Is there a Double Standard? #blendedfamily #stepparent

In one of the blended family groups I am in, a woman made the comment yesterday that as a stepmother she cannot do enough whereas the kids’ stepfather can do no wrong. That there is a huge double standard in blended family society based on whether you’re male or female.

Can I get an Amen?

As a stepmother, the kids biological mother absolutely, positively trashes me and makes it very clear that she does not think that stepparents should have any rights or rewards (though she doesn’t mind me handling the responsibilities LOL). Yet on Father’s Day, she posted a love message on social media to her husband, the kids’ stepfather, about how it takes a real man to STEP UP and be a STEP PARENT and she posted all of these photos of the kids with their stepdad.

I never really thought about it because, honestly, it doesn’t influence or change my day to day life in any way. But, it is good food for thought. As bio parents, can we accept our ex’s new spouse in the same manner we would want our new spouse accepted? Can we follow the Golden Rule in treating others the way we want to be treated?

Let’s at least give it a try 🙂

 

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Support Groups – Do They Help or Hurt

I recently joined a few stepmom groups on social media and LOVE IT!!! In my opinion, it’s helped (1) make me feel like we are not alone in this, and (2) it’s given me some great perspective. Even in the best, healthiest traditional families, marriage and child rearing is tough and it definitely feels 10 times tougher in the blended family arena. That said, these support groups drive other people batty because there are some people who always complain, or want pity and sympathy for really small things, the occasional drama queen, etc. But isn’t that real life y’all. Whether its at work, church, the gym, or social media there will always be some people who want all of the attention. I just IGNORE them! Move forward. Disregard the negative and hold onto the positive. We can do this!

Coffee cheers to you all 🙂

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Christmas 2017

Good morning y’all 🙂

Did everyone survive their blended family Christmas? We did! I must say, after 7 years, that I’ve noticed that there are some perks to add to my blended family survival guide (fresh outlook, changed perspective, growth, peace). Initially after a divorce, Christmas can be kind of sad, especially if it’s your first Christmas without your kids at home. It can be a little too quite, you may notice fewer stockings on the fireplace or that there are less presents under the tree. But fast forward a few years and you’ll find your groove. That just may be the key to blended family holiday bliss. Finding your own groove.

Since I’ve remarried, Hubs and I now plan family activities on the Christmas breaks when his kiddos are here and we try to travel or take a staycation on the years they are away and then enjoy our break with them over New Years. For me, I’ve found that having something to look forward to helps tremendously. Having a week of family time and then a week of vacation time has been a great perk.

This year, it was our year to have Hubs’ kids for Christmas, so we planned the family fun events this year around that. We went to the movies, baked cookies, had dinner in the formal dining room (all fancy smanchy ya know), played cards, and watched more Hallmark Christmas movies than we could count. Weather permitting, we will also get to go to Holiday at the Park at Six Flags.

On the flip side, I did still notice the “odd parts” of blended family life but they just didn’t frustrate me the way they used to when it was fresh. For example, this year while my 17 year old stepdaughter was with us, her Mom and Stepdad were texting and calling her about the gifts they got her, how one was so big it wouldn’t fit in her stocking (I said then it’s not a stocking stuffer and they should wrap it and the 17 yr old agreed), and saying things to make her miss being with them so the kiddo was talking about how excited she was to get back home to have Christmas. Was that really necessary? We don’t do that with the boys and wouldn’t do that. We truly believe that the kids should enjoy their time with both sets of parents and we don’t embrace the competition game. The kids may try to make their other parent jealous for their benefit, but that’s another blog altogether LOL.  On our side, we feel that the more people that love and support the kids, the better. We embrace it. A few years ago games from the Ex like that would ruin my day but as I’ve grown and as the kids have gotten older, things like that – though still annoying and rude – don’t carry much weight anymore. Annoying for a moment does not equal annoying for the whole day or vacation. It’s not a competition. It’s not a sprint. It’s a journey. It’s a marathon.

On my side, my bio kids have a HUGE family network on their Dad’s side of the family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, long-standing family traditions, etc.) where at my house it’s just me and hubs and in odd years his 3 kiddos are also here. My kids stop by and give a hug, exchange gifts, say hi, but they really cannot wait to get to their Dad’s side of the family for their large Christmas celebration there and that’s where they have “real Christmas”. Years ago, that would really sting. But, the longer time goes by and the older I get, the older my kids get, the more I am HAPPY that my kids have family and support and love rather than me being sad because I don’t. It’s not a competition. It’s not a sprint. It’s a journey. It’s a marathon.

Though nothing much has changed as far as our situations, my perspective has changed and I’ll take it!  I’m just thankful that everyone is safe, whole, happy and healthy.

Merry Christmas to all of you single, divorced, widowed, remarried and blended families out there. It may never be easy but it can still be very merry and enjoyable.

Hugs to each of you.

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The Money … My View #golddigger #pityparty

I’ve heard so many rumors about things Baby Mama has said to people over the past 8-9 years in order to get people to (1) feel sorry for her and (2) give her money. Attention, pity, sympathy, playing the victim… it’s all part of her game and it definitely gives her the results that she wants. Innocent and kind people are still falling for it and giving her money “for the kids” along with the pity, sympathy, prayer, attention and so forth that she so desperately craves. Ok, that’s fine. BUT, please don’t judge my husband or myself for Baby Mama’s decisions, inability to handle money, refusal to work, and failure to spend the money she is given on the kid(s). Her choices in how she earns and spends her money is up to her and her alone and is NOT my or my husband’s fault. Sometimes, with some people, you can never give them enough or do enough and we have found that to be the case with Baby Mama. Over and over and over and over again including this past weekend.

Someone at Baby Mama’s church asked the boys recently if they have what they need at their Dads house – our house – and they said yes. Why would they ask that? Because at church they are treated like a charity case which embarrasses them. They’ve been treated like a charity case by Baby Mama for over 9 years now regardless of her income level. Just this past weekend someone from Baby Mama’s church gave the kids $50 each as Christmas money. But the kids complained that their mom made them use it to buy a shirt for the Christmas program and to buy their own lunch at Arby’s or Wendy’s after church. Curious church person, please give me a minute to explain to you from my perspective why we just don’t feel sorry for her anymore.

First of all, before I even get started, let me tell you that Hubs has given Baby Mama over $45,600 in cash alone since their separation in 2009 including $5,000 this year, and he is the one who has had full custody of 2 of their 3 children since June 2011 (and had all 3 kids June 2011-June 2012). When Hubs agreed that Child 1 could go back and live with her Mom (she was over 12 and really missed mom so he allowed for her to go back – which he regrets and has been a nightmare), neither party was ordered to pay child support because the Child Support Calculator showed that Mom would have owed HIM child support since she had 2 kids to pay support on over a longer period of time. They went back to court again in 2014 or 2015 and again the court found there was no reason to have Dad pay child support to Mom  because each parent was to support the child(ren) in their care and split the medical bills 50/50. Despite the court making that decision, Hubs volunteered as part of an AGREED settlement plan to pay $400 per month to the Mom on behalf of the child. (If you’re hearing crazy stories about how we just “took” the kids, go read the public open court records for yourself. She told Hubs she did the best she could and GAVE him the kids out in the hallway prior to the hearing ever even taking place and she signed an agreed order giving him back the kids. There was no “taking” them. Heck when she left him and filed for divorce she left the kids with him and didn’t get them back until she presented her lying sob story to the Judge).

With the $400 a month Hubs voluntary gave to Baby Mama, she never said thank you, never seemed grateful, and only continued to complain about Hubs. She promised to use the money on the child and swore the child would have so much more opportunity if he would just “help out more” financially. However, as soon as she got that $400, she went and bought HERSELF a BRAND NEW CAR (I only buy used cars but ok). And guess what, the child did not get anything, is 17 years old and has not even been enrolled in driver’s ed, and the child’s personal expenses have been covered on her own with money from the kids part time job. The school records even showed recently that Mom didn’t pay the child’s $10 art fee for school. The 17 year old has said that her mom won’t take her for a professional haircut so she wants to save money to get her hair done herself. Strangely enough, the mom has the money to get her own hair done. Coincidence? I think not. (In the past we would have taken the child to get her hair done ourselves but that created even more expectations and the “ask your Dad to do it” card got played more and more and more and it had to stop.) Hubs gives Baby Mama way more than enough money to care for the kiddo, she just won’t use it on the kid(s) because she has her own life to afford and supports herself with the money.

The reality is that you cannot change someone’s heart and make them VALUE a child. Whether Baby Mama’s bank account had $500 per week or $1,000 per week deposited, it has not been spent on the kids. When she received $300 per week in child support (yes, $1,250 per month) in addition to earning $400-$600 per week at her full time job, she kept all of the money from all sources and DID NOT buy the kids the things they needed. We have emails from her begging for help for school supplies because her $1000 per week income was just “not enough” (and her car was paid off at the time and the bankruptcy had consolidated her debt so I’m not sure how she didn’t have the money. She actually made MORE than Hubs did after getting support but still treated him like a loser). She paid her rent, but that’s where it ended. The kids had a place to sleep but that was all. She would not buy the kids clothes, backpacks, or school lunches. She told the school that she was a single parent that did not receive child support so that she could get the kids on free meals at school where they were all 3 required to eat breakfast and lunch daily. Yes, that is illegal. Yes, that is welfare fraud. Yes, the fraud was reported to the school and Baby Mama was caught. But they did not press charges and so her fraud continued. She told the church that she just needed some extra help as a “single mom” and they too gave her gift cards as if she was a charity case. All while having about $1,000 per week in her bank account. Not to mention the kids had warts, were failing school, their teeth were decaying. I guess homework and dental floss weren’t in the budget either. I’m not sure. And don’t even get me started about the lice infestation she couldn’t get under control.

Her income. Her work ethic. Let’s talk about that for a moment. In the 8 years I’ve known Hubs, Baby Mama has had at least 12-15 different jobs in various cities. She’s lived in 4 different cities in DFW so far, each time changing jobs time and time again. She lost her one steady job at the bank after getting into our bank records without legal consent in 2013 or 2014 (oh yes, no wonder she kept talking about how much money Stepmom made), and then went through 5 jobs in less than 18 months trying to find “something” that would work for her. The year all 3 kids lived with Hubs full time, Baby Mama could have taken the opportunity to do whatever she wanted to career wise or school wise, but chose to do nothing different. Then there was her worker’s comp claim. Then her car wreck claim. And her new marriage in October 2016. After she got married she decided not to go back to work at all (shocker LOL….) and she started taking online college classes which I’ll discuss again in a minute. She lives off of her current husband, her ex husband, and I guess whatever church support she can get. Her new husband has no idea what’s about to happen to his finances. I actually feel a bit of compassion for the guy. Self improvement is great. College is great. But with only 1 child at home who is 17 years old and a senior in high school, I don’t see how or why Baby Mama is not able to work at least part time. And why not work full time and wait one more year to go to college to help the child in her care finish strong? Ya know, put the kid first for a change? The other 2 kids live with us full time and we both work and pay for everything for them, her 3 stepchildren live with their mom full time and I’ve heard they don’t even stay the night with them so they aren’t part of her financial responsibility as far as food and clothes go. Yet still, Baby Mama will not get and keep even a part time job and she’s been delinquent on her half of the kids medical bills for over a year now.

Her spending. That’s a BIG issue. Some how some way, Baby Mama has managed to fly out of state to visit relatives, travel to the Beach, get her nails done, get her hair done, buy herself new clothes, buy herself new shoes, buy herself brand new phones, buy herself a brand new car, pay for a wedding, go out to eat weekly if not more often than that for herself, but she “just can’t” buy her kids the small things they need when they need it at her house even if it only costs $10-$20 though she gets child support and promised to use it on the child (but didn’t). And for college, she’s enrolled in an extremely expensive private Christian school. Hopefully it’s on a grant or scholarship, but probably not. Not in full anyway. Hubs and I got our degrees at community college for about $500 per semester. My adult kids attend community college. But Baby Mama is going to ORU which is insanely expensive and she’s pursuing a degree that can’t even really be used anyway. She’s going to need at least a masters or doctorate to even be employable. But that goes back to her “spending” issue (which somehow will be Hubs fault too I’m sure LOL).

I know written blogs don’t show voice tone but truly I am laughing. I’m just tired of hearing the lies and one sided stories. There is ALWAYS two sides to every story y’all and it is about time that you heard our perspective because I’ve been watching this pity party for 8 years. Also, facts are facts and for what I’ve said in this blog, we have attorney general records, school records, cancelled checks, certified court documents, police records from the frauds, her deposition transcript, letters from our bank, and plenty of other supporting documents scanned into our computer to verify our facts. Meanwhile, Baby Mama only has the false story she tells to people to gain their pity, attention, pretend that she is a victim, and gets people to give her money and assistance and feel sorry for her “for the kids”.

Baby Mama, I give up trying to get you to stop complaining about my Husband but please know this, this blog is so the people you trash him to will at least have the opportunity to see your situation from another perspective. So they can see the truth.

Hopefully one day YOU will see the truth too, stop talking smack about my man, and may even tell him THANK YOU for helping you and all of the kids as much as he has. He has done so much for those kids and for you even and you’re still not satisfied. Nothing he has ever done has been enough for you. Never has been. Probably never will be.

5 years to go. We’ve got this ☕️<<<<<<<

P.S. about one month after this blog was published she finally paid for the 17 year old to get a cut. Miracles happen. Or maybe she finally read this blog.

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Problem Identification … Quick Thoughts and What Nots

I had a thought today and wanted to write it down really quickly before moving on to the normal, busy weeknight family life.

The thought … Problem Identification.

It’s important to me not to harp on problems. Identify them. Brainstorm possible solutions. Make goals for dealing with the issues that we can influence. If we can’t change it, move on. Sort of like the popular prayer “God, grant me the serenity (peace) to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. Oh yes, that is totally applicable to the blended family LOL.

My mind took a quick inventory of the various problems, issues and struggles in our blended family. I wondered to myself, what do I think the biggest issue is between my Hubs and his Ex, and our two households. The answer – in my opinion – is communication.

Isn’t that one of the toughest issues in most relationships? And if you didn’t communicate well with your ex back when you were married to them, how can you really expect to communicate well with them once they are your ex and carry their two best friends, Bitterness and Resentment, with them everywhere they go? Do you have to be bitter and resentful? No. But if you are or have an ex who is, it sure does make communication so much worse.

Have you identified any key issues in your blended family? If so, is there one in particular that you CAN tackle and influence for the better? Are there any that you must simply accept for your own peace?

Be encouraged! Over time, with age, with maturity, with acceptance of the personality and home differences, it really does get better or at least EASIER. You develop a “new normal”. Things that used to drive us CRAZY about the ex’s behavior and house really do roll off of our backs now. Not the big things of course such as the kids health, safety, schooling, etc. but the little things.

For example, the kids came home last night and said that someone sent them Christmas money to their moms house. But, they were a little annoyed because their mom made them use it to buy their own clothes for the church Christmas program and to buy their own meal when they all went out to eat. They wanted to use the money for games or something fun but instead were told to buy clothes and food. In the past, things like that used to drive us crazy. Seriously. Crazy. But now it’s a teaching opportunity with the kids about communication, self advocating, and picking your battles.

We are so not perfect on this journey. Not even close actually. But we are definitely getting better and I choose to celebrate the victories. Sometimes that’s just the victory of “accepting the things you cannot change”.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas over this next week.

Hugs and support your way.

 

 

 

 

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Headache Edition #BlendedFamilyHellonEarth

Good morning from Texas y’all.

I love this blog, our small group, and having a good old-fashioned support system. This edition of #BlendedFamilyHellonEarth is almost too comical to draft. BUT, that’s the heart behind this website to begin with. Illustrating and sharing real life issues that can arise in a blended family. Not always – but sometimes – things that are just a routine, normal part of child raising can become full on war topics post divorce. Seriously. It’s sad but true.

This edition of Real Housewives is about headaches. For the past 2-3 months we have noticed that the youngest child either returns from his Mom’s with a headache or gets a really bad one at school the day after he returns from his Moms. On the Mondays following his Mom’s weekends he often takes a nap right after school before doing homework. Over Thanksgiving break they were there 9 nights and the kiddo came home saying he had a “migraine for 3 days” but when he stayed with his friends overnight it went away. He thinks maybe he’s allergic to something over there.

We had been tracking the timing of the headaches for the past few visits but with the ongoing nature over Thanksgiving, Hubs decided it was time to see if the ex knew what was going on possibly. The oldest boy gets headaches pretty easily due to allergies, too much time on electronics (and his school is paperless so he’s on an iPad A LOT), and definitely after being in a car. He gets motion sickness very easily so if he’s dropped off with a headache we usually assume it’s from being in the car. A glass of water and good night’s sleep typically works for him like a charm.

With the youngest, we simply can’t figure it out and inquiring minds want to know and need to know in case he needs to go see a doctor. He most definitely is sensitive to strong smells and chemicals. Ex. My daughter LOVES Downy unstoppables added to her bedding when it’s washed but the youngest kiddo hates it. He says it smells too strong and gives him a headache. When we deep clean the house using bleach, vinegar or pine sol, he says the same thing. He’s also allergic to hand sanitizer and it burns his hands and turns them very red. Maybe rubbing alcohol is the culprit? We aren’t really sure but my EMT medical tech wanna be spouse is going to figure it out LOL.

While brainstorming the headache issue, Hubs asked the kids what, if anything, the kiddos are around at their moms that is different from what they’re around at our house. Things like the woods, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, insect repellant, etc. They brain stormed various things it could be along with motion sickness, electronic usage, and possible dehydration (because they’ve come back several times dehydrated or heat sick even to the point of vomiting so that should be considered). In reply both kids said two things. (1) There are tons of trees and woods there so maybe it’s seasonal allergies (could be but he has no other symptoms of seasonal allergies here even when he goes camping) and (2) the kitchen trash can is loaded with mold and smells so bad that they stand as far away from the trash as possible and throw items into it like it’s a basketball game.

So, before the kids’ visit to their moms this past weekend, Hubs emailed her to see if she could tell what the child could be allergic to over there. Hubs always makes it a point to be very cordial, respectful and polite to his ex when he emails her (he’s been instructed by his lawyer to always communicate via email so that his attempts to co-parent are documented and so that’s what he does).

But in reply to Hubs’ email about this topic, the kids got in trouble. They were lectured, scolded, and informed that they are not allowed to discuss her house with us ever at any time. She proceeded to tell the youngest child that she doesn’t need her ex in her business and he’s not in charge of her house or her rules. (We are super clueless about all of these statements because Hubs never said anything negative about her house nor did he set up any rules whatsoever. So … insert shoulder shrug emoji here LOL).

Hubs emails the ex that the kids should NOT be in trouble for any of these discussions and she needs to stop pressuring them when they are there because it makes them uncomfortable and harms her relationship with them. They definitely feel like they have to walk on eggshells and can’t say even the slightest thing without getting in trouble with her.

In reply – I kid you not – in writing, she said many things including this: “Why didn’t you call regarding your concern?? Instead you send threatening and accusing email… The boys should not be questioned about my home… all this for headaches and a trash can that is now obsolete…”. I mean, she flipped her lid with him.

Y’all, I am sooooo imperfect. I’m an imperfect person with an imperfect past with imperfect parenting techniques who continues to attempt to walk through life with both good days and bad days. But one thing I can honestly say is that I really did not have co-parenting issues with my ex (until the TRO… but that’s another blog). We didn’t hire lawyers to handle our divorce, we reached all of our custody and property issues by agreement, and we maintained an “open door” policy post divorce. Ex. Several years after my divorce I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and heard an odd noise in my garage only to find my ex out there working on my son’s bicycle. My son had called him to see if he could fix his wheel so he popped in to work on it. Another time we woke up to my ex knocking on my front door bringing my son some drive through food. Even after I remarried we carpooled with each other to my son’s band concert that was out of town. When my ex bought his house, I went over with the kids and we had a painting party and I helped him paint and decorate the kids bedrooms there. Granted, that kind of arrangement could be considered odd or might make people feel uncomfortable, but it was important to me for my kids to maintain as normal a relationship with both of us as possible post divorce. Maybe that’s why I’m over here scratching my head so utterly confused that Hubs is getting scolded for asking about headaches and the kids are getting scolded for telling us about the trash can. Like seriously …. I can’t even.

Enjoy your week guys. Stay strong. Meditate. Exercise. Sleep well. Take your vitamins. We’ve got this. We will survive this season. Bumps and bruises no doubt, but we will survive.

7 years down. 5 years to go. And counting 🙂

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Blended Family – Baggage Edition

Howdy from Texas y’all.

Sorry if I’m blowing up your email today but I’ve got 4-5 blogs jotted down and finally have the time this morning to upload a couple of them. I tried to book a Pilates class but it was full, so blogging it is 🙂

Baggage. Good old fashioned baggage. Does anyone else carry it? I sure do and so does Hubs. Life teaches us lessons. If we are wise, we learn from them. But is it fair to our current partner when we carry baggage from our past relationship into our new relationship? Is it a lesson learned or is it baggage?

Let me give you a few illustrations for example only. Hubs was married for about a decade (hmmm… from maybe 1998-2008 give or take). When that marriage was having problems, he attended counseling. I’m sure that was difficult for him because he can be the quiet and shy type and warms up to people slowly over time (he’s a wise man for that. I should take note since I’ve never met a stranger and pretty much share all of my baggage immediately with nearly everyone I meet and that has definitely come back to bite me when it’s a gossip or liar who spreads that info and especially from a church small group setting. Yeah, I’ll never share in church again … ). But anyway, Hubs attended counseling in his prior marriage and found that it seemed to make things worse and the relationship ended anyway. So Hubs now has this check mark in his mind that counseling makes things more difficult, it doesn’t work, and he’s not open to doing it again. He’s “been there, done that”. I, on the other hand, have seen several of my friends and family law clients relationships blossom and bloom after attending counseling and I want to do it with him. One couple acquaintance of mine attend monthly whether they need it or not. I think it can be good to have a third party help you walk through your underlying issues, bounce things off of, give you encouragement and pointers and hold you accountable. If Hubs did not have that past experience – that baggage – would he be more willing to attend counseling with me because I feel I need it?

On my end, my long term ex boyfriend was very controlling. Very. Over nearly every aspect of my life. What I wore (that was a very big one because anything less than a baggy turtle neck made me look like a … insert bad word here). And I really wasn’t allowed to go out with my girlfriends. If I did, I had to check in with him and be home by 9 or 10 pm when he said he’d call me. He would even drive by my house to make sure my vehicle was home. If I did schedule a girls night because he was busy, amazingly enough he would end up free and would want me to change my plans. When I wanted to go to law school, he told me he would never support me going to law school because it would conflict with his law firm and his long term goals and alter the team work we had going on (I said he’d just be jealous that I’d be the better lawyer haha).  Though I loved him dearly, I rebelled. Big time. I started wearing everything he hated, going out with my friends, not returning calls, and really ticking him off. Then when I met Hubs, I was very clear that I was never going to be manipulated or controlled ever again. Throughout our relationship I have been on a playground seesaw going from far left (honoring and respecting his wishes) to far right (regardless of how you feel, I have to do what I feel is right and what is best for me and you’re not the boss of me). My ex spouse also did me really dirty in the area of finances so I swore I’d never let another man ever mess up my bank account. We could have separate accounts. He could physically pay the bills. But I am going to sit there with him while he does it so I can make sure that everything credit reported is paid, money is saved, business expenses are itemized and there aren’t any credit card bills coming in the mail that I didn’t even know about. Oh yes, I even pull the credit report for both of us at least annually (everyone should). My past experience – the baggage – left me with a great need to control my own life regardless of my marital status. If I did not have that past baggage, would I be more willing to see his requests more as simple boundary requests rather than as an attempt to control me? Would I be more trusting of him as a man? Would he be less frustrated with me? Probably so.

Above I mentioned that I’d never share in church again. And I haven’t. In fact, I manage (or control lol) my “own” small group because I’ve got serious trust issues y’all.

Is that wisdom speaking from life lessons learned or is that baggage that I carry? Or are they one in the same? Or is there a balance somewhere?

I’m really not sure if this “helped” anyone but it’s been repeating in my mind over and over so it was time to jot it down so I can move on LOL.

Coffee cheers your way and have a great day!

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