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Thursday, 25 March 2010

Guilty Conscience

We are going to play a little game called, Confessionals, because I have been feeling terrible about something I did nearly four years ago. But first, a little background info on why this is plaguing me especially these last few weeks.

Four years ago, I was running very close to being late for work (for the second time that week... not a good week) and as I was pulling into the parkade I would normally park in, it was unusually full! Up and up and up I drive thinking "man o man, I DO NOT have time for this!" Finally, a small spot near the fire escape doors! I am typically rather good with spacial relation skills but I was driving my brand new van (that had been purchased with the monies raised through a fundraiser for Isabel and through the financial contributions of Manitoba Hydro Employee Assistance Fund and Kinsmen Club).

I begin to pull into the angular spot next to this white van when I begin to hear the horrible sound of metal grinding up against metal... NO WAY! You have got to be kidding me! I pull back out to see that I have scraped the right side of this white van leaving a lovely green line... Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap... I can't deal with this right now!

So my not-so-intelligent logic at the time? Find a parking spot I actually fit in quick and at my first morning break, I'll run back out and leave a message on the white van's windshield! (Yeah, because making up for an additional five minutes of tardiness makes more sense than being accountable to a FAMILY vehicle that could possibly be left with a $200-500 deductible payment!)


Needless to say, when I returned at my first opportunity, the white van was gone. Now I would be lying if there wasn't a smidgen of relief but that was immediately swallowed up by guilt. Had I felt guilty enough, I would have phoned the police station to say "hey, if anyone with a white van comes in to make a report of a hit and run, I am the guilty party."

But I didn't even do that...

A hit and run. Me. A mother of two at the time who is supposed to be setting a good example for her children, someone who has preached the value of accountability many, many times, someone who is supposed to be a good citizen and choose what is RIGHT over what is CONVENIENT. A blatant failure on my part.

Why is this especially eating away at me now? On March 16th, I parked on the streets of downtown Winnipeg to attend Melina's voice festival through the Royal Conservatory of Music. It was a beautiful day! I was going to be cutting it pretty close with my parking meter expiring (are we noticing a pattern here?) so I was enjoying a little jog on my way back to the van when I noticed paper flapping on my windshield... crap!

Upon approaching the van, the papers flapping in the wind revealed not parking tickets but two handwritten notes:

"Someone hit your van, a blue truck license plate XXX XXX. Here's my name & number as a witness".

My first instinct? Was not to go and check out the damage, it was to call these two strangers and thank them for their act of kindness! In fact, I forgot about the damage all-together as I just stared up at the heavens baffled by the goodness these strangers showed me when I did not show that white van's owner that same goodness.

But reality sets in and I examine the rear bumper that is starring back at me like the hunchback of Notre Dame! Ok, not that bad, but it was enough for Manitoba Public Insurance to write-off the entire back bumper!

What is the protocol with hit and runs? Police report followed by MPI claim so as I am driving to the police station, I am wondering if maybe I can finally ask them to look up any reports from white vans in 2006 from that particular parkade. Then finally, finally, finally, I could contact this person and repay them for the trouble I caused them. Hope of resolution finally begins to set in...

Police report goes well and the lady police officer comes out to my van to inspect the damage. "Ah yes" she says "it is clear these are brand new marks... and look over here." She begins to walk around the rest of the van and comes to the scratches at the front driver's side. "Oh dear, and is this from today, too?"

"Um, no... I am actually hoping you can help me with this one... I was responsible for a hit and run four years ago and I am hoping that your reports can help me find the person I hit."

She looked at me and said "well, we can try." She chuckled somewhat and said "well isn't this karma for you, then?"

I answered, "Not really... I had two witnesses and won't have to worry about swallowing the cost of my own deductible!"

Back to the computer and she begins to type away based on the info I can recall. No report was ever made. Now I feel even worse! So this family has been living with a scrapped up van for four years??? Ah man!

But it doesn't end there. Because our van is our main family vehicle, we have it insured with a loss-recovery clause meaning that we get a replacement vehicle should anything happen to ours. Monday was the earliest we could get our van into the autobody shop and Duane went to pick up the replacement vehicle for our family. We were to meet back home where he would switch all three car seats and we could resume relatively normal life!

Duane walks into the house upon his return and I walk up to the kitchen sink to get myself a drink of water (and to sneak a peak at the "new vehicle" we get to drive for the next few days) and nearly drop my glass of water...

There in our driveway sat our replacement vehicle for a hit and run... and would you believe it was a WHITE VAN???

Ok, ok! I get it! I am a terrible person!

So for crying out loud, if any of you out there know of a person who drives a white van who got their passenger side scraped up with a green mark in a parkade from downtown Winnipeg sometime between April and September of 2006, would you PLEASE tell them about this blog entry, have them post a comment and I will contact them??

Or if any of you notice a white van with such markings, write down their license plate and let me know!

Otherwise, I will just have to resort to some community service that would be equivalent to $200-500 just to ease my conscience! So there you have my shameful confessional.

While I write about the world being a beautiful place, every now and again, I make the dumb decision to contribute not-so-goodness to this world. I would really love to minimize my negative contributions (in fact, I would really prefer not to have any at all!) but the truth remains that I am just plain old human. But the lesson has certainly solidified the value of "do the right thing, especially when it seems very difficult." And of course, "Be accountable for your mistakes."

So here's hoping you are having a good day... not being woken up at 5:30 in the morning due to a guilty conscience or the need to let everyone know where you failed as a kind and considerate human being! And if you drive a white van with a green streak on the side, I am SOOOOOO sorry and look forward to connecting with you and finally making this right!

God bless out there! Thanks for lending me your ears... or eyes!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

What firemen REALLY do...

I should post a disclaimer here...

I was in the kitchen while Duane was checking his email in the office here when suddenly, his high pitched laughter kicked into gear (which means something is REALLY funny). Naturally, I ran in to watch this video clip a fellow fireman sent him.

This is a commercial (which will be revealed by the end of the clip) so hopefully you will see the humour in it as we did. If it can make you laugh out loud the way we were rolling on the floor, then that will be satisfying for me!

However, if you find the content somewhat questionable, please accept my humble apology! But I had to take the risk with the sincerest hope this would make you all laugh!

Much love and laughter to all of you out there! And never doubt the hard work that goes on in our firehalls! Hee hee hee!

Monday, 15 March 2010

The Magic Pencil

So we have established over and over again that motherhood is this gloriously painful process of stripping away all sense of pride and ego to reveal a humbling core of who you truly are... good AND bad! Well, Melina (my darling teenage daughter) is of no exception to this process for me.

We were in the kitchen and she was working on some homework and I am not sure how we even came upon the topic of my character but alas, we did. She laughed and said "mom, you are so cheesy some times!" A line, I have heard from her on far too many occasions at which I reply "well, that works well for pizzas and lasagnas and spinach artichoke dips, etc..." But this time, I asked her "oh yeah, how so?" Big mistake...

She picks up her pencil, mockingly looks longingly at it, and begins the following monologue:

"Just look at this pencil! It is positively fascinating to think that this tiny wooden pencil came from a majestic tree that likely made thousands more of these pencils that other people are now holding in their hands as we speak! And this little pencil helps to convey the very thoughts and ideas from INSIDE of us and brings them OUT where the world can partake of it!" Cue the mock tears (which I thought was a little over the top) "It's just AMAZING."

Alright, alright, that's quite enough o-daughter-of-mine who will no longer be getting her allowance this week! Which is precisely what I managed to say to her through my bursts of laughter. Well, hey, you've got to admit... that was a pretty accurate impersonation of me, whether I like to admit it or not!

But then that gets my thoughts going. Am I seriously that melodramatic and yes, cheesy? Please, dear God, tell me I am not that over the top with gratitude! At which point I start laughing even harder at the recollection of a Friends episode in which Phoebe dates Alec Baldwin who is an obnoxiously positive person "Look at this door! Isn't it the most beautiful door you have ever seen? And it is the entry way into our perfectly amazing date we're about to have!"


But to be honest with you, I think that I would rather deal with the tooth decay and sweet after taste of that "spoon full of sugar" than the bitterness that remains when we choose to dwell on things we don't have or the counterbalance of the beauty that truly IS all around us. That very balance is a thing of beauty... that you cannot have evil without good... that you cannot have darkness without light... that you cannot have the joys of holding a child in your arms without enduring nine months of pregnancy aches and pains and oh those glorious hours of labour...

That very balance is a gift (much like that blasted pencil) in that the opportunity remains every single time we dredge through our hardships to pull through feeling stronger than we thought we were, wiser than we hoped to be, and more grateful for the things that DO go well. The gift of the positive outcome stems from the very hardship itself! That is what I mean about BALANCE being a thing of beauty. It is majestic, humbling and never takes without giving more in return IF you CHOOSE to see it that way.

Because afterall, who on earth is going to CHOOSE to delve into the hardships we face in our lives? I certainly would not have thought to myself "hey, I think I would like to have a severely disabled daughter when I am nineteen..." or "hey, I would love to experience the deterioration of a marriage for the sake of my betterment." Not going to happen because had I been shown what those pains would entail, there is no way I would I have believed I was strong enough.

But I guess that is where life is like that parent who makes us get back up on that two-wheeler we just fell off of for the fourteenth time! We resist it because we know we're just going to fall off and get hurt again but that parent KNOWS the freedom that is coming if we just persevere a little longer. We can't know it because we haven't experienced it yet and we think our parents must not like us very much that they keep putting us up on this imposing contraption of mass destruction! Until we actually get it... and that feeling of accomplishment is there... the mastery of a skill and the false hope that you had finally fallen for the last time! But that freedom... ah that glorious freedom you didn't even know.

Thank goodness life pushes us into the very hardships we would have otherwise avoided at all cost!

So here's hoping you are embracing whatever life is throwing your way as far as stripping away the very person you thought you were to reveal the person you truly are... that you delight in the core of who you truly are (or do something about it if you don't)... and that you give others the opportunity to love your for ALL that you are (good AND bad)!

In the meantime, I will be embracing motherhood's humility with as little kicking and screaming as possible!

Much love to all of you out there! I love knowing that you were each someone's child and that you likely brought humility to your caregivers whether they liked it or not. I pray that your caregivers embraced in their own way the opportunity to see who they truly were in order to make the changes needed for growth. And if they didn't? Well, I like that you challenged them innocently anyways! God bless you all!!!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Projectile projections!

Hmmmm, if I had a crystal ball that I could have looked into last week to see what this weekend would entail, it would NOT have been a pretty picture!

I could just see it now... the mist clearing in the crystal ball to reveal a mount Everest of bedding laundry to be done. Oh me oh my! Perhaps a sleepover with many people? Perhaps I would be overly ambitious and do ALL the bedding laundry in one shot?

Rolls upon rolls of paper towels... hmmm, perhaps a hot water tank issue? Maybe a big party with lots of people who eat very messily followed by a big ol' sleepover?


And then the next image... Anika's rosy cheeks, Ethan's sick eyes, empty boxes of Jell-O, Duane home on what should be a day shift and the horrific permeating smell of perogies and sausage from supper filling the nostrils in a bitter way.

Ah... don't tell me... a wicked and rampant bout of the flu?

CORRECT! Good thing there was no crystal ball or I may have driven myself to Texas in anticipation of what this weekend would entail! What would I have done without Duane's help??

It began Friday morning when Ethan was refusing to eat anymore of his avocado & banana, which is really unlike him. Poor little guy, we forced the rest into him anyways (as we know the consequences of him being underfed!) only to have him begin to cough and throw up all over the table, his booster seat and the kitchen floor.

First thought? Wow, did I really feed him that much?

Second thought? And this is why I DON'T wash the floor on a regular basis!

Third thought? He should really learn to chew better.

And so commences the cleaning up and the wondering if this throw up was caused by the brutal cold that has also been rampant in our home for nearly two weeks now or if there is something else going on, now, too?

Cue to last night when Duane and I are watching a movie and he suddenly gets up and walks calmly but quickly towards the bathroom and unnatural sounds like a moose trying to commit suicide begin to emanate from the bathroom! Because these strange sounds are resonating from the sound of a toilet bowl, it was easy enough to deduce that a moose had not in fact made its way into our bathroom but rather it was my poor husband emptying whatever stomach contents were left from last week! Oh boy!

And then cue the moment when Anika woke up at 1:00 a.m. throwing up all over her pillows, pajamas, bed, bedding AND floor.

First thought? Why was this STILL in her stomach?
Second thought? Is there a way to stop breathing while I clean this up?
Third thought? How the heck do I get those pj's off without smearing this stuff all over her face and hair??
Fourth thought? Why don't my kids chew their food??!!

Duane put her in the shower as I dry heaved cleaning up in her bedroom listening to her little whimpers about having yuckies in her tummy. And the delightful nearly-break-my-neck as I slip on a camouflaged puddle of upchuck and the EW-GROSS dance that ensued while picking off the chunks from the bottom of my foot!

Too many details? Oh hardly! This is motherhood, after all!

Second set of bedding is put on, a cleaned up shaking Anika climbs back into bed desperately clinging to her drink of water. Goodnight kisses & cuddles and a sigh as we drag our feet back to bed.

Only to be awoken at 2:00 a.m. by Anika coughing and that familiar sound that has resonated in the air for the last twenty-four hours. Crap... not again.

Round two of shower, dry heaves, another pile of bedding by the washing machine that is working diligently in the middle of the night... thought? Hope this is it because I am running out of bedding!

3:00 a.m. comes around and of course we begin round three. Anika has nearly got this down to an art at this point as she climbs out of her messy bed and trudges towards the shower once again. Duane and I climb back into bed and lay there like zombies and I say to him "I sure hope Melina isn't throwing up at that birthday party right now."

Which she did not. Instead, she waited until tonight and "blessed" our new addition bathroom as well. First thought? Thank goodness she's old enough to clean it up herself!

Okay, okay, I know that's terrible but I have to be honest with you! Melina is my iron-clad child who NEVER gets sick! So you know it is bad if she is sick, too!

While the day was at least filled with cuddles from a feverish Anika and slightly less active Ethan, there were still episodes of vomiting that visited throughout the day. Poor Anika sat on my lap for hours and her breath was so volatile (and a pregnant woman's super sense of smell is of no help) that I had to keep my own bucket nearby from the nausea of breathing her little breath in!

So here I am like a sitting duck... strange gurglings have been haunting my stomach all day. Other than Isabel who cannot vomit due to her fundoplacation surgery, I am the only one who has avoided kissing the toilet bowl! But for how much longer? I think before I know it, I won't be looking into a crystal ball but rather a porcelain bowl!!

Here's hoping you are all free of rampant annoying flu bugs and maybe even enjoying clean bedding. This has been the only plus side to this whole thing. Well, that and the hours of cuddles we have gotten from the little ones! Hopefully Ethan and Anika will be able to keep SOME food down by tomorrow as this is an alarming stretch for such little people, particularly Ethan who has been having issues since Friday morning!

Take care, all of you, and thank you for taking the time to be a part of our family life!! No matter how gruesome the details!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Go uterus, go!

It absolutely baffles my mind how a teeny tiny little embryo the size of a pea can already cause a woman (particularly this one) to tearfully fold and put away in the "see you in another two years" box all the lovely clothes that she could FINALLY fit back into.

How is this physically possible???

I recall the same thing happening with my pregnancy with Ethan. I found out I was pregnant and within two weeks, I could no longer do up my regular pants! I assumed my body had such incredible cellular memory that it just went right back into pregnant-belly mode.

This one was even worse! I figured I wasn't fitting my pants anymore because I was eating gluten and dairy again, but this little peanut (non-allergic peanut, that is) has stretched this belly out already at only ten weeks in!

Thankfully, when I saw my midwife on Wednesday, she was the bearer of good news... or perhaps that is debatable...

I said to her as I lay down on that little examination table "Gisele! This baby has forced me into maternity pants ALREADY! What is going on??"

Being the pro that she is (she is near retirement and has seen her fair share of pregnant bellies in her day), she probed my abdomen to find the top of my uterus and exclaimed "well no wonder you're in maternity pants... your uterus is measuring 16 weeks!"

WHAT??? And then my favourite...

"Do twins run in your family?" Oh you have got to be kidding me! Wouldn't that just be a typical God-sense-of-humour? Especially if it ended up being twin girls! So we have concluded that either we have a miscalculated due date, there is more than one baby in there OR I just have a super effective uterus that doesn't waste any time getting "into position". This is quite possible considering I measured four weeks ahead with Ethan up until the last month. AND I looked nine months pregnant when I was only five months in!

I love my pregnancies, but I do NOT make it look beautiful and graceful (although my beloved husband would beg to differ and this is why he is one of my favourite people in the whole wide world).

Other than the nausea, I am just falling more and more madly in love with this little person inside of me with every passing day. You would think after four pregnancies, the novelty would wear off somewhat, but it just seems to get more and more fascinating to me! Every little detail is already in place... fingernails, toes, fingers, beating heart, central nervous system, kicking & facial expressions! There is a tiny little human being inside of me!!

And I got to experience that magical moment of hearing the heart beat. The little doppler machines can pick up the heartbeat any time after ten weeks and I am "supposedly" right at that mark so it was not a definite that we would hear anything but the possibility was there.

You always wait for that moment... the first official affirmation that life really IS inside your womb! Until you feel them moving around (16-20 weeks) and until you start showing (supposed to be around 16-20 weeks but not for me!) it is hard to really believe that anything different is going on. But when you hear that little heartbeat that sounds like a little choo-choo train... the undeniable presence of LIFE within your own body... oh dear Father in heaven, how could ANYONE doubt a brilliant Creator after such miraculous unfolding??

So there you have it... I have connected with you this Sabbath completely and totally madly in love with our next Baby Vaags (or Vaagss!) and thanking God for the PRIVILEGE of being capable to bear life. With so many of my friends facing conception issues, we cannot believe how lucky we are that we do not even have to TRY yet we keep getting pregnant. I wish so much I could share this abundant fertility with all my fellow women who have had to accept that they cannot have babies. My heart just aches so deeply... and I think of you, each of you, as you remind me to KNOW my blessing each moment of each day.

God bless you all and thank you for sharing in this miracle of life with me!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Not great news for Izzy

I spent several hours at a few doctor's appointments with Isabel this past Tuesday. Among those appointments was one with the Orthopedics. I have been concerned about the curvature of Isabel's spine for a few years now. Unfortunately, with each appointment that I would ask for a trunk brace or something to assist in preventing further warping, the doctors' responses would be "it's not bad enough to merit any action at this time."

Well, x-rays on Tuesday showed serious scoliosis (curvature of the spine). Her spine is out by 48 degrees!!! Because she is only ten, her continued growth will only worsen the scoliosis...

Looking at the deformity on that x-ray, my mind flashed back to those fearful days when I was going morning and night for fetal assessments just prior to the emergency c-section with Izzy. The only delight I took in going morning and night was to see her perfect little skeletal structure. I would just stare at her perfect spine...

Anyways, we knew that as she grew, we would encounter more physical issues. We should be counting our blessings that they have been few in numbers up to this point. But it still breaks my heart to know that she is far more pain than we know.

We are now being referred to a spine specialist who will further assess and help decide on what can be done to limit further deformity and/or how to correct the damage that has already been done.

Other than that news, Izzy and I had such a blast spending those four hours together! I haven't had one on one with her like that in a LOOOOONG time. It was nice to just stare at each other and "sing" and coo. She is certainly a special not-so-little girl.

I have often felt guilty with how busy I am with the little ones. I used to do pretty intensive and instinctive therapies with her... now our moments together are brief during diaper changes, feedings, med times, bath times, etc... But I do take comfort in the little ones who LOVE their big sister. Anika especially likes to sit "with" Isabel and watch movies together... sigh.

So if you wouldn't mind keeping Isabel's spine in your prayers, that would be fantastic. We are not expecting a miracle but we do hope that we can prevent further damage. Hope this finds you all doing well and enjoying the beautiful privilege of health that you have! It truly is a gift!!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Ah, the quiet pursuant of bedtime routines...

Glorious, glorious quiet... well, almost quiet. Ethan's little voice cuts in occasionally over the monitor as he converses with nothingness as though it was his best friend!

And almost quiet except when I open the door to throw the diapers into the outside bin and I hear Anika from way upstairs in her room yell "who's here, mommy??"

But the almost-quiet is enjoyable nonetheless!

The day's end is met with much to be grateful for once again. Answered prayer hovers over our healthy Ethan like an aura of hope and his big grin and unexpected cuddles are welcomed blessings, too. In particular tonight, I am especially grateful for the nourishment that has been able to reach him despite such extensive dietary restrictions.

When he was six months old, I began signing with him as I had with Anika but my efforts seemed futile with this suffering child who was too preoccupied with surviving the constant pain rather than learn how to sign "diaper" and "milk". Alas, that miraculous and glorious months of therapeutic doses of iron six months later provided the window of opportunity needed to see that the efforts had not been futile afterall!

Today, at sixteen months, he knows well over 150 words. He is even identifying letters of the alphabet and certain colours! Despite being HIGHLY active, he is able to absorb the quick little lesson plans I can sneak into daily activities. Observing his older sister (whom he absolutely adores) has also been helpful.

Our dear boy is a bottomless pit. I feel like all I do all day is shovel food into his mouth! And if I am NOT shoveling it in, he OPENS the cupboards, pulls out his "EEWEE-AL" (cereal) and attempts to pour himself a good serving all over the floor. Pouring it in a SMALL bowl is wasted effort as his other favourite hobby is emptying contents onto the floor and stepping in it to see how much CRUNCH can be made. Or he just likes hearing me groan and grab the broom for the fifth time that day while attempting to sing "clean up" with as much enthusiasm as I did four times earlier!

I think he is also part goat... if it can be climbed, he will climb it! If it CANNOT be climbed, he will climb it! I left Duane with the kids while I brought Melina to a soccer game and he informed me that not two minutes after I left, he went into Isabel's room to give her some water when he heard Anika yelling "ESSAN'S ON THE COUNTER!!" Sure enough, he had pushed a little stepping stool over to an actual stool, climbed it and then climbed onto the counter where he stood triumphantly only moments after knives and plates riddled with allergens had been recently moved!

I now know who will be responsible for my gray hair...

For now, it remains its boring dark brown colour and my already extremely thin hair is falling out at an alarming rate. If this keeps up, I may be BALD before I am GRAY! Motherhood equals humility... why do I keep forgetting this number one rule?

Another fun moment in our house is that we do not shy away from teaching correct terminology of body parts. I vowed I would never teach code words to my kids when my dear highschool friend nearly fainted during sex ed class when she discovered that it was NOT in fact called, PeePee #1 and PeePee #2. So when it comes to toileting, Anika knows to wipe her vulva first and then her bum. She is also quite aware of the fact that "Essan's a boy and he has a penis... I am a girl and I have a vulva."

Yes, Anika, very good... now let's just keep that to ourselves.

At the supper table, I had forgotten to warn Melina that Anika has been on this new kick of pointing out who is a boy and who is a girl so poor Melina nearly choked her food when Anika spoke up and asked her "Mina, do you have a penis?"


Well, the roaring laughter after the awkward second of silence was well worth paying the price of discomfort! However, when Pepere (my dad) came to babysit one morning while the contractors were busily working away in the house, Anika yelled upon his arrival "Pepere, you are a boy and you have a PENIS!"

The only thing missing in that moment was the sound of one of the contractors dropping a tool! Instead, there was that funny moment of silence before pepere answered quite matter of factly, "yes, I am a boy and I have a penis." And the house chuckled at the innocence of a child.

When do we learn to stop being honest with each other like that? Well, to be honest, I am not sure that I HAVE learned to stop speaking so boldly but the really neat thing about speaking honestly (but respectfully) is that most people are surprisingly willing to share openly what they would have otherwise kept to themselves. I don't think people WANT to keep secrets because even though people's response to me is sometimes that initial moment of hesitation, it is 99.9% of the time met with a humble and honest response.

And that's beautiful.

So here is my prayer for you tonight as I chuckle at the honesty and innocence that follows my little ones around like an imaginary friend... that you be freed from your own secrets and notions that nobody else could understand or know what you have done, experienced, feared, etc... That you find comfort in knowing you are NOT alone. May you encounter someone who is willing to challenge you in a life-giving way so that you can be freed of whatever haunts you and bears you down... from anything that keeps you from believing you are precious and that you belong. Nothing is beyond the forgiveness of God and therefore nothing can be beyond our own forgiveness of our own mistakes. So get out there, speak your beautiful truth unafraid of what anyone else will think and discover the freedom of loving without fear!

As I love you fearlessly exactly as you are in this very moment...

As God loves you passionately exactly as you are in this very moment, and the next and the next. And may you embrace the little things in life that give you every earned gray hair and/or bald spot on your head!!!

Lovingly yours...