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Little Margaret

NOTE:  The following entry is a replay of a recent piece which I posted on http://richesinglory.wordpress.com/ , my blog dedicated to “mining treasures in illness and pain”.  Riches in Glory receives far fewer views than any of my other four websites.  I’ve hoped that is because most of you simply do not have any illness and/or pain.  But sometimes I wonder if many of my readers know that Riches in Glory even exists!

Meanwhile, for some unknown reason, today my “sick blog” is experiencing a tremendous leap in the amount of visitors.  Thus I’ve decided to offer an encore of this recent entry.  Since writers can more correctly be called “re-writers” the encore has been improved and otherwise clarified for Northern Reflections.  Here’s a cyber repeat:

It’s been quite a few decades since the above photo was taken back in the days when little girls wore dresses in boats, and life jackets were only known to be used by sailors, marines, or brave souls crossing Lake Michigan in a rubber life raft—something my father actually did in the 1940s, to test wartime outboard motors produced by the company where he was employed.

Now I’ve recently embarked on Decade Number Nine!  And so far, it’s great!  Perhaps it’s great because we’ve occasionally heard that old age can be horrible.  Unfortunately, for some it is!  But for a person who loves the Lord Jesus Christ, life is good—yes even when it includes pain!

For some people acute health concerns are common; they come and go.  But for others, illness or pain will move in permanently—sharing one’s space like an uninvited caller who arrives with cumbersome baggage while demanding an inordinate amount of attention.  For the past eight years, I have been one of those “others”.

Although my chronic lumbar and sacral pain seemed highly disturbing at its onset, God has revealed amazing things through the presence of the uninvited guest.  Our gracious Lord has blessed me with insights which put each day in its proper perspective.  Hopefully you are not personally entertaining pain on a daily basis.  Yet you undoubtedly know at least one person whose life has been rearranged, perhaps a family member or friend for whom you pray—and desire to encourage.  Here are some of the gems regarding pain, that God has bestowed on me in recent years:

1)  Pain is relative.  The subjective “One to Ten” pain scale differs with individuals.  There will always be someone who hurts more, someone who is drastically ill, someone who needs my prayers far more than I need to pray for myself!  Or even think about myself for that matter.  From the internet I’ve printed out a heartbreaking letter from Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Tehran, to his wife in the USA.  No, I cannot begin to dwell on my pain!

2)  Pain can be a friend.  Pain reminds me to hang back rather than jump full speed ahead into some new and unnecessary responsibility or job.  Pain is that friend who says, “Rest!  Take it easy today, so that you will feel better tomorrow—and more able to do whatever the calendar has in store for you for the rest of the week.”  Pain is the considerate friend who assures me I’m never to feel guilty for not being everywhere at once, or for not being all things to all people.  I’m never to feel guilty when I hear that invasive, sanctimonious question, “And what are you doing for the Lord?”  As Milton wrote on his blindness, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

3)  Pain affirms that I’m still intrinsically worthwhile in God’s eyes, even though I’m no longer the busy person I was for many years.  Recently we celebrated Thanksgiving.  Whereas for decades I fixed most of the meal and set our table for from 18 to 30 individuals, this year there were four of us—actually five, but the fifth is 5 months old and she sat on her mother’s lap while eating.  The meal, company, and conversation were special!  Dishes for four plus a few pans are not overwhelming with two people, our daughter and me, in charge of washing and cleaning up.  A home is never dismantled or upset in the least, for only two extra adults and a baby.

Thanksgiving day was PERFECT, except that I crashed immediately after our company walked out the door to go home.  All of the next day I was a zombie.  I groped about our home like Victor Hugo’s Quasimodo, due to pain.  Furthermore my GI system was down, like Healthcare.gov was for weeks, because I’d added 4000-something calories to my 94 pound frame which normally feels stuffed after consuming a typical 900 to 1000 calories per day.

“What is wrong with me?” I asked my husband. “It didn’t used to be like this.  I used to feel fine the day after Thanksgiving.”

Joe just smiled and commented, “We’re old!”

Then my friend, Pain, agreed and said: “Just go to bed and quit trying to be so useful!  Give yourself a break!”

How delightful it was to go to bed at 3:00 in the afternoon with my knitting, my art books, and Charles Krauthammer’s amazing Number 1 bestseller, THINGS THAT MATTER.  Thank you, Pain!

4)  Pain is nothing compared to the future glory in store for those of us who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.  “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

What more do we need to know?  At age 80, I’m contented—and oh so thankful! 🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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First snow 11-13 again

Many of us carry an eternal kid around with us, deep inside.  I know I do.  That’s the only possible explanation for my sense of euphoria today, when I saw what was drifting down out of the sky and landing in my precious little patio garden.

Come January, I begin to dislike the stuff.  By February it gets really old, and being a Wisconsin native I know that it may not end soon.  By March?  Well March is rectified by the returning sun—so glorious as it pours into our east facing patio door.  But the snow may seem interminable by then, and sometimes in March I want to scream!

So why the excitement every year, my 80th being no exception?  Today I walked out to take photos, and the brisk, damp air instantly took me back to 1943 when I couldn’t get enough of snowy days and those waning daylight hours after school when we kids stayed outdoors building forts and snow creatures.

No matter how tedious the early weeks of each new year may seem, no matter how my heart yearns (sometimes cries) for warm sunlight and green shoots popping up in the garden, no difference how challenged my body may actually be—sometimes to the extent where the days are radically altered, and I all but grind to a proverbial halt.

Despite all of that, I will forever go into an ecstatic spin over early snowfalls at the end of each year.  An Eternal Kid!

Having little people in one’s life provides ongoing nourishment for an Eternal Kid.  My pleasant, secure childhood lives on through a plethora of young people who get excited to see what falls out of the sky.  Being surrounded by rambunctious, smiling children is my best insurance against growing old.  I refuse to grow old!  I praise God for the gift of being an Eternal Kid!

(Even if the snow gets a little old come January!)

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  Here is one more (new-this-year) reason for being excited about the snow.  Our youngest grandchild, Adetokunba Bridget Josephine Adesokun, is experiencing her very first snow today!

DSC01732

Since our little one has a very long name, we call her “Tuks” (rhymes with “Books”).  That’s a short form of her Nigerian name, Adetokunba.  And as you can see, Tuks is currently into blowing bubbles.

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Hill House

Years ago, for a class at the University of Wisconsin, I read a poignant novel titled YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, by Thomas Wolfe.  Employing a cliché, “I beg to differ” with that deceased American author.  Yes, you can go home again; I know because my husband and I have done exactly that.

Due to health issues, Joe and I had not made the road trip to our homes 280 miles North since Memorial Day weekend of 2010.  A friend has been taking care of the yards—mowing and snow blowing, cleaning up fallen branches, etc. so the area around the two houses has been well tended.  The remaining 14 acres are wild woods—to be left the way we have always loved them, in God’s hands through the venue of nature.

A daughter visited the homes several times, when vacationing North.  She reported that things were compromised there.  The downstairs at the lake home smelled musty and the sweet house pictured above—a factory home built for our guests when we lived up there full time—had gone to the mice, mothballs notwithstanding.

Two garages at the lake home were packed full of Joe’s tools, half finished carpentry projects, years of nuts and bolts, life jackets, random bicycles culled from rummages, junked furniture, shovels, rakes, an outboard motor, canoe paddles, paint cans, oil cans, batteries—just for starters.  The houses contained dishes, bedding, decorative items, pictures, and enough kitchen utensils in each house to accommodate the vacations we had thought we’d spend there when we moved to Southern Wisconsin in September of 2009.

The above-pictured house has provided a charming site for some of my mother’s favorite furniture pieces:  a cherry wood dining room table, a mahogany secretary with a glass cabinet, Mom’s cedar hope chest, and a highboy in some elegant unknown-to-me wood.  Both houses groaned with books leftover from the many boxes of volumes we moved with us 4 years ago.

What to do with all of this?  I think Joe and I simply stuffed all issues surrounding these homes due to larger and more crucial concerns—namely multiple surgeries and other medical procedures spanning many months.  Occasionally our beloved North, where we’d naively thought we’d live “forever”, surfaced in my mind.  Whenever this happened, I prayed:  “Lord, these are Your houses.  They are in Your hands.”

(Have you ever yielded something you dearly loved to the Lord, with no bitterness and no sorrowful misgivings?  Have you ever relaxed and said, “Lord, this belongs to You?” only to have God graciously hand that something back to you—with a minimum of stress and effort on your part, while taking care of every minute detail along the way?  Well, this is what has happened to us.)

Since 2009 we went right on paying the utilities and telephone bills, and annual taxes on our property North.  Would we ever return?  We really didn’t think so, as we arranged to put business matters in our son, Eric’s hands.  We were happy here in the South.  I think we didn’t want to grieve, so we were refusing to acknowledge the fact that these homes were still ours even though we couldn’t go up there.  Someone else could eventually sell them for us, and we’d pay a commission and just bank or invest the results—all in God’s time of course.

Then about a month ago a man called from Green Bay.  He had been on our road North, and he’d read “For Sale By Owner” on our mailbox up there—with our Southern Wisconsin phone number.  He drove in, walked around the yards, probably peeked in windows, and then called.  He sounded very interested in possibly buying both homes, and he wanted to meet us up there.

We scrambled, quite against our will.  After all, life was so easy here in the South and we were super contented.  We didn’t want to go up there (we thought!) and we certainly did not feel up to the gargantuan task of cleaning those houses and emptying the 2 garages.  But circumstances were kicking us in the head.  Something had to be done and we could not in good conscience dump the burden on our 6 beautiful children.

God was in charge!  We were given the name of a wonderfully efficient and energetic woman, Marilyn, whom we hired to clean the interiors of the houses and wash the windows.  She had completed the above-pictured house when we arrived on the scene nearly 2 weeks ago.  We decided to stay there, on the hill, since Marilyn would be doing the lake house next—approximately a 3 day job.  When we stepped into our house on the hill, originally installed as a guest house, Joe and I had the same sudden and drastic response.  We fell in love all over again irrevocably with this colorful, sparkling, easy-to-manage home high on a hill with maples and birches around the edge of the yard.  Instantly I prayed in my mind, “Oh Lord, if it be Your will, PLEASE don’t let that man from Green Bay want this house!!!”

For the next 3 days, prior to our appointment with the Green Bay fellow, Joe and I planned, sorted, discarded, etc.  Our grounds helper, Allen took loads of burnable trash to dispose of at his home where he has a permit for burning.  Some of the equipment also went home with Allen.  Marilyn and her husband were wonderful as well.  They carried many pick-up truckloads away with things they could use on their property at another lake nearby.  I sold some furniture to Marilyn, and gave her many household items we just didn’t need.  Our friends, Betty and Joe, took many more items—and so did friends, Dee and Jim.  And my Joe took 2 van loads, packed to the ceiling, to our town dump.  The houses are in beautiful condition now, and the 2 garages are miraculously (almost!) empty!

For 10 nights, we slept in the commodious bedroom on the hill—the sleep of contented, well fed and amply exercised children.  For 9 days we happily did projects, and spent quality time with the above mentioned friends.  We went to town (10 miles from home) several times.  In every store and restaurant, we were greeted as good old friends.  “Where have you been?”  “I’ve thought of you so often!” were familiar refrains.

However for several days prior to the man allegedly coming from Green Bay, I carried an ache in my heart.  We had advertised 2 houses.  What if he wanted both?  We were settling into the hill house, bringing in more “treasures” from the lake house, making the hill house ours for future vacations now that we realized we were healthy enough to make the trip and enjoy the North once again!

Then one night we picked up a message from our phone answering machine in the South.  The man from Green Bay reneged and would not be meeting us.  He would not be thinking of buying anything until maybe spring of 2014, and then he might see if a house was still available.  Joe and I were in bed at our hill house, when we got this news.  We shouted for joy, and I wept!  We were enjoying our vacation home, and God-willing we will enjoy more.

Even if this was to be our last vacation North, it would be a priceless gift.  But we anticipate more.  In fact we hope to go up for a couple of weeks in January when, although much colder than South (like minus 25 degrees F) the air is always fresher without that damp, penetrating (and I think, miserable!) Lake Michigan chill we have South.  The only problem with winters in the North is that (I think) they last just a bit too long.  When I was itching to dig in a garden, we were still blowing snow.

Judging from his melancholy novel, Thomas Wolfe had a disillusioned slant on life—sadly lacking in any vision beyond the material and temporal.  So the character in his literary work could not go home again.  Things were never the same at home, in that book, and all was lost.

Praise God that doesn’t have to be so!  Joe and I have “gone home again”—home where there are more Virginia whitetails than people, home abounding in howling timber wolves and ever-ravenous-until-hibernation-time black bears.  Things are the same.  No, I rescind that statement!  Things are even better!  We willingly yielded the North to the Lord, and God has graciously handed it back to us—for whatever amount of time He’s ordained in Eternity Past!  What a PRAISE!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  We plan to list the lake house with a realtor, by spring of 2014.  Again, it’s all in God’s hands!  What a GOOD LIFE!  (Our Lord must have a sense of humor to put up with us, if we sometimes lapse into thinking we are in charge!)

ANOTHER NOTE:  Sunshine, are you online?  I’ll see you on a 4th Monday sometime in 2014!

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80 years old

Summer began around solstice time, with our 60th wedding anniversary celebration.  This was held at our condo clubhouse, so no one’s home got stressed out—but I promise we will not plan a big whoop de doo for our 70th, as our hard working children and grandchildren went many extra miles with planning, serving, and cleaning up after the delightful June 22nd event.

Above, is a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Joe Been—gleaned from our daughter Debbie’s FACEBOOK page and taken a week ago beside Debbie and Rick’s pool.  Although (fortunately) there are not 80 candles on the cake, that is how young I turned on August 8th, 2013.  I think I am freaking out my family and friends by telling them that now I can start being eccentric.  Predictably they are wondering, “Yikes, what’s next?”

In between these two family landmarks, I received my Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement.  The six weeks mark was reached last Tuesday, and now I am able to hang up the sling and walk around with two arms free.  It’s a treat to eat with my right hand again.  (Actually I eat with spoons and forks, but they are held in my hand).  I never did get graceful with the left, and I held my fork like it was a boat oar—very clutzy.

So now I’m watching the early morning mist form over our park, a characteristic of late summer.  How can the days whirr by so fast?  Constantly, I’m overwhelmed when I reflect on the blessings we enjoy every day and will never never take for granted!  My recovery from surgery has been a gift from God worked out through the prayers and benevolence of family members and friends.

I’m thankful for Joe’s daily concern and assistance in so many ways—including weeks of enjoyable eating out together at our favorite restaurants.  We began this two days after my surgery, along with resuming our rummaging adventures.  (There is something so essentially wonderful about doing “normal” things after the trauma of rather radical surgery, with a 6 inch incision scar to prove it!)

I’m thankful for our daughter Laura’s visit from Washington State, starting on my surgery day.  Laura helped me through those tentative first days when every move hurt and just getting washed, dressed, and groomed seemed like an insurmountable challenge.  And for Debbie’s every ready concern—checking in on us, bringing good food, and scrubbing our floors.  (Debbie knows how I love CLEAN!)  I’m thankful for the phone calls, letters, companionship, and encouragement of many over the past weeks.

I’m eternally grateful for the medical expertise which made an effective shoulder prosthesis possible for me.  The Reverse procedure is new within ten years in the USA.  Twelve years ago there would have been no way to fix the considerable pain which is no longer there, thanks to amazing technology.  The Standard replacement simply would not have addressed my issues.  I’m thankful for a surgeon who performs this new procedure, as many orthopedic surgeons have not begun.

I’m thankful for the quiet hospital just minutes from our home—with private rooms for all patients, and plenty of comfortable space for one’s spouse to stay over night.  I’m very grateful for the sweet young man, a Physical Therapist named Daniel, who encouraged me and helped me so much prior to my hospital discharge.  His soft-spoken, gentle kindness—while showing me the only movements I would be allowed for weeks to come—has stuck with me as a stellar example of professional expertise at it’s most personal best.*  There is nothing like quiet kindness to promote healing, and Daniel’s sensitivity has overcome any unpleasant or jarring memories I have had of my hospital experience.  Thanks to him, I’ve been able to “do it right” from start to finish!

I’m thankful for my precious Pembroke Welsh corgi, Dylan.  He never fails to make me smile.  I am certain that he understands most of everything I say to him, although admittedly I don’t launch into a lot of meaty philosophical discussions with Baby Dylan.

And here are photos (also gleaned from Debbie’s FACEBOOK page) of some other precious individuals (great-grandchildren) who never fail to make me smile:

too too sweet

My cup runneth over!!!

*I obtained all of my medical records of proceedings from the day of my discharge from the hospital on 7/3/13.  For a 90 pound person, I have a very strange body chemistry:  I sleep like a well-fed puppy on caffeinated beverages, while narcotic pain medications (which plow most people under) make me “bright eyed and bushy tailed”—and, I fear, loquacious.  So I was naturally curious as to my conversations and interchanges recorded by the medical personnel on discharge day, after I’d received 24 hours of morphine via IV.

Although I might have knocked Daniel over with my bright eyed and bushy tailed verbal input, he recorded me as “Doing very well”, “Able to verbalize movement precautions”, “Independent” in all listed categories, “No difficulty” in doing what needed to be done, and “Agreeable“.  Using the word “Cooperative”, my surgeon recorded the same observations in his write-up of our 7/3/13 exchange.

I was overjoyed to discover that I behaved myself like the lady I always desire to be!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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Dylie & Mom

A week after surgery I still wear that pained expression, but Baby Dylan looks great.  Normally terrified of the Paparazzi, Dylan was captured off guard because he didn’t realize that a camera could lurk inside a cell phone.  His “Mommy” is not that advanced, as blogging is the outside extent of my techie-ness.  To me, a phone is a phone and a camera is a camera.  I’m certain this will be the last time we’ll be able to fool Dylan into saying “Cheese”!

Since inserting pictures is easier for me at this point than keyboarding a lot of text, here are some recent ones taken just before my surgery.  The pictures are worth thousands of words—of which I’ll add just a few for clarification:

Joe and a Flat

Any of you parents, grandparents, and great grandparents have undoubtedly had at least one “Flat” in your life.  Above you can see our third—“Flat Ethan”, a facsimile of Three Dimensional Ethan who lives far away in San Diego.  Flat Ethan was not prepared for the quiet life Joe and I enjoy in Nashotah, Wisconsin (who ever heard of THAT?)—but he coped beautifully whether buying produce, eating at our neighborhood Chinese restaurant, or simply perusing books while Joe, Dylan, and I slept.  (Since Three Dimensional Ethan loves books, it follows that Flat Ethan does likewise.)

Tuks & Grammy

Baby Adetokunba Bridget Josephine Adesokun at three weeks old.  (Now she’s nearly six weeks.)  Due to a stand off with MRSA and surgery, this was one of the last times I was able to hold Tuks—(rhymes with books).  But better days are coming, soon!

Been Guys and Grammy's Art

Left to right:  Joe, and our Denver grandsons Joel and Nathaniel Been with two of my paintings (framed in yellow) currently on exhibit at the Delafield Arts Center.

left handed art

With all my present restrictions, a few activities are allowed and encouraged:  knitting (only finger motion is required of my right hand when knitting), limited piano practice (again, fingers only in the treble clef), some keyboarding, and left handed art.  The art delights my heart as more each year I’m realizing that abstraction (with a slight element of representation) is my forté—the “Whom I Really Am” in this recently discovered passion.

A large factor in abstract expressionism is the discarding of presumptions, assumptions, and that human desire for “control”.  What remains?  A serendipitous freedom from agendas or any kind of “other generated” expectations.  This freedom is possible only in the arts!  We certainly wouldn’t want it anywhere else—that would be anarchy!!!

Late June Garden 2013

Finally, our Heaven on earth.  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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Happy Therapy

My last trail ride was in the year 2000.  I thought it would be my very last, because I realized that a trot wasn’t the best way to treat what has since then developed into a seriously dicky lower back: with stenosis, scoliosis, pelvic arthritis, and ruptured discs—one of which required a surgical lumbar fusion. 

Decades of digging in gardens, lifting and pushing furniture around (with the exception of the piano—even I am not foolish enough to try and budge that!), carrying children and pets, packing and unpacking (as chief packer for twelve residence changes in sixty years), family genes, plus downright productive and joyous living have all taken their toll.

Then recently I heard about Therapy Riding, and the proximity of LifeStrider’s Therapy Riding Center close to our home.  What a breakthrough, for chronic pain.  The gentle, rolling motion of a walking horse (flanked by two people who make sure that horsey and I don’t take off in a trot or gallop) provides a soothing massage for the lumbar and sacral regions.  The chronic pain is eased for the time during and immediately following the ride.  I’ve only had one session so far, with five to go; perhaps the relief will increase with future rides.

My pain management doctor signed for me to do this six weeks’ program, one hour per week.  I’d like to give him a big hug, even though Medicare doesn’t pay for it!  (The therapy, not the hug.  But Medicare wouldn’t pay for the hug either.)  As my friend, Karen, would say—I’m “kicking age eighty in the head”.  Could there possibly be a better way to approach my soon-to-begin octogenarian adventure?  I don’t think so!!!  🙂

I do not often detail health issues on this blog, as http://richesinglory.wordpress.com/ is my outlet for the physical bumps and grinds of life and their ramifications.  But hey, lots of people have dicky backs, and Northern Reflections has more readers than Riches in Glory has.  For anyone who loves horses and lives with chronic pain, this is an incredible way to go: far better than a chiropractor, I believe—and definitely a lot more fun! 

The Therapy Riding movement has flourished in the USA since its inception in the early 1960s, and there are centers in many states.  If you are interested I encourage you to GOOGLE “Therapy Riding “, to discover what is available in your locale.  Perhaps relief and a whole lot of enjoyment are in store for you!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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IF

A few weeks ago a kindred spirited friend, Shari—who loves many of the English poets whom I love—mentioned Milton’s sonnet On His Blindness.  I responded with a whopping “YES!”  I hadn’t read that sonnet for years, but I still recalled the poignant last line:  “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  I thanked Shari for the déjà vue, and that evening I located my beautiful antique volume of John Milton’s poems.  Here is the sonnet, followed by an explanation of why it has meant so much to me in recent weeks:

On His Blindness

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

John Milton
 
As many of you know, our daughter-in-law, Rosemary, is facing a stand off with breast cancer.  The first post-op reports were encouraging, but complications have been discovered and both chemo and radiation will be needed.  For certain, 15 years ago (and perhaps as recently as 6!) I would have been on a Denver-bound plane—probably more than one time, to help Rosemary, our son, Karl, and their family during the difficult days ahead.  Sometimes physical issues ramp up so gradually, I had to mentally pinch myself to realize that NO—I probably should no longer travel “to help out”.  
 
I cannot “Hoover” (as they say in England) my own carpets, let alone someone else’s.  Fatigue often renders me useless for purposes other than reading, blogging, knitting, writing letters, or painting after 6:00 p. m.  My 82 year old husband and I are so attached to each other that leaving him alone (even in the company of a sweet Pembroke Welsh corgi) might break my heart (or his, or both)! 
 
We have an amazingly energetic daughter, Debbie, who loves to travel, loves her brother and his family (just as I do), and is incredibly deft at helping most anyone, anywhere!  Debbie has already been to Denver once since Rosemary’s surgery 2 weeks ago, and may quite possibly return!  Thus the re-reading (again and again) of On His Blindness ministered powerfully to my soul which had been considerably troubled by the realization that I’d no longer be flying to Denver, to help out. 
 
“They also serve who only stand and wait.”  And while I stand (sit or lie down) and wait, I pray!  I’m quite certain that Milton did that as well! 
 
Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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