Friday, June 26, 2009

The Day the Music Died

It was November 2003 and, thanks to the generosity of a good friend, I had blown off my college classes to attend the Radio Music Awards in Las Vegas. I was 21 and had my priorities, after all. Never being one to let my college student induced poverty stop me, I was shopping my way through the Aladdin Hotel’s shops (now Planet Hollywood) when I came upon a huge mob surrounding a guitar shop.

There were plenty of celebrities in town for the RMAs, and judging by the crowd, this was a big one. Curious, I attempted to get closer to at least catch a glimpse of whatever rock star could garner such an enormous crowd. Try as I might, however, I couldn’t get any closer.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said, tapping an older security guard on the shoulder. “Did Elvis come back to life?”
He laughed. “Not that I know of,” he said. “These people are trying to see Michael Jackson. He’s in the store signing a guitar.”

Michael Jackson. There was a name I hadn’t heard in awhile. Although I admit I found him a little bizarre, I was instantly impressed. Despite all the allegations, rumors, strange behavior and reclusiveness, the man still had a bigger entourage than anyone I had ever seen. Later that day I would be fortunate enough to meet several big time celebrities at a meet and greet event. None even came close to creating the hysteria Michael Jackson did.

Later that night, at the RMAs, Beyonce Knowles introduced Michael to present him with an award and allow him to introduce his newest musical collaboration. The crowd went wild. Even then I knew how lucky I was to be in the same room with a legend.

That legend unexpectedly took his last breath yesterday. Looking at all the tweets, blogs, celebrity gossip sites and online articles, it became clear to me that much of the world was in a state of denial. Many people hoped it was some kind of hoax. After it became clear it wasn’t, the shock set in. For me, sadness followed.

Yes, Michael was a little off. I’ll be the first to admit he was a little creepy and morphed into a strange-looking fellow. There were allegations made about him that may or may not have been true. I always thought he was misunderstood. I don’t have children, but if I did- and if someone had harmed them- no amount of money on Earth would keep me from seeing their tormentor brought to justice. Interestingly, both times, money made the problem go away. To me, that speaks volumes- not about Michael, but about the other parties involved. The fact is, none of us will ever know what really happened. He may have acted inappropriately and he may have just been what Paul McCartney called him- a man-child.

Michael Jackson was robbed of a proper childhood by his overbearing father. It’s sad, really, because I believe he would’ve been discovered on his own eventually. I once watched a documentary on the Jackson family and was so saddened by it; I had to stop watching halfway through. I’m sure it was exaggerated, but regardless, it didn’t seem like Michael had a lot of love growing up. In later years, with his Neverland Ranch, it seemed like he was trying to recapture what he was robbed of.
All rumors and stories aside, Michael Jackson was an incredible performer with more talent than most of today’s celebrities can ever hope for. My parents’ generation grew up listening to The Jackson 5. People just a few years older than me remember when Thriller came out. My first real memories of Michael are of dancing around with my grade school friends to Black and White, jokingly grabbing our crotches but also remembering the real message of the song. Michael sang about tolerance and acceptance and love. When it was released, the Thriller video scared the shit out of little me. These days, I can watch it and realize just how ahead of his time Michael was.

People of all ages are mourning today. Even young people who are too young to remember him as a sensation dance to Michael Jackson tunes at their high school dances and nightclubs. His music is legendary and will not ever be forgotten.
Some people are choosing to say ridiculous, awful things. Some people like to dwell on the negative. That’s a shame when there is so much good to be said about this man. Celebrities who knew and admired Michael are speaking up in his defense. Everyone who knew him personally has only good things to say. To me, that speaks volumes about the man he really was behind the scarves and big hats.

Last night, my husband and I were talking about reincarnation. Neither of us necessarily believes, but we both think that anything is possible.
“If Michael Jackson were to come back, what do you think he’d be?” I asked.
Without hesitation, my husband replied, “I hope he comes back as a little boy who is loved.”
I hope he does, too. And wherever he is, I hope he finally has what he’s always wanted- peace.

Here’s a video of the 2003 RMAs with Michael humbly accepting his award and introducing his latest song. Listen to it- he was such a generous man. And don’t worry, you can’t see me in the audience, I already totally checked.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why I Watch Days of our Lives (yes, that's right)

It was a hot summer day in 1994 as I lay sprawled on a float in my friends’ above ground pool. I was perfectly content, not a care in the world. Nothing could’ve made me get out of that pool- nothing, that is, except the words that followed.
“It’s almost 3:00. We have to watch Days of our Lives today,” Mandi said to Jaime. “We have to see if Carly is really going to get buried alive.”
My twelve-year-old mind tried to wrap itself around what Mandi had just said. Someone was getting buried alive on daytime television? Was that allowed? What was this Days of our Lives business, anyway?
Aside from my mother telling me they were stupid and addictive, I had no idea what soap operas were. Mandi and Jaime, always ahead of their time, watched them regularly with their mother. Clearly, my interest had never been piqued- until now.
We watched Days of Our Lives that day and I was introduced to Carly, Bo, Vivian, John, Marlena, and the other residents of Salem. I watched it the next day, too, and the day after that. I was riveted. To this day, I catch the show whenever I can.
This revelation both shocks and appalls people in my life. I’ve been teased, ridiculed and questioned over my love of this crazy, brilliant, asinine, wonderful show. People don’t understand. I don’t fit what most consider the stereotypes of a soap opera fan. What they fail to realize is that, as crazy as it sounds, this show was there for me when no one else was.
What I didn’t realize at twelve was that I was about to enter a world more brutal, cruel and unforgiving than a soap opera- junior high. It had all of the drama with none of the resolutions. It was a world where I could trust no one and a world where I didn’t fit in. I needed an escape.
Some teenagers turn to drugs or alcohol. I watched Days of Our Lives. No matter how terrible my day had been, I could come home, put the VHS tape in the VCR, and get my much-needed 60 minute escape from reality. The people of Salem didn’t care what I looked like, how popular I was, or what my grades were. They had their own problems to worry about- problems that made mine seem like nothing in comparison. For an hour, I could get absorbed by the story and live in a world where the women always looked beautiful, the men were capable of emotions, and no one ever seemed to work. By the time the episode was over, I was ready to face another day.
These days, I live a very full and exciting life. I’ve got an amazing husband, wonderful friends and many hobbies. Still, if I’m home at 1:00 PM on weekdays, I turn on NBC and am greeted by the cast I’ve come to know and love. That old familiar feeling of escaping returns, and once again I am riveted by the residents of Salem and their triumphs and tragedies. Some may call me names, but I know better than to turn my back on an old friend.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Count Your Blessings

With the way events of the world are going right now… it’s sure easy to complain, isn’t it? Among other things, we’ve got North Korea on our asses, we’re losing lives and money in Iraq, not to mention this business with Iran.
There’s a lot to bitch about here, too. Everyone is broke. The economy sucks. Our nation is more divided than ever. Stimulus funds are being misspent, you aren’t an equal citizen in this country if you’re gay, and there are people who are losing their homes and killing their entire families out of desperation. As if all that wasn’t enough, that insensitive President Obama dared to swat a fly! Clearly, that’s the biggest thing we need to worry about right now (fuck you, PETA).
It’s really easy to watch the news for awhile and sink into a deep state of depression. It’s easy to bitch. Sometimes it seems as if we’re always taking one step forward and two steps back and nothing ever gets better. And then, just when you’re feeling all sorry for yourself, something happens and you’re instantly snapped back to reality. And you realize you don’t have it so badly after all. In fact, you realize you’re pretty damn blessed.



The night before the burial of her husband's body,
Katherine Cathey refused to leave the casket, asking
to sleep next to his body for the last time The
Marines made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets
below the flag... Before she fell asleep, she opened
her laptop computer and played songs that reminded her
of 'Cat,' and one of the Marines asked if she wanted
them to continue standing watch as she slept. 'I think
it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it,' she
said. 'I think that's what he would have wanted'

http://sexualityinart.wordpress.com/2007/11/20/katherine-cathey-and-2nd-lt-james-j-cathey-todd-heislers-pulitzer-prize-winning-photographic-series/

Oh yeah… and she was pregnant.
My husband and I were having a lighthearted conversation when he opened his email and showed me this picture, among others. After that, the conversation stopped and we silently thought about this woman and so many others who are suffering. That night, without a word, we held each other and felt grateful for having each other.
Yes, there’s a lot to complain about right now. But I’ve realized that this is when we should be counting our blessings most. No, we don’t live in a perfect world and there are many improvements we need to make. At the same time, each one of us is incredibly blessed and I think it’s about time we realize it.
Blessings aren’t always big. In fact, some are so small, it can be difficult to notice them. Being blessed doesn’t mean winning millions in the Mega Lotto Extravaganza or whatever or having a perfect life with a cellulite-free body, diamond earrings and a private jet (although I admit those things would be just rad). Sometimes you have to look past what you don’t have and notice all the amazing things you do have- things that you often take for granted- things that so many others lack. The simple blessings are so obvious that sometimes we look past them when we have days where nothing goes right. Now is an especially challenging time to count your blessings, which is why it’s the best time. I’ll start with just a few of mine.
I’ve got a pretty nice roof over my head and I wake up under it every morning next to a man I love dearly and who seems to love me just as much. I live in an area where crime is low and people are friendly. I can go to the grocery store and have access to fresh, healthy food and drink purified water that won’t make me sick. I’ve got a car that runs, clothes in my closet and a laptop with access to unlimited information.
Both of my parents are alive and well and while our relationship hasn’t always been perfect, I can always call them when I need them. While I have lost two of my grandparents, they were all alive when I was young and I got to know them all as well as most of my extended family. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some truly amazing people that I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to call my friends. I’ve seen more of the country and the world in 27 years than most people will see in their lives. I had the benefit of a college education- yes, it was a Liberal Arts degree, but trust me, it was still challenging and I learned a lot in spite of myself.

I live in a country where I have rights that apply to me even though I’m a woman. I practice the religion of my choice and I can wear what I want and the worst thing I have to worry about is catty comments from other women. I have the right to speak my mind about my country’s problems and legally even have the right to talk shit about the leader of our country (a right I’ve exercised many times over the last 8 ½ years). That in itself is pretty amazing.
Best of all, as an American, I have the right to pursue happiness. No one is guaranteeing me that anything will come of me pursuing writing. I may be a success story and I may very well fail miserably. No one can guarantee that I won’t fall flat on my face, but legally, no one can stop me from trying. The world owes me nothing but a chance, and it’s up to me to take that chance.
That’s just the beginning. I write down five things I’m grateful for every single day and if I wrote them all here, you’d be reading for hours. I have had an amazing life and with any luck it’s just beginning. I have known great sadness and I have known tragedy. I have stories that will break your heart but I choose to dwell on the stories that will make you smile.
I want to encourage everyone to take this weekend to count your blessings. If you spend Sunday with your father, hug him- even if you’re a dude- and be glad you have one. If your father is no longer with you, remember the good times and try to do something to make him proud. Always remember that, even with all of the ugly, this is still a beautiful world.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My plea for a Sugar Daddy

My friend S. is a comedic genius. No joke, she can write humor like nothing I’ve ever seen. So imagine my excitement when she discovered those crazy Craigslist personal ads and decided to try her hand at one. Check it out, here:

Personal ad

Hilarious, right? Note that, at the end of the post, she asks her audience what their ads would say. As inspired as I was to write a humorous ad for myself, I didn’t. I knew there was no way I could possibly compete with that, for one. I felt it deserved to stand alone in its glory. Also, I didn’t want the creepy internet world knowing all my little sexual quirks.

Except I keep joking that, with my expensive tastes, I need to get a sugar daddy. But how does one go about attracting a sugar daddy? I could try and meet one at a classy bar, but there are two problems: one, I always wear a wedding ring… and two, I rarely go to classy bars and when I do, I tend not to act classy. There are also those sugar daddy sites, but I’m pretty sure they cost money to join, and I’m a poor writer. That’s why I’m looking for a sugar daddy!

I feel this is the perfect time to put my friend’s challenge to good use. I can write a worthy ad, score a rich old one, and step 3 is profit. Get it? Here’s my ad. You all get to read it before I send it off to Craigslist. Here’s hoping!

(I should add here that if anyone thinks I'm serious, they should think again- although I am really this big of a jerk).

I am a 27-year-old college educated reasonably attractive Caucasian woman with blond hair, blue eyes, and an hourglass figure. I love to eat excessively, but I workout constantly so it all pretty much balances out.
I am searching for an older, financially stable gentleman who would enjoy spoiling me and giving me whatever I wanted. Why do I want an older man? I've always wanted to give one a try- besides, you have all the money.
I’m an extremely sexual woman. I take great pleasure in making my lover feel good and love to feel his hands all over my body. Of course, none of that matters. Sex is not part of the deal at all, and any attempts to get with this will not be tolerated. I just thought I’d mention it.
What does your money- which I want at any time, in any denomination, no questions asked- get you? The pleasure of my company once a week for an hour at the upscale restaurant of my choice. I’ll engage in witty banter with you, laugh at your jokes, and drink expensive wine on your dime. I’ll make sure I look so good the waitresses will be wondering how you got so lucky. If you take excellent care of yourself, practice good hygiene, dress well, have good teeth, and are one of those super hot older men types like Kurt Russell- you will probably get a hug at the end of our weekly dates and perhaps a kiss on the cheek. If you’ve got an amazing personality to go with that perfect smile, I may even be talked into an occasional shopping spree… I might even model the clothes I try on for you that you will buy me. But do not attempt to watch me change- after all, the salespeople probably think you're my father, you weirdo.
Do not ask to pick me up. You don’t need to know where I live and I like my alone time in the car where I can sing along with my Taylor Swift CD. In addition, do not ask me to come to your house… unless, of course, you have an enormous mansion with a pool and hot tub and you’ll allow me to bring some girlfriends. I bet some of them would even go topless by the pool and you could look at them from the kitchen while you make us Lemon Drops.
You may have my phone number, but do not call me just to talk. You are not my girlfriend and this is not high school. I prefer texts anyway- but check your spelling, please.
I realize that older men start to acquire strange body hair. All I ask is that you please keep on top of that. If I go to hug you goodbye and one of your ear hairs pops out and stabs me, I’m going to ask for an extra $5,000. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Just think- all this can be yours if you meet the qualifications. Your heart will be warmed knowing you’re financially supporting your precious Sugar Baby and helping her make memories that will last a lifetime. Sure, they’re memories with other people, but you will have made them possible and I’ll never forget that. I kind of look forward to getting to know you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

For the Love of Good Coffee



Our relationship has survived nasty rumors of increased risks of breast cancer and hypertension. We’ve been together through high school, college, every job and every journey. It’s what lures me out of bed every morning, clearing the fog and allowing me to think. I wouldn’t call myself addicted, because being without it doesn’t cause withdrawals. I just love it. I love the way it smells, the way it tastes, the way it makes me feel. I love sipping it while I read the paper. It only takes one cup to give me that warm, alert feeling I’ve come to rely on. More than two and I start to resemble Courtney Love during a binger. But after one, I’m energized and ready to begin the day.
I’m talking, of course, about coffee.
There have probably been more studies on this glorious beverage than every disease and cancer combined- 19,000 in the last few decades alone! It seems everyone has an opinion on whether the stuff is good or bad for you. I admit, I’ve had my concerns. After reading Skinny Bitch, I switched to a natural, organic brew. Occasionally, I try switching to tea. But nothing gives me quite the same boost as a good cup of coffee.
I’m not sure when it happened, but I’ve turned into quite the coffee snob. If there’s a Starbucks in my radius, I’ll have my coffee there every time. Say what you want about the company. People love to trash talk Starbucks. But I believe the company rose to such levels of popularity because they did it right. When you order coffee at Starbucks, you’re going to get what you asked for. You know exactly what it will taste like because they’re consistent. If they mess up, you’ll get what you asked for with an apology and usually a gift card for next time. They treat their employees right- even offering part-time workers health insurance- they’re clean, efficient, and their coffee is damn good.

I see an espresso stand on every corner, the owners wondering why they never get business. With very few exceptions, I never like what they have to offer. They go for the cheapest product they can find and don’t train the baristas on how to make it properly. The result is an overpriced latte that takes ten minutes to make, has coffee grounds on the bottom, and tastes like moldy diarrhea (obviously I’m just guessing, here, but actual moldy diarrhea can’t taste worse than some of the “coffee” I’ve tried from these places). If they’d take the time to do it right like Starbucks does, maybe they’d actually make a name for themselves, too. I’ve actually had espresso stand owners confront me on this issue when they see my Starbucks cup. Like it or not, assholes, this company knows about good quality and good customer service.
Of course, Starbucks isn’t the only company that has it right. Dutch Bros and Seattle’s Best have their share of drinks so good they’ll curl your toes. It’s all a matter of taste, but I’ve never met anyone who actually likes whatever the heck Tully’s is trying to pass off as coffee. Do they burn that shit on purpose?
Now that I’ve earned myself some hate mail, here are the latest and greatest reported health benefits of coffee. It seems there’s a new study being done every minute, so by the time I post this, I’m sure there will be even more information. But as of today:

1) Studies have shown that moderate coffee drinkers have a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. I’m already ridiculously ditzy, so I’ll do anything I can to reduce my risk of that shit.

2) Drinking caffeinated coffee has been shown to reduce risks of- and reoccurrences of- gallstones. I’ve never had them. I do not want them. They sound like they suck.

3) Drinking caffeinated beverages boosts metabolism, and if you drink a cup an hour before you workout, you might last longer and exercise harder at the gym. Of course, you probably shouldn’t drink a Venti Caramel Macchiato with whole milk, but as someone with the metabolism of a garden slug, I’ll do whatever it takes- even “suffer” through a nonfat latte.

4) Do you rely on coffee to get you through your hangover? That might be a good thing. Coffee may reduce the incidence of cirrhosis of the liver. No wonder it tastes so good after a night of margaritas. Just make sure you drink water with that latte, because coffee is a diuretic.

5) Coffee is full of antioxidants- in fact, it’s the number one source of antioxidants in the American diet. Decaf has them, too.

Coffee might also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, esophageal cancer, increase your mood and help with mental productivity. Just like anything, too much coffee is bad, and there are conflicting reports about whether it’s OK during pregnancy. But if you’re healthy, don’t have any heart conditions and you aren’t packing a fetus, drink up, guilt free. Enjoy. Just make sure it’s a good quality cup from a company that does it right.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Perfect Fit


Each one of my friends is so completely different from each other.  If they were flowers and you put them all together, they’d be one big crazy gorgeous mixed bouquet.  Some of them might give you allergies, but they’d all be beautiful in their own way.

But Sydney…she’s really different.  For one, she told me that if I was going to blog about her, I had to use her real name.

“What’s up with that initial stuff?”  She asked me.  “Use my name.  I like my name!”

She really does.  She’d name all of her children Sydney if she could.

Unlike most of us who stumble through our teenage years not knowing where in the hell we’re going to end up, Sydney always had drive.  She always knew she was destined for greatness, and from the moment I met her, I knew it too.  A fashionista from the get-go, she would show up at school in amazing little outfits while the rest of us barely bothered to brush our hair. While we were concerned with the prom, popularity and what other people thought, Sydney was deciding which art schools to attend and already working on her resume.  Look up "driven" in the dictionary and you will find her picture- probably in a tiara.

Sydney always knew she wanted a career in the fashion industry and wouldn’t settle for anything less.  During our senior year of high school, I enjoyed getting out of class at noon and heading home for a nap before my exhausting shift at Baskin Robbins.  Meanwhile, Sydney was taking fashion classes at our local community college.  Immediately after graduation, she moved to Seattle to study at the Art Institute, all while completely supporting herself financially (and emotionally, but we won’t go there) and managing her own damn clothing store at nineteen years of age.  

Sydney has continued to climb the ladder of success throughout our twenties.  She landed an amazing job at the Zumiez corporate office, created what is now one of the largest fashion shows in Seattle, went back to the Art Institute for another degree, and started a blog that has landed her numerous freelance writing gigs.  Her blog, sydneylovesfashion.com, is perfect.  Sydney loves fashion passionately, and the fashion industry loves Sydney as well.

Sydney’s relationship with fashion was, for a long time, the only successful relationship she had.  Being beautiful, sweet and charming, she had her share of admirers and was never without a date.  But none of them were ever right for her.  Like the perfect outfit, she wanted someone timeless, classic, flattering, and supportive- the perfect fit- and she wasn’t about to settle for anything less.  We always joked that she’d never get married, but that never bothered her.  That girl is completely untraditional and certainly didn’t need a man to complete her perfect picture of a fulfilling life.  In fact, when I tried to envision Sydney’s perfect man, I couldn’t.

When all my good friends began to couple up and getting engaged (myself included) Sydney remained free, playing the field.  She and I enjoyed many Seattle weekends together as well as one incredible trip to Cancun.  She was genuinely happy for me and Mr. W and I was genuinely happy for her blossoming career.  Seriously, this chick does everything she says she will.

Then Sydney met Jeff.  From the first time she mentioned him to me, I knew Jeff would be around for awhile.  I had never heard her talk about a man this way before.  Her eyes lit up when she mentioned him.  For the first time, I heard her use language like “we.”

When I met Jeff, I had a feeling he was Sydney’s perfect fit.  Jeff is polite, sweet, and generous, with possibly the most gorgeous eyes I have ever seen on a man (other than my love, of course).  He treats her like a princess because he knows she deserves it.  There is nothing he wouldn’t do for her.  He lets her be who she is, like my husband does for me.  With two unique characters like us, you have to let us be, and Jeff understands that.  Last year, at Sydney’s fashion show, I left my mom’s side for five minutes to use the restroom (there was an open bar) and by the time I got back, she had met- and fallen in love with- Jeff.  The guy is just cool.

So, last September, when Jeff put a huge princess cut diamond ring on Sydney’s hand, I knew I had to plan the perfect celebration.  I planned for months, looking at website after website to find the perfect venues for our events.  Last weekend, I finally got to relax and enjoy the parties.  Joined by Sydney’s other best friend, Marica (she totally loves her name, too, and so do I) we threw her a bachelorette party bridal shower extravaganza.  We had a spa day, a night of bistros and bar hopping, and a bridal shower brunch, complete with the perfect cake (pink, of course).  We also spent two nights at the beautiful Fairmont Olympic, where Jeff paid for a room for us so we could have plenty of girl time.  I told you the guy is awesome.

It was, honestly, one of the best weekends of my entire life.  It wasn’t cheap, but this isn’t any friend.  Sydney is one of the big reasons I’m pursuing my dream of writing professionally.  From the time we were young, she always told me she had complete faith in me, that I was talented, and that I could be anything I wanted to be.  She has never, not once, doubted my decision and when I talk about my writing, I can see the genuine happiness in her eyes.  She is the definition of a best friend and I am so grateful that our friendship has survived the years.

It started as a joke- at least, on my part.  Being a totally nontraditional bride, Sydney hadn’t given much thought to her wedding- which, by the way, is in six weeks.  As we checked out of the Fairmont with Marica, nursing our hangovers with bottled water and discussing wedding details, I joked that I would get ordained and marry her and Jeff. 

This morning, I got an email that said, in part:

I thought about this when I was in the shower this morning (and not in a gross way. lol) and I would love for you to marry us.
So the way I envision this is that people will be seated on the lawn in those little white chairs and then we'll set up the wedding arch in the corner area and just angle the chairs to face it. Then we'll play light music, get everyone seated and then you'll walk up front and make a brief speech about marriage. You are my best friend and happily married so I have a feeling you know a thing or two about people in love and making it work. 

Until that point, I wasn’t entirely sure if she was kidding, and I thought about it.  I’d get to help my best friend and her super awesome fiancĂ© start their lives as a married couple and help them take their vows.  I can’t imagine a bigger honor than that.  And she asked me to do it.  If I could bottle up what I felt at that moment and inject the world with it, I’m telling you, there would be instant world peace.

There were some tears shed, and when I got her thank you note thanking me for the best weekend of her life and telling me what an awesome friend I am, there were more.  I have no idea how I’m supposed to conduct a ceremony without crying when just the thought of it makes my mascara run.  But I’m going to give it my best.  I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that everything about her day is flawless.  I’m going to give her the support she has always, without question, given me.  Because although she is nontraditional and doesn’t want a big wedding, the fact is, that day in July will be the beginning of a journey we never thought she’d take- but that we’re so glad is happening.  It’s not always an easy journey, but if you do it right, it’s worth it.  And, without a doubt in my mind or heart, Sydney has finally found her perfect fit.


 
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