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welingerinwinterscarf

Scarf designed by Christiana Lambert for Knotty Tie, Co. in 2016 (sewn by an employee who is a resettling refugee).

I have all the words—and they’re just running rampant in my head and not getting out into the world. I have so many words that—forgive me—I’m not going to find it possible to “mind the metaphor,” as my friend used to caution.

I returned to work just under a year ago (anniversary date=02.01) and have yet to find my way back to my writing routine. But what a year this past year has been—exactly not the year for me to go silent. Heck, what a week it has been.

How many of us have been rendered almost speechless daily by the changes wrought on our nation? You’re just trying to do your part by performing the work you are paid to do and then you come home to discover yet another congressional action or executive order has happened—and you are stunned. Stunned that what it meant to be the United States of America can change so radically in such little time.

As I sat in church this morning, I listened to lessons from the lectionary (a three-year cycle of prescribed bible verses that many churches follow) that seemed hand-picked for just the times in which we are living. Coincidence? Not likely. Micah 6:8’s exhortation to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” and Matthew’s beatitudes (the “blessed ares” that turn the power of this world on its head) as well as 1st Corinthians’ talk of the seeming “foolishness” of following Christ’s ways are words I needed to hear to remember that God is in charge—even if His not-so-subtle message is that we’re going to have to walk our walk for Him in the days and months ahead.

I have one writing prompt this week and it’s to write a prayer to pray at choir this coming Wednesday. What follows is my brainstorming for my assignment. I originally chose that date because Wednesday is almost Candlemas, which is celebrated on February 2. Traditionally in the church, February 2 is the day that commemorates the presentation of the infant Christ in the temple, as the date follows 40 days after His birth. Candlemas also was when families would bring in their candles to have them blessed for the year ahead. We here in America celebrate Groundhog Day on that day as we look for a furry critter to predict whether spring will arrive early or come as planned. From a strictly chronological viewpoint, February 2 is halfway through the winter—a time when we either start to wonder if spring will ever come or when the slightly longer days remind us that spring’s arrival is getting closer.

This year it seems we are stuck in the darkness of this particular winter of our discontent. We can hardly look ahead to spring. We are a nation in discord with members of our own families, with neighbors, and with other people of faith—as well as with our traditional enemies (both personal and national). Well, that groundhog has already seen the shadow—and it is the shadow that holds our prejudices and fears as well as our turning away from the pain and suffering of others.

But Candlemas is all about blessing the candles—which were the only source of light for homes in the days before other light sources were invented. Those simple sources of light were all people had to brighten the remainder of the year. In other words, the Presentation of the Lord is the ceremony that reminds us that He is the Light of the World. And that we who follow Him are called to be that light not just in our own homes, but also in our home that is this earth.

I don’t have a clue as to how we’re going to fix this mess our country is in, but I know God does. He knows how He’s going to mend the fractures amongst people who follow Him as well as with those who profess another faith and those who profess no faith. And I think it’s going to look an awful lot like people walking their faiths in order to bring about light.

In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “We loiter in winter while it is already spring.” No matter what the calendar says, we have all the light we need to fight this darkness and bring on a period of growth. I’ll just continue my quote-fest here by adding the motto of my alma mater (Wittenberg University): Having light we pass it on to others.

Having light (that means we already have it!), WE pass it on to others.

I can’t tell you why but during one of the darkest national times in my experience during one of the traditionally darkest months of the year, this typically stoic Lutheran kept wanting to throw her hand up in the air while singing about the beatitudes in the hymn “Blest Are They” (by David Haas and Michael Joncas). (Might it be God, perhaps?)

Providing blessings and bringing light into this current world is going to look a whole lot like walking—walking among those who are poor in spirit—for theirs is the kingdom of God.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Hello—long time no write. Oh, I have some good excuses—paid work, volunteer work, cleaning for family, and being with family, etc.—but the truth is more along the lines that I don’t want to be just one more angry voice in this year of discord. So often I have reacted to what I’ve heard and read this year with anger. Lucky you—I’ve pretty much saved those frequent rants for family and friends.

I am still waiting for a Rodney King moment this year—not the “beat on Rodney” moment, but the “Can’t we all get along?” Rodney moment. Seems that if that’s what I’m waiting for I’m just not going to write in 2015, you know what I mean?

But we’ve reached one of my favorite times of the year: Advent. I’m not talking about the Decembers of “spend, spend, spend” or too many great Christmas carols turned into “are you serious?” pop versions or calendars full of “must-dos” and little empty space. I’m talking about waiting in the darkness for a light that comes to save us from ourselves and our petty human ways. I’m talking about how a little child shall lead us. I’m talking about God Immanuel.

And, boy, don’t we need a God with us these days? Not the God referenced in all the various and opposing opinions expressed in the public arena, but a God who sent his son to change us from our petty humanness. A God who asks the lion to lie down with the lamb. A God of peace. Peace on this earth? Can you imagine?

Last night in choir practice, our group of very human singers was struggling mightily with a piece called “Magnificat” by Halsey Stevens. Stevens’ “Magnificat” is an arrangement with many changing time meters and notes of discord between parts that mar any perception of harmony—except in the resolution of the final notes at the end of the piece. I get what the metaphor expresses—about just how jarring was the angel’s revelation to Mary that she would bear a child—a child not conceived in the usual way and a child of God in a human form in a way that had never happened before. But that is not the Mary of Luke’s Magnificat passages.

Oh, she was greatly troubled at the angel’s initial greeting: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28, NIV) Yet after she asked questions and received his answers, she was all in. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38, NIV)

Next Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth. Before Mary can say anything to Elizabeth, the Holy Spirit fills Elizabeth and Elizabeth knows that Mary is indeed blessed to be the mother of God’s child. Other than asking why she would be so favored, Mary does nothing but accept what she is called to do.

However, she not only accepts, but she also sings that her soul glorifies the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God. There is so little discord in her song.

The Mary of this story glows—she is all light.

Thirty years ago I saw such a Mary in an obscure play (The Christmas Miracles) at the local performance venue. The pre-fame Annette Bening became this acceptance and joy in a manner that sticks with me always, especially when I hear the words of Mary’s song.

May it be so with me—that I not dissolve into discord and misgivings no matter how dark the times. That I not let the darkness swallow me and keep me from bringing forth the kind of light—pale though it may be to the Light of Mary’s story—that I myself am called to share.

In these dark times we need to be lights in a world that would rather stay in darkness. We need a little Magnificat right now, right this very minute . . . we need a little Magnificat right now.

"Udder" nonsense

“Udder” nonsense

So much for a theme for Blogging A to Z—I had no idea how difficult I would find it to talk about beliefs for a month. Beliefs are just so serious—ugh! And I am not that serious all the time. About half the time I am a goofball who doesn’t want to think deeply.

Right about now I am craving the chance to utter thoughts about utter nonsense. [Instructions: use utter as a verb (infinitive form) and as an adjective in the same sentence. In other words, use the word in more than one way and play with it—that’s more like me.]

Even I’m bored with my utterances. Really. I am, however, amused by a question listed on Dictionary.com: “how to soften a cows utter.” First of all, that’s not a question! Second of all, use the possessive—and, third of all, that’s udder, not utter—unless you’re trying to lower the volume from cows that are mooing and bawling and such. While my writing on udders might allow for a whole lot more humor, I regret to inform you that I have always been a town girl and (actively) try to know as little about udders as I can. I’m still traumatized by the time a classmate’s mother tried to serve me fresh-from-the-cow milk with my cereal.

I will leave you with one more reference from the Dictionary.com listing for utter—well, with a slight change—and be done with my formal utterance for this day.

(Trina) uttered a shriek.

The End—and that’s (almost) the truth. [P.S. If you get the Edith Ann reference (Lily Tomlin character), then you are old. Plus, you also need to know that I stink at making raspberries and will not be uttering one with this post. Feel free to utter your own, if you so desire.]

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

The past two Aprils I participated in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge—well, April starts tomorrow, so it’s time again to challenge myself to writing an almost-daily blog post.

Believe it or not, I even started thinking about my April blogging before April. As much as I think past experiences with this blogging challenge have been good training by forcing me to meet a prompt-based deadline, I also think I have a lot to learn about planning ahead. Yes, gasp, I decided this would be the year for a theme, although I do wonder if it will be a bit too ambitious—or at least difficult to keep myself to writing short posts.

My first-time-ever-theme is based on NPR’s “This I Believe” series. By this age in life I either believe certain things strongly or don’t believe them at all. Opinions? Yes, I have opinions. The trick might be choosing just one for a specific day, especially with letters such a “C” or other letters full of great options.

Now, the question is, will my humor still creep into my belief statements or will I be “playing it straight” in the coming month? Even I can’t predict that one! Until tomorrow . . .

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Happy 2013 A to Z Blogging Challenge—after a very slow blogging start this year, I am back! Alleluia!

Well, if you’re Christian on Easter, the word for the day (Easter) is definitely supposed to be alleluia. At our church we formally say goodbye to alleluia at the beginning of Lent some six weeks earlier, so we tend to spend our Easter services singing the word as many times as possible. After all, Christ is risen. (Response: He is risen indeed. Alleluia!)

Still, yesterday I didn’t really wake up feeling all that into the whole alleluia of Easter. Not sure why—some years I “get” Easter so much more than other years. Maybe in the hard years of deaths of loved ones, it’s easy to want to believe that story matters—it has to, right? But in other years, maybe what’s hard isn’t someone you’re missing, but the ever present difficulties of the here and now. As much as I understand that Easter isn’t supposed to be about me—it’s about Jesus, OK?—sometimes this very flawed human feels more than a little beat down.

So I dropped into the bright coral/orange dress that I wore for my mother’s memorial service and tried to put on a good show that I was in an Easter mood. Then once I got to church, I covered that cheerful-colored dress with my white choir robe, joining in with my fellow church choir members to help celebrate the resurrection.

There is something to be said for how music can reach us when all the usual words don’t or the date on the calendar can’t.

The church choir is one part of the joyous cacophony that is Easter morning. Not only do we get to hear the brass, the organ pipes, and the congregation singing just as everyone else does, but we also get to be messengers of alleluia through the words and notes we share. Just add a conga drum to the spirited repetition of alleluia and somehow my inner grumpiness cannot compete with joy.

Music can sneak in the Message, even when my ears don’t seem so open to the spoken Word. That is a miracle in itself—alleluia, indeed!

I am a woman who dances to live.
I wonder when my body will heal enough to jump back onto the stage.
I hear pulsating Latin rhythms.
I see women of all ages dancing with me.
I want to teach joy.
I am a woman who dances to live.

I pretend I am a sultry Salsa dancer.
I feel as if my feet have no choice but to dance.
I touch my toes to the floor in time to each beat.
I worry too much that my dancing days have been hobbled.
I cry when pain limits my steps.
I am a woman who dances to live.

I understand I grow stronger each day.
I say this year of injury has almost passed.
I dream of dancing through my last days.
I try to swing back into health through work and desire.
I hope this dancing intermission has ended and my beat will go on and on and on.
I am a woman who dances to live.

Note: Today’s post=an “I Am” poem.

Olé!

(c) Christiana Lambert 2009

I am still here and craving getting back to the keyboard. So often I’m reminded of the conundrum I couldn’t figure out how to get around in my creative writing class back in a decade long, long ago (here’s a hint: there was lots of big hair and shoulder pads, but first came the understated preppy styles.) Kent, as we called the professor, was always telling us we had to get out to live life to write about it. I was always wondering how I would have time to write if kept myself so busy.

Still don’t have the answer for that, which explains a lot of my recent silence. The lack of words is not at all surprising when I look back at the last few weeks—in fact, when any of us in our personal family explains the past week alone, we mostly receive stunned silence from others.

You see, the kids came home for Spring Break—which makes life busier anyway—but there wasn’t a lot of time for goofing around. In our lighter moments we call last week “Spring Break 2011: The Funeral Tour.”

We planned Mom’s North Platte, Nebraska service for Spring Break because the kids’ college is so far away from both here and there, but we didn’t plan for the other events that transpired. When we set up the time back in January, Christiana wasn’t 100% convinced we should wait. Her argument? Death isn’t supposed to be convenient.

That statement came back to haunt us since even when death is conveniently timed it is always inconvenient—which is a major understatement, by the way. Disruptive, earth-shattering, heart-breaking are a few more words and expressions that apply.

Each of the events that transpired deserves its own reflection, but first I must summarize, if only to break out of my own stunned silence.

Fordham, our dog who had cancer, was getting harder to move around, but with nice weather the first week in March, we were able to take him out in the morning and let him move himself all day. It was amazing how a dog so crippled by a leg three times its normal size could visit all the sides of the yard during the day in search of new sleeping positions. Then we would bring him inside as it got dark and he would ask for a little help to follow us around and finally he would ask to go to bed—where he would still harass our little dachshund by moving onto him and his tiny bed.

By the time the kids came home, though, he had his first really bad night, when we had to be outside in our pajamas straining to get him back in. That Saturday we all knew we couldn’t wait, but we gave him another night—which was thankfully peaceful. Two days in a row he got his ride in the Radio Flyer around the block—and then into his final moments where his unexplained exuberance left the staff in tears.

We couldn’t distract ourselves enough—we got out of town and went skiing for two days to pretend this was a normal spring break. We had a lovely time except for when we remembered—but it had been time to let him go. (Still working on that . . .)

Next came packing—we weren’t on our way to Mom’s memorial service only but also to Uncle Carrell’s funeral. (If you knew Carrell, you know it’s really possible that he wanted his service to be convenient to my mother’s service—he was our family planner.)

But first stop: Ash Wednesday service. And that’s when I really realized my mother and Fordham were ashes—and Carrell, too, in his own way. Like I needed the smudge on my forehead to remind me. But I did need the pastors’ words to remind me that it is the way of the living to end—and it’s never going to be convenient—except for the resurrection factor.

In many ways, having the two services on back-to-back days was a blessing. Our extended families came together to sing individually and corporately. Bill, our family’s ordained minister, personalized the words of comfort in a way only someone who has known the people since birth can do. We were conveniently together to support one another—at very inconvenient times.

So here I sit at my keyboard, many of the hard tasks behind me, ready to write my way into whatever comes next. I know my grief will return to me in waves, likely in inconvenient times, but I will just keep writing my way through it.

That’s pretty convenient in its own way, if you think about it.

Animas River, Durango, CO

I’m the kind of person who makes her therapist cry. Not really, but I think I’m driving her nuts—which seems a little backwards, doesn’t it?

I started seeing her because part of her expertise is in helping adults who have ADD and I wanted to figure out how to live better with my ADD. Mind you, I didn’t go in to deal with my emotions about ADD, but to learn how to handle my everyday life in ways that my emotions wouldn’t be so much of an issue.

Maybe I should have told her that upfront!

The bigger part of our work together has been helping me figure out how to handle everyone else in my life who has ADD tendencies and who needs my help without all those needs driving me crazy. Sure, this may just be denial on my part, but that’s what I think we’ve been working on.

Anyway, as I am facing Mom’s final illness, my therapist worries she’s not doing enough for me psychologically. The practical person in me is thinking how much can she do? I’m going to have to let go of my mother and deal with how hard it is to do so. She can’t change that.

See the funny thing about me is that I don’t go to a therapist to mourn my losses or grieve through my problems. I go to figure out what I can do about what I can control. And maybe, just a little bit, to understand how my emotions might get in the way of doing those things that I know would help me—if I could only get myself to do them.

In fact, I finally realized my therapist is worried that I am not facing my emotions because I am mostly level-headed in her office. And, without realizing just how crazy this sounds, I thought, “Well, if she’s not sure I’m facing my emotions, why doesn’t she just read my blogs?”

How’s that for not quite getting the therapist/patient dialogue? I want her to “read” how I feel?

Ah, but writing has been my therapist for much longer than she has. I only went to her after I realized that talking to myself, through writing, wasn’t going to be quite enough. Even if personal writing had gotten me through many dark nights of the soul, maybe it wasn’t going to be enough to move me forward.

But in combination with therapy, I’d say writing’s healing power is why I don’t need even more help. Really. It’s been twelve years since I finally committed to personal journaling after I began working through Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way program. That writing habit, combined with prayer, regular exercise, good company, and a commitment to doing other creative activities, got me through for many years.

Still, I came to realize that ADD was managing me. And that’s when I started treatment for the ADD. Good thing that I did since the lives of many I love blew off course soon after.

I promise I do cry and I do lose control of these emotions that can seem so measured to others. I do get down on my knees and wail over my losses—just not in a therapist’s office. Ask my dogs if you don’t believe me.

This post marks a milestone: my 200th post since I began this public blog of my personal writings. Blogging has been one of the best things—psychologically and otherwise—I’ve done for myself throughout the difficult odyssey that has been the last two years of my life.

Now, would it be considered denial just to print out these words and hand them to my therapist?

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert

My writing has slowed to a trickle. So what am I doing instead of writing? All the “crap” necessary to deal with everyone’s medical appointments and payments, as well as other administrative work. Conventional wisdom for getting through tough times is that you have to do things to feed your soul—yet my writing has slowed to almost less than a crawl.

Why? It’s not really because I have all those things to do that I’ve had to do for about two and a half years now. In fact, there have been times when I have written quite a bit during this time. The problem is I have gotten buried under the physical papers associated with the tasks. (Yes, I just had a picture in my mind of my hand reaching out from under all those papers!) Anyone who knows me knows that putting papers away is not what I’m good at—still, the systems I had in place were reasonably sufficient before I inherited all my mom’s papers and acquired those related to some major health care problems—and before our kids’ college paperwork started arriving.

In fact, I have plans to hire an ADD-friendly organizer to help me with knowing what to throw away and how to handle the flow, but there’s not enough money in the world—or at least in our bank accounts—to be able to pay someone to deal with the papers in the current condition!

I can’t stop the volume from coming in, but for over a year now I have realized that part of the problem was that I had outgrown the storage spaces I had created. While I might not know where to file papers that require decisions, I’m usually pretty good at filing when there is a place for something. Long ago I reached the point where I’ve have to cram papers into the existing files to file—so I just don’t do the filing. I also pull out a whole folder and then don’t put it back.

After getting through the kids’ graduation and birthdays, plus a reunion, this is the first time in awhile that I’ve had any open time. While reorganizing after the downstairs remodeling, Sherman realized the three drawer file cabinet there was just in the way—and full of archival things that could easily go in a banker’s box in the garage. And after measuring, he discovered the file could fit right next to my current four drawer cabinet in the narrow 40s closet that is only useful for storing things lengthwise.

The only problem? Said old file cabinet was ugly, utilitarian office green. Those of us who don’t like to file know that aesthetics matter if we’re going to con ourselves into work we’d like to avoid! I’d already spiffed up the other banged-up file cabinet to match my office space with coordinating paints and a faux finish to hide the flaws. While I like such projects, I drag my heels getting started. That’s why I enlisted Sherman to pledge to help me over 4th of July weekend, so I (and we, really) could move on from the paper chase (my moving various papers around to find other papers!)

We did it! Unfortunately, a few of the coordinating paints had dried up, but that made it easy for me to decide how to paint—and at the same time remove a few useless paint cans from our house.

Since we moved the cabinet in last Tuesday, I’ve made great strides. I also decided I would just go with my ADD tendencies and not insist on having a great system for doing the task. Hyperfocus and filing any paper I found at hand got me through a full day and evening on Wednesday. I alternatively shredded, added scrap paper to my printer, and added papers to the recycling bin all day. To the outside eye, my office might not look much neater, but I know that several papers are now in files, right where they belong.

As I explained to my therapist, I really am not stopping doing enjoyable things just to file! (“Do your work or you can’t play!”) In fact, I enjoyed a planned visit with Mary, a longtime friend from my semester in Spain—and it was very relaxing, although I had threatened her that I might be tempted to use her mad librarian organizational skills while we socialized. Yes, I resisted the temptation . . . .and had a terrific time talking with her about those life twists we never imagined when we were twenty and doing things such as sleeping in a hostel for $5 a night (yuck!) and getting cursed at by gypsies for giving kids cookies instead of pesetas.

The other thing I figured out about my filing project is that it is really distracting for anything I want to do on the computer, but (slaps self on the forehead) even if I prefer the larger screen and docking station in my office, I have a laptop! Since I cleaned up the dining room table for Mary’s visit, I can use it for work and play, as long as I put away everything I bring out to go with the computer.

So here I sit, giving myself permission to write after a weekend of more filing and information gathering for the latest bout with the insurance company. Oh, it’s true I have piles and files to go before I sleep, but I also have seen the future and it looks like it just might have more room to breathe (and sit and walk and . . . create!)

That’s right, today, October 20, is National Day on Writing, a day established by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) “(t)o draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing we (Americans) engage in and help make writers from all walks of life aware of their craft . . . .”

Perhaps you forgot to wrap up gifts of pens or journals for all your friends? Didn’t get around to buying that new laptop to celebrate National Day on Writing? Don’t worry—as part of the day’s celebrations, today the NCTE unveiled The National Gallery of Writing to the public.

What is The National Gallery of Writing and why should you care? You supply the why, but here’s the what, according to words from the website:

The National Gallery of Writing is a virtual space—a website—where people who perhaps have never thought of themselves as writers—mothers, bus drivers, fathers, veterans, nurses, firefighters, sanitation workers, stockbrokers—select and post writing that is important to them. The Gallery accommodates any composition format—from word processing to photography, audio/video recording to text messages—and all types of writing—from letters to lists, memoirs to memos.

The ways we share our words continue to evolve through time, but the need for effective communication will never go away.

I write for a living, but hardly notice how often I use my writing for daily life. It’s easy to think only my formal writing counts, sort of like the way I count the miles I run but forget all the miles included in warm-ups and cool-downs, walking to and from the car, around the house, etc. All the informal work is part of honing my abilities.

I’m sure my writing skills improved a lot from doing Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way program and finally being able to stick with a journaling habit. Julia’s admonition to write as a matter of clearing your brain for further creative projects gets you in the habit, whether or not you choose to express your creativity in writing. As much as she said not to worry about what or how I was writing, I have gotten quite a few really good works—some that have been published with minimal edits—from that writing process.

Another benefit of regular journal writing is the ability to have a record of my life in all the ups and downs and in-betweens. Previously I tended to journal only when I was upset. Anyone reviewing those journals would think I led a very unhappy life!

As old school as I am, I am much less revealing in my “public” private writings, such as my blog or the essays I do publish. I don’t use my blog as a way to “out” businesses—I think organizations deserve the respect of a personal complaint before I blab to millions of my “closest” friends. I know, thanks to the digital age, we live in a time of TMI—too much information—but having multiple forums does get people to reach out to others! It’s too soon to tell yet if the lack of concern for personal privacy or treating others with respect will remain at the current level, or if, as we get more used to this type of writing lifestyle, some of the rough edges will smooth out.

If nothing else, all the digital options get people to write who might not have done so otherwise. Christiana’s typing (keyboarding?) skills improved rapidly as she began to do more online social networking. And, as much as people lament the denigration of the written language through chatting and texting, I haven’t seen a lot of that from the young people I know—sure I can’t keep up with the speed of their texts, but I don’t have to know a code to read them. The Word feature for texting actually improves my daughter’s not so natural spelling instincts.

As for myself, I think sometimes it takes me longer to write an objective e-mail than to write a personal essay. Almost always, I write as a professional writer and do not hit “send” until I have proofed the message several times, both for grammatical and/or spelling errors, as well as content errors. I try hard to keep any of my bylines from being besmirched by errors, although sometimes I still miss a few.

However, I’ve learned the hard way that in this age, if you do slip and send out an e-mail in the heat of the moment, it may get passed on before you’ve had time to compose the more measured message you intended to send, kind of like when your note gets intercepted in algebra class. Digital writing can develop a life of its own!

So today, reach out to someone with your writing. Feel free to text or e-mail, but please—talk to me in person if we’re together! Even writers like to talk, something that’s incredibly obvious when you get us out from behind our computer screens and into a room together. On second thought, maybe you will have to text me if you want me to “hear” you at our writing gatherings!

May you write often and prosper!

(c) 2009, CBL

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert

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Blogging AtoZ Challenge 2012

(c) 2009, Christiana Lambert