Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Truth is ...

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. ~Rajneesh

I dig solitude. I crave it. It's all I know.

As a child, I played alone most of the time. As a teenager, I sequestered myself into my room.

After tons of socializing at parties and everything else in college, I just wanted to be alone in my apartment.

Writing fits me for that very reason. I prefer to write alone. I prefer a quiet room and a computer to a whole host of chatty people.

I'd much rather read your thoughts once than hear them a dozen times, which happens in real conversations.

Just the other day, as I was bragging about how my girls love to pretend clean, a relative of ours who shall remain nameless for this story, said this: "You've mentioned that before."

Really? Had I? Perhaps it's because in my life that is about as exciting as it gets. My twin daughters, who I am home alone with for 60 hours a week, like to pretend clean. Still. It's their No. 1 activity. Sorry to be repetitive, but that is what it is like having two toddlers. Repetitive.

So, after one too many conversations like that in my real life in the last week, I withdraw back to my pen and my paper where I am free to repeat myself as often as I'd like because unlike the rest of my life I reign on this blog.

Mix writing with motherhood and, well, it can be rather toxic to your mind. Since I work from home, calls need to be made and received. Research has to be conducted. All of this in the span of a few hours a day.

But, I have chosen this. I am revitalizing an old career while building a new one. I do not speak of these endeavors for privacy sake. But, the truth is, I am doing very well for a newbie.

It also means that I am tied to this house more than I should be at the age of 33. Between the two tots, the writing career, one car, no extra money and no family to visit in the immediate area -- I live a lonely life.

But, I choose this over everything else and would do so again and again.

My point is that I am not pitying myself. I am not upset or sad or angry. I am just puzzled. Puzzled that this is the life I choose. Puzzled over the fact that making friends and maintaining them has become, in recent years, really challenging. Puzzled that motherhood -- despite what it seems from the outside -- is so very lonely and isolating.

Once you become a mom your life is world's apart from everyone else's. And that's what I meant to say in my last post, but didn't.

Schedules, ideologies, philosophies, places of choice ... it all adds up and keeps us separate -- world's apart.

And I can search all day on the streets by knocking on doors and attending playgroups, and attending church services, but I will never find better friends than all of you -- my blogging friends. Is it because we open up our souls the only way we know how -- by writing out the words? If it doesn't get written is it ever said?

Not in my mind. Maybe it goes back to my decade-plus career in journalism, where I took copious notes and then hardly had to look at them again because once I wrote them down, I knew them. They were already planted in my mind -- some of them forever.

The truth is that I don't have any more answers now than I did a week ago. I do know, though, that I am still working madly on some internal errors that even Norton can't help me with.

I have some writing resolutions due to one of my friends. I have some household maintenance issues to attend to. And, deadlines looming.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

World's Apart

I've been writing this blog post in my head for days now ... not really sure how to start, not really sure if I want to even write it at all. Not sure if I'm just in a funk -- well, I am -- or if I am truly not sure if I want to continue.

Blogging, I mean.

It's not that I do not have plenty to write because I do. It's that much of what I want to write about now either isn't relative to this blog's title or it's for fear of hurting people.

Plus, a few personal blows to my ego late last week mixed with the reality that this house is going to be ours for a while longer because it is off the market and we do not have the money for a down payment on a new one.

The truth is I'm in a weird place -- and have been for a long time -- of not feeling connected to anything or anyone. I mistakenly began thinking that blogging filled that gap in my life, but it doesn't.

I have friends. I have relatives. But, these people float in and out my life much like the rain, the sun, the clouds and the snow do these days. Never certain of their intensity, never positive they will remain, or for how long. And with my hands full and my mind busy, I haven't really tended to these feelings. All of these people in my life are busy leading other lives and I always feel like I am on the perimeter, walking circles around them and never able to actually get close.

I have no connection with any of my in-laws, who are the only family within 90 minutes of my home.

And, my personal beliefs make it difficult to just befriend anyone. The location of my home, the church we attend, the liberal beliefs we hold all come into play each day with each person. This place -- Pennsylvania Dutch Country -- is uber conservative, and it is the same with its connections to new people. The few friends I do have -- who I see once a month tops -- are not natives either. Transplants, we're called.

Which leads me back to my post ...

Blogging, lately, has left me feeling a bit like living a Sims life. I've started thinking about other bloggers as the best friends I have in my life. The truth is my real life is lacking true, meaningful relationships. It has since I left home, and left my high school friends.

Now, even those friends who I left behind are less like friends and more like people on my Christmas card list. And many of the friends I made after that have since moved on or moved on from me when I left journalism -- because they were all journalists -- or they moved away from me when I left the workplace in general. As it turns out, career friends were my only friendships.

I do not miss working (in an office); nor do I feel like I made a mistake. But, a large part of my voice and social sphere was wrapped around my career. I'd like to say nothing changed, but the truth is everything changed.

From the time I was a young woman, my identity involved a bit of notoriety. My name meant something.

Now, it doesn't.

The phone hardly rings. Less and less cards arrive in the mail for Christmas, birthdays, etc.

This brings me back to now. This post. And my reflection on these people I thought were friends, but were not. People who when I was in the trenches of the hardest parts of my life -- as a new mother -- gave me space instead of support. People who assumed I was handling everything well, when I wasn't.

So ...

I'm going to take a break from blogging. I'm not quitting. Because I know once I hit publish for this post I will instantly regret that I said anything at all.

I will return, I just do not know when. Maybe in a day. Maybe in a week. Maybe next year. And, when I do, I might be different. The blog might be different. Or, not.

Who knows? Maybe I'll write that novel now. Or, maybe I won't write at all. Maybe I'll leave the computer and try and meet someone new in person instead of a new blog.

One thing is for sure: We will have the most Merry Christmas of all around here (unless it's like Thanksgiving) and all of my time and energy will be on that for the next week. I have bath toys to wrap. Boxes filled with favorites like fuzzy balls and clothespins need to be wrapped, too, just for fun. And, I'll be filled with joy as I place their butterfly wings on their shoulders and wrap pink and purple boas around their necks.

I will try to visit your blogs. I will. But, I'm also going to be tending my own garden -- raking leaves that have long fallen off their Cherry Blossom branches and blown away, revealing the nakedness of my soul.

I wish you all a safe and peaceful holiday and New Year!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lessons of forgiveness -- toddler style

One of the hardest parts of parenting our girls right now is the fact that they are sisters. First, I didn't have any siblings until I was practically an adult. I was used to playing alone and having everything to myself. And, Dan's one of three boys who all got along very well.

Some of the tougher situations right now involve two little girls who want the same thing -- even if another is available. The result for the longest time was the younger girl, the softer one, the more easy-going one gave up easily when her sister bullied her.

But, now she is fighting back. With a vengeance, too.

The other challenge is that when they get mad they do not have words to use to fight. Only little fists, heads and, much to my dismay, objects. I used to think the head-butting was awful, that the punching was a sign of my bad mothering. I've stressed about how to handle these situations since they began around a year, not wanting to make a bad decision.

But this week has brought all of this to a new level.

A simple toy that was just that -- a toy -- for two weeks became a weapon. A metal tin with Santa Claus on the lid. They had been innocently putting little fuzzy craft balls into it, and putting on the lid. They had been banging the two pieces together as a drum or musical instrument.

I left them alone, which I try to do once or twice a day, in their playroom. But when I heard the bang and then heard the cry, I knew somebody had gotten hurt. Evidence points to the metal tin being the weapon. A cut and a bump were left behind on one very upset little girl.

And yet the assaulter in this case just laughed at my attempts to show her the urgency of the situation. Take the toy away -- OK, she'll pick up another. Go to the corner, OK, she'll stand there quietly and then come out laughing. Say your sorry, gladly. She knows it's a boo-boo and she knows what did it, too.

Meanwhile, I've discovered that in all three incidents this week -- the assaulter is trying to defend her goods from the sister who, until now, always got what she wanted.

My goal, I have to keep remembering, is that hitting of any kind will not be tolerated, no matter how frustrated you get. And, when it does happen, they have to make up with a hug, eventually.

All of this is hard to communicate with two almost 2-year-olds who are just learning about the powers they have.

Despite all of this, they teach me the biggest lesson of all by saying they are sorry -- in sign language -- and moving on a minute later as if what just happened wasn't the worst thing ever.

Now I have to cope with the decision to stop leaving them alone, which has been a great relief for my sanity a couple times a day and good for their sisterly bonding as well, or realize that sibling rivalry is a part of life and they have to learn to deal with it.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Straight Talk with Santa

Dear Kris,

I know you get a lot of these letters and I just want to say up front that there is no way that I’m implying that my letter be put before all of those little children in Africa or Iraq. I’m also not suggesting that my problems are worse or even comparable to other human beings’ problems this year.

I’m simply suggesting that if your budget allows for it this year, if there are some extra elves working, that perhaps you could consider our Christmas wish this year.

We would like a new house. Or, rather, to find a new owner for this one.

First, let me start by saying I have always been amazed by that miracle you did on 34th Street. Very impressive. I’m not trying to kiss up. Really.

Second, I know that I haven’t been all good this year. I’ve yelled a lot. I’ve cried a lot – but not nearly as much as last year, I think you’ll agree. I’ve cursed a lot. I’ve been mean to my body. I’ve not been socially, politically active or engaged in my community, unlike past years. There are many things that you know that I haven’t written or talked about, too.

Truth be told – not like I don’t have to tell you this – I’ve just been living.

My daily good this year comes not in forms of what I’ve done for humanity, but for my family.

With that, I thought it would be good to remind you of the past year’s events – so you may keep those in mind as you review your lists in the next several days. My letter highlights particular dilemmas for why we need to move, as well as the challenges we faced this year and how we handled them.

Again, our troubles pale in comparison to everyone else’s so I understand if our wish cannot be met. We will muddle through as we always do.

I’d like to start with why we need to leave this house.

First, we are paying too much to live here. Second, the Da! is gone some very long hours with the commute. Third, need I remind you of The Dead Guy Who Wasn’t? Or the burglary? Or the car theft? Or, Mr. Gross? This doesn’t even count the crack houses that became our neighbors this year. (Oh, and while I’m asking: our police department could use a few more officers.)

To sum up: Moving will benefit our family in many, many ways.

And yet, Santa, I am proud of the mothering I’ve done this year. I learned to walk again after the Dead Guy Who Wasn’t. I have yelled, but I’ve followed up with I’m sorry and I’ve learned – am still learning – how to try and remain calm even when I’ve spent 11 hours on my own for the fifth day in a row and both babies are crying and fighting and throwing their food that I just cooked specifically for them. You know about that whole Zen and Yoga stuff, right?

All of this, of course, doesn’t count the trillion blanket dances I’ve done this year – you know, cover up one toddler, then she stands up as I go to cover up the other one, and vice versa for, say, 20 minutes.

I’d also like to brag about my immense amount of patience when the Play-Doh colors are smashed together. I’ve grown to like the green with the pink. And, while I realize I thought the mealtime issues were hard earlier this year, I now realize that I was just a dumb new mother. Those issues were NOTHING compared to what we deal with now.

Finally, I’d like to finish up by pointing out a few quick statistics: In 24 months, the Da! and I have had five dates. That’s roughly 720 days (17,280 hours) with very little fine dinners and movies or just getting lost in each others’ eyes. Now, I know you believe in the sanctity of marriage so you understand that five dates in two years isn’t much. Surely, at your place, some reindeer are willing to baby-sit for free now and then, right? Sitters – and it’s hard to find one to trust – are expensive when there’s not even a dime leftover for house and car repairs.

Plus, and I’m not sure how many multiples you’ve encountered, but it gets pretty darn stressful around here when both toddlers are fussing and grabbing everything but the kitchen sink off the counters and there is no break. There. Is. Never. A. Break. Santa.

And, you know we need a date when we’ve started saying night-night as we tuck ourselves into bed.

Finally, among those 17,280 hours, there were some tough moments. Like when Jadyn scared us. Or, when Liana's lymph node became infected and we thought she might need surgery. Or her goose egg.

And, Santa, do I really need to mention The Poop story to you?

So, you see, I feel that we deserve to sell this house and move on. And, since you know people, I figure you are our best hope to find a new owner for this house.

Oh, and Santa ... I need you to really consider this letter today.



P.S. Just so you know we will probably not put the girls' on your lap this year. I think we're still a bit traumatized by last year's episode. Please do not hold this against us.

Thank you for visiting today.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Lost in a sea of questions

If a mother who is running wild into the woods is screaming can you hear her?

And, if you do, do you ignore her, tossing her off as a weak woman, some mad, crazy witch of a woman?

Or, better yet, do you watch as she loses her mind, thinking rationally that she chose this life, that she made her bed ... but keep your distance? After all, no one helped you, right? You did it on your own, right? She'll manage. That'll teach her to want kids, to want a family.

It could be that you've forgotten how tiring it can be, those early days. And, in hindsight -- always in hindsight -- it seemed so easy back then, when they were little.

Or, do you remember and run after her, offering her a warm blanket and some hot tea? Maybe send her a note in the mail telling her she's done a great job this week.

I'm just wondering. What you would do?

Because there are plenty of mothers running and screaming every day, but so many are ignored, except for the ones that go screaming toward you with all their might, leaving you no doubt that you must help them, and now.

But, what about the rest?

I can't help wonder why their silent screams go unheard and unanswered.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Our Mama's Lazy ... and crazy

Yes, it's true. She hates snow that much that she brought it inside to us:



But, she's not cruel. Despite not being prepared, despite not having any winter gear, despite the freezing cold, she did give us one thing today: Our first snow-playing experience.


We will say, though, that she looked very tired, and frazzled afterward. We didn't thank her, per say, but we did play nicely inside for a solid 30 minutes while she fixed dinner.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Law According to ... Final Day

Here is the final Next Great Writing Project list of entries for the second LTMD group writing project. Thanks again to all of you who gave the time to this one. It required some thought. And, if you wrote a list that isn't included, send me an e-mail and I'll add it as long as it was written before today.

The Law According to ...

Final Day

Susanna from Mama's Village has a sweet list you should check out, especially since her e-mail letting me know got caught in my spam filter.

Holly from Into the Great Wide Open has her list up and ready to be read. Check it.

Alesia also participated, and her e-mail also got dumped in the spam folder.

Lindsay from Blossoming Soul writes her list that includes "be gentle with yourself."

jlo from Zany life + Crazy Faith has a great little list here.

Randilin from Between the Ticks gives us 10 rules to write by. I think Randilin goes way off the deep end, personally, by saying he -- or we -- should CRAVE REJECTION!!! You mean ... don't sob for hours on end and then drink a bottle of wine? You mean just get right back up in the office chair and write, again? Yeah, right, Randilin.

Finally, you can read my little list here.

10 Rules to Live By entries -- Day three

Onedia from Onedia in the Ozarks

Marta from Writing in the Water

Shannon at A Writer's Journey

Jordan at MamaBlogga .

MPJ'a list of tools for your toolbox.

Brandy from The Mysterious Mrs. B Roth

Danielle from The Bipolar Diaries

RocketMom from Exploring New Worlds.

Day Two entries:

Kelli at The Zen of Motherhood

Momma Zen's Zen in Ten

Sarah at That's Life v 2.0 writes about the Number 10.

Moanna from Desperately Seeking Serenity and her 10 Rules

And, from Day One

Shelli of Mama of Letters


And, for Gary's list go here.

Edited to add a few new lists.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Law According to ... ME

You didn't think I'd keep my big mouth shut now did ya? Here you go ... my two cents. I hope this list isn't too repetitive; I hope it's not too personal.

*Be original: Worry less about what went on before you, or what goes on down the street, and more about how you and your family can set itself apart. It’s OK to be different. It’s good to travel in unchartered territory. It’s just fine to try something and realize it’s not right for you. Find comfort in taking the long way around, if that is what you choose to do in life. Be proud that you took the risk.

*Work at something: To sit and watch TV is not enough. You need to have goals. Whatever your passion is, stay with it and make sure that the flame doesn't die until you say it's time.

*Be forgiving: To yourself, that is. It’s OK to not be a perfect wife, it’s OK to not be a perfect daughter, it’s OK to not be a perfect mother. The sooner you realize this the sooner you will find happiness, again.

*Be forgiving: To others, too. Forgive the uncle who left, the father who left, the grandparents who left, the mother who left and the best friend who left. The only one left standing with the pain is you … it’s time to let go. You’ll feel lighter when you do.

*Feel the emotions: Truly. If the day is bad, say it’s bad and feel it and then let it go. If you feel rejected or lonely or scared, let the feeling rise and fall with your breath and understand that emotions make up the human experience. Soon, the happiness and joy and rejoicing will ebb and flow back into your life.

*Be compassionate to the earth: Carefully watch your footsteps as you walk more, drive less; buy local, buy fresh; recycle; buy used. Whatever you do, think of Her. She is sustaining you.

*Don’t assume: You know what they say .... Don’t assume that people have what they need. Don’t assume that people are busy. Don’t assume that people have plans for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Don’t assume a new mother is happy. Don’t assume a friend is handling life fine.

*Ask questions: Dig deeper – into people’s lives, the news, God, the labels on the foods you buy, the small print on the documents you sign, all of it. Be conscious of what you are accepting into your life as the truth because it just might not be anything of the sort. Once you get the information, make up your mind as to what is true, for you.

*Stay awake
: Sure, you know the book by heart, the drive to work by heart, the lyrics to "Silent Night," but are you listening, are you really looking, and are you paying attention?

*Be OK with silence: Silence is space, and it’s OK to let a little come between you and yours. It’s OK to just wait for the words to come. That’s how our thoughts build, that’s how we reflect, that’s how we suddenly see what we’ve been missing.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

A hero of her own life

I recently watched the movie, The Holiday, starring Kate Winslet and the very hunky Jude Law. I, personally, loved the movie because one of the leading characters was a dad in the trenches trying to pretend he wasn't. I also loved the movie because of the theme that women need to be the star of their own life -- that they need to have gumption.

When I think of the intersection of those two ideas -- being in the trenches, yet being a leading lady -- I wonder if it's possible.

In a recent post of hers, called Family Cancer Tree, Bella from Beyond the Map, showed me -- no, proved to me -- that she is a walking example of a mom -- a woman -- in the trenches of motherhood who is also the leading lady of her life.

Like many of her posts, this one was perfect. So perfect that I'm awarding her with a Perfect Post Award.

The Original Perfect Post Awards

In that one post -- of 30 for the month of November -- she helped me find some forgiveness in my own heart, forgiveness that is long overdue. She helped me weed out some clutter that had been sitting in front of my eyes so I could see more clearly.

She wrote, "I am not a victim and in taking responsibility for my own life, I no longer must take responsibility for that which is not mine: my parents and their choices, my husband and his own quest for freedom, my sister or my friends or the women I serve. Knowing this, living this, does not separate me or close my off behind walls of protection but allows me to be more fully present. It’s not my job or within my capacity to fix them or heal them or live for them."

"When I try to do so it is no longer about them, but about me. They get to be the hero of their own life, as I am mine, and I get to be present to them: bearing witness, hearing and listening, holding the space, honoring the birth that is their own," she continued.

Bella writes so passionately, so soulfully, so brilliantly and offers so much wisdom and inspiration. This post is just one example that makes me feel like Bella is among the last few compassionate people in America. I hope to know her the rest of my days.

You can read Bella's Perfect Post here, and other Perfect Posts here or here.

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'Twas the Night Before ...

The magic of Christmas had been missing for so long I didn't even know it existed; I didn't know what I was missing. Marrying a little later in life has so many advantages, yet so many disadvantages. Living alone, I grew used to holidays being about one day, the single moment of the year when the spirit comes alive as family gathers.

Then, during my Infertile Years, Christmas became especially difficult; we didn't even put up a tree the second year.

And, while we celebrated our first Christmas as a family last year, there was no magic -- it was just a regular day of cleaning up spit up and changing diapers. I was still sleep deprived. I was still achingly new as a mother, as a woman with children. I wanted to see past the hard work and find the magic, but it escaped my fingertips.

I started to think that no holiday, birthdays included, were ever going to be magical again, that every day was just going to be hard, emotionally draining work.

And then something magical happened a week ago.

Overnight on November 22nd, the spirit of it all came alive within me.

It started as we drove through a special Christmas Lights Display on our way home on Thanksgiving. The girls were impressed by the colored lights on the trees -- blues, purples, red, white, green.

After four hard days, I woke on Monday morning feeling different. I didn't know it then, but later, while driving in the car with the tots bundled up in their seats behind me, Christmas songs were playing on the radio. I didn't turn them on, but there they were.

I turned up the music, and Jadyn and Liana started dancing and smiling.

A Monday, a regular day, suddenly was filled with magic. And, despite some terribly bad moments that this mom with twins endured, we've had similar moments since, and most involved putting on Christmas carols and singing and dancing.

Yesterday, as we put up our tree -- with help from my visiting mom, grandmother and aunt -- I started to understand that the spirit may have always been with me, but I never saw reason to bring it out, to help it come alive. Until now, I always felt like I was pretending, playing out a character in a movie that never made it to the theaters.

Last night, as Dan hung the lights on our tree and the girls danced around, touching each and every one, something else happened.

"I finally see the purpose in this holiday," I told him. "Do you?"

"Yes, it's dancing around the tree right now," he answered.

Then we proceeded to do what we've never done before in our lives.

We hung lights on our windows. Later today we'll display our newly discovered spirit, publicly, for the first time ever by hanging lights on our balcony.

Letting the world know that the magic has returned to us.

That we believe, again.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Law According to ... Round 3

Shew, this has been great! So great, in fact, that I'm going to extend the deadline for three more days. The next and final Next Great Writing Project list will be published on Wednesday.

A big thank you to everyone who has really gone above and beyond with their list. These are not easy, I know. Just think, though, at least you are not me, the host, who decided early on to publish last. What's left? Hardly a thing. I think all of you got the whole wide world covered here, yet, each list is just as relevant to me as the rest. Amazing.

I'm so proud.

This blog will return to its typical three-posts-a-week format now that National Blog Posting Month is over. Of course, that doesn't mean it will just be three posts ... you never know what will happen around here that's blogable.

10 Rules to Live By entries -- Day three

Onedia from Onedia in the Ozarks writes 10 Rules that include some kissing ...

Marta from Writing in the Water gives 10 great rules about writing. All of us can always freshen up THOSE tools.

My girl Shannon at A Writer's Journey has outdone herself with 10 Rules filled with passion and purpose such as "Pay attention to the reoccurring themes in your life." She writes, "These are quiet lessons being whispered to us every day in the form of an overheard conversation, a book flipped open to the right page, a photo on a passing bus." And, that's just Number 1!

Jordan at MamaBlogga gives some very sensible tips in her 10 Rules.

My other girl, MPJ, has created a fabulous list of tools for your toolbox. She writes, "Not everyone needs the same toolbox (my wrench set may be metric and you may need English measure), and not everyone's tool box "has to" come from the same place (it can come from the hardware stores of religion, 12 Step, therapy, life experience, some other little shop down the street or a combination of all of them).

Brandy from The Mysterious Mrs. B Roth created a great list that stresses the importance of time outs -- for adults!

Danielle from The Bipolar Diaries has a great list posted. I especially dig her Number 6 ... about embracing routines.

Finally, RocketMom from Exploring New Worlds, who has quite the life experience to share, has written her list of 10 Rules as well.

Day Two entries:

Kelli at The Zen of Motherhood has written a fantastic little list that will make you laugh and cheer. Happy Belated Birthday, Mama Zen!

Not to be confused with ...

Momma Zen's Zen in Ten, which is a powerful list, simply stated. What I love about this list, and everything Karen writes, is that it's just the obvious that somehow, some way, gets lost in our cluttered thoughts.

Sarah over at That's Life v. 2.0 finished her A to Z project, and is now tackling numbers. That's right, she's written a post on the Number 10.

New to the party, I'm proud to introduce Moanna from Desperately Seeking Serenity and her 10 Rules, which I found to be extremely humorous and right on. I, personally, love Number 2. And, she's dedicated to world peace ... how can you not visit her blog?

And, from Day One

Shelli of Mama of Letters


And, for Gary's list go here.

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