A month of clouds…and finding the silver linings!

[I warn you in advance…this is a very long, very heartfelt piece of writing. I’ve probably said more than most people would on a public blog…and if that worries anyone, please don’t read it. I just needed an outlet.]

Well, it’s been about a month since my last writing…and life has been a bit hectic. I think the saying ‘it never rains but it pours’ has never been truer. But at the same time ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ so I’m staying positive. This year I wanted to feel things were happening, that life was worthwhile…and I’ve suddenly discovered that, even when life throws all it can at you, you can still see the good things. Appreciate the little things. There’s a side of me that feels I should be reacting differently. I should be feeling things more strongly, more acutely…not being so blasรฉ about everything…but I have to be true to me, and this is how I feel. I hate the phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’…but at the moment I feel it’s true. There is good in every situation, even if sometimes you really have to dig to find it.ย 

So what has happened to make me so philosophical? Well…the first thing since my last post was my birthday ๐Ÿ™‚ Amidst all the caring and time spent at Atodiad, I turned 23. I used this as an excuse to get away for a day. Shaun and I went to Ellesmere’s Music Festival…a day of live music, a ceilidh and great company…plus the biggest ‘small meal’ I have ever seen!…made for a pretty good day ๐Ÿ™‚ Ok, I didn’t spend it at home (other than first thing in the morning), but I needed the change of scenery.ย 

That’s not very exciting or out of the ordinary, I know. Not enough to send me off on a deep exploration of my mind. Bear with me…

About two days beforeย my birthday, Grandpa took a turn for the worst. His Parkinson’s seemed to worsen overnight, he couldn’t chew or swallow…and so struggled to eat. He really wanted to try some of my birthday cake, but couldn’t. He rallied a bit…came back into the living room for a couple of days…but it didn’t last long. Soon he was back in bed, and there he stayed. We had a steady stream of doctors, district nurses and carers for the next few days. Mum was staying over at Atodiad in the spare room. On the night of the 16th July, Severn Hospice found a last minute respite lady who came to relieve Mum. So she could get some sleep. Half 12 she got a phonecall. Soon after, Grandpa passed away…with Mum on one side, and Grandma on the other. Exactly how he’d have wanted.ย 

So I woke up, the same as usual…met by a cup of tea…and the bad news. I think I knew…even half asleep I’d seen the light go on in the night, and heard the door open and close. So when Dad told me, I just nodded and asked the appropriate questions. But I felt numb. I now know, that was me grieving. I have to say, I am so grateful to Shaun for being there that morning…not sure how I’d have coped otherwise. The rest of the day passed in a bit of a smudgy blur. Undertakers, phone calls, paperwork, numerous cups of tea…so much to sort out at a time when no-one wants to do it. Mum went into auto-pilot, Grandma was coping well until mid-afternoon when she dissolved. I just put my arms round her. A gesture I don’t do very often, so in a way it brought us together. ‘Every cloud…’

The next few weeks were full of appointments with banks, phone-calls to everyone under the sun, opening sympathy cards, meeting with the funeral directors, and reminding Mum and Grandma to eat and drink. Oh, and no internet, which was fun :/ All through this, Grandma was remarkably cheerful. The funeral was ‘Grandpa’s party’ to celebrate his life. She was looking forward to seeing who was going to be there. Every card she received was ‘oh, how nice!’. Her reaction was quite unexpected really.

31st July…Grandma’s 90th birthday. She had a wonderful day. Lots of flowers arrived, lots of cards, and a homemade Hummingbird cake ๐Ÿ™‚ A few people popped in to say hello, we were over there all day (as we had been since the 17th anyway), and just generally it was a lovely day for a birthday. Two days later, we had an Open House for her. My Dad’s family came over for the day, plus Shaun and his Dad, and some friends from the Attfield. Another lovely day ๐Ÿ™‚ Grandma was losing her voice by the end of the day, but she had had a wonderful time.ย 

Three days after that, and it was the funeral. It was a wonderful service…I think everyone smiled, as well as shedding a tear or two. For me it gave me closure. He’s really gone. Yes, I still refer to ‘them’ or ‘Grandma and Grandpa’…but I know he’s gone. I can now move on. Grandma, however, saw that as the end of current plans. What does she have to look forward to now?

That weekend, Shaun and I went to Edinburgh. A bit of a last minute getaway plan. Travelled up Saturday, checked in to our hotel, and then went in search of ‘the Fringe’. Collected and bought some tickets, and headed to our first show – ‘The Object of My Affection’.ย A wonderful hour of modern ballet, all about the things we covet. For me, it was fascinating to see the dancing so close! You could see the muscles work, see when the pointe shoes were slipping off the dancer’s heel (yes, it really does happen to everyone, I’ve discovered!) and hear every pointe shoe landing on the stage. It made it very real. After that we went in search of food….an hour later we made a decision ๐Ÿ˜› My ‘moules frites’ were very welcome by that point. We then headed off to meet up with Bex and Tim for a drink, before going to a ‘show’ in the evening. Well, that was an interesting experience. A lot of crazy, a lot of ‘I’m a little uncomfortable right now!’…so ye ๐Ÿ˜›

Sunday it rained. A lot. We had three shows booked in though…so after breakfast, and a bit of window shopping, we went to see ‘Wanderlust’. This was amazing. A brilliant piece of theatre, including music and song, lighting effects and a beautiful story. Lots of humour, and just enough tugging at the heartstrings to contrast brilliantly. We both came out afterwards and just said ‘wow’. Just time for some lunch at Pizza Express (where I was complimented on my braided hair by a (possibly) Russian lady :P), before going to the giant upside-down purple cow-shaped arena tent for ‘A Simple Space’. An hour of breathtaking acrobatics, where I couldn’t believe such things were possible, let alone imagine learning how to do them! Some of the little competitive interludes I found a bit random…but I suppose it broke up the suspense of the big balances. Afterwards we had time for some ‘bubble tea’ (or, as Shaun called mine, ‘Lenor with fishy porridge balls’) before going to our last show of the Fringe – ‘Blues and Burlesque’. A real cabaret variety night…dance, burlesque, live music, comedy and magic. Made me smile ๐Ÿ™‚ We decided (eventually) to stay in for the night, so went and got KFC (after walking the right way down the road, but not far enough, followed by the wrong way down the road, realised our mistake and turned round and went the right way. All in the rain).ย 

Monday, we did a bit of shopping (except I didn’t buy what I went out to buy because I’m an idiot) then went to ‘The Real Mary King’s Close’. This was an opportunity to see the old city that was built on top of! The old streets and houses are still there, some exactly as they were left. Was a really interesting insight into the history of the city. Too soon, though, it was time to catch the train home. Got delayed at Wolverhampton, and persuaded Dad to pick us up from Shrewsbury not Welshpool. We went for a meal at a pub, where we discussed our weekends…

…and Dad said three words – ‘ Grandma in hospital’. Hence, ‘it never rains but it pours’. Sunday night she was very breathless and turned a grey colour, Mum called the paramedics, and (somehow) they took her into hospital. It’s now Thursday and both Grandma and Mum are still there. Grandma won’t stay without Mum. The doctors think she’s had a minor heart attack, probably due to stress…and, as the doctors apparently told her, ‘stiff upper lip syndrome’. Holding things in really doesn’t do anybody any good. Hopefully, they will both be home for the weekend.ย 

But seeing the positive side? I’ve been able to catch up on things at home. Simple things like listening to Elaine Paige on the Radio, being creative and not having to change houses to find something I forgot, doing the laundry that’s been piling up for three weeks…yes, it’s selfish when someone’s ill, and Mum’s having to stay there too…but I have to see the up side. Someone’s got to stay positive.

So ye…that’s where this month has taken me. A roller-coaster of ups and downs. And yes, I know this is probably more than I should be posting on a public blog…but I needed to write it, and no-one says you had to read it. It’s more for me than anyone else, I guess. But also hopefully it helps my friends understand how I’ve been (or not been) over the last few weeks. Here’s to the rest of 2014!

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Sew much to do…sew much done!

What a productive afternoon! I love it when I get chance to just DO things. I said first thing that I wanted to get some sewing projects done. I have a huge bag (and a box) of things that need darning, altering, repairing and finishing…and today I vowed to make a start. 12.09.11 family photos 094Well, once I’d got the ordinary things out of the way at Atodiad, and then had a wonderful chat to my Grandma about fashion and vintage and dressmaking. I really am jealous of her sometimes…she was the right age (20s), at the right time (50s), in the right place (London). She had the occasions to dress up, and the dresses to wear. The fashions of the time were beautiful, and it was the norm to wear cocktail dresses to a nightclub. She described her cocktail dress of the time – Black, fitted bodice, low scoop neckline with a full netted skirt. Then sequin pieces (glitter?) ‘thrown’ at it like a galaxy. A real midnight blue/black delight. Jealous much. It’s not all lusting after the long gone beauties though…I have been lucky to inherit a few dresses made in the 1960s in the late 50s’ style ๐Ÿ˜›

Anyway, I digress. 21.07.13 70s skirt 005Once lunch was out of the way, I took over our kitchen. Out came the sewing machine and the bag of projects. Put on a couple of CDs (Deep Forest and Owl City to be exact!)…and set to work. First job, turn up my 1970s maxi skirt. It’s the lightest, finest cotton imaginable, stunning pattern…but always under my heels! Now, it is an inch and a half shorter…still captures the look of the 70s, but doesn’t send me onto my back every time I go out!

Project 2 was a simple button re-sewing before embarking on a dress refitting. It was a dress I had made. Yes, that means it should fit. No, I hadn’t grown out of it. I just made it badly, and didn’t fit the pattern to me as I went along. I learnt something that day ๐Ÿ˜› I had already taken it in at the side seams, but the fit still wasn’t right, and I didn’t enjoy wearing it. Doesn’t help that from a distance the fabric and cut looked like cleaning overalls :/ 02.02.13 Pattern 001Anyway…as I was on my own, progress was slow. Put it on (inside out), pinch the seams and attempt to put pins in without seeing what I was doing. Drop pins on floor when failed at previous step. Finally get it pinned, take off without losing pins (it’s a very loosely woven fabric). Baste new seams/darts. Try on again (Tighten basting to see actual effect of new darts). Take off and put to the sewing machine. Try on again, and hey presto it actually fits! Once Mum got home later on she helped me to just alter the armholes and put in a couple more bust darts. I will also shorten it by about 2, maybe 3 inches to make it a more flattering length. One day, I’ll learn to make it right in the first place ๐Ÿ˜›

After a quick time out to give Grandpa his meds, it was back to it. I had bought a pair of culottes recently, knowing they were two sizes too big, but with a view to taking them in. They were just so pretty! Well, two darts over existing darts later, and they now fit ๐Ÿ™‚ All they need is a quick press and I can start wearing them (if the nice weather ever comes back…).

Then I started my most ambitious project. Something I had started ages ago, but the plan kept changing. The last decision was to mount the vintage velvet top onto a jersey dress as the velvet is quite weak. So, I had to make a dress pattern. From scratch. I knew I wanted it to be the skirt part of a dress I already had, and then a vest top. So I laid out the dress on the kitchen table, as smoothly as possible, then laid tracing paper over the top and drew round it best I could. I then used a vest top as a guide for the top half, using my own measurements to double check. I cut out the paper pattern, folded it in half to check my pattern was symmetrical (it wasn’t, so I altered) and then made notes to add seam allowance and alterations. Next fun job was to actually cut out my fabric. On the kitchen floor. Black jersey, white dog. Fun. Creeping material, bad lighting. Also fun. First cut being wrong. Really NOT fun. :/ Ahh well, it’ll just be a bit shorter than intended! I cut out the two pieces just as Mum got home. Pinned them together then had to tidy up the kitchen because it looked like a haberdasher’s shop had exploded.

Four and a half hours of sewing projects. Bliss.

‘Buttons and patches and the cold wind blowing, the days pass quickly when I am sewing’ ~ย Anonymous

‘The sewing machine joins what the scissors have cut asunder, plus whatever else comes in its path’ ~ Mason Cooley

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oops…

I failed again…it’s been over two months. I just haven’t felt inspired to write recently. I’ve been doing plenty other things though! Lots of creative projects completed…day trips…bbqs and picnics…haflas…

22.05.14 penguin pom finished (2)I made a penguin. A huge woolly pom pom penguin ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s for the Air Penguin charity appeal…and took a long labour of love to complete! I was sitting backstage at the Attfield winding wool getting some very strange looks from the cast ๐Ÿ˜› Unsurprising really. So here’s the finished penguin especially for them!

I finished sewing my jacket that I started planning about 18 months ago! The fabric was the leftovers from when I made Otter’s swimsuit for Wind in the Willows at Uni…and only just stretched far enough! Was stressful and tight squeeze but I got there ๐Ÿ™‚ 18.04.14 Beautiful day (3)I learnt a lot of new skills, and tweaked it to suit…and am actually really happy with it! It’s part of being a creative person that often you don’t like what you make….so it makes a nice change ๐Ÿ™‚

We’ve been redecorating our bathroom…no heating, no storage…at one point, no door…I was showering at my Grandparents’ house! 09.06.14 bathroom piccies (1)But…now we’re nearly back to a usable room…and Mum and Dad asked me to do some artwork for them for the walls! It was really nice to have a purpose for painting! Again, not 100% happy…but happy enough. Next painting project…a lampshade ๐Ÿ˜€

Day trips wise…Shaun and I have been to Welshpool for a beautiful sunny afternoon, and spent last Saturday at Powis Castle…wandering round the gardens, and having a lovely picnic in the middle of the great lawn. 14.06.14 Edwardian Powis Picnic (98)We’ve had some lovely weather recently…and I feel I’ve really made the most of it, even if it’s just been taking Didy for a walk, or sitting in the garden painting!

Plus, I’ve been to London again! Went to see Titus Andronicus at the Globe. Wow….lots of fake blood. And I mean LOTS. The previous performance to the one we saw, quite a number of audience members fainted! Even during ours, lots of people had to go outside. 30.04.14 Day in London (19)It was a wonderful production, but really, very gory. Had a lovely walk round London, and dinner at Garfunkels, before a long (and slightly stressful) journey back to Oswestry.

Bangor’s Summer Dance Show…another brilliant one! Missed dancing with them though….:( The next day Shaun and I went to Beaumaris…lovely lovely day!! And ice cream of course…can’t go to Beaumaris without having ice cream ๐Ÿ˜› P1110851Lots of driving that weekend though…and a bank holiday at that :/ Not a happy Liza! However,ย May Day was fun ๐Ÿ˜› Went to Welshampton to see the Mummers Play, and dancing, and music…lots of fun!! Even the on and off bits of rain didn’t spoil it at all.

Mum and I have taken Atodiad out on a few trips over the last couple of months….just coffee and cake, or lunch…but a change of scenery ๐Ÿ™‚ 16.05.14 Golden Wedding AnniversaryWhittington Castle, Coed Y Dinas…nice to spend a few hours out and about with my grandparents. They also celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in May! Amazing.

Lastly…Haflas! Lots of dancey dancey ๐Ÿ™‚ April brought Black Veil Tribal’s Beltane Bash in Wrexham. Mum and I danced together for the first time in absolutely ages! 10290623_857963847563420_5806679475434284151_nWe danced to The Flood by Katie Melua….my choreography, Mum’s nightmare ๐Ÿ˜› But she did wonderfully ๐Ÿ™‚ Then last Saturday we went to Shrewsbury for Jude’s Golden Oldies Hafla. Originally it was going to be Al Bahiyya…then no-one could come, so it became Al Jamila dancing the same dance! My first choreography for Al Bahiyya…my personal Golden Oldie. P1120754Taken back to the group I learnt from. Then, about four days in advance, Bex said she could now come! So we had both groups dancing together ๐Ÿ™‚ Brilliant ๐Ÿ™‚ We have our own Midsummer Hafla on Saturday….I’m doing four dances….which means four costumes. Bring it on ๐Ÿ˜›

‘In the end of each day, sit and find a reason to smile’ ~ Unknown (via pinterest)

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Something Purple

Photo Dump Halloween 017Rewind a few years, to when I was at school…must have been about Year 5 until about Year 10 or 11….and everything was purple. I wore head to toe purple (especially in the younger of those years), my bedroom was redecorated purple, pencils and bags and pens were all purple. It was unsurprising really that I was nicknamed a Ribena Berry at one point. I remember one time going to Andrew’s and deliberately not taking ANYTHING purple with me…not even a tiny bit on anything. Just to make a point. It was almost impossible!

(Photo: Christmas 2004, age 13. Even the wrapping paper is purple!)

old piccies 011It hadn’t always been purple…I’d previously been through the ‘head-to-toe let’s look like a satsuma’ look; the ‘yellow is DEFINITELY a good colour’ look; and my personal favourite, the ‘leopard print doesn’t clash with leopard print’ look. (Note the sarcasm there!). But these lasted a year, maybe two. Purple definitely managed to dig its claws in further. Christmas and Birthdays would bring cushions, chairs, PJs, tights, ornaments…all in various shades of lilac and mauve. Actually, I still have a lot of those things…:/ Anyway…

(Photo: Roughly 2000? age 9 I think. Only partially leopard-ised, mainly because I refuse to acknowledge existence of any other photos :P)

The reason behind this random insight into teenage Liza is today’s photo prompt – Something Purple. I went into my room and realised quite how much purple I still have lying around! I was able to take loads and loads of different photos, and then have too many to choose from! So here are my three favourites ๐Ÿ™‚

01.04.14 Something purple 011 01.04.14 Something purple 00601.04.14 Something purple 003

 

โ€œYeah, but they’re PURPLE pants,” Bobby said as if that made some kind of distinction. “Hence, I’m awesome.โ€ย โ€•ย Amanda Hocking,ย Wisdom

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Miracle Dog

06.03.14 poorly pup 001Three weeks ago, Didy was really ill. He wouldn’t eat, he was in obvious pain, and was beginning to look really old. He was so bad that we bundled him off to the vets. After a scan we were told he has cirrhosis of the liver…not something that fixes in dogs. He also had tumours, and basically was on his way out. Mum couldn’t face saying goodbye there and then so the vet pumped him full of this, that and the other and let Mum bring him home. We spent the next few days coming to terms with losing a member of the family…coaxing him (unsuccessfully) to eat, keeping him warm, and making a fuss of him. This was Friday.

08.03.14 didy eating 002Sunday, and I managed to get him to eat some tiny pieces of caramel wafer. Not healthy, no…but we reasoned something was better than nothing, and if he was leaving us he may as well eat what he wants. The vet phoned and then dropped round, so that Didy could be at home. By this point though, Didy was looking better. It seemed wrong to put down a dog with an obvious will to live. He wasn’t eating much, but he was wagging his tail, looked less in pain, and generally wanted to be part of the action. The vet agreed with us, and gave Didy steroids, antibiotics and something else I can’t remember. Almost as soon as the third needle came out of his neck he was a different dog! Wriggling, squirming…then racing around, barking!ย That night he had a little meal made up of offcuts of our dinner, and polished the lot. He was hungry.

30.03.14 fast 008We kept expecting the effects to wear off. For him to go off food again, or to start limping and whining. But he didn’t. He stopped looking so emaciated and sorry for himself. He went out for walks again, further than 20 paces. He ate three chicken breasts in a day! (That was too much…especially considering, after a little research, he’s supposed to be on a low protein diet :P). Now, three weeks later, he’s full of beans. We know his liver’s never going to be completely better. He’s still on a ‘human’ diet of chicken and carbs (bread/rice/leftover noodles…). But he is our little dog. Our little miracle dog ๐Ÿ™‚ He was racing up and down Atodiad’s decking this afternoon! All four paws off the ground, nose down…bombing along! Launching himself up the steps, tripping over his own paws to get from one human to another. Almost puppy-ish again. He’s living on borrowed time…but he’s definitely enjoying himself, and long may it last!

‘Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.’ ~ย Kinky Friedman

 

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Costume Creativity

Something I’ve often been asked in relation to my dancing is, do I make my own costumes. This isn’t a simple yes or no answer really, as sometimes I make things completely from scratch, but mostly I ‘coddle’ together bits and pieces. So yes, I ‘put together’ my own costumes as opposed to buying them ready made. Part of my fun is starting with an idea or an item, and finding all the little bits and pieces that go with them. My Mum on the other hand, prefers to be able to go to the rail and pick out a hanger with a complete costume. Both methods work, but suit different occasions, and different people. Anyway, back to ‘making’…

1477368_462172887227747_1827959206_nTake my Nutcracker costume, for example. This is about my most ‘handmade from scratch’ costume. The top I made in my 2nd year of Uni for a fancy dress party (Princesses of the World…I went Arabian). It didn’t really fit, and I ended up wearing it over a leotard, but I had no pattern and it looked OK. When I wanted a top for this costume, I decided to alter it and jazz it up a bit, so made it fit, added the green sparkly bits and beaded the sleeves. Hey presto, the top I wanted, from scratch, minimal cost. Moving down…the harem trousers. I made my own pattern from newspaper, working out where the join needed to be (the front) and therefore what shape to cut. Then I beaded the edges, sewed on the decals and elasticated top and bottom. The overskirt, apart from being the most beautiful fabric, is just pleated onto a ribbon waistband. As is the little front skirt. This was then beaded along the edge. Hipbelt-wise…more complicated, and less of a success. Somewhere along the lines my measurements went awry, and then I changed the style of it, so it turns back on itself. Also, I never want to work with velvet ever again. However, considering I sewed most of it, stop-start, at the theatre during the run of Last Tango, I’m fairly happy! Add some sequins, some Christmas tassels and an old necklace of Grandma’s, and I had the reality of my initial vision. So yes, sometimes I make my costumes.

IMG_7764-EditOther times, not so much. Take my Candyman costume. The bra I already had. I pinned a necklace to the underside, and a flower to the centre. Nothing permanent. The sailor’s collar was my Grandfather’s and wasn’t altered in any way. I only added a brooch to it to hide the bow. Skirt wise, I had the blue base skirt, the silk top scarf and the lacy scarf, borrowed the blue tasselled scarf from Bex, the pashmina from Mum, and added a hipbelt I’d been given. No sewing, no pinning. Hardly ‘making’…more ‘building’! Add gloves, masses of jewellery and a sailor’s cap made from a folded and pinned Peter Pan collar and a costume was created. However, none of it was permanent, and straight afterwards was taken apart and put away as separate items. A temporary costume perhaps.

So two very different approaches to costumes, but hopefully, both effective. So in answer to the initial question, yes I do make my own costumes…just with different definitions of ‘make’ ๐Ÿ™‚

”Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm” ~ Earl Nightingale

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Beautifully Ordinary

Beautifully Ordinary. What IS beautifully ordinary? To me it’s something that has its beauty in its simplicity. No complications, no unusualness. Just purely simple and perhaps commonplace. I had an initial idea this morning of something I wanted to photograph for this prompt. A daisy. One of the commonest flowers in grass and lawns. A simple pleasure of my childhood – sitting making daisy chains. No fancy colours, no fancy shapes, just long thin white petals and a yellow centre.

Finding said daisy wasn’t easy…we had two in our lawn today, and one of those was a bit scruffy. But I found one, photographed it and was happy.

16.03.14 beautifully ordinary 001

Then I walked back towards the house and noticed the water feature full of shards of slate. Just a piece of rock. But what a beautiful piece of rock! So many colours in such a small area, all those layers…for something commonly overlooked, it had its own beauty. It is beautifully ordinary, but in a different way.

16.03.14 beautifully ordinary 005

But my discovery wasn’t over. Whilst sanding down the garden furniture I noticed a spider’s web. Why did I so suddenly notice it? Because all the fine sawdust had been collecting on the strands of the web and made it show up more than normal. Now, in our house especially, spider webs are pretty much the norm. There are also quite a number of them on my Grandparents’ decking bannister at the moment. Therefore, I reckon they count as ordinary. But they are by far the beautiful ordinary I have seen today. The intricate pattern, fluttering in the breeze…absolutely stunning.

16.03.14 beautifully ordinary 009

So for these reasons, I struggled to choose on Facebook which photo to use. The simplicity? The overlooked? The common but intricate? I went with my initial idea, because I like to think that was what I meant to take. But the other photos came out so nicely I just had to share them! Which would you have chosen?

‘Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary.’ ~ Blaise Pascal

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