It’s Beautiful to Me

I started reading about the universal theory of beauty, but didn’t get far enough to say anything wise about it. I was comforted to know there is such a theory, though.

Marshes. That’s my idea of beauty. And birds.

Much of today I had my head buried in work. I do miss vacations, but Planview would have sent me to a mental health facility by now if I’d stayed.

I looked out the window periodically, though.

When I was finished, I rewarded myself with some time in the hot tub (alone!), some splashing in the pool, and a mango daiquiri.

Quite blue, isn’t it?

Then I enjoyed a quick beach walk at high tide, which let me see actual sea life and intact shells, a rarity here at the tourist beach. And the waves were great colors. Sea foam green is a real thing.

Lee and I went to the Murrell’s Inlet boardwalk for dinner at a seafood place. I was very pleased with my blood orange old fashioned I drank and the “crab stack” I ate. Crab, mango, avocado, cilantro oil and siracha (however you spell it) are all among my favorites.

We topped the meal off with a walk along the boardwalk, which features a goat island, oyster shells, and birds. Not bad for an area with like 20 restaurants in it.

The best part of the boardwalk I didn’t get a picture of, because we were enjoying it so much. There were these twinkles and tiny splashes. At first I thought it was something swimming under the water. But no, it was eensy fishies jumping together! Little sparkly fishies! We were charmed.

So, that was beautiful.

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.

Pool of Dreams or Nightmares?

Hey, do you remember that swimming pool we had built? The beautiful one with the hot tub and nice patio? Yeah. I remember it, too. We called it the Pool of Dreams, but lately it had been turning into a nightmare.

Note the color of the water.

We had been following the instructions the pool company gave us, which were minimal, to say it kindly. And our questions and phone calls had gone unanswered. Lee had been spending hours and hours trying to get this green stuff out of the pool, which we thought must be pollen, because it wasn’t sticking. But that’s not all. Here’s what else was going on with the Pool of Nightmares:

  • The remote control stopped letting us choose fun colors for the lights. Only by chance did I figure out a way to cycle through a few of the possible colors.
  • The pool would not turn on spa mode and spa heat mode together. You had to go over to the unit, where snakes live, to manually turn on the spa heater. Then, you had to check every hour or so to make sure it hadn’t switched to pool heat mode, which wastes my precious propane and only heats to 80 degrees. That was getting tedious.
  • We had no idea what chemicals to put in it, because adding salt wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. We finally got a clue when Lee found an owner’s manual to the unit online, which explained that the reason the pool beeped occasionally (the pool company guy had said “it just does that”) was because the salt cell wasn’t hooked up.
  • The salt cell wasn’t hooked up. They simply had not done it. That could explain a lot.
  • We had no idea what chemicals to add, because the pool dude just said to look at the readout on a strip and add the right chemicals. Okay, what are those exactly?
  • The spa jets would not stay in. So, half the spa outlets just spewed forth water in a big gush, rather than going around and around and being therapeutic. I was most annoyed.

As of last week, no one had returned our phone calls. So, Kathleen called around and found a pool maintenance person and asked him to come in. He explained to her that there was a chlorine-resistant algae going around, but hinted there may be other issues.

Pool guy at work. Note that one of our plants is blooming.

Yesterday, the pool dude showed up. Since I wasn’t there, I don’t know all the details, but suffice to say that he put in the right chemicals to re-balance the pool and get it under control. He will be returning weekly to do maintenance. This will make Lee’s life so much easier, since he was not happy to be having to go out and do pool stuff every day, even with Mr. Robotto going around and getting stuff out.

Look at that. The pool is blue, and all the algae that was on the beach area is gone. We are sure grateful Kathleen called for help!

Plus, finally someone called back about the pool from the company who sold it to us. They had gone radio silent since we made our last payment, to the point where we thought they must have gone out of business or something, until I checked their Facebook page, and saw that it was still posting things.

Check out that lack of algae, will you?

I am told that the actual owner of the company will be at the ranch on Monday. I’m sorta glad Lee isn’t there to give them a piece of his mind, but I am pretty sure he will get a piece of the other male resident of our family compound, instead. That may help turn the nightmare back into a dream.

I hope it does, because we have been enjoying the pool a lot, and it’s going to be hot, hot, hot in Texas next week.

Where we are, it’s still pretty pleasant. Lee and I got some really cool rocking hammock chairs and have been sitting on the balcony watching birds, planes, helicopters and more.

These are FUN. Look for them at Costco.

I’ve seen little wildlife, other than a cannonball jellyfish and some amorous pigeons.

But we did get to enjoy some kind of aerial show featuring a plane, some red skydiving stuff, and some parachutes in formation. Whatever it was, I enjoyed it. And that’s it. Other than getting groceries, we stayed put and relaxed. That is a good thing, far as I’m concerned.

And kindness keeps happening. I bought myself some Mother’s Day flowers, knowing that’s the only way I’m going to get any, and the cashier couldn’t find the code to ring it up, so she whispered, “Happy Mother’s Day.” The thing is, I realize that I’m so unused to seeing people be nice to strangers that I get all teary-eyed when it happens. That’s sorta sad.

Happy Mother’s Day (US) to all who are mothers or who have mothered others, human, animal, or whatever.

At least here at the ole resort, everyone’s friendly and nice. A guy took my luggage cart downstairs for me, just to be nice! I’ve met a lot of nice people at the pool bar. Cute little kids keep saying hi. I’m keeping track of these little things, to counter all the negativity I see otherwise.

Book Report: Horses Never Lie

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I read another horse book on my way to South Carolina, Horses Never Lie, by Mark Rashid (2011) (Sara tells me it’s pronounces Rash-idd). It’s the kind of book I enjoy reading, with lots of stories used to make the point, rather than a lot of pontificating and such. It also backs up my gut feelings about horses and explains why some methods of horse training (such as forcing a horse to keep going on and on until it bows to your wishes) make me uncomfortable.

Note that it’s the second edition.

The book talks about passive leadership, a concept Rashid explains in his comments for the second edition to have been a hard one to make sure people understand. I like the idea, and it makes sense after my limited amount of horse observations.

The idea is that horses don’t necessarily follow a leader who pushes, prods, bites, kicks, or hits them (human or horse), but rather a leader who is calm, seems to have a clue what they are doing, and treats them with respect. That’s what passive leadership is. In horses, these leaders don’t set out to lead, they just end up leading because they are the horse with the most chance of keeping the rest of them safe, at least in the other horses’ eyes.

The dominant horse (mare, stallion, or gelding) is obeyed, but never trusted or sought out for companionship. Interesting ideas when you apply them to people. Rashid provides helpful examples, both of how horses act when left to their own, and how they act with people. I know that I’ll be a better horse leader having read this, which is good, because I have been repeatedly told what a sucky leader I am, because I can’t “make” Apache do what I want to do. Now I see that sometimes I am letting him have a say in his life, and sometimes I do need to show him leadership…just the right kind.

In any case, there is always more work to do when it comes to horsemanship, and the big lesson I’m getting right now from the books I read, from my trainer, and from wise friends is that you should take what works for you and leave the rest – but make informed decisions based on your learning. Where did I hear that before? Oh, yeah, back when I was a La Leche League Leader and trying to figure out how to best feed and parent my children. Ha, maybe I’ve just moved on to a different species for my caring and nurturing focus.

By the way, if you’ve read this far but didn’t read the review of the horse book I read before this (hardly anyone read it), I encourage you to read the Horse Brain, Human Brain book. It also provided great insights into both human and horse behavior that can be helpful.

Why the Three-Star Review

You may have noticed that I gave this book only three stars. Well, besides the fact that not every book can have five stars, I just got annoyed by the typos in the book. My guess is that it was self-published, but if I spot three typos in a book, I get disappointed. In this one, I found three separate instances of the letter “a” appearing where there should be a letter “u” in the word. And it wasn’t some weird dialect of English either.

  • Ran for Run, p. 91 and 176
  • Rash for Rush, p. 201

Ok, yeah, editors should not read self-published books. I know that. The last one I read had a whole bunch and the person wasn’t even interested in hearing about them. OK, fine. Hope someone buys it anyway.

By the way, yes, I know my blog has typos. A lot of posts are written on the phone, and my ancient and chubby fingers end up making some doozies sometimes. I would appreciate it if you pointed them out so I can fix them. I typed this post. Let’s hope it’s not too bad.

I’m probably going to read another of Rashid’s books, so I didn’t get all that upset with the typos; I’d just prefer to not see any. Back to staring at the ocean.

Destination Accomplished

Yay. We made it to the condominium in Myrtle Beach. We are way up high in a small unit. If we have guests we will get another room. We will see if anyone comes. This weekend it’s just me and Lee.

Today’s drive wasn’t too fancy. But I did get to see Charleston, SC for the first time. Somehow I’d always missed going there when I had a chance.

I do want to come back and actually stay there. It’s beautiful.

Big trees

All my photos of plants from today came from the ditch at the South Carolina welcome center. There were some good ones, but mostly rushes and water plants.

Just before we got to Myrtle Beach, we stopped in Georgetown, our favorite nearby town. We got some ice cream and saw a gator and it’s turtle friends.

Finally we’re at the Ocean Enclave, in our room in the sky. I was happy to see my favorite bartender is still here! We all got caught up. She did teach kindergarten this year and has survived. Good for her.

Lights and sea.

I’ll be more chatty tomorrow. Things are happening back home! Right now I just want to snooze. Not feeling too good, but I like where I am. It’s actually quiet.

I can see for miles.

Let’s Wander through the Deep South

Today, Lee and I took the road less traveled through the great forests of Mississippi and Alabama. I managed all my meetings so far and have been able to get work done, even with occasional sketchy internet.

A wild scabious plant.

I started out taking pictures of flowers near our hotel. I found an empty lot with excellent weeds. This hotel didn’t have roses, but there were a couple of cute cultivated flowers.

I have to say, though, that it was just so darned fun to drive on a practically empty road through state forests bordered by riotous wildflower displays. Lee was nice enough to stop a few times so I could get photos of plants I’d been interested in from looking out the car window.

From a distance this gorgeous cogon grass was very stinking. And it’s striking up close.
This very bright verbena covered the roadside with splashes of fun.

Those two were the ones I was most curious about. But the coreopsis and others below made the DeSoto National Forest and surrounding area fascinating and a balm for my soul. Enjoy some samples.

Lee took a more distant view at our longer stop. I look like I was having fun!

I saw lots of trees and other plants but they made rather snooze-worthy images. Now Lee wants photos of small towns. I’ll see if I can look up.

Yes, Good Customer Service Exists

So, Lee and I are headed to our yearly South Carolina condo stay. We left after work yesterday to get a few hours in, and stopped at the same Hampton Inn we stayed in last year.

It has beautiful plants around it.

When we got there, one front desk person was on the phone. She had obviously been on the phone a long time, helping someone with a complex reservation. I was so impressed at her kindness and support for the person on the phone.

Snappy!

Meanwhile, I discovered I’d made my reservation for the wrong day. The young goth guy helping me was just great about fixing the error, which was made harder by the fact that I’d used points to make the reservation. He, too, was cheerful, friendly, and patient. It made me feel so much better.

Feeling rosy

Then, we realized a dude had been waiting behind us a long time. The phone call finally ended, and the front desk woman started to help us, but we said to help that guy. He was SO nice about having to wait, saying he’d had the same problem. We all ended up laughing and talking. What could have been a group of annoyed people ended up being uplifting.

They had dewberries, too.

Once we deposited our stuff, we headed over to the pizza place we ate at last year, where we had loved the calzones. Lee suggested we sit outside to eat. Our server ended up being the manager.

We had fun!

Well, the manager, named Leigh or Lee, made our meal a true joy. We had such fun talking with her about her life, adventures in the hospitality industry, and what it’s like to be the child of a very outgoing father (she and I are). The calzones with Cajun seasoning were great, too.

There are shrimp in there.

At the end of the meal, Leigh/Lee told us she’d been bummed that she had to come in to work, but that we’d made her evening great.

I guess I was happy, since I made this weird Snapchat.

I’m so glad we’d been able to meet and enjoy conversation. It was the end of the evening, so the crowd had thinned. She was able to do all her work AND meet new people. We got great food and laughed at all her stories.

I hope our trip continues to feature kindness, good service, and patience. Not being so stressful about COVID helps, for sure.

Horses Can Learn by Observation

For the five of you who read my review of Horse Brain, Human Brain from this morning, you might find what happened this afternoon really interesting.

Not me. I’m a hen.

The author of that book, Janet Jones, claimed that horses can learn from observing other horses. She shared that she’d seen horses learn to open gates and do ground work just by watching. I didn’t think I’d seen that before. Well, I saw it today!

Kathleen and I were measuring Mabel with the horse height tool we’d found. (16 hands) we accidentally left a gate open, and of course everyone except Dusty went out. We were fine with it, because we knew they’d come back at feeding time.

We’re free.

I ended up out there with them for a while, because I was urgently searching for the beverage cup I’d left somewhere out there. I wanted to take it on my upcoming trip.

I was too slow. Buh.

I watched Mabel as she purposefully strode across the grass. Where was she going? She went to the new trailer! What? She looked all over it for treats.

The grass IS greener here.

Now, she has never been through trailer friendliness training. Only Apache has. She was watching! Wow.

Any more treats on this thing?

By the way, in a minute, Apache walked right up to his former enemy and thoroughly checked it out. Looks like I did a good job with the trailer thing. Now to cut out the treats and just do praise, as Jones suggested.

Freedom. For a while.

I love it when you get validation of new knowledge so quickly. Thanks for escaping, horses.

Book Report: Horse Brain, Human Brain

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There haven’t been many book reports lately, thanks to all that knitting of baby blankets I’ve been doing in my off times. But I did manage to get through Horse Brain, Human Brain, by Janet L. Jones, and I’m glad I did.

Anyone who rides, trains, or just loves horses will want to read this book, because it sure helps you understand what’s going on in the “noggins” (the word Jones uses repeatedly) of our equine friends. It will make interacting with them much more successful and rewarding.

I have to like Jones. Once I read her biography and saw that she wrote her dissertation on how brains process ambiguous words, I knew she was a like-minded soul in more than just mutual love of horses. (Little known fact, after pragmatics and syntax, my favorite subject in my academic career was neurolinguistics. I came very close to studying that in grad school. I guess everything would have been different, so I’ll just drop that tangent.)

I have a brain? Whoa.

Readers of this book will find a lot about how brains and neurons work, but Jones does a great job of explaining technical terms in ways that are relatable to your average horse-loving human. She also provides a great glossary you can use if you forget what the hypothalamus does, or something akin to that.

My brain tells me to eat more grass. It makes me happy, as you can tell. Dopamine.

You’ll also find stories of real people and real horses to back up the scientific information Jones shares, which really helps you see how knowing the way a horse thinks can help you with your own horses.

I have to say that my biggest takeaway was that horses don’t have prefrontal cortex. Zero. None. That’s the part of the brain that lets us plan and evaluate a course of action before doing something. A horse, as a prey animal, can’t afford to mull over the options when a mountain lion is approaching. They need to run first and think later. Just knowing that little tidbit helped me a lot.

Pardon me, but when is the donkey brain book coming out?

The other part of the book that fascinated me was her assertion that horses and humans are two of the few (if not the only) examples of two different animals communicating instantly, almost as one, which is what a good horse and rider pair do. Jones explains how our brains and muscles coordinate in a feedback loop to each other.

I’m hoping Jones’s work encourages more research into how the equine brain works, even though horses do not make ideal research subjects (they are expensive to maintain and not particularly interested in cooperating!).

Want to know more? Get this book. I’m glad Tarrin recommended it to her students. Even if you aren’t a horse person, the information on how our brains work together is just plain interesting.

sara annon

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