Book Opinion:Faithful by Alice Hoffman

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Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors. She’s the one who brought us Practical Magic, which delights my soul in both book and movie form. Her latest, Faithful, is equally satisfying.

High school students Shelby Richmond and her best friend Helene were in a terrible car accident.  Shelby was driving and almost died, Helene was injured so badly she remains in that twilight area between life and death where so many find themselves. Confined permanently to her bed and machines, Helene becomes something of a celebrity in their town because she was the beautiful, popular girl who is now in a coma and the tragedy of it all attracts exactly the kind of attention that tragedy always attracts in our society.  Shelby meanwhile is paralyzed by guilt and depression and suffers through her own physical injuries, followed by emotional breakdown, mental hospital confinement, rescue by her mother and self-imposed isolation at home.

The book takes us through the story of Shelby’s return to life. It is a long, convoluted path that involves boys from high school, love, dogs (the best people and saviors of many), work, education, heart-break and happiness, mysterious postcards designed to keep her from the edge and the guardian angel who sends them to her.

This is a great book for anyone who has experienced overwhelming tragedy and/or mental illness of any kind. Shelby is a survivor even though she doesn’t really know it. She shows the reader that you can come back from just about anything and create a life that while different from what you expect, can be better than what you dreamed it would ever be again. It is possible to come to terms with your life.

As usual with Alice Hoffman, the writing is clean and flows well. She writes at a high, lyrical level and it’s dense with feeling and subtlety, but she does it with such skill that it’s a very easy read. I was on a five-hour flight from Seattle to Fairbanks AK and read the entire thing on the plane.

If you’re looking for a good book to keep you company on these chilly winter days, this one might be a good choice.

Have a wonderful week, read a good book, and be kind to people. We need that now more than ever. Be the change you want to see in the world, and make it positive. 😊

PINK!!

When I was just shy of three years old, my parents bought a Victorian house in a small town. My mom decorated my room because I was just a tiny peanut, and she made it a girly paradise. One wall had wallpaper that consisted of various shades of narrow pink stripes on a white background, and the other three walls were papered with various shades of pink cabbage roses on a white background. There were pink drapes on the windows and a white eyelet bedspread. For my younger readers, a bedspread is NOT anything like the duvets etc. that you all are used to. They were the exact size of the top of the bed with a seam or a ruffle running around the edges of the mattress, finished off by a skirt that fell from the seam to the floor. It was beautiful and very, very, girly. That  house and that room instilled in me a love of old houses, toned down Victorian style, houseplants and of course, pink.

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I like to lean back against things with my camera and take upside down pictures. I have no idea why I enjoy this particular activity, but I do, don’t judge. This house is in New Orleans and it is clearly pink.
Ironically, my current home doesn’t have much pink in it, but I love pink flowers and shirts.  Everyone looks good in pink, just like I’ve yet to see anyone look bad in lavender.  Doesn’t matter what color your skin is or your tone is, pink makes you look healthy, and despite the rumor, redheads look great in it too.  You just have to find the right tone.  Anyway, here are some pictures of pink things.  It’s gray and blah and I figured everyone needs to look at some pretty colors.

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Here’s some pretty rock candy on a stick at the French Market in New Orleans. The speckled jawbreakers are pretty too.

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Tea Roses blooming at the Chicago Botanical Garden last summer.

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Some other kind of pretty pink rose blooming at the Chicago Botanical Garden last summer.

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Peonies putting on a show in Chicago.

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I think these were some kind of peony as well, but these were growing in George Washington’s flower garden at Mt. Vernon.  Obviously I manipulated this image. I don’t usually do that, but I recently got some software that lets me do this stuff and it’s kind of fun. They really were pink, I didn’t do that.

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My daughter’s prom dress and finger nails.

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A mountain top in Alaska last week.

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Sunset at Blind Pass between Sanibel and Captiva Islands Florida
I hope you enjoyed a little pop of pretty color on this winter afternoon! Have a great Saturday, stay safe and be nice! 😊❤

NORTH to Alaska!!

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I’m not a big fan of the term bucket list, because it reminds me about kicking the bucket.  I DO however like the term wish list.  There are many things on my wish list, and I just got to experience one of them, the Aurora Borealis.  I have the best husband in the world, and for our recent landmark anniversary, he used up all of his hard-earned airline and hotel points, along with a couple hundred dollars and took me to Alaska to see the Northern Lights for our anniversary.  I’m going to break the trip up into several posts because I don’t like to make them too long. I am including pictures, but I’m not an expert at taking Aurora photos, so they aren’t up to my usual quality.  I’m leaving them smaller because they look better small.

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The Northern Lights are of course linked to a number of legends for the people native to the areas where they appear.  In Alaska, they’ve been viewed as everything from what is basically a celestial River Styx to an omen of war to animal spirits. I’ve even been told that in some areas the Eskimos sing to the lights.  The scientific explanation is that charged particles from the sun strike atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, excite those atoms, and cause them to light up. The best time to go is March due to a better likelihood of clear skies, slightly higher temperatures and still long nights, that didn’t coincide with our anniversary though, so January it was.

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We rented a small off grid cabin to use as shelter while viewing the lights.  The temperature while we were there ranged from -11 to -27 fahrenheit. It was very cold and it was possible to stay outside comfortably for very short periods of time, so we needed a place to warm up. We’d read that the lights came out mostly between midnight and three in the morning, but once we got there and talked to real people, we found that they come out when it’s dark.  In Alaska in the winter that could be four in the afternoon or nine in the morning.

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About 8:30 p.m., I noticed a glow on the horizon. Based on my day-to-day life experience, I assumed it was the glow from a town so I went back inside; then I remembered we were in the middle of nowhere Alaska and there WAS no town in that direction so I ran back out and there they were! Just above the horizon now, was a streak of soft green light. It was in the shape of a low rainbow and my husband thought it was a cloud bank, then it started to move. It drooped down and looked like it was melting, then it swirled and twisted, and flowed. It would fade then charge back up again. It looked like it was coming out of a single spot, like smoke from a cigarette, then it blew up all over the sky. It rolled and turned over on itself. It stayed with us for FOUR HOURS. Finally, we thought it had gone away, then suddenly, there it was again, directly over the cabin in all it’s twisty, turn-y glory, then it snapped off like someone turned off the switch.

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I’ve been processing what I saw and trying to find a way to talk about it and I’m afraid that anything I say will be insufficient. Practically, it looked like glowing fog. The moon was very bright, so it wasn’t as brightly colored as it sometimes is, but that didn’t matter. It was otherworldly. Alien. Heavenly. It left us speechless. It filled us UP with words. It excited us and relaxed us. It changed something in the way we think. It changed something about the way we feel. It was basically a religious experience. It was profound. I understand why the Eskimos sing to it. I will go back someday and I will have a song prepared.

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Children of the Corn

Indiana is corn central.  My little seven acre spread grows wildflowers, weeds, wildlife, trees, more weeds, grass, the flowers I try to put in to make the place look more manicured, lightening bugs, and a lot more weeds.  We have two garden areas we are starting to work on, but it’s not easy.  We don’t have farm equipment, we have garden equipment, and it makes the work harder and longer.  Farm equipment is very expensive, so for now, garden equipment it is.

All around us though, are farms.  Corn and soy beans are the two main crops, but this year we’ve noticed more wheat fields popping up.  Corn and soy bean prices are flat, so I suppose the farmers are branching out.  Immediately adjacent to our property on one side is a corn field.  It has to be GMO corn, because the corn fields of my childhood couldn’t hold a candle to these guys.  The stalks are about ten feet high, there’s barely any room between them and they are so glossy and green they look like plastic.

Last night my daughter and I walked over to the next door field and took some pictures.  I didn’t have either of my good cameras, so these are cell phone photos.  Some of them are pretty good quality, some of them not as much.  I hope you enjoy them.  🙂

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Giant clump of Queen Anne’s lace, weeds, and sticks at the end of a work area.
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Sunbeams shining through waning weeds.
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Corn, behind the weeds that are actually the main crop of the country.
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Queen Anne’s Lace, or pretty weeds.
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I grew up in the boonies, don’t remember corn roots looking quite this way.
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More root fingers.
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Corn tunnel.
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I have no idea what this is, but it was really tall and kind of pretty.
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Don’t really need to worry about he who walks behind the rows, cause he can’t get through them…
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Another angle on the corn tunnel.
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Baby corn starting, or is this where politicians come from?
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Just pretty.
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Country roads.
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Almost full moon over the corn.
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Soy beans across the road.
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Ahhhhhh…
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soooo TALL!!!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my untouched cell phone pix.  I’ll have to take the camera out next time!

Have a great day, and please, be kind to someone.  Please.  🙂

Abandoned Apple Farm Part Two

Since I posted my first entry featuring pictures from Fagley’s Apple Farm a while back, I’ve received a number of requests for more pictures from that day.  Since I’m still recovering from a particularly nasty case of bronchitis, I have some extra time and thought today would be a good day to make this post.

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Just the front window.
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Grape Arbor out front.
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More orphaned books.  I don’t remember them having so many books, but I was pretty little when Mom took us there.
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The place was just full of stuff that they just walked out and left behind.
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I just like this.  I do remember their products being sold from these baskets.
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This photo was taken from the side of the store and shows the old house that goes with the property.  It also looks completely abandoned and allowed to begin to decay. The windows seem to be gone.  It’s open to the weather.
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This bottle was sitting on the mantle in the store.  Sorry it’s a little blurry.  I like it anyway.
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I have no idea what these are from, but I thought they looked cool.
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This is what I like to call a Walking Dead photo.
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Fall colors
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Immediately behind where I am standing to take this photo, is the highway.  It wasn’t this close in the past.  Where the sign is, giant mounds of glowing orange pumpkins used to lay in autumnal glory.  Also, to the right of the corner of the building, were giant mounds of pumpkins, and there were long tables filled with gourds under the arbor. It was beautiful.
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This is another Walking Dead scene.  I can just picture zombie arms coming through those slats.  It was a seriously gloomy fall day until right before I left, and my imagination was running wild.

I hope you enjoy these photos.  When I left here, I went over to Eastfork Lake and took some pictures over there.  You can find what I’ve posted so far in First Photo Post: Old Bethel Methodist Church.  Click on photography in the word cloud on the page and scroll down til you find it.  Also, follow me on Facebook.  Just search for Message Discipline is Required.

Have a great day! Hold fast, SPRING is coming.  Be kind to one another.  🙂

 

The Solo Conundrum

 

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View from The Cliff, in my favorite California beach community, Laguna Beach. Would it be weird to go there alone?

My husband has to go to L.A. for a week in April to something called a Controls Summit. Controls buy our food and heat our house, but zzzzzzz… I don’t even know what that is, other than its math-y and full of controls guys talking about controls things. Anyway, I’m not invited, so who cares, I AM invited to go along and keep him company when he’s not in meetings that could’ve been emails etc. By keeping him company, I mean being there when he gets back at night because he’ll be busy all day long. That means I’ll be on my own, all day, every day for five days.

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These Mission Bells remind me of the Eagles…

Couple things for you to understand.

  1. I love LA. I’m the only person in my family to do so, but my mother looked at Los Angeles like it was the promised land and that got pretty deeply instilled in me at an early age.
  2. My oldest child is 19 years old. I haven’t been alone in almost 20 years.
  3. I haven’t been alone in 20 years. Especially in a city the size of Los Angeles. Can I go to Disneyland by myself? Would I cry from loneliness? Would the Haunted Mansion and The Pirates of the Carribean be the same without my kids? Would wandering through the shops in Laguna Beach be fun without my husband? Because when I say I’ll be alone, I’ll be ALONE. I DO have a friend in California, but she lives near San Franscico and she works, so…
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Last time we were there, she was not a legal adult, and he was not big and almost an adult.

Will my adult daughter and giant, almost adult, son survive here at home alone? That’s stupid because my son is like buh-bye, have fun, leave me pizza money. I know my friend down the street will drive the boy back and forth to school, so I’m good on that front.

I’m nervous about it, but I think I need to do it. I regularly complain about the lack of adventure in my life, and this would surely be an adventure.

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This photo actually makes me start singing Hotel California in my head.

I’ll keep you posted.

Have a great day everybody. 😊

 

The Cincinnati Ballet’s Cinderella

My family frequently gets me ballet tickets for my birthday, because I love it. I wanted to be a dancer, but my knees gave out in my teens and that was that. I used to cry for a few minutes at the beginning whenever I went, but I no longer do. I DO however watch their feet. A. Lot. Last night at The Cincinnati Ballet’s new production of Cinderella, I got to watch a bunch of really beautiful feet.

Victoria Morgan has been the artistic director and CEO of the ballet since 1997. She has consistently done a fantastic job, but the last few years have seen the Cincinnati Ballet rise to another level. I know PNC Bank sponsored Cinderella, but there is no doubt that our little Ballet company has had an infusion of cash. What has always been excellent choreography by Ms. Morgan, is now accompanied by lavish sets, and beautiful costumes. Last year’s Alice in Wonderland was beautiful, the reconstituted yearly Christmas treat, The Nutcracker (a Cincinnati Ballet staple for as long as I can remember) is likewise beautiful and now this new version of Cinderella. I have one word, WOW.

I love story ballets. I can’t speak to any of the recent collection ballets, because I’m really stuck on the fairy tales, and I haven’t been to any of the other ones recently. I don’t usually like it when people muck about with the story, Rogers and Hammerstein’s politicized Cinderella, I’m talking to YOU, but the little bit of mucking the Cincinnati Ballet did with this Cinderella was fine with me. They included her father, which I thought I’d hate, but didn’t, it made the absence of her mother more poignant, and the fairy godmother had help, which I also thought I’d hate, but which I ended up loving.

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The Ugly Stepsisters from The Cincinnati Ballet’s Facebook page.

 

This show was Cinderella in all her glory accompanied by breathtaking sets, I cannot tell you in words how gorgeous the ball scene was, and something I’ve never seen in a ballet before, puppetry.  The mice, a dancing broom, and Lordy, Lordy, those carriage horses! Costuming that literally made me gasp, picture the ball, filled with Degas ballerinas, and two of the best ugly stepsisters I’ve ever seen. They were played by Jake Casey and James Cunningham, and as is often the case with those ugly gals, they stole the show.

 

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Cinderella, from The Cincinnati Ballet’s Facebook page.

Janessa Touchet was our Cinderella and she was the perfect mix of delicacy and strength that characterizes Cindy. Patric Palkens was the Prince, and he was perfect. Very handsome, very powerful, both he and Janessa were technically excellent. Pairing all the talented dancers of our company with the beautiful score by Sergei Prokofiev made for a remarkable night. There were a couple of accidental bobbles as a result of fake snow and leaves on the stage, but if you weren’t looking right at the spot, you’d never have noticed. I can usually find some fault in shows, but I honestly cannot find fault with this production. The Cincinnati Ballet has elevated itself to a first rate, big city Company, and I couldn’t be more proud. Look out NYC, we really don’t need you anymore.

If you have a chance, go tonight or tomorrow. It’s a perfect choice for Valentine’s weekend.

Have a beautiful day! 😍

Book Opinion: Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

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Adolph Hitler.

I was raised by parents and grandparents who lived through WWII and the Great Depression. I didn’t realize until about ten years ago, that the America I grew up in was very post war in its sensibilities. I was surrounded by the greatest generation and their independence and strength. I was raised on those values, and one thing that has always fascinated me because of its extremity is WWII era Germany. I couldn’t understand it, and Adolph Hitler was and is, the ultimate boogie man. One minute you see him smiling and petting his dog in what looked like a scene that anybody would be in, the next minute you see him screaming and shaking his fist, spittle flying, weird little bangs separating, thousands of sycophants Seig Heiling and snapping up that infamous salute.

The pageantry created by the Nazis was second to none. Red, black, and white go so well together after all. The uniforms were flashy and they made every effort to show mainly tall, well-built, handsome, blue-eyed blondes to reinforce their agenda. The parades, the bonfires, (hey, are those BOOKS in there?) the snappy flags and the shiny black cars. Then you find out about the beatings, murder, destruction, concentration camps and world domination ambitions, and the contradiction that was Nazi Germany becomes something that you try to figure out, but can’t.

When I saw this book at Jo-Beth Booksellers, I couldn’t resist. I read the book jacket, so I knew it was satire, but I had to see what Timur Vermes imagined the Furher (sorry, I don’t know how to do umlauts) would do if he came back. What I found was more an indictment of modern civilization than an indictment of Herr Hitler, although I guess you can’t really make him any worse than he already is.

So anyway, Adolph wakes up on a beautiful, blue sky, sunny day in a vacant lot somewhere in Berlin. At first, he looks around for signs of the war going on, but sees none. He is in full uniform, it’s a little smudged and smells like gasoline from a cleaning attempt, but overall, he’s in pretty good shape. He winds up being taken in by a newspaper kiosk guy who tells him the year and helps him out. He also hooks him up with tv producers because he thinks the Hitler thing is an act.

Hitler is a smart guy obviously and figures out really quickly that something strange has happened and he wants to get his political career going again. To make a long story short, he learns about modern technology and people and finds all of it ridiculous, still hates Jews etc., and becomes a big celebrity. And of course, nobody believes him. The entire country is furious that he won’t reveal his real name, because they don’t believe him, and he’s ready to call in the SS to take care of the people who keep asking. Just like vampires, werewolves, and witches, modern society doesn’t believe in the monster, and ultimately, it’ll cause them trouble.  By the end, you can see that if he remains persistent, the modern sheeple are going to end up following him.

I enjoyed the book overall. It made me think about how ridiculous modern society is. It pointed out yet again, that even though a threat, or a negative anomaly can be as plain as the nose on your face, we often, in our enlightened modernity, deny it, even as it’s taking over our lives. I’d kind of like Vermes to write a sequel, where the monster really comes roaring back, in all of his muderous, evil, mastermind glory, not funny this time.  It would be the most successful horror story of all time.

If you enjoy satire, you might want to give this one a look. It really did have a number of LOL moments, and the way the speeches he makes are laid out in the book, you can almost hear that old black and white boogie man screaming, and shaking his fist, spittle flying, and weird little bangs separating.

Have a great day, and spend part of it with a great book. 😊

 

Book Opinion: Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

 

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I’ve reviewed a couple of Koontz’s books on here over the last couple of years, and I had some issues with them. They had great story lines, but the writing wasn’t what I was used to from one of my favorite authors. I chalk it up to changes somewhere in his pipeline of editors etc. Well, let me say, he’s baaaaack…

It’s going to be very hard for me to talk about this one because I don’t want to ruin it for you. This book has an incredible twist that caught me off guard, and that doesn’t happen often.

The heroine of our story is a woman in her early twenties named Bibi Blair. Bibi was brought up by surfer/successful business people parents in California. Bibi is very intelligent and has been all her life. As an adult, she is a successful, but still up and coming author. She’s engaged to a Navy Seal named Paxton, who is on a super secret mission in the Middle East, and he’s out of reach for much of the novel. One day, pretty much out of the blue, Bibi begins to have odd physical symptoms. She calls her mother who gets her to the hospital where it is discovered that the intrepid Bibi has brain cancer. Serious, incurable, brain cancer. What follows is Koontz at his best.

The Valient (capital V on purpose) Bibi’s story is filled with suspense, mystery, the ever present in Koontz’s work, golden retriever or two, some murder, a few interesting characters, a quest to save Ashley Bell, and most important, some supernatural events. I really can’t go into too much more detail because I absolutely do not want to spoil it for you.

If you are in need of a well written, interesting supernatural thriller to keep you company while it’s cold outside, you might want to give  /Ashley Bell/ a chance. Much like one of his other beloved characters, Odd Thomas, I think we’ll be hearing from Bibi Blair again.  I was driving in my car this morning thinking about this book, and I realized that it reminded me in certain ways of a very famous work of fiction that has been made into a technicolor extravaganza, and since the wildly successful film, has woven bits of itself into much of our culture. Sadly, I can’t tell you WHICH technicolor extravaganza I refer to because it might spoil the surprise. It breaks my heart and hurts my brain to not tell, but I have to be brave.

Have a beautiful day and be kind. 😊