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“difficult” women. [merely-a-thought monday]

“it actually doesn’t take much to be considered a difficult woman. that’s why there are so many of us.” (jane goodall)

and because of just exactly this, i will tread lightly as i write.

for the rules are still different in this world – the rules for men, the rules for women. the word “difficult” – and arriving at the word “difficult” – should present its own debate. how does one get this label, one would ask. does difficult mean speaking up, speaking out? does difficult mean raising the bar on expectations? does difficult equate with uncompromising? is agile adaptability difficult? does talent or education or expertise or experience make one difficult? is difficult attached to success? does difficult mean not accepting discriminatory treatment? is difficult shunning a lack of respect or other indignities? does difficult mean pointing out the lack of transparency in an organization, an institution, a company? does difficult mean urging truth? does difficult mean following process? does difficult mean requesting financial equity between genders, between races? does difficult mean asking to be rewarded on one’s merits? does difficult mean asking hard questions? does difficult mean – heavens forbid – talking back? does difficult mean suggesting change? does difficult describe “good trouble“?

do those things applied to a woman make her difficult? do those things applied to a man make him difficult? is the measuring stick different? might there be a double standard? just where is the dividing line and why is there one?

if indeed those define “difficult”, i’d further suggest that a difficult man is considered a powerhouse, a strong leader, a go-getter whereas a difficult woman is considered, well, difficult, out-of-line, disrespectful, even egregious.

jane goodall is right. it doesn’t take much to be considered a difficult woman. not back in the day. not now.

and for that, i would hope that all women would get mighty difficult.

*****

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masks and pedestals. [two artists tuesday]

i have never been a fan of pedestals. pedestals encourage blind faith in someone human, not really useful in a world of imperfection. pedestals encourage a spirit of elitism, that kind of ladder-rung-sorting not really useful in a world striving for equality, for unity. pedestals encourage silence, not really useful in a world where chinwags and truth should go hand in hand.

when i was not yet a teenager, in 1969, my big brother got married. he and my sister-in-law, even at their own young ages, became really involved in marriage encounter – a weekend retreat celebrating marriage and delving into “vivencia”, the life experiences that brought them each to where they were together. because i adored my brother and his wife, and because i spent an inordinate amount of time with them, they included me in on their learnings and encouraged me to reflect on my own shaping and dreams. i will not forget the conversations we had about masks.

we talked about mask-wearing for long hours over mounds of ice cream and big glasses of iced coffee. my brother was adamant about dropping the elastic bands holding the mask over one’s face, in opening eyes that had been tightly shut, locking out verity. his words about being who you are – who you really are – not who the mask you are wearing says you are or how it hides who you are – echo in my mind and have partnered with my own feelings about pedestals.

i have had to revisit his words likely a zillion times through my life and wish he were sitting here now to continue the conversation with him.

filling in the blank with a person-put-on-a-pedestal or one-wearing-a-false-mask, i have been reminded time and again that just because _____ said something (whatever that something is) doesn’t mean it’s right.

i have silently thanked my big brother again and again for reminding me, with that nagging voice in my head that eschews ladder-runging, of the value of each one of us, sans pedestals, sans masks.

i have sought, both with success and with failure, to stay true to his important words, to identify any masks-in-the-moment, mine or those of others, to stand on the ground next to each other, in the middle of generous strengths and vulnerable weaknesses, struggling on the human seesaw of magnanimity and selfish motives, giving up any expectation of perfection in exchange for the acknowledgement of limitations and the offer of hope, trying to just be.

pedestals and masks, both wearying, both a waste of good living, both not really useful on this good earth in trying to just be. thank you, my big bro, for the reminder in the ice on the deck.

*****

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RBG. it’s personal. [flawed wednesday]

ruth bader ginsburg. it’s personal.

i am not thinking that i will provide any new enlightenment about this extraordinary woman, for there are plenty of places you might research her groundbreaking and life-changing work, plenty of historians and writers compiling stories, timelines and amazing tomes of her accomplishments. but i can speak of the heart-stopping moment when i realized she had died.

we had not checked in with the news for a few hours. i glanced at instagram and saw that My Girl had posted a photograph of justice ginsburg. there were no words. i was immediately and deeply saddened, knowing that the chaos of 2020 would soon become even more rooted in division and that the chasm of the aisle would sink lower, into the hot fiery core of the earth.

it’s not surprising to see the hypocrisy that followed her passing. the sheer audaciousness of self-agendized dispassionate souls who have been chomping at the bit, waiting for this moment, is breathtaking, from the president down through his senate minions, all hell-bent. it is the earth quietly trembling that you feel beneath your feet as you walk through these days, reading, watching, scorn and disbelief wrinkling your brow.

but in the wake of this supreme court justice’s incredible time of service, there is no shame for those who slobber all over themselves in their zeal to replace her, to ultra-conservatize the court, to wield a time-travel incendiary to earlier times in the country when elite white men (curious how this describes those wielding as well) ruled everything and equality – equal treatment – of gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status mattered not. how easily they reach for their (metaphoric) automatic weapons to detonate all the good work that has been done, all the justice that has been served, all the good intentions set in place to further that good work. how repulsive it is to watch them spewing words they now gorge on, taking them back, making excuses, declaring their victory to stock the court, like they would an elite fish farm in the catskills.

RBG has had a profound impact on our country, on our world. the loss of her compassion, her intellect, her wisdom is, likewise, profound. it’s life-changing-devastating. it’s personal. absolutely personal. it should be personal for all.

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they laughed. [k.s. friday]

they laughed.

two people in a facebook thread LAUGHED (with the convenient use of laughing emojis) at a post i wrote responding to someone’s perception that there wasn’t a lot of peace and love going on in my town and to a comment about kenosha and what “BLM and rioters have done to beautiful cities” and that “denying that it exists [wouldn’t] make it go away.” i was sincere and fervently hopeful, while recognizing realities:

“here, with a house full of smoke from the fires, within hearing distance of the militia shots in the street. we could hear the blasts of tear gas, the yelling and chanting. we had a visceral front seat. but we also see many, many, many people coming together to try to address a long-standing (forever) problem of this nation. denying systemic racism exists will not make it go away. it is incredibly sad that conversation has to be aggressive and pointed, rather than generative and mindfully intentional. cities can be rebuilt, but lives are lost forever. i don’t want to live in a city that looks beautiful and is ugly underneath.”

and they laughed. LAUGHED. i had to step away to catch my breath before i could respond. what is becoming of human decency these days?

yes. kenosha painted boarded-up windows and painted over graffiti of negative messaging. yes. because, connectivity and love are the beginning. and reminders of those can only help. each positive message – in a city boarded up and burned and looted – reminds us of the most basic of emotions: LOVE. each positive message reminds us – as we walk about in this raw wound – that we are incomplete, we are flawed and we have much work to do. we need listen to each other, without overtalking. we need speak, without animosity. we need respect, without exception. we need conversation. we need connection. each positive message reminds us that hope exists, even in the tiniest brush of paint on wooden board.

this is a time of division, to be sure. day after day i am confronted with this reality and with peoples’ brazen attempts to undermine relationship with rhetoric and falsehoods, misplaced loyalties and inaccurate assumptions, and, worse yet, words of aggressive animosity and actual hatred. i wonder what the fallout will be. will the silken gossamer threads of connection sustain? will empathy fall by the wayside? will love of humanity – in all its shapes and sizes, genders, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic positions, religious affiliations – all its anythings – prevail?

“we live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender.” (john o’donohue) the question is always, every single day, how will we live? how will we spend that time? who will we be?

realizing the vast array of wise words that would also be appropriate alongside photographs we’ve taken in kenosha, i chose to post these words of dr. martin luther king jr., “darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” and i added this in answer to derisive comments about protestors:

“one of the foremost protestors in this land was dr. martin luther king jr. the thousands of people who walked in peaceful protest here, even drove and marched right by our house, were walking in that spirit. there have been rioters and looters in each city of unrest. they are spurred on by the vitriol and angry words of the current president, who seems to revel in discord and chaos. the fact is, the vast majority of people who are protesting in this nation are protesting in peace. just like in kenosha. this nation needs equality – the only way to get there is to listen to those who speak, listen to those who protest. their words count.”

and then, in a fine example of what conversation has defaulted to, i was called a “cupcake”, a “snowflake” and “infantile”. wow. i beg your pardon.

and they laughed? how dare they.

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and today we wait. [two artists tuesday]

guarding the sidewalk

and today we wait.

you can feel the energy in the air.  nervous tension.  our city waits for the unwanted arrival of the president, who is apparently coming to kenosha to add photos to his photo op collection of inappropriate pictures taken at inappropriate times in circumstances about which he has no empathy.

we wait, nervously, wondering what the afternoon will bring.

in a city struggling to heal and move forward, this president will churn up any dust that has settled.  his rhetoric will spur on angry voices of hatred and division.  his actions and attitudes will suck the hopefulness out of people who have done so much in these last days after the police shooting of a young african american man, the ensuing protests, the riots and looting and arson wreaked by extremists, the pleas for the embracing of black-lives-matter change, the death of two protesters in the streets by a little boy from out-of-state with a very big gun playing militia, and this very president’s lack of compassion, lack of healing words, lack of condemnation of all that is obviously wrong, lack of truth, lack of moral compass in addressing all of what kenosha has experienced in the last nine days.

we wait, nervously, wondering what evil the inevitable rally will unearth, what the retort will be by the people of kenosha who truly care, what the extremists will do, who may enter this city from outside to do damage or stir up violence, what will happen to the baby steps we have taken.

we walk or hike every day.  lately we have walked a lot in our neighborhood.  we turn the corner down a ways and, tucked in front of the fence, next to the sidewalk, positioned in front of the clover on a broken piece of glassware are these two military figures.  both armed and at-the-ready.  what is this?  what does it mean?  even these kid-toys sitting there, day after day, seem to be a statement, seem unsettling in this climate.  and so we wonder.

and we wait.  the stress is palpable as the town listens for the giant military helicopters to arrive or the motorcycle brigade or the national guard entourage parade.  and we wonder what the evening will bring.  will the peaceful protests be overrun by presidential fuel added to the embers?  will all hell break loose?  will kenosha lose ground, the slightest of forward-moving crawling it has done?

we wait, nervously, and wonder how our city, our state, our country can overcome the ugly division that is forming a wall between factions resistant to change, impenetrable, armored to the hilt.  we wonder how we can be a city, a state, a country of dignity and inclusion, respect, equality, safety, peace.

we believe hate-speech is not the answer.  we believe pushing people down to raise oneself up is not the answer.  we believe people in the streets armed with weapons of destruction is not the answer.  we believe divisiveness, in all its colors and genders and socioeconomic forms, is not the answer.  we believe falsehoods and stoking fire and inciting animosity and violence without impunity is not the answer.  we believe abhorrent agenda-riddled self-indulgence on the part of the leadership of this country is not the answer.

stand up, little plastic soldiers.  look each other in the eye.  look the enemy in the eye.  put your guns away.  start with love.

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please figure it out. [k.s. friday]

figure it out

i, like so many others, want to scream “FIGURE IT OUT!”

in a nation crumbling under leadership pushing division and counting on a so-called “patriotic” movement of the populace to want to climb aboard its sick agenda-ridden wagon, i want to look people in the eye and ask them to please figure it out.

figure out that you are being accosted with aggressive propaganda, with misinformation, with bigotry and false pretenses of protectionism.  in our country, this means you are being intravenously fed with distorted falsehoods, warped promises, extreme nationalism in a round-globe-world where this country is simply one of almost 200.

figure out that this disinformation is feeding into the frenzy.  in our town, this means that a 17 year old boy from just over the state line strapped on his AR-whatever, got in the car, reportedly had his mother drive him (holding his automatic-people-killer) to our town where he played cowboy vigilante and took the lives of two people during protests for social injustice.  this frenzy is dishing out the sickening sweet saccharin of cultish followers in a time of fragile unrest.

figure out that the hate-speech of people is wooing joiners, that words like “be sure to arm yourself and your family and know how to use them” cannot lead to any good thing.  in my life, this means people i love disenfranchising themselves from me, detaching and choosing the popular-group lure of strangers, rabidly spewing the hostile talk of animosity.

figure out that you live in a country that is supposed to be dedicated to unity and democracy and that you are being courted to blindly align yourself with a singular individual who has demonstrated all that is opposite to the very ideals, the core of goodness, this country touts.  in our world today, figure out what lies are and who is being upheld in the telling of them.

figure out that there is much to fix.  this system – our country –  is working as systems work – i have learned that they protect to the death the way they are set up and the profoundly, inexcusably unjust way that this country has been set up is glaringly obvious.  figure out that fixing it starts in your heart.

figure out that your children and your children’s children will be growing up in this place and choose what you want to leave behind for them.  is it a place of peace, of equality, of truth, of health, of gently holding this fragile earth, of clean air and clean water and fertile land, of hope and justice and liberty for all?

figure out that life is sacred and that it is lost in a moment.  figure out what truly means anything to you.  figure out the bottom line.  figure out that love is truly the answer, the place to begin.  figure out that those you love count and, for heaven’s sake, let them know.  and then look out, to others standing beyond those you already love, and love them too.

please figure it out.  we are in a death spiral.

 

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this world needs you. [d.r. thursday]

thisworldneedsyour WITH EYES jpeg copy

all of us.  we will all need to participate.

this world will never be the same.  we need to ponder, we need to dream, we need to imagine:

a better place, a more fair place, a place that is based on equity and equality, kindness and compassion.  a place that assumes virtue and intends the same.  a place that protects its peoples, that encourages individuals to care for each other.  a place that doesn’t incite rancor, celebrate the weapons of violence, or create enmity and spite.  a place where the downtrodden are lifted up and those with excess are generous.  a place where inhabitants don’t self-aggrandize or strategize to find ways for more-more-more, ways that take from those with less, ways that undermine those in need.  a place that doesn’t normalize language of vitriol, hatred, and antagonism.  a place where all races are equivalent, all genders are respected, all ethnicities are indistinguishably included.  a place where the environment counts and sustaining it beyond our own time on this good earth is a priority.  a place that recognizes the sacred in the out-of-doors, the borrowing of this dirt, this water, this air for the short span of time we are here.  a place where we are always seeking ways to better life for each other, to enhance daily living, health, happiness.  a place of truth.  a place of goodness.

yes.  this world needs your good imagination.  or we will never get there.

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“it matters not.” [merely-a-thought monday]

we all fruit

i never let it stop me.  it didn’t matter to me the title someone held or the notoriety they had.  i always reminded myself that this person i needed to call or meet with or contact was human.  “this person breathes in and out, just like i do,” i would think.  i felt this person – whoever it was – must have some human quality in common with me, regardless of a possible overly-amplified ego or the protected life bubble they might live within.  “it matters not,” my momma, a lover of language, would say.  in the end, nothing really separated me from this person, him or her, human-wise.

and so, my slightly-dialed-back-new-york chutzpah would dial the phone and expect nothing less than speaking with the person i was calling, no matter what rung on the ladder that person clung to, no matter how high the ladder, no matter the pecking order or the person’s perception of self.

because:  people.  we are all people.

now there’s a starting point.

but you wouldn’t know that looking at this country these days.

my sweet momma would be 99 today as i write this.  99.  even in her time on this planet – which devastatingly ended five years ago now – she had seen a lot of change.  “it matters not,” she would say.  we are where we are.  she read, she researched, she asked questions.  and she always arrived at the same place:  people are people and should be – in the crux of all things – equally treated as such.  period.

empty words ticked momma off and she warned me of people who would talk the talk but not walk it.  her sixth sense of intuition was often caution enough in friendships and relationships where people would get all virtuous and principled and, yet, be the same people who could clearly not see the irony in their supposed loftiness, the empty in their words, the do-as-i-say-not-as-i-do-ness, the falsity in their stance.

my momma, our beaky, subscribed to kindness.  it would be to her horror to see the hateful rhetoric nowadays.  she would have no patience for it.  she would point to the horrors that hatred had produced in years past.  she would state in simple terms:  “it matters not,” she’d say, “be kind to each other.  in all things, be kind.”

if momma were here today, she’d wear a mask.  not because she would be in a high-risk category, but because it is the kind thing to do.  a lover of math and science, she would point to the words of scientists, researchers, epidemiologists, medical professionals and she would insist on listening to them.  “it matters not what you think,” she’d point out.  “what matters is what they know.”

if momma were here today, she might protest.  she’d point to inequity and ask what we could do about it.  she’d not draw lines of color or race or gender or sexual orientation or economic status.  “it matters not.  people are people,” she’d insist.  she’d wonder at a country, with so many smart people, continuing to head down such a dark road.  she’d question, she’d challenge, she’d debate, she’d be stalwart and she would hold steadfast to being kind.  period.

it may be oversimplification, but gus had it right in my big fat greek wedding.  “apple and orange…we all different, but, in the end, we all fruit.”  he and my momma would have been grand friends.

because in the end, we are all human.  we breathe in, we breathe out.  we can reject hate; we can choose to love.  nothin’ wrong with a little oversimplification.

BE KIND MASKS – in honor of the wisdom of my sweet momma ❤️

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the feathers as clues. [two artists tuesday]

perspective copy

i didn’t mean to take this picture.  somehow my phone camera snapped it and i was unaware.  later, when i looked at my photo stream of the day i was surprised to see this.  it took a few minutes to figure out what the picture was of, the way you feel when you look at an ink-blot picture, your eyes focusing on the dark, the light, the foreground, the background, searching-searching for an image to emerge.

i always had trouble with those.  i must have been concentrating too hard to find something there.  i suppose relaxing into it would have produced an image sooner.

the feathers gave it away.  the feathers made it recognizable.  a piece of familiar, the feathers gave it perspective.  the dream-catcher hangs on the switch of the lamp on our kitchen table so it wasn’t as hard as the inkblots after all.

i wonder how many times i have not recognized the ‘real’ image.  how many times i have given little attention to the everyday, glossing over it.  how many times i have passed by light, my eyes focusing on the dark, my attention to the background instead of the inkblot or vice versa, trying too hard to find ‘it’.  passing by the familiar, looking to the distance.  or staring at the familiar with no eye to the distance, the horizon out-there attention-less.  what might i have missed?  what more might i have seen?

i am finding comfort in the familiar right now.  i am recognizing more-and-more that which is basic is that which is familiar is that which is comforting.  like chicken soup and pasta sauce, i find basic and simple consoling, the familiar i see heartening.

might we have different eyes post-this-crisis?  might we all hold simple closer?  might we ford the great-chasms-of-divide in this country with horizontal -not vertical- ladders of understanding like the ladders that traverse deep crevasses in high mountain climbs?  might we be more willing to see economic, educational, opportunity differences?  might we truly address them?  might we see the landscape-that-has-always-been-there differently?  might we realize that which is comforting, familiar to us is the inkblot that so many cannot even begin to see, that so many cannot even imagine?  might we believe that every one is worthy?  might we see universal needs, universal struggles in a more united, focused-energies way?  might we come together, support different perspectives, talk about what is essential, strive for something different?

our universe camera is snapping pictures left and right of this pandemic crisis.  what will we see when we look through the photo stream?  what we will recognize about ourselves, this country?  will we embrace an image of care, of concern, of responsibility for each other, of unity, of equality?  or will we remain blind to the obvious differences we experience as this divisible ‘indivisible one-nation-under-God’ and will the dark inkblot prevail over the light?  we can look for the feathers as clues.

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what moms (i) want.

childrenarethebestwithframe-jpegdear moms everywhere,

i want what any mom wants. the moment that baby is born or you wrap your arms around your daughter or son, your heart catapults you through a lifetime with that child, your brain step-stoning through time.

my children are no different than yours. i want for them what you want – peace, relationships of love, learning and work that will make them responsible and open-minded, forward-thinking people in the world, good health and choices that will keep them in the best physical and emotional health, a community of friends that will support them, challenge them, engage them, play with them, a world that recognizes them with respect and that expects no less of them than to recognize others with respect as well, the willingness and desire to help those with less than themselves….the list is actually endless….

i woke up one morning recently (the Unbelievable and Jarring has happened in the last two weeks) and looked at my news app….suddenly i am addicted to this app. one of the headlines was referencing the “religious freedom executive order” which “signals major win for conservative christians”. it addressed, among other things, that, were this to be adopted, the government would protect the tax-exempt status of any religious organization or privately held company that “…believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth…..”(draft titled “establishing a government-wide initiative to respect religious freedom” as quoted in huffington post, washington post)

i cried. and not just a little.

this would potentially cripple all the anti-discrimination protections and forward movement our country has made for the LGBTQ community in recent years. and that, in the heart and mind and body of THIS mom, makes me react with fervent opposition.

because i want what any mom wants. i want to share in the relationships that the boy and the girl, my beautiful son and beautiful daughter, have in their lives. i want them to feel free free free to have these relationships, no matter where they go. i expect them, as i would were their relationships to be heterosexual, to be respectful of each other, communicative and affectionate, gentle and loyal, involved and supportive and kind, compassionate and loving; i expect the same things you would expect your children to exhibit and have in a love relationship.

i want to, someday, attend their weddings, should they choose to marry….just like you. i want to ponder what to wear as the mother-of-the-bride or the mother-of-the-groom. i want to have a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, families-in-law, just like you. why should it ever matter if the daughter-in-law is married to the son or the daughter?

i want what any mom wants. i want the opportunity to one day have grandchildren – are you two reading this? 😉  – should either the girl or the boy decide that they would like to expand their family to include a child. just as you have put time into deciding what you’d like a wondrous new baby or adopted child to call you as their grandma, i want to have this same chance.

i want my children’s world to be open-minded and accepting, two of the descriptors i would overwhelmingly use when asked what my faith is about. because my faith isn’t about exclusion. it’s not about fear of what’s different than me. i want the world the girl and the boy live in to be embracing and to find discrimination and unfair treatment of people – because of their race, their religious background, their sexual orientation, their financial status – egregious. just like you, i would think.

so I ask, what mom wouldn’t want these things? am i different than you? can you honestly say that you wouldn’t want these things for your children were you to be in my shoes? how hard would you fight for the right of your children and their choice of partner to not be discriminated against?

being a mother is being a mom. the definition goes beyond that of webster: mother: a female parent. that merely requires a contribution of DNA.

being a mom is everything from breast-feeding or waking in the middle of the night to warm a bottle, to tucking a toddler into a big-boy bed, to cutting the crusts off the peanut butter sandwich, to packing notes in the lunch, to kissing skinned knees, to listening to playground travails, to sitting, with great restraint, on the sidelines of the soccer/little league field, to last-minute making cupcakes to bring to school, to going to school administration to sort out issues of disagreement, to instructing small children to ‘sit on the steps’ in time-outs for improper or out-of-control behavior, to saying “no”, to letting them dye their hair red, to parent-teacher conferences that aren’t exactly what you wanted to hear, to behind-the-car-steering-wheel lessons, to hard conversations about cliques and even harder lessons about exclusion, to late late nights at the dining room table while projects are being completed last minute, to moments – just moments – when you revel in a hug or something positive this child has said to or about you, to waiting up to hear the front door open as they safely return home, to making decisions about college and packing up the dumped-out-onto-the-living-room-floor dresser drawers full of clothes to go while tears fill your eyes, to helping discern what interests really are, with no regard to what you might want them to be, to answering hard questions or simply listening when they call in the middle of the night with news of something that has happened in their world, to allowing them to separate out but still letting them know you are there Always, to being a fierce protector of their rights. AND the rights of the children of moms everywhere.

because what i want as a mom is really no different than what you want. if you can, and i hope you can, see that.

with love, respect and in mom-unity,

kerri