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reflection


day in the life

Highlighting the everyday life of a couple living well with a slow-growing cancer, and now a cancer widow living well on her own. There have been sorrows and losses along the way. But being alive is good. It is very good.


Saturday, April 17, 2015

What if

“What if Grandpa was holding my other hand and you guys could swing me again,” commented the six-year-old as we walked to the park.

She remembers the grandpa who teased the grandkids. The grandpa who interacted with them; who thought their names were all George for some reason.

   
 

I miss this good man. Every day. But what if, when you face hard things, you could come out on the other side wiser, kinder, stronger? Would it be worth it? I’m thinking yes, not that I go looking for hard things.

A year ago this month – after Hubby’s metastatic prostate cancer lay quiet for nearly nine years – it began making noise. Exhausting all treatment options, Hubby was accepted into a clinical trial that sounded promising.

Two Wednesdays out of every three, he hopped on a plane that took a left turn past Mt. Hood on its way to Seattle.

   
 

We made a couple trips to the ER this month a year ago. Fevers and kidney infections, which were common with the nephrostomy tubes that bypassed the cancerous mass in his bladder.

Hubby would be dropped from the clinical trial as cancer continued its ravenous march. But we had learned some lessons along the way.

When things didn’t go as hoped, we regrouped. We talked; we recruited friends and family to pray; we drafted thanksgiving lists:

1. This day – one more day together

2. Our love story

3. Kids, grands, extended families

4. A warm and welcoming place called home

5. Friends who checked in on us frequently

6. That Hubby could still make me laugh

The lists were actually quite long. Even in setbacks, still much to be grateful for.

Not that we did this perfectly every time. Because there were certainly some ugly days of self-pity and hopelessness.

But what if gratitude helped us see the good while struggling with the hard? What if we had the choice in how we suffered? What if this hard thing could make us more compassionate, and therefore more beautiful? (It does. We do. It can.)

Would we embrace the hard instead of kicking against it?

Yes. Yes, we would.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

We are family

The Jersey family is getting ready to expand. Daughter Summer and SIL Josh have just been granted legal guardianship of three young brothers from Africa.

   
 

In preparation, an amazing group of people from their church descended upon their home with sturdy pre-owned furniture, fresh paint on bedroom walls and a re-do of the basement to create more livable space.

This extended family seems just as excited as we are to welcome three little boys into the community.

Josh and Summer return to Africa in a couple weeks to bring the boys home, but there’s still a good deal that needs to be done.

And so today, a clean coat of paint on dressers and shelves. Assembling double-wide bunk beds. Re-hanging things on freshly painted walls. Even the fourteen- and twelve-year-old pitched in.

And my part? Keeping the six-year-old entertained.

We spread a blanket on the sloping lawn of a local park. Apples and crackers and granola bars were neatly arranged before being devoured. And we took a crazy amount of selfies.

Hard work, our contribution.

   
 

Family. Some are ours by blood. Some we marry into. And some we choose.

Three young boys who came from a hard place but have managed to stick together will be able to remain together with their forever family. A house; a bedroom of their own; siblings and extended family who eagerly await their arrival; and access to a good education, good nutrition and healthcare.

This box sign – an apt description of Josh and Summer’s home:

“In our home, we do second chances. We say grace. We do I’m sorrys. We play hard. We do loud really well. We give hugs. We do love. We are family.”

At the park today the six-year-old made this observation: “We’re making memories, aren’t we.” Why, yes. Yes, we are.

And soon, three brothers from Africa will have an opportunity to make new memories in a community where they are already loved. We are family.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Back country roads

You know New Jersey is referred to as the Garden State, right? The Jersey Kids live in the land of u-pick strawberry farms, pumpkin patches, and fields and orchards.

   
 

Today we visited Terhune Orchards in Princeton. For a quarter, you can buy goat food and make a local friend.

   
 

Or pet the farm cat for free.

   
 

Purchase a steaming cup of homegrown cider, or stock up on fresh winter veggies and early spring color.

   
 

Or buy a *square* of wood off the back of an ancient farm truck.

   
 

Hubby was diagnosed with cancer before SIL Josh moved our daughter and grandkidlets a continent away (does that still sound bitter? because we actually forgave Josh a long time ago).

Cancer motivated us to travel more and create as many experiences as jobs and finances would allow.

So of course we’ve been to Jersey. And Philly. New York. Boston. And other large places in the east. And we’ve learned that it’s plain-not-smart to prejudge a place.

Today, weaving along back country roads past split rail fences and beautiful old stone buildings and ancient trees presiding over red barns, I saw the land through fresh eyes.

Beautiful country, this Jersey.

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Monday, April 6, 2015

How to wear out the grandkids

This grandma has been on Eastern Standard Time for more than a week, which means she now has her east coast sea legs under her.

And she’s learned some things in the process. Like, the littlest munchkin does not get the iPad at bedtime on a school night.

And going through all four jug handles (or four-leaf clovers if you’re from the west) at the Quaker Bridge Rd interchange isn’t necessarily the quickest route to MMA training.

I also learned there’s very little hot chocolate in a cup of hot chocolate where The Boy and I had breakfast one morning.

   
 

Most importantly, I’ve learned how to stay fresh and alert while wearing out the grandkids.

   
 
   
 

Well, at least two out of the three grands. The littlest munchkin still seems to be going strong.

   
 

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Homecoming

The Parents are coming home today.

   
 

Quick, clean the house. Fold the laundry. Get the dogs off the couch. Hide any incriminating evidence.

   
 

Parents, if you’re somehow reading this on your flight home after twenty-two hours in Paris after four days in Africa, the munchkins are eagerly awaiting your return.

   
 

Oh, and the little ballerina? She’s eagerly awaiting something from Paris.

   
 

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day One and loving it

Managed to pick Lydia up from school ... drop Lilly by the orthodontist ... get Lilly to MMA practice ...

No, they’re not twins and their mother doesn’t dress them alike

 

... fix dinner ... take Titus to youth group ... pick Lilly up from MMA and drop her off at youth group ... make a pharmacy run ... tea party with Lydia ...

   
 

... and then fetch Lilly and Titus from youth group. All without losing a single child.

   
 

(Although the gas gauge on the mini-van may have gotten awfully close to the “E” ... don’t mention this to The Parents.)

And that’s just the Friday evening schedule.

Fell into bed exhausted last night.

This text at 5:58 this morning (2:58am for those of us still on west coast time): “In Amsterdam getting ready to board flight to Africa. Everything going smoothly so far. Give the kids hugs and kisses from us!”

The Parents are a world away. And yet, not.

Hugs and kisses will be going out to the grandkidlets  as soon as they wake up.

As for the Grandma – she’s wide awake. See for yourself.

 
 

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Early arrival

This text message from Daughter Summer yesterday morning: “Just got off phone with adoption agency. They want to see us in court on Monday.”

In Africa.

Summer: “Wondering if you’re in a place to drop everything and fly here ... by tomorrow possibly?”

Of course. I’m retired. I have airline miles.

Love the sound of that. Let me say it again. Of course. I’m retired. I have airline miles.

That was yesterday.

Today = ordered an Uber car to the airport, got through security at LAX and am seated with a Chai tea. An hour and 22 minutes before my flight to Jersey is scheduled to depart.

This is not my fault. Remember who I was married to all those years.

   
 

Side note: In an effort to be efficient, I thought I’d order the Uber ride to the airport a day in advance. Uber doesn’t work that way. Uber arrives soon after the ride request. Like, very soon after.

Text from driver seven minutes later: “Hi. I am here.”

Oops. It obviously doesn’t pay to be efficient.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Absolutely brilliant

You remember the *mom date* last Friday night? Drew’s mom, Mary, is visiting from Minnesota (where, by the way, it was snowing today in honor of her birthday).

   
 

Since we couldn’t replicate the snow to make her feel right at home, we did the next best thing and celebrated over lunch at Paradise Cove Beach Cafι in Malibu.

Wear your flip-flops, because if you prefer outdoor dining—and we always do—bare feet in the sand is an added bonus.

   

 

Jeremy ordered fish tacos, which arrived on a plate the size of a tray. Luckily my clam chowder in a bread bowl wasn’t the size of a watermelon. (Although we did see beverages served in round watermelons – tops cut off – displaying self-confident straws.)

   
 

A couple days ago I blogged about eating authentic Mexican food in Little Mexico.

If Mexican food can get any authentic-er, then that’s what we had for dinner last evening at Denise’s grandparent’s place.

Homemade beans simmering on the stove. Fideo, which is a sort of Mexican spaghetti with tomatoes and spices. Tortillas warmed on a hot skillet. Fresh cilantro. Avocados. Slices of Mexican cheese.

Come fill your plate and find a comfortable spot in the family room where the story-telling and laughter pick back up.

   
 

Denise’s grandparents raised her during her formative years. It was good to catch up with these lovely people who have made me feel like family.

   
 

Whether a birthday or an impromptu mini-family reunion—or any other reason for commemorating an important milestone—whoever came up with the idea of including food in celebrations ... this was absolutely brilliant.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Runyan Canyon

Since we’ve been eating our way through LA, today’s 600-ft-elevation-gain hike through Runyan Canyon provided some much-needed (for me) sweat therapy.

   
 

And then the crazy kids decided they wanted to run back. “Just an easy jog,” they said. Which confirmed that I am not now—nor will I ever be—a jogger. Give me hiking boots on a mountain trail; snowshoes in deep powder; but don’t make me run. Wah.

So after all this sweat therapy, we rewarded ourselves with food at M Cafι. Of course. Where I had the best salad I’ve eaten in a long time – hearts of romaine and mesclun greens, avocado, cucumber, spicy black beans, roasted corn, tomato, crispy tortilla strips and chipotle dressing.

Which means we’re still eating our way through Los Angeles.

   
 

Sometimes a thing never enters your mind until someone tells you not to do it.

This sign at the end of the Runyan Canyon trail where it hits Mulholland Drive: “Please Do Not Use This Gate As An Exercise Apparatus.”

Which practically begs people to use the gate as an exercise apparatus. In this case, a chin-up bar.

 
 

Things I’ve learned since relocating temporarily to southern California:

1. Sometimes your adult children never really grow up.

2. If J&D stayed here year-round and we ate out three meals a day – every day – we’d never finish eating our way through the all the great food in the Los Angeles area.

3. Even though I’m a born-and-bred California girl, my preconceived ideas of southern California were pretty much off-base.

Consider exploring someplace you never thought you’d enjoy.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Eating our way through LA

Son Jeremy and DIL Denise are home for five days. And all we’ve been doing is eating. At some fabulous places.

Kale chips and a delicious veggie-and-fruit power shake concocted from almond milk made on location at the little juice cafι, Kreation, in Venice.

   
 
 

Authentic Mexican food on a walking street in Little Mexico. As soon as you turn the corner onto Olvera Street ...

   
 

... you’re in a different country. Large, leafy trees. Sun-dappled brick buildings. Colorful bougainvillea.

   
 

We ate at La Golondrina where they serve up deliciously authentic Mexican food, including the best guacamole you’ve ever eaten.

   
 

And for dessert, beautiful romantic Spanish music.

   
 

And then two sushi dinner dates. Yes, two dinners the same day as the Mexican lunch.

The first with these friends of J&D’s—Clint and Dianna—who happen to be my three-blocks-away MDR neighbors. 

   
 

I am now a sushi fan. Seriously delicious offerings. No, seriously delicious offerings.

I couldn’t even begin to tell you what I ate—some cooked, some not so cooked—because I let the experts order.

But I think I heard the word eel at least once last evening. I know what you’re thinking.

   
 

This first sushi dinner followed by a second one with more of J&D’s friends—Drew, Milton, and Barbara—and Drew’s mother, Mary. (What was referred to as the *mom date* because Mary and I are both visiting our sons from out of state. And we two moms hit it off.)

Here’s what I think: If you’ve never eaten raw fish, try it. Step outside your comfort zone. Hop on your bike with the pink rims. Visit historic places. Meet new people. Make new friends. And try the sushi.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Surviving in the city

Today’s plans included eating breakfast for lunch at The Griddle Cafι on Sunset Blvd ...

   
 

... and then on to the observatory in Griffith Park high in the hills ...

   
 

... across from the Hollywood sign ...

   
 

... with Los Angeles spread out below.

   
 

I had originally planned to hike the trail to the Hollywood sign, but instead, took my time wandering through the observatory, catching a show in the planetarium and weighing in on the moon (19 lbs).

   
 

Einstein and I shared an intellectual moment together.

   
 

And I was relieved to learn that the earth is still rotating—at least for today—as confirmed by this pendulum ...

   
 

... hanging from this ceiling.

   
 

And then my phone battery let me know it was losing juice. Fast. (I think it was trying too hard to find itself.)

First panicky thought: How am I supposed to get home without GPS? I can imagine my son getting the call from LAPD: “Are you missing a mother? We found her wandering on the 405, babbling.”

You’ll be pleased to know—after a hastily-whispered prayer—that I got a good visual of a map on my phone before it died, wrote on a scrap of paper: “Vermont to the 10 west to the 405 south to the 90 west.”

And made it home safely. Which is a huge accomplishment for this mountain-lake-log-cabin-strap-on-snowshoes girl.

And so, a couple of travel tips:

1) Venture off the couch. Often.

2) Travel with eyes and heart wide open – we live in a damaged world, but there is amazing beauty here, and there are some pretty incredible people along the way.

3) Discover. Learn.

4) Look at your gas gauge once in a while.

5) Take your phone power cord.

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Stadium to Sea

Once upon a time, Son Jeremy, DIL Denise, and Hubby and I were frighteningly close to the Boston marathon bombs when they went off. Jeremy had just finished the race, and we were threading our way through the crowd and snapping a few last photos, having given up on finding a place to eat.

I love that America’s response to these types of horrific events is to rebuild. Commemorate the dead and honor the heroes, but continue hosting marathons.

Today the 30th annual LA Marathon, dubbed “Stadium to Sea,” began at Dodger Stadium and ended in Santa Monica.

   
 
   
 

More than 25,000 participants. Thousands of volunteers. Hundreds of thousands of spectators.

My pink-rimmed bike and I added to the number of spectators near the Santa Monica pier. But today wasn’t just another ride-my-bike-to-the-beach day. I had a vested interest in this particular event.

   
 

My adopted church, Dream Center, put together a team of 183 runners that included Pastor Matthew Barnett. Each participated in one of four distances today – 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon.

Total funds raised by these incredible people for Dream Center’s PROJECT HOPE = $211,445. Wow, huh?

   
 

Apparently there are 31 locations in Los Angeles that take in stray animals. But only one emergency shelter for trafficked women. At the Dream Center. And PROJECT HOPE will go far in providing funds for shelter and food, and restoring these women with life skills.

Kudos to Pastor Matthew Barnett and the other 182 participants – not only for running in today’s heat, but for the hours of fundraising and training that led up to this day.

As for the miles I’m putting on my Denise’s bike – I’m hoping she won’t look at the odometer when she and Jeremy return from the east coast this week.

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March 2015

Day one and loving it

Early arrival

Absolutely brilliant

Runyan Canyon

Eating our way through LA

Surviving in the city

Stadium to Sea

Changing the world

Enjoy the ride

At the beach. Again

Nicole and Edward

Horticulture & history lessons

Apocalypse now

February 2015

Sharing the beauty

Memorial quilt

Forgetfulness

Finding the positive

Accumulate experiences

Happy Sweetheart's Day

Venice canals

Another day at the beach

Foreign country

All kinds of advice

Welcome to SoCal

January 2015

Pedicures, cowgirl style

Photo ops

Powerfully profound

A mixed-emotions day

Embracing change

Unearthing treasures

Cancer-kicking community

In my defense

Doing good

Surrounded by love

Heading into the sun

Retirement

Be

Starting the year off right

December 2014

Revving up for the chase

Welcome home

Most excellent NYC adventure

Christmas gifts

Jersey horn-blowing

Sleeping well

It’s not the Pacific Northwest

Pass it on

Cold beauty on the Deschutes

Top Ten Game

How to quit your day job

Unexpected. Lovely. Inspiring.

Angels of mercy, male version

Gifting creatively

Hubby may have been right

Christmas trees

Something patch-worked

Instructions for widowhood

Waiting to see what unfolds

November 2014

Celebrating a life well lived

What if

Starbux Fairy

List-making

Homegoing

Heated tile floors

Bottom line D

Life’s too short

Something to teach us

Everything most important

Trade-off

Wearing gloves

Leaving nothing unsaid

Breaking out

October 2014

Randomness

Hospice House

The cake and the frosting

Reflections on a rainy day

Slow leaks

Counting blessings. Still.

Amazing

Feeding us

Looking for the perfect beverage

Thirsty, anyone?

Feeling loved

A wild life

SunRiver all over again

Photo shoot

September 2014

Ready for some football

Kid in a candy store

Actual birthday

German Chocolate Cake

Celebrating milestones

New recipes

More pep

One of my mothers

Thoughts from a hospital

August 2014

Down a lazy river

Em-barrassing

Siblings retreat

Creamed tuna on toast? Really?

Creating the life you want

Johnson women unite

Every sandwich

Cancer camp

Frequent flyer

Tenacious

July 2014

Short, but sweet

Walking Hubby

This cancer community

Return to the real world

Rah-rahs in town

Counting gifts

Differences

June 2014

Japanese daughter

Who’s counting

Overwhelming evidence

Guest blogger: Lilly

True love’s kiss

Father’s Day fun

Stuffed shells

About town

Dinner guests

Minutes ticking away

Move over, Walter Mitty

Heaven Can Wait for sure

May 2014

 Survival classes

Slinging ink

Theory on hospital stays

Baseball and BBQ

This is my job

Thoughts on this date night

Cranberry peonies

This Mother’s Day

We will remember

Unwanted news

Celebrating Matt

Me without you

April 2014

One sick puppy

Quern

Invisible well wishes

Easter color

Walking 4 Wellness - part 6

For the birds

Wilderness therapy

And we believed her

Clinical trial round three

The home crowd

Beautiful tree

Best Bran Muffin recipe

Best April Fool's joke

March 2014

 That’s just swell

Welcome back celebration

Succinct conversational skills

Walking for Wellness

First clinical trial treatment

Popcorn Lovers Day

Pacific Ocean ambience

Clinical trial prep

In the eyes of the beholder

February 2014

Green scrubs

Hometown tourists

Not exactly as planned

Lost and found

Get outdoors

Early Valentine’s Day gift

Popcorn stitch

January 2014

Three-part date

Weekend forecast

Winter’s art

Spa Chemo day

Seeing beauty

Pilot Butte challenge

Award rescinded

Ambition restored

Annual award

Meet the team

Must be present to win

December 2013

New Year’s Eve news

Thoughts on gift receiving

Secret cure-all

Guest blog by Hubby

Non-compliant patient

Caught. Red-handed.

Tree-hugging

November 2013

A little trim

Giving thanks

A few of my favorite things

First in a series

Focus

The years are short

Travel

Cabin in the woods

October 2013

Leaving on a jet plane

Color

Knitting season

Pumpkin season

Things that matter

Fallin' and flying'

September 2013

Return to civilization

Another day in paradise

Happy birthday and anniversary

Love of barns

Leaving Wyoming

The Tour Guide

This nice big thing

Celebrating a lot of stuff

Fishing expedition

August 2013

Worst fears multiplied

This Friday night date

Mountains to climb

Hiking & oncology news

Out on the range

Cancer camp

Instead

July 2013

The boy who asks questions

Ten-year-old in tow

Tourists

A happy birthday

Music by the river

Mondays off

June 2013

Splash for Pink

Kids at Disney World

Male designed

Happy Father's Day

Pacific Coast thoughts

On track

May 2013

Aware. Appreciative.

MS Office 2010

Family get-togethers

It's just a number

Last trek, part two

Hardy gardeners

Mother's Day

Crunchy, sweet and savory

That time of year

April 2013

Swimming lessons

Getting off the ground

Chunk of asphalt

Stress-free zone

Two Portlands - part 2

This Boston Marathon

Earlier than the TSA

Shopping woes

March 2013

Half birthday ... again

Last trek

With each passing year

Keep the old

Tech nerd

Not the hardest thing

How hard can it be?

Just what the doc ordered

Two Portlands

Mini family reunion

February 2013

Shout out

Marvelous

There is today

Doing it up right

Happy Valentine's Day

Speaking of beans

Snow angel

Simple winter fare

Moving west

January 2013

Flat Stanley on snow-shoes

Water colors

Happy chatter

Flat Stanley visits again

Extended hope

Take that, cancer

Compromise

The commonplace

Bringing in the New Year

December 2012

Making investments

Winter wonderland

Random acts of kindness

Gift giving

The good, the bad and the ugly

Peace on earth

Cancer Club

Mission accomplished

Culture

Fantasy football

November 2012

Those darn numbers

Dreaming of a white Christmas

Back to reality

Favorite things, part IV

Complaint department

Even more favorite things

More favorite things

Favorite things

October 2012

Happy Halloween

Baking weather

Graduation day

First snow

Swans in pairs

A great fall

Date night(s)

DEFEAT Cancer

Country girl

’Tis the season

September 2012

Back in the groove

Last hurrah

Teton hiking

Wow, Yellowstone

Reconnaissance in Jackson

Barn sightings

The power of tenacity

Winnie the Pooh wisdom

Long-time survivor

Perfect marriage

August 2012

Five dollar bill

Out in public

Guest blogger, Steffany

Think outside

Survivor camp

Camp this weekend

Living in a wonderland

Sacred space

High country

July 2012

High country

Simple cooking

Locks of Love

Attitude

Average, ordinary weekend

Close of birthday week

Day before

Get outdoors

Human beans

Mission: Accomplished

Night sky display

Journey with a mission

June 2012

Ain’t no sunshine

Favorite thing

In our possession

Over the hills

Camp Sherman on Father’s Day

In search of wildflowers

Building a cancer center

Southwestern surprises

Irrational fears

Reason to celebrate

Intention

The Space Noodle

May 2012

Reunions

Hiking posse

Powered by optimism

Mother’s Day weekend

Heart tug moment

Vermont hospitality

Happiest place on earth

Supermoon

Unlikely source

Baby geese season

April 2012

Not found out west

The rules

Guess what state we’re in

New Englanders

Jersey weekend

Beantown

Easter blessings

Milestones

Bean soup day

March 2012

Fashion statement

Sharing the experience

Second day of spring

Half-broke horses

Simple pleasures are the best

Best to live your own life

Words With Friends

February 2012

Got your back

The entire snow-shoe team

Grand Canyon

Perfect day

Arizona in February

Springtime?

Super Bowl Sunday

Favorite audience

January 2012

Something in common

Some system

In such a community

Coming home

Headed for OHSU

Checklist for the coast

Welcoming Twenty-Twelve

December 2011

Snow in town

Filling Christmas weekend

Socks

Coolest date night ever

Dressed in pink

Butternut squash day

Making connections

Painted hills

November 2011

Beauty from junk

Taking nothing for granted

Grateful for - part 4

Grateful for - part 3

The child in all of us

Shepherd's House

Grateful for - part 2

Marathon epidemic

Unconquered

Grateful for - part 1

October 2011

My orthidontical twin

Last wilderness hike?

The view from 7,800 feet

Colonoscopies and fall colors

Welcome back

To make a life count

On our way to the Poconos

The Parents

Autumn day in the city

A few numbers

September 2011

Country girl signing off

Off the grid

What are sisters for?!

Try something new

For a limited time only

On the NCI web site

August 2011

I don’t make this stuff up

Brothers

Addictions

A lifetime

Club membership

Detours

Date night can’t get much better

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

January 2011

December 2010

November 2010

October 2010

September 2010

August 2010

July 2010

June 2010

May 2010

April 2010

March 2010

February 2010

January 2010

December 2009

November 2009

October 2009

September 2009

August 2009

July 2009

June 2009

May 2009

April 2009

March 2009

February 2009

January 2009

December 2008

November 2008

October 2008

September 2008

August 2008

July 2008

June 2008

May 2008

April 2008