Wooden Spoon Writing Challenge & New Year’s Eve Updates

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Writing has been erratic lately. I can whip off a freebie in an hour or two, but I stare at Indigo for hours to write a few hundred words.

I started a Wooden Spoon Challenge a few days ago to encourage Stephanie Beck to write. She wrote an amazing story with a hint of kink, posted here. Then Olivia Starke joined with a sweet-as-sugar story here. Mm. I want some chocolate now. Next, Dominique Eastwick introduced her Wiccan Haus series with this shifter story. Anyone feeling a bit paranormal yet? Dominique challenged none other than our beloved Evil Mistress Kate, aka Kate Richards. Kate put up her story today, a scrumptious sneak peek of her next cookie club story.

Who’s next? We wait with bated breath.

These were my original terms:

 

I wrote a freebie story for readers, my first Christmas menage featuring Mira and Hana from Desire in Any Language and Mira’s Miracle. I’m passing on the challenge to Stephanie Beck. Stephanie, you have 24 hours to produce a 2K freebie story (using one idea, theme, sentence, or image from my story for inspiration) or face the penalty. What penalty?

–Public admission of your naughtiness!
–Listening to “Let it Go” on endless repeat
–Forfeiting your knitting needles, wild rice, and jello!
–Having to compose a public ode to wooden spoons!
–and more! Depends on my mood!

What is the reward for successfully completing the challenge?

–Public adulation as a Freebie Girl!
–A hand-engraved Anastasia Vitsky wooden spoon!
–Your choice of an Anastasia Vitsky book!
–and one entry on either Mrs. Claus’ nice or naughty list for 2015, your choice

See? It pays to behave! Now sit your bottom on a chair and get writing, missy! Mrs. Claus will know if you’ve been bad or good. Get cracking! The clock starts NOW.

When you finish, post your freebie story link and tag me. Challenge one or two author friends to do the same thing. And go!

Everyone’s tweaked the rules as we go along. It’s been fun to see the excitement. We even had T-shirts made! Want to see? Thanks to Dominique for making the logo.

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I can’t wait to see who’s next for the Wooden Spoon Challenge.

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The Advent Calendar cards are headed toward a post office near you! Finally!

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Eight new Kindles are in various stages of preparation to be shipped to Ali Forney, Outside In, and Trinity Place. Yay!!

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Tonya Ridener gave me this lovely Secret Santa surprise in an event organized by the wonderful Sara Gomez. It was an unexpected and sweet way to brighten the holiday. THANK YOU!

Curious why I’m learning Hindi? Find out in this post from the Advent Calendar, Choosing to Believe.

And finally:

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Sanitizer with glitter. Because sparkly vampires aren’t enough.

You heard me.

 

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In other news, THANK YOU for your sweet thoughts yesterday. Boy, you are all smart cookies. Smart, I tell you. Maybe smart and need to be smart…ING. Hehe. It reminded me of a post I wrote a long time ago about letting myself sink emotionally into my writing. I hate it sometimes. I love the fun and games, and I love the freedom of a spur-of-the-moment story, but Indigo is serious business.

To write Indigo, I have to respect her.

To respect Indigo, I have to know her.

To know Indigo, I have to love her.

As I wrote over two years ago:

I realized why Kat and Natalie have been fighting me so much and why I’ve hated Kat 2 for the past month.  I wasn’t willing to cry for them.  I wasn’t willing to cry with them.  I wasn’t willing to be Kat and to be Natalie.  I wanted to write about them without becoming them.

Yeah.

Kat gripped me by the collar today, and she yanked me to sit down next to her.

Listen to me, she demanded.  If you’re going to write my story, you have to know me first.

The thing about someone quiet like Kat?  If she decides to stick to her guns, well…it’s a lost battle.  I listened.  I wrote.  I cried.

And then she let me tell her story.

Dear Katling?  I’m sorry for holding you at a distance.  I’ll listen better from now on.  You have a right to have your story told in a way that honors you, not in a way that is fun and easy.

Indi, you suck. I hate the devastation you will wreak on my heart and soul. I hate the tears I will shed as I write your story. I hate the pain you will endure before finding your happily ever after.

Because, after all, a happy ending means nothing unless it’s earned.

Indi, you did things that make us both ashamed. You made bad decisions, you put yourself in danger, and you believed someone you shouldn’t.

Guess what? So have all of my other main characters, and I still love them.

Come here, Indi. I’ll listen to you this time. I’ll listen without the judgment, and I will love you.

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Ana’s Advent Calendar, Day 14: Creating Something Good, Part 3

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If you haven’t already, you’ll want to read the first two parts of this series.

Creating Something Good, Part 1

Creating Something Good, Part 2

Before I go any further with my story, I’d like to give a shout-out to those who helped create Something Good:

Less Than Three Press: Megan Derr, Samantha Derr, and Sasha Miller donated money for Kindles, sponsored my travel to Atlanta, and donated their entire catalog (minus erotic books). Less Than Three has been part of Something Good from the beginning, and they have been huge supporters.

Harmony Ink (Dreamspinner Press): Unbeknownst to me, Elizabeth North had already sent six Kindles filled with books to the residents at LNF last year. Because of that, she jumped at the chance to support a second year’s incarnation. Nessa Warin, the head of Harmony Ink, donated their entire catalog of YA LGBT stories. Plus, Elizabeth sent an additional financial contribution to buy more Kindles.

Ylva Publishing: Ylva was the only lesbian publisher to respond to Something Good’s invitation to participate. Astrid Ohletz and Nikki Busch donated eight of their lesbian books to the project and expressed excitement to support LGBT homeless youth.

We can always use more lesfic! If you are an author of lesbian fiction, please contact Something Good and/or your publisher to make inquiries.

Decadent Bono: The mainstream/YA imprint of Decadent Publishing donated eight of their books toward the project.

Witty Bard Press: Anna Victoria Jones donated all of her anthologies.

Dark Hollows Press: Michelle Williams provided financial support to buy Kindles and accessories.

Damnation Press: Kim Richards provided financial support to buy Kindles and accessories.

Vagabondia Creations: Jay Odon provided eighteen sets of earphones for the first shipment of Kindles.

Carina Press donated copies of Cathy Pegau’s book.

Countless authors donated copies of their books from small and independent publishers. I was particularly excited to receive the When Women Were Warriors trilogy from Catherine M. Wilson.

We also had donations from individuals and other groups:

  • Sarah Bennett
  • In honor of Lambda Legal (donor wishes to remain anonymous)
  • Joanna Jasmin Darrell
  • Jeff Adams (JMS Books)
  • Renee Meyer
  • Patricia Denke
  • Maggie Worth
  • Kelly Adams
  • Ruth Shulman
  • Pao
  • Kelly Jensen
  • Laurel Lasky
  • Sheri Spell
  • S.J. Maylee
  • Kate Richards
  • Prism Book Alliance
  • Tina Clark Simas
  • V.s. Morgan
  • Anonymous, not specified

In addition, I received administration help from Myra Swintz, Sarah Bennett, Cat Hopkins, and Anne Ferrer Odom. I also received countless hours of support from Amazon as well as our sales representative. When a person buys 26 Kindles, she receives outstanding customer service. 🙂 Thank you to Ashley of Best Buy who matched Amazon’s charitable discount pricing and the countless other people who cheered, supported, and gave much-needed advice. Thank you to Renee M. for her suggestions on forming a non-profit organization (our hope is to do so next summer, assuming that the project is still sustainable). We are in need of legal advice/expertise in doing so. If you either have the expertise or know someone who does, please get in touch with me.

If you have contributed to Something Good, please find me on Facebook. You will be added to the business group so you can receive all of the updates in real time. I do ask that you keep the updates, especially financial information, confidential.

FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS

Do you remember my original goals for this project? I hoped to raise $69 to buy one basic Kindle and have each author donate a book or two. Instead, I went to LNF equipped with 18 Kindles, 18 screen protectors, 18 cases, 18 sets of earphones, and approximately 7560 books. (Not to mention the mountain of baked goods and the sackful of gifts for Heidi, the girl in rehab.) All told, the donations added up nearly $40,000.

One idea.

Six weeks.

30-45 supporters.

$4,000 in cash.

$40,000 total donation to LNF.

Did I mention that this took six weeks? As I checked and re-checked every detail of the Kindles (I had the supreme pleasure of installing software updates. Eighteen times.) and prepared for the staff training, shock reverberated through my sleep-deprived body. We’d done it. After six weeks of worry, preparation, organization, and mind-numbing tedious work, the Kindles were ready.

GLITTER AND BE GAY

At the Friday evening holiday party, I met “Sister Glitter and Be Gay,” a novice in the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. It is an organization founded in California that has worked for HIV and AIDS awareness and activism. When a runaway teenage boy found refuge with the sisters only for his homophobic parents to legally compel his return, he committed suicide. The sisters sainted him as Saint Lost and Found, and LNF carries his name.

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The sisters continue supporting LGBT homeless youth. (“They are our future,” said one gentleman.) I also met Mark, a guard who is part of the organization but serves as backup. He provides physical protection (“We attract attention,” said Sister Glitter and Be Gay. “We attract all kinds of attention.”), assists with photos, and helps with crowd control.

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Rick Westbrook, the director of LNF, also is a sister. We had a few minutes to chat, in which he emphasized the need for people to care about the kids.

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I also met Angelica D’Paige, one of the nicest employees I’ve ever met. I bought a few items at the LNF thrift shop, and she showed me the hilarious sides of the sign. “One is for regular,” she said. “The other is for when the drama queens come in.”

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“Tell us about your books,” said people throughout the day.

“Well, my newest book, Taliasman, is about a queen,” I began.

“Do you mean a drag queen or a real queen?” came the answer.

MEETING HEIDI

“Just to give you a heads up,” Sue told me the next day as we prepared to enter the rehab center. “This is where people in poverty go. It’s a sad place.”

“Do you think she would like some soda?” I asked. “Kleenex, apples, vegetables..?”

“I think she’d love it,” Sue said. She’d already packed a few treats that I’d brought to the center the day before.

As we walked in and met Heidi, Sue expressed surprise at seeing her in a wheelchair. “You made it!” she exclaimed.

“I’m going to get out of this,” Heidi promised. “I’m working hard in physical therapy.”

Sue bent down and rested a hand on Heidi’s shoulder. “Do you know why we’re here?”

“To give me a Kindle.”

Sue’s shoulders lowered ever so slightly. “How did you know that?”

“Kim snitched,” Heidi admitted. “She blew the secret.”

“I thought it would be nice to be a surprise,” Sue said, disappointed. “This is Ana. She’s an author, and…”

“There are as many lesbian books as I could get,” I said, holding out the purple tote bag.

“Purple!” exclaimed Heidi. “My favorite color. People keep giving me pink, and I don’t like pink…”

Sue and I exchanged rueful glances. So much for the pink Kindle, pen, scarf, earphones, and other gifts.

“Er. Everything’s pink,” I said.

“No, no, what I meant is that everyone keeps giving me pink, so it grows on me.” Heidi grinned, taking out her gifts. “Smarties. My favorite candy!” She popped one into her mouth.

“I didn’t know that,” Sue said.

“A scarf!”

“Ana made it,” Sue explained, drawing up a chair for me and sitting on Heidi’s bed.

“Here’s the Kindle,” I said, too excited to wait. “If some jerk tries to steal your Kindle again, we can deactivate it.”

Sue, Heidi, and I visited for over three hours. Afterward, Sue and I chatted for an hour in the parking lot. “Do you see why everyone loves her?” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered. To have been through so much and to remain so positive…it’s a lesson we should all learn.

“Sue has told me so much about you,” I’d told Heidi. “She speaks of you as if you were her own daughter.”

I’d glanced at Sue. Her eyes brimmed with tears, and she couldn’t say a word.

ONWARD AND UPWARD

As I prepared for my trip to Atlanta, something unexpected happened.

Amazon dropped the price of Kindles by 20% for Black Friday. In a mad scramble, I contacted all of the donors who had wanted to contribute after we reached the goal of 18 Kindles plus accessories. I had told everyone to wait, but the price reduction changed everything.

Overnight, I received enough money to buy 8 more Kindles. Plus the promise of additional funds at a later point.

I contacted a few other LGBT homeless shelters/youth centers to see if they were interested. Here are the preliminary results:

Lucie’s Place in Arkansas offers counseling and help, and they are raising money to build a residential shelter in the next year or two. While they couldn’t use a Kindle now, they were interested in one for the future.

Trinity Place Shelter in New York City offers shelter and support for LGBT youth who are predominantly ethnic minorities. They will receive two Kindles (for now) and will also appear on Governing Ana next year for an interview. To make Trinity even more special, I was able to meet a former member of their board who has now relocated to Atlanta.

Ali Forney Center in New York City is the oldest and most well-known organization that supports LGBT homeless. They will receive at least two Kindles within the next few weeks, possibly more. They will use the Kindles in their career and educational program which includes instruction in reading and reading comprehension. Also, they will make the Kindles available for pleasure reading during drop-in hours.

Outside In in Portland, Oregon serves all homeless youth but has a special Queerzone for LGBT youth. They have a number of different programs and are debating where best to make use of donated Kindles.

The San Diego LGBT Community Center provides help for all LGBT. We are in conversation whether the Kindles would be an appropriate fit for their programs.

If you would like to nominate your local/favorite LGBT homeless youth organization, please let me know! At the moment (due to Amazon restrictions), we need to stay within the US. We would like to include international sites, but country-specific technical support along with exorbitant shipping costs are a steep impediment for now.

TO SLEEP, PERCHANCE TO DREAM

Jared, whom you met in Part 2, touched me so much that I spoke with the staff afterward. “I’d like him to have a Kindle, if you don’t think it will cause problems for others in the center,” I said. “Use it as positive reinforcement for achieving a goal he sets for himself, so it feels like an earned reward rather than charity.”

I heard later that Jared liked the blue Kindles, and he and the staff will work out the details on their own. I also went home to find 57 books that contained plays and essays by and about Shakespeare, as well as Sophocles and a few other classics. I’m not sure if I’ll see Jared or hear from him again, but he will always hold a special place in my heart.

Not everything about my trip went as planned. There were unexpected hiccups along the way, and communication did not always flow as it should have. However, as we move forward, I will remember Jared.

Supporting an individual organization is nice, but human beings don’t support businesses (even if the Supreme Court has decreed their personhood). We support individual people, and for me it will be Jared. All of the rest is noise; getting to meet Jared made everything worthwhile.

For you, Jared. May your life be a string of better tomorrows. Dream your dreams. We’re dreaming them right with you.

And for us, may we continue to create Something Good.

 

 

For more information, visit the following:

Something Good blog

Something Good Facebook page

For donations of books, cash, or in-kind support, please read the FAQ before emailing Ana at ana_stasia2007@yahoo.com. Subject line “Something Good” plus your specific donation (books, money, etc.).

 

#GivingTuesday and making a difference (Advent Calendar, Day 4)

Yesterday, a successful grown woman told me a story. I’ll call her Annie. To look at her, no one would suspect she had encountered anything but a good life. Professional, well-spoken, and respected in her field, she has always seemed a friendly and loving person but “put together,” meaning she has her life in order.

Annie told me about a Thanksgiving in her childhood when a strange man came up to her house and dropped off a sack of food. She didn’t know who it was, and she never saw him again. She didn’t even learn his name.

Annie started to cry as she told me, “Later, my mom told me that our food stamps had run out for the month and we had no food in the house. We literally had not one thing to eat. She called a local church, desperate, and they found someone willing to donate food so we could eat on Thanksgiving.”

I didn’t hold her hand, but it was because I wanted to respect her emotional space. I wanted to hug her, to wipe away her tears, or to pat her hand. Instead, I bobbed my head in agreement as Annie came to her final point.

“When we talk about being kind and giving to others, we usually mean our family and friends. How many people are willing to give to a complete stranger? That one act changed my entire life. He didn’t end world hunger or cure cancer, but he changed my whole world for the better.”

Yesterday, the entire nation filled social media with “Giving Tuesday,” an initiative to stamp out some of the greedy, crass commercialism of the holidays and replace it with a focus on what’s most important.

Today (I know, it’s really Wednesday instead of Tuesday, but work with me), I’d like you to help me make a difference.

Making a difference is not just about money! We can:

  • offer to help someone
  • offer friendship
  • stick up for someone who has been treated unfairly
  • listen to someone who is lonely
  • rethink our prejudices
  • bite our tongue when tempted to speak harshly
  • open our hearts to someone who is not like us

Please choose one or more of the following options (or come up with your own idea) and tell us in the comments how you will make a difference today.

(Disclaimer: I chose causes that I have long supported and/or that have come up during the first few days of Advent Calendar discussions. It is not exhaustive. If a cause that you hold dear is not in this list, please add it in your comment!)

  1. Read about Invisible People, an outreach program for people who live without a home.
    “Since its launch in November 2008, InvisiblePeople.tv has leveraged the power of video and the massive reach of social media to share the compelling, gritty, and unfiltered stories of homeless people from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. The vlog (video blog) gets up close and personal with veterans, mothers, children, layoff victims and others who have been forced onto the streets by a variety of circumstances. Each week, [they’re] on InvisiblePeople.tv, and high traffic sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, proving to a global audience that while they may often be ignored, they are far from invisible.”
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  2. Learn more about Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia at Alzheimer’s Association. If you have a loved one with dementia, consider using a registry such as MedicAlert: Safely Home (Canada) or MedicAlert: Safe Return (US). For $62 plus $35 annual renewal fee, your loved one will be entered in a national, 24/7, generator-backed-up, worldwide-recognized database complete with his or her medical/personal history, emergency numbers, and a hotline should he or she ever wander off or get lost. The information hotline operators could not be more professional, helpful, or reassuring.
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  3. Read about this mom’s experience with taking her autistic child trick-or-treating and coming to terms with her parenting of a child with special needs. Sometimes it’s nothing about money and everything about compassion.
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  4. Watch this video (“Silver Line Caller: Not Lonely Anymore”) about Silver Line (UK and Scotland), a program where volunteers call elderly folks, especially those who are isolated, to chat and offer friendship. (Thank you to Ami Starsong for making me aware of this organization.)
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  5. Consider purchasing an item on the registry for Lost-N-Found Youth, an Atlanta, Georgia (US) organization that helps LGBT youth who are on the streets. Read more about their objectives on their website. You do not have to live in Atlanta to donate; you can buy an item online at My Registry (click on the first link) to have it shipped to Lost-N-Found Youth. (Thank you to Jade Crystal for contributing #5 and #6.)
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  6. Consider purchasing an item on the Amazon registry for the Ali Forney Center (New York City, US). Learn more about their work on their website, and find resources in fifteen other areas in the US.
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  7. Learn more about organ and tissue donation, and consider registering (driver’s license registration is not enough). If you have registered as an organ or tissue donor, tell your family of your wishes. They will have final say.
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  8. Make a living will. Don’t know what it is or why you need one? Read this article by the Mayo Clinic. You are never too young to make a living will (at least if you are old enough to read this blog!), and laying out your wishes in a clear form will make things easier on your loved ones should anything happen to you. 18-year-olds can (heaven forbid) become paralyzed in accidents or slip into comas. It may be hard to think about the end of your life, but your family will appreciate knowing your wishes when the time comes.
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  9. Read about the work of Covenant House Toronto. (Thank you to Michelle B. for the Canadian links.)
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  10. Consider donating to SickKids Foundation (Canada).
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  11. Browse through this list of charity organizations in Canada.
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  12. Read this list of “Random Acts of Kindness for Kids,” a list of ways for kids (and adults!) to do something nice for others. One of my favorites: Sit with someone new at lunch today. We all can appreciate someone sharing a meal with us.
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  13. Read or re-read Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary, one of the great authors of children’s fiction. It’s a wonderful story of a little girl whose family manages to survive through Dad losing his job and the children worrying whether their parents will be able to take care of them. During this season of overspending and appallingly spoiled children, reading Ramona and Her Father is a breath of fresh air. For those of us who are struggling financially (especially when children are involved), it’s a way to take comfort.
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  14. Read or re-read Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild, another book about three young children growing up in genteel poverty. Their struggles to make life interesting and worthwhile never fail to put a smile on my face.
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  15. Read about the creation of Luna, the story of a girl who was born a boy, and how people have been killed because of their sexual identity.
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  16. Learn more about and/or consider donating to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (US). This comprehensive site offers a hotline, informational posts, support, and other resources for those who have been affected by sexual mistreatment. One of their recent public education campaigns was to discourage “rapeface” as a social media joke.
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  17. From Tara Finnegan:
    Here there is a Christmas shoebox appeal, and you fill a shoe box with things like soap toothbrushes, underwear, sweets and toys and these get sent to places outside Ireland, to children who get nothing else, We do this in November, in the hope the parcels will arrive near Christmas http://secure.teamhope.ie/csa
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  18. Volunteer, sign up to foster, or donate to your local Humane Society or SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
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  19. Check out this website (courtesy of Michelle B): https://abusehurts.com/
  20. From Tracey Horton:
    Contact your local schools. The school nurse knows the families in need. They will tell you ages and if it is a boy or girl. They will do it anonymously.

    Also during summer vacation remember the hungry. A lot of kids get free breakfast and lunch at school. When summer comes they are at home and they don’t have the food. Your local food shelf needs spaghetti O’s, peanut butter, jelly, Mac and cheese. Stuff like that.

Won’t you make a difference today? Go and do it right now, and come back to let us know how it went.

P.S. A special note: Please keep Ria and her family in your prayers and thoughts today.

Today, my family is preparing an intervention for one of my siblings. They are flying in from abroad and across the US. Mental abuse is so very hard to overcome. Thankfully, no children are involved. We have prepared a place for her (furnished with ongoing support). Our challenge is to make her believe how very loved she is and to support her in all her decisions now and in the future. She knows she is loved but does not believe she is worth it. Pray for us!!

Ana Xmas Pic

Artwork by Penelope Hasler