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Lives of Doctor Wives: April 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

PreMed Perspective: Still Waiting...

We are in a good position.

Scratch that. We are in a GREAT position.

Two Top 30 school acceptances, one which is in our hometown, literally across the street from our place, which we rent from a sweet 92-year-old lady who is the dream land lady. Please join us in daily prayers for her health.

We know we are tremendously blessed.

We are two weeks from the deadline before he can't have two acceptances. The plan had always been to go where the money was if it came to multiple acceptances. The problem is, it is radio silence on the financial aid front.

Sure, we have filled out the FASFA, had them tell us that though we are married and DH will be 29 this year, and we have lived independently for years both single and married, they expect his pastor dad and homemaker mom to contribute $15k a year (ya, that'll happen), but we have no real answers.

Truthfully, I am kinda tired of no answers.

In fact, one of the schools has already said that they will not release financial aid packages until July, you know that month that comes after the month that comes after the month we have to make the decision. Helpful.

As we all know, everything about this journey is about waiting. Waiting for applications, waiting for secondaries, waiting for interview invites, waiting for interviews, waiting for answers, waiting, waiting, waiting...

What I am trying to focus on though, is that we get to wait. Many are waiting to see if they are going to get off waiting lists and other candidates no longer get to wait, or are waiting for the next cycle to try again. So I am happy to wait to see who may provide us with the most resources. An announcement worth waiting for.

If you are waiting for the next cycle, my thoughts are with you, and we will wait for you to join us next year.

We are used to it.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Journaling the Journey

Journaling the Journey
By Tiffany Sweeney

My husband and I are nearing the end of our medical training.  It has been almost nine years.  During these training years, we have moved four times, lived in three different states, and have grown our family.  As spouses or partners, we find ourselves cheering on our doctors (or doctors-in-training) through all the tests and exams, encouraging them through the long hours of rotations, and tolerating their forgetfulness and exhaustion through the many hours/days spent at the hospital.  We pick up the slack at home, learn to fill bigger shoes, and generally, support them through the highs and lows.  The question becomes … who is there to support and encourage us? 

Throughout this medical journey, we meet unforgettable and invaluable friends.  Then, we move away from them or grow apart or sometimes, just get lost in our daily lives.  Our doctors support us the best they can, but they can often fall short after the other responsibilities that fill their plates.  And, things happen outside of our little families that are completely out of our control that only add to the stress of our situation (i.e., economic strain, family crises, or sickness and death of family and friends).  We don’t deny that this path is a difficult one that contains struggles.  I found myself often seeing the negative, wishing the training was over, and getting lost in the difficulties that we have faced.

Throughout my life, I have always turned to writing in the difficult times.  In the elementary and teen years, I wrote angsty poetry.  As I grew older, I turned instead to blogging, then journals, particularly after the death of my father in 2012.  I began reading published journals, reading about how to journal, and even attended a journal club at my local library, where I sat the youngest among the group.  I discovered that through my writing, I have been able to find my support, work through my struggles, and find the positive that is needed in my life.  

Throughout my reading and experiences, I have discovered that journaling serves a multitude of purposes.  It documents life and family stories.  It shows me where I have been and how much I have grown.  It helps me to work through some of my anxieties and frustrations.  It assists me in finding the positive during difficult times.  It even highlights the things that I’m avoiding … it shows me what I am NOT writing and dealing with!  And, it has helped me to find the important things in life and heal through those times.

As 2014 approaches, I encourage you to begin journaling your journey.  Pick up a journal.  Get crafty with a memo notebook.  Grab the closest three ring binder.  Write.  Write.  Write.
Here are a few tips to get you started . . .

·         Write down the date at the top of your page.  Some people even choose to write down the time and where they are writing from (i.e., I sit on my oversized chair today, curled up with a blanket as I sip a bit of hot chocolate).
·         Free write.  If you don’t know what to do, set a timer for 15 minutes and just write.  Maybe start with a single word, the first one that comes to mind.  Or, maybe start with a favorite quote or passage from your current read.  Remember, this is only for you, unless you choose to share.  Sometimes you will be surprised what free writing will bring out!
·         Write down things you want to remember.  Did your daughter say something that made you laugh?  Did your son accomplish something that swelled your heart with pride?  Did your husband get off early and the two of you went off on a surprise date?  Document these.
·         Add to your writing.  Doodle.  Cut out newspaper clippings.  Glue in movie stubs.  Choose a color of pen that suits your mood.  Tape in postcards that your husband sent you from the interview trail.  Get creative in whatever way best suits you.
·         Write when you want.  You don’t have to journal every day.  Write when you feel like it, when the mood strikes you, when your husband is working night shifts, or when you need to get some particularly bad feelings off your chest.
·         Find the positive.  On a bad day, vent away, but don’t forget to document the good things in life.  Create a gratitude journal by simply writing down what you are thankful for at the end of every day.  Or, share what did go right or the way you had wanted it to.  Sometimes, you may need to focus on the small things.
·         Use inspiration.  Write down quotes that inspire you or touch you deeply.  Share your own thoughts about what that quote brews inside you. 
·         Share life stories.  Share your stories.  Share your children’s stories.  Document the stories of your parents, grandparents, etc.  What are some of your most memorable moments?  Do you remember the day that your spouse was accepted to med school?  What was it like to live through match day?  What were your feelings watching your doctor walk across that stage at graduation?
·         Re-read.  Every once in a while, go back and read what you have written.  Seeing where you have come from can sometimes help in choosing where to go from here.  Remind yourself what you have accomplished.  Reminisce.  Laugh.  Cry.  Discover what you are NOT writing about, but what may be on your mind often.  And, if you so desire, share with those you love and trust.
When the trying times are over, when the training is complete, you will have a reminder of what life was like, how strong you are, how much you have grown, and so much more. 

For interesting reading on journals, I recommend these titles:
·         Leaving a Trace:  On Keeping A Journal by Alexandra Johnson
·         Use Your Words:  A Writing Guide for Mothers by Kate Hopper
·         Creative Journal Writing:  The Art and Heart of Reflection by Stephanie Dowrick

I also recommend these links for further reading and proof of the benefits on keeping a journal:
·         100 Benefits of Journaling

Do you journal?  What is your favorite thing to write about?  What are other ways that you find yourself working through the good times and the bad of medical training and beyond?
Tif blogs regularly at Tif Talks Books, a site for all things books and literacy for the whole family. (Website link is http://www.tiftalksbooks.com)

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Survivor Story:  Med School, Residency, Job, and Beyond!

V and I got married in July of 2001, and he began medical school that August.  Going back further, I was in the room when he opened the acceptance letter, I was waiting for him after he finished the MCAT, I prayed with him about whether or not he would pursue medicine at all, I studied with him for college finals, I was friend to this goofy guy who played fun music in his Isuzu Rodeo and frequented coffee shops.  When we met in 1997, I had no idea we would ever be more than friends, and I certainly had no clue what our lives would look like as we stepped into his medical training as newlyweds.  

I don't believe anyone can adequately prepare another person for any experience by trying to explain her own experience.  It is helpful, to be sure, but it is when we face things on our own that we truly learn.  With that disclaimer, I've tried to pull up some memories of distinct periods of time to share.

A special note to wives of medical students:  let your husband study as much as he needs to.  Know that "your turn" for his undivided attention will come.  He loves you, he wants to do well so he can provide for you.  He feels a tremendous pressure to succeed, and to make each test, each course, count.  Support him in prayer, in word, and in deed.  It is hard to put oneself last.  It goes against our nature.  

We lived in a poorly insulated, old house in New Orleans during V's med school years.  We had one cat, and we all spent a lot of time in the room we designated "the office".  I sat with the cat on my lap, and read, wrote, sketched, and tried to stay awake in support of my husband.  He didn't have to study hard in college to do well, but the increase in information going into med school was exponential.  He would even study in bed, when I couldn't stay awake, using a headlamp to light his books.  Post-exam days I would find him catching up on sleep.  I was so anxious to be with him again, to have his attention, but there was more opportunity to practice patience.  I did a lot of praying for patience and contentedness during those four years.  

A special note to wives of residents:  this is a particularly rough part of the journey.  This is where my husband became something of a lost sheep for a time.  God nudged me constantly to pray for him, and now that we're on the other side, V has said how truly priceless my prayers were.  Residency for him meant nearly no time to nourish his body, spirit, or mind.  Running on empty for that long is almost impossible.  

V's residency was a very busy ENT program in a fairly large city.  We saw a lot of big, life-changing personal struggles around us, and went through some ourselves during those five years.  V became a skilled surgeon and a very thorough and caring physician, but at great cost to himself, and our family.  We had become parents at the end of his 4th year of med school, and I found myself doing so many things on my own.  It was harder emotionally and mentally than physically, to me.  I knew that this stage of training was pivotal to V's career, but my heart seemed to always long for more.  I did even more praying for patience, endurance, contentedness, peace, and the ability to give when I just wanted to have more of my husband.  

A special note to wives of physicians who have recently finished residency:  rejoice, be thankful together.  Keep your eyes on things that are true, lasting, and good.  The world has much to offer, but its riches fade and do not fulfill.  Remember the days of little when there is abundance.  If you are a people of faith as my husband and I are, keep asking God how He wants your husband to use his gifts and calling to medicine.  And keep praying.  Bloom where you have been planted, even if you are not where you'd hoped or expected to be!

By the end of residency, we had endured a miscarriage but also welcomed the blessing of our second child, a daughter.  Our family of four moved two hours south for V to join a seven-physician private practice.  At first it seemed ideal, but after three years we had to re-evaluate.  After weighing everything, we decided to pursue a different opportunity in a different city, an hour back north.  We learned so much about what makes a good physician, about marketing and business, and about what we wanted in V's career.  It's about so much more than tangible earnings.  

This June will mark four years after the completion of V's residency.  We feel settled; we are having a home built, our son has enjoyed his 4th grade year in this new school, our daughter is happy at home with me and will start pre-K in the fall.  We are close to both sides of our family, which is something we had always wanted.  We hope that this place will be "it".  We are still learning, too!

This is far longer than I'd planned.  I suppose I could write a book on our experiences as a couple as we've journeyed through applying to med schools all the way to being in private practice.  At least, I could write enough quantity to fill a book; as for the quality, I'll keep looking to God to give me the words.  Blessings to all.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Married to a Medical Student

During my husband's first year of medical school he had a required meeting at school. I remember being slightly annoyed that day that he was at school a little longer than usual. He brought home extra cookies from the meeting for me and the kids. Instead of being thankful for his thoughtful gesture I was irritated. Irritated that he was away from the kids and I "hanging out with friends having fun...eating cookies". Oblivious to my irritation, he mentioned that they also had soda at the meeting. Pepsi. My favorite! But there were none left over otherwise he would have brought me one. That did it! I was officially annoyed that he was out having "fun" while I was at home taking care of our kids. Did I mention I was pregnant with #3 and slightly hormonal?! That I was the one working and taking care of the children, the household and arranging childcare and trying to settle our family into a new home in a new state?! All while he was off eating cookies and drinking soda with his friends:)

Clearly medical school is not the same as fun and games with friends. But in my mind I had made that connection from this one little incident two years ago. Lets just be clear, medical school is a lot of work. Hours and hours of studying. Boring, tedious studying just trying to keep up. Always feeling like you are behind and don't measure up. It is mentally challenging and exhausting. The vast amount of knowledge a medical student needs to gain has often been compared to trying take a drink out of a fire hose. And I think that is an understatement! And yet two years later, I still struggle with this "cookies & soda" mentality at times. When my husband has been gone for impossibly long hours at the hospital working like crazy, I sometimes get resentful instead of grateful that he is willing to sacrifice so much of himself for our family and his patients - present and future. Instead of being the "soft place" for him to land at the end of a hard day, I am often bristly and short with him. Resentful at times that he gets to go out and have "fun". Thankfully I married a man with not only very tough skin, but he is understanding and forgiving as well....very forgiving as I am a slooooow learner:)

There have been a few times throughout these past two and half years that my husband has had to gently remind me that he doesn't like being away from the kids and I so much and that it isn't all "cookies and soda" while he is gone! What?! He isn't just sitting around joking, having a jolly time with his friends? Shocker, I know.

My husband has also been the one to realize that in order for our family to survive this medical training journey (trust me it is a journey!), it is important that I do things for myself. That I take the time to do things I enjoy that do not revolve around him and our kids. Sure these things have to be scheduled around him and his crazy medical school schedule, but we have made it work. That is why once month regardless of how busy he is, I have an evening of sewing with my girlfriends. Also this year I joined a once-a-week women's Bible study that has childcare included! We have made it a priority for me to get away with my girlfriends every once in a while - for example craft weekend with my mom and best friend and another time my good friend's overnight bachelorette party - even though that left him home with 3 kids when he should have been studying for his boards exam! He has also been trying to convince me to get a gym membership so I can get "me time" more often. But I just can't commit to that as it seems way out of our budget:) For now I enjoy jogging with my kids and hiding in my room with a good book (once my husband is home or after the kids are in bed). Both of which feel like "me time"!

These medical school years are long and hard for BOTH of us! And it is easy to lose sight of what WE are working towards, especially now that I am home full time with our kids and he is on rotations at the hospital for many, many, many hours. I will tell you one thing though...it ain't all cookies and soda...for either of us! I like to believe we have found a good balance. I do all I can to love and support my husband and make his life a tad easier. I plan special family activities for when he will be around and I NEVER complain to the kids about his absence or even insinuate that he should be home with us. I gladly...okay mostly gladly...make homemade dinners and make sure he has packed lunches every day. I want him to want to come home to us. And he makes sure I get the breaks I need. Breathers so I can recharge. So I can keep on keepin' on. It is a balancing act. And sometimes we breakdown. But we keep on trying. Working together. Cognizant of the fact that it is all too easy to become resentful of the other person. To falsely believe the other person has the easier role. That the other person is just sitting around eating cookies and soda while I am working like a mad person.

A little bit about me: I am non-practicing PA (worked up until the birth of my last baby) now a
stay-at-home mom to our 3 young kids! We are deep in the medical school trenches as my husband is a MSIII currently finishing up his 8 week surgery rotation. I blog (frequently!) to help keep sane and to keep life in perspective - that and it kills sometime while my husband is away. It helps:) To see this post (with pictures of the fam!) and more hop on over to my blog @ www.longdaysarchives.blogspot.com

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Residency Roundup: The Next Step!

What next step is awaiting your medical family this June or July??

In June, my DrH transitions from being a junior resident to a senior resident! We finally get to say good riddance to primary call! 

No more attempting to sleep at the hospital waiting for crazy things to happen!  As a PGY4 and chief (PGY5) resident, we can plan DrH sleeping in our home every night!  Of course with this change the nightly back-up call pages will begin and our sleep could be interrupted... but at least we can rely on seeing DrH more!  

The preparation of the next two months has my head spinning: finishing up PGY3 (including the remaining 14 on-call night shifts), Child #1 finishing Kindergarten, Child #3 entering the world in 3 weeks, deciding if a fellowship is in our future, and watching our Med school friends and family prepare to move to ridiculously far away residencies.  

Each of you has your own preparations to make as this transition approaches. Good luck and enjoy what you can!  Brighter horizons are ahead.

Happy Spring!

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Putting Family First

Putting Family First
by: Trisha Stibble

The medical school-->residency-->fellowship-->job trek is a crazy ride. I never expected so many ups and downs, emotional breakdowns, and all nighters. And that's just what I have gone through. Adam has had to deal with many, many other obstacles and roller coaster rides.

At 22, I married the man of my dreams and left my hometown for the very first time. I would be lying if I said it wasn't absolutely horrible. I cried every night for at least 2 weeks-- my husband was gone nonstop, studying, making new friends, and enjoying his first step towards becoming a doctor. I was unemployed, friendless, and hating our apartment, the city, and everything else in life. Basically, I was the worst newlywed to ever exist.

Things got better. We made fantastic friends, I found a job (got fired, then found a better job :)), and at the end of 3rd year we found out I was pregnant!

Adam's entire life was planned out- he would match an orthopedic residency and we would have an adorable little baby. Fast forward a few months-- I gave birth to premature twin boys who fought a daily battle. They changed our life in more ways than one.

Adam’s dream was to be an Orthopedic Surgeon. July, August and September he did away rotations to increase his chances of getting a spot in a residency we wanted. In August, I had my first MFM appointment (when pregnant with twins, this is standard practice). Adam wasn’t able to make it because of his rotation, so my dad surprised me by driving 6 hours to go with me.

At that appointment, we got horrible news. Our twins had Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS). Baby B was giving all the fluid to Baby A, meaning he had little to no nutrition. They were Stage 4 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin-to-twin_transfusion_syndrome#Stages). Stage 5 is death. Most times, the doctor recommends surgery right away-- because of their size and the TTTS presenting so early, our MFM did not think surgery was the way to go. Surgery meant putting both babies at risk, and our only goal was to save Baby A. It was not believed Baby B would survive. We did amniocentesis (withdrew fluid from Baby A) to hopefully help.

My dream of being a mom to twins was shattered. While it was so great to have my dad there, I wanted my husband, and he was 3 hours away in some operating room. Thankfully, he answered on the first ring and I told him the news. He was so wonderful, and devastated that he wasn’t at home. He called our MFM right away because he had a million questions I couldn’t answer.

Miraculously, and not without a million prayers, both babies ended up surviving. Towards the end of my pregnancy, weeks 23-26, things finally stabilized. However, Baby A had a heart condition (mitral valve regurgitation) and Baby B had mild hydrocephalus.

At my 27 week appointment, things started to change. Both babies had a significant loss of fluid-- my doctor ordered an NST bi-weekly along with bi-weekly ultrasounds. My first NST was good, but the second NST was not-- Baby B’s heart rate dropped several times. I was admitted to the hospital and everyone thought I would deliver immediately.

Thankfully, it was 4 days before I delivered and I was able to get the necessary steroids. Then, Baby B’s heart rate dropped and just wouldn’t pick back up. An emergency c-section was performed, and my miracle babies were born at 1lb 10 oz (Sam) and 2lb, 6 oz (Jack).

Neither baby required oxygen and things were looking extremely good. However, on 11.9.10, Sam had to be transferred to Children’s Hospital due to a perforation in his small intestine. At that time, it was the single worst day of our lives. A surgery on our little baby, less than 2 pounds? My dad was still with us, and I can remember bawling into his arms as Adam left and went immediately to the hospital.
We were told Sam would almost certainly be intubated. No baby his size undergoing that type of surgery had not been intubated. Well, they hadn’t met Mr. Sam! He was not intubated, and didn’t even require oxygen.
On Thanksgiving, we had much to be thankful for. Our beautiful twin boys were extremely healthy, and it was just a matter of time until they came home.
Then, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, 11.27.10 7:00am, we got “the call.” We were told that Sam’s o2 sats had been dropping to the 30’s (normal is 95-100). They were putting him on “high-flow oxygen.” We got up right away, and as soon as we saw Sam, I knew. I knew he was sick. I knew something was wrong. I knew that our little boy was slipping away from us.
Sam needed to be intubated. After drawing labs, we found out he had Group B Strep with Sepsis (GBS), late onset. Extremely rare, and usually fatal. The next few days were touch and go. And on 12.1.10 at 3:00am we got an even more horrific call- the nurses believed Sam had had a seizure. We needed to give consent for a spinal tap.
That morning we went to the hospital extra early and met with the doctors. They believed Sam had acquired meningitis as well. The battle our small son faced had just become a war.
Against all odds, our stubborn little boy LIVED.
Due to the meningitis, Sam’s slightly enlarged ventricles developed into hydrocephalus. He had a VP shunt placed on 1.25.11- their due date. We had come full circle.
Since then, Sam has had 5 additional shunt surgeries, a placement of a second shunt, and a g-tube. He only eats 45% of his calories by mouth.
When we were talking about Adam’s rank list for residency, he said something to me that I will NEVER forget: “What if I don’t rank Ortho? What if I change to Radiology?”
Shocked. I was absolutely shocked. This man’s dream was to be a surgeon. We spent a good 5-6 hours discussing this. He told me the boys had changed his life. While that is obvious for so many reasons, changing his specialty wasn’t one I had thought of.
When Sam was discharged from the NICU, we were 95% positive we would have a child with Cerebal Palsy who required special assistance most of his life. He could not justify leaving Omaha, where we had all of his specialists, and go to a random town to practice medicine that would keep him away from his kids for days.
Adam sacrificed his dream for us. We decided to rank two Omaha spots #1 and #2. This way, we were almost certainly guaranteed we would stay here for the next 5 years and Sam could receive the care he needed.
Match Day was a blur-- we were thrilled when it was announced that Adam would be at Creighton’s Radiology program. But I also know it saddened Adam a little that it was final-- he would not be doing Orthopedics.
It's funny how things turn out-- Adam is so happy doing Radiology and tells me often that he couldn't imagine doing surgery or Ortho. Things work out the way they are meant to. And Sam? The kid who wasn't expected to be "normal"? He is as normal as anyone. While he has a feeding tube, the biggest compliment I can get when people find out is them telling me, "No way! We would have had no idea!"

Residency has also had its ups and downs. My husband is gone A LOT. And right now is an incredibly trying time in our lives. The twins are 3 and they are boys. BOYS. Fighting, wrestling, throwing, you name it... Eli is 13 months and is into everything, and is beginning to get frustrated because he can’t express what he wants. He is also extremely dependent on Mommy.

We have no family here. Our friends are wonderful, but have their own busy lives. I can’t call someone to come over on a Monday evening and watch the kids so I can run to the grocery store without three little boys. Adam and I have had a handful of date nights in the last year. When our friends can’t babysit, my stomach gets upset thinking that I will have to pay someone.

But here’s the thing-- when you find someone you love, when you marry your best friend, it is all worth it.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Med School Madness

Excuse me, I was told we would have time for all of this.

Time is an odd thing.  As a wise LDW wife said long ago 'the time goes fast but somedays are long'.  When I first heard that little bit of wisdom, my husband had just started MS and I thought my days were a bit on the long side. I was not a huge fan of those days and hoped this whole thing would just go by as fast as possible.  Fast forward to a couple years later and now my husband needs to figure out the whole match process.  Today, he finalized his fourth year schedule  and that took a huge load off our shoulders.  He also narrowed down the list of programs he would like to be a part of one day and hopefully match in one of them.   It was a pretty big deal and we are happy to be done with all of that.  BUT,  before all that happened, I was asked this morning if we had all the details for next year set and of course I thought, 'not really but we have time'.  Turns out, WE HAD time.  We now had deadlines looming super close and we needed to get our stuff together.  Time is up, turn in your stuff! That line keeps running through my head as the day comes to a close.  Time is definitely up for some stuff and I'm still asking 'where did the time go? I though we had like six more months, no? Darn.

Seriously, what happened. Last I checked, he started med school and we had a huge move.  We settled then moved again and  'mother of pearl' as my six year old says (don't judge), we started checking out new towns today.  It just keeps on happening! Time keeps on moving.  I was reminded  that my while my husband has been in medical school my son kept growing, our marriage continued to have anniversaries and our parents got older.  I'm a little sad we haven't enjoyed all things but I am so thankful for the things we made time to enjoy.   I'm glad my husband 'wasted' some study time with us.  I'm really glad we grabbed a date whenever we had a chance, even if it was just a quick walk together.  I will forever be thankful we called grandma B one too many times when we lived away from her.  Heck, I'm glad I enjoyed KC's bbq often and I'm definitely glad I visited a certain museum until my little heart was content.  My point is this, live life and don't put stuff on hold.  Since time keeps ongoing, make sure you keep going too.

I share all these things hoping someone is encouraged.  Not encouraged because we got some stuff done today, who cares about us but encouraged that we felt like we needed more time.  I hope this reminds someone whose days are LONG to hang in there because these days are not permanent.  Neither good or bad days are here to stay, they all come to an end.  So, no matter where you are in the journey I hope you were reminded to just keep on going, whatever light you are looking for will come soon enough, sometimes sooner than you'd like!

Carpe diem or something like it!


PS- join the LDW Facebook page, these ladies are awesome and chances are that if you need a girlfriend who gets it, you'll find a few girls who get it.  Local meet ups are happening all the time.  Can't wait to meet you!

"When your life flashes before your eyes, make sure you've got plenty to watch." Unknown

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