When I Fail You

September 25, 2012

Just Write.

Miss D.,

I failed you last week and I’m sorry. I didn’t expect to fail you, which is stupid, because in ten years I’ve failed you plenty. But somehow I never expect it, this coming up short.

I’m not sure how I managed to botch this one, because in my mind, I always thought I’d do better by you.

Okay, actually, that’s a lie because I never, not ever, thought I’d be talking to you about growing up and hair and bleeding from weird orifices when you were ten years old. I thought I had so much more time. I thought I had so much more time that I didn’t once stop to think about it. To think about what I’d do and how you might feel about what’s happening and the words that tumbled out of my mouth. Mistake.

I should have been prepared. I should have waited until I was okay with you growing up before trying to talk to you about growing up.

I should have taken some time, read up a little (or a lot), figured out what to do with my words. Instead, I cried and wrung my hands all day until you got home and when we sat on the porch that night I was still so raw and tentative inside that you could smell it, I imagine.

I’ll have to say “I imagine” because you didn’t talk to me. So I don’t know otherwise. But that, too, is a lie. I know.

What I know is that we sat together on a fall night and I failed you. You didn’t want to hear my clumsy words or share the feelings whizzing inside you or hear about the mechanics of it all. You didn’t want to hold my hand.

It hurt when you did not want to hold my hand, because I really, really wanted to hold yours.

It reminded me of when you were learning to walk, and how one day you walked a few tentative steps, grinned, and then ran. You walked for a minute and then you ran, and I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready for you to run. I wasn’t ready to find myself chasing after you. I wasn’t ready for your reaction when–because you ran–you fell into hard ground.

Howling in pain and frustration, you retreated to the nearest corner, and when I tried to pick you up, tried to hold you close and comfort you, you held up a ferocious little hand and said, “No!” You taught me that the only true solace you sought was your own.

I gave you space that day because you asked for it, but it stung so hard that I thought I’d been shot. I had to learn that you always mark out your territory, and often I’m not in it.

You were a mystery then and you are a mystery now, sitting next to me on a front porch, arms crossed protectively around your torso, flush against budding breasts.

I offer words that come too fast and are not good enough and you watch rabbits darting across the lawn. Suddenly, you hold up that same adamant hand.

“Mom. Stop talking, okay? Just stop talking. I’d rather read about it in the book.”

So I let you go, little rabbit, darting back into the house and up to your room.

I dig my fingers into my scalp and cry a little and breathe in the night air. Fiery daughter of mine. I’ll be chasing you the rest of my life.

And always, you’ll be just out of my grasp.

 

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Abby September 25, 2012 at 5:52 am

Aw, Kitch. Cut yourself a little bit of slack. While it’s her first time going through all of these changes, it’s also your first time dealing with them as well. Ten years old is early and I understand the surprise of it all, but give it a little bit of time for both of you to adjust. Heck, I got mine in a Porta Potty at a horse show. That was traumatic.

Anyway, you didn’t fail. You simply stumbled a bit, as we all do. “It hurt when you did not want to hold my hand, because I really, really wanted to hold yours.” That line got me, by the way, because I remember not wanting to show any affection towards my mom in those times while simultaneously wanting to crawl in her lap and just cry. Give her some time, my friend. You have far from failed.

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Abby,

I got mine at “Outdoor Lab,” which is a program you do in sixth grade where you camp out with your sixth grade class in the mountains for a week. No parents in sight. All high school kids supervising us. It was horrifying. Almost as bad as a port-a-potty, which is priceless.

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Anonymous September 25, 2012 at 6:04 am

My boy is a bit older and SO resistant to any kind of ‘talk’.
I don’t even have the comfort/familiarity of being the same sex. I’m clueless….floundering…..

But, here’s some news! Both male children were sitting on the couch with me last night. Arguing….of course. One calls the other a ‘douche pickle’. I ask if he knows what the word ‘douche’ means. He says that he does and goes on to give me an explanation. When I ask how he knows that, he says….’google’.
Sex/puberty talk the easy way = Google!

Love to you xxxx

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 7:38 am

Anonymous,

I must now find a way to work in the term “douche pickle” into my everyday conversation! Thank you for commenting and making me laugh.

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Leisa September 25, 2012 at 6:06 am

My boy is a bit older and SO resistant to any kind of ‘talk’.
I don’t even have the comfort/familiarity of being the same sex. I’m clueless….floundering…..

But, here’s some news! Both male children were sitting on the couch with me last night. Arguing….of course. One calls the other a ‘douche pickle’. I ask if he knows what the word ‘douche’ means. He says that he does and goes on to give me an explanation. When I ask how he knows that, he says….’google’.
Sex/puberty talk the easy way = Google!

Love to you xxxx

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pamela September 25, 2012 at 6:28 am

You didn’t fail. Go a bit easier on yourself. You put yourself out there and that Talk is HARD!!! Your daughter was reacting to her own feelings of growing up and change and while she may have projected this onto you, feel confident that by going out on a limb and starting the dialogue, she will be able to continue it with you. You did great Miss KW!! This stuff is gnarly.

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alita September 25, 2012 at 6:33 am

I echo Abby here. You did not fail. You stumbled. It may have felt like a fail because you wanted to hold her close, but it wasn’t. Also, come to think of it, the stumble was more like stubbing your toe. It hurt, but you can still walk. 10 is young. I would have stubbed my toe, too. I was 13 and my mother called all her friends. Now, that was embarrassing. They all but had a “she is a woman now- party”

These times are hard to navigate, but all is always forgiven in the end. Just keep on walking your path.

PS. This had me in tears. Your pain is palpable. To which I offer a virtual hug from Michigan. (hug!)

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Alita,

I will take virtual hugs from Michigan. I am still stinging.

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Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes September 25, 2012 at 7:21 am

I can relate to miss D. so very much. I remember too stumbeling into womanhood when I was still a child. And like her I preferred not talking about it, not hearing what this was, what was going to be come next…
But you did well, she knows you are out there, looking out for her. She’ll come to you when she is ready. Don’t worry.

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Tinne,

I imagine that I will be waiting quite a while. That girl is so independent that it makes my head spin. xo

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Mr TKW September 25, 2012 at 7:22 am

It’s not you. It’s her personality. In due time, she will come back to you for help.

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Camille Brightsmith September 25, 2012 at 8:38 am

This is heartbreaking. Being there for your child is the holy grail of parenting, and you did that. Being there. Being available. Showing up. Being present. Doesn’t matter what their reaction is, they know you are there when they need you. I am holding on to this theory for dear life. I think we trick ourselves into believing that we are always supposed to have some kind of correct answer…and I know we all miraculously pull those out of our butts sometimes and that feels rewarding. But that isn’t whats going to make for confident strong people. The thing that will do that is them knowing you are concerned, available, and totally madly in love with them. Your awkward reach for her hand, that was denied, is absolute proof of love and dedication. She has the choice to take it or leave it as needed – she has love and security available to her, and you made it known. I think you are Wonder Woman.

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Camille,

Well, if Wonder Woman didn’t have her awesome lasso of truth and her invisible plane and those bracelets that deflected bullets, then yes. I would be Wonder Woman. xoxo

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S in AK September 25, 2012 at 9:16 am

Wouldn’t “fail” mean you weren’t there for her? It seems to me that not only were you there, you listened when she said, “No!” I think a large part of the reason she’s able to feel so independent is because she *knows* you’re there for her if she needs you.

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 4:18 pm

S in AK,

Honoring the “no” is a hard thing to do, but I’m trying.

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Heather September 25, 2012 at 11:10 am

and even if we didn’t want to keep chasing them, we can’t help that we’re pulled.

love you.

xo

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Heather,
Love you and miss you. xo

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Kristen @ Motherese September 25, 2012 at 11:21 am

I’m with the rest of the posse here: you did not fail! You were there and you talked. You showed her your own vulnerability so that, in time, when she’s ready, she’ll be able to show you hers. I think Miss D. and Miss M. are awfully lucky to have you as a mom, just as I am very lucky to have you as a friend. xo

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Kristen,

You are so nice to me. The thing is, I talked to her…WAY too much. Argh! This mothering business needs to get easier.

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Jane September 25, 2012 at 11:28 am

Call me. Write me. Anything you need, because I was in your exact spot ten years ago with my then-ten-year-old daughter and the sting is still there. (I know, not very comforting but read on)

I had the same “fail” because I thought I’d have so much more time. But didn’t.

I want you to know she and I both laugh about it now. She makes jokes. She teases me. And the way she remembers it, I WAS there for her – even though she pushed me away at the time. But because I didn’t hug when she didn’t want one. Because I handed her a book when she just didn’t want to talk any more. Because I hovered but didn’t smother – she felt I was there for her.

Hugs to you, dear bloggy friend. And hugs to Miss D.

xoxo

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Jane,

That is such a reassurance. Thank you. I hope we will laugh later, instead of ending up on Dr. Phil. *cringe*

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Jenna September 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

I can’t but echo everyone’s comments: you didn’t fail, sweet mama! These things are painful to go through. You can’t take the full brunt of the pain and awkwardness on yourself. But you can be there while Miss D walks through it herself–and you are! And that is because you love her.

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Jenna,

I adore you and am so sorry that I am bombarding you with this stuff before Alice is even born. I know, when the time comes, you will do better by Alice than I did. I just know.

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Jenna September 27, 2012 at 8:29 am

Ach–I’m sure I will “fail” just as much! But that’s okay. We’re human, and our daughters will learn to show us grace . . . eventually. =) It took me many years to show my mom the kind of compassion and grace she deserves (I’m talking mid twenties here!).

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Phoo-d September 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm

There was no failure here- you showed up caring and heart wide open, and you pass with flying colors on that alone. She knows you, and most importantly knows your heart. Exact words were not necessary when she has had 10 years of training to clearly see your meaning. It is a difficult thing to walk through at such an early age (I know firsthand) but she will emerge confidant and a little more grown-up from the process. It is scary to think how not-so-long off this is for me. One day you are trying to potty train, and the next…wow.

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm

Phoo-D,

It will fly by like nobody’s business. When you get there, call me. I’ll talk you off the ledge. Because damn, it is steep. Love you.

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm

ps: When the Little Darth Vader starts growing boobs, I am ordering you over here for a visit and some weeping and burrata. You’ll have to go renegade on the vegan thing, because this will be a full-fledged emergency. We will walk and brave the angry geese and Fat Bastard around the lake. And then eat cheese. :)

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The Meaning of Me September 25, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Can’t offer anything new here…but so not a fail. When these daughters are fiery and independent like their moms, it’s the beautiful and terrible result. Nothing breaks my heart more than when mine doesn’t want my comfort, my hand, my help…and nothing makes me more proud of her confidence at the same time.

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Meaning,

Isn’t that the conundrum? Her independence hurts me but makes me wildly proud at the same time. And we wonder why our daughters need therapy.

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Jody September 25, 2012 at 4:24 pm

What Camille said. Wrote. Typed. Whatever.

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Katrina Kenison September 25, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Hugs to you, for sharing this. If I counted all the times I’ve been pushed away, said the wrong thing, allowed my own emotions to get in the way of “good” parenting, as failures, well, I’d have to nominate myself for the Worst Mother award. Thank goodness our children are resilient. Thank goodness we sometimes have enough wits about us to listen when they they ask us to stop talking. Sounds as if your girl knows how much you love her, and that’s all she needs to know for now.

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm

Katrina,

I’m still smarting from this, but thank you for your kind words. It was hard to admit my failures, but I had to be honest. Otherwise, what is the point, right? *tucking away my pride*

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Jamie September 25, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Ugh. I won’t even try to tell you that you didn’t fail, because I know it won’t make you feel any better :(

Whenever I have a serious talk with one of my students, I come out of it feeling like I fucked them up for life. It never comes out how I envision and they never respond well. I know it’s not the same, but hopefully you will accept some empathetic pats from a dumb 23 year old.

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TKW September 25, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Jamie,

I don’t care if you are 23 or 67. The fact that you “get it” is such a comfort. And women with empathy are the ones who keep us going. Thank you.

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suzicate September 25, 2012 at 6:38 pm

I think as parents we often feel we come up short and our children always seem just out of reach, but we do our best. Hugs.

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Arnebya September 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Truth like only you can give it, which is why I positively love you so.

I feel this so deeply because I fear that constant chase. I embrace it because I know it’s her nature, but I’m afraid of it too. I think my mother was too. A few years ago she stopped trying. All I can say is never stop trying to catch her.

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TKW September 26, 2012 at 10:03 am

Arnebya,

How can a mother give up the chase? Your mother missed out on an awesome daughter.

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Kate September 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm

The hardest part about being the mom is letting our feelings stand backstage.

Oh, I’m terrified of this moment coming. So much.

Hugs.

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Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon September 26, 2012 at 5:22 am

Kitch, in ten years when my little tatertot is venturing into all of this, I’m calling you for backup. And until then I’m going to pretend that she will always be the wee child who loves to fall asleep on my chest.

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TKW September 26, 2012 at 10:03 am

Wendi,
I’ll be here. Probably still with useless advice, but I’ll be here.

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amber_mtmc September 26, 2012 at 6:01 am

What a difficult moment. Your feelings of failure are valid, but I don’t think you really failed her. Sometimes we must try again when things like this spring up on us. You are not a failure even when your words sometimes fail you.

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Katybeth September 26, 2012 at 6:50 am

I said to Joe, “We (meaning him) really need to talk to the boy about sex.” Joe looked at me blankly and said, “We talked about sex on the way to school months ago.” I said, “WHY DIDN’T YOU SHARE THIS?” Joe said, “I thought you already knew about sex.” Is it any wonder I did not kill the man myself.
In addition to Joe, somehow I have managed to surround myself with mom’s who feel the need to keep condoms in the bathroom–so my kid knows where to steal them if he needs them. He once google “naked yoga ladies” on my computer so I’m pretty sure he uses google from time to time to increase his knowledge.
After your “talk” I felt the need to let the kid know (last night) that I was available if he had any questions to which he answered, “Mom I love you but we aren’t going there.” Ok. I do on occasion through out random bits of information, “Hey did you know your penis is not going to stop growing until your about 17.”
About social media, texting, facebook, photos and girls–I have been brutally honest about how much trouble he could get in.
Fail? I think not. Your daughter will always stayed connected to you. She is wired to stay connected to you and take happiness from the fact that she will soon be torturing her father. Now, repeat after me: ” I’m the Worlds Greatest Mom!” and do a little happy dance. ♥

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TKW September 26, 2012 at 10:05 am

Katybeth,

You are awesome at talking a girl down from the ledge. Thank you.

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Alexandra September 26, 2012 at 7:50 am

As everyone else here has said, You didn’t fail.

But we’re here to listen, b/c sometimes, the words, if they don’t get out of our hearts, will bind our mouths.

xo

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TKW September 26, 2012 at 10:06 am

Alexandra,

I still have an emotional hangover from it, but writing about it did help. xo

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Contemporary Troubadour September 26, 2012 at 10:59 am

I’ve got no experience here, but I do know emotional hangovers in the wider sense. I’m hoping you’ll do lots of nice things for yourself to ease the sting (crying is good!). I’m terrible at muddling through and not letting myself ruminate about these heart-gouging moments where we have to give up control. I hope you get to surround yourself with all that soothes for a while.

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Biz September 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Ah, the “talk!” I remember it well. You know what helped me?

This book – the Care and Keeping of You – it is beautifully written!

http://www.amazon.com/Care-Keeping-American-Girl-Library/dp/1562476661

Hugs!

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TKW September 27, 2012 at 5:57 am

Biz!

That’s the book she ran up to her room to read! :) xoxo

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BigLittleWolf September 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Oh Kitch. There’s just no “right” way to do this, and I don’t have to tell you that every child is different in what they need and how they need to hear it and how they will respond.

The very fact of talking when you perceive she is ready even if you aren’t is so much more than many of us can muster. And God knows, most of our own mothers screwed it up, or just assumed we’d hear it somewhere else… and we did… Or we didn’t, and then came the horrifying (and frightening) surprises that we didn’t remotely understand.

A little understanding for yourself would be in order.

And to that fiery girl of yours – I suspect she has your spirit. She will pursue life with a passion. And don’t we want that for our children, as much as we fear it as well?

Hugs.

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Barbara September 27, 2012 at 3:45 am

Don’t beat yourself up over this. I heard “the talk” someplace else (my mother never told me a damn thing) and I was not an unhappy child, and grew up pretty savvy and well balanced. You didn’t fail at anything.

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Sherri September 28, 2012 at 8:29 am

Sniff. I know what you mean – how you feel. Been a few years for me, but… it will all be fine. Better that she reacted with that strong spirit rather than crumple in fear :). See…. my mom did give me a book, and…. well…..Anyway – the girlies all talk amongst themselves and make it all fine (I really hate to keep using that word :). My teen is back to me, btw – a couple of years of “Mommy, you are so embarrassing me” and she’s back.

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Dawn September 29, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I got a book too…but that was 40 years ago. I didn’t want to talk about it either back then. Probably wouldn’t want to talk about it if I was a kid today…that’s just how I am…and how she might be. So you’re different and you imagined a sweet mother-daughter moment and it wasn’t like that. You two will have other sweet mother-daughter moments. And she’ll be fine. So will you. You did not fail just because it wasn’t like you imagined. You brought up a strong, independent daughter…you didn’t fail by a long shot.

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Heather September 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Sometimes I really hate that this parenting gig doesn’t come with a manual. The Google idea someone else mentioned is tempting, though I think the possibilities of what they may learn on the internet scare me more than the thought of me screwing things up! Like all other things, this too shall pass. Stock your shelves with wine, lots of wine. Hugs from Ohio. May you ride relatively smoothly on the hormone roller coaster!

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faemom October 1, 2012 at 2:33 pm

10? 10? Isn’t that- Oh wait. Damn. That is the time, isn’t it? How did things go? My mom read the letter from the school we were starting sex ed classes (yes, at 10), and she promptly took me to the library, went straight to the librarian desk and asked where the books about sex and puberty were. I nearly died right there. Couldn’t she at leasthave looked in the card catologue? I hope things are better for you and Miss D.
If you need another idea, my best friend’s parents bought a huge book with everything in it and told her that they were leaving it in their bedroom on the dresser and she was welcomed to read it whenever she wanted and talk to them whenever she needed. That’s a thought.
Good luck. You’re a great mom. You’re doing just fine.

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Tiffany October 3, 2012 at 11:56 am

I hate that feeling…of feeling as though you’ve failed your precious children. This was very raw, very real and powerful.

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Cadry March 16, 2013 at 8:32 am

This post totally choked me up. I don’t have a child, but you really captured the essence of it, especially the universal feeling of time slipping through our fingers.

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alexandra January 22, 2014 at 9:59 am

Sharing this on FB today, because this post has always haunted me. It’s on Galit Breen’s thread.

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Dana Talusani January 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Alexandra,

Thank you so much for making me smile today (no small task lately). I hope you know how much you’re loved.

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