Sunday, November 29, 2015

This Is Homer The Palace Dog Reporting The Queen's Non-Birthday. Again.

Why, thanks Homer my sweet. You are too kind. I'll take over now.
Somewhere in the eons of milliseconds that make up moments that make up minutes that make up hours that make up days that make up weeks that make up months that make up yeeeeaaaarrrrssss...I seem to have accumulated scores and scores of milliseconds, in the four score and seven years kind of way. Wait! That's not right.
Four score and seven years is.... 

Thanks Homer! I really needed that today. I'll have you know I never even knew Abe Lincoln and further more...

You are supposed to be nice to me on my birthday. I am your Queen ya know. You've had a royal upbringing and were taught royal etiquette. It is not appropriate to point out a lady's age, number of crows-feet, shoe size, hair color or 19th century shenanigans with super hot presidents. Let's try this again.

That's better. And I thank you very much. You are such a loyal Palace Dog and furthermore...

Did you roll your eyes at me?

As I was saying..
It seems to me that I shouldn't be this old yet. I am still wet behind the ears so-to-speak with lots of life to live. I'm barely halfway through! *cough couch*  Whew! I squeaked by another twelve months without causing an international incident (well, there was peace globes day...) or tooooo much mindless and endless dating, or tripping over myself or mopping up floods in the dungeon, or flipping cars even! All in all it was a very good year.  
I didn't even break a nail.
Michelle sent a beautiful cake today with a peace globe on it. The fact that Papa's marble graced my birthday cake made it all the more special to me. See, Homer? SOMEBODY remembered my birthday without having to be reminded of it.

Homer? Homer??! Are you LISTENING to me?

 And there was Alison of famous Peace Rocks who made a rock just for me. 
Musician Bobby Pizazz sang a song to me here and all kinds of loveliness abounds in the land of Facebook today. My phone is ringing with delicious conversation lately and text messages are full of good vibes from family and friends. It was a good way to wake up in my older skin today (oh, boo hoo!) but that's why God made face cream.  My mother has baked something scrumptious for me today with a "surprise" package waiting at her house. I wonder what it is... Probably eye shadow or lipstick or pout plumper! We are two-peas-in-a-prissy-pod let me tell ya.  My son called and sang the Happy song to me and we laughed until we cried (he IS a good singer but this morning was a little froggy lol). 
I'm having an excellent non-birthday I must say.
I appreciate each and every one of you and know how blessed I am to have such good people in my life. Thank you.
Peace Rocks by Alison



Oh, the silent treatment.
I so hate it when he does that.
That's OK, my little munchkin dog. I know how to take a hint. I won't be sharing any of that calorie-less cake with you either. You'll be getting your usual fare of lard and molasses with crusty bread in the cold cold dungeon. Enjoy!
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Man and The Pumpkin Pie ~ A Thanksgiving Story by Mimi Lenox

It is tradition on this blog to re-post this story every Thanksgiving. A lot changed in the years that followed, but it still stands as one of the clearer defining moments of my life. I am incredibly proud of my son and see in him a kindness I admire. I am also thankful for so many things this year, including the love of family and friends. 
 I hope you and your family have a safe and wonderful holiday. ~ Mimi
 When my son was fifteen he did something stupid. Not criminal, not earth-shattering, just knuckle-head-not-thinking stupid. His dad, my ex-husband, gave him the usual “Atta boy, don't do that again” talk, the school got their three days without his smart mouth and I was left with the what-am-I-gonna-do-with-this-child? nightmare invading my dreams.

What am I going to do with this child?
 The conversation went something like this: “You know I love you so I'm not even going to preface this punishment with I love you because you've already gotten a slap on the wrist but OK OK I love you.”

Yeah, I know Mom.”
He started to walk away.
 “Well, I hope you'll still love me when I tell you what your punishment is going to be.”

Although I vowed never to give the think of all the starving children speech to my child (I broke that rule many times), this time I went for the jugular. Mine was bulging. “What were you THINKING?! Do you think you can just go through life handling things this way? Do you know how privileged you are? (yeah Mom) Do you understand that there are kids in this world who would love to have your life? (yeah Mom) Why are you choosing to mess things up for yourself? Do you know that you can't play sports now? (yeah Mom) Are you listening to me?! If you don't get your act together young man you're going to end up somewhere you don't want to be and I'm not bailing you out. Do you hear me? (yeah Mom) You have no idea how close you came to getting in serious trouble today, do you? Do you? Well, DO you?? (a surly yeah Mom....See, I told you, listen to the smart mouth.) What you do right now in school will determine your future. And now you have a bad mark on your academic record and a three-day suspension before high school. You are out of control!”

“So ground me,” said the smart mouth.

“No. I will not ground you.”

He halted.

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

Just think of it as Mama's jail.”
 The smart aleck ceased for a moment and then I heard a surly, "Whatever, Mom.”
I was furious with him and at my wit's end. He needed to see how the real world works. I made arrangements. It took some doing but they finally saw it my way.  
"You want your son to do WHAT? But he's not a criminal (not YET I thought) and we're not a juvenile detention center." (Well......) "Will you please allow us to do this?" I asked the nun-like administrator of this facility. “I'm not trying to teach him a lesson here- that is not the point- but he needs to see and understand with his own eyes how lucky he is and how his actions now can affect the rest of his life.”
So, for the next two months that summer we got up at five am, drove to another town and worked in a homeless shelter's soup kitchen. It was the worst of the worst neighborhoods. I had cleanup detail (you didn't think they'd let me near the food now, did you?) and he served the line.
 “What are we doing here?” he asked.
 I never told him why. He didn't need another lecture.
'Think of all the starving children' just got real.
 After one week of losing his summer sleep to ride an hour in my car at the crack of dawn - with my music blasting all the way - and mingle with very old people volunteers and stir canned creamed corn in a pot for an hour he said, “Why didn't you just send me to REAL jail?! I hate this!”
 Uh huh, I thought. Just stir, buster.

In the middle of the second week he started to actually get up before I did. Hurry up, Mom. We have to get going.” (Oh great, I thought. He's met a pretty girl at the homeless shelter. That's the only reason he would get up at five am. My plan has backfired. Drats!) 
 And what was this grand revelation I expected him to learn? Heck if I knew. I was just a parent with an unruly fifteen- year -old with no respect for himself or his elders or his life. I didn't even know if it would make a difference.
All I knew was that somehow the corn and pintos and no-extra-dessert-for-you rule would magically translate into a light-bulb moment for him. Osmosis maybe? I just knew this was the right thing to do but I didn't know how or why.
 One early afternoon as I started to clean the lunch tables with a large wet rag and a bucket of soapy water, rearranging the napkins and utensils for the next meal, I looked up to see my sleepy-headed son talking with a man through the narrow serving window.

My boy had just served lunch. There was pie for dessert that day.
Pumpkin pie.
 The man had returned to the window for another slice.
He was dirty. Shaky.
No teeth. Scraggly. Scary. Smelly. 
And hungry.

The rules were clear. One serving per person. No seconds. Period.
 No one was looking. And I'm thinking....We're going to get thrown out of the soup kitchen for not following the rules. Oh great! Suspended again. And this time I'm going down with him. Oh the shame. Until.....

The man who wanted more pie.
 Up until this point he rarely made eye contact with anyone in the line, especially not the kids. He plopped the food on the plate and reached for the next empty Styrofoam sadness shuffling through. People with their entire families in tow. Hungry folks down on their luck and needing not even a hot meal. Just a meal. Families living in cars through no fault of their own. Unemployed. On the street. Raggedy clothes crossing elbows with his Tommy Hilfiger jeans and watch.
Pork 'n beans, wax beans, any beans. Didn't matter. Please feed my child. My little girl is hungry.
  I saw it in their eyes. The sadness. And the shame.

I was so moved that summer. Apparently, I needed a reality check too. But that was not the point. Was it?
 The man would not stop asking and my son was forced to look him squarely in the eyes. I could see the wheels turning in baby boy's brown-eyed head..... “Will you shut up? I'm going to get in trouble if you don't go away!”

 And a hungry stare full of embarrassment and shame that a life-giving gesture lay in the hands of this kid he did not know and would never know - someone young enough to be his grandchild - who held something he wanted.. something he had to beg for. And then I saw my son slip a plump piece of pumpkin delight (with whipped cream) onto the scraped clean empty plate. The man nodded appreciatively, lowered his head, and walked away.
 By this time my wet rag had dropped to the table and the cleaning had stopped. My hair in a net, pretending to fold silverware sets, I watched what happened. He saw me sit down. I waited for someone to say something. I waited for him to get in trouble. I waited for my own hands to stop shaking. 
 No one saw his discretion that day but I'll tell you this - If I could have jumped through the tiny little window and wrapped my arms around that boy I would have done so.
 He was shuffling his hundred dollar Nike-shod feet standing with a spatula and an empty pan, trying not to look at me. When our eyes finally met, the blur of tears between us said what no lecture ever could. We never talked again about the man, the pie, or his punishment.
But I was proud.

We finished our tour of shelter duty as promised and school started again in the fall.
That was twenty-one years ago.
 Did that summer stop him from forever being a knuckle-head? No.
Did he straighten-up-and-fly-right from that moment on? No.
Were there more nightmare dreams for me through the teenage years? Yes.

But I have to believe that it shaped his understanding of the world a bit and through all his troubles and challenges in life that most certainly came later, I did see – and continue to see – a great compassion develop in him for people in need.
 And to this day, every time I'm offered a slice of pumpkin pie.... 
I see a homeless man, a prized piece of dessert and brown-eyed humility.



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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Dona Nobis Pacem ~ Peace and The Power of Love

Welcome to the tenth year of BlogBlast For Peace aka Blog4Peace. We speak Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant us Peace) all over the Blogosphere today.
 I hope you have a wonderful Blog4Peace. Please visit each other on your blogs and see all the beautiful new peace globes flying around. 
Don't forget to sign the Mr. Linky below! We want to read your posts!
This is my peace story for NOV 4.

The Tablecloth

I never know how the story will end once it begins.
I only know it begins.
I get one sentence at a time.
The muse said, "Get your grandmother's tablecloth, Mimi. It's time to set the table."
Set the table?
Yes, said the muse, set the table.
I never argue with the Muse.
 There was something in the way the cloth hit the table as soon as it was laid....

My Papa would come home everyday for lunch from the furniture plant.  We could hear the whistle blow and we'd have exactly five minutes to finish the biscuits in the oven. If my grandmother ever burned the bread (which wasn't often) she'd throw them away and start all over. I saw her do that once and remarked what a waste it was to throw food away. But I knew from the look on her face that perfectly cooked flaky biscuits for Papa with melted butter was more important than spilled flour in the trash can. I remember watching him walk in the door, down the little hall toward the kitchen and being so proud that the biscuits were steaming hot and perfect, brown milk gravy in the bowl, crispy fried chicken, cheese, black-eyed peas, cantaloupe and iced tea. Sometimes we'd have vinegar pie.


From Maya Angelou's kitchen

Do you see this serving spoon?

It belonged to Dr. Maya Angelou. A wordsmith capable of stirring up change in a young girl's heart and one of my heroes.  She dedicated her life to the magic and power of words. When I was a young girl she reeled me in with "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings." I've hung on every word she said ever since. 
Sometime after she passed away, I had the privilege of being able to walk through her estate which was being sold at auction. Being in her home among her books, furniture, paintings and the many rooms and grounds in which she lived was an amazing glimpse into her life. I sat in her den in front of a small bust of Gandhi which was also for sale. A woman of  powerful words and influence whose possessions reflected what she valued most. Peace. Love. The power of words.

But it was her kitchen that drew me in. Opening cabinets (soft yellow paint) and being able to choose a few utensils she'd used on a daily basis was even more important to me than the hundreds of books in the downstairs library.
I chose the serving spoon, a pressed cut glass serving tray, and a whimsical green flower vase sitting on the kitchen island top.  I use the spoon every single day. Each time I use it I'm reminded of the power of words. Her words. My words. Our words.  I explored the greenhouse and found a beautiful tall fluted rose vase.

Outside the potting shed door underneath the garage I found a footed topaz fruit bowl from Poland. I have no idea why it was outside or who might have left it there. It now graces the coffee table in my den. A few other small Christmas items came home with me. I treasure them because they were hers and because her words resonate with me, in the same way I treasure my grandmother's cloth and her white porcelain dishes. Each piece laced with remembrance you see, and meant to be used, not stored away in a display cabinet. 

 My grandmother knew how to set a table. She cooked by instinct, not recipe. She would have the dishes washed before the last tea glass was poured.  She knew what it meant to serve her family. White linen laid lovingly for Papa's lunch. 
White linen laid boldly with love. 

My two favorite quotes of Dr. Angelou's reflect our theme.  She said, "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."
 I would argue that peace follows.

Maybe it's the place I find myself at this stage of my life. I know I don't have time to waste being cautious to love; I only waste love being cautious.

The past year of my life has been interesting. I had to knock down some walls.
It started way back in the spring of the year. Something inside me wanted to clear things out and make open spaces. In the yard, in the house, in my soul. I raked. I cleaned. I sorted. I prayed. I threw out piles of regret. Cried over things and people one more time for the sole purpose of being done with the crying. It was a silent and fierce rearranging of me.
Then the joy came.
 I threw open the shutters. I stood with my arms wide open and asked the Universe to notice. I no longer prayed that God would send the "right one" or even resurrect the wrong ones. I started to pray that He would grace me with love - wherever that love came from. That he would mend my relationships. That He would give me chances to settle my scores and dig deep into the reasons I'm still walking solo in a world full of couplings. That He would show me what it is I keep doing to keep it at bay, why I reserve a little corner for doubt and end up unconsciously sabotaging imperfect relationships for the sake of some high-end unattainable perfection. He knew I meant it this time.
And that's when the easiness came.

Some sure kind of surrender happened in me.   I wasn't even aware of the moment it came. But suddenly a long line of wrongs began to right, an unruly crowd of bygones begged one more reflection, and people I never thought I'd see or hear from again in this lifetime began to trip over my corner of the universe and demand my attention.
And Lo and Behold the most holy and unexpected peace swiftly followed.

When you choose to be vulnerable, you choose courage.  You stand in your truth and you own. Whatever that brings to my life is enough.  Enough!  Not good enough, not settled-for-enough, not hammered-out-and-negotiated enough, not just enough, but in twice-baked biscuits good.  
That good.

I'd been holding onto a whole batch of burnt biscuits you see...not wanting to waste what I'd put into them. I had my reasons. I thought if I held onto them long enough and stared at their imperfections, it would remind me that I didn't need them after all. They would serve as a warning that scorched manna is painful to the touch, therefore, I'd never want to make another batch. That's a nice safe way to live, isn't it?

 But love cannot abide in the same kitchen as fear. 
Fear will choke the life right out of every biscuit you try to make.

So I took Maya's things and put them side-by-side with my grandmother's dishes on my grandmother's tablecloth on my own imperfect table close to the heart of all I am. Beautiful things from a world-renowned poet beside everyday white porcelain tableware from a kitchen of brown chicken gravy stains  spilled on woven cloth that once bore perfectly delicate biscuits. My kitchen merged with Maya's kitchen merged with grandmother's kitchen and before I knew it we were cooking up a storm.

Dr. Angelou leaned into the batter bowl and said,
"Have enough courage to trust love one more time. And always one more time."

So go ahead...
Burn the biscuits, mess up the gravy, tousle your hair in a wild tangled love. Then start all over again.
Be brave in the unraveling and retelling of someone's truth. Be brave and bare in your own. Open yourself to hear forgiveness and then forgive. Because strong love can only rest mightily and sure in the arms of a vulnerable vessel. And don't we all want strong love?

 Walls are built for keeping out.
And I don't mean brick by brick, year by year, tedious by tedious conversation.
Knock them down
all. at. once.
Then stand back and watch what comes to you.

Now serving in the kitchen of Bloggingham. 
A spoonful of peace

Are you hungry?

Please sign the Mr. Linky below if you are participating in Blog4Peace! We want to find all peace posts so that we can visit each other.  If you post on Facebook or Twitter, you can still paste the link below.

UPDATE! A first look at some of the new peace globes...
Sanni Jansen ~ Honduras
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Nanna from Honolulu, Hawaii

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Eve of BlogBlast For Peace ~ Papa's Marbles

It is November 3, 2015 and we are on the cusp of the tenth year of peace blogging. It is my custom to start at the beginning and move forward through time, as it happened on this blog and on many others. So I am re-posting the very first BlogBlast For Peace post from the year 2006. At that time we had no idea how far this would go or what it would become. Read the stats here or anywhere on the Internet, but right now what is important is the beginning....
It was about midnight. And after inviting half the world to join me, I had no post of my own. The muse, you see, has Her own timezone and is utterly reliable as I was about to find out. I was in for a midnight surprise, a visitation...The makings of a movement began that night. Here's my story. Here's how it began. It started with a bowl of marbles...
Let me introduce you to this honorable man, my Papa.

Dona Nobis Pacem 2006 

They've been sitting on my piano for more years than I care to count, on the corner of the Kohler and Campbell my grandfather gave me when I was fourteen years old. After he died, I found them in a tattered and dirty bag at the bottom of a box full of his personal things. He wanted me to have them. His marbles.

Handmade rough-hewn marbles crafted from rock by my grandfather and his brothers. The year was 1920 and there was no money for toys.
I often wondered why he didn't leave them for a male member of the family. Honestly, folks, it wasn't until just tonight - the eve of Dona Nobis Pacem in the Blogosphere - that I discovered the answer.

I know stranger things have happened.

I just can't recall when.

 I knew this post would not be written until the last moment. I made lots of notes but I just couldn't quite make it happen. It is still a little while before midnight in my part of the United States and I'm supposed to be spinning out a masterpiece of goodwill and peace prose - maybe a stunning poem like those we've already seen. A song, a lyric, a new tune.

Instead, Mimi Pencil Skirt wants to talk about rocks.

So I went into my study and began to polish them. One by one. The bowl, the piano, the granite. How many times had I sat at that very bench and casually glanced into that bowl? Thousands. Song after song. Tune after tune. Lesson after lesson. Tear after tear.

 He didn't have a lot of money it seems to me now, my grandfather.... at the time though, he was the richest man I knew. And he has been on my mind this week more often than not. Well over six-feet tall and always impeccably dressed, my Papa was the most humble man I've ever met.
When he passed away I met scores of people who told me what he'd meant to them. "He helped me when I needed money....." "He gave me his shoes...." and on and on.

 His kindness was not news to me. The fact that a large portion of the town showed up at his wake was, however, a stunning surprise. I didn't know I'd been sharing him all those years. He made me feel as if I were the only one in the world.

Strange, those marbles. All different shapes and sizes. Colors, too. Yet they've co-existed for years right there atop the long- lovingly- played strings inside my piano - the one Papa used his savings account to buy for me - while he worked two jobs at the factory and made time up on Saturdays when he missed work hours to drive me to my lessons in the afternoons.

 I was a bit different. Artistic. Content with solitude. Always writing in endless journals and playing broody piano music. Papa didn't pamper me - even though that's a disputed fact to this day in my family. What he did was more earth-shattering.

The one on top. That one.
Different... that one. I know that's the very one he made. I'm sure of it.

 When I think about peace and what it means to me, I always wander back to a time when I first felt it. Because I know on an unconscious level that world peace cannot - will not - be achieved without inner peace. Adversaries on both sides of the conflict have to have it. You can't weave magical tranquility out of thin air and conferences. Peace is a state of being.

It has a life of its own.

Real lasting peace is born of creative jumble and hard work. Victories are never won by the one who has the most power - wars are won; but not peaceful achievements. Nothing good can ever come of power at play for the sake of power. It never lasts. There's always a hideous price.

Papa's Marbles. Not a pretty one in the bunch.
Every one brown or taupe.

Almost every one.
I started thinking this week about those times in my life when I first felt real peace.
For me, it came in the presence of God at an early age. Not because I am privileged or special. But simply because I was loved. Unconditionally.

Sometimes it takes just one person
to unlock magic in someone else.

I watched that kind of magic flow through my grandfather's life. He was in tune with who he was. He knew the simple meaning of love. He knew how to pray. I often wondered how other people sensed that about him - without the benefit of those life-giving hugs he saved just for me.

He chose the color himself.   Papa.....he must have spent hours honing that rock. 

My grandson

I often went with him to backwoods church services. Informal revivals, formal services, anywhere there was special music and a spirit of God - he was there. I can't explain it really. We would visit churches and the minister would ask him to lead the invocation or say the benediction - even though they'd never met. How did they know he could pray?  
I knew he could pray......but how did they know?

Taking his hat off and bowing his head, he would very quietly hold audience with his Maker. It didn't matter how many people were listening. His prayers always began the same way......"Dear Gracious Heavenly Father......"

No matter where. Or with whom. Or in front of whom.
Hat in hand. Head bowed. He knew how to reach God.
And people sensed that when they met him. If peace can be worn like a garment then he was always finely clothed, my Papa. One night he took me by the hand and led me to the altar with him. He knelt down on one knee, elbow resting on the other and silently voiced his heart. I was right there! I heard the whole thing and he never said a word.

He made them with his own hands. He molded them into shape.
Created them and lovingly took care of them. He chose the color.
Not a sonata or a novel. Certainly nothing brilliant or fancy.
Just ordinary marbles.

Tonight I'm sitting at my table writing stories on an electronic device that sends messages all around the world about globe graphics and insomnia, making pots of endless coffee to stay awake, answering emails from Germany, London, China, New York, Oman and beyond.
Could Papa have ever imagined such a thing?
Did he?
What was he praying about all that time anyway?

Papa's marbles.....There's something odd about them.

Oh forget about it. They're just a bunch of rocks. You've got a story to write. Can't you think of something brilliant? It's past midnight and everyone has their peace globe up but you.

I struggled. There's something missing here, I thought.

 It's about Papa. I can't stop thinking about him.

What would he say to me tonight? How would he pray?

The marbles.
Look closer.

 When it hit me I was way past the point of arguing with myself about miracles and such. I've seen too many come through my mailbox today to argue with God about that.

Do you see it?
The blue one on top.
It looks like a globe.

Dona Nobis Pacem did not start with Mimi. It started in 1920 when a little boy in the rural southeastern United States decided to shape a small blue marble - for his granddaughter.

**Please join us again this year. We'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject of peace.**

If you're participating please sign the Mr. Linky so that others can read your post. When I make my own post tomorrow, I will transfer all the links to the new list.

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

It's Time To Blog 4 Peace

As I begin to think about what I will post for this year's BlogBlast for Peace, I'm reminded of old friends, faithful peace bloggers through the years, connections, and all the blessings I've received from those in the blogosphere who continue to keep our movement going. We started in 2006. We've come a long way since then. But the core message is the same as it's always been. Simple. Powerful. 

Dona nobis pacem ~ Grant us peace.

If words are powerful....then this matters.

Use your voice again this year to be a beacon of light in a world that's becoming increasingly dark. Light dispels darkness. Hope crushes despair. Love heals all.
Our theme this year is "Peace and The Power of Love"...
What will you write this year? How is love manifested in your life? How do you share that with the world? Who is the one person in your life who inspires you to love?
How does that relationship or situation bring you peace?
Tell us about it. The Planet needs your light.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Love is....Keeping Promises

Yesterday I had planned to visit my great-Aunt in the nursing home. She is 101-years-old and doing well. The last time I saw her was in August. She was having a sleepy day and we didn't get to talk much.  But she looked curiously into my cellphone and we took this picture. 

Saturday started, things got pushed back and I changed my plans. I decided to go Sunday instead. 
My mother called late last night to say that Aunt Ruby had passed away on Saturday. I'm one day late and she is gone. 
That makes me sad.

I'm going back to the nursing home today to visit my 1st grade teacher (who is also 101). I promised when I saw her in August to bring some pictures of our 1st grade class. I aim to keep that promise.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Day 16: 30 Days of Love ~ I Am Pencil Skirt, Hear Me Roar

#30 Days of Love ~ Day 16
Love is making time to take care of yourself. Being strong is important, not only for your own health but for the people you care about. When I'm having a stretch of feel-good days, I try to keep up with the exercise routine. I might miss a day here and there, but not often. 
Love yourself enough to stay fit.
Now I need a nap. LOL
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