Thursday, November 20, 2014

Self Doubt

What do you do when self-doubt overwhelms you? Please tell me.

I received one of those letters yesterday. So far I only shared the contents with a friend over dinner. A friend going through her own troubles. Who couldn't offer me anything as she is riddled with SD herself.

I spent a week in September putting all the paperwork together for a grant application, excerpts, letters of reference, past successes. Wads of paper. These Grant Givers don't believe in the interwebz. I was fairly confident I'd get it. It wasn't very much, enough to tide me through final novel completion, editing, first readership feedback, etc.

I didn't expect to be demolished IF they turned me down. Note the big IF. I didn't believe that big IF for a second.

But they did. By letter (quaint, right?). Yesterday. Blah. Blah. I know the drill of these letters.

And yesterday and today I lose the faith and tell myself you are one shitty writer living in fecking fantasy land.

I am way too old to be a starving artist living in a garret reusing my teabag 99 times and fighting the dog for bits of kibble once a day.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Raining and Pouring

It has been very mild outside but the lashings of rain are matching my mood.

I've been over-peopled in the last while and desperately needed downtime so I grabbed it today.

I wanted to do mindless for the whole day. I watched Season 2 of The Good Wife and read my latest book and pushed some tiles around virtual Lexulous while looking for sheep farmers on the peninsula as a favour for a journalist friend. I never said my life was dull, did I?Through FB I assembled a whole bunch of sheep farmers, some of whom I know face to face along with their baa-baas (sorry). It's a tough business to be in and the invasion of coyotes - I hear they hang off the ferries to get here and then hide on the trucks on board - has made survival of the lambs an iffy prospect and an enormous challenge for farmers.

Then I get one of those emails, you know the ones that make your heart stop. I hadn't returned a call (I am phone-phobic at the mo) and it turns out the friend who had called is facing a life and death surgery this week and asked another friend to let me know. *hang head*.

It's rough on her and on all out there who face such incredible odds.

And, selfishly, I don't know whether I can take any more of such bits of "news". There should be another word for it.

The penalties of aging.

And yeah, I know, Dad.

You did warn me.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hit and Miss

English Harbour Newfoundland.

In my nearly 10 years of thought plops here I don't think I've neglected my blog for so long. My blog is hurt. One might say our relationship is rocky at best, distant at worse. And in the course of this flagrant disregard I'm neglecting its buddies too.

I hasten to make some amends. I miss all the readings, the debates, the differences of opinion my blogiverse offers.

Busy is a word I dropped from my lexicon. Extremely negative connotations. Not to mention how I overused it in the many years behind me.

It's meaningless and helpless and well, irritating. And I only became aware of it when others, who take on far too much, overuse it. Like I did. As if it were an answer. Well no, it isn't.

OK. My plate hath runneth over with much. Much to celebrate, and much to grieve too.

I was at a wonderful gala with Daughter and a dear friend to celebrate a wee publication. Now that was fun.

And the following day I attended a wonderful convention/retreat where my door ticket won what I thought was a basket full of all those delicious smellies we never buy for ourselves. But no it wasn't that. It was the entire enormous table load covered in goodies like movie passes and books and movies and crystal bowls and homemade scarves and socks and wooden carved treasures. I will photograph it when I lay it all out on my own large dining room table. Solstice arrived in two enormous bags. And I made a new friend. You know how that is when one is young but I am old and I made a new friend. She is nearly old too and rides a Harley and carves wooden treasures and writes. I am talking chronological age not spirit age but you know that.

I was off up north giving workshops and planning more - we are having glorious weather here on the island. Sweater weather. Hiking weather. Clean out the lungs weather. Breathe in and out weather. Gratitude weather I call it. See picture above.

And yes, working away on the writing. And the old muse, my Scriobhnarin comes and goes. But never, ever on my time table. She's aloof that way.

And my wee village is having its first town hall gathering today. I am looking forward to this open forum for presentation of ideas and connection with other residents.

And some dear friends struggle on with their health challenges. All enormous challenges. All of their precious spirits dear to my heart. And I am mindful of them everywhere I go.

I am out and about for four rather than for just me.

I love you all so very much.

Helen, Irene and Dianne.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Diamonds and Stones

I'm back again.

First of all the stone:

We had some nasty stuff happening in CBC Canada - our national partially tax funded broadcaster - when a very popular male host of one internationally popular programme "Q" was outed as a sexual predator par excellence. It turns out he'd been abusing women for nearly thirty years. Horribly. Hitting interns on the head, etc. etc., beating girlfriends around and filming the acts. It has opened up a can of worms for women very rarely seen in this quiet, polite little land of ours. I won't link to all of it here BUT if you Google "Jian Ghomeshi" you will get a shyteload of disgusting and upsetting material. Trigger Warning.

Then the diamond:

It has opened up a dialogue about the rape culture and feminism the likes of which I've never seen before. Women coming forward, like myself, to discuss their own sexual assaults, hidden because of the hopelessness of dragging the cases through court and rarely succeeding and meanwhile wrecking one's own life in the process. Some of my blog friends have also come forward. Rape and sexual assaults are breathtaking in their scope and seeing the final light of day on so much of it is validating and heartening and so very wonderful. To breathe the air of truth again is so very powerful. As is the solidarity. I truly believe I don't have one single close female friend who hasn't been sexually assaulted or molested or any one of the filthy perversions of it and just kept quiet. Often as a child. Like I was. Or as an adult again I kept quiet. We've been trained to do this, keep quiet, be nice, don't say dirty things. He didn't mean it. Or better yet - he'll make life hell for you. I wasn't believed or heard and told to shut up. No more.

This whole horrible secret and depraved sexual violence of the CBC's cash cow has been split wide open. Much like Jimmy Savile and the BBC.

We just didn't have to wait till JG was dead before it was out there for all to see.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thank you!

The scene on the shore opposite my house

Thank you!
For just being out there.
For all your wonderful comments.
For the support.
For the cheering squad.
For the writerly buddies I have out there in blogland.

Just thank you!

PS. They hit bogland and marsh next door when they dug and dug so they decided to drain. And drain. It involved moving tons of earth, tons of rock. Disruption, noise, earthen brown dust everywhere. And the inn on the other side of them and me on this side? Not one word of apology or "excuse us." Old merchant family, hat-tipping peasants.

Oh did I mention the noise? Dozers, trucks, scraping, pounding, lifting, moving.

It's hard to believe I came here for peace. And some days are very much worse than others with the constant banging and chugging. It reminds me a lot of when I lived next door to a railway station. But noisier. I still jump when one of the trucks bangs against the rocks as it offloads another load onto the shore.

On the good side - weather has been wonderful, Gonzolo ignored us and the book is coming together. And I have homemade pea-soup on the stove. And earbuds. And I'm booked to give a writing workshop.

And my nerves? Edgy. If I could have afforded it I would have gone away for a week or two to finish the book. Anywhere quiet and restful, like downtown Toronto.

I plan to read YOUR blogs.

Very soon.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Check In

OK. So there's a first reader delay of this novel to the end of the month. October 31st it will be ready. Today went well. Some days haven't. Noise. Diggers to be specific. Land that has lain fallow beside my property is being clear cut and shovelled away. Huge tunnels are being burrowed all the way to China. Ready for a monster home and monster shed. I grieved the trees. Hundreds of them massacred. There's no land use legislation out here on the edge of the Atlantic. You can do what you want. Changes need to be made. Obviously. And I will make them. Or, you know, die trying.

And the noise level? My dears. Some days were worse than others up there in the Tigeen. But today, I keep focussing on today, it was a very good day. I flayed the prior challenges, got ruthless with excess, trimmed the dialogue, expanded other sections. Cried. I cry at the sad parts. Always. And croon along with Ella to the happies.

Now I'm reviewing all the notes, all the workshop scribbles, all the annotations I made on the public readings I did of the chapters. This is the dog work. And the little envelopes and index cards with quick jottings made on planes and trains and boats and in cafes? Use. Discard. It is chaotic, this final stage.

And I do hope the noise will abate next door. It is not conducive to scholarly and intense perusal. Ha!

Thanks for hanging in there with me. Especially to my first readers.

I think to myself: If I didn't write I'd go mental.


My alternate universe keeps me sane.

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Sunday, October 05, 2014

On hiatus


Saturday, October 04, 2014

Taking Down the Scaffolding Part 2

See Part 1 here.

By scaffolding I mean memories. Pieces of the memory banks no longer shared with the participants. And my friend Allen held a chunk of joint memories.

I met him and his family through his sister, Judy, a dear friend. But I'll back up even further on the lives of the Butons (last name changed to protect their anonymity).

They were staunch Quebecers. And in that gifted way of most Quebecers spoke both English and French fluently.

The first tragedy in their family befell them when Judy was 13, Allen was 15 and their baby brother, Michel, was 3. Their father went off to hunt in the woods one Saturday morning and killed himself in their cabin with his own shotgun. No note. No reason. Just a legacy of puzzlement and grief and anger and despair.

Their mother, Cecile, had to go outside the home and find work just about immediately as Papa had left them virtually bankrupt.

Allen worked part-time to help the family and also attended college for a business degree and then started up his own small company.

He then married his high school sweetheart who had sustained him during the crisis of his father's death.

There was an economic meltdown in Quebec in the eighties (most Quebec based English businesses and head offices moved to Ontario during that period due to the enforcement of the French language by the language police).

It broke the Butons' hearts to leave their birth province but they did. The impact of so many corporations abandoning Quebec for Ontario put Allen's own small business (an import/export) in jeopardy so they "jumped ship". Successfully as it turned out.

To be continued.

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Thursday, October 02, 2014

Taking Down the Scaffolding.

I don't know whether anyone else feels this way. Like any time a friend dies there's another piece of their scaffolding taken down?

Maybe I'm weird that way? But I imagine that if I started out as a building, mine would be a higgledy-piggledy one, bright colours, odd windows with a bit of a tower (for reading) and a grand piano in the foyer with a solitary lamp. I saw a hall like that once when I'd run Forest Hill at night in Toronto near where I lived. I loved that house with its stark meaningful space in an otherwise busy home.

I have lots of doors, French doors, a half-door like an Irish cottage, a garden door with a shelf. a storm door like the real one I have out front, especially built for me by a craftsman recently. For battening down the hatches.

My building is always under construction but never finished. Held together by beautiful scaffolding. Mixed colours, blue, red, purple, bright silly green, laughing yellow.

And when there's a death of a loved one, a chunk of scaffolding detaches and there's a slight upheaval in the building, maybe a tilt to the right or the left or a subsidence. A couple of bricks falling down or a window popping out.

My scaffolding just had a major chunk taken out of it. No, not my Irish friend. This one took me from left field and I'm still processing.

I will write about him when my breath comes back and I can do him justice. He would never have thought he was a hero. But he was to me.

My building's at a weird angle.

I need to take time to shore up the foundations.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

The General Dumbing Down of the Human Race

Grumpy Geezer Gripes.

I give you this:

Pods. Kuerig machines et al. Coffee Pods.

It seems like everyone's into da pods.

Did you know that pods, environmental harm be damned, increase the price of your pound of the most expensive java by THREE TIMES. Yeah, 3 times. Plus disposing of those little cups into the landfill/ocean/air. Take your pick. Because: Nothing is recyclable. Think about it.

And on to washing machines and dishwashers.

Pods. More than twice the price of your regular cardboard box of detergent when you work out the poundage and load usage(always overestimated in the pods -h'm I wonder why?).

And they all need spiffy containers of their very, very own.

And oopsy! they poison children because they look like candy! And yes, elders beware. Because grandchildren!)

And premeasured lotioned arsewipes in a pop-up plastic box for those disdaining toilet paper. Septic system or stinky garbage can or sewer-ocean disposal? - take your pick again.

Like some of us can't be arsed to measure our coffee or detergent or toilet paper.

Or have lost the ability.

Or we're so far into idiocy that we're more to be pitied than blamed.

More grinding nasty labour for the Third World.

Less thinking for the so-called First.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014


It's odd this. But I have 3 places to stay in France. Free. And other distant places too, truth be known. And I can't afford the travel costs. Not just the airfare, though that would be a bit of a slice of money. But travelling around once I reach the destination. And food. And wee giftees. It all adds up. Until I have the bestseller. Ha.

Then another friend has decided to spend her fortune when she retires renting exotic places around the world for a month or two and then inviting her close friends to visit her and stay as long as they wanted. All they'd have to pay are their airfares and then head for Patagonia or Hong Kong or the Outer Hebrides where she'd be. Food and shelter provided. Again, I have to laugh. Airfares being a huge chunk of change for this pensioner.

A beloved niece sent me a lovely note about her upcoming wedding. Advance warning. A year in fact. To please be there. I'm going to try. I'd like to be there as I'm extremely fond of her. As I am of all my nieces.

The more I read of elders' writing (mainly solitary women, but some men) the more I realize how many of us are impoverished. Dreading expensive dental work or intensive house repairs or increases in rent or a new car. On the edge of financial catastrophe so to speak. Travel is in the class of bon-bon, a frippery.

I'm not complaining, in case you think I am. Not at all. I have my health, my writing and the odd wee fee for workshops, etc. And my knitting. And my photo-cards. And my books. And my darling Tigeen with a bonus of some rentals thrown my way.

And I buy the very best coffee beans. Always. One thing in my life is simply not negotiable.

Luxurious living is all in the mind.

And excellent coffee helps.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Blog Friends

Over the years I've made a few good friends through this blog. It's extraordinary this world of the internetz and webz isn't it?

I've exchanged personal emails, offered and been given support and meeting some in the flesh too has only affirmed the on-line friendships. In every single case. Remarkable that, yeah?

Yesterday, in the mail, I received a gift of handmade soaps from a good blog friend in the USA. No further identity will I provide to maintain her privacy.

Beautiful soaps. Something I wouldn't normally buy as they would be a bit out of the old league, price wise.

I'm thinkin' I must knit her some Newfoundland dishcloths.

Thank you lovely lady!

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Story to Dine Out On.

My brother tells this true story. Every time I think of it I burst out laughing. Now, you might have to be Irish to get the humour in it but I'll take my chances as the story truly deserves the light of a bigger audience.

Bro is an engineer and would travel a lot up and down Ireland. You might think being an engineer would be an awful bore of an old job. But no. It had its moments.

He was up in the backside of Mayo one day and was running out of petrol and he found this old shop off the beaten track with a petrol pump outside and pulled in. An oul fellah came out, a dirty, greasy oul fellah and filled up the car.

"Where would I get a bite to eat?" sez Bro, noting it was well past his lunch time and he was starving.

"Ah, sure, I can take care of yez," sez Yer Man.

So Bro follows Yer Man into the shop which reflected the condition of Yer Man himself. It hadn't seen a duster or a wipe down since God was an altar boy.

"I'll be fixing yez up so, a good thick sammich," sez Yer Man, hauling out a big round of brown soda bread and slapping it on the filthy counter. Next, he retrieves a huge slab of ham from somewhere and Bro notes it is crawling with bluebottles (big flies). Yer Man then goes into a drawer and selects a rusty, dusty carving knife and with a flourish pulls out a filthy rag from his back pocket and proceeds to wipe down the knife.

It's at this point in the proceedings that he catches the appalled look on Bro's face. Completely misinterpreting the look as approval for how well he's conducting his lunch preparation, he says proudly:

"Arragh I'm a hoor for the hygiene."

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Jazz Writin'

Charlie Parker.

Diana Krall.

Ella Fitzgerald

Peggy Lee

Thelonius Monk.

Oscar Peterson.

Today I was up in the Tigeen writing some complicated dialogue that needed to read well and effortlessly.

Normally I just listen to the sound of the ocean, its distant soughing on the stones of the beach, trees sighing and rustling around me, birds flitting mindful of my privacy.

But today I tried a jazz soundtrack in the background. I created a playlist for the book I'm winding up. My protagonist is a jazz singer in the style of Peggy/Ella evolving towards Diana. And I wanted the rhythm of jazz in the talk. If that makes sense.

And I was surprised.

It worked.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

September Month

First blasty winds of winter scoop down today, shovelling leaves from trees, flattening the blades of grass to a green ocean, scattering the cornflowers.

Shoulds crowd my head. I should make rosehip jam. I should paint the spare bedroom.

Oh yeah, and deadline for first readership lineup of book looms ever closer. I should be editing, should be fixing that last chapter.

But I worry. Next door they are burn-clearing a hill. Smoke hangs like a pall over everything and then gets scooped up by the wind and filters through windows and doors and lurks, gasping, over the bay until the wind snarls it up again and throws it against distant houses.

What if?

I run to the post office to send back some library books. So I don't have to look at the flames licking the vast hill about 500 metres from my house. But I smell it even 5 km away.

Yeah, they ran hoses across my property as a precaution. I gave them permission for this. But the fire starters/carers are about 12 years old. How would they know anything about flame-killing if the trees catch? Or maybe it will leap across the grass over the fence and on to my house?


Now unfounded.

Day is done.

The winds are intense and noisy but warm.

I will take the dog for a walk along the shore. As is our wont at this time of day. I love watching the waves pound up the cliff on the other side of the bay and then fall back exhausted.

Much like me.

Worrying about nothing knocks me right out.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014


When I was growing up emotional extremes were a defect of character. As if I could change my intrinsic nature. Even though at times I wanted, badly, to toughen up.

Yes, I feel life too intensely. And my feelings are often worn on my sleeve. Or shut away so tightly (you might see the real me, you know) that it hurts.

Like those quilts in the wake-room. All hand created by my friend Patricia. Thrown over every surface, every chair. Every piece of scattered fabric in her life tied together so beautifully, so creatively. Colours of the land and the ocean and the boats and the wonderful drenching of colour that residents flood their buildings with. All you had to say was "I wish I had one of your quilts" and next thing, she was on your doorstep with one.

Picasso is honoured. Why aren't these handcrafters of such beauty so respected? Women's work of course. There should be many female only art galleries, flooded with the colours of the creations of artists like Patricia. With knitting and embroidery and weavings and crochet and lace. And many, many quilts.

It seemed like my floodgates opened today. I had been locking so many tears inside me, for what seemed like a month or two.

It was Jennifer Johnston who started it. I am reading "The Gingerbread Woman". And it struck chords. And more chords.

Life is about loss, isn't it? Mainly the loss of what went before. What formed us. What ignited us. What sustained us. What we leave behind. She writes of this like no other I've read.

And I had myself a really good cry.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Humble Heroes

I wrote about her here she's one of those dear ones locked in my heart who will forever inspire me.

Today she lies in her casket up in the wake-room of the church. I haven't visited yet. Though I will. The finality of death is never more enforced than in a wake-room with an open casket and yes, I'm deferring the moment.

She was a dignified, pretty woman who kept her light under a bushel. Always superbly dressed even in a tracksuit for her road training.

"Hush," she'd say to me when I'd congratulate her on yet another Tely 10. She hated being in the limelight.

She had 9 children, all university graduates. Her husband was twenty years older than her and died in his nineties. She would speak of how wonderful he was. It always brought back my granny's advice of being with a man twenty years older: "Better be an old man's darling than a young man's slave." And Granny lived it also, being married at 18 to a man of 38.

Patricia hated being alone and could never understand my desire and choice to live in such a manner.

"I was born lonely," she said to me more than once as we played cards, "From then on I always wanted company".

Rest in peace, Patricia.

You never did believe me when I told you that you are one of my stars.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mind Control

I'm up at the Tigeen. Replete with deadlines. Replete. What a great word. Let me think about that for a minute or two.

I say to Leo a few hours ago as he shoots up and down the back 40 7+acres - please bring up a few logs to the Tigeen, it's a fire lighting day and I'm nearly fresh out. Leo nods, agrees and then ignores me. He does this a lot. I have to accept it. On his own time. And here he is now.....

As I pondered the shortfall of wood for the wee stove I thought: I have a lot of old wool there, I should knit a carrier for wood. Wool and wood. With a long wood handle. Open ended. Something to design and make up here when my muse, Scriobhnarin, flees. As she has done.

Knitting pushes the writing around, fills my head with fresh thoughts and approaches. I need to read, edit, add notes, descriptions, fill in the voids of symphonic phraseology(!). Attempt lyricism. Knitting plays the counterpoint to this.

And Sister gave me a brand new knitting bag when I was back home.

As if I don't have enough already.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Lemony Prune Mouth

I have to watch myself.

A dear friend maintains that as we get older our character defects become more emphasised and more entrenched.

Evidence corroborates.

If you're messy and cluttered the habits get worse as the energy dissipates with which to deal with them. The debris piles up in the face of decreased desire and perhaps a lifelong ennui. Whatever the cause.

I have to watch my inner judgemental self .

Particularly around drunks.

I was at a dinner party Saturday night. I should have left earlier than I did. Before it descended into loud arguments and hot debates and facets of friends that turn antagonistic/weepy/belligerent/ridiculous. Take your pick.

None of them will remember any of it in the morn. But I will. Alone in my rigid sobriety. Apart from one other. Who also engages in these mindless debates. He hosts and can't go to bed and leave his living room to an iffy scenario of mess and slop.

I sometimes have difficult with timing. Part of me doesn't want to desert the sinking ship of drunken debate and leave him alone on his island of sobriety.

And for a while, before the ocean of booze tips everyone into incoherence, the chat and food are enthralling and interesting.

And then.

Timing is everything. I can't seem to assess the best time to leave.

I think: I can't believe these people, all in their sixties, still behave like frat boys/girls when it comes to booze.

And I feel my mouth prune up and inner tut-tuts bang around in my head.

But I do manage to escape before the spliffs get passed around.

Not that anyone notices.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Over the Edge and Into Laughter

Seriously. My house is a construction zone. Grit covers my floors, my windows have been semi-replaced (11 of them), wet paint hangs off doors and foundations, thingies are propped open or shut. Bins of debris surround the house, abandoned scaffolding lines the deck. The only living beings who enjoy this mess are the blue jays who patrol the railings and dive bomb the bird feeders. And that's just the front of the house.

At the back of the house Leo is sawing wood for the winter. He treks up the hill into the woodlot with his noisy ATV and trailer and drags down logs and chain-saws them into stove-shapes.

And then: friends I haven't seen in 10+ years show up from Ontario, I'm very easily found on this island. Ask in most shops on the Avalon Peninsula and you'll get excellent directions. Normally I don't mind and this has happened a few times in the past.

But today? It was a chaos of hammering, stamping, banging, sawing, dragging, accompanied by indoor window fixings, dust flying everywhere and debris crunching underfoot.

On top of all this, Ansa watchdogged like a mad thing trying to keep track of all the invaders and barking while protecting me by sitting on my feet and glaring and sniffing and yapping at Those Who Dared Enter the Holy of Holies.

Timing? Sweet Jeebus. Couldn't be better.

And speaking of Jeebus.

My friends had found Him a few years ago.

And wanted to share the Good News.

It was then I broke all the way down and laughed and laughed like a lunatic.

A tonic, I tell ya, a tonic.

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