Not just ours…

We watched it.

Mesmerized by it’s glow. It’s charm.

Its seemingly languid way.

Of slipping away.

Until it was gone.

Kind of like it was teasing us with a childlike chant…

“now you see me, now you don’t”

The afterglow was proof enough that truly we hadn’t just imagined it.

It really had been there.

But.

If we had blinked, we would have missed it.

We watched it slip behind the horizon, slip off the edge of our today.

A new thought washed over me.

We think of the setting sun as ours, the closing of but just one of our many days.

I, for the first time, realized…

that final slip, that closing…

…is not just ours.

It is now the beginning of something altogether new.

For someone else.

It is not just ours

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Those Rocks. That Tree.

As time passes, and life happens to and around us,  we are not necessarily the same people year after year.

And, it seems, to me, that we shouldn’t be.  Without compromising who we are at the core; we learn and grow. As a rock erodes into a pebble and eventually into sand over time, we have the potential to change in seemingly invisible ways every day. Our minds can change. Lord knows our bodies change. Relationships come and go and add rich layers of memory and story and sometimes hurts and forgiveness.

Our kids, the people we are raising, leave us changed daily.  Responding to the struggle(s) of the day, whether it’s the 7th grade math, freshman year jitters, college goodbyes, first heart breaks, puberty, or the teething and diapers – it all becomes part of our core. Like cooking from a recipe made so many times we feel it more than we can explain it. It just is. We just are.

My son is on the early cusp of puberty, my father has dementia. I am still a mother and a daughter but what that means and requires of me is changing as they change. Some days it looks no different than the day before, and then suddenly it’s obvious we are all different.

That said, among all that we juggle – the balls we manage to catch, and the ones we simply know are hovering in the balance, seemingly invisible but so very present – comfort can be found when we return to a place that does not change. A place that is somehow a constant for us, a landmark in both the metaphorical and concrete kind of ways.  A place that somehow soothes our soul, beckons us to memories that we can smell and feel from visits gone by, but it’s as if it were yesterday each time we return.

When you recognize a tree in the forest like an old friend, and know the one rock on which to sit by the lake.  They are unchanged and exactly where you saw them last.

That.

A place where the soul settles and rests.

And exhales.

We should all have that kind of place.

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.  – John Ruskin

A place where we are sure of who we are, excited about possibilities we perhaps can’t even fathom (but like those balls hovering in the balance, we know they are there…) and revel in all that has been.  From good to difficult and everything that lies between. A place where –  no matter the season,  no matter the weather  – gives us just exactly the moments we need. No matter in what direction the winds may blow, to have and find comfort in a place that we are so very lucky to know.

And I’ve been lucky enough to learn that when someone you adore adores the same place as you – well, that’s one sweet exhale.

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Ps…thanks to Lori for the Ruskin quote!
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Ready or Not.

Ready or not, here it is. A new year, a new cycle, a refresher course in day-to-day life. It’s been my annual practice to reject the making of a new  year’s resolution and instead embrace the choosing (or, as I maintain, being chosen by) a word that embodies what I need, where I need to be, and in what direction I must head towards.  A mini mission statement of sorts.  I learned it as ‘choosing an intention, or choosing your own personal theme to guide your year.

Over the last few years with this as my practice, I have seen over and over that this is the right choice for me. I am solid in my belief that new year’s resolutions are anything but resolute, they allow too much opportunity for failure. They are too specific. Too rigid. For me.

Choosing a word, or letting the word emerge has been transformational for me in the last few years.  I started with the word Nudge, it was perfect and over the course of that year I let the subtle nature of life’s little whispers be my guide and in the end, beautiful change occurred.

“I desired to move in a new direction and knew that I needed, well, a few nudges to get there. I wanted to be pushed. But gently.”

From there, Nudge made a new friend and we added Give.  The year of Give was full of surprises, the biggest being that in my need to make room for this, I found that in the end I received so much – and learned about the very act of receiving. It is an act. And one that requires a conscious decision most of the time and not always easy or comfortable.

“As I glance back over my shoulder at this last year; I realize something important was quietly occurring all along.  I see that in giving we also receive, and that I had some big lessons to learn about this.”

From there, Nudge and Give welcomed Intentional and together we formed a small gang.  It was what I needed, truly on levels I really could not have ever anticipated.

I realize as 2016 begins that in all technicalities, I skipped a year. Trust me when I say that was not Intentional. Or was it?  I had no word chosen for 2015 and there were no knocks at my door, so to speak.  When I thought about it, it became clear that Intentional was not done with me yet. Not ready to open the door to someone new.  It chose me again, so quietly and deftly. So we kept at it and in the mind’s rear view mirror where objects are never as close as they appear, I see how being intentional has yielded unexpected, but necessary, important and right, results. So for the combined course of Intentional 1.0 and then 2.0…

I look back and see an intentional spirit around co-parenting so my son is secure, even when it’s most uncomfortable for me.

I see intentional actions with my finances and getting things in order. The question marks are slowly being replaced with dollar signs.

I was super intentional in the midst of of a contentious process called mediation. I may have less enamel on my teeth from gritting them, but I chose intentionality at each turn to save my own soul. At least my sense of self. At the end of the day, we may no longer have to live with that person, but we will always have to live with ourselves. I wanted that to keep going well!

I see a list a mile long of tedious tasks that need to be tackled. And they were. Now if I can just muster the fortitude to finally paint the bathroom?

I set my mind to making peace with and letting go of choices made in ‘yesteryears’, so that the noise of then would not drown out what I need to be paying attention to – and enjoying – in these days.

I see the intention of planning a trip to DC + DE + VA  for my son and I, something I’ve wanted to do with him for a few years. I made it happen for us and it was monumentally successful and fun. And memorable.

I got intentional at work and it was noticed.  Changes started happening. Opportunities appeared. New ideas began to spring up and I was intentional about what I created from those ideas. And on the opposing side, when the unpleasant occurred, I chose to be intentional with my rebuttals, and choosing which battles to fight. Sometimes, being intentional means being quiet: watch, look and listen. I did a lot of that too.

I became intentional on where I stand, or sit, or kneel – or rather, where I clearly don’t and cannot – on faith and religion.

I was intentional about the holidays and this may seem trivial in light of all else, but last year I was Scrooge, Bah Humbug and the Ghost of Christmas past all rolled into one. I was miserable because I didn’t plan well. I just wanted it over.  I identified where the breakdown(s) occurred that led to such an unnecessarily disappointing and exhausting time, and from that I chose with purpose and made changes where things had failed – and it worked. Magically. And, this year?  I was legitimately bummed when it was all over.

So, with just those highlights, I see that Intentional knew what she was doing.  What a smarty-pants!  As 2015 rounded near the bend and 2016 was within view, I started to feel a shift. I wasn’t sure yet what or what it meant exactly.

At work, we have to change our log-in pass-phrase every so many months. And it has to be a certain number of characters at a minimum.  Like a lot. Along with my word for the year, I also choose a pass-phrase that has meaning to me. I’d read of a guy who changed his life with his pass-phrases and got over a broken heart, quit smoking (e.g. ‘Quit@smoking4ever’) and saved for a dream trip – each one month at a time, because he’d chosen pass-phrases that he had to type Every.Single.Day and as the days passed these desired outcomes became part of his consciousness.  It changed his life in significant ways over each month based on what he chose to focus on. What a cool idea I thought, so I’d started doing similar a few years ago.  But, as the reminders kept hitting my inbox recently, I was stumped at what to choose.

Until.

Until one day it appeared. There it was. It just stood up and said, hi!

I obviously am not going to tell you my pass-phrase. That would just be silly. And intentionally stupid. Intentional would not be happy with me! But I really want to because I really like it!

But I will tell you that in the midst of my pass-phrase also appeared my word for 2016.  I love the collaborative spirit working here!

It chose me. Again. It always does.

Are you ready?

I’ve actually already told you.

ready

The word is ready.

The gang’s all here: Nudge, Give, Intentional 1.0 and 2.0, and now we’re saying howdy to Ready.

The way I see it, when we allow the influence of what the word is, what it means (to us) and why it showed up in the first place, we allow ourselves to move, to bend, to grow, to change. You become all of that, and because it happens incrementally, slowly (and almost) effortlessly, you just are.

And, that becomes you. It shows. It looks good on you.

Here we go, ready or not!

Oh, and I can’t stop myself. If you choose a word, I’d love to know what you choose or what chose  you!

Happy New Year!
Happy 2016!
Happy Words!

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Quit your whining. Move.

Running. Trying to run.

Gasping. Stopping. Whining

Two weeks off.

A trip.

Of gastronomic proportions.

Eating. It all.

Jet lag.

No movement.

One with the couch.

Gasping. Last one in at run’s end.

Feeling bitchy about how easy it doesn’t feel.

Round the corner.

Head down. Eyes to the ground.

Almost.

There.

Glint. In my eye.

A car. Parked. The door opens.

Eyes still down, in view are two rubber stoppers.

Those things at the bottom. Bottom of crutches.

Two stoppers. One shoe.

Shit.

I have two legs.

Shit.

Run. Run. Run.

Dig deep, woman.

YOU.Can.Run.

Heart rate picks up. Pace picks up.

Momentum surges.

Still last runner in.

Still gasping.

But running.

On two legs.

Quit your whining.

Move.

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This memory, from a few months back upon returning from our Paris trip, is still SO vivid in my mind, in ME, and was triggered by yet another  lapse in momentum.

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it just keeps getting better…

When you don’t do something for awhile, it can seem unfamiliar and the starting point anything but obvious. So, somewhat recently on Live & Learn, when David shared three lines of a poem in the midst of one of his posts, it stopped me in my tracks. Not just because the words were just spot on truth for me. Not just because I found myself wishing that I had been the one to assemble them in the way the author had so eloquently (and seemingly so effortlessly) done. But because those three lines capture what had been elusive to me: what I needed to get this post started.

The three lines by poet John O’Donohue posted on this blog read like this…

Unknown to us, there are moments

When crevices we cannot see open
For time to come alive with beginning

and reminded me that much as we try, we can’t know what is to come.

In months that have somehow managed to have sped by, under the hood has been an ongoing process.  An examination of not my conscience, but rather my very consciousness and a riotous path of change and growth. Big things have ended, little things have cropped up and simmered right back down and all along there has been an eyes-wide-open-deer-in-the-headlights-bring-it stance on it all.  I like to think of it as beginner’s mind, which for me is any time we find ourselves in some degree of both amazement and trepidation – and often, dogged determination – in some kind of new or changing time.  But beginner’s mind cannot last forever, for eventually a beginning moves to somewhere in the middle. Yes?

There is the saying that all good things come to an end.

I think perhaps that is not always true.

And, on the contrary, it can actually get better.

However we slice it, in review, it might help for you to know that as I cast my glance in the rear view mirror, I see a marriage that ended, and necessarily so; and subsequently I see a rift in a family for a young and yet so wise and resilient young boy; I see a move to where less truly became more in ways so unexpected and a brand of co-parenting of which I am proud of for my son.   I see professional hurdles and challenges and just a whole lot of unpleasantness that are best described as hanging on tightly to a ship’s mast out on a stormy sea. I see a bank account that some days had more question marks than dollar signs.

But in the midst of all of that: endings, upsets and so many unknowns, there has also been grace and goodness, and so much understanding and without question,  many unanticipated lessons.

wrong roadI have navigated these last few years, with my kiddo and I, bolstered of course by our magical friends and family, in an intentional and optimistic way. I found a way to go at it at my own pace and in my own way.  I wanted to – I had to – go through the pain, not around the pain.  I wanted to understand, and to admit where the wrong turn(s?) have been made and why. So, the kiddo and I, we have laughed, we have logged miles, we have sat side by side on the couch checking off episodes of our favorite TV shows. We created our signature ‘funk-food-dinner-and-movie nights‘ (sometimes, mama’s in a funk and can’t find her way around the kitchen…). And, we have done our own thing – he with his friends, me with mine. Sometimes that happens all together. I dipped my toe in the dating pool. Murky waters I tell you.  But that is another story for another day. Or not.

With this in mind, almost exactly a year ago, I took a few days away to reset, and continue this re-evaluation. I went up to the mountains, a place that I consider a second home.  I spent nearly a week: I went driving around the entire lake, hiking, sitting, walking, and chasing sunsets.  And thinking. A lot.  And learning. For example, one night the power went out. All of it. Guess what I learned? That I really am a little bit afraid of the dark!  Who knew!?  

I learned something else equally important.

On my last day there, I positioned myself at a stunning location facing west and since the summer rush had subsided, the beach was nearly left just for me. And my glass of wine.

beach

I sat in wait and I was not disappointed.  The sunset was literally spectacular. And slow. And evolving.

Like we are.

I savored each moment as the sun performed right in front of me.

sunset

As the sun sank lower and lower, and aware that I had parked somewhat far away, I – so reluctantly – left in time to get to my car before darkness set in fully (I’d  already completed my Intro to Darkness course, successfully, I might add). I walked along, hopping over some boulders, looking back to catch every last possible glimpse. I wanted that image printed in me as much as in my camera’s SD card.

We all see sunsets, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. Right? The sun sets every day. It has to.

I thought I’d seen the last of it, but the sunset had changed once again.

It was like it had one more act, an encore perhaps?

I found myself smiling, relaxed and leaning up against a railing on the boat launch and muttering to myself, ‘it just keeps getting better’. And then, I thought to myself, huh, and nodding, and thinking, realizing…

…it’s all going to be ok. It just keeps getting better…

I was smiling.

sunset4

I’m not going to lie.

The last few years have been enlightening, maybe you could even say “exhilarating” at times. But not easy.

But, I realized what I was saying. Out loud.

As I heard myself, I smiled bigger as I realized, yes, it does. It just keeps getting better.

It’s true.  There have been moments unbeknownst to me where things were at play and I had no idea.

My kiddo is doing awesome. He continues to teach me and surprise me.   His resilience is not just comforting; it’s affirming. At work we have a new captain of the ship and while you cannot turn a ship on a dime, it seems the seas have calmed and we are headed in a better direction; I am excited to be starting a new academic year, energized and maybe somewhat overwhelmed, but excited.

Colleagues have said to me, “I’m so glad you hung in there…”

And, I met someone. Someone most special. In the most unexpected of places.

People keep telling me, “You look so happy, it’s good to see you smiling again…”

It just keeps getting better.

Kiddo and I mixed it up this summer and instead of hitting the road, we jetted off through the friendly skies to enjoy our annual summer trip. Let’s just say, it was monumental.

So lessons learned:  Don’t get stuck in the dark. And it can definitely get better.  Sometimes we just to have to trust the wisdom penned by John O’Donohue.

And a ps…to the ‘nudgers’, you know exactly who you are, and thank you.  You have no idea…

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Shifting

In recent months,  Northern CA experienced a 6.1 earthquake – the pressure built and the plates moved. Earthquakes are usually caused when rock underground suddenly breaks along a fault and this sudden release of energy causes the seismic waves that make the ground shake.

It was definitely noticed.

It rocked and rolled.

In our own lives, big disruptions come along and create fissures, changes and cracks in our lives. It’s impossible to not notice these. Things feel bumpy, chaotic and unstable.  Life rocks and rolls without harmony.

But, we have to remember –  earthquakes don’t come out of nowhere.

According to scientists,

‘…The surface of the Earth is in continuous slow motion. This is plate tectonics–the motion of immense rigid plates at the surface of the Earth in response to flow of rock within the Earth. The plates cover the entire surface of the globe. Since they are all moving they rub against each other in some places, sink beneath each other in others, or spread apart from each other…’

Things are constantly happening, even if ever so subtly.

But this is not a science lesson, I could certainly not be so presumptuous. But rather a moment of understanding – it made sense that internally, most of the time, there is movement under the surface, adjustments happening all the time, even when we don’t notice.  Or think we don’t.

I have begun to notice. A shifting of sorts. One that at times is nearly imperceptible.

 

Shifting.

decisions so small.

changes so subtle.

choices hardly noticeable.

shifting.

wishes only thought.

desires barely whispered.

strength always growing.

shifting.

leaving some things back.

choosing what holds value now.

knowing the difference so quietly.

shifting

choosing carefully.

trusting purposefully.

listening always.

shifting

resolve clarifying.

courage emerging.

boundaries appearing.

shifting

almost imperceptibly.

almost.

 

Yes. Things are constantly happening, subtly.

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The Edges

“There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.
Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.”      ― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

 When you think of a boundary, do you think of what is kept in, or what is kept out?

boundary

/ˈbaʊndərɪ; -drɪ/
noun (pl) -ries

1.  something that indicates the farthest limit, as of an area; border

When my mother died, one of her closest friends was one of my very few living links to her; this woman comforted me and brought my mother back to life in fleeting moments when we recounted a memory or allowed ourselves a moment of our shared sadness. This woman became incredibly important to me and I relied heavily on her in this context.  Later, as our conversation continued and we grew into our own friendship, I confided in her, something I needed to pursue.  She was conflicted about my pursuit and interjected what she thought my mother would feel about it if she were still alive. Much as I loved this woman, much as I had come to need her, this particular area was not one she understood nor did she realize my mother and I had discussed often over the years.  I came to understand that she was projecting her own fears and concerns regarding the matter and so I took more time to explain and share; all the while I remained steadfast.  It was in the midst of this conversation, not feeling supported or understood, that I realized something important  – the matter was core to me and who I am and that I was willing to draw a line in the sand for what I knew I needed. I noticed an important shift within me and that I was willing to stand my ground despite her inability to come along with me.  My need for truth and authenticity became greater than my fear of disappointing her if it meant not pursuing something so central to who I am.  As with an invisible fence, a boundary was activated and it both surprised me and scared me.

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.
– Brene Brown

Setting boundaries is not easy. In fact it’s hard work. I look around and from where I sit, it can appear so easy, so natural for others and it’s easy to wonder if I’m somehow missing something or struggling unnecessarily.  Being perfectly honest, it has seemed, that of late, the Universe signed me up, unbeknownst to me of course, for a Boundaries 101 course. Complete with a ‘text book’ of sorts.

From the book, How the State Got Their Shapes it is written that The 50 states in the U.S.A. are easily recognized by their shapes, their outlines, their silhouettes. Their boundaries. Their furthest limits. Colorado and Wyoming are both rectangular in their shape and are therefore hard to differentiate. The value resides not in knowing their shape but why. Asking why a state has the borders it does unlocks a history of human struggles, it’s history. It’s story.

Co and Wy

 

The more we look at borders, the more questions those borders generate.

Is it the same for us? 

That  the more we understand each other’s boundaries, the more we realize we should know about each other and our stories?  And, subsequently, the more we do learn about one another?

A state border is both an official entrance and a hidden entrance. 

Couldn’t we claim the same truth?

I draw a boundary based on what I know I need to feel safe, secure, seen, understood and strong. If you know, and understand, and accept what that is, you gain ‘entrance’.

The official entrance is the legal threshold to a state. But it’s hidden. Entrance beckons us into the past.

Is the same true for us?

Our own edges, can at times seem somewhat hidden, but if understood, and respected, beckon others in.

Into…

Our story.

Our selves.

Our past.

Our hurts.

Our scars.

Our quirks.

Our disappointments.

Our fears.

Our regrets.

Our dreams.

Our hopes.

Our future.

Here at the state line we can come come into contact with struggles long forgotten and now overgrown by signs saying things like, “Welcome to Nebraska. Please drive carefully.”

Couldn’t we say the same?

Welcome to my heart. Please drive carefully.


It’s easy to consider drawing boundaries as keeping something out, but what if we change that to keeping in that which what we value while at the same time also building strength?  And yet, it is circular, we can’t draw a boundary until we know what we need and want and desire, on the inside.

We know from what has hurt in the past, what hasn’t felt good. We know when someone bumps up against our edges. It’s fear. It’s disappointment. It’s feeling invisible. It’s feeling dismissed. It’s too much at once.

When my son was about 9 or so, we were having a conversation that led to me saying something about respecting his boundaries.  The way he looked at me when I said that, I knew immediately that he had no idea what I meant.  I thought for a second about how to say it in a way he’d understand;  I said to him that boundaries are the edges of when we feel ok, and that when we bump up against the edges, it doesn’t feel good anymore, or it’s uncomfortable, or it’s too much and so we stop.

When we set boundaries, we own what scares us. That which makes us feel alone in the world. By knowing what to ask for, we also identify what we cannot receive. Rejection is hard on both sides of the street.

When we talk about boundaries, setting them, respecting them, we often think of it as drawing a line – a line in the sand so to speak.  Creating boundaries, however, is not only about protecting – keeping what is not safe on the OUTSIDE.  It can also be about strengthening and fortifying what is on the INSIDE.

I have found that creating boundaries – and then establishing them – is like building strong muscles. It requires discipline, diligence and a plan. It requires that we do things that sometimes we just don’t feel like doing. It’s not easy.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote recently:

“I don’t like conflict. I aim for appeasement. I often dodge the chance to directly address problems early on, because I hope the problems will go away. I deny and I duck and I put my hands over my ears and say, “La-la-la-la-la.” And then, guess what? Sometimes those problems don’t go away. In fact, they blow up in my face… I am still learning this. I can see messy things that happened in my life this very year, because I didn’t want to cope with problems sooner”

“Liz, stay alert. Heads up. Start speaking your truth sooner. You’ve been put on watch.”

It’s work, this setting of boundaries. We have to accept the uncomfortable moments of owning our anger and understanding what lurks below its surface,  trusting our own instincts, facing the fear of conflict with someone we have decided is important to us. It requires that we stand ready to let go of something that has taken up residence within us, even when it’s not good for us. Because we get comfortable.

It dawned on me that setting boundaries and letting go are in essence, kissing cousins.

For when we set a boundary, are we also not at the same time choosing to let go of something?

$T2eC16JHJGMFFpfi!d7!BSe2vGu-Tw~~_32When we set boundaries, we have to know what defines us. What fits. What makes sense. What fills us in positive ways.  Learning to recognize when we are no longer willing to be uncomfortable or misunderstood for the sake of making someone else feel comfortable. Even when that someone is us, and for just a temporary moment.

Sometimes this process requires trial and error – as a toddler experiments with sorting shapes – and until we sort it out, we can feel empty for awhile when we only allow entrance for the shapes that actually fit. When we say no to someone or something – at first it can feel so lonely, but only then do we make room for what does fit.

Creating boundaries demands of us honesty with ourselves, being able to endure shifts in power, changes in dynamics. Sometimes, our own power has the power to scare the crap out of us. That’s nothing short of hard work, man.

In pushing our bodies in exercise, we endure the short term pain, discomfort and possibility of failure because we want something more. We want what comes when we have strong muscles; the definition, the strength, the knowledge and the confidence that come from knowing we are capable.  We work our bodies because we know that we want to be able to do the other things that require that muscle strength.

Isn’t the same true for our own boundaries?

When we work our boundaries, is it not because we know that we want more; more inner strength, more of what allows us to truly align with who we are, to be surrounded by others who understand and accept us? Authenticity. To be surrounded by others who truly see us, for all that lies within our squiggly, messy lines or our boring geometric edges. And love us.

The challenge, of course, is to not be too rigid, to find our balance with this line – we get to choose the amount of fluidity in the line, and we can only know that by being brave enough to start, to try.  Like Elizabeth Gilbert, we must start speaking our truth sooner. We must put ourselves on notice.


240099_567045576756225_2818715820781149113_oOn the back cover of the book, a review by the Wall Street Journal says:

“Give me the splendid irregularities any day. God Bless the panhandles and notches, the West Virginias and the Oklahomas.”

To that I say:

“Give me the splendid imperfections any day. God bless the vulnerabilities, the differences and the fears, the secrets and the quirks.”

For isn’t that the beauty of what is inside?

 

 

Ps…Why are Colorado and Wyoming are so similar in their shapes?

-Colorado – Money: gold

-Wyoming – Space: 7 degrees of width, coal & waterways & trails (Oregon, California and Overland Trails). Oh, and Utah’s involved too.

But, like with us, it’s way more complicated than that.

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