The Back Drop – Intro to A Leap of Faith, Part 2

The backdrop continued…

This is my story and it’s one of self-discovery and of the second first three years of my life. It’s the story of my dream.

In its unedited and original form:

I have a dream, and my dream is to become a published author with books in multiple genres. I have three books in mind right now, the first and most important one to me is entitled A Leap of Faith, an Artist’s Journey into the Light. It is a story of discovery, it is my story of self-discovery and coming into my own. It will be inspiring to people who think it is too late for them and for people who have similar feelings about themselves as I do, but don’t have the words with which to express their thoughts. I am driven to write because I want to be of service to others, I want to help young people make good choices and I want to help people at any stage of life realize that they can change, they can recover and soar. I particularly want to help women understand that they can be care-givers without giving up their identity, the importance of being in positive relationships, and we are all stronger than we know. I want to teach and inspire, I want to help, I want to change the world and make it a better place. My dream is to do so through my writing, I will make people laugh, make them cry, help them feel, and make them think. I have experienced and survived things that should be shared in a way that will be helpful to others. I have the talent, I have the drive, and I now have the conviction to pursue my dreams and write my first book and many more.

The seed was planted in a small cafe in Dorset, Minnesota and it lay dormant for years but it didn’t die. It followed me from vacation at Big Sand Lake back to real life in Nebraska, through a new job and a move to Pennsylvania, a divorce, a near foreclosure, and the fight for my life against both my real and imaginary demons, to where and who I am today. I’ve taken a leap of faith and I’m no longer hiding and pretending to be someone else, I’m “Beth, just being me.”

A Leap of Faith was inspired by the novel Walking in This World by Julia Cameron. I received the book as a gift for my fiftieth birthday from my beautiful landlord and friend Jeanne Marie. From the moment I started reading I knew I had to share the experience through writing. What I thought was going to be a book that would make me a better writer I believe was a catalyst that helped me discover myself and become a better person. It may not be correct to say I became a better person, but more accurately that I learned that all I really need to be is to be me. And in being myself I am the best person I can be.

It started out as a separate journal and quickly turned into a weekly post on my blog It’s a Whole New World. Writing the essays not only helped me process what I was feeling it was a way for me to share the experience through my writing.

I thought about submitting them to be published in contests and magazines but I thought of them almost like my children and I couldn’t imagine them being separated. I submitted the first four pieces to Flash Fiction Chronicles along with the idea to publish all twelve plus a summary as a series. I did a happy dance when I got the acceptance email from Gay Degani, editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles (among many other credentials) and I still smile every time I think about it.

I originally thought I’d narrate the epiphanies that occurred during the 4 months that it took me to complete the readings, tasks, and weekly commitments. However I came to realize that, while the book was an important catalyst, it isn’t the whole truth. The book remains true to my original vision in that it contains essays and excerpts from my journal. But instead of telling you about an experience, I’ll be sharing my story. My journey from a time and place of hiding from the world to being the woman I was meant to be, fully engaged and playing the game of life with both feet firmly on the court.

I’m often mistaken for being extroverted and an open book, because I can and do easily strike up conversations with total strangers nearly everywhere I go. I’m known for being the life of the party and can always be counted on to tell a funny story, usually one on myself. The reality is that in my past, I chose to tell funny stories about myself to ensure that people thought they knew who I was and to make it easier to keep people from finding out what was really going on inside me. I thought if they knew me they might not like me. I was sure that there could be nothing worse than letting someone find out that I’m anything less than perfect.

Throughout A Leap of Faith, I will share my experiences and myself, but it’s important for me to articulate what my focus is and what it is not. It is not about how I survived a divorce, a near foreclosure, and made the decision to resign from my position in Corporate America within a five month time frame. Or about how I spent many years hiding from life inside a bottle and behind a curtain of false pretenses. It’s not a book about survival or a story of catastrophe or financial devastation. It’s not about weight issues or alcohol abuse. And it’s certainly not about the challenges of being a single mom.

The reason I am sharing my story isn’t to demonstrate how I came through tough times and survived. I’m compelled to share how I came alive. The reasons that I felt lost and alone are interesting, but irrelevant. I believe that many people feel trapped by circumstances, are controlled by daily drama, and have given up on their dreams. I also believe that within each and every one of us lies the power and the courage to “be” the person they were meant to be.

The Back Drop – Intro to A Leap of Faith, Part 1

I’ve heard that the process being born is the first traumatic but necessary event we experience in life.  It’s easy for me to believe that it’s a distressing experience to be pushed from comfort of familiar surroundings through a space that feels too small and into a world filled with unknowns. We are thrust out of the dark and into the light.  We welcome the world with a powerful first breath and we are free, we are unaltered, we are unafraid, and we are perfect.

Many believe that the first three years of life contain the most dramatic and rapid growth and development of any stage of life.  In the first three years of life children learn to crawl, walk, and run.  They become aware of themselves as individuals, imaginations bloom, and curiosity overflows. Every day is full of surprises and everything is new and the most ordinary activities become extraordinary adventures.  Love is given and received unconditionally and there is no such thing as impossible.  The foundation for life has been laid.

I have no doubt that this is the case but I also believe that some people, and I count myself among them, experience the first three years of life twice.

Sometimes without even realizing it we lose sight of who we are and what we were meant to be.  And we wonder why we feel lost and uncertain, unfulfilled and afraid.  We begin to search for happiness in all the wrong places. Some people throw themselves into their career, others into their children, and many find ways to retreat from the world and hide behind vices and false bravado.

Some of us are afraid for the world to see us as we really are and we pretend really hard to be what we think others want us to be. We shut out our family and friends in an attempt to convince ourselves that everything is all right and we pay far too much attention to the voices that say you can’t, you shouldn’t, your ideas are crazy, and your dream isn’t practical or possible.  I think we confuse the definition of success with the size of a dream.

We’re not all meant to be astronauts or actresses and we don’t have to achieve fame in order to live a fulfilling life and to make a difference.  We don’t have to be wealthy to be happy.  Our books and poems don’t have to be published best sellers to inspire, but they do need to be written and they should be shared.  I believe that the dream should be to express ourselves in whatever form that might take. What greater dream can there be that to live life to its fullest potential as defined by who we are and not who we think others think we should be.

Note that I didn’t say who others think we should be, I said who we think others think we should be.  This is an important distinction.  And one of the things that I’ve learned in the second first three years of my life is that if we don’t speak with conviction about who we are we give others no choice but to derive their own perceptions based on how we behave.

The voices that drown out the dreams can be so loud that we forgot we ever had them and we mistake our society’s definition of success to be the measuring stick in determining whether or not a ‘dream’ is worth pursuing.  We may believe that not only dreams but our very essence is lost because of the circumstances we find ourselves in and we lose sight of the fact that the voice of the loudest naysayer in the room is our own.

to be continued…

Blog News

A month or so ago, I had a crazy idea to start another blog and publish a few excerpts and drafts from my book in progress along the way. At the moment I conceived the idea, I thought I was brilliant. Turns out; it’s a lot of work to maintain multiple blogs, people really only want to follow one blog, and it’s not as easy as I thought it would be to pluck out portions of the book as I write.

So I have decided to stick with one blog and when the spirit moves me, I will post the pieces here under the category of A Leap of Faith. There are a few pieces that I am going to re-post here. If you’ve already read them I hope you enjoy them again.

In other news I will be updating the look and feel of my blog and moving it to WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com. I’ve been told it’s a painless and transparent process so I don’t expect any issues. I’m making the move so more search engines can find me and so that I can add some additional functionality.

I’m not sure about the timing; it will most likely be in early August.

Thanks to all of you who continue to read and support my writing efforts!

A Little Slice of Heaven on Earth

A place to relax outside the Colleen Attara Studio

When I lived in the Midwest, my perception of the East Coast was the same as many others. Based on movies, magazines, and personal travels I imagined it to be all skyscrapers and sidewalks. When I moved here, my friends from Omaha asked me about the traffic and how long it takes to get to work and whether or not I missed the wide open spaces.

I get a kick out of explaining that I live in a town that has a main street with a single stop light and the only type of traffic jam that could cause me to be late for work is a flock of geese crossing the road.

One of my more recent discoveries is the Patterson Farm.  It is one of the few, if not the only pieces of open space left in the area.  It’s the home of the Artist’s of Yardley, the studio of artist Colleen Attara, and the rich land is a source of local produce for the community.  There are two houses and sets of farm buildings; one was owned by the Patterson’s and the other by the Doan’s.

Last Friday I was feeling out of sorts, so I grabbed my camera and drove to the property.  Today I’d like to take you on a tour.

The driveway winds from Mirror Lake road to the Janney House.  This picture isn’t from my most recent set, but I think it’s the best picture I have of the house. I thought it would be neat to include a photo of the house from the first day of my drawing class.  The house was built during the time that Andrew Jackson was president and is the home of the Artist’s of Yardley.The Janney House, Patterson Farm, Yardley PA

I thought the view of these trees and the sun filtered through the leaves was spectacular.  I love the shadows and it made me picture Scarlett O’hara standing with soil clenched in her hand and shouting to the sky, “I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again.”Trees alongside the Patterson Farm Driveway

This body of water brought back memories of my grandparents farm outside of Berthold, N.D.  The slough at the end of the road was the signal for the dog to start barking and that the road trip was over and there were welcoming hugs just ahead.Still Water and trees along the Patterson Farm Driveway

The shafts of tall grass swayed in the breeze and they whispered “Summer,” in my ear.Patterson Farm, Whispers of Summer Grass

I met the gentleman who currently farms the property. He grows fresh produce, and his family sells it at a local farmers market.  He often tends to the farm in the evening as a way to wind down and get away from the hectic pace of the day.  It made me sad to learn that the open space property is in jeopardy and commercial development may ensue.  (more to come on this in a separate post)The current Farmer of the Patterson Farm, Yardley PA

There is something very poetic and nostalgic about a tractor at sunset.Farm Equipment at Sunset, Patterson Farm Yardley, PA

The property is well guarded by feral cats.  I don’t think this one was too happy to see me.Feral Cat, Patterson farm, Yardley, PA

I always enjoy taking pictures of things from different angles.  I like this view of the property and the glimpse of the Doan farm on the horizon.Patterson Farm View of the Doan Farm

It was all I could do to not curl up in one of the deck chairs  and watch the sea of summer wave across the land.A place to relax outside the Colleen Attara Studio

I found this to be a fascinating contrast.  The bright color of flowers blooming against the backdrop of a house with a history and life.  It’s as though the flowers are saying, “Don’t give up hope.”Flowers against old house, Patterson Farm, Yardley PA

I found myself wondering about the relationship between the families.  Was there intrigue?  Was there friendship? I like to think there may have been some mystery, I might just make some up for good measure.Doan FARM, also known as Satterthwaite Farm, Yardley PA

Patterson Farm, Yardley PA

One hundred and thirty pictures later I couldn’t think of a good reason to feel out of sorts.  It’s a beautiful place and a slice of heaven on earth.

Happy Anniversary and…A Leap of Faith…

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since I took a deep breath, clicked on the publish button, and whala!  I published my very first post ‘Wow! That was ‘Eye Popping 3d’

I actually started blogging six years ago on beginnertriathlete.com only I had no idea that’s what I was doing. It’s an online community that provides an awesome support system for triathletes and athletes of all ages, stages, levels of experience, and involvement.  I’m fairly certain I would have been classified as a lurker for the first few months.

My blog there is set to private so I can write in all lower case, not worry about punctuation (I doubt I’ve ever used a semi colon in a post) and I publish my posts in color, usually some shade of purple or deep pink.

We have a tradition there and it has to do with milestones.  As a community we love to write about our accomplishments;  whether it be an athletic endeavor, a personal achievement, or the fact that we earned one more sparkly star on the way to 25,000 posts.

If I think about it, I started my creative writing endeavors and boosted my community blogger ranking with an ongoing series that was dubbed ‘Nibbs Notes.’

I’m still not sure how it happened, but somehow during one of our online fitness challenges I became the team historian.  We had so many people posting their updates that no one could keep up.  I took it upon myself to write daily and sometimes twice daily versions of “The World According to Beth,” aka “Nibbs Notes.”  Which of course was made up of comments taken out of context and was much more entertaining that the truth.

It seems appropriate to celebrate my 100th post on It’s a Whole New World with a special entry and an introduction to my new blog, A Leap of Faith.  This is not a replacement; it’s in addition to my current blog (I must be crazy).

It’s a way for me to share excerpts from my book while it’s underway.  I’ll be posting snippets and sections that may make it to the final version or may end up on the cutting room floor in the final stages of editing, but either way they are thoughts that I want to share.

I hope you enjoy following   A Leap of Faith as it comes to life.

The Envelope Please…

“You’ve been nominated…” – I’ve always wanted to hear those words about me and now I have! I was officially nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award.

I’d like to thank Naomi Baltuck for passing the award along to me as well as for her support and encouragement.  Be sure to check out her blog Writing Between the Lines.  She’s funny, insightful, and a very talented writer.

In keeping with the established tradition for accepting the award, I am sharing seven things about me and have the honor to pass the award along to other talented bloggers.

First things first – a little more about me

1.  I had very little hair as a small girl.  Thankfully my mom figured out a way to work with it so no one would mistake me for a boy.

2.  I have a very low voice and before the days of video cameras in the drive through lane, more often than not the ordering process concluded with, “Will that be all sir?”  The first time my kids witnessed it first-hand they literally laughed until they cried.

3.  I was 44 when I registered for my first triathlon, I didn’t own a bike, and I hadn’t run since a failed attempt at track in high school.  I now have a half dozen events under my belt.

4.  I’m a Leo with a Sagittarius rising sign.  I read my horoscope every day.  I’ve been known to go to psychics.  I own a deck of Tarot cards and I believe in ghosts but not in coincidences.

5.  I have a prayer box beside my bed.  I write my dreams and my worries on slips of paper and put them in the box.  It keeps them from rattling around in my brain all day because I know they’re in a safe place and one by one my prayers will be answered.

6.  My favorite book is Gone With the Wind, I’ve read it no less than a dozen times and I cry from the time it’s apparent Melanie is going to die until the end of the book.  When I was a teenager I had a copy of the book illustrated with movie stills but a mouse chewed his way through it while we were on summer vacation.  I have no doubt that the wail of anguish and the waterfall of tears that ensued was heard around the neighborhood.

7.  I told one of my first bosses that I had no need to learn how to use a PC, let alone actually use applications like Excel and Microsoft Word.  Little did I know that I would end up spending a good deal of my career in an IT role managing software developers and designing websites.   I’ll never be 100% sure if his threat to fire me if I didn’t learn how to use Excel was real or not, but I’m glad I didn’t risk it.

Phew!  Now for the fun part – accepting and passing on the award…Ta Da!

Take some time and check out these entertaining and interesting blogs – Cheers to the world of Versatile Blogging 🙂

400 Days ’til 40

Belle of the Carnival’s Blog

Craig Hill

The Evolution of Eloquence

flyawayhomebook

GYA today

jmgoyder

k8edid

The Little Leaf

Live Simply, Travel Lightly, Love Passionately & Don’t Forget to Breathe

persephone’s step-sisters

Photobotos.com – an amazing photo every day

silverpoetry

and now it’s time for dinner!

If You Build it They will Come

What do Mahatma Gandhi and Ray Kinsella, the character played by Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, have in common?  One man is real, of great historical significance, and influenced people around the world. The other is a fictional character who hears “a voice,” builds a baseball field in the middle of his farm in a film which is described as fantasy-drama.

When my landlord and friend gave me the book Walking in This World, The Practical art of Creativity (Julia Cameron) for my fiftieth birthday I was thrilled and I couldn’t wait to begin it so I could learn more about how to be a better writer.  I had no idea who Julia Cameron was or what to expect but I knew Jeanne-Marie viewed me as an artist and gave me the book to help me pursue my dream.

Before the end of the first page, I knew I had to write about my experience with the book and share what I learned and its powerful impact on my life.  I originally intended to write one essay after each week and one final essay to summarize what I learned and how I felt about each chapter. I naively thought that my final essay would be the conclusion of the journey, and that I would be able to cleverly communicate the recurring ideas and my interpretations of them in 1200 words or so.

I boiled it down to a list of five themes and read through my journals and the book to capture the concepts.

•    Savor life – live with humor, joy, and passion.  Use feelings as fuel for creativity and creation.
•    Make something of yourself – do something, be something, make something.  Be who you are and continue to strive to become who you were meant to be.  Don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t be afraid to succeed.
•    Accept yourself – be yourself, trust yourself, be childlike, own and understand your relationships, be aware and follow your instincts, be accountable, and last but not least, be kind to yourself.
•    Have faith – ask for and accept help, be teachable, life is spiritual, art is spiritual and it is healing. Follow your dreams and treat them as real.
•    We commune through art – when we create from the heart and not from the ego we experience a clarity of purpose and feelings of joy.

Three weeks and fifty pages of notes and thoughts later I realized that I am far from done writing about this experience and it will continue to be a part of my life for the rest of my life.  I think that’s something that would make Julia smile.

Although I don’t recall her using the word conviction specifically, the author communicated the importance of treating your dreams as real and that when you do so they will come true.  Gandhi stood firm in his conviction that the British would leave India, Ray Kinsella followed his instincts and did something that seemed crazy.  We all know people who have achieved great things that have nothing to do with being famous or wealthy.

From everyday heroes to world leaders the thing they have in common is that they were not only brave enough to have a dream, they believed in it, they followed it, they inspired people, and they made it happen. I’m sure that even Gandhi had a restless night or two and felt doubt creep in between his head and the pillow but when morning arrived he was true to his beliefs and didn’t waiver in his pursuits.

When I started Walking in This World, I had a dream and my dream was to write.  What I didn’t realize is while I had defined it and I had tentatively said it out loud, I was missing conviction and purpose, the most important ingredients to making it a reality.

I concluded that the most fitting way for me to summarize my experience with Walking in This World would be to take a deep breath, share, and continue to write.

In its unedited and original form:

I have a dream, and my dream is to become a published author with books in multiple genres.  I have three books in mind right now, the first and most important one to me is entitled A Leap of Faith, an Artist’s Journey into the Light. It is a story of discovery, it is my story of self-discovery and coming into my own.  It will be inspiring to people who think it is too late for them and for people who have similar feelings about themselves as I do, but don’t have the words with which to express their thoughts. I am driven to write because I want to be of service to others, I want to help young people make good choices and I want to help people at any stage of life realize that they can change, they can recover and soar.  I particularly want to help women understand that they can be care-givers without giving up their identity, the importance of being in positive relationships, and we are all stronger than we know. I want to teach and inspire, I want to help, I want to change the world and make it a better place. My dream is to do so through my writing, I will make people laugh, make them cry, help them feel, and make them think. I have experienced and survived things that should be shared in a way that will be helpful to others. I have the talent, I have the drive, and I now have the conviction to pursue my dreams and write my first book and many more.

What’s Your Medium?

For more than twenty five years I have answered the question “What do you do?” with words like Customer Service Supervisor, Software Development Manager, and Marketing Director and I’ve associated the word “medium” with my T-shirt size and my not so secret fascination with the metaphysical world.  I also thought field trips and color pencils were only for kids.

In my quest to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, I jumped on the invitation to tag along with fellow members of the Artists of Yardley on a trip to the James Michener Art Museum in Doylestown.  I signed up to join the group for lunch but resisted the urge to volunteer to drive (they really have no idea how fortunate that decision was).

We met at the Janney house and I took the opportunity to stay warm and view the amazing work of local artists on display for the final weekend of the Juried Art Show.  I always find myself torn between feeling inspired and discouraged as an artist when I am exposed to such incredible talent.

Sixteen mature adults piled into a handful of cars and I would venture a guess that more than a few conversations among longtime friends and new acquaintances started with the question, “What’s your medium?”

When asked, I stuttered and stumbled and finally said, “Learning?” and decided I needed to come up with a better response.  A serious discussion about art took place in the front seat and a more casual one happened in the back.  I enjoyed myself so much that I have no idea how long we were on the road and I couldn’t describe the landscape if I had to.

One of the things I appreciated the most was that no one seemed to find my desire to take pictures of random things in front of the museum to be the least bit odd.  In fact it turns out that there are other people who can’t resist the urge to capture a digital image of a swirly leaf and its interesting shadow against the curb.  It’s fascinating to think that a single photo might come to life in a drawing, a painting, within a written scene, or printed onto photo paper and framed.

I got a kick out of the fact that there was another field trip taking place at the same time and the leaders of each group had similar challenges in rounding people up and quieting them down, although I think the six-year olds may not have wandered off on their own as much as we did.

Our personal guide, a member of the group and docent, made the museum come to life through explanations about the exhibits, tidbits about the artists and their relationships with each other and the community, and facts about the founder of the museum and famous author, James A. Michener.  He was raised in Doylestown and the people of the town held the threat of going to the Buck’s County Prison over his head if he didn’t ‘change his ways.’ I found it interesting and ironic to learn that he did indeed end up in the prison located in Doylestown when he renovated it into a museum designed to celebrate life and art.

The Painterly Voice was the primary focus of our visit; through the history and highlights about the pieces and the artist shared by our guide along with the impressions, observations, and insights from the group, I experienced art in a way I didn’t know was possible.  I completed my tour with the story of James and Mari, a man from an impoverished background and a woman who spent part of her youth in a Japanese internment camp who, together, left behind a legacy of beauty and hope. Armed with my iPad I slipped into my favorite spot in the museum, the Nakashima Reading Room, to record my thoughts and collect my emotions.

The visit to the museum was followed by lunch at a local pub filled with lively conversation, plenty of laughs, excellent food, and genuine people.  The conversation ranged from pets to piano lessons and from art to food and family.  I can’t wait for the next field trip and the chance to answer the question, “What’s your medium?”

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Snapdragons and Butterflies

purple snapdragon and white butterfly - medium charcoal pencil and color pencil with a touch of ink and pastel
Snapdragons and Butterflies

Today is my maternal Grandmother’s birthday.  If I’ve done my math correctly she would have been 101 years young today. I have many wonderful memories of her which include learning how to properly knead the dough, the taste of homemade bread fresh from the oven, and playing  “boutique” for hours on end.  However, the image that most often comes to mind when I think of her is one of snapdragons and butterflies.

It seemed appropriate to post an essay entitled Snapdragons and Butterflies to commemorate her birthday.  I wrote it in December 2010 and it’s one of my earliest completed pieces as well as one of my favorites.  It also seemed fitting to illustrate the post with my first solo drawing.  Although my original idea was to create a realistic interpretation of my favorite flower I decided a version that was more child-like was the way to go. Colored pencils were the medium of choice as well as a touch of pastel and ink.

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Snapdragons and Butterflies

Snapdragons and butterflies will always and forever remind me of my grandmother. Many gardeners shy away from the delightful, but delicate flower – however, she embraced the challenge associated with bringing the brightly colored blossoms to life.

I could have spent hours, and probably did, pinching the tiny blossoms, making the dragon’s mouth come to life and then releasing it.

I recall there always being tiny white butterflies dancing around the flowers. Were they vying for attention or simply enjoying the playfulness?

Snapdragons seem so delicate on the outside, but if they can survive tiny hands repeatedly pinching to open and see the dragon’s mouth, you know they are strong. Snapdragons are much like my grandmother.

Her name was Lucy, not a common name, which is fitting because she was not an ordinary woman.

She was beautiful, whatever the setting. She might be dressed to the nines for church or a social event, or digging in the garden, tending to her flowers or vegetables, a worn work shirt tied around her waist.

I was always so proud to be a guest in her Sunday school class. Her hand encircled mine as we entered the room, and my heart would pound with love as her students rushed to greet her.

Like a flower has a fragrance, so did my grandmother’s kitchen. It was always filled with the aroma of meals made from scratch and with love. My eyes lit up when I saw the peas I had laboriously shelled as part of the delicious meal.

She somehow knew how to make something ordinary into something wonderful. How we cousins used to squabble over who got the ‘special knife’, the knife that rattled when you picked it up. To this day, I like to think it really was a precious jewel, and not a scrap of metal that was trapped in the handle of that knife.

Wherever she went, she knew someone. Oh, How agonizing it was to have to stop and wait while she visited with ‘just one more’ friend or relative. Little did I know, the memory would make me smile someday.

My favorite times were when it was ‘our’ time, we’d giggle and laugh as she tucked me into bed. The ritual never changed, as she playfully pinched my chin, nose and cheeks before the final kiss goodnight.

Her spirit touches me whenever I think about snapdragons and butterflies.

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In loving memory of my Grandma Lucy. Dedicated to my mom and my daughter, the two most important women in my life, and with gratitude for four generations of beauty and grace.

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