Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Finn Family is not unaccustomed to vacations.

(again, this post is an account of things long past.  Despite the laps of time, I hope you, my dear readers, enjoy this utterly true account, of the Finn Family International Vacation, as it is quite entertaining.  Or at least it was, while it was happening. I can only hope that you find it as enjoyable.  If not, well, better luck next time.  I say, lets just celebrate the fact that I updated at all.)

The Finn Family is not unaccustomed to vacations.  However, what we are less familiar with, are those vacations of the international variety.  In fact, they were new to us. 

Usually, when the Finn Family embarks on a vacation (to our ever favorite bi-annual holiday vacation spot, at the lovely detroit home, of my grandparents), we pack up an ever trusty Honda Civic and get on our way.  In Morocco, things were a little less trusty. as there wasn’t a Civic to be had.   Then you remember the baby cow sized luggage, brought by several members of the Finntourage.  Add in carry-ons and 110 degree heat, and you’ve got yourself a party.  Or at least, the beginning of our vacation.  

After arriving in Casablanca, we took a couple of days to recover, catch up on sleep, and take a leisurely stroll through what turned out to be a local ghetto.  After changing direction (and picking up our pace), we were El Jay bound.  But not before getting intimately familiar with a local treat:  the taxi.  

El Jadida, or as we affectionately called it in our Travel Journal: El Jay, is a coastal town, with beautiful beaches, or so we were told.  But before we could explore those beaches, we had to get there.  And our luggage had to come too.  Which lead us to the local taxi stand.  It was in the middle of a gas station parking lot.  It was on the busiest street in the city. There was a group of mechanics waiting, for what I’ll guess was a broken down car.  And then, there was us.  We really fit in.  

Unfortunately, we didn’t seem to fit in the taxi.  At least, not with our luggage.  No matter how we organized, shimmied, shoved or yelled at the bags, they never actually fit in the trunk.  Our taxi driver was confused as to why we had packed a fresh outfit for every fresh hour, of every fresh day.  Him and I bonded over this mutual confusion.  Finally, that good man, moved us out of the way, and organized the luggage himself.  The trunk didn’t close.  No worries, he just tied the trunk closed with some twine he pulled off a box of motor oil.  

Then, and only then, did it get awkward.  Because that is when we noticed another man standing nearby.  

Now, it should be known that taxis are Mercedes Benz cars.  Automatically, you are picturing shiny black cars, cruising along, carting the occupants in the lap of luxury.  Don’t.  Instead, picture your grandmothers first car.  Now, forget the need for keys because unlike grandma, lots of taxi drivers don’t need them, since they have their wires conveniently crossed.   To top it off, ignore how many seat belts are available.  Then fit seven grown adults (and as many small children as are necessary) inside.  This makes for a profound experience of luxury.  Its just like sitting in the lap of luxury. Except, instead of luxury, you are generally sitting in another persons lap.  

One the truck was (somewhat) securely closed, the taxi driver kindly pulled me aside.  He explained that this man had been waiting for a taxi to El Jay, for an hour and a half.  Since we had five people, he didn’t think we would mind allowing this man, to purchase the sixth seat.  As someone who has waited many an hour for a taxi, I couldn’t tell that man no.  So in we all got.

It took a while to situate ourselves.  The four ladies sat in the back, along with everyones carry-ons and purses.  Upfront, my BIL (brother-in-law) was getting very familiar and comfortable with our other passenger.  Our other passenger got very comfortable preaching to us.  Our taxi driver got comfortable rolling his eyes and swerving through traffic at a breakneck speed.   Things were off to a good start. 

It continued as we got caught in a traffic jam.   Instantly, we began to sweat, not out of nerves, but because of the sweltering heat.  It was hot.  And the windows didn’t roll down.  Add in the undistinguishable sermon coming from new found friend, in the front seat, and things were looking good. 

Eventually we got out of traffic, but the heat didn’t seem to be going anywhere, except with us.  So we kept sweating.  Poor BIL in the front seat...we were barely out of traffic, when the preaching passenger fell asleep.  On Crew’s shoulder.  He was too nice to push him away, so instead he sat with the man to his right, and the gear shift to his left.  Clearly, he had the best seat in the house.  

After a very long hour and a half, we made it to El Jay a good, five pounds lighter.  With our luggage in tow, we made it to the hotel, check in, and found out that yes, the beaches in El Jay are beautiful, indeed.  

We enjoyed several days of beaching, wining, dining, and ancient Portuguese cistern touring.  All was delightful and incredibly relaxing, so much so, that I was sad to leave.  But we had a busy schedule to adhere to, and next on our list was the medieval city of Fez.  

But for details on our Fez-ian adventure, you must wait, as I haven’t written that post yet.  Perhaps, if you are lucky, I will write it soon.  Until then, love to you all, my dear readers of late. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The time has officially changed

(my dear and loyal readers,  the post you about to read is a log of past events.  While I am sure, my lengthy sabbatical has perhaps, slackened your resolve in reading this blog, I do appreciate your patience.  I certainly seem to have an aversion to blogging, merely because despite my geographic location, my daily life is far less exotic than you might imagine.  

However, I do know some of you (thanks, pete), look to this subscription as a means of waisting five minutes of work time.  Therefore, I will try not to disappoint, and will not keep you waiting much longer!  At least, I say that now, as my next post is already written.  I promise to post it soon.  But haste I shall not make, as I cannot condemn getting my readers comfortable with regular correspondence, at least not from this blog.  Rather, distance makes the heart grow fonder, or so I’m told.  

Of course, I prefer  “patience is a virtue”, which my father never grew tired of quoting, but I grew quite exhausted of hearing.  But who am I to dispute the wisdom of my elders?  Therefore, I will pass that lesson along, through this blog, along with, of course, scattered notes about the actual adventure that has crept into my life.  Cheers!) 


three times, in the past five months.  Of course, something being labeled as “official” seems to be synonymous with “unnecessary”.  Therefore, I have spent much of the past five months asking two questions:  “Is this new time?”  or “Is that old time?”  Unfortunately for me, the most common response I get is “they are the same thing!”  So really, I have no ideas if the “time” is really the time, or if it is just some philosophical idea of organization.  The mere allusiveness of it all gets my head spinning.  Pretty freaky stuff. 

In rural areas, many people do not acknowledge the time changes.   They recognize that officially, the “time” has “changed”, but this has not encouraged them to change their own clocks.  I have solved the problem by changing my watch to “new” time, while keeping my cell phone on “old” time.  As the months go on, one would imagine that I am more familiar with the timing of events.  But really, I’m just as lost as I have ever been.  The result is two fold:  I either show up for events two hours early, or two hours late.  

In corporate America, this might be an issue.  In rural Morocco, we like to celebrate that you showed up at all!  The only place this is an issue, is in regards, to transportation.  On any given day, I have about two chances to leave my town.  The first, is early in the morning, which I would tell you is at 7:00am, but at this point, I couldn’t tell you what that actually means.  The second is around noon, but again, that could mean anytime  after breakfast and before nightfall.  

All too often, I sit on the side of the road and wait, for two hours.  Or even more commonly, I sit on the side of the road and wait, for two hours, before a kind soul asks me what I’m doing, as the last transportation departed three hours prior.  

While it makes no conventional sense, I am really unfazed, on the whole.  If I spend two hours waiting, for transportation that has already passed, I return home comfortable with the idea of peanuts for dinner.  However, five months ago, when the time changed for the first time, I was quite fazed.  Flustered, even, as I had places to go, and more importantly, people to see.  

In early May, I was sitting on the side of the road waiting for transportation, as is normal.  Only, none was forthcoming.  After many frantic phone calls, dreaming up several emergency plans of the not-well-thought-out variety, I was able to catch a ride with my neighbors cousin (or some relation or another.  I was a little foggy on the connection, but universally, we are all family.  right?).  With my book bag on my lap, the journey began.  

After constantly checking my watch, I made it to the airport ten minutes late.  I ran inside and thanked the building engineers for only building one terminal.  Arriving out of breath, I anxiously looked around, but saw not a soul.  As it turns out, on tickets, arrival times are given in the “current” time when purchased, not the “current” time, for the day of your arrival.  After checking several arrival boards, I settled on being the first person in the waiting area, and found a chair. 

It was not long before I became just one, in a quickly growing crowd.  Families began to arrive, just as flustered as I had been.  Women sat in chairs, but spent most of their time checking watches.  Men paced behind those chairs.  Children, unfamiliar with this new found freedom of preoccupied parents, ran around and screamed quite often.  Most groups were quite large.  Elderly matriarchs wore beautiful jellabas (traditional robes) and were clearly, the ones in charge.  For all of us, that day was a special day.  And we were waiting for all that special to arrive, from America.  

Finally, the doors opened and the first travelers entered.   In unison, we all began to crane our necks and peer through the crowd, hoping that person, was our person.     There, in the middle of the airport, parents and children were reunited.  Grandparents meet grand babies for the first time.   Grown siblings welcomed back their brothers and sisters, to their homeland.   Piles of hugs, cries of joy and plenty of laughter erupted as, one by one, each traveler found the crowd they belonged to.

A great many of these reunions was tearful, and incredibly sweet.  As an American living abroad, I am constantly thinking about those back stateside.  Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in my own feelings, I forget how common it is, for Moroccan families, to have several children living and working abroad.  Additionally, as a US Citizen, I forget how easy it is for me to get a travel visa.  Its not that easy for everyone, therefore, travel and reunions are far from commonplace.  This added a large measure of gratefulness and a level of shared joy amongst those, of us waiting.  

I was so absorbed, in the many endearing reunions happening around me, that I almost missed my own.  However long its been, I can still pick my mother out of a crowd.  The door opened, and there she was, followed closely by my sister.  They had arrived!!  Our own reunion had hugs, laughter and plenty of joy.  With their luggage in tow, we ventured out of the airport, ready for the real adventure to begin.  

Luckily for Molly, the real adventure required a second trip, to the airport.  After getting settled, at the hotel, I was due to return, to the airport, in order to retrieve my other sister Caitlin and brother-in-law.  I had planned it well, and we arrived with about ten minutes left to spare.  Until I remembered the time change.  

For the second time that day, I settled down to wait.  Sitting in the same chair as earlier, my sister and I waited.  Having Molly there was much better than being alone. Although, after the many time changes she experienced that day, I’m sure she wanted nothing, but her bed.  After many yawns, the wait was over!  The second reunion of the day was quite similar to the first:  many hugs and a great deal of joy!   

Then I saw their luggage.  But I decided having luggage, each the size of a baby cow, was a problem for the next day.  With a very happy heart, I welcomed my siblings to Morocco, excited for the adventures that were certain to ensue.  

In true Finn Family Fashion, more gems will be shared soon.  Stay tuned! 


Thursday, April 5, 2012

In the cities,

I always see women, carrying large armloads of buckets.  At first, I thought these women were re-stocking their families shops or had a great need for plastic wares.  It didn’t take long for me to learn that, in fact, these women were headed to the Hamam.  
In most of Morocco, bathrooms are sans-shower.  To bathe, water is heated and distributed into several buckets.  These buckets are arranged around a small stool, in the bathroom.  With large families, as all families are, bathing days are quite an affair.  It is hard work to keep the water heated, the line moving and get all of the children well scrubbed! In towns without running water, bathing takes even more work and is exhausting.  
However, in larger towns there are Hamams, or public bath houses.  As a westerner, the idea of public bathing is a little un-nerving.  But during the cold winter, I found it to be a wonderful alternative to washing my hair over a bucket, while wearing all my clothes, so as to not die of exposure.  
Before heading to the Hamam, you must gather your supplies:
-big bucket, or two 
-little bucket/scoop
-little short stool
  • shampoo, conditioner, face wash, soap etc.
  • exfoliating mitten- an essential for the true Hamam experience. 
  • flip flops/showering shoes
  • towel and fresh change of clothes. 
Toting all of your supplies, you make your way to the Hamam.  There are either two:  one for men and one for women.  Or, if there is only one, men will go in the morning, and women in the afternoon, or vice-versa.  Many are unglamorous from the outside, and marked only by a small sign near the entrance.  Upon entering, you find yourself in a basic dressing room.  The walls are lined with benches and clothing hooks.  An attendant welcomes you and distributes additional buckets.  You pay her the small fee, and find an area for yourself.  
As an American girl, I am not unfamiliar with showing skin.  In the summertime, I wear shorts and skirts above the knee.  I wear bathing suits at the beach, and the occasional tank top.  Yet, here, I’ve grown accustomed and very comfortable wearing no fewer than three layers of clothing, regardless of the season.  I don’t show my elbows, ankles, or collar bone.  This new style of dress took some getting used to, that is for sure!  But now, its second nature to wear leggings, underneath ankle length skirts, just in case. 
But at the Hamam, you go in your skivvies. 
With nothing, but your buckets and soap, you make your way into the next room.  The first room you enter is warm, the second is hot, and the third is very, very hot.  In whichever room you prefer, you find a spot and get settled. Taking your buckets, you get cold water from a tap, in the second room.  A font, in the third room, is full of scalding hot water.  With your buckets filled, you head back to your spot and begin bathing.  
The walls, tiled in white, are bright, even in the windowless rooms.  Women are everywhere, bathing and chatting with their neighbors.  Toddlers sit in buckets, waiting for their turns.  The peaceful atmosphere is interrupted only when those toddlers are scrubbed by their enthusiastic mothers.  Then yells of protest echo through the rooms, and don’t stop until a red, but quite clean, child sulks away, from a satisfied mother.  
Exfoliating is serious business here.  Special mittens are sold at every shop, and are used by every hamamming individual.  Every inch of your skin is scrubbed, removing dirt, oil and dead skin.  Your neighbor will always offer to exfoliate your back, just so long as you return the favor.  
For a country that limits body contact to handshakes and kisses on the cheek, the hamam is a very open, yet private and intimate experience.  Time spent at the hamam is more than just bathing, it is also an escape from the stress and chores, of everyday life.  It is not uncommon to re-fill your buckets three or four times, spending the hours soaking up the steam and relaxing, in this unexpected sanctuary.  
love love love, 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

On Fridays,

the world outside my door is turned into a haphazard market.  Next to the Mosque there is a small space, with a small grove of olive trees, in the corner.  This is our town center.  Usually it is empty, but on some Fridays it plays hosts to a mini market.  
At nine o’clock in the morning, large vans arrive, carting a mobile market within the confines, of their backseats.  Makeshift tables are constructed and covered, with everything from tea pots, to wrenches, to horse shoes. It seems the only thing you can’t purchase is fresh fruits and vegetables. Underneath the olive trees,  livestock bleat and baa while they get inspected, by perspective customers.  Crates of sugar cones, animal feed and economy sized bags of flour are displayed, enticing those who walk by to stop and haggle prices. 
But much more happens at mini-souk than the purchasing of goods.   Men from Bouayach, as well as those from surrounding towns, sit against walls and, in the shade, waiting for the afternoon Call to Prayer.  While gathered, they share stories and news from nearby towns.  Crop prices, politics and the drought, affecting much of Morocco, is discussed.  As are the implications within the local economy.  Like its much larger counterpart in Midelt, souk is just as much a social occasion, as it is an opportunity to purchase goods.
Until a few months ago, vendors would set up piles of blankets and prayer mats, right outside my door.  Rolled up plastic rugs would lean against the walls, of my house.  The loud conversations between merchants and customers would come through my closed windows, making me feel as though I too was fighting, for the best price. 
As women do not attend the mini-souk, I am careful to avoid the town square.  This is no small feat, as my front door opens up directly, to its center. At the beginning, of my time here, my forays along the edge of souk were always noticed, by everyone.  Many pairs of eyes would follow me, as I walked quickly to the spring or my neighbors house.  On the rare occasion, I would venture into souk, the noise level would noticeably drop, until I made my purchases and left.  
Luckily, I have become more familiar to the vendors and customers, of this little souk.  My presence no longer stops commerce.  Fewer stares follow my every move.  Now,  men standing along the edge, will chat with me, when I pass by.  And no longer do vendors set up shop next to my house. 
While men are busy attending to chores in the fields and meandering through the souk, women are busy in their kitchens.  The Moroccan weekend is Saturday and Sunday.  But Friday is the Holy Day, of the Islamic calendar.  Instead of Sunday dinner, families gather for Friday lunch.  These long and traditional lunches are special.  Family is incredibly important here, but on Fridays, family is a gift. 
Women spend the mornings preparing couscous:  the traditional Friday meal.   As this is a meal without bread, women instead, make their own couscous.  Hours are spent, sitting on stools, sorting and sifting through large piles of wheat.  This homemade grain sits in states of various readiness, spread out on squares of cloth and safely within bowls. 
Kitchens are busy, with each woman, of the family, doing different tasks.  Large pots of water boil, until steam fills the entire kitchen.  Bowls of fresh lamb or raw chicken sit wherever there is an open space.  Vegetables, bought at souk or grown in the family garden, are washed, peeled and cored.  Mountains of onion, carrots, zucchini, fava beans and pumpkin cover counters waiting, to be cooked.  Slightly smaller piles of vegetable peels sit in the corner, soon the become the mid-day meal for any chickens, goats or sheep, residing in the courtyard. 
Tables are set with spoons, the only day of the week when cutlery is used.  The clay platter that, on every other day it is used to knead bread, is on Friday’s, used to serve the meal.  First, the grain is dished into the base of the platter.  If meat is included, it is then placed, in the center, of the couscous.  The well cooked and well spiced vegetables are arranged over top.  A thin gravy or thick homemade buttermilk tops off the dish. 
Families gather to eat, in the late afternoon, after men have attended prayer at the mosque.   Even weaning babies eat their own portion, of mashed up vegetables, from the meal.  Older women ignore the spoons in-front of them, preferring instead to shape mounds of couscous with  hands.  This is an art, that has never failed to leave me covered in food. These women, however, eat with expertly skilled hands. 
After everyone has eaten their fill, the man of the table, divides the share of meat into equal portions.  Once finished, the clay platter, with its contents depleted greatly, is removed and replaced, with a large plate of fruit.  The sweetness of oranges and bananas is a nice contrast, to the savory couscous.  Orange and banana peels are cleared from the table and the fruits sugary juice is washed from everyones hands. 
The only thing left to do, after the meal, is to nap.  And so everyone naps.  Not until early evening do schedules start to begin again.  Kids resume running around, playing soccer in the dusty school yard.  Men finish up chores in the fields and women, chores around the house.  Hanutes open back up, selling the necessary staples.  And neighbors visit each other, to share cups of tea.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Evenings are still.

No longer are children running around, playing soccer in the school yard.  Or men gathering outside the mosque, talking together.  Women stay inside, no longer doing chores in courtyards or in the fields.  Winter has fallen and residents have taken refuge indoors.

From rooftop stovepipes, smoke curls up mingling with the brisk evening air. Inside homes, families gather around stoves enjoying the warmth and comfort emitting, from the fires within.  Outside the world is still, undisturbed by those who occupy its days.  Farmers, students and mothers alike, converge together around glowing stoves, hiding from the night, that seems to have settled inside their bones.   
Set up in sitting rooms or kitchens, these stoves are the primary source of heat for entire families.  While many layers of clothing adorn each man, woman and child in town, it is not enough.  Blankets and sweaters are important, but stoves are essential for the winter months.  These once shiny stoves, now darkened with soot from years of use, are welcomed winter editions to homes.
Children comb fields of apple and apricot trees, now barren, searching for fallen branches.   Men  prune large branches off trees and chop trunks into logs.  The melancholy family donkey is then, heavily laden with timber and led away.  These little donkeys, often barely visible under the burden of branches, slowly trek towards home. 
Homes are rearranged to accommodate for winters cold.  The room that holds the stove,  becomes the primary sleeping place for the family.  Blankets, pillows and sheep skins are arranged near the stove, ready for slumber.  Tidy piles of wood sit neatly, in the corner, waiting to keep families in relative degrees of comfort, throughout the night. 
Once fires are roaring within, kettles of water or cast iron skillets are warmed on top.  Pots of tea are brewed, for the family and the rare, visiting neighbor.  Fresh bread dough often sits, in a clay bowl, rising in the warmth near the stove.  Once ready, the dough will be fried and served hot, with honey or jam.  The sweet smell of fire and new bread fills the nighttime air, making it the signature scent of winter. 
Men spend the evenings, finishing chores.  Cows are brought it from the fields.  Wood piles are replenished.  Brothers, uncles and cousins get together to drink cups of coffee and offering advice on work and family.  Young people pass the time playing card games and watching television before dinnertime. 
Women spend the evenings visiting their neighbors, gathering near stoves, enjoying each others company.  Women swap stories and advice.  Men discuss crops, cows and home construction. Always, a metal tray of tea cups and a pot of herbal infused tea sit on the nearby table. 
Siblings sit on the floor playing games, waiting for dinnertime. Their laughter and yells are mingled with their mothers cries to be quiet and behave.  As an occasional treat, handfuls of almonds are given out, to be then roasted on top of the stove.  School books sit in the corner, undisturbed until the morning, when children finally seek them out.
While the days fade away, so does the snow atop the nearby mountains.  Soon enough winter will melt its way into spring.  Until then, snow will fall and the fields will frost.  But luckily, the home fires will continue to burn, warming all those who sit before it. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

In Morocco there are three calendars:

the Roman, the Islamic and the agricultural.  Each serves its own purpose.  With Islam being the foundation of life, the Islamic calendar is followed closely.   But the others are dependent on location and employment.  

In Bouayach, time is not measured by crossing days off a calendar, Islamic or Roman..  Rather, time is measured by the seasons and crops.  Here, agriculture dictates everything.  It decided when children go to school and when they stay home, to help with the harvest.  When families earn their income and then, how much of that income is disposable.  When weddings are thrown and when babies are born.  It decides the rhythm of life.

In Ohio, there are few crops to harvest in January.  In Bouayach, there are olives.  And with those olives comes olive oil.

Each family has their own supply of olive trees.  Groves, of pale green trees, adorn families courtyards, gardens and fields.    These trees, of constant green, are a perpetual reminder of life, against a backdrop of red desert.

In January, the trees hang heavy, with the full black fruit.  Harvesting is a tiring chore that demands the time of the entire family.

Women and kids kneel at the base of lush green trees, filling their buckets with the deep purple fruit destined to become rich oils and delicious additions to meals.    Their hands move quickly, sorting olives by ripeness and placing them in the corresponding bowl. 

A man or a small child takes refuge from the gathering work and climbs the tree.  There, he takes a bamboo shoot and hits the branches until a shower of twigs, leaves and olives falls below.  Those gathering don’t even look up.  This baptism is all too familiar to them. 

Families harvest their crops and cart it home, on the backs, of melancholy donkeys.  In the days to follow, the crop will be sorted again.  Upwards of ten kilos will be placed in plastic buckets with salt water, lemon and spices.  Lids will be sealed and these buckets will be placed in the sun, until the brine is set.  The process takes several weeks. The remainder of the crop, will be taken to mills and pressed into olive oil. Families will store enough oil to last them until the next year.

In Winter, olive mills are busy with business.  Communities rely on these few mills for seasonal incomes and oil production.

The olive mill was at one point, a living room.  The family moved out and built a mill where they once drank tea.  The Press Room contains two large stone basins.  Each basin holds a stone wheel, used to grind the contents of the basin.  Much like a mortar and pestle, this unsophisticated equipment is ideal for oil production.  In each corner, was a metal crank presses, each of which has a drain into a subsurface storage tank. 

After olives are picked and sorted, they are put in the large stone basin.  Then, either the mule is harnessed to the grinding stone or four men take its place.  The olives are crushed until there is a substantial purple paste.

The paste is shoveled into grass woven baskets and placed under a crank press.  Each basket is filled with a specific amount.  As they are very heavy, it takes two men to carry just one basket.   Their placement under the press is crucial to productivity. Therefore, they are tweaked and adjusted until just right.  About ten to fifteen of these baskets are stacked, one on top the other. 

When ready, the press is cranked down and oil begins to flow from the baskets.  It seeps down to the drain the floor.  It is funneled into a white tile subsurface storage tank. Throughout the day, the press is tightened  In the beginning this process is relatively easy and can be done by one man alone.  As the process continues, it can take the strength of three men. 

When all of the baskets are placed, they extend over the heads of all workers. By the time they finished pressing, which takes about two days, the baskets barely rise to a workman's knees. 

When pressed and settled, the oil is abstracted from the tank and strained.  The remaining byproduct is deposited into the drain, which leads outside to a collecting pool.  Every week, the byproduct is burned. This process is essential, as the byproduct is incredibly harmful to the soil and other crops.

The finished product is placed in large plastic vats.  There it waits to be made into dishes, to be served at every table in Bouayach.

Wishing you all a bright and beautiful start to 2012!

All of my love

Sunday, November 27, 2011

As today is

(three days after) thanksgiving, I wanted to share my thanks, with each of you, my dear readers.  Without your unending love and support, I would not be here.  I am grateful that I can share this experience, this new world, with such understanding, encouraging and interested people.  I am thankful for you all.  

Happy Thanksgiving!

love love love