Coming Home


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I haven’t blogged for ages because I try to reserve those spare hours for writing on my Miller book, but after a rather frantic vacation (How to see five countries in under three weeks… madness), I feel empty, frustrated and frightened about returning to Trumpistan. For all the noise on Twitter and other social media, one thing is chillingly clear: We have a president who is a Russian asset and even after several indictments and mounting evidence that the Trump campaign did conspire with a foreign enemy, Trump is meeting with Putin and trying to convince his base that Putin ain’t so bad and that our bad relationship with Russia is just the result of US not wanting to get along.

The GOP is silent.

And thereby our checks and balances are eroded day by day. Democracies don’t die over night. It’s a gradual process and people get numb, are busy living their own lives and busy surviving. Back in Boston alone, we met two people talking about their two jobs, because one job in this country doesn’t pay the bills.

Back in Europe someone said that there is a rising cult of so-called “strong men”. People are not happy, and those who want to stay aloof from the facts would rather follow a “strong” leader because he spouts the kind of propaganda they want to hear and that includes stepping on other people (the free press, people of color, immigrants) to be swept along in a tide of white supremacy nostalgia that had its heyday under Hitler and Mussolini. America, a country of immigrants, always claimed it couldn’t happen here. Well, it is happening here, and at an alarming rate.

I will continue to do my share: speak out, take to the streets, call congressmen, knock on doors in the 2018 elections, follow the news and donate to organizations who help those who are in need right now, but I despair and do so frequently. This ain’t Watergate anymore… we have a brainwashed base, a complicit GOP and a Russian asset for a president. I can’t afford to drop everything because I have a living to make and a book I want to finish within a year, but I will do my share. Fleeing this country is not an option. We have to fight for all the great people in it.

On Saturday, we visited JFK’s birthplace in Brookline, Mass, a suburb of Boston. As an intro to touring the house, we watched a video and listened to one of JFK’s electric speeches in which he inspired and lifted up people with that Kennedy brand of idealism, integrity and honor. No blaming of other people. No throwing of cheap red meat. No lies. No narcissism. No ugly red hats and that mendacious mantra of making America great.

My eyes filled with tears. Tears over what this country once projected to the world and itself: A shiny city on a hill.

The lights are going out folks, and we better stay WOKE to make sure our children and grandchildren can live in a place that JFK had in mind. A place where working together with love and faith and honor, a country where we stand up for each other, a haven where migrant children don’t languish in camps without their parents, a warm locus amoenus where everyone can live up to his God-given potential, a melting pot and a spot where kindness and tolerance are not booted out by division, fear and white supremacy. We can do this, but the light is swallowed up by a darkness and we’d better get ready and follow a plan of resistance and persevere, because it may get worse, much worse, before it gets better.

#Resist

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I Love My Cunt


Maybe it’s because I grew up with the word “kont” which is your rear in Dutch, but, as such, related to English cunt. The word first emerged in Middle English (cunte) and had related words in Old Norse (kunta) and Middle Dutch (kunte). You can clearly see how kunte changed into kont as well as kut which is the Dutch word for cunt and used as often as fuck and shit are used in the Netherlands. Kut is also the favorite word to glue in front of another as in: kutweer (bad weather, so typically Dutch weather), kutzooi (shitshow) etc.  Because kut is so prevalent in Dutch, I really started wondering why cunt is so charged and taboo in English.

The Oxford English Dictionary proves this. There are very few citations listed for the word cunt, although Henry Miller and Samuel Beckett beat the record since they have not one but two (citations that is, not cunts). You want to hear them? I’m going to give them to you because we need a little desensitization as far as the word cunt goes. Here they are: “O Tania,” wrote Henry Miller in Cancer, “where now is that warm cunt of yours?” Beckett also used the word cunt in his novel Malone Dies and proclaimed it was the “trump card of young wives.” But the word can also be used to describe a woman (or man!). Miller again in Cancer: “Two cunts sailed in– Americans.” And Beckett, once again in Malone Dies: “They think they can confuse me… Proper cunts whoever they are.”

There are two more examples with the word cunt in the OED, combined with other words, namely “cunt struck” which refers to women liking women and “cunt sucker” which obviously is much less used than “cock sucker”… is that because more cocks get sucked? Come to think of it: if you called a man a cock sucker, isn’t that more offensive to the (heterosexual) man in question than if you were to call him a cunt sucker?

It’s interesting also that in English the word cunt is hardly used by women themselves– they will talk about their vagina or their pussy. I myself find the word pussy a prettification and infantilization of the actual thing and if a guy were to refer to my pussy or wanting a part of it, I would find it much more creepy than if he were to use a more grown-up word like vagina or cunt. Barbies have pussies but real women have cunts.

Some people say cunt is far more shocking than prick or dick. You bet it is! Cunts give birth and that’s far more than a dick can ever dream to accomplish. And I think this is also where the shock value comes from. I mean childbirth for men must have been a traumatic and scary experience, and especially so in times when there were no epidurals, qualified doctors or C-sections. Women died in childbirth all the time and so did babies. The cunt was the culprit. The cunt was unpredictable, powerful and much more than just a hole for the penis. On top of that, the cunt is a bloody crime scene once a month and women have no control over that. Lots of men are mystified and revolted by that whole notion, and again the cunt is the culprit.

Men have also said that the cunt reeks– and the cunt can be something to be feared as in the vagina dentata. Dicks are not feared in the same way– they’re just dumb, straightforward and predictable. They can reek too on a hot day, and even more so, when a lot of meat gets packed inside tight pants… but no one ever seems to want to talk about that. So if you want to talk misogyny, it’s not the word cunt that has caused that but men’s fear of the cunt and women in general. The cunt itself is quite an amazing thing.

Yes, let’s reclaim and rehabilitate the word cunt as a thing of beauty. As something that gives comfort, life and orgasms. And if you’re shocked by the use of the word, it’s you and not my cunt, your own cunt or the neighbor’s cunt. If you’re petrified by it, you are like all the men who have always feared and diminished the cunt as something far more inferior and gross than pricks. The shock is part of the intended misogyny but the cunt is not to blame.

If I have a pussy, I use it for peeing. My cunt on the other hand is the ballsy part of my anatomy. It gave me two beautiful children. Yes, I love my cunt, and so should you.

 

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Cycling Rage and White Male Privilege


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Here’s just something to get off my chest because I’ve come across this behavior several times now.

As I was biking up Wild Cat Canyon, an older guy passed me on his bike but I guess the passing of a woman took everything out of him as he was slowing down to a crawl, so my front wheel was practically touching his rear wheel.

Not cool.

At first I wanted to let it go but since I had to slow down because of Mr. Snail in front of me, I decided to pass him. So I sped up, ready to pass him, and he looked over his shoulder and swerved to the middle of the road, so I couldn’t pass him. I finally hid in his blind spot and passed him whereupon he stood up on his pedals and tried to keep up with me.

Sometimes a man’s ego is too big to be pussy whipped by a chick on a bicycle, and they have to show you who is boss. I wouldn’t let it happen and passed him (without standing on my pedals), ready to flip him off but I kept it civilized. Passing his sorry ass was victory enough.

In the wider context of things, and I hate to generalize, but some of these older white men act like your usual, predictable, pale, patriarchal, penis person… these men do everything to hold onto their power and hold sway over the swamp. They are full of bravado and make empty promises about draining the swamp, but in the end they are the swamp.

They vilify women (and proclaim their uterus, their property), want walls for immigrants and call the cops on blacks who are minding their own business… or sometimes it’s as simple as showing that wench on that bicycle that you’re in charge.

Gloria Steinem said: “We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons… but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”

Men can be pigs, but they’ve been in charge since time immemorial so they think they’re entitled to be pigs. I think time’s up for these kinds of losers. If you want to be the leader of the pack, you’ll have to show some manners, integrity and honest leadership rather than being a limp dick on a bicycle. #Basta.

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Philip Roth (1933-2018)


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“Don’t judge it. Just write it. Don’t judge it. It’s not for you to judge it.”

~ Philip Roth

I was going at a steady clip, writing my daily pages for my Henry Miller book but then the GDPR (if you don’t know what that is, you have your head up your butt and you need to get more woke about this) became a fact and clients of mine needed to update their privacy policies and I was dragged down in a swamp of legalese that made my head spin.

On top of that, Philip Roth died at the ripe old age of 85 on May 22nd. He had stopped writing novels but until the very end, he had remained lucid and sharp.

Henry Miller paved the way for Roth and others, so I think I should say something here about Roth and the connection with Miller.

Roth made sure to acknowledge Miller in an interview for the National Endowment of the Arts. He “broke the ice,” Roth said, and he found a way to “look straight at sex and not from the point of view of a moralist or a physician.” The quote betrays an awareness of how we still looked at sex in America in the 1950s. Of course Roth’s own controversial, sex-laced and break-through book (Portnoy’s Complaint) was published in 1969, only eight years after Tropic of Cancer was allowed to be released in the US for the first time.

In another interview on Roth’s literary influences, Roth, once again, mentioned Miller as someone who educated him in “letting in the repellent […] Let literature contemplate the repellent.” The repellent of course also includes all the different ways we can fuck and get fucked, and some of (what many might consider) those very repellent aspects of sex were a steady staple in the novels of Roth and his contemporaries.

After the #metoo movement began to cause tidal waves, dragging Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and others into the riptides of the Seas of Shame and Oblivion, Philip Roth gave one last and insightful interview to the New York Times in January of 2018. In it, the #metoo movement was clearly the pink elephant in the room, so Roth seemed guarded and deliberate in distancing himself from the Harvey Weinsteins of the world by arguing that he wrote about men in general  (rather than himself– a little disingenuous that, as his fiction was clearly autobiographical) who were “beset by shameful desires and the undauntedness of obsessive lusts, beguiled even by lurid taboo”.

The sex drive, Roth seemed to convey, is one that many men simply cannot control. They are “inflammatory forces” and men are “in the grip of carnal fervor” for which the driving force is desire which incapacitates one’s Reason/rationality. With nothing much to lose, Roth even argued that this drive/desire was a “form of lunacy”. But is it? Or is it simply… Nature? The Dionysian element of letting go has been as old as the sex drive itself and to deny that or write it out of our culture is a kind of obscenity in itself. Feminist Camille Paglia says in her book Sexual Personae: “Sex cannot be understood because nature cannot be understood.”

Interestingly, in the interview, Roth seemed to further distance himself from all that sexual lunacy by suggesting that he was a mere observer, a chronicler by using phrases such as “I have imagined”, “I’ve tried to be uncompromising” and “I’ve stepped inside the male head and reality.” Roth seemed to suggest he was the mere camera– and a camera that records whatever lewd acts is still just a camera and no morality or judgment machine. Miller was such a “camera”, too. In fact the sense of voyeurism, of watching and seeing is very strong in all of Miller’s work, yet when Miller recorded sex, it was considered obscene but when Roth did it in the late 1960s it was all of a sudden great American literature.

Don’t get me wrong: Sex, and perverted sex happens every day. Sex experienced from the male point of view also happens every day but many women readers may feel a disconnect (and objectified) once the male psyche gets unleashed and subsequently expresses its sexual experience in all its ejaculatory glory. The disconnect and the very inequality of the sexual act which has a physiological reason (we don’t have the same hormones and equipment) is, as Paglia hinted, a conundrum we may never overcome. However, whereas Roth launched his career with a particular raunchy book in which obsessive masturbation did indeed seem a form of lunacy, Miller was condemned for writing a similarly repellent book thirty-five years earlier and was penalized for it and is now dropping out of the canon. Yet without Miller there would be no Roth, and that is where and why we need to see Miller in the larger context of American literature, culture and the sex we love to hate.

Rest in peace, Philip Roth, you were one of the finest writers of the twentieth century.

 

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Spooning with a Pitbull


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OK– my bad…

I was going to blog regularly this year about the things that give me joy, as it’s the points of light in the day that keep us going but I’m not going to lie about it: it has been a rough few weeks. Sometimes life just hits you in the gut, and it takes all your energy and resources to remain standing and be there for family, friends… and dogs.

As some of you know, I started participating in the “sharing economy” by setting up a dog sitter profile on Rover. I did it partially on a whim, but I have been receiving many dogs now into our humble abode. Part of me did it because Teddy is 13 and geriatric dogs interact less, sleep a lot and push out the grossest farts. I had forgotten how much fun it is to have a young energetic dog in the house, and it has livened up our empty nest. I work from home fulltime and the dogs force me to get up from my desk and take them for a walk.

Also, Rover is/was my opportunity to “test drive” some breeds because I’m positive that once Teddy passes, we do want another dog but maybe not a doxie.

Speaking of breeds… like many people, I’ve been leery of pitbulls. Years ago, a good friend of mine was riding her horse in the woods in the Netherlands and out of nowhere a pitbull came charging and latched onto the horse’s chest and wouldn’t let go. The horse survived but was forever traumatized and would flip whenever it saw any dog after that, and well, we all read the occasional pitbull story in the news.

So… two weeks ago I had a meet & greet (the pre-intake to see if the guest dog is ok with the host dog) with what was described on the profile as a labrador/retriever and the dog is a mix but when it jumped out of the car I saw it had a clear pitbull face. The meet & greet went fine though, so I decided to cast aside my prejudices and listen to all the people who will tell you that pitbulls are the sweetest dogs.

If there’s anything that this dog business has taught me it is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Weeks ago I had a meet & greet with the weirdest little mutt I had ever seen but he was Mr. Magic — so sweet, funny and endearing that I was ready to “dognap” him by the end of his stay. Note to self: never foster any dogs, because I’d adopt them all and would become the crazy dog lady in the hood.

Here are some pics of the guy I’m talking about:

Anyhow, when Mr. Pitbull arrived in the house I was wondering how things would evolve but after spending one hour with him, I could tell he was mega smart, sweet and reliable.

But then Jon walked into the house and the dog started barking with one of those really loud, growling barks. I was doing something in the other room, so I told him:

“He’s very friendly– just stick your hand out…”

And Jon screamed back from the kitchen: “I ain’t sticking my hand out to a fucking pitbull.”

“There’s only a little pitbull in him…” I said, but Jon wouldn’t buy it, although now he loves him to pieces as well.

What can I say? These dogs have actually been my savior in the last few weeks. When a certain darkness would grab hold of me in a vortex of dreary thoughts, Mr. Magic would curl up in my lap or Mr. Pitbull would put his big square face on my knee to remind me that life is filled with love if you open your heart to those (read: dogs, lol) around you.

Mr. Pitbull is my steady companion now– the moment I get up from my desk, he darts out of his bed and is by my side. Also, Teddy never comes when you call him (except when you yell the word cheese) but this dog comes running when you say his name once. Funny as it may sound but it gives you a sense of control, and therewith a glimmering realization and hope that maybe in life you can control things too, if only for a split second.

Last night I was pissed about something and withdrawing to the bedroom with the dogs, I turned on the news. Now the news these days is sure to get you down, so I lay down on my bed and invited Mr. Pitbull. I curled up beside him and thought for a moment: wtf, I’m spooning with a pitbull…

It was therapeutic. Life is good, but dogs are better.

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Tending One’s Garden


“The man who tends a garden is the man most directly in touch with God.”

~ Henry Miller

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For those of you who read my debut memoir, Ontwaken uit de Amerikaanse droom, you know that I have been wrestling with the garden gods of this house: When we moved in, the entire house was overgrown with roses and ivy, and the backyard was impenetrable due to a wilderness of blackberry bushes.

As the kids grew bigger, we put a lawn in, in front and back and that was a mistake. Soon the drought hit California and we had to “brown” our lawns to conserve water. Lawns are for English gardens — it needs a good soak now and then and those are few and far between in a state that has been named after a hot oven.

And then work happened and the blackberries came back and the things I had planted when I was still on a honeymoon with this house, were destroyed by the blackberries and other nefarious plants and weeds.

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There are other issues with this house (like old windows), so the garden is not a priority. That said, in January I started attacking the blackberries again and they attacked me. I want to make the garden work for us this time, not by imposing our will upon it (like a French formal garden) but by letting the garden guide us (more like an English landscape garden). After all, in spite of the lawn, old bulbs, planted when this house was built, started poking up again inside the lawn and roses have always flourished and taken over. So why cut them back or replace them with something else that won’t adapt as well?

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I was inspired by the garden of Anaïs Nin, whose house at Louveciennes (part of the Mme Dubarry estate), was described by Alfred Perlès. He said it was something akin to Le Grand Meaulnes, Nin’s garden being:

allowed to grow wild within reason. Nature was not permitted to gain the upper hand completely, but was, so to speak, kept on a leash: it could only go so far as to endow the place with a certain sleeping beauty ambiance, no further. But the touch of unreality, so cunningly contrived was impulsive; had a few elves or fauns suddenly appeared and pranced about the lawn, it would not have seemed incredible.

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So… after removing all the blackberries, I was planting stuff yesterday and today, the soil so black, fertile and malleable that I felt like a kid playing in a sandbox. Gardening is back-breaking work and I’m not sure at all whether, as per Miller’s quote on top, I felt like God today, but there’s something about tending your own garden to make you focus on the here and the now. I can highly recommend it.

 

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Side Trip to Corfu, Greece


images-2There were many things that made my day today but what stood out was Henry Miller’s letters to Anaïs Nin.

The year was 1939 and as the war came closer, and Miller talked of “international gangsterism” and lack of noble statesmen to do the right thing and avert war (sound familiar?), Miller decided to leave France after having lived there for almost ten years. But rather than taking the first boat back to New York City, he made a side trip, to visit his friend Lawrence Durrell on Corfu, Greece. Here’s the house:

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Miller had been working hard in the years prior, and Corfu was like a little remote paradise where, for the first time in years, he felt he could relax and forget about work. His descriptions were so colorful that I did some armchair traveling and I simply longed to swim in the Mediterranean again and feel the sun on my skin. Here are some of the more memorable quotes so you can make that same side trip to Corfu with me and forget about the mundane lives we’re all living:

Corfu really is marvelous. It’s somewhere between Palestine, Arizona and Greece. […] It’s a world of intense light. […] We have two or three little secret coves where we go bathing in the raw– It’s like a tonic. I go about now in a pair of khaki shorts and barefooted. You’d be amazed to see the rough jagged cliffs I scramble over in bare feet. […] And the rowboat is splendid exercise. Here the fishermen stand up to row their huge boats and we imitate them. Their boats are beautiful. Like Van Gogh pictures. […] I’m crazy about the olives, the olive oil for inside and out, the wonderful homemade bread, the luscious fruits and vegetables. It’s a good healthy diet […] Whether I shall ever write anything here or not, I don’t know […] I am more interested in the state of my feet, my agility, my sunburn, my rowing and swimming progress, etc. Going naked is in itself the greatest cure. I think 9/10 of all the world’s neurotics could be cured thus— and thus alone. Just by the sun and water playing on the naked body. It’s very chastening, too. There’s nothing sensual about it. One becomes a rock or a tree.

and:

The whole country seems as if it had existed from eternity. One feels it will go on forever, always bare and always full of surprises. Often, amidst the most barren rocks, in the most inaccessible places, one sees a little monastery, shrine or sanctuary. Larry says it’s the country of the ‘desert fathers’. Anyway, from time immemorial men have lived here in voluntary and blissful solitude, warmed and nourished by sea and sky. One can still do it. There are two categories, two types of men here– the islanders and the highlanders. Like Jung’s division of extroverts [sic] and introverts. And then there must be another rarer type also, who knows how to look above and beyond, as well as within and without. These were the men, I feel, who gave Greece its form. Greece stands between the Arabian world and the European world, between the Occident and the Orient, in every way.

I went online to see what real estate goes for in Corfu. Land and property seem dirt cheap. Take a look at this one…

Ah– to have a house looking out over an expanse of sky and water and… when the eye can no longer take it all in, to fall asleep to the sound of the waves…

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The Language of Animals


I grew up extremely introverted. Painfully shy. I think that painfully shy girl is still there, buried deep inside, but as you grow up, you learn to cope and build a facade of normalcy, although extraversion, feigned elation, fake enthusiasm… I just can’t do it.

Parties I still don’t like, and small talk I hate. Empty words to fill a void are a waste, a waste of time and a waste of words. Silence is underrated and doesn’t have to be awkward. Silence is where things happen.

That said, I also learned when I was little that although I missed the language to communicate with adults, I had a language all my own. It was a language I shared with animals. I felt I understood animals better than I did people– and the feeling seemed to be mutual. I had a pet rabbit that followed me around the house like a dog (I even potty trained it) and one of the more difficult horses we had was extremely sweet around me. After riding I would climb on top of his feeding area and he would lick my riding boots, which everyone thought hilarious.

I think I inherited this love of animals from my paternal grandmother. I remember visiting her once on a summer day, and when I turned the corner that opened up on her patio, my widowed grandmother was there talking to… an insane amount of birds.

It seemed like a scene from a kid’s movie. My grandmother, I realized, was Dr. Dolittle!

As I grew a little bit older, I realized I shared this gift with my grandmother– it was effortless, or so it seemed, for me to put animals at ease but also children. And it didn’t require language.

People have told me it’s because of an inner calm I seem to exude which I myself am not aware of. But I do think this is a form of my shyness– I don’t like to impose myself upon the scene, or anyone and often I enjoy listening better than talking. Animals and children feel this and are attracted to it. It’s a mere form of energy I give off, and not so much a “language”.

Which brings me to the story, my happy moment of the day that I want to share with you here. As some of you know, I host dogs which I really truly love to do. Today I had a meet & greet with a new dog. As I was talking to the owner, the owner told me her dog was a rescue, very shy around strangers– and she seemed nervous even telling me that fact. Without saying anything I sat down and the dog immediately came toward me, leaned into me and started licking my hand. That broke the ice. I rubbed the dog’s chest gently and when I stopped, she raised her paw to my hand, encouraging me to rub some more. The owner laughed, relieved.

She’s very shy, the owner had said, and with that I seemed to have communicated to the dog, well, so I am. Join the club. Let’s hang out and enjoy the silence together, for silence is where things happen…

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Dripping Garden


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Hell, it hailed yesterday

And then it rained big fat drops

Saturating the California soil which has been screaming for water.

 

This morning the sun burst through the overcast sky

A new day.

 

I went outside into the garden

As nature smells best when it’s had a good soak.

 

I thought I just heard one bird

But closing my eyes,

I heard lots of bird chatter–

As if we have a rainforest behind our humble abode.

 

In the background, was the constant beat

Of a dripping garden– and the drip… drip… drip… never sounded so good.

 

The things you’ll hear, when you close your eyes and pay attention…

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What Was the Best Part of Your Day? An Exercise in Cultivating Happiness…


Last year I tried to journal every day and for the most part I was successful– this year, there is all sorts of other shit going in my life that I don’t want to bother you with here but I do want to keep connecting with readers as it’s an important part of making myself accountable in writing and keeping the engine oiled.

Also, it’s strange but since I was journaling daily or weekly, I still feel a compulsion at the end of the day and reach out to you, dear reader, so I was thinking about giving this blog a new jolt, an impetus, a stimulus to get back to a daily form of accountability and meditation.

When the kids were little, we’d gather around the dinner table and did the conversation starter What was the best and worst part of your day and the other day, when I was walking one of my guests dogs at the break of dawn, I looked out and saw the frost on the green hills of the golf course near our house and it was an absolutely majestic sight. Like angels had been at it all night, carefully decorating the landscape with crystals of white frost. It stopped me in my tracks. The morning sun hit the view at just the right angle and I heard myself say Would you look at that. That was the best part of my day that day and it nurtured the soul and made me happy, even if it was for a few fleeting seconds.

Yesterday, when it was pouring for most of the day, I snuck out in between showers on my bike. The road was slick and the wetness of the road hit my back, but at the top of the canyon, I was rewarded with this view and it made my day:

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My grandmother used to say– if skies are overcast, but you can find a little blue, even if it is as small as a pair of blue shorts, sunshine may be around the corner. She was the kind of person to focus on the blue in her life and I think it’s why she made it to her 90s.

With all of our smart phone addictions we don’t know how to look up anymore and take in the view when it presents itself in all its glory.

Also, as I told Jon the other night, I think the key to happiness and training yourself to be happy is to look for the points of light, the blue if you will, in your day. A view, a joke, a nice comment from a stranger, a meal with an old friend, a priceless text from your child, a drink at sunset– you catch my drift.

In this blog, I’m going to try and share those moments with you and why they were special. They may be offset by what was the worst part of my day (such as the number of bots I report to Twitter on a daily basis) but I think and believe that we must continue to look for the beauty and happy moments in our life (on a daily basis!) in order to live a truly blessed life. I would love it if you joined me and shared some of your happy moments (and now I sound corny, ugh) but maybe we can start a movement to fight all the ugliness and evil we’re surrounded with. Beauty and love always win. The question is: Are you in?

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