Thankful and Grateful: A Gift I am Most Thankful to Receive

Today’s prompt is “What have you been given that you are grateful for?”

I sat down at my desk at lunch today and asked myself this. Am I grateful for shoes, clothes, or gifts?

Certainly I feel blessed when I receive such things, but as I age, gifts aren’t something people do anymore. Gifts for CDubs are what get us through the year, without Christmas he’d be less fashionable and without many outfit choices.

But the questions is what I am thankful for that *I* have received and I would have to say…

The answer is time.

I am truly blessed when the people in my life make time for me. Yes yes, famous people say things like, “They should make time for you,” and, “You shouldn’t have to beg them to call,” and all that. I am truly grateful that people call me. That when I call them, they choose to pick up and talk.

I am grateful they are honest when they aren’t free, and kind enough to get back to me. I know this world is filled with many obstacles.

I know why it’s like to be overworked, underpaid, overwhelmed, and exhausted. I don’t do the best of keeping up, but we all do our best to stay in touch with one another. I appreciate that.

I used to be…. very clingy. And I still can be, but I think that I have grown in the last couple of years.

I have had to be alone with myself, I have lost 3 friends that I’ve known longer than 13 years. I had to ask myself, “What happened?”

Some of the answer was I wasn’t giving them my time. I was very demanding of their time, but never giving with mine. Yeah there were more factors involved in the dissolving of those relationships, but time certainly was a factor.

As we grow and change, it’s important we learn. I’ve learned that calling me once a week is not necessary. That my stories do not need to be 75% of the conversation and I am learning to listen and appreciate the time my people are giving me.

So thank you all, for your time. I know it’s precious and finite. It is truly one of my biggest blessings and I am very grateful you have trusted me with it!

The Coat with the White Piping and the Returned Compass

Alicia was in middle school, shorter for her age with mousy brown hair, big blue eyes hidden behind thick lenses in ugly plastic brown glasses, cherry red lips with crooked teeth and freckles along her cheeks and nose. Her clothes sat large on her frame, baggy hand-me-downs from her brother and clothes from a neighbor 10 years out of style. She was big, a pale eyesore amongst the beautiful, colorful, tanned Abercrombie and Fitch replicas that she secretly admired. They always looked right, they always said the right things, and they could afford to be loved. How could they not be loved? Considering all she saw they gave to one another, and all they gave to her was hate.

They “picked” on her, the school counselor said, “such a shame too, since she was so bright.” Couldn’t get her to admit where the bruises came from so she was often sent back to class empty handed and easily targeted.

“Did you tell?”

“Bet she did.”

“She dresses like she found everything she owns in the garbage.”

“God, does she ever bathe? She smells like dog!”

It went on and on. Never mind she lived in a less than ideal situation (with her dad working most nights). Never mind she didn’t quite get enough to eat, slept in a room with no air conditioning or heat. Poor? What is that? Who cares, she doesn’t look/smell/act right.

It started innocently enough. One day Alicia didn’t bring her red coat to school. By the end of the day, in her last class, there was a red coat on the back of her chair. The bell rang, she scooped it up out of habit. At this point, it was an innocent accident.

She did not look at it or wear it on the bus ride home. She simply rushed to the bus shoving it into her bag as fast as she could. Couldn’t miss the bus, no one could pick her up. No one would be able to until late. The school was scary at night.

No thought of the coat or the backpack until after dinner, one plate each, scrape the crumbs in the trash and wash the dishes quietly, quickly, and get up the stairs to silence and homework. She grabbed her backpack and ran up.

Once in her room, she tossed her bag down and took out the coat, the books and homework that would soon become obsolete… and then she saw the white. Her red coat did NOT have white on it. White? Flipping the coat over she noticed the white piping and the logo of a designer brand. It was a very popular brand. Gosh, how soft it was! How could she have not noticed that! Of course it wasn’t hers!

What could she do?! Should she take it back to her class? Take it to the office? Take it to Lost and Found box by the gym? Put it in a bag and take it back…. or wear it.

She could wear it.

Maybe whoever that girl was would notice the coat and ask for it back. If she took it to the office, it would just end up in the Lost and Found. EVERYONE knew the items in that box ended up at the local Goodwill every two weeks (with a middle school of 1,500 kids you have to keep on top of that box). Eventually someone just like Alicia would end up with the jacket, so why not her?

If they wanted their jacket back, all they had to do was ask. If they never asked, she got to keep it. If her parents asked, which was doubtful, she would say the neighbor girl gave it to her. That was a common enough occurrence!

She went to school the next day and no one asked. No one wondered. She got picked on a little less and that coat became her second skin to block the bullies. She almost forgot the coat wasn’t hers. Almost.

This started a chain reaction in Alicia’s life, she started looking for items left behind. Pencils, pens, erasers, necklaces in the locker room, items in corner after sweeping and in the Lost and Found box at the end of the two week period, right before the clean out. She rationalized her acquisitions. She was praised by her peers for her sudden good fortune. The bullying lessened.

Until, one day, Alicia got the wrong item out of the box.

A gold necklace proclaiming she was “pretty” adorned her neck for a week and it was noticed. One of the most popular girls in year six, Brittany who was all blonde and blue eyed and Limited Too and Abercrombie adorned, realized she had left her necklace somewhere and obviously it COULDN’T be Alicia’s. Too expensive. So Alicia was cornered and Brittany and her triad of besties shoved Alicia back into a corner. Surrounded, they pushed her and kicked her all the while demanding the necklace back, telling her that someone like her didn’t deserve to wear such a necklace. Pretty and smell like dog, pfft, unlikely.

She was told it was stealing, pretending that something you found was yours. Only it was said with much more conviction and more references to eternal damnation and less about the difference between right and wrong. It was returned and the girls all parted ways.

This encounter jolted Alicia into admitting that perhaps she was in fact a thief. On the bus home, she asked her seatmate what she thought about finding things and keeping them. A similar response about how that was considered stealing was given.

Once home, Alicia looked at all of her treasures. They weren’t hers. They never were. She stared at them, some from many months ago, some from just the other day. She thought about how much better things were with them. Then she thought about the encounter.

The encounter instead of making her see reason, enraged her. Why not her? Why can’t she have nice things? These thoughts emboldened her even more. She began to look through unattended backpacks in unlocked classrooms. Sometimes she even took things out of people’s bags to only switch the pockets around, move a homework assignment to the wrong place and watch her bullies freak out when they couldn’t find homework or pencils to use that day. “Now they would know what it’s like to be without,” she thought.

This probably would have continued on and escalated to more serious events except, once again she picked the wrong target.

Abe was a young man with flaming orange hair, thick braces and yes, the head gear. Abe whose skin was whiter than milk and limbs just a little too long. He wore stripes and solids only, no graphics or designs on his tees. He was teased for his old fashioned clothes and the lettuce that inevitably ended up stuck somewhere on his gear, and always in a place he couldn’t see but everyone else could. One day just before lunch in their English class students went about unpacking their bags, and putting what they needed on their desk and stowing the rest of their things in a corner.

Abe had a very nice see through backpack that showcased the item of Alicia’s next acquisition. In the larger pocket sat a trapper keeper and inside that trapper keeper Abe kept a very cool compass. No really knew why Abe had it, and while he never really drew attention to it, EVERYONE knew he kept it in the zipper pocket.

Alicia bided her time and on that day she was able to come back to the room early from their mandatory outside time (a 25 minute period outside after lunch). Her English teacher asked her to go get a book off of his desk, which she was more than happy to do.

Running back into the classroom to get her teacher’s book, she quickly went to Abe’s backpack unzipped the bag, yanked out the trapper keeper, and fished out the compass. Replacing everything just as she found it, she ran outside with her teacher’s book and the compass firmly in her jean pocket.

Students returned to class at the end of their outside time and began the day’s lesson. Things were pretty normal until they entered into the individual practice portion in the assignment, it was then that Abe made the unfortunate discovery. He needed some paper from his trapper keeper, and noticed the zipper pocket was open just a little. Large round tears flowed out of his eyes and down his cheeks as he frantically looked in his trapper keeper, bag, and on his person. No compass.

Noting the distress, the teacher approached Abe and discovered the reason for the distress. Taking Abe outside for a private talk, the class erupted into murmurs, English work completely forgotten.

“His father gave him that,” said his best friend Troy, shaking his head. Standing up, he yelled at the class to be quiet. “Abe’s dad died of colon cancer and that was the last thing he ever got from him! Whoever took it, better give it back! You don’t know what it’s been like for him! He doesn’t deserve this!” Anger still shimmering in his eyes Troy sat down and furiously began his English class work again.

The teacher reentered the room and in that calm, deadly serious voice of his, addressed the class. “I do not know who took Abe’s compass but I want you to think. I want you to think about the pain your classmate is going through, losing such an important piece of his heart. I don’t care who did it, but at the end of the day, I will leave my classroom unlocked. I expect to find the compass in my top drawer before I go home. Many of you have to come back here for club activities, tutoring, or because you left something or need something. It doesn’t matter to me why you come back here today or who does as long as you end up doing the right thing. There is time to fix this mistake.” He said this meeting every student’s eyes with his own.

Alicia thought about her treasures at home. She tho got about the compass in her pocket. She had stolen. It didn’t matter if she had meant to steal something important. It didn’t matter that she felt vindicated by Brittany’s cruelty before the necklace or after. Stealing didn’t make everything right, it made everything wrong. So very wrong.

Shame welled deep in her stomach and surged to her throat. Having trouble breathing, she gulped and tried to not call attention to herself. Class ended and she left her notebook on her desk and rushed to her next class.

Throughout the day, many students returned to English. Some came in to search for the compass. Some came for club activities, and one small, shame-filled girl crept in and placed a well loved compass in her teacher’s desk drawer.

On the bus ride home talk circulated, who stole the compass? Was it in their English teacher’s desk? Would Abe get his compass back? Maybe the police would come to school tomorrow and fingerprint the room! Justice! Alicia shrank in her seat thinking of what could happen, what would happen tomorrow.

Getting off the bus, Alicia fished out her house key and slammed the door shut. She ran up the stairs and breathing hard Alicia stared at her closet, her dresser, and her jewelry box.

Like a small tornado she tore around her room finding every single thing she stole, and put it all in a big black trash bag. She knew she couldn’t just bring it all back and say, “sorry about the thieving.” No. She had to be done and sorry and do that… repenting. She had to promise she would never, ever steal again! If she bought it back, she would go to jail, be suspended or…. Abe would know it was her. Abe would know and no one would ever look at her the same again. She deserved that and yet, she couldn’t face that.

So it all went into that black plastic bag including the item that started it all; red coat with the white piping.

It was over. No more. She would never steal again. The day wore on and come English the teacher announced the thief had done the right thing, and redeemed themselves. “You are never completely lost,” he said, “there is always hope, and chance to make things right.” On that note, he went into his desk and pulled out the compass now attached to a metal chain through the compass’ keychain hole. He gave it to Abe, who immediately put it on and burst into grateful, relieved tears. So did most of the class, including Alicia who looked on Abe with the new knowledge that she could do better and that she would be better.

She continued to go through school seeing the things other people did not guard carefully, and to her it was a test. Every time a purse was left alone, a person left behind a pencil, she would tell the teacher whose pencil, purse, or book it was.

She became the most trustworthy and honest student of her year. It became a habit, one that followed her as she grew older and memories faded.

For out of all the things she learned in middle school there were just two things she kept in mind years later, the feelings of the compass and the consequences of the red coat with the white piping. She never stole again.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Drunkenly Acceptable

I‘ve been extremely retrospective lately. Kind of, “How did I get here,” look at past events.

I was, in my opinion, a pretty popular Senior in HS with the younger folks. Queen of the marching band. Not hard to be when you are 1 of 2 Seniors in the Band. I went off to college ready to grow and become someone special.

In college for the first two years I was pretty popular in my set, music majors. I’m not saying I was queen bee because I wasn’t, but I never wanted for alcohol or places and people to have fun. Whenever I want to do something, many people wanted to come too. It was a pretty amazing feeling for a late bloomer who only had younger friends. All age ranges wanted to hang out with me!

I wasn’t sleeping around or your typical party girl like your imagining. It wasn’t like that. The people I hung with wanted to talk mostly, walk around the city and discuss the inner workings of the world. Alcohol was a vehicle for me to relax, loosen up, be less anxious, be more vivacious and fun-loving.

I was drunk most nights. I remember most times and never experienced blackouts and people took care of me if I had too much but I never physically became ill. I was the life of the party and I thrived! It was great but the universe needed me to change. You can’t keep going like that without some sort of consequence.

I mean, yes a huge part of me changing was losing a good portion of my vision. No, it’s not related to that drinking. However getting sick and then losing your sight in places forever and realizing you may not finish your major because you can’t see to do it – changes a person. Yeah it wasn’t that bad, and yeah it’s barely a deal now but at 19 and 20… it’s like “Woah, slow your butt down!”

I realized drinking wasn’t helping me graduate. I decided I would rather spend time with Ry over many people. Which I suppose was another problem. I was that girl. The one that gets the guy and says, “Bye Y’all!” Some of it was people disliking him, sure but most tried to like him (makes him seem awful huh?!). Those three things my health, fear of not finishing school, and the new love I was experiencing, those things became the focus.

So naturally, it things changed. People stopped calling as I stopped drinking heavily. I stopped going out to bars and getting super drunk. I took a semester off to raise money for school and worked my butt off. I started to get into wine and some more interesting wine loving friends.

Now why this all matters is, lately I have been ruminating about how I ruined everything. Well maybe not ruined but how did I get here? I think alcohol presented a fictional view of who I was. I wasn’t always that person. I grew up and changed and became someone I think people maybe couldn’t relate to anymore. I became way more interested in saving my world instead of the world. In doing that, I really narrowed my view. I also had some people who cared no matter what but I narrowed my view so much I lost sight of a lot of them.

I was no longer drunkenly social. Which changed relationships and dynamics and just – everything.

I DO NOT judge anyone for leaving during my hard liquor days, or the wine days and Ry days. I was… different and I just wasn’t someone you needed for a life long friendship.

But I find, I don’t actually interact well without the liquor. Seriously. Maybe I’m just not fun. Maybe I’m not relatable. Maybe my anxiety and paranoia are too overwhelming when sober.

Maybe people don’t understand why I shouldn’t drink, I mean why not?

It’s been YEARS since I’ve been drunk and more than a year since my last drink (I am NOT saying I’m an alcoholic, I just drank socially, obviously). I worry about social interactions now, I worry I am too self-centered when I talk with friends, I’m afraid of offending people, I worry if past events will affect the current interactions or I have an overwhelming need to admit things or bring up stuff I shouldn’t. And that’s…

I  totally a freak of nature who cannot socialize like average human being. I just don’t know how to be entertaining without alcohol and a loud bar and all that.

recently, I went to a girl’s night with this mother and her daughters. The daughter’s ages were from mid twenties to 11. We watched Moana and did face masks, foot scrubs (to our selves), manis and pedis and ate pizza. It was ABSOLUTELY the most fun I have had since the last visit I had at M & D’s house. (Which is beautiful btw) when I related this story to someone else, they thought I was joking. Who does things like that over the age of 14?

At the end of the night the mom and girls all agreed they wanted to keep me and the night was a success. I had loads of fun too. Yeah Ry was all grumble mumble your son missed you, but he knew I needed it.

And I do. I need to practice socializing. It’s not like I was a vagabond on the brink of losing it all, it’s just I have been so narrowly focused on health, school (now as an educator), and family (then Ry now Ry and CDubs) that my ass looked up and every damn body is gone. Just as I was warned, come to think of it by M! (I just texted him he’s probably like wtf is this crazy person talking about?! Poor M, I can be so confusing.)

Oh yes, yes it is sad. And yes I am sure tomorrow I will be like man, why didn’t I listen to him?!  But think. What if I never realized? I just blamed everyone for everything and did not look at myself? Sure, sure some people left for reason less to do with me and more to do with life, let’s not overstate my importance in everyone’s life. There are totally people who haven’t given me one thought in the last 5 years. I don’t mean them, I mean all sorts of important relationships, or potential important relationships that I let go in favor of my own narrow view.

I’m sure opinions would vary on which ones and only God himself could say which ones I played a direct hand in. I’ll find out the specific details in the hereafter, possibly in surround sound?

Levity aside, I have to stress I do love my husband, my son is the most amazing little guy, and on a basic level I have a good job that fits me (everyone has parts of their job that they may not be good at or like as much as others, my disclaimer). I annoy hungry, I have little fun things in my life, and I look forward to things. I just look back now and say “wow…. ” and I’m lonely, it true but we can all honestly say adulthood changes the amount and frequency that we do interact with others.

I just think I can let go some of the bitterness I was holding onto. I can let go resentment. I can be wiser with the folks I have left and when I meet new folks try to be more involved at a level we can both enjoy. Lastly I can learn how to interact without booze. It’s important not only to my faith but my development as a person.

It’s just been a thought that’s been running around in my head lately. Luckily I am on vacation and these thoughts can run around and become fully developed instead of frustrating meanderings that end nowhere. Ah vacation has been good.

Thank you for reading. It’s a lot but I feel like writing this was needed. Self discovery is always good, in general.

Love & Hate #2

Oh you know you have things you just want to just release into the word! Anger, Joy, disappointment, Excitement…

It doesn’t have to be given a context if you don’t want to, it doesn’t need explanation but darn it, it’s fantastic to share!

So without further ado:

  1. I hate scraping by: just the fact that I do. Things are fine unless someone gets sick, then bam! Back in the poor house. “Change jobs, go back to school, move and start over.” Newsflash: All that costs money!
  2. I hate being talked down to: I don’t care if it’s meant or not, it aggravates the mess out of me. Especially if we are on the same level, pay grade, place in life, or supposed to be friends.
  3. I hate having guilt over taking care of me: Ispy, it’s $10 a month (€8.87,£6.91). I can get much needed pale people makeup supplies sent out to the Land-of-One-Wal-Mart-and-That’s-About-It. It’s cheaper than buying full price or full size, and I don’t even know what to buy half the time. Or if I’ll like it on! The fact I feel guilty about spending that little on me monthly aggravates me too.
  4. I hate whining: My students do it. It hits my ears and then crawls under my skin and I just want to…..!!!! And now my beloved CDubs has learned to yodel – whine, I swear, that’s what it sounds like. Only been two for 2 days. 
  5. I hate that his whining bothers me: I mean seriously, he’s a kid. He’s going to whine. It’s okay. I know that. I can’t believe I am bothered by it. Rise above man, he doesn’t know any better.
  6. I hate that chores NEVER end: like ever. Laundry forever. Dishes are seriously creating more dishes. I throw away my trash yet there are little papers EVERYWHERE. It’s an epidemic.
  7. Trump.
  8. I hate being told, “Family Comes First,” when the speaker doesn’t mean it: yeah, family come first until it’s my family. Then you feel I should ignore my family in favor of what you decide is right. Really?
  9. I hate when someone thanks you for all you do and then demands you do more for their benefit: Sure, I’m doing great but where do you expect me to get funding from to enhance this event? Myself!? Really? See #1!
  10. I hate that someone I love is very sick and I can’t do anything: It doesn’t matter that 6 months of treatment should bring them back to “normal.” It doesn’t matter that they are “young,” it does matter. It sucks. A lot. I can’t talk about it openly either. (I respect that choice however. It’s their life!)

To end in a good note (I like doing that):

  1. I love my Rhonna Designs App: It’s just fun.
  2. I love naps: I’ll take 10 for my birthday.
  3. I love that I have a newfound energy towards my faith: and I love that everyday I become more brave about it. Even if it leads me down the “misguided path,” at least I went there, and I tried, instead of wondering.
  4. I love that I have a good family: Ryan and CDubs are pretty awesome, kitties too.
  5. I love that I have a lot of choice in my life: I am very lucky that I have freedoms I am able to enjoy (it doesn’t matter if I’m North American, or not (Yes I think Canada is pretty awesome)), you can live in a “free” society and have your choices taken away in so many ways.
  6. I love that somethings in my life are pointing towards a clear choice: Sometimes I backpedal- can’t help it- but sometimes things just say, “This way out!” And you’re like, “yeah, I get it now!”
  7. I love that I can walk away for a bit, and come back to things and I’ve grown enough to not feel guilty about needing a break: I needed a break from FB, WP, and other things and I left and I used to feel so bad about it. “I’m leaving people out of the loop!” But I’ve realized people either don’t care and didn’t notice my absence, or they were warm wonderful people who understood the need for space. I’m better at discerning who’s who and realizing I don’t have to feel that way.
  8. I love that I am coming into my own. Took long e-freaking -nough! 
  9. I love that less can give you more: no money sucks but we spend more time together, I don’t have enough supplies for students but somehow I can make it work or be creative and invent a new way, Less time focuses you towards what’s important, less can be more.
  10.  I love that it’s the first day of spring: and I can pretend that means NC will be normal and balmy…. Yeah, right!

Lol, such silliness. CDubs has been sleeping for 45 minutes… Nap, or clean? Hmmmmmm…

I hope to talk with you all soon, what do you love or hate right now?

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A Clean Heart

I can’t say my heart is black, but I can say it’s Lilly  white either.

I fixate and allow things that don’t matter to take over my thoughts. Then I become bitter and jealous and frankly, ridiculous.

I went on my husband’s Facebook for the first time in months and within 10 minutes I was stewing over inconsequential crap.


I was sitting there stewing over people’s good fortune, over people’s opinions I disagreed with, with my own inadequacy.

As a friend once said, “People only show the best of themselves on social media.”

As a blogger I admire once said about my blog, (paraphrasing here, can’t find the comment) I enjoy your blog because you are truthful and you don’t hide anything, no matter how it looks or the subject matter, you freely tell it like it is. (Something to that effect.)

It’s true, I used to cover up the truth, my feelings, loads of things. It’s what I was taught. I decided to be a more open person once I reached college.

I have discovered in my journey to tell the truth about myself, I have a great many ugly, dirty bits. I do.

So how does one clean one’s heart?

I think a person must evaluate what they believe a truly good heart, a clean or clear heart is.

I bet it’s different for everyone.

Then think about those flaws, those dirty pieces of yourself you lock away:








All the unstable things we cast away into the core of ourselves, because who truly takes the time to go that deep? No many anymore.

We scream “Love me! But don’t look! Accept me but I don’t want to see it. Let’s pretend it’s not there.”

But it’s there, in your heart.


It just needs love.

Arrogance to acceptance of virtues and flaws.

Greed to contentment of what one has or does.

Want to fulfillment when you realize there is more to life than the material, physical, social.

Fear to strength because love fortifies and protects.

Bitterness to objectivity to clear mindedness, what others have is not for us to covet or lust for, we all have wonders in our own lives.

Sadness to happiness knowing you truly are not alone there are people near or far that love you too. You yourself are so worthwhile because you are here living. You are somebody’s joy. You have brought and will bring happiness.

Loneliness to connected sharing friends who may just be waiting for you to emerge from these dark places back into the wold.

A clean heart performs its primary function, to sustain your life. It must be hard to beat for years, never stopping until it wears itself out. Always pumping, providing giving.

A clean heat emotionally loves and loses, but it lets the rough things go, grudges, fixations, obsessions, hatred, jealousy, bitterness…..

Hearts are not meant to harbor those things. It clogs and gums up the works.

I hope dearly one day my heart is clean. I pray it is so. We shall see. Living Tiny, heart edition (lol!).

Thank You So Much!

I celebrate my blogging milestones because blogging has become so much to me. I don’t foresee 1,000,000,000 of subscribers in my future and if I actually hit 100 subscribers in the next month, I may become light headed with joy. I just enjoy creating and releasing what I create into the world! Thank you all so much for reading, for liking, for commenting, for subscribing, and for caring! I appreciate the time you take out if your afternoon to listen to my sundries!!

Thank you a thousand times thank you!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

How have you grown lately? What has caused this new growth? What have you learned?

What bitter thing has happened to you that has helped you grow?

I think, as I lay on the couch hearing CDubs shaking his fist in the direction of bed times and scheduling, that difficult periods teach you more than happy periods. Happy periods certainly make you grateful for your good fortune, and you bask in its warmth. Why shouldn’t you? But when you bask and lay-a-bout, you don’t exactly try to improve anything, do you?

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It’s the times of bitter adversity that make us learn, and change, test out, invest in those golden days of the future.

We need those bad days, as much as I hate, hate, haateee to say it… We do.

The bad days make you question, reaffirm or decide to take a new path. We wouldn’t do that if we were happy all the time; we wouldn’t change.

As much as I hate small bitter aspects of my existence, I’m in my growth right  now becoming something all together wonderful, and so are you.

So get out your pruning shears and get ready, we’ve got some growing to do and some choices to make!