drips and drabs

For some reason, I still feel the need to not shit talk the people around me who have recently shown their true colors.

I think I’m doing it out of integrity, but who knows. Maybe I’m doing it out of fear – fear that these people won’t like me?

That would be stupid given the circumstances.

And not out of the realm of possibility

I do know, and I used to tell my ex-husband this all of the time, if you don’t want people to know what you are doing, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

Or, “Don’t give me so much to write about.”

All I know is that there is a major storm raining down and if I am to be honest about my life, I have to share a few little bits – drips and drabs so to speak – primarily for my readers’ understanding.

So here goes:

The person who said, “I’m not your person,” when I called from the hospital.

The friend that dropped me like a hot potato to pursue MXB so immediately after the breakup that he and I were still sharing a bed.

The friend who comes in to my work and instead of saying hi, skulks out without making eye contact.

Or the friend, whose first words upon hearing of my son’s accident were “He’d better have learned his lesson,” not “Holy shit, poor kid, I can’t imagine what he’s going through right now.”

As if my son doesn’t care one whit about what happened and how fortunate they all are.

And let’s not forget the good friends from whom I have not heard one single word since all of this began.

One might say to me, “This is about them, not you.”

A person might also say, “Get over it, you’ve got much bigger things to deal with.”

Or, “Those people don’t matter, you know who your real friends are.”

Or, “You are so loved, don’t let any of that shit get in your way.”

Or my kids might (did) say, “Those people are not your community, Mom. You’re a real member of the real Mancos. We know how to treat our neighbors.”

And yes, I can hear all of those things, and on a good day, I can see all of those truths.

But those people and their actions have hurt me so deeply; have made this breakup, loss of a life built together, loss of stability, giardia starvation, and accident thing a whole lot more difficult.

Needlessly.

I have felt pain in my very core.

And the worst part is that all of the comments, actions, and inactions, have also hurt my children; they too are being shut out and unsupported.

And, it’s given them yet another reason, like they needed more, to worry about their mother.

I know that festering and harboring resentments and taking everything personally isn’t helping the situation. I am trying my damnedest to find compassion and forgiveness; it’s hard.

I can also admit that probably no one has done anything to intentionally hurt me or the boys, but there is a careless, insensitive, lack of integrity that abounds here that just doesn’t work for me or my family.

So, now that that little bit is out there, I feel like I will be able to share, more openly and honestly, a little more of who I am at this moment.

 

 

 

 

my buddies, my pals

Now that I am moving out of my crisis fog (headache gone, giardia on its way out, heart healing, excitement building) I have the space to think about more than being a spinster, and here is what I am thinking this morning:

Going through a breakup isn’t just about the two people splitting. It’s really not when there is a family involved.

But this isn’t about that.

This is about the friends; the people on the periphery who are affected by the breakup in one way or another. This is when you find out who the real friends are.

Last time – the time we’d like to forget – I leaned so heavily on my people that I will never be able to repay them.

K and K – obviously the best two humans on the planet. Then there was the gal who warned me not to get involved and never once said, “I told you so” after the implosion. Or the friend that had the doctor call me to provide me with some relief from the relentless spinout. Or the friend that said, “He’s an asshole” based entirely on the fact that she believed me to be too good for him without ever having met him.

We all need those people to jump on our asshole bandwagon sometimes.

So this go round, it’s the same thing; who is on the team, who isn’t.

Let me tell you something folks, my team is BADASS!

I’m talking about feeling the love from around the world – even as far away as Africa.

I’m going to mention a few here. If I don’t specifically mention you, don’t take offense – I see you, I appreciate you, I am thankful for you. Also, those of you listen to me day in and day out and cry with me and get outraged with me and remind me that life is full of joy, you know who you are and that I wouldn’t be breathing without you.

First and foremost, K and K. Once again, scraping me off of the rocks, even though I haven’t had much time for either of them over the years. They just keep showing up with orange Fanta and Lilly Pulitzer-pink gladioli.

Best friend from second grade to whom I haven’t spoken in 2 years? And that was in a crisis. I never even heard what happened after the crisis, but it doesn’t matter – here she is.

Best friend from college; my Buffalo Soldier.

Africa and Oregon – high school “sisters” – they warm my heart.

My friend who sends me a screen shot of her phone at 4:20 with her funny looking dog sitting with a garden gnome. How can a person not feel better after that?

North Carolina – I adore you.

I am so appreciative of the offers to hide away in Durango or watch Netflix and play with puppies or escape into a private little apartment (and flowers and morning texts telling me I am wonderful) or to come over and play with dinosaurs.

My bitch friend who showed up at work just to say, “I love you.” She gets what I mean by that even if no one else does.

The one who is taking me away this weekend to our old stomping grounds.

The new friend who reached out because she saw me lose my shit at work.

Or the one who I spontaneously ate lunch with who said, “If you want to feel better I’d be happy to tell you more stories about my crazy world.”

Hers is a bit more “chaotic” than mine. She’s a way tougher cookie than I am. And she always makes me smile.

What about the wise one in the City Market Pharmacy line who looked at me appraisingly and said, “Oh you’re fine.” She said it so convincingly (almost dismissively) that I believed it and am 1,000 times better because of it.

I get heart emojis on my phone.

I get loving messages on Facebook.

The former mayor? A couple of words from her and I remember that I am a powerhouse – because she is too.

Utah – you are my hero. If you can do what you have done, I can do anything.

People have been reaching out publicly and privately. People have been funny, kind, understanding, non-judgmental.

People have cared about my children; they understand, without explanation, that my kids are also going through something brutal.

These are people who show me what true friends are; that time and distance don’t matter, that being cool (or not) doesn’t matter, and that show up in ways that I respect and welcome.

It’s so easy to get caught in my day-to-day life – to focus my friendship attention on only those who are right in front of me.

But this has made me see that 52 years of life has created a community that spans the planet, the years, and all of the phases of my never-dull world.

I am lifted up, carried, cherished.

I just want to thank you. I want you all to know that this has been a whole lot easier because of your love and attention. I am so glad that you are on my team.

 

 

Today my heart…

…is heavy.

Every year, come hell or highwater (which is exactly what it was this year – thank you Hurricane Matthew) my mother goes to Paris. Paris is her heart place; a piece of her soul lives there. We who love her, know this, embrace this, and send her on her merry way every October.

She’s almost 80 and legally blind and a badass adventurer.

But my 85-year-old father’s health hasn’t been so good lately. Actually, we’ve had some pretty big scares recently.

So Mom was going to cancel her trip but instead, I flew to Florida to hang out with Dad.

Perfect solution for all of us.

And then came the hurricane. Mom was gone, Dad was evacuated, I didn’t know if I was going to even be able to arrive here.

Turns out I was. Dad had just returned to his home which was damage-free, yet still a mess. When I got here, there was a massive amount of debris and the steel “shutters” still covered every window and door except the garage.

It was mighty dark and fortressed in here – like a bunker.

Dad was in pretty good shape and very good spirits. I was super psyched that I was here.

We’ve had a week of cleanup, chores, and lovely talks. We completed some projects that he would never have been able to do on his own.

And I have seen things; I’ve gained insights into my father and into being elderly in general.

I’ve witnessed that a sense of order is important. I’ve experienced the frustration of not being able to do simple things by oneself. I’ve opened the doors to the near empty refrigerator of people who no longer cook for themselves. I’ve met the comrades who take care of each other because none of them can do it completely on their own. I’ve been here for the death of a close friend’s child.

This morning my father is visiting a friend who can no longer leave the house and has become isolated and depressed.

I sat in the cardiologist’s office while he explained that they can’t explain what is happening to my dad’s heart and lungs.

I’ve watched my father wince in pain. I’ve seen that he needs to sit down and catch his breath after taking the dog into the yard to pee.

I made the decision to stay with my dad rather than take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity to see my best friend from high school – a choice I certainly would never have made when I was 17.

And, I’ve borne witness to his strength and resiliency. He’s still the same guy; kind, witty, intelligent, loving, and totally unwilling to give into old age and sit on his ass.

Vital.

We’ve had gallons of coffee, bowl after bowl of ice cream; we casually ate our meals at the bar in the kitchen rather than the dining room table. We’ve lingered, we’ve shot the shit, I shared some incredibly personal and painful bits of my life

For the first time EVER, we have watched the news and agreed on politics.

I have been told, repeatedly, by many of the folks in this town, “You are your mother.” I am honored.

My father is amazing, a gem. He is the most decent man I know. After close to 60 years of marriage, he and my mother are still in love.

So today, I depart. He will drop me off at the airport at noon so I can return to the rest of my family who I miss terribly.

But I am sad. I could stay here forever. I would love to be here when my mother arrives (tomorrow) and have more time with both of them.

This trip has brought to my awareness the fragility of life and the desire to share these last years with my mom and dad; they won’t be around forever.

I get that in a way that I’ve never really gotten it before.

I adore my parents. I am so fortunate to have been born into this family.

I am so thankful that I outgrew my stupid teenage rebellion.

Friends adapting to change

Me: “Elvis Aaron Presley, you get back in that car.”

Her. Spoken: “You said ‘git’, with an ‘I’.”

Her. Unspoken: “You fucking hillbilly.”

Me: “Right? What the fuck happened? I was a country club gal and now I have chicken shit on my boots and I’m talking high school football records with a ditch-digger.”

Her. Spoken: “I went away for just a little bit and came back and this is your life. I missed the process.”

Her. Unspoken: “Maybe I shouldn’t have gone away – I could have stayed here and reined you in.”

Me: “It’s like you going away and coming back a lesbian.”

Her: “Exactly.”

Me: “Thanks for noticing.”

Her: “Right back at ya.”

Coming out of the closet

I’ve been struggling to write.  I haven’t been especially inspired.  Really it all began with the shutting down of Single in the Southwest.

That was my choice – yes it was, in many ways – but to be totally honest, I hated ending that blog. It still exists, it’s just that I don’t write there any more and no one has access to it unless I allow it.

My Ex, T-dub, hated Single. Vehemently.

And I sort of can’t blame him, yet I repeatedly explained the math to him – stop giving me so much to write about and I will quit publicly raking you over the coals. I thought it was simple, yet apparently he didn’t see it that way.

In a moment of, I’m not sure what, frustration? indignation? I got so sick of him and his oh poor me I am such a victim of her writing act that I decided to rid the world of Single in the Southwest.

I understand why I did it and in the moment it seemed like the right thing to do – for the children.

Not that I believe the children were being hurt by anything I had to say – they didn’t even care about the blog – but T said that he would cooperate and be respectful if the blog was gone so poof! gone.

And I called his bluff. He “spoke” to me one time after that – ONE TIME.

And that was via text and just enough to inform me that no, he would not be paying his portion of the kids medical bills.

That was a year ago.

Could I have had my First Amendment Rights upheld in a court room? Probably. I certainly wasn’t writing anything that wasn’t true.images-2

I didn’t lie about him calling me a whore. I didn’t lie about him dying his chest hair. I didn’t make it up when he threatened me in public – in front of the kids and their entire football team – screaming that I had failed my children.

I also didn’t only write about him. There was a series on vibrators, quite a bit about parenting teenagers, and the one about work that almost cost me my job. And yet, he thought it was all about him.

Typical.

So yes, there was a good chance that I could have kept on typing away but I grew tired of the fight.

I also had a lot of fear. What if a Judge saw me as a bad parent because I wrote the things that I wrote? What if we stood in a courtroom and the Judge agreed that I was harming the children with my words? What if the judge called me a whore?

Then, the moment preceding the moment where I threw my hands up in the air yelling “I give up,” T was in the middle of insisting that of course, the blog could stay, but that he would be able to determine if anything that I wrote was suitable or acceptable.

In other words he believed that he should have final editorial approval before I hit “Publish.”

C.E.N.S.O.R.S.H.I.P.

Fuck that noise.

So, Blog – Gone.

Writer’s block – here for the long haul.

One of my greatest sadnesses when I look back over the years is realizing just how much of my life has been run by fear – primarily fear of him.

I have this deep anxiety-producing paranoia of getting in trouble which most likely started when, surprise surprise, I was a young kid and didn’t want to get in trouble.

Unfortunately I lived my marriage in a way that created the same dynamic. And then it showed up in a few other areas of my world, like work, and suddenly it became crippling.

I’d like to say that it became the litmus test for all decisions that I made, but the truth is, it didn’t.

I’m still independent and feisty enough to not let anyone else tell me what I can and cannot do.

I just suffered the consequences afterwards. In other words, I got in trouble.

So with my kids’ well-being at stake, I cowered in the face of fear and shut my trouble making mouth.

And in the process, shut myself right down.

But things are shifting for me. Or I actually need them to shift and so here is a step that will hopefully take me in that direction.

Over the last couple of years and the last few court hearings, I have come out on top – way on top. I have seen that the court system may be really flawed, but if you get a wise judge who is also a parent, sometimes things work out the way that they should; the way that is actually best for the children and…fair.

With the freedom of a few wins and watching a judge put him in his place and validate that I am a good mother, I am able to shed some of my fears.

So today, I am taking a monumental step. I am coming out of hiding.

Have I thought this through?

Probably not thoroughly enough, but I tend to be impulsive anyway.

I’m sick of the fear. I am sick of hiding. Sick to death of handing my power over to him. And living in secrecy has been doing just that.

So, today, I will link HDD to my own Facebook page.

And right here, right now I will say:

I , Suzanne Strazza, am High Desert Darlin, the artist formerly known as Single in the Southwest.

And I am a writer, a mother, a lover.

I am exercising my First Amendment rights.

And I am free.

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Her Turn

She tires of running people to the ER, Urgent Care, doctors.

Just this week, child number three’s boss called and began with, “Hi, it’s Karen. First, Bobby is okay.”

Which means that obviously he’s not okay, but he is still breathing.

Second eye mishap in as many weeks. Second time she’s put work on hold in as many weeks.

Before that, there were several appointments at the spine specialist plus two MRI’s for Peter. Then tack on physical therapy. Oh, and there was Mono.

Greg has managed to stay out of the medical world, but let’s not forget the year of the hamstring which really just isn’t far enough in the past to let go of yet and the annual spring influenza.

So she’s a caretaker. It’s what she does. And she gets damn tired of it sometimes.

So today, she decided to look out for herself, to take care of herself, to worry about just her.

And off she went to Urgent Care with something huge and unidentifiable imbedded underneath her right thumbnail, infected, causing agonizing throbbing up her entire arm.

Yay, she thought, today she doesn’t have to sit on the uncomfortable chair in the corner talking to the back of the doctor’s head while he examines whatever child she happens to be with.

No more falling asleep out of sheer boredom.

She got to get stabbed and prodded and scraped at and made miserable. She was fascinated with her wound and was able to watch the entire procedure from a front row seat. She got a hot pink, hot shit, bandage.

The very cute doctor who, unlike most physicians these days, was actually of her generation and not some Doogie Howser looking dude fresh out of med school, asked, do you know what it is?

No.

Do you know how long it’s been in there?

Nope.

You really don’t know?

Okay, hot doctor, I raise pigs and chickens, garden, plant, prune, climb fences, and cook for a living. I am rough on my hands. For all I know it’s a carrot under there.

Then the good doctor said, If you had waited any longer, it would have become a boil that blew off the end of your thumb.

Well shit, she wishes she’d waited for that.

He assured her that the pain would have been unbearable.

But it would have been so cool.

Then, to cap off a great afternoon, a little retail therapy and lunch with her lovely, uninjured children.

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Interesting Emotions

Interesting in a way that, as an observer, I would say, “Huh, I didn’t see that coming,” but I wasn’t an observer, I was the one having the emotions, so instead of being intrigued, I was momentarily overwhelmed.

Here’s the situation…

My ex-in-laws showed up at graduation yesterday. They traveled here together, even though they have been divorced since the year that I married their son.

She and I had been close in some ways, not so much in others. She’s a little batshit crazy. I haven’t thought much about missing her or her presence in my life. It’s been easier to write her off as a loon and forget that there was ever any connection between us.

He and I were very close, even in the early years after the divorce.  Then, once, he mentioned my (other) blog and inquired if I thought it might be hurtful to the boys. Since shutting down that blog was my ex’s raison d’etre, I figured dad took his side and considered me to be the horrible, emotionally abusive, bad guy, that his son portrayed me as.

Then, last year, in a desperate attempt to get my ex to do right by his children and help with their medical bills (which are astronomical) I wrote dad and begged for his assistance – in any way, shape, or form. His response…

Radio Silence.

Absolutely nothing.

It hurt, it was rude, it felt just like the Silent Treatment that my ex has given me for the last year and a half. I felt, that as the mother of his grandchildren, I at least deserved a “Thanks but no thanks because you, HDD, are a monster.”

But, it gave me another place to lay my indignation, frustration, and sadness for my boys.

As you can imagine, the prospect of seeing them yesterday at my son’s Big Day, was a bit nerve-wracking. I already had all of these emotions going about my baby graduating from High School, the end of an era, seeing my ex and his new family and wishing that somehow we could all get along for the boys’ sake and then there was the question of “How will his parents treat me?”

There was also the question of “How will I treat them?”

I walked into the auditorium determined to maintain my composure and be gracious, if given the opportunity, for the sake of the children. I was striving to be the bigger person and not ignore them as they had ignored me. And I was also prepared to be persona non grata yet maintain my joy for Greg.

After the ceremony, we all stood outside socializing (separately, of course) and just as things were starting to wind down and I had fallen into a conversation with friends who unknowingly were helping me keep my feet on the ground (thank you T and D), the ex-in-laws approached.

Oh. Holy. Fuck.

And suddenly, I was wrapped in a huge bear hug with dad and as self-righteously angry as I wanted to be, I felt myself hugging him back so very tightly. I could actually feel my guard letting down, could feel the physical and mental shedding of the armor.

And it felt really good.

When mom finally got there, I was able to turn and sincerely tell her how happy I was to see her.

I wasn’t the bad guy.  I wasn’t going to be ostracized. I didn’t have to hang onto my anger and hurt.

What I felt was relief. And love. And compassion for these two kind human beings who are struggling to move through the world just as the rest of us are.

They are doing the very best that they can and I can’t imagine that their position is a comfortable one. Talk about being in the middle.

Their son, to whom their loyalties must lie. Their new daughter-in-law (the third they’ve had to adjust to) who is really, from their perspective, not part of the problem and is just this young girl who walked into a hornet’s nest and started having children so then she is also the mother of their grandchildren.

There are the two children (theirs) who are adorable and innocent and ignorant of the shit show. Then, there are my two children, who have been emotionally beaten to a pulp throughout the disintegration of their parents’ relationship. And, Bobby, my child who they tried to make their child, who honestly just wants a place to call home.

And the last person caught in the awkwardness of the moment was MCB, who, as always, handled the entire thing with grace. His well-mannered upbringing showed in everything from his firm handshake with dad to his bow tie (which, yes, he tied himself.)

So these lovely people, older people, people who deserve a little peace in the twilight of their lives, are having to navigate waters that none of us more directly involved have been able to do successfully.

And they handled it like champs. Which gave me pause, then the presence of mind to put on my big girl panties, take the high road, and just show a little love and a lot of appreciation.

It was a big lesson and an emotional upheaval and a gift.

Today is Graduation (or: Oh Holy Shit)

Yes, my firstborn graduates from high school today. My baby, the person who changed my very existence just by showing up one day.

I’m proud and I am ecstatic and I am nostalgic. So many choices that I have made, that he has made, end up with us right here.

The moment I found out that I was pregnant was filled with excitement and terror. But from the very first look at that little blue line, I knew that he was my baby. I loved him with all of my heart.

Choosing to raise my boys here in this tiny and close-knit community…any questions I have had over the years about whether or not that was best for them, are answered today. Yes, bringing them up here was the best decision that I could ever have made. The things that they might have missed out on (culture, a more varied education, a larger pool of potential friends); none of those things are as important as their sense of belonging.

He is walking today with young men and women whom he has known since he was born. They are some of the closest friends a person will ever have.

T – the girl he fell in love with on the first day of kindergarten because she could “push him high on the tire swing.”

AC – the next girl he feel in love with and dated maybe 15 different times over the years.

D – the boy who fought him in kindergarten because Greg showed up wearing purple socks.

J – so close, they’d be madly in love if they weren’t like brother and sister. When her brother died way back in middle school, Greg insisted on going to the funeral saying “she’s my friend.” That was when I understood that he understood what true friendship means.

N – the boy who is now a father. The boy with whom my son got in shitloads of trouble. The boy whose parents I have spent a lot of time sitting with outside the principal’s office.

And most importantly, A. A has been a part of our lives almost since the day they were born. A’s mom has been my co-parent and best friend since the day we first met.

Our boys were inseparable for countless years; there’s no way to count the adventures, the learning, the excitement, the trouble, the hours that they have spent together.

They drifted, as childhood buddies often do. Different likes and dislikes, different activities and interests, different things that make them tick. And yet, they will forever be connected – forever friends. They hold such a special place in each other’s hearts.

And these children hold such a special place in my heart. I feel a sense of pride and, for lack of a better word, ownership for each of these children. I love so many of them, appreciate immensely who they have become and what decent people they’ve turned out to be.

And I know that there will be parents in the audience today who feel the same way about my child. This community is family and full of love.

And that’s what my children may have missed out on in exchange for culture or AP classes.

And as he says goodbye to an era with his classmates, I am saying goodbye to an era with their families, so as I write this, I am bawling.

How am I going to hold it together in the auditorium if I can’t even get my sorry arse out of bed?

The dinner party

When I was in Florida, my parents and I had dinner at Mary Lou’s house. Also in attendance were her daughter (my age) son-in-law, and college student granddaughter. The additional guests were old family friends who I haven’t seen in 20 years.

Lovely is the best word to describe the evening; lovely setting, lovely dinner, lovely company.

imgres-1Elegant is another word that I might use; from the 52 pieces of silverware at each place setting to the Wedgwood Blue striped wallpaper to the ocean waves lapping at the patio edges just outside the living room french doors.

Cashmere abounded.

A little wine, a bit of brie, and some very civilized pre-dinner tete-a-tete began the evening.

Then, dinner…individual pot pies crafted in the kitchen of the nearby clubhouse (country club, that is) and delivered with white gloves, hot and ready to eat (the pies, not the gloves).

There were place cards. imgres-2

Conversation was stimulating and sophisticated. We discussed one couple’s home in the Adirondacks that’s “much too big for just us.” Another diner who was “in railroads” shared humorous tales of his recent travels. One person shared her secret to serving creative, somewhat adventuresome, and delicious dinners to her family; mail order meals that arrive via Fed Ex on her doorstep 3 nights a week. “I’ve never cooked a plantain before and now I love them.”

We talked local politics where the mayor and councilperson’s party affiliations actually mean something.

We touched on prep school, college abroad, and Ivy League.

And I sat there praying with all my might that no one would ask me anything about my town, my life, my normal.

Because what could I say? “Oh our town board is working really hard on an ordinance regarding cows in people’s yards, and how many chickens they are allowed, and if they can have pigs. Roosters are out.”

Or, “Since we don’t live in town, we are raising chickens and cows and pigs.”

And, “I think I’m going to start carrying a gun when I run in case I encounter a cougar.”

Or simply, “We used to live on a paved street.”

I feel as if I come out of my town covered with a fine patina of barnyard dust and I was afraid I was going to leave a dirty ass mark on the upholstered silk dining chair.

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This Man

I used to write a lot about my dating and sex life and it was fun. But then I became involved in a serious relationship and it felt wrong to put anything about it or him out there in public.

Our relationship is sacred to me as is his privacy.

But today, I am filled with such overwhelming love and joy that I just have to share.

MCB is kind and warm and smart and funny and creative and introspective and lovely and well mannered and generous and delightful; he makes me swoon.

Yesterday he had an event for which he had to “dress.” He excitedly pulled out a suit; this was no slouchy, cheap fabric, ill-fitting suit; this was the real deal.

Next came the crisp white shirt, beautiful dress shoes, belt with initials and a bow tie.

Yes, he ties his own bow ties.

When he used his clothes brush to remove the dog hair from his overcoat, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

The thing is, this is my childhood, my upbringing.

I spent so many years and so much energy resisting and rebelling against Brooks Brothers that I convinced myself that “classy” wasn’t on my list of desires in a partner. I married a blue-collar guy from a steel town who wouldn’t be caught dead in a tie or real shoes.

And I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that or that one is better than the other; it’s more that in my old age, I am really drawn to what is familiar; what connects me to my wonderful childhood.

And I’m not saying that how a person dresses is more important than who the person is, but even Shakespeare observed, “Apparel oft proclaims the man.”

Clothing isn’t everything, but MCB is. There is so much that is admirable and agreeable and lovable; so much that makes me smile each and every day. So much for which I am thankful. So much more than meets the eye.

But the candy that meets the eye is pretty spectacular.