Do unto Others

I’ve seen a lot of younger, more “woke” (in the good sense, not the pejorative sense) folks reminding us older folks to not treat others as you’d like to be treated, but to treat them how THEY would prefer.

This is how Goldie wants to be treated, I hope.

That made me wonder how I’m supposed to know that? How do you know how someone wants you to treat them? If you know them, you can base it on experience. Otherwise…Do you guess?

Pondering deep questions like this makes me glad for the quiet back yard at the Red House.

Perhaps you might have to ask someone how they want to be treated. That might lead to a conversation. Insight may occur. Or not. But doing unto others like they prefer may end up being a bidirectional thing this way, if approached with kindness and respect.

Let’s sleep on it, says Penney.

Thoughts?

The Free Tranquilizer: Nature

I’m always telling you all how much being out in nature helps me deal with my chronic anxiety and Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD). Today I’m really taking advantage of it and pulling out all the stops with nature, cuteness, and sunshine helping me deal with how people treat me and (the worst) the fact that it’s the second Tuesday in November in the USA. Election Day. I sure hope that voting tradition continues!

I’ve been voting since this time of year in 1976, when someone I truly admire to this day got elected, Jimmy Carter. I believe there’s only been one other time I actually admired a Presidential candidate. The rest I had deep reservations about or was just okay with. This year, we just deal with governors. I did vote for a few governors I liked, especially when I lived in Illinois. But I just hope that I continue to have the right to my personal freedoms and can feel safe in the future. And this is why I need warm fuzzies and cute animals to cheer me up.

Just pet our muddy selves and you will feel better, Suna.

You’re supposed to say what you’re thankful for nowadays. It spans all of November, not just the US Thanksgiving holiday like it used to. I guess it’s to help us remember what is still there for us. I’m thankful for the friendly animals in my life, like Christmas the bull over at Tarrin’s house.

My merry band of horses, who are enjoying the front pasture, the new pond’s hill, and the mud.

A lot of the time, though, I just need to breathe and look at the sky. While I missed the lunar eclipse last night (Lee was sure it was tonight), I did enjoy the sight of a beautiful sun dog in the afternoon sky. I love those cloud rainbows!

I also loved the rain we received over the past few days. It was supposed to rain again today, but maybe it won’t. At least new grass is growing and it’s no longer crunchy outside.

I’m breathing more steadily now and resolve to continue to treat people the way I’d like to be treated and assume people are doing the best they can. This reminder I saw on Facebook really rings true and has helped me for the past week or so.

Peace to all. Let’s try not to live in fear, especially of our neighbors.

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

I’m just gonna pretend that’s true. Why not? I’m tired of living in fear of “the other,” which I think comes from all the stories you hear about crazed people on the other side who want to shoot you or take your guns, or whatever. Just two examples.

Actual roses.

After reading about the boy, the mole, the fox, and the horse, I was thinking that little horrible can happen if I just live like people are basically kind and loving.

Thanks, Lee I’ll stop and smell them…

Honestly, if you’re reasonably observant it will be apparent if someone feels malice or is duplicitous. Then you can just move on to the next adventure. What do you get from fighting or trying to prove something? Not much.

Stop and gaze at them…

It sounds like the kind of thing many religions promote but few actually try to do. Probably it’s hard, that’s why. I’ve been trying. I’m motivated to try harder.

Stop and touch them!

A soft life sounds blissful.

What’s a Micro-affirmation?

That was my question today, when my Facebook friend Gene Deel posted this:

[T]he opposite of a micro-aggression is micro-affirmation (or as my workplace calls it, ‘microsupport’) – “displaying small and subtle acts of kindness, caring, and appreciation”.

Facebook post

I’ve read about micro-aggressions for years. They are often things people do that they don’t even realize that they are doing and may not even consciously intend (like moving away from someone wearing insignia of a religion different from yours). Many people who are minorities in their communities report that micro-aggressions exhaust them.

I can sense hostility in others, but am not sure if I consciously notice micro-aggressions, myself. So, I was very happy to discover there are also micro-affirmations! I began to wonder what those would look like. Is it nodding in support when someone is sharing something difficult, smiling during Zoom meetings, leaning in toward someone who seems to be struggling?

Maybe we could just spread bubbles or confetti everywhere? J/K. Photo by @criene via Twenty20.

I was not really sure, so I looked it up and found an interesting article, called “Not-so-random acts of kindness: How you can use micro-affirmations to fight unconscious bias in the workplace.” Aha! Back when I was working so hard to learn about unconscious bias, this would have been a useful concept to share. I guess it’s not too late!

The article gave workplace examples, such as praising coworkers in public, saying hello in the hallway, or bringing up details of something they mentioned earlier (to show you value them and pay attention). These are conscious acts that any of us could do to help counteract micro-aggressions.

I think this would count as a macro-affirmation. Photo by @tdyuvbanova via Twenty20

I like that the article reminds people to do their actions naturally and authentically. Then they say to use appreciative inquiry, which I always feel sounds forced, but maybe that’s because I’m not good at it.

In any case, I’m just starting to think about this, but I do believe that consciously making an effort to treat the people you come across equally and kindly can make the world a better place. It might counter-act some of the hostility, negativity, and aggression that swirls around us sometimes.

What do you think about micro-affirmations? Too hippie-dippie or a good idea?

Cultivating Calm

I read today that what horses want is peace. No wonder I like horses. I, too, crave peace. And calm. It’s been my goal all my life. I do not crave excitement, uncertainty, or the unexpected. But, guess what? That stuff shows up all the time. What to do?

I found a moment of peace when the afternoon sun visited my bathroom.

I’m relieved that my anti-anxiety meds have kicked back in. They are really helpful for me. They don’t make me calm, but they do give me a better attitude about uncertainty and the unexpected. They help me detach a wee bit.

Knitting is something that has kept me calmer my whole life. Today I put this sweet knitting corn husk doll that my sons gave me on my little display shelf someone I used to know made me.

Calm and peace. You do have to work on them, but it pays off! For example, my work laptop has been a bit off since I got back from this trip. Just little things were happening until yesterday afternoon, when my webcam stopped working in the middle of a fun meeting. It didn’t work today, either, but because I didn’t get all upset and pissy, I was able to patiently wait until the Logitech help person found a solution. Yay! I stayed calm and didn’t just order another one.

Goldie was doing this while I was fixing the webcam. Distracting!

And just as the camera was fixed, I had another meeting. Throughout the meeting the sound of the Zoom phone ringing kept playing. For an hour. I just laughed and tuned it out. What else could I do? I cultivated calm and just dealt with it. Go me.

I’m calm, too, even though I have all these gangly legs.

There’s so much going on here that keeping on an even keel is important. My vacation helped. The horses help. Having great conversations with my son helps. Lee helps. All of you help. Keep spreading peace, calm, and lovingkindness. The world needs it.

Book Report: A Journey to Softness

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yes, indeed, I read another book by Mark Rashid. A Journey to Softness: In Search of Feel and Connection with the Horse taught me a lot about horses, but also gave me a huge insight into dealing with people that I think will come in handy during the hard days I see coming.

I will admit that softness is a thing I always wanted to have with horses, but I thought I was just making up, since nothing seemed soft about dealing with them for much of the time I’ve been around them. I have always been told to be harder, be more assertive, and be more of a leader (which is what I learned about in the previous book about passive leadership).

I know why that all is, of course, but I was intrigued to read how Mark Rashid and some of the people he’s worked with have gotten to a different level with horses, to where they don’t have to do much at all to work together as a team and achieve goals. The softness does require concentration, attention, and effort, so it’s not a breeze. And it’s a lot of working with energy and intent – something that I actually am good at! How about that?

I got some great ideas about how my attitude and intentions when around the horses can make things go better, and I was eager to try them out when I got back from my trip.

Who knows if it’s “working” or not, but I have enjoyed keeping positive intentions and kindness in my heart as well as taking everything that happens as the right thing. It’s been nice to think the horse has a voice in what we do, too. That was great with Mabel when she was sick, and in both my lessons last week. I’ve continued it all week when I work with Drew and Apache.

Another thing Rashid talks a lot about is aikido concepts of meeting force with less resistance. I don’t explain it well, but he told a story of when a man showed up at the ranch where he worked all bent out of shape, aggressive, and rough. Rashid’s mentor didn’t react much, just asked quiet questions and moved slowly in response to the man’s aggression. Soon, the man quieted down, and the mentor was then able to give him some suggestions. The idea was the more violent the guy got, the more passive the mentor got, so that the average of their energy was in the middle. Rashid talked about doing that with horses as part of his softness energy work.

I thought about doing the same with people and even got a chance to act on it when someone in my life got angry and acted out. I didn’t respond until they began to settle down, and I am pretty sure that happened faster because I didn’t add energy into the mix. That wasn’t easy for me, but I breathed and thought of lovingkindness. I’ve been doing that a lot these days.

Back to the book. An added bonus to this book is that he included some stories from people he’s worked with, about how they found softness in various aspects of their lives in addition to the horses they worked with. That was invaluable to me. This book was well worth reading and had way fewer typos than the previous ones.

Thoughts and Actions, Please

Today I’ve been feeling sick. I’m not a gun lover in the first place, and now I feel like we are all just waiting for our turns to be someone’s target. The cynic in me feels that the people who run the US care only about themselves, their families, babies (up to the moment of birth, at which point they are worthless), and guns.

[Some of you may want to stop reading now and go enjoy some Fox News.]


What has sucked the wind out of my sails the most is how I’ve seen regular folks reacting to the endless shootings of people who just happened to be living their lives in the wrong places.

I burned candles in their honor, but won’t stop there.

It’s not just the sincerely uttered “thoughts and prayers,” because I know that’s what people in a certain social group say when they just don’t have anything else to say. No, it’s people who say the ONLY thing you can do to help dead children, teachers, grocery shoppers, and such is to pray.

“My tradition teaches that prayer without action is just noise.”

Rabbi Jack Moline

As my friend Lynn pointed out to me, you don’t hear many ministers saying that. You hear them calling for change. At least the ministers I’ve heard. Rabbi Moline is one of them. Another quote from him:

There is no tradition that, at its core, would justify the massacre of children at school, grandparents at the grocery store, or congregants in a house of worship. And there should be no faith leader that sits idly by while the people we have dedicated our lives to ministering to are slaughtered. Prayer works only when it softens the hardened heart and opens it to the message of healing and justice that flows through every tradition’s scripture. Prayer works only if it leads to confession, contrition and repentance. Prayer works only if it is not an excuse for inaction.

NOTHING PREVENTS THE FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION MORE EFFECTIVELY THAN A BULLET

Worse than this, I’ve seen people post that it’s not so bad all these people are dying, because that way they get to go meet Jesus and hang out with their deceased relatives sooner rather than later. I’m sorry, but WTF. It’s hard for me to imagine their pacifist god-figure wanting people do die early in a massacre just to hang out with him. Um, I hope they draw comfort from that.

Not a fan

I got so upset that I ran to my trusted sources for words of comfort, words to help me remember who I am, and words to steer ME via my beliefs. My Christian spiritual leader, Jim Rigby reminded me of these words by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

MLK

And then Jim talked about having the courage to be gentle and find hope as I respond to the hurt I am feeling right now. He is right, of course:

Greek culture had a word for “gentleness” (praus) that actually could meant “power under control.” It was sometimes used for a powerful animal that had been tamed. Today “gentleness” might refer to finding the courage not to use violence to solve all of our problems. Before we can tackle the problem of gun violence we must first ask ourselves an important question: Does our nation have the courage to be gentle?

Guns are no replacement for the civic virtue of courage. This nation cannot be saved by military grade weapons in the hands of cowardly spirits. Human decency requires the bravery to steer by our hopes not our fears.

Jim Rigby, Facebook

While all that helped me spiritually, I still am faced with even more blatant 1984-style language and proclamations by civic leaders that my head literally hurts. Why are guns more important than children, I keep wondering? Why is “freedom” more important than protecting the mentally ill and dangerous from themselves and others? I’m not alone. From Richard Stone of Taylor, Texas:

I got in a row on one of the local community pages about arming teachers. Saw this over on Twitter a few minutes ago and now I can’t wrap my head around the cognitive dissonance.

Richard Stone, Facebook

He then quoted someone else who finally put into words what has been causing my hurt:

“I heard this point yesterday and can’t get it out of my mind – TX politicians don’t trust teachers to choose books, but they think arming teachers is a good idea.”

Bethany Albertson

I have a child who is a teacher. He just celebrated five years at Austin ISD and I am proud of him. He was raised in a gun-free household, as was I, and as I have been until things changed around here. I do not want to see him having to protect his students from killers. I want him to teach history and even hide some facts in among the state-mandated stuff. I want him free to care about his students, but also feel free to criticize or discipline appropriately, when necessary, without worrying that kid will come back and shoot him the moment they turn 18. Holy crap that is just plain dystopian. I’m nauseated.

And don’t tell me to move. I’m from here, too.

Anyway, I’m not a crazed snowflake who wants to snatch people’s possessions out of their hands. I’m a mother, a spouse, an aunt, a nature lover, and just a regular human who wants to feel free to have opinions, live in safety, and feel free to spread love, kindness, and even lovingkindness, around the land.

Breathe, Suna

But to also speak up. So many folks I know have been afraid to say we need to do something about the gun worship culture here. Why? Because of gun worshippers. Not hunters, not safety officers. People who literally LOVE the things and don’t give a shit how many people have to die because of it.

Some bunny loves us all. Me.

As so many people I know have been asking, how did we get here? Can we make things better. I want to help.

Freedom: A Loaded Word

You know what? I used to think I was free. I used to think more and more people where I live were becoming freer. I used to think the world was becoming a better place.

Lost

I can remember feeling especially happy to live in a place where people were free to worship or not worship any faith tradition, where people were free to love whoever they wanted to love, where people could have families or not, where people could live wherever they found beauty, where judges strove to put their personal beliefs aside and be neutral, and where people could have respectful debates over policies. Heck, people could even go to the grocery store and expect the worst thing that would happen would be a long line at checkout.

Interestingly, this was posted by someone with different views from me, but I think it’s true for all of our viewpoints.

I felt like “progress” toward equality for all was being made, right during my lifetime. The water fountain labeled “Coloreds Only” was gone from the Alachua County courthouse, in my lifetime. As a woman, I could play any sport I wanted and attend any school I wanted, in my lifetime (I gave up on being a veterinarian because women were not allowed in vet schools). My gay friends got married – legally – in my lifetime. Buildings were made accessible to people who could not climb stairs, in my lifetime. I could live 20 years next to a black family and nothing out-of-the-ordinary occur, in my lifetime. I could live around people who had come to my area from all over the world and it was fine. People could choose whatever identity they cared to present themselves as, even if I got confused…all in my lifetime…and it made me happy.

I could trust that people in politics felt it was their duty to tell the truth and apologized when they made mistakes. I could trust that law enforcement officers respected all citizens and did their best to keep all of us safe. People who joined the military were assigned duties they could be proud of and were respected for what they did.

I was once a Girl Scout.

I didn’t live in fear of my neighbors because I voted for a different Presidential candidate and don’t worship the one they prefer. I didn’t feel in danger because I’m a pacifist, because I don’t like organized religion, and I think no other human is any better or worse than me.

Fuck that. It’s all over. I was so happy when 1984 came and went and Big Brother hadn’t showed up. Oh, Suna. He was just a little late. Lies are now truth. Freedom is a word only for a small subset of the population. Rights are just for old white males. Women are back to being nothing but property for males to use as they please, then are punished for the consequences of what men do to them. Again.

When I’m wrong, I can be really, really wrong. I was wrong all along, too. None of those illusions of mine were real. I gotta go back to reading about how all culture is an illusion that’s just out there to help us feel like life has meaning. I have no clue right now, other than life is suffering. Thanks, Buddha.

Sculpture! Birds! Nature Surprises! Beauty?

Today I got to have all the funs, to celebrate an actual day off, and have some emotional recharge. And of course I had to do some deep thinking. I’m on a roll with wonder and wondering.

Nature Surprise

You may remember that Lee forgot to pack any shirts for the trip. The t- shirts he got were fine. But. He got one long-sleeved shirt at Kohl’s when we stopped at one on the way, and it turned out to be weird and too big. So, he declared we would go to Tractor Supply and get more Lee-esque shirts. Why? It got chilly overnight!

Fern time. Sensitive.

Imagine my happiness when I saw that next to the store was a beautiful wooded area with a stream running through it. It was sort of like what I imagine in my mind when I think of a southern American woods. There were oaks, sweet gums, ash, and holly trees, with ferns and palmettos underneath. There were jack-in-the-pulpits and lizard’s tail. Vines included muscadine grape, poison ivy, and Virginia Creeper. I was in heaven. Plus I got to buy a windbreaker.

As if that wasn’t enough, we were actually in our way to our favorite spot, Brookgreen Gardens. It’s always great, but we lucked out this time. For one, the butterfly exhibit at the zoo has recently re-opened. We got to see some butterflies we’d never seen before. And the flowers weren’t bad, either.

A malachite butterfly.

While waiting in line, I met a fellow horse owner and traded photos, of course. But dang, look at these beauties! I don’t know what they are, though.

Of course, I had to get bird photos, too. I didn’t take many of the captive birds, but the ducks were so pretty I had to. At least I got some pretty wild birds, too.

I’ve saved the best for last. Just yesterday, a new exhibit opened. It’s sculpture by two married people, Babette Bloch and Marc Mellon.

I got the book, too.

Mellon has had his work at Texas A&M (to impress the locals) at the Bush Presidential Library. He also designed an official medal for President Obama. His main work has been statues of female athletes. He makes them look strong as well as beautiful. He also did a horse. I liked that.

My heart melted when I started looking at Bloch’s work. She started out in bronze, but then moved on to making art with laser-cut steel. It’s lots of flowers. As you know, I am fond of flowers.

Large herons, outdoors

I had two favorites. One is a phoenix. The base of the sculpture is based on Bloch’s face!

My second favorite was a wall with dozens of flowers in bowls with color behind them. Each bowl was someone’s family heirloom. It moved me to tears to see the old things become new art.

All her work was interesting and different from anything I ever saw. The burnished parts were mesmerizing. Here’s some more of her work. Lee just loved the dog, of course.

To top it all off, I went back in at the end of our visit, and I got to tell Bloch how much her work and the stories behind it moved me. That felt great. My heart is full. What a great day.

My Deep Thiughts

Being at Brookgreen and enjoying the art made me wonder something. Do humans always seek beauty? Have they always done so? Are there things that just naturally please humans?

Are sunsets thought beautiful in all cultures? If so, why?

I seem to remember that symmetry is often found beautiful, like in people’s faces. And there’s that golden ratio that’s supposedly pleasing.

Any thoughts? I’m going to do some research. I guess I shouldn’t take time off from work and chores. I start wondering.

Oceanside Philosophical Musings

Confession Time: I have trouble consuming information by listening. I am, as my late friend Ted used to say, a Reader. My spouse, on the other hand, is a listener. He listens to many, many podcasts. On our drive over to the beach, he played podcasts, because that’s how he’s been learning these days.

It’s always good to think about philosophy under a moody seaside sky.

He listens to a lot of news, science, and astronomy podcasts, but he also listens to philosophy podcasts. I was happy to learn that he listens to some that aren’t The Daily Stoic, because while that one’s good and it IS his chosen way of life, it is so full of commercials for Ryan Holliday’s various enterprises that it’s hard to find the actual philosophy content. Hint for podcasters: have more content than commercials.

He has good shirts, too.

One he listens to is Philosophize This!, by Stephen West. Folx, if you ever want to learn about philosophy and also be entertained, head on over to this podcase. West is not only a great thinker, but he can make a pile of rocks interesting (ya know, Sisyphus). I was glad to hit this podcast in the rotation. Then I got very, very glad.

We happened to stumble across a series of podcasts on the American philosopher Ernest Becker. I, having studied philosophy right after Becker passed away, had not heard of him. My estranged son was a philosophy major, but he concentrated on European Communists, so I didn’t proofread any papers about Becker. Zizek? Yes. Anyhow, these podcasts introduced me to someone whose ideas and ways of looking at life were so similar to my own, that they really helped me put into words ideas that just float around in my head when I’m gazing at birds and plants and such.

Episode 162: The Creation of Meaning The Denial of Death

Episode 163: The Creation of Meaning – Escape from Evil

What rang true the most for me was how Becker maintained that religion, culture, and other systems of “meaning” that people come up with are all illusions that we use to deal with the fact that we basically just live our lives and then die. He says people are terrified of death and want a way to live on. Religion and culture are among the things people come up with to cope with our mortality and enjoy life.

BOTH religion AND culture serve as an elaborate mechanism, purposefully constructed to help people quell this otherwise CONSTANT state of terror that comes along with the fact that we are a type of creature, that carries with it a conscious awareness of its death…

S. West, Philosophize This! Episode 163

I listened along to both episodes thinking how much Becker’s ideas reminded me of the way I have always viewed life, based on the absurdist thought of my philosophical guide, Albert Camus. Yeah, I’m a closet existentialist, but I manage to live a fine life, anyway. And good ole Ernest Becker finally put into words how I have always looked at the way humans are driven to find meaning in coincidence and purpose in random happenings.

Sunset over Myrtle Beach from last night.

Naturally, I ordered me some Ernest Becker books (including The Denial of Death) as soon as I got to the condo place. I am just so excited that the random event of playing a recent podcast introduced me to someone who explains why if I weren’t me, I’d have said that a deity brought me this philosophy just when I needed it. I’ll chalk it up to synchronicity, instead.

Philosophical musings brought to you from way up in the sky

Anyhow, you can go read the transcript (yay, there’s a transcript for us readers) or listen to the podcasts, but I wanted to give you a taste of why I found West’s way of introducing ideas so entertaining. Here, he’s talking about how us humans crave to know “the meaning of life”:

…why…do you even CARE…about creating a system of meaning in the first place? 

Why do you care? Where does that desire even come from? Why…is OUR internal experience…not like OTHER animals…where, they don’t SEEM to sit around…and agonize over whether or not their life has meaning…A squirrel doesn’t sit around and agonize…over what kind of squirrel they want to be this week? You see a Koala at the zoo…do you really think that Koala…wants to be the Sir Isaac Newton of Koalas one day? No. It doesn’t CARE. Human beings… SEEM to CARE…there seems to be a piece of whatever this Homo Sapien thing is…that CARES that their actions in this life counted at LEAST for something. But why?

S. West, Philosophize This! Episode 162

See, even written out, this is fun stuff. So, if you, too, want to have fun with philosophy or learn how I look at life, check these podcasts out. On the other hand, if you’re one of my Unitarian Universalist friends (I was one of these until it hit me that even the most inclusive of organized religions had too many rules and regulations for me), you might enjoy his current set of podcasts, which are on Ralph Waldo Emerson, a UU philosophy hero.

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