Lesson Two: $2.49 Mussels

I rolled my forehead on the cool bathroom floor. I breathed, trying to calm the violent nausea. After throwing up for three hours, I decided I could do nothing more than wait.  I knew that regardless of the ending, this would not go on forever.

Sometimes you have to accept that your body is in pain, but you don’t have to identify with that pain…accept your body is aging, but not identify with the aging body.  Sometimes you just have to accept imperfections, but recognize you are more.

 

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“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
― Brené Brown

 

Seems more than coincidence that earlier that day, I’d lit my sage smudge and with a feeling of perfect peace, smudged myself.  I still felt a barrier, an old resentment to which I kept returning. I knew it was time to move on but something around my heart felt like a burnt-out light bulb. So I smudged myself prayerfully and went to the kitchen to fix those delicious $2.49 mussels I’d found on sale along with a light gluten free pasta pesto dish. I watched a short segment on Gaia TV enjoying my delightfully inexpensive supper.  A few hours later, I asked Barry to just bring a pillow to the bathroom for me.

That was Sunday night. I’m writing this Friday night and I still don’t feel 100% right physically.  BUT throughout this whole thing, I’ve felt peace. I think I vomited up a piece of resentment.

 

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Finally letting go of those things I cannot change..

So what is my point? There is always another obstacle. There is always a problem to overcome, a friendship that is lost, a body that ages…there’s always a resentment to release or a fear to face.

Life is like a sit-com series – it opens with laughs then a conflict arises. By the end of the show, the situation is resolved and more laughter erupts.  A week later you do the whole thing all over again. Sometimes you get a break during re-run season but usually there’s always another episode. And it’s ok…because all that stuff happening is kinda the whole point.

A dear friend sent me the following meme after she patiently listened to my constant yammering for the past few months. I think this beautifully sums up the Lesson of the Mussels.

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Lesson One: Watermelon

The Art of Watermelon
A neighbor gave us a watermelon after Barry put out a small fire for him. I should have photographed it. But I saw it and that memory is preserved. The watermelon existed for a moment the way we all do, I suppose. Art and beauty once created, are like truth. They can never be undone. And I think maybe like we and the watermelon are like art, beauty, and truth.
Anyway, I cut it up to put it in Tupperware (well Gladdware or whatever it’s called) and Winnie came begging. That dog will eat anything! Of course, Cupcake had to try it too but she immediately spit her piece on the floor. Don’t worry – nothing was wasted. Winnie swooped right in. I guess not everybody appreciates watermelon the same way.
I marveled at the smell and texture of the melon – the way the hard, thick rind housed such a delicate fruit that literally melts under pressure. Again I thought about how much I have in common with that melon.
I chopped the rind into small pieces. Before I sat down to enjoy my treat, I wanted to give the cows their treat. Pretty cow met me at the gate. She recognizes the grey bucket. She’s getting so old. She’s 23 now and actually calved last year. She has no teeth but she can gum up some watermelon rind. All the other girls came too, but Pretty Cow is Alpha Cow and gets the best of the best.
I have to brag – she’s so intelligent. A piece was on the ground and I pointed to it. Area 51 Cow and #68 both tried to bite my pointing finger but Pretty Cow actually looked at the place to which I pointed.
I came home, washed cow slobber off my hands and arms and sat down with my melon. I decided this was a chance to really practice mindfulness. I would sit in silence and savor my food. I don’t think I ever really tasted watermelon – not TRULY tasted. I tend to scarf food. Maybe it’s some primordial instinct – eat it all before the others come. But I settled into the safety of my couch and slowly savored each bit. I smelled it. I looked at it. I ate it. My hunger and thirst were both satiated, but something even deeper felt satisfied…I felt alive and safe. I felt unhurried. I didn’t have to think about anything but the melon. I think I felt “mindfulness.” So this was Lesson One. A simple lesson but it’s a good start for the journey.
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Pretty about 13 years ago…

 

Ugly Feet and All

lily padsI still walk with a limp. I had my knee surgery over a year ago and most of the time it doesn’t hurt me. There’s really no physical reason for it, but I still walk with a limp.

I think we all have limps.  Some are more pronounced and affect our lives in crazier ways. Others are little things…

Like my feet (which aren’t little things at all…hell, they’re BIG things…size 10 or 10 1/2 things). Someone told me repeatedly when I was young that my feet were ugly and freakish things.  And for almost 50 years I’ve been ashamed to wear sandals.

I told a friend about my “foot fetish” and she replied, “Think of the places those feet have carried you.” My feet have been good to me…they ran two full marathons, carried mail, marched in formation, danced in some wild nightclubs.  My feet yearn to hang out of the end of my sheets, even on the coldest days.  Cupcake likes to lick my feet.  I have a reflexologist friend who can change my mood and open my sinuses, just by rubbing my feet.  These feet are remarkable!

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So recently I’ve decided to quit giving any more damns.  I bought a pair of open toed sandals.  I will allow my feet to frolic freely without inhibitions.

It’s amazing how a few thoughtless words from somebody 40-50 years ago can leave us with a limp. These old injuries keep us from singing aloud, wearing sandals, painting, dancing, loving and just plain old living!  But it’s not too late to realize you really don’t HAVE to limp …it’s never too late to buy sandals and set your tootsies free!

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Moses is 17 years old. He has chunks missing from his ears. His fur is less than luxurious. But he doesn’t let it stop him from believing he is King of the World!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The air I breathe…

(I took all the photos around Voca, TX  – – such a beautiful spring!)

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I’ve been lost . . . for a long time, I think . . .

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There is beauty wild messiness. . . 

Sometime during the last few decades, pieces of me died. Things that once burned brightly, faded. I can still feel a tiny flicker under my ribs, but it’s just a faint warmth.

I got caught up in being accepted…being loved…being kind…being like everyone else…

(How honest should I be in this blog? If I share too much somebody might feel hurt…but isn’t that the attitude that got me here in the first place?)

I SOLD OUT.

I traded my spark for conformity. I traded freedom for safety.  And I lost myself.

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No audience is necessary for beauty to exist… no approval needed.

I learned something the other day as I walked/ran (wan or ralked) with the dogs. The aroma of trees in bloom was bewitching.  I found myself inhaling more deeply than I usually do.  I realized I was being beautifully seduced by these wise, wild arboreal beings…actually by all things green and fragrant. As I inhaled the air, I benefitted from the oxygen and the enchanting scent. When I exhaled, I returned the favor as carbon dioxide. I visualized ribbons of CO2 rising to meet imaginary nostrils on leaves.

Without effort…without sacrifice…without losing myself, I was able to be a part of the circle simply by BE-ing. With a simple breath I gave easily and easily received.

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Pollination starts with a thirst…with a desire…

Ugly Truth

 

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Warning – I’m going to share about rape, and fear, and being a woman in 2017.

 

My fear of vulnerability and fear of tears have made me hesitant to write the following. Honestly, I have rarely ever even discussed it.  But now is the time for these stories to emerge. Sadly, if you’re a woman, the odds are very high that you have experienced some form of sexual assault.*

Once upon a time, my friend (we’ll call him Chucky) had a party at his apartment. Chucky and I were buddies. He was one of those guys you thought you could trust. You probably had a male friend like that in school.  He never came onto me – never touched me inappropriately or even made “those” kind of jokes.  I trusted him.  So as Van Halen blared on the stereo,  I felt perfectly safe slamming golden shots of tequila at his kitchen table.

As the music grew louder and the night grew later, we decided a game of quarters was a good idea. I vaguely remember the room swimming as I aimed my body for the door, trying to go home.  I fell down the first flight of stairs, staggered across the landing and rolled the rest of the way into the shrubs.  I also remember friends laughing, dragging me back up the stairs.

“Chucky, can’t she just sleep it off here?” My friends all trusted him as well. He’d never been anything but a perfect gentleman. And Chucky agreed, “Just put her on my bed. She’s close to the bathroom that way. I’ll sleep on the couch.”

Darkness…

When I woke up, it was still dark but he was on top of me, grunting, wiggling…raping me.  I was so dizzy…I couldn’t even fight. I couldn’t even roll away or push him off…I was trapped under his animal musk and groans. I couldn’t even cry.

then more darkness…

Later I woke again…silently… I didn’t make any accusations. I felt so ashamed, so sick. I pulled my pants on and left.

I tried to tell someone. This woman I loved and trusted told me it was my own fault…that I was a drunken slut.  I tried to tell someone else, but she warned me that it would be a waste of time to go to the police. I wasn’t really raped if I was in his bed drunk.

I dropped it. I even continued my friendship with Chucky on a superficial level. I never mentioned it to him.  I did stupid little childish things to get even – ping pong balls in his gas tank, threatening notes on his door…but I couldn’t go on…so I left school, left town, left the state, joined the Army.

I was never the same …never ever the same…

you know all those situations that frighten you as a woman…the drunk in the parking lot of the local bar demanding sex because he bought you a drink, men brushing up against you too closely, breathing into your neck, strangers staring at your ass…being grabbed, being fondled…

these things terrified me. So I just acted tougher…

Once you’ve been assaulted, you never feel safe again.  I still find myself holding my breath in certain situations…unable to find my voice…

I’m 50 years old – not a hot, young, sexy babe – still I can’t even run down the side of the highway without mace or a dog or both…because I’ve been followed and stalked. Because for some reason, my sweaty body conveys I want to get laid. “Hey baby”, cat calls, honking…just a few weeks ago, one man in a white van actually did three u-turns to follow me. It was obvious enough a neighbor driving by noticed and stopped to check on me.

I recently read one of the most moving essays I’d ever read “Becoming Ugly.”  I do not try to be beautiful. I do not fix my hair, color my cheeks and nails, because I do not want to be beautiful. I want to be strong…because so often I’m afraid.

AND there is more…

Our bodies and souls are breached…

Our strength is ripped from us as girls when we are told we are not smart enough….as women when we are paid less…when we are told our blood is dirty and our bodies are weak…we are told that we are original sin…

and when we speak…when we finally clear our throats, take that breath, and speak out, we are again slapped down…and this time not just by the men who would harm us, but by our own sisters.

And each time, it takes longer for our voices to regain volume..and each time it becomes that much harder to rise again..

But we WILL rise again. TOGETHER we will find our voices, and TOGETHER we will run down the highway fearlessly someday.

 

*Nearly one in five women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point, and one in four reported having been beaten by an intimate partner.  www.nytimes.com/2011/…/nearly-1-in-5-women-in-us-survey-report-sexualassault.htm.

 

 

 

A new way

The November sky was a winter sky – painted every shade of gray with the wind’s brushstrokes leaving interesting patterns. The huge white stones in the pasture looked like sheep resting in field,  a scene from Ballykissangel. Three dogs pulled at their leashes, happily bouncing along the pasture trail.  But I was missing so much of it because I kept glancing at my Garmin.  My pace was too slow. I was frustrated as the dogs kept stopping  to sniff…or to pee…or listen for rabbits…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe struggle to control the run was overwhelming…and was just a reflection of how I try to control every aspect of my life.  This is what drowning might feel like. Fighting the current never helps. You have to let go and just float. I’ve never been a fan of floating – always afraid of that loss of control.  But the old ways aren’t working any longer so I need to find a new way.  I’m going float more and race less.

My knee is giving me problems again so my running is suffering. Instead of getting angry with my body, I’m allowing myself to run slowly or not run at all.  I’m allowing myself to walk when I need to.  And I’m leaving my Garmin watch at home. I’m not tracking pace or mileage. I’m just moving.  I’m not posting miles on MapMyRun and I don’t know if I’ll ever enter another race.

Shifting away from all these measures, scales, watches and clocks, I have to a chance to float freely…no guides, no maps, no public input. Just me.  I eat when I’m hungry. I run when I want to run.  I smile when I feel like smiling…and cry when I feel like crying. Floating along in my simple river…

This is my river…my beautiful, mossy, messy river.

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Creation Story

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My theory of reality/existence is based on personal experiences..on overwhelming feelings of oneness that changed me forever. Here is my take on…well…everything:

Once upon a time there was NOTHING except Supreme Love – God – Higher Power – Divine Beloved – the Creator – whatever you want to call Him/Her/It.  Since nothing else existed, this Creator had only its own “essence” to work with…and S/he exploded (BIG BANG) into fragments that became ALL THAT IS.

So every star, every planet, every piece of stardust is a piece of God. And to take it even farther…every being is a piece of God. Each cell is a piece of God…each atom.

In the Old Testament God is called I AM!  God ultimately IS…ALL THAT IS.

At the end of Yoga class, we use the phrase Namaste:  the divine in me sees the divine in you.

So here’s another thought that really blows my mind…99.999999% of each atom is empty space. So we are mostly empty space. We are empty space moving through empty space with a tiny fraction of matter… *note – this is not exactly accurate. See more information below if you’re interested.

What keeps us from merging into one another? Only electrostatic fields.  cactus

When I sit back under my Bodhi tree and contemplate all this, I start to see that we really are all connected. There is only a vagueness that separates me from you. Remember in psychology classes when we were taught that babies cannot distinguish between themselves and their environments…well, maybe babies are right.

What if there is such a thing as reincarnation but with a twist? We are EACH and EVERY being  – we are the killer and the one being killed, we are the mother and we are the child, we are the lover, the beloved, and the hater…we are the Democrat and the Republican, the Christian, the Jew, the Muslim, the Pagan…we are the calf that is slaughtered and butchered and we are the one consuming the flesh…

Our karma means living all sides of all actions.  Our hell is created by us for us.  BUT we are also our own heavens…Each act of love  actually affects every other being. When we feed a starving kitten, we nourish All Beings.

Cut and paste from Wiki:  *The space between atoms may not have much matter (other than a few electrons) but it is still affected by fields – wiki check quantum field theory – which fill the space and impact upon anything that enters the space! So, the 99.9999999% is not really empty in the ‘nothingness’ sense of ‘empty‘! 

What if we decide to call that other stuff…that 99.999999%….LOVE ENERGY? Isn’t that a cool idea!

This changes so much for me…just by concentrating on LIGHT and LOVE, I can change the world. I no longer have to fight…I can just love.  That sure takes the pressure off.

So we are all ALL…and we can each change the world because all that “empty” space is something…it’s the love, the energy, we each manifest and move through…we swim in, inhale and exhale…we are God floating in Love creating more Love.

Namaste

 

 

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It’s all in your head

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I haven’t been running. I haven’t been blogging.  I haven’t been doing much of anything. I injured my knee somewhere along the line and  gave up.  I could have stayed positive and rode my bike or rowed or …something…but no, I sat on my butt, mind filled with negativity, believing all was lost… and gained 20 lbs.

But even though I sound like the original Negative Nelly (no offense to Nellies everywhere) I believe that something positive can be gleaned from any experience and this knee thing is no exception.  I just finished six weeks of physical therapy and that was quite the learning experience.

Further along in the PT process we started working on balance. The first day of balance work, I was frustrated. I could not stand on that darn leg. So per the therapist’s instructions, I turned so I could hold onto the table if necessary. Well, suddenly I found perfect balance. I never had to touch the table. Just knowing it was there was enough for me.

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So we control our bodies…..

Tossing and turning, unable to sleep, .I decided there was absolutely no reason my mind couldn’t make my body sleep. My mind controlled the most sophisticated bodily functions. Why couldn’t it just put me to sleep for a few hours? And boom…I was asleep. This doesn’t ALWAYS work, mind you, but I no longer take Benadryl nightly.

Then this weekend while running, I realized that I focused my right knee and it’s lack of function during these run/walk training sessions. So I focused on my left knee and it’s ability. I moved on to noticing the birds, the flowers, Cupcake’s wagging tail. And I ended up running the whole three miles without any walking  – longest and fastest solid run since surgery. And best of all, completely pain-free!

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Sparky just hanging out.

It’s all in my head…

I believed I would fall, until I believed I was safe. I believed I would feel pain, until I just shut up about it.

So I’m going to focus on happy endings and possibilities and I’ll strap Negative Nelly to the railroad tracks.

 

 

“Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen. I am going to try and experiment.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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Because Ordinary is Extra-ordinary

ellenDogs recognize the exceptional in everybody because they take the time to sniff them out.  Dogs don’t worry about your social standing, where you live or work, what kind of clothes you wear. They’re more concerned with who you REALLY ARE (or if you have treats in your pockets). Because I’ve been taking the time to sniff out the people around me, I’ve been blessed to meet some extra-ordinary folks

Today I’m going to introduce you to Ellen, a friend I met through running.  I wasn’t sure how to write this so I conducted an email interview. Her words are in bold, mine in italics.

Ellen is a runner, fitness fanatic, mother, wife, ex-cop…and what else…(as if that isn’t enough).  

So where to start on this interview. Of course, looking at your Facebook page, two things really jump out – your love for your children and your love of running.
I’m sure everybody reading will want to know “How does she do it?” But I think the answer is obvious “With love”
So let’s get started with you…

You were a law enforcement officer. Is that what started you on your fitness journey? What motivated you to join the force.

I guess I secretly wanted to be a police officer ever since I was a kid.  I loved the show Dragnet and then moved on to Hawaii Five-O because they always got the bad guy.  I was pretty focused, even as a young kid on trying to make the world a better place even if it was one bad guy at a time.  Of course, as I got older, the line between “bad guy and good guy” got blurrier and more obscure.  It was then that I learned of a thing called “situational ethics” (would you steal to feed your starving child?) and police work became more about social work based on personal morals.  I liked that well enough, but laws and personal perspectives sometimes clash.

Over the past…how many years…you’ve lost quite a bit of weight and gained quite a bit of fitness…
Tell me a little bit about that.

Well, the long and short of it is that I was always a jock in high school.  I was always a bit more athletic than most girls and competed mostly with boys.  I did medical missions for years through a non profit I started.  We brought 250 kids from 16 different third worlds countries to the USA for live-saving FREE medical care.  That is a tale all its own.  But while I was doing that, and traveling, I got lost somewhere and woke up with a whole lot of weight, which in turn, depressed me, which in turn, exacerbated into more weight gain and that cycle was born.  When I realized that I had 2 kids, both age 5 who needed me I decided I needed to get my health back.  Sooooo, 86 pounds later and a whole lot more healthier, here I am.  I am trying to learn to be a runner because running is the total package for me.

You’re a foster mother to quite a few children with special needs. That takes a special person. What made and your husband decide to dedicate yourselves to these children? (I did learn Ellen is not a “foster” but read on…)

I am a Mom to 2 bio adult boys, both with children (3 grand daughters between them) of their own. As they were growing up, I did foster care for “the system” for a while, but again, got quite dismayed with the real purpose behind foster care (it is a numbers game) and how little “services” were actually provided.  The pendulum swings from “you are a bad mother, let’s take your kids away because you feed them poor food” all the way to “ let’s put your 6 month old baby in a foster home for the 18th time and give you a break—oh and stop using drugs”.  In other words..you can half kill your kids and still not lose them or you can be poor and be penalized for it.  The system is broken.

Our ELEVEN adopted children are not foster children.  They know the joy of permanency.  I need to emphasize that because of our 11 children, SIX of them were adopted by other families who were unable to parent them.  They ALL came from third world nations where they knew poverty, abuse neglect and lived a constant state of never knowing what was next.  Permanency is a HUGE need for them. They are not foster children; they are all children who have a family and belong.

When people adopt children, there are challenges that not many talk about.  International kids can be a challenge not only for the obvious reasons (they don’t speak the language, they are accustomed to the food, smells, even skin color of their new family.  But they also can be a challenge because they had no say in the deal.  There they were…in an orphanage which is the only home they ever knew and suddenly they are a million mile away, in a new culture with strangers who expect the child to immediately love them.  These kids can be full of rage, sorrow and confusion.  It really can throw a family for a loop.  And usually, the mother is the target of that rage.  Running helps nullify some of that agony from watching your child grieve. 

I have 11 special needs kids.  I love, adore and am smitten with them.  They taught me more than any books, lectures or even ideas I have ever encountered.  But not everyone feels that way about my kids.  For school systems, they are a financial burden and we have struggled and fought with schools for services.  Advocacy is not always a popular position.  Educational advocacy can pit school against parent and I have to tell you, of all the tough things I have done in life, this is one of the toughest.  I know my kids need me to fight for what they rightfully deserve, but there is a certain vindictiveness that happens when you force big entities to do their job.  We have fallen victim to that vicious retaliation more than once.  Running helps me clear my head and turn my anger around.

So, if I were to tell you that I run to keep the weight off, that would be true.  But more so, I run to keep my head and heart balanced. The reason I hated running so much was that I KNEW I was fit, but I could not find that balance.  I could not defeat that inner voice of anger and contempt.  The real challenge of running for me, was learning how to be ok with not being my best or with feeling tired and waiting to quit and being ok knowing that some days are just like that. When I could give myself permission to just run and let my run be just that..a time to just “be”, I started liking running and now, it is the best medicine.  It took great friends and real support for me to get there and I am still shaky with it all. Always a work in progress but it teaches me the value of friendship, too!

My first race was a 10K.  I am proud of that but truthfully, I should have done a 5K.  I did a 10K because I wanted to prove that I could do more.  In a way, that is good.  But in a way, that was the EXACT barricade that I was facing with my running.  Needing to be the best without fail.  The 10K taught me that I could prevail, but it also taught me a bit about arrogance.  That is the dichotomy of running…it teaches you about your strengths, but it also flashes your weaknesses and lights them in bold marquee lights. Mostly, it teaches me about balance.  We all need balance.

Another thing I love about running is the “brotherhood”.  When I read yet one more story about how someone, without care and concern, stopped their own personal marathon to help a stranger meet their goal it lights my heart on fire with hope.  When I read stories about kids who can’t even walk, hoisting themselves over a finish line named courage and determination, what does THAT tell you about the human spirit?  When I read about a woman with stage 4 brain cancer, not only running her final marathon, but running it to make others aware of a cause, what does that sayleaf about self-sacrifice?  I have found the camaraderie of runners is unique, inspiring and universal. I love belonging to such a cohesive  community of hope  in times of worldly division and degradation.

Everybody!

Yesterday I was srobino blessed to be able to attend the Texas Conference for Women with a dear friend.  The caliber of speakers was impressive. The final keynotes were Patricia Arquette and Robin Roberts.  I even got to shake hands with Robin and have my photo taken. (I want to point out that, YES, she’s taller in the photo BUT I’m wearing flats and she was wearing heels- and some amazing heels they were!).

Robin shared the title of book “Everybody’s Got Something” was a “momma-ism.” When Robin would complain about some misfortune, pain or seeming affliction, her mother would tell her “Everybody’s got something.”  Her mother was a jewel box of pearls of wisdom.

How true!!!!!!! EVERYBODY HAS SOMETHING…and EVERYBODY has OVERCOME SOMETHING….and EVERYBODY is SOMETHING.

Meeting new women, I see that each woman has an amazing story to tell.  I started thinking of the women in my life and how each one has lived a life worthy of a novel. These stories deserve to be celebrated and shared. Most importantly, we can learn from each other and find inspiration.

SO……I’ve already talked to one friend and plan on talking to more. I want to do a something different with this blog…I want to share these stories of inspiration and achievement.

Don’t despair! It’s in keeping with my theme  – when I grow up, I want to be a dog.  Dogs meet new people and sniff then all over. They want to know every secret odor. Dogs dance with joy each time they see someone they love.  They understand how to celebrate each individual.

So I plan on sniffing my friends and sharing their unique scents.  I plan on celebrating each one with a Snoopy Dance of Joy and a blog post.

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