Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thirteen Most Common Surnames in Ireland

OK, so it's nowhere near St. Paddy's Day, but being the Irish freak that I am, I thought this would be a fun one...the thirteen most common last names in Ireland. Go here to see the complete list of 40.

Counting down:

13. McCarthy

12. Doyle

11. O'Reilly

10. O'Neill

9. O'Connor

8. Ryan

7. Byrne

6. O'Brien

5. Smith

4. Walsh

3. O'Sullivan

2. Kelly

1. Murphy

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One more thing...enter to win a Dooney and Bourke bag!

The ladies at Pinks and Blues
are giving you a chance to win a Dooney and Bourke handbag and some Victoria's Secret cologne. I don't know about you, but I'm in! Go here to enter...and the deadline is tomorrow (Friday, June 1st) at 8 PM EST.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The emptiness of atheism

Good for 21-year-old Amber Heard. She's figured out, at an early age...actually a few years ago, at 16...that there is no God, and that she (Amber) is all she needs.

The article about Amber caught my eye in today's USA Today. Apparently, the actress has more than a beautiful face and figure going for her--she also has an intelligent mind. (Although signing up to star in the latest teen soap, "Hidden Palms," may not have been the smartest choice--it's being seriously panned by critics already.)

According to the article, Amber became an atheist at 16 when her best friend was killed in a car crash. Admittedly, a tragic occurrence that could even shake the faith of the strongest Christian.

Subsequently, Amber's first serious boyfriend introduced her to the writings of Ayn Rand, the noted Russian-American novelist and atheistic philosopher. Says the formerly Catholic actress, "I've read all her books...I have been obsessed with her ideals. All I've ever needed is myself." (My emphasis.)

So at 21, Amber has arrived at the conviction that all she needs is herself.

At more than twice her age, I marvel at that. As I look back on years of living--years of disappointment, tragedy, trials and loss (amid the joy and happiness, of course)--I can't imagine having lived through any of it with only myself to turn to, trust in, hope in, believe in, cling to. I simply can't imagine such emptiness.

Not knowing much about Ayn Rand, I looked her up on One of things Rand admitted to was "a loathing of Christianity."

I found this quote telling:

"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."

It's appalling to look around and see how Christianity is so despised today. Sadly, much of the fault lies with Christians themselves. If we were truly living out Christ and His Word in our lives, if we were really spreading His love around, the hatred against us might not be so vehement.

Yet there will always be those who despise God and everything He stands for, because they don't want a moral absolute in their lives. They want to be free to live as they please, even if that living is immoral or evil.

All I can say is that if the day ever comes when Amber Heard find that she isn't enough for herself, I hope she knows where to look.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Things to tell you...

What a wonderful three-day weekend! Yesterday, the Swanson clan had a Memorial Day picnic at the family farm. It was wonderful. We have family visiting from California who we rarely see, and it was just a fantastic day.

Now, just some interesting things to pass along to you...

Portraits of Women in Western Art

I thought this was rather fascinating. Hat tip to The Evangelical Outpost.

Creation Museum Draws Protest

The new Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky (near Cincinnati) opened Monday to crowds of supporters and protesters.

I must say, the presence of the protesters puzzles me. Why would someone take the time to go out and protest a museum that supports the idea of creationism? I mean, how does that threaten you or anyone else? I mean, just exactly what hangs in the balance if you don't believe in the theory of evolution? I don't get it. And that sort of anger and violence against something biblical is scary.

One Woman's Weight Loss Journey

No other word for this than inspiring.

Cindy Sheehan "Quits"

She no longer wants to be the "public face against the US-led invasion of Iraq."

Most inspiring

USA Today has come out with its list of the 25 Most Inspiring People of the past 25 years. Surprisingly, Terri Schiavo is one of them...although they spelled her name wrong.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thank the Lord it's FRIDAY!!!!

and, launching Cindy's Book Club!

OK, I know I've been a bad blogger this week. It's just been a really busy week. We have family coming in from California (they're not actually staying with us, but of course you want the house to be in readiness), this is graduation week for the school where my husband is the administrator, we have a wedding to go to tomorrow, etc. But enough excuses. Thankfully, it's Friday, and I'm going to do the Friday Feast:

Name a sound you like to hear.--The sound of my children laughing. They're in their twenties now, but there's no sound that brings me more joy than hearing them laughing and joking together!

What is your favorite kind of cheese?--I think I'd have to say pepperjack. I love it! I don't often buy it, but I ask for it on my sandwiches at Subway. Provolone, Swiss and Colby-Jack are not far behind...

Do you sleep late on Saturday mornings? Why or why not?--Is the Pope Catholic? I sleep till around 9 AM usually, because that is the ONLY day of the week that I don't normally have to set an alarm. On weekdays, I have to get up at 4 AM. Sleeping in on Saturday is a much-anticipated luxury for me.

Main Course
When was the last time you forgot something? What was it, and how long did it take to remember it?--Yesterday. I had a bagful of books that I need to return to the library, and I put them in my car, then spaced it completely as I was doing other errands. I remembered not long after I returned home!

Fill in the blank: I notice ____how beautiful my daughter is________ when __I look at her___________.

Cindy's Book Club

I've just launched a new blog! It's in conjunction with something cool we're trying this summer here at 101QFL. Check out Cindy's Book Club. I like the look of it!

Have a blessed weekend, everyone...and a Happy Memorial Day. My deepest gratitude to all who have fought for our freedom!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

America's Biblical Views are Declining

A poll by the Barna Research Group indicates that Americans are distancing themselves from traditional biblical beliefs.

From the Barna website:

Many of the nation’s core religious behaviors have changed little over the last decade. However, one area that is undergoing change seems to be what Americans believe - as adults in this country distance themselves from traditional biblical perspectives.

According to the poll:

Most Americans still embrace a traditional view of God, but they are less likely than ever to do so. Currently two-thirds of Americans believe that God is best described as the all-powerful, all-knowing perfect creator of the universe who rules the world today (66%). However, this proportion is lower than it was a year ago (71%) and represents the lowest percentage in more than twenty years of similar surveys.

The poll also found that fewer Americans believe that Jesus was sinless, and 10 per cent fewer of them believe you should share your faith.

Any thoughts?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Deborah Raney's Remember to Forget

My interview with Deborah Raney

Deborah Raney's new novel, Remember to Forget, grabs you from paragraph one and doesn't let you go until you've put the book down. In my case, that included some major sleep deprivation, so absorbed was I in the story of Maggie Anderson.

The book opens in the middle of the action: Maggie is being carjacked while on her way to pick up booze for her abusive live-in boyfriend. When it dawns on her that she has more fear of her boyfriend than of this dangerous situation, Maggie also realizes that this may be her chance to escape.

The journey leads her to small-town Kansas, a hurting but compassionate man, and the redemptive love of God. And the tale of that journey is spun so compellingly that you may find this book, as I did, very hard to put down.

I was able to interview Deborah Raney the other day for my radio show, and it was a terrific experience (once we got past some technical glitches that threatened to de-rail the interview!)

Deborah is charming and gracious. Here, I talk with her about how she came to write a novel in which domestic abuse is a factor:

Advice for aspiring writers

Deb's laughing advice to aspiring writers is, "Don't do what I did!"

Deborah Raney is the fiction-writing equivalent of a starlet that gets discovered on a drug-store stool. Although she had writing aspirations as a young Kansas farm-girl, she put them on the back-burner to raise a family. But when it came time to put her son in college, she knew she would have to do something.

So she prayed, and then she sat down and starting writing her first book, A Vow to Cherish. That book was accepted, published, won the 1997 Angel Award for Excellence in Media, and became a movie starring Ken Howard and Barbara Babcock.

Deb says she went into the writing of the book not realizing that there are terrific books, conferences and other resources aimed at helping and instructing the newbie writer--all things that she now encourages aspiring writers to take advantage of.

She just dove right in--and she's the first to give credit to God for her success.

Go to Deborah Raney's website/blog to find out more about her and her books.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

13 of my favorite Christian fiction writers...

These are authors whose books I highly recommend...terrific writers, wonderful storytellers. I have more than 13 favorites, but this is a good start! When you have a moment, click on the author's name to go to their website or a page about them.

I have them in alphabetical order:

Randy Alcorn
Terri Blackstock
Linda Hall
Robin Lee Hatcher
Liz Curtis Higgs
BJ Hoff
Angela Hunt
Jane Kirkpatrick
Nancy Moser
Deborah Raney
Francine Rivers
Lisa Samson
Randy Singer

Happy reading!


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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Christian Carnival Revisited

The Christian Carnival is up

Not long after I entered the blogosphere, I discovered the Christian Carnival. It's a great way to increase your blog's exposure and hopefully gain readership and what is fondly called "link love." I faded out of participation for a while, but I've decided to rejoin the carnival.

You simply submit a post that you wrote during the last seven days. The best way to find out about the guidelines and to be alerted to info about the Christian Carnival is to join this group. You have the option to get alerts in your e-mail.

Today, the Christian Carnival CLXXII is being hosted by Crossroads: Where Faith and Inquiry Meet. Go check out some of the terrific blogs represented.

If you're a Christian blogger, I strongly urge you to participate. I know many bloggers who have wonderful content, but no one (or very few people) are reading their blogs. This is a way to get your blog noticed, and to connect with other worthy blogs. It's a win-win!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell home with the Lord

Jerry Falwell passed away today. He was my father's contemporary, and they attended Bible college together in the late 50's. Although my dad always pastored small churches and Falwell presided over a megachurch and ministry, he was always gracious and kind whenever they crossed paths.

If your image of Falwell is the wild-eyed radical portrayed by the mainstream media, (the haters are already high-fiving each other across the blogosphere) you should read this beautiful tribute to the man by writer Angela Hunt.

Hunt writes:

"I have never met a man more unafraid to speak up for what is right. I have never met a man who believed so confidently and completely in the Word of God. I have never met a man more willing to cut up . . . if the time was right."

The Family Research Council's Tony Perkins writes:

"A man of conviction, he will be missed for his unique ability to speak the truth even in the face of great opposition. He stood stalwartly for the sanctity of life, marriage, faith, and family.... He was a pioneer whose legacy, marked by courage and candor, blazed the trail for all men and women of conviction to engage--boldly--on the great questions of our day. But he was first and foremost a husband, a father and a pastor."

Read more comments here on the death of Jerry Falwell.

What did you say was the baby's name?

The most popular baby names

I have always been fascinated with names and their meanings. Naming my three children--Jonathan, Justin and Elizabeth--was a task undertaken with great care and forethought. I am still just as pleased with those names as I was when we bestowed them. They're classic, non-trendy, and have stood the test of time. (Although I'm not crazy about the tendency everyone, including me, has of shortening Jonathan and Elizabeth. It's pretty much unavoidable.)

Anyway...hat tip to Evangelical Outpost for blogging about a very cool website, especially for those of you who are still naming babies. It's

Quoting the site:

"The Baby Name wizard is the first expert guide to every aspect of baby name style. Created by a name-hunting mom, the book uses ground-breaking research and computer models to pinpoint each name’s image and suggest other promising ideas. From popularity to ethnic origins, religious history to pop culture, the Wizard gives you the straight scoop... and helps you find the perfect name for your family’s unique taste."

The BabyNameWizard site even has a blog, which offers up such fascinating tidbits as this:

"Feeling hemmed in by your choices of Aidans, Cadens, Haydens, Braedens and Jaidyns? Welcome the newest addition to this rhyming family, Zayden -- chosen for 224 American boys in 2006."

Oh, and if you think you're hearing about fewer baby girls named "Katrina," you're right. Apparently the hurricane that devastated the Gulf Coast hasn't been real good for the name's PR.

And a surprise favorite in recent years? Nevaeh. It's "heaven," backwards. Quoting the site:

"It's arguably the biggest name phenomenon of the decade, an out-of-thin air creation that has risen to be the 43rd most popular name for American girls in 2006, more popular than Jennifer."

So what are the most popular baby names in America? According to the Social Security Administration, here are the top choices in 2006:

Emily ----Jacob
Emma -----Michael
Madison --Joshua
Isabella- Ethan
Ava ------Matthew
Abigail --Daniel
Olivia ---Christopher
Hannah ---Andrew
Sophia ---Anthony
Samantha- William

So what did you name YOUR baby? Or what are you planning to name him/her? Let me know in my comments section!
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Monday, May 14, 2007

Focus on Christian Fiction

" can I--a woman who has been called by God to love and obey him first and foremost--how can I write anything less than a story that illustrates his love for mankind? Or that illustrates the reality of what happens to a life that rejects him?"--Angela Hunt

If you've read this blog very much at all, you know that I am an avid reader and proponent of Christian fiction. Anyone who thinks Christian fiction is inferior to mainstream fiction is seriously mistaken. Some of the finest authors writing today are doing so in the genre of Christian fiction.

But is Christian fiction in danger of getting watered down to the point where no clear Christian message is discernible? Not as long as there are writers like Angela Hunt and BJ Hoff. BJ has often blogged about this topic, and Angela Hunt does so in this post, "How explicit is your world view?" Great stuff.

Don't get me wrong...I don't believe Christian fiction has to whomp the reader upside the head with the gospel message. The best Christian fiction writers reflect Christ in their writings with subtlety and grace, but the message is clear.

The Christy Awards

Some of my favorite Christian authors have been nominated for the Christy Award. You'll recognize the names of Lisa Samson and Liz Curtis Higgs from this blog. The Christy Awards are "named in honor of Catherine Marshall’s novel and of her contribution to growth of the fiction Christians love to read."

By the way, I recently re-read "Christy" after many years. I believe I was a teen-ager the last time I read it. And it was just as fresh and wonderful, many years later. If you've never read it, I highly recommend it.

Other stuff...

--A suburban Chicago substitute teacher showed "Brokeback Mountain" to her class of eighth-graders. The Chicago Board of Education is being sued by the guardian of one of the students. My question: WHAT WAS THAT TEACHER THINKING!?!?! Sheesh!

--Did you have a nice Mother's Day? I did. But Darren Marlar and I were both scratching our heads when a listener called in to let us know that her daughter, who lives out of town, TEXT-MESSAGED "Happy Mommy's Day" to her yesterday. That was it. The mom had the grace to laugh about it, but she pointed out, "Hey, she had the phone in her hand, but didn't take the time to call." Yep...she text-messaged.

--At least Melodee's little daughter had a heartfelt comment for her mom yesterday:

”Mom, I wish you were a fishstick because then I could eat you!”

I love it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday's Feast

Once again, coming to the end of a rather tiring week, and my brain is fried. So I'm doing the Friday Feast, and I welcome you to do it as well!

Oh...the pic is, of course, of my beloved grandson Payton with his uncle, my son Justin. I just love the look on Payton's face here!

Tell about a time when you had to be brave.--Probably when my dad was dying. I guess I didn't think of it as being "brave" per se, but seeing my dad get sicker and the impact it had on my mom and my family was unknown territory for me.

Which upcoming movie are you excited about seeing?--Wow...I can't think of anything right now!


Name an item you try to always have on hand.--Bread. And milk. Oh, and some sort of fruit. Right now I have bananas and grapes.

Main Course
Imagine the most relaxing room you can think of. Now describe it!--I would love to be in a room with large windows looking out on the ocean. Big, comfortable easy chairs...a fireplace for the winter and nice lighting when it's dark. But the ocean view...that would be the most relaxing thing. I love the look and sound of the ocean. Too bad I'm landlocked!

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being highest), how spiritual or religious are you?--I'm not sure about putting it on a scale, but my relationship with Christ is essential to my life. I can't imagine living without it. I'm not saying I'm good or saintly in any way...just that my faith is everything to me.

Have a blessed weekend, and Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thirteen Things I Love About My Mom

(Originally posted May 2006)

In no particular order...

1) Her name, Cynthia, which she passed on to me (much to my appreciation.)

2) Her beautiful green eyes

3) Her smile--it's dazzling and can light up a room

4) The fact that she doesn't dress in "old lady" clothes

5) The way she would defend her kids to the death

6) Her's incredibly neat and pretty

7) Her cooking--no one can fix a roast, or beef stew, or chicken fried steak as good as she can. Don't even tell me about any other chicken fried steak; hers rules.

8) Her genuine love of the Lord

9) The fact that she's a prayer warrior

10) Listening to her sing around the house. She can get so HIGH (vocally, I mean!)!

11) Her wonderful storytelling ability...she really should write a children's book

12) The way she's so disciplined...why didn't I inherit that?

13) The many ways she shows her love to me

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Justin's trip to Texas

My son Justin just returned Monday from a trip to Texas to see his new nephew, Payton. It was the first time he had gotten to meet the baby. I sent my digital camera with him, with instructions to take lots of pictures...and he didn't disappoint! Here are just a few.

Payton in a Cubs outfit bought by his aunt Elizabeth.

Justin also took a few short videos with my camera, and those were priceless. OK...enough grandma-bragging for now, I guess!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Eight Random Things about Me

I've been tagged by the wonderful author Deborah Raney (who I hope to interview soon!) for this Eight Random Things about Me meme. Here goes...

1. I spent two years in Beirut, Lebanon, when I was a child (my parents were missionaries.) The picture you see is of Beirut, and it is remarkably like my first impression of the city from our ship. As a litte girl I was immediately enchanted by the beauty of the place, which was not yet marred by war.

2. In the fifth grade, while in Lebanon, I got to help interview astronaut John Glenn. (I've blogged about the experience here.)

3. My favorite book of all time, not including the Bible which goes without saying, is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.

4. I had all three of my children by Cesarean section, and all of my children were born in the 80's.

5. I used to collect Coca-Cola stuff; I still have quite a lot of it, but I'm not currently displaying it in my home, and I'm even thinking about selling it on E-bay.

6. I am quite good at calligraphy.

7. I can do a very good impression of Dolly Parton singing "Jolene."

8. I am a voice-over artist, and my voice can be heard on tutorials for several computer programs, including Windows Vista Media Center.

I'm not tagging anyone, but if you choose to do the meme on your blog, let me know and I'll link to it!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Listen to my blog

It was Rodney Olsen of The Journey who gave me the idea of adding sound to my blog.
Rodney is, like me, a Christian radio personality, although he lives and broadcasts in the Land Down Under. He started using to add sound clips to his blog, and I thought that was a great idea.

So now, when I interview someone for my radio show, I will often add a sound clip or two here. I try to make them short, because I know people don't have the time or patience to hunker down for a long interview. I have no idea how many people actually listen to them. If you ever do or have, would you mention it in my comments section?

Anyway, for your listening pleasure, I'm re-posting a few sound clips from the archives.

Katrina survivor pastor Don Elbourne

From a poignant August 24, 2006 interview with Mississippi pastor Don Elbourne, whose church was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. (2 min. 14. sec.)

9/11 Survivor Sujo John

From a September 6, 2006 interview with 9/11 survivor Sujo John (6 min. 23 sec.):

Author/blogger Justin Taylor

From an October 6th, 2006 interview with author and blogger Justin Taylor about a book he co-wrote with John Piper, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God:

Chip Flaherty of WaldenMedia

From a February 23, 2007 interview with Chip Flaherty of WaldenMedia on bringing Narnia to life on the big screen (1 min. 12 sec):

You can go here to listen to more of my sound clips.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

A fabulous Mother's Day contest...


Those amazing women at 5 minutes for mom are hosting a fabulous Mother's Day contest. I've entered to win an iPod...I never win anything, but who knows? :) Anyway, you can click on the button to find out more.

I do the Friday Feast

It's been a while since I've done the Friday Feast meme, and I'm plumb out of anything meaningful to blog about, so here goes!

By the way, the pic is of my adorable grandson Payton, courtesy of my dear daughter-in-law. He happens to be in one of the answers, but I take any opportunity I can to show him off!

Name something you would not want to own.--A pet pig. To me, a pig is a pig is a pig, and I just would not want one in my house. (Sorry, pig-lovers!)

Describe your hair (texture, color, length, etc.).--OK...I have dark brown hair that is now plagued by encroaching gray, so I color it every few months. Right now, it's a little longer than shoulder-length. It's naturally curly and has always been very abundant, but I've noticed it's now thinning a little in my old age. It has always driven me crazy. I tame it now with huge curling irons and straightening irons, but the only time I every felt really great about it was in the 80's. The 80's was all about big, curly hair, and I could do big, curly hair! I have never had a permanent in my life.

Finish this sentence: I’ll never forget _becoming a granmother the night of January 31st! What an amazing feeling.__________.

Main Course
Which famous person would you like to be for one day? Why?--Hmmm...that's a good one! Maybe Mrs. Bill Gates? Not because I have a crush on Bill, but I'd like to know for at least one day what it feels like to have NO money worries at all! By the way, under no circumstances would I ever want to be a man, even for a minute.

Write one sentence about yourself that includes one thing that is true and another thing that is not. --I could easily live without chocolate, and I'm passionate about reading.

(And if you believe that first part of the sentence, I've got some swampland in Florida to sell you!)

Have a blessed weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

13 Famous People named Cindy or Cynthia

1) Model Cindy Crawford
2) Actress Cindy Williams
3) Model (?) Cindy Margolis
4) Actress/dancer Cynthia Rhodes
5) Actress Cynthia Nixon
6) Designer Cynthia Rowley
7) Politician Cynthia McKinney
8) Former Beatle wife Cynthia Lennon
9) Activist Cindy Sheehan
10) Columnist Cindy Adams
11) (Spelling varition) Singer Cyndi Lauper
12) Christian singer Cindy Morgan
13) "Ferris Bueller" actress Cindy Pickett

And a bonus: A song by Tammany Hall called "Cindy"--see this animated version.

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The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Way-back Wednesday

What I was blogging about a year ago...

Continuing my tradition of delving into the archives of Notes in the Key of Life, here's what I was blogging about a year ago...originally posted May 1, 2006:

"take a permanent vacation. you're blog is boring. you write like your cinderella on acid. or june cleaver. you must wear rose-colored glasses a lot."

That was a comment left on the post in which I had explained that I was taking a blogging break while on vacation. Obviously, someone is not a huge fan of my blog. The same person (hello--you leave your IP address when you leave a comment!) left a few other fairly hostile comments on other posts as well.

I had to laugh. First of all, the "Cinderella on acid" comment was genuinely funny to me. But the other reason is because, as a rule, I'm not the most optimistic person in the world.

I have a lot of Irish in me...and it's common knowledge that it's typically Irish to either be in a jubilant mood or be in the pits of a black depression. Maybe I'm not quite that extreme, but I do battle times of being really down in the dumps.

I honestly didn't realize that my blog comes across quite differently. I guess it can often seem somewhat light and trivial, although I firmly maintain that it is often quite serious as well. I could give you concrete proof in the form of links to various posts, but I won't bother.

Quite frankly, I do find it odd that someone would take the time to leave such hostile messages on a blog. If you don't like reading it, that's your perogative, right? Just click elsewhere.

Anyway...what's so wrong with rose-colored glasses? I'm not talking about denial here--it's foolish to duck reality, of course. But I believe we all know how awful everything is. Why wallow in it? Why not try to put a positive spin on things? What's so wrong with trying to have a good attitude about life? What's so bad about trying to make someone smile?

I guess I think it wouldn't hurt to put on those rose-colored glasses every once in a while.

By the way, if any of you would like to join me in Way-back Wednesday and post something you blogged a year ago this week, let me know and I'll link you here!
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