.  They discovered early on that I got bored or frustrated easily with almost everything I tried – except art.  I always stuck with my art classes until the bitter end and then begged for more.  Drawing, painting, sculpting – it didn’t matter.  If I was allowed freedom and creativity I was in.

Art was my saviour in grade seven and eight when I attended a religious school and was horribly bullied.  Through art and poetry I gained the favour of a wonderful teacher and made it through to high school with my creative confidence intact.  Though everything else was shattered through her support of my art and writing I knew, at least, I wasn’t completely worthless.

Outside of school I explored many different types of art but it was cartooning and animation that peaked my interest.  I loved anything Disney and dreamt of one day working in their studios.  When The Lion King came out I saw it many times in theatres.  One particular time I was so overwhelmed during the opening I began to cry.  “What’s wrong?” asked one of my friends.  Through tears I sobbed that I wanted to be the one to make something so spectacular.

I drew comics at home.  Mostly detective comics with anthropomorphic dogs and raccoons.  (Dog City and TailSpin were on TV at the time).  When I wasn’t drawing or hanging with friends I was watching cartoons on TV.  While other teen girls drowned themselves in the drama of 90210 I was hurrying home to catch the latest Darkwing Duck.  When Dawson’s Creek was in it’s heyday I was obsessed with Animaniacs.  I loved animation.  I lived and breathed animation.

In school I was exploring different media.  I was trying to “say something” with my art but I never really quite got the gist of subtlety.  Instead of something where the meaning is hidden through symbolism I usually painted dead whales to make a point about over-fishing.  It worked but wasn’t really what the teacher wanted.  Also I attended a high school where art was the lowest of the low.  The Principal hated the arts (unless it was Drama which made him money every year with a show) and only thought English, Math and Science was useful. I’ll never forget being pulled into his office during his “talk” with the seniors about their futures.  He sat me down and asked me what I wanted to do with my life.  “An animator or a comic artist” I said proudly.  He told me that it was a useless endeavor and that I should concentrate on math and get a real job.

My parents continued to support my quest for a better arts education though and outside of school I began taking classes that would ensure my entrance into the school of my choice.

One of those classes was Life Drawing.  It’s important to learn to draw the human figure and the best way to do that was to draw them naked.  They had to sign a release as I was only 16 when I signed up for my first course.  I was to take my supplies and go to the local art center where I would draw a model on my own without instruction.  Let me tell you about my poor 16 year old innocent virgin self’s first experience life drawing.  It’s a doozy of a story.

So there’s about 8 of us in the room.  A couple older ladies, a couple younger girls like myself and a few middle aged men.  The model comes in.  It’s a man.  There’s a box in the center of all of us and he disrobes and climbs up on it.  He’s posing with his arms crossed above his head and is standing tall.  It’s a longer pose so we all get to the business of drawing this naked man. As time wears on I notice that the part I was trying so hard not to stare at is … moving.  Rising, in fact.  I stop drawing and the girls beside me start to giggle.  At this point he’s got a full on erection and I’m not sure what to do.  I mean…do I draw it?  Leave it off?  Draw a leaf?  Then … all of a sudden … he SHOOTS IT.  That’s right.  He ejaculates.  He still doesn’t move.  I leave the room.  So do the other girls.  We go to the bathroom and start LAUGHING hysterically.  I mean, none of us had even SEEN A GUY NAKED before that night and here we are getting a demonstration on ejaculation.  One of the elderly women gets all huffy on our behalf and complains.  I decide to leave and go home for the evening.

So yeah.  Anyways needless to say I didn’t tell my parents about that particular event and I left the flying sperm off my drawings from that evening.

Ok, back to the original thread of this story.

I guess the point of this back-story is that I’ve always from my earliest memories had this drive to create.  To do art.  I dreamed big and thought I would, by this point in my life, be creating something for Disney or some other animation company.  I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I lost those dreams but I know that it was sometime during the downward spiral of booze, boys and drugs after my failure to get into Sheridan’s animation program.  I guess I just gave up.

Sure, over the last few years I’ve done some stuff.  My ability and drive to create comes in and out of my life depending on my situation.  If I’m having a hard time with depression and anxiety – I just don’t draw.  I put away that part of myself that creates.

I don’t know what kind of an artist I’m supposed to be.  I don’t know where that fire and passion went.  Perhaps the candle has finally been snuffed out because I just don’t know if I can draw anymore.  I pick up a pencil and stare and stare and stare at that paper until I finally begin to shake with sadness and frustration.  It’s like a part of my soul has been locked away and I’ve forgotten where I put the key.  I knew once but now I forgot.  It’s frustrating.  And I’m sad that all those dreams, all those hopes – they are all gone.

I know right now I’m super busy and I know right now I’m suffering some PPD and anxiety and I know I created life and it was awesome.  But something is bugging me.  If I’m not Dee the artist…then what am I?

A part of my identity is missing and I don’t know how to get it back.

I did this in 2004 - never able to replicate the style.

I did this in 2004 – never able to replicate the style.

For My Husband – My Valentine

“And I don’t want the world to see me, cause I don’t think that they’d understand, when everything’s made to be broken, I just want you to know who I am” – Iris, Goo Goo Dolls

When we first met I was broken.  I had been used so many times that I wasn’t sure I could do it again.  Be with anyone.  I had been beaten down and gone through some terrifyingly tough times.  Yet I was desperate for love, clinging to a small hope that someday I would have my happy ending.  My Prince.

I didn’t find my prince in you.  I found something better.  My best friend and soul mate.

Someone who understands me better than I do myself.  Someone with whom I am comfortable sharing my most intimate secrets and not be scared that he will push me away.  Someone who values me for who I am, not what I look like.  Someone who sees the worth in me on days when I feel worthless and makes sure he tells me how wonderful I am.  Someone who taught me that relationships go both ways and I’m allowed to receive as well as give.

I’m a romantic.  Through all else I believed in love.  I watch movies like Moulin Rouge, The Princess Bride and Ever After.  I sing songs sung by Disney princesses.  It really wasn’t hard to win my heart – though showing up at my work dressed in a shirt and tie bearing candy certainly helped speed things along.  My trust though, that you had to work for.

I was attracted to you the first time we met.  I was let into your brother’s home so we could all get down to the nerdy business of Dungeons and Dragons.  You stomped down the stairs and looked right at me.  Then you turned around and ran back up the stairs.  I know now that it was because you had forgotten something but I like to think you liked the look of me and ran back upstairs to primp.  Makes me giggle to imagine you hastily combing your hair and throwing on a clean t-shirt.

I liked your oversized nerdy glasses.  Your green eyes that sparkled with excitement when you described our character’s adventures.  The way you gestured with your hands and seemed full of raw energy.  You were always very sincere.

Our first date was at the movies.  We hadn’t made it official yet (still in the land of “love me, love me not”) and chose to see Constantine.  I don’t remember the movie much as three days before I had decided to quit smoking cold turkey and all I could concentrate on was the ciggs Constantine CONSTANTLY had.  It was a fight not to go outside and find someone with a smoke to share.  I’m glad I didn’t cause I got to kiss you later.  A kiss so very sweet shouldn’t be marred by smoker’s breath.

We had a sweet and nerdy romance where you woo’d me with the kind of shy awkwardness made for teen romance movies.  Remember how I used to stop at your house when I got off of work at the Cafe and leave you love notes in your mailbox?

Eventually the walls came down and I sat in your basement, telling you my past through tiny scared sobs.  I remember that you became angry on my behalf and frustrated that there was nothing you could do.  Sweetheart you did the very best thing you could do – better than punching someone on my behalf – you accepted my past without judgement and therefore accepted me.  You will never truly know just how much that night meant to me.

It wasn’t long after that we became engaged.  I had attended my first staff party at the comic store and came home so very, very drunk.  I kind of remember falling out of your single bed we shared laughing hysterically as I rolled around on the floor.  I asked you in the morning if I had said anything funny and you replied “You said you’d marry me.”  Turns out what I said in my drunken haze was “I’d marry you, but you have to ask me first.” Aaaand then passed out.  

It’s been quite a ride, hasn’t it?  There are so many memories, so many challenges.  We bought a place to live – a place we still share crammed full of all the geeky goodness we’ve collected together.  We shared the adoption and too-soon death of our beloved rottweiler Princess.  We adopted another dog and delight in our mutual love of all things Spitha.  We weathered my ups and downs until I finally broke down completely and succumbed to my anxiety and depression landing me in hospital.  We supported each other through the loss of our first baby – something that brought us back together after too much time apart.

We finally got married. One of the happiest times in my life.  On the banks of the Yukon River you pledged to spend the rest of your life with me.  We wrote our own vows and share wedding rings made of sterling silver with yukon gold inside of them.  I slaved over a playlist that reflected us – the first dance being to “With Or Without You” by U2 (a song I knew you liked) BUT sung by Disturbed – very us.  I had to have your brother ramble on for about a minute until the song kicked in as I wanted to surprise you with it.  I think it worked and I remember you chuckling, a sound I adore.  As we danced, even though it was summer in a tourist-y and public place filled with family, for awhile there it felt like it was just you and me. You looked SO handsome in your suit and bright yellow tie to match my dress.

Then comes Arthur.  The little being with your eyes and my fingers.  You handled the pregnancy like a champ, despite your addiction to Skyrim.  A pregnancy full of anxiety and health issues.  You were always there when it mattered – especially those times I needed some ice cream on snowy nights.  Those were totally the most important times.  You were always supportive and never made me feel as if my concerns were silly.

You are an amazing father.  I am so very proud of you.  It’s not easy going to school full-time, working AND making sure you still have time for Arthur and me.  You are gentle and patient and do not give yourself enough credit where Arthur is concerned.  He will always know you love him and that is the most important thing.  Plus you look damn sexy wearing a baby in a carrier.

I don’t tell you enough how much I love you.  Appreciate you.  Recognize how different and empty my life would be without you.  I miss you when you are not here and always want to find ways to make you laugh.  I am most comfortable when you are beside me.  You understand me the way very few people do.  Though my love for you has changed over time it is still going strong.  I’m lucky to have found you and I truly do understand now what it is I have.

I haven’t found my happy ending because this is really just the beginning.  I look forward to living life to the end with you, love.  Happy Valentine’s day.  I love you.

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