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Christmas comes once a year: October to December 25!

This gallery contains 8 photos.

I hate to admit that I’m just not into Christmas anymore. I took heart this year when a few major retailers decided against staying open on Thanksgiving. And, too, Black Friday was a bit of a flop.  That’s reason enough for Scrooges like me to celebrate. The last few years I’ve dragged my chains about decorating for Christmas. I’ve always […]

Clotheslines, poetry in motion.

Location! Location! Location! That’s the house-hunting mantra.  Most people’s wish lists include number of bedrooms and bathrooms, updated kitchen, garage, nice yard.

Location is important, yes, but if clotheslines weren’t allowed in an area where there was a likely house, I wouldn’t even go inside…if I were house-hunting…which I’m not. I’ve never lived where I couldn’t hang clothes out to dry. Not for me are the newer homes that feature a laundry room “conveniently” near the bedrooms. Nunh uh. I want my laundry room near the back door. And it is.

Underwear excepted from clothesline display,
Sheets scented by the sun’s rays,
bottled.
Warm sunshine dreams on cold winter nights,
breezes freeze.

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The nature of laundry

Frances Reinus, 2008
I have never used a clothesline.
I am too young to know the nostalgia they induce.
I do not know the way a fresh-air-hung-dry
Article of clothing smells
Or feels.
I do know that the automatic dryer in my laundry room
Is faster
And easier
And you are guaranteed warmth upon donning a freshly dried article.
And you don’t need pins.
And you don’t need to fight your clothes
And tell them, “Stay, don’t wander in the wind!”
And that a dryer may be hidden in a closet
And not unsightly like those lines of clothes I have seen
Strung between city apartments
And in the back yards of the old-school.
And while they may be cheaper
They seem like too much work.
And I would rather look at the trees, the flowers, and the grass.

But I can look at trees, flowers and grass while I hang my laundry, cheaply. “Unsightly?” I think not! I envy this poet for her youth, but I’m sorry she has never experienced “fresh-air-hung-dry.”  “Old-school,” that’s me.

 

“The nature of laundry” ©Frances Reinus, 2008

Please, ease into Christmas.

A week into November already — GAK! Don’t misunderstand, I love the gray lady month wrapped in fog and wind. Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is just around the corner. Brilliant orange bittersweet drapes branches and fenceposts. Pumpkins’ smiles have drooped a bit, but they still brighten rainy days.

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Sweet, the bittersweet.

But, wait, where are all the golds, oranges, rusts, and browns of autumn in the stores? Chocolate kisses, snugged in red, green and silverScreen Shot 2015-11-09 at 9.32.13 AM foil fill, shelves where just last week, Halloween colors reigned. Sparkly Christmas garlands drape the aisles and already carols pierce the airwaves. Humbug.

Too soon, too soon.

Come September’s end, I sidle into fall. I get out my earth-toned napkins, find my fabric pumpkins, lay in a supply of Reese’s cups for Halloween, and collect pretty leaves to iron between wax paper. I display my special Halloween books too — A Small Book of Grave Humour, Fritz Spiegl, Haunted England, Terrence Whitaker, and Ghosts in Residence, H.A. von Behr.

Then, BOO, gone. September. October. POOF, as if a ghostly hand ripped November out of the year. Our unique American holiday becomes a footnote, passed over like cold mashed potatoes and congealed gravy. Retailers gear up for Christmas weeks before turkey and cranberries are on the shopping list.

 

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Centerpiece waits for Christmas.

Last year I prolonged my favorite holiday by updating my autumn centerpiece with little silver balls and fluttering icicles to meld November into December gently. I’ll do it again this year…after Thanksgiving.

 

 

©Ryan Owen’s Autumn & Hershey Kisses

Oh-h say can you see?

 

IMG_0551Thank goodness my morning walks often inspire ideas for my blog posts, and, thank goodness, this morning was no exception once I spotted fog blanketing the turf grass research fields.  The Fourths of July in my memory are steamy and blindingly sunny. Today, not so much.

Even though posting new blogs is at the writer’s whim, I pile guilt upon myself when I don’t give equal time to both my sites. June was Alzheimer’s Awareness month and with Father’s Day thrown in, I concentrated on “Dementia isn’t funny.” The heap of guilt on my shoulders resembles the shoulder pads 1940’s movie stars sported.

But as I walked, I thought, ah, July 4 and it’s not blazingly, meltingly hot. An idea blossomed. I looked at my garden when I got home and realized how striking the colors are by dawn’s early light. While I took these photos, the sun was a flashlight — on, off, on, off — but it was the gentle mist that made the colors glow.

 

July Fourth brings memories of  homemade strawberry ice cream, parades, blueberry pie, my dad’s birthday, and always, the stars and stripes forever.

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Plumbago’s brilliant blue, white daisies and a tiny flag brighten my desk.

 

 

 

Another memorable weekend.

Mountain Laurel was in full bloom — exquisite!

Decoration Day, as designated in 1868, was the original name of what we now call Memorial Day. The original date, unchanged for 103 years, was May 30. In 1971, the National Holiday Act moved the date to the last Monday in May to ensure a three-day Federal holiday. I’ve groused about it ever since.

I remember the days when I swooped high in my rope swing over the bed of purple “flags” — iris — mom grew at the bottom of our back yard. The days when the marching band pounded up Main Street, while bicycles fluttered by, cards attached to their spokes with clothespins. Days when dad fried “hamburgs,” as he called them, on the old river stone fireplace in the back yard, and when Great Aunt Daisy entertained us when she tried to eat corn-on-the-cob with her loose dentures.

This year’s Memorial Day was memorable, too.

I confess, I didn’t think of the significance of the actual date until we arrived home that evening. This year, the last Monday fell on May 25, precisely forty-one years after the Memorial Day of our very first date, Peter’s and mine.

We spent that day in the woods, too, at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley, hiking unaware towards a flock of wild turkeys who scared us into the next county. This year we were in the woods too, but on the southeast side of the Blue Ridge, at daughter Leslie and son-in-law Martin’s little cabin.

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Lettuce awaits the salad bowl.

The weather was absolute perfection. Dense thickets of Mountain Laurel filled the woods, Fire Pink lurked amongst the ferns, while Spiderwort and Dames Rocket purpled the undergrowth. We helped weed the vegetable garden, ate the first of the lettuce and the last of the rhubarb. Even weeding is fun when soft warm breezes brush by.

We sat on the deck in the glow of a sunset, on the front porch to swing in the early mornings, and on the screened porch to eat our meals and listen to the river below.

The very best part of the weekend came when we arrived home. “Thank you,” Peter said.

I looked at him, surprised. “What for?” I asked.

“For driving me there — wish I could still drive. But it was a nice weekend. Couldn’t have asked for better weather,” he said.

Wow.

Unstuffed and mix’n’match? Good grief!

In my day — admittedly that was a day long ago — mothers nagged their sons to tuck their shirts in, while their daughters wouldn’t be caught dead in a blouse that wasn’t pulled down so tight that she couldn’t raise her hand in class. In fact, the garment that used to be a blouse, is now a shirt. Have you tried to buy a “blouse” recently? I don’t go shopping very often, but from the catalogs I look at, if a blouse shirt is part of the oufit, it’s slightly untucked from the slacks pants or jeans.

Screen shot 2015-02-21 at 8.47.38 AMTrendy young men have been wearing unstuffed shirts, or shirts that hang out all the way around, for quite a few years. Young women not so much. That is, until this “half-stuffed” look arrived. One doesn’t see women of a certain age untucked, unless they  need a face lift.  (Frankly, a little nip hereScreen shot 2015-02-21 at 10.06.42 AM and tuck there wouldn’t go amiss for many of us, but I take the stance that I’ve earned every chin, every wrinkle I’ve got, thank you very much! They are who I am now.)

 

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Pajama tops and bottoms were matchy-matchy in my day. My mom made mine from this very pattern.

Here’s another thing. Who decided that pajama tops didn’t need to match pajama bottoms anymore? Eddie Bauer? JJill? Victoria you-know-who? Who started the trend to separates? When I get ready for bed, I want comfort. I don’t want to search for pajama parts. Give me a matched set of flannel pj’s, and I’m happy.

Back in the day, slumber parties were the thing. A gaggle of giggly girls gathered at one girl’s house to eat potato chips and brownies and drink Cokes all night long. Often, the boys would hear about the goings-on and try to crash the party, but a vigilant dad with a growly voice and fierce look dispatched them in short order.

Nowdays — did you know? — boys and girls have slumber parties together. All very above board, so I’m told, and well-chaperoned, but still. I have to wonder what fun it is to sit and gossip when there’s a bunch of boys present? They do sit and gossip, don’t they?

Pajamas-as-street-wear is another unfortunate trend. In our little college town the fad seems to be outlandishly patterned flannel bottoms, say black with purple and fluorescent green, with a sweatshirt, usually maroon and orange, up top.

A few years ago I learned that our grandson Miah wanted footie pajamas for his birthday. Darned if I didn’t find some to fit a very tall sixteen-year-old — bright turquoise emblazoned with green, yellow, and orange frogs! He was thrilled, but when I heard that he’d worn them to a movie at the mall, I was…well, let’s say…grandma was not so thrilled. Good grief! 

I don’t even like passers-by to see me, in my robe, picking up the paper from the curb!

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Allegro Izzy cotton flannel.

 

Candlelight, remotely.

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Jack jumps over a candlestick.

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Pillar candle, remote not shown.

Years ago, I stumbled across an electric fork. I thought it was the funniest gimic I’d ever seen. Yesterday, I opened a new gadget-filled catalog and saw something that beats a hot fork, tines down — a remote-controlled candle.

Instead of a flickering flame, it has a flickering LED. I’ve seen votive-sized ones and, I admit, they are quite realistic. Flameless candles do offer certain advantages: wax doesn’t melt all over the edge of the bathtub and there’s no fire danger. But these newer LED candle versions come with a wireless remote that requires three AAA batteries. There is  something wrong with that. The batteries will have to be replaced periodically just to be able to “light”the candles remotely, matchlessly.

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On the other hand, an old-fashioned wicked candle needs only a match, a much cheaper alternative to batteries. Isn’t part of the magic of candlelight the gentle process of striking a match and watching the flame burst and grow? And putting candles out with a snuffer provides added romance.

Trade the fascination of real candles aglow? Tsk tsk.
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Now, fair dues, in the same catalog, I saw something that would make my breakfasts and late night snacks perfect — a  divided bowl! Cereal goes in one half, milk in the other. A spoonful from each side and, voila, no more sodden cereal. A brilliant solution to a soggy problem!

Except! didn’t someone come up with a similar idea years and years ago? Baby Screen shot 2015-01-27 at 12.07.19 PMdishes — a section for peas, one for applesauce, another for creamed corn. Different application, but the same idea. Somehow, an ugly, modern plastic dish doesn’t hold a candle to a pretty little baby dish for my Cheerios and milk. Maybe sliced bananas in the third spot?

 

 

 

Become! Believe!

This is a post from last year when I was laden with humbuggedness. Scrooge, actually moved over!
But then I discovered the movie “Becoming Santa” and my spirit was renewed.
Mother Nature isn’t promising snow for southwest Virginia again this holiday season, 
and the weather, to my mind, is frightful — rainy, gray, almost balmy.
So it’s time to watch my new favorite Christmas movie again…tonight!

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As I sat down to try to write a jolly Christmas post yesterday, there was a huge swath of snow and blustery weather swooping across the middle of the country and up into Canada. That stretch of North America has looked a lot like Christmas for several weeks already.

Here? Well, I had the windows open and my fa lala was more off key than ever.  But, within the hour daugher Carolynn and  husband Bill arrived from the little village in upstate New York where we’d lived for seventeen years, me ever glorying in the deep, cold, snowy white winters, husband Peter, not so much.

In the previous post, “Deck my halls, please,” I groaned and humbugged about my severely diminished, ghostly spirit this year.  But more than an hour past my bedtime on the shortest day of the year, if I could have gotten onto our rooftop I would have shouted, “I FOUND IT!  IT’S BA-A-ACK!”

We’d all just watched a wonderful Christmas movie.  Believe me when I say it’s better than any version of Dicken’s “Christmas carol,” “It’s a wonderful life,” “Love, actually,” “Christmas Story,” “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” or any other holiday movie you can name.

“Becoming Santa” (2011), is destined to become a classic, mark my words.  I found it buried deep in the “Documentary” heading on Netflix, but a quick search on-line showed that it’s available on iTunes and Amazon as well.  Treat yourself, stop what you’re doing, watch it now!

Writer/actor/star, Jack Sanderson, is a young man — mid-forties is young to me — who lost his Christmas spirit after his mother died a few years ago.  She was an enthusiastic Christmas-lover, so her death, followed not long after by his father’s passing, threw Jack into a tailspin. Then, he was inspired by a photo he’d never seen of his father playing Santa for neighborhood children.

He decides to become a Santa too, to give back, in other words.  He has his hair and beard professionally bleached and styled, gets fitted for a suit and goes to Santa school,  a film crew in tow to record the experience.

This movie has everything — laughs, sweet tears, adorable children, inspiration, dedication, hope.  What “Becoming Santa” does not have is violence, mayhem, war or foul language,  I could’ve watched it right through again, it was that good.

Jack seems determined to become Santa, but occasionally he expresses doubts.  He goes to Santa school to learn the basics — always say “children” instead of “kids,” for instance, and always “Ho, ho, ho,” never just one “ho” nor more than three.

You wonder as he wanders, musing, reflecting. Will he last, or won’t he?

There’s a lot more to the film than Jack’s own quest — Santa experts, historians, professional Santas weigh in as well. Two common threads tie it into a beautiful package: a genuine love for children and an understanding of how important Santa is to them. The “sneak and peak” segment near the end is tear-inducing, but in a good way.

This morning I’m revitalized, imbued with spirit and holiday glee.  All I need now is seasonal — make that North Pole-like — weather.

Carolynn hadn’t packed a snowball in the large cooler Bill lugged inside yesterday, but it was filled with all-important special ham and Polish sausages.  She did bring a big carton containing dozens of special cookies, and the astounding surprise of homemade peppermint marshmallows her friend Robin sent along for us.

Believe, believe!

 

The shortest day.

It’s that time of year when even the faintest skiff of snowflakes causes visions of sleds and snowmen to dance in my head. Haul out the snow shovels, check the windshield wiper fluid, find the mittens and mate them. Baby, it’s cold outside.

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Christmas is just five days away, and the weatherman has hinted there’s a slight chance we’ll have a white one. Is that Bing Crosby crooning? Do you hear what I hear?

As always, I can hear my dad saying, “Shortest day of the year. Won’t be long until time to cut the grass.” He said that for as long as I can remember. Maybe he was onto something. Now that I’m certified elderly, the days fly by so quickly that it really won’t be long to cut the grass. Heck, son-in-law Martin just mowed his for the last time this year a week ago!

In June, Dad always remarked on the summer solstice too. He was nothing if not set in his ways.

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In my email this morning came a reminder of another sort — one close to my mind and heart — about solstices.

Today is the winter solstice — the shortest day of the year. But we’re already looking ahead to the summer solstice and The Longest Day®, an event on June 21, 2015, to raise funds and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association.”

The message goes on to say, It will be “a day of sunrise-to-sunset activity to symbolize he challenging journey of those facing Alzheimer’s disease.” 

This is brand new information to me, but I’m thinking ahead, just as my dad always did, to June 21 and what I might be able to do on The Longest Day®. You can read more about it here.

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A sunrise mimics the Alzheimer’s Association purples.

 

 

 

Over the river and through the woods.

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The kitchen window at the little house in the woods frames this scene.

 

Screen shot 2014-11-22 at 4.50.20 PMMy very favorite holiday is just five days away. This year Carolynn and Bill will be with us and we’re all going to celebrate in Leslie and Martin’s little house tucked in the woods above a burbling river and within sight of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Idyllic.

It’s mind-boggling to move a feast to a remote site where there’s no easy access to a grocery to get whatever has been left behind. That’s my excuse anyway, and my only duty is pumpkin pies. The brunt of the work has fallen on Leslie, and Carolynn is making the apple pies this year.

But I’ve run out of time, so instead of a new post, here’s a chapter from my second book, That’s all she wrote (2007). 

 ~ Thanksgiving’s just around the corner ~

The first of hundreds of Christmas catalogs begin to arrive just after July 4 and back-to-school displays appear in stores by mid-month. By the time the long Labor Day weekend approaches Halloween displays are in place. This past year, two days before New Year’s, I saw a suspect bright green display at the end of a store aisle and yes it was St. Patrick’s Day merchandise. I asked the clerk why so early and she said, “Oh, this is nothing. At the end of the next aisle we’re doing the Easter display … and Valentine’s have been in for a week!” She was as dismayed as I was.

What is with this season rushing? Why can’t we live in the moment, enjoy the now, take time to smell summer’s roses before we start worrying about mulching them for winter?

I hate to rush the season, any season, but I admit I’m always in a rush towards autumn, a rush to be rid of hot weather, summer and light-colored clothes. I like to be inside, snug and cozy, enjoying summer’s bounty, making pies, quick breads, pickles. I look forward to wearing rich autumn colors, wools, and tweeds. I can’t wait for the leaves to turn so I can emote over the brilliant colors. I’m always anxious for the leaves to start falling because second only to shoveling snow is my passion for raking leaves. I savor Thanksgiving’s approach. …

Thanksgiving … time for pumpkin and squash, gourds and bittersweet, bronze and yellow mums. I always eagerly awaited the first crisp day when Carolynn and I would trek to Hinman’s farm market for autumn’s bounty. But things change. Hinman’s is no longer there, nor are we for that matter. I used to have to skulk off to my secret spot in the park to get my autumnal cascade of bittersweet; now I’m spoiled for choice because bittersweet overruns the woods here.

I do have to admit that there were several years before we moved when Peter and I started thinking Christmas as early as August. That’s when a huge outdoor antique show and sale took place near us. It was a great source for presents, potential presents that is. I’ve always been the “idea” person, so I’d have to start early unearthing treasures for Peter to refurbish in time for Christmas giving. He made my ideas realities. Part of the fun was seeing an old, derelict something-or-other come to life under his skilled hands.

So, as much as I hate the rushing of the seasons, I’ve been guilty too.

One November I clipped one of Ralph Dunagin and Dana Summers’ “The Middletons” cartoons that said it all as far: The couple strolls past a department store decorated for Christmas. Christmas Sale! signs are plastered across the display windows and a Salvation Army Santa stands by the door ringing his bell. Mr. Middleton says to his wife, “Wow! Thanksgiving must be just around the corner.”

The … year … I clipped that cartoon — we were still living up north — it was … another two weeks to Thanksgiving and I was doing my weekly grocery shopping. “Frosty the Snowman” blared on the sound system, but the foot of new snow outside probably justified that. However, when a bona fide Christmas carol started to play I was suspicious.

Then I noticed the deli section was encased in a cardboard candy house igloo, the butchers were hanging fake garland, and Christmas hams were on sale in the big meat case down the center of the area. “Wait a minute,” I yelled. “What happened to Thanksgiving? Where’s the turkey?”

My “bah humbug” was loud and clear as I finished filling my cart and strode out of sight. I was already planning the letter I was going to write, a letter that would not be addressed to Santa Claus.

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Leg Shaving 101.

Ohio University. Sophomore year. 1958-59.

My roomie, Arlene, came down the hall from the shower one evening glaring intently at her razor. She was holding it up in front of her nose, a perplexed, slightly cross-eyed look, on her face.

“This doesn’t work as well as it used to,” she said.1295868

“When did you change the blade last?” I asked.

“Am I supposed to change the blade?”

“Um, yes, they do get dull after a while.”

“Oh. I guess my dad always changes it.”

“You mean you’ve been using the same blade since you left home two years ago?”

“Yep.”

“Change the blade.”

The memory of that conversation still makes me laugh. I thought of it again a few weeks ago when I came across the flow chart below.  I saved the chart, with no plan to use it.

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Now I’m using the chart for the “funny factor,” but I have reason modify it. Diagonally from “Do you care if people see your hairy legs?” I’d put a starred box that shouts:

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And of course I’d check NO!

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Well, darned if I didn’t end up in the ER after a couple of short circuits. When the nurse pulled back the bottom of my jeans to find the pulse in my ankle, I was relieved to be able to say, “I’m so glad I shaved my legs last night.”

“Oh, never worry about that, Sweetie. Everyone in here wears scrub pants on their shifts because no one has time to shave their legs. We’re all in the same boat.”

Even so, I was glad I’d done it, especially when a series of attractive, young doctors arrived.

As if they cared whether my legs were shaved.

At least I had a pulse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plastic nightmares.

Guess what these dimensions define? Cardboard: 21-5/8″ x 6-7/8″ Clear plastic cover: 9-7/8″ x 7″ x 1-1/8″ Zipper: 9-7/8″

Give up?

It’s the packaging that encapsulated the two standard-size, 20″ x 30″ pillow cases I bought this week.

Don’t ask me why pillow cases, and indeed sheets, blankets and any number of other items need to be zipped up in plastic. True, the ones blankets come in can be re-used to store out of season clothes, for instance, and I’ve used the smaller sizes to keep things sorted when I travel. But really, why can’t we just purchase such things “unwrapped,” so to speak?

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Still on my shelf.

My mother made sheets and pillowcases from muslin. Sometimes she prettified the pillow “sheets,” as she called them, with embroidery. The thought of buying something she could make for “half the price” was scandalous to her. To be truthful, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven the first time I slept on store-bought sheets. There’s a world of difference between unbleached muslin sheets and soft, combed-cotton ones.

Five decades ago I remember buying sheet sets that were wrapped only with a pretty satin ribbon tied in a bow. Back then, “off-the-shelf” meant a sales clerk took the items off the shelf behind the counter and showed the items to you gently, almost reverently.  Today, sadly, the term means the customer takes it off a shelf herself, handles it, makes her decision, and often, if she decides against the purchase, she shoves it back any ol’ where.

Today’s self-serve mentality has redefined both shopping and packaging.

 

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Plastic Bag Gallery Exhibition, London, 2012

 

This week, [9/30/14] California became the first state in the nation to outlaw plastic-film bags. Stores will no longer be able to provide disposable bags to shoppers and they must charge for paper bags. The hope is that people will rely on reusable bags instead. Eliminating disposables will reduce the amount of plastic film that winds up in waterways, on roadsides, in trees and landfills. Of course manufacturers are already planning protests, but couldn’t they retool their factories to make reusable totes instead? Of course they could, they just don’t want to.

These thoughts were tumbling around in my head the day I found the most perfect pillowcases ever! Smothered though they were in zippered  plastic, they promised bedtime solace and no nightmares.

 

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Dreams are today’s answers to tomorrow’s questions. Edgar Cayce