Decide To Be Happy

Sometimes, life hands us lemons. We’ve all heard it…we need to make lemonade. My mother used to always say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

Every single day since I lost my mother in December of 2017, I remind myself that I have to decide to be happy. It’s not that I haven’t experienced any happiness, but sometimes, when I get sad about having lost her, it’s hard to bring myself out of it. And every time, I hear her say, “You have to decide to be happy.”

I try not to write about death and loss very often, because I know people don’t want to hear about it. I know it’s a downer. I know that sometimes, I feel better if I think of something happy. But right now, it’s OK if no one wants to hear about it. It’s OK if everybody skips over this, because right now, I need to write about it.

I’m in the process of closing out Mother’s estate. No, there were no loose ends to tie up. She made it as easy as possible. She had a will. She listed survivors on bank accounts. She didn’t have any debt. She made it easy. Maybe if she had made it complicated, I could have gotten angry with her and been in a bigger hurry to close everything, but nope…she made the division of assets easy. Yet, I still haven’t closed out the estate, and it’s time for me to do it. I should have done it six months ago, but it’s downright depressing.

In fact, I feel more sad now than I did immediately after her passing. Weird, I know, but I guess I feel like closing out the estate is like closing the final chapter on her life. There have been days that I knew would be difficult…my parents’ anniversary, Mother’s Day, her birthday, Christmas Eve (the anniversary of her hospitalization), Christmas Day, the anniversary of her death (December 30)…but I never expected this part to be so difficult. I thought it was completely transactional, and being a tough chick, I thought I’d be able to treat this as a transaction. But I can’t. I realize that now, because I’ve been delaying it…and I’ve been sad.

And I’ve been off my game. Sure, I’ve gone through the motions of regular life, but deep inside, I’ve been off my game since she took her last breath.

And now I’m faced with closing the book on the estate.

But something occurred to me today: Maybe…just maybe…it will be freeing. That’s all I can hope. Maybe I will feel a little sense of freedom, like a weight has been lifted, when I sign all the papers. Maybe closing the estate will actually make me feel better. We’ve all had times like that. We put something off because it’s scary, but once it happens, we feel a sense of relief or freedom. I have friends who put off signing divorce papers, because it was depressing, but once they did it, they felt like the albatross had been removed from their necks. Maybe the estate is my albatross? That sounds terrible. My mother would not like it that I referred to it that way, but she doesn’t get a vote in this.

After my daddy died, mother was talking with her doctor about anti-depressants, and she said, “My husband wouldn’t like it.” The doctor, very calmly, said, “Your husband’s not here anymore. He doesn’t get a vote in this.” And he was right! She knew it, and she actually laughed! For the record, she started taking the anti-depressant, and it made a big difference in her approach to life. Sure, she was still grieving Daddy, but the anti-depressant helped her decide to be happy.

As soon as I receive all the paperwork, I’ll sign off on closing the estate. In fact, I’m going to invite friends to a brunch at my house for that very day, so they can come over and drink some champagne with me to celebrate the closure…the freedom.

Mother would laugh about that, and she would be happy to know that it’s done.

I will decide to be happy…just in time for spring!

 

 

 

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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Vacation can do a mind and body good. I just returned from a few days on the beach, and I feel rejuvenated. I felt worry-free for a week…almost.

But before we went, my teenage daughter was about to drive me crazy checking the weather. Every time I turned around, she was checking the forecast for our destination, and she kept announcing to me that it was supposed to rain every day of our vacation. Finally, after days of hearing it, I said to her, “Keep checking the weather if you want, but knowing the forecast isn’t going to change it. There’s nothing we can do about it, because we are going.” She knows I’ve preached a million times about worrying and how it can just eat you alive. She knows we shouldn’t worry about things we can’t control.

In my youth, I was a worrier. Somehow, in college, I managed to change all that. I don’t know what happened, but at some point, I realized all that worry was just a big waste of time and energy. Truly, if there’s nothing I can do to change the outcome of something, I should turn over all that worry to God. In fact, worrying is sinful. We are supposed to cast all our worries on the Lord. That’s one way to stop worrying…realize it’s sinful.

If you’re worrying about something you can control…like an upcoming college exam…stop worrying and do what you can to control it. What can you do? Study! Meet with your teacher! Become prepared. If you are prepared for something you can control, then worry should go out the window.

My daughter got into the car one day after school and told me she was afraid she had messed up a test she had taken that day. She had a pained look on her face. I looked at her and said, “Stop worrying about it. It’s done. There’s nothing you can do about it now…let’s celebrate the fact that it’s over.” She laughed, but she knew I was right. I’m not always right…many people will tell you that…but on this matter, I was right. We went to get ice cream to celebrate the fact that the test was over.

As for the vacation, once we got there, my daughter stopped checking the weather. We had mostly beautiful, sunny, worry-free days while we were there. In fact, I can’t think of anything vacation-related that worried me. I did have a couple of aggravating moments when our accountant kept messaging me about tax-related stuff…not what I wanted to discuss while I was on vacation. I’m thinking my husband should have asked him to wait till after I was home. I’ll need to remind him of that next time.

Other than the tax stuff, I could have been walking around singing, “Don’t worry, be happy.” I was very happy, and somehow I’ve managed to be very relaxed even after returning home. Since we were in swimsuits most of the day, I haven’t had tons of laundry to do. I’m still in vacation mode, in fact.

My mother was a worrier. Daddy, not so much. I like to think I’ve broken the familial cycle of worrying passed down by my mother. My brother certainly isn’t a worrier. Generally, we’re the kinds of people who “cross that bridge when we come to it.” We just don’t sit around worrying about what could happen, what people think, or negative outcomes. Sure, I worry about my daughter, and if there are health issues with anyone in my family, I worry about that, but I had an uncle who once explained it this way: worrying doesn’t change the outcome of things. If there is something that is out of my control, and I find myself worrying about it, I give myself ten minutes to ponder it. After that, I hand it over to God and forget about it.

Wise words from my uncle. Personally, I like that approach, and it’s the approach I choose to take. Don’t worry, be happy. And if you are having trouble with it, download Bobby McFerrin singing Don’t Worry Be Happy to your playlist and enjoy. It will help.

silhouette photography of group of people jumping during golden time

Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

 

 

Get Busy Living…

My friend, Mary Ann, called me one day this week and told me she had read about a little boy with a terminal illness who wanted to get his photo with “Welcome to…” signs of different states. It was important to him. Mary Ann, in her infinite wisdom, said, “Shouldn’t we all be doing that, anyway?” She didn’t mean we should all be taking photos with signs. She meant we should all be doing things we want to do...living our lives.

And she’s right. Mary Ann knows how abruptly a life can end. Her daddy was killed in a tragic automobile accident when he was in his 40s. I’m sure he had lots of things he still wanted to do.

My conversation with Mary Ann made me think of a line from The Shawshank Redemption, a movie starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins. The film is based on a Stephen King Novella, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, which I now need to read. The line? It is a line spoken by Tim Robbins’s character, Andy Dufresne, a banker who had incorrectly been found guilty of murdering his wife and was subsequently sentenced to prison:

Get busy living, or get busy dying.

My daddy loved that line. We took it for what it was: If you don’t get out and do the things you want to do now (live your life), then you will start to wither…mentally and physically.  We can make the time and energy to do the things we dream about, or we can sit around, letting time pass, till there’s no time or energy left to do it. We can choose to live life in a positive way…or not.

Think about that. What are some things you’ve always wanted to do? It can be something as simple as learning to knit…or something adventurous…or something to help the community.

Both my parents are gone now, but I feel like they did most of what they wanted to do in life. They encouraged me to live life to its fullest. Yes, they wanted me to be responsible, but I remember, when Daddy was dying, he told me, “Y’all need to enjoy your lives. You can’t take your money with you…enjoy it.” Both my parents always reminded us often that “life is not a dress rehearsal.”

Daddy didn’t mean we should get out there and waste money.  What he meant was that we need to use it to do some things we want to do. My parents were very conservative with their money. After Daddy died, Mother became even more conservative with her spending and investing. I would tell her, “Mother, spend it. Enjoy it!” And she would always tell me she wanted to save it for us. But she still did a lot of what she wanted.

Mother and Daddy took lots of trips together. They preferred the Caribbean for big trips, but they were happy to find a local sporting event to attend most of the time. Indoor track meet at the local coliseum? They were in! Baseball game? You bet! Daddy loved driving, so often they took road trips together too. And when I say he LOVED driving, I mean he LOVED it. Daddy started driving in 1952, and as an adult, he drove many times the miles most people drive in a lifetime. He died in 2006…54 years of driving, and he never had an accident.

They also helped others…quietly. They didn’t want accolades for their acts of kindness. Many times I knew Mother to take care of an ailing neighbor…for months! They both gave away money to individuals or families who, they said, “needed it more than we do.”

Mother and Daddy enjoyed their lives. Sure, their experiences were different than mine, but they were of a different generation. I’m sure our daughter’s life experience will be different than mine. Heck, my brother is just 17 months younger than I am, and his life experience is different than mine, because we have different interests.

But here’s one thing I know for sure: I live my life. I’m not sitting around waiting for life to happen to me…I’m making life happen. I’m trying to spend time with people I love. I’m trying to make the world a little better. I am trying to create lasting memories with our daughter and with my husband. I am trying to do the things I want to do, and I am enjoying the ride.

So…get busy living, or get busy dying.

 

 

We Need Erma Bombeck

Today, I was talking with a friend about how depressing it is when it rains for seven days straight. Fortunately, it was a friend who always makes me laugh. And she didn’t fail me this time either. In fact, she mentioned someone I haven’t thought about in years. It’s someone my mother looked up to. My mother and her friends used to sit around and laugh about her. The person she mentioned? Erma Bombeck.

For those of you who are younger than I am, look her up. I don’t care if you look on Wikipedia or wherever, but you need to look her up. Like I told the flight attendant who didn’t recognize Frankie Valli sitting across from me. “This person is a big deal. Go call your mother and ask her…she’ll know.” Erma was an author and columnist who was the voice of moms and housewives everywhere in the 1960s and 1970s.

My mother loved Erma Bombeck. I think lots of moms did, because she said what they were all thinking. She lived like they did. My mother was a stay-at-home mom…back then it was called a “housewife.” While my mother enjoyed being a housewife, it had its challenges. Mrs. Bombeck wrote about the same challenges in her newspaper columns and in her humorous books. And my mother loved her.

My mother and her friend, Polly, quoted Mrs. Bombeck to each other, and they laughed and laughed. I remember seeing Bombeck’s books around the house. If mother was reading one, it was often on the kitchen table, where she enjoyed reading. I can still hear mother laughing out loud, her nose buried in an Erma Bombeck book. And that’s how, as a teenager, I even read Erma Bombeck. I was too young to be a mother or housewife, but even as a teenager, I knew good humor when I read it.

Erma Bombeck is what I’m missing in my life. I need more Erma. In fact, today, just before I started writing, I ordered a few familiar titles from Amazon: If Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries, Why Am I In the Pits?; The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank; All I Know About Animal Behavior, I Learned In Loehmann’s Dressing Room; Motherhood, The Second Oldest Profession; and When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home. There are more; these are just the ones I ordered today, and I can hardly wait to get them! You can see them and order them here.

Bombeck had some of the best quotes. Selfishly, I wish she were still alive, so she could guide us with humor through this generation. I know, there are humorous people on YouTube, and there are funny people on Facebook, but dang it…Erma was the original. No one can do motherhood/housewife humor like Erma could do it. If you’re not familiar with her work, you should become familiar with her work. Buy some books and enjoy an evening or two of easy reading that relates to your own life!

Her wit was unmatched, and her quotes were too. Here, words to live by, courtesy of the late, great Erma Bombeck:

  • The grass is always greener over the septic tank. Yes, it’s the title of one of her books, but it is so true, literally and figuratively! Anywhere someone has a septic tank, you know where it is in the yard…just look for the greenest patch of grass. It’s absolutely true. And in life, people always say “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” in reference to thinking what others have is better. But really…since we only see what people want us to see, the septic tank quote is more fitting…underneath all that green grass might just be a bunch of poop.
  • If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it. True words. I’ve gotten through lots of hard times with laughter. When my daddy was sick with pancreatic cancer, we laughed a lot…a lot. We knew we had to keep laughing to keep from crying. And it helped us. It helped him. We actually look back on those months with good memories.
  • When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it is a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway. This makes me laugh out loud. My mother usually gave good advice, but sometimes I didn’t want to hear it. She gave it to me anyway. And she knew I didn’t want to hear it. If I got mad, so be it. She knew I would get over it. I’m sure my daughter feels the same way about my advice.
  • I haven’t trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I’ve never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex. Erma and I should have been friends. We could have had lunch together.
  • Before you try to keep up with the Joneses, be sure they’re not trying to keep up with you. I think this just means “don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.” I’m a subscriber to that way of thinking. I know there will always be someone taller, richer, thinner, prettier…but there doesn’t always have to be someone happier or more satisfied with their life. Being rich, tall, skinny, pretty…none of that means your life is better. We should all choose our own paths…and enjoy the journey down that path.
  • Onion rings in the car cushions do not improve with time. Spoken like a true mother. Any mother knows the car is where dropped food goes to die…and create a stink. My husband has never understood this, but he has never hauled around seven kids. No, I don’t have seven kids…I only have one, but there have been times I’ve had seven kids in the car at one time, and they make messes. Moms will do anything to keep them quiet in the car, including letting them eat Cheerios, ice cream, or whatever else they want.  Moms know this. Dads don’t. Fortunately, my child is a teenager now, so the car is cleaner.
  • Children make your life important. While there are lots of folks out there who don’t have kids and don’t want them, for me…this quote of Erma’s is true. I once had a coworker who had two children. I was in my 20s. I said one day, “I don’t think it would be a disaster if I didn’t have kids.” She said to me, “Kids are the meaning of life.” While this isn’t true for everyone, it certainly has been true for me. I only have one daughter, but my life became exponentially better because I had a child. The sky is bluer. The flowers are brighter. Life is better.

The list goes on and on. I could continue to quote Erma, or I could tell you to go over to Amazon or your favorite bookseller and get some of her books. If you don’t, you’re missing out.

I wonder what Erma would have thought of 2019?

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Erma Bombeck

 

 

 

 

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She’s Our Favorite Child

Just this week, when I told someone my 15-yr-old daughter was an only child, I got that look. That “poor thing” look. I’ve seen it several times over the course of her life. I’ve even had people say weird things. “Oh, she must be so lonely.” “When you die, she’ll be alone.” “When you die, she’ll have to handle everything herself.” “When you get sick, she’ll have to take care of you.” “She’s stuck in an adult world.”

Really? 

First of all, I believe our only child is pretty well-adjusted. I spent her early years making sure she was well-socialized…and many of her peers were/are only children too. Her preschool teacher once told me, “If I didn’t know she is an only child, I’d never guess it.” If we go on vacation and she wants to take a friend, she can. She can invite people over whenever she wants. We have an open door policy at our house…all friends are welcome. Getting ready for a school dance? Come on over! Snow? Come on over! Bored? Come on over! No invitation necessary…

She has never told me she is lonely. I know people who have lots of siblings who are way more “lonely” than she is.

She has never seemed jealous of her friends who have siblings.

She plays well with others.

She is happy most of the time, but she is a teenager, so she has her moments.

She relates to girls and boys well.

And no one can convince me that having siblings would make her life any better than the life she has right now.

My mother was an only child. My husband is an only child. Mother was a happy person. My husband seems fine with it.

Did we intend for her to be an only child? I don’t know. At one point, we considered having another child. I was 38. But then my daddy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I knew I would need to help Mother as his illness progressed. I decided being pregnant while helping them wouldn’t be a good idea. The first three months of pregnancy had not been easy for me…migraines, nausea…I knew I couldn’t help them if I were sick.

And honestly, I didn’t want to push my luck.

We knew we were fortunate to have her, and we said, “One and done.”

Has she ever said she wished she had siblings? When she was about four, she mentioned it. I told her, “You’ll need to share your toys.” She was OK with that. “You’ll have to share your mommy.” No dice. That was a dealbreaker for her. She said, “I don’t want a brother or sister.” Of course, we had already decided she would be an only child, so she wasn’t actually making the decision. I was 40. We were having the time of our lives!

As for her having to take care of us when we’re old and dying, well, we can “get busy living or get busy dying.” I can’t sit around all the time thinking about that. I choose to live life to its fullest. Hopefully, we will all live a long time, and hopefully, my husband and I will have the wherewithal to know if we need to go to assisted living.

But till then, we are going to enjoy her, and hopefully, she enjoys us. We know the world doesn’t revolve around her, but our little family is important to us. Providing her with the tools she needs to navigate the world is important to us. She’s growing up, and we want to enjoy our time with her. She will be off to college in three years. Three years…hard to believe. We have plans to enjoy her while she still lives with us full time. We have vacations to take. We have colleges to visit. We have people to meet with her. We have new things to experience with her. We have things to teach her. We have memories to make.

And no matter what…she always knows she’s our favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Year of Blogs

I say it all the time, and the older I get, the more true it is: time flies.

It has been one year since I started “blogging.” I started it as my own form of therapy a month after my mother died, and I do believe it has helped me cope with her death. If you had asked me about that this past December, I might have said otherwise. The first anniversary of her passing was extremely difficult for me…maybe harder than when she actually died. I think I was in so much shock after her death that I didn’t fully digest what had happened. At the one year mark of her death, I was heartbroken. Fortunately, the holidays are a busy time, so I could find lots of things to occupy my mind: shopping, parties, wrapping gifts, spending time with family, spending time with friends. I still grieved throughout the year. There are still times I think I’m losing my mind with grief. But the blog was also a big help.

The blog has morphed somewhat over the year. Originally, I wanted it to be a place where I could share great things I had found and share the stories behind them. There has been some of that, but sometimes, I find myself just sharing stories. I love a good story. I also have a pretty good memory, so I have a story for lots of things that happen. I don’t profess to be a great storyteller, but I appreciate folks who are.

I love writing about my favorite products, but my favorite pieces are stories about my life, my friends, or family members. Yes, I have favorites. I’ll list them at the end of this piece.

Just when I think I’ve run out of stories or new things to share, something else pops up. Lots of times, I see someone or something that reminds me of something else. I make a note in my phone, and then, when I get time, I sit down and write about it. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Some things are easier to write about than others.

But here’s the thing: I write for me. Do I like that people read it and sometimes reach out to me? Of course I do! Does that make it more fun? You bet! But I’m really writing it for a selfish reason: my sanity. It’s a great outlet. If I’m mad, sometimes I write about it. I might not ever share it, but it’s saved in my “drafts” folder. If I’m sad, I write about it, and again, it might not make it past “drafts.” If I’m happy or amused, I might write about that too! In fact, I just took a look at my drafts folder and found that I have about 240 blogs in that folder! And I’ve published just over 140. And hopefully, one day, when I’m long gone, my daughter will still have some of my stories.

Thank you for reading me. I never expected this to become “the next big thing.” I expected it to help me get through the first year without my mother. And it did. Now, I hope it will help me through the second year without my mother. Readers have sent me messages about how some of my stories remind them of things that have happened in their own lives. That’s what I enjoy. I enjoy the feedback. I enjoy the interaction.

So thank you. I’m grateful.

***Some of my favorite pieces from the past year (click on title):

 

 

 

 

 

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My Favorite Rescue Story (1 year later)

***I first wrote this story on February 10, 2018, but today, January 30, 2019, is the first anniversary of “the homecoming,” so I’m sharing it again. It makes me happy.***

Eight years ago, when my mother lost her Jack Russell Terrier, Sissy, to heart failure, she needed rescuing. I mean my mother needed rescuing. Daddy had died three years earlier, and Mother missed him terribly. So now, she was missing Sissy too. She needed company, so after a few months, she went to the local animal shelter.

FullSizeRender-28On that fateful day, it happened there was a young female Jack Russell Terrier who had been picked up and brought in by animal control. There was a hitch: she had only been there a couple days, so they had to hold her for two weeks to see if anyone claimed her. Mother waited. She called me and told me about the cute, little, white terrier with brown spots. Mother said she was a muscular little dog with lots of energy. She told the people at the shelter she would take the little terrier if no one claimed her. She was excited, and secretly, she was praying no one would claim that cute little terrier. She waited two weeks.

September 14th rolled around, and Mother went back to the shelter. The cute little terrier was still there, and since no one had claimed her, she was available for adoption. It seemed fitting that the cute little terrier, which Mother would name Sam, went home with Mother on Daddy’s birthday. Mother gave Sam a home, but really, Sam rescued Mother.

The two of them were together almost every single day for eight years. As long as she was able, Mother would throw the ball in the backyard for Sam. They “talked” to each other. They sat out on the back porch together. When company came over, sometimes Sam would run and hide under the bed, but she didn’t realize only her head was under the bed, and the rest of her wasn’t…just like  a two-year-old, “I can’t see you, so you can’t see me.” She made Mother laugh. She rescued Mother.

Mother died December 30. She fell on Christmas Eve. I’m sure Sam saw her fall. I’m sure Sam saw the EMTs carry her out. I’m sure she was confused. Heck, I’m still confused; I wish Sam could talk and tell me exactly what happened. For a few days, Mother’s friend/caretaker, Lois, would go feed Sam and visit with her some. When we realized Mother wasn’t going to make it, my aunt and cousin were with me at the hospital, and they offered to take Sam from Alabama to Florida to another aunt. (I would have loved to keep her, but we have three non-shedding dogs at my house, and my husband’s allergies can’t handle shedding.)

Sam is ornery, doesn’t adapt well to change, and she must have been scared and confused. She couldn’t get along with the aunt’s dog. My cousin, Patti, found her another home…and another. She was loved at the last home, but because of her shedding and her running into the road (a lot of acreage but no fenced yard), after a month, the lady couldn’t keep her.

Patti called me and told me she was looking for another home for Sam. I immediately texted my brother, whom I affectionally call “Brother,” and said, “We need to bring Sam back to Mother’s house.”   Because he lives near Mother’s house and would be responsible for her, I held my breath, thinking he might text back a firm “no.’

To my surprise, his first response was, “Maybe.” I knew, if Sam went back to Mother’s, she would have lots of company and be loved, because my brother stays there sometimes, my nephew was planning to move into the house, and friends visit all the time. Most of all, Sam would be comfortable. I typed back, “We can pay someone to come clean the house once a week.” Brother typed back, “Yes.”

Next, I texted, “I think Sam would be so happy.” He immediately responded, “OK.” Yippee! I promptly called Patti to start arranging Sam’s homecoming. I relayed messages between Patti and Brother, and they made it happen.

Patti called me after picking up Sam from her most recent temporary home, and said, “Sam went absolutely wild when she saw me!” Patti used to visit Mother and Sam a lot, and Sam is crazy about her. I could hardly wait for Sam to see Brother. A week ago, Brother met Patti at the halfway point between their cities and picked up Sam.IMG_8703.JPG

Sam was as excited to see Brother as she had been to see Patti. She and Brother’s dog, Amos, don’t always see eye to eye, but when she saw Amos in the car, she was even excited to see him! The three of them drove back to Mother’s house.

Brother called me after he got Sam home and said, “She was so excited. She ran into the house, and then she ran and ran and ran around the backyard.” He said, after a little while in the house, things got too quiet. He thought Sam had escaped. (She loves to slip out the door and go for a run if she can.) He looked in the bedroom, and there was Sam, piled up on the bed, sound asleep. It was probably the best sleep she’d had since December.

Mother would be happy to know, this time, we rescued Sam. She’s home. She’s comfortable, and she’s happy. I haven’t even seen her since her return(I live 400 miles away), but every time I think about her homecoming, I cry. I’m crying now.

We rescued Sam. I engineered it, and Brother and Patti made it happen.

Give your dog an extra treat today.

***One year later, Sam is living a happy life with my nephews in my mother’s old home, and she is enjoying lots of love and exercise.***

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