Savor the Moment

22 02 2014

Savor is the best word to describe yesterday’s lunch. I would not have guessed that my writing would have led me to a little French bistro in New Orleans to meet with friends I did not know when I started this blog.

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I stumbled onto a bloghop on Huffington Post last fall. It was from a group of midlife women bloggers, I was intrigued and looked up this group and soon became a part of it. Chloe was a founder of this group and I became a fan of her blog. I was always amazed by how open and honest she was in her writing. I work at a woman’s specialty hospital and she is an OB/GYN nurse, so I also felt a connection because of our day jobs. This midlife group grew and became an online zine and Chloe and I continued to get to know each other when she interviewed me in a video.

I love the magic of when you meet someone and instantly connect. She and the other women I met in this online group were the main reason I attended BlogHer in Chicago last summer. That’s where I met Cheryl, much to my delight, a blogger from my part of the world. Cheryl and I connected again in New Orleans and after a bloody mary (or two) we knew we had found a new friend in each other.

87776577-2When Chloe and her husband planned a New Orleans vacation, we conspired to steal a few hours for a girlfriend-only visit. I drove the 90 miles to Cheryl’s classic, stately historic home and Chloe arrived by streetcar a short walk from Cheryl’s pleasant house.  We chose the French bistro, Café Degas for lunch in a lovely non-touristy part of town. We drove through streets that were preparing for the onslaught of Mardi Gras parades, but were still quiet. Cheryl and I both shared our love of this city as we drove through it on this almost-spring day. There had been a loud thunderstorm the night before and the raindrops that still clung to the trees made the tender spring green leaves brighter and the Japanese Magnolias’ blooms were a little bigger. 465585553-1

The next few hours was spent in smart and insightful conversation. We were equally as interested in what each other had to say as we were in sharing our own thoughts. The conversation ranged in topics as we are all women who have lived full, well-traveled lives. If we did not solve all the world’s problems, our talking about them left us hopeful of the world our children and their future children will live in. The big takeaway we ended with was, how lucky we felt to be women living in this country at this moment in time.

What a remarkable time we live in, right now and right here. Cheryl, Chloe and I would never have met without social media and blogging. Things that simply did not exist a few years ago. The three of us do not earn a living as writers and yet our writing is now published. People from around the world that we will never know, read our words and connect to us. Individual voices are being heard in a way that has never before been experienced. That’s real power.

It was a lunch full of delicious wit, intellect and friendship. It was a great connection for a few short hours before we left to continue our separate journeys. I’ll continue to savor that lunch for a long time.

Chloe, Cheryl and me

Chloe, Cheryl and me

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The Blogosphere

29 12 2013

Year’s end is a natural time to stop and look where I’ve been. I started my blog because I needed a place to express my creative voice, which is why I call it My Creative Journey. All journeys have twists and turns that lead us to unexpected places. My blogging journey is no exception.

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It was last year on Huffington Post that I stumbled on a bloghop by a group of midlife women. I then found this group on Facebook, and in what was a bold move by me, asked to join. It was through this warm and accepting group of fabulous women that I became comfortable calling myself a writer.

More importantly, I developed new friends over the last year and I want to introduce you to some of them. Each has a unique and authentic voice that I admire.

Midlife Boulevard is a great group of women with a great website. It’s is run by friends, Sharon Greenthal of Empty House Full Mind  and Anne “Not a Super Mom” Parris.  I’m thrilled to be a part of this group and their monthly bloghops have both pushed and challenged my writing.

Generation Fabulous is now organized by Chloe Jeffreys, an OB/GYN nurse. My day job is at a woman’s specialty hospital; the challenges in today’s healthcare market are something we both care about. Her journey has taken her to Haiti this year and she brings her readers on her life journey at Chloe of the Mountain.  

Another group that I discovered and now write for is Better After 50 (BA50). This is yet another group of powerful women writers. Their tagline is real women, real stories.

It was because of the connections to these groups that I went to BlogHer in Chicago this summer to meet my new friends IRL. I roomed with someone I had never met and only knew through blogging. Virginia Sullivan and I became instant BFFs. Virginia can be found at First Class Woman.  She writes from the point of view of being a professional woman in corporate world.  I know we have something that we are going to do together in the future; we’re not sure what it’s going to be, but look out when it happens!!

I have several friends who have health blogs and the following three have all been nominated for a prestigious award, the Wego Health Activist Award. Check them out (the award link is on their name) and give them a vote.

Cathy Chester is one of the kindest women I’ve ever met. An Empowered Spirit is about life and about living with MS. Her sweet spirit shines through her words in every post.

Ruth Curran writes Cranium Crunches.  It’s about keeping your brain active and in shape. She was inspired by my post on New Orleans as a way to keep your senses fully engaged.

Walker Thornton is another fascinating writer I’ve come to know who writes about sex at The Diva of Dating. I admire how she puts her life’s experience out to the world over a subject she believes all women should embrace and enjoy fully.

Lois Alter Mark is another new friend. She just won Blogger Idol, Woot! Midlife at the Oasis always brings a smile to my face. (She also went with Oprah to Australia—how cool is that.)

I’ve become friends with women who live far away from my little Louisiana world. I enjoy the words of Karen and Wendy Irving, sisters who share writing duties at After the Kids Leave. One sister lives in Canada and the other one in England.

Amanda Fox of The Fur Flies is another Canadian with whom I’ve connected through the blogosphere. While we live miles apart, we share a similar sense of humor and have discovered unexpected similarities.

I made an instant friend at BlogHer from New Orleans, Cheryl at A Pleasant House. I’ve had the great pleasure of visiting Cheryl’s beautiful and very pleasant house. I know my love of New Orleans and cocktails will bring us on adventures in the near future.

I love when synchronicity happens. While I’ve developed friends near and far from blogging, it’s the two women in my own backyard that have been the best gifts this year.

Lisa Froman and Melinda Walsh and I have all had similar career paths, are close to the same age, live in the same town—where all of us advertising types know each other. And even though we have many of the same friends, we somehow didn’t know each other. It was the blogosphere that connected us in a way that our careers never did. We now don’t let many weeks go by without getting together (and we are overdue).

Lisa has written an insightful book, Tao Flashes. Her blog is a continuation of the book’s insights.  She looks at the Tao through the eyes of midlife and writes of how to bring the Tao’s age-old lessons into our lives. We even guest blogged on each other’s sites.

Melinda is a storyteller and her blog is how we are in charge of our own story.  It’s called Love Applied and if you go to her blog you can see the pictures from her recent wedding!

I’ve made so many blog friends this year that this post would go on for days if I listed them all. I look forward to where this journey will take me in the New Year. One thing for sure is that there will be unexpected twists in this journey that will lead to new adventures that will lead to new stories to tell.

If you like My Creative Journey, I’d love for you to follow me. My posts will then arrive in your email and I promise no spam.





When the Levees Broke

22 09 2013

 

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Before and after Katrina is how we mark time down here in Louisiana. We just passed the 8-year anniversary of that milestone hurricane. The lives we knew were washed away when the levees broke. For my high school friend, Karen and I, it marked the washing away of our long-term marriages. My husband moved out the week before the hurricane and Karen moved out of her home, the week after. We found our friendship in the storm’s aftermath and often clung to each other for support.

94992665We both realize the women we were back then wouldn’t recognize the women we are today. Eight years ago newly single with a teenage daughter; I was scared and expecting to be laid off from my job. While that did not happen, it made me question what did I want to do. I tried out a home-based business giving wine tasting parties (a lot of fun, but I drank all my profits). That led me to get over my fear of pubic speaking, which led me to becoming president of my professional club, which led me to giving workshops on creativity, which led me to starting a design business with my sweetie, which led me to discover new talents and strengths. Most importantly I learned to let go of fear and to embrace things outside my comfort zone.

140381196Karen left her affluent life and empty marriage to find meaning in her life after her kids had grown. She moved back to her hometown to family and friends who were critical of her decision. She went from moving in with her mother, to crummy first apartment, to nicer apartment, to buying a house, to renovating that house and making it her oasis. Her small job with an old family friend grew as his company was bought and sold and bought and sold. It is now part of the largest engineering company of its kind in North America. With each evolution of the company, Karen’s job has grown and she’s moved up the corporate ladder. She’s now moving to the center of business for the Eastern region. All of her strengths have come out and are shining brightly.

Karen’s moving up North…to Nashville. Her moving is bittersweet. We recognize that we are closing a chapter in our lives. Her renovated house has a For Sale sign in front and boxes are waiting for the movers. The days of dropping by each other’s home or creating a spontaneous adventure are over as we know it. We know our friendship will shift and change.

I was just in New Orleans for a fun romantic weekend with the man I’ve been in a loving relationship with for 4 years. After the levees broke, I believed that city would never be the same. I was right, but not how I imagined it. I would never have imagined that young people would flood the city post Katrina with their new innovative entrepreneurial spirit. These newcomers wanted to be a part of reinventing their lives while reinventing this old drowned city. They’ve embraced the unique, creative, funky culture and infused it with a new vibe. The dark depressive cloud that hung over the city has blown over. Arts, music, food, business, housing, education are now filled with this new spirit as new ideas and new ways of doing things are happening. And the wonderful, live-and-let-live-with-a-go-cup-in-hand New Orleans spirit is still embraced, it didn’t wash away.

Me and Karen shopping at the Farmer’s Market and cooking up an adventure.

Me and Karen shopping at the Farmer’s Market and cooking up an adventure.

Like the crescent city, Karen and I have reinvented our separate lives. We haven’t ignored our own past, but we’ve grown and built on it. We’ve moved past our after-Katrina chapter. We’ve rebuilt the levees, hopefully strong enough to withstand future storms.

I’ve learned to flow with the current that my life leads me to. It sometimes takes a storm to push us in a new direction. It’s good to occasionally take time to look back at how far we’ve come. I’m grateful for where my journey has taken me. I’m going to miss my friend, but I’m also looking forward to where new travels will take us.

If you like My Creative Journey, I’d love for you to follow me. My posts will then arrive in your email and I promise no spam. 





Life is Like a Song

19 08 2013

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It has been a season filled with friends and music. Songs speak to us and can bring us back to special moments in our lives. From road trips, to weddings, to milestone birthdays, this season’s songs have kept singing to me of love and friendship.

If dreams were thunder
Lightening was desire
This old house would’ve burned down 
A long time ago
—Angel from Montgomery, sung by Bonnie Raitt and by me in my car driving to see her

I took a road trip across the south to listen to Bonnie Raitt perform at the classic Sanger theater in downtown Mobile. Her music has been playing in the background for more than half of my life. The real reason for the trip was to hang out with one of my dearest and oldest friends. She and I have shared our life’s stories over countless cups of coffee and equally countless glasses of wine. There’s been times when I’ve fled to sit on her porch to cry over lost love, but mostly we get together and laugh. We’ve watched our children grow up, seen our life upsized, downsized, our intimate relationships shift and change, our careers evolve and we have always accepted each other for who we are.

We’ve always said when we get old, we’re going to open a Voodoo Shoppe in the French Quarter and live above it and yell at people from our balcony as they pass by on the street. Sometimes we practice what we would yell from her porch overlooking her pool to imaginary people…this always makes us cackle. Bonnie Raitt, John Prine, New Orleans Jazz Fest—music is always playing in the background of our friendship.

And when I tell you that I love you oh
You’re gonna say you love me too oh
—I Should Have Known Better, a Beatles tune sung by my daughter at a friend’s wedding

My daughter is a musician. Her school years were filled with piano/flute/oboe/choir performances. She stepped away from her music for a short while and has recently rediscovered it with an unlikely instrument, the ukulele. She’s playing and singing for the pure joy of it these days. A casual video of her singing caught the attention of a work friend as she began to plan her wedding. And before too much time had passed, there was my baby girl playing her old flute and her new ukulele and singing in her beautiful clear voice at the wedding. With the setting sun backlighting the scene, a fresh take on an old Beatles classic was a perfect song to float in the air at this lovely outdoor wedding. My friend, the bride is closer to my daughter in age and they have become friends.

The bride’s grandmother is an amazing energetic 94-year-old who got up with the band at the reception and sang “Jambalaya”. Her grandmother recently discovered jello shots. She’ll tell you in her southern drawl, “Yes, they are delicious, I like to make mine with bourbon.” We’ve discovered several unexpected connections between our families. There we all were, new friends with old family connections spanning generations, singing and dancing and celebrating with the bride and groom the beginning of their journey together.

Songs about hope and dreams
Songs about loving everything
—Beneath these Strings, a song by friend Martin Flanagan on his new first-ever CD

Flyin Alligator waterfront lounge

Friends and family gathered to celebrate a milestone birthday of my sweetie. A cool, crisp night, under a full moon with it’s long refection across the dark river, sitting on a pier that bridges the space between land and water. Full of gumbo, drink in hand, surrounded by friendships that spilled across decades. A night full of storytelling and reminders of long-forgotten stories. Listening to friends sing their songs and play their music. Well…it all made for a magical evening that took my breath away. I’m also thankful no one fell off that pier.

My sweetie and I have been friends for over thirty years. We know many of the same songs that have been milestones in our separate lives. We’re approaching our fourth year anniversary of our first kiss. Life, love and friendship are all singing together this season.

At last
My love has come along 
My lonely days are over 
And life is like a song
—At Last, me and my sweetie’s song

If you like My Creative Journey, I’d love for you to follow me. My posts will then arrive in your email and I promise no spam.

 





Adventures From BlogHer; Chapter 1

31 07 2013

BlogHer, the world’s largest blogging conference for women was a remarkable event to be a part of. 5000 bloggers there equaled 93 million followers and Midlife Bloggers was among the most mentioned topics.  I kept trying to be profound while attempting to write this and then I’d just start laughing thinking about all the adventures I had. I started writing and then kept writing. This post got real long, it’s turned into a novella, so I’ve decided to break it down into three chapters. I learned blogs shouldn’t be as long as a novella. This is Chapter 1 of 3. 

Business Cards are big at BlogHer. You start handing them out to everyone you encounter from the moment you step off the plane.

Business Cards are big at BlogHer. You start handing them out to everyone you encounter from the moment you step off the plane.

Thursday’s Adventures
I started blogging last summer. A few women I sincerely respect told me I needed to go to BlogHer.  I saw some buzz on the Generation Fabulous  Facebook page and decided on the last day of the early bird special in January to sign up. Virginia Sullivan, First Class Woman and I had met in the virtual world and only know each other through this fabulous blogging group we’re a part of. (I learned that’s how you introduce yourself at BlogHer; your name, your blog name and a very quick sentence that says everything about who you are and then you hand out your card.) We were both looking for roomies.  Two other women decided not to attend after agreeing to room with me, so the universe kindly put Virginia and I together.

I wasn’t concerned with rooming with someone I didn’t know. She was from wine country, so I figured, hey, I bet she’ll at least have a glass of wine with me.  We arrived at the hotel within 30 minutes of each other and immediately agreed to get out and walk Chicago on that beautiful, cool day. It was my first visit to the windy city and it is beautiful. Our hotel was within sight of the blue waters of Lake Michigan. We found an outdoor café and by the end of lunch we had become instant friends. We’re both extroverts, view life from the same lens, are the same age, empty nesters, happy in our lives, we’ve been blogging around the same amount of time, both have corporate day jobs and were newbies at BlogHer. And yes, she liked that occasional glass of wine too.

After a brief adventure of “where did Connie lose her glasses”, we made it over to the exhibit hall, which was Brand Mecca, all the vendors wanting to be in fellowship with you. All had fun, clever ways to interact, sample their product, tweet their message out and were eager to have real conversations with you.

Before and after eating a Snickers bar.

Before and after eating a Snickers bar.

Virginia and I are both talkers.  We whispered to each other as we walked past the AARP booth that we were a bit in denial about the age thing and that we put their direct mail in the trash. We couldn’t help ourselves and started talking to them anyway, we even confessed our ageist attitude. They laughed and said everyone throws their mail away. But they weren’t only about people in retirement homes; they were also for working women like us who had to care for those parents. It made me look at them differently, and next time I may actually open their mail. This was a turning point for me about this exhibit hall. It was about connections; just like what all of us bloggers are trying to do. Connecting to others in a real, authentic way, not just grabbing Snickers at their booth, which BTW was yummy.

That evening was the “non-event” event that all the GenFab women who were attending had set aside to meet each other. We packed the bar. It was great to see faces light up when recognition struck. We hugged, we talked, we laughed. I was a little jealous of someone who had just been interviewed by a dominatrix (who was not a GenFabber).

Virginia’s BFF status was sealed when she came back looking a little dusty from the ladies room. Apparently the lock had broken and she had gotten stuck in the stall. The only other person in the restroom was a young woman whose only help was to say that she wouldn’t Instagram her crawling out of the stall.

So ended my first day in Chicago, hours past my bedtime.

Blogher b cardClick here for Adventures From BlogHer; Chapter 2 

Click here for Adventures From BlogHer; Chapter 3 

Hi, I’m Connie McLeod of My Creative Journey, I write about my creative life.  If you like my adventures I’d love for you to follow me. I promise no spam. Here’s my card (imagine I’m shaking your hand). 

I’m proud to be a GenFab blogger!





Guest Blogger: Lisa Froman

28 07 2013

Lisa and I have run in the same professional circles since we were new in our careers. But it was only this year through a bit of serendipity that had us both becoming bloggers and discovering a great group of women at Generation Fabulous that caused us to meet in real life. We have been friends and supporters of each other ever since. This spring the Dalai Lama visited New Orleans and we both blogged about it from our different perspectives.  I know you will enjoy my friend and guest blogger’s words as much as I do. —Connie

The Dalai Lama, Non-Violence and Gun Ads

by Lisa Garon Froman

Mardi grasNew Orleans is lovingly called the city that “care forgot.”  And for good reason; its love of revelry, rhythm and blues, and deep-fried everything, is legendary.

Yes, that city. The city that was nearly swallowed up and spit out in pieces by the punishing wind and waters of Hurricane Katrina.

Yes, that city, the one that inspires hope and loss in the same breath; the city that spurs the kind of violence that leaves you heart sick and slack-jawed from the shock and soulless brutality of it all. Like when two young males well-schooled in violence casually open-fired on a Mother’s Day parade wounding 20 people, including several children.

This was the city that the Dalai Lama came to visit recently. A city badly in need of healing.

This was the Dalai Lama’s first visit to New Orleans and he came to deliver a commencement speech to Tulane graduates and speak at several other engagements in the city.

Not surprising he spoke of peace in his speeches. To the Tulane graduates he said,   “Please pay attention to securing your own inner peace. Our hopes for the future rest on your shoulders. Please think about how to make this a more peaceful, compassionate century.”  

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Speaking at a separate event at the New Orleans Lakefront Arena, he talked about non-violence and peace and compassion.

He said, “It is not our job to disturb the peace and then it’s God’s job to restore it. Violence isn’t created by God or Buddha; it’s created by human beings. So logically, the responsibility to eliminate it belongs to us too. Here in America there’s been a lot of discussion about gun control. But the real source of control is in our hearts.”

Wise words from a wise monk.

Violence and poverty and abuse all stem from a lack of compassion. The need for guns and the need for gun control is all the same to me. It’s all rooted in fear and violence in my book.

Look, I’m from the South. Guns are serious business here. This isn’t a subject that makes friends–unless you’re on the right side of the argument– if you get my drift.  It’s a subject that I usually stay away from because I’m a peacemaker at heart and it almost seems counterintuitive to me to argue about guns.

“…Please think about how to make this a more peaceful, compassionate century.” I think of the Dalai Lama’s words to the graduates about securing peace, and working for a more peaceful world. I wonder what I can contribute to the cause.

I think there are a lot of us who are confused about how to walk in this world more peacefully.

I’m of the opinion that it starts with finding inner peace. Not an easy task. But I believe that meditation is a good start here. Finding compassion for ourselves, for our faults, and loving ourselves so we can better love others, is another strategy.

I think when we’re brave enough to do the inner work, to look at all of the places inside of us where we are at war with ourselves, where we focus on what’s wrong with ourselves, with our lives, is a good place to work on non-violence. Perhaps that’s the foundation of the saying, “Love others as we love ourselves.”

Maybe the idea is that we should love ourselves a little more, so we learn the capacity to be truly compassionate, truly kind to others. So that we can love others.

I think prayer is also a gateway to compassion. Praying to God, Spirit, Buddha or to your higher spirit for guidance is a good way to open up the heart. The older I get, the more I pray.

If we’re honest, we can admit that light and dark both exist in this world. But light, including inner light, can be the beacon that disperses the darkness. Within us and around us.

When we actively focus on non-violence, maybe we will lessen the violence in the outside world. Maybe we won’t have to live forever with the duality of seeing this:

His Holiness featured in an article about his visit to New Orleans in The Advocate with a gun ad on the opposite page.

His Holiness featured in an article about his visit to New Orleans in The Advocate with a gun ad on the opposite page.

A full page article in the Baton Rouge paper featuring the Dalai Lama’s visit to New Orleans with an ad for a gun shop placed on the opposite page from it. I’d like to think this was an accident. But the truth is, I’m not sure.

Which leads me to the truism that “there are no accidents.” Maybe there’s a message here about our society’s conflict. About how we all wrestle with the light and the dark.

267-2About Lisa: 
Lisa Garon Froman is a writer, poet and an award-winning communications professional. She lives in Baton Rouge, La., and is the mother of one son, Alexander.  
If you’re interested in more thoughts on compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read her book Tao Flashes.  Visit her blog: Tao Flashes, a woman’s way to navigating the midlife journey with integrity, harmony and grace or follow her at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or twitter @taoflashes. 

Lisa and I are both proud to be GenFab bloggers!





Salut! It’s My One-Year Blogging Anniversary.

6 07 2013

Salut

This month marks one year of blogging! WOO HOO! It has been an amazing year and this little blog ‘o mine has taken me to unexpected places. I started it because I needed to have my creative voice out there. A few months into blogging, I stumbled upon this fabulous group of women at Generation Fabulous. They were remarkably supportive of one another and read my blog and even commented on it. Then GenFab bloghops were in the freakin’ Huffington Post and there I was!  This led to writing for another group, Better After 50 and more amazing writers. GenFab has grown in just the few months since I joined and  now has a website featuring the powerful voices of midlife. I was a featured blogger and had a video interview with Chloe Jeffreys for her feature Coffee with Chloe. I still am surprised when I look back on this past year and see where My Creative Journey has taken me.

Another surprise is that I didn’t expect that each post I’ve written would become a blog child. I must admit while I love all my blog children I do have favorites. So in honor of my one-year anniversary I’m going to tell the world my favorites and why.

These are what I consider my 3 best posts:

the jump

Taking the Leap
This is about my attempt to become fearless.

Me and my sweetie, Steve

Soul Mates and Angels
Even though I wrote this, I can still tear up when I read it. It’s me and Steve’s love story.

Full view w detail

If You Give Connie a Glass of Wine
This chronicles the birth of my business, Greenview Designs in that meandering way that is my creatve processs. It’s written in the style of, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” a book I loved reading to my daughter when she was little.

These are about where I live:

katrina-08-28-2005

Bread, Batteries and Booze
Big shoutout to my buddy Juan Simoneux who posted it on at The Cajun American.  It’s because of his fans that this remains my most viewed post ever. It’s about living in hurricane country.

Flyin Alligator waterfront lounge

Luzianna Friday Nite
I love where I live. OK, I don’t love hurricanes (see above).

These are about my family:

  My mom dresses just like the Cosmo Girl.

Wild Woman
This is about my Mother. You’ll need to read the post to understand why that’s all I can say about this one. 

My Mom and me, 1961

The Sandwich Generation  
What make The Wild Woman story so special to me is where my Mom came from. This post tells that story.

letter

Large and Purple
My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, was a local character and a really great father.

My first apartment

Argo, the Ayatollah, Eudora Welty and First Apartments
Connections I share with my daughter.

These were unexpectedly popular:

mcleodyardwork

Timeless Tips From a Fashionista
This was inspired by the GenFab bloghop on epic fashion fails and it also made the Huffington Post. It proves I don’t care about embarrassing myself if it makes a good story.

Teresa from the Housewives of New Jersey flipping a table screaming Prostitution Whore!

My Guilty Pleasure
I was a little surprised how many other people admitted to the same guilty pleasure. Ssssshhh, it’s our little secret.

Sometime in the last year I heard about this amazing blogging conference called BlogHer. So I will be flying off to Chicago soon and rooming with a new friend from GenFab. I could never have imagined this a year ago. I’m sure a blog child will be birthed from this adventure. Time will tell if it’ll become a favorite.

Thanks to all who have read and supported me in the past year.

If you like My Creative Journey, I’d love for you to follow me. My posts will then arrive in your email and I promise no spam.

I’m proud to be a GenFab blogger!