All posts by kir

Harvest Banquet

It tastes like the horizon right before its fade to blue-black.

That vibrant hue of fat round pumpkins,

leaves that have gently released their hold on an overcrowded branch

or

fruit that dangles, trusting the heavy green boughs of the orchards.

 

Drink it down,

licking the sweet slick from your lips

until you’re pleading another (just one more) sip-

When you’re full, pulpy, radiating the glow of an oompa-loompa, you’ll rival the sun

eyes stinging from the burn of citrus spray your thumbnail released…

 

Some people want to taste the rainbow-

but this time of year

I’d rather swallow a sunset.

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For MamaKat’s Writing Workshop:

Write a post (or, in my case, some poetry)inspired by the color ORANGE. 

Mama’s Losin’ It

Storytellers & Listeners

A few weeks ago, on my way back from the ladies room, I ran into a friend. She’s a work friend, in that I am sure we would hang out a lot more often if we lived closer to one another, but it happens that we work in the same building and share a similar life stories. So we are friends, here in this space instead of out there in the world.

Infertilty.

The death of parents.

The small tug of the home/work/daycare/ guilt that it seems every single mom is going to feel at some point as we try to make a living and a make a home that will help us raise good human beings.

We get one another.

So when I see her, in the atrium, walking up the hallway or at the sink in the ladies room my heart lightens and I want to talk. I want to ask how she is, to comfort and encourage her, to laugh deeply with her.

But as it happens more often than not, I am the one who ends up telling the stories; about the boys, about first grade, about life and marriage and my thoughts (strong opinions) on a host of topics, with her coming in at various points to agree, to commiserate, to disagree or simply to listen to me regale her.

I’m the storyteller and I almost feel obligated to share small anecdotes in order to keep up my end of the human bargain we’ve struck.

But on that day, something extraordinary happened. I was remarking on the weather and as conversations will we got lost in our exchange of information and soon I heard her say, “Well when I lived in Florida.”

And I stopped, right there in the middle of the atrium amid the calming waterfall noises and the deep rich green of the trees rising up out of their big-enough-to-sit-on planters.

“You lived in Florida?” I inquired.

And for the next ten minutes she regaled me. She told me stories of how she found her way from Vermont to Florida, how it is to work for NASA and eventually why she ended coming back north.

I didn’t check my watch, I didn’t stop or interrupt her, instead I ignored the normal voices in my head that would normally be telling me to interject or add my own commentary and focused on her smile while her memories took her back. I just took the ride with her. I sat on the edge of one of those oversized planters and swung my feet like a child on a swing set, happy to be entertained.

I thought I knew a lot about my friend but I found that there are always more stories. This is why I keep falling in love, over and over again, with the process of listening and relating and giving the stories back to the world.

Sometimes we are listeners. Sometimes we are storytellers.

On that particular day, in that particular moment, I was so happy to be both.

 

Just sit down and write.

Let’s Go on An Adventure with the Wild Kratts Toy Line!


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My sons didn’t discover The Wild Kratts until earlier this summer when they were treated to PBSKids on demand. But being late to the party (where it seemed all their peers were already participating in) didn’t dull the sparkle in their eyes as they took in episode after episode of adventures with brothers Chris and Martin.

Each episodes starts with the real life Kratt brothers introducing a creature and their habitat and then after they ask “What if...” they both become animated and continue the adventures where they experience never seen before animal moments.

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Even this, “I really hate the outdoors/bugs/animal smells” mom is often mesmerized by the stories.

Talking to Jacob I asked, “What’s your favorite Wild Kratts episode?”

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“Um, the walruses. They’re the ones with the big long teeth that live with the polar bears right? Oh, but I liked the Rhinoceros one too and the one with the crocodiles. And remember when the snakes slithered coming out of the eggs Mommy?”

{{{Shiver}}} I sure do, Jakey. Still it was so cool to have a front row seat to how it happens. {{{Still shivering}}}

And Gio wasn’t quiet either, “They showed us how the Rhinos can get away from the lions that want to eat their babies.” He offered up with a grown-up knowledge of the animal kingdom.

Which is why when I was told that The Wild Kratts were getting their own TOY LINE at Toys R Us I knew the boys would love to add a toy or two to their collection.

Imagine their surprise when these arrived in the mail with their names on them :
BlogWildKratts1PMThe Kratt brothers meet the Piccini Twins.

Both boys have taken to sleeping with these and of course watching their favorite episodes with their buddies by their side. These plush retail for $14.99 and are so incredibly cool.

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They even received a book “Wild Sea Creatures: Sharks, Whales and Dolphins!”

Kids follow Chris and Martin as they travel to animal habitats all around the globe! The Step 2 book is great for helping new readers to learn lots of vocabulary words as they go on an underwater adventure with the Kratt brothers.  Both of my boys take turns (read: fight) over who gets to read it me.

Next up for Jacob  will be a Creature Power Suit because we all know how much he loves to inhabit the people he’s playing. And Gio has already told me that he’d love some (plastic!) sharks and underwater sea life of his own. 

And since we have the holidays coming up maybe some T-shirts or hoodies will find their way under the tree.

The toys are affordable and offer the teachable moments every parent wants from a toy.

We have become a WILD KRATTS family.

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Do your children watch Wild Kratts? What are some of their favorite episodes and what do YOU love about the show?

And if you already have some of these incredible toys tell me all about your own adventures!

From the media:

Fans of the Wild Kratts TV series on PBS KIDS will be roaring – and creating their own creature-powered fun! – with the launch of the brand-new Wild Kratts toy line that lets them bring home all the exciting wildlife explorations of the hit show for the very first time! By popular demand, the new Wild Kratts toy line from Wicked Cool Toys will leap, bounce and soar to Toys“R”Us stores nationwide and toysrus.com this month. The imagination-inspiring new assortment of collectable action figures, plush, power suits and more, encourages young animal adventurers to role play and “activate” their own “creature powers” – just like the stars of the show, Chris and Martin Kratt!

You can find the Wild Kratts line of toys at TOYS R US by clicking here. 

And learn all about the WILD KRATTS here by visiting:

 pbskids.org/wildkratts/

Facebook: Facebook.com/wildkrattsofficial

Twitter: Twitter.com/WildKrattsOffic

**I received the talking plush for the purpose of reviewing them (the smiles they gave my children were completely separate) but all thoughts, opinions and fascination with them are my own. ***

The Orange Chair

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I remember my feet not touching and white patent leather shoes.

My memories are blurry, fuzzy as if I am looking into them through the filter of a gauzy sheet. But I remember colors and the way our enormous living room was cut in half right at the built in curio shelves. There was a good side and the one with the brown couches, where we’d ask each other to make room by bellowing “square over” as we maneuvered ourselves and a favorite blanket onto a personal piece of that coveted real estate.

The brown couch smelled of sleep and lingering colognes. Perhaps Loves Baby Soft or my mother’s Tova. We were allowed to bring bags of popcorn and bowls of Apple Jacks onto that side but the good living room was off limits unless there was a family meeting or ‘company.’

Where the brown couches faded into the background becoming part of our family landscape until you required a place to sit while you took in General Hospital, the colors of  the furniture on the other side of the room stood out, giving the room more light than the wall of windows they faced.

There was a couch, French provincial style, the color of round, plump pumpkins and if felt like  soft suede boots. I would run my fingers across the skin one way, making lines, marking my territory and then take my palm and push the material back to its original state over and over again.

That couch was hoity. And toity.

If I had a voice it would have been British and condescending.

And it had a sidekick; a chair that complimented and completed it.

Striped, with a wood trim that I would touch lightly every time on my way to the sunroom or the front door to check the pile of mail that would have been pushed through the built in metal slit at the bottom, I think of that chair as the centerpiece of my life in that house.

Sometimes, when the house was quiet or empty, I’d plop down in it, throw my legs over the side and read the books I stole from the space between the mattress and the headboard of my mom’s bed. But it was never comfortable or cozy.

That chair was a conversation starter, a “piece” or prop for family pictures, a place to stand behind for prom.

I was kissed in that chair once, long and sweetly, hands sneaking up the back of my sweater, and sometimes years later, I could still taste peppermint every time I glanced at it.

The chair, not the couch, was selected as worthy when my mom moved to a new house to begin a new life with a new husband. It sat in the basement like a regal guest and we we’d pile presents on it for Christmas Eve’s or position the boys in between its wide arms to stage candid shots of them in Grandma’s house.

Just like me, they were growing up with the orange chair in the background; the chair resembling a cousin you might only see a couple of times a year but enjoy the company of.

I didn’t give the chair another thought one way or the other until my mom had a yard sale earlier this summer.

See, myparentsaremovingtoSavannahGeorgia. 

 I have taken to saying it quickly, before all the air leaves my lungs as I imagine a world in which my mom isn’t ten minutes away.

And they needed to start emptying their houses in preparation, so I stepped up to their open garage doors and into a web of nostalgia one hot and humid (similar to everyday in Savannah, I am thinking) morning in July.

Books from our childhood, clothes we wore as toddlers, plaques that adorned our walls and the makings of a nice kitchen from patterned table settings to sophisticated glassware.

Tiny pieces of our life, for sale.

And sitting on the edge of the collection was the orange chair.

Peripheral, as it often was, and seemingly out of place. Like a backwards ball cap at the Kentucky derby.

“Are you selling the Orange Chair?” I asked; my voice catching.

“Yes.”

I walked over, running my hand over the colorful material and then along the smooth wooden trim. I sat down and placed my hands on the arms, mentally saving the way it felt under my fingers.

“Take my picture!” I yelled to my husband and he came over and snapped a photo of me looking up, the sun in my eyes.

The sale went on for another day, on Monday morning my mom called. Exhausted but happy, she told me about what’d they ended up selling.

“Someone is coming for the orange chair today.”

“Oh.” I said, unexpected tears pricking the edges of my eyes.

“The woman who bought it wanted for her daughter. She just got married and is trying to decorate her new home. We sold it for $30 and that mom was so excited about the colors and the price I couldn’t think of a better place for it.”

My heart suddenly lightened.

The chair would be used, sat in, perhaps even made fun of for its bright colors and pretentious manner of appearing like it was too good to be around other furniture. Perhaps someone else would tell a story like mine about it years and years from now, in the middle of another life.

“Good.” I said, meaning it.

I thought of my feet not touching when we first got the chair and all the pictures we’d taken in it, all the times we ran around it during games of tag, and how I hated moving it to vacuum every single week. The  recollections came fast and furious as I allowed the memories of my siblings and our childhood to just wash over me.

Our orange chair had served our family well.

And I’ll always be so happy about that last picture.

Mama’s Losin’ It
 

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My last picture in the orange chair. 

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For MamaKat’s Writing Workshop:
4.) Throwback time! Share an old photo and tell us about it.

Get the Behavior You Want- A Book Review

When John and I were struggling through infertility we had a lot to say about parenting and how we would handle certain situations. Of course that was before we brought home twin boys and all the decisions raising them would incur.

I’m here to tell you, I used to think that getting and staying pregnant would be the hardest thing I ever did. But I was wrong, parenting (and doing it well) is the hardest and at the same time most joyous thing I’ve ever done.

And I’m always on the outlook for any hand to hold or ear to listen as I do that in conjunction with their dad.

Which is why when I was given the opportunity to read “Get the Behavior You Want…Without Being the Parent You Hate!” by Deborah Gilboa, MD, I jumped at the chance and then have proceeded to tell everyone about this book.

This book is a parent’s best friend.

The chapters are well thought out, covering subjects from friendship to bullying, from sex and sportsmanship (even if they don’t play a sport) and I love the way Dr. G breaks her advice and examples about them into age groups to give the parent of every child timely advice.

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How do I feel good about handing out punishments? 

How do I instill empathy and concern for others in my children? 

When should I talk about sex with my child? 

Is honesty always the best policy? 

How much should my child rely on me? 

Should my first graders have chores? 

You’ll get thoughtful answers to all these questions and more.

Just as your child grows, becoming citizens of the world, so do our own expectations of them and the list of their responsibilities inside their own families and the world at large do too.

As a mom, I  often wonder and worry about the men I’m raising even on days when I am sure they are still my babies. This book helps me navigate and sharpen my parenting skills. In the last few weeks I’ve turned to it again and again when I was questioning a decision or a discipline.

God knows six year old twins can give my sanity and sensibility a run for its money most days.

For example, take this weekend.

Jacob was thirsty and whining and ‘going to die if you don’t pour my chocolate milk right now, Mommy!”

But I was standing in the middle of his bed attempting to position his new wall decals.

So I remembered Chapter 21 and how it’s okay to let your children learn how to feed and water themselves.

(And I also took into account Chapter 48 about how saying NO is a good thing for you and your children.)

So I said, “Jacob you’re almost seven years old, you can pour your own milk. Just go downstairs and do it.”

He looked at me with eyes like saucers.

“You HAVE to do it mommy!”

And I took a deep breath and said , “No. No I don’t. You can do this yourself. Try not to make a mess and ask for help if you truly need it, but you’re going to go and pour your own milk buddy.”

Want to see a truly confident kid? Watch them to do something they don’t think they’re capable of.

It was enlightening for both of us.

And the whole book is full of wonderful real world examples and helpful advice like that.

It’s the perfect book to keep on your bookshelf as your children grow up and I have been recommending it to other moms daily.

You can get your copy here.  

Sept2014DrGsBookPMI’m so proud to call Dr. G a friend. I’ve met her in person many times and had the privilege of spending time talking to her about a variety of topics. She is real,  approachable, down- to-earth and honest.

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and I highly encourage you to subscribe to her YouTube Channel. If you have a question about parenting chances are she has an answer for you.
**I was sent a book for the purpose of reviewing it but all opinions and praise for it are my own. **

 

My Other Ex : A Book Review

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Once upon a time I had a very good girlfriend.  A best friend. She was the better, best parts of me and fortunately I’d met her at a time in my life when I was open to a deep solid friendship with a woman.

And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return

She taught me many things, not the least of which was how to care for another human being. How to make family from a friend. She changed me in every way that matters.

But we stumbled, this woman and I, and before I knew it she was gone from my life. In the past I had not deeply mourned a lost friendship but this was different, she was different and I missed her like a lover. Songs, books, movies and even certain words reminded me of her and I felt unlovable in the wake of our demise.

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind of the sea
Like a seed dropped by a sky bird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

For months I would reach out and beg forgiveness for things I wasn’t sure I did, I would ask mutual friends about her, I would cry myself to sleep replaying those last conversations, searching for the reason that led to our breakup.

I was devastated and said things that I  now have a heart full of regret about.

There is a new book on the shelves right now called “My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friendships” and I have many women I call friends telling their stories between the cover of this beautiful anthology. (So proud of the voices of these incredible women).

I received a copy of the book to read and I found myself skipping around from one story to the next, reading about how these women had lost a friend like I had and how their breakup had affected their past, present and future. I knew that my story could be nestled in between any of the ones I was reading because it was all relatable. It didn’t lessen the hurt of the loss but I did feel comfort in knowing that it was something that happened to other people.

Our female friends make us who we are.

A few years after this friend and I broke up  my husband and I went to see WICKED on Broadway. As the show is coming to an end and Elphaba and Glinda are realizing that their friendship might be past it’s expiration date they sing a song that will forever remind me of my long lost friend.

From the act of asking for and giving forgiveness:

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done you’ve blamed me for
But then, I guess
We know there’s blame to share
And none of it seems to matter anymore

To the acceptance of things you can’t change  and appreciation for the time you’ve shared:

It well may be
That we may never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learn from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend

To the realization that all you’ve been through changes you…for good.

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better
And
Because I knew you
I have been changed
For good.

My friend and I have reconnected and while it is nothing like it used to be, it is nice to have her in my life in any capacity. I am always thankful for the things she taught me, the love she gave me and the person she inspired me to be.

You can get your copy of this truly wonderful book here (or click the book!) 

 

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Do you have a friend you’ve lost and miss? Tell me your story in the comments. 

(and here are the lyrics/music to “For Good”)

* Disclaimer: I received a copy of My Other Book for the purpose of reviewing it but all comments, thoughts and words about this really beautiful anthology are my own. *

Rare Bird: A Review

Love and loss are forever entwined. 

Some say we can’t know great joy or gratitude until we’ve experienced heartbreaking loss and I’m inclined to believe them. You can’t know how much something means to you until it has become part of your life and your story and then been taken away. 

Rare Bird is, at the heart of it, the story of a family; a normal, average and yet spectacularly extraordinary family who lose their beloved twelve year old son Jack to a terrifying accident on the banks of a creek behind their home. 

Donaldson, with a strength and faith you will feel fill your heart, shares the heartbreaking knowledge that the unthinkable can happen to any one of us at anytime. And within her story are the layers of disbelief, grief, anger and a suspension of the faith you’d expect from a mother who has lost her child too soon.

I read this book in the months after my own brother died suddenly at the age of thirty-four. We had been an ordinary family too as that  day in December 2013 dawned and yet as the clocked ticked closer to midnight, I was in another state, holding the hand of my baby brother as we talked about taking him off life support. 

Jack: gone too soon.

Benjamin: gone too soon.

There were times when I needed to set the book aside and other times I desperately needed Anna’s words and wisdom to help me process my own grief and to come to an understanding of what my mother must surely be feeling. For while I wanted to empathize with both my mother and Anna but then the selfish and scared part of my heart took over and I couldn’t bear the mere thought of a life without my sons in it.

Until I remembered that both of these women I thought so much of had indeed lost their sons all too soon.

I owed them, if nothing else,  empathy and care and a chance to share their story.

There is honesty in this book. There are the answers to the question you expect.

“How do you go on?”

Slowly, painfully, with your faith battered and revived in between the spaces of every moment between each aching breath.

There is no easy way to navigate grief. For better or worse in addition to caring for yourself you also must care for the family you mother and the community surrounding you. Sure, you might laugh at the wrong time or find yourself so angry at the unfairness of your loss that you hardly recognize yourself or your own place in the world anymore but remember, you are human, allow yourself to be. 

I learned that within the grief of  an unexpected death, was the truth that every day  could pose a potential hazard. Every drawer you pull  open, every picture inadvertently brought up as you look for another one, every small insignificant  moment for the world at large can be the doorway to memories that will bring you to your knees.

Anna does not shy away from those moments, instead she writes them with a grace that amazed and buoyed my own spirits with every sentence.

Anna’s story gave me hope for my own.

Her words let me know it was okay to take my time in finding my way around the lump in my throat and the empty space in my heart. It became an integral part of my healing in those first few months and is still a book I reach for when I feel my faith is waning.

There are moments of pure clarity in this book, other moments of pure unbridled pain and yet the small threads of love and care seem to be sewn into every page offering you a glimpse of life after death for the ones left behind. 

Anna’s voice is what carries you through, strong, eloquent and honest. She allows us to see not only the pain but the purpose in her loss. Her storytelling detailing the little things and the private moments is what makes it possible to not collapse under the empathy it is impossible not to feel. 

Love and loss placed aptly on the cover, it is a beautiful, tender and moving memoir. You will close its pages changed, moved and forever grateful for Donaldson’s words. 

I hope  you read this book.

Then, I hope you share it with other people.

I hope Anna always knows how much her story has touched so many lives, especially mine.

Love to you my friend.

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I Want To Tell The Stories

This morning the rain started as soon as we pulled out of the garage. Then once we hit the highway the sky was still dark, as if it was still night and not early morning, and the rain began to smack the windshield; banging against the glass.

I tried to ignore it and the cars flying by us, their speeds in no way indicative of the hazards that water and blacktop could imagine if not taken seriously. I closed my eyes and attempted sleep and then I opened them again to check my phone in the wake of feeling guilty that I was not taking full advantage of the extra twenty-five minutes the phone app had added to our trip. But even that proved fruitless. My brain and body were tired. Social media would only add to that kind of exhaustion.

So I hoisted my tablet into my lap and typed out the password offering me passage into my latest read. My eyes focused and within a minute I was immersed before I knew it, lost among the characters and their lives.

One reason I love television is related to this. I enjoy getting caught up in someone else’s life, their narrative. I don’t watch reality TV, instead I am slave to the scripted drama and my DVR is full of hour after hour of well written and acted shows that take a peek into a plethora of emotions, relationships and idiosyncrasies.

I have so many stories swirling in my head lately. Some are purely fiction and they fight with nap time and homework time, soccer time and DVR time for the right to haul me over to the computer to express themselves.

But then there are the tales of my own life, the memoirs begging to be told. The stories, that when I am in company and spinning those yarns, hold my audience captive; hanging onto my words, tears springing to their eyes.

They are in.

And I feel strength and weakness all at once.

The stories in the wake of losing Ben are powerful things, they push and poke at me to write them down and share them.

Some of the stories are not mine to tell, they are, instead, like bowls of accompaniments passed down the table from one person to other until they end up on my plate sitting under my fork. And because of that they might be cold or just different by the time they found my mouth.

Yet, there are too many to ignore. Some bordering on the religious and others firmly planted in the simple, sacred world of perhaps it’s just coincidence that are shouting for their time.

So I’ve decided to tell them.

One by one, story by interlinking story, until they no longer sit only on my tongue but inside the hearts of the people who read them.

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My amazing friends Mel and Michele (The Ketchup With Us Gals) are putting the top on their bottle and their link for a little while. But before they go they wanted us to link up, tell a story, admit we’re going to miss them and their outfits (I will!).

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Starting next week I am going to share a story a week for four weeks about the amazing things that have happened since we lost Ben. Extraordinary and special things, comforting and peaceful and at times, even funny things.

I want to tell the stories.

A Family Mantra (Scary Mommy)

As a writer you have dreams.

One of my dreams has been to have my words featured on Scary Mommy. When I received the email giving me the news that one of my pieces had been chosen to appear on the site I will admit to cracking a very teary smile of disbelief.

Be Kind. Be Smart. Believe. is a story of how a night of frustration turned into our family’s mantra, of how I learned words whispered in the dark as I kissed my sons goodbye every morning could became a way for our family to try to live.

Come over and share your own family mantras with me. Even on the days when there is more frustration, yelling and disappointments in my parenting than I care to admit, I remember that tomorrow is another day and it can start with words of intelligence, creativity, humanness and magic.

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Scary Mommy

 

Love is Love (Guest Posting on BonBonBreak)

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If you spend enough time here in the corner you know that I believe in LOVE.

The big, hopeless, romantic, grand-gesture-in-spite-of- what -other-people think, knows no-race- creed- or- gender kind of LOVE.

In my lifetime I have loved and been loved, had my heart broken (broken more than a few of my own)  and healed by a variety of boys who grew into amazing men.

Love comes in every flavor. It changes and changes you.

I’m so honored (humbled)to be guest posting at Bon Bon Break today to  tell you the story of seven men in my life who taught me the most incredible and important lessons about love and became the reasons for my support (now and forever) of same-sex marriage.

I’d love to have you visit today:

7 Reasons I Will Always Support Same-Sex Marriage 

Thank you to Val and Kristin for your help and support of this piece.

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