Happy Time: A Friend Visits

photoSince moving to Florida, our two daughters and grandchildren visit for a week during their spring break in May every year.  For the first time in four years, they couldn’t come.  My youngest daughter had just been released from the hospital.  And, her doctor didn’t want her to travel for a while.   Though disappointed, I was happy my eldest daughter decided to stay in Wisconsin to support and spend the spring break with her sister and the grands.

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The daughters didn’t come, as planned.  Yet, I had a great spring break, filled with an abundance of happiness and joy.

Thanks to The Librarian who has been a great friend for more than fifteen years.  Needing a break from Wisconsin’s cold weather, she accepted my invitation to visit.  And, I needed someone other than Hubby to spend quality time with.  Now, I love the time spent with Hubby.  However, I enjoy doing some things that he dislikes and prefers not to do.  Although, I did give him the option to join us on any of our planned outings over the next three days.  He chose not to commit.

The First Day – Happy Time on the Lanai

The Librarian and I spent the evening on the lanai relaxing, catching up, and enjoying the stillness of a quiet space.

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The Second Day – Happy Time at Harry P. Leu Gardens

Though it was raining, we decided to follow the planned agenda — a visit to the Harry P. Leu Gardens. First, I had to pick up the rental car.   I showed up promptly at 9:00 a.m., the rental car company’s opening time, with my driver’s license and credit card.  I couldn’t rent the car.  Because, I didn’t bring a lease, utility bill, or cable bill to show proof of residency.  Yet, The Librarian, who lives in Wisconsin could rent the car using only her credit card and driver’s license.  She lives two thousand miles away, I live twenty minutes away.  It didn’t make sense then.  It doesn’t make sense now.  But, she rented the car, that I could neither rent nor drive, and we were off to start our day.

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Before heading out to Harry P. Leu Gardens, we stopped to pick up a few groceries.  Of course, we added several bottles of wine for the evening serenity times on the lanai.  Shopping went quickly.  Found all the groceries, but we couldn’t find the rental car.  We searched aisle after aisle of the parking lot, with no luck.  Finally, a man approached us saying he had noticed when we arrived.  He took us to the car and we took a photo of the license plate so we wouldn’t lose it again.  This was a laughable moment.

Unloaded the groceries at the house and set the GPS to take us where we needed to go.  I have lived in this city for more than four years.  However, if I venture outside of my very limited driving range, I needed a GPS.  The Librarian had never used one; and, I only knew how to use the one in our car.  So, the setup wasn’t that easy for us.  But, we did it.

At last, we were off to Harry P Leu Gardens in pouring rain. After driving for more than a half hour, we noticed we were getting farther away from the city.  Having visited the Leu Gardens’ website, we knew it was close to the downtown area.  So, we pulled over at a gas station and reset the GPS.  There was a lot of laughter after discovering, we were going in the wrong direction.

About forty-five minutes later, we arrived at Happy P. Leu Gardens and it was still raining heavily.  We had been smart enough to bring two umbrellas from home.  When we opened them, they were both broken and virtually useless. But, that didn’t stop us.

At s soon as we entered the Hospitality Building, a very nice receptionist told us the Gardens were closed due to rain.  And, to our surprise, there wasn’t an indoor garden as we had expected.

We did spend time browsing around in the Gift Shop; and, I bought two flags for the front yard. I have to decide which to hang first.

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We, also, toured the Art Gallery and took photos of the art on display.

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The tour, for us, ended on the rear screened-in porch, which overlooks a beautiful lake surrounded by trees.  We relaxed in rocking chairs and enjoyed the scenic view.

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We didn’t get to tour the Harry P. Leu Gardens, but it was wonderful to spend quality, face-to-face time with a kind and loving friend.  I am Grateful to The Librarian for this happy and fun-filled day — mishaps and all.

In the next post, I will write about and share photos on our Third Day – Happy Time at Cocoa Beach.

Mother’s Day – Expressing Gratitude and Thankfulness

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I received this floral arrangement yesterday, a Mother’s Day Gift from our three children.    One of the downsides of retirement in Florida is not enjoying this special day with them.  Four years ago, we moved 2,000 miles away from our offsprings.  While we miss them, each year the “separation anxiety” lessens.

This Mother’s Day, I express gratitude and thankfulness to God for blessing  me with three wonderful children, five grandchildren and, of course, the greatest Hubby.  

Given my recent posts, believe it or not, this one isn’t about me.  This is about three mothers; and, each played different roles in different seasons of my life.

Unconditional Love – Happy Mother’s Day MAMA

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Mama you blessed me with unconditional love from the day I was born until your death in 1967.  Though, I wish you had stayed with me longer, I am grateful for our years together.  You left, but I kept the memories and these memories will always keep me connected to you. “As is the mother, so is her daughter.” (Ezekiel 16:4)

Maternal Tenderness – Happy Mother’s Day CARRIE

My mother Carrie Lee Childress

I was only 25-years-old when MAMA died.  While no one will ever replace her, I will be forever grateful for the gift of Maternal Tenderness from my mother-in-law .  She helped to fill the “mother void” in my life until her death in 1980.  She will always have a special place in my heart. And, I cherish the many memories of our times together.

Led By Examples – Happy Mothers Day Shirley

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This is a photo taken on June 25, 1988, at my eldest daughter’s wedding ceremony.  Realizing, my sister-in-law would not live to attend her own daughter’s wedding, we invited her to share the mother’s role with me.  Having survived breast cancer for more than five years, she was undergoing treatment due to a recurrence two years earlier.  Six months after the wedding, she died in our spare bedroom.  So grateful God gifted us with the opportunity to serve as caregivers during the last months of her life.

I was “Led by Examples” of this beautiful woman from the age of 17 when I married her brother through middle-aged.  Though only four years my senior, she was my mentor, advisor and counselor.

On March 8, 2008, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I relied upon examples of her strength and courage as she battled this condition to carry me through a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and life after breast cancer.

My ability to deal with a health condition for which there is no cure is because I was “Led by Examples” of a brave Breast Cancer Warrior, a sister-in-law, who fought to survive, but lost the battle.

I honor these three mothers who are no longer with me on this Mother’s Day.

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I also honor my two daughters for being outstanding mothers to three of my grandchildren.  I am ever so grateful for their unconditional love, nurturing, and support.  

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Pamela Thomas-King, M.D.

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Kimberly Eccleston, Attorney-at-Law

Who Am I?

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My response to Who Am I before embarking on a new journey to find ME would have been I  AM a:

Wife

Mother

Grandmother

Friend to…

Relative of …

In this Season of Life, I made the choice to look beyond attachment to anyone other than ME to define ME.

On my new journey, I want to discover how to love and embrace ME.

With each step along the way, I will read, learn and try new and different things in search of ME.

Shortly after beginning MY journeyI discovered the stillness of meditation, I Am Grateful for this Gift that allows ME to

  • live in the present moment;
  • let go of the past; and
  • trust in God’s plan for the future.

By living, letting go, and trusting, I Am Empowered to search for the Authentic ME. 

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Now, if asked Who Am I, the answer is  “I Am My Deepest Desire and the Possibilities are Unlimited.”

MY Choice – Online Church

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Six months ago, I made the choice to visit an on-line church service.   Nowadays, Sunday mornings from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., I am in front of the computer.

What Critics Say

To find out, I did a Google Search.  I found critics, both pastors and parishioners, who felt there were major missing elements within the on-line churches.   For example,

  • Corporate worship, praying and studying the bible together.
  • Serving one another and reaching out in mission together.
  • Encouraging each other through personal face-to-face interactions.
  • Taking Communion.
  • God needing your physical presence in the church.

Why I Made the Choice

Hubby and I retired and relocated to Florida four years ago; and, we spent the first three years visiting church after church looking for the right one to call our home.  Unsuccessful, I decided to accept a cousin’s invitation to visit her church service online in Chicago.  I had two options to worship:

  • On-Demand Recording at my convenience; or
  • Live Video Streaming during the actual church service.

Because, I wanted to hold on to the tradition of attending church on Sunday mornings, I chose the Live Video Streaming option.

After the first visit, I knew this was the church for ME.

First, the biblical teachings, mission, and focus on social justice mirrored MY former church.  I wanted to keep worshipping within the  “comfort zone” I had grown accustomed to.  And, these two churches embraced MY religious needs as a Black Christian seeking a positive spiritual, ethnic, and cultural experience within a church environment.

Second, the weekly Live Video Streaming church services connects ME with family members who attend this church.   The opportunity to build a stronger religious relationship, though we are separated by thousands of miles, has improved the quality of my life.   On any given Sunday it is possible to briefly connect with:

  • Cousin G, a Deacon in the church, singing in the Men’s Choir.
  • Cousin S’s young granddaughter, member, Children’s Praise Dance Team.
  • Cousin S, an Ordained Minister and long-time church member.
  • Cousin-In-Law D, a Deacon in the church, sitting in his designated pew.

Oftentimes, I will text, telephone, or e-mail Cousin S about a service.

Initially I had serious reservations about worshipping at an on-line church:

  • Self-Doubt made me ask, “How will others view this decision?”
  • Self-Awareness stepped in saying, “Who cares, it’s your choice.
  • Self-Empowerment gave ME the courage to accept, acknowledge, and embrace MY choice.

Though HUBBY supports MY decision, HE has yet to join ME for an on-line church service.   I’m just waiting.  After all, we have been partnering as a married couple for almost fifty-four years.  He’ll come around.

 

Sometimes You Just Gotta Rant!!!

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Since, the “texting in the movie theater shooting last week,” I have been ANGRY.  Wanting to COMPLAIN loudly. After a while, Hubby tuned me out.  Frustrated!!I Gotta Rant?   Sorry, loyal blog followers.  I need to dump a little negativity on you this week.

Hear Me Rant!!! We Need Better Gun Control Laws

Too many guns in the hands of criminals, YES.

But, also too many “concealed weapons” in the hands of supposedlylaw-abiding people.” 

Law abiding people acting as judge, jury and executioner.

Law abiding people who, apparently, believe the “license to carry a weapon” anoints them to the level of judge, jury and executioner.

This is a health and safety issue for all of us.

Did you know that 554 people have been killed since May 2007 by people licensed to carry concealed weapons in incidents that did not involve self-defense.” 

Allow Me Rant About Five!!

Rant #1:  71-year-old, retired police officer felt entitled to “draw his “concealed weapon” to shoot and kill” Chad Oulson, a 43-year-old father and husband in a movie theater who “refused to stop texting” and “responded to the request to stop texting by throwing popcorn.” (January 2014 – Florida)

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Rant #2:  Renisha McBride, 19-years-old, injured and dazed following an early morning car accident in a Detroit suburb.   Seeking help, she went to a nearby home, knocked on the door and was met with a gunshot wound to the head.  The homeowner alleged she was an intruder.  Yet, he failed to call 911 prior to shooting her through a locked screen door.  And, then left her to die on the front porch without calling 911. (December 2013, Michigan)

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Rant #3:  Jordan Russell Davis, 17-years-old sitting in a parked SUV at a gas station with friends was shot and killed.   The shooter, 45-years old, was angered by the loud music the young men were listening to.  When they failed to turn the music off, he randomly fired shots into the vehicle killing Jordan.    (November 2013, Florida)

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Rant #4:  Darius Simmons, 13-years old, shot and killed by a 76-year-old neighbor who suspected Darius had broken into his home and stolen weapons.   As Darius mother stood helplessly by on her front porch, the neighbor first pointed the gun at her; and, then pointed the gun at Darius and shot him in the chest.  (July 2013, Wisconsin)

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Rant #5:  Seventeen-year-old, Travon Benjamin Martin, was shot and killed while walking unarmed in a gated community by a neighborhood watch captain.   Calling 911, to report seeing a “suspicious person,” he ignored instructions not to get out of the car and proceeded to follow Travon and killed him.  (February 2012, Florida)

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Closing Rant

I join the many other Americans who believe stricter gun control laws and better mental health restrictions are needed to address this epidemic.  It is unthinkable, in this day and age; that people feel it is okay to bear arms and act as though still live back in the days of the Wild, Wild West.

Family: The Best Holiday Gift, Part 2 – Christmas 2013

Family:  The Best Holiday Gift, Part 1 – Thanksgiving 2013

In last week’s post, I learned a valuable lesson; “You can’t have a better tomorrow if you’re always thinking about yesterday.” (Unknown).

No doubt, I am stepping outside the boundaries of a “writer’s privilege;” but, the reverse order of this quote provides a better explanation of what happened in my case.

  • “Thinking about yesterday,” I broke a more than fifty-three year family tradition of spending Thanksgiving with our Children.  Guided by the FEAR of a replay from the previous year, I chose to stay in warm Florida rather than expose my compromised immune system and serious lung condition to cold Wisconsin.
  • You can’t have a better tomorrow.”  Why?  In choosing to make a decision about tomorrow, I relied on FEAR and ignored the commonly held theory that FEAR is:   False Evidence Appearing Real.  This view was validated when I was admitted to the hospital in warm Florida for seven days, including Thanksgiving Day, with both an immune system problem and lung condition.

As it turned out, even though I didn’t spend Thanksgiving with family, I found HAPPINESS in the PRESENT” through unexpected Gifts.

 Family:  The Best Holiday Gift, Part 2

What a beautiful Gift for ME and Hubby over the Christmas Holidays in the PRESENCE of the special people who bring happiness into MY Space on a daily basis.  I am strengthened throughout the year, as the receiver, of their Gifts of encouragement, unconditional love, and support.

MY IPAD Amateur Photo Gallery

Hoping to avoid having to answer over-and-over again, “What are we eating?” I prepared the week’s menu so everyone knew what to expect:

Christmas 2013 Menu

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I was able to capture the images below of my Gifts on an IPAD camera during their seven-day visit.   While, the photos may not be appealing to the eye, they will join the other memorable treasures of past family gatherings.   For, I truly believe, “memories are a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” (Unknown)

Hubby and Youngest Granddaughter –His Little Cupcake

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Younger and Elder Daughters

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Son and His Five-Year-Old Daughter (AKA, Cupcake)

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Nephew/Surrogate Son

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Son-In-Law Married to Elder Daughter

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Eldest Grandson (24-years-old) and Baby Sister

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Granddaughter (22-years-old) and Grandson (17-Years-Old)

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Youngest Grandson (13-years-old) 

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Cupcake said, “I got this Banana Pudding!!

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The Only One that Still Believes in Santa

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Last Day – Quality Time with Two Granddaughters – Pedi/Mani

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Visit Over – ME and MY Quality Time

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Closing this week’s post, with the memorable family quotes I choose to embrace:

  • “Having someone to love is a family.  Having a place to go is a home.  Having both is a blessing.” (Donna Hedges)
  • “If the family were a fruit, it would be an orange, a circle of sections, held together but separable – each segment distinct.”  (Letty Cottin Pogrebin)
  • What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life – to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.” (George Eliot)
  • “I sustain myself with the love of family.”  (Maya Angelou)
  • “Spending time with the ones who are dear to you is like being in a dream is it not?”  (Sakura Tsukuba, Land of the Blindfolded, Vol. 3)

Family: The Best Holiday Gift – Part 1, Thanksgiving

With the exception of Thanksgiving 2013, since 1960 Hubby and I have been blessed to spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas with Our Children. When they left Our Nest, coming together on these two holidays was the Gift, I looked forward to receiving each year.

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When Hubby and I retired three years ago and moved to Florida, we continued to have Thanksgiving at Elder Daughter’s home in Milwaukee; and, the Children and Grands came to Our Home in Florida for Christmas. That is until 2013.

Unfortunately, shortly after returning from Our Thanksgiving visit to Wisconsin in 2012, I was hit with the pneumonia virus. Hubby, the Children and I felt it was not wise to expose MY compromised immune system and serious lung condition to the harsh Wisconsin winter weather. After much deliberation, I chose to stay in Florida.

Apparently, MY compromised immune system and serious lung condition didn’t agree with this decision.

For over seven days during Thanksgiving 2013, I was in the hospital with a very serious case of bronchitis.

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While I didn’t share the 2013 Thanksgiving meal with MY Children and Grands; I found HAPPINESS in the PRESENT.

Through Grace, for Thanksgiving 2013, I received a long-awaited Gift. The Daughters telephoned to say, “It’s time we learned how to prepare the traditional family holiday dinners.”

The night before Thanksgiving with the two of them in the Eldest Daughter’s kitchen and I, resting comfortably in my hospital bed, via IPhone I shared the step-by-step instructions for preparing MY MAMA’s corn bread dressing, turnip/mustard/collard greens, as well as Patti LaBelle’s Mac and Cheese recipe.

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What a Great Gift to ME. The night before Christmas, I sat quietly at the kitchen island in MY kitchen enjoying a glass (actually, several) of Chardonnay while the Daughters prepared the entire Christmas Dinner.

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Grateful, Thankful, Blessed. Finally, the family holiday traditional dinner was embraced and transferred to the next generation.

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Next week, I look forward to sharing, “Family, The Best Holiday Gift – Part 2, Christmas 2013.” Hope you will join me.

Toy I Wanted For Christmas — Out of MAMA’s Reach

 Toy I Wanted

More than sixty years ago, for months leading up to Christmas; I, along with three of my best girlfriends, imagined, dreamed and talked about getting a kid-sized doll on Christmas Day.

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Out of MAMA’s Reach

I still recall the tears shed those many years ago when MAMA said I wouldn’t get anything for Christmas.   Instead Kris Kringle was bringing my presents on New Year’s Day.   She explained the money set aside for Christmas gifts would buy things for the new baby on the way.  Mind you, it wasn’t her new baby.

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Earlier in the year MAMA extended a helping hand to a niece who had recently separated from her husband.   Pregnant with two toddlers, she moved into our four-room apartment.  Our family of two increased to five.  And, on December 11, the new baby boy arrived.  Now, we were a family of six.  The sole source of income for the entire household was MAMA’s salary.  MAMA and I, a family of two, had struggled for years to survive on the meager wages she earned.  But, she found ways to stretch the money to provide room and board for family members in need of help.

On Christmas Day my three girlfriends got kid-sized dolls.  I was a little jealous and my friends tried to cheer ME up saying, “Kris Kringle will bring your doll next week.”

The Greatest Gift

On January 1, New Year’s Day, Kris Kringle arrived with a small-sized baby doll and other toys.  While I didn’t get the kid-sized doll, I was gifted with two toddlers to play with and a new baby boy to hug and cuddle.

MY friends after a while tired of the kid-sized dolls.  They visited almost everyday to play with ME and MY three little cousins,

I am grateful to MAMA for teaching ME at an early age to value the “Gift of Giving.”  The quality of MY life is enhanced when I can make a difference in the lives of others.

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Five of MY Favorite Gift of Giving Quotes

  • “No one has ever become poor by giving.”  (Anne Frank)
  • “Happiness. …consists in giving, and in serving others.”  (Henry Drummond)
  • “When you learn, teach.  When you get, give.” (Maya Angelou)
  • “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” (Charles Dickens)
  • “We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.” (Winston Churchill)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifty-Three Years and Counting

 

Fifty-three years ago, the odds were against the survival of our marriage.   Why?

  • I was a recent high-school graduate, unemployed, 17-years-old, and pregnant.
  • He was an 18-years-old, unemployed, high school dropout.

Back then, like it probably still is today, most teen marriages ended in either a permanent separation or divorce.

Though our parents agreed to the marriage, they were disappointed and wondered whether this was a “failure waiting to happen.“   We tuned out the naysayers and doubters.

On April 11, 1960, JT and I exchanged vows at the Cook County Courthouse in Chicago, Illinois.   Our mothers were the only guests; and, they definitely were not beaming and handing out congratulatory words.  Out of love for their children, they both agreed to show up and sign the papers to authorize our underage marriage.

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I did not have the wedding that most young girl’s dream of.   It was the extreme opposite.  There was:

  • No Church. 
  • No Music. 
  • No Rings. 
  • No Reception. 
  • No Photos
  • No Wedding Dress. 

Our one and only wedding gift was a crisp $20.00 bill from my mother.

Married without money or a job, our only available housing option was to live with my parents and occupy the bedroom I had slept in since the age of 12.

Soon recognizing our young age, educational deficiencies, and lack of work experience limited employment opportunities; JT enlisted in the Army.   In the military, he could earn his high school diploma and our family would have a guaranteed monthly income and health care coverage.

My young girlfriends as well as many of my relatives’ prophesized and warned us that his volunteering for the Army meant “the end of our marriage.”   Prepare yourself, they cautioned, “long separations” oftentimes turn into “permanent separations.”  When JT departed for basic training on April 25, 1960 the tears flowed, but I withheld talking to him about my fears of abandonment.

We endured the six-month separation through daily letters, occasional phone calls, and his two short military leaves to visit with me and our new daughter in Chicago.

On December 8, 1960, I truly entered the adult world.  Only three week after turning eighteen, I left family and friends to join JT at his new military assignment in Wackenheim, Germany.

His rank as a Private-First-Class, did not meet the eligibility requirements for us to live on the base in military family housing.  So, JT secured a one-room efficiency on the third floor of a private home.

As I recall the rent was $20.00 per month.  The landlord lived on the first floor and their son, his wife and baby lived on the second floor.   They did not understand or speak English.

In the efficiency next to us on the third floor, we shared the bathroom with two young women.  They understood a little English, worked nights and slept during most of the day.  Later, I learned they were prostitutes who serviced men in the military.  Once I overcame my biased and judgmental opinions, I found two very friendly and supportive neighbors.   They would come over to check their clothing, makeup and hair in our full-length mirror before heading out for the night.  Our Toddler Girl loved to imitate.  She would stand in front of the mirror, twirl, pull, and adjust her clothing.  Then, pout her lips and attempt to swing her hair.  Toddler Girl, now in her early fifties, is embarrassed when we share this childhood memory of her.

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In Germany, I was on the fast track to adulthood.  I had to manage our money and soon learned how to feed a family of four on an income of about a $140.00 per month.   There was always a nourishing meal for the Toddler Girl and the Baby Boy; but there were times when JT and I ate only smothered potatoes and onions for breakfast, dinner and lunch.  Both of which were free and readily accessible.

Our landlord was a farmer and these two vegetables were stored year-round in the cellar.  Though, they always encouraged us to take whatever we needed; sometimes, I was just too embarrassed to ask.  Every now and then, on the pretense of getting coal from the cellar to build a fire in the stove, I would hide a couple of potatoes and onions in the bottom of the bucket.  Of course, I now realize the smell of smothered onions and potatoes no doubt spread to lower floors of this small house.

I soon adjusted to my new life as a young wife, with two small children, on a limited income, living in a foreign country.   Out of necessity, I also quickly learned to:

  • build a fire in the coal stove
  • heat water for bathing and washing clothes 
  • cook meals on a two burner hot plate; and
  • live without television and rhythm and blues radio stations

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The two years, I spent with JT in Germany strengthened our marriage.  We both had to grow up and assume the responsibility of making our marriage work as well as parenting two small children.   Absent friends, family, and the other American amenities we were forced to depend on each other for friendship, entertainment, conversation, and support.  If we disagreed, it didn’t last long.   We couldn’t call a friend to complain or run to our parents for comfort.   We had to work it out between the two of us. 

Those early experiences as a young couple, struggling and relying totally on each other, established the foundation for our strong and long-lasting marriage.  Collectively working as a team, we were determined to build a better life for our three children.

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Marriage is not easy.  It’s a commitment that takes work.  There will be ups and downs, but we have to:

  • learn to compromise
  • spend quality time together
  • consider each other’s feelings
  • listen to each other, and most importantly,
  • laugh together

Through God’s Grace, we reached our educational and professional goals, educated our three children, and now enjoy living the life of retirees.

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April 11, 2013 – Fifty-Three Years and Counting. 

Happy Anniversary to Us

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