Real Life

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I close my eyes and pluck away at the keyboard.

My heart is broken, I feel nervous and shaky and tired. I want to go to sleep and dream. I want to see lovely things when I close my eyes. But I don’t. Instead I see crack houses and heroin dens with overgrown yards and boarded up windows and doors,  watchmen peeking through slats looking out for the police, dirt and smoke and filth and guns, and men. Disgusting men, repulsive and abusive, taking sex for drugs. And Kimmy.

I was almost 10 when she was born, the perfect age to play house with a real live baby doll. She was the little girl that loved to dance and sing. Constantly singing, Skinnamarink a dink a dink, skinnamarink a doo, I love you. The one that was crazy about puppies and picking flowers. The toddler that wore her Minnie Mouse dress every single day. She would cry when my mom made her take it off to be washed. I see her long ringlet curls hanging down her back, bouncing as she ran across the yard chasing the dog.  I hear her telling stories with her little lisp, and I hear our family, whole and together, laughing at her constant entertainment.

The phone rings and I think I might vomit.

It would be a relief to get a phone call saying that she’s dead. Dear God, what a terrible thing that is to say. It’s a million times worse to actually feel it about someone that you love. What kind of person have I become? This disease has stolen my heart. I justify the feeling because that phone call would free me from constantly wondering whether or not she’s alive. It would free her from this misery she has created for herself.

It’s not her. I go on waiting. I get her son ready for bed. I kiss his cheek and rub his head and remind him how much he is loved. I tell him I think he’s the most beautiful boy ever. He giggles and tells me I’m silly. He says that he’s handsome and not beautiful. He tells me that I’m beautiful.

Her son calls me mommy and her Kimmy. He asked me today if she was coming to visit and I had to say no. He asks me tonight if she is coming tomorrow. I smile and tell a lie. “Maybe”, I say. She’s been visiting once a week for awhile now. Might not sound like much, but to us it’s a big deal. He loves to see her. There’s definitely a mother/child bond that even addiction can’t break. He loves her. I think she loves him. It’s hard to tell. If actions speak louder than words than the answer would be no. But still, I think she might. How could she not? He’s adorable and hilarious. He makes everyone around him smile.

I don’t feel hope at this moment. I know I should, but I don’t. Right now I’m walking this invisible line somewhere between peace and desperation. It takes everything in me to not go find her and bring her to my house. But what then? She could steal from me, go pawn my belongings to satisfy her craving. Again. No, thank you.

I don’t know this mix of emotions. I want to name it. Anger, disappointment, frustration. What am I? Sad. I think that’s it. I’m sad for every person that lives like this. I’m sad that there’s no cure. I’m sad that there is so much evil in the world and that sometimes that evil gets ahold of the people that we love and it doesn’t let them go.

But even in this sadness, I trust that there is a God that loves Kimmy even more than I do. And though I don’t understand His ways and probably never will, I will continue to place my trust in the one who is far greater and wiser than I will ever be.

 

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addiction is going to be the death of me

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Addiction is going to be the death of me, and I’ve never even used.

If you have an addict in your life you know exactly what I’m talking about. Every time your loved one uses, you think to yourself:

I just cannot do this one more time, this addiction is going to kill me. 

My sister has been struggling with her heroin addiction for what feels like my whole life, but it’s probably really been  less than ten years. I honestly can’t remember. When you have an addict in your life, everyday feels like an eternity.

Especially days that you don’t hear from them, those take forever. Because when you’re waiting with your phone in hand for a call telling you that they’re dead, every minute feels like an hour.

My sister and I have talked at length over the past few months about how tough it is to be suffering in addiction. (whether you’re the user or the used – because that’s what the rest of us are) There’s this terrible stigma around it and although it’s getting slightly better since people are starting to talk about it, it’s still tough. I’ve told her that I’m tired of not talking about it. I’m tired of pretending that it’s not devastating to be the family member of an addict. Pretending isn’t helping anybody. I know how uncomfortable it makes other people when I talk about heroin. I get it, I’d be uncomfortable too if it hadn’t gotten so up close and personal in my life.

But heroin doesn’t make me uncomfortable anymore. It just pisses me off.

Heroin has completely destroyed my sister’s life and it has turned my own life upside down. Actually it has done so much more than that, but it’s been a really rough day in this addiction and my head hurts and  I can’t seem to think of words that capture the essence of what this drug has done to me and my family.

The destructive power that this drug has over people is unbelievable. The fact that they are willing to sacrifice everything that they have – money, job, education, family, their own children – tells you how purely evil this drug is. I have never seen anything like it.

Just this morning I was sharing with some friends how excited I was that my sister has been clean for a few months. Things have really been going well for her. She’s working, holding a job, got a car, found a cute little house to rent and is moving this weekend. She has been so excited. People have really rallied around her to make sure she has furniture and everything that she’ll need for this new start. It has been a really great couple of months.

And then this afternoon that same sister – the one whose life is finally looking up – she got off work and headed straight down to see her dope man to get high. She sacrificed every single thing that she has going for her for a momentary fix. I don’t get it.

I don’t understand this disease, this drug that holds people prisoner and gets them to choose it over and over again. This drug that convinces it’s faithful subjects that the people that love them don’t matter, I just don’t understand.

And so this evening,  I sit here thinking, worrying, wondering, praying, crying, being pissed and feeling like:

I just cannot do this one more time, this addiction is going to kill me. 

Addiction is going to be the death of me. And I’ve never even used. 

 

 

 

 

Dear me,

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In just a few years that will go by way too fast, you are going to be old. You’re probably not gonna feel like you’re old, but you will be. Remember how 40 used to seem ancient? Doesn’t seem so old anymore, right? I imagine that it will be the same with every decade that you approach. So, although you might never feel like it, you’ll get there. You’ll be old. And that whole “you’re only as old as you feel”…yeah, that’s a bunch of crap. Because even if you don’t feel 100, 100 years is still old.

And when you get there, when you’re old, you’re going to start doubting yourself. A lot. I think it’s inevitable. At least it seems that way from our recent experiences with people that are closer to the grave than they are to the cradle.

So, I want you to remember that you have loved your kids fiercely,  even when they don’t realize it, when they don’t appreciate it and when they don’t reciprocate it. You do your best to make them realize how special they are and that they have incredible potential. You support and encourage them, even when they are making really stupid decisions. You listen to their dreams and you let them know that you are always their biggest cheerleader.

And at work. You give it your all, even on days that you don’t want to be there. You don’t get caught up in gossip or drama. You try your best to encourage others and to support them when they have sometimes off-the-wall ideas. Even though you sometimes have to give yourself a little pep talk to keep going throughout the day, that’s alright, you are doing a good job there.

Your friends know that they are super important to you. Even though you sometimes forget to call or text them back until the middle of the night, and then it’s too late so you’ll do it tomorrow, only you completely forget by then…even with that, they still know that you care. You’re thoughtful and you pray for them and truly love them. You let them know how you feel about them and you make sure to spend time with them, even though it’s not as much as you’d like to. You’re a good friend.

And anytime your family needs something, they know they can count on you. Even though you sometimes beat yourself up because you don’t have as much time as you’d like to spend with them, you’re a good sister, daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin and aunt.

So, when you’re old and you’re reflecting on this life and that inevitable doubt starts to creep in…when all of those nagging feelings that “I could have been better at this…” or “I should have done this better…” or “I wish I would have said…” I just want you to remember that you did your best.   So don’t let those doubts take hold for too long. Don’t let them rob you of the joy of knowing that you loved God and you loved others. And most of the time, you did that really well.

 

 

Writing Prompts

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Day 3 and I have decided that I hate this. Not necessarily the writing part, but the fact that I started this challenge. Because now, with 15 minutes left in the day I feel this overwhelming pressure to get 500 words down before midnight!

Of course, because I’m now in this incredible time crunch, I could not think of a single thing to write about so I did what any normal person would do in such a dilemma. I googled “things to write about”.

Who knew there were so many complete websites designated to such a topic? Seriously, tons of sites solely devoted to writing prompts. I didn’t have time to look through them because, again, I only have 15 minutes to write. But I am definitely going to get an earlier start on that tomorrow!

The top one in my search, or at least the first one that I saw was “Write about three positive things that happened today.”  And I thought, wow, that’s easy for me. Three positive things came to mind within seconds.

Most days I have way more than three positive things happen to me. Even if it doesn’t always feel like that. If I really stop to think about my days, I’m pretty darn blessed.

I’m glad that I saw that prompt. I am not going to actually write about three positive things because I’m sure that nobody really cares about those things. But I will spend my 500 words to say that I think that it is a great idea to end each day thinking of three positive things that happened. It’s really easy to get bogged down with the details of life and focus on all of things that I have to do, or take care of, or fix, or whatever. And I don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about the crazy amount of positive things that I have in my life.

When I started this blog I wanted to make sure that I focused on all of the positive things that I had going on in my life. That was at a time when, to be honest, finding those things was a little tougher to do. I had to weed through a bunch of junk to see the positive at that point. And now, my life just isn’t like that anymore. Sure, there is still stuff that I’m not necessarily a fan of. There are things that I wish were different and there are changes I’d like to make. But there are far more really great things going on in my life than anything.

I’m really excited about that.

There have been a ton of changes in my life over the past few years, some good, some bad. My life looks so different now than it did in the past. And it’s far different than I ever imagined it would be! But I am excited about the future, partly because I’ve become much less afraid of change. I’m at a point where I can actually be grateful for all that has happened in the past because I can see how it helped me to grow as a person. I’ve learned valuable lessons from every trial and I no longer fear change (most of the time, anyhow!) because I know that what waits on the other side is going to be far better than I could possibly dream or imagine!

 

Day 2 (kind of)

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Another 500 words. Twice in one day. In one hour. Okay, here it goes.

One of the writing prompts given on the 500 Words Every Day (500WED) challenge was to “write about your goals and your desires” That was interesting to me.

First of all, goals don’t always have a connection to desires. They just aren’t the same thing. So I thought that pairing the two together in the same question was odd. But this is  a challenge and some sweet soul was kind enough to put together a list of writing prompts and so I’m just thankful for that.  

And to be honest, the prompt did make me feel challenged to examine my own goals. (Which I haven’t done yet, but maybe I’ll write about those in another 500WED challenge.) I think that will be an important exercise for me because I honestly have no idea what any of my goals would be. I used to have goals. Lots of them. But I don’t know that I have any right now. I think I went into survival mode at some point a while back and I just sorta got stuck here. So I’m just kind of drifting on autopilot and not really heading in any specific direction. That’s scary.

It also made me think about my desires. What are my desires? What would I like to do? Hmm. Another good question. That led me to wondering things like: What do I enjoy doing? What do I wish I could do? Is there something new I’d like to learn? All of these are things I haven’t really given much thought to lately – or ever.

I can’t imagine that I’m alone in this. But, I just sort of do life everyday. You know how it is, right? You just get up, go to work, come home, cook, clean, do your other various adult responsibilities, go to bed, wake up, repeat. Every. Single. Day.  I don’t know when that happened though. I’m trying to think back to a time when it wasn’t like this. But I can’t, for the life of me, remember a time that every day was different and adventurous and exciting. I mean, I can think of days that had an element of excitement but not a time in my life where my days were full of it.

I got stuck in the mundane somehow. I’m stuck in a rut where my life has become ordinary and plain and I don’t even have to think to get through a day because they’re all the same.

And I know full well that that is no way to live. It’s not the way that God intended for me to live, that’s for certain. God created me with a dreamer’s heart. He made me for some special purpose…and never intended for me to live an ordinary life.

So, I need to fix that.

The good news is that I don’t think it’s too late.  I’ve got a few good years left in me and I’m sure I’ve got a few good dreams left in me too. I just may need to do some digging around to rediscover them. But that’s alright, I’m up for that.

My First 500 Words

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Today I am starting a challenge.  A writing challenge.  That sounds ridiculous, at least to me.

A challenge? To make myself write?

I love to write. I love words. I love putting them together and making them dance in a line until they turn into something beautiful that makes people smile. I love using words to express my own feelings and I especially love when something that I’ve written makes someone else think “That’s me! That’s exactly how I feel.” I love when my writing lets someone know that they aren’t alone. I love when I can use my words to inspire someone else to be kind or more patient, to see things from a different perspective or to take chances or to be bold. To be bold. Like me, right?

I love to write. But I had to join a challenge in order to make myself do it. Thus the ridiculousness.

I’m not really sure why I’m so hesitant to write for pleasure. I say that it’s because my job requires so much writing. I have to write at work and so by the end of the day when I have any free time, my brain is tired and I can’t manage to string the words together the way that I would like to. I just couldn’t possibly write in the evening.  

I’m pretty that’s just an excuse. Because if that was the only issue, I would just need to write in the morning, right? But I  never do that. I don’t. I won’t. I say that I’m just not a morning person and my brain is tired in the morning and I can’t think straight. I just couldn’t possibly write in the morning.

Maybe the problem is my always-tired brain? Or maybe I’m afraid.

If I’m being honest, that’s it. I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to think of something valuable to write. I’m afraid that I have nothing clever or witty or funny or heartfelt to say. I’m afraid that I don’t have any original thoughts to write about. I’m afraid that what I write will not be good. I’m afraid that nobody will want to read it and that if they do, they will think it’s terrible. My mind constantly tells me that these things – and so many more – will undoubtedly happen.    I. Will. Fail.

I’m afraid to fail.

Do you see how twisted my mind is? I have basically convinced myself that if I start really writing and I fail, then I can no longer call myself a writer. But, if I never actually write then I can continue to call myself a writer. What? That doesn’t even make any sense.

Sigh.

So, I am going to commit to writing at least 500 words a day. Only, today I have to write 1,000 words because I actually started the challenge yesterday and then I didn’t write. Day one and I didn’t even do it.

Sigh. Again.

And already I have checked the word count about ten times. 500 is a lot more words than you would think.

This is going to be way harder than I anticipated.

Seasons Change

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So we’ve had like five nice days here in Michigan this year.Yesterday it got up in the 80s and I couldn’t believe how many people I heard complaining about the heat. Does nobody remember the seemingly endless piles of snow we just got done shoveling? Maybe I’m the only one driving a car that gets stuck at the end of the driveway if there’s any mention of snow. All I know is that I’m thankful for the heat, grateful for this change of season.

Isn’t it just like us to wish away a season though?

Because in the midst of every season, there is some sorta something that makes us unhappy. It’s too hot, too cold, too humid, too snowy, too sticky, too rainy, too dry. We’re never happy.

It’s like this in life too. We’re never happy in our season. Some other season always looks better and we want to be there. If I could just be in that other season, THEN I’d be happy.

I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I got married young, started my family…and almost immediately started wishing away that season. Babies were a lot of work, they always needed something. I couldn’t take a shower or go to the bathroom alone. There was always someone knocking or fingers under the door or somebody crying on the other side. I remember trying to take a bath one night, I had a book to read and candles lit and was ready for this much deserved break from my two tiny boys. And I remember starting to cry when they wouldn’t stop pounding on the door and crying and screaming and fighting. I thought to myself  I just want them to leave me alone. I can’t wait until they’re older. Now they’re 18 and 20 and what I wouldn’t give to have them beg me to read them one more bedtime story. But they’re all grown up and moving on and I wish that I had enjoyed that season a little more. I wish I’d have seen what a blessing it was to have little ones that couldn’t stand to leave this mama’s side.

I’ve had lots of seasons that couldn’t have gone fast enough. I’ve wished and willed and prayed them out of existence like it was my only job. Because every season has it’s struggles and when we’re in the midst of it, sometimes that’s the only thing we can see is the struggle. But that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing that’s there. I promise you that there is also a blessing…even though sometimes it’s a little tough to find. But it’s there because God doesn’t allow pain without a purpose.

I’ve recently endured some pretty rough seasons. Seasons full of ice and snow and lots of cold. Seasons that I didn’t know how I’d survive. Seasons of caring for my own kids, and other people’s kids, and loved ones and friends that needed help. And there was a season of caring for my dad and if you’ve cared for a cancer patient, you know. And if you haven’t, I hope you never know.  It was a season full of struggle and trust me when I say that I almost always focused on that and almost always missed out on the blessings. But there were times – quiet times in the hospital watching my dad sleep peacefully; visits with my kids when he was feeling up to playing rummy; even when I couldn’t sleep because he’d have “Little House On The Prairie” up as loud as the T.V. would go, but it reminded me of the days we watched it together when I was a little girl. The blessings…they were there in the season too, I just had a hard time finding them in the midst of the struggle.

You may not see the blessing in this season, but you’ll see it in the next. You may not be the first person to see it, someone may have to point it out to you, but you’ll see it eventually. You may not ever want to relive that painful season, but you’ll be able to use your experience to help someone else live through a similar one. And when you do that, it’ll give your pain a purpose and that season won’t seem so bad after all.

I recently read a brilliant quote that said “The days are long, but the years are short”. Isn’t that true? Some of my days are so long they feel as if  they’ll never end. But then I think back on the years that have flown by and I wonder where has the time gone? Where are my toddling children? How can it be that they are taking jobs in other states and flying far away from me? Didn’t I just finish wiping the spaghettios off their little faces?

What’s your season right now? A difficult job? A wayward child? An ailing parent? A scary diagnosis?  I hope you know that it is just that – a season. It’ll pass, as they always do. And although you may have a hard time seeing through the struggle in your season, work hard to find the blessing. It’s there. I promise.

The Problem With Your Resolution

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January is the universal month that we spend much of our time going public with our desires to improve ourselves.  We want to be thinner, healthier, happier, richer, less stressed and more organized.  We want to start a new hobby, stop an old habit, say no to doing so much and say yes to finding some “me time”.

The problem with our New Year’s resolutions is that they never offer a real solution to our true desire.

At the core of all of our resolutions is the desire to improve ourselves, to be a better person.  And while all of those things are great ideas, not one of them can accomplish that.

Sure, you should lose a few pounds.  You should definitely quit smoking.  I’m a huge fan of being organized and learning new things.  But those are things you should just do because they’re good for you.  Those are not things that you need a new month or year to do.  And those are certainly not things that are going to make you any better than the person you are right at this very moment.

So who is a “better person”? It’s someone who inspires others to be better people too. 

People that truly inspire others are people who don’t focus on changing themselves.  Instead, they look beyond themselves and they see the brokenness in the world around them…and then they do something about it.

Inspiration is the restaurant owner who doesn’t turn away the homeless, but offers them food.  It’s a community that raises money to support their neighbor who’s losing a battle with cancer.  We’re inspired by little kids who start lemonade stands to raise money for puppy shelters and teens who collect prom dresses for girls that can’t afford one.  People who use their voice to advocate for others and those that use their influence to bring attention to the problems and needs of others, they are the ones that inspire us.

Nobody’s ever been inspired by someone whose one accomplishment in life was to maintain their ideal body weight.

So now that we’re well in to January and our resolutions are probably broken anyhow, I have a suggestion.  Let’s spend some time figuring out how to be better people.  Let’s figure out what breaks our hearts and let’s start to fix the broken things around us.  I know that we will never be able to change the world, but we can change the world for one person.  And that’s inspirational. That, my friends, is a real-solution worth having.

 

If Everyday Was Like Christmas

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I wish that I had a different sort of thought process.  I wish I could just focus on what’s going on in the here and now.  Instead, I’m pretty much always thinking about what’s to come and how what’s going on right now is going to affect the future.  This makes it nearly impossible to completely enjoy things because I’m never fully in a moment. I’ve tried to get better at this, but still I find myself thinking “what if” an awful lot.  Christmas time is especially like this for me.

Without a doubt, I think it’s the most wonderful time of the year.  Everybody is kind and generous.  People talk to family members that they ignore the rest of the year and even tolerate the ones that they especially don’t like.  Everywhere you go, people are humming Christmas carols or whistling happy little tunes.  Entire cities pull together to help out people in need in their communities. Clothing drives and toy collections pop up everywhere. Everybody wants to “adopt a family” and bless them with all kinds of gifts.  It’s amazing.

And while part of me really enjoys watching the whole goodwill toward men and all that, the other part wonders – What if everyday was like Christmas?

How different would our world look if we all walked around happy and humming every single day?  What if when we saw someone in need, we rallied our friends together to lend a helping hand? What if we lived generously all year long instead of waiting until December?  How would our communities be changed if we looked out for one another twelve months a year.  And how might our families be transformed if we could overlook, and even learn to accept, all of our brothers/sisters/mothers/fathers/other-various-super-annoying-family-members?  (Hey, I’m not saying it would be easy…trust me!) What if we all donated, served, helped and loved everyday like we do at Christmas?  Can you even begin to imagine it?

So, while I am really enjoying this whole Christmas spirit thing, I’m already praying that it doesn’t end tomorrow.  I’m wondering what if.  What if everyday was like Christmas?  And I think to myself…what a wonderful world it would be.

 

Meeting Mr. Hopkins

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I met a man on Beale Street.

“Excuse me ma’am, I feel like I just must tell you somthin.  You’s the prettiest little thing I’ve seen yet today”

A little uncomfortable.  I smiled.

He smiled back.  No longer uncomfortable.

“Well thank you sir.  You’re not half bad yourself.”

“Hopkins. Mr. Clyde Hopkins.  Name’s right there on the ground, man his self’s right here in fronna you.”

Sure enough, engraved in the brass music note on the ground between us, Clyde Hopkins – Godfather of the Blues.

I’d never heard of him.

“Mr. Hopkins, it’s a pleasure to meet you.  And thank you, really.  For the compliment I mean.  It made my day.”

“Young lady, I am 92 years young.  I learned a thing or two about the ladies in my time.”

Intrigued. 92 years young.  His hunched back the only real sign of his age.

“I’ll bet you have.  Well then, Mr. Hopkins, what is the most important thing you’ve learned about women in your time?”

We were in front of an album store. He was leaning on his cane.  Adjusted his weight and placed one hand on top of the other.  I noticed his shoes, his suit, his hat, everything about him bright.  He was cheery, classy.  92 years he’s been alive.

“Most important thing you gots to remember about a lady is she has got to feel pretty.  Ain’t no woman thinks she pretty, so you gots to tell her.  Everyday.  And not only do you gots to tell her, but you gots to believe it too cause if you don’t believe it than she ain’t gonna believe it either.  And trust me, if a man don’t make his lady feel pretty, some other man gonna come along and make her feel pretty. And ain’t no man want that. So I tell every lady she’s the prettiest thing I ever did see.”

Feeling a little less special about being told I was pretty, but glad that I stopped to talk to Clyde Hopkins.  His smile beamed.  He liked having someone to share this with.  I was glad it was me.

“Well, Mr. Hopkins, what if they’re not pretty at all?  Do you still say it then?”

“Oh yes’m I do. Because every lady be pretty one way or the other.  Some ladies, they real pretty on the outside but ugly as a hog on the inside.  And some ladies, well they outside ain’t nothin to look at, but on the inside they just as pretty as anythin you ever did see.  And then every once in a blue jazz moon, you meet a one that’s just as pretty on the outside as she is on the in.  And that’s the one you gots to grab on to. Yes’m thems the ones you want to marry and hold on tight to and never let go of.”

“Did you ever find one like that?  One that was pretty inside and out?”

He closed his eyes and breathed deep. I could see on his face that he was conjuring up a memory.  The sweetest kind.  The ones that you can see and smell and taste and feel like it just happened when it’s really ages and ages ago.

Slowly in his thick Memphis drawl he said, “MmHmm. Yes’m, I sho nuff did.  I sho nuff did.”

That was it.  He opened his eyes.

Anxious, I asked “Well, did you marry her?”

“No ma’am. How you think I got so good at singing the blues?”

My heart sunk a little. “I’m sorry to hear that.” And I was.  I’m a hopeless romantic.  I wanted him to end up with the girl.

“Oh me too, young lady, I’m sorry too.  But she found someone else, someone that made her feel pretty.  She deserved that.  And me, I turned my broken heart into a buncha blues.  Looka here, Godfather of the Blues.  Right in fronna you.  And now I tell every woman they’s the prettiest woman I seen yet today.  But I mean it for you.  Hah, now I know you won’t believe it, but I do.” We walked into the store.  “Here, I’mma sign this here CD and give it to you. When you get yourself a case a the blues, you listen to it and remember that ol’ Clyde, he gots the blues right there with you.”

The man behind the counter yelled out “Clyde, you can’t be giving away your albums to every pretty little lady that comes along.”

“You listen to me young man.  I’m 92 years young and I ain’t gonna be around forever.  And all I gots left is knowing that there’s a buncha pretty ladies sittin’ round, listening to ol’ Clyde Hopkins singing the blues and that he thought they’s the prettiest thing he’d seen yet that day. Don’t rob me a that.  Don’t take that from me, cause that’s all ol’ Clyde’s got left.”

MrClydeHopkins