Who Cares If The Bed Isn’t Made. I Wish It Wasn’t Me

hospital cornersOld habits die hard for sure. It took me until my third son was 16 years old – which just happened a month ago – to stop making his bed. I know, I know. But there’s something about having all the beds made in the morning that I find appealing, even soothing.  Maybe it’s because when I grew up the beds were always made, and I had to make my own. My mother taught me early, and taught me well. I had hospital corners down like an army sergeant.

But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Because in addition to growing up learning how to make my bed without wrinkles, empty the trash every day, clean the house to pass a white glove test, do the laundry being sure whites were separate, and whatever other chores I was enlisted to do – I also became fairly OCD. To the point that my house until recently was ridiculously neat – everything has its place.

unmade bedThat’s why I’m a little proud of myself for looking at my son’s bed and not making it. I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been easy. I get that pull to pull it together in no time flat, ensuring it’s fluffed and neat. I ask him to do it and he knows how, he just doesn’t do it like me, if he does it at all.

It’s ironic, all three of my boys are not neatniks, in fact much to my dismay, they’re sort of all big slobs. I guess I get that – they swung the other way after watching their mother toil daily over her version of house-perfection. Which in the great scheme of things is stupid, but it’s engrained all the way to my bones.

OCD

So I’m trying to change that, I just don’t know to what degree. I can’t go cold turkey and be a slob, and that’s not even necessary. I just want to ease up on a few things, so I’m starting with my son’s room.

Most people know OCD is a control issue – when we feel out of control we have these rigid ideas about how things need to be, so our actions, reactions and thoughts all steer us toward that sensation that everything is ok. It’s a relief to me when I look around my house and things are in their place. The beds are made, the laundry is done, there aren’t any hairs in the sink. But I really don’t like that about myself, I’m tired of being uptight.

I told Sir Husband I was going to try to lighten up on my incessant need for neatness as I ponder getting a job that wouldn’t be working from home, where I can work and still clean up.

He said to me, “Yes, things would definitely change and you’d have to let a lot go, but truthfully I like your neatness and how organized the house is, it’s nice to come home to the clean.”

Say no more. He doesn’t know this, but he sort of let me off the hook from breaking my habits too fast. Not sure I can go from hospital corners to leaving dishes in the sink, although I guess anything is possible. But for now, baby steps are okay.

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What’s My Definition of Cool? Not A Mouse In The House

Some people are just really cool and are phased by very little. Like my childhood friend who lives in New York City. People who can live in the heart of New York City to me, are the epitome of cool. It’s the place of infinite everything from good to bad, I could not live there. Although I’m a city girl, we all have comfort levels in our location that match our personal vibe.

I have several friends who love the countryside – another location that at various times I have had the pleasure of experiencing. That’s where I first learned about mice when we had them in our big farmhouse barn. They didn’t bother me, and I didn’t bother them.

Unless they are your pet in a cage, nobody really wants to deal with mice. But they’re a reality whether you live in the city or the country. And yesterday I had the pleasure of a real life Tom and Jerry experience that left me wondering if the cosmos are having a field day with my recent intention to be more calm and cool.

When I got up and went about my morning routine I wondered why the cats were hovering around the sofa and not their empty food bowl. So I reached underneath to rescue what I FullSizeRender-3thought was their favorite jingly ball that gets stuck under there IMG_2237a thousand times a day.

You know where this is going.

At first I shrieked and ran when the grey furry rodent made a dash from under the couch to under the nearby chair. Then I called Sir Husband at work and begged him to come home and get it. (Yes, gender roles are real.) Of course he didn’t and said he’d do it after work.

FullSizeRender-1For the next hour I sat on the stairs overlooking the living room like it was a lookout perch – hoping the mouse would not climb up – and trying to calm down. Self dialogue went something like this:

  • It’s just a mouse, it’s small and scared….Oh but it’s probably pooping everywhere in fear.
  • Maybe the cats will get it….What’s taking so long, are they are not ferocious killers? 
  • This after Monday’s post about my personality Type A wiring?…Not embracing the irony.
  • This is a perfect opportunity to change….Grrrr. Sigh. Ok. Thank God it’s not a rat. 

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FullSizeRender-4Eventually I went Home Depot, bought traps and set them around the living room. As the day went on I got more comfortable with the small, scared city mouse in my living room, hiding under furniture, watching the cats circle around its hiding spot like lions waiting to pounce.

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I never shook my own scaredy-cat fear of the little creature, but I sort of learned to live with it. Did that improve my less-than-calm m.o? Or was it a life test mandating I once and for all rid myself of my semi-princess personality – the very one I blogged that I want to dial down? Maybe it was an exercise in self-sufficiency…or futility.

Whatever it was, I tried to channel both my New York City friend and Oprah who I recently heard share one of her favorite Eckhart Tolle quotes:

“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.”

I bet the mouse’s consciousness expanded. Mine definitely did. Who knows, maybe it will become our pet. Kidding. But that would definitely make me cool.

(At the time of this post the mouse was still hiding in my living room…)

 

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Call Me A Princess – But Know I’m Not Proud

We’ve all heard that life is about how we respond to it. Some people are able to flow through life lighthearted, relaxed and easy going, while others are more worried, excitable and high strung.

Whether we’re a personality Type A or B, our control over our reactor factor depends on how much of it is innate personality and how much is a result of our environment. But regardless of nature or nurture, everybody has their limits of what they can and can’t live with in their personal world.

It was brought to my attention more than once this past week, how I respond to life. The words were always the same – perfectionist…uptight…animated…a good friend even called me The Tempest. Definition of tempest? A violent, windy storm.

Tempest

Ok, there have been some times – even a lot of times in my life, that I tended toward a more tempest personality. Am I proud of that? No. Can I change it? Maybe. I prefer Sir Husband’s term of endearment: Princessa. I’m not sure there is even an official definition for Princessa, but it likens to someone who has a little “princess” in her personality.

calmI’m not particularly proud of being a princessa. I would love to be more serene, carefree, flexible, patient and relaxed. But I’m not. And a lot of people I am close to, love to point that out.

A couple of weeks ago I got a voicemail from a good friend on the day we moved, “Hey, just reminding you that you don’t have to do everything in one day. It doesn’t have to be perfect right away, you can live out of boxes, take your time, organize, fix and decorate as you go along.”

I laughed out loud when I heard that because while that’s absolutely true, it also felt impossible to me. I’m a perfectionist, always have been. When I don’t have things the way I like them, I am uncomfortable until they are at the very least, tolerable. I’m not sure why. Intellectually I know that it truly doesn’t matter if my house is perfect. But emotionally, I get a little wiggy if I don’t make quick order out of chaos.

The irony is that I don’t care how anyone else lives, in fact I almost don’t even notice. But for me, I have personal standards that seem to just be part of my make-up, part of who I am. Princessa…but not proud. It’s not easy to be a perfectionist, in fact, it’s exhausting.

IMG_2229I thought I was doing ok (and this happens a lot – I get my life in some semblance of order and feel calm,) and then I IMG_2231opened the dishwasher in our new home. I didn’t respond well when I saw how disgusting it looked inside, unsanitary, I never dreamed it would be like that.

After the initial upset, I reminded myself that I am grateful to even have a dishwasher, and all the other first-world amenities that we tend to forget in our day-to-day life truly are gifts. But I didn’t use it, nor will I, because to me it’s just gross.

Princessa? Maybe. But embracing and accepting who we are, while being grateful for our circumstances, is a pretty good first response.

calm princess

This Move Nearly Killed Us, But Hooray! We’re Finally Home

It doesn’t matter how many times you have moved, each time it reveals a unique blend of mystery, mayhem and occasionally miracles. My vote? Don’t move unless absolutely necessary, it might just about kill you.

For six exhaustingly long yet blink-of-an-eye short weeks, our lives were upside down. A little like immigrants of a past era, Sir Husband went ahead to our new home in Boston and worked his new job while I stayed in Maine managing the house sale, the packing, organizing, shifting, lifting, removing and eliminating of our stuff. He came home each Friday night for the weekend, then trekked back on Sundays with a Jeep full of boxes. It IMG_2840wasn’t easy for either of us.

Finally when the big day came, we loaded the UHaul, teenager and two cats, and turned the page. We thought.

I’ll skip over the part about what it felt like to walk into our new home too tired to really see it, function or breathe. Or the part about movers arriving at the crack of dawn the next day to unload our truck, and the furniture didn’t fit up the tight staircase so we had to saw the bannister out. Or how we tried to direct them where each box and piece of furniture went knowing they were not really listening, later finding our underwear drawers in the kitchen, our dishes next to the bed, and our cat stuck under the furnace.

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But we managed. Three days later and in so much physical pain because honestly we are too old to keep doing this, we drove back to Maine to pass papers on our house. We opted to sign a day ahead of the buyer due to conflicting schedules, took care of business, sighed a breath of relief, and headed back to Boston.

An hour later we got the call.

Our house – that had been sitting empty and closed for four days – was filled with gas to such dangerous levels the firefighting hazmat team was shocked it didn’t blow up. Allegedly there was a precarious leak at the stove that no one knew about until the buyer opened the door to do her final walk-through and smelled the gas. Not only could the house have been matchsticks within minutes according to the fire department, the leak may have been going on while we lived there and we didn’t know it because we kept the windows open.

We could have all been killed.

She bought the house anyway, as scheduled.

That’s more than one miracle.

The magnitude of the gas incident did not hit me until the next day. How do you wrap your brain around something like that? Especially removed from the situation. We were not allowed to go to the house since we had already signed the closing papers due to liability, so we heard it all through the real estate agent – her muddled play-by-play leaving us hanging and confused for hours.

But it’s over. All of it. Other pressing matters ensued after that – like my 31-lb Kitchen Aid mixer dropping on my leg when the box broke. You should see the bruises.

This was by far the hardest, most exhausting, most trying, nearly-debilitating and absolute best, happiest, exciting life-changing move for us ever. So, life goes on. Never, ever underestimate the meaning and miracle of that.

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Our Personality Has Layers, It’s Just Which One Opts To Comes Out

This is me before selling my house.

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This is me during selling my house.

snow white attack

Anybody have dual personalities….that can turn on a dime….and make people around you think you just channeled a hungry bear or you’ve simply lost your mind? Raise your hand.

I’ve been a little edgy lately, not to mention exhausted, hormonal, and still recovering from a scorching case of PTSD from my former life. TMI? Sorry, stress takes time to resolve. Then add real estate agents, buyers and lawyers with our impending move, and it can get quite kooky.

I’m so sorry, I am just not myself…I apologize for my upset – venting – language – tone…oops did I say that?  I say all this a lot.

While I like to consider myself a seasoned homeowner, selling a house and moving is a ginormous ordeal. And of course in the midst of all that, life still goes on. We still have all the regular things we manage everyday. I’ve finally hit the wall and can’t do another thing.

mood swing

But it’s all good, even when my body aches, the fatigue is deep, and the mood swings prevail. Hence the dual personalities, which I know on the flip side of this big change, will naturally level out. I don’t mean real dual personalities as in a psychological diagnosis. I mean the multiplicity of ourselves in different situations, especially under stress.

We all act out various aspects of ourselves as we face different roles each day. Our feelings shift, our moods shift, we kind of bob up and down given our circumstances. I don’t know how many times I have apologized to my good friend who is working on our real estate deal and told her, I can’t wait until this is all over and I go back to being myself.

multiple personalities

At least I’ve acknowledged that during this transition my personality is maxing out. Sometimes it’s calm and rational, sometimes emotional, and sometimes it’s crossed its own personal limits. I’m not sure if it’s conscious or subconscious, but this concept of multiple sides to ourself has been studied by experts for years.

Human brains, according to neuroscientists, do not reveal one particular self, but instead a whole lot of programmed responses that turn on when different situations call for it. Nature or nurture they do not know, they just know these different wirings turn on and off in our consciousness as we need them throughout each day. The key is being aware of how we respond.

Thank goodness.

On some level we already know all this. These responses are what get us through the nitty gritty of our day and eventually we recalibrate. Whether it’s big stuff or it’s small, we’re just being ourself in that very moment — although some of us are better at showing ourself than others. Or should I say ourselves.

 

quirky self

 

 

 

 

Closing Chapters Feels Good And Is Only Human

closureWhat is it about humans that we like to have closure? Of anything – a relationship, job, school year, sports season, even the holiday season. This sense of resolution or conclusion feels stabilizing.

Ahhhh….it’s over.

Imagine how life would be if all the stuff we enjoyed on TV, movies, sporting events or books, did not have a beginning, middle and end. No final score, no decisions, no happy or even sad ending. When I’m glued to a show that says “To be continued” at the end of the episode I get a little upset. We don’t need closure, we like it. We like to close the book, the season, the series, and even chapters in our life.

Sometimes we know it’s coming, sometimes we seek it, other times it hits us when we aren’t even trying. Like when standing in the middle of Walmart looking at trash cans. We’re moving soon and I wanted a new trash container for my bathroom when I realized the metal one we have is rusting. It started out as a no-brainer errand.

finishedI grabbed a reasonable facsimile and put it in my cart. At that moment I got an overwhelming sense of wanting to get out of the store, my house, my town, and our state. It felt urgent to be done with my life where we live. Today, right now, I just wanted to go – although we’re only three days away from leaving.

It’s been a long couple of months – Sir Husband got a new job clear out of the blue one state over, we sold our house the day it went on the market, found a new place to live that same week, we have been packing and hauling our things there every weekend, it’s been a whirlwind ordeal.

While it’s an all-good endeavor, it’s stressful nonetheless. The process of moving itself is huge so I haven’t had time to focus on the big-picture end result. That’s the other thing, humans are result-driven. We push toward the result of our actions. We want to see and feel goodness come from our hard work.

The readiness of moving hit me hard in that bathroom accessory aisle, so I paid for the trash can, left the store and headed home. I realized that was the last time I would probably ever be at that store, on that road, seeing that scenery that I had seen for the last three years. And it felt good. Closure.

Closure is a feeling. And when we get it, we feel better. Done. Like we’ve come full circle. It’s a way of thinking and feeling that usually means we can let go of whatever was driving us – either good or bad. It’s final, and opens our minds to new possibilities, options and paths.

Closure may just be one of the driving forces behind human adaptability.  Although it’s fairly safe to say most of us learn adapt, even when we don’t have it.

In the meantime…moving on.

moving on

Super Downsizing for This Move Started To Feel Personal

IMG_2770It’s not a mystery that a lot of people – myself included – have a thing for firemen. They’re awesome. So when I finally had to say goodbye to my grandfather’s antique extension ladder, it wasn’t as hard as it could have been because a fireman bought it.

I’ve had that solid metal ladder for decades. I never even thought about getting rid of it until we learned we had to super-downsize to fit into our tiny city condo. Not only do we not need a 25-foot ladder, apparently we don’t need anything.

So for the last few weeks we sold, donated or threw away literally almost all of our stuff. I thought I was a pro at purging, but little did I know that when you get rid of nearly everything you own it starts to feel personal. First you get rid of things you don’t want, then things you don’t need, then it gets a bit tricky.

I wanted the last of it – the stuff we hemmed and hawed on whether to store or sell – the stuff that felt like extensions of us – to go to good homes. I actually put that in the ad for the ladder, “want it to go to a good home.” When the fireman came and took it away, I decided I could live with that.

car loadedWe’re down to the bare minimum now, but the latest round of elimination was the hardest. Maybe we’ve been too busy to notice we’re dismantling our life. It became rote to go through the house, sort, pack, load up the car and drive on autopilot to the town transfer station where we separate our trash from donations from the free-swap areas there.

 

IMG_1642I always loved going to the dump and getting rid of things I don’t need. But when I turned in for the umpteenth time, I surprisingly felt upset. The struggle came at the free-swap section, where people put things they don’t want anymore. I reached for three big candles I had in the back seat. Faded and worn, they sat on a triple-teared iron candle holder everywhere I lived. Those candles quietly burned while I was watching TV, or nursing my babies, reading a book, or chatting with friends. For 20 years they were part of my life. Amazing they were still in tact.

I held them in my hands and was overcome with grief. I didn’t want to let them go, although I have new ones for the holder, that for some reason I haven’t used. They’re just candles, I had to talk myself through it. I put each one carefully on the free table, got back in the car and slowly drove away.

Our stuff is part of our life. Sometimes it’s not even things we pay attention to that end up being valuable. The backdrops in our world adding dimension and meaning we weren’t even aware of until they aren’t there.

We’re down to the wire, in a just a week we close the door on our house for the last time. When we look around we feel a little disoriented. The house echoes and seems empty. It even smells different. But we’ve crossed the threshold. We can’t move all our stuff, but we can still move all our memories. Now we’re ready to go.

worker fairies

 

 

Even on His Birthday My Teen Won’t Leave His Room

tyler bday 007 copyBirthday season just opened in our house. We have three birthdays in just under a month, starting yesterday when the youngest turned 16.

I love to celebrate special occasions, especially birthdays, especially for those I birthed. I’m pretty sure I even celebrated in the delivery room as my kids were being born. I remember my doctor on the third child asked me why I was so smiley despite all the pain. Little did I know what that truly meant.

I spent my boy’s 16th birthday pretty much by myself. No cars and friends and cheer for him, he just hung out in his room. Like almost everyday, I can’t get my teenager out of his room and I don’t know what to do.

I have tried everything, but he won’t really come out except to go to school and eat, and it’s been going on for a couple years. Why am I waiting so long to speak up? Because I keep hoping it will change.

He isn’t hiding anything that we can tell, he’s got a fancy computer and spends all his time online. Introverted, totally tech, smart as a whip honors student, he’s not like me or his sibs. He opts out of interaction and seems perfectly happy. But it makes me really sad.

No matter what I do or say to try to help him, he pishaws and rolls his eyes. I realize this is teenager-speak, I’m not new to this. My other two 20-somethings seem to be fine, so I guess this will pass. But it’s worrisome nonetheless. He’s isolated and putting on weight, and even with encouragement from family and friends, it’s like trying to move a boulder. 26_23.jpg_24 copy

Nobody tells mothers that one day they will feel pain with their children like they did in the delivery room. Having children is as heartbreaking as it is joyful, and the teenage years are intense. All kinds of factors come into play – genes and environment, family status and stability, extended family, community – everything plays a role. So on some level I have to wonder where in all this I failed to help him be the best he could be.

Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe this is his best. Teenagers are still developing in their bodies and in the world. So I try to give him the benefit of the doubt instead of blaming myself. He’s not young anymore, not to mention he’s the size of an adult, unlike when he was two and I could control his life.

He has gone through a lot with our family trauma, problems and pain. But all I can do is keep showing him things are now really good, and role model every day.

So as I search for the answer to help my teen thrive, I keep repeating the old standbys – everybody is on their own journey…parents are only vessels, kids are individuals…don’t make him someone he isn’t…he has to want to change, nobody can do it for him…  But some days it’s really hard.

I guess one day he will come out of his room. In the meantime I’ll keep trying…and waiting…and trying…and hoping. This is parenthood.

 

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Going once…SOLD. Our Adventure In Home Selling

FullSizeRender-1For the last 192 hours, minus 45 for sleeping, I have been a Property Brother. Translation: for eight days I have signed, sealed, and almost delivered our house to its new owner, working side-by-side one of my local BFFs who is the the right hand of our real estate agent.

Those two gals, along with Sir Husband and myself took this home-selling experience to HGTV relevance. Each of us executing our own vital role, we listed, showed, and sold our house on day one. Not to mention got four offers. Yep. I thought I was out of swirl-mode, but nope.

We had heard that the market in our area is over the top excellent for sellers right now. But we had to live it to believe it. The minute our house went live on MLS, more than 20 showing requests came in that first afternoon, many lined up for the following morning back-to-backing a brokers’ open house. By the dinner hour we had over-asking price offers. It blew our minds – and even our real estate team’s – leading to no sleeping for any of us for almost three days.

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I could never be in the real estate business. Those people work their tushes off, especially in a hot market. They were fielding calls, scheduling showings, reading and interpreting offers, and providing every ounce of paperwork called for down to the last dotted i. They were showing the house, changing out signs on the road, juggling legalities for our homeowner’s association, and pushing me to go-go-go when I thought I was going to drop.

It’s not easy to show your house 20-some times in 72 hours. We had to keep all the FullSizeRender-2showings going for back-up offers, that’s how they roll in this seaside domain. It paid off, but required a marathon-pace. For three days I was home sometimes no more than 15 minutes before I had to depart for another round, hauling my valuables, my technology, and of course my kitties. God forbid someone accidentally let them out. It happens, I wasn’t going to risk it.

I say I was a Property Brother, because in that midst we also entertained finishing our partially-finished basement to negotiate some bids. We had a contractor here determining if it would make or break one of the deals. We also got to hang with an aerial photographer steering a drone over our house to photograph the lot and the woods behind us that we can’t get through. I’ve seen all this go down on TV, but never thought it would happen to me.

signFunny story – in an exhausted fog I went to the post office on hour 71 to mail a package. I was at the counter chit chatting with the postal person about moving, selling our house, how we sold it on day one and got several offers. And this is what I heard – “Um, I just bought your house.”

What?!? I knew we lived in a small town, but didn’t know how small.

The next thing you know we are hugging and deep into conversation. How often do you meet your buyer just after you’ve signed their offer? Agents like to keep you apart, but surprise, in this case, oops.

That said to me it was meant to be. We are due for some ease and relief. But in the meantime we’ll keep re-fueling, until we close on the house in just five short weeks. And this is just the beginning…

 

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When It Comes To Our Stuff It’s The Treasures That Count

It was like a scene from a movie. Wife sends husband out for a basket of flowers for the front porch minutes before the team of house-selling people arrive. It was listing day. Wife gives explicit instructions for color, sun-exposure and price. But she forgets to say be sure they are alive. Husband followed the instructions so explicitly that he didn’t notice the FullSizeRenderflowers he brought home were half-dead.

I adore my husband. He is the love and light of my life. To me he’s the most amazing and sexiest man alive. And when he walked in with a basket of brownish, wilted flowers, I whimpered and welled up with tears. We were out of time.

In his defense, he stuck to the price guidelines but it turned out to be a case of you get what you pay for. “They just need some water,” he said as he peered into the pot.

I’ve been crying a lot lately. They aren’t bad tears, they are change tears, as we embark on homeanother major life transition involving moving for the seventh or eighth time in less than 10 years. A military wife I am not.

I thought I was over the crying last week when we headed to Cape Cod for a few days of rest before Sir Husband starts his new job. But no amount of Om’ing helped. We stopped in Boston and signed a lease on our new condo, and that’s when it all started. We are moving “home,” and I’m thrilled. But as we tripped down memory lane where I spent most of my adult years, buried emotions surfaced. Not memories exactly, but feelings. I had no idea they were in there.

Instead of dwelling on what was causing the flow of emotion and tears, I tried to just go with the flow…the tears, the feelings, the experience. Sir Husband’s parade was not dampened by my unplanned avalanche – he held my hand as we drove through my past and soon-again future and smiled. His joy embarking on this Divinely-guided venture was irrepressible.

Before we got to the Cape, we stopped for a night at a dear family friend’s house who I have not seen in years. As if no time had passed, we simply picked up where we left off, although I have a different husband and her daughter is all grown up. Seeing her was medicinal. Time has a funny way of reminding us of those things that truly matter – like friendship and memories and the blank canvas of our future.

After a lot of laughs and wine around her big dining room table, we got to the nitty gritty of moving boxeswhat Sir Husband and I have to do to get ourselves moved. We are downsizing yet again to a very small space near the big city – more than half our belongings must go. That’s part of the emotional shift – truly letting go of our stuff.

“Keep only the treasures, only those things that tell an important story,” my friend said. She recently did this herself. It’s harder to let go of memories and experience than it is to let go of things, she explained. It took some digesting, but I began to embrace the reality of what “stuff” really means.

It means essence ~ lifeblood ~ nucleus ~ spirit ~ essentialness ~ substance ~ and soul.

So everything’s negotiable, but the basket of flowers stays.

 

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