Labor Pangs are soon forgotten Once you receive the Prize

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(Yes, here I am in all my exhausted and pregnant glory, expecting our 5th child)

Our first home had a cement floor that we covered with throw rugs to keep our feet from freezing in the winter. The kitchen was overlaid with grungy black tiles thickly coated with layers of old yellow wax. I knew it had to come off, but how?

Finally I tackled it! Not with a scrubbing-brush or gallons of product that our budget couldn’t afford, but with a razor blade. I knew I had to be gentle or scratch the tiles. I figured if I could scrape five or more squares a day while my two toddlers were napping, I could get it done in a few months. Speed was not the objective. A shiny black floor was.

By sticking to my guns, I beat my goal and had it done in a month. I reasoned that if I could do this with every dream and every challenge, just think what I could accomplish! Every time I walked into that room and saw the deep sheen on the floor, cooking for my family and taking care of my babes did not seem so daunting. I needed this kind of optimism because we ended up with six kids.

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After going three weeks over my due date, the first one brought 24 hours of excruciating labor. The doctor debated a cesarean section, but kept saying “let’s wait a little longer;” until finally her little head crowned and she was born.

The second child, a boy, was born 14 months later. My water broke at home and we rushed to the hospital. My husband was still registering me when he was born. “Wow, this birth thingie is going to be a snap from here on,” I thought.

It wasn’t. Four years later, during fireworks on July 5th , I went into labor with my third child, a boy. I was also three weeks overdue with this one. After another long labor, he weighed in at 10 pounds.

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Sidney, child #3

The fourth child introduced me to stress diabetes followed by two more ten pound babies and difficult deliveries. But once the births were over, and I held those precious humans-in-miniature and nursed them joyfully, the pain and suffering was quickly forgotten.

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(Chris #2, Holly #4, Paula #5, Sidney #3, Pamela #1

“Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.” Most of us have heard that Teddy Roosevelt quote many times. We’ve experienced it when we finally get that perfect job, or find the right mate after we’ve gone through several “duds.”

There are struggles and growing pains in every new thing we try. We think we will never find satisfaction or success. But if we’re patient, we may get to see completion. Then we realize we were watching the unfolding miracle happen before our very eyes.

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The first time you must  punish your child for disobeying the rules or for going against your family values, you probably experienced pain; perhaps even guilt or shame. Not that the punishment didn’t fit the crime, but that you had to do it at all.

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Paula, my 5th child (Aunt Jean’s paintings behind; and a baby quilt I made.

One of my daughter’s was forever breaking the rules. The frightful thing was that she accepted the “grounding” or the scolding willingly knowing that she deserved it. But that consequence didn’t stop her from disobeying the next time. Even as a teenager, if she were grounded for a week or even a month, it didn’t seem to make any difference. She just went out when she was free and again disobeyed the curfew. I didn’t know how to deal with her effectively.

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Here’s that cute little nubbins at age three.

Her father was absent most of the time. When I’d explain the situation to him, he seemed not to hear. His response was nothing as he left for work. My daughter had to experience the results of her actions again and again. Later in life, long after there was no one there to reprimand her except herself, she went through some hard times before the “light came on” and she altered her choices and behavior because it was healthier and safer.

We sometimes see ourselves in our children. We try to hold them back through warnings or discipline so they won’t have to experience the pain that we did. They could listen to us if they would. They could be obedient and save themselves a truckload of you-know-what, but they don’t. They go blindly forward in spite of our words and our anguish.

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Here’s all five of them on  the mountain with Mom, ready to throw rocks over the cliff. (# 6 wasn’t here yet.)

I always believed that if my children knew how deeply I loved them everything would turn out all right, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Accepting your child as he or she is with all their flaws and imperfections is the key to their own self-acceptance and outlook as adults. You need to continue loving them even though their life choices may not have been your own.

It may be difficult. You may not necessarily approve of their actions or behavior. You love them anyway. God does this for us as parents and we’re far from perfect. He loves His children unconditionally. Can we do any less for our own?

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#6, getting a bath in the sink.

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Learning to stand.

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#6 now a toddler, dressed up for church.

Inspirational People and how they Effect your Life

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American Express publishes an online newsletter. The last issue was titled “Strategies of Highly Inspirational People.” As an artist and writer that grabbed my attention. Creative’s are always looking for inspiration.

The article made me think of all the people in my past who inspired not only my artistic endeavors, but made me want to become a better person. My sister Jean was one of those people.

She struggled with multiple sclerosis (M.S.) for over 30 years, yet she remained positive, bubbly and happy. Even when she could no longer speak or move without help, her bright eyes spoke for her. She chose how she would face her adversity. Every new day, she donned her internal attitude like a cloak that was visible to all who knew her.

When Jean finally passed away, she defied age. Her pristine complexion glowed. There were no wrinkles or frown lines to mar her beauty. Her hair was still thick and glossy. There were no telltale signs of gray.

Some people thought her appearance came from the cortisone shots she received throughout her ordeal. I believe her lifelong loveliness came from within. Her internal compass was focused on eternal things; an inner strength, which gave her an aura of joy and peace. Even before she contracted M.S., Jean’s outgoing personality attracted many friends. She built a successful business. She won golf trophies and art awards. She participated in life fully.

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Here is the American Express list of the 10 “Strategies of Highly Inspirational People.” Note how many of these traits the people you admire share.

Inspirational people:

  1. Make permanent connections “I care and thought about you today.”
  2. Bring people together – introduces to others
  3. Believe people are good
  4. Welcome people who disagree – authentic, comfortable in their beliefs
  5. Act fearlessly, even when afraid
  6. Give back to the community
  7. Show gratitude
  8. Tell a good story and share personal ones that turn into motivational experiences
  9. Are responsive and dependable

People who make you feel good about yourself are the ones you’ll remember. Like skipping stones on water, they cast a ripple effect on others that extends outward. Their influence continues long after their gone.

My grandfather Allen had that kind of impact on my life. He was loving, but firm. His granddaughters, me included, wanted to please him and make him proud of us. He taught us how to dance. He put books on our heads and showed us how to walk straight with our heads held high.

He encouraged us to be unafraid. As a biologist and science teacher, he explained how things worked in nature and demonstrated there was no need to fear. He allowed a green garden snake to wind up his arm and a huge garden spider to creep softly over his skin. He kept a pet tarantula that seemed like a fuzzy friend after he handled it so adroitly.

Because of him, my love for nature grew. I gained respect for conservation and preservation of all living things, including human life. How can you reverence life and at the same time destroy it?

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(Great Grand Baby) Dexter learning how to feed himself.

We are the caretakers of the earth; the stewards, if you will. The balance of nature must be respected and ensured if we are to be healthy and happy. What my grandpa taught me changed my life forever and formed my interests and personality.

Every life we touch has an influence on us either for good or evil. Cherish the people and friends who make lasting imprints on your deepest self and those who positively change the course of your life’s direction.

First Impressions are not always Accurate

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I planted my “potted” Peace Plant in the yard. Doing Well!

I have a friend who is very persnickety about what she eats and how it is presented and served. She keeps waiters and waitresses on the run. Friends and fellow diners are sometimes embarrassed or offended.

I was dining with one of the latter who mentioned our friend’s behavior with disdain until she was served a dish that wasn’t quite to her liking. She called the waiter over and asked for extra sauce complaining about the dry noodles.  After the waiter left, she looked at me and we both laughed realizing the tables had been turned. “Now who do I sound like?” she said, feeling apologetic.

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One exquisite bloom!

Have you ever changed your mind about someone after you got to know them? When I first met my fuss-budget friend, I was put off. I was wearing a suit jacket that belonged to my mother; it was one of the few things I had left from her. The coat was tweed with a black velvet collar. As far as I knew, it was still in fashion.  Long before we really knew each other my friend said “I had a jacket like that years ago (with the emphasis on years.)” I took it as an insult.

From then on I would look the other direction when she walked my way. She had done the same thing to me when I tried to get to know her. This went on between us for some time, until she went out of her way to change things.

I soon learned that she wasn’t the stand-offish rude person I thought she was. In fact, to those who took the time to get to know her, they discovered that she was a true friend; one who would bend over backwards for you and delight in spending time with you.

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First impressions are rarely correct. We often assume things about others that are simply not true. We scratch the surface, make our judgment calls and then go about our merry way missing out on what could have been.

There are simple people who are easy to know and love, but also easily forgotten. And then there are complex people who have many sides to their personality. They usually require patience and some digging to get to know them well, but it’s worth it.

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The Neptunes — Octoband

People who are deep, interesting and multifaceted often turn into lasting friends that stay connected. All types of people can bring laughter and fun into your life. They can also teach us about ourselves and help us to become better for having known them.

The most successful television sitcoms are about ordinary people like you and me and the funny things we say and do just being ourselves. Authentic down to earth people we can relate to. They become endearing to us because they are us.

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The Neptunes — Trumpeteers

Remember that the next time you pass someone over because they’re not “your type.” How can you possibly know at first glance?

A broad range of friends can enlarge your heart, enrich your life, and change your perspective to a more positive point of view.

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The Neptunes — “Golden Girls”

THE LIEBSTER AWARD – DISCOVERING NEW BLOGS

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1. What made you start your blog?  For many years, I worked as a free-lance writer and also as an artist so I decided to combine these skill sets into a blog. I’m also the mother of six children and was active in my community and church; and participated in my children’s schools as they were growing up. The name of my blog is: “The Art of Living — artwork and musings from my dancing heart.”

 2. What is your greatest achievement?  Overcoming many trials and tribulations, and like Job in the Bible, I’m still standing strong. I have a solid faith in God and in the basic goodness of people. The wisdom I’ve gained in “overcoming” may help someone else hang on just a little longer!

 3. Your favorite animal?  I’m a dog lover and have owned many over the years. I’ve also had a few cats, but dogs remain my favorite animal. Coming in second would be birds. I love to hear them, watch them, and paint them.

 4. Any specific goals for the rest of this year?  I’m doing some Bodoir paintings and a few belly dancers, too. I’m trying to keep them inexpensive and fun. I’ll be adding a few jewels to enhance their costumes, and give them a sparkly flair.

 5. Your favorite quote?  I’ve forgotten the photographer, but I loved his work and his quote: “Find beauty in imperfection.” Sometimes the plain, the broken, the ordinary can become magnificent if photographed or painted with the right emphasis and lighting. You don’t have to wait for something wonderful to come along. Paint passionately what’s right in front of you.

 6. What is your favorite style of cooking?  I’m the soup maker in our household. I love a good bowl of soup and a slice of homemade bread. I could live on this. You can be very creative and it can’t go wrong. Other than that the Mediterranean style of cooking is my favorite.

 7. Your favorite TV series?  “Downton Abby”  I was sad that Season V is over. I love Masterpiece Theater on PBS and the BBC. Excellent programming! I love to watch Shark Tank on CNBC and the new detective series on Fox 4 “Beckstrom.” He’s a pitiful character, but because of it we cheer him on. He embodies human weakness and that is why he’s a good detective.

 8. What’s in your bag (purse or briefcase)?  Make-up for quick repairs! breath enhancers, hand lotion, eye drops, pill box, pens, notebook, credit cards, little cash, sunglasses; nothing unusual, really! I have natural curly hair so I use my fingers rather than a comb.

 9. What do you prefer to use for social media? I spend time where it pays off: Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Facebook, Pinterest, Fine Art America, Red Bubble, Blog Catalog, and a few others.

10. Your favorite short joke?  I’m hooked on anything “Maxine.” I think she resonates what we all feel. I also like”Ole and Lena” jokes because my husband is Norwegian. I love to hear jokes, but I rarely tell them. I always screw-up the punch line so I won’t tell one here.

 11. What did you want to be when you were a child?  I wanted to be a ballet dancer, hence the title of my WordPress blog: “Musings from my Dancing Heart!” The movie “The Red Shoes” had a great impact on my life. I discovered early on that I had a talent for creative writing and so I pursued this as my parents couldn’t afford dance lessons.

My favorite bloggers are:
http://teagansbooks.wordpress.com/
http://abundantlifeandhealthblog.wordpress.com/
http://monique974.wordpress.com/
http://chinesefoodproblog.wordpress.com/
http://hair68.wordpress.com/
http://AnfinsenArt.blogspot.com/
http://doncharisma.org/
http://freeemployeenewsletter.wordpress.com/
http://www.playwithlife.org/
http://takingthemaskoff.wordpress.com/
http://kelzbelzphotography.wordpress.com/

The Questions I would like you to answer:

  1.  Where do you get ideas and inspiration for your blog?
  2.  How often do you blog? Once a week / 3 times?
  3.  What gets traffic to your blog? Is it subject matter or Tags?
  4.  What is your passion in life? What drives you?
  5.  Do you feel you have something to say to the world?
  6.  Do you blog to feel important or stroke your ego?
  7.  Do you blog to make a difference in the world?
  8.  What is your favorite subject? Does this inspire you?
  9.  Do you make time for friends and family?
  10.  Do you believe in God?  How does your faith assist you?
  11.  Will you still be blogging a year from now? Two years/ What is your long-term goal?

To All the Friends I’ve Known and Loved

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“The Neptunes — Golden Girls” acrylic on panel

Do you believe there is only one right relationship, one perfect painting, one right way to live your life, one opportunity that when lost is gone forever? If you do, you’d better change your perspective. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it is this: life is a struggle, and it can be downright grungy and gritty in the trenches. But if you hold on to your faith and your identity, it will get better.

Once there were people in my life who chastised and criticized every word, every action until I didn’t know what to do to please them or to make them happy. These were the spear throwers, the backstabber’s, the poison arrows of envy, and hatred.

It’s impossible to feel loved when you’re constantly under attack, when the eyes that look at you are filled with disgust, loathing, or anger and soon you begin to hate yourself. I’ve also learned that love doesn’t always last even though you want it to. Why? Because there are no perfect people. But just as you can love another child even though your “quiver” or your house may be full, you can always find room in your heart for another child or for someone else.

"The Neptunes -- Trumpeteers" 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

“The Neptunes — Trumpeteers” 11 x 14 acrylic on panel

I’m grateful for the people who have come in and out of my life. Even though the relationships were not perfect or even healthy, I learned something treasured from each of them. I not only learned things I didn’t know about myself, I learned fresh ideas and discovered new things that made me who I am today. I’m thankful for each friend and for each person who has ever touched my life, even in a small way.

Barbara Streisand sang: “People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” For the first time in my life I know exactly what she means. We not only need each other and depend on each other; we add something unique and special to everyone we meet and they to us.

"The Neptunes -- Octoband" acrylic on 11 x 14 panel

“The Neptunes — Octoband” acrylic on 11 x 14 panel

I treasure the friend who taught me about fire stations, and fire engines, and instilled in me a love for antique cars. I will never see another auto show or ride in a classic car without thinking of him. I treasure the friends who loved me for who I am. With them, I didn’t have to be self-conscious. I didn’t have to walk on eggs, or be afraid of offending them anymore than they could offend me.

Acceptance not approval is what makes us truly happy. To hear someone laugh at my fractured jokes, or tolerate my irritating habits and still love me is a blessing. Feeling that you’re attractive and beautiful even without makeup – now that’s something!

It isn’t so much what is said, it’s the smile on the face of the other and the glow of love in their eyes that speak so much louder than words ever can. When you are loved, you know it deep down inside. You can tell when someone is genuinely pleased with you or not.

The friends and lovers who take us back when we’ve been quick-tempered or sad remind us of our frail humanity. Friends keep us humble, and bring us joy. Today, I’m thankful for all the friends I have known, and for those who will yet come into my life.

I wish you, my online friends, who may yet become better friends, a joyous and Happy New Year. May life be kind to you.

Sibling Rivalry – the Bratty Brawls between Brothers and Sisters

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My husband’s son and his family.

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My sister’s son and his family.

My oldest sister who passed from this earth over a year ago was my inspiration; but only in later years when, with maturity and age, we became friends.

As children, we shared a double bed in a tiny room with one dormer window. We had no closet, but hung our clothes on the back of the bedroom door and on the door of the hallway that led to our room. Also in the hall was a chest. We each had a drawer; the other three contained towels for the small bathroom a step away.

The bathroom had one small window which you could only see out of when you sat on the throne. If you stood up in the tub, you would likely hit your head on the sloping ceilings. This awkward bathroom served our family of four, and then eventually five until my parents were able to afford a bigger place.

My sister had strict rules on how we shared our space. She was almost five years older than me; and, of course, taller, so I listened out of fear. She once drew an imaginary line down the middle of the bed and threatened to tickle me if I crossed it.

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“Tickles from God” acrylic on canvas.

Her tickling torments lasted an eternity, or so it felt. She sat astride me and tickled my stomach, my neck and pits until I couldn’t breathe. I thought I was going to die! If the sessions hadn’t been stopped by an angry relative, I may have.

She and my older cousins ganged up on the younger ones by chasing us with angleworms and eventually throwing them at us. I had angleworm nightmares for nights afterward. They told us ghost stories that haunted our dreams and sent us running in fright to our parents. We were gullible and they used this knowledge to keep us in line.

Granted, my sister had reason to be peeved. I was her little shadow and followed her everywhere. Sometimes she was required to babysit me and take me with her wherever she went. I was a constant drag on her social life.

Once she convinced me that she had picked a miniature cherry that held magical powers because it was eaten by fairies. The tiny red ball sat atop her finger and I wanted the prize. I stood on tiptoe and begged her to let me taste it. With regal authority she allowed me to lick her fingertip. I tasted nothing. When she began to laugh, I knew she had tricked me.

“You ate my blood,” she boasted. “You licked my finger and ate my blood!” She was doubled over with laughter. She told everyone we knew.

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“Broken Hearted” 11×14 pastel, matted and ready to frame.

I was crestfallen. She had pricked her finger and then made a fool out of me. I felt small and stupid. She had also broken the bond of trust between us. I would never be fooled again.

I got even later when I was a teen and she worked a part time job and had more clothes than I did. After she left in the morning, I’d help myself to one of her outfits and go off to school. By the time she returned, I was already home and changed. My mother didn’t approve, but she never intervened. This was a battle between me and my sister.

My daring behavior lasted for weeks until an unfortunate accident revealed my secret. The explosion was more than I’d expected. As I saw it, she had many clothes, and I had few. Plus most of my clothes were her hand-me-downs, anyway. It wasn’t fair!

After her discovery, we became bitter enemies. I was jealous of her and she resented me. We barely spoke until she married and had her first child. Then childish rivalry faded away and we developed a solid relationship based on respect and family ties.

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My oldest son and third daughter sharing some fun.

My own children squabbled over minor things and fought for the attention of their parents. When you share a mom and dad between three brothers and three sisters there is bound to be jealousy and envy. When my oldest was finally old enough to watch her younger brothers and sisters, I was elated.

Pam was always more mature than her young years and I trusted her judgment. When I returned to the sounds of wails and anger, my high hopes plummeted. She and her brother, only 14 months younger, came wailing to the door with their sad tales.

“She’s not the boss of me,” Chris complained.

“He wouldn’t do what I told him,” Pam responded. “He broke my Barbie doll,” she cried as she showed me the headless beauty.

“She hit me over the head,” Chris bawled. “She broke my guitar,” his volume increased as he showed me the broken strings and the chipped wood. The guitar had been a gift; a cheap handmade guitar that had served its purpose many years ago.

After that incident, I made a decision to put Chris in charge half of the time because of the closeness in their ages. This seemed to work out well, and they were able to respect the one who had the ruling hand at least for an hour or two.

Brothers often roll on the floor and beat each other to a pulp to resolve their differences. Sisters usually cry, scream and destroy the property of their rival. By the time we all grow up, the anger fades and the memories become the threads that bind our common history together. Sibling rivalry is inevitable, but the rewards far outweigh the struggle and help to prepare us for the brutal world beyond the comforts of home.

How you Roast Marshmallows says a lot about you!

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Group Fun Roasting Marshmallows!

Whoever thought that roasting and eating marshmallows was a simple proposition has missed the point. While watching my friends, I decided there definitely are styles and preferences when it comes to this almost lost art. See what it may tell others about you.

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The golden brown marshmallow.

Do you roast your marshmallow a light golden tan and then take pleasure in putting the whole mallow into your mouth and sinking down on the sweet warm center? That puts you in the sensual category. You want to cut to the chase and get down to business as soon as possible. Once you get what you want, you savor each perfect creamy bite.

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Yum — the succulent center!

Or do you fancy a crisp outer covering with a tinge of black? Do you delight in the crust and pull it carefully off the barely warm ball that still clings to the roasting stick? And while you devour that first crunchy mouthful, do you carefully turn the mini-mallow over the fire until it, too, turns dark and crispy? Then you pop its succulent remains into your mouth while grabbing a second marshmallow and repeating the same procedure all over again.

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The crunchy black outer covering.

If this describes your style, you love the process even more than the finished product. You are fun-loving and adventurous. You like being around people and are usually willing to wait for gratification and pleasure. You like to get involved and tackle life’s challenges with zest.

The third type of roaster has distaste for anything sticky or messy. Cautiously they pierce their mallow (or wiener as the case may be) with a stick and then proceed to wipe their chalky fingers on the nearest item available; usually their partner’s pants or on someone else’s shirt.

They stab at the fire a few times trying to find the perfect “hot spot;” and in the process, drop their mallow (or wiener) into the fire where they snatch it back just in time, but not before it’s partially covered in ash. Is this you?

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You’re obviously not a rugged wilderness person. When you finally get your mallow roasted, you seldom want to eat it. But give you a snack from the Ritz or hordevores on a toothpick and you’re happy as a clam. Better yet, give you a dish of crème brû∙lée and a spoon and you’re all smiles.

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But he’s sooo cute!

You’re a high flyer that disdains the lowly practice of roasting marshmallows or wieners. You’re willing to give it a half-hearted attempt and simply go along to get along.

There may be other roasting styles and personality types I’ve missed. If you have a unique story to tell, I’d love to hear it!