THIS IS #76…WHAT HAPPENED TO #75?

This is the seventy-sixth blog post I’ve written. The previous posting was the seventy-fourth. So what did happen to #75?

#75 is titled “Know Thy Foe” and contains the results of my going onto three of the anti-wolf pages and clicking on the personal pages of some of the foulest, most vile individual posters. Basically it’s a bit of an insight into the rather dark and twisted minds of people that insist I’m the twisted one. I sent the final draft to someone versed in the legalities of publishing to make sure I hadn’t crossed any lines that might get me in trouble. I received the edited copy last night but when I read the “smoothed out” version it didn’t feel right. The editing didn’t take anything away from the content but the time that passed between writing and final reading has enabled me to see this piece with some critical distance, removed from the original emotion that prompted my creation.

As a release (a vent if you will) it still holds up but the lady that went through it for me suggested that I might be doing what I condemn them for doing. To an extent I agree although mine is not a personal attack. I’m just relaying information that they have already published on their own pages so they obviously don’t care who knows. Then I thought about the regular readers of this blog. This is yet another departure from what I intended the “White Wolf Moon” blog to be. So, at least for now, #75 will remain in a folder on my desktop.

But this whole experience has reminded me of how important it is to step back and look at what I’ve written through different eyes…to approach it in the “cold light of day” before deciding I’m done…to stop and think before hitting the “publish” button.

Following is the second part of my “Fear” blog. They were going to be posted back-to-back but I got a little side-tracked.

In school I feared those nine-times tables. The rest I could handle but those nine-times brought the hairs on the back of my neck to sweaty attention. Then the little girl next to me (who was in the “grade ahead” row) explained that if I knew all the others I knew the nine-times. A light went on and the fear disappeared along with my shadow of doubt. I thanked her and at lunch we sat in the playground of that one-room school in Roblin, Ontario and ate squashed peanut butter sandwiches and drank warm Freshie while we discussed her personal favorite, the five-times table. I had to admit that other than the two-times, the five-times was also my pick for outstanding times table.

Inoculations also frightened me in school. In those days we all lined up outside the Principal’s office with our sleeves rolled up. One by one we disappeared through the door as the remaining basket cases inhaled the medicinal odors while trying to ignore the muffled crying and screaming emanating from behind the Rand-McNally pull-down map of Canada. Our teacher’s speech on how this would help us grow without disease fell on deaf ears, or rather plugged ears. My turn would come and I’d stand there while they patted the cold liquid on my arm.

“You’re not scared are you?” the nurse would always say. My lips said no but my eyes said, “Get me the hell outa here!”

“Everyone has to have their booster,” she would say calmly. “You’re not the only one.”

That’s like telling a Christian that the lions will eat everybody who enters the Coliseum so don’t worry about it. Bottom line? You’re feline fodder and just because you’re one of fifty won’t change that fact and most certainly won’t make you feel any better about it.

There was another fear that happened about that time. One warm afternoon our math teacher Mr. Harcourt advised us not to be alarmed at what was about to happen. This insightful statement, of course, brought instant trepidation. He explained that today would be the first in a series of bomb drills in case the Reds decided to start a war. When the bell rang we were to run to the hallway, put our heads between our legs, cover our ears and open our mouths.

As a military brat in England I would spend evenings watching full charge wargames taking place on the hills around Warminster. I rode in tanks and trucks and watched them noisily navigate the narrow English roads on the way to a spectacular display of muzzle bursts and explosions. With this background in mind the prospect of the bomb didn’t frighten me as much as the thought that if we were bombed someone would find me in this ridiculous position.

Girls.

At age eight most boys run away from girls. It’s ‘cuz they’re yucky’ is the given reasoning behind the stampede. Truth is most boys are scared of girls. This is an example of a lifetime fear, no expiry date.

I was never really frightened of girls at an early age. To me they were just boys who smelled better. Later on when I discovered that smell wasn’t the only difference things changed.

Her name was Sharon. Bedecked in her white fuzzy sweater and tartan skirt she was a vision of femininity and a gorgeous fear monger. Most guys were scared to be in the same hallway with her let alone talk to her. Linda, Suzanne, and Bev were okay. At twelve or so, they were still like the guys, perfume aside.

But Sharon was a girl. Sharon liked older men, at least a grade older.

We ended up having to work together on a project in Mrs. Livero’s art class. The thought of sitting beside Sharon at a small table for a week frightened me to the point that I couldn’t sleep the night before however I’m not sure it was fear that caused my insomnia. The next morning in art class I sat alone, hands placed perfectly on the scarred tabletop, twiddling my thumbs. Sharon was late and as she entered the room her eyes sliced me into easy-to-chew stir-fry strips. She asked Mrs. Livero if she could work with one of the girls or at least a different boy but was instructed to take her place beside me. Despite her protests and ink flicking we managed to get the job done and after the first class got along quite well. We realized that we liked the same music, animals, and television shows. It was here I discovered that really pretty girls are no different. They’re just girls.

Of course some girls teetered on the precipice of another fear I used to have and to a degree still do.

Anything that’s bigger and hairier than me deserves a wide berth although there are some hairy things that are smaller and some bald things that are bigger that command the same respect. Skunks are smaller and hairy, elephants are balder and bigger. Both smell funny and both get the deserved distance and respect.

Knowledge and familiarity dispelled those early fears as it dispels most fears.

Childhood fears are usually left behind along with the security blanket, favorite toy, childhood friends and dreams.

They have to be left behind to make room for grown-up fears.

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THOSE DAMN WOLVES AGAIN!!

Honestly I try not to use this as a rant page but the next two posts will be just that. Sorry…I really need to vent! The second one will be posted once it gets edited by someone who is an expert on legalities and what I can or cannot say…she’s already taken a fair bit out so I guess I got carried away. Both these blogs are a lot longer than I normally post but I’ve summed up most of it in my first paragraph…the remaining contains a bit more info and links to where I got my information.

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This entry addresses a half-truth headline that I am getting so tired of seeing pop up as justification for the slaughter of a species.

“80% decline in the Yellowstone elk population since the wolves were re-introduced.” On some sites it’s been reduced to “80% of Yellowstone elk killed by wolves” but people who have half a mind will realize that logistically this is impossible…especially when you do a little research.

It’s just another misleading headline…more of a time-line really, nothing more. It’s another example of how some folks pick a semi-stat that suits their purpose without presenting the back-story and expecting people buy into the inference (that being that the wolves are solely responsible for the decline). Yes wolves kill elk but let’s get real…they obviously aren’t the only reason for this decline. The YNP elk herd was already beginning to have detrimental issues in the early 90s (prior to the wolf “planting”) with unusually low calving numbers which will affect later adult herd numbers. Since then age, disease, unseasonable climate conditions, increased predation by bears and cats has also had an impact on the elk population. In fact there’s never a mention that, for various reasons, pretty much the entire eco-system in the area has undergone changes over the same period. What this “headline” also fails to point out is that while the elk population continued its mathematical plummet the wolf population also declined by sixty percent. Over half the wolves gone yet no significant change to the pattern. Also not mentioned (obviously) by the hunters is the number of elk that foolishly wandered out of the park and became “fair game”. One infamous hunter claims that several thousand animals from the park herd were “harvested” most seasons in the 90s. Coincidentally (using at-time numbers) this is the period where over fifty percent of the herd disappeared. Apparently last year there were “only a few hundred” harvested by hunters but they still consider it a banner year (all the while whining that those damn wolves were killing off all the elk). So hunting is at least partially (if not equally or more) responsible for what has happened but like I say, you’ll never read about it. It’s much easier to resort to the childish activity of blaming someone (or something) else for a problem you helped to create. Simply…I don’t believe anything that comes out of that camp. Read it and research…generally you’ll find there’s little actual fact to back it up. Of course that also applies to all that I have mentioned here:

“According to Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department, there has been a 70 percent decline in migratory elk calf production in Yellowstone since 1992. For years, researchers suspected predatory wolves were to blame. Now, a new study details a more complex set of circumstances that account for the low calf numbers.

Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies post-doctoral fellow Arthur Middleton led the study. “Wolves aren’t the most important predator of calves. Grizzly bears are,” he said. “And Grizzly numbers have grown really dramatically. We also found a strong drought effect that reduced elk pregnancy rates. So, that basically means that fewer calves are born in the first place.””

http://www.yourpublicmedia.org/content/wnpr/wolves-not-linked-elk-decline-yellowstone-park-yale-researcher-says

“CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Drought and increased predation, especially by grizzly bears, have taken a toll on elk that migrate between Yellowstone National Park and areas to the east where their calves are born, a study finds.”

“Meanwhile, the calves faced increased predation, especially by grizzly bears. Grizzly numbers in the Yellowstone ecosystem have been soaring in recent years. Wolves were less responsible for the predation.”

There is another stat that most choose to ignore. The wolf population of YNP has also declined (nearly sixty percent) over the last six years. Going by the misguided logic that only wolves are responsible for the decline of Yellowstone elk then shouldn’t the elk population have climbed a bit instead of plummeting even further?

“Park-wide, the number of wolves in Yellowstone declined from 171 in December 2007 to 82 in December 2012 due to the same reasons. There are currently 4 packs of wolves in northern Yellowstone and 6 packs in the rest of the park that use the park for the majority of the year, but occasionally move into surrounding states.” Obviously due to a few hunter encounters this past year the numbers have once again dropped. One estimate was less than 70.

http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/wolfhunt.htm

Another contributing factor to the decline of the YNP herd that you don’t hear too much about is (prepare to be surprised)…hunting. Bill Hoppe has echoed the comments of many hunters whether it be elk or wolf that “if it wanders outside the park it’s fair game”.

“Bill Hoppe, an outfitter near Gardiner, said harsh weather in the park in late November pushed many of the animals to lower elevations in Montana. He estimated several hundred bull elk from the herd were killed by hunters in the last part of the season – one of the most successful harvests in years. Yet in the 1990s, several thousand elk were killed in some years. Hoppe believes the herd’s best days are gone, and a local hunting industry that already was ailing will collapse.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/15/yellowstone-elk-decline_n_808456.html

Several thousand in some years? Oddly enough part of the period to which Mr. Hoppe refers is included in the Yellowstone and WS published numbers from 1994 to 2002 when over 50 percent of the elk disappeared (19,045 – 9,215). They recovered slightly in 2005 (9,545) and from 2006 to 2010 showed no significant loss (in fact gaining in population in 2006 and 2007). It has steadily declined since for various reasons but according to the studies I referenced there isn’t much to indicate that, while bear and cat depredation has increased, wolves (percentage-wise based on their now lower numbers) have taken any more elk that they ever have. We must face facts though and address the real concerns of Mr. Hoppe and the rest that want to rid us of these wolves. If wolves take an elk in Yellowstone then that’s one less elk that might foolishly wander outside the park and become “fair game”. And that’s really what this is all about isn’t it?

WHAT GOES AROUND….

I was in a thrift shop today and as is my custom, I checked out the book section. Tucked away in the trade-size novels was a copy of “White Wolf Moon”. Wow, I guess I’ve made it.

MOONBOOK

I took it down from the shelf, opened it, and checked for an inscription but it was an unsigned copy. The cover was lightly creased and quick leaf through it revealed many turned down corners so at least it had been read but this led to a decision on my part. My first reaction was to buy it but the more I thought about it the more I felt that leaving it on the shelf was a better idea. For a couple of dollars someone else may take a chance on it, perhaps enjoy it and spread the word.

Okay, that’s the new blog, short as it is, but I now have a bit of a mission. I’m confident that leaving it there was the right thing to do so I’ll be revisiting that store a few times over the next little while…just to see if my book is still there. I know I’ll be disappointed if it hangs around too long but to not find it would be cause for a bit of a ‘happy dance’!  

MIKE…THIS IS YOUR CHARACTER SPEAKING….

“Knowledge comes from books…wisdom comes from life.” Evan Morris.

The above is an example of one of those things my lead character says that prompt me to wonder where they came from. Yes I put the words in his mouth but it isn’t something I’ve ever said or even thought about (although I might have heard or read it somewhere before).

It is pretty much accepted that we influence our characters totally but every so often something like the above happens and I begin to think our characters (in my case Evan Morris) has more of an influence on me that I care to admit. Perhaps Evan is that old guy I wish I could be. It’s like Leonard Nimoy’s book “I Am Not Spock”. Years later he would write “I Am Spock” and really, both statements are true. If I’m in a situation that requires my input I sometimes find myself wondering how Evan would handle it (I usually go with what he would do because it always makes more sense).

On a seemingly different yet related topic I had to say goodbye to an old friend last week…my garden hose. Oh sure it’s just a hose but I’ve had it since we moved into our first house in 1975. Over the years it’s shrunk from the original 100 foot length to somewhere around 90 feet due to repairs and age but it has served me well. It was one of the solid rubber types and any leaks that appeared could be easily remedied with a simple patch kit. But time took its toll and the rubber eventually dried and cracked. Repairing one or two leaks would put more pressure on the rest of it and new leaks kept popping up. So I reluctantly spent a lot of money and bought a heavy duty hose that hopefully will last me the rest of my life.

From the sequel to White Wolf Moon (Jennifer is discussing Evan’s frugal ways with his wife Marie):

“But Marie, I watched him spend an afternoon fixing up an old garden hoe. He was pretty proud of the fact that it was nearly as old as he was.”

“And the rake, shovel, wheelbarrow, garden hose…he’d rather repair the old than buy new.”

“Spend a little time, save a little money?”

“As I said, it’s not about the money. The next time you see him ask him why he does it then prepare yourself for a speech on landfill, environment, disposable societies and the like. He’s pretty firm on maintaining what you have rather than tossing it in the trash.”

“And the hippie gene rises once again.” Jenn giggled. “I think I’ll pass on that lecture.”

Okay, so maybe I am Evan. On the other hand before I was influenced by what Marie said I would never have considered giving a lecture on landfill etc. preferring to let my actions do the talking. Today I will lecture, and have. Regardless of all the press regarding this new ‘environmentally aware’ society we have created we still live in a disposable world where thousands of perfectly good year-old-cell phones are replaced almost daily because, well, they’re outdated. But then again nobody repairs them anyway so why not replace them before they need fixing. Nobody repairs anything anymore. It costs you more to maintain an old something than it does to buy a new something so cars, televisions, furniture, and pretty much anything else just gets tossed no matter how ‘aware’ we claim to be. It’s the same with relationships. If it ever becomes work then toss it. I’ve been married for forty-three years and while I don’t recall any actual maintenance needed I’m sure there has been some.

Okay, I drifted a little and I’m sorry but maybe that’s the way my characters create their own dialogue. Obviously I know it’s just me rambling on through Evan’s voice but perhaps within these rants ‘n ramblings a few unthought thoughts of my own float to the surface. He vocalizes what I usually just think. In this way Evan becomes my stage…my release…my therapy. Someone once suggested that I am like a ventriloquist and Evan is my Charlie McCarthy. I have to disagree. First, you can always see my lips move and second…Evan is no dummy.

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FEAR (How the Gypsies stole Christmas)

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself!” Words spoken by a man who had a kazillion military guys with guns backing him up. Nonetheless…an interesting thought.

The first fear I can recall was of gypsies. It was in the early 1950’s. We still had a King and I lived in the Drill Hall in the village of Munlochy in Northern Scotland. I would stand at the roadside and watch the solitary Clydesdale encumbered by a bright multi-colored wagon clop wearily up the slight incline past our house. I can remember the sounds so vividly; the sharp clack of metal shoes against the pavement, the squeaking wheels and the bells. I would gaze in wonder as they went by and wish I could travel with them to wherever it was they always seem to be going. And I can remember the fresh air. It must have been Spring. Everything felt clean and new. The sun reflected off the many shades of blues, reds and whites that decorated the wagon. Hanging from hooks against this backdrop rattled the utensils of daily life; cauldrons, pots and kettles clanged together in tin-pan harmony as the big wooden wheels wobbled past. I’m not sure who told me that gypsies stole children.

“Steals ’em, they do, and sells ’em or keeps them to perform unspeakable tasks. You’d best hide or the gypsies will get you. You’d better be good or I’ll give you to the gypsies.” And my all-time favorite: “The gypsies got Robbie last night”.

I didn’t know Robbie. I imagine if there was a Robbie he probably moved to Inverness or someplace, most likely with his parents. But then maybe that’s where the gypsies took children. Inverness. They couldn’t possibly carry all the munchkins they stole in such a little wagon…unless they did something to them; somehow made them smaller or turned them into something else. They can do that you know…gypsies are magical. They can turn you into dust or, worse yet, spiders or mice. Poor Robbie.

From that day on I ran and hid when I heard the clacking hooves and chinkling bells winding up the road. I remember once trying to drag our Boxer named ‘Mitzi’ into the house and down the stairs.

mi0207mitzi

“Come on Mitzi,” I cried as I yanked on her heavy leather collar, “the gypsies will get you. Hurry we have to hide!” But the gypsies didn’t want Mitzi. Those bells tolled for me.

Sometimes I would run around the house to the shed. My dad might be back there chopping wood or stealing a quiet smoke. I’d tell him about the gypsies and he’d reassure me that he wouldn’t let them take me.

And everything was alright.

To this day the sound of bells conjures up the image of the small dark smelly space under our cellar stairs. This is why I fear Christmas. Those damn bells. The Salvation Army kettle-guys drive me almost to hysteria with their ‘jingle jingle’.

Of course I jest.

The wagon, horse, and gypsies are gone now. I outlived them. I outlived that fear and probably Robbie.

Fear has a lifespan. At best it’s a few seconds. At worst it’s a lifetime, no expiry date. One can’t bank on outliving all of them so one must learn to cope, to overcome that which causes the heart to race and the palms to sweat. But just how does ‘one’ do this? I no longer fear gypsies in painted wagons but then I haven’t met that many recently. I think they probably now travel in fifth wheels with ATV’s attached to the back bumper so I wouldn’t know a gypsy if he passed me on the highway.

I honestly can’t recall any other major fears when I was a child. I grew up on Winnie The Pooh and The Hound of the Baskervilles, appreciating that each of them were stories although I still relive that magical warmth I felt when Christopher Robin was saying his prayers. Back then Winnie was more real to me than Sherlock Holmes was.

And still is.

WOLVES…HERE I GO AGAIN (but not really).

This isn’t as much a rant about wolves as it is about the importance of thinking for yourself. A friend of mine suggested I use the comments that I make on Pro-Wolf pages as fodder for this blog but taken out of context they wouldn’t make a lot of sense. I have, on occasion, suggested that an individual making obviously ridiculous, uninformed, and baseless comments do a little research into what he or she is touting and my usual opening line is “Don’t educate yourself with propaganda or statements from either the Pro-Wolf side or the Anti-Wolf side. Take the time to research the work of the Yellowstone folks, Arthur Middleton, or countless other knowledgeable people and independent studies before you form your OWN opinion.” Yes, some of the elements of these papers don’t paint the wolf with a glowing brush (they are, after all, carnivorous predators) but you must also consider all that is written about the value of these creatures in nature…have an open mind as t’were, leave the fairy tales between the covers and read the facts. This is what I did and my decision to be actively involved with the pro-wolf camp is based on my own research, not some guy claiming a wolf chased his grandmother from a bus stop in downtown Lansing (really?). My research has also revealed that quite a number of responsible hunters are already pro-wolf and more are coming over all the time. A couple of hunting associations, a cattleman’s association, and some outfitters (smart businessmen who now offer “Camera Safaris” to combat the decline in hunting) have either switched to the pro side or are at least experimenting with methods of cohabiting with the wolf. These are people that are bucking popular peer opinion and taking the time to understand the situation and make up their own mind on the matter. Although normally I provide links to sites where I get my information I won’t this time. Let that be part of the homework assignment.

I’ve used the wolf scenario to properly punctuate a point (alliteration isn’t dead…that’s just a rumor too) and that point is to keep an open mind…about everything. From White Wolf Moon:

“People are sheep Jennifer. They follow far too willingly. They need to hear someone say ‘I will take care of you, I am here for you…I will love you’ and it really doesn’t matter who promises these things…politicians, religious leaders or extremists…they will follow.”
“But these people must identify with something or they wouldn’t be the followers you say they are.”
“Someone says ‘let me show you the way’ and a lot of people get in line without any clear idea of where they’re going. They identify with something that they’re told to identify with and overlook the truths that each of us has within. You can believe all the abstract philosophies and teachings you want but it’s all for naught unless you believe in yourself first.”
“But isn’t this what these philosophies are supposed to teach us?”
“If you believe in yourself then why do you need them?”
“To appreciate the person you believe in?”
“You’re already doing that by believing.”
“To find comfort in a higher power…maybe the philosophy of one?”
“Or the combined philosophies of the all that make up the one.”
Jenn raised her arms. “Oh hell I don’t know…this is starting to get confusing.”
Evan laughed. “I’m playing with you here Jennifer, I don’t read that stuff. I’m not sure what any of it means and honestly, I don’t care. Claire would be the one to get into that discussion.”
“For someone who says he’s not sure you seem pretty certain.”
“Not really. The biggest problem for me is the way some people throw themselves into these philosophies. They give one hundred percent without leaving room in their minds to consider the possibility that there may be something else out there, something better for them. I’m not knocking any beliefs or faiths…I’m just saying that it’s important to keep your mind open. The bottom line when it comes to any form of spirituality is that if it works for you congratulations, that’s all that matters. I simply believe in being true to yourself. Once you do that you can be true to anyone and truth trumps everything else.”
“Even love?”
“There can be no real love without truth.”

ginn2White Wolf Moon on facebook

Me and You and A Blog Named Boo….

Yawn…a hot Sunday afternoon and I need to come up with a blog. I have been remiss lately what with yard work and hobbies. My writing both book-wise and blog-wise has suffered greatly. Today is the day…new blog day.

Nothing’s coming…I went to the flea market this morning (priorities and all that) but found very little of interest. There was a pretty good deal on four snow tires but they were the wrong size…plus they were two different sizes. There was an old Austin Dinky Toy that at $20 was overpriced in the condition it was in…no blog material there. I came home and grabbed a cold drink and one of my guitars and headed for my tent-gazebo-thingie in the back yard. About halfway through “Lady Came from Baltimore” (one of my all-time favorite songs) I noticed an eagle over the river. Such graceful flight, slowly turning and weaving gentle figure eights…could be a blog there. I close my eyes to consider the possibilities.

I am aware that other than the distant highway drone there are no urban sounds around me. No mowers, weed-whackers, or music. For my little corner of suburbia this is unusual. Some little birds (I can’t tell them apart but they look kind of like the chickadees on Christmas cards except these are reddish with yellow bits) have built a nest in the birdhouse next door. Noisy bunch but it’s Mum Nature’s noise so that’s okay. I hear Mourning Doves and open my eyes to see a pair of them on the power lines. I’d never seen a Mourning Dove until we moved into this house. I remember hearing what I thought was some kind of owl in the trees and I’d search until I found out where the noise was coming from but I’d always find Mourning Doves…never any owls. This owl hunt went on for weeks until I realized the connection between something that sounds somewhat like an owl and looks more-than-somewhat like a Dove. Okay, I’m old…sometimes it takes time to put two and two together. But…no blog here either.

Guitar

I strum a bit more…this time I’ll have a go at a slow tempo, bluesy-folksy rendition of “Dancing in the Dark” which actually sounds pretty good. I must work on that. Then I remembered a blog that I had started weeks ago…about my favorite guitar chord.

I stumbled onto this chord about fifty years ago. It sounded jazz and if played as an intro it felt good except that I never figured out how to follow it up back then. I couldn’t find this chord listed in any of my books at the time so I took it as my chord. Later, thanks to the internet, I would find out that it was quite common (A/Ab) but it’s still one of my favorites. Like the Chickadee-looking birds many common things unwittingly bear the burden of beauty and for me this simple chord is one of them. Perhaps to others it’s just another chord but then to some the Mona Lisa is just a painting. It’s in the eye, or ear, of the beholder isn’t it? I’m not sure why I was going to blog on a guitar theme. There are things that I am more knowledgeable about but the guitar is something that relaxes me more than any of the others. I suppose there’s a lot about it that takes me back to times with friends around a campfire in the mid-sixties, each of us harboring the determination to be the next Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, all but one of us failing to reach our self-perceived success. It always reminds me of a simpler time where dreams were okay and I had my whole life ahead of me to realize those dreams. I still have my whole life ahead of me but it isn’t as whole as it used to be. So what is the message in this non-blog? Sometimes things don’t sound the way they look…look for the beauty in everything and it’s never too late to dream.

Considering I started with nothing….

P.S.: One of my blogs was featured in a local Kamloops art magazine…check it out! http://bollokscraftrecords.com/zine/bcx-pdf-version/