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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Deceivingly Handsome Boys

Pablo going in for a brotherly smooch.
Oh, if only this photograph portrayed an accurate description of our simple, uneventful life. Look how happy and carefree we all seem...

 The door bell rings after 9 p.m. I paused my movie and quickly pulled a hoodie over my nightgown.
A neighbor, yes, the one I often hear yelling "fuck-off!" to Fernando, is standing in my door way, agitated, trying to control his obvious rage.  The veins in his neck are bulging. He wants to talk to Peter. Peter's out of town. (Like he doesn't already know that) Peter's been away for a month--his car no longer in our drive. He obviously didn't really want to talk with Peter, the coward found it easier to vent his rage on me.

He's had it with my dogs--the fighting between Pablo and his dog and Fernando's barking. But that's not all, he's had it with the weeds in our yard and the mole holes that are in his yard and ours. Like somehow the wild moles are my pets and I'm breeding them back there. Seriously, when one purchases a lot that backs mountain wilderness, what does one expect? If you don't want moles, buy inner city land. Anyway, this same neighbour is the one whose giant dog used to crap in our yard and lunge at our children until we purchased and had installed a fence to keep it out (pre Fernando and Pablo days). And the one who smokes outside our master bedroom window each night so we can never leave our windows open in our bedroom or we are smoked out. Why are some people so intolerant? I've put up with him and his swearing/smoking and nasty dog for years without incident.

 I have done my best with the yard and I do the best with my dogs. It is obviously not enough for the guy with the anger problem. He is rather frightening in his rage. I really want an acreage or perhaps an apartment in Paris (Yes, this is the solution :D). What I know for sure is I am putting up a privacy fence to keep him and his obsessive spying eyes off of my property. I  awoke alone in the house the other night to the sound of a door opening inside my house. The dogs didn't bark but still, I was terrified that someone had climbed in a back window and the dogs hadn't heard them. When neighbors are aggressive and creepy, it makes one think twice about safety in the middle of the night.

Now, about those deceivingly handsome boys...I hit the wall with Pablo's behaviour last week. Came face to face with the option of finding him a new home. It took hitting bottom to awaken my Alpha mind. I awoke in a sense, became one with the dog--lol--for those who don't know me, I am not really serious but a little serious about this statement. I suddenly got what I needed to do. Who I needed to be. I understood what being a dog leader really meant. It meant letting go of my fears. My fears were holding me back from taking charge. I was terrorized by dog on dog aggression. Once I came to terms with my own fear, I was able to see what Pablo needs in order to behave. I realize that I cannot let him do anything I don't want him to--ever. Even if they are small innocent things--jumping on my bed in the morning etc. If I let him do things I've said no to before, he begins to ignore my demands even in a crises (when he wants to fight another dog). I get him now, as I get Fernando. I adore my dogs and realize we are stuck with each--for better or for worse.

As for my handsome Latin-lover-boy Fernando (a female pug was completely smitten by him the other day in the park), he has a mystery pain that flares up suddenly and causes him to cry and scream in pain--I cannot isolate its source and it comes and goes. So odd. Looking forward to Dr. Hart (my sis)  arriving this weekend to diagnose.

My darling Pip is asleep right now--we were returning from morning swimming lessons just an hour ago when she screamed that her stomach hurt. I pulled over to the side of the road and she vomited. Worried it was a major allergic reaction to the oat cereal she had for breakfast--oats have caused her stomach pain in the past. No more oats ever again! Tabs is glutten intolerant and now Pip cannot tolerate oats. Our house is pretty much grain free. May be a quiet day in our house.
I am just beyond happy my babies are back home with me. I missed them so very much. They make my heart sing every single day.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Enlightenment on the Beach

One thing I know to be true: a day at the beach is never boring. It is also the best way for me to clear my mind. A cool dip in the lake followed by lying in the sun with a good book--a perfect way to find mindfulness.

An afternoon spent at one of my home town beaches did not disappoint.

As soon as I arrived at the beach, I noticed that is was quiet for a warm summer afternoon. Perfect. I had no trouble claiming beach front property. I spread out my Barcelona beach towel and then headed right into the lake for a quick swim. Refreshing--a little chillier than the Gulf of Mexico but perfect for swimming. After a quick dip, I decided to read as I dried off. I pulled a paperback from my beach bag: Buddhism After Patriarchy--A Feminist History, Analysis and Reconstruction of Buddhism. The book is a treasure. I was immersed in it a month ago and then I inadvertently left it on the plane to Texas. I was so sad as it was the book I had planned to read all holiday. However, as soon as I returned home from my trip, I reordered it from Amazon. A new copy just arrived yesterday in the mail :)

-Back to the beach story:
 I was delving into my book when suddenly the entertainment arrived--a family consisting of a slightly inebriated mother and her 3 teenage children. The foursome set up camp beside me. Every second word out of each member's mouth was "Fuck":

 "Get in the F***ing water!"
"I hate the F***ing seaweed."
"What the F*** are you doing?"
 "I'm F***ing swimming."
"F*** come over here."
"F*** I'm coming."
"Where's my F***ing cell phone?"
 "Come on Mom, F**ing get in!"
 "Just wait a F***ing minute!"

Eventually, the mother did get the fuck into the lake. And then the mother started to fucking panic. She was in deep water, struggling to stay afloat beside her laughing teenage daughter. The mother yelled, "Help me!" The daughter laughed, but I could tell that the mother was seriously in trouble. The mother quit saying, "fuck." Her only words were a desperate, "Help me!"The daughter finally yelled to her teenage brother, "Get the F*** in here and help her. She wants you to F***ing save her."

Yes, (thankfully) in went the teenage boy (it was either him or me), "What the F*** are you doing mom? Just f***ing swim." But the mother couldn't fucking swim. Couldn't he see that was the real issue?  He finally waded in and dragged his drowning mother to shore. So there she sat in the shallows, waving both middle fingers high in the air and shouting "F***you!" to her laughing children.

The drama wrapped up almost as quickly as it started and my entertainment crew decided it was time to go. As they were packing up to leave,  a new neighbor arrived: a man, a single, quiet man. First his shirt came off, and then his shorts. Suddenly, I questioned the sex. What was he/she... really? The tiny bathing suit was fitted (tight). OK, decided he was definitely a man. The man was wearing a teeny-weeny black women's bikini (yes a 2 piece). I'd like to be able to tell you that he rocked that teeny-weeny bikini, but he was a rather hairy beast. He was a fine neighbor though, a quiet neighbor indeed.

I returned to my book and then back into the water for a brief swim, and then back to the book. That is when the strangest thing happened, as I was reading my treasured book, my eyes followed a short-legged dog and its female owner along the beach. They waded into the shallows in front of me, strolling along the water's edge together. Under the brim of my hat, I saw the short doggy-legs come closer and closer towards my beach towel, followed by the tanned and tattooed legs of its owner. The tattooed legs bent down beside my towel and a red haired woman whispered into my face, "Is that a man or a woman on the beach beside you?"
I replied calmly, "A man."
Red Haired Woman: "Why is he wearing a woman's bikini?"    
Me: "I don't know. I guess he likes it."
Woman: "That's unusual!"
Me: "Yes, not something you see often."
And then the woman with the short-legged dog stood up and walked away.

And so, back to my book, another swim and more reading. Then I was hungry. I packed up my camp, ready to head home. As I passed the bikini guy he said something to me. I couldn't hear him so I said my usual, "Sorry?"
"A nice day at the beach was it?"he said.
"Yes it was," I said. And oddly, from that very brief exchange of words, I felt that there was something about him, something interesting, something true.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grizzly Bear *Update

Originally Posted November 2010
*Update: I recently learned the sad truth about why this grizzly was on the railway tracks. The reason is grain. Railway cars leak grain. The containers are poorly designed and often loose their entire load of grain by the time they reach the coast. The cost of this leakage is death for the bears. A significant number of bears in BC and Alberta loose their lives to trains. The only reason is that they migrate towards the tracks to eat the spilled grain. Don't you think it is time we designed better grain cars? Is a grizzlies' life worth nothing to our government? As many train tracks are close to the highway, this also increases the risk of the bears being killed by road vehicles as well. In addition  (as in the following case) they provide easy access to hunters when they scavenge for grain so close to open regions populated by humans. 

I took these photos of this magnificent grizzly bear yesterday (November 14). The bear was at the side of the #1 highway between Lake Louise, Alberta and Field, British Columbia. I have never seen a more beautiful, big and healthy wild grizzly before. It was a dream come true.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Solo En Casa

Gulf of Mexico: Pippi and I looking for shells beneath the water. It was a calm day and we found many. 
I have had a relatively quiet week. Hence, I've  published one more relaxing photo from a week ago--when I was swimming in the gulf.

My family left for a road trip East on Saturday. I have been working on my books. I decided to paint the cover illustration for my eBook cover. I had taken a three year break from painting--to finish my M.A. and write as much as possible. Thus, I had forgotten how much preliminary work there is to do for  a painting. I have always been the type of artist that tends to rush the planning part and can hardly wait to dive in with paint on the canvas and get to work. I am aggressive with the paint in some ways--no fear of making mistakes--I face the canvas and go for it. But this style has cost me. I've given up on some canvases because of rushing preplanning sketches. This time I am sketching steam trains. Who knew a steam train had so many parts, so many shapes and sizes? I spent yesterday just sketching steam engines over and over. None of my sketches I want to use for the final cover plan so will start from scratch again. Such is painting: more blood, sweat and tears than actual production of a final painting.

 I think many people view creating art as relaxing, zen like. Perhaps for some people it is--if one is truly a "hobby" artist--creating for oneself with no expectations. But as an artist who works for end product--to sell--art is not the most relaxing of careers. It is work like anything else. What keeps artists at it is the drive to keep creating, expressing ideas in a medium they feel comfortable with and understand.
I like that my artistic life has been a path of writing and painting--weaving in and out of each medium as it works for me. Once my novels are published, I am eager to go back to my first picture book and paint all of the illustrations. So, eventually, I will be weaving into more painting again.

 Thus far my solo week has been filled with managing dog fiascos (yes, Pablo is unbelievable i.e. eating hole through wall), a little Zumba and a lot of hiking (some carrying over-heated dogs up mountains too). I am attending a Theravada meditation tonight at the Yoga House. I probably should eat before I arrive. Gotta go prepare a fiesta para una.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

The Next Star


Above is is the link for the site: episode one of  The Next Star 

My daughter Tabitha makes an appearance just after the 30 minute mark of the episode. I have a brief cameo (the blonde woman lifting the rope for Adamo). Tabs appears about 3-4 times in the last 30 minutes, after each commercial break. She's the blonde long-haired girl with the megaphone shouting "That's a hazard!"

I posted this for my Facebook friends and didn't want my blog readers to miss out ;)

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Sweet Home Alabama

I posted this video for my Facebook friends to see but I realized I hadn't posted it yet for my blog readers--those who perhaps are not on my Facebook list. So here it is. Our family on the Gulf Coast of Mexico at a beach near Orange Beach, Alabama. The water is warm and the sand powdery--lots of fish, dolphins, herons, cranes and brown pelicans. I miss that beach. 

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Peter Not-Pizzaface

This is one of my the basic ideas for the cover of my junior fiction novel. I have to get a cover together as I am possibly going to publishing it as an ebook first. I'm going to photoshop the whole thing again--possibly using a cougar portrait that I have 1/2 painted--I will have to finish that in a few days if I want to use it. I want to change the  title and name fonts, sizes, colours, perhaps get rid of the kid! So this will be my project for a few days. There are 3 books in the Not-Pizzaface series. They are fantasy/adventure novels (with a little comedy thrown in) that take place in the thrilling British Columbia wilderness. I love writing them. I've finished book number 2 and have started the third. Though, I move on to butchering my fiction novel for adults as soon as the above book is published.

Back from a month of travel! I love to travel but sometimes it feels good to get back and be able to tackle the work projects I have been dying to start since I graduated this spring. Now, all I want to do is write, write and write. Fiction, some free lance and writing for other blogs for $. I need to put my travelling to some use--I have some leads for writing professionally for a travel blog. I'd also like to earn income from this dear blog. AdSense is the worst company I have ever dealt with. It is like they are all dead behind the computer. No one responds to messages, emails, or snail mail (sent to their offices in California!)--they freeze one's account for no reason and refuse to respond for 4 years. If I could pull the plug and shut the entire AdSense down I would. Though, I suspect that there is actually no one working for them anyway and they do not exist other than in name. BOYCOTT ADSENSE!

A month of French pastries in Montreal and rich po-boys and pastries in New Orleans has left me bursting at my seams. I am eager to get back to my pre-holiday shape. Though what amazing times I had exploring both parts of the world. Louisiana was a pocket full of diverse and at times gritty culture. I LOVED it! The bayou is unbelievable in its beauty and natural diversity, the plantation mansions fascinating and a place to pick up hitch hiking ghosts I discovered. And New Orleans was so full of history, unique culture--so interesting to explore. Of course, the Gulf of Mexico and Wolf Bay, Alabama were idyllic and relaxing beach vacations.

Unsure if I will teach more than one Zumba this fall. I need to get that settled soon as I need to update my First Aid and CPR if I do (about $300). Teaching ZUmba is so expensive--more of a financial drain than a profit making venture. I pay $30 a month Zumba fees just to stay certified and then all of the safety courses I must pay for out of my own pocket. Also, to be a teacher takes hours and hours each week to rehearse for the hour of dance and add a new song each week. Teaching Zumba for me is not just a fun work out--it means at least 5 hours of my week devoted to prep on top of teaching. This is why I must decide how much I want to teach. I need to devote my career life %100 to writing at this time. This is my passion, my income. Thus I must decide if I want to devote more time and $ to teaching or just do it at other studios as a student to keep fit. Though I love my own choreo--I admit. When ever I dance to song in someone else's class (to their steps), when I've choreographed the same song--I always long to be doing my moves. Mine are more fun and groovin' (sorry I can't think of any other way to explain it but groovin'). So this is where I'm at with the Zumba.

Peter has been in Vancouver all week, he returns home to K for one day and then he takes our darlings to Saskatchewan for a week long road trip to visit his family. I will have the time to write 24/7. I am looking forward to diving in to the writing work.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

New Olreans Voodoo

A peek inside the New Orleans Voodoo Museum (located in a teeny tiny building in the French Quarter). 
The portrait on the wall is of the famous New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (born in 1801) She was known as a healer and specialized in love potions. 
New Orleans Voodoo originated when the first slaves from Africa arrived on American soil. Voodoo comes from an African word pronounced "vudu." The Africans brought with them their religion from The Congo in West Africa. They were not permitted to practice this religion so it merged in an covert way with Catholicism--it had similarities to Catholicism in that they believed in one God. Also, Catholic Saints were like Voodoo spirits--the spirits interact with mortals. Today's Voodoo practitioners attend Catholic masses and have alters in their homes; spirit alters are side by side with Saint alters. The Catholic church does not recognize Voodoo but this is how modern day New Orleans Voodoo practitioners practice. The religion is officiated by Queens (females) and Doctors (males). Voodoo is rarely used for evil. A Gris Gris is the object and act used to evoke the supernatural powers of the spirits.

A Zombie whip from Haiti. A chemical from the blow fish can be used by a witchdoctor to create a death like state. Then a hallucinogen can be given to "awaken" the dead to create a zombie. In voodoo, there are other means to create zombies. Sometimes one's soul is promised in return for favors ("given man" zombie) .
A collection of original Voodoo dolls. 
Pip at the alter of L'Acallemun (water man).
True Voodoo doll making and uses.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

French Quarter Jazz Funeral

The girls and I were having our supper in the French Quarter last night. We ate at a restaurant right on the corner of Jackson Square, Stanley's. Tabs was most thrilled to order a peanut butter chocolate chip milkshake. After supper, the girls and I had just walked onto the street corner when we were serenaded by a jazz band followed by a parade of dancing people who filled the entire street, some with drinks in hand (it is legal in the French Quarter to walk around with an open alcoholic beverage to drink as you go)! It was a magical site to behold. A few dancers were waving a photocopied picture of an older Jazz musician in their hands. The parade danced through Jackson Square and all the way to the Mississippi River where they threw the ashes of the deceased into the river. It really was the best funeral procession I've ever witnessed. The girls and I decided that we all want Jazz Funerals when our time comes. What a magical way to celebrate a life--a street band, parade and dance. The pictures are courtesy of Tabitha and her iPod.

Earlier in the day, we had taken the street car to the Audubon Zoo. It was an interesting zoo and fun to explore with my girls. We timed it just right: we arrived just as it opened and left as it started to pour heavy rain on us. We were so drenched (as I had insisted Tabs not bring umbrellas in her carry on bag!) that the street car driver really didn't want us on his street car. The sad thing was though, my camera completely died at the zoo. It completely broke. No zoo pictures. It was my new portable Canon Elf camera--purchased for busy vacations with my girls when taking my Canon Rebel and lenses is too bulky. But the Elf let me down. So, I will post only one pick from the zoo--taken by Tabitha. This lovely peacock strutted his stuff for us as we tried to enter a zoo restaurant. Pip curtsied to him so he'd feel appreciated.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Garden District, New Orleans

Garden District, New Orleans
Yes, we have arrived back in NO. We woke in Alabama, tried out a beach in Florida, had lunch in Mississippi and arrived back in Louisiana all in one day. The following  post and pics are of our time in the Garden district of NO.

We travelled by streetcar into the Garden district ad then disembarked and explored the area. An older New Orleans woman stopped Tabitha on the streetcar and gave her a beaded necklace.  The woman said, “It’ a memory. It’s for you to remember New Orleans.” It has crawfish beads on it. We call it her gris-gris, a Voo-Doo good luck charm. The crawfish symbolize the spirit of the Mississippi. As we left the streetcar the woman leaned out the window and shouted, “good-bye sweet heart! Enjoy your stay in New Orleans!”  Pip had to shed many tears on the streetcar over not having her own gris-gris necklace. Later I purchased her one with alligator beads on it to symbolize the spirit of the bayou. To protect her from the alligator spirits in the swamp on our swamp boat trip.

The district is famous for its huge opulent homes from the mid 1800s. It was a very hot walk so we stopped for lemonades’ at a corner restaurant and walked with ice cups in hand.

Off to find breakfast. We usually stop at Smoothy King for a yogurt and fruit smoothie.
Yup, there are the smoothies! Peter, Tabs and Pip on the street car.
Mist and I on the streetcar
Garden district walled cemetery Lafayette #1. Nearly all of the residents lost their lives to yellow fever mid 1800s.
Pip liked to give the graves small natural offering she found: pretty rocks, leaves, flowers etc.
Mist and I
This mansion is now a private school for girls. I heard a tour guide tell a tour in front of this mansion "The plots of land in this area were so valuable that Napoleon offered to trade all of Canada for a few plots." --um, excuse me, that's not how it went down folks!
This restaurant was established in the early 1800’s.
A lovely Garden district home.
Everyone pretty tired out from the unrelenting heat of the day.
Me in the Garden district

Tabs and her gris-gris heading  home.
Pip at the famous Cafe Du Monde.
Ready to dig into New Orleans' famous pastries, beignets dusted in icing sugar.
Walking past Jackson Square park (back in french Quarter).
Jackson Square founded in 1718. The site of many beheadings, hangings and torture type deaths like breaking on the wheel.

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stepped on a Fish, Shouted at By a Bull Frog and Poked By a Ghost!

Stepped On a Fish: (scroll down as I have 3 separate little tales with lots of photos)
Orange Beach, Gulf of Mexico
Mist, Tabs and Pip--Gulf of Mexico, Alabama 
Me--Gulf of Mexico, Alabama
Tabs, Peter and Pip--the water is warm, clear and shallow for quite a way out.
Small fish nibbling everywhere!  I must have swam for three hours straight. Yes, our pale Canadian skin is scarlet despite sunscreen :(
Pip loves the water!
Tabs, Mist and Peter, relaxing on the beach.
The castle and two of its builders--it was influenced by the Spanish Architect Gaudi ;)
A ghost crab decided to take residence in the castle (it sits just down and inward from Peter).
The best/craziest day ever. The Gulf of Mexico is so much fun. The water is warm and turquoise and the sand white. Small silver fish follow one every where in the water, taking tiny nips--it tickles. I was a way out from shore and holding Tabs in my arms for fun when I stepped down on a large living fish near my feet. It was a very slimy, unexpected feeling and I screamed as it surprised me. And the beach attendant (Andrew) had told us he'd seen a few black-tipped sharks that day. Once I realized what it was, I laughed. The ocean is so much fun, I never want to get out of the water.

Shouted at By a Bull Frog
Back home at Wolf Bay, Mist and I walked down along the dock to look for dolphins. On our way back we found a bullfrog by the edge of the pool. It got tired of us watching it and jumped right into the pool and swam into the filter. Mist left to find something to rescue it with--a branch. As I was waiting, the frog unexpectedly jumped right out of the filter and up onto the deck beside me. It opened its big mouth and started bull-frog shouting at me. It was as though it was scolding the Mist and I for bothering it and wanted us to shove off! I had to laugh, it was such a magical interaction--to be scolded by a bull frog. Though, in retrospect, perhaps it was a prince and just wanted a kiss--I might have missed my chance on that one!
The dock at Wolf Bay--view from our balcony. Dolphins can be seen feeding in the evenings. We saw a large pod on our first night. It is so quiet and relaxed here. Our condo is the only condo on the bay--the rest are private homes. Fish jump non-stop and we hear the sounds of birds, insects and jumping fish continually. 
Wolf Bay (a long bay that leads to the Gulf of Mexico)--where we are staying while in Alabama.
Poked By a Ghost
The strangest thing happened to me late afternoon. Peter and I were resting in the master bedroom of our condo. Peter was snoozing but I was awake, just lying down. I was on my stomach with my head to the side. The girls came to the patio doors of our room (via the balcony) and spoke to us through the screen door (to say it was time to go down town as we had promised to take them to the second hand book store and old fashioned soda fountain shop). I shut my eyes and ignored them, hoping Peter would wake up to their requests. Suddenly a firm, finger tapped me my shoulder. I opened my eyes, thinking that the kids had somehow, silently entered our bedroom to wake us. No one was there. Peter was at a distance (the other side of the king bed) faced away from me, still asleep. I figured it was a coincidence, an intense, strange muscle spasm in my shoulder and closed my eyes again. Within 30 seconds another poke. This time I was sure someone was in the room and I opened my eyes immediately--again, no one. There is no way to explain the definite, firm shoulder poke. Only a human-like finger could poke with that pressure. But no one was there. I bolted up and woke up Peter.  It was seriously frightening because there was absolutely no way to explain it but someone had poked me in the shoulder wanting me to get up! I decided I had to immediately get up take the children into town as they wished because someone (thing) really thought I should.
I think perhaps I picked up a ghost from the Nottoway Plantation. It must be a child ghost as it definitely sides with my children on issues. This experience has cemented my belief that some other-dimension energy poked me. I will leave you with a direct quote from my journal entry on the night I visited Nottoway mansion house with my girls. We were alone in the house, late in the evening. I sat down on the upper stairs of the staircase because I felt such a strong presence of energy at that spot. This is what I wrote:

Climbing the staircase, I reached a point where the energy was overwhelming familiar and I felt so comfortable and at home, it was as though I lived in the mansion. Each time I climbed the stairs onto the second level landing, the energy was the same. Pip sensed it too, it started at the very same stair for her. It was as though I seriously traveled back in time and felt the energy of the past home owners. The energy was so intense and overwhelming that I had to sit on the stairs for a while to figure it out. All I can say is it smelled familiar, looked familiar and felt familiar in every way--it was though I was back visiting my childhood home--feeling such comfort at all the familiar surroundings.

Nottoway grounds at night--A giant 200 year old oak tree and the graveyard in distance.
Pip and I chatting in the Entrance Hall at night.
Tabs and I in the Gentleman's Parlor in the early evening.
Me, descending the staircase (just below where I felt the intense familiar energy).
The girls and I danced in the ballroom--we had the room to ourselves!
More Crazy Dancing!
Tabs practicing her waltz steps.
My girls in the upper hall--where we sensed intense energy.

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