Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘family

Windows Open

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What a joy it is to be able to open our windows to the fresh spring air after months of being closed to the winter. Our thermometer registered a temp of 80°(F) for a bit and then dropped down when some clouds moved in. The clouds didn’t last and the temperature jumped back up with the return of direct sunlight.

We took a break from doing any major projects and enjoyed brunch with our visiting kids. Cyndie sent them home with grocery bags of leftovers and a few dozen free-range eggs.

I did sneak in a little time to give my bike a thorough spring cleaning. I pumped up the tires and oiled the chain in preparation for my first ride in two years.

At dusk, I stood out on the deck in the residual warmth of the day and watched Cyndie puttering around with her garden while she waited for the chickens to make their way into the coop for the night. We couldn’t see it, but somewhere there was an outdoor fire burning that gave the evening a comforting ambiance.

A pair of bats flitted about overhead, doing loops at several difference elevations.

Stepping back into the house, I was struck by how luxurious our home in the country is and how lucky we are to live here. Even more so during the pandemic.

I wonder what it will be like here in the coming years of continued warming of our planet.

At least we should be able to open our windows earlier and earlier each spring.

What a great milestone that is every year.

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Written by johnwhays

April 5, 2021 at 6:00 am

RS Interview: Marie Friswold

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Relative Something is thrilled to be able to present the second interview in a new and ongoing sporadic series where the art of thoughtful question and answer conversation is practiced with participants who are kind enough to respond to my requests.

What a special treat it is for me to be able to present to you, Cyndie’s mom, Marie!


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RS: Let’s dive right in. If you were told you were going to be featured on the cover of any magazine in the world, which one would you choose, and why?

Marie: First of all, I would be too embarrassed to be a feature, as I don’t like to have attention drawn to myself. Having said that, I know how to talk to people and make others feel comfortable, so I guess I am not as much of an introvert as I think I am. AT LEAST NOT ALL THE TIME. If there would be any magazine, I think it would have to be a Bon Appetit, Taste of Home, or some baking magazine, or maybe a Martha Stewart magazine where I would feel comfortable and more knowledgeable on the subject of cooking or baking.

RS: Oh, that seems perfect! Your ability to feed and entertain family and friends is legendary. In what ways do you think you have refined your gifts and skills for hosting special occasions over time?

Marie: With the help of Carlos and Barry, I have learned to add style, color, placement of dishes, tablecloths, and of course the wonderful flowers that our gifted Carlos has done for the past 20 years. I have kept all the many recipes, vases, candleholders, napkins, tablecloths, and pictures of the flower arrangements and the way the house and tables should look. I feel I’ve learned from both Carlos and Barry how to entertain with a flare. I loved every minute of learning new ways to present the decorations and the food with a touch of elegance and certainly missed not doing so this year of 2020, as no one could be here to enjoy it with me.

RS: Do you remember the first time Cyndie introduced me to you? (For the record, I don’t remember.)

Marie: I believe the first time I met you was when Steve had you, Bill Daly, Chip Gilbertson, and another guy up to Wildwood for a weekend.  Cyndie was also there and knew all of you. I really didn’t know that you were a special friend of Cyndie’s at that time since you were one of the gang that came up to the lake as a group of Steve’s friends.

RS: You know, the only thing I remember about that visit to Wildwood is from the photo we have depicting the gang gathered in the old triangle with me playing guitar. In all fairness, Cyndie and I went back and forth several times (usually my undoing) before we locked in for the long haul, so it is understandable you didn’t know our status early on.

Marie: Then I would add that when Cyndie went to California for college, I didn’t know then how much you meant to her, but she really knew that year how much you were the only one for her, and the rest is history. I do remember the time you came to our house to ask for her hand in marriage while I was arranging the Christmas tree lights all over the living room floor. Fred and I thought that was the nicest part about our whole day – with our answer being YES. Again, the rest is history!

RS: It’s been just over six months since your partner in life, Fred, departed this physical world. How are you doing? There are innumerable ways such a loss impacts a person.

Marie: I am doing very well and am sleeping quite well. I don’t like to show my sadness very much to others. Having said that, I do talk to my family and two or three really good friends to share the way I am feeling at different times. Covid times have not been helpful, as I am a people person and love being with my family and friends, which I have not been able to do at this time. It has been very lonely since Fred died, as we talked about everything (good, bad, different subjects, reading, politics, movies, you name it) and I find it hard to talk to myself about all these various subjects without being sent to a lock-up room. I also reflect on the wonderful life we had together and realize more and more how lucky this person from Manannah was to be the one he chose to be his lifelong partner. I am also frustrated at all the paperwork, file cabinet clean up, business subjects to be addressed, and tons and tons of papers to be looked at and thrown away, so I tell him of my frustration but he doesn’t answer me back. I think there will be ups and downs for the next few months yet to come, but I am aware that eventually there is a brighter year ahead for all of us. Thank goodness for my loving family as they have been the strength that keeps me going and are always there for me.

RS: You and Fred started life together in college and had kids right away, on a rather tight budget. Ultimately, you two succeeded in growing wealth while simultaneously growing your family, raising Cyndie and her brothers to successful adulthood, and gaining grandchildren. What do you feel whenever you look back on how far you’ve come?

Marie: As Fred had been noted for saying… “Ain’t we lucky.” I cannot believe I have had such a rich life and not just financial. As a very young couple, we had no car unless we borrowed from his Mother and Father, we made a pound of hamburger last for two or three meals, I washed diapers on a tabletop washing machine, made our meager salary go a long way, and had the time of our life enjoying what we had. As time went on, we made more money and could save a little along the way.  We rented for 10 years before we saved enough money to buy a house and lived in that house for 37 years before buying the house I now live in, which was 17 years ago. During those years, we had the first four children and lived in a double bungalow where we had a lot of other families with children for ours to play with and get to know really well. As a graduate of the NKP teaching degree from the Univ of MN, I learned how teaching young children was an advantage for creating things to do with my own young children. Fred was always so active, funny, and wise and loved reading nighttime stories to the kids. When our fourth child died of Leukemia at the age of four, our family had just built a home in Edina that we moved into just two weeks after her death. The next years were the most difficult of our life and for the remaining three siblings of hers. I think something good may have resulted as a result of our grief, that somehow we learned how to cope, live, and move on when things were tough. Then a beautiful new child came into our lives when our baby son, Benjamin, was born in December 1971. A new chapter was in store for all of us and our children went on to become the gifted, talented, wonderful, precious people they are today. I have been blessed with a rich and wonderful life with Fred, who was doing so much to give back to the community, church, YMCA, University, with kindness to all, and left me with the title that I now believe I will say…      — “AIN’T  I  LUCKY.”

RS: You were a little girl when WWII disrupted the world and now we’ve got the turmoil of a global pandemic some 75 years later. You’ve been through all the events between, assassinations, civil rights protests, and most personal, the loss of a young Michelle to leukemia and most recently, the loss of your husband. As long as I’ve known you, your perspective has been pretty pragmatic and generally positive. What’s your secret? How would you frame our current moment relative to all that you’ve experienced before?

Marie: I grew up with a very loving, caring, beautiful childhood and had the greatest older sister for my friend all my life. My mother and father were the kindest and most thoughtful parents, and I learned at this young age that there was always a safe place to bring friends home. I was taught how to do things for myself at a young age and I learned to be helpful to my invalid Grandmother. I think I became very thoughtful during the time the war ended because my dad was now going to be out of a job and I could sense that he was sad, yet we were happy the war had ended, but then so did his job. It was then that we moved back to Manannah where I had been born and our family became the store owners in this small town of 100 people. My mother was a one-room schoolhouse teacher and a darn good one from all that I have heard. She graduated from college with her four-year degree at the age of 58. She taught me a lot so I guess she had to be really good. My Dad always had a joke to tell and a smile on his face. Never a harsh word came out of his mouth and he was very aware of the needs of others. There was always a solution or a positive answer to my questions. I believe that during the tough times my glass was more half-full than half-empty, and I believe Fred always had his glass half-full or more, as well. We hope we have been able to give some of the positive and not the negative to our lovely children, but also to all our fabulous, wonderful grandchildren in hopes they can truly live a fulfilling and happy life. This current moment is the longest, most difficult everyday life experience to stay positive. There is so little I can do to help others, due to my age and slight difficulties doing things right now. I truly feel there is going to be a better future for us this coming year and hopefully a better understanding of people of all races, religions, and countries to live in peace and kindness.

RS: Amen to that.

Thank you, Marie, for sharing your thoughts so eloquently. I’m feeling pretty lucky myself that you took the time to indulge my unexpected inquiries.  I suspect the family will make a point of getting everyone together to celebrate at the first post-pandemic chance we get with a grand feast where you can be the Hostess of Honor! Keep your apron at the ready.

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Written by johnwhays

January 6, 2021 at 7:00 am

Isolated Festively

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Over a holiday weekend that historically would have us venturing sixty-some miles to the west three times in two days to mingle and nosh with Cyndie’s relations, the Christmas of 2020 in all its pandemic isolation reduced our travels to one time to exchange gifts at her mom’s house. Distanced, masked, and without risking a shared meal, our children met us at Marie’s house in Edina on Christmas eve day for the briefest of gift exchanges.

Little did we realize before setting out in the moments after our township road had finally been plowed around 11:00 a.m., we were in for some of the riskiest driving we’d experienced in recent memory. From local roads to the interstate highways, the surface was frozen and slippery. Almost every mile, sometimes more frequently, we spotted vehicles buried in the ditch.

Approaching a speed that would require the use of brakes in order to slow down was taking chances that threatened an unwelcome hell of post-storm autobody appointments, not to mention bumps and bruises, or worse.

Every overhead message board flashed warnings of crash delays ahead. As we waited in one backup, a full-size fire engine forced its way ahead and crossed all lanes to block the two left-most. We crawled ahead to where the sight of a big rig was perched on the cement barrier dividing east and westbound traffic, front tires high off the ground.

Later, another backup wrapped around a helpless pickup in a center lane, lacking enough traction to make any progress up the slight incline.

Cyndie’s expertly cautious driving got us there and back without incident.

Back home with presents in hand, we settled in for three days of isolation that Cyndie masterfully enhanced with wonderfully festive meals and activities, while simultaneously continuing to practice post-surgery regiments for her knee.

We ate like royalty and dined on some of her family holiday classics. Beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce, marinated carrots, out-of-this-world skin-on mashed red potatoes, and dessert of unparalleled greatness, cranberry cake with butter-caramel sauce.

We sat around the fireplace and worked on a new jigsaw puzzle from Marie that depicted chickens that looked just like ours. Cyndie poured herself into new books and I spent renewed time in my world-wide online community, catching up on reading and writing there.

A text-chain of family members helped us to stay connected, but there was no getting around the fact we were home alone together at one of the most family-gathering times of the year.

Somehow, maybe due to an urge to make it feel anything but just another day at home, Cyndie took interest in assembling the jigsaw puzzle with me, something in which she usually finds no pleasure. I chose to match her change in routine by deciding to skip building the outer border first, a step that moved me entirely out of my otherwise rigid norm.

We had a blast with the task, each finding great pleasure in the shared experience.

Quite simply, it helped to make the entire weekend feel downright festive, isolation be damned.

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Like Christmas

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One week away and it’s occasionally feeling like Christmas is drawing near, except it’s as if it is on the other side of a blurry sneeze guard.

Cyndie and I tolerated a COVID Thanksgiving all by ourselves as well as can be expected. Doing so again for Christmas just a month later is proving to be a little more distressing. Plans are being considered to choreograph separate socially distanced and masked visits but every option is a frustrating variation of the same fiasco.

Why is it so hard to take a year off from normal activities?

I find taking a long view makes it easier for me to accept, but it comes at the cost of glossing over more immediate events. It’s a defensive mechanism, I suppose. I don’t feel as much stress over the loss of normalcy this Christmas when I’m framing the isolation as a step toward having life back to usual next year.

I am prepared to do absolutely nothing with no one for as long as it takes to reach the point where pandemic is no longer a thing.

The day that the use of face masks is declared a thing of the past will feel like Christmas, no matter what month it is at the time.

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Written by johnwhays

December 18, 2020 at 7:00 am

Frosty Start

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After an initial scare of Cyndie’s foot not working for a day after her knee surgery, she has regained the ability to wiggle her toes and walk like normal. She is playing the good patient and raising and icing her knee while otherwise resting to allow for maximum healing. That leaves the walking of our dog solely up to me at the crack of dawn. It’s the least I could do for her since she has been gifting me the pleasure of waking up slowly in bed on weekends on a regular basis.

Delilah’s body clock does not like to sleep in.

This weekend I am getting a fresh dose of starting the day in the crisp pre-dawn frost of snowless December days.

The pandemic is contributing to a mind-numbing distortion of normalcy with a bizarre mix of isolation combined with displays on television and the internet attempting to make it seem like everything is just fine and Christmas will be the same as always. Advertisers can attempt to make us believe that, but beyond wishing it were so, I don’t think anyone is buying that ruse.

There are plenty of people who are investing energy toward making the best of a bad situation, and I appreciate that greatly, but believe it should be done without discounting the harsh reality of overwhelmed hospitals and high death tolls raging concurrently.

Without checking the authenticity of the reports, I am saddened this morning to see a change of data for the U.S. recording another death every minute to now happening every 33 seconds. (Graphic posted on CBS This Morning broadcast.)

This brings a glaring awareness to how privileged we are to live isolated from congested populations and to have our land and animals where we can get outside to breathe the country air.

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Written by johnwhays

December 6, 2020 at 11:33 am

Fitting Feasts

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Despite the peculiar Thanksgiving “ungathering” in the U.S. yesterday, brought on by the miserably timed (like there would ever be a good time) runaway community spreading of COVID-19, I am personally aware of many feasts that were had by individual households anyway.

I unwittingly broke a loose promise made to my mother a lifetime ago by not eating our Thanksgiving dinner at the old family table. We were gifted with rights to the table when we bought our first house, with the requirement that we host Thanksgiving on it for years after. Yesterday, since there were just the two of us, Cyndie and I chose to dine at the coffee table in front of the fireplace instead.

Cyndie performed her usual heroics in the kitchen and prepared a turkey with classic side dishes that could have fed a houseful. Luckily, she had baked most of the extras the day before so she could distribute portions to her mom and our kids in advance for a modified version of sharing the holiday feast together. Cyndie did her own custom door dash delivery to each of them.

In true 2020 pandemic fashion, the Friswold clan logged in for a video conference from each of our homes for the chance to see faces and hear voices on a day when we would normally have been together. The typical hijinks ensued.

“You’re muted still!”

“Turn on your video.”

[waving hello]

[all talking at once]

[followed by awkward silence]

Ah, but there is nothing like actually hearing the voices of our loved ones. Priceless.

As Cyndie and I got a few bites into our plates of Thanksgiving goodness, after voicing adoration for each of the fabulous flavors, I turned to her and asked, “Are we supposed to start arguing over politics now?”

Mostly, we just cooed over the fire in the fireplace, the exceptional quality of our holiday feast, and how good we have it despite the national crises simmering all around our country.

Much thankfulness ensued.

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Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2020 at 7:00 am

Tuesday Before

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‘Twas the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and all through the house

all the creatures were stirring because they knew something weird was up!

No one is coming and we’re going to stay home

the pandemic is raging so we’ll feast all alone.

A pandemic Thanksgiving is a very strange thing. It does feel like a holiday week, except for the part where it doesn’t feel like a holiday at all. So far, our family has been lucky. Every time I have started to think I might be getting sick, it turned out to be a false alarm. To the best of my knowledge, neither of Cyndie’s nor my family members have needed to be hospitalized.

The reports getting more and more exposure on the news from doctors and nurses who are burdened with caring for the rapidly growing number of patients who need intensive care are heartbreaking. I can imagine how frustrating it must be to head home from a long shift of being over-worked and driving past locations where people can be seen gathering together and/or not wearing masks in behavior that comes across as disrespectful of the perils and subsequent burdens that fall squarely on the front line healthcare workers.

There is such a disconnect among people with varying levels of concern.

One nurse said they have to eat like snakes. With no time to take breaks, they grab food when they can and swallow it in one bite so they can get back to tending to someone struggling to breathe.

Meanwhile, retail industries are advertising holiday sales like nothing is amiss, hoping to avoid financial collapse of their own businesses by propping up a facade that everything is just fine. Keep shopping!

Just don’t hoard paper products or cleaning supplies.

Who would have guessed that toilet paper would become a treasured stocking stuffer for Christmas?

I’m still commuting to the day job, where stress is high, but looking forward to staying away from people for the coming long weekend. Cyndie has stocked our shelves with ingredients to entertain us both with her culinary arts.

The entertainment of watching spectator sports played in empty stadiums hasn’t hooked me as a desired distraction so I expect I will lose myself in more books and movies or take some deep dives in my music library this weekend.

Think of all the gas we are saving by staying home.

Let’s all offer a toast to the doctors and nurses who are working harder than ever in conditions that are riskier than ever this Thanksgiving.

Maintain safe social distances in their honor and remember to give thanks for every blessing that can still be found, even in an otherwise difficult year.

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Written by johnwhays

November 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

Flashing Back

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I was looking for an image last night and found myself exploring a folder of photos from five years ago this month. Brings back memories.

My, those horses kept that pasture well-manicured.

It is interesting how we adjust our lives to the changing circumstances swirling around us in each given moment or situation. I’ve already forgotten the daily routine of caring for our horses. It’s been 20 months since we returned them to their previous home and herds. They are dearly missed, but I certainly appreciated the freedom from managing concerns about hay and wild weather and daily manure scooping under the overhang.

We still nurture dreams of finding a way to make our pastures available to nearby rescue organizations during summer months in the future.

There is a big void here without the presence of horse energy vibrations.

Now we allow the chickens a greater amount of our attention and this year of 2020, with its protests, pandemics, and politics, combined with the final months of Cyndie’s dad’s life, have commanded a bulk of our limited mental resources.

It’s invigorating to think back to better times and remember how different life was only a half-decade ago.

With the pandemic spreading unchecked we are in for a strange couple of holidays this season. Home alone is taking on a whole new meaning.

I think I’ll be diving into multiple flashbacks of Thanksgivings and Christmases throughout my life in order to distract from how odd this year has turned out.

Do you wonder if all the U.S. Thanksgiving Day Zoom gatherings will bog down the internet next week? If ever there was a time to have “smell-o-vision” built into the app, the aroma of the turkey feasts wafting from kitchens around the country would be a particularly valuable addition to the virtual family visits.

Trust me, if I could share the incredible smells when Cyndie bakes my mom’s sweet bread bun recipe (Gramma Betty’s Buns), I certainly would. It’s too much for one man to consume. I’ll be on aroma overload.

Come to think of it, that just might be a way to overwhelm the coronavirus. I need to contact the vaccine research people and let ’em know I may have stumbled on to a solution that doesn’t require insanely cold freezers during distribution and storage.

With Cyndie’s tendency to bake enough for millions, we could be looking at a way out of this “stay at home” protocol much sooner than currently predicted. Although, one side effect to note, I think I gain weight by simply breathing in the scrumptious smell of these fresh-baked morsels of goodness.

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Written by johnwhays

November 19, 2020 at 7:00 am

Dream Visit

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It’s a mystery to me, one which I believe equally that either of two possibilities could be true. When a deceased person makes an appearance in my dreams while I am sleeping, is it because my mind conjured up the occurrence or because the spiritual nature of the passed soul placed themselves into the perceptions going on in my mind?

On Wednesday night, or actually, in the wee early hours of Thursday morning, I was having a series of fantastical dreams. At one point, I found myself seated in a booth common to many eateries, with Cyndie beside me and her mother across from me, and then Cyndie’s dad, Fred, showed up, sitting on the corner opposite from me.

It is the first time I have dreamed of Fred since he died in June.

I was shocked to see him, and incredibly thrilled. He seemed to acknowledge my reactions, flashing an impish grin as I scanned Cyndie and her mom who remained oblivious. I was so moved with his presence, the rush of emotions made me want to cry.

It being a dream, and my body essentially paralyzed, I couldn’t get myself to act on the urge.

My question lingers; did my mind choose to create this scenario of Fred’s spirit appearing in my dream or did his supernatural essence actually show up to connect with me?

Either way, it brought me a lot of joy in the moment, joy that lasted all day long and expanded each time I described it to people.

Of course, the best was when I had a chance to tell Cyndie about it.

While he was seated, he took a swig from what appeared to be a beer bottle. He looked really happy to me. The thought occurred to me that he could probably have a beer if he wanted in his afterlife. Fred had been sober about as long as Cyndie and I have been married. He drank a lot of non-alcoholic beers, but I don’t recall him ever looking as happy about it as he looked when tipping that bottle in my dream.

Did my brain conjure all that up? Maybe. Since I don’t really know, I’m happy just relishing the great feeling the dream provided.

It did nudge up the emotions of missing him a bit more than before, but the fun of seeing him again, and his looking so perfectly happy and mischievous was worth it.

Missing Fred is something that a lot of us are adjusting to and will linger long. If we could meet him in our dreams at will, I suspect it would happen more often than it does.

Maybe that lends a little credence to the possibility that appearances of lost loved ones in our dreams is more their doing than our own.

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Written by johnwhays

October 23, 2020 at 6:00 am

Energy Flow

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The intensity of the tug and pull of emotions lately is more drastic because it reflects dramatic extremes playing out, one on top of another. We don’t have time to comprehend the full depth of one calamity before the next arrives to take its place. But with no time between, the issues tend to compound which begins to tip the balance of our energy scales.

I have felt my own energy swaying dramatically from high to low lately, in light of the climate disasters complicating the challenges of coping with the ongoing virus pandemic at a time when repeated white-on-black police violence has brought systemic racism to higher visibility just as the election season revs up the intensity of one-sided fact manipulating.

At the same time, family birthdays and anniversary opportunities have been augmented with measured time among friends, bringing great joy and fulfilling peacefulness.

The glint of familiar eyes; stories of ingenious pandemic-coping accomplishments by strangers who join forces to help others; a slice of incredible lemon meringue pie, served outside after a backyard meal; a playful family cat chasing in circles after a soon-to-be-favorite new toy.

There are always features of good and bad mingling in our everyday lives but not usually with such depth of emotion as we are seeing today. It can become exhausting.

It is more important than ever that we pay attention to that exhaustive impact and put in whatever effort is needed to compensate.

We need to give ourselves permission to not feel our best every minute of every day. Claim some time of your own where you can shut out all news and focus exclusively on yourself and immediate surroundings. Bring some balance back to your energy for coping with the swings in every direction. Refill your own tank by finding a way to give to someone in greater need.

I’ve been thinking about some of the negative news and views of powerful people lately and this occurred to me: Have they not seen “A Christmas Carol? Isn’t it a given by now that selfish and abusive behavior is on the wrong side of all that is right and good?

Where are all our ghosts of past, present, and future when we need them?

There are far too many people in power who need to receive a visit to rebalance their senses of what it is to become one’s best self.

It’s a good day to go find a slice of your favorite pie.

Balance your energy flow!

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2020 at 10:36 am