Eating our way through Italy – a feast for body and soul

One of the highlights of our trip was eating our way through Italy. Mama mia, the food was fantastic!

Eating our way through Italy

Pizza signage outside the Pompeii Ruins.

Of our two-and-a-half weeks in the Napoli area, we only had one dinner that was just so-so. The rest of the time, every morsel that came our way was delectable.

Mealtimes in Italy are a much slower-paced than here at home. Dinner is much later in the evening – around 8 p.m. In fact, some restaurants aren’t even open for seating until 7-7:30 p.m. You won’t find hours-long waiting, either. At least that was our experience. It was really nice to eat at a leisurely pace and not feel like we needed to rush through our meal because there are people in line, waiting for a table.

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Flying – Six Air Travel Tips to Help you Survive your Trip

flying

Flying high in the sky

Flying these days is not as fun as it used to be.

Growing up in the 1960s, there are certain advertising jingles burned into my memory. United Airlines’ “Fly the Friendly Skies” is one of them.

Ironic how that jingle can be used against them now. If, somehow, you missed this viral story, here’s one of many links you can find to read up on it.

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It rained on our last day in Italy

Piazza - Napoli, Italy

One of many – A piazza in Napoli

It rained on our last day in Italy.

How apropos. As a writer, I am always looking out for metaphors and foreshadowing. So when the skies started to darken in the early afternoon, it seemed about right. My mood was a bit gloomy. After two and a half weeks of perfect weather, our perfect vacation was coming to an end.

A year ago at this time, we were prepping for my husband’s deployment. He’d be gone for about ten months. The third time in ten years he’d be gone for an extended time, but this time around, there would be no mid-tour breaks.

Deployments are always a challenge. But this one, by far, was the hardest. Maybe because we’d never been apart ten straight months. In the almost-34 years since we’e been married, the most we’d ever been apart was six months. A week or two of respite mid-tour provided something to look forward to. But not this time.

Ten months is a long time to be apart. Like other military families, we have come to acknowledge that this is now our way of life – our sacrifice. But you never get used to it. And it never, ever, gets easier.

One grows weary of doing things alone – from eating to attending weddings, graduations, funerals and the like. There is always a “Deployment Disaster,” and this time was no different. A few years ago, we had a pipe break under the basement floor. A smelly, messy repair. This time, our hot water tank blew, and the entire brake system in the car needed to be replaced. And the disasters don’t take into account the emotional toll families go through with illness, injury and deaths.

You live for the phone calls – and yes, we were blessed this time to talk almost daily. I learned a few deployments ago to expand my horizons, and this last time was no different. I returned to college to complete my degree; took a few art classes, and stepped out of my comfort zone a few times more than I planned.

At the end of this deployment, we decided to do something completely different this time around. Since all of our children are adults now, we decided to reintegrate after deployment in a brand-new way. Because school schedules, proms and graduations are now all complete, we had no reason to hang around town during my husband’s leave. Plus, we needed something to look forward to after ten months of stress and crazy schedules.

Cappucino in Italy

Cappucino

A few years ago, hubby spent six weeks on temporary orders in Italy. I’m mature enough to admit that I was jealous, and I often reminded him of my jealousy. Since I was a little girl, I have wanted to go to Italy. I remember eating many delicious dinners at my godparents’ home, so my love of Italian food has been rooted in me for a half-century. In grade school, I was fascinated that Italy looked like a boot. And then years and years of seeing pictures, reading travel blogs and watching documentaries of this magical place just fed my desire to get there.

And get there, we did.

Not only did I want to see Italy, I wanted to experience Italy. The history, the food, the fashion, the culture and the people.

Pompeii Ruins, Italy

Pompeii Ruins

For two and a half weeks, we ate the most amazing food, drank the most incredible wines, enjoyed delicious espressos and cappuccinos, walked the most historic ruins and relaxed by the Mediterranean Sea. Friends that my husband made five years ago welcomed us both with open arms, and shared their country with us.

Napoli Pizza in Italy

It was amazing.

Our entire time in the Naples (Napoli) area was rich with every positive experience I had dreamed of. It was emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally the vacation we both needed.

I can’t count the number of times I prayed and thanked God for the gift He gave my husband and I with our trip.

I can’t count the number of times I have shared our trip with others, and the excitement and peace that I found on that trip is recreated in my soul.

I can’t guarantee that I won’t bore some people to tears with tales of our adventure. I guess that is a risk that you, my cherished reader, will have to take, as I present to you a series of posts on our trip.

I felt broken in 2016. I lost myself in the myriad of problems I faced while my husband was away. Grieving the loss of loved ones; health problems and surgeries of loved ones; loneliness, even though I wasn’t necessarily alone; loss and dismay due to the nastiness brought on by politics. I had a writer’s block that couldn’t be budged, and an anxiety level that could rock me to the core.

And yet, once I boarded the plane with my husband, all of that angst began to melt away. I have never felt more relaxed in my life. I appreciated my faith more – and it had nothing to due with air turbulence or insane driving experiences in a foreign land. I felt rooted; I felt grounded – maybe that’s what the mountains and the sea will do for one’s soul.

In-Flight to Naples, Italy

In-flight to Naples

Over the next few weeks, I will write about all of our experiences and travels in one of the most beautiful regions of the world.

Yes, it rained on our last day in Italy. And when we met up with one of our friends – who is learning English – he apologized that it was raining on our last day in country. “Italy is sad to see us leave,” I said. He smiled, nodded, and replied, “You make a joke that I understand. It is funny.”

Yes, it may have been funny. We were pleased he began to understand our tongue-in-cheek vernacular.  However, the rain mixed in with my tears as we said “arrivederci” to our friends. It wasn’t the weather we wanted for our last day, but for sure, it provided a great metaphor to use, and one that I etched into my heart and my travel journal.

©  2017 – Lynne Cobb

Have you traveled to Italy? Share your experience in the comment section! If you like this post, share the love by using one of the social media buttons 🙂

 

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I am weary

I am weary

I am weary

I’m not sure about anyone else, but I am weary.

“Oh, I am very weary, Though tears no longer flow; My eyes are tired of weeping, My heart is sick of woe.” Anne Bronte

A friend posted a question on Facebook the other day. “Is it me, or is Facebook not fun anymore?”

To answer the question, no, it’s not you.

For the past few years, what used to be a fun way to reconnect has been anything but fun. It has been nothing but a constant barrage of political pain. A soul-sucking, life-draining experience. I even had someone remark that I hadn’t been on Facebook much lately. That’s true. It has mentally worn me out.

I think most people felt that no matter who won the election, the crazy would finally be over. Hah! Anything but. In my opinion, it is worse.

I am weary.

I can’t even count the number of people I talk to who are exhausted. It doesn’t matter the age, gender or economic status. Sleep seems to elude everyone.

I was chalking it up to hot flashes in the middle of the night, or too much coffee during the day, or too much on my to-do list. The lack of sleep had been affecting me on all levels – to include my writing (or lack thereof) and other creative endeavors.

But I think it is more. I think it is the constant negativity on social media, at social gatherings and on the news.

I am weary.

All the bickering and fighting about rights and who’s right is getting us absolutely nowhere. Nothing is positive is happening. Families are divided, friends are no longer friends.

I long for the days on social media where someone’s bowl oatmeal was filling my news feed.

While I appreciate people taking a stand, I have to wonder what that stand is doing. Is it changing anything for the better? Or is it furthering the divide?

Recent examples are the women’s marches and the pro-life marches. Who did it help? Did everyone attending these protests accomplish anything other than “solidarity” for their cause and drive a wedge even deeper?

I think of the time and money spent on these public displays. Could it have been spent better?

You won’t find me marching or protesting. First, my knees would not cooperate. But on a more serious and important level, I personally feel that my time, money and talents can be used for something more.

If you can spend time and money knitting protest caps, maybe you can use that same energy to knit chemo caps for cancer patients.

If you can spend time and money marching for life, maybe you can use that same time and money to buy and deliver diapers, layettes and formula to a pregnancy resource center.

If you can spend time and money marching for immigrants at an airport, maybe you can go to an intake organization for these people and donate furniture and clothing to those who arrive here with a suitcase and no provisions.

If we have a passion for what we protest for, then we need to also take care of the people with our actions.

[ctt title=”If we have a passion for what we protest for, then we need to also take care of the people with our actions.” tweet=”If we have a passion for what we protest for, then we need to also take care of the people with our actions. https://ctt.ec/5Ezp7+” coverup=”5Ezp7″]

It doesn’t matter what our politics are, because in the end, we are all people with opinions and the resources to make life better for others.

I think about the thousands and thousands of people at the recent protests who could have come together and filled the pantries at local food banks, served meals at homeless shelters, delivered food to homebound seniors, pulled weeds in a community garden or bought gift cards for groceries for a struggling family in their neighborhood.

For me, the only thing positive that has come from this continuous battle of the wills to be right instead of being the change, is to remind myself that I need to do more to make my corner of the world a better place. And I have already started to make that change.

The only way to heal this country is to start small. Like the old cliché poem of “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” that is the only way we can start to come together. One person doing one small thing for another person. That is all it takes.

So, I ask of you, friend or foe, can we put the politics aside and put the barbs down? Can we work together? Can we be respectful of one another, whether we agree with each other or not? If we work side-by-side, we just might realize that we are more alike than different. Then we can work together on effectively tackling other issues.

And then, maybe then, we won’t feel so weary.

© Lynne Cobb – 2017

Are you feeling weary? Share in the comment section. Please be respectful of others.

 

 

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Merry Christmas Eve Eve – the longest day of the year!

sugary things

Merry Christmas Eve Eve – the longest day of the year – especially if you are a parent!

It’s December 23, and if you are a parent, today is – without a doubt – the longest day of the year. I remember my brood of four bouncing off the walls on “Christmas Eve Eve.” Every. Single. Year.

I’d try my best to keep them occupied by decorating cookies or have them cleaning their rooms… yes, they had to make room for the anticipated new gifts. Whatever works! Or, if the weather was good, I’d send them outside to wear themselves out playing in the snow.

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How to thank a vet on Veterans’ Day

Veterans Day

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans’ Day.

Sometimes the meaning of these days of recognition get confused. Veterans’ Day – today – we salute all who have served: both during war and peace time – those who are still living. Memorial Day is reserved for those died. (Source: http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetday_faq.asp)

Today is a great day to say “thank you” to anyone who has served. Memorial Day is a day of respect and reflection for our war dead. A day of somber remembrance.

So why do we recognize someone who “volunteers” to go into the military? Ah – good question. Because these folks “volunteer,” we don’t have a draft. If for no other reason than that, thank you!

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T’was the Night before the Election

Night before the election

T’was the Night before the Election

T’was the night before the Election and all through the States, people were worried; some tongues spewing hate.

I, in my blue jeans and soft, fuzzy sweater, signed off of Facebook, all for the better.

Was hoping to see pictures of puppies or s’mores; instead I saw memes and fighting and more.

It saddened me deeply to see all this fright; all griping and moaning – who’s wrong and who’s right.

I fondly remember the elections of yore, when voting was really much less of a chore.

When one would draw a curtain and pull down a lever, be on their way, and hope for the better.

No social media to wear me down; Something really bad happened this time around.

Good friends lament that opinions do matter; Yet once shared, they are all feeling battered.

Families have split over political choices; Colleagues argue and raise up their voices.

Mean comments are left on Facebook and Twitter; Hateful and vicious, making us sicker.

It’s hard to believe that folks will part ways; But it seems that is happening a whole lot these days.

To me it’s not worth living under election duress; I like too many people to lose them over this stress.

If we choose who we like by a sign in their yard; Then these next few days may be really hard.

But if we choose who we like because of genuine care, we won’t have the burden of relationship repair. (Honestly these candidates aren’t worth it – I swear!)

But it’s not their fault we’re all so divided; It’s a decision we made when we first started fighting.

Election Day will bring wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth; Then it will be over – and hopefully we’ll sleep.

No matter who wins, our days won’t much change. We’ll eat, and work and manage someway.

If your neighbor votes red or if they vote blue, you still have to live next to them, isn’t that true?

And will you really write off your daughter or son, just because they didn’t “vote for the one?”

At the end of the day, one candidate will win; And in a few years, we will start this nonsense again.

So, let’s be civil and kind and respect each other. Don’t let these candidates come between one another.

Neither are worth it, that’s a fact. They will move forward, but can you go back?

Can you go back to Facebook and try to repair; The friendship you trashed over this insane affair?

Election Day may find winners drinking with glee; And it may find some drinking; drowning their sorrow.

Yet united we stand, because on this we agree: Thank God this election is OVER tomorrow!

© Lynne Cobb – 2016

Have you had enough of the nonsense during this election? Share your story in the comments. And if you like this post, feel free to share using the social share icons below. Thanks for reading! 🙂

 

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True confessions: Author anxiety and public events

Author anxiety

Author anxiety

Author anxiety and public events. The struggle is real. Whether you have a book signing, a speech or other public venue scheduled on your calendar, have a laugh and do as I say, not as I do did. 

Over the years, I have planned some successful soirees – our daughter’s backyard wedding; baby and bridal showers, holiday brunches and so forth. My expertise is not so much in the planning, as I’m happy to be the behind-the-scenes supporting cast. No one complains about issues at when you are serving them wine and chocolate cake.

But there I times that I have to strike out on my own, which can produce author anxiety. Especially as a midlife writer attending my first book signing.

Though I didn’t plan the main event I will be attending, I certainly had to plan for my own little part of this big day.

Am I anxious? You betcha! It is like the first day of school – excited to see everyone, nervous I will be making a faux paus or two.

The Girl Scout in me is doing my best to “Be Prepared.” The MilSpouse in me knows I can pretty much roll through anything.

So as I scrutinized myself in the mirror this morning, looking for blemishes and stray hairs, a few practical event-planning ideas popped into my brain. Though my dad used to mention I might be “a hard-head,” I prefer to think of myself more as a “hands-on learner.” Trust me when I say I have a Masters in How to Embarrass Myself and a Doctorate from the School of Hard Knocks.

Allow me to share what I have learned in life, should you need to represent yourself at a public event:

Facial waxing: Don’t do this the day of your event. A red, swollen lip will just bring attention to the fact you have waxed your meno-stache. Some beauty secrets needn’t be shared. Plus it affects your speech. Trust me, you will thank me for this.

New make-up: The day of your event is not the time to experiment with the latest make-up trends. One time, I thought adding a bit of blue eye shadow to my lower lid would make my eyes pop and look fab with my dress. Sadly, I looked like Mimi from The Drew Carey Show. Also, if you have never used eyeliner, THIS IS NOT THE DAY to try it. Heed my advice and eliminate stabbing yourself in the eyeball, making tears of colors streak down your face while sporting the Elvira look.

Workout routine: The day before your event is not the time to go the extra mile – literally or figuratively. I may have tried to do a plank one time, which may have pulled a muscle that I didn’t know existed, which may have prevented me from breathing properly when trying to talk in front of a small crowd. Maybe.

Fine dining: Stick to a what you know works well with your body. A new food may result in hives or digestive issues. And think about your favorite foods, like that yummy garlic dip with fresh-baked pita bread. Um, experience has taught me that the aroma of garlic seeps from every pore of one’s body. Though I’ve been told garlic is good for keeping colds and flu at bay, it is also good for keeping people at bay.

Clothing: Try on your outfit ahead of time, using a 360-mirror. And don’t decide to change your turtle neck after you have curled and shellacked your hair in place.

New shoes: Of course you need new shoes! Duh!!! That being said, test them first. Limping and wincing doesn’t make you look like a heroine, however, it may get you some sympathy sales.

Lugging gear: A few summers ago, I almost bought a collapsible shopping cart for going to our local farmers’ market. But since that would have given off an “old lady vibe,” I concluded that struggling with heavy plastic grocery bags that cut off the circulation in my hands would be the better option. I’m fairly certain that blue-tinged fingers without any sensation won’t allow me to sign any books, so I now use a carry-on bag with wheels to lug my gear.

Beauty sleep: “Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. You need to be rested for your writers’ debut.” These are wonderful and wise words from my dear husband. After thirty-plus years, he knows the deal. That even if I look like I am asleep, my brain doesn’t disengage. “Do I have enough books to sell?” or worse, “Will I sell anything?” Or, “What if I trip in front of everyone?” Or, “What if I get a zit?”

Which leads me to my final bit of advice:

Breathe. Hah! How can I do that when I’m caught up in my brain’s “worst case scenario” escapades? When my frontal cortex goes into all out panic, I tend to forget to breathe. So, I will mentally note to make use of my lungs. And as a precaution, I will toss some relaxation-inducing essential oils into my carry-on bag. Who cares if it is a placebo effect? Whatever works, until I can get home and toast the day with a glass of wine. And some chocolate.

© Lynne Cobb – 2016

If you have any tips to share, please do so in the comment section! Also, if you think my experiences will help someone plan for an event, feel free to share using one of the social media icons on this page.

 Not able to attend the book signing? Here’s a link to Feisty after 45. 

feisty-book-signing

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Autumn, Grief and Season of Change

Season of change

Season of change

Life is a season of change…

This morning I had the privilege of watching my granddaughters before school started. It was a “late start day,” which used to cause me some angst in the mornings. I know it messes up the routine for many working parents, since an hour of childcare is needed at an awkward time, causing a disruption in the usual hurried morning.

But these days, since I don’t have to corral sleeping kids off to school in the morning, I enjoy helping out by having the girls over for breakfast – even if they ended up eating the pumpkin muffins their mom sent over for me.

We had a little silly time, a little talk time, and a few rounds of playing “Go Fish.” I laughed when one of the girls said, “You go first because you are the oldest,” which I thought sounded much better than, “Because you are old.” A little before nine, we headed outside. A neighbor was going to drop them off at school, so I walked them down the sidewalk adjacent to our yard, which is now sporting a beautiful blanket of colorful leaves – a season of change.

“Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize when something’s time has passed and be able to move into the next season. Everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings.” – Henry Cloud

Just a moment ago, it was summer, and they were running around in the yard catching fireflies in jars or doing cartwheels or playing basketball. Now, they will be excited to come over and rake all the leaves into a huge pile and jump into it.

As they made their way into our neighbor’s car, I turned around and looked at the yard. Other than the leaves and my trusty dog, it was completely empty and quiet.

Though it seems like yesterday, it was almost ten years ago that our yard had a completely different look. It was a hot summer day, and it was early morning when my husband, kids and a few other relatives were moving around under the huge canopies set up for our oldest daughter’s wedding. My husband made a wedding trellis; tables and chairs were decorated; a dance floor was set up, and we were ready to welcome more than 100 family and friends to celebrate.

Sometimes when I look into the yard, I can’t believe how it had held so many people, and how beautiful it looked with tulle along the fence line and pots of flowers scattered throughout. So many people pitched in to help. So many people attended and shared a special day.

I thought of all the people that filled our yard that summer day.

For a moment, I let myself have a cry. In less than a decade, both sides of the family have lost dear loved ones: my dad, my grandfather, my great-aunt, my husband’s cousin; the groom’s grandmother, and, sadly, this year within ten months, we lost the groom’s parents. I was kind of taken aback, because I didn’t expect to look at my quiet yard and feel so moved. Just standing on the sidewalk, I looked over the fence and saw where everyone was sitting, smiling and talking.

Grief doesn’t really know a time frame. Some days you smile at memories, and sometimes you weep. There isn’t a right way to grieve, or a wrong way. You never know which way a memory will take you, so you just go through the moment.

Maybe today’s memory happened because the leaves on the grass reminded me of my dad and his vigilant effort to get them out of his yard. Maybe it happened because the quiet was a little too quiet once the girls left for school. Maybe it was because of hormones. Or maybe it is because midlife is like fall – a beautiful, colorful season of change – a time of enormous transformation, yet a time to reflect and perhaps even mourn.

Watching the next generation skip down the side walk heading to the neighbor’s and ultimately to school, the grief lifted momentarily. How could I not smile as they waved and yelled, “Bye, Mema!” They are so full of life and wonder and growth – like spring.

Back in the house, I allowed myself to mourn a bit more. I realized that like summer, life seems short. I took a few minutes to remember the loved ones my granddaughters are probably too young to remember. I thanked God for the people that are in my life, and those who no longer are – physically, anyway – because they will always be alive in my heart.

And I promised those we’ve lost that we will keep them alive in my granddaughters’ hearts, too. They loved those little girls, just as we do. So, we will make great memories and tell the girls stories about the ones we loved and lost – the ones who shared a special wedding day with us – the day that was the beginning of their little family, and a day I cried happy tears when I looked into the yard.

© Lynne Cobb –  2016

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; …” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-22

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Remembering September 11 – Fifteen years later

Remembering September 11

Remembering September 11 at the Flight 93 Memorial

Remembering September 11 – Where were you?

September 11, 2001. Has it been 15 years already? It doesn’t seem possible.

Apparently, it is. Our youngest was in preschool; now, she’s in her second year of college. Our granddaughters are older than our two youngest were the day of the attacks.

Fifteen years – a blink of an eye for some of us; an eternity for those who lost loved ones.

Most of my peers can recall that day like it happened yesterday.  Our children and now grandchildren heard – or will hear of – the stories and learn about this event in history class.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, were referred to as the “Pearl Harbor” of our day.

Remembering September 11, I recall the fear and the sadness of that day. Our children talk about how eerily quiet it was. Such a pretty day, yet no one was outside playing. The skies were quiet as all aircraft was grounded. Towards evening, our neighbors gathered somberly. I remember how the stages of grief began to unfold: specifically shock, sadness and anger. I couldn’t tear myself away from the images on TV, and yet I couldn’t bear to watch. I recall how sleep wasn’t an escape, and morning came with the wonder of whether the attacks happened or it was all a bad dream.

It’s hard not to remember the day our world changed. Some changes for the worse, and some for the better. We saw horrific images and mourned the loss of thousands. But we also saw humanity and bravery at its best – strangers helping strangers. We witnessed selfless acts.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV

Sadly, it seems we have forgotten what it is like to put our differences aside for the common good of all. Once, though we stood on opposite sides of politics, religion and countless other opinions, we were able to push that aside and embrace our common humanity. Today, we let those differences define us and stand toe to toe, trying to come out on top of our arguments.

I have written about military life, patriotism and September 11, 2001, countless times. Last fall, my husband and I had the opportunity to stop at the Flight 93 National Memorial, a site so humble and haunting. A site where heroes stopped a planned attack on the nation’s capital, where we had also spent some time visiting that same weekend.

Remember September 11

Remembering September 11 at the Flight Memorial

“A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” Ecclesiastes 3:4 KJV

It is my hope, that as we recall the events of the terror attacks, we recall the humanitarian acts in the days that followed. By remembering the good, we would find our common ground again. Instead of bickering, we would be compassionate. That we stop a moment and remember the lives that were lost and the life that we continue to live.

 “I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.” Ecclesiastes 3:12 KJV

I hope that we remember that evil doesn’t triumph. I hope we remember that even though tragedies make the headlines, that there is still good in the world. That even during tumultuous times, there are still people willing to put on a uniform every day – be it military members, police officers, firefighters or EMTs – to make sure that our little corner of the world is safe. That in an emergency, these brave souls will risk their own lives for the good of a stranger.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 KJV

On this day, we are remembering September 11, 2001. May we #NeverForget

© Lynne Cobb – September 2016

Remembering September 11

Remembering September 11

 

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