The Teenager That Santa Forgot..

One year, Santa forgot me.

It’s true.

To be fair, I wasn’t a small child. I was a teenager.

So how did I come to be left off Santa’s list?

It was 1985. The year of the first successful heart transplant, Windows 1.0, The Golden Girls, The Breakfast Club, Live Aid, Take on Me and wearing your jacket sleeves rolled up Miami Vice style..

I was:

Fifteen. Teenager. Vegetarian. Knew Everything. Annoying.

I don’t remember how I came to be vegetarian, I just know that from 14 I declared myself a meat free zone. I lived on cheese, as 80s vegetarian options looked (and tasted) like Trill. Thank God for Linda McCartney, eh? Problem was, Mum never did understand the concept of vegetarianism. She gave me cheese in place of meat but then poured gravy over it which kind of defeated the object..

Maybe it was hormones combined with my undiagnosed autism (and copious amounts of cheese) but my teenage years were funked up and not in a good way..

I’d argue that black was white and I’d do it with a PASSION. Not content with being meat-free, I terrorised everybody else for being ‘murderers’. Dad took it all in his stride. He thought it was hilarious, but Mum was suffering from the menopause (or rather we were suffering from her menopause) and that particular year she and I clashed more times than a pair of cymbals.

By Christmas, I was struggling. Doing the social thing exhausted me mentally and physically. Going out took hours of stimulating myself with rock music and days of recovery time afterwards. Every time I convinced myself it would get easier but it never did because exposure only works with shyness and I wasn’t shy. I was autistic.

That year I’d asked ‘Santa’ for loads of records including The Cult’s ‘Love‘. I’d been borrowing my mate’s LP but she was pissed off with it spending more time on my record player than hers, so I was looking forward to getting my own copy. Gimme a whoop!

Christmas Eve

We were allowed to lie on the sofa watching films all day and the jar of Quality Street was ceremoniously opened. It was a good day and in the evening Mum challenged her inner Hyacinth Bucket (It’s Bouquet) and did a candlelight supper, which was V posh.

I felt very grown up.

I was even allowed wine. SHHHHHHHH!

Dad was on the Jack Daniels.

Brother was semi-pissed on Southern Comfort.

Mum was on the Stella (I’ll fight you and everyone else) Artois.

Everyone was happy.

Until it went tits up..

I don’t remember what I said, exactly. Maybe it was something about meat and murder again? I just know that I opened my big mouth and said something that had my mother slamming the louvered doors off their hinges as she flounced off into the kitchen.

In my confused mind, ONE thing registered.

SHIT!

Dad was rolling his eyeballs.

Brother was smirking at me.

Elvis was crooning Blue Christmas in the background.

My mother was turning the air blue in the kitchen in-between nose blowing sessions.

Tentatively, I inched my way into the war zone but took one look at her face and knew that grovelling was futile. She looked like Alice Cooper, only with red eyes. Even in my limited understanding of body language, I knew my best (and only) option was bugger off upstairs and leave Dad to smooth things over.

So I went to bed and endured one of the most miserable nights of my 15 year old life.

What, in the name of Ian Astbury, had I said to incur SUCH a reaction?

I still don’t know.

All I know is that I was forever being reprimanded for ‘showing off’.

Showing off?

Er, I’M AN INTROVERT?!

In hindsight, I know that the Christmas Eve fiasco wasn’t ALL down to me. I blame Stella Artois and lack of oestrogen. Stella because it always made my mother do the crying thing and lack of estrogen put her on a permanent hair-trigger. It could have just as easily been my dad or my brother who said something to upset her, eh?

But it wasn’t them.

It was me.

Mostly what got me into trouble were my meltdowns. I’d become overwhelmed, therefore out of control, and it was interpreted as me being a little shit – as so often is the case with autism.

Nobody knew I was autistic.

Not even me.

Christmas Day

I unenthusiastically wished Jesus a happy birthday and prayed that he’d put in a good word with my mother overnight and she’d forgiven me for “ruining Christmas”. I lay in my miserable pit until I heard sounds of life downstairs, then slowly made my way down into the kitchen where Mum was perched on her stool puffing away on a Silk Cut. She narrowed her eyes at me. This look meant, ‘Approach me NOT. I’m still pissed off with you!’.

I slunk into the living room..

There, lit up in all it’s magnificence was our faux Christmas tree and underneath it were three piles of presents.

One for my brother.

One for my dad.

The third pile was my mother’s.

FUCK!

Didn’t say fuck – obvs -my life was hanging in the balance as it was.

For the first time in my existence, Santa had forgotten me.

I’D MADE THE NAUGHTY LIST.

THE SHAME!

Mum looked weird. Sort of angry and sad at the same time and that’s quite a hard one to pull off!

Brother was still smirking. That litle shit positively basked in my misery!

Tears slid down my face.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sorry for myself in all my life.

Dad couldn’t take it anymore. He looked at Mum and said, “You’ve made your point Flo. Come on now. It’s Christmas”

Mum snorted and flip- flopped upstairs in her new mule slippers.

A few minutes later she appeared with my presents.

She went from angry to misty eyed in a matter of seconds and hugged me so hard I thought she’d busted my lung.

“And let that be a lesson to you, Madam!”

Despite having no literally NO idea what this lesson was supposed to be, I chose to keep my trap shut.

Maybe that was the lesson?

Ordeal over, I started ripping into my pressies with the finesse of a three year old on E numbers.

My first gift?

It was Love.

When I tore off the wrapping paper that Christmas morning in 1985, I had no idea that 32 years later, the lyrics to the title song would have such significance to my very existence on this planet.

I guess you could say that I’ve spent most of my life in the ‘wrong hole’?

Now don’t go and ruin this moment by thinking rude thoughts about holes? *serious face*

I mean ‘wrong hole’ as in trying to be neurotypical.

Spent a long time in this hole
Spent a long time in the wrong hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas and the Autistic Child

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Most children like Christmas right? For many on the autistic spectrum, Christmas is a stressful time of year. The inevitable changes to routine are enough to send some children spiralling into one meltdown after another..

Same for autistic parents.

The Boy’s anxiety has been climbing for weeks. As soon as things change at school his behaviour deteriorates. He’s on a VERY short fuse and the simplest of requests, like taking his coat off, has him throwing stuff and stomping off upstairs screaming that he wants to DIE. He’s eight going on thirteen only this is him BEFORE the hormones kick in!

Can you imagine when they do?

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Trip hazard? Or my son when the testosterone kicks in?

The Boy’s need for me is ever greater as he battles with a brain that struggles to cope with Christmas. He likes Christmas but struggles with it just as he struggles with a lot of other things he likes.

There are no decorations up at our house yet as we’re trying to keep stimulus to a minimum and my anxiety is so bad that the mere thought of them makes my heart race. The control freak within me struggles to allow other people to do it and in the past when I have let the kids, er, ‘help’, I have stood there fighting the urge to rugby tackle them to the floor in order to prise the baubles from their clammy little hands. *whispers* I re-did it once they were in bed. It’s something I don’t like about myself but it’s a pathological need for certain things to be aesthetically pleasing in my eyes.

When it comes to visiting Santa, forget it. It’s a sensory nightmare.

Queuing = Hell.

Noise = Hell.

Migraine inducing fairy lights = Hell

Sitting on Santa’s knee. Do they still do that? = Hell.

I hated it as a child. The Boy managed one minute in a queue once and we had to leave. Do your child and yourselves a favour and go to an autism friendly session where the visits are timed, you can take your own present. Visiting Santa should be a pleasant experience for every child, no?

There are things you can do as a non-deranged parent to make things a little easier for your autistic child.

Decorations

  • You can involve your child in buying decorations or letting them help you to put them up.
  • Introduce the decorations gradually. It’s probably best not to have it looking like Santa’s Grotto if your child gets easily overstimulated.
  • Give some thought to your Christmas lights. If your child is very sensitive, a migraine inducing strobe effect probably isn’t the best idea. Static or gentle fade in and fade out lights will be more appropriate.
  • Use countdowns for putting the decorations up and taking them down.
  • Use social stories and visual calendars.

Visiting Santa

  • Check your local papers/social media for autistic friendly Santa-sessions

Presents

  • Mountains of presents will overwhelm most autistic children so it’s best to limit how many they get or don’t put them all out on Christmas Day.
  • If your child has sensory issues pay attention to the paper you use to wrap the presents with.
  • If unwrapping make them anxious then don’t wrap them at all.
  • Place a familiar toy next to the new presents.
  • Try some gentle classical Christmas music in the background especially if classical soothes them normally.

Family

Don’t feel under pressure from your family. If you know your child can’t cope with a big family get together on Christmas Day, then don’t be afraid to tell them to sod off – albeit politely. Your child’s well-being has to come before Great Aunt Ada parking her arse on your sofa all day scoffing the Quality Street eh? Life is different when you have an autistic child. If people get it, great. If they don’t, educate them until they do get it. Maybe give them a book on understanding autism as a Christmas present?

Familiarity

Christmas Day is just the three of us. There are no visitors. There is no Christmas dinner with party hats and other such paraphernalia. The Boy has his usual food and bedtime is the usual time with the usual ritual of a story and his Classic FM.

The Rules are that there are NO rules when it comes to autism. Each person is different. Some love Christmas, some don’t. All autistic people are affected but not necessarily in a negative way.

Me? I find Christmas stressful BUT it’s also the season of fairy lights and I BLOODY LOVE fairy lights!!

As a child I used to lie on the floor under the Christmas tree and stare at them for hours on end. My Nan, having downed a few brandies, would say, “You’re a funny little girl” I used to wonder why she was calling me funny when I hadn’t said or done anything funny. Now I know she was calling me weird. MY OWN GRANDMOTHER!!

Christmas is difficult for me in ways which most people wouldn’t understand. I’m not a Christmas hater – it’s just that there is too much going on and that sends my anxiety orbital. Social media is crammed with Christmas. TV is bombarding us with adverts/mini-movies for the hard sell and it gives me a headache. If I could cherry pick bits of Christmas it would be lights, carols and the act of giving. You can keep the crowds, commercialism and my pet peeve, ‘Secret Santa’.

I don’t suppose it helps matters that my father decided to shuffle off his mortal coil on a Christmas Day. To lose someone you love on any day of the year is bad enough but to lose them on Christmas Day is epically crap. The image of Dad’s lifeless body while Noddy Holder screeched “IT’S CHRISSSSSSSTMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS” is forever seared into my memory and while I fight to bring forward the memories where he was the life and soul of Christmas, this one always wins.

As regards The Boy, we try to keep things as close to normal as is possible. Whatever ‘normal’ is.

Header Image via Creative Commons

 

 

Hello, It’s Me..

Everybody remembers the last conversation they had with a loved one before that person died.. It doesn’t matter if the conversation was in person or via the phone. It was those words, spoken or unspoken, that stay with you.

Princes William and Harry were holidaying in Scotland with their father when they last spoke to their mother. Diana was in Paris but she always found time to speak to the two boys who were her life. On the 30th of August she phoned her sons. William and Harry remember this last conversation as being too brief because they were eager to be doing other stuff. They were behaving as young boys do. They were not to know that in a few hours time the mother that they loved so much would be dead. That last phone call haunts them and I understand it because I too am haunted by my last phone call with my mother.

Death.

Death is tricky. Sometimes you get prior notice that he’s coming for a loved one. If death is inevitable, then surely this is the best scenario because nothing is left unsaid? The living can carry on comforted that they got to say goodbye and the dying can let go knowing that there is nothing left to say. That’s the kind of death I want. To leave on my terms. However, Death so often takes our loved ones without warning. There is no opportunity to tell them one last time how much you love them. They are simply – gone.

Death gave no warning about my mother.

The last time I spoke to Mum was the night before she died. I’d been in hospital having a procedure done under general anesthetic and I’d not been home long before she phoned to see how I was. I was woozy from the anesthetic and I just wanted to sleep so I fobbed her off and told her I’d speak to her the following morning. That was the last time I ever spoke to her. How could I know that she would be dead before I woke up the next morning?

Mum hadn’t been ill, except for a “bit of a tummy bug” which she’d mentioned in passing that week. The ‘bug’ turned out to be Bronchial Pneumonia. If she was suffering, nobody knew, because she didn’t say anything. She didn’t ‘do’ illness. Illness was an inconvenience which interfered with hair appointments. She couldn’t be done with it and in the end her stubbornness was her undoing.

What happens in these circumstances is that you replay that conversation over and over in your mind. You don’t remember the other conversations you’ve had with that person. You just remember those last words. You rewrite the script or at least you try to because you feel cheated or guilty or both. You feel like you are the worst person in the world because of that last conversation. You’d give anything to be able to go back in time and do it differently. To this day, I don’t remember if I told her I loved her. Normally, I would have, as I had ended every other phone call, but I was semi-sedated. I most probably did because I ended every conversation the same way. The problem is that it was often like reciting the Lords Prayer, as in, something that you say without actually thinking about it. You know?

My mother was no longer at the end of the phone but that didn’t stop me dialing her number. I needed to hear her voice and I knew where I could find her, for a little while longer, at least..

Hi, it’s me, I’m not here at the moment but leave a message and I’ll get back to you.

I lost count of how many times I rang number Mum’s number to listen to this message. Even though I knew that the phone was ringing out into a house which was no longer a home, it didn’t matter because it was still her voice and it comforted me.

Given the chance, our last conversation would have been very different. Then again, there is a belief that things happen for a reason. What if I was to go back and hear something in my mother’s voice which alerted me to the fact that something was wrong? What then if I was to intervene only for the outcome to be that for the rest of her life she was frail and dependent on others? If you knew my mother you’d understand how much she’d have hated that. As hard as it is to lose someone, if we look hard enough, we will see a blessing in some form. Sometimes we just need to look at things from their perspective instead of our own.

It’s unrealistic to treat every conversation as if it’s the last you will ever have. Life gets in the way and with the best will in the world there are always going to be occasions where we have to cut conversations short. However, no matter how brief a conversation may be, there is always time enough to say the only thing that really matters.

“The news of life is carried via telephone. A baby’s birth, a couple engaged, a tragic car accident on a late night highway – most milestones of the human journey, good or bad, are foreshadowed by the sound of a ringing.” Mitch Albom ~ The First Phone Call From Heaven

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How To Survive Being Married to an Aspie

‘In one word, what’s it like to be married to an Aspie?’

OH: ‘Eventful’.

I can’t argue with that..

Next, I ask him to describe me in as many words as he can..

OH: ‘No chance!’

‘Er, why?’

OH: ‘Er, because you’ll kill me?’.

I do what I consider to be my ‘girly’ laugh (it isn’t) and tell him not to be a silly sausage but, to be fair, he is danger of ending up under the patio depending on what he says about me..

OH’s Description of Me

Passionate, Intense, Accurate, On edge, Careful, Opinionated, Knowledgeable, Fixed, Driven, Family.

Fair dos.. nothing in this list warrants a swift whack on the back of the head with the garden spade. However, I know how psycho I can be so I thrust the paper at him again..

‘I’ll bury you under the patio IF you’re not 100% honest about my crappy bits.’

OH: ‘I’ll need a bigger piece of paper then’.

I know from his face that he isn’t being literal and that he is, in fact, taking the piss..

A few minutes later, he gives me the additional words..

OH’s Description of Me Continued..

Impatient, Relentless, Opinionated, Unmoving, Indecisiveness, Moody.

I can’t argue with any of these either, though he does say opinionated twice.

‘Oi, Div, you’ve written opinionated down twice!’

He pipes up, ‘Oh yeah, you’re repetitive as well’.

So there you have it.

Straight from the horses gob.

I will be honest here and say that, by rights, I should live ALONE somewhere remote (but with WiFi) because I’m not good at the social stuff. I also like my own space and struggle having to share it. In addition to this, I go through the entire mood spectrum in any given day. I can be happy (ish) but one word out of place will summon Grumpy, Psycho, Nutter, Stroppy, Flouncy, Cranky and Loon faster than you can sing Heigh-Ho.

OH literally doesn’t know where he is with me. I do his head in. Official. I think my indecisiveness is possibly the worst thing for him because when I am overwhelmed, I literally can’t make a decision between having coffee or tea.

‘Do you want tea or coffee?’

“STOPPPP, IT’S TOO HAAAAAARD” *has breakdown*

I’ve just been diagnosed but I’ve known I’m autistic for the last four years and OH married me with that knowledge. Despite my attempts at ‘normal’, he’s always known I’m a weird sod. YET HE DIDN’T RUN?

Being with an Aspie is hard work. My issues are severe at times and I’m a lot to handle at the best of times. I feel slightly guilty because when we met I was still very much trying to fit in (therefore not being me) but over the last five years it’s become a gradual process of being truer to myself. The menopause has played a part in that because I’m too sodding knackered to sustain that level of pretence anymore. I guess I’m lucky because I have an NT husband who admits he doesn’t understand me, yet still wants to be with me.

In the spirit of good will and all that, I’d like to pass on a few tips which may be helpful to NT partners both male and female.

Alone Time

Your Aspie may need a LOT of alone time. Let them bugger off to do their own thing or they’ll be, like, super cranky.

Obsessions

As much as their obsessions may bore the CRAP out of you, it’s a good idea to let them wax lyrical about them now and then. It’s worth it just to see their faces light up, no?

Patience

You’ll need SHIT LOADS.

Communication

Because I’m crap at verbal communication (and misunderstand things people say to me) we communicate via email when I need to get stuff off my chest. It’s a lot less stressful, believe me.

Learn about Aspergers

I cannot stress how important it is to understand your partner’s autism as best you can. Nobody is expecting you to know how they feel but it helps to understand why they do to certain things and what you can do to support them.

Your Needs

Tell your partner what you need from them. Don’t hint or expect them to read your mind. Write it down if you need to.

You Time

Make sure you do something for YOU. Something that takes you away from Planet Autism for a few hours every week. It’s important because living with someone who is autistic can be wonderful and exhausting in equal measure. Go whack some golf balls about or thrash something non-living. Whatever sorts your stress levels out, right?

Support

When in doubt, ask The National Autistic Society on 0808 800 4104.

Or there is The Aspergers Syndrome Foundation

Sensory Issues

Most Aspies have sensory issues. I am over-sensitive to almost everything but especially to smells. The overwhelming stench of B.O (not mine) at school, still haunts my nostrils 3o odd years later and I REFUSE to indulge in any kind of amorous activity in the morning because I can’t stand morning breath, mine included. It’s like tonguing a  haddock, no?

Slightly whiffy in NT world can be ‘OH MY GOD, WHAT IS THAT FARKING SMELL?! – whiffy in Asperger world. Similarly, overdoing the Paco Rabanne is a no-no. I never said this was gonna be easy, now did I?

Some Aspies can be hit and miss with personal hygiene. It can be a case of CBA or things like brushing teeth hurts due to sensitivity. Me? I can either turn myself prune by over-bathing or forget to bathe for a few days. When I eventually get a whiff of my own undercarriage, I frogmarch myself up to the bathroom and throw myself into the shower until I smell of coconuts.

It’s safe to say that life with an Aspie is never boring. Me? I think I need a NT partner to keep me from floating off into outer space. OH keeps me grounded, or as grounded as I can be.  Sometimes I wonder how he copes with an Aspie wife AND son but he manages it. His escapism is to ‘bust a cap’ in some drug lords arse on his online mafia game. It keeps him sane, innit?

I educate him about what it’s like to live on Planet Loon as best I can but I know he can never really understand what it’s like to be autistic, no more than I can ever really understand what it’s like to be ‘neurotypical’.

Maybe Aspies should wear a some kind of warning system which alerts their other halves when it’s safe to approach them and when they should run for the hills?

GREEN= You may approach me.

Means: I’m in a receptive mood so fill your boots.

AMBER= Approach with caution.

Means: I’m a bit cranky and it could go either way.

RED= DO NOT SPEAK TO ME. DO NOT TOUCH ME. DO NOT LOOK AT ME. DO NOT BREATHE IN MY DIRECTION!!! I’M KILLING YOU IN MY MIND ARRRGGGHHHHH

Means: I am in full-blown psycho/meltdown mode.  I may become mute or verbally vomit words that make no sense whatsoever. Go, save yourself.

Hope this helps. 🙂

Creative Commons Image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Is…

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*WARNING* This post contains the word ‘fart’.

Since I’ve been on the decaf I’ve not been a morning person. In fact there’s only a 30 minute period in the entire day when I’m actually firing on all cylinders and then my brain disengages again. I’m also functioning on depleted supplies of oestrogen and this could explain why my inner grumpy went orbital the morning I walked in to find OH’s dirty undies casually draped over the chair.

Two words.

Skid marks.

OH assures me it’s due to having a ‘hairy bottom’ though I think it’s also to do with the numerous ‘rump rippers’ he fires into his ‘drawers’ throughout the day.

Truth be told – I’ve yet to come across a male who hasn’t left varying degrees of skiddery in his underpants. Having been married twice and birthed three sons- I’ve seen more skidmarks than Brands Hatch but apparently I can still be caught off guard and so I found myself faced with a dilemma –  did I wash them, toss them, or set fire to them?

After conducting a brief risk assessment (see what I did there?) I reluctantly chose to violate my washer with the offending skivvies. So I shoved them inside the machine (via the end of my mop) and slammed the door before they could escape. Then I threw in a box of Daz and left them slapping against the door on a hot wash while I staggered off to dry-heave over the kitchen sink.

It got me to thinking about how long into a relationship bad habits creep in and according to an article in The Telegraph – it’s three years and six months after tying the knot. It’s what is known as ‘the comfort zone’. OH and myself married last year but we’ve lived with each other for nine years so I’d say we’re well into the comfort zone!

Early on in relationships people stifle burps and politely leave the room to fart break wind. They take time over their appearance and are considerate to their partners. OH even let me have the TV remote in the early days – imagine that?

Muffling farts with a strategic loo flush?

*sticks hand up*

However, it was OH who took our relationship to another level the night he fired off three consecutive trumps farts into the sofa while watching Top Gun just at the moment that GOOSE DIES!

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This is real life and real life is..

Morning breath that could strip the paint off a barn door.

Watching the light of your life floss his undercarriage WITH HIS UNDERPANTS.

Sniffing what’s left of the crotch of your leggings (with elastic bits pinging out) to see if you can get another day out of them.

Women shuffling around the house in tea-stained dressing gowns or worse – onesies.

Men strolling round the house in saggy man pants or worse – onesies.

Leaving your ‘trimmings’ in the bath – eh ladies?

Toenail clippings on the floor…

The first time OH clipped his toenails off onto the carpet, I had to hold myself back from grievously bodily harming him. One of the talons pinged it’s way into my wine glass, although OH was oblivious to it as he was deep in concentration tackling his big toe at the time.

Folks, if my Dad had given himself a pedicure over my Ma’s Axminster carpet – he’d have needed those clippers surgically removed. Truth.

Clipping your hoofs in front of your OH is most definitely NOT bringing sexy back. Do it over the bath or the bog, eh?

Nose-picking?

Everybody does it but the female of the species generally do it in private whereas the males can spotted knuckles deep anytime, anyplace and anywhere.

I blame TV’s portrayals of so called ‘perfect relationships because it gives people unrealistic expectations of what relationships should be. Humans aren’t perfect, therefore life isn’t perfect and neither are relationships. Richard Gere strutting into a dusty old factory wearing a uniform and slinging Debra Winger over his shoulder?

Only in Hollywood.

Whereas Jim Royle picking his nose, farting and announcing to ‘Baaaaaaarb’ that he’s off for a “Tom-Tit” is entirely believable.

Snoring is another thing we tolerate in the early days because our brains are releasing happy-go-lucky neurotransmitters into the bloodstream. However, once the happy juice wears off you could quite happily beat the living shit out of them with a shovel in order to get some sleep! Am I wrong?

Having said that, I woke myself up snoring not so long ago, so, er, moving on….

After the infatuation dies down is when the real love begins.

Love is commitment.

Love is knowing that your partner is flawed but loving them anyway.

Love isn’t a bunch of roses or a box of chocolates (or a cactus) it’s a feeling in the heart which no amount of money can buy. When someone loves you despite your faults, you have something really special.

That’s what love is.

OH loves me despite the fact I’m a bit very strange.

He’s not fazed when I turn psycho due to lack of hormones. You know, the hormones that make us bearable?

So I tolerate the skidundies, the TV remote hoggery and general man habits because he tolerates me.

I even forgive him for ruining Goose’s emotional exit from Top Gun.

Because that’s what love is.

*OH sportingly approved this post but wishes it to be known that he picks his clippings up afterwards.

This is true except for the ones which shoot under the sofa. *snorts*

Image Credit J D Hancock via CC