Eat, drink, (garden, knit, quilt, think, fix, read) & be merry

On the Needles

Winter is blowing in fast this year – we got a hard freeze last night!  I lost only a few squash at home, but the farm was hit hard.  In preparation for the colder months, I’ve been knitting at a furious pace.  I’ve also had a low attention span, so there is an abundance of UFOs floating around our house.

The Sugar Bunny is the closest to completion, with only a few more appendages to be sewn on.  But I’m not entirely happy with how this project is turning out, and so it sits, with the legs, eyes, and tail, in the bottom of my knitting bag.

I’ve been wanting a calorimetry for a long, long time.  I found a lovely, dense, wooly green wool at the Bayfield farmer’s market this summer.  I’ve since started the project three times and ripped it out each time.  I don’t like the holes from the wrap and turns.  I need to review Cat Bordhi’s conceal and wrap, but I just haven’t gotten time.  Some day, hopefully before summer rolls around again, I’ll knit up this lovely little project and have a warm, fuzzy half-hat for my head this winter.

I’m still picking away at the Cable Sampler Blanket.  It’ll be at least a year and a half before it’s done.  But hopefully it will get done because it’d be so cozy and purty.

And here is the third try for P’s sweater.  The first one I stole.  The second didn’t fit him well, so I gave it away.  Hopefully, the third time’s the charm on this one.

This is a 100% linen washcloth and face-towel set.  I’m doing the entire thing in linen stitch, so it’s taking an eternity, but I adore the feel of densely knit linen.

And, the most recent addition: the simple, elegant Quadrature.  I modified the pattern slightly to work it entirely in the round.  It’s for a friend’s baby, due in January.  For once in my life I’m getting a head start.  This is the first time I’ve knit something for a knitter, and it’s both scary and an absolute delight.  I’ve ripped out large sections several times, afraid a knitter will notice the imperfections.  But it’s going to be a deliciously warm and delightful blanket when it’s done, and, as a fellow knitter, I know she’ll appreciate just how much work and love went into each stitch.  If it weren’t so obviously a baby blanket intended for a sweet little one, I might have a hard time letting it go.  But it’ll get so much love and use, it’s a delight to make.

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Greatest Accomplishments

Over the past few days a f*cebook friend has been encouraging her readers to “like” her employer and post our greatest accomplishments on their “wall”.  In exchange for this modest act, the employer will donate a dollar to a wonderful charity.

I’d love to make a (free) donation to this particular charity but I can’t bring myself to swallow the bait.  Aside from feeling co-opted into boosting the FB credibility of business with whom I’ve had no particular experience, I don’t want to publicly post my greatest achievement.  It’s far too personal for the FB world.  And if I post something “lesser” and most socially acceptable, I feel like I’m denying my authentic self.  So, with that in mind, I’m going to post my greatest achievements here, and then make a donation to another very worthy charity – a scholarship fun for the kids I work with in the summer.  Having been in some of their shoes in the not-so-distant past, I know how much it means to have people believe in you.

1. Surviving years of trauma, abuse, and abandonment and coming out the other side as a compassionate human being.

2. Going to therapy and facing my demons.

3. Going back to school to finish a degree and find a better life for myself.  And succeeding more than I thought possible.

4. Choosing a spouse who is more than “not abusive and mean” but is kind, thoughtful, and endlessly supportive.  Not to mention funny and handy around the house.

5. Writing letters (and sending them) to my mom that hold her accountable for the sh*t she put me through.  Even if she never responds.

6. Learning to knit.  And getting pretty damn good.

7. Going to work on a farm, even though I was terrified and no idea what I was doing.  That job changed my life and helped me find loves that have sustained me.

8. Travelling around the world on a shoestring.  That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I never, ever regret doing it.

9. Not owning a car until I was nearly 30.  This one is just for fun.

10. Trusting myself enough to love others.  And letting myself love the kids in my life.  I don’t know how to say this without sounding weird, but here it goes: as a young child, the “love” I got from the most prominent adults in my life was perverse and harmful.  So learning how to be around kids has been hard for me.  How do I interact with them without being perverse and harmful?  I do not, in any way, consider myself a threat to children, but sometimes I worry too much about what to do, what to say, how to be appropriate.  Thankfully, this has lessened with time and exposure to other adults who are really good with kids.  I think I’ve learned a lot, and now I feel pretty comfortable with them, but it’s been a hard-won battle.

11.  Learning to cook.  And being a great bread baker.

12. Moving forward even when I want to stop.  Refusing to surrender to the anxiety and depression that haunt my mind.  Trusting myself and the future enough to keep moving ahead, even if it’s only a small shuffle.

13.  Learning how to garden and identify plants.  This gives me so much pleasure.

14. Allowing myself to dream.  Dreams are considered dangerous when you’re poor with no future, but I let myself dream anyway.  And many of them came true.

15.  Walking away from a faith that had, at one point sustained me, but wasn’t working anymore.  When it stopped being real and started being a facade, I swallowed my fear of hell and damnation and decide to try life as an agnostic.  I haven’t looked back.

This list, by no means exhaustive, is the current surface layer of which I am most proud.  To be sure, there are kinks and imperfections, and I haven’t achieved perfection in any one of these.  But they are the building blocks of the better life I live everyday.  Sometimes I weep, hard and long, when I contemplate my life had I succumbed to the statistics and uncertainties.  But for reasons I don’t completely understand, I didn’t.  In part it’s because I couldn’t, because a few people loved me and pulled me onward, because strangers whispered encouragement in my ear when I couldn’t stop crying.  In part it’s because teachers worked patiently to teach me, because pastors gently encouraged me, and because the when the sun shines it’s so very warm.  It’s because of nature and nurture, because of biology and mystery, because I had to keep moving for fear I’d freeze to death if I stopped.   But mostly it’s because a few people believed in me.  And for that I thank them daily, even if they can’t hear, even if sometimes the words get stuck in my throat and my breath is caught in my lungs.  But thankfulness, despite it all, is what feeds and sustains me.  So thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Life is full of surprises

We spent last weekend in northern Wisconsin for the wedding of some good friends.  It was lovely – both ceremony and reception were on the water of Lake Superior, the bride made her own beautiful silk dress, and the couple rode away on bicycles.  P and I camped nearby and rode our bikes in and around town and crossed the lake on the ferry to ride on Made*line Island (and spend a little time on the beautiful beaches, too).  But then, surprise!, we got food poisoning on our last night and were barely able to pack up camp and drive the four plus hours home before collapsing into bed (and bathroom) for two days.

On Tuesday night, when our delirium was subsiding and we could both stand, I did the final proofread of the letter.  The break-up letter to my mother.  It was more than three pages.  Those neatly printed and folded pages marked both the most difficult moment of my summer and a major transition point in my healing.  I outlined how she has repeatedly hurt me, why she lost my trust, and how she was not to contact me.  I wish I could write more eloquently about what this means, but the words feel mundane and heavy.  I broke up with my own mother.  I feel surprisingly calm about it.  I’ve mulled it over for months, tweaked my prose, added and subtracted words, sentences, paragraphs.  I’ve sharped my words and then dulled them, and then the reverse, until they felt sharp enough to carry my intent without harming unnecessarily.  I wrestled with the guilt, wondering if I was hurting her too much, trying to find the blurry line between honesty and cruelty.  But I need her to hear my pain, and there was no gentle and kind way to present the facts.  It’s been a hard life and I needed, for the first time in my life, to be honest with her about that, to stop protecting her from the reality she made me survive.

And then, I mailed it.

I’m trying not to wait for a response.  Afterall, I cut off contact with her.  But part of me is waiting, wondering.  She tends to move, a lot.  She acts like a snake in the grass, here one moment, gone in an unpredictable flash.  It’s as if someone, or something, is chasing her.  So I don’t know if she’s at the same address she was last time.  I don’t know if she’s having her mail forwarded or if it’ll sit somewhere, in a box in someone’s garage, until she returns from one of her random, confusing, sometimes lengthy trips.  I don’t know if she’ll ever return.  I don’t know if she did get the letter, if she’s sobbing now, wondering what she has done.  How she lost her only daughter.  Or if she’s hunkered over a beer, cursing the ungrateful little bitch who criticizes her every move.  Or if she tossed the letter aside, writing off my drama and fanciful stories.  I wish I knew, I wish I had some thread of understanding.  But, the truth is, even if I called and asked, she wouldn’t answer my question.  I’d probably hang up wondering if she lied or if she’s telling the truth.  Making contact would only confuse her and aggravate me.  She doesn’t ask questions or give answers.  She needs her mystery to protect her from whatever demons haunt her.

And then P turned 30.  I’d been planning a surprise party for several months and it went off without a hitch.  He was thrilled and overwhelmed.  I enjoyed working with P’s mom to put on the bash.  We had a taco bar, cake, ice cream, pinata, slideshow.  I loved seeing all our friends, laughing over beer, giving tours of the overgrown enthusiastic garden.  We sang, we ate, we had a merry time.

And now it’s Friday.  I’m exhausted, happy, anxious, sad.  After the party, I feel wrapped in a warm community of friends and family.  And with the letter out in the world, a severing missile of unknown power, I feel unsettled, worried, anxious.  I want so much for something I cannot name, meanwhile I feel so full of blessing I am about to burst.  I wonder if there is even room in my life for that unnamed longing to be filled, and yet all other wonders feel a little hollow with that dark space remaining empty.


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Home Sweet Home

Old memories have been drifting into my conscious orbit lately.  At other points in my life they may have felt intrusive, but now I welcome them.  I mourn them.  And then I lay them down.  It feels like taming ghosts.  It feels good.

Today was an exhausting day with lots of internal struggles, loads of farm stuff, and work on a research project.  It was dark and misty when I finally pulled into the driveway.  The headlights diffusely lit up the back of our Su*baru, the garden, the flats of plants on the deck.  P was inside making tacos.  And I started to cry as I realized  I’m home.  I’m finally home.

And then a memory came back.  It’s night, I’m in bed, and it’s so dark I’m not sure which house I’m in or how old I am.  But I’m crying, struggling to breathe, feeling crushed and desperately lonely.  “I just want to go home.”  Those words run through my mind over and over.  Curiously, I am at home, but it doesn’t feel like a home.  I want a place that feels like home should feel.  I want a place where I am loved, cared for, safe.  I don’t have it, and I doubt I ever will.

But tonight I came home to my real home.  I’m loved, cared for, safe.  I have someone to love.  I have a cat to cuddle with.  Lights on in the house aren’t a source of dread, they’re a source of comfort.  Words spoken here are not critical.  Safe hugs are freely given and received.  No one is trying to hurt me.  I don’t know what that, in particular, is so hard to accept.  No one is trying to hurt me.  It’s challenging to let down a guard that’s been up for nearly three decades, but it’s time.  It’s okay.  I’m home.

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Finals are over.  I still have a directed study that needs to be finished by the end of May, but the bulk of the pressure is off.  I am so relieved.  This has been such a rocky semester.  Many of the classes were ones I had been putting off (read = not very exciting).  I got eyeball deep in a bunch of extra circulars, including a big research project.  Farm season started.  I had a lot of soul-searching to do as well as thinking about the future.  And, to add fury to the fire – there was the therapy which has been so incredibly difficult. 

I cooked eggs yesterday and realized that’s the first time I’ve cooked in at least two months.  P has been getting us by, cooking up big meals on Sundays and sometimes during the week.  Otherwise it’s been takeout, tortilla chips, and popcorn.  I wish I were kidding.

I’m taking today for myself.  Too bad it’s rainy because I was hoping for some quality time in the garden.  I have ~150 plants on the deck awaiting soil, including a number of large shrubs and trees.  I’m not sure where they’re going, exactly, but they were “good deals”, orphans or just pretty and so they sit.  Tomorrow P and I head down to a state park for our annual morel hunting trip.  P found a few delicious handfuls the other day so they’re out!  We just need to go and find more.

Thanks, friends, for sticking with me over the past several weeks.  I know it’s been ugly around here but your listening and encouragement have been invaluable to me.  Today I feel like the worst is behind me.  That may not be true, I don’t know, but I’m going to believe it for now because that sure feels good.

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Unexpected Victory

Crying, sobbing, screaming.  Heavens almighty the last few days have been awful.  On Friday I felt the best I had in weeks.  The sun shined, I was productive, the magnolias started blooming.  Saturday was good, too, in a mute sort of way.  I transplanted hundreds of plants in a grey, warm greenhouse, listening to the rain hit the roof.  It was pleasantly humid and warm, the light comforting, the plants vibrant.  As I left the farm I found a perfect robin’s nest – with four warm, blue eggs.  I touched them before I realized what I was doing and the hope they contained settled into my body.

There was a sweet, thoughtful funeral for P’s grandma.  Then lots of time to catch up with family both near and far.  And later, I don’t know why, the sobbing returned with a fury Saturday night.  I could calm down enough to sleep only after P read me stories from Dr. Seuss.  On Sunday morning P made me Mickey Mouse pancakes at my request – with the syrup from our Norway maple.  Then I cried as P sent me off to work on Sunday morning.  I sobbed hysterically all the way to the farm, screaming and screaming.  Awful, godawful, I tell you.

My only moment of focus came as I fully inspected the bees Sunday afternoon.  I opened the hive and there they were, humming, piled four or five deep, working diligently.  I forgot my veil and worked only with gloves.  I moved slowly, intentionally, with a heart full of wonder.  The bees flared up occasionally, making my heart race, but I stepped aside until I calmed myself.  I pulled out three frames.  I gently knocked heaps of bees from one frame and marveled, absolutely breathless at the perfectly hexagonal yellowish comb they were pulling from the foundation.  It was miraculous how they, in such a crowded disjointed frenzy, created such perfection.  I held the frame skyward, the cloud-muted sun behind my back, and peered into the tiny cells.  And there they were – what I was looking for – miniscule eggs centered in each cell.  The queen had been accepted and was laying eggs.  The colony was healthy.  I felt calm and peaceful for the only time that day.

I went home early.  The fields were soaked, the greenhouse nearly maxed out, I exhausted from sadness.

And the crying, the heaving, the single-mindedness continued.  I, instead of school projects, read website after website about trauma and abuse.  I was trying to find sense in all the sadness.  I reluctantly called P’s attention to all the particularly salient details, over and over.  I wanted to give him a break, but I couldn’t stop talking. He eventually went into the kitchen to wash dishes.  I felt bad, needy, tense.  The combination of tension and banging pots escalated my anxiety.  I stood on a bleak and windy precipice.  I felt, for a fleeting moment, I had a choice.  Surrender to the escalation or shut down.  I, for the first time ever, surrendered.  I fell off a mental cliff, holding my hands to my ears, sobbing loud enough to drown out any and all noise.  It was dark, horrifying, endless.  I fell, and fell, and fell.  Soon I felt P’s hand on my head and I startled, but soon I went off again, sobbing and sobbing, trying to keep any sound at bay.  P sat down and fell out of my peripheral vision.  I screamed.  I couldn’t see him, I could feel a hand, I didn’t know where I was.  I leapt to my feet, grabbing a blanket, and slumped down, back to the wall, whispering, “no surprises, no surprises, please, please, no surprises.”

I woke up crying this morning, entirely overwhelmed by anxiety.  I realized I’ve been anxious almost continually for fifteen-odd years.  I just compartmentalized it, had different names for it depending how it surfaced.  When I felt it in the morning I thought it was because I had a busy day.  If I’d just get up and get to it, the feeling would go away.  When it surfaced as I got dressed I thought it was because I had been eating too much lately.  If I’d just get some control over myself the feeling would go away.  When the phone would ring I thought it was because I wasn’t very graceful on the phone.  If I could just be more socially capable, the feeling would go away.  When it would surface as I worked on homework I assumed it was because I was stupid, incompetent, or poorly organized.  If I could just get myself together the feeling would go away.  It would rise on the way to a social gathering and I wished I didn’t stutter, wished I were funnier, because then the feeling would go away.  As I cooked five things for potlucks and still felt it, I figured it was because my debts to others were so deep I couldn’t pay them.  If I could figure out a way to pay them back, the feeling would go away.  If it rose out of “nowhere” I knew it was because I had a phone call to return or a letter to write, or a mother to forgive.  If I would just get a handle on my life the feeling would go away.  As I lay down at night and my mind would race I thought I just needed to learn to relax, because then the feeling would go away.  But no matter how much I did, no matter how hard I tried, the feeling never, ever went away.  In fact it was escalating and getting more intense with time, putting higher, more intense, demands on me.

But this morning I realized none of that was true.  All day, every day what I had been experiencing was anxiety.  I compartmentalized and labeled it as a way to move through my day.  I took direct responsibility as a way to create a sense of control over that which I had no control.

I was washed out to sea this morning, on a turbulent tide of anxiety.  I couldn’t get out of bed.  I couldn’t breath.  I couldn’t even compartmentalize it anymore, and, therefore, I couldn’t find a handle.  I was paralyzed, horrified, completely overwhelmed.

But I did get up.  I got dressed.  I didn’t brush my hair.  I walked to the bus, paid my fare, and sat down.  I didn’t knit.  I walked to class and listened in a fog, fighting back tears, fighting back the darkness.

But the day kept moving.  I warmed up.  I found myself getting engaged in conversations, laughing, feeling the deep dark dissipate.  I called a friend to offer support that I didn’t think I had.  By the end of the day, I felt good.  I had a meeting I didn’t prepare for.  I admitted it and didn’t beat myself up.  I laughed with friends.  I did homework.  I didn’t feel anxious.  When P asked how my day was I said, “good” and I meant it.

Progress.  It doesn’t feel like it sometimes, but it’s there.  Hiding in little corners and in quiet conversations.  It’s there lurking on cold, cloudy, hard days.  It peeks out, baiting me to move forward, tempting me with visions of what life will be like when I come out the other side.  I can do this, I will do this.  I won’t let the SOB win anymore.


Gettin’ Crafty

My wrists have still been sore, but putting in a few stitches here and there is paying off.  I’ll show you what I’ve been up to.  But first – seed starting season is in full swing and I’d like to present, for your winter viewing pleasure, the onion, leek, and shallot forest:

Ok, so onto the wooly and silky things.

I finished P’s new socks just in time for his solo vacation to Portland*.  He wore them out of the house for the two-day train trip.  It made me so proud.

Please forgive the poor photos.  It was night and he was leaving, so we had to make due.

I needed a good conference knit (easy, small, with stash yarn) and this Oriental Lily (ravelry link) fit the bill perfect.  I made the six month size with Knit Picks Swish Superwash Wool.  It’s adorable!  Apparently I had two dye lots on hand so the collar is a different dark pink than the rest.  Oh well.

Forgive me.  I don’t normally dress the cat.  But it’s been a long winter.  The dress was finished blocking, she was sleeping, and the next thing you know…

A few weeks ago P and I went to Michigan to pick up a car we bought on ebay (a story for another post!).  While there, we visited with two of my college roommates.  One just had a baby and one is expecting so, of course, I had to make something.  Time was short, so they each got hats.

It’s a simple newborn hat (ravelry link).  The purple is made according to the pattern.  I modified the blue one for a 3-month size and replaced the lace with a simple seed stitch brim.

The silk didn’t knit up as soft as I’d hoped.  But perhaps it will soften up with age?

That’s it for now, friends.  I wish I had more things to show you, but the cutest thing in my life right now is how the cat curls up on my genetics textbook when I’m trying to study.

*While in Portland P visited the Pendleton outlet store and bought me nine pounds of wool dirt-cheap wool remnants, some originally selling for up to $60/yard.  That man knows how to make my heart go pitter-patter.

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A few things

I’ve got a pair of wool socks on the needles for P.  It’s another Cat Bordhi pattern.  I just love how flexible her patterns are and how nicely they fit.  This photo is a few weeks old.  I’m now just finishing up the leg.  They’ve been stalled, however, as my wrist has been awfully sore lately.  (the light and dark sock were NOT intentional – it’s from the same ball of  yarn!  They just ended up this way.  P is convinced they’re just going to hang out in the lost-mate bin because, looking so different, they’ll never be properly paired.  Of course I’m hoping they’ll be so comfortable he’ll always be looking for them…)

I think this lovely piece of the knitting is the culprit behind my sore wrists.  Cabling and knitting continental just don’t mix for me.  Something about the leverage and angles and tension… I need to knit English when I cable, but I loathe holding the yarn in my right hand.  Anyway, this beauty is the first of many, many pieces for the sample cable afghan I’m working on.  It’ll be ages until it’s finished, especially my wrists keep rebelling.

These fingerless mitts are for P.  They were suppose to be a Christmas present, but ended up being a January present.  It’s a lovely wool and silk mix and they almost shimmer in the sunlight (in a manly way, of course).  They’ll be so nice for springtime!

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From the tops of the buildings to the streets below

From the Wall Street banks to the empty homes

Between the lines of the people standing all in a row

There’s a crack in the gutter where a flower grows

Reminding me that everything is possible

Yeah reminding me that nothing is impossible…

…Hey, hey, hey no matter how life is today

There’s just one thing that I’ve got to say

I won’t let another moment slip away…

…Don’t let nobody ever tell you that it couldn’t be done…

…Don’t let nobody ever tell you that it shouldn’t be sung

Don’t let nobody ever tell you you’re the only one….

-From Michael Franti and Spearhead, “Hey, Hey, Hey” (emphasis mine)

A few weeks ago I felt like I was on the dark side of the moon.  Fortunately, the world keeps turning.  Life is brightening considerably.  The song quoted above has been playing often on our stereo.  I need the reminder to push myself and strive for a great life.  It’s too easy to fall into complacency.

I did go to meet that counselor and, surprise surprise, she’s wonderful.  After a lifetime of poor counselors and a jaded attitude, it’s a huge relief to find someone who may actually be able to help sift through the compounded layers of sadness, anger, confusion, and uncertainty.

I’ve started studying for the GRE in preparation for the possibility of grad school.  I’m trying not to let the 5-8% acceptance rates and lengthy applications intimidate me.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many people have been supportive.  There have been a few naysayers, but most people have said, “Of course you can do this.”

Having an encouraging professor has been pivotal.  It’s reassuring that my family believes in me, but it’s something else entirely to have someone who has a PhD to believe in my abilities.

I’m still taking fiddle lessons.  There has been progress over the past year, but it has not been quick or easy.  At least I now have a number of unfinished songs in my repertoire.  Fiddle music brings me much joy so I continue on, even if progress is slow and laborious.

Our little vacation to the southwest gave P and I a break and a chance to reconnect.  We needed that after a semester that was difficult for both of us.

I’ve spent a great deal of time during break working on this puzzle.   It’s been comforting to slowly put the pieces together one at a time, moving forward one small step at a time.   It’s given me a lot of quiet time to think about the past, the present, and the future.  I hope and strive for a life that paints a lovely picture as the pieces fall into place.

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A little trip

P and I went on a little trip with his parents to the southwest over New Year’s.  It was so cold!  The Grand Canyon was -20F at night.  We had to shuffle a few things around as roads were closed due to some major snowstorms.  But we still had a lovely time.

We flew into Las Vegas, stayed the night, and then headed to the Hoover Dam.  Here I am with my sweet MIL under the new bridge.

And then off we went to the Grand Canyon.  We almost had to skip the Canyon because of weather, but the roads cleared and we made it.  I was so excited!

It was so cold there were few people hiking.  We had most of the lookouts to ourselves.

We spotted a few Elk and mule deer.

We stopped at Montezuma’s Castle on the way to Sedona.  A five-story dwelling built into the side of a cliff more than 800 years ago.  Wow!

There were Sycamore trees in the area.  In the summer you can feel the water rising skyward under the bark.  In the winter, though, they’re just pretty.

We took the back roads to Sedona and it was unbelievably beautiful.

We arrived at sunset and the red mountains were brilliant!

In the morning we went for a little sunrise hike

In Phoenix we visited with some of P’s family.  They had three grapefruit trees in the backyard.  We picked a suitcase full and brought them home.  That was a highlight, for sure!

I love climbing trees.  Especially when it involves food.

Some of the fruits were enormous!

Finally, on the way to the airport, we drove up South Mountain to see the city and find some Saguaro cacti for a photo-op.  I couldn’t pass up this guy with a face!

I hope you, too, had a wonderful start to 2011!

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