Monthly Archives: December 2012

Merry Christmas

I never did stumble upon any genius ideas for holiday memorials for Hudson. But other people in our lives thought of her, and those thoughts made their way to our Christmas tree. Merry Christmas. Bring on 2013.

A handmade ornament from Auntie Nicole

A handmade ornament from Auntie Nicole

An ornament with one of our favorite pictures, from Momma Sue

An ornament with one of our favorite pictures, from Momma Sue

Forget-Me-Not Angel

A gift sent from the Forget-Me-Not foundation

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Why?

This Thanksgiving, I decided that with all the extra time I have these days I would organize a family craft-y thing revolving around Thankfulness.

I also decided to make a turkey out of cheese, and it looked like an angry bird, which is pretty awesome.

Cheese Turkey

Cheese turkey aside, I wanted our family to spend some time reflecting on the things we are grateful for in a year that has been so fraught with difficulty and loss. And I wanted a physical reminder of gratefulness in my home so that when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I can just take a peek at all the things I could find to be thankful for during the most challenging year of my life and remind myself how good we still do have it.

Thankfulness craftSo I found a template online (and now I cannot find a link to it, no matter how many variations of “Thankfulness template” I google), printed it onto lovely craft paper, and had my mother in law help me cut the paper into strips. Everybody in the family had to spend a little time filling a few of the strips out during our Thanksgiving progressive party.

Yes, you can see that I am thankful for cheese.

So these little strips of paper have been lying around my house since Thanksgiving, waiting for some shock of inspiration on the level of the Cheese Turkey.

And now it is Christmas… or nearly. It is the Dub Family’s turn to have us for Christmas, but the Shiz side will be in town in the days after Christmas, so it was decided that we would host an after-Christmas dinner and gift exchange. This lit the necessary fire under my behind to get me moving on the craft-finishing, and although it didn’t turn into the Pinterest-worthy masterpiece I had hoped for, I have to say I’m pretty fond of the result.

Blessed Banner

I did that all by myself.

As I was folding all those little strips of paper in half, I was given a unique opportunity to contemplate the things I am thankful for as well as the things that my family is thankful for. The template had little prompts in varying fonts, things like:

I’m thankful for (crossfit, Diesel, coffee, etc.)
I love (my hubby, my brother, my family, etc.)
(Being outside, baking, Natalie’s smile) brings me joy
(Hudson, singing, music) warms my heart

and the big curveball:

God is

Not many of my family members filled this one out. But my dad did. He wrote:

…going to tell us why.

God is going to tell us why.

This really struck me. Because my knee jerk reaction to “God is going to tell us why” is “The answer won’t be good enough.”

I’ve expressed my frustration with the whole “God’s plan” business a time or two. I cannot wrap my mind around a God who would plan this. And there is no “Greater Good” that I can imagine that could justify losing Hudson. Call me selfish. Call me faithless. Maybe something about hearing it straight from the Omnipotent One will make it easier to grasp, but if God is going to tell us why, I’m not sure I will want to hear it.

We received a letter in the mail last week from LifeCenter Northwest, the organization currently in possession of our daughter’s heart valves.

“The evaluation of Hudson’s gift of Aortic heart valve is now complete and has been released for transplant into young patients.”

Perhaps because of our daughter, some other baby will get to grow up, and maybe that grown-up person with a piece of my daughter pumping in their chest will cure cancer. They had better.

God is going to tell us why.

I don’t believe in a God who watches these dramas and horrors unfold on earth and thinks, “Ah yes this is all going according to my great plan.” If God is going to tell us why my daughter had to die, then He is also obligated to speak with the parents of 20 kindergarteners who were slaughtered at their school a week ago. Sounds like a crappy job to me.

God is going to tell us why.

I feel like it should be some sort of twist ending, like in a good M. Night Shyamalan movie, something that puts an entirely different slant on every experience in our life since. If not justification for Hudson’s death, at least it would be good entertainment.

God is going to tell us why.

“The only excuse for God is that he does not exist.”
-Stendhal

God is going to tell us why.

The truth of the matter, and what I know in my heart even when I’m feeling bitter and cynical, is that bad things happen for no good reason all the time. It is our responsibility as members of the human race to pick up the pieces and make some good come from all this bad. God didn’t take Hudson because He had some greater plan. Hudson died because we live in a vicious world.

I do like the idea of having a good long chat with God about all the ways that Hudson’s short life changed the world. But I don’t like it in the context of an explanation for why she died. Many people do find comfort in the “God’s plan” business and far be it from me to take that comfort from them.

This is just the way that I have to accept the nature of things, and certainly not a prescription for peace:

“Every life is different because you passed this way and touched history.”
–Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

 

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Lyrics

The week after Hudson died, the Hubs and I went for a drive. We needed to get out of the house, we wanted to be distracted, and as the Hubs put it, “I kind of hope some good country song that reminds me of Hudson will come on the radio.” As we drove through the wheat fields of Walla Walla in the summer sunshine, a few duds came on (“She Thinks my Tractor’s Sexy”, for instance) before Collin Raye’s “In this Life” started playing.

If it all falls apart
I will know deep in my heart
the only dream that mattered had come true…
in this life I was loved by you.

Well that one got me going. Like, right now, as I typed out those lyrics.

Some songs that you wouldn’t think would be sentimental really tug at our heartstrings. Like “The One that Got Away” by Jake Owen. Something about the lyric “She set my world on fire on the fourth of July…” gets me. And the chorus, “She was the one that got away, the one that wrecked my heart…” or even the bridge:

Every summer rolls around,
I’m looking over my shoulder
wishing I could see her face,
wishing I could hold her.

What was supposed to be a catchy ditty about long-lost summer love is, for the Hubs and I, a poignant anthem highlighting so many things we are missing. Every summer that rolls around for us, I’ll be remembering the days leading up to Hudson’s birth, all that anticipation on the 4th of July, and I will be wishing I could hold her.

There’s a lyric in Zac Brown Band’s newest song, “Goodbye in her eyes“, that never fails to get me choked up. These guys are true musicians, and I love to belt along with their songs, but when I get to this lyric in the bridge…

He’s gonna love the way you shine…
So did I.

…I have to sing through that throat-clenching warble that makes your voice go all pitchy and off-key, because I’m thinking of how Hudson is making Heaven shine,  how bright she made our lives for those three days (and the nine months leading up to them), and how much that light is missing now.

There are some songs that just get me because they’re pretty and contemplative, like Thompson Square’s “We are Glass” and The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young”. And there are some songs that I immediately change the station for, like Carrie Underwood’s “All American Girl” and Tim McGraw’s “My Little Girl” and Trace Adkins “She Thinks We’re Just Fishin'”.

I don’t need to torture myself.

Last weekend, the Hubs and I went for another drive, this time through snow-kissed unmarked roads in the blustery Walla Walla hillsides. And on this fateful drive, an old Brad Paisley song came on, one I hadn’t heard in eternities. “He Didn’t Have to Be” – country music fans, you know where I’m heading with this one?

All of a sudden, oh, it seems so strange to me
How we’ve gone from “Something’s missin'” to a family
.

I did my deep, slow, stave-off-the-tears breathing exercise as long as I could before blurting out, “Damn you, Brad Paisley!” The Hubs was startled, with reason.

“What, you haven’t heard that song before?”

“Not like this I haven’t.”

We’ve gone from “Something’s missin'” to a family, and back to “something’s missin'” so fast it doesn’t seem fair. More often than not now, I am used to the fact that we aren’t parents with a five month old, and that we have a while to wait before we get to be. But every once in a while, we’ll be driving along and some old country song will start playing and bring that reality front and center and make me curse at a country singer who, as far as I can tell, is a pretty nice guy.

After my outburst, the Hubs just reached over and silently held my hand. And you know what? Something is definitely missing, but we are still a family.

And my husband is twice the dad I had always dreamed he’d be.

How’s that for a song lyric, Brad?

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Who Hudson looks like

After Hudson was born, I took great pride in hearing people tell me that she looks like me.

She’s the most beautiful baby ever born, and she resembles me? Talk about an epic compliment.

But as we creep further and further away from the short days of her life, and my memories of what our daughter looked like turn into memorized pictures, I have started to realize how much she looks like her daddy.

Or rather, how much her daddy looks like her.

I first noticed it when the Hubs was fast asleep and I was fighting a bout of insomnia (a new, frustrating development in our post-Hudson days). We have a picture of Hudson in our picture frame lamp shade, and I was peering over the slumbering Big Bear to see what time it was, and in full view was the Hubs and the picture of Hudson in the frame, their sleeping faces at the same angle. It took my breath away, the resemblance.

Now I see little flashes of Hudson in my husband all the time. The shape of the ears, that nose that we were all so sure was mine, that perfectly smooth and unstressed forehead. How can such a perfect blend of two people who are crazy about each other have lived such a short life? How come instead of watching Hudson grow into her features and gaining more definitive answers to questions like “Whose smile does she have?”, I am looking at my husband and being reminded of all the loveable features he passed on to our baby who I never got to see smile.

legend

I want to provide a credit for this cartoon but I can’t find its source. Sorry.

A friend of mine posted this cartoon to Facebook today, and it made me laugh and it made me think of Hudson.

I totally gave birth to a legend.

The Hubs has been talking a lot recently about getting Hudson’s feet tattooed on his arm. He wants her footprints and her name in my handwriting – and he talked about also wanting the word “Legendary”. I can’t think of a better descriptor for our daughter, except for maybe “precious.” Sometimes

I’ll be writing about Hudson, and I’ll have to go to thesaurus.com to find alternate words for “precious” because it is used so frequently.

I still think Hudson looks a lot like me, and I still glow with pride when people comment on her hair, her eyelashes, her not-newborn-looking-ness. But it makes me feel even better to see so much of her in my husband, and so much of my husband in her.

We absolutely made a legend, and she won’t be the last.

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A visit from Santa

Last night, my dear friend L (who was pregnant at the same time as me and had her son the day after Hudson was born) and her hubby C stopped by with some Christmas treats. And guess who they brought with them? Their little five-month old baby boy, all dressed up in his Santa suit.

What a sweet, mellow, chunky-in-all-the-right-places little man. I got to hold him for the first time, and only briefly did the thought cross my mind: “This is how old Hudson would be.” He was very fascinated with my sweet Hudson memento necklace, the one with the ceramic heart that also can be a bracelet. He got it in a baby vice grip a few times, and I was impressed with his grabbing/choking me skills.

The Hubs held him too, for the majority of the visit actually. The little guy was super intrigued by Jungle (aka the Hudson Ruth Walter Memorial Beard), again with the baby vice grip but this time on hair that is attached to skin. I swear my husband is like the Baby Whisperer. He patiently held the little beard grabber in various strategic positions that made the beard less grab-able.

Side Note: I love to watch my husband with babies.

We caught up with these friends who we haven’t seen in ages, people with whom we were supposed to be embarking on this parenting journey at the same time, people we shared birthing class embarrassment with, even went to the same doctor. And you know what? I enjoyed it thoroughly. For whatever reason, it feels like more progress, more healing. That we got to love all up on their little baby boy, this little guy who would/should be one of Hudson’s favorite playmates, and that at no point did I feel on the verge of tears or even really preoccupied with the comparison to Hudson… well, that seems like a good step. That we got to listen to these friends share their parenting journey a little bit without even a tinge of envy… that seems like a good step, too.

I am so thankful for the wonderful people who are in our lives. And I’m so thankful that good people are parents. For this holiday season, we are parents without our child, and that is truly heartbreaking. But I really believe that next year, it will be our baby in the Santa suit, “ho-ho-hoeing” around with plates of delicious treats.

That’s all I want for Christmas.

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Broken Hearts and Huge Responsibility

Friday marked five months since we left Sacred Heart without our daughter. But when I woke up in the morning I was almost immediately occupied with other thoughts.

A monster in Connecticut took the lives of 20 children and six adults. There are no words.

Over the last few days my heart has been filled with these children, these brave teachers, but mostly, with the parents of the children lost.

That shooter didn’t just murder innocent children. He murdered their parents. Life will never be the same for them. They’ll never again rest easy in the confidence that they can protect their babies. Their Christmas gifts will go ungiven, their New Years Eve will be spent numb, or worse yet, on fire with anger and pain.

How can this kind of evil live?

I watched President Obama’s speech on Sunday evening and I choked up when he read the names of the six teachers who died on Friday. I cried bitter tears when he read the names of the children, turned to my husband and said, “There are just too many kids’ names.” I nodded in agreement when he said that our most important responsibility is to our children, and that if we are honest with ourselves, we have failed at this responsibility. On this one point I actually agree with a politician (or at least, with his speech writer).

I have a new “At least I’m not…
because I cannot imagine living my life after losing my child in such horrific, violent, terrifying, unspeakable circumstances. After Friday, I quite frankly find it hard to imagine having to raise a child in this world at all.

A friend wrote me a message after this awful event and it touched my heart. She said that she imagined Hudson was welcoming these children to her special place in Heaven, and it made me cry and smile all at once. My beliefs on the “afterlife” are all up in the air after losing our daughter (basically, I go with “whatever makes me feel better” these days), and there is something very comforting in imagining our lost children in a place where no pain can find them, where hurt is gone, where terror and fear are replaced with safety and comfort and joy. I imagine Hudson, who has had five months to explore the place, welcoming these “Big Kids” with smiles and hugs, showing them her favorite activities, talking about how soon they all will be reunited with their parents and what a wonderful day they have to look forward to but in the meantime who wants to ride that giraffe or slide down that rainbow? I can think of no better ambassador to Heaven’s gates than our own precious and gone-too-soon red headed dynamo.

My heart breaks again and again for these children, for their parents, for that community. How can we ever believe in beauty and goodness again? How can we make beauty and goodness in a world that is covered in a film of ugly evil?

But we simply have to.

We cannot be complacent. We cannot make this somebody else’s problem to deal with. It is our own.

Never pass up an opportunity to make a positive impact, however small. Hug your children tighter, listen to them, discipline them, motivate them, teach them and give them a strong moral compass. Volunteer. Contribute. Smile.

It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the world as we know it were to end as the Mayan calendar predicts this Friday. And if I get to go to Heaven, I’ll be the first one in line for that rainbow ride with Hudson. But if we must stumble through this world for more than the next five days, perhaps we should make it our business to make it a world we would want our children to live in.

 

 

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Firsts

After the Hubs and I got married, I remember getting all gooey and sentimental about our “firsts.”

“It’s our first married plane ride!”
“This is our first married Christmas!”
“Oh my gosh, this is our first married grocery shopping trip!”

I may or may not have saved the receipt from that one.

Since Hudson died, I’ve had a new set of “firsts” – not ones I necessarily get gooey or sentimental over, but emotional firsts all the same.

The first time I held a baby after Hudson.

Don't I look like I'm going to eat this little guy?

Don’t I look like I’m going to eat this little guy?

The first trip into a Carters to buy baby clothes as a gift, the recipient of which was the little man pictured above. That will get its whole own blog post, probably.

The first baby shower for a friend (another one that will get its own dedicated blog post, likely).

The first Thanksgiving.

And soon, the first Christmas.

I have been wracking my brains for ways to remember Hudson this holiday season, to make a new tradition of celebrating Hudson’s life during this time when we celebrate the life of another pretty remarkable baby (“Dear Eight Pound, Six Ounce, Newborn Baby Jesus, don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant, so cuddly, but still omnipotent…” Talladega Nights, anyone?).

If only I were shopping for frivolous baby outfits and 6-month old toys this week, instead of trying to figure out a holiday memorial for her.

The Forget-Me-Not Foundation sent the Hubs and I a card and a little angel ornament, something to put on the tree to remind us of our “angel baby.” We talked about making a big family donation to the Forget-Me-Not Foundation in Hudson’s name for Christmas. I even read on some grief and loss forum about a woman who was planning to still shop for her daughter (who was stillborn), but was going to donate the gifts to Toys for Tots. I didn’t even shop much for Hudson when I was pregnant. I sort of wish I had indulged that little temptation more now, but I was so sure I’d have a lifetime to dress her up, entertain her, teach her.

While I’m still a little at a loss for ways to make Hudson a part of our Christmas celebration this year, I do find myself looking forward to a lot of firsts.

How about:
First positive pregnancy test
First sound of Hudson’s baby sibling’s cries
First diaper blow out
First sleepless night
First word
First grade
First boyfriend/girlfriend
First job
First grandbaby (hey, why not? I’m looking WAY forward here!)

Everything now is a “first” without Hudson – and that is the sentence for a lifetime of making bittersweet memories. But I’m determined to face these firsts with a heart full of hope, not dread. No matter how profoundly or meaningfully we chose to celebrate Hudson this Christmas, I know it will still be a shitty Christmas without her. But maybe our second Christmas without Hudson will also be our first Christmas with Baby Dub Dos.

And Baby Dub Dos will be the first of his/her kind.

I won’t live my entire life in the shadow of Firsts Without…

 

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Freeing up some pregnancies

Remember a few weeks back, when I talked about how my friends and family members are using up all the pregnancies?

Just in time for Baby Dub Dos-fest 2013, some of those pregnancies are getting freed up.

Several brand new awesome people were brought into the world this week, making long-time friends of mine proud mommas. Hooray, new life! Hooray, proud mommas!

Our neighbors are expecting a baby girl on Christmas Day. Every time I drive by their house, I inspect it for signs of “left in a hurry to get to the hospital.” That’ll be one more freed up pregnancy. Keep ’em coming.

I can’t deny it – Facebook is my source of intel on a lot of these new births. When I see those squishy blotchy new born faces and read the baby’s stats (6 pounds 9 ounces! 20 inches long!), I get a little tingle of happy happy joy joy. For a while now, I haven’t been able to understand why I’m so thrilled for people when their babies are born, but so dismayed and discouraged when people are announcing their pregnancies?*

*Seriously. I’m pissed that Kate Middleton is pregnant. What gives?

And I figured it out this week. New baby announcements make me happy because I’m saddled with this baby-birth fear now – that not all pregnancies end with a healthy baby to bring home – and when I see those Facebook posts of cute squishy newborns sans breathing tube and requests for prayers, I am delighted to see that healthy babies are born every day, to people I know, more often than not. It is encouraging. It makes me hopeful. It makes me glad. It gets me from the clenched up baby-birth angst (Please let that baby be okay)  on to my own hopes for a new pregnancy (Bring on Baby Dub Dos!).

Whereas new pregnancy announcements make me feel panicked (GAH! There goes another pregnancy! GAH! They’ll have a baby in June! GAH! I want a baby in June!) and fills me with “What if it takes forever for me to get pregnant again?” angst. Nobody likes that crap.

So congrats to my friends who have had babies this week. I am so proud of you and of the parents you will be – slash – already are. And thank you for freeing up a pregnancy or two for me.

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Happy 5 Month Birthday, Baby Girl

I cannot believe that it has been five months since our girlie was born, just under five months since the world as we know it got smashed to pieces. Have I been this person for five months?

This person.

Heartbroken.
New priorities.
Heightened feelings.

Most importantly: a mom.

We’re sneaking up on what would have been Hudson’s first Christmas. And while I imagine this particular holiday season will be rough, I do like to allow myself the luxury from time to time of imagining what she’d be like right now.

Chubby all around. Cheeks, thighs, arm and neck folds. Sticky sideways smiles, no symmetry to Hudson’s expressions quite yet. An obscene wardrobe – the most stylist 5-month old on the block, thanks to Momma Sue and Grandma Dub and crafty Aunties. Giggles. I imagine what our daughter’s giggles would be like, and it makes me ache for a sound I never heard.

I won’t lie to you, Hudson and I would be wearing matching Mrs. Claus outfits this holiday season for some kind of a photo shoot.

I allow myself the luxury of imagining our house with a baby in it. Slowly but surely, the assorted baby paraphernalia we brought home with us from the hospital has made its way back to Hudson’s room, and we’re down to just her heartbeat teddy bear, a photo album, a box of Hudson’s Heroes teeshirts, and the biggest size of this picture that Costco would print up on our wall.

I miss laying kisses on those sweet feet.

I miss laying kisses on those sweet feet.

But if Hudson had lived to come home with us, the joint would be awash with rattles and tummy time mats and jumpers and her black and white zebra and a whole wealth of toys I don’t even know about yet because we only made it as far as newborn toys. I’m confident at one point or another, the Hubs or I would have stepped on one of the toys strewn about, resulting in a torrent of loud words that end in *** that would have us then concerned that our daughter’s first word would be a four letter one.

In a way, I’m grateful that Hudson didn’t come home with us only to die some other way. How could I ever be in our living room after spending hours of tummy time with her there? How could I step foot in her nursery knowing she’d spent hours in baby dreamland in there? How could I lay eyes on the rocker knowing I’d fed her in that rocker?

Except of course as I imagine those experiences with our daughter in our home, I have to take every thing I said up there back. I wish for any world where I spent time interacting with our daughter, even if it were still going to end this painful way. We are missing out every day on some kind of a milestone or achievement that our little overachiever would have been delighting us with. What I wouldn’t give for memories of staring contests with our googly eyed little newborn! I would trade a thousand restful nights for one interrupted by my baby’s screaming and fussing.

And I know these experiences await me, when Baby Dub Dos, Tres and Quatro arrive on the scene (did I just predict triplets? Dear me!). So when I step on those baby toys, in the future, I’ll remember today and I’ll grit my teeth but I won’t swear. Those sleep deprived nights will be a dream come true. The world will stop for baby staring contests.

Nothing in this life is a guarantee. The only thing in life that you can truly control is how you view your life – the gratefulness with which you greet each day, the choice to smile instead of frown, the decision to be brave and to take risks and to love all out. I’m working on these things, and life is more full. I’m choosing these things, and I feel rewarded. It’s the worst thing in the world that I don’t have a 5-month old today, but my day is not ruined.

A huge hunk of my heart is gone forever, but I don’t feel incomplete. Because that’s what I choose.

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How’s your baby?

The other day I bumped into a neighbor while checking the mail. This observant fellow must have picked up on the fact that once, I was pregnant, and now, I am clearly not, so he asked me:

“How’s your baby?”

It has been almost 5 months since Hudson died, so the question surprised me. I mean, we are sort of past that point where people ask – they either know what happened or they’ve forgotten I ever was pregnant. I haven’t had somebody ask me about the baby since September.

So I stammered a little bit and finally was able to come up with:

“She passed away.”

“What?”

“She died at the hospital. We didn’t get to bring her home.”

Now, I’ve been in this situation a time or two before, and usually at this point I get a “I’m so sorry” and an awkward goodbye. But neighborman felt the need to continue asking questions:

“Was she born sick?”

Such a funny way to put it, I couldn’t help but repeat it in my answer:

“Yes, she was born sick. She was born without a heartbeat. But they got it going again and she lived for three days.”

“When did this happen?”
“How are you doing?”
“How is your husband?”

Neighborman was clearly concerned.

And the whole time we are having this strange conversation, at the back of my mind I am thinking to myself, “Wow I really spit that whole thing out well. I didn’t choke up or anything.”

Finally, I’ve satisfied Neighborman’s curiosity and I head back to my house, the conversation replaying in my head. Apart from this guy’s insistent questions, the one thing that really stood out for me was the tone of voice I used when answering him:

Apologetic.

Like, “This is going to hurt you more than it hurts me” apologetic.

You get into these conversations, and really, you’re the one who is supposed to be hurt. But I find myself wanting to cushion the other party, to couch the blow, because I know how awkward the conversation is about to get, how bad they are going to feel for “bringing it up”, the head-shaking they’ll do when the conversation is over, the “Honey did you hear…?” that will happen when they get back home (if the matter is still on their mind).

Something I’ve learned about grief and loss is that you just live with it. The sadness doesn’t go away, but you learn to manage it. The impact of your loss is present with you constantly, but you exist through it. At a certain point, I think society expects you to move on, and so you do – outwardly. So when your neighbor that you don’t know that well is asking you incessant questions about the death of your baby, you almost feel inappropriate having any feelings about it, and for whatever reason you feel like you should be apologizing to him instead of the other way around.

When I told the Hubs about this conversation later that day, he was flabbergasted.

“What did he think we just leave her inside?!”

But then I have to remind myself: Neighborman’s world did not revolve around Hudson – OUR world did. Her absence seems so obvious to us, it seems almost impossible for it to have gone unnoticed by others. I wish I had a series of developments to report when somebody asks: “How’s your baby?” Teething. Smiling. Crawling. Walking. Going on dates (just kidding about that last one, Hudson was not going to be allowed to date).

But I don’t get to answer that question “normally” for a while.

I would never want to pretend that Hudson was never born, that we didn’t have this amazing daughter. But for those awkward times when someone you really don’t know that well is asking questions, sometimes, I wish the conversation would end just a little bit sooner.

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