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I have been subject to or seen a few different instances of women threatening other women and accusing them of atrocious things the last weeks all in the name of mothering and child rearing.  I knew in my heart and through my studies of childbirth and parenting that the accusations had no merit, but it still hurt my heart all the same.  In one instance I became reactive and posted an article from the American Academy of Pediatrics to try to show that the women being accused weren’t in the wrong and that every woman’s choices in mothering are different and based on the information she learns firsthand, from relatives and friends, and from reading and research.  Two women might come to two different conclusions depending on the information they have and cultural influences on parenting.  But, there are certain choices that are strongly backed by research and supported by reliable organizations.  Despite this, I’m learning that some people for whatever reason don’t care for why a choice is made or how a choice is made, but only their belief that that choice is wrong.

The fact of the matter is that most of us want the very best for our children and we work hard to do the best we can to provide that for them.  Sometimes we will make mistakes, or learn that something we did wasn’t the best.  Some of us will feel guilty for awhile and try to make up for it.  Others of us will pick up where we left off and take our knew knowing and apply it to our day to day.  Really, in nurturing our children, providing them with the best nutrition we are capable of, proper shelter and clothes, doing what we know to provide them with preventative healthcare, and allowing them room to explore and supervision to keep them safe, and with guidance when needed, we are doing our job.  We do the best we can.

What saddens me is that when mothers/women disagree they do so in such a way that can often lead to unnecessary hurt, heartache, and harsh words.  Why when we encounter choices different from ours can we not share what we know and listen intently to what the other woman/mother knows and conduct ourselves in non-threatening ways.  It is too sad that we can’t seem to support one another in life.  We could help each other become better mothers, better people, but what we can do is clouded by judgment and arguments.  If there was anything to be learned, it is often absorbed into the malicious words we speak to one another and those works do no good.  It then makes womanhood/motherhood an almost isolating experience because of mommy wars.

I saw this quote yesterday and it really spoke to me in many ways.

Labor is like mothering: you prepare and do the best you can, but finally, most of it is out of your hands.  Birth is a great mystery.  Yet, we live in a rational, scientific world that doesn’t allow for mystery.

-Jennifer Louden via Talk Birth

This definitely applies to childbirth, but it applies so much to mothering.  We can’t know the adults our children will become until we meet them in the future.  We don’t always recognize the impact of our actions and words.  But, what we can do and most of us do do is to prepare and do the best we can, and wait to see the mystery unfold.  And to think that women who have researched choices in many different aspects could be accused in such ways and it happen under many different circumstances is a harsh reality of motherhood.

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Hi everyone!  I wanted to invite you to my “birth” blog today to check out a three part series I have been working on.  The first post is on the history of childbirth in eastern Kentucky.  I hope you enjoy it.

http://birthtrueblog.wordpress.com

A gal has her first moon time and is initiated either gently or suddenly into womanhood.  A woman experiences pregnancy and birth or feeling love for someone more than any love she has ever felt for herself or another – a different love – and she is initiated into motherhood.  Today, I was initiated.  I took another step out of the speeding rat race of the world back into the days when woman, wife, and mother were words for many other jobs as well.

Yesterday was a blessed and sunny day.  We spent the day outside, enjoying our chickens who have finally started laying and setting.  The house chickens have found a safe nest – their third try.  The barn hens began using the nest boxes and sticking close to the barn.

House chickens - Roy and Little Girlfriend - on the bird table

The other day we found six of Little Girlfriend’s eggs in Lars’s doghouse.  She wasn’t setting, so we ate them.  She moved the nest under the old coop.

The girls played in the sandbox.  I planned for a breastfeeding workshop I am giving soon, sitting next to them in a straight backed chair with my lap desk and the sun giving the perfect light.

This morning it was gloomy.  The rain clouds came overnight.  John was preparing to leave for the weekend, and we had just finished our pancake breakfast.  Our neighbor, Brett, walked up on the porch in time to finish the last of the pancakes.  He wasn’t coming to eat though.  He was coming with photos of a hawk, down in the barn, killing our setting hen.  Brett wasn’t able to stop it.

We work really hard at getting things just so.  It seems to go better, then the natural world reminds us where we are in the scheme of things.  It didn’t take me long before I had a plastic grocery bag in hand and shoes on my feet to walk down to the barn.  I got there and realized the hawk hadn’t broken her skin, only her neck.  I picked her up by the feet, put her in the bag, and brought her up to the cabin to be prepared for eating.

I used a Buck knife my daddy gave me to remove her head.  She was our sweetest and prettiest hen.  The knife wasn’t the type I needed, but the best I have.  I tossed her bitty head, with cute tufts of beige feathers that stuck out from her cheeks, into the trees.  I made a quick phone call to my dad for some reminders and instructions, and John and I took her to the creek to gut and pluck her.

I remembered my great grandmother, Golda Johnson, and her deep fear of chicken feathers.  I remembered the story of my Uncle Vince ringing a chicken’s neck, and its body flying off and into my great great grandmother’s well, ruining the water.  I remembered my grandmother’s (Ida Hansel) disgust at a chicken and her druthers of not fixing it to eat.

John stood by to observe, and I stuck the Buck knife into her soft belly slicing downward.  The knife hit a shell.  When I opened her, I pulled out a perfectly formed egg.  The one she’d lay today.  I set it to the side.  With two fingers I began to remove her innards from the cavity of her still warm body.  I understood for the first time how much of her little body was devoted to making eggs.  To being a provider of life and food.  I held her tiny, healthy heart in my hands a moment to look at its perfection.

Plucking was harder.  It took me a minute to get the hang of it.  I finished her in the house, after a scald in the pot.  Plucked, drained, gutted, and washed, I placed her in a freezer bag to be fixed when John comes home.

I knew at some point we’d eat some of the animals we raise.  Deladis took it well.  She knows where her food comes from, and she likes meat.  Ivy cried a little, but I think she sensed my downtrodden mood.  I wasn’t ready to do it today.  Not without numerous diddles running across the field following their mama.  Not without a fridge full of eggs.  I couldn’t let her go to waste.  She wouldn’t leave her nest.  She couldn’t run.  In her death, she’s giving us a most healthy meal, and a perfect egg.  Both will be prepared with love.  We will consume her and know her.  We will know personally our food.

I think of the Appalachian women whose job it was to kill and prepare chickens.  Appalachians mostly ate hogs, but on a Sunday, fried chicken was a nice dinner, especially if you were expecting company.  I wondered at their chore of feeding the chickens, holding them under their arms, gathering their eggs, wringing their necks, plucking feathers, and preparing them into a special dinner with all the love they had to give.  It was the least I could do for our hen.

Later on, we stopped at McDonald’s after a prolonged doctor’s visit.  From the drive-thru I saw a mama dog with heavy teats wagging her tail at every stranger that passed by, hoping for a bite.  She hadn’t gotten anything, and she was begging so politely.  Hungry to the core as only you can be when nursing a baby, and yet she begged with more humanity than some people I’ve encountered on the city streets. We got our food, eased the truck next to her, called her over, and the three of us females donated half of our meat portions to her and her pups, wherever she had them waiting.  She ate without chewing, her front paws on my seat.

I’ve been initiated.  It’s hard to wash the smell of blood from your hands.

The last week (well, since Tuesday) I’ve felt like Death warmed over.  Now, I ain’t been too far from home, so I don’t know if that is strictly an Appalachian expression, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were.  Us mountain folk love to discuss our ailments.  I don’t know when that came about, but as long as I have been alive, it has been true.

It usually goes a little something like this….  You see Linda’s, Mamaw Flora at the grocery store.  You go to church with Linda, so you feel you should say a hello.

“Hello  there, Flora.  How you today?”

“Aw, not too bad.  I got the arthritis so bad in my hip I can’t hardly get up and down.  Linda can’t help me none… much.  She had the stomach virus this week, and Fred (Linda’s husband) has been down in his back.  He’s too old to be working underground, but he can’t retire.  Not right now.  But, we ain’t doing too bad.  Can’t complain.”

So, I’ve felt like Death warmed over, folks.  I’ve had the whole sinus thing going on, and I’ve just felt plumb wiped out.  John’s been off his feet because of swelling and blisters from all the hard work he’s had to do these last weeks.  Winter was rough on us this year.  But, we can’t complain.

This week we’ve had visitors from Princeton University who said the trip to the cabins here to talk to John and George were the highlight of their trip.  I haven’t felt like keeping up with the girls, but they kept up with me. 🙂

Ivy found the dress up clothes that Deladis never bothered with, and was a Princess for two days.

Deladis had to get in on the picture taking fun without really playing dress up.

Today, we were all feeling a little better.  The girls went to stay with John’s mom last night, and husband and I got some much needed sleep.  The sunshine this morning lured us out to the barn and the garden plot we’ll be sharing with our friend and now neighbor, Nathan Hall, for some work.  Nathan has huge ideas of the real learned variety.  He has somewhat of a degree in agriculture.  We’ll have a nice organic garden this year. 🙂

This morning we spread nice wet and aged poopy throughout the area where we will plant over the next few weeks.  The aged poopy came from the barn, and the nice fresh stuff, Nathan brought back from some where off.

The barn door.

This area will be disced and more manure spread as we go along.

Soon, we will be adding more animals to the mix.  We’re looking for meat goats and some larger chickens for egg laying.  We did get six eggs from our house hen yesterday!  Crazy!  They are tiny little things too.  She isn’t setting though, so they’ll be breakfast.

It’s a beautiful day, and John’s Mamaw is celebrating her 82nd by cooking her family a nice old time dinner.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the weekend and being a little better than not bad. 😉

It is very tempting to make this my last post.  It has been a year.  I’ve blogged for a whole year!  At the same time, I feel like life is changing for me.  A period is ending and another beginning.  Seasons are literal things.

This week Betsy, with the Appalachian Cultural Project, spent Sunday through Wednesday with us off and on.  It made me a little nervous being as private and backward as I am – often socially inept.  Honestly, I’m a bit exhausted just from thinking about the whole experience.  I’m sure Betsy is as well.  I talked her leg off.  I tried to explain everything thoroughly.  I feared portrayal through a lens that didn’t understand our reasons.  Betsy was respectful, and always asked if a subject matter might be questionable.  Really, what was there to fear?  Judgment comes whether we ask for it or not, and those who get their kicks from judging will do so despite our efforts to help them see beyond limitations.

It is hard sometimes being Appalachian.  It is hard being Appalachian and then still not fitting into any of the neat compartments within that term.  My whole life, when in contact with outsiders I’ve dealt with my speaking being corrected, asked if we have electricity, indoor toilets, and if we wear shoes at home.  I’ve heard people within our own home state say to others… “We’re from ______, the civilized part of the state.”  I’ve seen people’s perception of me change as soon as I open my mouth.  I’m a student of English literature.  In fact, I hold two degrees in that area, one of them being a graduate degree.  I don’t need correcting.  I know the proper pronunciation of the speech I choose.  If I did not, I would ask, admit to not knowing, or not use the word.  I also am not ashamed of where I am from.  I make no apologies to that extent.

Then, there is my identity within the identity.  We live in our tiny cabin.  Right now, the plan is to homeschool.  We don’t have cable or satelite TV.  I don’t have a cell phone, though I could use one.  We try to avoid fast food.  We play banjos, fiddles, and flat foot in the mornings.  We love our families, and weave our ideas in and out amongst theirs.  Gardening is a huge goal.  We want goats, and by cracky, those hens better start laying eggs soon, or they could end up on the plate.  None of these choices are to set ourselves apart from others,or to judge other choices.  It is only listening to our heart.  What is right for me is right for me, and if it isn’t I’ll change.

I can no longer call our homeschool choice Waldorf.  We are surely Waldorf inspired, but we are eclectic.  Come fall, Deladis will be learning her letters and simple numbers, along with long hours outside, art projects, her dance, and lots of music.  Delaying academics for her isn’t fitting in the flow of things.  She’s ready and asking.  I won’t try any more to fit a mold.

I won’t try to have a perfect yoga practice, or a perfect devotional period everyday.  I will have my practice and devotional everyday possible, listening to my needs and the urgings of my Creator.

I will continue to work hard at my new callings.  I will continue to learn and be taught.  I will try my best to listen to Truth and my intuition instead of ignoring it and second guessing.  I will do my personal best in all my pursuits.  I will love the people of my region and do all I can to offer myself as they/we need.  I will love those outside of my region and listen to their issues and share ours with them.

So, as I explained to Betsy why we have a busted fridge on our patio, and why there is a pile of scrap in the side yard.  As I exhausted myself making apologies for my lack of home organization and the sulfur orange stains in our tub, toilet, and sinks from tainted well water, I learned something.  It doesn’t matter.  There is a story behind us all.  All of us.  My job is to protect and love my family, the integrity of the services I am now offering to pregnant mamas and their families, and to understand as best I can that “the sun shines on everyone.  It doesn’t make choices.” (Snatam Kaur)  This won’t be my last post.

The picture CD I got from Betsy didn’t work in my PC. 😦  Hopefully, I will be able to share some of them with you soon. It also looks like that as of now, none of our pictures have made it to the ACP website.  You should look at the gorgeous pictures that are there though.  Betsy does have two up on her blog if you would like to see them.

Again, I’m here to apologize for dropping out for a bit.  I haven’t been able to keep up here or with my own blog reading for a few weeks.  My first class series begins this coming Tuesday.  I’ve been making binders for the clients, studying, searching for and creating handouts, lesson planning.  Shoot, I feel like a teacher again!  I’ve met some great women that I probably would have never connected with had I not began this journey.  I’ve been consumed by all the new work.  It’s been really good.

I have been blogging on a birth blog that I started to accompany my services website.  It’s informational in nature… about pregnancy, childbirth, and beginning parenting.  I’m enjoying that.

Deladis has had strep throat.  It was a phantom strep throat because her throat has never actually hurt.  Weird.  But, when she kept a fever for three days, I knew this wasn’t our usual little bout with a bug.  She’s doing much better though.

John is off to Kentucky Crafted in Louisville.  It is his biggest show of the year.  I think this is his fifth year to participate.  I’m so proud of him.  He’s such a hard working guy and dedicated to what he does.

Tomorrow, I am expecting a photojournalist from Western Kentucky University to come out to the cabin.  I believe she will be doing some documenting of my life.  It’s a little intimidating.  🙂  John is usually the one being asked to share his life with the public, and I get to tuck myself away in the background.  I don’t know what to think.  This blog is about as public as I get from day to day.  Can I still run around the property in my pjs?  Oh, do I need to clean the whole house?  Should I just go about life as usual considering it is a photo journalism project?  Probably. 🙂

So many people come into Appalachia to photograph, video, create the people.  I’m not sure what the draw is.  Debunking stereotype maybe, or in some cases perpetuating it.  This woman however is interested in more than just the whole Appalachian thing,which is good.  She is interested in our lifestyle choices of homesteading, homeschooling, and our career choices.  Maybe she’ll only get pictures of me handwashing dishes with my hair twigged up and in my pjs.  Or, in my pjs dancing in the living room with the girls.  Or, in my pjs trying to coax the chickens into the chicken area of the barn instead of hanging in the hog lot.  (Maybe we should put a hog there.)  Maybe I should get out of my pjs.  🙂  It’s hard to leave the sweatpants and t-shirts behind when you are doing work that is dirty.  You don’t want to mess up your good clothes.

I’m excited about what’s to come.  Hopefully when I find a balance, I can come and write here more often.

When I consider this question, it is this picture that fills my mind.  This is my great-great grandmother Arizona, a Cherokee-Appalachian woman.  Every time I look at this picture, I think of strength embodied.  When I think of strength I think of Appalachian people.  Though I never met her in person, I feel like I know her.  When I look in the mirror, I see her hairline… the shape of her face, her forehead and broad shoulders.

Appalachian women of her time had strength like I wouldn’t even pretend to know.  It was a strength that was bigger than they were, because their faith didn’t stand in their self or their circumstances.  It was a faith in what was truth was truth, and what was not would eventually pass away and could be endured as something finite.

Mountain women have lived through hard hands on work, isolation, raising children and food.  After a time, they lived through being crowded together in coal camps, black dust flying, covering everything, finding happiness in just seeing the whites of her husband’s eyes on more time.  They nursed babies and broken hearts.  They fought hard fights physically and mentally.  Mountain women bore the iniquities of a whole people on their backs whether the burdens they bore were any fault of theirs or not.  They lived by stern principles.  They lived by know-how.

I was in a conversation recently with someone who said, “We aren’t really mountain women anymore I don’t guess.”  I replied with thought at first.  I hadn’t really considered that before.  Then, I thought… we haven’t been allowed to be for a long time in some ways.  We’ve been told to do things another way.  Our way has never been good enough because it isn’t like the way of those outside of these hills.  But, look at these hills.  They take a different way of life.  The city takes a different way of life than the country.  Living by the ocean takes different know-how than living on the plains.  I can’t pretend to know what is best for those who live in a completely different environment than myself.

It brings things back to the issue of culture.  Are we mountain women anymore?  Are we really?  Or is a commercial culture perpetuated by consumerism and media taking over all the intricate cultures spread throughout our country?  I believe there is, but yesterday I was at Burger King to let the girls play in the PlayPlace, and I watched all the mothers.  I listened to the phrasing of their words.  I saw how they handled their children, set their food before them, helped them put on their coats.  I saw mountain women.  There is an element there that can not be mistaken.  It is born in us.  As I am sure women from other states, ethnicities, spritualities, can identify in their common people quirks and authenticities that aren’t apparent to others, I saw them in these women.

We have lost so much over the years as Appalachians.  It is obvious there is something missing here that had not always been missing.  I think it is the confidence in that we are wonderfully made, and what has been given us through our collective upbringing and experience is good enough.  I like to think it is only misplaced and will turn up again.  Us Appalachian women will be the first to see it when it does.

There’s nothing like six or more inches of snow to give you a hankering for a treat from your childhood.  Here in the mountains a big snow provides an easy way to make an iced cream treat that is as good as it is cold.

Snow Cream

Snow cream is simply made given you trust the snow to be clean enough to consume.  The way I make it, all of the ingredients are estimated.  The important know how is the concept I suppose, then you can make it to your liking.

Start with melting a sweetener of your choice into some heavy cream or whole milk. (You can also use low fat milk, but I don’t think it would taste near as good or be very nutritious for you.  Treats should not be empty calories in my opinion, so go for the gusto!)  The sweetener we use is honey and/or maple syrup. (We use only unrefined/moderately refined sweeteners that hold plenty of nutrients such as iron or enzymes.)  Since our sweetener is already liquid it doesn’t require a lot of heat to completely mix with the milk.  Allow the milk mix to cool, and add a little vanilla… or a lot if you are like me and love strong flavors.  Next, gather your snow in a large stainless steel bowl or pot.  You will want to compact it a bit and gather a large amount.  Scoop from the top layer of snow only, being careful to not dig down too close to the ground.  At least 4 inches should be on the ground for making snow cream.  I was always told not to eat the first snow of the year as well.  Once back inside, slowly mix the milk soup into the snow stirring thoroughly, but with a gentle touch.  Keep mixing until it is to your desired consistency, then eat and enjoy!  The Haywoods certainly enjoyed their snow cream this year.

Or, you can do like I did as a kid wanting snow cream.  Take your favorite pancake syrup and a spoon outside, squeeze some into the snow, and chow down.  🙂

Here is one from Letcher County native – Lee Sexton.  This is a clip from the documentary Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus.

In my twenties, I didn’t think much about self improvement.  I would have laughed at anyone suggesting a self-help book.  I read little on spirituality, and honestly didn’t have a clue where I fit in.  I figured I was who I was by that time and I had to learn to endure the faults, the neurosis, and the walls that I had built for myself.  What I did dwell on were the negative parts of my childhood.  I couldn’t seem to move passed them, and I felt like I would need to muster all the strength I could to move on down the line.  I also clung to the good parts of my childhood.  They stuck to me – bittersweet, moments of bliss that were only to be glanced at here and there.

After becoming pregnant with Deladis, I realized that life was much more than existing in a past you can’t change.  I realized that there were things I didn’t want to pass on to my daughter.  Things that can be excused in families.  All ___ (insert family name) are mule headed.  Oh, you get that temper from your Uncle ___.  You’re always depressed, just like your ____.  Things that are chalked up as inherited personality traits, that can very well be negative if given the right circumstances, but given a different environment can be worked with and made into positives.  Instead of saying, that’s who I am, it’s in the blood, we can work to stop the scars that are passed down through generations in families.  Those scars don’t have to be a curse.  The fact is, you don’t have to live with them anymore the moment you choose to see them for what they are and no longer choose to accept them.  Not that it isn’t hard work through them, but acknowledgment that there is no power there to hold you.

I didn’t completely understand my great desire to become a better me after becoming a parent.  I would catch little thoughts as they passed through my mind that would hint at why.  If you keep losing your cool, your relationship with your child will erode. Do you ever want her to wonder if she is loved? Then, there is the whole aspect of parenting daughters as a woman.  Stop downing your physical appearance in front of your child.  You don’t want her to spend her whole adolescence thinking she is an ugly duckling or not feminine because she doesn’t like makeup or spending too much time on her hair.

Eli, The Good the most recent novel by the eastern Kentucky author Silas House came out in September 2009.  My grandmother went to North Carolina to hear him read and to buy me a signed copy of the book.  I thought that pretty dang cool of her considering she was supporting an independent bookstore and she was buying me the best kind of material present I could ever receive.  Silas House is my very favorite author.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect of this novel.  I had heard him read an excerpt at the Hindman Settlement School’s Appalachian Writer’s Workshop evening readings over the summer.  I appreciated the segment he read.  I soaked in the frankness of the tone and took up the imagery, making a movie in my mind, as the best books do for me.  I relished in his audible voice, true to his accent and unapologetic.  The kind that makes you even more proud to be who you are because someone molded from the same clay as you is making a difference in the world.  I was ready for this book.

I opened it and began reading, noticing immediately that this novel was very different from his first three (a series with the same family as characters).  It was different in feeling and much different in tone.  It was told from the voice of a ten year old child, Eli Book.  While the setting was obviously the mountains, it was more universal.  It felt like it could be many places.  Immediately, I felt like that child could have been me.

I went through the first half of the book wondering where it was taking me.  I didn’t grasp it fully because at times it was a very uncomfortable place to be, but as I moved onward I understood that was exactly the point.

By the end of the novel, I felt like I had been on a life transforming journey.  The kind that is a one way ticket.  You go from beginning to end and never look back.  The end of the novel held the juice for me.  Eli’s father dealt with demons brought back from the Vietnam war.  A war he had gone to fight still being only a child.  Eli’s mother clung to the love she found with his father because she had not known love as a child.  There was Eli and his sister both feeling the very same way, but coming to the understanding that what they were feeling was not the reality of their life, but the feelings that their parents were carrying with them and projecting out onto their lives.

But then he saw me.  I just stood there, feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness wash over me.  I had felt alone all my life, had felt as if my parents only saw each other as they moved through the world, thought they loved each other so much that there was no room to love me.  But now, by the way Daddy looked at me, I knew better.

His faced is what convinced me.  He was so hurt to see me there, to know I had seen all of this.  So I knew, once and for all, that he did care if I existed or not.

Eli, The Good by Silas House, Chapter 25, pg. 265

It was that moment in the book that sealed the deal for me and my commitment to becoming my true self.  The self that is uninhibited by my circumstances or past.  This was the point that gave me hope.  The hope that despite my shortcomings and my personal pitfalls, my children will at some point be assured of the fact that I love them and I love having been a part of giving them life.  They will know it because it is true.

All the things that I am doing are not only for myself at this point, though I believe looking inward is important  for people in all walks of life.  It is for my family.  From the choice of Waldorf inspired education, to moving up in the head of no where, to making our traditional culture a daily part of our life, those choices were made to help my children experience childhood.  We can grow up so quickly.  My spiritual studies, my yoga practice, my writing and reading, making the choice to become a childbirth educator, are all part of ending a cycle and embracing my natural state of well being.  Disease is not our natural state.  It is dis-ease.  Feelings of inadequacy, depletion, and blaming are not natural.  These are things that can be healed.  These are things that with mindfulness can be made whole in beautiful ways.

I want to bring my children up in a healing environment.  I want to do all I can to insure that I leave little baggage for them to carry into their adult life.  Any baggage they will have will be theirs, personal and part of that which helps us become independent of our parents.  It will be the stuffs of a beautiful life and the tools to make it a complete one.

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About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

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