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So why do we do this?

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Coffee with my J dude is a special treat.  Yes we do ignore each other until the coffee arrives, focusing on the screens of our phones, but when the coffee hits the table we are all talk and focus.  Yesterday we took some time to reflect on the amazing journey that we had this week.

I was so proud on Monday to stand with parents of transgender children at Parliament House as we talked to politicians about the urgent need to change the Family Law Act so that transgender children do not have to go to court to get permission to be treated by their physicians.  It is no longer an issue that affects us, our journey however has never just been about us.

For the last three and a half years I have watched families struggle, I have seen marriages end, I have provided advice and support to those who struggle with single parenthood and a transgender child. I have held my hand out to young people who have become disconnected from their families.  I have received support and love from people who have become friends that may be around the corner or on the other side of the world.

Last Monday was an amazing step for Australian transgender children. We participated in a formal event where we heard medical and legal information about what needs to change.  Then we heard two moving stories from beautiful young women, one whose mother has fought for years and through her tenacity changed Australian law via a full bench of the Family Court challenge (and subsequent decision) for the benefit of all transgender children, then another for whom the clock is ticking and who needs the law to change for teens like her.  Meeting these mothers was like homecoming, because at the very start of my journey I was connected to them by their stories.  I was sitting in an office at the RCH and asked if Jeremy would just stop all this and go back to being normal.  Instead I received reassurance and the story of these two families, de-identified.  Last Monday I realised that it was the stories of these two families that helped give me the strength to keep going.

Over three years later we still keep going, because there is so much to do.  Access to appropriate treatment for transgender youth in Australia for a start, agitating for the removal of treatment of gender identity disorder from the list of special medical procedures in the Family Law Act,many conversations need to be had.  But there are many voices to join me.

As part of this week’s spectacular events Jeremy spoke openly on radio about what not being able to access cross hormone treatment did to him physically and emotionally.  He was joined by the awesome Georgie, please, enjoy.  Life Matters – 22022016

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Stop being so scared

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Eek it’s been a tough week in the media, with a lot of haters.

Read this – The Age

then this The Australian

then this news.com

then read this Ginger Gorman on News.com

The first three articles are fear mongering, biased pieces with a slim grasp on facts.  The last article is beautiful piece from a journalist and a mother who just wants to stop the fear and hate.

Like all things transgender, the more sensational the details, the more the media clamours.  Joe and Jenny Public are eternally fascinated by the weirdness of being transgender.  It is, for so many people, an experience that is so far out of their ordinary that they lap up salacious details and want justification to not be educated because that may be uncomfortable.  Such is human behaviour.

I am only one small voice – but I hope always that my voice will be joined by other small voices to become the insistent voice of love, acceptance and right.

Safe Schools has always been an LGBTIQ focused service, in that their information sessions are aimed to educate teachers about LGBTIQ specific challenges in their student population.  The first three above articles are evidence that LGBTIQ education is needed, because the fear mongering in mainstream media is just that, fear mongering.

Jeremy did not have the benefit of schooling with teachers who received Safe Schools inservice training.  I have told his story here, as it unfolded in heartbreaking episode after heartbreaking episode.  His education has suffered, his future is not the rosy tertiary educated future I always imagined.  I have often pondered how different his future would have been if Safe Schools had had the resources to get into his school that year, if then he could have hung on the final two years of formal schooling instead of floundering with distance education.

What I have heard over the last couple of years is story after story of successful inservice sessions at schools around the country that teach teachers that LGBTIQ students need some adult understanding in the form of modelling positive behaviours.  For transgender children, this layer of protection is vital.  It lifts my heart to hear parents telling stories of their transgender or gender fluid children attending school and learning and playing and growing.  So when you deny Safe Schools the opportunity to demystify being transgender, you deny a child safe education. Because those adults that are up in arms are raising children who get up in arms and those children outnumber transgender children significantly.

This is what I know:

  • having your child go to school with LGBTIQ students will not affect your child
  • having Safe Schools come in to deliver inservice or talk to students will not make your child LGBTIQ
  • having teachers who have received training from Safe Schools leads to school environments where all students accept each other and get on with learning
  • Safe Schools do not teach your children how to be gay or transgender

The fact is that your children will express their sexual preference at some point.  If your child is transgender then they will also express this at some point.  How you deal with that is your choice as a parent.

What I find distressing is that there is a need for Safe Schools at all.  I recognise that their need is vital as evidenced by the tsunami of inaccurate and hateful articles proliferating in Australian media at the moment.

Finally, a word about to the Australian Christian Lobby.  Real Christians have gay and lesbian and transgender and intersex children.  Real Christians love those children, treasure them and recognise them as the mighty miracles they are.  God does not make mistakes, therefore these amazing children are not mistakes, they are part of the diverse panoply of human existence and are loved in God’s eyes.

 

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Playing the post Christmas blues

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As the whole world, judging from my news feed on Facebook, appeared to reel from the loss of David Bowie and Alan Rickman  I have been fighting a battle much closer to home.

Early January marks one of the big conventions that Jeremy and his business partner attend.  The weeks leading up are kind of frantic for J.  This became a dual annoyance for me because all the tasks that should have been attended to in the many many days since the end of school remain undone as there  is a currently a legitimate excuse for not doing them.  At the same time I have escalated procrastination to an art form, there are piles of unopened envelopes, bags with anonymous assortments of items in the corners of my bedroom, I feel my world get narrower and narrower and I can’t find certain perfumes, lipsticks and socks and cardigans.  I am falling asleep at 8.30, sometimes earlier, only to wake up at 2 am staring at the walls until sleep rides in again at 5.  It makes getting up at six interesting.  Weekends are tortuous, wasting hours at the local shops instead of catching up with my studies and finalising my tax. Plus naps……….. I can’t help sleeping.

Welcome to January anxiety.  There is no reason for this unwelcome intruder.  It is, however, seriously messing with me and because this is also Jeremy’s normal mode of operation it feels like everything is moving at snail pace, nothing is achieved and my anxiety levels escalate and the frustration comes out my mouth.  Circle of life with no cool African sunrise and small lion cub but one angry and bewildered 18 year old.

A few months ago I made a promise to do something different to get something different.  I know these negative patterns and I recognise them as a precursor to the slow descent in to depression.  I haven’t ever noticed them before so I am pretty chuffed that I can see this horrible invader for what he is.  It generates concern though because I am the engine that drives our home, Jeremy is not a go getter when it comes to chores.  He will find that statement upsetting, and we will have yet another talk about it but the simple fact is that J a) get immobilised by anxiety when there is choice and b) the side effect of that immerses him and he gets lost in a world where time management doesn’t exist.   It’s a safe place for him, I try not to be resentful.

For Jeremy the vein of anxiety is much deeper than mine.  Simple interactions that I take for granted trigger panicked phone calls to me, where I can hear the familiar tone that the world is not a good place for him to be in.  I hate that tone, I wish the world was easier for him to navigate.  But it ain’t, so we cut our coat to fit the cloth we have been given.  This week it was an interaction at the hospital that had me saying to him “just leave there now, I will sort it out later” as I received the third call within an hour.

To manage his escalations takes energy and that energy has to be found somewhere.  So I acknowledge that the naps are my body’s way of coping.  It is trying to give back some of that sleep that it is missing with the middle of the night, eyes looking at the ceiling sessions.  When I am hungry I think about what I want to eat, and then I eat that.  Before Christmas the default position was potato cakes, I was hunting them out like a crack addict. That destructive yet delicious phase has moved on thankfully.  When I am hungry I am really really hungry and listening to my tummy has become a new mindfulness. (Note: my tummy rarely wants potato cakes as the potatoes and the flour that makes the batter that coats them makes me feel ill….. my mouth and exhaustion are crap dietitians)

But mostly I’m saying no.  Just for now.  Unless it recharges my soul, I just have to say no.  Being in my cocoon of a home, watching my shows, reading my books, the occasional dinner with friends is about all I can handle right now.  If I don’t honour that then I hurt myself and I hurt J by not being able to cope.  That’s too high a price to pay.

“7\•4rhjuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu” – contribution from Purrcy, the kitten

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

How do you know?

In the early days of Jeremy’s transition I was often asked “How does he know?”  For me, the only answer I had was faith.  I had to trust.  I drew comparisons, knowing that there were so many immutable truths about myself that I was aware of at 16, Jeremy would also have that level of self awareness.  But at that point it was certainly a step into the darkness.

In supporting Jeremy I faced different challenges to many other parents, and I am the first person to say that each person transitioning has an individual journey and so to does each family.

More often we meet new families who are supporting young children who are gender fluid or who have transitioned.  Nearly every new parent to the various groups asks the same question “how do they know? How certain can my child be?”  It’s a valid question.  Unlike a child saying they want a certain toy, a child saying that they want to be another gender is outside the experience of many parents.  Many parents would have little to no knowledge of what it means to be transgender.  With a tired and debunked yet oft quoted statistic that 80% of children who identify as transgender as preteens desist in adolescence I see many parents initially question the legitimacy of what their child is saying.

In all the studies, foot stomping from external groups, what I didn’t see was the opinion of a transgender person.  So I asked Jeremy.

He said that he didn’t have the words when he was young, so he couldn’t tell me how he felt.  But if he could have, he would have.  That if a child has the words parents should listen and those parents should feel that they have done a good job because they helped their child identify how they felt.  He said that for him, he knew, like he knew that his hair was blonde and that he had beautiful grey eyes, so he can’t be alone in feeling like that.  Other children would have the same level of certainty, in some it would be stronger and some not so strong but in the end that isn’t the point. They will know.

There are no certainties in life, no guarantees that what you have today you will have always.  Each decision that you make can only be guided by the information that you have at that time.  Some of those decision are huge, and so far removed from our own experience we hesitate.  That’s ok.  Just don’t stop.  Immobility doesn’t help anyone.

During this discussion with J he expressed some very strong opinions about the role of mental health practitioners in supporting young people.  Life is challenging on it’s own.  Toss in some gender identity issues and you have pretty big kettle of fish.  Jeremy has nothing but praise for the psychiatrist and psychologist who have supported him as he waited for treatment and as as he started testosterone.  He believes that good mental health support leads to positive outcomes for people who transition.  That has only be for his greater good.

In time the definitive studies will come.  The statistics will be generated.  Right now, for so many of us, our only guiding light is the determination of our beautiful wonderous babies.

 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

I’m not ready

I’m not ready little one
as you stand poised on the edge
of standing on your own two feet

I’m not ready
for a lifetime of not seeing you every day
for dinners for one

how will you know what food to buy
and which wash a black and white striped top goes into
when to mow a lawn

it was only yesterday you held my hand
followed my lead
filled my days with tasks

a beautiful baby
with grey eyes
capturing my heart

time is a tricksy beast though
and you have plans and dreams
and impetuous youth

adventures have a siren song
and experiences are waiting
rites of passage into adulthood

I know you are ready to take this step
to walk in the world of the big people
to practice all you have learned

My precious one
I am waiting to watch you fly

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

When the momma bears get angry

Holding hands

For me this picture symbolises the instant connection that J had with a young trans guy recently.  Who knew that such a short time later I have watched in horror as this young one and his mother, like so many other loving mothers, have become the target for anti transgender ignorance.

A while ago I saw a post from a fellow momma, her precious child O was struggling and she was looking for a solution.  Unlike Jeremy, O was not yet into puberty.  He was worried that people would notice that unlike other boys, people would notice that he was missing a bulge “down there”.  Let me draw a parallel – if as a parent you have a) searched the shops looking for Elsa knickers or a purple sparkly top b) that toy that everyone else is getting for Christmas c) spent hours online looking for the perfect absolutely whatever it is your child has expressed a desire for; you will understand that on occasion your child says something that strikes a chord with you and you will go to the ends of the earth to help satisfy that wish.

So when this fellow momma reached out about O’s desire many other mommas sprung into action.  One momma has sent a few prototypes for trial. Jeremy and Lockie put their creative brains together and developed a quick yet simple and washable solution to the lack of penis bulge that even the momma involved said she could put together and the momma reached out to Den and TranzWear in the US who said he would try and help.

A story was then publicised about this issue with the help of Ginger Gorman, a journalist who is working hard to raise awareness of the issues of transgender youth in Australia.

Now, in the last 24 hours this little transphobic piece popped up (San Francisco company selling “packers” for trans boys, ages 4 and up) which has resulted in hate mail and a death threat to Den and some abuse heaped on Ginger basically for promoting pedophilia.  So the angry momma bear has awoken.

I had the privilege of meeting a terrific young trans guy of a similar age and his mum last week, two beautiful people, a little one who confided in J that he was worried that people will not like him in high school, a momma who is walking in my shoes.  Two hours flew as we talked about so many things and I felt that I had met a long lost friend.  So today when I saw the snide implications that her actions, like so many other mothers, in procuring a packer and stand to pee device for her child was somehow (with murky implications) linked to pedophilia I saw red.

Den’s website TranzWear has an 18+ warning on the front page.  When I first visited the Peecock products page I had a reaction, I saw lots of phallus shaped objects in various colours, in a quantity that I had only encountered in certain shops in Fyshwick in the ACT.  Did that stop me looking as I helped my then 16 year old son to chose a stand to pee device?  No, because I knew what I was looking at.  I was also a grown up who knew that the device was to be used for my son to pee, and wise enough in the ways of the world to know that an STP is a pretty useless device for sexual gratification.  Because that that is the dangerous parallel that is being drawn at 4thWaveNow – that STPs and packers are being given to children so that adults can get sexual gratification.  Let’s name it people, and not hide behind euphemisms.

Here is my truth.  Transgender boys want to look like their peers. They are acutely aware that they lack a little bulge in their pants.  Caring and supportive parents will recognise that and do what they can, from crocheted bird seed filled cylinders to more sophisticated inventions that stay put, can be worn while swimming, can be popped in a washing machine, these are testament to the love that parents have for their child.  Post puberty there are a range of devices that enable trans guys to stand at a urinal to pee, like every other guy.  It helps these boys get through the day feeling a little safer, a little closer to how they see themselves.  It does not solve the deep down desire for a penis that can only be achieved by surgery, and not always successful surgery at that.

What Den at TranzWear did was try and help a momma.  That’s it. He is one of a few suppliers that a parent could turn to and receive support.  A death threat was unwarranted.  He has done nothing wrong.

So may I ask a favour?  Please spread the word.  Spread the word about Den and TranzWear.  You may help a young person take a step towards being comfortable with themselves.  Spread the word that STPs are cool when you want to pee and you don’t have a penis.  Please send anyone who mistakes an STP for a sex toy to me, by the time I have explained the difference they won’t make that mistake again.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Joy spreaders and truth tellers

How to have a lovely day

A blob of concentrated sunshine and joy in a glass – when I look at the marmalade that I made a couple of months ago I marvel at the intense orange, how it glows.  When it sits at the bottom of a G&T my favourite drink is enriched with the rich citrusy sweetness that is verging onto the point of caramel, melding perfectly with the sharpness of tonic water, the herbal hit of the gin.  But mostly I am amazed that my first attempt at jam making resulted in this culinary miracle.

I made marmalade after a weekend away to Rutherglen.  Staying with friends in Wahgunyah, nursing both a hideous cold and bruised and battered psyche I spent a lot of time in the backyard, standing at the fire, talking.  The owner of the house was a returned serviceman, a veteran of the Vietnam war.  I always feel comfortable talking to war veterans, no idea why, I just always have.  For me it was cathartic to talk about life, the history of the house, the street, the gnarled roots that he had fashioned into a functional table, anything to distract me from the maelstrom of black so slowly lifting from my mind.  His gift to me as I left was a massive bag of oranges off the tree in the front yard.  So the great marmalade adventure began.

The marmalade found many homes, just as the boys and I couldn’t eat kilos of fresh oranges, we couldn’t eat our way through kilos of jam either.  Jars went to my best friend and her mum and brother who both happened to be visiting Melbourne.  A big jar went to the friends who took me to Wahgunyah.  Jars big and small went to many houses.  I would occasionally get a random text message from someone who had just opened a jar to to tell me that the marmalade was yum.  That feedback was as rewarding as the creating of jam to start with.

Last night, talking this over with a friend, he said to me “You spread joy JoJo”.  I’ve never really thought about it. Now that I have, I love the concept.   I also love the picture that I put at the top of this post, and I apologise for it being pretty girly, but that’s me in a nutshell, I’m all about the pretty girl stuff.  I also believe that if you have a lovely day, then those around you will have one too, They don’t have to wear makeup and perfume, but I hope that when I follow the rules above, the people around me smile, they feel valued because someone has listened to them, they start to have  a lovely day because someone wished them a lovely day.

But life can’t be all perfume and jars of jam.  In the last week or so Jeremy and I have spent a lot of time talking about relationships and love.  We talked about holding on and letting go.  We talked about not holding on to something that causes us pain.  Some of the conversations that he and I have had together and with others this week have been hard.  They have been open and honest ones but fearful because we said things that the other people may not have been ready to hear.  Those conversations are risky too, but we both believe that to be authentic we need to be honest.

In one beautiful conversation Jeremy opened up and shared his thoughts on love.  He said that he believed that true love does not mean that you mirror each other, but that you understand each others differences and still want to hang out and talk to each other about your experiences.  It echoed some advice my dad gave me once, quoting from Khalil Gibran

“But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls”

I also thought “wow!!  You are going to have a phenomenal adulthood if you have this together at 18.”  So I think that J has hit this particular nail on the head.  He already understands that to be successful in a relationship he needs time to pursue his own interests, to be a good partner he has to achieve some self definition, some internal peace.  You cannot share yourself if you don’t understand yourself.

I also suspect, that someday this kid will rule the world in his own way.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2015 in parenting, transgender

 

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Can my arms reach all the way to you?

Brothers

One of the gifts that parents give you that you can’t give back are your siblings.  I am the eldest, with a brother and sister, mum was busy making three babies in four years.

Jeremy has an older brother, five and a half years older to be exact.  Today is his 24th birthday and he is on the other side of the world, waking up in to a late summer Berlin morning, with what may be a bit of a hangover as he has confessed that he went out last night with new friends.  It sounds like he has settled into his overseas adventure quite nicely.

I often see posts from other parents asking how siblings were told that a brother or sister is transgender. I kind of skip over those questions, because i have nothing to share.  Luke was told the same way I was told, via a message.  He reacted the same way he does to so many things, he changed his reality to suit the new truth.  He has never faltered with pronouns, never misnamed his brother, has always behaved with love and respect.  There was no angst, no anger, no attention seeking behaviour.  So I can’t help others by sharing a story that is so perfect in its unexceptional normalness.

Jeremy and Luke would have a very different relationship if my eldest child had been different.  Somehow I raised a very special young man, reserved, strong enough to show when he is vulnerable, practical, a voice of calm and reason in a maelstrom of emotion and exhaustion and exuberance that Jeremy and I create just by being together.

It wasn’t always so. When J was little he felt that everything in the house was his.  His brother’s room was fair game, he’d get in there during school hours and help himself.  Teaching him boundaries was a constant ongoing lesson.  There would be advantages though to not making a huge fuss when you are a big brother with a younger sibling who has restless fingers and a busy brain.  They were usually treats in being allowed to stay up late, which my night owl loved. As they got older they would spend time together, sometimes because they had to as we posted from location to location and sometimes because they just wanted to.

Jeremy’s transition came at a dark time for his brother.  I had declared that Luke had to leave Canberra, he was struggling with multiple issues, study, money, depression, spending time with him around his 21st I was concerned about his mental health. So J made his announcement as I was insisting that Luke make applications to universities in Melbourne and Brisbane.  We journeyed together then as J settled into his transition.  For the last eighteen months, as Jeremy has been doing distance education, Luke’s degree has been mostly late night lectures, leaving his days free and at home.  At some point during that time, my boys became close friends.

Listening to each talk about the other is a delight.  Luke has said  to me that J gets everything that he wants. J says that Luke doesn’t have to do anything around the house……… but apart from that the respect and love they have for each other is beautiful to witness. When Luke first left I asked him how he was,he said simply that he missed Jeremy.

So on this special day, when we would normally be together and having a bottle of wine and yummy meal, one part of our circle and so a part of our hearts is on the other side of the world being grown up and having adventures.  Happy Birthday Luke.  Your have shown your brother such an amazing example of how to be a man.  It may not be his version but the fabulous things about examples is that you can take the good stuff that appeals to you away.  Momma loves you.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

The semi colon project 

  

A quick note today.

On the road to recovery I decided that I wanted to honour my journey by getting this tattoo. It’s next to the boys birth dates because on that black night it was thoughts of them that stopped me doing anything final.

Unlike their birth dates which face out to the world, my semi colon faces me, a reminder that pausing is ok, chosing not to end is good.

Check out the project at The Semicolon Project or look them up on Facebook.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Hindsight and 20 20 vision

so cool

There are days and then there are days.

Post Luke’s departure for Germany our lives have settled into a gentle rhythm – well for two weeks anyway, then J and I succumbed to the the dreaded lurgy, a chest rattling bronchitis that coupled itself with a fever and bonesapping lethargy.  During this period Jeremy had his first full testosterone shot.  This was quickly followed by the full effects of bronchitis and frightened me with spiking fever and lack of appetite, certainly not normal side effects of a testosterone shot.  Of we went to the weekend doctor.   Explaining Jeremy’s symptoms I added;

“Jeremy had a full testosterone dose on Friday”

“Why?” asked the doctor

“Because he is transgender, its part of his treatment”

“How long will she need to be on androgen?”

Seriously.  I did respond quite politely that treatment was forever, the doctor did check J’s blood pressure and heart beat and pulse and made sure J was only suffering from a virus and not any additional side effects.  Such is the casual ignorance that we face daily.

On the weekend, after a week of trying to get back to normal, J and I went out for lunch to a new little local place.  The weather was mild, one of those days when the air feels like milk on your skin and the sun finally made an appearance, a whisper of spring was in the air.  Over lunch J started talking about school, how he felt negative about not staying in a normal school, that he felt he could have tried harder. Had he done that he would be finishing school in three weeks time, instead his studies will be completed next year,  I must admit my response was pretty poor at the time, I think I was taken aback more than anything else.

Then yesterday I received an email from Ginger Gorman, a wonderful journalist who interviewed us a couple of months ago.  She had included some of J’s story into a wider article How do we stop transgender children being bullied at school? As I read it, the realisation hit me like a brick.  We are in the distance ed system because school was torturous, the every day rub of ignorance magnified because those that J relied on to teach him could not deal with him, added to the general ignorance of teenagers made a hostile environment.  His mental health was precarious, he was depressed, anxious.  His psychiatrist and I could see the toll it was taking.  The decision to move him away from that environment achieved one key goal.

Jeremy was mentally healthy enough to deal with the two and a half year wait for treatment,

I don’t know what the outcome would have been otherwise.  I can only say that with the benefit of hindsight, the decision that we made back then was the best one that we could.  Nothing in J’s life has been straightforward, it stands to reason that his senior studies will follow a slightly more circuitous route.

Point is he will achieve what he wants to achieve.  No one can ask for more, especially not me.

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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