Dear Me…Selfless Reality, Sing and Smile

This is the final installment to the Dear Me series. Thank you for taking the time to read my heart. I hope my transparency has helped others.

BE SELFLESS… with a healthy dose of reality.

Please don’t take this wrong but you are an incredibly. selfish. person. In a few years you will see this more clearly, and you will be disgusted with your self love.

Around this time you will come under some preaching that will, in the end, because of the sold out way you live, result in your becoming a voiceless drone. You will be taught in upfront and in round about ways that the way to be happy is to have no desires, rights, or voice.

Suffice it to say that you will come to the place where this mindset will only cause more abuse and hatred. Persuaded that you are to blame for everything  you hurt yourself to dull the pain. The pain, of course, only intensifies. Eventually you come to a place where you completely despise yourself.

This behavior only serves to give your abuser another weapon to use against you. All he has to do is convince you that you are to blame and allow you to punish yourself so he can hurt you without ever touching you.

Here’s where the healthy dose of reality comes in. It is never acceptable to be abused by anyone, yourself included. Nor is it right to be the only one devoted to a relationship at the cost of everything to yourself.

Eventually you do understand this and begin to stand up for your rights. Then the phone calls will begin. You will be surrounded in church by deacons and their wives and not allowed to leave until you acknowledge your wrong-doing. And will spend a few hours being chastened by pastors and their spouses. Scolded on all fronts for your “sins”, you’ll be told that your choice to believe God wants to protect you and allows for you to stand up for your rights is evil speaking.

While all his lies are believed you begin to lose everything, including your older children. Learn from my mistakes – don’t explain your decisions, just keep your mouth shut and remember it is not wrong for you to stand upon the truth. The people who truly love you will understand without explanation, in spite of the circumstances.

Thankfully a dear friend helps you realize that protecting yourself from harm isn’t selfish. And she walks the path towards reclaiming realistic selflessness with you.

SING

Use the songs that come across the radio to cheer you, help you to grieve. Enjoy the fun. Bopping in your van will cause people in neighboring cars to look askew in your direction, but who cares. Sing anyways.

Music makes you happy. It ministers to your soul. It’s a balm.

Throw away all the silly man-made rules and live your life, one song at a time.

SMILE

After all the serious heaviness of this letter I can only conclude on a happy note.

You will be 18 before your crazy, jacked up teeth reach near perfection. Those ugly metal braces will come off and reveal an amazing smile. I know that sounds conceited but from what everyone tells me, it’s one of your best features.

Believe me your smile will be something people around you will appreciate. There is just something about a person who smiles through their adversity that speaks louder than any words you can ever say.

Before I forget…let me remind you to wear your retainer. Just sayin’! 🙂

You have had, and will continue to have, no doubt, so many tragic things happen to you that you will be tempted to wear a frown. Don’t! 

Don’t you dare let your hurts and grief take over your heart and life. 

Smile through the tears! I know you can. I know you will.

Stay strong and keep looking up.

With Love,

The still smiling you.

me and silas grad

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Dear Me…Never Ever Settle, Live With Regrets and Be Courageous

Part two to the Dear Me letter to my 16 year old self. You can find part one here.

Never. ever. settle!

You think you’re not beautiful, your happiness doesn’t matter, no one can love you, and your dreams are selfish. You couldn’t be more wrong!

This lack of belief in who you are will cause you to think you have the best you can get, which isn’t all that great.

Thinking you will always be alone and lonely if you don’t compromise, you settle. Compromise stinks, girl! Don’t do it!

You *will* see the light right before you make a permanent decision but you will already be so vested you can’t find the way out.

You will cry your way through your wedding, not because you’re happy, but because you know you’re settling and fighting the urge to apologize and run back up the aisle. Being a committed non-quitter you trudge forward and make one of the greatest mistakes of your life.

 

LIVE WITH REGRETS!

No, that’s not a typo. 

This is the hardest thing for me to write because there is no question that settling will give you regrets. Yet, there are some regrets worth having.

How is that for giving you mixed signals?!

Your older self will have…wait for it…8, yes, eight, amazing (!) children that she would go through every. single. pregnancy. every. single. birth. every. single. sleepless. night. every. single. day. of their lives. every. single. day. of her “settled” life to continue to have them in her life!!!!

As much as I wish I would have held out for someone much better for me, I know that 8 wonderful people might not be in my life had I done so. How then do I tell you to rob me of the most precious blessings I have ever experienced? I simply, and most selfishly, can’t.

Please, let me live with that one regret. I’m certain I can handle it.

 

BE COURAGEOUS! 

When you are only 40 (I know it sounds old, trust me, it’s young. Very young.) you will be faced with something that will require a great deal of courage and faith. You will be told you have Chiari malformation. After weeks of research you will have to decide if you are willing to continue to degenerate physically, and neurologically, or take a huge risk with an open dura Posterior Fossa Brain decompression surgery.

Yeah, the vet tech in you thinks the brain surgery is cool. The human being in you thinks there’s no way you can be brave enough for it.

You come face to face with Mom’s death from a brain aneurysm nearly 30 years earlier.

You cry yourself to sleep every night, for weeks. Wishing and praying that you had a husband who loved you enough to walk the road with you.

Don’t lose heart because God is there, as He promised He would be. And this is all God giving you a 2nd chance that you needed. An awakening of sorts.

 

Formerly Known As

I’ve been rediscovering God over the past year. He hasn’t changed, nor will He ever. I have, and I hope I always will. There is a stark difference between our need to change and grow as human beings, and God’s ability to stay the same. A needed difference. A blessed difference.

My otherwise never boring, absurdly atypical life took a very nasty turn when I had to make a very difficult choice on July 31, 2011. I’ll not get into what that choice was, suffice it to say it was one that I did all I could, within my power, to not have to make.

So what changed in me? What was the defining moment of change for me? It was a shocking realization that if I didn’t keep a boundary line drawn, quite solidly, I might add, I would no longer be able to stand firm on my convictions. It was time. I had done all I could, all that was left to do, was stand.

Not quite a year later, I was changed by the law. As I sat in a small room signing papers, it occurred to me that who I am now isn’t who I was a year ago. I’m much stronger. Healthier. Happier.

Yes, standing firm was exactly what I needed to do!

This change in me has caused many to question who I really am in Christ. Job’s friends are an ever present reminder that my many trials surely mean that I’m judged of God.

True friends, those who are not looking on the outward circumstances of my life, laugh with me, cry with me, exhort me and love me. They encourage me in my new identity. That of a single mother. They remind me that though I no longer have a MRS. attached to my name, I have value.

They have lived out agape love to me in a way I have never seen it before. When I was told no one could, they did! You see, I have a God who doesn’t look down upon me. He doesn’t send me scathing emails. He doesn’t ignore my pleas to Him. He doesn’t exhibit passive aggressive hatred towards me. Rather He reminds me of my value to Him.

He has a perfect plan for me. He died so I might live. He intercedes for me. His wings over shadow me. He hides me. He protects me. He heals my wounds. Oh, I could go on and on. Why, does He do all of these things for me? Quite simply, I am loved with an everlasting love!

He. Loves. Me.

He. AGAPES. Me.

You might not love me, and that’s OK. That doesn’t change who God is. You might even hate me, and that’s OK too. That still doesn’t change who God is.

I’m not a ‘formerly known as’ to God. To Him, I am His.

And I am not alone.

This post is dedicated to all my family and friends who have stepped in with compassion to help see me through a tremendous trial. I love you and I thank God for you!

Put Your Conscience to Vote

A few weeks ago I unexpectedly caused quite the uproar on a facebook post.

Conversation heated up.

Blood pressures shot up.

Fingers frantically typed opinions.

Peers pushed for their way or the highway. I was removed from several friends facebook lists.

Still people didn’t get the point. It’s not about YOU voting exactly like I would.

GASP! Really. It isn’t. America is still free. Is it not? It IS about YOU VOTING. Period.

Yes, this vote is crucial. Every vote is. Every. single. one. I think we all know this is why we have smear campaigns and never an honest campaign. It’s extremely hard, and discouraging to say the least to figure out how to vote. Just when you think you have a candidate in your sites, BAM, he or she is knocked out of the race by scandal. Or typically, for me anyways, he’s bumped by a front runner.

Voting has been so ingrained into me that as much as I’d like to say, “Well, my candidate dropped out, so I did too.”, I can’t. I simply just can’t. Some of us would rather throw our vote away by voting the “lesser of two evils”, than study and learn about the ones still in the race and vote our conscience.

More than likely, we just won’t vote at all. And though we may vote in the primaries we definitely won’t vote in any mom and pop local elections…you know, the really important ones for judges, mayors and the like. After all, what difference can they make anyways?!

All the difference in the world! IF we let it.

I challenge my readers to actually sit back and SEE our countries major issues. Take the time to think through things logically and realize that if we have no country (ahem, we go bankrupt) those soapbox issues won’t matter anyways.

I have heard from people in all walks of life and on all sides of the fence. The constant complaint is this economy. It is, indeed. We would like to blame Obama, they want to blame Bush. We want blame Clinton, they want to blame Bush. We want to blame Carter, they want to blame Reagen. Do you see it?

Is voting for the man who will stand up and say, “Nana, nana, boo boo.” to the other side, with no other effect really to our benefit? I think not.

Furthermore, I won’t vote for the man who can’t use a business mind to breathe some fresh air into the deflating dollar. I also won’t vote for a man because he’s got a nice looking family. Or for the color of their skin. Or for the sex on their birth certificate.

Rather, I would like to vote for someone who fears God, in that, he actually acknowledges He IS. And has the same attitude as our creator – free will of the people to choose for themselves, and to govern themselves. Does this mean he has to sit in the same church pew as me? Nope.

Maybe this perfect candidate is right under our noses but we on the Right wing, or they on Left wing, refuse to see what we are flapping our wings over, because he’s…hmm, which superlatives should I use…too perfect or too marred. Or he is too young. Too old. Too jaded. Too happy. Too worldly. Too cloistered. Too immoral. Too moral. Too not who we want to vote for.

I can’t say for whom I’d vote. I have a favorite. He’s been a favorite all along. I admit it, I have a tendency to buck the status-quot and vote my conscience. I figure it’s been pretty reliable all along. Besides, I like being able to live with myself rather than kick myself for following the crowd.

It’s not a vote wasted. It’s a vote kept.

Debbie

(This blog is an entry into a scholarship for school.)

Blogging Scholarship
by YourLocalSecurity.com

Twain

“Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.”

When I served as a missionary I saw God provide for me and my family countless times. I have a journal full of exactly how He chose to meet needs and wants. Throughout the last few months different people took hold of my hands while others smacked them away. And some of the most surprising people have come back into my life.

True friends will show themselves in the good and bad, whether or not they agree with everything you do. I have tried to emulate this in my own life, especially when we were in the ministry. As I see it lived out yet again I’m challenged to keep my head up and my eyes on the Lord.

I saw complete strangers meet the need for my children’s schooling. New friends helped me out in a variety of ways from a new MacBook cord to Christmas presents for me and my kiddos. My Aunt, Uncle and Sister sacrificed their own Christmas so that I, and 7 of my 8 children, could spend Christmas with family. Another friend paid me for cleaning their house. Others have voted on designs. Many have dropped by here, or facebook, and have reminded me that I am not alone.

Today two families who have been by my side through the divorce came by my house to deliver some bread and…

Meat

Veggies

Fruit

Cookies

Candy

Pop 🙂

And LOVE.

No doubt there are things they are giving up so that my children can have a solid meal and some treats too. I know for the one family the trip here to deliver the goods took several hours. Since both families arrived at literally the same moment, one family waited patiently for my attention while the other family and I chatted.

These are the sort of Christlike actions people need to see.

These are two families becoming aware of a desperate need and walking more than a mile with me.

These are the evidences that God has not forsaken me and my children.

Practice What You Preach

I received a call from a friend concerned that I was not going to church anymore. When I asked where they had heard it from it went like this…a pastor told the evangelist, who told another evangelist, who told his wife, who called me.

I’m thankful for my friend who called me. She is the only one, in this particular situation, who has handled anything in a Biblical manner. Even when she had one of my ‘friends’ former ‘friends’, who claims to love and care about me, tell her she was crazy for helping me. However, I’m infinitely more disgusted with the first evangelist who has gossiped about me at least three times now. Not once has he called me, as is Biblical.

As it is I’m struggling to find my place within the church. Afraid to stay IFB. Afraid to go to any church. Afraid to admit I was involved in, and perpetuated, a religion not a faith.

Most of these people were my dearest friends. My confidants. At one time in my life they meant more to me than my own family. Only to receive letters from them stating that I am crazy, and that they always felt something wasn’t quite right with me, to them feeling the presence of Satan around me. All because I said enough was enough. All because I’m not perfect and I had a breaking point that I had already far surpassed. All because…God only knows.

You all who criticize me and are reading this, I plead with you to examine your own hearts. How have any of you stepped in to help your sister in Christ when you knew she was struggling? When you heard of the turmoil in her life when did you do as Christ would have done? How many times did God speak to you about me and you turned a deaf ear to encourage me?

Instead, you sit there looking down your nose upon me for choices I didn’t make. You demand that I quit destroying my life and the church yet you embrace the one who made the choices. Hypocrites. Whited sepulchers. All of you!

I surrendered, and fully gave, my life and my heart for what the IFB or Fundamentalism preaches and believes as Biblical. I dare anyone to do what I have done, under the circumstances in which I have done them, give up what I gave up,  and come out a whole productive person. Let alone to walk away with any faith at all.

You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves!!!

It makes me sick to my stomach to realize I was a part of the same elite click of ‘believers’ who steadfastly hold that their way was is the only way. I too sat in your positions and had all the right answers. Quite frankly, that’s what causes the bile to rise into my throat.

God forgive me!

For the record, I stopped going to this gossiping evangelists home church because I was being forced to agree with deacon’s wives in regards to their beliefs about my life. I refused. After they wouldn’t allow me to leave the church for several minutes I walked (really, crutched) away and never looked back. I found a good IFB church 20 mins away. Which I attended until I had to make the decision to feed my kids or buy gasoline. Judge me if you will, but not one of you has offered to help me get to church…just sayin’!

365 Fresh Starts

I love the new year! Don’t you? We all should.

Every new year offers us 365 fresh starts. The potential of writing life’s story on fresh pages beckons to me all throughout December. It’s almost irresistible.

Last year this blog became my place to blog that story. You’ve read through my trials of Chiari Malformation, and the necessary brain surgery. Those of you who have the ability to read between the lines surely saw my grief as my marriage imploded. Many rejoiced with my straight A’s in college. My strength came to the forefront in a new life, a new chance.

2011 was packed full of trials for me! What 2012 will hold for this single mother of 8 is yet to be seen. I’m excited to know that the flood waters I passed through each and every day last year are finally receding. My health is better than it’s been most of my adult life. I no longer fear what man can do unto me. I pillow my head each night and sleep well. Very well.

I have a new perspective on life, of God and relationships. In short, I LOVE my new life!

Join me this year as I share my joys, views, and hopes for the year! And spread the word.

Wondering Why?

I am having one of those incredibly discouraging days weeks months years.   It sure would be nice to get the rotting putrid smell out of my nostrils by airing out the “dirty laundry”.  So, much as I want to, in my flesh, I know I would regret having my say.  God knows the truth!

I’ll say this though, I am wondering… if all that has been said to me today is true?  why did God heal me in March?  why have I witnessed personal answers to prayers, no one else knew about, and no one but God could answer?  why do I have one thing being said to me and another entirely to someone else about the exact same subject?

Someone’s gotta be wrong somewhere.  Or the words “this is pointless”, hurled at me every time sin is confronted, major pet peeve by the way, really is true and God a liar!

NOT!

“Let God be true, and every man (myself included) a liar.”  I know that much is true.

I’m ready for eternity with my Lord and Savior.  This life on earth is wearying.

 

Normal

Hello everyone!  I hope you all have been doing well in my sabbatical from blogging.  I needed to take some time for recovery.  Once I regained my strength I took some time to get back into the swing of things.  Well, sort of.  It is a start anyways. 

I am doing remarkably well.  Before surgery my Aunt kept telling me God was going to heal me.  She had the faith that would be the case.  I am deeply challenged by her faith and confidence in God’s answer to her prayers.  Truthfully, I was certain I was going to come out changed.  Most of my confidence rested on my Aunt’s faith. 

The day I went into surgery I had such peace.  It was as though God enveloped me into His tender care.  I was not fearful.  I was not fretting.  I was confident that if God brought me out of the surgery I would be as He desired.  In the same respect, if He took me home to be with Him I would be as He desired.   I sat in the chair in my pre-surgical room and through the storm clouds outside the window streams of sunlight flooded upon me.  “Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10 came to the forefront of my mind, followed quickly by Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

As I entered the surgical prep area I enjoyed looking around and seeing what everyone was doing.  Then I was out like a light.  I barely recall the feeling of my intubation tube being removed.  The next memory is waking up to dry heaves and the exploding pain in the back of my head.  The first coherent thought was, “Oh dear, what have I done.”   A moment later a saying came to mind, “Don’t question in the storm what was certain upon the shore.” 

Now several weeks out from my decompression I feel normal.  At least I think this is what normal must feel like.  I’m not confident because I don’t think I have ever experienced ‘normal’.  If this is normal, I LOVE it.  It was well worth the pain and agony to arrive at this place.

God is using that experience to help me with another trial that has completely overwhelmed my senses.  As much as I prefer to have the same deliverance I am sensing that God would have me to embrace this trial in the same way as the Chiari.  With complete abandon. 

The past several days God has elaborated on the verses He used the morning and recovery of my surgery.  He has brought me into a captivity of sorts.  It is He that will deliver me from what He has allowed, in His due time.    

My surgery story…

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Hello to all who have been keeping up with my post-op recovery.  I’m very thankful to say that I am doing well.  I have had some really good low pain to pain free days.  Other than when the storm fronts move in I have felt better than I have in years.

For those wondering,  I can tell you all what kind of surgery I have had beyond the basic Posterior Fossa Brain Decompression.  [Note: see links at right for more information.] That means my bill arrived a couple days ago.  Thank God we had insurance because my brain just became un-insurable (is that a word?) in that major companies won’t underwrite me anymore…or at least the major companies I contacted aren’t offering me insurance.  😦 

For some reason they don’t like big spenders like me.  I guess they’d rather buy themselves cars instead of forking over the $$$ to the neurosurgeon.

So here’s what was on my bill: 
1. Craniotomy for Chiari Malformation 1
2. Craniectomy-explore/decompress cranial nerve
3. Neuroplasty
4. Cranioplasty-skull defect 5cm
5. Use of microscrope
6. Intraoperative ultrasound
7-11. Ditto #’s 1-4 for the NS assistant.

Of course, added to this will be anesthesia, anesthiologist, neurophysiology, neurophysiologist, nurses, ICU, reg room, drugs, food, monitoring, monitors, rolls of tape, IV’s, tubes, catheters, labs, radiology…and all the other bills not delivered to my mailbox, just yet, and still pending insurance payment.

I haven’t met with my NS yet for a post-op check so I don’t have anything from the surgery other than what we were told right after.  Which was that they saw a 50% improvement on my left side (which is where, from the consultation report, the major compression was) and the operation was a success. 

Notice I didn’t say cure.  There is no cure for ACM!  Only ways to lessen, hopefully, or at the least pause damage to the brain and central nervous system.

Back to the surgery…As you all know there was a delay in my surgery, a change took place that I was unaware of, and so, I had to wait a few hours extra to begin my recovery.  I had such peace before surgery that I was good with the wait.   I was able to spend some time alone with the Lord and He gave me a song and a Bible verse to strengthen me.  It was a wonderful time of worship for me and a life altering experience.  This condition has been filled wth moments like this that I will cherish.

I had little to no anxiety until after surgery.  And then it was because it felt as though my head was going to split apart every time I had the dry heaves.  That was actually why I hit my pain pump trigger…to stop the nausea which happened everytime I roused from my delirium. 

I began to feel better and hit the button less and less so my NS stopped the pain pump. I had only used it a handful of times and was saying I was at a 6-7.  Was I insane, or what?  Definitely!  My pain was off the charts at times.  It just wasn’t the times they happened to be asking me to give them a number.  It was the times when I hit the button.  So when they asked, I didn’t want to seem ungrateful and knew I had to adjust to the pain at some point, so I didn’t force the issue.

They realized my pain had increased and put me back on the pain pump, that time with Morphine.  It made me feel odd.  Flushed.  Breathing was difficult.  My neck seemed constricted.  So I didn’t use it, but 3 times.  (Compare that to the other pain pump where I was counting the minutes until I could push the button again.)  At the same time they were pushing 3 different nausea meds into my IV, alternating each one every 2 hours. 

It was during those high pain dry heave stricken moments that I questioned why I was there.  Thinking that maybe I should’ve waited until the Chiari symptoms were more serious.  Just like every delivery with each of my 8 kids it was too late to chicken out.  I went back to the many times I had spent with the Lord asking His will for me and I knew HE had me there. 

Rather than focus on the pain I did what I knew to do, get in my zone.  ‘My zone’ came about when I was pregnant with baby #4 and knowing I could block out all but the worst of the pain by thinking about something else.  So I got in my zone by using those moments to pray for others.  I have no idea how complete those prayers were due to the drugs and pain.  I do know there were a few people who God consistently impressed upon my heart who are facing more difficult trials that I managed to ask God to help.

I would end up falling asleep during those prayers and would wake up with the pain only to complete the cycle.  Even though I had family and dear friends there in my room their company wasn’t enough.  At times it was more painful because I had to think to answer their questions.  Or their voices in the room were more than I could bear with my extra sensitive hearing.  They always entered a dark room because I had severe photofobia.  I look back at these snapshots in my mind and it seems like it was just a few hours, or so. 

There is something profoundly more painful having to lie flat on your back for 48 hours.  Not only did that cramp my side sleeping preference but it put all the pressure on my incision.  Which means the staples in the back of my newly enlarged head were constantly being pressed.  My neck was too stiff and painful to turn it to the side to relieve the pain.  Nor could I use a pillow to alleviate some of the pressure.  Thankfully, the bed was brand new and fairly comfortable or I would have been telling them I was a 15 or 20.

I struggled wth the nausea for all of 2 1/2 days and I was incredibly hungry and in withdrawal from the nightly meds I took at home.  I couldn’t tolerate swallowing anything, even small pieces of ice, pills were out of the question.  So had the dry heaves been resolved I still had issues from a very parched and swollen mouth and throat.  All of that began to resolve on Thursday late morning after I was able to eat, and keep down, a fresh fruit cup.  That afternoon I was up walking the ‘block’ around the unit.

Wednesday morning they started raising the head of my bed by 10 degrees every hour.  That was hard to handle.  Not only did the nausea hit but it also increased the pressure to the back of my head. 

That afternoon they had me moved out of ICU and into a regular room.  But they forgot to lift the bed…and I didn’t remind them.  My nurse that night then tried to play catch-up by telling me I needed to order some food to eat.  The idea of food was appealing but all I could stomach was broth.  Thankfully my NS checked on me before my food got there and he gave me the order to stay put in bed.  I was a bit too excited and might as well have said, “nana,nana, boo boo” to my nurse when she told me I needed to sit in a chair to eat.

On Thursday the NS assistant/resident (not sure what he’s called) saw me that afternoon and about choked on his surprise.  I was looking pretty bad Wednesday morning so he was pleased to see such great improvement.  Discharge papers were signed and waiting on Friday morning.  Since I was feeling so good and our insurance expired that day I felt it was time to head home.  (And definitely a blessing from God that I could!) 

I took a shower.  Did my best to cover my ‘zipper’.  Took my pain meds and headed out with Jay.  She stayed with us for a week and took care of the kids, and me.  They had a blast going to Build-A-Bear and Albanese Candy Factory with their Grandma Jay.  And she is having withdrawals from a lack of hugs and kisses.

So, that’s about all I remember other than the 9 seconds it took me to fall asleep under the anesthesia. 

Oh, and waking up to the tube being pulled from my throat.  And in recovery when they kept calling my name – Debra (that’s my official I’m in trouble get my attention name, woke me up *every* time).  I remember telling the nurses (and my family, I think) “I’m alive, praise God.”

That’s my experience in a pretty big nutshell.  Sorry for the long post.  If anyone has questions feel free to ask away here or email me if you prefer.  I will do my best to answer.

Before I close this post I would like for everyone reading to know that God answers prayer.  I have no doubts about that.  And I really have my prayer warriors to thank for lifting my name before the throne of God.  I’m ever so thankful for all of you who prayed!  And I’m thankful to the Lord Who was with me every moment!!!

Love,
Debbie

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