Tag Archives: happiness

Drink the Good Wine

The other day I came home after a trying day and wanted a glass of wine. In fact, I had been very much looking forward to it. Mr. B offered to pour me a glass — but not before I told him not to open “the good wine” because I was saving it for Company.

Instead, he opened a bottle of some wine we’d bought on vacation that neither one of us could remember (the wine, that is — we both remembered the vacation). He poured us both a glass. And, the wine was not good. At all. Down the drain it went.

So, he opened a second bottle that we’d purchased some time back — a wine I knew wasn’t great, but the only other red we had was our “good” stuff. And, well, still saving that good stuff for Company. (Who is this Company person who is so important, anyway? I do not know.)

The second glass of wine followed that first glass right down the drain. And the rest of the bottle followed — I didn’t even want it around to cook with. (Because, let’s be honest, when I say I cook with wine, I really mean I enjoy a glass while I’m cooking.)

The whole situation got me thinking, though. Why do I always save the good wine for Company? (A. we never have Company and B. it’s my wine — I should be able to drink a glass if I want.)

And then I thought some more: I always make sure our house is clean for Company. And I have good snacks for Company. And I light candles for Company.

Seriously?! Who is this “Company” and why does she get everything nice? I was starting to get super annoyed with myself.

Last night, though, I decided something: I’m not waiting for Company any more. I’m going to drink the good wine. And eat the good snacks. And light myself a dang candle every now and again. And I’m going to do a better job of think about picking up the house for me and my family.

Because, let’s face it,  life is short. And I’m worth it. I’m going to drink the good wine.

Mr and Mrs B wine

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A Sprout Scare and a New Freckle

Yesterday morning I woke up with a bloody nose. Well, I didn’t so much “wake up” as Braxton Hicks came calling and woke me up. As I got to the bathroom, I realized my nose wasn’t the only thing that was a little bloody.

At nearly 35 weeks pregnant, a little blood in the toilet can be nothing — or it can be everything. Mr. B assured me I wasn’t overreacting and reassured me that my want need to call the doctor was perfectly acceptable. Of course, the office wasn’t open, so I had to call the after-hours nurse, who then had to page the on-call doctor, who then had to finish what she was working on before she could call me.

Anyone who says half an hour is a short amount of time never had to wait and worry for a doctor to call her back.

As I sat on the edge of the bed crying anxious, scared tears, Mr. B rubbed my back. Usually I’m the only one who worries — Mr. B is my rock and the one who talks sense into me when my worrying goes a little too far. But I could tell he was a little concerned, too.

After all, we’ve had our fair share of disappointment, fear and sadness when it comes to our experience with pregnancy. And we know very well what it’s like to lose the one thing we wanted more than anything else.

After I had calmed down a bit, we went about our business — brushing our teeth, packing our lunches, tending to the critters. When the phone finally rang, I jumped on it.

The doctor listened to what was going on and kindly reassured me that everything was going to be OK.

Was the baby moving? A little.

Was there a lot of blood? Not really.

Was I having any cramping? No.

It’s most likely the very early beginnings of cervical softening, she said. But, don’t worry, she continued, it will most likely go on for a couple of weeks. Because that’s just how it works.

She reminded me to keep an eye on myself, how I’m feeling and how Sprout is acting. She also reminded me that it’s OK to worry a little — after all, she knows our story. She knows Penelope Joy. The key, always for me, is trying not to worry too much. Because that’s often where my mind goes. But I know it doesn’t do Sprout any good if I’m worried or stressed out too bad.

Now that I’m getting a few more pokes and prods from Sprout this afternoon and evening, I’m starting to relax back into this pregnancy a little bit after yesterday’s jarring wake-up call. Though, the scare of seeing that blood has definitely left its mark.

Instead, I continue to keep my focus on some of the amazing things this pregnancy brings with it — besides, of course, the obvious Baby Sprout we get to meet at the end:

  • Today, I cannot stop laughing at my new outie belly button — and the hidden freckle I found inside! I can’t believe I’ve lived nearly 34 years on this planet and didn’t realize I had a freckle inside my belly button.
  • My body’s doing some pretty crazy stuff these days. Some of it is fantastic. And some of it … well … maybe isn’t so fantastic. But I laugh several times a day at what’s going on inside — and outside — of myself. Mr. B laughs a lot these days, too. Mostly at me.
  • Mr. B and I are enjoying getting ready to bring our baby home with us — something that is truly magical to experience. Sprout’s nursery is all set, and we feel as ready as we could ever be to bring her home. It’s scary. And life-altering. And unchartered territory. But it is our adventure to live. And we cannot wait. (Can it actually be less than five weeks until she joins us?) 
  • Mr. B and I talk a lot lately about getting to actually be parents. Yes, we are Penelope Joy’s parents — we always will be — and Sprout is not our first child. And we learned more from Penelope Joy about what it means to be Mom and to be Dad than we ever could have imagined. But this experience is going to be so, so different. Exciting and scary in a whole new way! I’m just so looking forward to watching Mr. B be the dad he deserves to get to be. (He’s gonna be so great at it, you guys!)
  • Last, but not least, I’ve actually been able to get Mr. B in front of the camera for some professional photos a few times in our relationship. And getting maternity pictures for Sprout was so much fun. I love just being with him as a photographer tags along. And I love how much our love shows.
Collage of maternity photos

I love our love.

Thanks for sticking with me through all of the “life” that’s happened in the last year that makes this blog maybe not so fun all the time. And thanks for hanging in there even though I’ve not been regularly writing. I’ll try to do better — promise. But, mostly, that’ll depend on Sprout.

Until next time, my friends, the countdown continues …

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Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

With the anniversary of Penelope Joy’s death coming up next week, I’ve been feeling very emotional. About a lot of things. I’ve also been very thoughtful about a lot of things.

Like, how, when I think of Penelope Joy in the afterlife — whatever that may be — I picture her as a precocious 5-year-old little girl with brownish-red braids — one down each side of her head — and bangs that she’s constantly blowing out of her eyes.

She has freckles. A lot of them, but mostly when she’s in the sun.

And she uses words that are much bigger than she is. Words like “ubiquitous” (her mom’s favorite word). And “euphoric.” And “appalling.” And “anticlimactic.” And “bountiful.”

She loves books. So very much. And her world is full of them. Big ones. Chapter books. Books that are supposed to be much too advanced for her. But they’re not.

It’s weird. I only knew her as a baby. A very small, fragile baby. And I’ll never know what she would have been like as a little girl. Or a teenager. Or a young woman. But, in my head and in my heart, she has somehow become a bright, shiny, amazing little girl.

And I miss her so much.

The other night I had a dream, set in Penelope Joy’s new world. I saw her welcoming my dad to what was then his new world, too. “Papa! Papa! You made it! I was so worried about you. Come see what I can do!”

And she skips off holding my dad’s hand. But she’s just a little too fast, so she drags him behind her as he finds balance on his new legs. He’s a lot younger, too, in this place. And he stands up tall and straight. And the light has returned to his eyes.

At the end of the dream, Penelope Joy is sitting on my dad’s lap. And he’s smiling so, so very big. And she’s laughing.

It may all be a dream. All of it. I don’t know how I feel about heaven and the afterlife. Does it exist? I can’t know. No one really can. Nor can I say it doesn’t exist. I know that when we got Penelope Joy’s ashes back in that teeny tiny plastic bag inside that teeny tiny cardboard box, that wasn’t our daughter. We said good-bye to her in the hospital room. What happened after that, I may never know.

But the thoughts of her giggling and laughing as she skips along bring me peace. And, maybe, just maybe, that’s exactly as it’s supposed to be.

Little Prince Quote

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Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Since announcing Sprout’s existence, we’ve received such an amazing outpouring of support and prayers. People have reached out to us from around the world congratulating us, wishing us the best and telling us they’re keeping us all in their prayers. That’s the wonderful thing about social media — thousands of people got to know Penelope Joy and, by default, us. So we have a truly international support system. All thanks to one very special little girl.

I promised that I’d be an open book with Penelope Joy — sharing both the good times and the bad. Holding nothing back. Being real. And I was. It helped me cope — having a place to go to share all of my overjoyed moments of mommy pride as well as the moments of sincere despair.

With Sprout, though, I’m tempted to hold a little bit back. To keep a little bit of this baby just for us. Because, as I’ve said before, Penelope Joy didn’t just belong to us — she belonged to everyone. Her story was everyone’s story. And I want to selfishly keep Sprout’s story — at least some parts — just for Mr. B and me. And probably just for a while.

But, before I decide what I want to share — and what I don’t — I feel the need to publicly answer some of the questions I’ve been asked since announcing this pregnancy:

  • Was this baby planned? Yes. Sprout was planned. We were trying to get pregnant. Not exactly tracking everything to the minute. But we purposely discontinued birth control and made an effort to make an effort. Sprout was planned. Sprout is planned. And soverymuch wanted.
  • But, isn’t it too soon? For us? No. For you? Maybe it would have been. But it is the right time for our family. Penelope Joy expanded our capacity for love — and she grew our world 1,000,000-fold. Having a second baby can only make our world a better place. And that is really as much as I should need to say on that.
  • Well, you must be so scared. Obviously, Mr. B and I are scared. We’re nervous. We were scared and nervous when I was pregnant with Penelope Joy — and we had no idea how bad it could be. This time around, we know exactly how bad it could be. But, because we’ve experienced the worst, our fear feels different. Because, what’s the worst that could happen? We’ve been there. We’ve lived it. Could it happen again? Yes. Of course. But we also know that we cannot live in that fear. Because living in it would change nothing. The only thing that could change anything is loving each other hard — and loving Sprout harder.
  • Have you been tested to make sure it won’t happen again? This question … this question. As I’m writing this, I’m shaking my head. But, I will answer it. No. We were not tested to make sure “it” won’t happen again. But Penelope Joy was tested before she died. And, you know what? According to the geneticist, Penelope Joy tested negative for any genetic abnormalities. Her condition? A complete and total fluke. A chance mutation that could just have easily happened to any other kiddo. But, for some reason it happened to her. Does this make me feel any better? Absolutely not. When I first got the news, it made me angrier, sadder. When I asked the geneticist if Mr. B and I should be tested before having other children, she said it would be a waste of our money. Penelope Joy was negative, as we would be.
  • Is everything OK with the baby? I’m happy to report that, as of right now, everything is OK with Sprout. We heard Sprout’s heartbeat last Monday. It was a very reassuring visit to the doctor’s office. Because of what happened to Penelope Joy, we will be having extra tests, ultrasounds and consultations with Sprout. Thursday is the first of many such appointments. We’re both anxious and eager.

I look forward to writing about Sprout as this pregnancy continues. There are still some things I’ll share. Some things I’ll write about right away, and some things will wait. And, yes, some things will be just for Mr. B and me.

In the meantime, thank you for following along. And thank you for your continued support and prayers. We appreciate them. We feel them. And we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for loving us through everything.

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Being Grateful for the Ordinary

As you know, religion isn’t really my thing — at least not in the societal definition of it. But we’ve found a church — a community, really — where we feel as at home with our doubts and questions just as we do with our hope and our love. Still, though, Mr. B and I aren’t overtly religious people. And, we are most definitely new to this whole “practicing our faith” thing.

Since moving into our home, we’ve been making an effort to sit down to real dinners every night. Putting aside our phones, turning off the TV and just enjoying each other’s company (and the company of our wandering cats and our hopeful, under-the-table pup). Something wasn’t feeling quite right, though. Something was missing.

One day, I randomly asked Mr. B if we could pray before dinner. He wasn’t judgy or skeptical or turned off at all. In fact, he willingly said the prayer. For that, I was thankful. You see, I grew up in a Christian home — with a mother who was the epitome of a Christian woman, always opening her home and her arms, to those who needed something … anything. But we didn’t say prayers before dinner except at special occasions or holidays. And I didn’t say a bedtime prayer — at least not that I can remember. So I was — and still am, to some extent — uncomfortable with prayer. I mean, when you can’t see who you’re talking to, it’s weird — and, yes, I’m still confused/amazed/awed by “the telephone.”

Mr. B’s first prayer in our home was an awkward and simple prayer — as are ALL of our before-dinner prayers. But, it was beautiful. And it was exactly what our dinner table was missing. Every night, before we eat, we hold hands and say a prayer of thanksgiving. When we see special needs — in our friends and family facing a difficult time — we add those in, too. But, mostly, we say thanks.

We thank God for each other. And for our (most-of-the-time) delicious food, our new home and our silly pets. We thank God for family and friends, sunshine and stars, talents and dreams. Mostly, we thank God for loving us through another day and for being there for us through all the bad things life has thrown at us. And for giving us such beauty and love and hope. Sometimes, we even tell God to “have a nice day” — because, like I said, prayers are awkward and we never quite know how to end them. (Besides, as Mr. B says “God probably has people asking him for things all day long and no one takes the time to tell him to have a nice day.”)

It’s been an amazing experience in practicing gratitude. And it’s carried through in so many other areas of my life. Some of the things we thank God for are silly, simple things. Things that, on most days prior to our new dinnertime tradition, we would have overlooked and ignored. Because they weren’t special enough to notice. But they still are blessings that deserve recognition.

Blessings like:

  • wrinkles around our eyes — because it means we had something to smile about
  • our leaky basement — because it means we have a home
  • weeds in our garden — because it means we can have flowers
  • sadness — because if we can feel that, we can also feel happiness
  • our morning commutes — because it means we have jobs
  • grocery shopping — because it means we’ll have food on our table
  • muddy floors and dirty dishes — because they mean we have life in our home
  • missing Penelope Joy — because it means we had an amazing daughter who we had the pleasure to parent

You see, being grateful for your blessings shouldn’t be about only saying thanks when something takes your breath away. It should be about being thankful for every breath you take.

Even if you’re not religious, I believe that taking a few minutes each day to take note of the gifts you’ve been given — and the ones you’ve worked damn hard to earn — is important. My challenge to you: sit down tonight and write down five simple things that bless your life. Things you maybe haven’t taken time to appreciate before. Things that, on an ordinary day, are … well … ordinary. Because when you take time to give thanks for the small things, you realize you have a lot to be thankful for.

Sunset in Paradise

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An Unselfish Motherly Love

Today is the day I’ve been dreading for quite some time. Being a childless mother on Mother’s Day is, perhaps, one of the most difficult things a woman can experience.

Whether through infertility, miscarriage, death or any other loss, losing a child steals from you so many experiences you’d been dreaming about and longing for — and one of them is the rite of passage that is Mother’s Day.

Last year, Mr. B took me out for my first Mother’s Day brunch. And we were talking about that precious baby growing inside of me and all the years we’d have with him/her. What would our baby be like? Whose characteristics would our precious Pickle have? I thought I’d have dozens more Mother’s Days to celebrate.

It wasn’t long after that when we found out about Penelope Joy’s heart defect. And it was way, way too soon after that when we held Penelope Joy in our arms for the last time.

My family

My family, the day before Penelope Joy died.

I’ve said it before: I don’t feel like a mom. Because I didn’t get any of the experiences moms are supposed to have: taking our baby home from the hospital, spending sleepless nights with a cranky baby, watching her take her first steps, snapping that ubiquitous first-day-of-school photo, talking to her about boys (or girls), helping her with her homework, sending her off to prom, watching her dance with her father at her wedding, holding my first grandbaby. I didn’t get any of those experiences with Penelope Joy — I will never get any of those experiences with Penelope Joy.

Just because I don’t feel like a mom, though, doesn’t mean I’m not a mom. And I say this for my benefit as much as I do yours. Being a mom is so many things. For some, it’s messy diapers, homework help and bedtime kisses. For me — short-lived as it was — motherhood was about being there for Penelope Joy and loving her through her very short 38 days on this planet. For me, being a mom was knowing when to let go. Because holding on was hurting my baby. Because holding on was selfish.

You see, being a mom is, ultimately, about love. Big, selfless love that always puts someone’s needs above its own. And no matter how desperately we wanted Penelope Joy with us or how hard we loved her, we knew that she was hurting and that she was the one suffering. We knew that we had to say good-bye. And we loved her enough to let her go.

So, yeah, I am a mom. A childless mom. I will always be a mom. Because to deny my motherhood is to deny that Penelope Joy existed — and to deny that she mattered. Because she did. She does. She always will. Penelope Joy made me a mom — the best gift I’ve ever received. And for that I will always be grateful.

Collage of me holding P.J.

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‘How Can I Help?’

You learn a lot about how to support someone when you’re on the receiving end of it. There have been things people have said that really stung — and then I realized I’ve probably said them myself at some point. They meant well, I’m sure of it. I mean, if I ever said those things, I know I meant well. But, wow, when you’re going through rough waters, it becomes crystal clear how wrong — or right — certain words and actions are.

I’ve  gotten asked — many times, actually — by people who have a friend with a baby or child in the hospital about what they can do to support their friend. Now, my story is not everyone’s story. And just because I feel a certain way doesn’t mean every parent in my shoes feels that way. But, if you were to ask me, here’s what I would suggest:

  • Show up. Sit in the waiting room with a book or your work or some knitting. Even if your friend can’t come out and see you — she knows you’re there. You don’t have to sit in silent vigil. But, let her know you’ll be there from 1 to 3 one afternoon. Having a kid in the hospital is tough — you never know when they’re going to start crashing or when it’s going to be smooth sailing. So many times, just knowing that I could sneak out to the waiting room for  quick hug from my friend was enough to get me through. Even if I couldn’t sit and visit.
  • Create a hospital care pack. Include quarters (for vending machines), healthful snacks (because vending machines snacks get old — literally and figuratively — maybe try trail mixes, bottles of water, mints), crossword puzzle books, decks of cards, toiletries (the hospital-supplied ones are not exactly high-quality), etc. Make sure to put a hand-written note in there. Or, better yet, maybe several hand-written notes that say on the outside “Open when you need a hug.” Or, “Open when you’d like to smile.”
  • Make her dinner. Tell her you’re going to bring it on whatever day at whatever time. Don’t expect your friend to sit and eat with you, but know that she will appreciate the friendly face, quick hug and fresh homemade dinner.
  • Call and text and email her. We heard a lot of “we didn’t want to bother you.” But, here’s the thing, if your friend is busy or in a meeting with a doctor or holding her baby, she won’t answer her phone or email. But, she’ll know you cared. And she’ll know you’re thinking of her and her family. And, when she has a few minutes, she’ll answer you back. It just might take some time.
  • Stop by her house and do some stuff: check her mail, do her laundry, pet her cats, wash her sheets. What I wouldn’t have given to slide into fresh, clean sheets on the few nights we went home after the hospital. But the last thing we had time — or energy — to do was wash our sheets. Thankfully, though, the hospital had a small laundry room for us to use or else we may have gone for quite some time without clean britches, too.
  • Don’t stop living your life. Just because our life stopped while we sat by Penelope Joy’s side doesn’t mean our friends’ did. They still had work and kids and life they were living. Don’t be scared to talk about your life. And, for crying out loud, don’t be afraid to be happy. Sometimes talking about what’s going on outside the hospital is a welcome reprieve from the constant talk of blood test results, EEGs, pulse ox levels and end-of-life decisions. Talking about normal, happy things is OK. If we weren’t in the mood, we wouldn’t have had you visit.
  • And, finally, be patient. Some days, it’s hard enough to remember to brush your teeth when you have a child in the hospital. The experience is exhausting — mentally, physically, emotionally. So remembering to call someone back or trying to be a gracious host when someone visits can be a lot of work. Have patience — and compassion — for your friend. She is experiencing something no one should ever have to experience. And she deserves a break.

In the end, know that there is nothing you can do to take away your friend’s pain. Or fear. Or sadness. But, by putting yourself out there and showing her you’re there for her, it will bring in moments of light.

I’m going to go one step further, here, and provide some advice that you didn’t ask for. Mr. B and I have gone through something life altering — and life shattering. And we’ve had some of the most amazing support, encouragement and love we have ever experienced in our lives. No, I mean, seriously amazing. And I thank God for our support system every single day. But, we’ve also had some well-meaning people try to find just the right words to say, even though there are no right words. And some words that sound good coming out actually cause the recipient more pain and sadness than they’re already experiencing.

  • It was God’s will.” I could go on and on about this one. And, I kinda already did. But, let me just say this: I can’t believe in a God who would give us this chapter of our story simply because he (or she) could. And I certainly can’t think that Mr. B and I deserved to lose our daughter or that our sweet, innocent Penelope Joy deserved to die. Bad things happen — too often to even count — simply because they do. God isn’t there to hand them out. He/she is there to get us through them. Instead of “it was God’s will,” try “oh, wow, I am so sorry. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.” Or, “is it OK if I add your family to my prayer chain?”
  • “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” God thinks a heck of a lot more of me than I do of myself — probably true on many occasions. But, again, the thought that God purposefully did this is pretty disheartening. And not something to tell someone who is in a situation that would  make even the most faithful question their faith.
  • “Let me know if I can do anything.” Oh, gosh. We heard this so many times. And most of the time, my response was no response. On any given day, we didn’t know what we needed — except our baby, happy and healthy in my arms at home. And not even some of the most talented doctors and nurses I’ve ever met could do that. Putting the ball in our court was a game-ender. There were people, however, who just … did. They said they’d show up with dinner, and they showed up with dinner — no expectations for us to eat it with them. Just a hot, homemade meal and a hug. And then there were the people who showed up and cleaned our old apartment because we were making funeral arrangements and, well, mourning. Instead of telling your friend to let you know what she needs, see if there’s anything you can anticipate — and provide it for her. No strings, no expectations, no added stress.
  • “It wasn’t meant to be.” I’m hoping I don’t even need to tell you why this is an inappropriate response to someone who just lost a child.
  • “I know just how you feel.” People have told us this countless times — I still hear it to this day. I actually had someone tell me that their dog of 10 years recently died, so she knew “just how I felt.” And a mom whose baby had a cold “totally understands” because she, too, was watching her child suffer. Please. Just stop with the comparisons. Even Mr. B doesn’t know exactly how I feel — and I don’ t know exactly how he feels. And we lived the exact same story. Every person is different. So, no, I’m sorry, you don’t know exactly how I feel. I know you mean well — I really, really do — but comparing my situation to yours is hurtful — especially if you’re talking about your dog. (Don’t get me wrong, I love our dog — but she is no replacement for Penelope Joy.)
  • Or, maybe you don’t call or don’t write or … quite frankly … fall off the face of the earth. Because you’re uncomfortable and don’t know what to say. Remember, though, there are no right words to say. Those friends who stuck by me? The ones who called and just sat there in silence because there were no words? Or the ones who sat with me and cried? The ones who said, “Sh*t. That sucks.”? The ones who showed up with a bottle of wine and Kleenex? Those are the ones who nailed it who got it. Because they’re the ones who were there for me through the worst possible experience of my life. Even though it sucked and was ugly and made them, God forbid, uncomfortable.
  • Last, but certainly not least: “Are you going to try again?” As if Penelope Joy was just our first stab at something. As if practice makes perfect. As if she didn’t matter and we can just move on to the next kid. What I think you mean to ask is: “Are you going to have more children?” Because Penelope Joy mattered. And she will always be our oldest child. And any future kids (if we have any future kids) will know her story — they will know she existed and that she mattered and that she was a light in our lives.

In closing, the very best thing you can do for your friend — no matter what she’s going through — is love. Love hard. And love her through it. No matter what “it” is. Be there — physically and emotionally — even when, no, especially when things get ugly and uncomfortable.

Please, please don’t take this post the wrong way. Mr. B and I are eternally grateful for all of the love and support we received — and continue to receive. And, I will always take someone saying the “wrong thing” over someone who disappears. I only share this post (written from an honest, caring spot in my heart) as a look into things from the other side. The side where moms and dads leave the hospital with a small biohazard baggie of their baby’s curls instead of their actual baby. Thankfully, not everyone has been on this side of the story — and I hope none of you ever are on this side of the story.

Hopefully, some of this may be helpful if you ever are in this situation, looking for how you best can love your friend through some pretty rough waters. Remember: the words and actions we use matter. And so do the ones we don’t.

P.S. If you’ve made it this far, let me apologize for the length of this post. Another reason I’m not a very successful blogger is that I can’t/won’t/don’t limit my posts to “a readable 200 to 300 words.” I’ve got stuff I wanna say — and a lot of words in the dictionary at my disposal. What’s a girl to do?

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