Clay Best Friend Necklace and Galentine’s Cards!

Polymer Clay Best Friend Necklaces

Polymer Clay Best Friend Necklaces

Are you watching Parks & Recreation? Because you should be. It’s the best show on television, easily. Not only is it hilarious, but all the characters actually like and support each other. It’s the kind of people you want to know, and the kind of town you want to live in, mostly. I could do without the raccoon infestation.

On that show Leslie Knope starts a new holiday for the day before Valentine’s Day which she calls Galentine’s Day. It’s a chance for her to get together with all her lady friends and celebrate their friendships, and I think that is so beyond super brilliant. My lady friendships are something I appreciate more and more with each passing year, and I think we absolutely do deserve a holiday. So I made some cards I’ll be passing out to my friends, and which you are welcome to use as well.

Galentine's Day Cards

Galentine’s Day Cards

I made six different versions, just click and save, and spread the lady love.

Galentine's Day Card 6 Galentine's Day Card 5 Galentine's Day Card 4 Galentine's Day Card 2 Galentine's Day Card 3 Galentine's Day Card 1

But since some friendships deserve more than just cards, I couldn’t stop there. I wanted to make a modern grown up version of the little gold necklaces that best friends would give each other when I was a teenager (I hear. I don’t have any personal experience with that. Cue the sad trombones of Tresa’s depressing childhood). Wearing one half of those “Best Friend” necklaces just looked so special to me, and now that I’m a grown up I can make up for lost time.

Clay Necklace Tutorial Step 1
Take some well-conditioned polymer clay and roll it out to about 1/4″ thick. Well-conditioned just means that it’s nice and smooth and pliable, and not a dried out crumbly piece of garbage. You just have to squish it and squish it and squish it for a while to make that happen, but if you have a particularly bad case you can mix in a bit of petroleum jelly. Once it’s rolled out, use a cookie cutter to cut a heart shape, just as if you were making sugar cookies. Once you use it on the clay, however, you won’t want to use it on cookies again, so the dollar store is a great place to look for one.

Clay Necklace Tutorial Step 2
Cut a jagged line down the center of your heart and smooth out any rough edges.

Clay Necklace Tutorial Step 3
Poke a hole in the top of each piece so it can be worn as a necklace. A pencil works great for this job.

Clay Necklace Tutorial Step 4
I used letter stamps to put “Be Fri” on one piece and “St Ends” on the other, but you could also do that by hand with a dull pencil. Smooth out any stray marks.

Clay Necklace Tutorial Step 5
This step is optional, but I wanted to add a little glitter. So I used this stuff called Luster Dust and brushed it onto the clay like I was applying blush to my face. I love the cool opalescent shimmer this stuff adds. Bake the clay pieces according to the instructions on the package.

Clay Necklace Tutorial Step 6
Once the clay is baked and cooled, you can add some paint to the debossed letters to make them stand out. I rubbed a bit of acrylic paint over the letters, and then came back with a washcloth or a baby wipe to remove the excess paint. Use a light touch over the top of the letters so you don’t just wipe all the paint away.

Clay Necklace Tutorial Step 7

With the paint dry you can add a ribbon and your necklace is ready to give away.

I don’t really have one specific person I would describe as my Best Friend, so I made a few sets of these to pass out among a treasured group of friends. I feel a lot more lucky that way. I wish I could go back and tell my 7th grade self that there would come a time when I had such an embarrassment of riches in the friend department.

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Atti makes our dreams come true

Atti says his line

Twice a year at church, the children’s organization performs a program they’ve spent the last six months preparing. They offer readings, they sing songs, and all the proud parents giggle at the children’s antics and cry at the sweet little voices singing about God’s love. Somebody’s kid always does something unintentionally hilarious, it’s a welcome break from the usual speeches, and for most people it is the highlight of the year.

For infertile people, it is a gauntlet from hell. It is having every cherished wish held up just beyond arm’s reach. It is sitting in a crowd of people reveling in their happiness and good fortune while you feel like the force of your emptiness will turn you inside out. It is feeling the mask ripped from your face and knowing that everyone in the room knows you are different, wrong, unworthy. It is feeling like the black hole of need threatening the happiness of everyone around you, the bitter note that ruins a perfect meal, like your sorrow is glowing so brightly it is obscuring the vision of those around you and everyone would be better off if you weren’t there.

In our early infertility years, Bear and I would try to cheer each other up with inappropriate jokes. We’d pick out which kid would be most like ours – the booger eater, the scream singer, the ad libber – and tease each other about which of our less than desirable characteristics our future offspring would be sure to put on display. But as the years went on, those jokes got less and less funny.

Eventually I just added Primary Program Sunday to the list of weeks I took off for my mental health. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and two primary programs a year found me staying in my bed, pretending to have a cold, wishing that a little nyquil was all it took to make me feel better.

Primary Program
Even once we got our little hero, we never knew if this was a rite of passage that he’d participate in. During the primary program in our last ward he was down away from the performance and only told his teacher he wanted to join the other kids at the last minute. He joined them for a song, and then while his teacher held him he said loud enough for the microphone to pick up, “I love kisses!” and gave his teacher a kiss on the cheek. It was heaven. My kid was the ad-libber.

Now that Atti’s a little older, the kids his age actually have parts. He had a line he had to memorize, they practiced speaking into the microphone, they learned sign language to perform along with one of the songs. It was official. And with Atti being so verbally limited, and even more pathologically shy, I had no idea what he would go along with. He’s known to break into huge watery sobs when one of his favorite songs is over, or get mad and throw things because he’s embarrassed by being the center of attention. But he didn’t do any of those things. He was a total pro.

We sat in the front row to make it as easy as we could to get him up and down from the stand, and that meant that he had a prime view of his favorite audience. He kept saying, “You got your mama and your daddy.” He blew us kisses, he picked his nose, he had a giggle fit, he scream sang, he danced so much he nearly tossed himself down the stairs. When his class came forward to say their lines, the teacher whispered in each child’s ear and they repeated it into the microphone. Atti put the microphone into his mouth, gave it a couple of chomps, and then said, “I AM MADE IMAGE!” Which was close enough.

Taking pictures in church is considered the height of irreverence, but I couldn’t help myself. Bear tried to wrestle the phone away from me but I just grabbed him by the tie, stared him right in the eye and said, “I have been waiting my whole life for this. You let me take my picture.”

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Year of Pleasures: Love Note

Love Note

Woke up, went to the computer, and discovered this waiting for me. I know how to pick em.

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Why I love antiques

Making the new couch at home
I’ve been scouring Craigslist since moving into the new and much bigger house. We have a lot more space to fill up and we’re doing it on a strict budget, so my Craigslist mojo has come in handy once again. I’ll show off my finds later this week, but for today I had to tell you the story of this gorgeous couch. 8 ft’ long, original upholstery in impeccable condition from the 60′s, and we got it for 80$. We had to pack Atti off to a friends house for the day while we drove 2 hours each way to claim it, but it was still worth it.

Once Atti was safely off playing, we jumped in the van to discover that the battery was dead. AAA came and sorted us out and then, an hour later than we planned on, we made our way down to a small agricultural town. The owner was so understanding and had even shampooed the couch for us, her husband helped Bear load it in the car, and then they both helped us turn it and reposition and experiment until we managed to get the full 8 feet in and get the back shut.

Before we left she asked if I would meet her mother, Agnes. The couch belonged to her and she wanted to meet the person taking it away. Agnes is 98 years old and about to enter a nursing home. This couch was one of her last remaining possessions and it was hard for her to let go of it. I can only imagine. Curling up with your spouse as you watch T.V., watching your children cruise along it taking their first steps, story time, parties, visits with friends and families, a couch is a pretty integral part of family life. I took her hand and assured her that I would take good care of it, and we went to leave. Only to discover that our car battery had died. Again.

But before we could call AAA, Agnes’s daughter Bernadette came to our rescue. She drove Bear to Autozone to buy a new battery, pulled out all her tools, and painstakingly taught him all about a car’s electrical system, how to change a battery, and how to know when the problem was more than a battery.

While Bernadette and Bear handled the car, I sat in the tree shaded back patio with Agnes while she told me about her life growing up on a dairy farm. She was expected to pull her weight as much as her brothers and she got so good at farm chores that her father started calling her “Tony,” because she was just like one of the boys. She milked the cows by hand, had her own saddle horse that she used to follow her father all through the foothills, and when the town had their 4th of July parade she would dress her horse up and ride proudly down main street. She raised four children in a little house in a small town and took care of this couch like it was her prized possession.

Bernadette had assumed that I was from a consignment shop, since that’s most of my Craigslist competition, and Agnes was so relieved when I told her that this couch was for our own house. That I had a room full of books this couch was going to nestle up to and Atti and I were going to spend our days snuggled up together and reading story after story. That this couch was so long that tall people like me and Bear were going to take long Sunday naps on it while Atti played with his cars at our feet. That our kitties would curl up on it and adopt it as their own.

With the new battery in place thanks to help from Bernadette, we climbed in the car to leave. Agnes tearfully waved as she said, “Goodbye, couch.” With Bear working in elder care, we’re well acquainted with the agonizing change a loss of independence brings. Objects matter then, a token of all the life behind us. Often the memories are gone or confused, but the object provides the anchor. It’s a symbol of all the things time takes with it – memories, love, relationships, people. I rode the whole way home laying on that couch, feeling the warmth of all the years of love Agnes and her family embedded in the stuffing and springs, and carrying in my heart the bittersweet trust we’ll all eventually have to find someday, as we face the generation behind us and turn the world over to them.

I’ll be good to it, Agnes. Thank you for entrusting it to me.

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No words.

Reunited
I’ve been trying to write this post for three days and I still find myself sitting here with my mouth open and the words stuck in my throat.

Sunday night was the big Listen To Your Mother show and it was magic and empowering and has changed everything for me in so many ways. But I can’t even begin to process it because something else happened Sunday night that has me kind of reeling. And emotional. And giddily happy. And then scared silly. And then weeping with joy.

My youngest sister Dee flew in to watch me perform. She didn’t tell me, we hadn’t even talked on the phone in ages, and she wasn’t even sure if she was going to surprise me at all or just leave after the show – she was that unsure of what to expect from me. That last time I saw this woman she was ten years old. She got married nearly a year ago and I wasn’t there. I wanted to be. Desperately. But I knew that fractured family relationships would bring disaster on a day that she deserved to have for herself. So I put my dreams for her back in the spot in my heart where they’ve been locked for all these years. Hoping that a day would come when we could be together without the web of family dynamics.

love
She called my name as I was walking across the theater lobby and I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. She was crying, I was crying, my friend Sarah was snapping pictures while crying. I immediately made her and her husband Chris come back to my house where we stayed up until 4 am talking and crying and eating and then after a little more time on Monday they were back on a plane and I’ve been walking around in a stupor ever since.

When I ended my relationship with my parents, it was the wisest and hardest thing I’ve ever done. But it carried heartbreaking consequences for my relationships with my siblings. I have two sisters I don’t talk to, both for different variations of the same problem – repeating destructive patterns in our relationships that were set up for us by our parents. I wish nothing but every life’s happiness for them, but I am unconvinced that that includes each other. We all see our upbringings very differently and after years of sad experience I don’t think it’s possible for me to have a relationship with a sibling that denies my truth. I am rarely upfront about the pain I feel, I usually mask it under black humor and defiance, but this discovery was made at a cost so dear I didn’t think I could bear it. Some days I still don’t. I have to be careful what movies I watch or music I listen to because anything that reminds me of my siblings will send me into the dark place for weeks. This also means that I have kept the two siblings I do talk to at a distance. I am the only one who doesn’t have a relationship with my parents and after years of heartbreak so intense there are no words for it, I am wary and scared that all the hard work of healing I’ve done will be undone by getting too close to people who don’t see what I see. Not that I expect everyone to accept my way or no way, it’s just that for the sake of my emotional health I at least need people to let me have my own experience and not rewrite it into what they need.

Dee and Atti

Dee called me out on some of the ways I haven’t tried enough with her. And she was right. Because it is so so much harder to have hope than to just close the door and lock it. And she wasn’t quite right, because for most of her life she was too young to deal with this stuff. She was dependent on my parents and siblings and my own stuff would have been completely inappropriate to dump on her. Plus, I desperately wanted to believe she would never need to. That somehow it would have all magically gone over her head and I could pay the sacrifice of giving her up to keep her from ever feeling it. But I see now that I wasn’t giving her enough credit. She’s 24 now, not the 10 year old still living in my heart.

I think the thing that was the most┬ásurprising┬áto me in all of this was her reaction to me. She was so happy and so emotional and something as simple as me inviting her back to my house meant so much to her, it all made me realize I had no comprehension of what I meant to her. I’ve seen myself from afar, loving that little girl I helped raise like she was my own, tortured by the loss of her in my life, and I never once considered that she felt that way about me. I was going off of the experiences I’d had with my other siblings and I never suspected that she would miss me like I have missed her. And I don’t think she had any comprehension of how much I did. By climbing on that airplane she was taking a big vulnerable leap into the unknown and hoping that she wouldn’t be rejected. At first I was shocked she would feel that way, and then I thought, of course she did. Why don’t I pick up the phone to call her? For the same reason. Only I let it stop me.

When you see these feel good stories of friends and families reunited, they always stop at the hug. And there’s a reason for that. What comes next is pretty terrifying. We both have a lot of work ahead of us to forge a relationship that is free from the reins of family dynamics and is one that serves us both. We have a lot of time to make up for and a lot of assumptions to unlearn. But I feel so hopeful this time around. Any of the other times I’ve been here I haven’t felt matched. It always felt great, but dangerously one-sided, and sure enough, it was only a matter of time before the patched plaster cracked and the fractures returned. This time, I think it might actually stick.

 

 

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5 years old

Dapper

5 years old. 5 of them. 5 entire years.

I’ve been struggling all day to come up with something to say to mark the occasion, and I’m coming up completely blank. How have there been five years with this little guy? I’m still calling him a toddler!

I know every good parent thinks their child hung the moon, but I think mine might just have done it. We’ve got it bad for this kid. Jaws dropped, gasping, hands clasped, bad for this kid. He’ll be playing with his toys and we’ll be on the couch just watching him, marveling, until one of us says, “isn’t he the best kid?” We’re constantly amazed at how his little mind works, his tender little heart, his musical talent, his crazy smart brain, and his world flattening will.

That will is both his greatest blessing and his greatest curse. It’s that will that keeps him working and working and working to climb onto the couch, pushing himself onto his knees, stretching to grab on to the cushion, pushing up on his toes to try and stand, balancing precariously while he hoists himself up with his arms, pulling his torso further up until he can use the couch as a fulcrum to tip his uncooperative legs up behind him. I never had any idea how much physicality is required to exist in the world until I became his mom, and now every day I watch as he overcomes pain and isolation and biology to do things that rarely even merit a mention in the life of another kid. He is my hero.

But that will also makes him pretty dang uncooperative sometimes. When something is his idea, there is no force on earth that can stop him from doing it. But when it’s not his idea, there is no force on earth that can make him. As we start thinking about kindergarten, the big thing that would hold him back is his ability to follow directions. His speech therapists have begged and bribed him to say one little “b” word, but he just put his head down on his desk until it was time for them to leave. I never wanted to use discipline when it came to something that might be affected by his disability, but knowing what a smart little kid I have and what is at stake if he didn’t cooperate, I started laying the hammer down. Overnight he went from not being willing to say ‘hello’ to saying ‘Can I have a cookie, please?’ He’s such a little stinker and when I’m ready to wring his neck I have to sit back and remind myself that it’s that stubborn will that is going to get him walking. Walking, and through school, and on to college and an independent life. Nothing will stop him.

Having a kid like this, a kid faced with so many challenges and who so stubbornly attacks them, changes you totally. Being even a mediocre parent to a kid like this earns you shame. A kid like this requires you to rise up and meet him. And because of that, my experience in motherhood hasn’t at all been what I’ve expected. I feel far more proud of my efforts than guilt about what is left to be done. I don’t find the drudgery in motherhood to be a problem, because I’ve seen that drudgery is how great things happen. You push and you stretch and you stand and you balance and you pull and it all looks like a lot of effort for naught, but that’s what it takes to accomplish even the smallest tasks.

Laundry is never ending and the floor is always dirty and there is always some person you are neglecting or deadline you are missing, but all of those tasks add up to create something pretty damn powerful – nurturing. Most of us take for granted how many muscles have to cooperate and obey for us to stand up and walk to the kitchen. But Atti doesn’t. And I don’t. And most of us take for granted how many little attentions have to be paid to nurture a child, a relationship, an environment, but I don’t. Not anymore.

Atti has shown me how to see all the little dots in between where I am and where I want to be. So every day I move forward a couple of dots at a time and I don’t feel guilty for not being at the end yet, I keep my eye on where I’m headed and the life I want to create for my family and I keep moving. And that means that I’m going to be the mom that Atti needs and push and pull and balance and fight to help him make his way.

This kid of mine got that world flattening will from me.

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Work/Spouse Balance

Best Dad

 

I don’t write a ton about my husband Bear here. Part of that is out of job security. If this blog comes up in a google search for his name, it could affect things. It already has once.

Bear was listed in a lawsuit for a company he worked with years ago, and the lawyer deposing him slid a bunch of printouts of my blog across the table to him. He loved coming home to tell me that he had to admit in court that his name was ‘Bear’.

But the main reason is because it turns out that I do have one boundary after all. In all the writing I do about my bad childhood, my infertility and health problems, my politics and religion, the one thing I want to keep to myself is him.

I’ve been keeping a pretty ridiculous work load, and so has Bear. He’s now running two buildings and he’s super dedicated. He also works with the teenage boys at church, bakes whenever he has an excuse, and plays sports with his friends one night a week. With Atti on summer vacation from both school and therapy, his packed schedule is suddenly empty and he’s looking to me to entertain him while I’m trying to keep up with my own crazy workload.

I can’t remember if I’ve talked about it here or kept it to myself out of superstition, but I’m working crazy hard on a novel. It’s something I’ve been working towards since I first started blogging eight years ago and I’m finally doing it. But since it has some Mormon themes, I’m totally feeling the pressure of the media attention on Mormons. I feel like my best chance of it getting published is getting it written as soon as possible, or at least by November.

So I’m working like crazy, Atti wants all of my attention, and Bear is gone most of the time. The other day I finally flipped. It was Bear’s night to go play softball but I hadn’t gotten any writing done, Atti was getting on my last nerve and I just lost it. I felt like Bear wasn’t hearing me when I asked for help and so I got mad. Bear promised he was working on making things get better, but in my state that wasn’t good enough. I said, “But what are you going to do to make it better, NOW?”

He stayed home from the game, promised to give up some things, I calmed down, but he was pouting at me for the rest of the night.

The next day he made a joke about giving up baking and I didn’t know what he was talking about. Turns out that when I said “What are you going to do now,” he thought I meant going forward, when I just meant, now. I wanted him to miss his game to give me a break, and he thought I wanted him to give up every single one of his extra curricular activities, for good.

He was pouting the night of our fight, but he was willing to do it.

He’s a great partner.

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Year of Pleasures – Potted Plant

Mother's Day present

This is the Mother’s Day present Atti brought be back from school. I don’t know what kind of plant this little sprout is, but getting a present from school, with a little handmade gift tag and a milk carton wrapped up with tissue paper, is the symbol of everything I’ve been waiting for in motherhood. When I longed for children I never wished for a baby. I wished for a preschooler.

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The Muppet Movie and Fulfilled Wishes

Atti and me at the movies
When I was knee deep in the mess of infertility, I was not allowed to watch the movie Matilda. Specifically for one last scene when Miss Honey and Matilda play and rejoice in their happiness together and the narrator says, “As bad as things were before, that’s how good they became.”

I would be reduced to heaving sobs, every. single. time. I saw that (which was more often than you’d think since it’s a cable staple) and mourn that that day hadn’t come for me. And doubting that anything ever could make up for the bad childhood, lost relationships, and sorrow of infertility, but so desperately wishing that something would.

Atti and Bear at the movies
Thursday I was invited to a free press screening of the new Muppet Movie, so Bear and Atti and I drove up to Sacramento, giddy with anticipation. Like most people of my generation, the Muppets were incredibly important to me growing up. Sesame Street taught me to read, the Muppet Show taught me about humor, and I watched the Muppets Take Manhattan so many times I could quote every line. They were a blissful, dreamy, happy spot in an otherwise sad childhood.

I tried to keep my expectations low and just focus on how fun it would be to take Atticus to his first movie. He’s so particular about what he’ll pay attention to that he doesn’t really watch movies, but I have yet to max out his attention span on Sesame Street, so we thought that he’d be down for the Muppets. And he was. He laughed at Fozzie, he danced to the music, and I was in heaven getting to introduce him to something that meant everything to me at his age.

Then came a part in the movie when Kermit and Miss Piggy sang Rainbow Connection, and I totally lost it. I was overwhelmed in that moment of watching my baby love something that I loved, awash in the nostalgia of my own childhood, reconnecting with what felt like long lost friends, and that scene in Matilda came back to me. As bad as things were before, that’s how good they became.

I don’t think anything can ever “make up” for hardship. That darkness will always be a part of me that I have to embrace, but now, so is the joy. Times have been hard, but they have also been great. And having my little guy on my lap, with my big guy next to me as we watched the Muppets return to us in exactly the way they should? Well, I’ll be coasting on that joy for a long time.

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Living Room Art Wall, Part 2

First half of artwork wall
Ready for more of the tour? This is the side I’ve had for the longest. I thought I’d just weight the pictures towards one side of the wall, but I didn’t love it. And the nesting impulse was just begging for more to do, so I kept right on going all the way across. But these images are really what started it all.

The lovers
The Lovers by seller Delany LaFae. This photographer is the same one who did the Sunday Afternoon picture from last time. She was having a 2 for 1 sale, so after finding the picture of the books and tea I looked through her shop to find my free one and came upon this picture I loved even more. Talk about mushy love art. She visits these trees several times throughout the year and takes pictures of them in different seasons. This one was my favorite – in the rain.

home
Home Sweet Home by seller benben. More amazing illustration. This picture has a place of honor right in the middle because it’s such a beautiful symbol of our foremost goal for our home. That it’s a place of sanctuary. I’m nuts about the modern graphic treatment of such an old fashioned ideal.

Hope letterpress
Hope letterpress by seller Sweet Harvey. You all know how I feel about letterpress. This artist is a great one and I fell totally in love with the sentiment behind this work.

owl on dictionary page
Owl from seller Little Rice There are a whole lot of etsy shops printing images on vintage dictionary pages. I love owls as a symbol of wisdom, so this one seemed like a perfect fit.

Atti with wonder
This is one of my favorite pictures of Atti I’ve ever taken and the only family photo to make the wall. I just love his little face looking so full of wonder, gazing out into his future. Plus he looks so handsome with his olive colored eyes.

And lastly,

Gethsemane
Gethsemane by artist J. Kirk Richards. This piece is really special to me. I could probably write an entire post just about this one. It’s my lone non-etsy purchase, mainly because most non-etsy artists are out of my price range. Richards offers some of his artwork as open stock prints so I was able to get this one really affordably. Despite being a religious person, I don’t have any religious artwork in my home. Everything I’ve seen just didn’t really move me. So much of it is so ubiquitous that they’re almost like family photos, I couldn’t find anything that felt, well, transcendent.

Then I found this piece and was moved by it. But even better, I saw that angel and it looked markedly feminine to me. I’ve been in love ever since. It made me remember this pivotal experience I had as a kid that may have been the moment I embraced feminism. I was reading about Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and of the angel that attended him in his hour of greatest need. As a young, earnest, emotional, teenager I read that and wished that I could have been that angel. I told someone about that wish and they said, “It couldn’t have been you. It would have had to have been someone who had the Priesthood.” That reaction broke my little teenage heart and led me to challenge those views ever since. And I had forgotten all about that experience until I saw that painting.

I’m so pleased with how this project has turned out. I think you can get a good sense of what is important to our family. Education, home, faith, wonder, knowledge, humor, courage, a lot of love, and some cats.

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