Category Archives: My Gratitude

A Season of Change

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I love most about Autumn.

It has it’s own particular smells and sounds that I look forward to each year – the acrid, but not unpleasant smell of decomposing vegetation and the crunch, crunch, crunch of leaves as I walk through the woods.  And the colors!!  Have I mentioned the colors? 

In my opinion, the Fall palette is a true feast for the eyes – orange, yellow, red, russet, burgundy and brown.  Brilliant and shocking…earthy and restful! But more than these, what I savor most is the gentler pace of life that embodies these months of September through early November.

After the sunshine and heat and the hectic pace of summer activities, Fall is a time for slowing down – a winding down of the activity clock – and a time to prepare the heart and home for the long, dark winter that follows closely on the heels of Autumn. There’s always a bit of panic inside of me, knowing that months of extreme cold and darkness are just around the corner. But before they arrive, God opens up His storehouses and gives us all an amazing gift – ABUNDANCE!

Everywhere I look, I see the generous hand of our Creator…

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Bushes and brambles laden with ripe berries;

Fields of corn ready to be harvested;

Apples trees littering the ground with ripe fruit;

Deciduous leaves -yellow, orange and red – putting on a display of color that fills our senses with awe and wonder;

The recent harvest of brightly-hued squash and and pumpkins piled high at the local Farmer’s Market;

October sunsets – rivaling the turning leaves with their own ethereal display!

For four to six weeks each Fall, His flora is displayed in all of it’s glory and then like clockwork, a subtle change begins to happen.  The temperatures begin to fall; the angle of the sun declines;  the days grow shorter and all of Nature inhales one last, deep breath.

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In a last flurry of activity, I cut down the frost-blackened flower stems in my perennial garden and cover them with protective layer of leaves. 

I fill the bird feeders and watch as the residents from the northern boreal forests make their annual pilgrimage down South. I pull out my wool socks and sweaters and I make thick, hearty soups and bake chewy-crusted breads filled with grains and seeds. 


And I bake pies…lots and lots of pies!

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When the leaves have all fallen and the grain harvest is in, I find myself trudging through the frosty fields of corn stubble – my Springer spaniel leaping and racing before me in search of pheasants; a small 20-gauge shotgun resting in the crook of my arm.

When the gales of November start blowing (and they really do!) I curl up on my couch and I read book after book, sipping on hot, spiced tea to counter the chill that threatens to creep into my house and aging bones! And before I know it, the past summer and all of it’s activity becomes just a fading memory.

The weeks pass, the white flakes begin to fall in earnest and all of Nature exhales one last time. It’s time for the yearly rest that God has ordained, so the earth lays down it’s thick blanket of downy snow, then gently slips into the long and silent, white sleep of winter.

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“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease”.

Genesis 8:22

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Five signs the “Change” has begun…

My sister, Genny, is at it again…poking fun at me and helping me to laugh at myself and the new stage of life that I’m now entering.

For those of you who are also entering this interesting “change” of life…I think you’ll appreciate the humor in the following postcard that I received from her last week.

Thank you Lord, for my younger sister and her God-given gift of wit and humor!!!  I don’t know what I’d do without her!

Five signs the “Change” has begun…

1. Low estrogen produces excess facial hair.

2. Living alone in a cabin sounds pretty damn appealing!

3. Who needs a wood stove with all these handy hot flashes?

4. No, it isn’t hunting season. You got a problem with that?

5. I’m low on estrogen and I have a gun.

~Anonymous

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PMDD? PMS…on steroids!

To my faithful twelve readers who may have wondered why I haven’t posted lately, let’s just say that the Carey whom you know and love suddenly disappeared on April 20th…but has finally returned!

Yes it’s true. I went AWOL.

Absent without leave?

No…absent without lucidity.

Here are some  synonyms for the word absent: astray, away, elsewhere, ghost, gone, hooky, missing, no-show, nobody home, removed, vanished.

Yes…I was all of these too!

As I’m typing this post, I’ve got a smile on my face and am attempting to make light of the situation, but in reality, it’s taken almost two weeks for me to feel anything other than out of whack.  You see, I’ve been struggling for six months with a severe hormonal imbalance that has disrupted my normally calm demeanor.

After months of ultrasounds, blood tests and experimental hormone therapy, my family doctor has finally given me a diagnosis.  PMDD – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.  I won’t go into too much detail, but if you can imagine the worst PMS you’ve ever had and intensify it ten fold – then throw in some abject hopelessness and suicidal thoughts for good measure – you know what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, my body decided to go haywire over the Easter holiday… just in time for my two daughters to arrive home from college.  With PMDD, a person lives life without filters and during this time of craziness, I said and did things that shocked even me.  I’m sure that in the days and weeks to come, there will be more apologies to make to the people I love most.

If  life had a Delete button, then I’d highlight the last 10 days of April and remove them from existence forever.  But wait a minute… I know Someone who has already done that for me.   Hebrews 10: 16-17 (New King James Version)

“This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”   Then he adds:

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Can you imagine what life would be like without Jesus and His willingness to forgive and forget our sins?  I can’t.  I truly don’t know what I would do without Him and His great, great love for me.

When I was burdened and heavy laden, I was reminded to “put on a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”  I sang and I cried, but was able to resist the horrible thoughts that assaulted my mind.  And when I could no longer see reason, He sent me a loyal friend who spoke words of truth and who helped to carry my load of sadness and pain. Without her love and patience, I don’t know what I would have done.  If you are reading this post, let me say this….you truly are a beautiful Jewel who has lived the words of Proverbs 17:17A friend loves at all times.

Thank you dear friend!


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Do this in remembrance of Me…

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In memory of the Savior’s love,
    We keep the sacred feast,
    Where every humble, contrite heart
    Is made a welcome guest.
    By faith we take the Bread of Life
    With which our souls are fed,
    The Cup in token of His blood
    That was for sinners shed.
    In faith and memory thus we sing
    The wonders of His love,
    And thus anticipate by faith
    The heavenly feast above.

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Blessings to all of you this Easter season as we once more ponder the wonder of the Cross…the greatest act of love and mercy the world has ever known.

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How great is our God?

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  Psalm 19:1

In overwhelming gratitude….

56 .  As I think about the heavens and about what Your fingers have created;
how You made the moon and stars and  have set them  in their place.

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Another Vowel Child – meet O.

It’s time to introduce another one of my vowel children.  Today I’d like you to meet my daughter – O – a truly gifted and remarkable young woman.

Our second daughter arrived 2 years and 10 months after her big sister E. had come into this world.  By now, Big D. and I had been parenting for awhile and thought we were getting pretty good at our job.

We’d had our hands full with our first vowel child – E – an exuberant and delightful moppet with a head full of blonde curls; a child who embraced the world in one of two speeds – either on or off.  She was also a somewhat willful little imp whose first word was “no”.  Her strong personality was not a bad thing – she was going to be one of life’s movers & shakers!  Besides, it gave her dad and I an opportunity to discover what parenting was really like.  If you’d like to read her story, just click HERE.

When our second child arrived, just 3 hours and 22 minutes after I went into labor, we were delighted to discover that God had blessed us with another beautiful daughter.

One hour old

We had her name all picked out, a lovely old-fashioned name that I’d heard spoken many times during my youth.  It wasn’t until later that we discovered one meaning of her name – peace.  We gave her the middle name – Rose – not only because she smelled so lovely, but to honor my grandmother whose namesake she shared.

When E. met her sister, the morning after she was born, I knew immediately that these two were going to have a special bond.

12 hours old

Rather than being jealous of her new sibling, E. became a little mother…doting on her baby sister with great tenderness and affection.

4 months

Well, maybe not always so tender…but definitely affectionate!

I assumed that because they had been born to the same family, had the same parents and were the same gender, these girls would have similar personalities.  I thought they’d be like two peas in a pod.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

From day one, we knew that this second child was much more serene and didn’t require the stimulation that her older sister craved.  In fact, it took us a couple of weeks to discover that at night time, she didn’t want to be carried around and coddled, she just wanted to be laid in her crib – wide awake – to fall asleep on her own! And for some unknown reason she always did this…

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And this…

And occasionally….even this!

Though they loved to play together and got along famously, the difference in the two girl’s temperaments was very obvious.

E. was the life of the party…O. was timid, almost shy around people.

E. was strong-willed….O. was compliant.

E. was a bossy little thing…O. was demure and always acquiesced to her big sister’s wishes…

“Hey, let me cut your hair…Mom will never notice”

“Just pet it…I promise it won’t peck your eyes out!”

“There…her hair’s all done. Do you like it?”

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There was never a dull moment when these two were together.  Wherever E. was…O was right behind her…following in her big sister’s footsteps.

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They read constantly…sometimes while half-naked!

They formed a band.

They wore pointy hair.

They even began to dress alike.

And because her big  sister loved her so much, she shared everything with her.

And I do mean… everything!

Shortly after O. turned 3, it was time for her big sister to start kindergarten.  Seeing as I had a degree in education, we opted to teach E. at home.  In order to create the proper learning environment, we set up an elementary school room in which I taught phonics, math, science, bible & spelling. As I taught E, her younger sister O, sat nearby and colored or looked at picture books and was just a passive observer…or so I thought!

This went on for a couple of years and by the end of first grade, E was reading books on her own and writing short stories.  Unbeknown to us, O. could also read…she just never let on that she knew how! It wasn’t until we were vacationing in Washington state, that we learned of her amazing ability.

We had stopped our vehicle at a railroad crossing and from the back seat of our van, we heard O. say “no stopping on tracks”. We looked up to see that there was a road sign outside her side window that read, “No Stopping On Tracks”.  Needless to say, we were stunned…and delighted!

For years, I had worried that her timidity would be a stumbling block to her.  Many times, when I watched her older sister surrounded by groups of friends, I would ask the Lord to give O. the confidence she lacked.  What I didn’t understand, was that her temperament was completely different than her sister’s and she would one day become very confident and able. I  just needed to trust Him and be patient.

According to the Character Therapist, O. was born with a classic melancholic temperament.  In animal terms she has what’s known as the Beaver personality and these characteristics fit her well:

The Beaver revels in the details others despise. They are creative, practical, factual, perfectionist, detailed, orderly and predictable. Emotionally, they are sensitive–to others and about themselves. They’re thoughtful and serious, and talented.  They are efficient, organized, schedule-oriented, punctual, and can be relied upon to carry out any directives or see a project through to completion.  When it comes to friends, they will sacrifice greatly for those they love and care about.

Little by little, our second daughter was coming into her own. It is said that “still water runs the deepest”.  If this saying has any credence, then O. would one day be an ocean!  As she grew, in both age and stature,  a quiet confidence began to emerge.

Age 6 – Christmas

Age 8 – camping

Age 10 – birthday

Age 13 – 1st day of school

Age 16

Age 18 – Duluth

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This quiet,  gentle and independent spirit is something about our second daughter that has remained with her throughout her life – oft times directing her to do things on her own;  many times without our prompting or even our support.

When she was about 12 years old, O. went alone, to our public library and performed in a talent show, dancing  and lip-syncing and bringing home the grand prize – a $50 gift certificate.  And this was after I had tried discouraging her from participating. And much to my shame, I did not even attend the show myself.

She began dabbling in photography at about the same time and has now established a small business and set up her own website – Arm’s Length Photography – winning awards for her work.

While still in grade school, O. announced to her dad & I that she wanted to become her class valedictorian and from that day on she worked toward that goal.  Her years in high school were busy…so busy that she seldom had time to stop and take a breath.We worried about her and prayed daily that God would sustain her and direct her in the way she was to go.

It was with humble and grateful hearts that her dad and I watched as she received the honor of class valedictorian on June 4, 2010, fulfilling the vow she’d made to herself years before!

Deciding on a college was a big decision for her and she had many schools to choose from – some close to home and one all the way across the country.  After much prayer and with conviction in her heart, she headed West and is currently a freshman at Biola University in La Mirada, California.  Never one to shy away from a new adventure, she has already begun to establish herself at Biola –  having entered and won a school-wide video contest before her first semester of college had even finished.  Click on My Journey to view her video.

It’s hard to believe that this successful and confident young woman was once the little girl I worried so much about.  And to think that she spent the first 18 months of her life planted firmly on my hip…our little barnacle baby…now detached and discovering for herself the wonderful plans that God has for her life. What a journey she’s got waiting for her!

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A Herald of Spring

If yesterday was a day of lament, then today is a day to celebrate.  The new snow has melted and Spring has officially arrived!

Yes, the calendar tells me that it’s March 21st –  the official beginning of spring. And yes…we are under a blizzard watch, with the possibility of receiving 8 or more inches of snow by Wednesday evening.  But I don’t care about those minor details because in my garden some true harbingers of Spring have arrived.  Take a look….

Yes, you’re seeing correctly! These are my crocuses, pushing

up their leaves through the snow and leaf mulch!

One lone iris is sending up leaves much too early.

This little guy won’t bloom until mid to late June.

Not to be outdone by the flowers…there’s lots of new thyme

bursting to life in the south garden!

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He made the moon to mark the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. Psalm 104:19

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In gratitude for….

35. The promise of Spring…new life in all things

36. A hint of green after months and months of white

37. The drip, drip, drip of the thaw

38. The smell of Spring…pungent, wet earth and decomposing vegetation


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95% Funny

When I look at my siblings – a group of four girls and two boys – I’m always amazed at how different we all are.  I’m not talking about the physical differences like body type and hair color, but the diversity of our temperaments.  A few of us are definitely extroverts; the others are introverts.  Some are task-oriented; others are people-oriented.  Hippocrates gave these temperaments names –  melancholic, sanguine, choleric and phlegmatic – which he believed influenced our personalities.

I personally like the lesser known profile that was developed by Dr. Gary Smalley and Dr. John Trent. They base their personalities around animal characteristics.  If I could attach an animal name to each of my siblings (including myself), I’d say that there are two lion personalities, two beavers, two golden retrievers and one otter in my family of origin.

My youngest sister – let’s call her G – is the one lone otter in our family.  I don’t know why God decided to place her, all alone, in a group of six siblings, all with very strong personality traits…but I sure am glad that He did!  G. is one of the most outgoing, friendly and exuberant people I’ve ever known.  She’s thrilled with the littlest things that many of us would simply overlook, like finding loose change underneath the parking meter, or nabbing a great deal at one of her local thrift stores.   I delight in her personality type and being a Beaver myself  (slow-paced/task-oriented)  I love the fact that she embraces life with gusto!

According to The Character Therapist:

The Otter is an enthusiastic, energetic, spontaneous and friendly person. They’ve got appealing personalities and mix easily with just about anyone. They love people and are often the life of the party. They have a great sense of humor, infectious laughter, and often regale groups of people with stories.  They can be engaging, cheerful, sometimes just bubbling over. Their wide-eyed innocence and wonder keeps them sincere at heart. You might relate them to being a Peter Pan…the little child who never grew up.

Otters are all about relationship. They always seem exciting and fun, and simply thrive on compliments of any kind, as they need affirmation on their self. They enjoy the popularity, the spotlight, the center of attention. They like high-impact entertainment…so having an Otter as a friend will prevent lots of monotonous social outings. They are sensitive and want others to be happy, often being quick to offer encouragement and support to others.

A couple of years back, G. told me that her three girls had a discussion regarding who was the funniest person in their family. To my sister’s dismay, the kids voted their father the funniest, or in their words, “Dad is 100% funny. Mom, you’re only 95% funny”.  We laughed long and hard over that one!

As the months have passed, I’ve had an opportunity to see my sister at her finest and I have decided now to stand in her defense.  I think that she is also 100% funny. If you doubt my assessment of her funniness, I’d like to tell you a story and let you decide for yourself.

Last summer, in an attempt to make some much needed spending money for an upcoming trip, I participated in a local craft show, selling hand-made jewelry that I had been laboring over for weeks.  Unfortunately, few buyers came to the show and therefore, my sales were much lower than I had expected.  To be completely honest, I barely made my show fee.  I came home feeling depressed and discouraged and I called my sister G. to share the bad news with her.  A few days later this postcard arrived in the mail, compliments of my sister…the otter.

On the back was written:

Dear Mrs. V.B…

Sorry to hear the show sucked. If it’s any comfort, I hear the lady

who makes the “entomology jewelry” also did poorly.

Probably poor advertising.

See you Sunday. Love – G.

I want give my readers the opportunity to participate in this potentially life-altering honorarium.  If  you think my sister deserves to be given the title  of  “100% funny parent” please cast your vote below:

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With much gratitude to Him for…

32. Sisters – a friend and confidant that goes with you for a lifetime

33. Laughter – a daily dose that makes the difficult things in life easier to bear

34. Siblings – someone who knows your whole story and loves you just the same

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My Vowel Children – meet E.

Yes, it’s true! My children all have names that begin with vowels.

I didn’t plan it this way…some things just kind of unfold and before you know it, a pattern has emerged.  I wanted names that matched my childrens’ looks and personalities – kind of a challenging thing to do when they’re just hours old and their noses are still squashed flat from delivery and their skin is wrinkled and pruney and they don’t look fully human yet!   But I think my husband and I did a pretty good job getting it right. We just happened to like old-fashioned names that began with the letters E, I and O.

If we hadn’t felt so old and tired by the time #3 came along, we might have continued on with an A and then a U child.  Alas! Some things just aren’t meant to be. It’s kind of bittersweet.  I had some great A names picked out! Alexandra, Abigail, Adelaide, Amelia, Annelise, Aurora, Aaron, Alastair, Arthur or Augustus.  The U names would have been a real stretch. Let’s not even go there! As it turned out, we named our dog Augustus instead – Gus for short. Good thing too. Great name for a dog…terrible one for a little boy to grow into!

But enough of the rambling…it’s E. that I’d like you to meet today. A little background first.  I had faced some big challenges in the years just prior to E’s conception – graduated college and married in 1984; widowed in 1985;  remarried in 1986; back to college in 1987; pregnant in 1988.  I was just finishing my student teaching when a bout of exhaustion sent me to bed for a few days. I thought it was the beginning of chronic fatigue syndrome. Turned out that I was pregnant. Almost the same thing!

We were thrilled with the news and praised God for His goodness. It was especially meaningful to me because on October 12, 1985, I had buried my first husband and with him went my hopes for a future with a lifetime partner and family. I didn’t know it then, but God had different plans in store for me.  Remarrying was the first surprise. Getting pregnant with E. was the next…giving birth to her was the pinnacle.

The months leading up to E’s birth were very memorable – big D. came to all her prenatal appointments and in August, he suffered through the humiliation of Lamaze classes. He did great though and we had perfected our focused breathing – in through the nose, slowly out though the mouth.  I was confident that we would have a normal, natural birth free from medical interventions and drugs. Ha!

Both of us grew more anxious as the projected date of birth – October 29th – drew closer.  When I saw my doctor on October 11th, he said I wouldn’t be needing my overnight bag just yet.  I still had another 2-1/2 weeks to go, so when I got home from my appointment I crawled up on a ladder and installed storm windows.  It just seemed like a logical thing to do!

As I went to bed that night, I started to think about the next day – October 12th – and the sadness it always stirred in my heart and I wondered if the pain would always be there.  I got my answer quite abruptly! At 1 a.m. my water broke and early or not, I was going to have a baby.   At 10 o’clock that night – exactly three years after my first husband’s death – big D. and I welcomed our beautiful, squalling, vernix-coated baby into the world.  We had planned on calling her Alexandra, but when we met her for the first time we knew that name didn’t quite “fit”. We chose a different, but perfect E. name instead.

There was pain that day – October 12, 1988 – but it was a good pain, one that was able to erase all the heartache a young widow had ever known.  And we called her Elizabeth – God’s promise; holy and sacred to God.

In gratitude for…

20. new beginnings and hope for tomorrow

21. my daughter – a gift of love

22. the plans He has for us

Liz – 2 hours old

1 month

one year old

2-1/2 years

3-1/2 years

5-1/2 years

Liz 7 – Livvy 4

Liz 9

In Maine – Liz 12

Liz 15

Liz – high school graduation

Liz today

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him. Psalm 127: 2-4

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:10-12

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Sibling (non)Rivalry

I grew up in a large family. Seven kids. Two boys and five girls. Six of us born to my mom in just under 8 years. Two of us – my sister and I – born on the same day, one year apart. My youngest sister born eleven years after me. A big family. Loads of work. A difficult undertaking…this trying to raise a family before the days of His grace.

I don’t remember much about my growing up years other than our life was busy and noisy and my mom was tired…always tired. In the 1950’s, the roles of parenting were different from those we see today. The moms took care of the house and kids, and the dads went to work. These clearly delineated roles seldom, if ever, overlapped. At least that’s how it was in my house.

My mom carried the sole burden of being the chief cook and bottle washer. She did all the cleaning, cooking, laundry and shopping. My dad came home at 5 pm and expected dinner to be waiting for him. As I look back, I’m not really sure who was in charge of child training.  My guess is that it may have been overlooked altogether!

We fought amongst ourselves…I mean really fought. Cat fights between the girls resulted in scratched faces and bodies.  Tempers flew out of control, causing words and fists to be unleashed at the slightest provocation. Bones were broken…eyes were blackened.  Some of us became the object of ridicule and bullying – carrying childhood wounds that would take a lifetime to heal. Apologies came, but only under duress. It wasn’t until many years later that His grace and mercy entered our home, giving us renewed hope for a better tomorrow.

I was 29 when my first daughter was born; my husband was 35.  It wasn’t until we brought her home from the hospital that I began to comprehend the immensity of the role that lay before us. We had no idea how to raise a child!  Our second daughter arrived three years later – our son, five years after that.

We  poured over Dare to Discipline and What the Bible Says About Child Training and Different Children, Different Needs and we prayed simple prayers like, “Help Lord!”  And our life was busy and noisy and I was tired…always tired. But one thing was very different. I had married a calm man who understood and depended upon the grace of God in his daily life and his commitment to our marriage was unshakable.

This job of parenting became a dual role, one that my husband embraced with equanimity.  And even though I promised to be a good mother to my children, the wounds of my childhood would come back to haunt me and I’d blow it with my kids and grace would flee. How humbling, to go to one’s children and ask (again) for their forgiveness.  I was (and am) ever grateful that His mercies were new every morning. And as He healed my own broken heart, I continued to pray that God would protect the tender hearts of my kids and draw them to Himself. And the most wonderful thing happened…He did just that! What joy there is in parenting when the choice to ask Jesus for His forgiveness and cleansing, comes unsolicited out of the mouths of babes; when the love of God becomes evident in a child’s life.

My kids are now young adults and learning to walk this narrow road on their own, but never truly alone.  Will they make mistakes? Of course they will. But just as surely, God will pour out His grace and mercy into their lives and their love for one another will be evident for all to see.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34-36

In gratitude to Him for…

15. Kids that truly love one another

16. His mercy that is new every morning

17. Children that know Jesus as their Savior

18. Adult children that have wisdom beyond their years

19. God’s ability to bind up the brokenhearted

20. My husband – a gentle and patient man of God

June 2010

Christmas Day – Duluth – 2010

Jay Cooke State Park – Fall 2010

Summer 2010

Fall 2010

Pictures were taken by Olivia Blinn @ Arms Length Photography

and Liz Blinn @ Return to Laughter

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