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One, Only One!

I watch, listen to, and read a lot of world news.  As far as I can see, there is ONE, ONLY ONE “true statesman” in leadership today.  I hope I am wrong, in that I hope there are others—and especially some in our own USA.  But the only true statesman I see is Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

I just watched Prime Minister Netanyahu as he was interviewed by FOX’s Brit Hume, who tried to play devil’s advocate with the Israeli leader but didn’t get away with it.  Here is one world leader who is refreshingly real, non-political, and right on target.

What would President Obama do if our nation’s cities were bombarded by rockets?  Well, providing the rockets were not actually falling on the White House, Obama would probably not know about the crisis unless he read it in the newspaper.  Then, if he did know, Obama might be shooting pool and enjoying a beer.  If the president got really serious, he would TALK/TALK/TALK/TALK/TALK.

Obama would talk about how since this is the 21st century, rockets simply can’t happen.  (Secretary of State Kerry agrees with that line of “nonsense”—which goes by an infinitely more effective, “earthy” term not suitable for this blog.)

Finally, Barack Obama would lecture us on how we need to (get this!) “NEGOTIATE”—even though it is extremely hard to negotiate with an enemy who plans to decapitate you!

Remember that crazy emperor who fiddled while Rome burned?

Margaret L. Been, July 2014

gorgeous Wisconsin

Today we traveled just a few miles from our small lake-country community, out to the surrounding countryside—the rivers, farms, and woodlands which say “Wisconsin”.  Pictured above is the Rock River, once a part of the Sauk Indians’ Wisconsin and Illinois territory embedded in history by the leadership of Black Hawk.  From the photo you can see that we’ve had plenty of rain; that white thing apparently floating beyond the high grass slightly above center is a picnic bench.

Joe (flanked by Dylan) cast a line in this river park, which is simply a spur off a county road—one of countless natural retreats for travelers in our state.

gorgeous outing

When Dylan wasn’t fishing, he strolled with me along the water’s edge.  Suddenly, he decided to go wading—something he has never done before.  I was amazed, because it’s always a struggle to get Dylan into the bathtub.  But then, haven’t little boys always preferred wading in rivers to getting lathered up in a tub?  So it’s no wonder that Dylan went in up to his belly, which isn’t all that high off the ground.  Perhaps the presence of hundreds of teensy tadpoles darting in the water provided a lure to adventure, even when it meant my corgi had to get wet.

From the river site Joe, Dylan, and I meandered along country lanes west of the Kettle Moraine State Forest where we lived for 21 years—the longest I have ever lived in any one place for my entire life.  We visited a friend on a farm near Fort Atkinson (more historic Sauk country), and Dylan ran free of his leash—something he hasn’t done since we moved nearly 5 years ago, from our wild northern acres.  On that farm Joe and I stroked horses noses and fondled a small herd of mini-Nubian goats—all of whom Dylan approached with friendly enthusiasm.  (Dylan LOVES all living creatures, barring dogs.  He wants to KILL dogs!)

Laden with rhubarb and some of the best fresh spinach we’ve ever had, we returned home via a favorite country ice-cream shop—“Pickets” possibly named after a 1990s TV series, PICKET FENCES, hypothetically set in  Rome, Wisconsin.*

The actual village of Rome (on the Bark River) seems like something Time forgot, except for the occasional local person walking around with a cell phone.

As you readers can probably gather, our octogenarian decade is at this moment an extremely pleasant time.  We live surrounded by pleasant places, and Home is the most pleasant of all.  Currently we have another family living with us—not inside our 4 room condo, but just outside and above our living room/patio door.

gorgeous best yet birds

The nest contains 5 baby barn swallows.  A week ago we saw nothing but mouths lining the edge of the nest; and when they were open the mouths looked like mini-Muppets.  Now the babies are leaning out of the nest, and they are hilarious.  The middle bird is huge compared to his or her “sibs”, and also the most aggressive.  Some have learned to back over the edge to do their bird jobs; consequently we’ll soon have a piece of work to clean-up.

What we are seeing is Entitlement in action; I call it “OCCUPY NASHOTAH”.  For several days the parents have been zooming and fluttering around between feedings.  It seems that Mom and Dad realize it’s time for their nestlings to get out on their own and DO THEIR OWN WORK!  I hope to be out there when it happens!  :)

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Pleasant places, pleasant times.  Every single day, I thank our Lord for them.  I’ve lived long enough (and through enough!) to know that “pleasant” can change in an instant—to “crisis”, “emergency”, and even “tragedy”.

Because I know and trust the Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us from our sin and rose to give us Eternal Life, and because I know that I’m in His care forever, I have no fear of the future.  As I rest in Him, He will provide the Grace to bear whatever lies ahead!  Meanwhile I’m thankful beyond expression, for God’s gift of Life—and for the pleasant places and pleasant times He’s given Joe and me today!

©Margaret L. Been, July 2014

*Never having watched PICKET FENCES, I’m not sure of the naming of the country store—or whether or not it was featured in the series.  Perhaps the store was always “Pickets”, and the show was named after it.  Who knows?  Further GOOGLE research may shed light.  :)

Leonardo Aguilar II:  I know I posted this hombre before, but I couldn’t resist posting more.  Little Leo will be effortlessly bi-lingual.  His Dad reads to him in Spanish, and his Mom (our granddaughter, Jamie) in English.  Maybe I can pick up a word or two of Spanish from our youngest great-grandson!

Little Senor 4

More Little Leo, in Great-Grammy’s Shawl:  I made this garment for a Teddy Bear, and then thought “Hey.  It would look even better on Leonardo II!”  He’s smiling as if he likes his colorful snuggy.

Little Senor 3

A Backyard Retreat:  My friend Karen is a Master-Gardener, and she has the greenest thumbs (and fingers) of anyone I’ve ever known.  Here are some photos she took of her beautiful sanctuary in Waukesha.  Karen laid yards of winding brick pathway for an enchanting, rustic touch.  Along with the gorgeous gardens to grace her neighborhood, Karen has a Little Library where anyone passing by can exchange books.  How great is that!

Karen 5        Karen 4

Karen 1

A Memorable Outing:  My friend Liz (pictured below) treated me to a day of antiquing, etc. just across our border—in Richmond, Illinois and the surrounding area.  The day was just right:  perfect weather, delightful browsing, good food, fun acquisitions, and best of all great company!

Liz 23    23 1 R

23 3                      23 4

A Time to Be Silly:  Our daughter Debbie took some of her grandchildren (our great-grandchildren—DUH!) on a surprise train ride and a vacation at a Wisconsin Dells water-park resort.  The Amtrak speeds by our road every day at approximately 4:20 p. m.  So on the day Deb was taking the children to the Dells Joe and I walked a few yards from our door, and waited at our road beside the Fire Station, so we could wave at the children as the train roared by.

Frequently I cannot resist being utterly silly where my children (of all ages!) are involved, so I had to do what I call a “Do Do Dee Dee Dance” with my derriere aimed at the passing train windows while Joe looked on very sedately from his 4-wheeler.  (Joe doesn’t do Do Do Dee Dee Dances.)  Meanwhile Debbie caught a blurry, impressionistic shot of the vaudeville act.

do do dee dee dance

And Our Private Heaven:  That long cold winter has morphed into luscious spring.  A month ago it looked like nothing was going to happen.  But now . . . !  The treasures in our patio garden are better than ever (I say that every year), and our patio is the perfect outdoor living room—with sun in the morning and shade for hot afternoons.

G 14 3    Garden June 1 - 2    Garden June 1 - 3    G 14 1

And SKY:  Those of you who have checked this site on occasion over the last five years know that I have a thing about sky.  As a child, I spent countless afternoons lying on the grass, watching clouds while searching for dragons, genies, and horses in the sky.

Now I recline on the berm outside our condo courtyard and watch clouds, with Baby Dylan (corgi) at my side.  That is our warmish day agenda.  On steaming summer days I flop on the patio lounge for afternoons of reading and cloud gazing, with ice tea ever handy.

Never has cloud gazing been more rewarding than it is here in the Lake Country, with the open expanse of park beyond our door.  We are surrounded by lakes, so there are nearly always clouds—ever changing, ever exciting to view.  I have years of cloud photos, enough to create a picture book.  (That’s a great idea, for next winter!)

Meanwhile, here are some recent gems, starting with a sunrise:

Sunrise 1  Sunday morning sky 2

Sunday morning sky  Sunday morning sky 3  Sunday morning sky 4

Yes, I’ll always have my head in the clouds.

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In closing, here is a confession of something that I never thought would happen.  (Daughter Laura, are you ready for this?)  My man is planning to get me a TABLET.  Yes, family, I’m finally taking the plunge.  Ever since tablets surfaced, I’ve said “No, I don’t want one”—and I meant it, at least I think I did.  But recently something snapped.  Now I look forward to having my very own tablet.

People with tablets appear to have thousands of pictures.  (Hyperbole intended, but perhaps it’s not hyperbole.)  Is this writer turning into an ex-writer, perhaps a “recovering” writer?  Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words.  :)  Well, we’ll see about that.

Margaret L. Been, June 2014

Bonhoeffer

I found the above gem (pictured on top of the greatest book of all!) in our up north home where we recently vacationed for ten days.  Our northern home is the only place where I never take books, because so many of our books remained up there when we moved to Southern Wisconsin four plus years ago.  We brought some sixty-eight boxes of books down with us when we moved, and they are now mingling on our shelves alongside dozens more which we’ve purchased since 2009.  Electronic devices and gadgets will never replace books in my life!

Many of our books have a history of wherever I bought them—a bookstore, antique mall, online sources, library sales, or the quintessential Mother Lode Rummage Sale.  We have a lot of books bequeathed by family members.  With gift books, I can normally recall the donor.  But VOICES IN THE NIGHT is enigmatic because I cannot recall ever seeing it, until I found it lying on a living room table in our Northern Hill House.  Maybe an angel popped in and dropped the book off when no one was looking.

I scooped up that book, began reading it, brought it back home to Nashotah, and I have been re-reading and musing over it ever since.  German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived from 1906 to 1945.  Bonhoeffer vigorously opposed National Socialism and the anti-Semitism which insidiously brainwashed German culture via universities, writers, state sanctioned churches, and theorists—along with deliberate agitation among workers, community leaders, and finally the unconscionable politics and policies of Hitler’s Third Reich.

According to a sermon by Pastor John Luhmann posted on http://sovereignhopechurch.com/ :  “Bonhoeffer’s driving purpose was to be faithfully engaged with God and the world.  This sense of responsibility led him to play a prominent role in . . . . the conspiracy and assassination attempts against Hitler, involvements which would significantly shape his life as a disciple of Jesus Christ . . . .”

While sympathetic with the assassination plot, Bonhoeffer was imprisoned on the grounds of “subversions of armed forces”; he had discouraged young men from joining the military.  His two year incarceration culminated in his execution on April 9th, 1945—within earshot of advancing American troops who, just a few days later, liberated the very village where Dietrich Bonhoeffer died.

Bonhoeffer’s prison poems plus excerpts from letters to his fiancée, Maria, and his friend, Eberharde Bethge, reflect his deepest thoughts and feelings concerning his own life, his family and church, the value of freedom, and the possibility (finally turned probability) of his pending death.  All of the Bonhoeffer’s writings in this slim volume are powerful.  But the poem Nächtliche Stimmen (Voices in the Night) is classic in its poignant sense of despair over circumstances coupled with Bonhoeffer’s analysis of his role in an assassination plot.  In the poem, he asserts that he knows he is guilty before God, but he refuses to acknowledge guilt before man.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer ends the poem with these words:  “. . . until our day dawns, we shall hold our ground.”

Other poems reveal the solidarity of Bonhoeffer’s faith in the Savior, along with his passion for and commitment to the Holy Bible.  As he realizes that death is fast approaching, he knows that through death he will finally be free!

VOICES IN THE NIGHT . . . The Prison Poems of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is translated by a British pastor, Edwin Robertson, who has invested decades in a study of Bonhoeffer’s life.  With each poem, the translator presents insights into the work—and historical documentary is also included in the book.  I cannot say enough about this treasure.  In fact, I really cannot say anything more because the book and the man who wrote the poems say it all!

While Hitler was not opposed to a watered-down version of once professing Christian churches, those members of German churches who did not compromise with the Nazi regime were called The Confessing Church.  These (including Roman Catholics and Protestants) remained firm in their doctrinal confession of faith; countless individuals were executed either in Nazi prisons—or in the gas chambers along with God’s chosen, the Jews.

I would be insulting the intelligence of anyone reading this blog, if I were to present a detailed account of the parallels between Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s and the United States of America in 2014.  The comparison is a colossal DUH to anyone whose brain is engaged!

Encroaching National Socialism, bleeding heart and out-of-touch academia, perverted morals, situation ethics, tolerance of Islam, rising anti-Semitism, and the erosion of our U.S. Constitution:  you connect the dots!  I believe the major dot-connector is the present, rampantly apostate, totally watered-down, once-Christian Church in America—and the ever-growing stigma against those of us who are fundamental Bible believers.

Our twenty-one year old grandson, Tyler, a student at Columbia International University (formerly Columbia Bible College) recently encouraged me greatly with the reminder that, down through history, persecution has always strengthened the Church of Jesus Christ.

May God send the cleansing, purifying wind of His Holy Spirit across our land to unite Christians in a return to the Word—and a joyous anticipation of the freedom we will have when we meet the Lord Jesus Christ face to face!  May we continue to “hold our ground”, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer did in the perilous days of the Third Reich.

Margaret L. Been, April 2014

NOTE:  Along with the above-reviewed book, I recommend a powerful drama, THE BEAMS ARE CREAKING, by Douglas Anderson.  The play capsulizes the political issues of the day as viewed through Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his friends, while Dietrich was in the Nazi prison.  We saw this play over twenty years ago, presented by a small theatre group in Milwaukee.  The play ends with a soul-stirring performance of Martin Luther’s magnificent hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.


 

Cross

Before our last presidential election, President Obama stated that “Al Qaeda is on the run.”  And just recently, Al Qaeda staged a public demonstration in the country of Yemen—telling the world that Islamic terrorism is stronger than ever before.  Al Qaeda spokesmen declared that they will defeat THE CROSS, and that THE CROSS is represented by America; therefore America is their prime target.  These words, ominous as they may be in their tragic potential, did not terrorize me one bit—because I know in my heart and mind THE CROSS of Jesus Christ will never be defeated.  THE CROSS is victorious!

We are living in “perilous times”, as predicted in II Timothy 3:1.  Ever since a certain couple was ousted from a garden, there have been perilous times.  Yet a study of prophecy in light of world events indicates that peril on all fronts is ramping up to what may be a prelude to Christ’s return.  He has defeated sin and death, through His death on THE CROSS and His bodily RESURRECTION—which we Christians will celebrate this coming Sunday, just as we celebrate THE RESURRECTION every day of our lives.

This week I’ve been musing over events leading to THE RESURRECTION of our Lord Jesus Christ:  the perfidy of the crowds in Jerusalem, the travesty of evil religious leaders, the rotten political scene as exhibited in the illegal and phony trials which our Lord endured, the cruel oppression of Rome, and of course the unspeakable horrors of Jesus’ death on Calvary.

As I consider the downfall of our nation and the recent scandals which our government has largely ignored I recall how Jesus was born, lived, and died—yes, and ROSE—in the midst of a perilous, sin-ridden world characterized by evil.  Yet none of that evil could defeat Him.  Instead, His Word spread—and has flourished in many places over some two thousand years.

THE CROSS, always a symbol of victory, prevails.  It will never be defeated or obliterated.  Down through history, right up to (and including) my own lifetime, many have tried:  Hitler, Stalin, myriads of angry atheists around the globe, and now Al Qaeda.  Nations will crumble and fall, as portrayed in Isaiah 40: 15:  “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance; behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing.”  But THE CROSS will prevail!

Our Lord is victorious.  He is a personal God who desires the salvation of every single person.  A personal photo—just taken this very afternoon on the maternity floor of a local hospital—expresses what THE CROSS, and RESURRECTION are all about!

New Joy 2

“The thief cometh not but to steal, and kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly.”  John 10:10

THE CROSS AND THE RESURRECTION ARE ALL ABOUT LIFE!  He is Risen!  He is Alive!  He is LIFE!

Margaret L. Been, April 2014

Coming Home (2)

“And I said, ‘Oh that I had wings like a dove!  For then I would fly away, and be at rest.  Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness.’ ”  Psalm 55:6-7

David was intimidated and beleaguered by his enemies when he wrote this plaintive Psalm.  Yet those of us who love solitude, and seek it with a passion, can echo the words:  “For then I would fly away and be at rest.” 

Numerous are the critics of the Kaufman family who set off with a baby and a toddler on a 30-something foot sailing vessel, with the goal of crossing the Pacific.  But for the response of the U. S. Navy in San Diego and other rescuers, this family might be added to the endless list of tragic current events.  Yet I love the name of their craft, REBEL HEART, and something innate draws me to this family.  Although life-threatening adventure has never been my forté, a passion for solitude is an integral factor in my DNA.  I identify with the need to “wander off”—even when country roads, inland waters, and forest trails are more in line with my instincts than the Pacific Ocean.

When I grew up in the 30s and 40s, solitude was easily accessible.  We had a quiet household, and I could always hide under a chair or, by the time I was 8 years old, in a tree.  Our only “devices” were:  a telephone, a radio (in a cabinet with a phonograph record player), a doorbell, and a clock which did nothing more than tell the time.  The understanding that every individual on earth needed space and time “to wander off” was a given in our home, and we respected each other’s privacy.

Today I wonder how many younger people (with the exception of a few individualistic types like the Kaufmans) even begin to comprehend what solitude actually is, let alone want to pursue it.  An astonishing amount of everyday life is social, groupy, organized, and pre-planned—frequently controlled by the detached stroke of a finger on a device.

I see people striding the park path outside our front door, with eyes and ears (or both) literally glued to whatever device at hand.  Do they hear the mourning dove in the bush, or the sand hill cranes yodeling overhead in the clouds?  Do they see the fat, pregnant buds on the chestnut tree a few feet from the path?  When May wafts in, will the device-laden striders even bother to inhale and exclaim over the perfume of the French lilacs which abound in our neighborhood?  Will the device-embellished ears be able (or even want!) to hear the fountain in our local pond, or the redwings nesting in the reeds beside our local lake?

Our park path is lovely, bordered by a nature preserve on the east side.  It deserves strollers, as well as striders—some of whom may be hustling along for the sake of good health.  Strollers like me also walk for health—soul health, which I happen to think is even more vital (and certainly more eternally valuable) than the beneficial aspect of body maintenance.  Yet the majority of park users stride rather than stroll.

I often wonder what the present generation of activity-driven, device-dependent, socially-oriented individuals will do when they add a few years and the inevitable stresses of life to their résumés of non-stop everything—everything but substance for soul and spirit, that is.  I visualize that an indescribable dryness will set in—a thirst which no material goods, or frenzy for social contacts and career advancements, will ever quench in a million years.

DRY, DRY, DRY!  The absence of everything but perhaps a desire to “wander off”—without even beginning to fathom how that may be done!  No turned upside down chair to hide under.  No metaphorical tree.  No hypothetical REBEL HEART sailboat.  A park path perhaps, but not even the foggiest knowledge of how to stroll rather than stride on the path, with all ones senses attuned to the beautiful nature along the way.

Off course the only lasting cure for dryness, driven-ness, and people-produced burn-out is to drink deeply from the well-spring of LIVING WATER in Christ Jesus—to accept His sacrifice for our sin at Calvary and rejoice in His Risen Life which indwells those of us who trust in Him.  He provides a depth of inner solitude wherever we are.  That solitude is fed by removing ourselves whenever we can—from the crowd, from our electronic devices and our daily agendas.

And that solitude is fed by whatever kind of retreat appeals to whomever we are—be the escape a turned over chair, a tree, a forest trail, a park path, or a sailing vessel.

I’m thankful for the Kaufman family—for the fact that they have returned safely.  I pray that their sick little one will continue to heal with no complications.  And I’m thankful for the Kaufmans’ reminder of something important:  a passion for solitude.  Although my preferences run to forest trails, the rivers and lakes of Wisconsin, and the path around our neighborhood park, I thoroughly track with concept behind the REBEL HEART!  :)

Margaret L. Been, April 2014

NOTE:  Awhile back, a Christian friend described me to a group we were in together, with these words:  “Look at her.  She has REBEL written all over her.”

We all laughed, realizing that my personal rebellions have nothing to do with any kind of anarchy.  I will never challenge or rebel against my life-enhancing Judeo-Christian values.  But yes, I do have a rebel heart.  Perhaps I’ll share more of that with you in an future entry. 

Or maybe I don’t need to share.  Perhaps, in the 5 and 1/2 years I’ve been blogging you’ve discerned exactly what I mean by my rebel heart!  :)

Always Time for Tea

“Always Time for Tea” is the title of the above rendering.  Tea Time in March is charged with anticipation, excited about change, and zesty with the invigoration of fiercely raging wind and ever-stretching sunlit hours.

Today’s wind is not kind; it’s raw and bitter to the taste, like afternoon Earl Grey Tea when it’s been allowed to over-steep.  Today’s sun is glorious—redolent of fragrant places where ripe and mellow leaves were harvested for an “Irish Breakfast” most anywhere in the world.

Along with the joy of anticipation, my St. Patrick’s Day Irish Breakfast musings (in Nashotah, Wisconsin, USA) are shadowed by things that are lost:  a Malaysian jet carrying over 200 passengers, and perhaps millions of people in our culture who haven’t even the faintest comprehension of the importance of solitude—or whose once-valued serenity has gone missing.

How many of us are there left in this crazy culture, who still understand (and prioritize!) the serenity of spending time alone/alone/alone.  I don’t mean always being physically alone/alone/alone.  I speak of mentally/spiritually/emotionally investing time alone and nurturing that soul solitude and serenity which can only come from a depth of completion—the integral completion which we can receive from God’s Grace through the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in one’s life as revealed in Scripture.

How many individuals still treasure time alone:  perhaps really alone for a few hours or minutes—strolling in a sheltered woods, basking in a sunny window, lounging on the patio in the summer—with the ubiquitous iced tea (Earl Grey or Irish Breakfast) in hand?  Alone in one’s mind, unfettered by the worries and potential issues that surround anyone who is breathing and thinking?

Alone.  Apart. Soothed by the realization that the heartbreaking issues of the day are a bleep in Eternity.  Solitude, serenity, ALONENESS!  Busy schedules have been common to much of mankind since the beginning of time.  But today life can become even more complex, if we so allow.  In an age of electronic communications and the proliferation of Facebook friends, how many remember the concept of being alone?  And how many even care, or have the foggiest idea of what they are missing?

I love my laptop for shopping, acquiring information, and blogging.  These are refreshing pastimes.  How wonderful to shop without driving to a store where you may or may not find exactly what you want—be it a special garment (most of my clothing is purchased online), a sable paint brush, a new-to-you line of watercolors or gouche in exciting colors, or the base and fragrance oils for your soap-making avocation.  How rewarding to be able to access an endless library of answers in your ongoing quest for learning.  And how fulfilling to communicate via a blog with people from literally every corner of the earth.

But certain other aspects of the electronic world would quickly threaten to undermine my serenity, if I would fail to preserve a balance—and those specific aspects are email and Facebook.  Email has become a kind of necessity in the minds of many, and for business purposes and the sharing of prayer requests it is indeed valuable.  Facebook serves one and only one purpose for me:  that of viewing and sometimes downloading charming photos of the people in my life.  But balance and frequent avoidance of both of these computer areas are necessary to my discipline of preserving serenity and an atmosphere of solitude in the midst of an overflowing life filled with precious people and their needs.  Thus I will often go for at least a week without checking either Facebook or my email.  Anyone who really needs me will find me via telephone or snail mail—or best of all, with a knock on my door.

Today I pray that someone among the 26 participating rescue nations will discover the missing jet.  Every day I pray that I’ll remember to savor as many serenity-inspiring sights and sounds as I can find, with which to greet each day:  and certainly always before accessing email or Facebook.

A pot of tea helps, whether celebrated alone or shared with a kindred soul.  There’s always time for tea!

Margaret L. Been, March 2014

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