Hope and Faith: When One Stumbles, the Other Picks Up the Torch

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Dear Reader:

Yesterday morning I received some challenging news. A couple of weeks ago my oncologist decided he wanted me to have a biopsy on a small patch of dry skin near my sternum…it had been there for quite awhile and appeared pretty harmless…nothing like the lumps and bumps of earlier days.

But simply because it was still there it was decided that we check it out. My surgeon thought it looked pretty “innocuous” too and was hopeful it was just some old scar tissue. When the report came back it showed the tissue was malignant, however. I got the news early yesterday morning.

So Plan B is to remove the tissue and hopefully get clear margins. Haven’t heard yet when this surgery will take place. Since I still have one more eye cataract surgery…hoping everything can shake itself all out with the timing.

Obviously I have been praying and reflecting a lot while waiting on the results and then a few days ago, an image came to mind. There were two runners in a relay race symbolizing hope and faith...In the middle of the race, hope fell down but managed to get the torch to faith  so faith could finish the race…but instead faith stopped and helped hope up… together they crossed the finish line.

Sometimes when our hope grows dim…faith steps in to lead the charge. Other times when our faith grows dim, it is eternal hope that takes the lead and lights the way for both. Together they are formidable opponents to despair and worry.

My faith tells me that God has brought me this far and won’t desert me in the race while my hope is to keep on running for as long as I can run, as fast as I can, leaving “little c” far behind me.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I wanted all of you loyal readers and supporters to be “abreast” (little pun) of the situation and I am grateful for any prayers you can send my way. Prayers are the most powerful weapons!

thumbnail_IMG_2539*Keeping things in perspective, as Beverly Barutio, creator of the St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope, used to say about her cancer….“It’s just another little annoyance.”  Compared to this absolutely wonderful life I am living…that’s exactly what it is…an annoyance!

So until tomorrow…I read this Story People visual message by Brian Andreas and smiled. (*Check Story People out on the internet…enchanting.) If I get this bad tissue removed it will just be like leaving another piece of me behind…making it “easier to feel the sunlight.

 “She left pieces of her life behind her everywhere she went. It’s easier to feel the sunlight without them, she said.”

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

  • IMG_2875In this past Sunday’s bulletin…the Call to Worship (Taken from Psalm 112 -with a leader and the people response) ended with the people saying: “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”
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  • IMG_20160829_160425My “babes” in Toyland (Eva Cate and Jakie)
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We Just Aren’t Made of Atoms, but Letters that Form Stories

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( Photos by Emilia Leigh-The Last Beginning Blog)

Dear Reader:

886France seems to be calling me as I have now read three novels with different geographical locales situated in France. In my last story, the main character, Katherine, travels to Antibes and there discovers the sculpture known as “The Man of Letters.”

When I first read about this unusual sculpture, nicknamed Nomade/ “The Man of Letters” I was picturing letters as in stationary and envelopes….not alphabetical letters.

Instead this unusual sculpture is made of bent steel painted white to contrast with the blues skies of the French Rivera. He is staring out at the harbor and Mediterranean Sea with his upper torso bent forward as his hands embrace his knees.

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This sculpture was created under the amazing umbrella of talents belonging to an innovative sculptor-Catalan artist Jaume Plensa. It is one of a series of “lettered” sculptures found around the world by this same artist. It is a favorite of both residents and tourists of Antibes and looks out over one of the richest harbors in the world (Port Vauban) with more large yachts anchored there than any other harbor…

A spectator can walk inside, completely immersed in letters, sit, climb, and find themselves lost in reverie trying to find a secret code or pattern to the letters. Many people end up in the same position as the “Man of Letters” -stationary…holding their knees and leaning forward in a seating position.

One tourist said that the brain naturally wants to match letters  to our own individual schema of known words and thoughts. Another tourist said the experience was like looking for that first word in a crossword puzzle…the word that  unlocks the puzzle for all the other clues.

(Speaking of crossword puzzles, an interesting anecdote that our Pastoral Intern, Pat Jones, shared with us yesterday, involved a man on a train working on a crossword puzzle. Absent-mindedly, he spoke one clue out-loud which read:

A four-letter word that displays a strong, emotionally charged feeling towards an unknown person.”  

“HATE”  a nearby fellow passenger yelled out. There were several nods followed by a pause from a woman across the aisle…”No…LOVE.”  What a thin line separates love from hate in this world! Perception and understanding are key to both.)

Plensa’s  perception of his “Man of Letters” artwork is explained in his own words:

“It’s an open piece, inviting people to enter it, like a grand-mother embracing her children.”

“I always imagined that our skin is permanently tattooed with text – our life, our experiences – tattooed, but with invisible ink. And then suddenly, somebody is able to decipher these tattoos; that person becoming a lover, a friend. That is probably why I work with sculptures like this, this human form composed solely of letters, like cells. It’s almost biological.”

“People believe that a letter is nothing, that it is anonymous, but in relationship with other letters they form words, the words with other words create texts, the texts with other texts create culture, and so on.”

…………………………

Isn’t life fascinating? It all begins simply enough…a single-cell divides itself and aligns with another becoming more biologically complex with each passing day…with each new part of the body being formed and added.

In this case…there is a single letter that decides to align with another random letter and a single word emerges. Then that single word connects with another single word…and a thought begins to form…and so on and so on and so on.

So until tomorrow…How anyone can not believe in a Supreme Being in charge of so many complexities in man, animal, and plant behaviors Who can simplify this over-whelming realization of Creation by one thought…one unconditional feeling…LOVE for each and everyone made in His image.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*Late yesterday afternoon I walked out in the garden and it looked like the rain shower morphed into a moon flower shower….so beautiful it took my breath away!

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” Adopt the Pace of Nature: Her Secret is Patience”

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Dear Reader:

Yesterday as I ran several errands returning to a hot car after each completion, I, once again, wished the future would push the present out more rapidly, so Fall would return faster with cooler weather. The stage is already set for this season with students back in school, the high schools starting their football seasons and the colleges getting ready to begin their schedules this weekend.

Everything is in place except cool weather…( or even just cooler weather.)

And yet, when I water the garden each evening…all the flowers, bushes, and trees are patiently awaiting their nourishment and happy to see me. The garden makes me feel ridiculous some times for wanting to speed life up, with all its seasons. After all ….this is my life that is flying by.

My mindset needs to be that of nature…just like Ralph Waldo Emerson quoted in the title picture.  Just keep carrying on and changes will come when they are supposed to, not before nor after. Everything will turn out okay in the end….just enjoy the time right now.

A new mindset on time and our role in it, prioritizes what we should most cherish and slowly savor.

*Life is better when we move in a slower, more relaxed pace. To get the most out of each moment slow down, don’t speed up.

*Think about it….is a book better speed-reading it, or getting totally immersed and lost in it?

* Is a song better if you skim or change channels through it, or stop and really listen?

*Is food more enjoyable if we swallow it whole, tasting nothing, or taking time to savor every bite and flavor?

*Is work more enjoyable if we multi-task to the point that we are constantly running around with our heads cut off…never finishing one project before we start another or concentrating on one important meaningful task?

*Is time spent with close friends and family members more memorable if you have a rushed lunch, staring at your watch, emails and text messages, or if you relax and focus on the other person?

*Life is better savored and seasonably flavored by time spent making memories to keep us warm at night with a smile on our faces.

biltmore_house_snowYou might have noticed that Asheville, North Carolina has started a televised public video campaign to attract more tourists to Asheville. I couldn’t help but notice that the ending statement to the commercial concluded:

“Some people take on life….others take life easy.” The message infers that you have to make a choice….indicating that you are either an observer or a participant.

From my own experiences in life….I think you can do both….participate in life but do it at a leisurely pace. It is better to see less with more intensity that to see more with shallow remembrances.

So until tomorrow….Choose a new mindset carefully by prioritizing the most important aspects of life you want to spend time on. Don’t rush this assignment….it provides the portal to a new world of understanding. (Watch nature…it intuitively knows its role in life and paces itself accordingly…each minute, hour, and day of its life.)

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

IMG_20160816_174431“It’s the little young lady from Pasadena”.…Jake has his helmet on and is hanging on tight….while his big sis drives with her knees.

 

IMG_20160825_184954“This adorable acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree.” (The gene pool pace of nature!)

 

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The Sight of Sharpened Pencils, The Smell of Waxed Crayons…Fall is Arriving!

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Dear Reader:

I know I am trying to hurry Fall along, guilty as charged. I am just so ready for the smell of bonfires, crisp, brightly colored leaves falling, the sound of football bands, gorgeous mums of every color, pumpkins, savory smells of homemade soups and stews…..I could go on and on. How I love Fall!

“Woof Woof” to the dog-days of August….actually I should have said, “Pant, pant” to the dog-days of August. Scramble heat and humidity!….We have broken enough records for one year!

Libby is our craftiest crafts Ya! She is always designing and making creative projects for her family, grandchildren, and even nephews and nieces. Case-in-point: Look at this cool crayon wreath she designed and gave her niece Paige, a young school teacher! Wouldn’t you love to have an aunt like Libby?

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When Libby sent us a photo of the finished project…she texted: “Made for Paige for new school year….Still luv to smell crayons!”

Several of you have made the exact, same comment whenever a blog has something to do with crayons! It must be an universal smell of delight and childhood memories blended together!

*However, a little memory neuron (miraculously still working in my brain) kept nagging at me that someone else had made a comment about Fall and school supplies….not crayons, but….but got it! “Sharpened pencils!”

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It was Tom Hanks in “You’ve Got Mail!” (a wonderful chick-flick!) The exact quote that Hanks emailed Meg was:

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms.”

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We have talked several times about the power of the sense of smell in our memories of the past. Perhaps that is why there is always, like Libby and Tom Hanks’ character in the movie (Joe FOX) a little yearning each Fall in our hearts when we smell pumpkins and burning leaves and school. The season of new beginnings and unforeseeable possibilities.

Fall is the season of “not knowing” what the new school year or job will bring and it does have its charms. (Even though it takes so long coming and gets squeezed in between summer and winter too quickly.)

If I could rearrange the length of the seasons, it would run something like this: Short summer, l-o-n-g Fall, short winter, l-o-n-g spring. Two shorts, two longs…just enough, but not too much!

5ae88d82537b6c019e7e08a2c2f861f4Still I think God, with his magical box of crayons, colored the earth just the way it should have been colored. With green, the shade of life and re-birth as the most prominent color for man to walk upon, and blue for the sky to soothe us each evening, yellow for the bright sun to awaken us to the chirping of the birds, and black for the darkness that allows us to sleep soundly….reassured that the spectacular yellows, oranges, and reds are just hours away.

images (3)So until tomorrow….Enjoy this Saturday, get out and play in God’s greatest playground, His Creation. Enjoy the waning days of summer and hint of Fall to come with the unexpected cool breeze that catches us unaware. Fall will defeat summer, just like winter will defeat Fall, and Spring will defeat winter, and finally summer will return…just the way God planned. Find happiness (pant, pant) in every season!

“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh

*I hope you don’t weary of me and this “light” thing I am on….but believe me, all of you new lens recipients (minus your cataracts) know exactly what I mean. Your “new” eyes let the sunshine in and it stays all day and night.

*So I bought one box of two new solar lights for the deck while Ernie removed all the old ones that had sputtered out over the years. I told him I would try the two new ones and if I liked them I would get enough to finish going around the deck and let him finish up with them next time. What do you think? I like them…they complement the exterior color of the deck.

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This is my favorite statue solar light now….It was on sale at Tuesday Morning….one of those half off of half off end-of- summer deals….He is catching lightning bugs….It brings back such fond memories…Wish it could bring back the lightning bugs…I miss them!

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*Eva Cate  earned seven pennies for good behavior  so Mandy took her to Claires and let her pick out her dangling earrings that she so adores (and is allowed to only wear at home.)

Obviously Claires must have been having a fantastic end-of-the-summer sale. And the girls didn’t even have to go to the GAP because Eva Cate already has one of those naturally!

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When the Light Comes On…

 

thumbnail_IMG_2838Dear Reader:

Teachers often talk about the “magic moments” in teaching when they are witness to the “light coming on” in a student’s eyes during a particular lesson concerning a basic tool or concept of knowledge. It is what teachers  live for…

I wonder if Jesus felt that same exhilaration when He witnessed the “light coming on” in his disciples’ eyes and the multitudes of people He spoke to about God. Teachers’ worst days are not as much about misbehavior as simply the presence of apathy and blank expressions staring back. Those are the days you return home wondering “Why do I even bother.” (I feel sure Jesus felt this too, and collapsed in sheer exhaustion on several occasions.)

Somehow, deep inside of teachers, counselors, parents, coaches, physicians, social workers, pastors, etc. – we all know that no matter how dark the situation gets….that one day, unexpectedly, the light will return and the power from it will keep us energized once again.

Late Wednesday afternoon when Anne and I strung the tiny moon lights over the magic moon gate, we could already see the small bulbs burning. It was energized by a solar panel. But later when it got dark and I went back out on the deck to enjoy the new “lit” moon gate…it was all dark. I was disappointed.

I had just texted Anne that no lights were coming on and she had texted back…that it probably just needed more sunlight…it would come on the next evening…when I decided to play around with it and boom…the lights came on and I got the photo (above.) It didn’t last long but long enough to get a picture and enjoy the possibility of the lights..

Then yesterday I read a Guidepost article about a ‘light coming on’ and could relate to it. Hope you can too. Enjoy!

“A Light in the Storm”

Robert Kramer

For years my daughter, Candi, and I had talked about canoeing the Yellow River in the Florida panhandle. Finally, during one of her college breaks, we decided to go for it.

We were only half an hour into our trip when the sky turned dark and thunder rumbled in the distance. The current picked up, and I grew uneasy about the rising water.

The rain came down quickly in wind-whipped sheets and the river tossed us wildly over submerged logs and rocks. “We’ve got to dock!” I shouted. Candi bailed water furiously while I searched for a clearing along the dark, tree-lined bank.

The rain was so heavy I couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead. Every time I’d spot a place to come ashore, we were already past it.

Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the water directly in front of us. We’ve got to get off this river now! Just then I saw a faint glow in the distance. A house?

I steered the canoe toward the glow. It was a porch light. And there in front of the house was a cleared section of the riverbank.

By the time we got the canoe up on dry land, the porch light was off. “Lucky it was on when we needed it,” I said to Candi. A woman standing on the porch ushered us inside the house.

“Thank you,” I said to her as we dried ourselves off. “I don’t know how we’d have made it to shore if your porch light hadn’t been on.”

“But it couldn’t have been,” she said. “The power’s been out all day.”

……………………….

So until tomorrow…Don’t you think Jesus is still trying to get the light to come on in our eyes…to have faith that He will never forsake us, but instead, be there for us through the up’s and down’s of life?

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*With so many flowers rather withered and tired-looking during these hot dog-days of August…I am getting more creative with my fresh flower arrangements and using the asparagus fern more.

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*Look at this cool picture….I took a photo of all the moon flowers hanging together on the fence (but without the flash) and it was getting pretty dark. I used the exposure icon to increase the light and this is what emerged….strange but beautiful.

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No Cure for Aging? Don’t Despair; You’re not Sick!

IMG_2813Dear Reader:

Does it bother any of you, like it does me sometimes, to watch the beauty cable channels (early in the morning if you can’t sleep) and realize that every other word coming out of the sales ladies’ mouths  is referencing a “cure” for this or a “cure” for that aging problem.

Now I am all for “cures“….I have experienced first hand, up-close and personal how medical cures can enhance and extend our lives….What has literally kept me hanging around has been new medical drugs that have ‘hit the market’ in time to help me at different, critical stages…while fighting “little c.”

And don’t get me wrong….I am not crusading for natural aging with no cosmetic “tweaks” (unless that is your preference) to level the playing field a little. After all you readers witnessed the “Boo” au natural following my eye surgery last week with no make-up! *There should have been a warning to turn away quickly.

(By the way Mollie, has my (super-duper) under eye concealer cream come in, yet?) The mirror is telling me I need it.

I’m simply saying that aging should not be looked upon as a disease. Something that needs a cure. It is just life…the way God planned it. There is no doubt, in my mind, that our Creator doesn’t see us growing older physically, He is more interested in how our soul is aging more beautifully spiritually.

Small children don’t distinguish beauty and age. Even, as a child, I loved looking into the eyes of older individuals like grandparents and great aunts and uncles…because there was a different glow in their beautiful eyes….one of knowledge, experience, and understanding that younger adults didn’t have…in their hectic daily lives. A sense of peace and serenity. Children see this quite plainly.

FullSizeRenderI told Mandy a few weeks ago that while Eva Cate and I were lying in bed one night discussing life as only a 66 and 6 year-old can do….she suddenly stopped and said, “Boo Boo….I want to be like you when I get old… (there was a long pause while I snickered quietly in the darkness) and then I heard the last word … “beautiful.”  A heart-melter and thank goodness there is no cure for that either.

IMG_0532 (1)Rutledge will run up to me when I pull in the driveway and grab me around my knees hugging me as tightly as he can and say quite often….“You’re Boo-tiful Boo Boo…I love you.”

 

 (If I don’t live much longer it won’t be because of “little c”….it will be because my heart melted completely away. What a way to go!)

 

Jakie and Lachlan are just now getting the “Boo Boo” greeting down verbally. No pressure boys…but listen to your older siblings’ Boo Boo greetings and follow suit.

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*It is the only time I hear I am “boo-ti-ful” and sadly little boys and girls grow up too quickly and their vision becomes more physical than spiritual. Time is limited on unconditional beauty in the eyes of little children. (They become teenagers…Aah!)

So until tomorrow….Let the sunshine in, along with peace, serenity, and love…and live life as only a child can do…basking in the warmth of God’s love with no fear of tomorrow.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

  • FullSizeRenderAnne came over for supper after we finished up at the DSS parking lot and some of her experiences aligned perfectly with our blog “theme” today……little children see love perfectly, but so can adults… anyone can appreciate beauty and kindness with only a cookie and bottle of water.
  • (Anne) “The thank you’s at DSS started with the very first car that rumbled up to me as I held out water and a cookie. The frazzled occupant barely stopped (not sure the car had brakes, definitely no air conditioning.) The occupant grabbed the goodies and sped off saying “You is AWESOME!”
  • “One of the last cars couldn’t believe we were handing out FREE water and cookies and said something like “I am absolutely in love with you.” (His wife and kids didn’t seem to mind…they were too busy eating cookies.”

Look how my garden grows….Anne took some snapshots of me next to my tall long leaf  sunflowers and confederate rose.

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Anne and I strung some “moon lights” on the magic moon gate and then I turned on the lights around the fountain….my own night garden!

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If You Don’t Like Something, Change It; If you Can’t Change it, Change Your Attitude.”

 

If-you-dont-likeDear Reader:

In a surprisingly good read, The Night Garden, from an author I was not familiar with, Lisa van Allen, I found myself stopping and marking passages as I read farther and farther into the book.

20587874Olivia, a beautiful young woman, has undergone a bizarre life altercation that has changed her life into one of seclusion and isolation. From an accidental overdose from a close encounter/ proximity to some  poisonous plants, she has become an “untouchable”….Anyone who tries to do so…breaks out in a terrible rash that takes weeks to overcome.

Her father keeps trying to find a “cure” so his daughter can live a normal life outside their farm filled with different gardens of promise and a maze that helps one find direction for their future….everyone, except Olivia, who spends her life caring for the gardens, farm and her father.

When she first understood what the poisonous plants had done to her and her future she admitted that she threw a temper tantrum that lasted a whole year…from the age of 20 to 21. She went into mourning, gained weight, grew mean-spirited, and sulked.

But then, one wintry day she realized that her prolonged temper tantrum was just that, a voice of self-centered protest. “Why Me?” was like “throwing herself at the feet of the Almighty and screaming, “Make it stop.

She sat down on a bench and viewed the beautiful snowy hills and valleys surrounding the family farm in upper New York state. Suddenly her life took on new clarity as thoughts and visions filled her mind.

“Lilies of the field did not threaten to uproot themselves if they didn’t like where they were planted. On the slopes of the mountains, saplings struggled to grow in the shallowest puddles of soil that collected on bald rocks. Along the side of the valley’s single road, chicory and yellow trefoil had learned to thrive in waste spaces, where passing cars blew exhaust against them all day long. Like Olivia, they had no say over where their seeds took hold: When they could not change their surroundings, they themselves had to change.”

When I got to this passage I marked it, re-read it, and realized what an important thought and message was contained in the paragraph. Nothing new exactly, but a reminder when I needed one.

I see this in my garden every day…annuals that continue to reappear each spring (no one told them they weren’t invited to the next spring season’s kick-off) and a variety of trees, shrubs, plants, and flowers that bloom in spite of the challenging conditions surrounding them. Bloom where you are planted.

Some days I, too, am guilty of wishing I had something I want that would make my daily life easier, but then I realize that my life is about as good as it gets, just the way it is. It is up to me to find happiness, peace, and contentment within it. Conditions are never going to be perfect, according to our desires and wants, but we can learn to be happy within, sometimes, uncontrollable situations.

So until tomorrow…Let’s find happiness within ourselves…it’s portable and easy to carry wherever we go.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

FullSizeRenderWhile finishing  the last few pages of the novel Monday night…I had a sweet tooth attack and found one “lonely” little Dove chocolate. The message inside read: “Happy UnBirthday!”

How funny I thought and smiled…where had I heard that before? When you think about it any day can be made special with a “Happy UnBirthday!” *Too late to even send a belated birthday card?….Send a “Happy UnBirthday!

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Have you ever “un-birthdayed” anyone? Start now. If you don’t know a colleague’s birthday and don’t want to be embarrassed about sending a card at the wrong time….start sending out “Unbirthday” cards to your fellow workers. You turn  their day into something extra special…regardless of when their birthday actually is.

Unbirthday*The idea comes from the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland where all the guests “unbirthdayed” each other.

It provides an unexpected surprise and makes the recipient’s day just a little brighter!

Since I don’t know all my readers’ birthdays and don’t go on Facebook daily….here is to all of you! Happy Un-Birthday!

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A Very Merry Unbirthday to You – YouTube

“Buffalo girls, won’t you come out tonight and dance by the light of the moon(flowers)?”

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The Dingle brothers in action! While mom works in providing healthy ways to stay beautiful and confident…the boys provide “natural” ways to keep their “earth tone” appearance.

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