We do not bring our children up in the Sikh faith, Hubster’s Hindu faith or indeed any other, unless you class teaching them to respect others and not behave like mannerless twunts a faith (in which case I’m deeply religious).
I am Sikh (by cultural heritage) but am non practising and not religious. However, a few days ago saw the start of Lent, the period during which certain denominations of Christianity observe a forty day period of abstinence. So, I got to thinking about the concept of Lent, wondering what I would give up if it was part of my life. Now, giving up chocolate or wine or any of the customary items is just not going to work with me. Yes I appreciate the point is to choose something that you find hard to give up so that you are indeed carrying out a meaningful sacrifice. But that ship has truly sailed…quite a few times to be frank. In fact, I think that ship is permanently out to sea, never to redock again. (Okay, I think that’s about as far as I can stretch that metaphor.)
So here instead is my list of what I genuinely would give up for Lent (if only I could):
1. Yelling at my kids like a banshee, for the stupidest of reasons and waaaay past the point where I just need to stop (because even I no longer believe in what I’m yelling about)
2. Endlessly hoping I can get the whole house clean at the same time (instead of that piece-meal situation where I get part of it sparkly but by the time the other parts are clean, the first bit is ludicrously dirty again) and then actually enjoy it for a day – oh alright, a few hours.
3. Carbs. Well, not totally give them up as they are essential for the body of course but man alive, I wish I could successfully limit the amount of them in my daily diet. Sheesh.
4. Expecting Hubster to react more emotionally (or react at all) to certain things I say and especially towards the kids. Expecting Hubster to see things the way I do. In fact, all the expectations, the many unfulfilled wishes, the unsatisfied needs, the whole shabang…I just wish I could give it all up because when all is said and done…he is simply amazing.
5. Midnight munchies. I noticed a couple of months ago that I had finally, without any conscious effort, ended my lifelong habit of toast and marmalade with tea at stupid o’clock. Seriously, it never mattered how full this little piglet was from dinner…she’d still have her late evening toast snack attack. So why is this on my Lent list? Because no sooner had I realised I’d dropped it, than I went back to it, that’s why! Ugh.
6. My 100% confirmed totally undeniable never-ending inability to Go. The. Hell. To. Bed. before midnight. (No smartypant comments about how I should just go to bed before midnight and then I’ll stop doing the Paddington bear routine with the midnight marmalade, thanks.)
7. Night time blogging. I don’t go out to work, yet I just can’t fit blog, housework, grocery shopping, meal preparation, exercise schedule, kids’ homework and bedtime etc, into the hours before 8pm. I’m desperate to reclaim my evenings (and my face which is becoming haggard from the late nights).
8. My sweet tooth. Fair enough, I don’t eat cakes and sweets and drink fizzy drinks all day (or even once a week) but there is too much sugar in my diet and it is starting to worry me, now my twenties are a long way behind me. Besides, I’m sweet enough right?
9. My constant exasperation with the senseless, dangerous and incompetent driving on this island. Hubster says I get way too irate about it and that I just have to accept it’s how they drive (that’s if you call what they do behind the steering wheel driving). I could accept it if I didn’t have to go out on the road and endanger my kids’ and my own life.
10. Sarcasm. Basically.
11. My insane need for the nine hours of sleep I require (and have always required) to function. When I go to my maker (which is technically a phrase I’m not allowed to use considering I’m not religious but hey ho) and I’m asked about the one thing I wish I could have done differently, I think ‘not sleeping half my life away’ would be at the top of the list.
I lied about number 10 by the way.
HAVE YOU EVER GIVEN ANYTHING UP FOR A CUSTOM?
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We all want feedback on a post that we worked hard on. We love it when you share something we’ve written (you want to share it more than once?…please go ahead!) and we could cyber hug you when you comment on our social media pages etc. Running a blog is time-consuming and labour-intensive for oh so many reasons that I won’t bore you with (but you can bet any blogger reading this is nodding their head hard in agreement).
Basically, it is a very rare writer who only wants to be read by themselves and their Aunt Pam (or Parminder in my case, hey hey) before their painstakingly crafted words disappear into an abyss.
So when those words evoke a tidal wave of good will, kind wishes and raw emotion from people who totally get what you’re saying, it is truly gratifying and makes it all worth it. But when your words are misinterpreted and attract mean unpleasant remarks and aggressive behaviour (even if it’s only from the minority), it’s very disappointing. Nobody likes being misunderstood or attacked (even if only by the minority).
Well, if I ever realised the power of the written word, it was during what I will forever refer to as THAT week, when all that (and more) happened. I started off THAT week making many people cry after I wrote about my marriage. I managed to end it causing controversy with something I wrote about my adopted country, Malta.
Yep. Go me. And I could not have predicted any of it!
Basically, I came up with The Anniversary Card I Never Thought I’d Write because one of my blogging besties asked me to write a relationship piece, with no warning (when he had ample opportunity to give me more time and no he WON’T be getting a Christmas gift…men!). I was a total stress ball trying to write it because I hate working under pressure and didn’t like the way it was coming out (blah blah) because I didn’t feel it was flowing right (blah blah) and the angle wasn’t right (triple blah). I even messaged him at one point (okay…maybe more than once) moaning about how I was just coming off looking like an ungrateful complaining princess who had no idea how good she had it. Blah blaaaah.
I know. I get it. It’s not like I was aiming for the Pulitzer Prize or anything but I’m a wordy girl and dang it, how much do I hate it when the words just feel wrong? A lot. That’s how much.
On top of that, I cancelled my yoga class plans (#FirstWorldProblems), ignored mounting laundry and neglected my kids to write it, thinking it was being published on his site, only to nearly die of mortification when I realised this deeply personal ‘badly written’ piece was going on my site. (I told you…men…they don’t communicate properly and they give you daft deadlines!) On top of it all, I dropped a plank of wood on my foot trying to unearth our box of wedding albums to find an appropriate picture that I could then format, photoshop etc with just minutes to go before the deadline (and has that man asked me how my foot is? As if…)
Nobody called me a moaning Minnie. Nobody lectured me on how good I had it. Nobody judged me. Nobody saw me as husband bashing (thank Heavens).
Quite the opposite…
– I received messages from strangers thanking me for helping them feel less alone in their marriage and saying they cried from start to finish.
– I noticed women on various facebook forums saying they saw their own marriage crystallized before them in words.
– People told me they read the post/emailed it to their partners and it prompted them having a talk about their own future.
– Comments poured in to my website wishing me well and literally everyone related. Go figure!
– My husband read it, said
Ouch…but it’s factual, well written, gutsy and honest…well done babe”
and shared it!! I swear, if the tables were turned, I’m not sure that would have been my response. I fell in love with him a bit more for that. (And yes, he only saw it after it was published.)
– My mum read it…and cried… I felt so bad.
– Bloggers shared it on their social media pages saying they had read it several times.
– Words such as ‘brave’, ‘powerful’ and ‘honest’ flew about with amazing regularity.
You get the picture.
To be honest, I wasn’t trying be anything (apart from on time with my blog post). In short, there was an outpouring of emotion (sometimes from ‘surprise quarters’ such as a relative I’d not heard from in years messaging me to applaud me and so on). And as I said, I didn’t expect any of it. A good (heck a downright amazing) side of blogging.
a series run by Moderndadpages and Lifewithbabykicks. Now, I have lived in Malta for close to ten years. After talking about the good points of living in Malta on many occasions, I felt it was time to write a piece on the less positive aspects of the country called Dear Malta You’re Breaking My Heart.
I took pains to point out that there is no perfect country in the world and said we’ve never regretted our decision to leave the UK. The article was in no way an attempt to attack Malta or to tell its people what to do from some ‘self-appointed position of expat superiority’ or to claim that my birth country is any better. It was merely a lament on the increasing lack of common courtesy and positive societal values I’m witnessing here. It is because I love Malta that I care enough to write about her, which thankfully was in fact recognised by many local people.
I started writing at 2am, finished at 5am by the time I’d sourced images etc, got four hours’ sleep, got up to link it to the blog series and pop it on my Facebook page/personal wall too (cursing myself because of course I thought of several other points I should have mentioned). Then I went back to bed for a couple of hours.
When I woke up and looked at my Facebook page and site: Oh my word. (Or should that be Oh my words… I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.)
From what I could see, people were mainly agreeing with me left, right and centre but heated debates were breaking out across social media forums and lengthy conversations were taking place on people’s personal walls.
Several friends messaged me to say “Lady, you’re brave”. That word again…I was a bit mystified and wondered what I had done to be called brave.
I can’t possibly repeat on here all the comments from people echoing my sentiment, some of them who have just arrived in Malta, some who have lived here for years, some who left as a result of similar experiences and many of them Maltese born permanent nationals themselves. You can read the comments under the post of course. Suffice to say, I was taken aback at how many chimed in with stories of their own not exactly positive experiences here.
Many Maltese people thanked me for ‘speaking out’ saying that they feel the same frustrations, hoped the negative treatment had not put me off staying and apologised on behalf of their compatriots. Someone made a point about how the people who declare their patriotism the loudest often do nothing to look after the country they are so proud of and harm its reputation instead. Someone else said: empty vessels make the most noise. Great phrase!
Later that day a friend messaged to tell me she’d noticed the post had been shared to a ‘certain community page’. At the risk of incurring any further wrath, I’ll just leave it at that. She said “Get ready Honey”. Hmmmm…what does that mean? I thought. Go fix my hair? Put on a nice dress? Then she said “Shit’s gonna hit the fan”. Ah righto, forget the dress. Full body armour then.
Another blogger noticed a well known online magazine in Malta issued a counter article the same day to balance all those “nasty and bad things we [Maltese] do”. Quelle coincidence…
By now, it was 10pm Friday night and frankly after several late nights on the blog, I needed down time. I switched off the computer and some time later went to bed.
I woke up the next day to a surreal situation.
Now, hand on heart, I still genuinely believe that I was measured and on the ‘calmer’ side of emotional throughout the post. Even though I wrote it for a ‘rant’ series, in truth, I hardly ‘ranted’ and was in fact restrained leaving out quite a few negative points (something that many readers also noticed). Had it been an angry rant, I would not have used ‘breaking my heart’ in the title. I could/would have used something like ‘pissing me off’.
Alas, there were those who somehow missed the point and went on the attack, making such awful narrow-minded comments that they validated my very article with every word they wrote. (This was not lost on others who congratulated the bigots for making my point for me!)
The negative barrage included (amongst other things):
– being harangued on Twitter by someone calling me a bully because I hadn’t published his comments (when I’d simply not seen them yet). It was plain strange how many people didn’t realise I have a house/family to tend to and have to step away from my computer to do that.
– being criticised for authorising peoples’ comments which were seen as attacking Malta (so I should censor?) but then accused of not authorising comments which were attacking me (wait, so I shouldn’t censor?).
I actually authorised every single comment, in the interests of freedom of speech, even when those comments were hostile and mannerless towards me.
– being berated by someone for not publishing their comment and then berated even more once I did publish it and then getting a ‘bonus’ torrent of sarcasm and spite about my mental health, debating skills, strength of character, other blog posts etc! Priceless. The pity was that some of the points this person made about Malta were valid but it was useless even trying to reply to someone who was ill-mannered and clearly hellbent on just picking a fight over e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g including the name of my website!
– being lectured on “my country’s” colonisation of various countries (the irony of which was not lost on me as my country of birth colonised my country of origin so nope, I don’t run around waving a flag about what a great job Britain did there).
– being given a ‘lesson’ on various topics that were totally irrelevant to my post, including Sharia Law (it was like writing about the health risks of junk food only for someone to go off about Mercedes engine part prices).
– being told the experiences I had mentioned are rare occurrences (have these people had a camera following me around the last ten years?).
– being at the receiving end of the gold-standard finger pointing at other countries’ problems (as if that negates the need to do anything about the problems right here).
– and of course, receiving the classic “if you don’t like it leave”, as if this is the cure-all for a country’s problems rather than maturely appreciating there is room for improvement and that it is not shameful to admit this. The comical thing is that several Maltese people said they’ve also been told to go home leaving them wondering where they are meant to go as they thought they were already home!
To date the overwhelming majority of people who have read the post understood my overall intention. Many readers stressed that just because there ARE many good sides to living in Malta, that does not mean the island’s people should be opposed to an improvement of the bad sides and go on the attack when they’re are mentioned.
Most heartwarming of all, 90% of my new followers over the next week were Maltese people. What an encouraging sign! I’m not the UN. I’m just a one woman blog but that is still a sign, however small, that many nationals do recognise what needs to change and don’t behave like petulant children when a non-Maltese person highlights these aspects.
Now, I never expected so many people to publicly identify with what I was saying and actually come to my defense in front of those who clearly did not.
I never expected friends and bloggers to check in to see how I was weathering the storm.
I definitely did not expect so many private messages and so much good will from rational well meaning people saying they felt embarrassed by my treatment at the hands of certain others.
I didn’t think strangers would find me on Twitter to tell me I had done the right thing.
We’re all driven by different things. Some of us are blessed to find something we enjoy doing or at least find something we’re not bad at, whatever that may be! I love putting words together and seeing them turn into something.
I simply wrote two posts from the heart (instead of overthinking them to death which is my usual modus operandi). I never meant to make anyone cry with the first one and I definitely did not set out to offend anyone with the second. I don’t write to annoy people but it is bound to happen at some point and frankly if I spent my entire time worrying to bits about how people might react, I’d never publish a single post.
It’s quite simple really. If you relate to / laugh at / cry over / feel inspired or entertained by something I’ve written, I’m beyond delighted because it means I’m doing something right. THAT’S what lights the fire in my belly. And to be honest, even if I don’t want my words to offend or annoy people, as others bloggers have said, it still means the words aren’t disappearing into that abyss! Every writer wants that whether they’ve just got a blog they’re growing or they write for a major publication or they are a big time hot shot author.
Thank you for being part of the dialogue, for reading, sharing and commenting because that is what encourages me to keep going. I’m grateful beyond measure for all of it.
Yes even to the trolls!
Well…that and the need to make money for my wine habit…
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I sat down to write something for my wedding anniversary thinking I’d be writing a testament to the amazing relationship and strong marriage I think Hubster and I have. As the words poured out of me, I found myself writing a very different sort of post, one that actually shocked and unsettled me with the brutality of the pain I was clearly feeling as I wrote it so much so, I had to put it to one side. I then had no choice but to come back to it when one of my blogging besties Modern Dad Pages asked me to write something about relationships.
The things is, most people will read this and think What on earth is she going on about? This guy is amazing! (And yes my husband is amazing in so many ways.) But as you know, our problems (perceived or real) and our truths are personal to us and we never know what goes on behind closed doors.
My husband knows I’ve written this post and gave me his blessing to be as honest as I wanted (which again shows what a great human being he actually is). There are things I’ve not mentioned because there is only so much dirty laundry I’m willing to wash in public but this is still the hardest thing I’ve written to date and I can’t say that I’m that comfortable doing it. So here is:
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because you have such an easygoing manner towards anyone who meets you and you were always so laid back…but when one of our kids just drops some food at mealtime or a spills a drink at a restaurant, you literally freak and you have become angry and serious enough for the both of us (when I thought I’d cornered that market pretty well myself).
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because you are so chatty and open with your friends…but when I try to make conversation, I’m met with disinterest from a man who’s mentally left the building before I’ve even finished (started?) my sentence.
Dear Hubster I want to grow old with you because your cuddles are the best…but how do I cuddle a man who looks inconvenienced at having to budge up on the sofa when I sit next to him and who doesn’t think to just slip an arm round me when I’m washing the dishes?
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because you were my buddy who was always interested in what I had to say and with whom I’d close down the restaurants in Paris and London chatting til the early hours. We’d look over at the middle aged couples tired of life, tired of each other and we promised one another we’d never be like them and we’d keep the conversation going year after year.…but I’m honestly drained after years of silent evenings on the sofa or being cut off when I speak.
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because you were the eager lover who couldn’t get enough of me no matter what time of day it was, no matter where we were or whether we needed to be somewhere…but now, even though you say you still find me sexy and hot, when I give you the bedroom eyes, your brain fast forwards to how much you have to do and you suggest we ‘schedule it for later’. And later hardly ever comes…
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because I want to share my thoughts and experiences and interests with you…but when you snapped at your 5 year old who was just trying to show you a picture she’d drawn, what hope is there for me?
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because I chose you as my life partner…but how do you get through a life with someone when sometimes it’s just hard to get through a day without arguing about the stupidest things?
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because you are the man who goes to four different card shops to find a Valentine (and anniversary) card with the exact message he wanted to say…but who has so much difficulty just finding the romance in the simplest of daily transactions as man and wife even when the opportunity is staring him in the face!
Dear Hubster I want to grow old with you because I love you…but there are days when I ask myself if I actually do or whether love is even enough to see us through.
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because we made three amazing kids together and I know you love them like mad and see little point in even being home if your wife and kids aren’t around…but you never show any interest when I tell you about something they’ve done or said and I hurt waiting for you to show interest in teaching them a sport or spending individual time with them.
Dear Hubster I want to grow old with you because you are so wonderfully different from anyone I’ve ever met…but we’re both so very different it can be hard to just get on.
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because you are the most domesticated hands-on partner anyone could hope for…but maybe in between stacking the dishwasher, emptying the bins and doing the school run, the old you and me disappeared?
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because you used to make me laugh endlessly…but now you rarely find my jokes funny and I don’t get yours anymore on the rare occasion you clown around.
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because I thought you’d be the most gentle warm laid back father…but your yelling, lack of patience, inability to understand when they need sympathy or terms of endearment kills me.
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because I have NO bloody right to complain about a man who does the kids’ packed lunches every morning, gets bedding and floors clean and has food in the fridge for when I return from a trip abroad with the kids (and checks us in online without being asked)…but I just wish that man could show his wife and kids some emotion instead of always being so practical.
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because you have told me so much that you love me and you’re trying to take on board how I feel…but you and I both know there’ll be another blow out, I’ll retreat inside my shell and cry endlessly in private, you’ll apologise and on and on it will go.
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because mere words cannot describe the appreciation and respect I have for how hard you work to give your family a home and a life (never pressuring me to go back to work after I had the babies)…but you can’t run an entire marriage on that alone and I need to respect you as a friend and lover too and I can’t rebuild that on my own Baby.
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because that’s what friends do
..but so much of the time I feel like we’re just housemates who raise three kids together.
Dear Hubster, I want to grow old with you because you are the wonderful man who insists we go out to celebrate our anniversary...but don’t you wonder what we’d be celebrating? I am feeling depressed and terrified at the thought of an evening of awkward silence or desperately trying to find things to talk about with you apart from bloody work.
Dear Hubster I want to grow old with you because you are gentleman. Thank you for being that gentleman and listening.
I have a hubby who goes above and beyond in so many ways, a hubby who isn’t possessive, who doesn’t ‘expect’ things from me and who gives me space to be me. I also have a hubby who gives me THE most wonderful anniversary and Valentines cards with heartfelt messages he has really given thought to writing when half the time, I don’t get round to getting him one or I find crappy ones! It takes two people in a relationship, I have plenty of faults and frankly marriage takes constant work and care. The Disney straight forward happy-ever-after fairytale does not exist. I think, in the end, each couple has to create their own fairytale. My hubby is aware of and really wants to address his emotional attentiveness and other shortcomings. In the meantime, I’ll be having a good think about addressing my own…
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I didn’t do a speech for my husband’s 50th birthday party. Don’t judge me. He hardly prepared one for our wedding (ha, I’ve waited a long time to get that one in). But if I had, it would have gone something like this:
So Hubster has turned 50. Yep, 50. Oh my Gawd, FIFTY!! Thank you, I’m holding up okay. Your concern is touching. If you wish to buy me a Mojito or two (or fifty…bloody hell that number again) to help me drown my sorrows, I shan’t stop you.
I can’t deny, I woke up on his birthday, looked at the man next to me, thought “Holy Crap, I’m married to a 50 year old” and then immediately blurted it out on Facebook. What can I say? The sharing was therapeutic. He might be the one who’s turned 50 but I’m the one having the damned mid-life crisis. Why am I having a mid-life crisis? BECAUSE I’M MARRIED TO A 50 YEAR-OLD. Please keep up! But enough about me.
It was also our kids’ Sports Day that day and erm, I suggested that he take part in the Fathers’ 50m Sprint. Again, what can I say? I thought it was a cool idea for him to run 50m on his 50th. Um…about that…poor guy…running and sprinting are not the same, especially when you haven’t done any exercise in months…or more importantly haven’t sprinted in about 25 years…or even more importantly you’re 50! I didn’t fare much better, despite being a runner (of sorts). There I was thinking “50m sprint? I’ve got two half marathons and a race trophy to my name people. I’ll nail this.” Um…about that….poor misguided woman…running and sprinting are not the same…my thighs still bloody hurt. But there I go making it about me again.
So let me talk about birthday boy instead. To this amazing man whom I call hubster, I say:
YOU’RE A TYPICAL BLOKE. (I love it.)
You have this amazing ability to zone everything out and concentrate, to the point of deafness, when working or watching a football match. BUT when two women kiss on Greys Anatomy, you suddenly sit bolt upright and swivel your head a full 360 like the kid in Exorcist. See? Typical bloke.
YOU DON’T GO IN FOR DRAMA OR OVER-REACTING.
Of course, it would be nice if you raised an eyebrow in excitement occasionally and please don’t say “I do when Man U score” or “you react enough for the both of us babe”.
YOU’RE A RELIABLE SELF-EFFACING TOWER OF STRENGTH.
When friends or family need you, you’re there. Enough said.
YOU STILL MAKE ME LAUGH ALL THESE YEARS LATER.
– “Man, I’m absolutely stuffed. I couldn’t possibly eat another thing…for at least another 10 minutes…where are those biscuits you bought by the way?
– “Actually, why is it called the menopause if only women get it?”
– “Well it’s lamb, Babe. Of course it’s going to take M bloody ages to eat a bit of meat. This is the kid who chews soup.”
are just a few of the (publishable) hubster classics over the years.
However, when M was moaning that she was bored and didn’t know what to play, you probably took things a bit too far with: “Why don’t you just go and sit on your bed and stare at the ceiling?” .
YOU’RE THE HARDEST WORKER I’VE EVER MET.
(Mind you, my mum and my sister M.E. are close contenders). I have never met anyone with the resilience under pressure, the mental strength and the sheer mind-boggling drive with which you are blessed. Maybe you were not naturally blessed with it? Maybe you worked at developing all that? Even more impressive in my book.
YOU’RE A MAN’S MAN. Hallelujah!
You need your male buddy time occasionally and you jolly well deserve it…and yet you know how to talk to women. My female friends love you. Again, LOVE it.
YOU’RE NOT WIRED THE SAME WAY AS MOST PEOPLE I KNOW.
This is a cool thing (mainly):
– You don’t expect anything of others (apart from me laundering your tidy whities and putting them back in the drawer) so you waste very little time being disappointed; I wish I could master this. (The downer is that because you expect so little of others, you don’t think that they may/should expect something of you.)
– You’re forgiving and non judgemental. HOW do you do that?!
– You don’t let yourself get weighed down by the kind of crap that bothers most of us. You just don’t give it energy.
– You don’t follow conventional norms (which can be a real pisser but I’ve learned to live with it).
– You don’t ‘get’ that kids are just kids. I’m guilty of it too. Let’s not have a contest about which one of us is worse. Let’s just let them be kids ok?
– You don’t feel wonder or curiosity in the world around you the same way as me…shall we change that?
Well, I said this bit was mainly cool baby.
YOU ARE FLEXIBLE, UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORTIVE IN SOOOO MANY WAYS.
There is nothing you won’t do.
Apart from DIY.
But it’s your birthday party and I don’t want to start a fight.
YOU’RE A GENTLEMAN. A REAL FIRST CLASS INDISPUTABLE GENTLEMAN.
I knew it from really early on. I also knew that (luckily for me) you know when not to be 😉
YOU’RE JUST A REALLY GOOD MAN.
Last but not least:
YOU ARE SO LUCKY TO BE MARRIED TO A YOUNGER MODEL.
I didn’t say I was young. I said I’m younger.
Oh come on, you didn’t honestly think I would make it all about you, did you?
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