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I grew a tree

Actually, I grew more than one tree. Ten years ago or so, I opened up a few pods from a Mesquite tree and put the seeds in the ground in the backyard of my house in Southern Arizona. Today the trees are massive, and knowing these beautiful trees are there because of me makes me feel like I did something good. This was different than going down to your neighborhood nursery and buying a tree in a pot. This was me helping nature by scattering seeds and growing something that will still be standing in 100 years.

My husband, David, had made a somewhat impulsive decision to buy a house in Tubac, Arizona after visiting his parents one winter. They had retired to Southern Arizona and the town of Tubac was about an hour away from them. He bought a completely staged (furnished) brand new home in a development that was within walking distance to town, which wasn’t much more than four square blocks of art galleries, a coffeehouse, a few restaurants, a saloon, and one gas station. I had never been there. He returned to our home in Palm Springs with the news.

We then impulsively rented our house in Palm Springs completely furnished, put a few things in a storage unit, loaded our two vehicles with personal belongings and three dogs and then drove to the state next door where we would live for the next two years, which brings me to the day the Mesquite pods came into my possession.

We had gone to visit my in-laws and after a lazy afternoon and early dinner, we stood in their front yard chatting before saying goodbye. They had a very large Mesquite tree next to their driveway that was shedding pods. My father-in-law (who I also must give credit too) picked up a handful and gave them to me. He said, “Take these home, open them up, and put the seeds in the ground. You might get a tree.”

Mesquite pods

Mesquite pods

Our backyard was all rock, very sparse, and with only a few desert cactuses and shrubs. It wasn’t pretty. In addition, the development had a rule about the height of your fence or enclosure. We had a four foot wall that overlooked a park to the back and an adjacent neighbor on one side. There wasn’t much privacy. I told David that I would try to grow four trees. Three on the back wall and one on the side closer to the house.

Before trees

Before trees

The seeds sprouted very quickly. I was ecstatic. When our desert dwelling days came to an end, the trees were about as tall as me, but still wispy. We visited Arizona when we could and it was always joyful to see their growth, but as the story goes there came a time when that house was no longer my house and the ex-husband got custody of the trees.

Happily, the story doesn’t end there. Knowing what those trees meant to me, David sends me pictures every time he visits Tubac.

View from the back wall of one of my trees.

Look at that tree!

 

Finally Telling: A Girl’s Guide to Speaking Up

A couple of nights ago I told my boyfriend Mike a story of something that happened to me many years ago. His response was, “I have no idea what that kind of fear feels like.” Of course he doesn’t. Because these types of stories almost exclusively belong to women.

Telling the story was prompted by reading a blog earlier in the day that had gone viral and shown up on my Facebook newsfeed. The blog could have been written by ANY woman. Not because the woman who wrote it isn’t a good writer, quite the contrary, but because I don’t think there is a woman in this country who couldn’t put herself on that page. She wrote of what we women are subjected to on a daily basis, because we are women, and how we choose to handle it, which is to minimize and de-escalate.

The title of the blog is The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About and it’s worth reading. In fact, you should click on the link and read that blog before you continue reading here.

The part where she says, They don’t know struck a chord with me because I had a story I’d never told until the other night. Actually, I have many stories I’ve never told, and a few I have. The dodged bullet story has been told, but why do we minimize and de-escalate? We do it for a variety of reasons, partly because, “It happens all the time. And it’s not always clear if the situation is dangerous or benign,” says the author of the blog. And she’s right.

I’m not sure if I was in danger, though at the time, I honestly felt I was. The man I’m going to write about crossed the line and made me extremely uncomfortable. I should have told someone, but in my youth and naivete, I began to question my judgement after the fact. Maybe I was letting my imagination get the best of me. Maybe it was an accident when he brushed the front of himself against my shoulder when he was fixing my hair. Maybe he was just going to get his mail when he got in the elevator with me. I can’t ruin this guy’s reputation without being sure that something was going to happen.

But something did happen. He was wildly inappropriate and I was too afraid NOT to pretend he wasn’t being wildly inappropriate. I chose to act as if it was not a big deal to keep the situation from escalating. Perhaps that was the right thing to do to protect myself, but not telling someone about it was bullshit. I was a young girl without the confidence to tell the story when it should have been told.

So here it is. Sadly, it’s not a special story. I imagine most of us women have these kinds of stories; some not quite as scary, and some much more terrifying. Maybe it’s time we all start telling our stories. Like the author of the blog said, “Just listen.”

I was 19-years old and still fairly new to the modeling world. When you are new and don’t have a lot of work experience behind you to fill your portfolio with “tear sheets,” your agent will suggest you “test” shoot with photographers. This can be expensive so there is often a list available of wannabe fashion photographers trying to break into the business who are willing to test for only the cost of the developing and prints. I chose one such photographer.

When I made the date with him over the phone, he said we would be shooting at his apartment in San Francisco and that there would be one other model there. That was fine with me.

When I arrived, I met his wife who was on her way out the door. They seemed like a nice young couple, probably in their late 20s to early 30s. There were no red flags whatsoever at that point.

The other model and I took turns shooting against a white wall in his kitchen that was next to a big window that had nice natural light. While she changed outfits, he would shoot me, and vice versa. The apartment was small, but there was enough room in the bathroom for her and I to cram all our stuff in there where we could refresh make-up, change our hair, and change outfits.

The photographer seemed okay, though he had a nervous energy about him. He appeared to know what he was doing and had the right equipment. Back before the digital age, there was always a Polaroid camera used first to check lighting, etc., before the photographer would use actual film. The Polaroids looked good and he was secure enough with his abilities to suggest minor movements for the best shots.

After a few hours of the other model and I taking turns, I was getting tired and hungry and was ready to call it a day. Things seemed to be winding down when he told the other girl that she could leave. He said he had enough shots for her and that he just wanted to do a few more with me. He told me to put on the white top that I had previously shown him; the one that when I first had shown him he said, “white won’t really work.” When I said, “I thought white won’t work,” he told me the lighting had changed and it should be okay for one last series of photos.

This was my first moment of uneasiness. I didn’t really like that I would be alone there with him. While he seemed nice, our rapport wasn’t easy. I’d shot with quite a few photographers at that point and I had never felt uneasy around any of them, even when I was alone with them.

I shook it off, said my goodbyes to the other girl, and went to the bathroom to change my outfit. When I came out he had me sit on a stool. This is when things started to get weird. He became much more touchy. It was common for photographers without an assistant to fix out-of-place hair, or adjust your clothing during a shoot, but he had only done that to a bare minimum. Now he kept touching me; fixing my hair, lifting my chin, moving my head…

There was a very definable shift in his behavior with this shoot compared to the others that day, but I was minimizing everything he was doing. I was having an internal battle with myself. I told myself he was married. I told myself I was blowing things out of proportion. I actually let him unbutton the top button of my blouse and pull it open more. He said, “We have enough wholesome shots, how about some sexy ones?”

I didn’t respond, but I did exactly as I was told, including “lean forward and purse your lips.” Ugh. The original duck lips. I was afraid to not comply. I was afraid things could turn ugly. My instincts were telling me that as long as he didn’t sense my fear or see that I was uncomfortable, then I could control the situation, but I was also thinking very clearly on how I was going to get myself out of there. I’d had enough. I said, “Can we stop for a minute, I need to use the restroom?”

I walked into the bathroom and quickly gathered up all of my things and shoved them in my bag. I made a mental note of where my coat was, which was on a chair by the door, and then, with my keys in my hand, I took a deep breath, walked out, and said, “Actually, I think we have enough today. I need to leave now if I’m going to beat rush hour traffic.” I could see that he was stunned as I walked toward the door with all of my stuff. His eyes were wide. He said, “I’ll go down with you.”

My heart leapt to my throat. Why, I thought. Why does he want to go down with me? He lived on an upper floor in an old building with an elevator that had a gate. The hallway was dark and dank. I had no idea where the stairs were and in my attempt to act as normal as possible, I couldn’t see a way out of not getting on the elevator with him. So I did. I pressed the button for the ground floor as he closed that gate on us and then stood there on high alert. Almost immediately the elevator stopped and the door opened one floor below his. An elderly man opened the gate and stepped on, and with him, the biggest sense of relief washed over me. I said hello to him with probably a little too much enthusiasm, but at that moment, I felt like that old guy was my savior.

I drove home.

I didn’t tell my parents.

I didn’t tell my boyfriend.

I didn’t tell my agent.

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Strides

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This morning as I was walking the boys to school I was reflecting on the progress they have made this past year, though really I think the shift has been in just the last few months. I was forced to reflect upon this because Liam wouldn’t stop talking. When we came to the crosswalk he said, “Wait!” And he was yelling at the cars to stop. I said, “That’s right, we have to wait for all the cars to stop.” This made me smile because I’m the one that usually tells them to wait each and every time we approach the corner. I often talk to the boys the entire walk to school even though I may be the only one talking. I know that this is one of the best things you can do to help children learn language and communications skills and with their delays in this area, well, I just keep talking.

This morning Liam took over. It seems that all of a sudden he is bursting with vocabulary that had previously been held in some part of his brain that he didn’t have access to. Sure, he had a lot of words, but now he has phrases, questions, comments, and answers. It’s wonderful. He basically had a commentary going about everything on our walk. After we crossed the street, he looked straight up and said, “What’s that?” I said, “That’s the sky, and clouds,” and he said, “and birds, there are birds flying.” I said, “That’s right! They are waaaay up high. I didn’t see them until you told me!” At the same time, the first drops of rain started to fall. He said, “That’s rain, that’s water from the sky.” Then a woman passed us with a stroller. He said, “Hi baby.” Then we walked up the hill and he said, “There’s a baseball game.” I explained the difference between a baseball game and a baseball field. He was already onto, “There’s a gate. It opens.”

You get the idea. Last night he had a commentary with his dad in the kitchen as the pizza was cooking in the oven. There’s a lot to be said while you are hungry and waiting for your favorite pizza. I could tell Mike was loving it and what I’m realizing is that these are the first real conversations taking hold. With that, I’m noticing that he is finding his voice. For the most part, he is an easy going kid and very compliant, but the other night he yelled at his dad, “Get out of my room!” Mike said, “Okay.”

Finn is making good progress with talking too, but I can probably save his story for another blog. Suffice it to say he has a very strong will and prefers things to go his way. For example, he won’t walk to school without his stuffed kitty. He’s fine to hand it over when we get to his class so I can take it back home though. I’m not sure what people think when they see a grown woman walking with a stuffed kitty in her arms.

Blog

Lies

Beep…
I don’t pick up. I’m standing by the machine listening to my mother’s voice tell me that she wants to stop by and see the baby. She can’t. I don’t pick up because I don’t know what to tell her. My baby is fine. He’s warm and loved and fed. I’m not fine, but she won’t be ignored. I know this about her. An hour passes and she rings again. This time I pick up as soon as I hear her voice. Sorry mom, I just got home, I lied. No, today won’t work. I’m heading out again. She wants to know where I’m going. Not enough time has passed between childhood and adulthood. She is still the mother telling me what to do. She tells me it’s too cold to take the baby out and she’s right. I’m actually not taking the baby out. I’ve been hiding in my house all day. I will hide in my house the remainder of the week. Maybe tomorrow, I say. Then what? What will I say tomorrow? I will say I’m sick. I must put her off. She doesn’t believe me. You don’t sound sick. It’s a stomach thing. Let’s plan for Friday. Friday I will appear to be fine, I tell myself. I open the door on Friday. She is snuggling the baby as I sit watching, waiting, hoping. She looks up with a smile that begins to fade. She is studying my face. What’s wrong with your eye? Nothing. You have a faded bruise under your eye. Oh that. The dog jumped up as I bent down, I lied.

Amanda

It’s two days before Thanksgiving so I’m going to write about my daughter-in-law, Amanda. I am beyond grateful that she is the wife of my only son, Jarrod, and the mother of my grandson.

As the mother of a boy, the only child I have, I often wondered who he would fall in love with, and whether he would marry or have children. When your kids are little, you have no way of knowing if any of these things will happen, but I saw these things in his future.

When Jarrod was growing up and old enough to understand the ways of the heart, I felt it was my job to talk ad nauseam about what a healthy a relationship looks like. I failed him by not living the example. I suffered abuse at the hands of his father, which was a short first marriage, and though I consider my second marriage to be a good one, Jarrod often witnessed the slow unraveling of it. I feel sad and guilty about that, but we do the best we can do.

I mostly felt like a single parent. His stepfather was there of course, but he worked long hours, often worked away from home, and during Jarrod’s high school years, we lived apart because of my refusal to move away from the community where I had raised him since grade 3. I know this wasn’t the best thing for my marriage, but that’s an entirely different story.

So there were things I wanted to pound into that “boy” brain. The “no means no” conversation and “always wear condoms,” came early on, but there is so much more than that. Keep in mind that this was coming from the perspective of a “girl” who didn’t choose wisely the first time around. I wanted him to choose well, but I also didn’t want him to ever be a poor choice. I wanted to raise a good man. Perhaps in this day and age the things I talked with him about should be a given, but awful headlines in the news, and websites such as The Good Men Project are enough to tell you they aren’t. Simplified, here are a few things I remember:

You are equals.
You don’t “belong” to one another. You don’t “own” each other. You aren’t the others “property”.
It’s good to have things in common, but have your own interests and encourage each other in those interests.
Encourage time away from each other to do things with friends.
You will learn to cook, clean, and do laundry. There is no such thing as “woman’s work”.
It’s fine to argue, but be kind and always listen. There are two sides and nobody is always right.
She should probably be an animal lover, like you.

I wonder what Jarrod remembers of these conversations. Perhaps I should have asked him before I wrote this so I could have added an anecdote about it, like him saying, “I don’t remember those conversations,” to which I’d say, “Well, something must have stuck!”

I’m coming down off a high of a three day visit with these guys, including my two-month old grandson, Larkin. The last time I saw him was the week he was born, when I traveled to Oregon for his birth and stayed a few days to help. I had no doubt that Amanda would be a good mother, but she was in a fog of sleeplessness and new motherhood while I was taking care of the house, the cooking, and walking the dog so that she and Jarrod could become acquainted with this new little creature whose arrival had changed their lives forever.

It was this most recent visit that has made me appreciate how very fortunate we all are to have this girl in our lives. Larkin is a calm and happy baby, and perhaps that’s just his nature, but I suspect it has something to do with his mommy, whose confident and easygoing demeanor coupled with pure, sweet love for her baby boy made this first-time grandmother feel immeasurable joy.

I realize I didn’t write all that much about Amanda, but in a way, I actually did. Sometimes, it’s all in the subtext.

Amanda2

Untitled – Day 4

two-paths

You stand at the bottom of two roads.

A triangle of hell.

A fork.

Choose one.

Choose right, or choose left,

or choose right, or choose wrong.

You are sleepless and restless and dazed and jumpy and wired and crazy,

because neither road seems bad or good or bad or good or good or bad.

Days turn into nights turn into days turn into nights.

Different people, different places, different animals, different loves, and different losses to experience.

And different climates.

Sunshine or storms or moonbeams or rainbows.

Indecision is a loud buzzing in your ears.

Mystery is swirling around your head.

Your life has become blurry.

There is no sign, no epiphany, no wise old owl.

There are only lists of pros and cons and pros and cons,

written on receipts and napkins and post-it notes.

Your life, on a post-it note.

You close your eyes, put your arm straight out in front of you, point your finger, spin around and around, stop, open your eyes,

And stay.

 

 

 

 

Purple Mountains

We left the train station very early in the morning for an across the country adventure. Me, mom, dad, and my brother. I was five. I never felt like we were poor when I was growing up. In fact, I’m sure we weren’t, but we certainly weren’t rich. I say this because we apparently couldn’t afford sleeping cars. As a parent, I can’t imagine traveling coach with a five and nine-year old on a train for four nights and five days, but that’s exactly what my parents did and the memory of that trip has never left me.

We were bound for Wisconsin to see my mother’s side of the family. It’s interesting that this was the only time we made the trip by train, though we visited almost every year thereafter by car from California. Perhaps the memory of the train trip isn’t quite the same for them as for me. Perhaps they wondered what they were thinking.

I’m pretty sure I was an angel on that train trip because the only time I remember crying was when my dad and brother got off at one of the many stops and they weren’t back in their seats when the train departed. I remember screaming, “Daddy!” No amount of reassuring from my mother that they were on the train would convince me otherwise until I saw my dad walk through the door of our car. I was a nervous kid to begin with. I remember not wanting them to get off. I remember being afraid the train would leave without them.

We once lost my father and brother in San Francisco. It was just one of those misunderstandings, I guess. My mom and I would look in this store while my dad and brother looked in that store and we would meet somewhere after. An hour or so later that seemed like an eternity, holding the hand of my very pissed off mother and running to keep up with her, we rounded a corner and found them sitting at a picnic table eating hamburgers outside of a food truck.

But back to the train. I remember moving around the car a lot because not every seat was taken and shyly sitting next to a girl we called Oriental back then. She was probably almost a teenager. She seemed so grown up to me and so pretty with her long black hair. She had a large selection of paint-by-numbers sets and she shared a few with me. We sat for hours painting. I asked her why her mountains were purple and she said, “For purple mountains majesties.”

The restaurant cars were the best. I couldn’t figure out how they kept changing. One day the benches would have blue checked fabric, the next they would be red, and then they would go back to blue. I loved the French dip sandwiches the best. I learned how to say “au jus” on that trip.

It was winter and it was dark when we arrived in Wisconsin. We were there for Christmas and the ground was covered in snow. Oh! That’s the reason we took a train. It was the only time we visited in winter.

purple-mountain

 

Another Round

Today marks another Day 1 of 40 Days of Writing, which is a good thing because I need a jumpstart to turn what’s in my head into something readable. It’s been a struggle for quite some time now.

An old friend died the other day. And before that I received sad news from another dear friend. And before that a very young man in town known and loved by so many died in a tragic accident. And before that a baby was born to a young couple in town with a rare heart condition that has kept him hospitalized to this day. And now terrorists.

I don’t have any words of wisdom about any of this. There are things that I can’t comprehend. Life is full of bad news and none of us are immune to very sad or even horrific things happening to us or to the people very close to us.

It’s all so very precarious.

This blog feels like a jumble. It is.

With tears holding steady on the brim of my lower lid, my thoughts were sad as I sang Finn to sleep last night. For some reason, the sound of my terrible voice singing a mostly made-up rendition of “Hush Little Baby” puts him in a trance and when you combine that with hair petting, he’s usually out in less than five minutes. Last night it took a little longer. Perhaps he sensed my sadness. He kept opening his eyes back up and looking at me and when I would gently brush my fingertip against his eyelid with a closing gesture, he would giggle.

Bedtime can be a battle with Finn. Liam never resists, but Finn will often get out of bed over and over before finally giving in to slumber, which is why the bad singing has become a routine when the boys are with us. Mike will say, “Are you ready for the dulcet sounds of Jodee?” That’s my cue. It was discovered by accident one night when I just started singing the song to him and he fell asleep in seconds. I kind of like it because Mike is their favorite, but this is my thing with them, or at least with Finn. Liam is on the bottom bunk while I stand singing to Finn on the top, but he doesn’t object to it like my own son used to. “Mommy, don’t sing,” Jarrod would say, which always amused me.

Hush little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
If that mockingbird won’t sing,
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
It that diamond ring won’t shine,
Mama’s gonna buy you a glass of wine.
If that glass of wine is yuck
Mama’s gonna buy you a brand new truck.
If that truck won’t go very far,
Mama’s gonna buy you a brand new bar.
If that bar burns down to the ground,
Mama’s gonna pick you up and twirl you around….

You get the idea. I change it up sometimes too…

I don’t really have a point to this jumbly blog. I’m just grateful that my bad singing can lull a precious 4-year old to sleep.

Finley

Finley

 

 

 

I’m a Noni!

The first moment...

The first moment…

Part One

On Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 9:50am I became a grandmother. I’m not even going to attempt to write about what that feels like. I can use a list of adjectives such as incredible, wonderful, and amazing, but none of these words come close. For the women reading this who are grandmothers themselves, then you probably get it. But for me there was the added element of wondering if the chemotherapy treatment my son received as a young adult would have an impact on his fertility. From the time he was 20, until just this year, his sperm was stored at California Cryobank for a whopping total of $7,200. He banked it prior to treatment just in case. It turns out he could have had the specimen discarded a long time ago, but until there was a viable pregnancy the traditional way, it’s best to keep those swimmers on ice.

Larkin

Larkin

I spent a week in Oregon with Jarrod and Amanda for the birth of the baby and tried to make myself as useful as possible. It was a very special time. Watching my son and daughter-in-law in the role of parents to their newborn was very gratifying. I wanted to hold the baby the entire time, but instead I took cues from them. I was there if they needed me to tend to him, but mostly I wanted to be sure there were meals made, the laundry was done, and the dog was walked, so they could focus on bonding with their baby. Amanda and I fell into a little routine where I would take the baby after the 4-5am feeding so she could get a couple hours of sleep. It was my favorite time.

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The grand-dog and I out for an adventure

I wish I could have stayed longer, but I was also torn. They were willing to have me, but I couldn’t take too much time off of work and I also worried about leaving Mike, the boys, and the cat for too long. Not that they couldn’t manage without me, but with Mike’s work schedule it falls to me to get the boys ready and off to school two and a half days a week. I reluctantly left my grandson in the capable arms of his parents and anxiously made my way back home. I mean anxious in the way that I missed those guys I left behind in California.

Part Two

Mike managed. We only talked on the phone twice, but were texting often. This was me texting Mike right about the moment the baby was born! Obviously Mike was just waiting to say this.

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Here was the first morning he was on kid duty without me. Yes, that was smugness on my part.

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Later that night he found company. Sidenote: We are shopping for new couch.

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I worried about Maeby, my cat.

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The day before I came home.

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And finally, this was the sky that greeted me the final hour on my way home.

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Best Day Ever

It might not be the best day ever, but that’s what we called it when it ended around midnight and I found myself still wearing the same T-shirt I had slept in the night before. It was just one of those unexpected days that unfolded without a plan and yet seemed to be carefully scripted to perfection or perhaps just written in the stars. There was nothing over the top about this day. Absolutely nothing at all. If I were to lay it all out, “we went here and there and did this and that…” it might sound boring, but it was anything but.

It was a day that began because of the way the night before ended, which was very late. It was the kind of night where your car stays downtown and your feet deliver you safely to your front door, and then to your bed. Alone. Almost not alone if you had bothered to shave your legs. Sometimes your prickly legs save you from yourself.

On the best day ever I woke up with an aching head, a dry mouth, a smile, and a text saying, “Let’s walk downtown and get our cars, and let’s have one Bloody Mary.” I tried to resist. No I didn’t. Just one, I texted back. It was a sunshiny beautiful morning with a breeze. Not a light breeze. I could hear the wind. I got up, guzzled water, brushed my teeth, donned yoga pants, sneakers, and a sweatshirt over my slept-in T-shirt. I didn’t brush my hair or put on make-up; just sunglasses.

We were two girls and one boy. All just friends. All feeling about the same. We walked downtown with the warm wind whipping our hair around and relived the events that occurred several hours earlier with playful ribbing. We arrived at the same bar we said goodbye to the night before and were presented with three spicy drinks that seemed to put our heads on straight. I was ready to go home, pull the curtains, fry a couple eggs, and get horizontal on the couch with the remote in my hand.

Instead, we ate eggs together, and then we watched little girls play basketball, and then we washed crispy tacos down with cold beer, and stretched out on benches in the sunshine, and played billiards, and laughed until our sides ached.

And then we left our cars again and walked home. I lost my sunglasses. I didn’t care.

Drifting Through My Open Mind

Random thoughts and musings

In Pursuit of Adventure

Exploring the World, One Culture at a Time

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Lotus Mama: Natural Health and Parenting

Finding Beauty and Light in the Pond of Life

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Celebrating Taurine Culture in Arizona

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Wired for Whimsy

heart on a sleeve

flotsam, jetsam, words & images by patricia kennedy

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Writing what it is I have to say. . .

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