Shakespeare-Mania!

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April is National Poetry Month. Not only that, it’s the BIRTHDAY month of the great English poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. For me, it means ADOPTING SHAKESPEARE- HIS LANGUAGE, HIS PLAYS, HIS SONNETS, and you’re invited to join in. On Wednesday, the Sweet Swan of Avon (who lived from April 23, 1564-April 23, 1616) turns 450! To celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday, please send favorite quotations, thereby entering my annual Shakespeare contest.   Quotation competition takes place in the Twitterverse. To be considered, send your quotations via the Internet,  posting them on Twitter

Shakespeare's language takes Elaine to the heights!

Shakespeare’s language takes Elaine to the heights!

@TheGoodbyeBaby.

Sonnet 73 is one of my favorites in the Bard’s magnificent canon. The narrator speaks of the ravages of time on one’s physical well-being and the mental anguish associated with moving further from youth and closer to death. The “death,” point out critics, may be not may be the end of life but rather, the demise of youth and passion. Beginning when I first read this poem in a college literature class,  I’ve appreciated it more each year. Sometimes I focus on the narrator’s sadness, other occasions on the tenderness and love. Read Sonnet 73 aloud and see what resonates with you.

SONNET 73
That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
-William Shakespeare

At the end of April, copies of brilliant Shakespeare scholar Robin Williams’ “The Shakespeare Papers” will be mailed to the four best entries. So, as the song goes, “Brush up on your Shakespeare…start quoting him now!”

On April 23rd, William Shakespeare turns 450 years old!

On April 23rd, William Shakespeare turns 450 years old!

Laura and her Mission

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In a few months, 25-year-old Korean-American adoptee Laura Wachs will be traveling to Korea in search of her birthparents. She longs to  learn firsthand about her cultural heritage. Beyond that, she is launching a campaign to help other Korean adoptees.

Korea, the homeland that Laura has never seen.

Korea, the homeland that Laura has never seen.

Laura was adopted when she was six months old. As a young girl growing up in Seattle, she was told only that her birthmother was unwed, very young and wanted to give her infant daughter the chance for a good life. “Basically, that (a good life) was the outcome,” says Laura. “However, there are many questions about my origins that I need to research.”
In addition to her own quest, Laura is making great strides toward helping other Korean adoptees. Though donations gained primarily through a Kickstarter fund, she will be using art and poetry, mediums that have helped her in healing from the wounds of adoption and in leading a more authentic life. Her plan is an ambitious one, involving a workshop for Korean adoptees, a show of their artistic creations and the publication of two books.
The project is titled ‘The Voices of Korean Adoption.’ It will showcase poets from around the world who were adopted from Korea. Laura has raised nearly half of the required $10,000 needed to obtain the grant that will allow her to complete the project. She has a deadline of April 28th to raise about $6,000.
Editor’s Note:  After talking with Laura, I donated to this incredibly worthy cause. Laura has succeeded in previous art and poetry nonprofit projects and is well qualified to bring her plan to fruition. As an adoptee who was able to meet my birthparents, I know the value of such reunions.
Please join me in supporting ‘The Voices of Korean Adoption
Contact: Laura Wachs
206-819-6398
laura_wachs@hotmail.com

Laura feels hopeful that  donations will make her project a reality!

Laura feels hopeful that donations will make her project a reality!

Adopting a Place: Puerto Vallerta Musings

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NOTE: Being at home in the world, one of the lessons of adoption recovery, is a good motto for not just adoptees but everyone. Christine Boss, author of today’s guest post, has a flair for life, no matter where it takes her. Her piece about Oscar Night at the Beach  reveals how one can be alone but far from lonely.

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1:30pm
Puerto Vallarta Airport
Off the plane (two connecting flights)
Out of the complimentary limo
Up to the room
Out of travel clothes layered for rain and snow
Into comfortable cottons and flip flops and hat too
Down the elevator

Aha
Straight to the beach

Feet in the sand
Toes in the water
Banderas Bay embracing me

Following the curve of the land meeting water
I walk

It was easy to adopt this heavenly beach location

Climbing over rock outcroppings extending like fingers
Passing palapas shading reclining sunbathers
Seeing familiar buildings
Finding new ones surrounded by acres of green
Blue skies and blue water forever

Ahead
Strange apparition on the beach

Closer now
Curious
A giant inflatable turned sideways at the waters edge
Chairs on the left
Tables and chairs on the right

“Por favor, what is going on?”

“Welcome Senora”
(no longer senorita)

“It is Night at the Oscars!”
“Really?”
“Really…and complimentary for all guests Senora.
Starts just as soon as the sun sets.”

Really?
Goodness how did they know I was not wanting to miss this ritual.
Why I had even sat through the entire “The Life and Times of Llewelyn”
Not to miss the big event now

It would soon be cooler
Must return for a wrap in the room

Radiant sky now
Sun descending
Quickly
Chairs filling up fast

Found one!
Next to three females (from California, no less)

Darkness now
There is Ellen projected onto the enormous screen
She’s speaking Spanish
We’re all smiling ‘cause it’s Ellen
10 minutes go by
Not sure what we are watching because it is in rapid fire Spanish

But what the hay…we have red wine and popcorn

Suddenly Ellen is joking with Meryl
English
We all applaud

“Mr. Hublot” wins for Animated Short
I caught that one at home in Santa Fe at The Screen

There is Meryl screeching in “August: Osage County”
Dame Judi Dench persevering in “Philomena”
(those Catholics)
Sandra floating in Space
And the winner is…
Cate
Amazing actress and my choice of film
Woody I may not understand your personal life but this was a genius of a film for our times

Getting darker and cooler now
Deep blue
Navy shadows
Not a good idea to walk beach back (being female and alone)
Lose my way amongst the palms and canals
Meet lost Canadian couple
Together we twist and turn through mazes of walkways
Arrive at the new hub
Architectural wonder
Grand Piano in the middle of a lake

Love to stop and listen but I’ve been up since 4:00am

Taxi
My new short term home
Hear noises coming from the bar
Yikes there is Matthew McConaughey accepting Best Actor

11:30 or is it midnight
Time for bed

Alone but not alone
Perfect start to another adventure

Fall to sleep to the sound of waves breaking below my window.

Christine Boss retired from a successful career as a residential designer. In addition to adopting new places, she loves music, reading, bicycling and hiking.

After retiring from a successful entrepreneurial career as an interior designer and realtor in San Francisco, Christine Boss adopted Santa Fe, NM as her new home. She is an avid bicyclist and hiker who loves music, reading and travel. Puerto Vallerta is one of her favorite destinations.

Take your Brain for a Walk

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Walking and being in nature are key in my long, slow journey to adoption recovery. Let me give you some good reasons to take your brain out walking…images

If you’ve been reading my blog all along or if this is your first time, welcome! My theme of ADOPTION has led me to write on related topics. These adoption-inspired ideas emerge, flow, and branch out. Today’s inspiration is from a new nonfiction favorite, Dr. Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science. In case after case, Doidge proves that not only can we recover from all manner of brain injuries and situations, we also have the ability to keep our mental functions sharp.

Because of modern medicine’s advances, we are living longer. While this is a good thing, it comes with the possibility of developing mental fragility. No wonder that so many people are interested in slowing cognitive decline. It’s commonly accepted that keeping the body fit is key to enjoying the “autumn years.” Increasingly, experts are learning that exercise is key to keeping the brain fit as well.

Scientists working on brain research found that participants between 55 and 80 who walk at least 30 minutes three times a week or more show better results in memory tests than their sedentary counterparts.

Walking builds up the connectivity between brain circuits. This matters because as we age, the connectivity between those circuits weakens, affecting how well we perform daily tasks such as driving. The verdict is out: aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, helps revive those flagging brain circuits.

I’d like to offer a few walking suggestions:images-1

If you already take a daily walk but more often use excuses not to do it, you can actually “work” while you wander. Observe nature. Look for signs of the changing seasons. Use your walking time to plan the novel, blog, poem, dinner menu or home project. The possibilities are endless.
Or, let’s say that on most days you can’t even get yourself out the door. I recommend teaming up with a “walking buddy.” Set up a regular day and be faithful to your self-created schedule.

After spending a portion of each day walking, I feel renewed and inspired. Even if you’re not addicted to walking, if you make it a habit, chances are, you will become a fan. You’ll be doing a favor for your body and your mind!

Join Elaine every Monday for her take on adoption and life!

Join Elaine every Monday for her take on adoption and life.

In the Deserts of the Heart

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Dear Reader: I’m on deadline for a guidebook coming out this summer, so please forgive the re-issue of a former blog. This post was originally published in December of 2012 but the sentiments it expresses are just as true for me today. Enjoy!

Last night I watched a program on public television that reminded me of being an adoptee. The emptiness and longing for a tribe of my own, a feeling I wrongly assumed I had put to rest, was back with a vengeance.

“Finding your Roots,” which featured three celebrities exploring their family trees, was all about searching to find a place where you belong, piecing together the past, and learning where and how your ancestors lived. The show was well presented and dramatized the interviewees’ journeys to discover their their true heritage.

imagesMy outsider status syndrome immediately kicked in. How fortunate, I thought, to even possess a genealogy that you could call your own. Growing up as an adoptee, I longed for years to claim a so-called “family tree.” I’d been to Italy with my birthfather Giovanni Cecchini. After our reunion, we travelled to Abruzzi, where he was born. I met my non-English-speaking cousins, aunts and uncles. Following the journey to Italy, my birthfather’s second wife (not my birthmother) helped me secure a detailed listing of paternal relatives.

With my adoptive mom’s help, I’d was able to chart out a family tree for my ancestry record, going back just a couple centuries. Those two charts were intellectual exercises, but I couldn’t relate to them.

Two family trees, but neither really fit who I was. Though I had the DNA of the biological parentage, I was shaped and molded by my adoptive parents. Rather than give in to an emotional meltdown, however, I thought long and hard about why the “Finding your Roots” program tried to break my heart. Tried but failed.

When I was young, I made up a myth about being adopted.The underlying theme was “Oh, poor me.” That was a way of reacting to everything, seemingly as fixed as the stars in the Big Dipper or the belt of the constellation Orion. However, I was not a fixed star and I could shape a new truth.

Juniper Tree

Juniper Tree. Everything, seemingly as fixed as the stars in the Big Dipper or the belt of the constellation Orion. However, I was not a fixed star and I could shape a new truth.

I decided to emulate the indomitable juniper tree. It will send roots down 25 feet in order to survive. Here’s a description from the National Park Service’s website:

“Junipers grow in some of the most inhospitable landscapes imaginable, thriving in an environment of baking heat, bone-chilling cold, intense sunlight, little water and fierce winds. Often they appear to grow straight out of solid rock.”

This is the kind of family tree that will serve me well.

Alone

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Of all the “A” words in the adoptee’s lexicon, one of the hardest is “Alone.” 

An aged tree on Canyon Road- photo by Beth Stephens

A venerable old tree on Canyon Road- photo by Beth Stephens

How often we may have heard the saying, “We’re born alone and we die alone,” and deep down we know that being sometimes alone is simply part of life.

To the adopted self, however, “alone” can conjure up feelings of abandonment and rejection. Our original parents could or would not keep us, and even though we may never have been actually alone, we did not feel that we belonged to anyone. I can speak only for myself, but as I meet others looking at the world through adoption-colored glasses, this  perception of “alone” seems to be common. However, one morning’s experience can change everything, which is what happened in the following episode…

Place: Santa Fe National Forest.
Time: A few days ago.
Action: Snowshoeing up Aspen Vista Road with my son.

The weather prediction was for clouds, sun, and “occasional showers.” We started at 9:30 a.m. up the winding uphill forest road that ended in five miles at cluster of radio towers. Our goal was not to reach the top but to be out for half a day. I urged my son to snowshoe on ahead…he’d easily catch up with me on his way down. Fresh snow festooned shrubs, grasses, big rocks. The air was frigid, the sky a combination of gray, blue and white.
My son disappeared around a bend and I was suddenly solo. Every five minutes or so, I stopped to listen to the solitude.  No apparent wind, but nonetheless the trees made a barely audible “shushing” sound. Whenever the sun came out, crystal-like sparkles appeared on snow billows that bordered both sides of the road. Minutes after an interlude of sunshine, it started to graupel.
Note: according to Wikipedia, Graupel refers to precipitation that forms when

The hushed stillness of a morning in late winter

The hushed stillness of a morning in late winter

supercooled droplets of water are collected and freeze on a falling snowflake, forming a 2–5 mm ball of rime. Strictly speaking, graupel is not the same as hail or ice pellets.
Neither snow nor rain, graupel is a phenomenon worth recognizing when it happens. That morning, it served as the perfect metaphor. Just as graupel is like snow but not the same thing, being alone is not being lonely. The thought filled me with inexplicable joy, as I realized that this was time to just breathe, snowshoe and soak up the beauty around me. The sky eventually cleared and turned from eggshell blue to deep indigo.
I reached the end of the hike having covered less territory than my son,  However, I felt that I’d been out for many, many miles. My take on being alone had flipped from morose to euphoric. In today’s noisy, overcrowded, frenetic world, solitude is increasingly a luxury. In the hours of one morning I came to realize that one can be alone without being lonesome, and that was a gift.

Join Elaine on Monday for observations about adoption and life!

Join Elaine  for observations about adoption and life!

Love Across the Ocean

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Lt. Richard L. Beard in his WWII army uniform, before he became my Dad

Lt. Richard L. Beard in his WWII army uniform, before he became my Dad

During the later years of WWII, my adoptive dad served in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater of operations as clinical psychologist at the 142nd General Hospital in Calcutta, India. Just when I think that the “Forgotten Front” has faded from public awareness, I meet someone who not only knows about WWII’s CBI arena but who is still honoring the memory of those who served in what General Vinegar Joe Stillwell called “a theater of uncommon misery.”
Yesterday I was making my way up a snowy slope to buy my lift ticket and enjoy a day of skiing. Leaving the ski area was an attractive couple in their 50s or so. They were not dressed to ski but seemed to be sightseeing. This was not so unusual, as many visitors to my hometown of Santa Fe like to come up to the ski basin just for a look around.
What was unusual was the CBI insignia on the man’s leather bomber jacket and the emblem on his armband. How often does one see honoring of the CBI, and of all places at the ski hill? I admired his jacket and

The CBI was known for the Ledo Road through Burma and the "Flying Tigers"

The CBI was known for the Ledo Road through Burma and the “Flying Tigers”

we talked briefly about “the forgotten front” and those who’d served there. He also had a relative, now deceased, who’d been stationed in that remote corner of the world. Thus the inspiration for today’s post, which is all about love across time and miles. Once again, I’m posting a letter from Lt. Richard Beard to his wife Reva written early in what would turn out to be an 18-month separation.

1944                                        At Sea
    Dearest Wife,
             This is written in commemoration of our 7th wedding anniversary, Reva, and will inadequately express my sincere happiness and good fortune in being married to you. I should prefer to look into your eyes for a moment and then kiss you to express those feelings; since that is impossible, will you accept this letter?
I was too moved to write on July 3rd, instead I sat for hours watching the waves slip past the stern of our ship. I ran over our wonderful experiences: I thought of our hard times and the troubles we have encountered; and then I reflected upon the almost perfect peace and comfort which is ours when we are together. How our eyes light, and how solicitous we are of one another’s welfare.
It is necessary, darling Reva, to refer to last summer and our second honeymoon. Perhaps six years of living with you had to fade into history before my love matured sufficiently to leave no vestige of doubt. You are my fate, dear, and I am content.
This war is but a passing shadow, Reva, in our lives. If it should prove more, and I am not to see you again, then if there is any eternity, forever you are engraved on my soul’s substance. But optimistically, I plan for the future, and I want you to do likewise. I hope that you will have a baby boy or girl waiting for me when I come home. If not then, together we shall secure the blessing of children in a family.
I love you, my girl wife, and each passing day confirms how engulfing my love is. Even now I look into your lovely face, and with blurred eyes, pledge to you again my everlasting devotion.

Your husband, Dick

I’ve been thinking a lot about the mom and dad who took me and my brother in at ages five and two. I’m convinced that they adopted us mainly because of their deep love and devotion to one another. Whether they are formed in the traditional manner or forged from adoption, families make us who we are.
It’s really all about love.

Looking at the world through adoption-colored glasses.

Looking at the world through adoption-colored glasses.

Postcards from the Ledge

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Dear Readers, I am still writing  about adoption-related issues. For this week, however, I’m venturing into another “A” word–>AGE! Not a popular topic here in

Monte Sol gives "old as the hills" new meaning

Monte Sol gives “old as the hills” new meaning

the Blogosphere, but nonetheless, I’m tackling it.
I’m lucky enough to live right across the road from a hiker-friendly foothill of the Rocky Mountains, Sun Mountain, or as it’s dubbed by the locals, “Monte Sol.” In fact, I am just back from a morning hike with my older son, who’s here visiting for a few weeks.    That is, we started out together.  As I was rounding the last switchback before the summit’s flat viewing area, my son strolled over to me as though he’d been waiting for a bit. For him, Monte Sol was the mere beginning of a trifecta hike.
We stood at the windy overlook and briefly discussed the possibilities. Even though my son urged me to continue with him to “Monte Luna” (Moon Mountain), I told him that I was happy to master just the first peak.
“Another time for Luna, ” I suggested. That was fine with him, and he

Join me every week for reflections on adoption and life!

Join me every week for reflections on adoption and life!

took off down into the rocky gulch that led to another steep ascent. He disappeared into the pinon-lined canyon while I ambled solo down Monte Sol. I’d walked at top speed going up. Going down, I took time to enjoy views and reflect on the difference between our generations.
I do not feel “old,” but I am now older than I could ever have imagined being. Because I’m enjoying what Swiss psychotherapist C. G. Jung called the “afternoon” of life, it seems that my powers of adaptation have increased even as physical capabilities have diminished. When I was half my age, I ran marathons. Now I walk up Monte Sol, and that is enough.
Everyone we know—including ourselves— will someday be old-ER, or even (gasp) really OLD.  It’s not really cause for lament but rather for celebration. A reminder: not everyone reaches the “privilege of aging,” to quote the title of my friend Patricia Shapiro’s excellent book (The Privilege of Aging: Portraits of Twelve Jewish Women).
Perhaps because I have grown more accepting of my adoptee status, life seems to be offering many opportunities to reflect on this phenomenon of growing older.
I can’t help but notice that some friends who are considerably younger than I am are passing away, and it hurts. Each loss of a friend or loved one nibbles away, reminders of mortality.
Recently I attended an excellent discussion group hosted by The Transition Network. It comprised women, some of whom were in their fifties, others in their 60s and 70s.  The evening began with a writing session during which we were to imagine ourselves at age 80. After writing for 20 minutes, we shared our thoughts.
Nearly everyone in the group imagined themselves as healthy and mentally active. Other visions of being eighty included always learning and challenging the mind, being a good friend and having friends of all ages, making the choice to be happy, being unafraid of the advancing numbers.
One woman shared her experience of being on a rowing team in college, training every day no matter what the weather was up to. Most days of rowing training, she said, ranged from pleasant to difficult but some were nearly impossible. She related the challenges of rowing on days when wind howled and rain pelted, and she recalled the words of her coach. “Just keep rowing — no matter what.”
Be it gently rowing down the stream, toiling upstream, or just rowing through, perseverance and adaptation are keys to enjoying life’s passages. In dealing with both adoption and aging, it is best to simply “Row, row, row your boat…”images

Oh the Places They’ll Go!

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For most of my life I pretended to be the “happy and grateful adoptee” that people photo 2wanted me to be. The tormented self-interpretation of my life abated when I published The Goodbye Baby-A Diary about Adoption. For two years, I’ve blogged about life’s challenges as viewed through “adoption colored glasses.” I’d like to announce great progress, but to be honest, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And yet, there’s a glimmer of hope…
Now that I have sons and grandchildren, relatives who are blood-connected, I look at “family” a little differently. My son, daughter-in-law and their two children recently visited me from afar, and I became re-acquainted with the children, now two and five.
The visit was rewarding, especially my granddaughter’s triumphant ski lesson, during which she rode the beginner’s chair for the first time. It was especially meaningful because her dad, my son, had learned to ski on the very same slopes and her grandmother—yours truly—taught children to ski there in the 1990s. It was a magical time. All too soon, however, the foursome packed up and left.
True to form, Edgar (the name I’ve given my nemesis), came along to taint things. Even something as good and positive as a family visit, left me with a feeling of deprivation. Enveloped in an “after the dance is over” feeling, I hated the quiet, the emptiness, the alone-ness.  Ironically, my feeling of loss threatened to obliterate the joy of the family reunion.
In the past, I might not have been able to transcend the let-down. Because of thephoto - Version 3 adoption community I’ve met online, it is easier to put everything in perspective. Families, be they biologically connected or created in other ways, are life’s ultimate challenge. Much of what the grandchildren conveyed was their optimism and excitement about life. After dismissing “Edgar,” I was able to focus on the elixir of youth that those little ones embody. I was reminded of the following lines from Dr. Seuss’s childhood classic Oh the Places You’ll Go:
Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
Dr. Seuss had it right.  Using our brains, our feet, and our “steerage” capabilities, WE are the ones who’ll decide where to go!

The world awaits them!

The world awaits them!

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From India with Love

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Was it the exotic nature of India that resulted in my adoption?

Note: In America, the 1940s were a peak time for adoption. Like other “Goodbye Babies,” I was a product of WWII. My army officer Dad, as relief from a seemingly endless assignment as clinical psychologist, wrote to my mother every night. I am convinced that it was their long-distance romance that strengthened my parents’ determination to create a family. At age five, after the war ended, my brother and I were adopted…

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Ganesh, overcomer of obstacles, may have inspired my dad during his 18 months in Calcutta

India

February 18, 1945
Dearest Ritter: Everyone is so despondent tonight that it is very pitiful to behold. Groups meeting in
disconsolate clusters, dissatisfied expressions, and various mutterings occasion concern on all sides. The reason? Well, it is Sunday evening and there is no movie! Someone slipped somewhere and we are left to our devices — and very poor devices they are.
Tonight I joined one of the poker playing groups and played for a couple of hours, but grew bored after awhile — I did win ten rupees! despite poor hands. (But then, I always get poor hands!)
So when old Sturke came wandering along looking like the wrath of God incarnate, I joined him and returned to the basha. There I found Frank and John comfortably ensconced under the light. Our generators are working again, but asthmatic coughs indicate that all is not well.
It is difficult to know when one is well off, but at the moment I am very dissatisfied with my position. Of course, I have had a nice vacation, but it is hard to work at 20% of your potentialities all the time. Then there is the question of toadying to officers with a fourth of your (my) background, education, and ability. There is hardly an officer in the place, outside of their technical training, who comes within a mile of me in ability to organize, analyze, and explain. As I say, it is a little difficult to remember, month after month, that the U.S. government has seen fit to utilize a highly trained man as they have me — and reward him proportionately. If our country and homes were in desperate straits, and I had a rifle in my hands, and grenades in my pocket, and were battling to save my home and your honor and safety, it would be a different matter, indeed. But when the need is so great for trained educators and men who can speak a piece well and convincingly, and the government sees fit to throw all that away — then indeed, I question the wisdom and fruitfulness of the policy.
Now that I have that hot chestnut off my hands — let me hasten to add that I know you are aware of the folly of the whole business and that you agree. It just does me good to let off a little steam to you occasionally. If I don’t you will question whether my personality has not changed and I assure you, it hasn’t.
It has been cloudy today, and is definitely warmer out. Even at 10:00 o’clock in the evening it is still too warm for my sweater! More rain, I suspect.
My sweetest gal — how pleasant it is to dream of you and your treasures.

Ever in love,

Dick

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