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Halloween in St. Louis – A Night of Laughs – Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

I sent this funny story to my cousin Joe Palazzolo, for his feature article on Halloween a few years ago – St. Louis style, in the Wall Street Journal. Because we’re related, he wasn’t able to publish. Ashame for it to not be heard, so here you go!

DSC_1628 pumpkins at Charleston Tea Plantation copyrI remember as a kid, I’d trick or treat with my schoolmates at Resurrection of our Lord Grade School. And I vividly remember the Halloween I was about 10 years old. Things were alittle different…

I can’t remember what I wore that year — I might have been a ghost. The kids I hung out with that evening decided to egg cars; something I’m not particularly proud of.

My Dad mentioned that when the people doling out the candy ask us to do a ‘trick’, tell them a joke instead.

I explained I wasn’t very good at telling jokes, and he said “Not to worry…just tell them THIS joke — Why did the chicken cross the road?”

”Dad, I already know that joke!”

“I bet, it doesn’t have the same punchline that you think.”

“Okay, Dad, what’s the punchline?

“To lay it on the line!”

“What does that mean?”

“You don’t have to know what it means, just tell the joke.”

I felt really confused, but yet I took Dad’s advice, and when asked to do a trick, I’d pipe up and say, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

At the first house, the nice thirty-something couple (holding a pair of red wax lips I so dearly wanted), asked, “Honey, why did the chicken cross the road?”

“To lay it on the line.”

“Ahhh.. Smart kid”, they both chimed in. “That deserves two pieces of candy.”

I kind of half-smiled as I held out my queen-size white pillowcase to accept the desired treats — wax lips, and some multi-colored candy buttons on long strips of white waxy paper.

I repeated this joke over and over, as we hopped from house to house Halloween night, and received the same positive response from all the adults. I was pretty puffed up and proud — like a chicken.

To this day, I still can’t figure what’s so funny about the chicken joke, but it went over well with the “big people”. I guess that chicken’s water broke, and she just couldn’t hold the egg in any longer. Good thing she was smart enough to lay it on the line, not in oncoming traffic.

The bright line down the center of the road is kind of a safe place, if you think about it. Whether we’re driving, or crossing the road, it gives us boundaries.

So be safe this Halloween.
Keep an eye on your kiddos.
And watch out for those chickens crossing the road.

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The Storms in our Life

(This is are repost from last summer.)

Sometimes even though you may have best interests at heart for a loved one or a pet, situations may still be stressful in your household.

These episodes of conflict, or ‘storms’ were described by our pastor, Tim, at O’Fallon Christian Church. These times often seem hopeless, neverending, physically and mentally draining.

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I am currently going through a ‘storm’.

For the past three months our home has been divided – structurally and DSC_0956 Adeline and her babies copyremotionally.

It all started with a female stray cat visiting our back deck in March. We rescued and adopted her before knowing she was pregnant.

Momma Adeline delivered six precious kitten babies, and we witnessed the miracle of birth. It was simply amazing!

Our sixteen year old cat Midnight doesn’t care for Adeline and makes it know by vocalizing in the form of hisses and pig snorts. Adeline, being protective of her babies (even though Midnight doesn’t come in contact with them) takes Midnight’s vocalization as a threat — a brewing storm. This makes life stressful. I’m always trying to make peace between the two– trying to get them to see things the same way.

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Out of the six kittens, four have gone to lovely homes. Two are left – Elvis, a beautiful boy with long body, tall legs, big paws, black with striped head and haunches (manx and black cat mix); and Ireland, a feisty little striped girl (manx) that makes me laugh, loves to play, and gives kisses.

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Adeline is separated from the kittens now, so they can thrive on their own without momma’s milk. At nine weeks, they are eating dry food (which they love), drinking water, and being silly little felines. The kittens enjoy running, leaping, and playing in the master bathroom and master bedroom.

At nighttime, Adeline has the run of the basement, and Midnight is on the main floor. During the day, they live together with the dogs, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not so peacefully. A house often divided indeed – by rooms and by emotions.

No sure how much longer I can live like this. Hubby says it will all work out in the end.

On top of all this commotion, I’m trying to work on my writing. There are good days, and there are unproductive days. On the unproductive ‘writing’ days, I usually clean the house, run errands, fix things that need to be fixed. You get the idea.

Add to that, the trouble my husband has with cat dander. Lately, he has been retreating to the solice of the guest bedroom with Red Dog – typically a cat-free zone.

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Our Australian Shepherd, unsure where to sleep, usually follows me to the bedroom, after I tuck the kittens in at night on their favorite cozy bench in the bathroom.

DSC_0941 the culprit

“The Culprit”

Dogs are such gentle souls. With the storms brewing in our household, comes frustration, lost tempers, and sobbing. Let me just say, the dogs have adapted the best. Things change at a minute’s notice. The goofy pooches are always eager to lick away your tears.

Why can’t humans be like dogs with their “Oh, well attitude”? Nothing seems to bother them. Seems like dogs just go with the flow, don’t they?

I’ve experienced a pretty significant storm in my life – Tropical Storm Jerry – back in the early 1990’s. During a Blackbeard’s cruise off the coast of Bimini, Bahamas, Jerry struck, with twenty foot wind swells pummeling our sailboat of 20 scuba divers. The torrential downpour forced us to don our raingear purchased on Bimini. After 90 minutes on deck in the midst of bitterly cold rain and unforgiving ocean, we attempted singing show tunes. When that didn’t work, we retreated to the warmth of the galley and salon, conversing, smiling, laughing, and trying to remain positive until the storm subsided, all the while the boat was taking on water.

I wish I could tackle all of ‘life storms’ in the same way. Sometimes I forget my favorite Bible verse Philippians 4:6 which says, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything”.

As I write this today, I’ve decided to forego my usual morning breakfast ritual of raspberries, oatmeal, and toast accompanied by a dose of Gayle King, Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell from CBS This Morning. Instead, I’ve spent my time reflecting on life, and reading Coffee with God by Sarah Arthur – 365 Devotions to Perk Up Your Day.

Because sometimes…. many times, you just need a dose of God and a good cup of coffee to start your day, to get you through those ‘storms’ in life.

And the prayers of friends, family, and even strangers doesn’t hurt either…

I hope the ‘storms’ in your life subside.

Peace out and love,

Xoxoxox

 

Sheree

The Grateful Jar 2016 – What are you grateful for?

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The last evening of 2016, I spent with long time friends, Tina and Mike, and my husband Russell. After a savory dinner and some music, we headed to our favorite coffeehouse in Cottleville, Van Buskirk’s Chocolate Bar for some conversation and drinks.

The mood was festive, with millenials and hipsters hanging out at the bar. Silver ribbons and star decorations hung from the rafters. Familiar music from bands of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s played in the background. Lisa, the cute bartender, ever so stylish in her yarn hat, handed out sparkling glasses of champagne to the fifteen of us gathered that night to ring in the New Year.

I’m sure the four of us were the oldest people there. No worries. Tina and I had fun dancing and singing; the guys had fun laughing at our antics.

As Mike and Russell conversed, Tina and I shared how 2016 was like a roller coaster with its ups and downs. I mentioned to her, how I’d just love to have a day of solitude.

I planned on opening the Grateful Jar after I returned home, a tradition I’d started last year on January 1, after seeing a facebook or twitter post, but for some reason, it wasn’t the right time.

I saved the Grateful Jar for today. A day where the sun was brilliant in the powder blue sky, and snow was packed hard in the  driveway. A lazy Saturday morning — kittens talking to birds outside, and the dogs sacked out in the living room with the hubster.

The Grateful Jar’s purpose – write down good things that happen to you on paper and place them in the jar. They could be surprise gifts, accomplished goals, the beauty of nature, LOL moments or even daily blessings. Then on December 31, open the jar at midnight and read all the amazing things that happened that year.

I opened the new and improved “Count Your Blessings” jar purchased at a home decor store.

– January 4 – Grateful for my husband and three beautiful fur babies.

– Grateful for my long time friend, Tina, who reminds me of the sister I never had.

– Sleeping in my own bed.

– Thankful for long winter walks in the snow with the dogs, and mornings of discovery in January.

– January 27 – Thankful God takes away my anxiety just by reading his Word.

– January – Thankful for my fur baby wake-up crew – a black cat diva, a neurotic Australian Shepherd, and big ole goofy red dog.

– January 3 – Grateful to have a roof over my head.

– Thankful for a wonderful birthday weekend.

-February 2 – Caramel cappuccinos at Crooked Tree Coffeehouse

-February 3 – Extra Dark Cacao Chocolate with sea salt at Kakao Chocolate in Maplewood.

-February 4 – Grateful for cotton candy pink clouds in the shapes of horses and dragons.

-February 4 – Grateful for sacked out naps with dogs, hubby and kitty in the comfort of my sofa on cold winter days.

-Beautiful landscapes of fields, farms, and barns.

-February 3 – Grateful for the shooting star I witnessed in the magnificent night sky at 12:22 a.m., and the incredible night sky blanketed by stars!

-March 3 – Glorious day of a purple sky sunset against silhouetted trees!

-March 14 – Thankful Adeline, the manx cat, showed up on our deck. Thankful we didn’t leave a pregnant momma out in the cold to fend for herself.

-Grateful for Adeline and the delivery of six healthy kitten babies on April 11. Praying for her health and well being.

-Grateful God listens to my prayers – April 12.

-Grateful Adeline’s kittens Patric, Dora, Sweet Tea, Elvis, Ireland and Skye make me laugh every day biting my legs, jumping on my back, crawling up my nightgown, and jumping in Russell’s underwear. (six weeks old)

-Thankful for a house full of love – kitties and kittens.

-Grateful Adeline’s kittens have gone to friends and church family.

-Russell snuck this one in – Grateful for Sheree’s need to be productive.

-Some days I’m just grateful for everything! (March 28) Smiley face

-Grateful my lymphoma is in check.

-Iced cappucinnos and cake pops from Starbucks.

-Grateful for outdoor showers at beach houses in Sunset Beach and the way the cool air feels on my nubile skin.

-May 24 – Grateful for the beautiful orchid I’ve kept alive for more than 1.5 years.

-Dogs riding in cars with their heads hanging out the windows, and ears flapping in the wind.

-My husband gently washing my back in the shower.

-The hummingbird on the purple helicopter plant (Cleome) on the back deck.

-The sound of the 12:30 a.m. train whistling through my open bedroom window.

-My big red dog, Bordeaux, inquisitively memorizing our car trip to the beach.

-Conversations with strangers on planes that last for 2 hours. (Strangers no more)

-When Ireland, our kitten, carries that big yellow artificial Gerber Daisy in her mouth. My inability to catch her.

-My friend Abby snuck these in. Love you Abby!

I am grateful for Sheree and Russ sharing their fur babies with me. Love, Abby

I am grateful for Midnight, Adeline, Elvis and Ireland wait for me to come in at the door. (Three hearts)

I am grateful for my very good friends Sheree and Russell !! xoxo, (smiley face with exclamation eyes) Abby

-Toes dug in chilly Michigan sand, and warm up jackets.

-God’s grace. (heart)

-Backyard bonfires with friends and s’mores with dark chocolate and Reese’s peanut butter cups.

My husband snuck this one in.

-“My wife’s big boobs.”

-Grateful to console friends that need to talk.

-Grateful for Katie Eichhorn’s ‘wedding of the century’ held at Bissinger Chocolate Factory, with all the cousins.

-Grateful for five vacations this year.

-Blessed that Wildlife Rescue Center released 12 baby squirrels on our property.

-Grateful the pain in my breast was nothing.

-Grateful to ring in the New Year with friends, Mike and Tina, and the hubster, Russell.

Alot of people on facebook said that 2016 was a bad year. Well, it wasn’t for me. Sure there were some low periods. Even unproductive times. With all the things that bring a smile to my face, make me laugh, and gave me warm fuzzies, I think it was a pretty good year.

And Lord knows, I love all that chocolate and coffee stimulating my brain!

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Feeling, seeing, touching, hearing, smelling, talking, loving, building relationships…

However your 2016 played out, remember there’s always this year to change things up.

Hope 2017 is a good one for you.

Peace Out and Love,

Sheree

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A book deal! “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat”

For two years, I stared at a particular phrase on the cork bulletin board in my office that my husband conceived as a book title about our 16 year old black cat, Midnight thinking, “I need to write a book about this…”

Midnight loved to prance throughout the house, her tail held high, the end sometimes waving or curling like a soft feather.

Last fall, on a gorgeous crisp morning, I awoke and penned Midnight’s tale to paper. But it wasn’t quite finished, and I couldn’t quite finish it without the creative words of fellow animal lover and friend, Pat Wahler.

I said to her, “You see, there’s this cat, and she has disabilities….”

Thus began a beautiful friendship where “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat” blossomed on paper, and in both of our hearts.

Over coffee, tea, and chocolate at a favorite hangout in Cottleville, we edited, wrote, and re-edited. Months later, we sent off queries. A well-respected local publisher responded, touched by Midnight’s story, and offered words of encouragement, positive feedback, even suggestions for revisions.

Of course, this called for more coffee, tea and chocolate as we edited away.

When Pat and I felt we were ready, we resubmitted and sent off the revised story to the publisher.

About a month ago, we signed a contract with Amphorae Publishing for “Midnight, The One-Eyed Cat” – a picture book about overcoming disabilities, building confidence, and realizing it’s okay to be you, just the way you are.

We’re so excited to embark on this journey and can’t wait to bring Midnight’s story of courage to children near and far!

Here’s a pic of our pretty girl….(In real life, she is not disabled)

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Awards, Booksignings, and Libraries

Sorry I haven’t blogged in awhile, but my life has been all about taking care of Miss Adeline and her kitten babies. And I promise to post pics real soon, as three have already been adopted out to wonderful families. Here’s a pic of all six with momma.

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But for now, I’d like to give you updates on my writing.

IMG_1578 Folly Beach Dances at Schlafy

Hubby attended a lovely author event and booksigning at the Schlafy Branch of the St. Louis Public Library while I was away at the Missouri Writer’s Conference Guild on April 30, in Kansas City. I received two writing awards that weekend — Third Place for Best Magazine Article published in AAA Southern Traveler, “How Sweet It Is”, and Second Place for Best Poem published in Well Versed Literary Works 2015 for my poem, “Steadfast”, about my mom.

When I returned home from the conference, I was pleased to find that Kenneth Hardcastle emailed a pic of FOLLY BEACH DANCES being integrated into the library.

This past Sunday, I attended the Well Versed Literary Works 2016 booksigning event in Columbia, Missouri, and received Second Place for Nonfiction for my essay titled “The Stranger” about an incident where a stranger lurked in my parent’s basement when I was a young child. It came with a cash award, which made me smile.

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Finally, we’re doing a FOLLY BEACH DANCES booksigning event at the Roasted Bean, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturday June 18, at 441 Main Street, Troy, Missouri. Roasted Bean only serves Blue Print roasters coffee (from U City loop) — the best espresso around. So stop by, learn about our sea-inspired coffee table book of photography and poetry, and sip a great cup of java!

If you can’t make it to the signing you can order books on Amazon, or purchase in South Carolina or Missouri. Just check the book’s website for availability.

Flyer for Photo Exhibit and Booksigning - FBD roasted bean final 2

The Flower of my Heart – Sweet Adeline & Her Kittens

March 14

While eating my usual breakfast of oatmeal, I gazed up to notice a striped-cat with no tail licking her fur while perched on the deck rail.

Quickly, I filled a ceramic bowl with catfood, and scurried outside. Her loud purrs and figure 8 cuddles between my legs in appreciation for the food was enough to tug on my heartstrings.

She frequented our deck every day for four days straight, rubbing up against the screen door in the kitchen, and making eye contact with our Bernese Mountain Dog. She peered through the French Doors like she lived here. Our Bernese wagged his tail in delight as the kitty settled in on the deck.

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March 17

As I stepped through the doorway of the garage to the back yard with our mini Aussie, kitty emerged from under the deck to greet our pooch with a meow, inches from touching noses.

I promised myself that if kitty babe was still hanging around on St. Patrick’s Day, I would take her to the vet to see if she was microchipped.

I quickly corralled our canine in the house, while I searched for a cat carrier. I tempted her with some treats strewn inside the carrier, which worked.  She meowed slightly during the ride to the vet, but overall appeared very sweet.

“No microchip. FIV and feline leukemia – negative. Internal parasites – negative. Slight case of fleas,” Dr. Schneider remarked.

“Is she pregnant?”

“I believe so. Let me see how far along. I’ll be right back.”

“Yep, she’s due in about 4-6 weeks. We can give her a rabies shot, but no other vaccinations.”

I called the hubster, and gave him the news.

“She’s pregnant.”

“Bring her home. We can’t leave her out to fend for herself.”

“What’s her name?” said Dr. Schneider.

I thought for a moment of my sweet Mother and a song Dad used to sing to Mom.

“Adeline. For the song Sweet Adeline, and my Mom’s confirmation name.”

I tucked Adeline in the cat carrier for the ride home, all the while, thoughts dancing through my head. Am I crazy for bringing home a pregnant cat? Will the other animals get along with her? When will she deliver? Will the babies be okay?

I set up a nice layout in the master bathroom for Adeline’s pregnancy – kitty litter box, container with food, fresh water, and a small box with a towel for her to snuggle.

She spent much of her time sleeping, watching the birds and squirrels through the two picture windows, relaxing, and enjoying tummy rubs from me.

Miss Adeline tugged on my heartstrings. A Godsend, I felt like she was my child. Though hubby and I tried for awhile, to have children, God must’ve had a greater purpose for us.

March 23

Adeline discovered the ceramic frog on the side of the green vase. She growled at it, and crouched low to investigate, but then backed off.

Although I tried to assure her the frog wasn’t real, she seemed wary and kept her distance.

March 24

Adeline is very particular about covering up her ‘business’ and hates it when she gets even a small amount of litter outside the box. She ‘gathers’ the litter on the foam protective mat, and moves it closer to the box.

March 25

“Do you want your food?”

Adeline meows non-stop and pops her head in the Purina Focus Kitten Food even before I scoop out the kibble for her bowl.  She eats with a vengeance and determination, making a low grunting noise.

March 31

Adeline loves to ‘make biscuits’ on my toes, and delights in purring. A favorite hiding spot is under my legs, when I’m seated on the shower chair.

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When resting on her side, I liken her belly to a platypus or football.

“She’s bonding with you,” remarks the hubster.

I can’t wait to see her kittens.  I admit, I might be a little worried about her and the babies.

April 1-8

I’ve been allowing Adeline to explore the bedroom since she’s confined to the master bathroom. As I open the bathroom door, sometimes she is eager to discover the bedroom, and sometimes she’s content just to sit on the bathroom floor and stare at me.

 April 9 – 10

Adeline’s favorite observation spot is the cool comfort of the marble sink which conforms to the contour of her pregnant body.

She’s also been spending alot of time in her specially designed kittening box by the hubster, lined with a soft Sherpa blanket. She loves to ‘make biscuits’ by kneading the soft fleece.

 Monday April 11

Adeline passed a brownish menstral-like substance this morning. She seems tired today. Not her usual self, typically perched in the picture windows.

After checking on her before we left for dinner around 5:15 p.m., she was resting in the kittening box.

When we arrived home from dinner, I immediately took the dogs outside to do their business. Russell motioned to me from the master bath picture window with his index finger, “One”.

I corralled the dogs inside, rushed to the bathroom, and experienced the miracle of birth!

6:45 p.m.

Adeline delivered a light striped kitten encased in a clear sac. Momma cleared the sac away from the baby’s eyes, and began licking the kitten to warm it up.  Kittens loose heat quickly when newly born and wet, so it’s important to dry them off as soon as possible. Baby #1 had no tail.

Just as soon as she was finished with kitten #1, she started contractions again, and out popped kitten #2 –  a medium-hued striped kitten with no tail.

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Within 15 minutes, kitten #3 was born. A black cat with a tail. Then #4 – also black with a tail.

There was quite a break in delivery between kitten #4 and kitten #5 – it seemed almost 40 minutes or more.  I noticed her panting, tongue hanging out to side, eyes large, and within a few minutes a black and striped kitten was delivered, with a tail.

About a 30 minute break in delivery, and #6 was born – a small black kitten with a tail.

We told Adeline, “Good job Momma!”

Both of us mesmerized, we sat with her for what seemed liked a couple hours.

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April 12 – 13

The past couple days have been rewarding, but they’ve also made me realize I’m worried about Miss Adeline – much like a Mother cares for her child. And of course, all the kittens are my grandbabies.

I often find myself checking on her, ensuring all the kittens are suckling, and Adeline is eating and rehydrating.

Adeline allows me to caress her paw when she’s nursing, and purrs loudly. When I’m observing the seven of them, she often scoops the babies closer to her warm frame.

The kittens are little wonders of their own – eyes closed, groping for each other and searching for Momma with tiny paws. Their nubile bodies vocalize their frustration when they’re not happy. Momma kindly obliges and calms all their fears.

Snuggled together in geometric formations, their bodies lay 3 in a row with 3 across, 4 in a row with 2 across, and sometimes 5 in a row with the first born, light-striped kitten shoving her head above all the others as if to say, “I’m the oldest.”

I suppose I’ll be concerned until all the kittens are weaned and litter trained. The next step is feeding them kitten food. And then I’ll be concerned until they’re all adopted. (Well, except for maybe one that I have my eyes on).

But for now, I’ll try and enjoy the miracle that appeared on our deck March 14, the flower of my heart – Sweet Adeline.

And remember my favorite Bible verse Philippians 4:6

“Don’t worry about anything, pray about everything.”

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Showing me the Love – in a Bowl of Purina Catfood

DSC_0863 cat heart kibble copyrI knew cats were smart and creative but…

Awaking this morning, I lumbered into the kitchen wearing my new blue waffle-weave robe, and chocolate Labrador embroidered slippers. Three fur babies followed close behind. Almost immediately, I noticed the cat’s food bowl was low.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed something interesting in the bowl – where Mitty Kitty had nibbled, there was the shape of a heart.

“Midnight’s showing me the love!” I remarked to my husband.

“What?”

“Midnight. She left me a message in her food bowl. It’s a heart!” I said cheerfully.

So amazed by her display of affection, I snatched the camera and captured her artistic expression.

Did I think Mitty was showing me the love? Well, maybe.
But I already knew by her low purrs and comforting presence on my lap, she loved me.

Did she want to become an artist?
Not sure. She’s attempted other creative efforts such as playing with robe sashes, chatting with birds through the screen door, leaping in one bound to the top of the refrigerator, but nothing this exciting.

One thing I know for sure – she loves her crunchy Purina Focus Chicken and Rice, and Sensitive Stomach for Adults kibble.

The heart-shaped nibble-art — well, an added bonus for Momma.

Often our spirits are lifted just by looking at a heart design – bringing joy, or even a smile. That’s what it did for me.

It made me think about sharing the love, and how we see open hearts every day.

Open-hearted people share their experiences and tribulations with us, hopes, dreams, and fears. These people are lovely to be around. They’re positive, giving, and strong – no matter what is happening in their lives.

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You are not a painter,’ then by all means paint…and that voice will be silenced.”

— Vincent Van Gogh

So now go and share the love with someone, and have a great day!

Peace and Open Hearts,

Sheree

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