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Talking In Code

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The other day I was out with Greg after a long exhausting day – first to a friends’ memorial service and then to a wedding – back to back.  Talk about the range of emotions!  And the day before that we had taken a long road trip to visit our new puppy.   So we went from happy to sad back to happy in a very short amount of time.

At the end of the wedding – we decided to stop at Forza, a coffee place in Puyallup, for a coffee and muffin to share.  While there, seated at a high table with matching high chairs – we were sipping our coffee and we began reflecting on the couple of days.  Because there were other customers in the coffee shop, one that was directing behind Greg’s left shoulder, I had to talk to him in “code”.

You know – the “code”.  The kind of talk that two people should understand when living with someone as long as we have.  It’s “talking” – but not really saying anything.  Smaller words – hand gestures, eye contact and facial expressions.  And because the subject was delicate and sensitive – especially the memorial service – I was trying to be “discreet”.

Women totally understand this “code” and use it often.  For example, when I’m with my daughter in public – all we have to do is look at each other – or she raises her eyebrows and looks at something and I know EXACTLY what she means.  All in a “look”.

What I forgot when using this “code” on Greg is that he most definitely is NOT a woman.  Nor does he understand the “code” at all.  It was disheartening and hilarious at the same time.  Here I was trying to be “discreet” and all sly, using gestures and silent communication – thinking, “he will get this – he looks interested, but puzzled – but I’m sure he’s just mulling it over” – so I kept going.  Only to have him (some minutes later) say to me, “Huh? – I don’t get it”

I realized that this “code” works only for women – and occasionally I forget that Greg is NOT like me – but he’s a MAN.  Oh – I know that he’s a man – and believe me – I wouldn’t want it any other way – but sometimes it’s frustrating because he doesn’t use the “code”.

We ended the conversation with much laughter – all the way out to the car – me explaining that I didn’t want the WHOLE coffee shop knowing what I was trying to be discreet about.  And  S P E L L I N G   I T   O U T  wouldn’t exactly have been the best way to do this.  It was a great moment for both of us – and showed us that as much as we get along and are great friends – he will NEVER be able to think like a woman – and I will NEVER be able to think like a man.

No, I will need my daughter and woman friends – if I want to talk in “code” out in public – and maybe it’s better this way, after all 🙂

Have you ever used a “code” when talking in public?  Has someone used the “code” on you”  And if you’re a man reading this, you’re probably saying, “What is a “code”?”

God Bless

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Could You Sing This At Your Wedding And Beyond?

Yesterday our pastor spoke on a familiar passage of scripture from Ephesians 5:21-29

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church”

It is a powerful passage that has been abused and misused over the years.  But the point is that – just as we should take up the heart of a servant – like Jesus did for us by his demonstration and example – so husbands and wives should live in submission to each other.

If there is physical and emotional abuse – it should not be tolerated and backed up with the above scripture – as God clearly wants us to live as servants to each other.

As Stephen was talking – something stood out to me.  He said, “Husbands should be spending all of themselves on their wives.”  As a musician, my mind quickly thought of the lyrics where I had heard that terminology before:  Jon McLaughlin – “A Song You Might Hear At A Wedding”.  These song lyrics are powerful and I encourage you to listen to this great song video.  It is the beautiful expression of a man for his wife.  You will love the line “I promise to spend the rest of me on you”.  Powerful and poignant.

When was the last time you spent yourself on someone?  As a husband or wife – do you practice this each day?  Isn’t it about time?

 

God Bless

Interesting…

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So Greg and I were sitting at the kitchen table having a discussion over scrambled eggs, toast and coffee, when suddenly we found ourselves on a topic that has been hashed around in our home MANY times:  Why can’t a man think more like a woman?  And to be fair – Why can’t a woman think more like a man?

Greg, of course – sides with all the men out there and sees the need to defend his “maleness” – while I struggle to fight for the “right to be heard” and explain that women just don’t think like men.

It is a very familiar dance.  The male vs. women thinking – a completely different approach to life,  to people and relationships.

When men see something such as a picture or image on TV – it does something for them.  When a woman sees that same provocative thing – they are usually disgusted and turned OFF.  When a woman is just being friendly to a man it can be interpreted as something else – but the man can think that it means something else entirely.  The woman see that as it is – just being friendly.  And making a new friend.  When a man is friendly to a woman – woman usually see this as friendly – unless it is creepy in some way – while a man may be thinking totally differently about his friendliness and her responses to it – leading – shall we say – somewhere else?

Greg was telling me that he heard on a radio program the other day – how men like seeing pictures of women – so these same men think that sending a nude photo of themselves will somehow be a turn-on to women he’s never met on the internet or through text messages.  Clearly men DO NOT UNDERSTAND WOMEN.

I love all my friends and I have many – both men and women.  But understanding the differences in how men and women relate with one another can takes a lifetime.  Is it worth it?  Yes.  A well rounded person should have friends from both sexes and have an easy rapport with both.

And after being married to the same man for almost 30 years, I can clearly see the differences – at least in our home:   Men see and feel through their eyes.  Women see and feel through their heart.  

Because men assume that women feel as they do – often times conversation can be misunderstood.  And because women assume men think like a woman – when they just want a “good talk”  (like they would with any of their girlfriends) – it can be misunderstood.  Woman love having deep conversations and often times their guy friends are like their girl friends – comfortable and dependable.  With nothing meant – and no interest whatsoever.

Greg has had to learn the art of listening – because I like to express myself through talking things out.  And I have had to learn that he doesn’t just want to talk all the time 🙂  And by communication, we’ve learned that I am a natural “nurturer” – loving to help, encourage and lend support to those out there within my reach.

And I have learned that Greg needs to be admired and be the “hero” in my life – making even the most difficult of days – better.  He longs to fix and offer wisdom and advice to my everyday problems and situations.  He loves to be connected and be consulted in even the smallest of decisions.

We’ve learned to support each other and to play to each other’s strengths – and yes,  even help each other understand why men and women react and respond the way they do – when it seems foreign to us.

It’s – interesting.  It’s called life.

What do you find the most interesting about woman – if you’re a man?  And about men – if you’re a woman?  Do you try to walk around in their skin once in a while to see if you can understand them better?  Try it – it’s very – interesting.

God Bless

When Is It MY Turn? Please Pass The Teddy Bear!

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A couple of years ago Greg and I attended a counseling retreat – that concentrated on intense communication between married couples.  We got to know several couples at this retreat in all stages of marriage – who had lost the ability to effectively communicate.  The retreat was led by a couple of counselors who had many suggestions to encourage the communication and health between spouses.

One such technique was using a teddy bear.  The spouse that had possession of the teddy bear – could do ALL the talking without interruption.   It was a “safe zone” for the spouse that held the bear.   And as long as they held it – they could do all the talking.  After they were done – they would pass the bear to their spouse and their spouse would be given the same treatment while holding the bear – no interruption – no fear.  This required intense listening – and validation to the partner who was speaking.  The idea being of course, that partner with the bear would affirm the other and say, “I hear what you’re saying….” or “I understand how you could feel that way…” thus verifying that they really heard – and not just sitting there thinking of something else.

Until last night – we had not used this communication technique and had almost forgotten about it.  We were having what you might call a “difference of opinion” and I could see that the “discussion” was going no where – no one really listening to the other at all.  No – in fact – we were both talking at each other – no positive interaction or exchange.  The discussion had pressed some “fear” buttons and immediately we went into a very familiar “dance” of words and programmed responses brought on by what we were interpreting as non-validation.  It was easy for us to slip into, “What???  I did not say that!” or “You ALWAYS say that”  “You’re not hearing me” or “That did NOT happen like that” etc.  This went on for some time until I remembered the retreat – grabbed a teddy bear that usually sits on the pink wing-backed chair in our entry way and grasped him firmly.   I brought him into the family room where Greg was sitting on the couch and announced, “I have the teddy bear”.

Of course this brought smiles and chuckles of recognition from him – but he continued to talk, saying, “HEY – I wasn’t through!”  “You know the rules”  I said, “The one in possession of the teddy bear – gets to speak”.

And so we continued in this fashion – smiling the whole time – but also realizing that there is something to this after all.  A “safe zone” where the one in possession can speak freely without interruption – forcing the other to really listen and NOT say anything.  It forces one to “button the lip” as it were.

It was amazing what happened after that – maybe the mood was different – maybe we both just started listening more – I don’t know, but I do know that we were able to dig a little deeper into some past issues that had been lying dormant – all with the bear on our laps.  And it was not long before the real issue came out and we were able to identify it – with no fear – only validation and recognition.

There is something about a teddy bear.  Ask any child who has one.  They are sweet – and you want to hug them.  They make you smile and feel like a child again.  And you just cannot be mad at a person who is holding one – try it and see if you can!

There are many methods to resolving marital conflict – this is just one that seems to really work – because it is a visual reminder that unless you are holding the bear – you cannot talk – you have to listen, be supportive and validate the one talking.  And I suppose that is at the heart of most miscommunication – wanting to be validated and feel heard.

Next time you have a disagreement – try bringing a teddy bear into the room with you – and suggest that your spouse hold it – and then really listen as they talk.  It will amaze  you as you feel the tension in the room lighten up and you find listening skills you never knew either of you had 🙂

Whose turn is it to hold the bear?

Can you sit still without interrupting until your spouse is finished speaking?

Are you one that encourages and validates your spouse?

Try it today!

God Bless

Are You Vulnerable?

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Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 4:23

Our pastor spoke on the seventh commandment this last Sunday.  And then we discussed it last night in our small group.

This is a difficult subject to address – especially in a society where the rate of divorce is about 50% – which means 1 out of every 2 marriages will fail – if left untreated.

We seem to be a society that doesn’t care to address the issue of adultery – especially in the church.  We know that people fail – even high-profile ministers and staff members.  They were not guarding their heart – or protecting their “blind spot”.  But why it happens in the first place – is quickly swept under the rug.  We seem quick to want to usher them into counseling and not want an embarrassment for the church in any way. The church seems ill-equipped to handle the growing problem of adultery and just why it happens so much.   The epidemic seems to be no respecter of persons. Women fall into this almost as much as men do – and for very different reasons.

It is so simple to quote scriptures and to think we have guarded our hearts – before we’re married – or even when we are married – but  this “secret sin” is a heart problem and not a quick fix.  And it has been a problem since the beginning of time when sin entered the world.

We have many friends in our circle who have either found themselves a victim of a spouse having an affair and leaving – or committed this themselves and are now in another relationship and marriage.  It is easy to pass judgment and even try to “play God” with them – thinking that because nothing has happened like that to us – we are somehow superior.  I grow up thinking that someone falling into a moral temptation or failure was somehow very weak spiritually – wasn’t reading their Bible or praying everyday.  Now I know that although these spiritual disciplines are good for us – it does not guarantee our safety.  And I don’t think being weak spiritually is the problem – nor do I think it is the work of Satan – although he certainly is in the business of destroying lives.

I believe it is a heart issue.  The Bible says that our heart is “deceitfully wicked”  in other words – we are self-centered to the core and want our own way!  We wrestle with our own selfish motives in about every aspect of our lives.  The flesh DOES NOT like to be told “NO”!  It takes that renewing of the mind that David talks about in the Psalms in order for us to resist temptation – and even then, temptation is very strong.

We also have to realize that some have been a recipient of a failed marriage – or a moral failure of some kind.   And sometimes even though someone has failed in a marriage – is truly remorseful and wanting to begin again – the spouse will not reconcile. We have a way of holding these victims of un-forgiveness as “prisoners” – thinking that somehow we need to make them pay!  Like it’s our job or something.  Lord help us!  Let’s be compassionate – none of us is above temptation.  We might be one that fails in some way – let’s treat others with love and mercy – we may need it someday!

I believe we need better education in marriages – and an understanding of what things are likely to happen – if we are not guarded.

It is easy to take your spouse for granted.  We’ve all heard the cliché’s “He doesn’t see me anymore” or “She doesn’t appreciate me” – and soon a very magical thing happens – someone else does. It is easy to let this happen.  Usually it is not a IN YOUR FACE kind of moment with someone else.  No.  It’s very subtle and starts out very innocently.  It’s usually a trusted friend – or someone you work with and spend a lot of time with.  It’s usually a heart connection – you find that this person makes you feel good about yourself again.  This person makes you laugh and makes you feel young.  There is usually a moment when something changes in the relationship – you sense something is different and you find yourself being drawn to them and wanting to spend more time with them – even getting defensive and protective about them – and you find you’ve crossed the line into the emotions and the heart.  You care about them.  Really care.

At this point you have a choice.  You can continue – or you can turn away.  Hard as that may be.  Now here’s the dicey part of the equation:  Sometimes there isn’t a firm foundation in your already struggling marriage relationship – and there is nothing to go back to. That isn’t always the case – but for the majority of cases – I think it is.  Most people don’t stray from their marriage unless something is seriously lacking in their own. This is not an excuse – simply reality.

So adultery happens because it is a choice – and seems like the better alternative in comparison to what is not waiting for them at home.  Those that have found themselves in the throes of this emotional decision usually weigh the good and the bad – and in the end – knowing it will cause all sorts of personal and emotional problems – they do it anyway. You pass the point of no return.

I’m not making excuses for them – and after some soul-searching  when the bottom drops out for these people – neither are they. They know very well what they have done.  It is against the natural order that God has set up – as protection for our heart and lives.  And they know that.  Ask anyone who has failed in this area – even emotionally and they will tell you it is a horrible pain that you never recover from – the guilt, remorse, pain of losing friends and family – even children because of their decision is a terrible thing and worse punishment than any man could inflict on them.

God does forgive – that’s the good news.  No one is safe from sin.  We are all capable of making really bad choices in life – and then having to live with them – even after God has forgiven us. Look at the life of King David.  He was a “man after God’s own heart” and yet he was an adulterer, a liar and a murderer.   He repented and God forgave him – but there were still consequences to his actions – and they followed him the rest of his life.

How can we help those who have failed in this area?  Don’t shun them and treat them like they are criminals.  If they have repented before God – then who are we to judge them?  Love them and welcome them back with open arms – being kind and gracious just like Jesus is toward you when you blow it.

How can we guard our marriage?  I believe it starts with our own heart.  I believe it takes a big person to take full responsibility for his or her own actions – and not blame others for mistakes.  If you are a compassionate person who likes to reach out and help others – be wise as you listen and also as you share yourself.  Know where your weak areas are.  Do you like to help hurting people?  Does it make you feel good when they seem to respond positively to your encouragement and attention?  Are you drawn to people who are flatterers?  Do you like to be around people who make you feel good about yourself?  Especially the opposite sex?  Do you like to live close to the edge?  Careful – many a person has been burned by casually flirting with someone and opening up an area of their heart.

Be accountable to other people who you trust in your life. We have a small group that meets every week in our home – and we have pledged to be accountable to these people.  It was in my closing prayer last night that we would know for sure – that when we find ourselves in trouble – that these people will have our back and be a support and help to us during a time of temptation.

We also need to cultivate an emotional connection with our spouse.  So many times the man will think if his physical needs are being met – he doesn’t have to connect with his wife.  Wrong.  Women connect with their emotions and their hearts. They need someone who values them and meets those needs before she can bond and connect with him physically.  And as I learned in our small group last night – both men and women are capable of “withholding” as a means of control.

Women need to be smart when it comes to your husband.  If you do not give him that attention he needs – both emotionally and physically – he will be vulnerable and open to flattery and connection with someone else. And Men – you need to be smart too – if she isn’t connecting with you – someone else will be glad to step in and connect with her.  Don’t let that happen. Romance her and take care of her emotional needs.  Don’t be naive – things don’t just happen. A good marriage is no exception.  A marriage will go through many different seasons – if you are not willing to change and adapt – it is just not simply enough to say – “We made a promise many years ago”.  That promise can be broken by as simple a thing as neglect.  I’ve seen it happen many, many, MANY times over the years.

Find a way to connect with your spouse today – cultivate romance, caring, understanding and friendship in your relationship.  Put all your energies into making your marriage better – and if you have failed in this area and find yourself in a new relationship due to circumstances either out of your control – or because of your own choices – guard your already fragile  heart. Cultivate boundaries and protection around your heart – and begin again with your spouse in forgiveness.

God Bless

A Note From My Husband

On the occasion of my milestone birthday – I asked my wonderful husband and best friend to be a special ‘guest blogger’ today.  Hope you enjoy and will be encouraged as you read his note to me –  that even after almost 30 years together – he still is romantic and knows how to keep the love alive.

God Bless

To my lovely wife Cindy on her special 50th birthday;

Good morning my love!  I trust you had a wonderful sleep.  I was watching you this morning just before you opened your eyes and thinking about how thankful I was to have the love of such a beautiful woman in my life.  Funny how so many put an emphasis on youthful looks these days and fight frantically to somehow attempt “time travel” to spin the biological clock backwards.  I loved it when we saw the title of a new book recently, “fifty is the new fifty” – it garnered a laugh from both of us, but even without reading the book we understand the sentiment.  Being authentic to yourself and your life experiences, being comfortable in your own skin, is a large part of remaining beautiful; a glow that comes from within and radiates outward.

Cindy, you are beautiful, both inside and outside.  You not only are an extremely attractive woman physically (insert tiger growl here), but you are true and authentic to your core values, which is what makes you irresistible.  In this way you have become more gorgeous to me over time.  I love it how you are passionately interested in how others feel and think, and have an uncanny way of connecting to them, especially in their time of need.

This year we will celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary.  We have seen much of life and have weathered both good and challenging seasons together – more and more I see in you a beauty and strength that I both admire and envy; a depth that time has only served to reveal and prove.

There’s a section of 1 Peter chapter 3 that echo these very values that I love about you.  It describes a woman of uncompromising beauty, and where lasting attractiveness comes from;

3 “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self,5 the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.6 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God7 used to make themselves beautiful.”

Cindy my love, this “milestone birthday” (at least that’s what we call the ones that end in a “0”) is simply another occasion that displays what those who really know you already have been celebrating; your authentic love for others, emotional balance, and spiritual centeredness.  This is what makes you attractive to others and to me.

And, you’re just plain hot looking!

Happy birthday my love!

Greg

Being The Right Person

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When we’re young we think we’re going to find the ‘perfect’ person to fall in love with – and eventually (hopefully) they will love us back – and then want to get married.

This is on a woman’s mind from very early on.

Love is the great ‘romantic’ idea.  She wants someone who will adore and love her – move heaven and earth to be with her – and be her ‘hero’.

Men have something very different on their minds when they start thinking about the opposite sex.  It is not usually about ‘love’ or romantic thoughts – and they can compartmentalize feelings (or lack of them) in lieu of physical attraction and sex.

When love finally hits a man – goes straight to his heart and he cannot get that girl out of his head – then he knows he is in trouble.  For good.  And he tries to be everything he can be – to say and do what he must for ‘win’ her.

She is looking for someone to save her – complete her and love her.

He is looking for someone to love him – respect and adore him.

There’s nothing wrong with this – it’s normal and natural.  But what I’ve learned through life is this:  Finding the right person is not nearly as important as being the right person.

We can enter into a love relationship expecting someone to make up for our lack.  To ‘fill in’ where we are not strong.  To be able to save us from our past.  No one can.  There is no perfect person – at least I’ve never met one yet.  And if you enter in to love or marriage thinking this – you will be very disappointed.

I’ve even heard of women (and men) saying, “when they marry me – I’ll be able to change them”.  You can’t.

Change in behavior can seem to be happening when the relationship is new and exciting – but long-lasting change is impossible.  No one changes anyone else – permanently.

Oh we see it on TV and in the movies – some of the best literature has it in there too – the ‘wild – untamed’ man – who falls helplessly in love with a woman and is willing to change for her.  And while I put great faith in love and the power of it – ultimately you are setting yourself up for a fall if that’s what you believe.

Develop a friendship with your partner.  Friendship is an easy give and take.  Ask  yourself, “would I still be their friend if I wasn’t involved with them – didn’t love them – wasn’t married to them? – Do they make me laugh?  Do I want to know them deeper and spend more time with them? – Am I the kind of person that they would want as a friend?”

Be the right person.  Fix things that are going on inside of yourself – insecurities, bad habits and negative patterns.  Expecting someone else to swoop in and ‘fix’ your troubled mind and heart is not realistic.  And you cannot ‘fix’ theirs either.  The longer that you are married – the more you realize this truth – and accept it.

There are people in whom we have chemistry with and are very compatible. There’s no denying this fact.  Those that have a better chance of making it in love and marriage are those from a similar background with many things in common.  But this does not guarantee – it just makes it easier.  Choose someone who is easy to be with – and that you can picture yourself growing old with. Someone who doesn’t require so much work.

Say to yourself, “Can I be happy with this person for many years to come?  Can I accept them – flaws and all?  Without them changing?  Is there anything I cannot live with?”

These are important questions.  They are simple – yet revealing.  If we take the emphasis off of them – and any expectations we may feel – then we can concentrate on the really important thing: ourselves.

Imagine what a great world this would be – and what healthy growing marriages there would be if everyone accepted this fact – and stepped up – saying, “I’m going to take personal responsibility for me”.  And leave it there.

I challenge you today:  God is the only one who can change hearts.  He is in the business of deep healing – from the inside out.  Allow Him to do His job with you and others.  Don’t depend on others (even your spouse) to complete you and fill you up.  That’s God’s job.  And His alone.  He will not fail or disappoint you.  He is the one who will help you to be all you can be in a relationship – and to be the right person. You can count on it.

I am praying for you

God Bless

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