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Life Surprised Me With Something I Didn’t Know I Wanted (and now I can’t live without!)

These cars don't have cargo space, so the cars haul luggage on top.

These cars don’t have cargo space, so they haul luggage (or black boxes) on top.

 

Life surprised me this week with something I never knew I wanted, but now I can’t live without.

Having sold my Volkswagen, I needed a new car. I wanted to skip the usual car-buying routine…drumming fingers, slurping stale coffee, waiting for the salesman’s return. He abandons you for hours while he discusses your offer with his boss, an unknown person mysteriously hidden in an area of the car dealership.

Salesman: “My boss says we can offer such-and-such price.”

You: “Tell your boss no deal and I’m about to walk.”

Salesman: “Let me see if I can get the big guy to see it your way.”

You: “Ohhh, headache coming on. Advil! Advil!”

All you want is to purchase a car. But no, the car salesman won’t let that happen until six hours or ten days pass. At least if the coffee were fresh, the experience would be less of an ordeal. I’m told Hyundai offers donuts while you sit and wait during the car-buying process. This little fact made me strongly consider Hyundai.

While at the AAA office in Mesa, Arizona, Jerry and I noticed a flyer advertising their service of doing all the car-buying work for its members. Tell them what you want and they find it for you.

Jerry suggested we call this service to see what they might do for me. I spoke with Brian, an AAA consultant, who said he loves shopping for cars for other people. He asked me what I wanted. I explained, “Something roomy and comfortable in a pretty color.” He suggested the Ford Escape or Toyota Rav 4.

This car offers room and comfort and seats with lumbar adjustment.

This car offers room and comfort and seats with lumbar adjustment. See happy passengers.

Years ago, I didn’t care about comfort. I only cared about power. That’s why I loved my Firebird. It could blow the doors off any car that tried to pass me. My son, about 11 at the time, had a friend who called me a “cool Mom” because I drove my son to school in a cool car. Unfortunately, my son didn’t think of me as cool since I didn’t serve Arby’s roast beef sandwiches for dinner like his friend’s mom served her family.

I miss the Firebird and my son’s friend calling me a “cool’ Mom. Those days are gone.

cool-mom

Now, I’m at a stage in my life where comfort takes precedence over power. It especially takes precedence when our only other car has a broken air conditioner and the temperatures in the desert have not cooled below 98.

I had seen ads for the Buick Encore and it seemed like a car of comfort. I asked Brian to look into the Encore for me. He said he’d get right on it.

I watched a few YouTube videos on the Buick Encore to learn more. In one video, a barely-out-of-her-teens saleslady dressed in a short skirt, flashes a mile-wide smile and says , “Most of you think of Buick as an old people’s car. Not anymore!” She continued by pointing out the youthful pleasure of the Buick. I watched another video. This time a real teenager talks about the 2016 Buick Encore her parents gave her for her special-princess-whatever-you-want birthday. She named her Encore ‘Meredith Grey’ after her fave TV character and because her Buick has a metallic gray exterior. She explains, in much better detail than the saleslady, the joys of the Buick; where to keep your deodorant and toothbrush and mascara for those emergencies when you park next to a very handsome teenage boy. “Hey, I just met you…(squirt, squirt, swab, brush)…and this is crazy, but here’s my number, so call me, maybe!”

Yesterday I picked up my new Buick Encore at the AAA office. It gleamed in Winterberry Red. Brian showed me the controls and many of its features. I didn’t hear a lot of what he told me because I was too fascinated with the OnStar feature. It’s a feature I didn’t ask for or even think I wanted. But it comes with the car. What I love most is the button on the rear view mirror. Press it and a real, live person speaks to you. It’s like having your own personal maid or butler at your fingertip. “Yes, hello, OnStar, I’d like a cup of tea and a scone with jam and clotted cream.”

I will never feel alone again just knowing a real person is ready at my command. Brian helped me connect my phone to OnStar and a lady came on and said, “Welcome to OnStar and congratulations on your new car.”

At home, I sat in the car taking in the new car smell, which is really an unpleasant odor of plastics, sealants and adhesives. Ignoring the new car smell, I hoped to familiarize myself with all the new controls. I saw a red button with tiny white letters, too small for me to read.  I wonder what this red button is for, I thought to myself. So I pushed it.

RING! RING! In a second’s flash, a man’s deep voice boomed inside the car, stating, “OnStar, what’s your emergency?” I explained I made a mistake and didn’t have an emergency. He said, “That’s okay. You have a good day.” I felt like saying, “Well since I have your attention, could you bring me some tea?”

I’m impressed with how quickly OnStar responds to an emergency. I no sooner had pressed the button than I heard a helicopter hovering above ready to whisk me off to a trauma center.

Life is full of pleasant surprises. When you don’t expect it, you get a rainbow on the horizon, or raindrops glistening like sparkling diamonds when the sun shines after it rains . Or Mama duck decides to cross the road and you stop your car to watch her waddle along with her children in tow, a single file of wobbling, baby ducks—you never know how life might surprise you.

I only wanted a roomy and comfortable car. And I’m thrilled with the OnStar service. It has become my new favorite thing. It’s like having the entire household staff of Downton Abbey inside a tiny button, ready to serve whenever I need them.

“Hello-oooo, Mr. Carson! Mrs. Hughes! Are you in there?”

 

We're here for you inside the tiny button.

Yes, Lady Bronwyn, we’re here inside the tiny OnStar button, and we’re ready whenever you need us.

♦♦♦βω

Brian, if you’re reading this, thank you for a job well done!

facts2

Birthday Card Thief

“What can I bring you to drink?” asked our waiter, Roberto.

“Coffee,” Jerry said without looking up from the menu.

As Roberto sped away, I said to Jerry, “You sound kind of grumpy.”

He said, “My back hurts. I didn’t mean to sound grumpy. I’ll feel better when I have coffee.”

coffee2

We scooped the warm complimentary tortilla chips into the bean dip and munched as we waited. Roberto returned to our table empty-handed.

“I’m sorry, but we don’t have regular coffee. We have decaf. Would you like decaf?”

Jerry looks crestfallen at this news. Decaf, he likes to say, is like taking a shower with a raincoat on. Whenever he says this, I get the mental image of Jerry decked out in one of those bright school bus yellow raincoats with hat and standing under the water in the shower.

“Thanks, but we need to go somewhere else,” Jerry said, grabbing one last tortilla chip for the road.

decaf

In the parking lot, Jerry said, “What kind of restaurant doesn’t have coffee? What do they drink here in Arizona, anyway?”

“Peachy iced tea, pink lemonade, and margaritas,” I said.

“I don’t like peachy iced tea,” Jerry said, then gave me a choice of alternative Mexican restaurant options. He had his heart set on Mexican food and coffee.

“Whichever is closest,” I said.

“They’re each about the same distance from here,” Jerry told me as we hopped into our Ford Explorer. The Explorer’s AC stopped working a few weeks ago, so we rely on the old-fashioned AC method of open windows.

Hot wind blasted through the car windows as we hit the freeway. It felt like riding in a giant hair dryer. It seemed like we drove forever. But I didn’t complain. I read that you can never be happy while complaining, and I didn’t want to take a mini-vacation to unhappiness. Whenever I’m grateful to God for what I have, rather than what I don’t have, I take a trip to happiness.

Finally, we arrived. The name of this second Mexican restaurant, “On The Border,” seemed appropriate.

Our young server introduced herself as Danica. (The older I get, the younger everyone else gets. Danica, I’m sure, is 12 or 9.)  She asked what we would like to drink. “I hope you have coffee,” I said.

“We do,” she answered with a confident smile and returned in a few minutes with hot coffee in mugs rattling atop saucers with spoons on the side. I thanked Danica and refrained from asking her if she had done her homework.

With the arrival of coffee, Jerry’s mood greatly improved. He said the cushioned seats made his back feel better. Of course, the caffeine helped even more.

coffee3

It’s funny, the things we tell ourselves and believe to be true. I imagine Jerry told himself, “I need coffee and enchiladas and then I will feel better. I will drive to the ends of the earth in a hot hair dryer car to get it because my back hurts.”

This past week, I told myself something I believed to be true. (I thought it, rather than blurt it out loud. But I could have as no one thinks twice these days when people talk to themselves.) I believed a saleslady stole my birthday cards.

I bought the birthday cards at a gift shop in Prescott, Arizona. After leaving the store, I stopped at the consignment shop next door and tried on clothes. I bought a jacket, a turtleneck top, and a like-new Michael Kors purse. I didn’t need a new purse but when you see a regular $200 designer handbag for $25, then you need to buy it.”

Back at home (which is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Prescott), I couldn’t find the birthday cards.

“I’m sure I left them at the shop in Prescott when I tried clothes on,” I told Jerry.

“Call them,” Jerry said. “I’ll bet they’ll mail them to you.”

I made the phone call and explained the situation.

“I clean the dressing rooms and I didn’t see birthday cards,” the saleslady snapped rather abruptly.

I hung up and said to Jerry, “She stole my birthday cards. She had no reason to be that rude unless she’s feeling guilty for what she did. I’m positive I left them there.”

I felt like calling the police and filing a report for birthday card theft. But I didn’t have tangible proof. Even so, I knew who the thief was. I imagined her sending my birthday cards to her friends, who wouldn’t know they were receiving stolen goods.

Two days later, the birthday cards appeared. They stood propped up in front of my computer.

“I found them in the car,” Jerry said, and then added, “Bronwyn, I’m reading about anger management and one of the triggers for anger is assuming something is true when it isn’t.”

What could I say to that? He’s right. I was ready to send the Prescott saleslady to the slammer.

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I realize Jerry and I sometimes get certain beliefs into our heads and believe them to be reality without having all the facts.

It causes Jerry to drive a hundred miles for the healing therapy coffee provides for back pain. And causes me to have unkind thoughts about a lady who sold me a Michael Kors purse and threw in a scarf to go with it.

I’m working on not assuming things when I don’t have all the facts.

However, a mirror I carry in my purse is missing. I noticed this yesterday.

Now, … I need to contemplate how to deal with mirror theft by a certain Prescott saleslady. I bet she slyly lifted it out of my purse while I paid for the clothes and Michael Kors bag. She distracted me with the comment “this scarf goes with the purse.” That’s it! As I admired the scarf, her sticky fingers were in my purse!

I need coffee very badly.

 

 

♥♥♥βω             facts2 grumpy-cat

Slug Bug Good-bye

 

good-bye

 

It’s hard to say good-bye. And I’ve had a lot of good-byes to say.

At the end of fourth grade, I had to say good-bye to my friend Ruby Ann Warren. We spent every school recess together and spent the night at each other’s homes.

As the school year ended, Ruby told me her dad’s company had transferred him to a job in Texas. (Texas is a million miles from California where I lived. How rude of her dad’s company to send him so far away!) But I didn’t say that when Ruby told me the news of her departure. Instead, a silent sadness came over me. Ruby lived across the street and the day she moved away, I stood on the street curb and watched her pile into her family car. When the family’s car pulled out of their driveway, her dad stopped the car at the spot where I stood. Ruby jumped out of the back seat and ran to the curb and hugged me. “Good-bye,” she said, then hopped back into her car. She waved from the car’s rear window as I stood there watching her family sputter away. She continued to wave until her car turned the corner. I raced to my bedroom, put my head in my pillow, and cried hard. I never saw her again.

Ruby is in the back row, next to me with my hands on my head. (I liked to practice different poses.)

Ruby is in the back row, next to me with my hands on my head. (I liked to practice different poses.)

She sent me a letter a few weeks later and with it she included a photograph. “This is me water skiing,” she wrote. The photo featured a lake and a dot trailing behind a boat. Is the dot her? Is she having fun when she knows I’m sad about her moving away? I would have preferred knowing she was miserable. Thank goodness I had my best friend Teresa who wouldn’t think of moving away and having fun without me.

My dearest childhood friends (l-r) Teresa, me, Marian with brother Paul. They would never leave me and they haven't.

My dearest childhood friends (l-r) Teresa, me, Marian with brother Paul in front. They would never leave me and they haven’t.

I’ve since said good-bye to other friends (thankfully, none sent me a photo of their fun water skiing outing after we parted); I’ve said good-bye to teachers (some I was happy to say good-bye to) and I’ve said adios to husbands (well, only one husband. To put it into context, he said adios first and he doesn’t even speak Spanish.)

I’ve said good-bye to homes, like the first home Jerry and I purchased. “Good-bye home in North Bend, Washington,” I said as I left a note on the kitchen counter for the new homeowner. The note outlined the joys I had of living there, including mention of the Japanese cherry tree Jerry and I planted in the front yard to commemorate our son’s birth. I explained it would explode in gorgeous pink blooms every April. Jerry and I drove by the North Bend house a few years later and noticed the cherry tree had disappeared. I hated to even think of what kind of torturous demise it possibly endured. Good-bye cherry tree.

good-bye2

This weekend I said good-bye to my 2006 convertible Volkswagen Beetle. I wanted to sell it, it was time. And I’m very happy my brother bought it, so it stays in the family. Even so, I’m sad. I didn’t shed one tear when Jerry and I sold the Mercury Sable or the Ford F-250. But the VW Beetle was my car. I paid for it. I picked it out. It wasn’t exactly the color I wanted, but the price was too good to pass up. It never broke down and took good care of me. I hauled bags of compost in it and giant potted plants, one so huge I had to buckle it in the passenger seat to keep the seat belt alarm from beeping. My VW even cared about the safety of potted plants! I loved riding with the top down on cool, cloudy days, which come plentiful to you when you live in the Pacific Northwest. There’s a therapeutic feeling of freedom with wind whipping through your hair. In the Phoenix area, convertibles don’t have the same hair-blowing, thrill-factor due to the blazing sun beating on your head and frying your hair to a sizzle.

I asked Jerry to take this picture an hour before I turned it over to my brother. It was windy that day.

I asked Jerry to take this picture an hour before I turned it over to my brother. It was windy that day.

A few years back (ha, like twelve years), I said good-bye to my son when he moved out of the house to begin his life as an adult. I put my head on my desk and cried for a day and a half. Or was it a month and a half? I had a feeling then that life would never be the same—and now, I have that same kind of feeling with the loss of my car.

“You can drive my car until you get a new one,” Jerry generously offered today.

Jerry’s Ford Explorer doesn’t have a working AC, so a ride in it is like a trip in a sweat box. Still, it does get you where you need to be, albeit not very comfortably or feeling fresh-as-a-daisy. I was appreciative of his offer, however.

For now, I need some time to grieve my Volkswagen, dubbed Chugabug. I’ll miss people whooping “slug bug” when I drive by.

That’s the real loss. No one will slug each other when they see me in my new car−whatever that turns out to be. Think of it. No one slugs you when they see a Ford Escape or a Hyundai Tucson. No one cares about those cars.

Besides, “slug Tucson” or “slug Escape” doesn’t even rhyme.

♣♣♣βω

good-bye-3

do new things

Do What Jerry Does and You’ll Be Happy

 

The woodworking plane and its box that I bought in Wales as a souvenir for Jerry.

The woodworking plane and its box that I bought in Wales as a souvenir for Jerry.

When I returned from my journey to the British Isles, I pulled something special from my suitcase to give to Jerry…

The special item came from an antique shop in Llangollen, Wales. I had stepped inside the shop because I hoped to find a butler’s bell, such as the kind featured in Downton Abbey. No butler bells availed themselves, but lots of vintage tools did. I remembered that Jerry loves old tools and knew he wouldn’t appreciate a trinket souvenir, (like a coin bank in the shape of a British mailbox~I bought that for myself.) I knew he’d love one of the shop’s vintage woodworking planes lined up on a table. I picked up a few of the planes and they weighed as much as a car (a small car like a Mini Cooper because if they weighed as much as an Audi A4 I wouldn’t be able to lift it.)

 

If you had doubts about me lifting a Mini Cooper, you can see from this photo that it can be done.

If you had doubts about me lifting a Mini Cooper, you can see from this photo that it can be done.

I knew I needed a small plane that would fit lightly in my suitcase. The shop owner brought out a blue metal wood plane he kept in the back room. I liked its metal press stamping, stating “Made in England.” In addition, it came with the original box, so aged and worn it looked like it came from the same time period wheels were invented.

…I handed Jerry my souvenir gift. Jerry unwrapped the brown paper revealing the wood plane. He seemed more pleased than I had anticipated. He said, “Wow! This is nice. Thank you.” Then he threw his arms around me and swung me around the room.

…ahem…okay, I made up the part about swinging me around the room. The rest is completely accurate. Sometimes I get carried away, so forgive the embellishment.

After expressing. “Wow! This is nice,” Jerry sat at his computer to look up more information on the plane.

In his research, Jerry gained a thorough knowledge of the plane I gave him and of many other antique planes.  After a day or two of reading about planes, Jerry knew how to look for the rare, collectible ones.

“Just for fun,” he said to me, “Let’s go to some antique shops and see if we can find some old wood planes.”

At the antique mall, Jerry found several old planes. “I swooped them,” he said to me, smiling as he showed me his new purchases.

At home, Jerry restored and repaired the old planes. He then listed the wood planes on eBay at a price more than he paid. One sold immediately. Seeing the possibilities of profit, Jerry began bidding on other planes so he could restore and resell. Packages containing wood planes came in the mail in a steady stream.

Whenever a plane sold, Jerry announced, “I sold [such-and-such] plane,” with the same enthusiasm you’d expect from someone who won the lottery (and to Jerry there was very little difference).

While buying and selling wood planes, Jerry recognized the investment of keeping the very rare 1800s wood planes. He built a beautiful shelf to display his unique collection. He also realized the old tools have a use, which led to collecting mesquite logs from the desert, sawing them into boards, and planing them for future wood projects. The mesquite boards led to a desire to carve and a whole unique new area of interest took hold.

Jerry's collection...

Jerry’s collection…

It occurs to me that my one decision to buy a wood plane for Jerry during my trip to the U.K. opened a new door of discovery that I never considered. It even opened a new door for me as I had to have the early 1900s oval oak library table that I found while we shopped planes at the antique mall.

One of the things I admire about Jerry is that he’s always learning new things. He’s always trying something new, which takes courage because trying new things forces you to face the possibility of failure. But it’s a risk worth taking for all the knowledge and experience gained no matter the outcome. And I don’t think Jerry concerns himself with failure. He has told me on several occasions, “You only fail if you don’t try.”

Jerry buys wood planes and I buy library tables. This is the first of my collection!

Jerry buys wood planes and I buy library tables. This is the first of my collection!

The best reason for trying something new is for the possibility of adding enjoyment and enrichment to your life. And that’s something we all could use.

So I encourage you, if you haven’t tried anything new lately, to go for it. Once you try, it will force you to grow by learning a new skill, or a new way of thinking, or discovering a new passion. It will break you out of your daily routine.

Now…with all that said, may Jerry and I be so bold as to entice you with some very nice woodworking planes we have for sale. You might want to start there.

 

 

do new things2

 

 

♣♣♣βω

 

How To Have Hemorrhoids, I Mean Humor

 

laughter6

Cats and children have a way of making me laugh out loud. But when I don’t have cats or children around, I rely on my family and friends to offer lighthearted moments. But too many times they have life struggles, or daily mundane tasks, that keep them from feeling humorous. So we don’t laugh. We zero in on our troubles.

With all the articles and studies telling us that humor and laughter helps improve psychological and physical health, I think more humor in our life would be a good thing. But it’s not easy laughing when you feel bogged down with have-to’s, must-do’s, to-do’s, and most importantly, hair-do’s. Bad hair days aside, I don’t see the humor very often in my everyday life.

For example. It’s hard to laugh while applying for a home equity loan unless you find humor in the myriad of people you talk to on the phone who tell you their particular responsibilities don’t handle your banking needs. “Oh, that’s not my department, you want Mr. Fisker, just a moment while I transfer you.” The line disconnects and you hear a dial tone. You call back (being the persistent person you are). More transfers and finally you’re put through to Mr. Fisker’s line. You sit on hold for twenty minutes, then suddenly Mr. Fisker’s pre-recorded voicemail greeting bursts on the line, announcing he can’t take your call. He’s on another line or stepped away from his office. You know very well he’s munching a donut, guzzling the iced coconut mocha macchiato he bought on his break and way too involved in Candy Crush to answer. Some might laugh at the waste of time companies put us through. I could laugh it off too. I don’t. I prefer to slam the phone down very hard so Jerry knows I’m upset. I say to Jerry, “I can’t believe the headache I have! Jerry, you have no idea how much pain the bank has just put me through. I’m going to bed.”

laughter3

 

Sometimes I find humor when I’m not looking for it. Like today. I typed “how to have…” in Google’s search box and before I could finish typing the word “humor,” Google thought it would impress me and finish the sentence for me. It flashed “how to have hemorrhoids removed.” Google! You read my mind. Of course! Yes! Not humor, but hemorrhoids. That’s exactly what I was going to type. How perceptive.

If someone says to me, “I’ve got a joke, it’s so funny,” – I immediately think, “I’ll be the judge of that,” and then I never laugh at the joke because my expectations are too high. Tell me a joke that’s not funny and then I’ll want, and even try, to laugh.

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It’s hard to define what’s funny. Author George Orwell wrote, “A thing is funny when−in some way that is not actually offensive or frightening−it upsets the established order.” In other words, people find things funny that surprise them and forces them to think of things in a new way.

Some books claim to be funny and really are. Ellen DeGeneres wrote, My Point…And I Do have One. I read it a long time ago, so I can’t be clear on the specifics. In one chapter she hopes for a quarter inch more space in her airline seat and during that same flight she tells a nun she’s going to hit her. I don’t remember why or what the nun did. But I remember laughing out loud and that’s what’s important.

I laugh whenever I read a book by Anne Lamott. She says what’s on her mind and she can be serious and insightful as well as funny.  I don’t think she threatens nuns, however.

As a kid, I laughed at every I Love Lucy episode. Who doesn’t think a loaf of bread the size of a canoe jutting headlong from the oven and into the wall isn’t funny?

Apparently Jerry. “I never liked Lucy,” he says, “she’s like the Three Stooges and she’s just silly and not funny.”

“Uh, no Jerry, Lucy is not like the Three Stooges. She doesn’t grunt ‘yut, yut,’ and then boink someone on the head with her fist. She has comedic talent.”

lucy nose on fire

A few days after I defended Lucy, I watched a TV documentary on her life and was surprised to learn she wasn’t funny in her real life. She needed the writer’s words to become Lucy Ricardo. For some reason, that disturbed me.

Even so, Lucy did a lot of good with her writer-directed antics, like lighting her putty nose on fire or wrestling in a vat of grapes. Norman Cousins wrote a book in 1979 titled Anatomy of an Illness describing how watching comedic movies helped him recover from a serious and painful illness.

Hospitals and Cancer Centers offer laughter therapy programs based on studies that reveal laughter helps reduce pain, decrease stress-related hormones, and boost the immune system.

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Here are some suggestions on how to have hemorrhoids. I mean humor.

1.      Learn to laugh at yourself. When you accidentally fall flat on your face, sprawled out on the floor looking like a turkey about to be stuffed, laugh at yourself. Ha, ha, I’m down here looking for my contact lens. Or I wanted a better look at the design on this floor. Or be honest, “Hey, people, the cooking wine causes me to be a little tipsy!”

2.      Actively look for a laugh every day. It’s the UPS guy at the door and he rings your doorbell and hurries back to his truck. You open the door and wave to him as he speeds off. What’s funny about that? Nothing. So look somewhere else for your laugh. Your good friend Phyllis sent you an e-mail and stated the event you wanted to attend will soon be posted on a website. She writes, “Keep your eyes peeled, but not like onions or carrots.” Now that’s funny.

3.      Learn a variety of jokes. Practice these semi-humorous starter jokes. You’ll want to start out slow and work your way up to the really hilarious jokes (to be learned at a later date.)

Starter joke 1.

Wife: “I look fat. Can you give me a compliment?”

Husband: “You have perfect eyesight.”

Starter joke 2.

A man telephoned the airlines and asked, “How long does it take to fly to Boston?”

The clerk said, “…just a minute…”

“Thank you,” the man said and hung up.

 

Doesn't this look fun?

Doesn’t this look fun? This lady just tried calling her bank and was kept on hold for two hours. Jump it off!

4. Get a bouncy house. Now I’ve never had a bouncy house, but I know if I had one I would laugh, guaranteed. If the bank put me through misery by transferring my calls to a hundred people and then placed me on hold, I would hang up and go outside and jump in my bouncy house. Why isn’t it mandatory that we all have a bouncy house in our backyard? I know it would help me handle life better.

 

 

♥♥♥βω

“Laugh as much as possible, always laugh. It’s the sweetest thing one can do for oneself & one’s fellow human beings.” – Maya Angelou