A letter to Minnie

  

Six years ago I let Bob talk me into looking at adopting a Great Dane.  When I went on the adoption page and saw your photo, all stretched out on a couch with a bunch of toys in your mouth I said “her – I want her”. A few weeks later he showed up with you in the back car and my life would never be the same. 

I was convinced we’d change your name but when you climbed into the recliner – all 100 lbs of you we knew Minnie would stick.  Later that year when Bob and I decided we would split up I had a tough decision to make and I’ll never regret it for a minute.  I said you can take anything in the house.  I’m keeping Minnie and the TV.  And we slept on a futon mattress on the floor for a week but I had you and that was what mattered.

   

 

I’m sorry that I chose to have someone in our lives who didn’t love you like you deserved but I hope during those couple of years I loved you enough to make up for it.  And once again I never regret making him leave after you had your first seizure and he said he wish you wouldn’t have made it.  I’m sorry it took me so long to see it.

I’m so glad you had a chance to be loved by so many people, Melissa, Valerie, Bayley, Emily, Rob, Jody… The list goes on… I’m glad you had a grandma that spoiled you silly and a great grandma that called me today so sad that she didn’t get to say goodbye… I’m happy in the end that you had a Dad there that loved you more than you can imagine… That would have done anything for you… That was there with you to say goodbye…  

   

  

And you were a great sister to the brother you let sit on your face  

You were so smart, and a bit of a trouble maker… Bananas, really? Spatulas? I mean you chewed through a child lock once… When you wanted something there was no stopping you…

   

  

You taught me what it was like to love unconditionally again… You saved my life more than once… I would say I have to keep going Minnie needs me…  

You frustrated me at times but ultimately you taught me patience… You were there when I came through the door every day and every moment I got to spend with you was a blessing… Life will not be the same… I plan to bury your ashes outside under the bleeding heart plant that you never failed to roll over at some point each summer… And we’ll it’s a bleeding heart flower it doesn’t get much more fitting than that… You are and always will be my angel… Love you baby girl

  

   

           

Driven

Before I get to the driven part…

I have to share this little bit of crazy… My mom, as anyone who knows me and her is well aware, is a bit eccentric… I love her but she’s, well she’s unique… and yesterday she came in for a visit and she was flying high and told me to have a seat because she had gone to see a medium on her way in…

I’m sure my face was priceless…

I’ll give her this – the lady pulled out some stuff that makes you go oooooook maybe this stuff isn’t totally hokey…  Just some weird things about my dad and me… apparently kept telling my mom something about tea and me – well I don’t drink tea – like at all, but a couple months ago I because obsessed with chai lattes which my mom bought on accident thinking they were coffee… a little weird…

And then she asked my mom if my dad had taken his own life… and my mom told the woman no… and I will say I stopped for a minute when my mom told me that because after he died there was major drama – my step mother accused me of trying to help my dad try to commit suicide (which NEVER happened) but it was a huge blow up that I kept pretty quiet because I was 18 and that whole thing was just ridiculous.  I never did even think if the suicide attempt was real… I just knew I had nothing to do with anything of the sort… But seriously that was quite the random factoid…

There were lots of other strange little things that came up too but I guess that final message that came from it all was that supposedly wherever he is, there are still things he is hoping to ease…

Ok so enough of that… and onto how STRONG I feel lately….

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I’ve really made the decision to dedicate myself to this journey this time.  And it’s paying off.  I’ve broken down more times than I’d like to admit.  I’ve cursed myself and my body and the designer of the challenge I joined and everyone and everything in between but I am not stopping.

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Basically the filling of a lettuce wrap over pasta – soooo good

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shopping trip! including what I needed for family dinner night – southwestern chicken “cupcakes” this week made with wonton wrappers.

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premade frozen smoothie kits with frozen greek yogurt cubes and frozen spinach cubes

I’m eating awesome foods (I feel like all I do is eat).

And I push myself until I feel like I might break

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Last night after my hour or so work out when I realized that jumping jacks are not fun and when I made it through all of my planks without dropping out of any of them I ended up on the floor like this….

IMG_5930I keep saying that the last time I devoted myself to something with this much gusto it was to my education and my career and I think that paid off with mighty rewards.  I’ve been really successful I think and I’ve done well for myself… now why can’t I do that same thing with my health and fitness.  My mom watched me workout yesterday and said she was so impressed seeing me push through and not give up.

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I just have to keep reminding myself that when I start to over think things that I have the power to stop it, that I am in control.  I can decide what weight I want to lift and how fast I want to run and I can decide if I want to let other people’s opinions get to me or if I want to be strong and stand up tall on my own.

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I have an amazing life ahead of me. I plan to be fit and in shape so that I can enjoy it.  An hour of sweat and tears and struggle each night followed by being sore the next day is totally worth knowing that I’m getting stronger each day.  That tomorrow walking that flight of stairs won’t put me out of breath, that I will jump at the chance to be out and about for an entire day and that I’ll get excited to put on new clothes…

And it’s not like I’m giving anything up to devote this time to my health – in fact Monday I went and saw and amazing band – The Beauty Slap perform at the first happy hour sponsored by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust where Pittsburgh Artist and friend of mine Baron Batch was painting.  I had a couple drinks and some nibbles and I came home and did over an hour of leg day… and collapsed afterwards… but damn if I didn’t do what I needed to do..IMG_5912

I’m not going to let things bring me down right now – I didn’t get the Matthew Mayfield house show and you know what that’s ok – his music still inspires me… but I get to write my own story moving forward… I get to write my own album and my own music… I control this destiny… bring it on…

Challenges make us great

Our lives are really just one big challenge right?  Sure there are days where we are on auto pilot.  We go through the motions and get done what we need to.  There are days that are exciting where we are on the highest of highs but they are often then balanced out by those where we struggle to remember why we started the journeys that we did.

I’ve talked often about getting back on the right path with my weight loss.  I spent some time today looking back on photos from when I was at my highest weight in 2011-2012 and when I was at my lowest recent weight in spring of 2013.  And then the ups and downs since then.  I wondered why, when I looked so happy when I was losing the weight why I couldn’t keep it up, why I stumbled and fell.  I didn’t have an answer.  I don’t remember what happened to make me slip up.

What I do know is that sometimes your tool box is really only half full of all the tools you need to complete the job at hand.  Sometimes you just don’t have all the knowlege you need or you didn’t get all of the parts you needed to build your final project.  Way back in 2008 when I got down to my lowest adult weight I had cut a ton of sodium out of my diet.  I was also working 3 jobs, under extreme stress, probably not eating much period at all and when all of that let up I put all of the weight back on and then some.

But I still know how to look for and avoid high sodium foods if I make the effort, and it impacts my migraines.  Then in 2012 I started working out, focusing on portion control… I was determined to be a runner.  I kept trying to be a running up until last summer when I realized I don’t want to run, it’s not for me, my body isn’t built for it and you know what that’s fine.  And I was hungry… all. of. the. time.  I saw progress but the moment I stop counting I was back up again.  The moment I stopped working out progress slacked.

But I know the basics at the gym, I know how to use equipment and free weights, just not in the most efficient manner.  I have some of the tools for the kitchen just not what was best for my body.

So recently I started using instagram as inspiration and began following Macey Phillips who has lost tremendous weight in less than a year through weight training and HIT and HIIT as well as IIFYM (If it fits your macros) meal plan.  And wouldn’t you know she opened up a fitness challenge that started monday.  I signed up immediately.  She’s put a ton of work into the 8 week program, customizing Macros plans which let me tell you I eat alllllll day. IMG_5760

IMG_5780There are also work out routines that at first glance you’re like I got this, that is until you feel like you’re going to die during circut two of the HIT segment.IMG_5810

3 days in and I’m down 3 lbs… maybe some is water weight but remember I was back on this fitness thing for the last few weeks…. so I’m thinking well maybe this is real progress…

Other things that I’ve been able to find joy in now that I feel like I have control over my life again – because when you feel like you can control yourself you feel like you can control everything…

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More time outside with Minnie – including visitng her friend Carlos down the road

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You can’t tell me that her selfie game isn’t on point!

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Realizing I don’t hate how I look – I can make this work, it can only get better from here if I work for it.

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Getting back to this place in a few weeks… my summer home…

And I just may have applied to host Matthew Mayfield for a house show – though with Minnie, I was lucky to have a good friend offer space at his local establishment for the event… I’m just sitting here freaking out now like a fangirl waiting to hear if I win the bid…

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This is one of those moments when life is good… it’s a snapshot in time but I’ll take it… and I wanted to make sure that I documented it because the next time one of those huge obstacles hits or when I feel like I can’t do it and just am over everything I can reflect on this and realize that nope, the strength is there.  Just have to tap into it and remember when we can flex our muscles and when we control what we can we get to enjoy that which we can’t.

When enough is enough

Since coming home from Tortola over a month ago I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching… like a lot a lot…

I panicked when my knee swelled on vacation and when it flaired up again after getting home I sunk into a pretty massive depression.  Not sure if I was even aware how bad it was.  Between the nasty winter we had in Pittsburgh (can we say sub zero for pretty much ever) and stress at work and the professional organization I am heavily involved in I just think I was cracking and in total denial.

I lost my appetite and that’s new uncharted territory for me.  I am a stress eater – give me all the food, and yet I was forcing myself to eat every day.  I just wanted to sleep.  I feared the worst was going to result from every situation I walked into.

And then little by little change started to creep into my life assisted by a break in the weather and that beautiful thing called daylight savings time.  I met up with some friends for drinks and just vented and oh to not feel so alone felt fabulous.  I saw the doctor and was told that my knee actually looked great from the arthritis standpoint and that time should help the swelling – just be careful and get some more weight off.  And when a friend lost his mom to cancer I remembered that all the crap I was dealing with was really not that bad compared to what 1. others were going through and 2. what I’d already made it through in my past.

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So when those clocked bounced forward this weekend and when we got up to 55 degrees on Monday it was like the angels sang and the lights came on again and all was right again.

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I started following some amazing inspiring people on different social media platforms – I’m joining a spring fitness challenge.  And I’m changing the way I’m looking at this challenge I face.  I’m not going to look at that end goal of how many pounds I have to lose or what size I want to be or any of that stuff that discourages me when I don’t get there quick enough.

I created tracking sheets and every week I’ll be logging weight and 13 measurements.  And I’ll log the change in each for the week and then total from the start.  And as long as there is SOME change – then that is how I will gauge my success.  And eventually that will lead me somewhere.

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I’ve been blessed to have some amazing success professionally and I achieved that because I worked so hard for it.  I didn’t just hope that a paper would write itself or that a project would fall into my lap.  I didn’t assume networking would come to me or that communication was easy.  I worked for it and it paid off.  It was something that daily I motivated myself to improve at.  My health needs to be no different.  Why it’s taken me 30 years to make that correlation I’m not sure.  Sometimes book smarts does not always equate the most common sense!

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One of the biggest things that always held me back from full force going into this journey was what other people would think of me at the gym.  I’m not in shape anymore.  I don’t know what I’m really doing with free weight.  The muscle boys scare me on the squat bars and in the dumbbell area.

And then I realized – well at some point they had to do this for the first time too.  If I walk over with some confidence, if I pick up a weight I know I can handle, if I do an exercise I’ve had experience with – that seems like a good place to start.  So day one I was lucky enough to have my friend Val tag along and do arms with me and then day two I ventured into a leg day on my own.

And when I wanted to fall over during weight pendulum lunges because I left them until last and it took me 5 minutes to complete 10 on my left leg and I thought my god someones got to be looking at me going what is this girl doing – I opened my eyes and looked around and I saw a 50+ year old man grunting so loud as he lifted I could hear him over my head phones, I saw two younger guys lifting weights lighter than mine, I saw a lot of people looking at no one and I thought “ok, there are people in here who are probably just as worried about what people think of them and they are being beasts and doing this anyways and focusing on them and you can do this too” and I finished my set.

I hit the treadmill afterwards and did intervals through the leg cramps and every time I wanted to stop I asked myself why and was it because I was going to be injured if I continued or was it because my brain wasn’t cooperating and the answer was always – your BRAIN.

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I’m average at best but you know what I’m willing to take average right now because consistency got me somewhere once before and it’s going to do it again.

These last few months have been worth it because I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a great head space before.  I’m ready.

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How to Breathe

This is such a theme in my life isn’t it?

I’ve been really down lately.  My anxiety has been back.  My knee started swelling up again a week or so again, so I immediately made a doctor’s appointment – I go in on Thursday to see my orthopedic surgeon to see if I’ve done something to it or if my arthritis has just gotten out of hand.  I’ve cut all cardio and exercise from my routine hoping the rest would help and I fear that I’ll start to undo everything I’ve been working for.

I crashed a little bit after the anniversary of my dad’s death- I grieved really silently this year other than the blog post.  It was like I poured it all out of my system and then didn’t know what to do with all of those feelings.

I felt just so incredibly lost and overwhelmed.  I found just a moment of solace in my prayers at night.  I would beg for my heart rate to slow down, for calmness to creep into my soul.

Today I got a little bit of help.

A few months ago the singer/songwriter who you all know I have so much respect for and who has made the music that I have found so healing as of late began releasing snippets of songs that would be on his new album.

Today – Matthew Mayfield released Wild Eyes.

On Wild Eyes is a song entitled How to Breathe.

And as I listened to it the whole way through the first time I rushed up to close my office door because my emotions just exploded.

“The back and forth the push and pull / It’s carved a curse inside my soul / Yet I believe that this tug of war has taught me how to breathe”

I said back when I first talked about Matthew Mayfield’s music in November that everyone should find a song that makes them feel again.  For me its understanding that being broken is ok.  It’s my brokenness that makes me who I am.  No one has the same cracks that I do – No one has been put back together the same way that I have.

I am blessed for the dents, dings, rust stains and scars that I carry.  Each one has taught me how to breathe.  In the end every single one of them ended with some type of hope.  How easy it is to forget that.

Thank you MM – thank you the timing of this album could not have been better.

The album is available on iTunes now.

12 years – Grief Becomes

Today marks 12 years since Dad passed away… is it odd that I wonder how best to describe it… – lost his battle with cancer, died, left us, succumbed to the disease, was called to heaven… I hate them all… passed away seems like the most benign of them all I suppose… so we’ll go with it….

12 years…

Hard to imagine…

I say that every year… every time I add another digit to that total and every year it still feels like yesterday… this year it crept up on me like a sneaky little bugger… Being on vacation, then coming home to a crazy schedule and this weekend I was down with a flu-like virus so all of the sudden I was like crap – seriously Feb 11th where did you come from… I was not ready…

Maybe it’s a good thing… I’m emotional but I didn’t get the chance to dwell.. Maybe it’s because I’m so proud of where my life is at that I’m doing better this year… there’s a whole host of reason’s, then again – I could just be one hot mess by tonight so who knows…

Before I get too deep into this post can we take a second to just admire my dad’s hair… and stache… 2 5

Things of magic they were… and that photo – total James Bond look…

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I went searching for quotes that put into words what I was feeling this year – it’s quite the eclectic mix… this first one – so true… When I think back to when I found out that Dad’s first diagnosis was only for a few months and yet he held on for over two years I can’t even imagine – I was clueless… I just assumed things would keep struggling on… It was like I wasn’t really there while it was all happening… If I ignored it all it couldn’t really be true… there would still be tomorrow… until there wasn’t…

In the photo above the quote I couldn’t even tell you what year that was… I can tell you that Dad was sick… I can tell you that I probably didn’t realize how sick he really was… I can tell you that I thought we still had a lot of tomorrows…

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I found some great photos of my dad from before I was even born and I have to admit I love this stuff – the things that let me glimpse the man he was…

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In the middle after graduation from West Point Military Academy

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On the right – from legend the very last day his face was clean shaven…  I wonder about his friends too and how they have battled their grief because I know how much his death rocked everyone he touched… I think of them today too… because I bet today they might just realize in a gut check moment that 12 years has snuck up on them too…

And there are the photos from when I was too young to remember him and my mom in happier times…

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It’s not much but now I so desperately cling to these as the bits and pieces of him… Like this scrap of paper that was tucked in a folder that brought me to tears last night… He was teaching me how to do a family tree… and when he got to writing himself in – he listed himself as Mr. Wonderful… How amazing that a little piece of his handwriting was the most precious thing I laid my hands on last night… Like for a moment I was touching his hand again…

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After he died I spent half of my time trying to drink away his memory and the other half of the time clinging to anything I could put my hands on which wasn’t much… I have to admit as I sorted through photographs last night I was amazed at how few there were of me and my dad because odds were he was behind the camera taking the pictures… Then I was shocked at the photos I found of the months after he died… where you never would have known the turmoil that was going on… I looked totally fine… which leads me to this next quote…

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This is perhaps one of my favorite quotes on grief because it gives it a picture… When everything was caving in, when everyone was scrambling to put the pieces back together there I was in some sort of insulated bubble… Never did I feel so alone… But I didn’t know how to explain it to anyone… Sometimes I still don’t… this is what anxiety attacks feel like… like everything is completely out of control but you are just there and how do you even get out of it… It won’t last forever though – that’s what you have to remember…

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I often forget that CS Lewis wrote and entire book on grief – A Grief Observed… and if this doesn’t sum it up I don’t know what can… grief can be terrifying because there is no answer and it is never the same, no two people feel it the same way and there is no fix, no cure… and then there are times when grief actually isn’t scary at all which kind of makes it scary… when I was on vacation and I sat on our porch and the sun set and I talked to my dad and I was somber and I was joyous and I said how I wished that I could share this with him… and I grieved…

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Most importantly I remember every day that I feel this deep grief for the loss of my father because of how much he loved me and how much I loved him… was he perfect? Not by a long shot, did we do everything right – nope, was I the best daughter I could have been – no way, I contributed many a grey hair… but he loved me more than I could have ever asked for… and because he loved me and I him, losing him left that much more of a void in my life…

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I miss him every moment of every day… I still, 12 years later, catch myself wanting to pick up the phone to call him and tell him something about my day…. When I have a completely breakdown I still scream out “why aren’t you here I need you”… I still wonder what life would have been life had things gone differently…

It’s the moments when people that knew him tell me how much I remind them of him, or when they say how they wish he could see what a wonderful person I’ve turned out to be, or when they say I hope you know how much he adored you… It’s in those moments that my heart breaks and bursts and I know I’ve done ok… and that I’m managing this grief thing as best as I can…

Take every emotion you can think of… roll it up and live it in a 5 minute span… and there you have grief… fear, love, joy, loss, anger, sadness, hope…

I love you Dad… 12 years….

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Getting Back to Life

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For 7 amazing days this was my view every morning…  Looking out from our house on Sabbath Hill Road in Belle Vue, Tortola… It was everything I could have asked for and more… I had absolutely no idea how burnt out I had become until I got down to that island – where responsibilities were minimal, where my biggest worry was about wearing enough sunscreen and navigating some narrow roads with my best friend (and amazing driver)…

I had reached a level of manic back home that I was completely unaware of… It took a good 2-3 days before the island lifestyle started to sink into my bones but once it did I accepted it with open arms…

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The people were great – we met some amazing locals and other people vacationing from all over the world – many who vacationed at the islands every year…

When it was time to go home we told the people we rented from that we intended to come back as soon as finances allowed us to… (we rented our house through Air B&B and it was fantastic – Olivia and Stany were great hosts and lived next door and were available any time we needed something)

In the airport in Miami when I was able to finally call home everyone started to comment how I sounded different, that I talked slower, seemed more relaxed, calmer, less anxious… It was true I really did… I just felt totally refreshed… Even when I jumped into some work things while working from home my first two days back I didn’t get stressed out – just took things as they came and rolled with the punches…

The day I got back my amazing grandmother turned 99.. Yes 99… we took her to dinner at our favorite restaurant/bar.  The bartender had a reserved sign on the bar for us and party hat for her.  He was so excited to have us.

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She said she didn’t want any cake… but when I ordered some she ended up eating almost all of it anyways…

I had a fantastic 30th birthday party the Saturday after I got back with my good friend Judge who just happened to also be turning 40 and made the most of the last few days I had off.

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Elsa cupcakes – sorry the photo is so dark… I’ll update with a better one from the baker and my good friend Mel’s account! (shoutout to MommaMels)IMG_5274

What goes better with cupcakes than a few shots…

Then it was back to real life.  I was determined to hold onto this relaxation I had found… determined…

It lasted 2 days…

Tuesday night as I sat at home I raged into an anxiety attack out of no where and all I could think was how could this happen so quickly.  So I decided I would just go down the list of things I could think of that would help to ease me out of it.  Since I couldn’t identify what caused it I focused on getting comfortable, warmed up, secure… I allowed myself to “stim” which is often associated with autism but we actually all do it to some level – when we jiggle our leg, all of those unconscious movements to calm our minds… mine – when I hit extreme anxiety is slight rocking… might make me look like a crazy lady but oh does it help…

I finally was able to calm my nerves enough to get into bed – got under my weighted blanket which – BEST INVESTMENT EVER – well really best gift since my mom got it for me… as soon as I was under it I started saying a few prayers, my favorite psalm and before I knew it I woke up a few hours later needing to roll over in bed…

I woke up this morning not feeling well at all so I’m wondering if the anxiety attack was actually my body freaking out over a quick onset virus or bug…

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Minnie held me up after today’s work out… I needed some comforting at 6am that’s for sure…

Despite everything I knew the key to getting back into a schedule would be maintaining the work out and eating habits I began before I left for vacation…  So back to prepped food and early morning work outs… AND the bf got me the new fitbit Charge which is pretty beastly at tracking – does a lot better than the flex at tracking steps and sleep… So time to keep moving forward… and I’m going to try and remember than life will not end if I don’t get something done this instant… Need to put my health first…

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