369. Survivor Girl

Good morning.  It’s me again.  Because my going-on-80 blob didn’t start celebrating birthdays till late October of last year, I’m trying to catch up.

Today’s birthday is featuring my daughter Lisa Marie Ford – the third oldest of our seven children, the oldest of our five daughters, and a survivor if there ever was one.

This is how Lisa made her debut into the world.

My husband Gene was matriculating for his master’s degree at the University of Iowa, and working any jobs he could get to support us and our two little persons, Mark, 4, and Matthew about 20 months old.

We lived in a barracks-style unit in the University of Iowa’s married student housing section.  The hut was all metal, and heated in winter with an oil stove in the living room.  In the summer, the hut’s temperature reached the melting point, especially for very pregnant, perspiring mothers-to-be like me.

The section we lived in was populated by the families of several medical residents and medical students.  At the coffee klatches we shared every morning, the other wives gossiped endlessly about the famed brutality of one of the OB medical residents – let’s call him “Doctor C”.  Somebody had actually composed a grisly song in several verses describing his exploits and the number of pelvises he had enjoyed fracturing.  

I wasn’t long into my third pregnancy as the horrors of the legend of the resident doctor continued to expand.  I was enormously relieved that the OB resident assigned to me was noted for his kindness, and he was nothing remotely like the monster “Dr. C.”.

The sweltering Iowa summer simmered relentlessly on and I waddled through the miserable heat and “morning” sickness as best I could.  I clung desperately to my expected due date – my birthday, September 6th – and my hoped-for release from misery.

It was about September 4th when I went in for my routine weekly checkup.  After the pelvic exam, the doctor said cheerfully, “Well, looks like you’re just about ripe.  I’d say you’ll be delivering right on time.”

“Oh, good”, I said. “Could it be as soon as tonight?”

“Well, I wish it could be”, he said.  “That way I could be the one to deliver the baby.  If it’s tomorrow or later though, I won’t be here.  I’m going on vacation for two weeks. All my cases have been assigned to Doctor C.”

I was aghast. “I’ve been assigned to Doctor C”? I asked in numb disbelief.

It was my unexpected worst nightmare.

“Sure”, said the doctor, “But I’ll see you for your first post-delivery checkup in October.”

“No, Doctor”, I said slowly. “I can wait. I think you’ll be seeing me before that.” 

And so it was that I had to begin my campaign to convince my unborn child that s/he wasn’t “ready” to be born yet. “Listen, kid.  We gotta work together on this.  You can’t be born yet.  You gotta wait till the 19th.  You can DO it. Otherwise, trust me, there will be serious Consequences.”

Every day I tried to be as quiet as it’s possible to be with two toddlers to entertain in the sweltering heat. If there was ever a time to use will power – mine AND the unborn baby’s – this was it.

Finally, labor began Monday evening, September 19, 1955.  Due to the bizarre nature of Iowa weather, our September heat wave culminated in an ice storm, of all things. Gene – working on a carpentry job in Cedar Rapids, had to inch his way back to Iowa City. 

By pre-arrangement, one of our neighbors came over to sit with our sleeping boys, and Gene drove me to the University of Iowa Hospital.

When my doctor – just returned from his vacation that day – entered the labor room, it was his turn for dumb disbelief.

“I can’t believe you haven’t delivered this baby yet”, he said.

“We’ve been waiting”, I said. “All good things come to them who wait.”

And it did. The next morning.  A Girl.  Beautiful.  And unlike the birth of her bald baby brothers, she had some hair.  I thought she was unbelievably pretty – especially because instead of being very red, she looked kind of tan. Oh, oh. Not good.  Jaundice.

No sooner did they put her in my arms, but they snatched her away and except for glimpses in the Infant ICU, I didn’t see her for a few days.  Turns out, Lisa was the first of our “RH babies”, adversely affected by my RH negative anti-bodies. And the longer time she spent in the womb was bad for her blood. Every hour brought encouraging lab results though, as she was kept under observation.  All by herself, with no need for transfusions, the baby’s own chemistry and strength rallied and restored her.  Even after I was discharged, Lisa was kept in the nursery for several days for study and observation of her miraculous recovery.

That’s just how she is.  Lisa is always going to be a survivor.  She can DO it.  

My son Matthew was reminding me of how our kids were divided into two armed camps when they were growing up – the two older boys, and the five younger girls.  As the oldest of the girls, Lisa could never understand how she had to be grouped with them instead of with the boys.

Today, though, it’s pretty obvious that she treasures them all and that she and her sisters are best friends for life.  And as she deals with the challenges she’s faced, she continues to teach us all a lot about the survival of the fittest! 

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Happy birthday, Lisa.  Go for it!  You can DO it! 

 

 

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368. Blog extra: Up late

This is another post from grandson Bryce. It’s been nice to have my grandma back the last bit instead of being consumed by the blog. Now grama, Matt and I are able to catch up and watch (grama has the special ability to watch through closed eyelids much of the time) shows and movies that were missed over the last year.

I have had a lot of editing to do recently as wedding season winds down, so I have been bringing my laptop to the house to edit while listening to whatever is on the TV.

2 nights ago, grama informed me at 3AM, that she should probably get some sleep, and that in a few days she would be able to stay up late. I think I have the only grama that does not count 3AM as late. I even count that as late. How old am I getting? She is eighty? Pshhh… she’s got way too young of an attitude, I think she says she’s eighty so she can get the senior discount when we go to the movies.

OK, now I have to go edit some more…

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367. Lawyer Lady

Today is my great niece Elizabeth (Fitzpatrick) Bush’s birthday but I got mixed up and blobbed about it yesterday on Blob 367.  Now that I’m 80, they say it’s okay to be confused (in my case,however, confusion was a congenital defect.)

Yesterday was really my niece Elizabeth (Gorman) Brown’s birthday, so I’m going to blob about it today. Here goes.

 Have no doubt about it.  Operating out of Yuma and Surprise, Arizona is Superwoman herself.

Yesterday – September 13th – was the 42nd birthday in earth years of my niece Elizabeth Margaret (Gorman) Brown.  I’m pretty sure she’s an extra-terrestrial.    No earthling could match her herculean performance in life. 

Elizabeth started out on earth as the youngest of three children of my brother Leo and my sister-in-law Peggy (Althouse) Gorman. Her siblings are my nephew Michael Gorman and my niece Leanne (Gorman) Dudas.

It didn’t take long for the family to find out they had a powerhouse on their hands. The only thing that kid ever failed to do was to figure out how to fail.

As soon as she graduated from high school and college, Elizabeth undertook the financing of her further schooling and career by successfully buying and selling real estate. In her spare time during this stage of her career, she learned to fluently read and write in Russian.

Elizabeth’s first real job after college was one nobody believes.  Thanks to her fluency in Russian, Elizabeth claims she was “selling kerosene” to the citizens of some troubled country like Turkmenistan.  A likely story.  Nobody believed it for a minute. The only role Elizabeth possibly could have been playing in that hotbed of anarchy and chaos was that of a CIA agent.  She will deny this, of course.

While she was there, consorting with officials in the American embassy, she met and later married a handsome U.S. military defense attache in Armenia named Bob Brown.  His previous work was in counter-intelligence. He was probably a CIA agent too.

Once they got married and settled down in Arizona, these are just some of the activities I know Beth has been involved in:

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1. She and Bob bought a large graceful home in Surprise, Arizona, and they are developing it into a really gorgeous property.

2.  While she was pregnant with their first child, Virginia, Beth went to school and earned a CPA in accounting.

3.  While still nursing Virginia, she launched herself into law school and seemingly in no time at all, earned her law degree.

4.  By the time she became pregnant with their second child – their son William – she got hired as a prosecuting attorney in Phoenix.

6.  In their “idle time” during this period, Beth and Bob created and operated a creative nursery school on their property for Virginia and five or six other pre-schoolers.

7.  It was during this time that Beth became pregnant with their third child Zachary. To avoid any dull moment which might have dared to occur, the family packed up and moved to temporary housing in Yuma, Arizona where Beth could work as for the Attorney General as an attorney for Child Protective Services.

Beth’s mother, Peggy Gorman, told me, “She spends a lot of time in court and has to travel periodically to La Paz county also. As an example, today she has some hearings in La Paz this morning and then has to rush back, nurse baby Zack— and then has hearings in Yuma this afternoon.” 

I’ll try to find out if between tasks, Beth has to find time to run into a phone booth in order to change into or out of of her Superwoman outfit.  

Beth’s husband Bob is retired from military life, but meanwhile he has his hands full, too, tending to Virginia, now in second grade, Bill who’s in preschool, and Baby Zack who apparently spends a good part of his day smiling at any and all of the commotion.  Bob is probably wondering what retirement is really like.  Fortunately, Peggy tells me that Virginia is a big help with her new baby brother.

The five Browns are an intriguing and interesting family.  I hope you get to meet and spend time with them some day.  Be prepared for a lot of productive activity in their household.

In the meantime, Elizabeth, I hope you had a wonderful birthday yesterday. And I hope you all get to move back to your beautiful home soon. Fortunately, there aren’t so many tall buildings in Surprise, Arizona that need to be leaped  over with a single bound.


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366. Little Miss Twinkle Toes

Are you still there?  I hope, I hope.

Octo-woman is still basking in the glow of her big Eight-O birthday.  Thanks to folks like you, it was a monumental day (even though I spent much of it at doctor visits with son Matthew).  The schedule’s been been so haphazard since then that I haven’t had time to sit down and describe it to you.  

There were so many comments, cards, and letters that I haven’t opened yet  — I’m saving them till next weekend.  Thank you for all of them, and for the phone calls, flowers, balloons, plants, presents, pies, cakes, pastries, candy, games and kind words you sent my way.  I’m considering the feasibility of having an 80th birthday every year.  Would you consider that? Or does it seem greedy?

But today is not my birthday.  This is the 27th birthday of my great niece Elizabeth Firtzpatrick Bush. 

Elizabeth is the daughter of my nephew Tim Fitzpatrick and his first wife Debbie. She has two older sisters, Katie and Abby.

Elizabeth is married to Chester – CJ – Bush.  They have two little persons whom you may have met before on this blog.  They are  AJ (Adam Jacob), and Olivia Katherine. They all live – guess where – in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Today, Elizabeth works as a medical examiner for Auxiant. Auxiant’s website describes its mission as being a “Third Party Administrator (TPA) of self-funded benefit plans.” They must take the stress out of dealing with health care benefits.

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It’s hard for me to picture her in any kind of a corporate position.  I’m always going to remember her as she was as a toddler.  All babies are adorable . . . but once in a while, you run across one who definitely has some smarts. And she had an irresistible and infectious sense of humor.  

The Fitzpatricks clown around a lot, and nobody loved the antics more than Elizabeth.  All her dad had to do was come into the room and cross his eyes, or if her Uncle Dennis was goofing around, or if any other silliness was afoot, Elizabeth would dissolve in giggles. Every household should have such a treasure.

Here’s some video clips of her when she was two-and-a-half years old.  She’s with her Aunt Dee-Dee (Fitzpatrick) Fortune, her sisters Katie and Abby, and her cousin Meghan Melchior. (The VHS video and audio is 25 years old so be tolerant). 

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth!  Keep dancing!

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365. Labor Rooms I Have Known

So here it is at last.  The last blob to mark my big day when I’m not going-on-80 any more.  I’ve graduated at last.  With 80 birthdays behind me, I am finally going to have to sit down and figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

As I’m writing this, it’s still Labor Day.  I don’t know about you, but when Labor Day rolls around every year, it isn’t the great American workforce I’m thinking of.  It’s all those many labor rooms I had occasion to visit and linger in.

Unless you enjoy pain, the labor room is a place you might want to avoid. Octo-woman can help.  Thanks to her ten pregnancies, she eventually was able to design and utilize many heretofore unknown birth control strategies.

Because you have been such a faithful and generous reader of this blob all year, Octo-woman wants to thank you by sharing some of these important secrets. 

The first method of birth control we shall discuss today is rhythm.  Octo-woman does not recommend it.  Rhythm – also known as Vatican Roulette –  is a sinister method of birth control, which, if pursued carefully, with the studied use of charts, graphs and calendars, can invariably guarantee that you will be pregnant within 30 days.

Take my husband Gene and me, for instance. On the day we were married, we set off on our trip to Miami, Florida where we planned to work and continue our schooling.  Along the way, Gene – ever the avid traveller, always seeking out interesting tourist sites along the way – wanted to stop and see St. Augustine, the oldest city in America.  When we got there, he stopped and was looking at the travel guide. “Look, Patty.” he said.  “There’s a quaint old shrine here that was established in 1565. Want to drive over and see it?”

“I guess so”, I said.  “What’s it called”?

“The name’s in Spanish”, he said.  “It looks like ‘La Madre De La Leche.”

Then came my fateful reply. “Sure, I’m game”.

And so, like a couple of demented turtle doves, we visited and prayed in the shrine dedicated to the mother of the nursing milk.  This is a shrine where for a few centuries now, married people have come to pray for fertility.  Yes, that’s correct – fertility.  In olden days, fertility was considered something to be desired. 

Well, anyway, we can never say we didn’t ask for what followed.  What followed was Mark Peter, Matthew Damian, Lisa Marie, Susan Marie, Gretchen Marie, Teresa Marie, and Judith Marie. And each was accompanied by a marching procession of Bills.

It didn’t take Gene and me long to figure out that we had a little fertility problem and we decided to do something about it.  We decided to limit the size of our family by practicing rhythm.  We kept practicing it, but we never got it perfect. To show you how successful this form of birth control can be, after we started practicing it, I only had six more pregnancies.

By that time, we were living in a part of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood which was known as Rabbit Hill.  They didn’t call it Rabbit Hill because the Easter Bunny lived there.  If you were to look around and observe all those Catholics in all those big old houses, with all those big families, you might assume that nobody was practicing birth control.  But you’d be wrong. EVERYBODY was practicing birth control.  They just weren’t using any methods that worked.

Few people outside of Capitol Hill ever gave us credit for it, though. As an example of how we were censured by the outside world, one summer we took the whole family on a train trip from Seattle to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  At various times, I would escort several of the little persons into the Ladies Room. One afternoon, a young woman was sitting at the mirror combing her hair, and when she saw all those heads coming into view she slowly turned around. 

“May I ask”, she inquired disdainfully, “how you happened to acquire all those children?”

Sizing up the girl’s age, I cleverly understood she wasn’t really asking me to summarize the earthy habits of the birds and the bees.  I didn’t have time to anyway, because Judy was unwinding a whole roll of toilet paper.  

“My, goodness”, I replied.  “I am much more interested in figuring out how we have avoided having eight.”

And I was.  I mean, by then I was rather fond of the seven we had already brought into the world.  As a neighbor of mine once put it, we weren’t exactly down on our knees making novenas for more new babies.  But let’s face it, once they get here, they have a big way of worming their way into your affections.

In the meantime, though, during the ten years I was pregnant, I became increasingly alert to alternative methods of birth control. 

Here, for the first time, they will be revealed.   If birth control has ever been a problem for you, or if you’re a Catholic of the old school, never fear: Octo-woman is here. 

There will be no charge for this service.  It is extended to you graciously by Octo-woman, herself, who is, as ever, keeping the world safe for democracy.  

Here are her tips in list form so it will be handy to tape them onto the refrigerator.

Octo-woman’s BIRTH CONTROL STRATEGIES

1.  Try never to go to St. Augustine, Florida, but if you have to, be very careful. Stay away from that ancient shrine to the lady of the nursing milk.  Unless you are prepared for what follows, do not go there. You have been warned. 

2.  Another way to limit the size of your family is to set up housekeeping at a considerable distance from your husband.  In the Vatican, perhaps.

3.  Convince your husband that you are a man.  At the same time, convince yourself, that your husband is an invisible man. It should work.

4.  Finally, if all else fails, you might try one other method which was once  described this way:  This lady went to the doctor — we’ll call him Dr. O’Shaunessey.

“Doctor”, says the lady, “My husband and I keep practicing rhythm but I keep getting pregnant.”

So Dr. O’Shaunessey says, “Sure’n you do!”  “Well,” he says, “I guess you’ll just have to try usin’ buttermilk.”

Confused, the lady says, “Well, Doctor, I never heard of using buttermilk.  Do I take it before . . . . or after?”

And he replies, “INSTEAD of.”

Well, that’s it. It might be a good idea to memorize these tips so you’ll always be prepared. And, yes, you’re quite welcome.  I always enjoy being of service to the world that needs me so badly.

Okay now.  The real reason I wanted to sign off on this going-on-80 blob with this topic is because the day we visited that Shrine to the Lady was the best thing that ever happened to us. And that’s the truth.  

Here below – in all its disheveled glory – is the last photo ever taken all together of the Ford Horde. I’m always going to wonder how we got so lucky. And since then, we’ve added two sons-in-law – Sean and Joe. This is the treasury Gene and I were given, and we never got over being grateful for it.Before I sign off today, thank you for reading and contributing to the blobs all year.  It wouldn’t have been any fun without you.

And thank you, grandson Bryce, for launching and using extortion to make me write in it every day. 

If you’re a “subscriber” to the blob, you’ll get emails letting you know if/when I crank out a few more from time to time.  Among other topics, I didn’t start doing the birthdays and anniversaries till the end of October and I missed a few more as well, so I’ve got some catch-up to do.  And I want to “flesh out” some of the earlier ones, yada, yada, yada.

I might also work on a family tree project, and, if so, and I may be begging you for help.  Most of all though I have to face tackling all those dozens of family video tapes I’ve accumulated and failed to edit. (Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus but he has no intention of editing all those videos, givehimabreak.)

So here I go, unbowed, undaunted, and unorganized into my eighth decade.  One thing you can count on is that as the years go on, I will certainly continue to apply Octo-woman’s birth control strategies, because I definitely and categorically do not wish to wind up in another labor room. 

One can’t be too careful, you know. 

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364. Driving Tips from Octo-Woman

The blob this week about failing my eye test while trying to renew my driver’s license reminded me once again of my erstwhile driving days of yore. While no one has ever suggested that I was a good driver, I do believe I should be recognized for my tactical skills in avoiding getting traffic tickets.

During the years I was driving, I can’t count the number of times I was stopped, questioned, investigated, scolded, warned, and threatened by the traffic police, but only a few times did I ever get presented with an actual traffic ticket.  Please don’t applaud.  Anyone can do it.  It just requires strategic thinking — and being accompanied by a toddler like my daughter Judy.

To demonstrate the strategy, I’ll first set the stage by borrowing this excerpt from my previous Blog #18 called Traffic Jam.   

“Years ago, when daughter Judy was between 4 and 6 years old – and our only child not yet in school, – she, and my friend Aline Felzer, and I used to pile into our old Ford station wagon every Thursday morning and go to the Pike Place Market.  This was before the artist Mark Tobey produced his paintings of the Market that turned it into a tourist mecca.  At the time Aline and I shopped there, trust me, it was anything but.

Back then, the Pike Place Market was the place to go if you were a hard-core penny-pinching grocery shopper.  We could find everything in bulk, day-old, marked down, below cost, overripe, cracked, a little bruised, or free.  

It was the only place we could buy the brand we called ‘El Cheapo’ in the #10 cans.  Or oatmeal in 15 lb. bags. Or where we could find bargains like what we carefully referred to as “used candy”.  

Used candy was always full of surprises.  It meant that the children might be finding in their Easter baskets an assortment of pumpkins, witches, bats and candy corn.  I don’t think the children were excessively disappointed because they knew full well that the bunnies, marshmallow eggs and jelly beans were on their way. Eventually, they would turn up later in their Christmas stockings. You just have to be patient in a big family.

Getting to the Market was always an adventure.  Aline couldn’t drive a car, and actually, neither could I, but since I had a driver’s license and access to a vehicle, I was the designated driver by default. Aline served as navigator, and little Judy in the back seat acted as our passenger decoy.  Her role was to capture the pity of the policeman with the traffic tickets.  Policemen like and protect toddlers, and, more importantly, they don’t want to put their mommies in jail.

As long as I could avoid the traffic hazards like one-way streets, hills and parallel parking, getting to the Pike Place Market was usually uneventful. Speeding tickets were never a concern because we never went faster than 10 miles per hour. Freeways hadn’t been invented yet in Seattle but if they had, we would have studiously ignored them.  

But the left turns – the left turns were our nemesis.  We took great pains to circumvent them but sometimes they couldn’t be avoided.

As the navigator, Aline would yell “Look out!  Turn left. Turn left!”  And I would.  Usually this maneuver was quite successful but not always.  I would say that on most of our Traffic Incident reports, the term “left turn” figured in prominently.

They may not point this out in Driver’s Ed but left turns are much harder to negotiate than right turns.  Even Judy could have made some of our right turns.  But when it comes to a left turn, that’s where you separate the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, the skillful from the more-or-less competent.

It didn’t help any, but we eventually decided that the problem might have been this:  as a lifelong Republican, Aline had had more practice navigating to the right and she just couldn’t get the hang of turning left.  It was a problem that was simply out of our hands.”  (End of Excerpt from Blob #18.)

While we were at the market, our shopping was fast and furious.  Between the two of us, Aline and I were feeding 16 people so we used to buy everything in BULK.

Little Judy riding along with us in her stroller was always well received by all the fruit and vegetable and meat vendors.  Many of them knew her by name, and everybody used to smile at her and give her a slice of bologna or a ripe banana.

When we were done with our mad shopping spree, it would take one of us two to four trips to haul our loot up to the car, while the other stayed with Judy and the stroller.  Once all of us were back in the car, it was time to prepare for the always suspense-filled drive home.

The times we got stopped by the police were nearly always in leaving – not arriving at the Pike Place Market. I think that it was because I was so unnerved by the procedure of un-parking the car. The street we were on was on a street so hilly that it was perpendicular to the market.  As soon as I would try to un-park, the car would start rolling backwards and then I would have to “gun” the motor to propel the car forward up the hill – and very often it would burst forward and accidentally go through the red light that was always waiting for us at the top.

It was at these times – when we heard the police whistle – that we needed our passenger decoy – little Judy in back of the car.

This is how it worked. Whatever the policeman was upset about, he’d get off his motorcycle and plow his way over to us.

First he’d glare at me, and then Aline. Then he’d turn to peer fiercely into the back section of the station wagon.  

Car-seats were unheard of in those days. There, seated atop our newly purchased 50 lb. bag of non-fat dry milk would be Judy – a small blue-eyed toddler, blonde ringlets a-tremble, clutching her banana, and gazing in absolute terror at the big scary policeman who was going to shoot her.

Sitting very quietly in the front seat, Aline and I always waited in hushed anticipation for the inevitable melt-down, and the magic words, “This time it’ll just be a warning, but next time . . .”.

After we completed our conversation with the very nice policeman, we would drive away as carefully as we could.

We would go straight to the Red Mill eatery across from St. Joseph’s Church.  There, Aline and I would smoke our Pall Malls and drink our coffee, and Judy would finish her banana.  Then we would all have hash-browns and eggs to celebrate yet another successful adventure at the Pike Place Market.

After Judy started to first grade and couldn’t accompany us anymore, it was never the same.  She kept us safe.  Those were the last times the police were ever nice to us.


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363. Craig Fortune

Here he is, today’s birthday baby: Donald Craig Fortune. As far as family and friends are concerned, his undercover name is Craig.

Craig is married to my niece Denise (Fitzpatrick) Fortune. and together, they have managed to produce and raise two very fine kiddies – Tom and Josie. (Be sure to take note that neither of the children’s names is “Cookie”. That must have taken a lot of restraint.}

Craig is so undercover, that even Octo-woman has never met him.  She thinks it’s terribly exciting to have a mystery man in her Roladex. 

I would tell you all about him but — except for the fact that he’s a bedside computer expert, he has a knockout-beautiful wife, they live in Wisconsin, he’s the father of two engaging and promising children,  —- the information is Classified.

Of course, the one thing everybody who knows anything knows – is that under cover of darkness, he’s a dancin’ man.

Check it out.  However, should you fail to do so, this media will self-destruct in ten years. 

 Happy Birthday, Craig.  

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