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Dear Me

No, not in like a “dear me you look awful today”. More like Dear Dana…

There are some things in life that you just don’t like. Whether it be a job or school or your car or someone’s attitude. I’ve noticed lately that you have been in a bad mood. You’ve been complainy and emotional and out of whack. You tried to fix it by reading your Bible, but then you got to the middle of Exodus and got bored. You tried to fix your problems earlier by switching jobs, but now you complain about the one you have. You constantly complained about you van, and now that you have  a new car you complain about how you can’t sell your van.

These things in your life that you complain about all boil down to one main thing. Selfishness.

You were talking to your fiance Dave last night and it hit you. You are a selfish brat. You’ve been doing nothing but complain about you, and haven’t given one thought to others lately. So I’m writing to you today so that you will stop this incessant complaining and start giving a crap about other people and their issues.

We are called as children of God to be his light in this dark world. How can you be a light if you’re thoughts and actions are all internal? If you doubt yourself all the time and have no confidence in who God has made you to be. So what if you feel like you’re getting beat up on the front lines of school. Tuff it out and stand for what you believe in. Don’t wain because you want things to be easier on you! That’s no good at all. Example from the Bible: what if Jesus doubted that he was the son of God? Do you think he would have been crucified? Do you think he would have died for the sins of man?

You see! Even writing this now you have hesitation in your heart about making such a bold proclamation to your faith. You hold back because you are scared of what people will think of you. You don’t want others to think you a loony or odd for believing the same things that the crusaders did in the centuries ago. But you don’t believe the same thing! You don’t think Muslims or Jews deserve to die! Quite the opposite!

You had something in the past that you constantly are trying to achieve. that was confidence. To look yourself in the mirror and say I am beautiful because God made me. And to say that I will live for Christ today because he is my strength and refuge and if God is for me who can be against me? But now you feel like the whole world is against you…you lost your confidence in Christ.

Remember: “What you are in the sight of God that you truly are”? Do you really believe that? Do you? It’s time to take a stand against the selfish gene in every person, and it’s time to look at today as a new day that the Lord has made. You will rejoice and be glad in it. Because that’s what God wants you to do. And the opposite of being selfish is being selfless, and that’s exactly what Christ was…So work on being Christ to people today. Being selfless, and if you get noticed for your selflessness, then point not to yourself, but to God. Who gave you the ability to be who you are.

I hesitate to post this, it’s more personal than public. But I don’t think I’m the only one dealing with this. It’s something I’ve dealt with not only in my faith, but also with my love. either of family or my fiance or friends. Being selfless and humble makes you a person that God wants you to be, and it also makes you a more pleasant person to be around. So I guess my point is, if you’re feeling the same way, down, depressed, constantly complaining, then stop. There is a song I love when I’m close with God. It goes “turn your eyes upon Jesus, look forth in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”  Truth man.

So today I will look forth on Jesus’ face and work on (with Christ’s help) being a humble person.

With the spirit of tough love,

Dana

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Take a walk with me…

Today I’m feeling nostalgic, and therefore will write, but not in my standard way (as you can tell by my title). (and yes, I will get back to my favorite moments at some point…)
I just had an overwhelming feeling of wanting to be back in Israel. I can envision in my mind’s eye that I’m walking along the road headed to the Jaffa Gate. So I think today, I shall tell of the walk through the old city.

Please join me, As we go down the elevator and walk into the lobby of the Tower Hotel in Jerusalem. Walking strait, I go through the side door, because for some reason the revolving door always freaks me out just a smidge. As I walk out of my hotel, there is a large section of brick sidewalk, and then the road. To the right are shops, mainly selling clothes or coffee or some cheap accessories. And when I look to the left there’s a plethora of restaurants From Italian, Chinese, Japanese or American. Anything you want to eat is just a jaunt down the road.

Turn left to head to the old city. Walking past people, vendors and that graffiti that states “set the police in fire” on the side of the building. Such an odd thing to see posted on the side of a building. As we walk we go downhill, continuing for less than a mile, now we pass apartments and parked cars. We come to an intersection, where there are two roads curving at odd angles, which makes the sidewalk come to a sharp point where the roads meet. Time to cross, and don’t worry about waiting for the signal, as long as there aren’t any cars, you can cross. Sharp right! Cross two roads now, it’s a split road. Now just go down the stairs and you’ll see this:

This leads to the Jaffa gate

Pretty isn't it?

This is the passageway that leads to the Jaffa gate. You’ll notice that the wall ont the left has markings on it. That’s because they took it down and marked each piece and then rebuilt it, kink of like a giant puzzle. Something that my not be quite as clear from this picture is the art that line the walkway. Local artists (i belive) have sculpture lining this walkway it makes for a very chic and artsy look as you walk down. You almost feel like you’re in a giant art exhibit. The shops that line the walkway are a high price for the most part. Fancy spas or restaurants, but mainly clothes with super cute dresses in the windows.

We are now arriving at the end of the passageway, go up the stairs (amphitheater like, half circle stairs, just so you get a picture in your head). As you walk up you see the walls cascading up, there my friend is the Old City wall. From the stairs there’s a courtyard of sorts with people buzzing all around and vendors trying to sell you fresh bread and sweets. And apparently, just because they want to let you know that they’re hip, there’s a huge pice of modern art in the center of the courtyard. Looks kind of like a 40 foot tall mobile. Interesting really.

Moving forward we go through the gate, which is a huge (about 20? feet) pointed door. Then turn to the left and you’re now inside those mammoth walls that are the Old City of Jerusalem. This is what it looks like from the inside:

In the City Walls

Ooooo....Inside the City Walls

Now I don’t know if I’ve told you this or not, but did you know that all the buildings in Jerusalem (and I believe in Israel) have to be built with Israeli stone? Meaning all buildings are made with stones quarried from Israel itself. Interesting? Yes. Causing issues with a lack of building material? Yes.

If you keep going straight, following the sidewalk, you will enter the bazaar. It’s crazy and colorful and full of people and things yelling and walking and moving about. I didn’t get a picture of this. I’m sorry I failed you. walk through two slices of the bazaar then turn left then make a right, then walk down those stairs you are now entering a courtyard. to your left there is a beautiful synagogue which is being re-built, it’s one of the oldest in the city. Looking forward there are outdoor tables and chairs with umbrellas where people can sit and eat their lunch. The first time we walked down this way most of my classmates went into a small archeological museum, while me and a few others wandered around outside waiting for them. If you walk down one of the little roads it leads to a residential area, and that’s exactly where I went, you can see some of the pictures below:

Walls

A wall near the residential portion of the Old City

More Walls

A little side alley where people lived

This was actually one of my favorite times in the city. It was day 1 in Jerusalem and we only had about 15 or so minutes to take a break while the others went through the museum. But it was here that I saw the daily lives of the good Jewish Israelis. The women had their heads covered, and were wearing long skirts and 3/4 length shirts. They were taking out their trash, watching their kids and having conversations with their neighbors. It was here that I realized that they aren’t really any different from you or me. Despite the fact that they live in the Holy Land, they are still people looking to make a life for themselves. Taking care of their daily needs, and they were also people who had hurts and pains and were just as lost as anyone in the world. They were beautiful, and as I sat on a ledge under a tree, I began feeling God’s heart for his people and his land.

Israel really is a Holy Land, you can feel it when you stand there. But the funny thing is, you have to look for it. It doesn’t hit you in the face when you land in the airplane. It doesn’t hit you when you’re on the temple mount, and it doesn’t hit you when you’re standing in the countryside with a pick in your hand. It hits you when you sit and pray. When you ask God to show you. Then it hits you hard. Israel is a land full of religion…but God isn’t active there, not unless you search him out. And if you do seek him…well…hold on, it will be a crazy ride.

I got off on a tangent there…sorry.

Anyway! Going through that courtyard at an angle, you will head down a road lined with food vendors, (I got a bagel, seemed appropriate in the Jewish Quarter). Going under a large archway we keep going and make a slight shift to the right, and then you were there. At the top of the stairs looking down at the Western (Wailing) Wall. Descending the flight of stairs you go through the security system at the Wall (not unlike airport security). Then you walk out and you’re in the courtyard of the Western Wall, Isn’t it pretty?

The Courtyard for at the Western Wall

This picture wasn’t taken in the courtyard obviously, it’s taken from above, but I thought it would give you a better understanding of the layout.

From here you do your best to be respectful of the people at the Wall. If you so chose you can approach it. When I did the first time it was in the middle of the day, broad daylight. I walked up, found a small place between to women, and touched the wall. I placed my written prayers in the cracks…then I prayed. And then I cried. I cried for the people of Israel, I cried for my family, I cried for my schoolmates that were with me, and I cried for my (now) fiance. And then I cried for me.

I walked that road every day I was in Israel. From the hotel to the Jaffa gate, then normally to the Wall or somewhere around it. So I thought I’d share with you some of my walk. I hope you enjoyed the company.

Dana

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Dear Tradition

RE: An Anthropology of Traditions

I’m a traditionalist. I like traditions, I believe they bring people together and allow the current or future generations to connect to their past and history.

When I look at tradition, there are a few different types that are easily observable. Namely, religious, family, and ceremonial.

There was one time a few months ago that I was sitting with my boyfriend for dinner and we were discussing the tradition of marriage, or rather a wedding. I was telling him about how weddings have lost a lot of their traditional aspects with the changing times. It used to be that women would live with their parents until they got married and then “leave and cleave” to their husbands, and a wedding was the ceremony that marked that occasion. However, in today’s society people can’t seem to make a commitment to each other to spend the rest of their lives together until they are sure that they can live together first. This whole consept of ‘shacking up’ is throwing the concept of a wedding right out the window. What used to be a beautiful ceremony and a right of passage has now been turned into just another big party to throw for all of our friends.

This disregard for past traditions saddens me. And it’s seen in more places than just weddings. Look at religion for example (my religion of choice is the Judeo-Christian belief, but I’m sure you can see the withering of traditions in any major religion). Let’s look at a major holiday shall we? Let’s go with the latest, Easter. Traditionally a time to celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the grave. A great holiday really. But do you know what came before this holiday? Before Christ? Passover. Now, any good Jew would know about the Passover, it’s one of the staples of Jewish belief. In fact it’s made its way into the Christian realm as well. Anyone ever hear of the Lords Supper? Also called Communion? It’s like a mini Passover. How exciting!

You see Passover is the holiday where the Jew’s remember God’s deliverance from the hand of the Egyptians. You know, with the 10 plagues and parting of the Red Sea and all. Yep. Traditionally Passover is the holiday to remember what God did for the Israelites. And this tradition was followed all the way to Jesus’ day. I personally believe (although some would say no) that Passover was in fact the Last Supper that Jesus partook in. I say this because if you look at the Passover and what it represents it’s pretty easy for a believing Christian to see that Jesus fulfilled everything talked about in the Passover. Thus the name sometimes given to Jesus, “Jesus the Passover Lamb”. For you that don’t know, at the original first Passover the Israelites were to take a lamb and kill it and put the blood on the door post, then the Angel of Death would pass over the house and spare those inside. Along the same lines Jesus took the fall for our sin and protects us from death and destruction.

Religion lesson aside though, my point was that Easter is celebrated around the same time as Passover every year, and yet, most Christians don’t know much about Passover, if anything. Not only that but look at the modern twist on Easter! Bunnies that poop eggs? what the heck? Of course it came from the pagan spring festival that celebrated life. I know this, but this pagan celebration has wormed its way into Christian ritual… Traditional breakdown…sad.

My third point is on family. I have been blessed to be in what most people would consider a ‘normal’ family. Honestly looking at American society it seems like we are rather abnormal, but none the less we are traditionalists and we generally like it that way. Born and raised in good Christian homes, raised in the Biblical Tradition, tested and walked through the faith, my family sits at a high point on the mountain of family tradition. However most families aren’t that way. I don’t really know how I feel about that.

Let’s take an example from a 1968 pop song by Diana Ross and the Supremes, “Love Child”. This song is about a woman who won’t sleep with her boyfriend because she doesn’t want her (love) child to be shamed by being a ‘bastard’ (if you will) because that’s how she grew up and it wasn’t very pleasant. Now fast forward to today. How many people do you know that have a child out-of-wedlock? I can think of a good few. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not condemning anyone who is in that situation. It’s not shunned or thought down on now-a-days’. And I’m not about to condemn you for those actions. My point is to simply point out the changes in the culture and society over the years. It’s interesting isn’t it?

The term Globalization has come up a lot in my Anthropology classes lately. As someone who is interested in other cultures, I find the idea of Globalization scary. We’ve already lost thousands of cultures, millions of languages and I’m sure unnamable amounts of traditions since the beginning of history and before. What more will we lose in the next 100 years? Which race and language will be wiped out next?

I suppose my point in writing this is to tell you to get in touch with whatever culture you’re from. The largest part of me is Finnish, and I’ve been discovering that history in me for the last year or so. It’s one thing to study a culture that you’re not a part of, in some ways that’s good because you get to see what the people of that culture are blinded to. But it’s also amazing finding what’s culture is a part of you, what you are made of, who you are and your history and traditions. I encourage you Reader, get in touch with your most dominant culture. Learn about them, some of the language, some of the holidays, some of the traditions. You’ll be surprised to find how interesting you really are. 🙂

Dana

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Dear Spring

Welcome back, I’ve missed you.

Well, in all honesty, I can’t really say this is Spring, shifting from 50 to 90 degrees in a few days isn’t really steady. However, this is Michigan, and I can’t really expect the weather to do anything but be temperamental. Weather issues aside though, you’ve been a good Spring to me so far, the past few days especially. Although the rains came down (and the floods came up! heh heh) this past week which caused our basement to leak, (which in turn caused a foul musty smell in the house for a whole week and a half) you came through for me with joy and sunshine in the past few days.

I’ve always enjoyed you spring, all the color you bring to the world after the long Michigan winters. However, even with all the color you bring, especially green, my favorite color, you’re still not my favorite season. If I had to analyze why, I’d say it’s probably the UPer blood in me. Fall generally strikes my fancy, knowing that school is starting and I can cover up and be toasty without being sweaty. It’s a good feeling. But I don’t want to talk about another when I’m writing to you, Spring.

This particular Spring has brought interesting changes. I’ve mentioned them in previous posts, namely, the passing of my Grandparents. This is most likely what I will remember when I look back at the Spring of 2011. My two trips to the UP within a few short months of each other, both taking place in Spring. I suppose the other things I will look back on is my preparations for my trip. But then again, I don’t really recall my preparations for Kenya, so maybe I won’t. Maybe this time will be lost only to my Grandparents. Will that bother me? I don’t think so. So long as I don’t forget where I was when the Spring of 2011 turned into the Summer of 2011.

To be honest Spring, there are other things on my mind. Other things to write about. I don’t know, maybe I should have written this post to someone else. But I feel that you may understand where I’m at. You may have noticed that I not only tagged this letter as a physical season, but also as a season of life. This is because, as far as I can tell, this Spring brings big changes with it. Determining if there will be shifts in the way I live, the way I see things, the way I act toward others, especially loved ones.

Apparently I have weighty things on my mind. I needed to write a letter so I thought I would write about Spring and the lovely days I’ve had out in the sun. But there are deeper things on my mind…

Please don’t worry about me, I am happy. It’s just that with new adventures bring new challenges and changes. And these changes are something I’m working through. But overall I’m positive. And looking out the window to a clear blue sky, I know that I am ok. And God has everything in control.

My the Lord bless you and keep you,

Dana

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Dear Stressors,

For the past few weeks I’ve been stressed. This to me is interesting because the only time I almost ever get stressed is when I’m in an argument with someone (which  rarely happens) or if I have a 8-12 page paper due in two days and I have no idea what to write about. Now, both of these issues are generally self-induced, and I have no one to blame but myself for my lack of self-control.

But the stress that’s come upon me lately is due to two specific things. Number one, the passing of my grandparents. And number two, my impending trip to Israel.

In April, when my Grandma passed, I wasn’t horribly stressed out about the situation. My main concern was for my Father, Aunt and Grandfather, and also for my missing a full week of school. But overall the trip was pleasant, aside from the circumstances, and my life continued, all be it I was a little bit sadder, and I was a little easier to distract.

But with this past trip to the U.P. there was more stress involved. However, this stress could be translated into sadness/mourning/regret. You see, I’ve never really had to deal with death before. Although I’ve been to the funerals of both my Uncle and my Grandmother, this funeral was different. Looking over it, I would say my sadness is more for the lack of communication and contact with my Grandparents while they were alive. Although I often prayed for them, and even enjoyed talking to them on the phone, there wasn’t a relationship there like I would have liked to have. I didn’t really know who my Grandparents were, aside from what people have told me about them.

There’s always a point when you reach a certain age, where the gap between you and your older relatives begins to narrow. Where your Grandparents or Aunts and Uncles become more of older wiser friends than someone who is just your Aunt or Grandparent. And although I’ve had the privilege to get to know my mom’s side of the family relatively well, I missed out on that with my Father’s side of the family. I regret this. So my sorrow doesn’t come necessarily from the passing of my Grandparents. I know that they are in Heaven and are happier now with Jesus than they ever were down here. No, my sorrow comes from not knowing who my Grandparents were, and not taking the time to get to know them as people. As I was up there I realized that there was all kinds of family history surrounding me, and I wanted to know about it. But those that could tell me the stories were gone.

switching subjects, my second cause of stress is, as stated before, my trip to Israel. I take flight two weeks from today. And with this impending trip comes all the lovely worries and stress of foreign travel, but added on to that is the worry and stress of taking a class. What fun!

I’ve never been on a trip that caused me so much stress, not only do I need things for the dig, but also for the weekends, oh and I also have books and articles to read, a presentation to plan AND a paper to write. Now, all of this together, really isn’t that stressful, and I’ve had time to do almost everything I need to do before I leave. I’m sure everything will get done, it’s just a wee bit stressful with the loss of a week while I was in the U. P. Please don’t get me wrong, I am extremely excited to go. 

 My overall intent in telling you this was not really to bitch about my problems. It’s just whenever I sit down to write about something here, these are the two things that clog my mind. So I figure if I write about them, maybe it will help me feel less stressed. Perhaps perhaps…I don’t know.

So I guess when I sum it up, I have excitement and stress for my trip, and an odd feeling of loss and regret for my relationship with my Grandparents. I suppose I just don’t quite know how to deal with all these feelings at the same time.

With mixed emotions,

Dana

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Dear Hands and Feet

RE:1 John 3:18

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth”

Yesterday, when I was doing my Daily Bread reading I decided to go beyond the suggested reading and continue through more of 1 John. I don’t normally have much extra time in the morning, so I don’t often wander away from the short basic lesson that is set out for the day. But I happened to wake up earlier than normal and I was in need of something to cling to for the day. You see, this past week has been hard with the passing of my Grandfather, and I’ve been feeling distant from God. So I wanted to find something to draw me back. As I read I got to the verse above, 1 John 3:18, and found it interesting, but not really what I was wanting. I spent the rest of the day feeling a bit off with God, and wanting more of him in my life.

Today however, I had some free time in the morning, and figured I would see if I could find that verse again. I looked around for a few minutes and then found it. Now this verse isn’t that profound or earth-shattering really. It’s just a simple instruction that John gave to the receiver of his letter. But as I thought about this verse it reminded me of my heart for missions, and what kind of missions I want to do. So here I will explain:

When people ask me what I want to do when I ‘grow up’ I tell them I’m interested in missions. They then either say “oh that’s cool, have you been anywhere interesting?” or “oh…ok”. I feel that when most people think of missionaries (those that don’t know any personally) they tend to think of people preaching on a street corner or handing out tracks. Or maybe planting churches in crazy jungles in South America or Africa somewhere. Although there are missionaries like that, it’s not really what I mean when I say I want to do missions.

My interest is in helping people get out of the harsh situations they are in. Not to change who they are or their culture per se, but to show them a better way to live. Whether that is manifested through emotional, physical or spiritual support. My aim, whenever I’ve been on the mission field, has always been to help people in the name of Jesus. I’m not and Evangelist. I don’t necessarily feel a deep need to shout Jesus from the rooftops. My way is a little more personal, a little more quite. So when I read this verse ‘let us not love with words…but with action’ I found it a bit refreshing. I always felt like I only showed the love of Christ in this way because I was afraid. And honestly in some cases I am. But generally speaking I am better with actions  than I am with words so it makes more sense that I would use my hands and feet to serve the Lord rather than my words. (not that words aren’t important, that’s not what I’m saying here)

However, the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about this was how people tend to read the Bible how they want to read it. They find verses that support what they believe and ignore the verses that tell them they need to change. I don’t want to do that. I want to be willing to change if it will better myself and the Kingdom of God. So one of the things I’ve been thinking about is if  there are any of my beliefs or thoughts about things that need to be changed to line up with the whole word of God, and not just that one obscure verse that I cling to to try to justify myself. I don’t know. It’s something I’ll have to think and pray about.

The second thing that came to mind with this verse is the last two words “in truth”. To love in truth. I asked myself what this meant, what does John mean to love in truth. The best explanation I could gather on my drive into work was that he means to love honestly or sincerely. Not to pretend, but to actually love those you are serving. This one’s a little hard to swallow. It’s one thing to love someone, kind of, because Jesus told you to. But it’s another thing when you have to mean it. To truly love your brothers and sisters in Christ, and not only that but to truly love your enemies and those you dislike. This is what Jesus taught, and it’s something I’m honestly going to have to work on, because sometimes I just don’t want to love someone, sometimes  it’s easier to not serve, to not be like Jesus. But this is where the Holy Spirit comes in, and the Spirit will help when asked. The hard part is chosing to go against your nature and ask for help to serve and love your enemies. 

These are some of the things that I’ve been thinking about for the past 48 hours. I don’t know if they will help any of you readers at all. But I’ve found that when you tell people what God is teaching you, it’s more exciting to see what God is doing.

Have a blessed day,

Dana

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Dear Reader (#2)

You know what? Sometimes there is nothing I want to write about. Sometimes, I just want to scribble down my thoughts here without having to focus them in on one particular thing. Although I like my posts generally, sometimes it’s just to hard for me to focus my thoughts on one particular subject long enough to write about it. So this post is a break. I focused in on a few posts, and now it’s time to get my thoughts out of a funk. Perhaps I can clear some stuff up with a review of my thought life…

Welcome to my thought life.We shall begin on the left, where you’ll see some major decisions I’m balancing in my mind. The largest part of that section is the thought: “what am I going to do after I graduate”. But this thought hasn’t been getting much attention lately, because there are other things for my brain to focus in on.

To the right you’ll see my thoughts about Israel. ‘What else do I need to buy’  ‘what do I want to see’  ‘who will I miss’  ‘how will I cope’. These are some of the thoughts rolling around over there. They generally take up much of my time and at any given second, if you see me in a pensive state, I’m probably thinking about Israel in some form or another.

Related to these thoughts about Israel are the thoughts about my walk with God. This is located right below of my thoughts about Israel. These thoughts have been more weighty, thus they are below my thoughts of Israel, lest thoughts of God crush thoughts of Israel. These are thoughts such as, ‘perhaps I should read my Bible more’ ‘I know that I’m going to need to get back into that habit before I leave, because I won’t have church for four weeks, and that’s not good’. These types of thoughts plus the things that I’ve been talking to people about have led me to feel like I need to stop watching so many shows, and start cracking open my Bible instead.

Along with all of this is obviously the daily madness that I find myself dealing with, these thoughts are located right over there by the boredom section of my thoughts. These thoughts deal mainly with doing Weight Watchers and thinking about the points that I’m consuming. Nothing to fancy or fun is in this section of my brain, just the basics.

The above section is actually split in two, one section is near the boredom section as I mentioned, and the other is by the loved ones and interests section. This division of my thoughts doesn’t get enough attention, especially not the loved ones section. I tend to forget about those that I love, I don’t think about their needs or how what I’m saying may affect them. this is one that I should pay more attention to. Hopefully if I begin increasing my attention on the God section of my thoughts this section will automatically get a little more attention.

There are other sections of my thought life that I have not detailed here, but like an old home on display, there are always rooms that are closed for repair, or are just to private for the public to go into. So I’m sorry dear Reader, but those rooms are off-limits to you. My apologies.

It’s interesting taking a short tour of your thoughts. Makes you realize where your mind choses to go, and how things should be moved around…

I hope you enjoyed your tour,

Dana

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