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Dear Diary .... by Kellianne Sweeney

baby-jesus

Dear Diary,

My youngest daughter Sabrina’s version of “Jingle Bells” was mostly on-key, but the lyrics were hopelessly butchered. The Kindergartener sang absently as she sat on the floor happily playing with the figures from an Advent calendar:

“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,

Jingles on the wave.

Oh what fun, what a long, long song

for a white horse eating hay…

Hay!”

The lilting rendition made me smile. She lovingly caressed each calendar piece, then placed it into a circle that would enclose Baby Jesus.

Sabrina abruptly stopped singing. “Mommy, where’s the baby?” she said with a perplexed look.

Baby Jesus had gone missing again. I understood, because the only Christmas decoration in our home that ever seemed to disappear was a Baby Jesus. Everything else stayed safely packed from year to year, but Baby Jesus was always on the road.

My first runaway was the Baby Jesus from a Nativity…

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baby-jesus

Dear Diary,

My youngest daughter Sabrina’s version of “Jingle Bells” was mostly on-key, but the lyrics were hopelessly butchered. The Kindergartener sang absently as she sat on the floor happily playing with the figures from an Advent calendar:

“Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells,

Jingles on the wave.

Oh what fun, what a long, long song

for a white horse eating hay…

Hay!”

The lilting rendition made me smile. She lovingly caressed each calendar piece, then placed it into a circle that would enclose Baby Jesus.

Sabrina abruptly stopped singing. “Mommy, where’s the baby?” she said with a perplexed look.

Baby Jesus had gone missing again. I understood, because the only Christmas decoration in our home that ever seemed to disappear was a Baby Jesus. Everything else stayed safely packed from year to year, but Baby Jesus was always on the road.

My first runaway was the Baby Jesus from a Nativity scene. He was a no-show back when my sons, Andy and Patrick, now in their 20s, were Preschoolers. After a desperate search of the house that did not yield results, I set out on a shopping excursion to find a suitable replacement. This was not easy.

First, most Nativity figures can only be purchased as a set, not by the piece. Second, they are not found in many stores. Third, being so close to Christmas, many of the stores that carried them were sold out by the time I conducted my frantic quest. I was, however, driven with determination to procure a Baby Jesus to complete our Nativity scene. My children were home waiting expectantly for Mommy to fill the empty cradle. I was not about to disappoint. Ultimately, I was not able to find the exact brand, but I did obtain a Baby Jesus that could reasonably pass for my Mary and Joseph’s baby.

The next year, as I set up the Nativity scene, the replacement Baby Jesus slipped from my fingers and took a devastating tumble. His fragile head had split in two and one of the arms cracked off. My sons’ eyes were wide with horror as they scrambled to collect the pieces, even those that bounced away into an unseen corner. After an intense search, they located the missing parts except for two fingers. Super Glue did not do the trick. My children were not satisfied with a Baby Jesus laced with cracks across his features and a couple of missing fingers. Once again, I raced to the store to purchase a replacement Baby Jesus.

For about five years we didn’t have any Baby Jesus issues. But when my middle kids Gina and Jay were preschoolers, it was the Advent calendar Baby Jesus’ turn to get wanderlust.

I have owned the Advent calendar since Andy and Patrick were toddlers. It is made of colorful cloth and has a large Christmas tree at the top and below are numbered pockets that house friendly, puffy characters before they are placed on the Christmas tree. The Advent calendar ritual had always been one of the highlights of the parade of days that lead up to Christmas for all six of my children.

Fortunately, the year that Advent calendar Baby Jesus went on a Sabbatical, my mother was on hand. She sewed us the most adorable replacement. My mom’s Baby Jesus was sleeping and swaddled, with peacefully closed eyes and a rosebud mouth. The original Baby Jesus was wide awake, grinning immensely with arms flailed open. He looked liked trouble. I was not terribly surprised when he took off. Five months later I was startled to find out that the absence was not his fault.

As I searched my refrigerator to ascertain whether I had any unexpired raspberry sauce to drizzle on French toast, my son Jay and I discovered a stowaway; Grinning Baby Jesus. The Advent calendar icon had been chilling behind the maraschino cherries nestled between the capers and horseradish sauce.

I stared in shock and puzzlement at four-year-old Jay. AWOL Baby Jesus was frozen into a mask of red syrup. I extracted the frosted figure from in between the condiments and peeled at the gelatinous cherry juice on its head. Jay stoically looked at Baby Jesus, and then at me.

“I put him there,” he said.

“What, why?” I stammered in confusion.

“I don’t know,” was the reply.

And so, for a few more years after that, our home had two Advent calendar Baby Jesuses. The original one had returned from the arctic chill to join my mother’s hand-sewn version.

Last year, my mother’s handmade Baby Jesus took a hiatus. I noticed, but did not draw attention to the fact. The children did not notice. One was certainly enough.

Now, Sabrina has discovered that both Advent calendar Baby Jesuses are missing. I can only assume they are on some grand adventure together. Perhaps we shall eventually find them hanging out in the pantry, or the garage toolbox or maybe in one of my hopelessly disorganized closets. Until then, we will hold open Baby Jesus’ spot in the Advent calendar’s gold-thread-edged pocket. Sabrina will have to make due until the conclusion of the Traveling Baby Jesus’ field trip. There’s still room for two, if he decides to bring a friend.

My Sweet Spot

frog

Dear Diary,

I paused in mid-step. I carefully set my extended foot onto the pavement. The stray gravel crunched softly under my worn sneaker. I noticed that my shoelace had become untied. I would deal with that later, not now. I stilled myself and bent cautiously to peer more closely. A lone blue jay called and a puff of wind startled my long wispy hair. I watched intently, trying to sense when to make my move. He did not seem to be aware of me, though his eyes swiveled suspiciously surveying his surroundings. Maybe he was pretending not to notice me. That would be rather tricky of him. I did not expect him to play dead. I had never heard of or seen one play dead before. I watched his pale pouch-like chin breathe rhythmically. They could be such noisy creatures, but I had yet to actually observe one croaking. Perhaps I caused them to be shy. I imagined the feel of his textured, pliable skin in my hand. I prepared myself to spring. Now! I darted forward and swiftly enclosed the chubby toad in my grip. As I straightened to a standing position, I was mindful to point his tail end downward and away from my body before he defecated. I had learned this procedure the hard way. I didn’t know if they pooped when caught because they were scared or if they thought it would thwart their enemy. But I wasn’t really his enemy. He halfheartedly tried to flail his legs and wriggle free once, but quickly seemed to realize that this action was futile. I held him for a minute or two and gazed into his bulgy eyes while his legs dangled helplessly in my grasp. He stared back at me blankly, breathing rapidly. I set him down in the scrubby grass and watched him flee as fast as a toad is able. He seemed a bit far from home. I hoped he made it back to the creek before he dried up.

I brushed my hands on my jeans and ventured into the world that was the vacant lot next to the Wasserman’s house. I batted at the tall spiny grass as I waded deeper. I picked a spot that was laced with a multitude of honeysuckles and sat on the dry ground. The grass almost reached the top of my head and swayed lightly in the breeze. I closed my eyes and let the sun and the solitude sink into my being before I went about the  business of sucking the tiny fragments of sweetness from the honeysuckle petals. I then occupied myself by popping open fuchsia flowers and chasing grasshoppers. I caught and released five of them before moving onto my planned project. I collected various stones and set them in a pile. I settled myself back into the dusty dirt and pulled out a canister of Liquid Gold furniture polish from my bag. I hoped that my mom did not notice that it was gone. I planned to safely return it to its proper place under the kitchen sink. I began my task. I polished the stones, marveled at passing butterflies and sang off-key until it was time to be home. As I walked out of my sanctuary, I thought of the toad I had met today. I vowed to check on his whereabouts at the stream tomorrow. Surely I would be able to recognize him. Perhaps I would also bring a jar to collect some polliwogs to bring home as well. I had to be more careful this time, however. The last time I brought polliwogs home they had morphed into very tiny toads and jumped out of the jar. My mother was not happy to find miniature toad carcasses in random spots in our house. Yes, next time I would need a lid.

Demise of My Eyes

13528949_10205458223809554_5477340263555893909_n

Dear Diary,

Cheers to Vision! I am reblogging this post from five years ago about my first steps into the world of failing eyesight. I have since embraced my four-eyed status (although I will still sport contacts as well). Five years ago I lamented…

I have always been proud of my stellar eyesight. My hazel orbs rendered me perfect vision up until about three years ago. At that juncture I was in quite a state of consternation to realize that I had begun squinting whilst reading. These eye gymnastics caused reading to become annoying. I could not allow reading to become annoying, so I reluctantly plodded over to the nearest  eyesight superstore to have my eyes checked out. Indeed, I did require reading glasses.  I dutifully selected a pair of red rimmed rectangular glasses and incorporated this tool into my existence. This solution was successful until recently. To my increasing displeasure I found that squinting was now required even as I wore my glasses. Additionally, distance vision was also becoming a challenge. I went back to the eyesight superstore. At the conclusion of this eye exam I was horrified to hear the doctor utter the “B” word. Bifocals. What? And wear them all of the time? The pouty child within me was throwing her small body in an unprecedented tantrum, complete with staccato foot stomping. The doctor explained my options:

1- I could use two different pairs of glasses. One pair for reading and one pair for looking at far away things. I could play the Switcheroo Glasses game all day long to my endless enjoyment.

2- I could wear bifocal glasses. When reading, I would have to look down through the bottom part of the glasses. When I wanted to look at other things I would have to aim my vision upwards. I was kind of wondering if I’d appear to have a tick trying to look up and down like that. I suppose after time and practice I could work it into a graceful and effortless move. However, there was that whole thing about having to have glasses perched on my nose all day long. I am sure many of you do this and I am proud of you and give you many kudos for this. My biggest problem with it is that I have made it thus far in my life without having to lug glasses around on my face constantly. Surely, they would get in my way at times? Maybe not.  Anyway, as the doctor was explaining this option, my inner pouty child was screaming in my ear that there must be another way, so I politely asked about the third option.

3- Contacts. The doctor assured me that bifocal contacts were a viable option. It sounded kind of wild to me that your eye can figure out which way to look through, but I decided not to pester the man with these sort of questions. He suggested that I schedule a future appointment to try the insertion process. He said to allow three hours because some people have trouble doing this on their own. Three hours? I was flabbergasted. Could it really take this long? How long would one have to allow to get ready for work if  it took so much time to insert contacts? The scenarios rolled through my head as I laughed shortly and calmly scheduled my date for the Contact Lens Wars.

When I returned the next day ready to battle this unusual foe, I was determined that I would be victorious in a mere ten minutes. I actually did perform rather well within the walls of the tiny Contact Lens War Room. I do believe that I would have completed my mission within my desired time limit had my teenage daughter not been repeatedly calling my cell phone during the process. Didn’t she know that I was engaged in time sensitive warfare? The pressure was on. I did not buckle. I persevered and completed my task in fifteen minutes.

It seems weird to me that it was so much easier and quicker the first time I put my contacts in. Scenes in my bathroom trying to recreate this action were comical. How many places do you think my contacts could end up besides my eyeball? The most common place was my finger. The blasted thing would not get off of my finger! It did not want to make the jump to my eye. It would cling to my finger in a wet, desperate embrace. The second most favorite spot for my contact to be was in the sink. Every time it would leap into the sink it would cause me a momentary stab of panic due to visions of it continuing its path down the drain. Occasionally it would make a dash onto the marble counter top and hide there, blending in skillfully within the  randomly patterned,abstract design. Once, it lodged itself in my hair. Once, it fled inside my shirt. To top it all off, my four year old daughter loves to watch all of this. She will climb up and sit on the counter next to the sink and watch intently. She’s actually the perfect cheerleader. She is always ready with a rousing: “Good job, Mommy,” when a contact is successfully wrestled into place. She shares in my woe when a contact goes awry and offers condolences and words of encouragement. Sometimes her seven year old brother appears on the scene as well. This, however, creates bedlam. He is usually touting his nerf gun and targets his unsuspecting prey while they are otherwise engaged. My cheerleader will then vault from her perch and a merry chase will ensue in my bathroom. This will not do.I require quiet and peace to be able to concentrate on my difficult task. I am then forced to morph into ‘Mean Mommy’. I contribute loud, threatening words and dramatic hand gestures to the chaotic mix.

Happily, I am getting better at inserting my contacts, but I admit that there are some days that I am not willing to play this game.On those days, I contentedly pad around my house wearing a pair of magnifying lens type glasses that I bought at Walgreens for ten bucks. It’s all good.

 Eyes-on-Fire

Dear Diary,

Here is a teaser for my upcoming Young Adult Fantasy novel Insidious Whispers. I am excited to say that this collaboration piece with Vincent F. A. Golphin should be launched in the fall of 2016.

Chapter 3

Flashes of Fire

 

Lady Kulipa

Queen Victarine’s Advisor

 

I knew the fire was coming. The vision is in my mind’s eye. The impending burst of noise, smoke and flame unfolded behind my eyes in a sudden horrific flash. The wall of heat and fire in my head blinded me again for a moment as I hurried down a narrow Severen alley. The premonition made me stagger on the uneven, rocky ground. I almost fell. I tried to move along as if nothing happened. The vision’s effect was too strong.

I am Lady Kulipa, a Delphyte and Queen Victarine’s advisor. I am generated as unformed energy within The Whole of the Delphyte Realm. I was pure spirit. Twelve years ago, my energy was converted into the form of a humanoid Caligan woman. This flesh I inhabit is real, and fully grown, but fragile. It places me at the risk of pain and death. In the Delphyte Realm, I was immortal and nearly unchanged. To serve the queen, I must grow through the normal life cycle toward the decay. I accepted the sacrifice, yet my throbbing head almost makes me regret it. In my original pure energy form my Premonition gift would not cause me pain.

My fingers groped along the rough cobblestone walls to find balance until my sight cleared. I tried to steady my jagged breathing. My heart raced. I looked and acted like someone stricken with a heart attack. The foresight of the upcoming deaths of my traveling companions deeply frightens me. I am anxious to think I might not be able to warn them in time. The explosion is imminent.

My strength began to return. My mind cleared. My senses are now restored. I am in the entourage tasked to escort Queen Victarine’s sister, Princess Stipinia, to bond with a Delphyte advisor. I am wary of the things I saw in that vision, yet my devotion to Stipinia’s older sister, and love for Palandara’s peoples, makes me risk my life to take the princess safely to Severen for The Conjuring and then back to the palace in Shar upon its completion.

Most people in the Material World know little of a Delphyte’s abilities, even those who we advise. The only way an outsider might even notice how many gifts a Delphyte holds is to look at the leaves on spider-like vine on the wrist. On the inner right, my vine holds three leaves. One is Premonition, the ability to sense the future. Mindspeak is the second. Although not fully developed, it allows me to read another’s thoughts, or plant mine into their consciousness. I am uncertain about the third gift. The knowledge will come. I am vowed to use my three gifts to guide the queen for the planet’s welfare. The number of gifts varies among Delphytes. Allegra, the greatest among us, has ten.

I am uncertain of many things about this mission. The senior Delphyte, Grinnell, counselor to the late Queen Pala, and I agreed that the journey demanded caution, although neither of us could pinpoint a specific reason. Something was not right.

Grinnell and the queen want the princess to bond. I am not certain the girl is ready. I am uncertain that she can rule. Stipinia is selfish, headstrong and rebellious. I do not understand her aversion to taking her rightful place as heir apparent to the throne. She does not understand why the responsibility must be on her shoulders. I find the measures that had to be taken to convince the princess to come on this trip to be ludicrous. She has spent the entire journey sulking and complaining. It is not my place to say, but from what I have seen, the girl lacks what it takes to govern herself much less lead a world.

I apprehensively whip my head around to see if I have been observed. The shadow filled alleyway holds no one but me. The windows are dark and empty. It is eerily quiet. Severen sleeps.

I look down to the foot of the uneven stone stairs. There is no fire, yet. I see our tranden, a coach in the shape and size of a small sailing ship containing our entourage consisting of Lady Grinnell, Onamorg, the protector, Princess Stipinia, and my aide, Dray the Charlok. It is positioned in this obscure location to facilitate a swift and clandestine departure. Precaution forced the usual opulent and ornately decorated royal tranden to be substituted for a plain and functional transport. Grinnell insisted that we would face an unseen danger. My premonition seems to prove her correct.

King Treanon originally dismissed our concern. Victarine intervened and approved our cautionary measures. We traveled back roads through Coopersfeld Parish. We did not enter Severen by the main gates with the expected fanfare. Our way wended through Lenden Forest. We came through a passage normally tread by hunters and traders.

My premonition has caused me to realize that we are in much more grave danger than we had first thought.

Grinnell had sent me ahead on foot to scout the Place of Conjuring because for some reason her gift of Transport was rendered useless to bring us there. Her far-reaching gift of Mindspeak also could not sense the inner activity of those who waited in the portal. This was very odd indeed.

When I had neared the portal to the Place of Conjuring between the material and spiritual worlds, my senses had not been able to penetrate the passage either. My Mindspeak sensed nothing. The very emptiness made me shiver. I could not perceive any thoughts. The situation was as if an invisible, impenetrable bubble were over the Place of Conjuring.

As I approached the entrance I suddenly felt warm, really warm. That’s when I first experienced the premonition. My consciousness felt our tranden exploding into flames. I fell to my knees. I was stunned. All of the occupants were about to go up in flames if I didn’t act.

After I was able to compose myself, I jumped up and rushed back to warn my travel companions.

Now, as I stood gazing at our vehicle trying to determine my next course of action, I saw movement in the rear of the tranden. It was the furry, gray figure of Dray. The psychic animal attempted to huddle beneath a crimson blanket. He knew something bad was going to happen. I am certain, because Charloks are not only excellent at tracking, but often have a mild sense of premonition. My first inclination was to run to the tranden and urge everyone to get out immediately. But my Delphyte senses stopped me.

I began to feel a warm tingle in my hands and feet. It was coming. I must act! There was another way. I stood there in the shadows and breathed out steadily. I pulled my thoughts from the sides and centered them. I stared hard at the unassuming tranden, and etched its details in my mind. I froze the image there and held it while I probed inside to find Grinnell. She acknowledged my presence immediately. Our minds clasped.

Grinnell! My thoughts screamed. Get everyone out! There are explosives on the tranden!

Understood, was her calm reply, and the link was swiftly broken. I gasped at the sudden release. There was no time for discussion. Instant action was needed. I would have to rely on Grinnell to do what she could.

I placed both of my hands on either side of the narrow passageway, and let the coolness of the rock seep into them. I could feel the heat of the impending fire moving through my arms and legs. My gaze was fixed on the threatened vehicle. I felt helpless. I searched my senses for the next direction. My path lay empty. I was devoid of impulse, except for the foreboding of imminent disaster. All of my Delphyte instincts screamed to keep my distance. Running to aid the tranden would not help the occupants. It would only mean my demise as well. I breathed unevenly. The heat in my extremities flowed to my center.

The tranden suddenly exploded in a great wall of green and yellow flames. I was thrown to the rocky ground from the impact. I instantly felt Onamorg’s death. It was like when the premonition struck, only more real, more hurtful. I struggled to a sitting position and shielded my eyes. I strained to see more clearly, but the flames raged and recoiled. The fire threw sparks into the twilight sky.

Find Stipinia, Grinnell’s voice sliced into my consciousness. The inn.

I clutched my hands to my bruised mouth to stifle a cry. I watched the green in the fire consolidate. It was the essence of what was once Grinnell, my mentor. The foggy shape shot high above, arced, then melted into nothingness. Her link with my mind, the sense of her within my being shuddered and became blank.

My grimy hands moved from my mouth to cover my face. I pressed fiercely at my senses to feel her life spirit. Grinnell was gone. In human form, she suffered a fate that few Delphytes experience. Grinnell was destroyed in the flames along with Onamorg and Dray. I choked on the pain that rose in my throat. I wanted to scream to let loose the anguish that seared me.

I realized I had never really been alone. Grinnell spoiled me, really, when it came to guidance. She was like a mother. Delphytes do not have mothers, but I have lived among Caligans long enough to appreciate the concept.

I did not have time for the luxury of sorrow and inaction. Before her death, the senior Delphyte used her gifts to transport Stipinia away from harm. She tasked me to find her.

All had gone awry. The death of my companions hung on me like a dark cloak. Questions gnawed at my mind.

Why had this happened?

Who would have done such a thing?

Why hadn’t either of us Delphytes sensed more than just the need for caution?

I wrestled briefly with those queries, but my mind felt uncharacteristically sluggish. I snapped my attention to the urgency of my situation. Time was wasting.

I must somehow get a message to Victarine and find Stipinia, I said to myself. Extreme caution is required. I do not know our enemy. For the first time in my existence I feel scared and very alone.

I would have to rely on my own wits and senses to get Stipinia back to Shar. Grinnell, Onamarg and Dray are lost. The mission has failed. It would take a lot more than cleverness to get out of this.

 

Moon Shadows

Dear Diary .... by Kellianne Sweeney

moonshadows

Dear Diary,

Moon Shadows

A cloudless night softly blooms

Seeping, sliding in my room

Moonlit fingers sigh and caress

Urgently gliding through my dress

Coy Shadows linger, biding their time

Softly they whisper on the fringe of my mind

Shadows play, wander and dance

Sweetly humming of romance

Jealous Moon chases Shadows away

Pulls me close, keeping Shadows at bay

Moon insists and we passionately meet.

I yield, I shudder, in the cool heat

Slowly, Moon withdraws, gently easing

Shadows flit close, touching and teasing

They cradle me as Moon slips away

Murmuring, embracing, and with them I lay.

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Maneuvers In The Dark

window

Dear Diary,

The darkness was deep. It was more tangible and dense than she had anticipated, but she was determined. She went over in her mind again the tidbits of information she had gleaned by listening intently to their conversations. But it was bright then. Here it was so dark. Everything needed to be accomplished in the dark. Were they able to see in the dark better than she, or was it that they became so used to the procedures that they did not need to rely so much upon their sight? Perhaps her underdeveloped eyesight was one of the reasons that they had insisted that she wait? She steeled herself at the thought. She would not wait. She would prove that she was ready.

Getting inside the window proved to be relatively easy and bolstered her confidence. It had only taken her two tries to be successful. She surveyed her surroundings. A sliver of light stretched across the floor from the hallway through an ajar door. The extra light relieved her, but the intimidating dark mass in front of her that required her attention sent an apprehensive flush through her petite frame. It became apparent to her why they normally worked in pairs until their skills became ingrained. If needed, one of them could distract while the other accomplished the goal. She did not have help because she had not wanted help. When this call had come in after they all had left, she had decided that she would personally take care of it herself. She was not too young.  She would show them. She reminded herself sternly of this purpose, but it did not still the fear that she was now feeling. What if she failed? What if he saw her? Another thought suddenly chilled her: She had forgotten to bring the Replacements! She had departed in such a rush that she left the knapsack at home. What was she to do now? How could she complete the mission without any Replacements? She wrung her slender hands in dismay and agonized over whether she should flee. If she hurried back she might be able to alert one of them to come take care of this before it was too late. But what if none of them had returned yet? Earlier in the evening she would have had time to locate someone, but now the night was waning. There was no question that this needed to be accomplished tonight.

She glanced frantically around the room for something to use as a Replacement. The moon suddenly slid from behind a cloaking cloud and its’ light fell upon a shining object that was peeking out from under a rug. It sparkled brilliantly and entranced her immediately. What was this? She swiftly flitted over to it and decided it was the perfect thing. She lifted the coin with difficulty because it was almost as big as she was. Her tiny wings struggled under the weight of its’ added burden. Perhaps this was another reason why she had been told to wait until she was fully grown. Her wings had not developed into their full span yet.

Laboriously, she carried the coin to the bed that held the large, human boy. She was grateful that he was facing the wall instead of facing her as she approached. She set the shiny Replacement on the bed and pushed it the rest of the way under the pillow. She held her breath and dived further within to locate his tooth. It was close by, just as she had hoped. She wrapped both arms around it and flew back out clutching her prize. She was thrilled! It was the best kind of tooth; a First Tooth.

Just as she cleared the bed, the boy stirred and turned. The fairy whizzed behind a dresser just as the boy’s eyes fluttered open. Upon awakening, his hands immediately searched under his pillow. The moon shone on his excited face as his fingers touched the coin. He set it in his palm for only an instant before he bolted out of his bed and out of the door.

“Mom! The Tooth Fairy brought money!” he shouted as he ran down the hallway to his parents’ room. “Have you ever heard of that? She brought money!  Mom!”

The fairy flew from her hiding place and alighted on the window sill. She adjusted the tooth in her arms before slipping through the magical opening she created in the glass. She smiled with satisfaction as she sped upwards to her home. She would suggest to the others that they should give money as Replacements instead of the usual small toys or treats.

 

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