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Why Oh Why #AtoZChallenge

Oh, why oh why do I love it so?

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Well, let me count the ways.

The A to Z Challenge – O is for Ontario

This province is located, nicely, centred in the middle of Canada, between the west and eastern provinces and the north.

I have had a good life here, growing up out in the country, surrounded by farmer’s fields and the agriculture of the area.

I have family living in Ontario’s capital, Toronto.

I’ve got family in eastern Ontario, near the border with Quebec.

My favourite Niagara Falls, tourist spot that it is, but I love it so.

I love Toronto for its hustle and bustle of the big city.

I love The Forrest City.

The town where I live isn’t much, but it’s mine.

We have our issues, small town and big city, but overall this is a pretty nice place to live.

Up north we have some of the most beautiful landscape there is, known as Cottage Country.

We have Great Lakes and rivers. We have islands and Georgian Bay.

I want to travel and see so many places, but I always return back to Ontario, my home.

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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TToT: Mid April and Easter Update #Easter #10Thankful

“No matter what happens, people need to get their stories out. Sometimes I think this is my life’s work: bearing witness, and helping others to bear witness. Bear witness, expel torment, see the red cardinal in the bare tree.”

–Carrie Snyder, “Red cardinal in bare tree”

One of my favourite writers, Canadian writers, and she speaks on what my writing mentor told me, as I grew more comfortable with my own writer status.

We who write, who call ourselves writers live as such. We are constantly observing the world around us, to write it all down when the time is right.

This week’s TToT is a little or a lot muddled all-over-the-place, kind of like my own life right now.

Ten Things of Thankful

I am thankful for the chance to see myself in the media.

Check out this commercial. This girl has a YouTube channel and she is a public speaker, on Canadian television.

I believe it is important that the world sees that beauty and these products mean just as much to those of us living with a disability in the world.

I am thankful I could help my sister.

She has stuff to do to get ready for a friend’s wedding next month and she finds it hard to get a lot of it done at home, as she always becomes distracted by stuff that needs to get done around her house.

At mine, I could hold the baby and she could work. Not a bad deal.

I am thankful for yet another helpful violin lesson.

I picked up the second line to Minuet 3 easier than I thought. I really do love this song.

It did require me to use my fourth finger, which is not strong at all. It is difficult to stretch a fourth on the string.

I am thankful for a lovely Easter surprise from my friendly new neighbour.

I was not expecting the gesture of beautifully wrapped chocolates, in tissue paper, with a bow.

She wrote a lovely note with it.

I am thankful for another enlightening episode of Anne.

This one revealed more about characters like Gilbert. This is better than I could have imagined. I love knowing more about people, even fictional people.

I am thankful for the beautifully written verbal audio descriptions on several Canadian television channels, like the CBC when I’m trying to watch an Anne episode.

“The Woman is elegantly dressed and has a kind face.”

I am thankful Canada got something before the U.S. for a change.

Yeah, I said it.

I didn’t realize this one is the same one premiering on Netflix soon.

Either way, it should appear first on Canadian television, as it is our story after all.

I am thankful for women in history who made Canada better.

A novel idea for the 19th century: women are capable of talking about serious issues – Who is Kit?
        
I am thankful I could find out that there seems to be no problem with my plans to try zip lining.

My fear was that they would be hesitant to let anyone try it who is blind. So far, according to the woman I spoke to and her manager, if I will be with a group it shouldn’t be an issue.

I am thankful for the rain and for the warming April weather.

Spring is in the air and you can feel it.

I am thankful for Easter chocolate.

I don’t know what I think about religion. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the world powers, drunk on their desperation for even more. I don’t know what I am doing in my own life even.

I do know I am thankful.

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Bullets and Bones, #Vimy100 #AtoZChallenge

Nope. Even though the title of today’s post might suggest I have forgotten what letter we are at with this April challenge, I assure you that I haven’t.

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I heard it on a series about Canada and I thought it makes the point.

The A to Z Challenge – H is for History

That famous quote:

“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it”

I believe that wholeheartedly. I don’t ignore. I listen and I learn.

A lot of history is bullets and bones. Wars seem to be all we talk about when we speak of historical events and the bones of those who have gone before us, who lost lives, they are everywhere.

The series I was watching spoke of the War of 1812 and the battles between the United States and the Canada that wasn’t quite Canada yet, but a colony of Great Britain. So much colonialism throughout history.

What year did Canada become its own country?

I am a big history buff. I focus on wars too, though I despise them and all they have ever been about.

I do not like to refer to the United States of America because I do not approve of how the country started, by actively attempting to take the entire continent of North America for themselves. They wanted what is now Canada, the Canada that I love. Sure, when I listen and learn about that war, one often neglected, I think of what would have happened if the U.S. had won the war. What would be, where my country now lies?

The U.S. wanted all the land. They fought British and Natives, in what is now the Detroit and Windsor area, Niagara, Toronto, and all along borders we now hold dear.

There were battles fought where the capital city of Toronto now sits. We don’t now realize. Bones are buried there.

There has been remembrance ceremonies here in Canada and over in France. April 9th, 1917 was the start of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. And 100 years on. That, it is said, is where young Canada became a country, but fierce debate about just whose war they were fighting caused great tensions between French and English-speaking Canadians at the time, a set of tensions that still exists, in some ways, today.

Many died and were wounded for that fighting. I don’t look fondly on such a thing, but I try to respect the lives that were lost. Many bodies buried in fields in northern France. I am emotional about history. I don’t know any other way.

***This is my first year of joining the A to Z Challenge and so I’ve decided to post randomly, as a way for new visitors to my blog to get to know me a little better. I look forward to discovering some interesting new blogs too.

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I Don’t Like Hockey, #AtoZChallenge

I am proud to be Canadian, but I do not like hockey.

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They’ll be showing me the door any day now, for that confession, but I just had to get that off my chest.

The A to Z Challenge – C is for Canada

This is a preview of any Canada Day post I may still write for July 1st, but it is a bit of a tricky subject, this year especially.

I am staying random, as this is my first A to Z year, but writing about the things I love is a good way for anyone who is new to this blog, for them to get to know me better.

Canada is celebrating our 150th birthday, but not everyone is so thrilled about that.

There were people living on this land before 1867 and they don’t like feeling like before that year of
Confederation
they didn’t exist. I don’t blame them.

My ancestors came here a long time ago, but it simply can’t compare.

I am glad my ancestors came here. I like living here. I need to see more of it.

Canada made the list for happiest countries in the world. We cracked the top 10 and I would have to agree.

World Happiness Report

Lots of people complain, and their lived experiences are probably a lot different than mine. I am one of the lucky ones.

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TToT: Landscapes of Skies – Morning Chatter, #AtoZChallenge #10Thankful

“I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl could be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

—Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby

For April Fools’ Day this year: Tourism Ireland claimed they were saving power by having sheep keep the grass trimmed, George Takei announced he was running for office, and that’s just the start of it.

It may have been a week of
tomfoolery,
but also of sunshine, birds, flowers, and beautiful skies.

I learned my brother and Vincent Van Gogh share a birthday.

Thanks, everyone, for your delightful and helpful descriptions last week, for what a rainbow looks like to you.

Anyone want to take a crack at describing Van Gogh’s painting? I’ve never seen a rainbow, but I’ve also never seen the stars.

Ten Things of Thankful

I am thankful that I was published again.

My Wedding Won’t Be Like My Sister’s, but That’s Okay – A Practical Wedding

I received a lot of positive reactions that I wasn’t necessarily expecting.

I am thankful to learn that writing is hard for everyone.

You have to be able to stand not knowing

Oh, of course, I am not glad to hear anyone feels this way. I just know it’s easy, as a newer writer, to feel like things will never go where I want them to. This writer has been published, books, and she still gets down on herself. It is oddly comforting, that it isn’t likely to get much easier, the further down the writing path you find yourself.

I am thankful for writers who are willing to stand up for others.

The Men Who Won the Presidency – Full Grown People

This essay hits the nail on the head. I am glad Full Grown People has returned, after being on hiatis. It seems to be moving to publish more of these kinds of open statements and I think that is important.

I am thankful, again, for a doctor who cares.

This doctor is doing all she can to help me feel better. In my experience, that doesn’t always work so well, but her sincere desire to try means a lot to me at this point, after some doctors I’ve seen over the years.

I am a little nervous to try her latest suggestion, but I will see how it goes. If it doesn’t help, then we return to the drawing board.

I am thankful for my brother.

He turned 30 and we didn’t get to celebrate like you should celebrate the start of a new decade of life, but I’m just thankful he’s here to celebrate it at all.

He had a seizure on the eve of his 30th.

I am thankful that my brother is okay.

It’s not a good sign that he’s had a seizure twice in only a few weeks, but luckily he has a doctor appointment this week and maybe he’ll have to increase his medication.

You never know when one will come on. He must have bumped his head on something as he fell because there was blood everywhere.

We’re all just so relieved he came to and phoned his friend, who thankfully could tell right away that something wasn’t right, and went straight over to check things out.

I am thankful my violin teacher and I could work on some problem solving and practice strategies.

When most people move out, I prefer to move in.

We discovered I could keep my arm straighter, in the proper position, if I stand against the wall to play. I rest my right arm against the wall and then I know not to bring it inward any.

It’s a bit of an odd place to be, but hopefully it’s just until I get the hang of things better. I need to know the feeling of where my arm should be, just like I need to learn to feel where my fingers should be.

We are working hard to find ways so I can practice more efficiently. Every lesson we discuss things in a slightly different way.

It was exhausting, but a good kind of exhausting.

I am thankful I got my entry in by the deadline.

The Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story

I doubt my abilities sometimes, but if you don’t submit, you’ll never win.

I wrote something that I quite like. I am proud of it, but we’ll see what the judges think.

I owe some of my family for their input.

I originally did not give my main character a name. Then, as I was working on the final touches before submitting, I realized what day it was. I am not a fan of April Fool’s Day because I am too gullible for my own good, even on a day I know jokes and pranks will be occurring. I did snap up a bit of, what I hope will be good luck, by naming my main character April.

I thought since the deadline was April 1st, it felt meant to be somehow.

Speaking of jokes and pranks…

I am thankful for humour and light things with Canada’s leader and a sitcom star.

Did you hear about this?

Matthew Perry responds to PM’s April Fool’s Tweet

I can’t tell you how nice it felt to read this and be able to smile at a story I read in the news for once. I say I can often be gullible, but I can’t believe some took this seriously. I needed this kind of lighthearted humorous exchange, between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Matthew Perry (Chandler) from Friends.

I am glad Canada has a leader with a decent sense of humour.

I decided to try the A to Z Challenge, for the first time, on a whim this year. I hope I will be thankful for that decision, as April goes forward.

A to Z

We shall see.

“To be an artist means: not to calculate and count; to grow and ripen like a tree which does not hurry the flow of its sap and stands at ease in the spring gales without fearing that no summer may follow. It will come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are simply there in their vast, quiet tranquility, as if eternity lay before them.”

—Rainer Maria Rilke

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The Colours of Kenya #Blindness #Travel #TravelTuesday

In January, 2017, I was discovering a new place. While I was immersed in the culture of Mexico, where I attended a writing workshop, Lizzi, at the same time, was on her way to Africa, but not for vacation. She was going to help.

I kept up on her time there through social media and I could sense the profound affect it was having on her.

Then I read this.

I knew I wanted to read one of her stories and one title, in particular, it jumped out at me.

I miss colours, a hard fact of life. I may go to Kenya one day, who knows, but I won’t ever see the colours of Kenya. I wanted to hear someone with a way with words tell me what they saw of Kenya’s colours.

Read the following story by Lizzi that I am honoured to be featuring on my blog today. It’s beautiful.

***

The Colours of Kenya

I had been travelling for what felt like a million hours, and in spite of having slept on both plane-rides, I was dropping with tiredness. It didn’t matter though, because I was in KENYA!

Getting there had been a long journey, literally and figuratively. The preceding months had been filled with emails back and forth to various Important Bods at the hospital, a cautious raising of hopes in October 2016 (only to have them dashed), and then a sudden YES, ten days before we were due to leave.

The four of us – a consultant, a senior nursing sister, an infection control nurse, and me (a buttinski retinal screener with her own agenda for gathering baseline information on the state of diabetes care on offer at the four hospitals we were linked with) – had been travelling since 11am UK time, arriving in Mombasa at 4.20am Kenyan time. We were at the end of our abilities to communicate clearly, and a sleep-haze had descended over all of us, reducing our words and movements to the very deliberate, or the not-at-all.

Still, landing in the thick, humid Kenyan morning (far hotter than Nairobi, a couple of hours earlier, and far more like the ‘stepping into an oven’ I had expected) at an airport which seemed almost deserted and (I noticed with interest) had not one pane of glass in the building, but a beautiful Byzantine cement filigree over each window-space, was definitely a fulfilment of my hope for adventure.

We piled into the waiting taxi and started off out of the airport, past the soldiers’ huts, and onto a road which wasn’t so much ‘road’, as potholes laced together with concrete. As we left the airport behind us, I was startled by a flash of deep magenta in the middle of a dusty patch of grass. Some kind of shrub with flaming red flowers held itself proudly in the pale morning light. I later discovered it was bougainvillea – a plant very suited to hot climates, with brightly coloured bracts near its flowers in every shade of pink, purple, red, and white – which seemed to grow proliferately throughout the region, providing beautiful splashes of colour in sunlit places.

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‘Bougainvillea Kenyavision’ – a close-up of the bright magenta bracts of the bougainvillea flower, against a blue sky]

In spite of my snoozing colleagues, I couldn’t bear to close my eyes and miss out on my first glimpses of what was to become a familiar road between Mombasa (where the hospitals were) and Diani, where our hotel was.
My first impression was that there was paint EVERYWHERE! Many of the buildings were completely coated, often with advertising slogans painted on. In fact, many of the walls suggested ‘If you like it, CROWN it’, advertising the very paint they were (presumably) decorated with.

After a few days of travelling up and down the road, I decided that the predominant colours of Kenya were bright green, yellow, blue, and white, with splashes of orange and red thrown in. If anything could be painted or decorated, it was; from the riotously coloured tuk-tuks with their funny names (‘Jobless’, ‘Father’s Blessing’) and entertaining slogans (“Watch out for the devil – never mind!”), to entire sides of blocks of flats advertising pampers nappies! It seemed to me if anything was still for long enough, it was liable to get a bright coat of paint…or that it had been the case at some point, for nearly all the paintwork I saw was fading a little around the edges, with cracks in the surface and chips of paint beginning to flake away.

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‘The Colours of Kenya’ – a man walks past a building painted pale green, with an advertisement for Pampers nappies emblazoned on its side. The ground is bright orange sand/dirt, and rocks lie strewn across what passes for pavement.]

The ground astonished me, too – partly, I think, because I’m not used to seeing so much of it, so close. The places in England where the ground next to the road is just…ground…as opposed to something tarmacked or concreted, are few and far between. In Kenya, the ground drifts onto the road and the tarmac crumbles into the edges of the dust, and everything swirls together as the traffic goes speeding by. The mud is hard and compacted with a layer of dust, which coats the shoes and ankles when walked on. Along the miles of road, it went through almost-white, to yellow, to ochre, to dark orange, to brown, to almost red. I don’t think I have ever seen so many colours of earth in one smallish area, and even though a lot of it was covered in plastic in various stages of disintegration (no council waste collections, no rubbish bins, no method, other than to sweep the trash into a pile and burn it), it was beautiful.

The people were bright as peacocks, or parrots, or any other vividly sparkling kind of bird you can think of. The colours and patterns on their clothes were incredible, mesmerizing geometric intricacies, which utterly delighted me, and made me feel very drab by comparison, in my muted olives and blues. Still, I considered, with my pinky-yellow skin, there probably weren’t many bright patterns which I could really carry off without looking sickly, but I did admire the many beautifully-dressed people I saw.

I realized as the week wore on, that the colours which would look utterly garish in the dismal light of England, were not overpowering in the equatorial sunlight. Rainbows of colour shimmered wherever crowds of people gathered, as the mirages shimmered above the surfaces of the roads. Each morning, I got up while it was still dark, and went for a swim in a pool of incredible azure blue, under a sky which lightened to pale blue, then stayed white for most of the day, fading to blue again as the sun went down.

Much of the rural landscape was dominated by the feathery green fronds of palm trees, with their tatty, browning leaf ends, which rattled drily in the wind, or when shaken by troupes of monkeys blundering through. Even the monkeys were surprisingly colourful – unassuming sandy-brown vervets, when male and in motion, showed bright, sky-blue balls!

The beach was pristine, as you’d expect a proud tropical resort beach to be – luminous white sand, cerulean water giving way to navy further out, sweeping, delicious waves, and green palms bending gracefully into the wind. There was even a delightful smattering of little grey frond-covered huts, to shelter tourists relaxing on their sun-loungers.

I would be fascinated to see Kenya in the rain (were it not for the risk of cholera, which increases considerably in the rainy season, due to the lack of sanitation systems). All of the buildings were spattered with earth, to about a metre high, where (presumably) the previous years’ rains had flung the dirt high against the walls and left it there, a stain bearing testament to time and dust. In England, the rain turns everything to grey, whether it is grey or not…in Kenya, I can only hope that the bright colours stand out more vividly against the gloom, a rainbow promise that the sun will shine again, and life will once more be, if not easy, still optimistically bright and beautiful.

***

And so I listened to Lizzi speak of what she saw and learned about blindness and eye disease in Africa. I thought of myself and my white cane and my conflicted feelings about having to use one, but then I realized the privilege I have for even having one where so many around the world, those who could really use them, do not.

I wanted to donate, even a small amount, to make sure a cane would be given to a person in need.

Eyes For East Africa – Online Shop

A small donation can buy someone a white cane, eye drops for a child, or a magnifying glass to better see the world. It doesn’t take much, but it is very much needed.

I live in Canada and have access to good medical care. I have had the best care when my remaining eyesight was threatened. I only want that for all people.

I want to thank word artist Lizzi for sharing this vivid retelling of her time in Kenya, for all of us who have never seen it for ourselves. That is why I love travel and a world so full of wonder and magic, everyday people going about their lives, the hard things and the struggles, but there is always beauty to be found somewhere.

Join the Deep Thinking, Truth Telling and Good-Seeking at Considerings

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TToT: Spring Has Sprung – Bright Side, #10Thankful

“I’m living on the bright side. It’s all a state of mind.” —Angela Saini

I’ll be honest, often, the world scares me.

I look to things like this TToT and its gratitude exercise for some relief.

Ten Things of Thankful

So, let’s just get to it, because I need some relief from the news of the day.

I am thankful for writers and thinkers such as Margaret Atwood.

I have not read The Handmaid’s Tale, as Atwood’s genre is one that covers uncomfortable truths and possibilities, through fiction and inside fictional realities. I don’t feel comfortable reading that stuff, but I do believe I am missing out.

She has had a long and esteemed writing career in Canada and we are lucky to have her intelligence and her talents.

I am thankful for those I know who travel and are out there living life, reporting back to me somehow on their journeys.

The world scares me and that is why I must see more of it, as much as I possibly can.

But, when and where I cannot, I value my friends, better than all the travel blogs I have followed on Facebook. My friends and those I’ve met, somewhere, somehow are out there and inspiring me to not feel so scared all the time.

And, if I am unable to push away my fear completely, they prove to me that it is possible to go ahead anyway. You miss less by going and doing, fear be damned.

I am thankful for Canada and my extremely privileged citizenship here.

We have our problems and we must acknowledge those. I see protests and silencing in Russia, famine and governmental corruption in Africa, and the unrest and polarization in the U.S. and I hope Canada can face our sins and remain as united and reasonable as possible.

I plan to write more about this as Canada Day, 2017 draws closer.

I am thankful for audio progress reports.

The sound of the App notification on my phone is enough to make me smile and forget my other racing thoughts for a few moments.

My friend may be over in Ireland, but I still get to hear her daughter’s growth, through trying to fill her baby’s bottle and spilling an entire jug of milk all over the floor or not understanding why she can’t fit into her doll’s clothes.

The photos my friend captions for me and then I listen to the short video clips with great interest. I look forward to them in my week.

I am thankful for more time holding my baby niece.

Speaking of growth…she is now one month old and my sister feels she is already growing too fast.

She loves to eat. I like to hold her the other times, when she is not nursing, and then my sister can do some other things.

My niece has a real angry cry, as babies do, but I hold her when she sleeps and she is so peaceful then. Hard to believe it’s the same child. You gotta love it.

I am thankful for all those who help me understand things better, things I often miss out on, those like my extremely generous friend.

My writing mentor is teaching travel writing across some of Africa and she posted a tree. I knew she wouldn’t post it for no reason. She must have seen something special in that tree. I wanted to try and see something in that photo too, in my mind.

“When a bulb burns out, I see. Even in the dark, it feels sunny to me. Skipping in the shadows, every corner holds beauty. There is always light if you look closely.” —Angela Saini

I don’t expect the world to always modify for my needs. Photos are visual things. I get that. Sometimes I just want to imagine what one looks like.

My friend, a writer and a scientist, she heard about this and offered to describe the tree. I learned a lot.

“Splashing through the puddles. Knowing that’s how green grass grows.” —Angela Saini

I am thankful for the first real spring weather.

The other day was so mild. The sunshine was warm on my face. No more shivering.

“I don’t own a poncho. Whenever it rains I only see a rainbow.” —Angela Saini

Spring means rain. I like a good rainstorm. Bring it on.

A rainbow is one of those things, like any photo, that I long to see and never likely will. I appreciate any person’s interpretation of what a rainbow looks like.

Anyone want to give it a go? Leave your description in the comments to this post.

I am thankful for a lesson I thought was certain to be bad.

We had to miss a week. My teacher is in university and this time of year is particularly chaotic.

Any time we have this happen, like when I was in Mexico, I assume the next lesson will not go well at all because of the extra time in between.

I’ve learned this isn’t always the case. I had an extremely productive and energetic practice just before and we had a great talk about the strain and endurance of playing the violin.

Oh, I also did work on the actual practicing techniques too, trying to make it more of a constant flow of sound, rather than always so start and stopish.

Like this. Maybe…one day. Maybe.

I am thankful the U.S. dodged an extremely wrong and risky bullet.

At first I was negative about it, as it strikes a nerve because I have needed lots of medical care, so I immediately thought this was winning a battle but not the war.

Why does this need to be a fight anyway?

Then I was reminded, if I were living in the U.S and relied on the healthcare system there in a big way, I’d want just a short period of time to relax and feel relieved for this moment in time.

I am still worried, anxious for all who would be affected, but I feel helpless to do anything.

Many of us feel like people see us as such a drain on the system, but we’ve faced death or serious illness. It’s no game to us.

“My train home is three hours late. Must be time for another piece of cake – I like chocolate.” —Angela Saini

I am thankful for the positive reception and Canadian support of the newly told.

The Canadian people watched the new Anne of Green Gables series and they have spoken that they approve.

The CBC was going to air the second episode two weeks after last week’s premier, but the reception was so positive that they went ahead and aired it last night.

I am keeping an open mind, as the story makes Canada proud from what I see, so I am going to keep an episode diary on my Facebook page every time it airs.

I will call it Ahead By A Century, like the theme song for the show, by The Tragically Hip.

Living On The Bright Side – Angela Saini

This song is all about seeing the silver lining, but her lyrics suggest there is always something good in everything. That’s what TToT is all about too, in a way.

Of course, I know this is a bit of an over simplification, we all know it, but really we have to at least try.

“Enjoying life, cause’ I’ve got only one.”

—Angela Saini

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