Posts Tagged ‘Truth’

Early and often

June 2nd, 2008    -    8 Comments


More of my excerpt from the new anthology, The Maternal is Political. Go back here to read the first installment.

I was not, I thought, unduly anxious about my daughter’s educational prospects. I was not among those employing literacy tutors for my three-year-old. I did not use an Excel spreadsheet to track the application process to private kindergartens. I did not angle playdates with the grandchildren of private-school directors. I did not donate a wad of money to the schools at the top of my wish list. I did not even make a list. I simply believed that one day, when the luminous sheen of my daughter’s wonderfulness was made known, something fantastic would happen.

“Who’s John Kerry?” she asked one day, seemingly out of the blue. It was not out of the blue, but rather right out of the red, white, and blue bumper sticker on the SUV in the preschool parking lot. She pointed to it and revealed that, while I wasn’t looking, she had begun to read. It seemed early, the reading, and early too, the electioneering, although I happily took both signs as foretelling a fabulous outcome.

I had been crushed by the presidential election of 2000. Heartbroken, enraged, and then quietly, insistently, optimistic again. Four years was unimaginable, but four more was entirely impossible. Not with truth on our side. Not with smart money. Not with the Internet. And so I found myself doing what I’d never done before, not in my more than twenty years of informed and, sometimes, impassioned voting. I took the phone calls. I made the phone calls. I sent tens of dollars. I sent hundreds of dollars. I walked the precinct. I wore the button. I slapped on the bumper sticker, then saw the stickers everywhere, and not just in the parking lot of our high-priced, progressive preschool. Democratic values were alive and never wealthier, it seemed. The republic would be saved.

We took our daughter to the polls on election day of 2004. And what seemed to matter most going in—truthfulness, courage, effort, and ideals—mattered nothing in the end. One measly vote in one dinky town in one irrelevant state didn’t count for much. The republic was not only broken, it was no longer ours to fix.

“Have we ever voted for someone who won?” My daughter’s response reflected her brief life history of losing, 0 for 2, in presidential contests, but the dejection was universal. We had come to the irretrievable end of hope. And the loss, we realized, was truly hers.

***
To continue reading. To continue listening. To be continued.

Grateful dead

May 30th, 2008    -    4 Comments


From naive simplicity we arrive at more profound simplicity. – Albert Schweitzer

Is there anyone who doesn’t look at this discovery and say, well . . . duh?

***
May you find your own place to rest in peace this weekend. Back to school on Monday with more on my latest learning curve.

My bus

May 28th, 2008    -    6 Comments


School’s out for many of you. But for some, it’s always just beginning.

I always knew where it would lead.

As we cruised down the street on the morning commute to nursery school, my two-year-old would pipe up from the back seat whenever the yellow bus rumbled into view.

“My bus, my bus!”

“That’s right,” I would carefully rejoin, “A bus,” affirming the noun, but not yet the pronoun, not the possession, not the slightest quiver of possibility that the public school just down the street would one day be hers. Years before the question of schools could reasonably be raised, I already felt the fluttering clutch of resistance to her baby-talk claim.

Which school for my daughter? I waffled. Haven’t a clue, I’d think. Never given it a thought, I’d shrug, although I’d given plenty of thought to how brilliant her future would be. How bountiful her birthright. How predestined her success. Although my husband and I were public school progeny, those were different times in different places with different kinds of parents, we thought. Our parents had neither the privilege nor the need for a choice.

Our school district was as underfunded as any and especially ill-favored by those with a chance of escaping it. Decades earlier, forced busing had decimated enrollments. As incomes and property values rose, the middle class that had once populated neighborhood schools was nowhere to be found. Sixty-three private schools educated more than one-third of all children in the district. Competition for admission was severe; tuitions were stratospheric. But for parents like us, parents who could pinch and scrimp their way to having a choice, there seemed to be no other choice.

This was the state of education in our country. This was the state of our country, in which the newly elite lived in fear of being left behind with the mass of others we had falsely promised to never leave behind. This was the road the yellow bus traveled twice a day: hauling mostly Hispanic kids to and from the apartment buildings that rimmed the industrial fringe of our suburb; collecting them on the littered streets at frosty dawns and delivering them to our quaint hometown school in our million-dollar neighborhood, made empty by a herd of us heading the other way.

***
To continue reading. To continue listening. To be continued.

Full circle of kindness

March 6th, 2008    -    23 Comments

Read on and then give yourself another chance at love.

Nearly two years ago as I was wandering the wilderness in search of readers (yes, we not only have to write books, we have to find readers) I found a little something that led me to Wendy Cook. I sent her one of the first copies of my book. Authors like me have to buy and send a lot of freebies that don’t amount to much. But Wendy responded. She sent me the kind of heartfelt message that you wait your whole life to hear. And she didn’t just tell me. She ran out and posted reviews here, here, here and here. Then she began dousing her blog with my quotations. And she interviewed me. Wendy is a veritable nest of kindness, and I wondered how she came to be so generous. Then I realized that she too is an artist and understands the role of the circle, the community, in making us whole. Because she has been so personally merciful to me, meet Wendy, my soul sister, who wears kindness like a bracelet, a bracelet that would look good on you too.

Every month on your blog you interview a mom about how she nurtures her creative life. So tell me: how do you nurture yours? Is it a quest? A struggle?

I think of it as one big beautiful juggling act (insert circus music here). I had to reconsider my definition of creativity and focus on projects that I can either complete quickly or work on in spurts. Luckily I don’t limit myself to any one medium, so there’s a lot to play with. Is it a quest? Oh yes. Is it struggle? Sometimes. Most recently I wanted to attend the Squam Art Workshops and really had a hard time asking my husband about it, knowing that it would mean he would have to work overtime so that I could go. I am still struggling with the feelings of joy to be able to feed my soul and guilt for wanting this for myself.

You discover and share a bounty of children’s books and music on your blog. Do you find that your own art is influenced by them?

Yes, because there is a sense of nostalgia at the core of my work. But I mainly do it so I can provide my son Satchel with inspiration. I share my findings to save other moms time because there are tons of children books, but not all of them have wonderful illustrations or beautiful messages. The best of them also teach me to believe in myself, to be myself, to help others, to care deeply and to help Satch do the same. They also show me that the dreams of our youth might very well be our authentic selves.

Do you have a sense of a calling now in your life other than motherhood?

Being Satchel’s mama is the most important thing I can be. That said, I still have an overwhelming drive to create, to work with my hands. When I go too long without making something, I get a bit wonky; I feel anxious and irritable. The remedy is often as simple as making something for Satch -– like felted Easter eggs or a clothespin catapult. Thankfully, my husband is very supportive and will step in so I can do something creative.

Tell me how your family inspires you.

To know that we belong to each other, that we are loved and respected, that we untangle our messes together, share our joys, and ride this fantastic twirling rock together: I’m inspired to be as real and as present as I can possibly be.

What do you want to do with your life now?

As Satch becomes more independent I would like to spend more time producing and promoting my work. I want to inspire others to follow their own creative dreams. I want to grow, evolve, love deeply, laugh often, dance with wild abandon and be a centenarian.

***
It won’t surprise you to learn that Wendy has donated the grand prize for the week’s giveaway, the Robin’s Nest handmade vintage button bracelet shown above, so please enter early and often before 6 p.m. PST this Friday, March 7. Winners revealed on Saturday. You can read this week’s earlier interviews with my inspirational sisters Jen Lemen and Sally Dworsky. And thank you for visiting this week. It did my soul good.

Sweetest days of all

March 5th, 2008    -    21 Comments

So Georgia and I are driving around one Saturday afternoon a few years back listening to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio and the little one erupts from her car seat: “Mommy, that’s Sally Doorsky!’ It turns out that Sally, frequent radio guest, is the mom of her pre-K mate Charlie, and his little sis Lila, and in that moment Sally Dworsky has become the most famous person we will ever know. Her transcendent voice, her songs of pure heart: we can’t sum it up except that we have become fans of the most slobbery kind. Here is Sally, another soulful sister, mother of mercy and angel of inspiration talking about singing in and out of her new CD, “Boxes.”

I can remember having coffee together one day and you were as doubtful as any of us mothers that your creativity would return, that you’d ever have the time or the impetus to write songs again. Tell me how that struggle eased for you, because look, here you are!

The truth is, I think I have always had that insecurity. Even before kids. That sense that I would never write another song, or at least not another good song. Each time I do, I am so excited and relieved and surprised, and then I return to that state of not knowing. But I did wonder how I would ever have time to be alone and still enough to receive the little bursts of inspiration and follow them. And it’s true, I have much less time to explore an idea, but there is a benefit to that. I can’t afford to labor and self-judge as much as I used to or I’d never get a thing done. I realize now that it has always been about capturing those little ideas that usually come in the midst of doing something else, not in the time I’ve set aside to write. So if anything has eased with motherhood, it’s my acceptance of that fact, and my willingness to record it as it happens and not worry about the many different ways I could have played it or sang it or said it. Kinda like the way I am answering these questions while the kids watch Arthur. No time to try too hard.

I can hear you singing about your mother, your father, your kids, and your partner in these songs. Am I right? Tell me how your family inspires you.

Some people are great at making up stories and characters. Not me. I can’t even make up a bedtime story for my kids. It all comes out of my real relationships. Both of my parents have passed away now. That, coupled with having children keeps me in a perpetual state of reflection and processing of the cycle that we’re all a part of; keeps me wondering if or when I’ll ever feel grown up as I try to guide these little people. My family, and my place in it, is relentlessly inspiring.

What song on your new CD is the most personally powerful for you?

There are a few, but maybe Sweetest Days. I want to be present as it all keeps flying by.

What do you want to do with your music? With your life?

Creatively, I feel more honest than ever before, and therefore more confident. Also less competitive, which is freeing. I am connecting with other wonderful singers and musicians and exploring new collaboration. I want to be playing and writing more routinely, so that it is just woven into my life with all of the rest of my responsibilities. Then I think professional opportunities would come more easily. The practical need to be making a living makes me want to break through in some significant way: songs in films, other people recording my songs. There is not a clear path for an artist like me. It may be about some fluky little opportunity that I can’t even imagine right now (like those two sweet songwriters from the movie Once). That’s why I just want to find a “practice” so that I keep doing it and doing it honestly. I would also love to facilitate other people singing together. Especially kids. Maybe a kids’ choir?

What is your greatest delight?
Singing, singing in harmony with others, listening to my son sing, watching my daughter do sign-language and monkey bars, making soup and eating it with a good hunk of bread and a glass of wine.

***

Be greedy for love! Leave any comment this week and a sudden burst of inspiration from Jen Lemen, songs from Sally and even more could come your way. Enter your name or enter the name of one of your own sisters who could use some soul support. (And hey: the sister could be a mister too.) Prize winners drawn after 6 p.m. PST this Friday and announced on Saturday. Keep entering to win, and make sure you leave a way for me to reach you with the good news. That means you don’t need to have a blog, but if you don’t, be sure you contact me via email on my Profile page so I can get in touch.

This way comes

March 4th, 2008    -    28 Comments


All this week I’m introducing you to mothers of mercy in the order of soul sisterhood. In today’s installment with Jen Lemen, we consider both small and large matters underfoot. And remember to comment here or any day this week to enter my weekend giveaway of inspirational art by Jen and others.

What is the predominant color of clothing in your closet? Why do you suppose that is?

I can’t resist the color brown – even though my little urban family often campaigns for any other color, I wear it so much. I love the way brown can feel earthy and rich at the same time, depending on the texture and the fabric.

Describe your favorite pair of shoes.

I live in a pair of chocolate brown Pumas with light lavender stripes. They’re nice and squishy and they don’t look like ordinary sneakers. When these wear out, I’ll go buy another just like them.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?

I have dreams of living for a year in Cape Town, New York or some European city, but the truth is it’s hard to beat where I live right now. My little city is a melting pot of African immigrants and every day friends from faraway places come to my house to cook or visit or tell stories. Nothing makes me happier than being with refugees or immigrants, so I feel incredibly blessed to live here.

What one thing are you going to do this year that could set it apart from any other time of your life?

International travel is not out of the question for me this year. I have a dear friend from Rwanda who would like me to go to Africa to visit the children she left behind. I can only imagine how that kind of journey would alter the landscape of my heart. In the meantime, I’ve always wanted to publish a book, and I think this is the year to do it.

* * *

Oops! She said it out loud.

And for all you seekers: here’s the link for purchasing your own copies of the poster featured above. (One of the not-so-secret prizes I’ll award later this week!)

Be greedy for love! Leave any comment this week and a sudden gust of inspiration from Jen or others could come your way. Enter your name or enter the name of one of your own sisters who could use some soul support. (And hey: the sister could be a mister too.) Prize winners drawn after 6 p.m. PST this Friday and announced on Saturday. Keep entering to win, and make sure you leave a way for me to reach you with the good news.

Something healing

March 3rd, 2008    -    21 Comments


She calls herself a professional blogger, but those of us who attend regular services at her sanctuary know that description hardly captures the dimension of her spirit. I asked writer and artist Jen Lemen to reflect on her life and work during a week in which I’ll introduce you to a few of my very favorite mothers of mercy in the order of soul sisterhood.

You are from a family of sisters. How intrinsic is sisterhood to your art and writing?

Sisterhood is so major for me, I almost don’t know how to talk about it. I can say this – if my work as an artist or a writer has any hint of the spirit of connectedness or deep trust in the Universe, it’s largely because of the love I’ve experienced from my sisters. We don’t always get along, and there are times when our differences feel personal and painful. But no matter what, my sisters are sewn into the fabric of my heart; it’s hard to think of myself outside of the circle of their love and support.

Do you have the sense of a calling in life?

Since I was a little girl, I’ve had a deep desire to write and also to change the world. It’s impossible for me to think of one without the other. Even now nearing forty, I still want to tell stories that change you and me forever and I want to do it in such a way that you feel inspired to action and filled with hope and love for the world around you.

What is your faith tradition?

I grew up in a Christian family of the low church, born-again variety, but all those labels really don’t do my religious heritage justice. My parents embodied a theology of kindness that didn’t have much patience for rules or dogma. They taught us how to care for the elderly, love the poor, cook for crowds, talk to strangers, show up in a crisis and have fun as a strategy for healthy living. Even though I long ago left the church, I’m still deeply invested in this particular brand of openhearted generosity.

How would you describe your spiritual practice?

My spiritual practice is mostly homemade and borrowed from various traditions. I keep a tiny gratitude journal and set up little altars in my house to mark the travels of my soul, but my real practice is to love strangers and allow the poorest of the poor to be my sage guides and teachers.

There’s more from Jen tomorrow, and more sister inspiration all week.

***
Here’s your chance to enter the sisterhood. Leave a comment, any comment, many comments this week and you could find a sudden gust of Jen Lemen’s inspiration on your doorstep. Enter your name or enter the name of one of your own sisters who could use some spontaneous soul support. (And hey: the sister could be a mister too.) Prize winners drawn after 6 p.m. PST this Friday and announced on Saturday. Keep entering to win, and make sure you leave me a way to find your email address so I can reach you with the good news.

Turning words

February 12th, 2008    -    5 Comments


In 2003 – March 16, 2003 to be exact, because I still have the paper– I drew a Wheel of Life as I described in yesterday’s post. My daughter was then two and a half years old. Under my “Career” aspect I wrote “Power of Pen.” I can recall being uncertain and inhibited about my ambition, but I was asking for something invigorating to come from my writing. I drew a quick sketch of an open book with little squiggly lines and a pen on top. The next day, a former PR client called me and asked if I’d be interested in writing a book with a man whose last name happened to be Power.

I had never written a book. I had written many things – articles, papers, brochures, websites, speeches, business plans – but I had never written anything published in my own name so that I could credibly call myself an author. Awed by the coincidence, I said yes to the invitation. Over the next weeks and months, I met and spoke to a series of people involved in the project so they could assess my ability. It was a very long shot, but each presentation was the opportunity for me to believe my own b-s about myself. In the end, not surprisingly, we didn’t do a book together. But by the end, I knew that there was a book to be done by myself. The little power trip was to empower myself.

This is the kind of thing that comes out of the wheel. Not always so immediately, so glaringly, but in its own time and fashion. Everything, you see, turns on the wheel. Just this weekend as I was fomenting this topic, it came to me how psychically and spiritually powerful the circle is. Familiar with the enneagram? Fascinating. The Celtic wheel? The labyrinth? The bagua? A mandala? We all know the wheel of the zodiac. How about the dharma wheel? And then there’s that little cheerio close to my heart, the enso. The list goes on and on, and it isn’t a list, but a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s your life in motion.

I would write more but I’m already inspired to move beyond. And you are too.

The pi of life

February 11th, 2008    -    9 Comments


1. Take a pencil and draw a large circle on a blank sheet of paper. I usually turn one of my salad plates upside down and trace the outer rim to get a circle true and wide.

2. Eyeball the center of the circle and make a dot there. Don’t trouble yourself to get the exact center.

3. Use a ruler or straightedge to divide the circle into halves, then quarters, then eighths. Don’t worry about the equidistance of the lines.

4. Now you have a pie with eight roughly equivalent wedges. Don’t quibble about how equal they are.

5. Quick, without thinking, label the top edge of each wedge with a word for one aspect of your life. For instance, I might write, “Work,” “Family,” “Finances,” “Health,” “Practice,” “Travel,” “Marriage,” “Fitness,” etc. Don’t study or ponder what your eight aspects are. Just jot them in as they come to you. They change over time and with circumstances.

6. Without stopping, look at each of the labeled parts and write a word or two that describes exactly what you would like to see occur in each of those areas in your life. Write these words at the bottom on each wedge, near the center of the pie, as you rotate it around. Leave most of the wedge empty and white. Try to avoid time spent in formulating the words you write. Just let them materialize without self-editing.

7. Remind yourself to use an immediate and short-term perspective. Be daring, but be specific. That means, for instance, instead of writing in the “Work” section “Successful Internet Gazillionaire,” write something like “Breakthrough Idea.” Later on, after you have an idea, develop a business plan, attract investors and design and program your enterprise, you can collect your gazillions.

8. Just as fast, look at each section and quickly sketch a visual to represent the outcome that you’ve described. It doesn’t matter how much accuracy or detail you use in your drawing. Do not judge or even think about this. The point is to take a dreamy concept and convert it into raw physical form using your intuitive eye.

9. This is not simply a list of things to do, which is itself a miraculous potion. This creation is your Wheel of Life. Label it with your name in one corner of the paper, like I do, “Karen’s Wheel of Life” and date it. We call it a wheel because wheels turn.

10. Place this somewhere it will be in sight everyday. I put mine on the top of my printer, which sits on the top of my desk at eye level. The point is to have visual access to this diagram automatically, without dwelling on it, and let the aspirations magically penetrate your thought and behavior patterns.

I began this practice, drawing a pie and turning it into my wheel of life, about 12 or 15 years ago. I don’t know where the instructions came from. It was about the time I was hungry and thirsty for everything, so I taught myself palmistry, astrology, and tarot cards. Get the picture? It was all about getting the picture.

I offer it now because of the conversations I keep running into about long-distance life planning and all such things about how to really do what we otherwise only talk or think about doing. Sometimes I re-draw the wheel every two or three months. There have been times, for instance, like in the early part of my daughter’s life, when I fell completely off track, and didn’t draw a wheel for years. Looking back, I can see that those years were indeed when I fell off track, wondering all the while where my life went!

I can’t emphasize enough that this exercise is to articulate immediate intention and action, rather than extract a list of “100 things” that can veer off into the inexhaustible and unimaginable future. Let the things you put into the pie be the things you wouldn’t think would happen tomorrow, but in some subtle and unpredictable way, could happen tomorrow. The way this practice works is that it brings your own readiness and aptitude for growth into manifest form, out of the smoke and dust of mere wishful musings.

All this week, I’m going to tell you more about why I believe this works, and what transcendental company you keep when you call forth a picture of your own pi of life*.

*Humbly inspired by the genius of Yann Martel’s “Life of Pi”, which will convince you that we are indeed the authors of a mysterious truth that is indistinguishable from fiction.

Rinsing off the zen

February 6th, 2008    -    13 Comments


Some things said are not to be forgotten:

“Mommy, make your next book not about Zen. The whole idea of Zen is bogus.”

Pause here before you rush in to soothe my bruise; to bolster my case. There is no purer truth than what she uttered here. No finer precision, nothing clearer. If only I could do it, really do it, then I would earn my place as the dimwit ancestor of the wisest, choicest, sassy ass eight-year-old Master of the Milky Way.

You go, girl! Show me the back door straight out of bogus, as you always do. Truth is more beautiful than beauty treatments.

***

This is Not to Be Forgotten Week on the Road, where we share Some Things Said.

There comes a time

December 29th, 2007    -    7 Comments

To simply say goodbye.

One true sentence

December 17th, 2007    -    13 Comments

I’m half Jewish, half Buddhist and half Christian – Georgia Miller

Only the sublime logic of a child can sort through messes like the one I have. “I wish our street was called Miller Street so our whole family would live here!” she offered up one day, seeing through ideological distance with the wide eyes of a sage. Everything she says is so wholly true, it breaks open my heart, and much later, it might even lift my eyelids.

Lately I’ve been overcome by the oneness of it all: called by name, caught and dragged out onto the street to see how completely alike we are. The woman last week trapped in the deep recess of depression calling for a way out: I know that place. The friend who recently confided the tawdry abasement of a romance gone wrong: that was me too. And then this morning the email from a self-described gay curmudgeon who recovered in my memoir the stunning certainty of his own mother’s unfailing love. We are children, all. We are mothers and fathers, too. We are the mothers and fathers of our own true lives. Can we see it?

If you read nothing else today, I want you to read what this remarkable man wrote on his own blog, because he writes so perfectly to and for us all. This fellow said something else to me many years ago that he won’t remember but that I’ll never forget. He said, “You have written one true sentence.” What writer wouldn’t be gratified by that, but he gave me the only encouragement I’d yet been given to keep writing, and to keep making it true.

And now I’m called to live it true too.

My husband is Jewish. I am what I am. My daughter insists that she can be everything. And she can! Can I?

The problem, I tell myself, is not me. It is my husband’s family, more precisely, his brother, who has elected to live a most extraordinary Orthodox Jewish life in Israel. Of course, he objected to our wedding. He ultimately came but did not enter the ecumenical sanctuary for the Reform Jewish service. He cannot, by his law, touch me to shake my hand. He says next to nothing to me. I feel awkward and excluded in the midst of this family, and I imagine they feel it too.

That’s what imagination does: create boundaries that we then project out onto the street, the street that is not named Miller Street. Onto the family that does not love us nearly enough.

Recently my cousin recounted some family lore of my own. She said that my aunt, my mother’s sister, surmised that my mom must have been outraged when I became a Buddhist. But she wasn’t. What my mother said to me at the time was, “Now I don’t have to worry about you anymore.” She was a true Christian.

Can I be as true? As transcendent? By what calculus do I define my limits, my parameters? My share, my heart, my home?

Last week my Zen teacher, who knows too well my tired saga of religious persecution, called me by name. “Maezen,” he said, which always gets my attention. “When are you going to Israel?”

“It will be good for you,” he said. With a mother’s love. A father’s love. True love.

I told my husband and daughter that we will go to Israel next summer for sure. Everyone is thrilled. Like Georgia, I want to be half of everything. Like my friends everywhere, I want to be whole.

I want this one sentence to be true.

“God bless us, every one!”

Don’t tell Daddy

November 9th, 2007    -    9 Comments

Mommy, promise me you won’t tell Daddy.

She had been a little squirmy on the way home from school. Preoccupied.

What is it?

Well, Mandy, she . . . promise me you won’t get mad?

Tell me, honey.

Mandy said not to tell you. She gave me this to keep and bring to school so we can play with it and she told me not to tell you. Promise me you won’t tell Daddy?

She was petrified, tormented as she reached inside her backpack. I had never seen anything like it, not that there aren’t plenty of things like it, a little toy, one piece of a two-way text messaging set that must be the walkie-talkie of these degenerate times. It was harmless, really, but Georgia had heard enough about how cell phones and iPods and mp3 players and every handheld electronic thingy orbiting her world was not a toy and not for her and Mandy had encrypted it all in a secret and Georgia was now trembling, crumbling with the weight of this second-grade conspiracy.

We didn’t tell Daddy. I told Georgia to give the toy back to Mandy the next day. I said I could see that having it made her scared and uncomfortable so she couldn’t keep it. I didn’t tell her how good she was or how bad she was. I didn’t scold her, and thereby add insult to her self-inflicted injury. And I didn’t tell her how happy she made me. Happy not because she trusted me. Not because she couldn’t keep a secret. Not because she couldn’t tell a lie. But because she couldn’t tell a lie to herself.

She’ll be OK, this little one. And Daddy (right, Daddy?) will be OK too.

I’ve about had it with the Truth. We’re off for a long weekend in Seattle to meet the mysteries that turned up one day in the mailbox.

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