Truth be told, 2 women and 1 man have been working hard to update my Plain and Fancy Girl website.
We will be wearing hard hats and steel-toed boots, not pumps, until early February when the new site will be unveiled.
Did you know that touching zaps your immune system with positive energy? Similarly, your brain goes into party mode when you hear and/or play music – so say the researchers.
In this cropped photo, my sister Jan’s hand touches her Aunt Ruthie’s, who in turn is feeling the fake fur of a toy, who she may imagine to be her dog Fritzie.
Touch is Powerful . . .
Dr. Dolores Krieger, professor of nursing at New York University, conducted numerous studies on the power of human touch. She discovered “that both the ‘toucher’ and the ‘touchee’ experience great physiological benefit from human contact. It works like this:
Red blood cells carry hemoglobin, a substance that transports oxygen to body tissue. And Dr. Krieger found that when one person lays hands on another, the hemoglobin levels in the blood stream of both people increase. And as they rise, body tissue receives increased oxygen, which invigorates you physically and can aid in the healing process. What you’re seeing is the literal power of love in action. Loving is good for you” There’s nothing as rewarding, satisfying, or encouraging as loving others through your words and actions.
Quoted in James Merritt, How to Impact and Influence Others
Touch is Powerful and so is Music!
In a TED/Ed lesson, Anita Collins reports that listening to music engages multiple areas of one’s brain, but playing an instrument is “more like a full-body brain workout.”
She says if listening to music produces a party in the brain, picking up an instrument and playing it amounts to fireworks, a real jubilee!
What is it about producing music that totally lights up the brain? Collins mentions the physical activity of using fine motor skills (plucking a harp, blowing a trumpet) combined with the linguistic and mathematical skills in other brain areas, strengthens the connection between right and left hemispheres.
She even makes a connection between musicians and good search engines, an analogy she further explains in this 4+ minute YouTube presentation:
Music is Touching
Babies, newly minted from nature, love lullabies and nursery tunes. Likewise, music soothes the elderly and those of any age at the point of death. Haven’t you heard that hearing is the last sense to go?
My sister Jean, brother Mark, Mother’s pastor and wife sang my mother into glory with old gospel songs. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it in time to surround my mother’s bed with harmony.
Groups like Songs for the Journey, non-denominational and volunteer, provide a benevolent service to loved ones and patients alike as they make the transition from this life to whatever lies beyond. Quoting from their website, “Our live music ministries provide comfort and guidance to those who are near death, as well as to those who love them.”
Light up my brain with your comments please!
Thank you for checking in with thoughts on the power of touch or the value of music. What about your pets? How has touching furry friends benefitted you?
For years, my young son Joel thought I had an eye on the back of my head. Why? I told him so.
To keep this mischief-making, dangerous pranking boy surviving beyond childhood, I kept alive the delusion of a third eye until he grew old enough to catch on to my trick. “God gave you a smart Mommy,” I declared. “I have to be ‘with it.’ Otherwise, you’d be dead!” And I meant every word.
What does “With It” Mean?
Malcolm Gladwell in “Most Likely to Succeed” from The New Yorker (Dec. 15, 2008) discusses the value of “withitness” in several fields: sports, education, and business. About teaching in particular, he notes: Educational researcher Jacob Kounin, used the term “withitness” to define that hard-to-pin-down quality of intuition and smarts which helps one sense the behaviors, intentions, and motivations of those around her/him and act accordingly.
“Test scores, graduate degrees, and certifications—as much as they appear related to teaching prowess—turn out to be about as useful in predicting success as having a quarterback throw footballs into a bunch of garbage cans.”
Perhaps no profession has taken the implications of the quarterback problem more seriously than the financial-advice field, and the experience of financial advisers is a useful guide to what could happen in teaching as well. There are no formal qualifications for entering the field except a college degree. Financial-services firms don’t look for only the best students, or require graduate degrees or specify a list of prerequisites. No one knows beforehand what makes a high-performing financial adviser different from a low-performing one, so the field throws the door wide open.
In the last six months we’ve had the opportunity to rub shoulders with a few bankers, realtors, and multiple tradespeople who did home repairs or renovation during our move.
Here in a nutshell:
Mr. Painter: His eyes surveyed the kitchen walls as he spoke, “I can do this in two hours and include your paint in the price. I’ll even leave some paint for touch-ups.” He fulfilled his promises. We were pleased.
Ms. Realtor: “I’ll call you in two hours with an update.” She did and we felt confident.
Mrs. Banker: “I’ll be right on it.” She wasn’t though, and we spent days and weeks feeling frustrated. Later, however, we found she was covering for the ineptitude of support people in the business.
Mr. Realtor: “Look at my credentials! I have a 5-Star rating . . . yadayadayada . . . !
However, credentials don’t always translate into performance. We frequently had to prompt him to act in our favor. Why can’t he be “with-it”? we wondered.
* We had lunch recently at Mimi’s restaurant. Our server Kristie performed perfectly without hovering. Before we left, she boxed up an un-eaten blueberry muffin and left-over dinner rolls in separate containers. Without prompting, she labeled each box.
Item + Date + merci on the lid . . . certainly appropriate in a French restaurant á la New Orleans style. This server was definitely a “with it” woman!
* Ruth Garber Rohrer, a 93-year-old subscriber to The Mennonite magazine, read my September 2016 article in tribute to my Grandma Fannie Longenecker printed in this post.
Then I found Ruth’s editorial comment in the October issue.
Serendipitously, I had discovered a link to my Grandma through one of her pupils in Sunday School at Bossler Mennonite Church, one I never knew existed. Ruth Garber Rohrer also has a presence on Facebook and socializes in the digital world.
Ruth is “with it” indeed!
How I Define “With It”
* Keen perception through the senses: Seeing, hearing, “reading” a situation beyond mere facts.
* Ability to evaluate situations and/or scan people’s expressions and connect with them personally in a significant way.
* Ability to follow-through when action is needed.
What is your definition of “With It”? What qualities would you add to the list?
Did examples from your own life pop into your mind as you read this post. Here’s where to reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly or – the best!
Do you have photo albums un-touched in years? Is there a box of pictures stashed away that hasn’t seen the light of day in ages? What treasures may be hidden in your attic or basement?
After our Big Move August 9, more of Cliff’s artwork has come to light, pieces squirreled away, forgotten for decades.
On the July 6, 2016 blog post, I hinted that Cliff the Artist would be discovering more goodies. What I said then:
He has also found lurking in drawers, pencil drawings of college classmates and professors in the classroom, sketches of unsuspecting diners in restaurants. (To be revealed)
Cliff found a treasure trove of surprises in an armoire’s shallow shelf with other large art pieces, in niches below that, in a handmade folding portfolio, and in a cabinet with glass shelves.
An antique mahogany cabinet brought forth more surprises.
Photographs and artwork like these:
Sketches in college classroom
Cliff and Barry Beitzel, both divinity students in college, studied Greek together. Cliff became an artist/educator and Barry, a Hebrew scholar and author of important biblical literature including The New Moody Atlas of the Bible.
Sketches in restaurants
In the style of Honoré Daumier who honored ordinary folks like in his oil painting Third Class Carriage, Cliff caught images of unsuspecting diners in Waffle Houses and restaurants of similar ilk:
A Family Heirloom, the House on Anchor Road: Cliff presented the painting of our homestead to my dad, Ray Longenecker, 1983
Without prompting from me, Cliff wrote this memo to himself recently, feeling exhilarated about finding his long-lost “friends”
Time Moves On
Yes, time moves on. More than thirty-seven years have passed since this calendar with Cliff’s pastiche drawing circulated for the new year.
Maybe it’s time to check through memories marinating on your shelves, incubating in boxes. No telling what treasures you’ll find.
Bonus: Two good websites to help you mine stories from photographs:
Shirley Showalter’s Magical Memoir Moments: photos and writing prompts to bring out the storyteller in you
Dawn Roode’s blog on using digital photos to trigger writing life stories
Any I missed? Please add others in the comments column. Thank you!
Coming next: Aunt Ruthie Longenecker ~ Her Life in Pictures
I’ve written about a Mouse, a Madras dress, Marie Kondo, my Mate’s stored secrets and Louisa Adams’ Moving adventure during our Big Move from a tri-level to a single floor. Now we are settling in. You may be curious about what happened to all the books originally stacked on the shelves of my three adjoining bookcases next to my former writing desk.
I gave away plenty. This week, Ian got my 1950 copy of The Peanut Man. He sucked in a gasp when I told him George Washington Carver was sold as a slave in exchange for a horse but bravely used God’s wisdom to find hundreds of uses for sweet potatoes and peanuts. Another book, The Power of Style became a birthday gift to my friend Carolyn, a stylish woman whose blouse underneath declares she is cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.
Back in May I started with three floor-to-ceiling bookcases, now condensed to just one. My other books have cozy nests elsewhere, cosseted in small spaces all around our new home.
A book rack in a corner of the great room holds books for morning meditation, including my lilac gratitude book.
My journal for rants and other facts of life has gone missing. It has an iridescent Tiffany-style cover. If it turns up at your house, please let me know. I’m dying to have it back!
Old books, my hymn books, and a violin in-need-of-repair with the bridge missing fill an alcove in the hallway. Cathedral ceilings have amplified both glorious sounds and sour notes – ha!
The dining room has built-ins for china and books. On the window seat, small crocks (one from Mother) hold in place more old books, including the one at the far end on my blog banner.
Underneath, a long cabinet swallowed up over two dozen photo albums and about a dozen journals.
Above the media center in the living room, a sturdy candlestick holds up Sonnets of the Portuguese, Beatrix Potter’s Lakeland, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance popular in 1995 and Alice in Wonderland, a gift from son Joel and wife Sarah, Christmas 1998. Coral from Key West separates these from another stash of antique books.
Under the sofa table, brass butterflies hold some of my books by Mennonite writers, a collection by my favorite short story author, Alice Munro, one of John Updike’s novels, Judith Viorst books and The Story of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon.
The water closet, should you choose to linger on the “throne,” offers a changing display of reading material.
And finally, I pared down kitchen recipe books. What remains has a distinctly Mennonite/Amish vibe with slender tea-time booklets at right. Most recipes are available online, so the 4-inch thick encyclopedias had to go. Besides, my favorite recipes sit snug in a computer desktop file.
Four months ago in our former home, I began with three adjoining bookcases, jammed with books. In the photo below, I had already started purging.
Space for my books is much smaller now, condensed to just one. Besides, it was time to let some tomes go. Looking back, I see my method for giving away or keeping has been more intuitive than rational. Autographed books, gifts from friends or family had to stay. Hardest to let go – textbooks laden with notes I had labored so long to create.
A glitch occurred as we tried to stabilize this bookcase. When the cable guy came, he angled the bookcase to hookup the internet and pushed the oak file-case forward. When he finished, he shoved the case too far to the right, so we couldn’t get it pushed back to the wall. Because it was overloaded with books and too heavy to move, son-in-law Joe and husband Cliff relayed books from case to floor and back again, so the behemoth could be moved into its final resting place. Bless them!
“I like best to have one book in my hand, and a stack of others on the floor beside me, so as to know the supply of poppy and mandragora will not run out before the small hours.” Dorothy Parker, The Collected Dorothy Parker (My stack has dwindled.)
Do you believe as William Dean Howells suggests
Oh, nothing furnishes a room like books.
What books are among your favorites? Which ones would you never, ever part with?
Do you have places to showcase special books?
What other room accessories do you value? More quotes about books are welcome here too ~ thank you!
When we met, Cliff’s very first words to me were “Nice to see you again.”
My quick quip, “Nice to see you again too.”
But I’m getting ahead of my story. Way ahead . . .
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During the months of June and July, I published a series of posts about moving from our large family home to a smaller abode. An earlier post discussed this move from my husband’s point of view: His Turn, an Artist Discards, Donates, and Discovers. I mentioned then that I may reveal later some of Cliff’s discoveries, unearthed drawings from an armoire that have not seen the light of day for literally decades.
I’m showing the first one on this post.
But first, some background . . .
Through the ingenuity of my Pennsylvania neighbor next door, Paul Mumma, I met Cliff, his college roommate, as a blind date on December 18, 1965, a fact I recorded in an entry with many embellishments in my journal. My iPhone says the day of the week that year was a Saturday.
On what turned out to be a double date, Paul, his girlfriend Betty, Cliff and I drove down Anchor Road on the way to the education building of a small church which the four of us intended to decorate for Christmas. On a blackboard in one of the Sunday School rooms Cliff first revealed his artistic talent by drawing a Santa Claus, mostly for my benefit, I surmise. (Sorry, the Santa Claus has been erased.)
A few days later, he had me pose in the living room of my parents’ home for many minutes. He explained that he was drawing my portrait. I sat very still for a long, long time.
Cliff finally flipped the paper to expose the drawing. I was aghast when I saw what the clever artist had been playing with on paper for forty-five minutes: He had morphed my then-slender figure into a porky jungle animal with a cute blue bow.
He laughed heartily when he saw my shocked reaction.
After the gasp, all ll I could manage was an incredulous giggle. “You got me,” I thought.
The next week was Christmas. Then I heard him tell me, “I think I am falling in like.”
Really? What’s that like, I wondered.
About a week later, Cliff drew a proper picture of me.
He drew a good likeness of the serious me and prophesied my future, I think, by exaggerating my pile of dark hair and miniaturizing my prayer cap.
He signed it, Love, Cliff.
Yes, Reader, I married him.
Reader, I married him. A quiet wedding we had: he and I, the parson and clerk, were alone present. ~ Jane Eyre, Ch. 38, C. Brontë
Our wedding was not quiet. And more than four people were present.
A few weeks ago when Cliff pulled out piles of papers and other drawings including the one above, a small bag fell out from one of the crevices in the same art armoire. The envelope was dusty but well-preserved after years in hiding. Inside he found an anniversary card he apparently had bought in his travels and had been intending to give me about 10-15 years ago, so he imagines. Time had preserved the lacy layers. But he added a fresh, new message.
Dear Reader, have you ever found lost or long-buried mementoes of sentimental value?
Thank you for adding your discoveries here.
By the way, our move became a reality yesterday, August 9, in case you are wondering when all this hoopla has culminated. Next week, prepared in advance: Summer on Anchor Road: Sights, Smells, & Sounds
“Let them eat cake!” That’s what newly weds and their guests do at wedding receptions. At 9 ½ minutes after three o’clock on August 5, 1967, I fed my groom a huge mouthful of cake, and he returned the favor more gingerly ten seconds later, if the clock on the wall is any indication.
We are on the verge of celebrating our 49th anniversary. Like the seventh note in an octave, we are almost there, but have not yet reached the golden mark.
How have we gotten this far without hitting the skids? I could make a long list of suggestions, but right now I have only one:
Watch Your Words
Cake is sweet to the tongue just as our words should be to one another. Words have power. Let your spouse or partner hear “please” and ”thank you” every day. Sarcasm is out. Surely contempt must go. Public humiliation, a big NO!
Michael Hyatt, author and speaker, affirms that “Marriage is a powerful visual of how you treat the people you value the most. (“Why Speaking Well of Your Spouse is So Important”)
Ever the tip and list maker, Hyatt in another post shares his recipe for how to become your spouse’s best friend. Many of items on the list regard minding our words, for example: “Extend grace to me when I am grumpy or having a bad day. Speak well of me when I am not present.”
“Listen without judging or trying to fix me.”
Humorist Ogden Nash adds a dash of rhyme and reason to the mix:
If you want your marriage to sizzle
With love in the loving cup.
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it.
Whenever you’re right, shut up!
And finally, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”
~ Colossians 4:6, New Revised Standard Version
Light a Candle
This candle first flickered and then burned brightly on a pedestal at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The candle came with instructions to burn for one hour on our anniversary date. Some years the candle probably has shone for more than an hour. But we may have even skipped a year or two. Nevertheless, the long, tapered candle is very short and stubby now. Yet the flame still burns brightly.
Whether you are married or not, on this day I light a candle for you and whatever family relationship is most important in your life.
Your thoughts, recollections, or advice are welcome here. Thank you!
Coming next: Drawing on Love: A Brief Retrospective
His Turn: An Artist Discards, Donates, and Discovers
Truth be told, my husband Cliff would rather not move. Despite the fact it’s getting harder for him to mow our enormous lawn in one fell swoop or scoop up oak leaves by the millions, he would rather stay put.
He’s comfortable with oaken file drawers filled with art supplies and designs in his office and an extra large room upstairs for painting and sound recording, shown here in its current pristine state. (It’s okay to read between the lines: artists are not necessarily neat!)
Still, he wisely understands that mounting stairs and maintaining a large corner property may be too much for us as we approach our elder years just around the corner.
The Discarding Process
And so, like me, he has sifted through, scanned, sorted, recycled, and discarded. But it ain’t easy.
Donations that Inspire
Still, he has sparked joy in book-loving friends at church.
Discoveries Along the Way: Some items, like this bronze bust, were hidden in plain sight:
Others had to be unearthed, like this photo of a Barbara Streisand painting, part of a series of famous New York personalities showcased at “Arnie’s New York, New York” restaurant in Jacksonville in the 1980s. Some of the other 4 x 6 foot paintings included Groucho Marx, Norman Rockwell, Frank Sinatra, Woody Allen, and Joe Namath.
In a tall armoire on a narrow shelf, he found the preliminary watercolor study for a Star Wars painting, which when completed graced the main elevator at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, one among a hundred paintings for the hospital.
He has also found lurking in drawers, pencil drawings of college classmates and professors in the classroom, sketches of unsuspecting diners in restaurants. (To be revealed)
A Male View: Paring Down and Tidying Up
Joshua Fields Millburn, author of Everything that Remains: A Memoir by the Minimalists, shares the masculine perspective of living with little and savoring what you have. “Blindsided by the loss of his mother and his marriage in the same month,” Millburn made daring life changes. You can read my short review of his book here.
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What are the pitfalls (or blessings) of moving with a spouse or other relative?
Have you made fascinating discoveries during a move or while organizing your possessions?
Coming in two weeks (July 20): Louisa Adams’ Moving Adventure
In last week’s post Paring Down and Tidying Up, I referred to Marie Kondo’s New York Times best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up. Her book has sold over 5 million copies and is being translated into 40 languages. I promised you a review and here it is.
The Review: The life-changing magic of tidying up, Marie Kondo
“Organize your home once, and you’ll never have to do it again.” Tidying consultant Marie Kondo, who has a three-month waiting list, insists you will never again have to sift through snowdrifts of papers or endure clothes that pile up like a tangled mess of noodles. Just follow her revolutionary category-by-category system.
Kondo’s solution is simple but not necessarily easy, especially for pack rats. Effective tidying, she admits, involves only two essential actions: Discarding things and deciding where to store what you keep. Kondo instructs her clients to pick up items one by one and ask, “ Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” (60)
Simply put, tackle major categories like clothing, books, and papers. Sort by category, not rooms: Sort all clothing at the same time, then move on to books, and so on.
Her chapter headings are iconoclastic: “Clothing: Place Every Item Of Clothing in the House on the Floor.” Do the same with books. Interestingly, her chapter titles yell in capital letters while her book title sits calmly on the cover, lower-case, in a cloud of blue.
Kondo’s wit and humor permeates her 254-page instruction book. She admits to coming home and falling asleep on the floor without even changing her clothes (195) writing this book. In the Afterword, she confesses that she once had to call an ambulance because the day before she had tidied too much and found her neck and shoulders frozen stiff from “looking into the cupboard above the closet and moving heavy furniture” (255).
Why do clients of the eponymous KonMari Method not relapse? The secret lies in a chapter entitled “Reduce Until You Reach the Point Where Something Clicks.” Apparently, satisfied clients have reached their clicking point! Some have even lost weight and experienced a clearer complexion as “detoxing” their houses has had a refreshing effect upon their bodies. (241)
One of her most valuable bits of advice was the functionality of sturdy shoeboxes to store lingerie and socks. Then, she suggests, use the tops like a tray to keep cooking oils, spices, and odd utensils in their rightful place. I may use such advice moving into our new space.
Marie Kondo’s tidying impulse began at age 5 while reading home and lifestyle magazines. She volunteered to be the classroom organizer in grade school. Now in her New York Times best seller, Kondo enthusiastically promotes the Japanese art of de-cluttering and organizing, a magical system that has become her life’s calling.
Not everyone buys into this magic. Sanford in the TV series, Sanford and Son didn’t, and neither did my father as I show in a blog post entitled Neat Versus Messy. It features a poem “Delight in Disorder.”
My father died many years ago in 1985. During this Father’s Day week, I pause to give thanks. Though my dad did not give me a love for order (Mother did that), he gave me other sterling values: love of music, intellectual curiosity, and appreciation for the natural world. For those I give thanks.
* * *
One day soon, we will take what we have curated from our possessions and move it to our next home. It will be very messy for a while.
What is your take on the KonMari Method? What tried and true tips can you add?
As we make the transition – painting, packing, and re-assembling in another space, future blog posts may be sparse and my comments on your blogs may be spotty too.
I love our weekly connections here and will miss them temporarily. Soon I’ll be back. Enjoy each summer day!
The photo of a pair of transitions eye glasses attached to a scarlet lanyard is still posted on my Facebook page dated April 14, 2016. “Hubby makes a lanyard for my glasses today. He is not being kind. He just doesn’t want to look for my glasses anymore! . . . well, yes, he is being kind.” Those were my words.
“The accompanying script in red and black reads “Forsake not the assembling of your glasses with your body.” St. Cliff 1:1 with date 4.14.16
Comments came from sympathizers and a naysayer: “Funny that I got a store bought one in my Christmas stocking.” “Doesn’t look very practical. I predict you don’t use it much.” ” I can absolutely relate!”
Reading over my Facebook heading again now I sense myself thinking at the time, “I won’t lose my glasses again.” A trace of boastfulness? Perhaps. Presumption? Probably.
Here’s how the glasses story subsequently unfolded: On Friday, April 29, I went to my power-pump class at the gym. Obviously I wore glasses to drive there and back. I’m nearsighted without them. Why, without glasses I might have a wreck.
That evening, we saw a scary Netflix movie, a British gothic flick “The Making of a Lady.” I must have worn my glasses then. I don’t remember squinting or sitting up close cross-legged to see the screen. I also don’t remember whether my lanyard was around my neck or somewhere else at the time.
The next morning I planned to drive to Curtis’ soccer game at 8:30 a.m. At 8:10 I grabbed my keys and and my glasses. My g – g – g l a s s s e e s s s; where are they? Too embarrassed to ask Cliff for help right away, I scoured the usual places: My computer desk, my dresser, the coffee-table, the kitchen counter. I couldn’t even find my back-up pair usually sitting snugly in the console by the driver’s seat.
Then, I go into full-out search mode. With and without Mr. Red Lanyard Maker, I . . .
Catholics would appeal to Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost items. One online source printed a prayer: “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around: Something is lost and needs to be found!” A woman named Madeleine suggested that one call off the hunt as a sign of faith, claiming that “once you say the prayer stop looking for whatever it is you lost.”
Well, I did call off the hunt on Sunday, yet kept an eye out. There is always a chance for a miracle. Maybe those two shiny lenses would spontaneously appear.
Apparently, I am not alone. Hunting for lost or misplaced items is common. According to one source, the average person spends one year of life looking for keys, wallet — glasses. Among the more distressing losses are diamond rings (Oh, I lost one of those too!) and honeymoon tickets (We didn’t need tickets for air travel – just a pickup with a topper.)
Websites about lost items are usually accompanied by blatant suggestions to get more organized and be more mindful going about one’s daily tasks.
Sunday afternoon, the highly-motivated Red Lanyard Maker drove me to LensCrafter’s to fix the problem. After all, Mr. RLM can’t be my chauffeur for the foreseeable future.
At the office, I got an eye examination, another prescription, and new glasses with identical frames promised in a fortnight.
As I write now, my lanyard is securely hugging my neck with glasses attached. More mindful? Yes, I believe so.
To this day, I haven’t found my glasses. Nor have the back-up pair appeared either. How had some genie or sprite spirited away both sets of glasses? Odd and distressing! If the originals make their appearance, I’ll be thrilled to use them as my spare.
* * *
From my experience, our possessions seem to disappear in direct proportion to their degree of importance in our lives.
How about you? Tales of woe – or discovery are welcome here!