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The Day After Christmas

Christmas Love

My bed was warm and cozy this morning. I managed to sleep until almost 8 a.m. I have made an executive decision that most of the day will be spent in my flannel pajamas and thick fluffy robe, tube socks, and slippers that are faux fleece lined. They look ridiculous because several years ago I covered them with green felt when I went to a Red Hat sleep over. I wore a huge sleep shirt with a picture of a gigantic frog perched on a lily pad. The slippers were converted to frog feet. There were toes at one time but I had made them too long. I kept stepping on them and almost falling so they now have a toe-ectomy. Since no one will see them, I continue to wear them because they are the most comfortable and warmest in my closet.

I’m staying in this attire because it is the warmest and coziest outfit I can think of. I have given up trying to stay warm in my house when the thermostat is set on 68. As the years go by, I have made staying warm more of a priority. It is now set on 70 and the furnace is running almost constantly since it is in single digits outside. My home is as insulated as I can make it, but there is still a slight chill. I give thanks for warmth on cold winter days.

Every once in a while I am given the gift of realizing that I feel really well…not just physically but also spiritually. Today is one of those days. Even though Christmases are a little hard for me, I found comfort in this one.

A birthday buddy I found about seven years ago has included me as part of her family. She has reunited with her estranged father and so she hosts a dinner for him and his wife. After so many years there seems to be a bond forming between them again. I kind of envy that since there was never enough time for me to experience that with my own father.

After the dinner the two of us went to the candlelight service at church. It is the same every year, but this year I felt a solace that I don’t usually sense. Ill feelings about Christmas go all the way back to childhood. It was a little sad when she confided to me on the way home that she is thinking of changing churches. There has been much conflict the last couple of years in our congregation and we split almost in half. She stayed as I did but she is thinking of moving on.

Yesterday I was invited to the gathering at another friend’s home across the street. She cooks a huge pot of tortilla soup, tamales, beans, and makes wonderful chip dip. They buy a honey baked ham which gives me my pork fix for the year. Her family and friends arrive whenever. I walked across the street around one and had a nice visit while all was calm. It was very nice visiting with her and watching huge snow flakes fall outside. As the day went on, her two daughters and their families appeared, and a short while later two more relatives and their families arrived. The house was getting crowded so I decided to come home, full of her delicious food.

Her home is a little more drafty than mine so I had wisely chosen to put on another layer of underwear. By the time all those people had gathered, I was getting a little toasty. My introversion kicked in and I realized it was time to move on. I weary after four hours with any group.

Before I went to bed, another friend called to share her success about hosting her family for Christmas. She has so many best friends I can’t count them all, but she has chosen to add me to her “club”. It is one of those rare honors one is given in life to find a friend like her.

Back in 1968 I was dating a young Marine. He surprised me at Christmas and came home on leave. It was during that time we got engaged. Since he was in officer’s school and knew he would be heading to Viet Nam, I had no idea what to give him as a present. I decided to borrow a negligee gown and wrap from my aunt, (which had remained unworn in her drawer for several years), wrap a ribbon sash around me and sit under the tree with a gift of a big smile. It was a wonderful Christmas. I believed I had been given the gift of love. Things didn’t work out with him, but if I concentrate, I can connect with the good feelings of those few days.

I woke up this morning realizing I had been dreaming about him. I realized that the dream was probably because of “King of the Hill”. John reminds me very much of Hank Hill.  If I wake during the early morning around 4, that show is usually on. I guess I was hearing it in my sleep and started thinking of my love. After all these years I accepted the fact after fighting it for almost fifty years that for a number of reasons there will always be a part of me that loves him, but I realized today that I am setting myself free. Maybe the memories will now fade and I will recognize that that relationship also had its toxic moments that I have too long suppressed and all worked out for the greater good.

Whatever the cause of my feelings of joy today, I am grateful and will relish every minute. It is a new feeling to associate with Christmas and I will hold onto it as long as possible. I hope your days were as blessed as mine. Namaste. Attic Annie

holly

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What to Wear on Christmas Eve

sue's sweater

…and there it was, hanging right in front of me.

Once again it is Christmas Eve. I have been invited this evening to a friend’s home for tamales before going to the Candlelight Service. I have known this friend for about six years. I think this is the fourth year of invitations. I have been trying all day to figure out what I want to wear. It makes little difference at our church. There will be many in jeans and several in new outfits with every style in between. I guess that’s one of the reasons I like going to this place. I have never felt any sense of pretension. It really isn’t a matter of what one wears.

I have not bought any new clothes for Christmas in more years than I can count. Actually after twenty years of being unchurched, it has only been eight years that I have attempted to attend. My memory of Christmas Eves does not extend much beyond that.

I have a black long sleeve tee that is decorated with an embroidered cardinal and sequined white poinsettia  flowers. The cardinal is the state bird of Illinois, my home state, so it is a little connection with home, even though I haven’t lived there in thirty five years. The cardinal is a beautiful symbol for Christmas and winter I think.

“The cardinal makes a fantastic animal totem. It reminds us to hold ourselves with pride – not ego pride. Rather, the cardinal asks us to stand a little taller, be a bit more regal, step into our natural confidence as if we were born to lead with grace and nobility”. I tend to hold back in crowds. I thought perhaps if I wear the cardinal I can be a little more joyous.

“As we observe the cardinal – particularly against the backdrop of the stark winter months, we are reminded that even when things appear bleak or isolated, there is always the presence of beauty, hope, and love”. The tee was a gift from my cousin’s family. She transitioned two years ago. The top still had its tags on. I had been with her when she bought it. The cardinal was her favorite totem. I wanted to feel close to her tonight.

I mentally went through other things in my closet. It’s not supposed to get really colder until tomorrow when it might snow. I don’t think it will, however. I think any snow will stop about forty five miles north of us around Denton.

I washed a couple of loads of clothes and hung them on my rack in the laundry room. And there was my answer hanging right in front of me. The very last time I saw my cousin she was wearing a new sweater. When we hugged, I was amazed by the softness of the weave. It felt so like her. Her husband asked me to take whatever I wanted when I left because by that time it was a matter of weeks. I couldn’t get myself to take anything without feeling very uncomfortable. I kind of felt I would be in the deathbed scene of Scrooge when the chambermaids were stealing the curtains before he was even dead.  I did ask him to mail me a couple of things when he was able to get around to it. That sweater was one of the few things I felt I truly wanted.

So tonight I am wearing that sweater. It will be warm enough to wear without a coat as opposed to the thinner tee. It will be soft and cuddly and I will be sharing  the service with Sue once again feeling her loving arms wrapped around me. The number of people I share this holiday with has almost entirely dwindled away but the spirit of my gentle, talented cousin will be with me to the end…at least until the sweater and the tee become too tattered to wear. Merry Christmas, y’all. Namaste. Attic Annie

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Saturday: Study, Facebook, Country Music and Willie Nelson

This day has been lazy but productive. I decided to review the first three sessions of the class I am taking on “The Christ in the Bible” and prepare for the fourth. We are not using the book shown above but the title was close. I will readily admit that I have very little background for such a course involving metaphysics and I have more or less been in a fog of non-understanding. Since starting the course I have purchased a couple of reference books which I tackled with zeal today. It was with amazement that I realized that some of the material was actually sinking into my slowly mummifying brain. I know I have a much better understanding of the material we are going to cover tomorrow. Too bad it’s only a five week course.

I am a Facebook addict. I spend much too much time sharing links with others whom I have friended. I  was really disturbed when I read today that come next March, Zuch is closing down FB. However, I also found a site that says it’s a hoax. I have reconnected with so many friends I am really sad at the thought that this might actually happen, which it may or may not do.  It’s strange how a single question or a brief hello means so much. It’s the primary way I communicate one sentence at a time with my son. It’s how I saw my Grandbaby’s first picture…all seven centimeters of the tiny body which has to wait six more months to make the grand entrance.

I also spend way too much time playing the computer games. The only one I really compete with my friends is Bejeweled Blitz. I don’t use any extra game aids or the Phoenix unless one of my friends passes my score. Then I pull out the guns and rev up the mouse to see if I can crawl to the top of the chart again. Some weeks I stay up there, others I just don’t seem to make it after my score is passed. As of this time, I’m back on top probably only for a few hours.

A few weeks ago we discussed The Tao of Willie in my Sunday class. I thought it sounded intriguing so I ordered on Amazon. I wonder if Willie Nelson is aware that his book is selling for $0.01 with $3.99 shipping charges. Somebody must really want to get rid of a bunch of books. The price inside the cover says the price is $20.00. I haven’t read all of it, but what I have read today has been good. If it stays as good I might even write a letter to Willie to tell him how much I appreciated it. I’ve never thanked an author before. There’s always a first.

Over the past few years I’ve been introduced to a lot of books on life among which is The Tao Te Ching. It’s one of those books you can read in one half hour and study for a life time. Willie’s book is his take on the Tao. I’m learning that it’s OK to learn what other sages have tried to show us through the ages. We are here to learn, so we might as well open ourselves up to as much knowledge as possible. My thirst for help in finding my way is as powerful as staying out in the sun too long without water on a hot Texas summer day. There is a definite need stirring within me. I regret it took me so long to start my search to quench my thirst.

Since I was reading Willie Nelson I decided to listen to country music. I don’t usually listen very long to that station but many of the songs are Christmas songs and its bringing back memories of a year and a half of my life when I loved a young man who loved country music. We had two very interesting Christmas times together, but that’s another blog. Namaste Attic Annie

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Why abuse “evil” corporations?

I  have  become quite interested in the Occupy movement on my FB page. There are several people constantly posting pictures, quotes, stories, etc. of the people who are doing the occupying. There are those who shout “Nothing is free”, “Get a job”, “Go home” “I paid for my college education, you pay for yours”, “Dirty Hippies”, etc. They delight in reporting the number of tampon and condom wrappers as if that debases the people who are there.

This morning, this picture was posted.

The message that I glean from this poster is, “You are all using products made by the ‘evil’ corporations you are attacking. You are all hypocrites. See how much better life is with all these wonderful corporations providing all those things which you now feel are necessities in your lives. Now just go home and shut up.”

I will admit that I use many of the products corporations produce as mentioned in this picture. I drive a car, take a train, ride a bus, and fly. I do not grow my own cotton or wool or dye them with natural dyes like beet juice. I buy manufactured clothing. I use cardboard boxes, a cell phone, and a camera. I correspond by using my computer. I stop at stop lights and am thankful they are there. That does not mean I have no right to expect the corporations that provide these material goods and services to be fair and ethical.

No one disagrees that corporations make products which consumers buy. The disagreement is whether these products are of good construction and are safe for the consumer and for the environment, whether they were made by workers making a living wage or in sweatshops, whether the corporations paid fair taxes. All of these positive  conditions can occur if the corporations have their customers, their neighbors, and their workers first in their minds rather than how large a house (or houses), how big a yacht, how extravagant their parties, and how many zeros appear in the bank accounts of the CEO and major stock holders. Some people just don’t get that message.

It is possible for business to be conducted with a fair profit. I haven’t heard of anyone saying all corporations should be non-profit. But when companies poison the earth with their toxins, fix prices, nickel and dime customers (that should probably be $50 and $100) with all kinds of fees, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum to the point of destroying entire lives and lifestyles, it is time for people to rise up and voice complaints. No company needs to make billions in profits on the backs of the lowest 99%.

I do not know where this will end. I feel it would be a good step to start with eliminating the idea that a corporation is a person. Another step would be to turn out every person in Congress to run again without any payments by the lobbyists who currently own them. Yes, there are some good people in Congress. If they are honestly good, let them be re-elected but hold every Congress person to a limited term. A Congress person should not be allowed to “serve” longer than any president. A third step should be to limit the time served in courts. The life time appointment idea was made at a time when life spans were in general half of what they are now. We need leaders who will hold these corporations responsible to the earth and the people they serve. Paid off Congress and judicial persons will not do that.

I support the Occupy movement. I support the idea that banks should work with people whose houses have been foreclosed. I support banks releasing the trillions of dollars they are hoarding until after the election in an effort to get people to believe it is entirely the president’s fault that the economy is as it is. I support honesty and fairness. I guess I’ve been on the wrong side all my life but I like my side.

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The Rest of the Trip

Since my son had been married in July and he had just started his job again, there was no reason for them to hurry off for a Honeymoon. They spent the morning returning clothes from the wedding and all the other tidbits of things that have to be handled. The four of us then headed to one of the two “entertainment’ destinations in that city. We went to the aquarium.

It was a beautiful day. The humidity was not quite as high as it had been before. The aquarium was situated on the shores of the East China Sea. Any time I am near a beach, the Crab that I am, I am happy. The place was crowded, but not exceptionally so. I enjoyed just taking our time and touring the exhibits. The clear plexiglass walk through was kind of fun watching all the animals swim all around us. It’s too bad it was so humid inside the tube that it was uncomfortable to stay long. Just watching my son and his wife was fun enough. Realizing that he was so grounded and not in a mood to pick a fight was even more priceless.

They had picked 9-10-11 to be wed because of some Chinese number reasoning. They were officially married on 7-8 so fortunately for my son, he should not have too much trouble remembering the dates. 7-8-9-10-11. Evidently it was a lucky day for weddings. However, not everyone could book venues on that day so there were still weddings happening on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

That evening my friend offered to take us out to dinner. We had a lovely meal, (another great George) and a good time just talking. Then we had a problem. They didn’t take Visa. My friend couldn’t pay for the meal. Fortunately, my son still had enough cash on him so we were able to leave the restaurant. We returned to the hotel and I used my debit card in the ATM to withdraw the amount to pay him back. Some how we got all our finances straightened out and the evening ended.

Fortunately, because of the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, Nathan did not have to return to work on Monday so he had an extra night with his wife. Monday morning the bus arrived to take him and his fellow co-workers back to work. It was quite sad to see him go so soon. We really hadn’t had much time to really visit. But on the other hand, it was nice because there was not much time to irritate him either. That is a good thing. I do not enjoy it when my son gets mad.

That night many of Julie’s family gathered to eat. It is a harvest festival, not unlike the American Thanksgiving. It’s an event  for good conversation and fun with the family. We were invited to join them. There was only one problem. It was on the fourth floor and the elevator was not working! We had to climb up three flights of stairs. Julie ran up to get some of her cousins to help us climb the stairs. Barb has arthritic knees and the muscle strength in my thighs has been severely sapped. Two people each came down to help us. I couldn’t get through to them that it would be better if I could hold onto the railing and pull myself up. I guess we created quite a sight.

Once again Julie was the only one in her family that spoke English so she was quite busy interpreting. They showered us with gifts again and I had a chance to tell them how much it meant to me to feel so accepted into their family.

Tuesday morning we had a late check out and then sat in the lobby for about an hour waiting for Julie and her mother to return from yet another wedding. Then we were off to the airport. Traffic was light. There was a World Economic Forum being held in Dalian and the government had ordered both Monday and Tuesday as traffic control days. Depending on the last number of the license plate, you were only allowed to drive one of those two days. I wondered if Americans would abide by that.

We headed for Beijing. We had three nights and two days. We had a tour of the major sites of the town and then headed to the Forbidden City where the Emperors lived for hundreds of years.

I was totally amazed. By this time I was able to walk all around without any pain. I was so thrilled. Taking myself off statins and substituting other supplements was helping tremendously.

Following that we went to a restaurant chain called the Peking Duck. They are kind of the equivalent of McDonald’s as far as keeping track of the number of ducks sold. Our certificate said the was something like the so many billionth duck! They serve every part of that duck, including the intestines which they actually did name chop suey. The trained chef makes 108 cuts in the duck. It was amazing to watch.

In the afternoon we traveled to the Summer Palace and walked around the grounds. On the dragon boat heading to the island I started a conversation with an obvious American. When I told her where I was from, she said another woman on the boat was from Fort Worth. She too was retired and last taught in a school two miles from my home!

The last major trip we made was to the Silk and Pearl Market. The large pearl market was being renovated. I can’t imagine what it looked like. This place was like the jewelry, clothing, toy, knicknack departments of Wal-Mart on super steroids. I have never seen such a place. Whole floors devoted to booth after booth of wares.

This is just one booth out of probably more than 100. As I walked around I saw a very pretty sweater. I was told the price and I said it was too much. I continued to walk. Julie stayed behind. When she caught up with me she handed me a bag. She had said to the clerk, “I’m Chinese. I know what this costs. Tell me what you want.” Believe me, it was significantly cheaper. If I get to go to such a market again with her, I’m packing my bag with space bags next time!

That was basically our trip. We did manage to have two wonderful massages while we were there and eat at a Mexican restaurant. The day we left we found a cab driver that actually agreed to take all four of us to the airport. There is a problem with drivers there. They prefer only one customer so they can pick up other paying customers along the way. It cost 10RMB plus a gas surcharge of 2 RMB for the extra distance. That’s about $7.20 for at least a 15-20 mile drive!

We had time in the airport to visit leisurely some more over coffee then it was time to board. It was one of the greatest experiences in my life. I’m not sure how I will manage it, but hopefully I will be going back some time next summer. I can’t wait to see my new family!

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An Anglo/Chinese Wedding Part 3

The day of the wedding finally arrived. The four of us went down to breakfast again and my son joined us at to our hotel (it was a five minute walk) around 9:00 a.m. It was the same strange serving as the day before. The restaurant was all set up for another wedding but they were allowing people to eat breakfast. We waited for the photographer and videographer and then returned to the room. When they arrived,  they proceeded to get all the pre-wedding pictures that are usually taken. We noticed that the air in Becky and Bob’s room was not on either. We opened the window but there was little circulation.

My son was already dressed for the day, but he had to undress for the pictures. They couldn’t take the pictures at the apartment because that was where Julie and her bridesmaids were preparing for the day. So…make believe time.

Nathan took off his shirt and tie and pretended to be putting on his undershirt. Then Bob helped him tie his tie. I think he took off and put on his socks and shoes as well, but I’ll have to wait  until I see the pictures. All this time both of the camera guys were shooting pictures of everything else that was going on in the room. It was really a crowded place.

Nathan had brought a bouquet (the first one) to the room with him because that was part of the tradition that he present flowers to his loved one. With all the people passing it around, it started to wilt rather quickly. Nathan called and was told things were not ready yet so we just waited around. Finally, we were given permission to go over to the apartment.

When we arrived, the place was filled with relatives. We could hardly walk around. Julie was in her first dress of the day. There were pictures of honoring grandmother and then me (it was the first time she was supposed to call me Mom.) After Julie bowed to us, we handed her red envelopes with money inside.

A young male cousin jumped on the bed, her parents prepared a basket of personal items to be taken to the groom’s home, a male cousin nailed up a red curtain for which I paid him. Nathan was barred from Julie’s room by the bridesmaids and then had to “fight” his way in to his love. He had to find her shoe and put it on her foot. He knelt beside the bed and presented the bouquet (further wilting had taken place). One of the maids and Bob (one of the groomsmen) sat with Nathan and Julie and ate dumplings and then all tried to feed him a dumpling at the same time. Her mother and aunts had spent hours preparing 400 dumplings for the day to feed the family. We all stood around and watched the proceedings. I later asked Julie what some of these traditions meant and she said she had no idea. It was just something they did.

Although the hotel had moved my friend and me by that time to another room, it was obvious that the room next door did not have air conditioning either. Becky and Bob were upset that they didn’t have a king size bed. There were not quite double beds instead. It was decided that as soon as the picture taking session was over we were moving to a different hotel. The Howard Johnson Hotel was about a block away from where the wedding was taking place. It was much nicer. The first hotel would have been acceptable if the A/C had worked. Now we were in a hotel, it turned out, that the A/C worked too well. Later that night, we got up around 2 a.m. and turned the A/C off!

That afternoon the entire wedding party traveled to the park for outdoor pictures of the entire group…all the bridesmaids and groomsmen, bride and groom. I don’t know if her parents went with them or not but by that time I was really losing steam. I opted to take a nap instead. As a result, I realized when the wedding was over that there were no pictures of me posed with my son and his new wife by ourselves. Oh well!

Thankfully there was enough time to recharge our energy and get dressed for the wedding. It had been warm and humid all day. By the time of the wedding, the weather seemed perfect.

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An Anglo-Chinese Wedding Part 2

When we arrived at the Beijing Airport, we had to transfer to another terminal to pick up our luggage. Things went smoothly since we followed the other people from our plane and the few signs that were in English. We were only on the train a few minutes. By the time we figured out where to pick up our luggage and went to the bathroom, we were among the last to go through the check in to get to the gate.

I was still carrying the $4.00 bottle of water I had bought in Chicago. Because the flight attendants were so good at offering drinks, I had only sipped about 1/4 of it. It was taken away from me and tossed. That’s the last time I buy big bottles that I won’t have time to drink.

The plane to Dalian was already boarding. We were supposed to meet friends of my son at the gate. They were coming from South China for the wedding. I spied someone looking around and smiling just as she got to the front of the line. She looked like her facebook picture so I waved. It was really strange when I got on board and realized my assigned seat was right next to hers and her husband’s. We had about an hour to get acquainted. I could understand why they and my son had become friends. I liked both of them immediately.

Julie’s family all turned out for the reception at the airport. There were probably ten people there. Aunts, uncles, cousins, parents…all had come to greet us. Nathan was there to greet us with bouquets of flowers. We hugged each other and I didn’t want to let go. I almost started crying. It’s hard to see your son only every 18 months or so. I had sent a message to Julie that I was looking forward to her calling me Mom. She hugged me and did just that. It sounded wonderful.

It had taken quite a while for our luggage to arrive. Nathan’s friends had gone out first. Becky was standing there holding a bouquet as well. I wondered why but didn’t say anything. Julie’s grandmother grabbed my hand. She is only about eight years older than I am but she is very strong and healthy. When we started walking, I thought she was preparing me for a marathon as we headed to the car.

The trip to downtown Dalian was really a trip! I didn’t see any accidents but I was prepared for one at any moment. Those people cut in front of each other with centimeters to spare. I get nervous when there are only a few feet in between me and someone cutting in. I was astounded at the drivers. Traffic was flowing freely, literally bumper to bumper. It was amazing. I tried to relax but I was glad when we stopped and I could breathe again.

We checked into the hotel. Nathan and Julie went with us up to the room and turned on the air conditioning and checked to see that everything was o.k. The other couple was in the room next to ours. Since it was about 10 at night there, we went to bed. About two in the morning, both of us woke up. It was getting warm. The a/c had been turned off. That even included the fan. We made it through the night and in the morning we opened the window to let in some air.

The breakfast was part of the charge for the room. Nathan and Julie joined the four of us. I had a couple of brown (soaked in tea) hard boiled eggs, some orange liquid that was supposed to be juice, and a variety of non-descript vegetables. After breakfast, a tour around Dalian by van was arranged for us.

Dalian is a lovely city…or at least it would be if there were not so much construction going on. I don’t believe we drove a single mile without seeing at least two projects. They took us along a road that bordered the coast. We could see the East China Sea in the distance.

Nathan and Julie had arranged for everyone to eat at this lovely restaurant. There were eight of us, including the two drivers who were giving us the tour. When we entered I saw tank after tank of fresh live seafood. We were taken to a private room upstairs and waited while Nathan and Julie went downstairs to pick out our food. It was our first exposure to eating Chinese family-style.

There was a large Lazy Susan in the center of the table. As the dishes began to arrive, they were placed there. The others picked up their chopsticks and began eating right from the dishes, one bit at a time. The last dish to arrive was a fresh fish (I don’t know what kind) who I called “George”…as in, “George, I knew him well….”. He was the first George. Before our trip was over, we had been served at least four more. I told the story about George Foreman and his sons to Julie. Each new fish now became another George. They were by far, in my opinion, the best part of the meal. I’m in love with Chinese steamed fish…heads and all.

After a rest back at the hotel, we met one more time for supper. This was kind of the “rehearsal dinner”. There is a popular restaurant chain called “The Hot Pot” where Becky, Bob, Barb, Julie, her parents, Nathan and I went. It was delicious as long as I, like the noon meal, didn’t ask too many questions as to what we were eating.

Unfortunately, when we got back to the hotel, we realized the a/c was still not working. Barb and Betsy went down to the desk. They thought that translators were being called. Instead, Nathan and Julie arrived. At that time of night, nothing was done. We had to sleep with the window open which meant the traffic noise was unceasing. We got little sleep. I was so proud of Nathan. He kept his cool the entire time he was trying to handle this. Here it was the night before his wedding and there were still things which needed attention. I smiled as I realized the calming effect Julie had on him. I could see the tension, but he didn’t explode. I fell in love with her even more so.

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