110 Days

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110.

Today.

The exact number of days that Kendall lived after his son died.

110.

The exact number of days that I have lived since Kendall died.

I have been dreading this day for a while now, it has hovered around the back of my brain, and I have pushed it away, covered it up, tried to bury it. It came anyway.

It is the last thing that we share, as morbid as that is. My widowed brain thinks differently than my previous brain.

We survived those first 3+ months by holding on to each other for dear life, we threw each other life rings in a sea of pain, confusion, regret, and more pain. We clung to one another to keep from drowning.

For those 110 days there was nothing else, no one else, we went to work, we went out to see friends, we shopped, we ate at restaurants, all of the things that normal people do.To the outside world we were getting along, being strong, we were remarkable. But in our world things were different, we cried at all of the songs on the radio, we often rode in silence, we passed white pickups on the road and cast a sideways glance at the other fighting back tears. Everywhere held a memory or a longing to have Bronson with us, to share a meal with, laugh with or tell him about our day and hear about his. Home was worse, every commercial, TV show, every plate, glass, pot and pan another source of hurt. To shower we walked past his bedroom, in the bathroom, his cologne and toothbrush still in the medicine cabinet. We slept too much or not enough. I laid awake most nights listening for the nightmares, and held him close once he woke. We took naps together, trying to find some relief from the awful ever-present hurt. We sat on the couch and held hands, sometimes in silence, sometimes trying to talk through it and sometimes in tears.

We were always close, for the last 18 years we were best friends, lovers, we finished each other sentences, knew all of each others secrets, always together. But in those 110 days we got closer, we were broken, vulnerable, and afraid. I was with him the day that Bronson took his life and that was a memory that we could not share with anyone. We went to a grief therapist together, and tried to work through the hurt, regret, anger, and guilt.

We made tiny steps of progress, we began to laugh, the tears still came, but not as fierce, we talked of the future and how we would try to find a way to live our new normal. We made plans, and together we started to see a hairline crack of light in the midst of darkness.

110 days.

His broken heart stopped beating.

I was thrust back into the horror of loss, my entire world went black again.

I don’t have his hand to hold, his shoulder to cry on. once again I am broken, vulnerable, and hurt. I lost my guide, my compass, my person.

This world is dark, scary and so unimaginably lonely.

I retrace our steps together, I know how to get through this part, I’ve done it before.  I feel him by my side, holding me back from self-destruction, trying to keep my edges from becoming sharp again  after all the work he did to soften them. Keeping me from the abyss of begging my heart to stop just as his did.

I have no idea how to get through day 111, it is the wolf at the door, teeth bared, ready to pounce.

I will treasure today, the very last thing that we share, the very last thing we will have in common, that we lived 110 days after the worst day of our life.

The Eulogy

So many of you have asked about the eulogy… How did you do that? How did you write it? And most frequently did you videotape it? I did not tape it, that is weird, secondly I wrote it for no one but Kendall, I spoke from my heart and the words just flowed, lastly I was able to deliver it because the words came from love and honesty, nothing else. I am posting it here only because, I can’t read the words to you out loud again, and because I want the world to know what a wonderful person that we have lost.

When I sat down to write what I wanted to say to you about Kendall, I thought it would be hard to sum up his life in a few pages or paragraphs, it wasn’t, sure I could share a million memories and stories with you but what I really want you know about him you already do.

He was a simple man, he often referred to himself that way, if I would ask him what was he thinking his response was usually, Babe, I’m a simple guy, bikes… or boobs that’s pretty much it.

He was completely oblivious to what people thought about him, he lived his life exactly how he wanted with confidence, humbleness, honesty, integrity, joy and a small set of priorities that he gave 110%.

His first and most important priority was Bronson, “my boy” was how he referred to him, always with pride and love in his voice. There was nothing he wouldn’t have done for him, gave to him or shared with him. They had the same sense of humor, telling horrible jokes, watching the stupidest movies on TV and quoting them later sometimes for weeks on end. They shared a love of sports and music, Kendall teaching him to appreciate old country and southern rock. Most importantly they shared the same giving heart ,and the same helpful attitude, everyone was a friend or neighbor to them and they would drop everything to lend a hand. I think that Bronson was just as proud of his Dad as Kendall was of him, all of his friends knew “whop” and without even trying he became a role model for them. Kendall strove to live his life as an example for his son, passing on his vast knowledge, and teaching him that working hard was the only way to get what you needed and wanted, and most importantly that a man’s word was all that he had, Kendall’s word was gold.

His next priority was work, his sole purpose in life was to provide for himself and his family, every morning he was up before the alarm, dressed, shirt tucked in, teeth brushed, and ready for the day,and out the door if your weren’t 10 minutes early you were late. ‘ He could accomplish more before 7 am than I could in a whole week. Before his kidney transplant he went to work everyday no matter how weak or tired he was. Those six weeks of recovery after were torture for him he couldn’t wait to get back. Sitting at home drove him nuts. In his heart he was a truck driver, he loved the open road, driving for Link and traveling the United States was such a pleasure for him, every week was a new adventure, he only gave it up because Bronson and I complained so much about missing him. I don’t think there was anything he couldn’t fix or build, he was always in the garage making something from nothing, why buy anything when he could so easily figure out a way to make it himself. He never tired of tinkering with the bikes, truck, tractor or even the lawn mowers, making them better, faster, or “ more manly”. When his workday was done, he would come home and start all over, he always had several projects going at a time, He took so much pride in taking care of his homestead, the lawn was pristinly mowed at all times, I never did get that one right, picking up branches in the yard, raking the pine needles, repairing things in that old farmhouse, he worked endlessly to honor his parents and the farm where he grew up, to provide a home for us and a legacy for his son his brother and his sister.

After work was devoted to his friends and family, he would have given any one of you the shirt off his back, I don’t think there is a person he spent longer than five minutes with that wouldn’t call him a friend. Never one to intrude, he didn’t like to feel that he was bothering anyone, but if you called he was there in a heartbeat. Although a man of few words, he had the biggest heart, he felt your pain, your sadness and shared in your joy, if he couldn’t find a way to tell you he found a way to show you, by doing you a favor, hugging you hard, or sending up a silent prayer. He was the most empathic person I have ever known, despite that manly exterior and loud booming voice, you always knew when Kendall was in the house, his heart was so tender he cried at sad and not so sad movies, commercials and songs on the radio. He refused to accept help from anyone, asking for a favor was so difficult for him and yet he gave so freely of himself.

He was not all business no pleasure though, any of you who drank a few beers with him went on a bike ride with him knew that he loved to have a good time, a lot of the time at Blondie’s expense!!!!
If you were lucky enough to be present when he laid down rubber in the open throttle, watched as we tried to win a bike race from palo riding through the golf course on the cart path after a rain, or saw him drive Charlene and I together on the bike to Scott and Becky’s you know what I’m talking about.
He could tell a good joke, he loved to laugh and making you laugh, he loved going to Pearl St on Friday nights, and catching up with friends, telling stories and hearing about your lives.

His Harley s were his greatest escape, the only thing that would take him away from work, he was rarely in a bad mood ,but if he was, a ride on the bike usually took care of it. Traveling the back roads with the radio blaring soothed his soul, he often said “just need to get some wind in my face and it’ll be fine”. We loved riding with friends it always ended up with nights out too late and laughing til our faces hurt, or riding just the 2 of us with no destination, going wherever the road would take us, taking in the scenery and finding new friends who became part of our family.

I was so fortunate to be his family, a lot of you have asked why we didn’t get married, the truth is we really just never got around to it, there was always work to do, roads to travel, and it wasn’t really necessary, we knew that we were together forever. We were so well matched from the very beginning, we got each others jokes, we had the same values, we finished each others thoughts. For the last 18 years it always seemed just right to be Blondie and Kendall. I cannot find the words to express to you what he meant to me so I am going to borrow part of a favorite poem of mine that says it perfectly.

He was my North my South my East and West
My working week, my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song.

He was my weakness and I was his strength. He was my person.

He never once raised his voice to me, he treated me always with respect, tenderness, kindness and love We never argued and we made each other laugh every single day. He made dreams come true for me, fought for me, supported me, loved me. He softened all of my sharp edges and helped me become the person I am today. I was beyond blessed to belong to him.

After Bronson died, he felt that his job here was done, his purpose gone, his light went out, his pain and sadness were just too much for his tender heart to withstand. And God called him home. Don’t mourn for long, he would not want that and know as I do that he is at peace. He is with his son, they are riding the back roads together. He had the life here that he chose and he lived it always to the fullest. He would ask you not shed a tear but to hug your children, say I love you and to go out into this world with a kind and giving heart. He was a man of simple needs and he accomplished them all, he had a loving son, a caring family, dear friends. His bikes, and a woman to love who loved him back. This is not goodbye, only until we meet again, keep my seat warm, throttle cracked and ride free.

From Biker Bad Ass to Middle Aged Lawn Mower

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Thanksgiving weekend Kendall (my significant other) moved back to the family farm after his mother passed away. Apartment life after 17 years had started to wear a little thin. I was so excited for this change, there would be flowers to plant, lawn to mow, more furniture than just a couch to sit on, and the redecorating, be still my heart. Prior to the move we were social butterflies, hitting up the local tavern on Friday nights for a couple of cold ones, Saturdays were reserved for poker runs, benefit rides or on the occasional long weekend a bike trip to the land of Wisconsin. Sundays were for relaxing and recharging for the week to come. This was us the summer before…

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Here we are sitting on a rock, God only knows how high up, smack dab in the middle of the Black Hills. That trip was 3000 miles in 8 days. This year we have ridden a grand total of 90 miles. For the whole summer, got that, the whole summer. What happened?

This happened.

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(Do I think his tractor’s sexy? Meh…)

That happened because this happened.

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That is a shit ton of lawn people, like 8 hours of mowing shit ton. That number does not reflect the weed whacking, raking, or picking up the dog crap because of this.

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She is our resident yard pooper, baby bunny killer, non-fetching, non-barking, I just want to go in the house, lie on the couch and have a treat non-watchdog.

I was tricked into all of this, sure I knew there was a lot of lawn, but I was assured that it wouldn’t need mowed all that often (every 3 days). That the purchase of an almost antiquated Massey Ferguson complete with finishing mower and snow pusher would make the job go so much quicker. We would under no circumstance be getting a dog, and “Hell yes, we will have time to ride, stop worrying.”

What really happened.

Apparently the purchase of your very own tractor equipped with its very own lawn mower, buying a weed whacker that is so powerful it could chop off human limbs and is too large and heavy for me to run longer than 20 minutes without my hands going numb and rendering me incapable of lifting my arms for an entire week. Top it off with a tree trimmer, a 5 gallon sprayer of round-up, 2 new rakes, garden weasel,  shovel, and a wheelbarrow full of grass seed causes your bad ass biker boyfriend to become Hank Hill.

I should have known something was amiss that first weekend of decent weather this spring, which I spent on my hands and knees picking up 3 five gallon buckets of rock that had gotten pushed into the yard during snow moving season. ” We don’t wanna hit those with the mower.” Wanna bet?

Most weekends are now spent on the mowers, or behind a rake, or some other piece of devil machinery that I am unable to properly operate, or throwing dead bunnies into the field, ( baby animal murder is the one game that Ellie excels at). Because you see, my once laid back biker man has developed a lawn perfection gene that has turned his focus from two-wheeled rides admiring other people’s lawns, to having the finest looking yard in all of Benton County, perhaps the whole state of Iowa.

So this happened.

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Because to get to them, you have to move these

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I will admit that the yard is starting to take shape, and really does look nice right after it is mowed. I am getting a killer tan, and not just on my shoulders and face. I have learned to semi operate a riding lawn mower, we didn’t have that luxury growing up, it was all push, all the time, and I have conquered several overgrown forsythia bushes, Edward Scissor-hands has nothin on me. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t praying for another drought because now we need to get a lawn sweeper, Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Red Headed Medusa

Red Headed Medusa

This barn quilt started as a simple sun design, a christmas gift for a friend’s husband. I submitted design after design to her but she kept telling me it needed more attitude. This is what I finally came up with. She loved it, I had several pee your pants moments trying to figure out how to get this out of my head and on to a 4 foot piece of plywood. Three weeks of nonstop painting produced this. I am in love with this. And I am in love with the feeling of accomplishment.

Pink is the new green.

 

A friend of mine once used the phrase “ Don’t get my ire up, woman.” he was referring to his wife and at the time Kendall and I laughed our asses off. He was only joking of course, we adopted the phrase as our own and use it jokingly when we are mildly ticked with the other.

 

Unfortunately today my “ire” is up for real. Has been for a while now. When I was younger I flew off the handle at every little injustice, reality or not, and relished in the tongue lashings that my victims would receive for the minor infractions that they had committed in my presence. Over the years, I have become more tolerant, or at least wise enough to keep my big mouth shut. Don’t get me wrong, I am still quick to judge, and can be pushed over the edge with little more than a shove, but I try to pick my battles and keep the ass chewing to those who are truly deserving.

 

So what is it that has my panties so twisted that it prompted me to write on this blog that most of you thought ceased to exist. Well, I will tell you, the color PINK.

 

I can hear you now, “ Have you finally lost your freaking mind Blondie, who the hell gets mad at a color?” Especially a color that symbolizes all things sweet and lovely. Sugar, spice and everything nice.

We associate the color pink with baby girls, princesses, cotton candy, honeymoon lingerie, innocence.

 

And. Boobs.

 

Yep Boobs. Now don’t get me wrong I like boobs, I like mine, yours, and even the fake airbrushed ones in Playboy, I especially enjoy back boobs brought to you by the fine folks at People of Walmart.

 

There is a lot of boobie buzz going around now, with October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, retailers are hauling out all of their pink colored gadgets, water bottles, hats, pens, purses, nail polish, makeup, basically anything they can turn the color of Pepto Bismol, to tug at your heart-strings, and more importantly your wallet, with the promise that a portion of your hard-earned money is going to research. The pink push is not limited to only this time of year either, I have seen pink toolboxes on the internet, early this spring I could have bought pink dahlias with the BCA logo on them, even my beloved Harley Davidson retailer, has racks of clothing not in traditional black and orange, but pink, pink, and more pink.

 

Don’t me wrong, I would love to see a cure for breast cancer as much as the next girl, I have several family members who are survivors of this horrible disease. I am fully aware of the need for education, early detection, and regular mammograms.

 

My problem is that pink has become the new green. For every pink product that you purchase, you are making a charitable contribution, however, the manufacturer of that product is also making a profit, and are their intentions as good as yours? How much of your charity is put back into marketing, and not research? Breast Cancer has become big business, and while I believe it’s heart is in the right place, I am not convinced it’s wallet is. How certain are you that the pink item you are buying was put there with the motivation of finding a cure, and not funding a retirement plan or a vacation cruise.

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I am not discouraging you from purchasing something pink, hey, I am not that heartless, although I am certain that unless you live in remote 3rd world country you are pretty aware of breast cancer.

 

There is no denying that this a truly successful endeavor and has done more for the awareness of breast cancer than any other campaign in history. Who can find fault with that? I can.

 

 

What you may not know is that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month. Their color is teal.

Ovarian cancer is a silent and deadly cancer. Do you see anyone promoting this on TV? Do you have a teal ribbon magnet on your car, or a fight like a girl teal t-shirt? Do you own a teal pen, or water bottle, how about a silicone bracelet?

 

With all the talk of going pink, by media, retailers, and celebrities, ovarian cancer is overshadowed by the bubble gum colored and trendy topic of breast cancer.

 

I recently had to have a CA-125 blood test, which can detect ovarian cancer, my insurance doesn’t cover this test, even though I have been diagnosed with ovarian cysts, and my mother died from this horrible disease. The biggest obstacle with ovarian cancer is the lack of early detection, you don’t have symptoms until in many cases it is too late.

 

My mothers tumor was the size of a football by the time she was finally diagnosed, and she was left with a colostomy, the inability to eat solid foods, taking all of her nutrition through a twice daily I.V. She underwent several surgeries, many rounds of toxic chemotherapy and lost her hair 3 different times

 

She endured this horror with a grace and dignity that I can only hope to aspire to. By the time her cancer was detected, there was no saving her, we got to keep her for 3 years, time that I am grateful beyond words for.

 

I can’t help but wonder if she had known what to look for, if there were television commercials, awareness programs and better education might she have sought out a doctor sooner and been diagnosed while the cancer was still manageable, might she have been here to see her granddaughters start kindergarten and this year graduate from high school.

 

Today I am tying a teal ribbon to my wrist, because it is September, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

There is plenty of time for pink in October, all I am asking is equal time for all. Will you join me?

For more information regarding ovarian cancer please visit

 http://www.ovariancancer.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the not funny side…

It has been a difficult weekend here in Blondie land. Normally this is the place I go when I want to make you laugh a little, or as I have been recently told cry a little, your words of praise and encouragement have led me here tonight.  It would be a good time in my life to call a friend, or a family member to air my dirty laundry with, but I have a difficult time carrying on personal conversations when it is inappropriate to be funny or sarcastic, this is one of those times.

This weekend I tried to commit my son to the psych ward. He is a drug addict, and an alcoholic, he is 19 years old.

 Saturday evening he had gotten into a fight with his father, over some pain medication he that he had stolen, he called me to try smooth things over with his dad and to stop him from pressing charges and having him arrested. This is not a first time occurrence, he calls me all the time to run mediation between the two of them. This time was different, he called me from his cell phone while on a break from work, and told me he was sitting in someones van , he had no idea whose, no idea where he was and was drinking Four Loco, and had been all day. He had also told me he had taken several hydrocodones and was stealing the van and was going to kill himself. He was crying and hysterical. I convinced him to get his ass out of the van, and tried to get him to pour out the booze, I heard him chug it and shut the van door. He told me he was going back to work. I told him that was a good idea, just go back and stay there. I called his dad, who was much closer than I was and told him to go get the boy, pick him up and take him straight to the hospital.

Reilly could not comprehend why he was at the hospital, and tried to use his usual manipulation techniques to persuade us to just take him home, it wouldn’t happen again…blah blah blah. After a blood and urine test, and telling the doctor that he had in fact tried to kill himself earlier in the week, and had recently started smoking crack. He was released due to the lack of a bed. There were also no beds available anywhere in Cr. Waterloo, or Dubuque.

 He is now thrilled because he thinks he beat the system, and is probably getting high again as I write this.

So my blog friends, any ideas. He will not agree to rehab. He can leave a hospital situation in 24 hours. I do not know how to help him. If anyone out there has dealt with this or can help point me in a direction to some other resource I be so grateful. I do not want to lose my son, and he is in pain.

A List Before Dying

 

Elizabeth Edwards death hit me hard. I cried when I heard the news, and tears welled up every time there was another tribute to her running across the airwaves. I have admired her for years, even before her terminal cancer diagnosis, I was a big John Edwards supporter way back when he was on the ticket with John Kerry, part of me loved her because John and those kids were just so damn beautiful and Elizabeth was normal, not unattractive, but not gorgeous, she had a few extra pounds just like me, and yet she was captivating in her own right with her own clear ideas and voice. Her ability to stand by her man when he turned out to be a complete douche made her even stronger in my eyes.

Losing my mother to cancer when she was just 54, certainly plays a role in my admiration for Elizabeth, the women that fight the good fight with grace and optimism never fail to capture my attention. In the end Elizabeth was a mother, the political ambitions ruined by her cheating husband, the reality of her own mortality brought into sharp focus the those things in life that truly matter, family, and leaving a legacy for her kids in the form of an ongoing letter left incomplete yet filled with instructions, advice and pieces of herself for children to hold on to forever.

I have said in the years since my mother has passed, that cancer is often a gift. In its excruciating, slow, and painful journey through your body, it gives you time. The time to say what you need to say, and leave no loose ends. I was given that gift by my mother in the few months we had after she was pronounced terminal, I asked all the questions that I needed too, she was open, honest and giving with me. I have never felt for a moment that I was not truly treasured and loved by someone unconditionally.

I have days now that the need for more answers arises, but there is no one to ask. That makes me sad, I miss my mom, she was my closest confidant, I can deal with that, the worst part about losing her is that I lost my guide, the person who walks through the hard places in life, then takes your hand, pulls you along and shows you the path that is easier. At 33 I asked the questions that were relevant at the time, my children were small, I had no foresight into the fact that I would be older, my kids would someday be on the verge of adulthood. I was selfish and scared when she was dying, focusing on losing something, instead of paying attention to her uniqueness and learning all there was to learn about her life as a woman until that point. I live my life without regret, except for that.

I have no illusions that I will live a long life. As I write this I am eating Christmas cookies for breakfast, smoking a cigarette and slugging Diet Cokes. No regrets. My daughters were five when they lost their grandmother,they are turning 17 this weekend. We have a wonderful open relationship, they know that nothing is forbidden to talk about with me, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for either of us. We have no secrets. And yet in the spirit of Elizabeth Edwards, and in fond memory of mom, I am going to start a life list for them, not because I think I have a ton of wisdom to share, or even that I am a particularly good mother, but because I know what it is like to have a piece of a person that you loved to hold  after they are gone.

Things to Know Before I Go

Do not smoke. EVER.

Brush you teeth every single day.

Music makes every awful task that you have to do, better.

Education really is important.

Always have a book in your home that you haven’t read yet. Just in case.

There is never a bad time to eat bacon.

Or chocolate.

Be honest with yourself and others even if it hurts a little.

Don’t be intentionally mean.

Some people are stupid, you can’t fix it.

Do not buy cheap macaroni and cheese. Not worth it.

Bridges are tricky business, proceed with caution.

You are beautiful.

You should exercise, it really will make you feel better, don’t follow my example.

It is wonderful to have a man in your life, just don’t make that your only goal.

Use your manners.

Dress up for church, weddings and funerals, no jeans are not appropriate.

Vinegar makes stainless steel shine.

Don’t use bar soap in the shower, it is gross, slimy, and am pretty sure it’s full of germs.

Drugs WILL fuck up your life.

Try to find a guy with a Harley, or learn to ride your own.

Stand up for what you believe even if it pisses people off.

Not everyone is going to be your friend or even like you, that is OK.

You don’t have to drink milk.

Share what you have with others, but be careful about who you lend your books to.

On the subject of books, never, never, dog ear the pages. Really.

Keep your house clean, but don’t be obsessive about it, a little dust boosts your immune system.

It is perfectly fine to take a mental health day and waste it entirely on something that makes you calm and happy.

Always wrap presents pretty, no one likes a crappy wrapped gift.

That whipped frosting shit is bad, butter-cream is always the best choice.

Good grammar.

Do not have cats unless you enjoy cleaning shit out of box.

Miracle whip is fake mayonnaise and should not be eaten. Nasty.

Pugs are the work of the devil, do not own one, or I won’t visit.

Don’t be afraid to do your sexy dance.

Kid Rock. Makes you happy. Every. Time. ( May cause a craving for Bud Light) .

Don’t be late. Just don’t.

If you HAVE to be late. CALL. No exceptions to this rule.

Keep your reflexes NINJA fast.

Orange lighters are really the only ones that work properly and aren’t dorky.

Don’t drop onto furniture with thunderous abandon, sit, don’t plop. It is not ladylike.

Find a pair of jeans that make you ass look fabulous, never mind what they cost. Worth it.

You should probably smoke pot a few times, cause really it is kinda cool, just don’t make it a lifestyle.

You have been loved since the moment you were born.

Don’t bother wasting time with people who piss you off continually.

You don’t have to be needy to be needed. This is a big one.

Drama is for insecure people, that demand attention, no one likes that guy.

Tequila really will make your clothes fall off.

It is OK to flash your boobs once in a while, but remember, there are cameras everywhere, use caution.

Beets are disgusting and taste like dirt, don’t eat them, you will be fine. Same thing for pears.

No blinking lights on Christmas trees please. Unless you enjoy being tacky as hell.

I intend for this to be an ongoing list, as I continue to think of wisdom to share, and although some of this is for comic relief , that is part of what makes me, me. When I am gone, I hope my kids will remember most that we laughed and loved as much as possible.

Feel free to leave a comment and add to my list, I can’t possibly remember everything to tell them.

What is it that you want to make sure your people know about you when you are gone.

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