A Little Bit of ADD

I was having the pleasure of being out with a very old friend the other night, someone I’ve known since we were both very young but haven’t gotten to spend time with in many years, and I did The Thing:  I was telling a story about going through counseling and learning more about myself, and I told her about learning that I have ADD.  And I literally saw her eyes roll.

Damn it.

I can guarantee that anyone with ADD, but adults in particular, who has ever told another soul that they have ADD knows the Eye Roll all too well.

Because you don’t tell someone without weighing out their reaction first.  Will they get it?  Will they think it’s crap?  Do they actually know anything about ADD?  Or do they just think they do.  Because everyone thinks they know.  “You can’t sit still.”  “You can’t pay attention.”  “That’s just an excuse for teachers who don’t want to teach.”  And unfortunately, that was where my brain stopped because my friend is a teacher and someone I consider intelligent, learned, enlightened, and open.  My mind said, “she will probably be surprised to hear this about you, simply because you did excel in school, and maybe you can have a conversation about what ADD really is — maybe it will even help her students for you to talk about it.”  Except my mind forgot to go the extra step and consider another option….

“Yeah, but, really, don’t we all have a little bit of ADD?”

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No.
No, we do not.

Do we all have times when our attention span stinks?  Yes.
Do we all have times when we are more distractible than others?  Yes.
Do we all have times when our mind races in several directions?  Yes.

Do we all have challenges of our own and have to figure them out so that we can figure out strategies to deal with them successfully and assure our strengths are working for us and mitigate our weaknesses working against us?  Absolutely.

But, no, we do not all have a little bit of ADD.  Just like we do not all have a little bit of autism (yep, I’ve heard that too — last time we went to that dentist).

Do we all struggle daily with the most commonplace of decisions, such that we become paralyzed when faced with sorting the mail?  No.
Do we all live in constant fear that we will be discovered as a fraud in our role as mother, wife, husband, dad, coach, team member, cook, or secretary?  No.
Do we all abuse ourselves because it is literally genetically impossible for us to ever arrive somewhere early without it requiring an act of Congress?  No.
Do we all suffer from the anguish of repeatedly letting down our friends, family, and coworkers because we cannot decide where or how (or when) to start?  No.

Also, my mind doesn’t “race” and I don’t have “trouble paying attention.”  It’s more like you gave 3000 toddlers cherry popsicles on a warm summer day, turned them loose in a backyard, and told me to follow the drips of one popsicle.  It’s fast-forwarding through your DVR-ed movie at 400x speed:  There’s a tremendous amount happening every second, and while you’re going to get from the beginning to the end, good luck having any idea what you saw or what you missed in the middle.

But back to the eye roll…

I wish I had better advice for the eye roll.  When my son was younger, I would have had the stamina to set about correcting misconceptions.  I would have busted forth with quotes from Edward Hallowell and Sari Solden.  I am now in my 40s.  I have a teenage son who drives.  I’m divorced and in what can only be called my “second life” because it and I are so dramatically different from the first life.  So, I’ll be honest:  I’m not all that interested in explaining who I am anymore.  I’m more than happy to have a stimulating intellectual, spiritual, political, or religious conversation with someone who is as open to my thoughts as I am to theirs.  We need not agree — at all.  But the moment judgment is thrown my direction, a preconceived bias that is stated as a fact, I close off a little.  I am less likely to let that person into my physical, mental, or emotional space.

ListenThat counselor that I mentioned?  One of the many brilliant things she said to me was:  “What we share with people is our gift to them.”  Not everyone will want or appreciate your gift, and that’s okay.  But there are times you hope someone will recognize that you are offering it, and when they don’t and meet you with judgment instead, it’s important that you learn from that moment, both about them and about yourself.  That lesson took a long time for me —
because I used to be a little bit of a bad listener when people were giving it.

But not anymore.

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On Grief – Part 2

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A month.

It feels like a year.  It feels like yesterday.

The best friend I have ever had has been gone for one month.  I still can’t process it, honestly, even a little.  My brain knows that she is not here.  My heart certainly knows that she is not here.  But I still expect her at every moment, and I am still crushed at the very razor’s edge of the first split-second that I realize she is not going to get out of her bed or come around the corner or be waiting at the door.  I go to bed looking for her.  I roll over in the night looking for her.  I wake up looking for her.  I want desperately to put my arms around her.  My heart’s mantra, which wells up out of me in wrenching sobs, is “I want my dog.”

I made a very personal decision.  I rent my home, which means that I won’t live here forever.  I couldn’t bear to not have her with me forever, and so I made the decision to have her body cremated and her ashes returned to us.  In frankness, I don’t think I could have buried her.  I don’t think there’s any way in the world that I could have stopped myself from going out there the very next day and digging my way back to her just to touch her soft fur.  I’m positive that sounds insane to some people, but those who spent any time with her understand the softness I’m talking about — maybe not my insanity, but the softness.  I think I would have driven myself mad knowing that there very quickly would come a time that I couldn’t do that.  I also thinking I would have been out there constantly just lying on top of the dirt to be close to her.  Probably not the very best mental health impression to give as a mother.

So, I brought her ashes home.  She has a shrine of sorts in our living room.  Our media center has a hutch over top of the television.  On the very top is a large photo of her, framed in a natural wood just slightly darker than her own brown.  Just below that, in one of the large divided sections running the width of the hutch, her ashes rest in a wooden beautiful box with a classic stamped floral design on leather wrapping and a swinging clasp on the front that was the same style as on the leather purses my mother had in the ’70s.  A small, patterned S stands next to the box, for her name.  Behind the box, and out of sight, is a ziplock bag with some of her fur in it that I brushed from her that morning.  Below, on the main level of the media center, on the corner that is nearest her bed, is an elegant and sweet statue of a dog, finished in brushed metal hues, on which I was able to wrap her collar, from which her ID tag hangs.  This shrine came together easily and perfectly, and having her home took away an anxiety portion of my grief.  If life, parenting, divorce, and therapy have taught me anything, one of the most important lessons has been that everything comes in layers.  There is no single switch or treatment or process that will work it all out.  It is always layers, pieces, stages.  This stage was soothed by returning her to us and giving her a specific permanence that I could never have given her in life.

The difficulty of stages is not knowing what the next one is.  Right now, I function.  I keep going.  And I can do that now because at least she is home to ground me.  But I still end most of my nights with tears because she is not there when I get up to go to bed at night.  We don’t get to go outside in the beautiful night air for her to smell where the neighbor’s cat walked across our front porch, investigate the worms that have come up onto the grass, or listen to the train whistle as it crosses the road at the bottom of the hill.  She doesn’t follow me to my room to crawl into her bed and get her nightly head and shoulder massage before I get in bed too and fall asleep to her sweet snoring.  My room is so empty of her sounds at night, and that is so very painful.

When my son was little, he had a favorite blanket.  That blanket smelled so unbelievably wonderful, like my freshly bathed, sleepy little boy.  It wasn’t just the laundry detergent or his special bath soap.  It was this intricate mix of everything that was my son, and it smelled like heaven and love and perfection.  As he got older, he would part with both that particular scent and that particular blanket, and I wrapped that blanket as tightly as I possibly could and put it away in my nightstand.  Periodically, I would pull it out and unwrap it only as far as I needed to in order to get just a whiff of that memory.  It worked for many years, believe it or not.  His dad would sniff it with me sometimes, and we would smile together and remember our little boy.  I remember being just horrified that I knew the day was someday going to come that I would go to it, and that smell would no longer be there.  Yet, I can still pull it out, probably ten years after I put it away, and there’s enough “something” woven into the barest threads of the fabric that I can find a hint of it and conjure up the rest with my heart.

Now, I get down on my knees, put my nose to the curve of my dog’s bed where she would lay her head and neck, and close my eyes that I can breathe in her scent and imagine that she is still with me.  I have found a few spots that are perfectly her, and I am so careful not to touch them or even breathe on them as I draw them in because I am so fearful.  I cannot wrap them up and save them.  They will not last ten years.  And I am so deeply afraid of losing that connection to her.

Spring is officially here, and the weather is warming.  I am making plans to work in the flowerbeds this week, and my faithful companion will not be there alongside me.  I said in Part 1 that I do not know who I am without her.  That isn’t just grief talking; I really do feel that every day — that I am fundamentally changed and will continue to change because she is not beside me.  I want my dog.

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Waking Up

It’s funny the things that you remember when you aren’t looking for them.

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I was getting ready for bed — collecting my phone and paperback book, slipping my flip-flops back on so I could take them off again next to the bed, taking my nighttime medicine.  I stopped in the bathroom to brush my teeth, and as my eyes crossed over my book again, I felt it:  the touch of a memory, the memory of a feeling.

It won’t be long now, and I will have been informally unwed for 6 years.  The formally came much later than is probably the norm, but in our case, paperwork was strictly formality that we left sitting to the side for a couple of years.  All of which I only point out because my brain can be a strict grammarian, and sometimes it feels ingenuous to say that I have been divorced for nearly 6 years.  I actually giggle a little at the irony of the fact that I used to tell friends who were living together that, no, it was most decidedly NOT “basically the same thing” as being married, and yet, in my case, our living apart truly was “basically the same thing” as our being divorced.  So, okay, fine.  Let me start again…

I’ve been divorced for nearly 6 years now.  A friend once told me about seeing a counselor at the end of his live-in, long-term relationship that had not become marriage and asking the counselor how long it would take him to get over it.  The counselor responded that it was safe to assume an average of 1 year for every 3 years together, with considerably longer times added in if the relationship included children and any major life stressors such as death, etc.  I was married for a little over 12 years.  We were together for almost 15.  So, I went into my divorce figuring a minimum of 5 years, plus.  I remember thinking, “I AM GOING TO FEEL LIKE THIS FOR FIVE YEARS?!?”  Oh, Sparrow….  No.  You’re not going to feel like THAT for five years.  Though, at five years, I was still wondering when the hell it was going to let up.  But that’s another post for another night.

At 6 years, I notice more moments like the one tonight that catch me… not off guard, because it is not a defensive posture that comes into play, but maybe just… by surprise.  So unexpected.  After living so long in this phase of life that I probably once referred to as the “new normal” but now more as simply a transitional period in my life, to find myself having memories and memories of feelings without having an immediate and visceral reaction to them is rather a surprise.  Maybe a bit of sensing there is a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will.  (Not so sure I’m going to go as far as “seeing” the light at the end of the tunnel for these.  I have those moments, but they are an experience that is built in layers.)

Tonight’s memory of a feeling involved that paperback book.  I remembered the specialness that I used to feel for my bedroom.  It wasn’t the brick or plaster or built-in cupboard and drawers.  It wasn’t the size of the space or that I kept it perfectly appointed (my headboard tends to look more like a train wreck of paperbacks, jewelry, lotions, and dust from my Kleenex box).  It was a sense of refuge.  A place I could retreat to my book at night.  A place that was ours, together, two people who knew each other in ways no one else knew us (I’m not touching the truth of that one; we’re just going with the feeling here).  When I laid down there at night, it was simply our space and ours alone, and there was a warmth that comes with that and can certainly be there in a space of your own too; it doesn’t require marriage or another person.

But I had spent so much time falling into my bed and lusting after sleep as a way to forget, so much time staying awake until I couldn’t stay awake anymore just so my mind wouldn’t race when it got quiet around me, so many nights when crawling into bed was my only non-mom time and the cares and worries of the days just poured out of my eyes onto my pillow so that I could do it again tomorrow — that I had forgotten it could be something else.  I had misplaced that sense of both refuge and ownership, that sense of permanence and place in the world.  In truth, I was surprised to have forgotten the emotion, but I was almost shocked that I had completely forgotten that it exists.

If that simple sense of surprise isn’t a sign of transition, then I don’t know what is.

I think it is time to redecorate the bedroom.  And get a bookshelf.

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On Grief – Part 1

Chipmunk Slayer

World Champion

This beautiful girl…

Two weeks ago today, my dog died.

Eleven characters. It takes 11 characters to say that she is gone – the most loaded, painful characters. Just typing that nearly destroys me. It took me a few minutes to actually do it. But the part that really grabs hold of me and won’t let go is that rottenly precise grammarian in my head who says that my statement is technically incorrect. Because she didn’t “just die.” It isn’t like I found her passed on in her sleep or she laid in a hospital bed and left the world because it was her time and she’d told me that she was ready to go. No, she was tail-wagging. She was affectionate. She was hot on the trail of all kinds of scents outside the vet’s office — which was right before I chose to lay down with her and hold her while I paid a doctor to end her life. When I say that she died, my brain constantly corrects me and points out that, no, the most accurate statement is that I killed her.

It’s a hellish thing to torment yourself with. Because that’s really the purpose, isn’t it? It’s a visceral reaction to pain. We need to blame someone. And it isn’t even just a human reaction. When I was kid and my grandmother’s dog was older and partially blind, my cousin stepped on his tail, and the dog reacted by biting the closest thing to him that he could see — my hand. He couldn’t find, see, or reach the offender, so he bit what he could. That’s pretty much what my brain is doing as well. It needs someone or something to blame. I can’t find, see, or reach whatever caused by organ failure in my beloved, amazing, beautiful best friend, and I desperately need somewhere to put this pain. Unfortunately for me, my grandmother’s dog had a better chance of getting out of pain by biting me because I screamed, which made my cousin move. My mind tormenting me with its boiled down version of the facts isn’t eliciting quite the same effect as that bite. Or is it?

You see, when the facts are boiled down, they read like this: The World Champion of Stuffed Chipmunk Slaying (see above) had stopped eating. Suddenly and entirely. Her blood work showed that her liver and kidneys were in full shutdown. In point of fact, her blood was poisoned at astronomical levels with what those organs would no longer clear. The fact that she was not crumpled in a pile of pain and horror was a testament to her wonderful being and, hopefully, to the fact that she gave and received so much love, so willingly and so completely. That her heart was so, so, so big. The fact was that she was only managing what she did because of the forced fluids that made her not feel so bad. But she was constantly exhausted or asleep and could not do everything she wanted to do. The fact was that she would never again be able to do all the things she wanted to do. Major fluid pushes gave her one last traipsing around to follow new scent trails that filled her nose and her heart. And then she was gone — before she ever had to suffer pain that would keep her from being able to lift her head, step down off the front porch to walk over to see her grandma, or follow a scent trail in the yard.

But I am still here. And the one being who will ever be my best friend, who loved me unconditionally – and I her, is gone. The guilt is overwhelming, and the grief..

Every day is a struggle that I never could have imagined. I work out of my home, so we were together constantly. She has a bed near my desk, one in the living room, one in my room. There is nowhere I go during my day that was ever a space without her in it. She was my constant companion. I don’t know who I am without her. At times, I find the world incomprehensible.

Like the bite that made me scream though, my brain’s attack makes my heart defend itself. Because it was actually my heart that made the choice. I loved her too much to ever, ever let her be in that type of pain. I would have moved heaven and earth to save her. I would have done damn near anything to give her a life that she would have been happy to live, but as that was not in the cards, I could not put her through agony just because I wished it could be. I don’t think I have ever done anything more painful in my life. I hope that I never will have a moment like that again. I hope that the grammarian in my head is wrong. I hope that the real fact is that I freed her. I hope there is a heaven. I hope that she is there and will be waiting there for me someday. I hope that, beyond all, she understood that I let her go because I loved her too much to keep her here. I hope that she forgives me for tormenting myself with the “What Ifs.” I hope that her life was as happy as I thought it was. I hope that she knows that I will never, ever be without her, not for a moment.

I got a dog for my son. She was never supposed to be my dog.

She will forever be my dog.

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Rage Tears

When I was young, I wondered if I had an anger problem.

My temper could be quick to flare and would burn so hot, so fast. It was a visceral reaction and would catch me by surprise. I attributed it to being picked on rather mercilessly by a cousin, from a very young age and on an almost daily basis. I would just explode in those moments, and later in life, I would realize that it came from frustration and shame that he could get to me like that and, most importantly, that I could not make it stop, no matter what I did.

Then I grew up, became a parent, and found out that the anger I’d felt was nothing, NOTHING compared to the anger I would feel when someone or something hurt or threatened my child.

I’m sitting here now with what I call “rage tears,” a phenomenon that occurs in me when I get so angry that a malevolent violence seeps from my pores, surrounding me in a cloud of wounded hostility. If someone could see my aura right now, I would feel so sorry for them because I simply cannot imagine that it would not cause them physical anguish to look upon it. It feels as if venomous barbs are escaping my body through my skin, each one dragging a piece of me away as they push through – stealing my blood, my soul. This is what brings the rage tears — anger that causes me physical trauma which brings about tears that simply fall because there is no room left for them inside of me. They are my compassion, and they are forced out.

What’s happening to my son right now isn’t horrible. Another child at school is messing with him, bullying him. When I was young, we thought of the bully as the kid who acted out physically on other kids, maybe shoved a kid in a locker, knocked his books out of his hands, smeared something in another girl’s hair, etc. We recognize bullying now for what it is, with or without the physical components: a power struggle within the bully only, usually a wounded child who feels they must wound someone else because they feel powerless themselves in another situation. My bully was the same. I am able to feel compassion for these people because no child (or adult) should ever be made to feel powerless and out of control. My son had a bullying situation a few years ago that was, so far, considerably worse than this. But we were in a smaller school, dealing with a more known quantity in both our bully as well as his parents, the counselors, and the rest of the faculty. We knew these people well. We addressed it and got immediate action. Our bully knew us as parents. He was in severe pain. He was unskilled and way overstepped himself very early on, and when he had to face us, he cried tears of terrible shame and I was able to put my arms around him and tell him that he was so much better than the kids who had done this very thing to him and to not let them pull him down to their level. We were able to offer him our forgiveness. We were all able to heal and move on.

But this is high school, and this bully has apparently never been called on the carpet to face a parent, to cry in shame, to be offered forgiveness and the chance to change. He is nuanced. He is smart. He is much better at what he does. He is dangerous. He is triggering a PTSD reaction in our home.

I am seeing shadows of the son who wasn’t quite as confident, who didn’t want to go to school to deal with whatever today’s bullshit would be, who walked in the door at night and hit me with a barrage of the rotten thing(s) that happened today instead of how great things were at school today. It is not a return, but there are shadows. And, of course, as I try to advise him, he offers apologies because he is “messing up” how he is dealing with this kid — because he continues to be human toward him, to offer him the benefit of the doubt, to respond kindly instead of going off on him, to which I have to explain that he has nothing to apologize for — that my frustration is that he, we, have been put in this position by this bully and that I have to explain to him as a parent that this child does not deserve his kindness and that, against who he is as a person, he MUST assume a protective posture at all times and never give him the benefit of the doubt again.

This bully is coming after my son’s innocence, but I am the one who actually has to take it. I’ve been through many things in my life, but there has been nothing else that breaks me like that, because of the frustration and shame and, most importantly, the fact that I cannot make it stop.

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837 days and counting

I figured it out.  I have cried, nearly every day, for 837 days.

On many of the days that I have cried, there have been more, far more than enough tears to make up for the days I didn’t.

My face looks so much different than it did 837 days ago.  My skin; the lines in my forehead, around my eyes, at my mouth; the way my mouth sits at rest, now with a downturn at the edges.  The sadness has etched itself into topical relief that will never leave me at this age.  I look in the mirror and am, metaphorically at least, unrecognizable.  But maybe it isn’t metaphor because I still can’t find myself under all those tears.

And yet, even carrying all that sorrow, I am surprised, even stunned when I can still be hurt.  And hurt.  And hurt some more.  Because 837 days ago, I thought I finally would stop being hurt for all the same reasons, but I was wrong.  In fact, it hurts so much more because it simply brings into very sharp focus all that never really was and was never given a chance to be and how much of my life and my self that I gave to wishing it could and trying to believe it would.

I don’t write this message in search of sympathy or hugs or “it’ll get better.”  I write it for me, because I have to have a place to put it, a place to let it go of it, a place to hope for the next 837 days.  And I do.  I hope.  Because it’s still all I have.

 

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Potential

I had a realization this morning: I have always loved my family most for what they could be.

I wonder why? Did I get glimpses & then it would just go completely off the rails & then the process keep repeating? I believe so, yes.

And so it seems maybe I have found my reason for my “potential-seeking” behavior. As if I can simply love someone into the best version of themselves if they aren’t willing or capable of doing it on their own. I mean, the romantic in me wants to believe that’s kind of what a soulmate is — someone who makes you a better you and vice versa — but it’s supposed to be because you complement each other, how who they are makes you feel about who you are.

It is not because one person likes who the other is and wants to be like them in those ways, not because one person loves the other “enough” to somehow make it okay to be themselves but only around each other, and, contrary to every sports & prayer healing motivation, wanting it bad enough won’t get it done. It will just leave you brokenhearted over and over again.

Is it possible to escape the cycle of potential?

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Of Hope and Fear

All of my life, I have clung to hope with a tenacity I can’t describe. I don’t know where it comes from. It is foolishness? Is it codependency? Is it an eternal optimism that is somehow hard coded into my DNA? Is it simply a child’s innocence that my psyche refuses to give up? Stubbornness? Insanity? What in the world makes hope course through my veins like the blood that keeps me alive.

Even in the face of pain & anguish, in the lowest moments of my life — and they have been several and very, very low, in the most horrible mistakes I have ever made that I wish so much that I could take back — in all of these moments, even when it seemed it might be totally incongruous to the facts, I have still had hope.

After nearly 2 agonizing years, I have hope still. Hope that someday this pain will stop. Hope that I will come out of the other side of this stronger, wiser, and a better version of my true self. Hope that, by some miracle, this destruction and devastation of my family will somehow be to the benefit of my child instead of to his detriment. And I think it is that last one that makes this feel different from every other moment in my life when I might have disparaged & yet somehow survived: My fears for myself are great, yes, but my fears for my son…

The costs of these two years for him are what I fear that I will never get over, that I will never be able to forgive. He & I have lost time that we will never get back. We’ve lost communication. We’ve lost so much opportunity, not least for the therapies that he so desperately needs — because I have been lost in a sea of anguish and spending my every waking moment trying to survive, emotionally and financially. The analogy of the plane losing pressure and putting on your own oxygen mask before helping your child with theirs… I’ve heard it so many times & it makes sense, but when it takes years to get your own mask on, there will be consequences to your child that will last forever.

I am so very tired. Tired of hoping, tired of hurting, tired of believing that the light will come back, tired of feeling powerless, tired of the fight to keep from drowning, tired of being angry, tired of trying to be kind, tired of trying to understand, tired of this infection touching the lives of every single person with whom I have contact, tired of never having a single moment’s peace from this madness.

How long can a person live in pain and anger before it fundamentally changes them? More pointedly, how long will it be before I lose hope? And who will I be if I do? It is my greatest fear, and it feels closer with every day and every new struggle.

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Overheard: Reincarnation

i wonder what would happen if, after this life, i was popcorn in my next life

… You’d get eaten!

yeah, okay, maybe i should pick something different.  i think i’d be a kid because being a kid is the best.

But you haven’t been an adult yet, so how do you know?

because it is!

Only if you have good parents.

oh yeah, that is SO TRUE.

______________________________

You guys call that whatever you want.  I’m calling it validation!

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Oy, my hip.

Okay, so it’s been so frickin long since I wrote a blog that WordPress changed everything (probably 2 or 3 times) since I was last here and it took me a solid 3 minutes to figure out how to post something. These kids and their new fangled technamacology. Sigh!

But, here I am. I’ve wanted to come back so many times, and my goodness at how very, very, OHSOVERY much I have to say about the last year of my life.

At the moment though, I’m too busy noticing that someone else named my happy little corner of the innerwebs as one of the 6 best ADD/ADHD blogs. Of course, they did so a year ago this month and I just found out. Timing is a wicked mistress, I tell you. Wicked!

Nonetheless, I’m forced to admit that even when I am posting with some regularity, sometimes I think the most ADD thing about my blog is that I forget to post about my ADD. 🙂

Oooo, look, a squirrel!

Here’s hoping I’m back for a while. Or at least until someone else wants to tell me I’m awesome. You know, while I’m on safari or something.

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