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Category Archives: guest post series

An Invitation to Sit With the King

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One year ago today, I boarded a plane to Kenya, Africa.

I always dreamed of serving in Africa. I always knew I’d go someday. But I never, ever dreamed it would be so soon. You see, it wasn’t my choosing as to when, how, where, or with whom I’d travel to Africa. One random weekday in early June, I looked at a poster on our pastor’s office wall and casually shared that I always dreamed of serving in Africa. He promptly invited me to join a 10-day mission trip to Kenya that was scheduled for November.

I wasn’t planning on going to Africa. Okay, let me clarify a bit, pastor. I wasn’t planning on going RIGHT NOW. I wasn’t expecting you to ask me. Give me a couple years, okay? Give me some space and time to think on this, yes? Give me a few years for my kids to get older. Give me a moment to make every detail right. Let me get the timing just perfect for my husband, my friends, my family and pretty much everyone around me. Then, and only then, I’ll most definitely say yes to your invitation. Can’t we all just agree that five or six months is not nearly enough time to prepare for a life-changing trip to Africa?

Needless to say, I spent nearly three months thinking and overthinking that trip, and finally said yes less than three months before our group was scheduled to depart.

Given my reluctancy to accept God’s invitation to go and serve in Africa, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I found myself on the outside, watching a group of orphaned and abandoned children worship in the most authentic and abandoned way I’d witnessed in 39 years of life on earth.

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I was there. Fully present. Fully immersed in their worship.

But I was sitting on the outside.

Watching.

Admiring.

Wishing I could be one of them.

Wishing I could live and linger in a place of wild, worshipful abandon for the rest of my life.

Yes, this was without a doubt, a glimpse of heaven on earth.

But I was sitting on the outside.

CLICK HERE and join me at www.kriscamealy.com FOR THE REST OF THE STORY… 

Looking Forward With Optimism. A Thankful Heart!

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular guest posts on my blog since February 2015. The purpose of her posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

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Being grateful can improve one’s health. As I reflect on the past year, I have so much to be thankful for! I have two kids who I would do anything for, a great support system of professionals, family and friends, the ability to help myself and seeing gains for my efforts. I have found more peace in myself now than I ever have before. To me, Thanksgiving has a new meaning this year. The good, the bad and the rest that doesn’t always make sense. These are all the pieces of my life that I’m thankful for.

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My parents were out of town for over three months due to my dad’s lung transplant, but have been back now for a little over two weeks. My dad is home this Thanksgiving. I am grateful that my parents get to spend the holiday with us. My dad had some lung rejection issues, and he ended up in the hospital for ten days right before they came back home. His team of doctors will be checking his antibodies soon to see if the lung rejection is still happening. If his antibodies are bad, he will have to go back to the hospital for further procedures. The transition to them being back home has not necessarily been easy, but we are working on adjusting to accommodations that work for everyone. We are moving forward with my dad’s health with optimism. We are planning for a great future with him around.

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I’m thankful that Raegan, my six-year-old daughter, is starting to understand my mental health issues. She likes to show her friends and people who stop by clips from when I was in movies, television shows and commercials in my 20s. I was in the movie Four Christmases. Raegan laughs pretty hard when she sees my hands up in the air in the background. She often asks me what happens when I don’t take my pills. I forgot them one morning, and she asked if I could drive alright without them. I told her that I would be fine, as long as I took them soon. Raegan is reading very well and with great expression. She loves math, her class and her teacher. She is very wise and kind as well. She has her temper tantrum moments. Xander, my two-year-old son, is loving life. He is pretty rambunctious and is an explorer. He is full of questions, loves school (Early Childhood Family Education) and is an extremely kind and loving son. He loves exploring so much that it’s difficult for him to sit still during ECFE reading time. During gym time, he’s been running around pretending he’s a dinosaur. The other kids don’t seem to know what to think. He is proud to call the other kids in the class his friends. My experience with Xander at school has been different because I feel more chill and comfortable about everything. I am thankful for my two children. They keep me going, even when I’d rather isolate myself from the world.

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I need a support system to help me discipline and work with my kids. My parents, friends and a team of professionals help me with these issues. I take advice from each and every one of these people to help improve my situation. I am trying to help myself so I can be more independent of some of this help, as I have been over the past few months. I’m working with what I’ve been told, and am starting to figure out a parenting plan that I can do more independently. Now that my parents are home, it’s east to revert to dependence again. But I have gained confidence over the last three months as a parent. I am a parent who can prepare meals, stay organized and help with homework. I am thankful for all that I have been taught about parenting, and I plan on utilizing those skills throughout life.

Overall, I am very satisfied with how far I have come as a single parent. I am grateful for all of the wonderful people in my life, and am happy my mom and dad are now home, at least for now. My kids, support system, my ability to help myself and peoples’ responses to my gains have guided me towards more independence in life and with my children. I hope that over the years I become more confident in my myself and my skills. Every day is a new journey!

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How I’ve Been Doing the Past Three Months

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared regular guest posts on my blog since February 2015. The purpose of her posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

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It has been more than two months since my dad had his lung transplant. My parents have been staying in Minneapolis since the surgery. They usually live a few doors away from us. How has that time away from them been for me and my kids?

As you may know from previous posts, my parents are a major part of our support system. I have struggled, but I have also become the independent woman I know I am and can be. I’ve utilized my support system, accomplished tasks and handled situations I never thought possible. I have weeded people out of my life and have become closer to some. I continue to tell myself that I am a good mom, and continue to live my life in an honest and open way. I can’t honestly say that every day I am completely happy, but I am living with hope in my mind, body and soul. I have heard great feedback from the professionals I work with and family and friends about how I am doing while my parents are gone.

Everyone has stories to tell about the best days of their life. I really have not had typical experiences. The best days of my life have not been normal. Yes, my kids’ births were pretty spectacular, but there were complications that made those days a bit horrifying. I was a single mom both times. My daughter had a CCAM, which was a large growth in one of her lungs she had removed a couple days after she was born. My son was born via c-section.

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The day after my dad’s lung transplant turned out to be one of the best days of my life. My dad was sick for about 16 years before his transplant. For years, I was full of both worry and hope that his life could turn around. Hope for more time and years to spend with me and the kids. Nobody knew what was going to happen with his health. He was at the end of his life if something wasn’t done. When my dad got the call that a lung was ready for him, I was full of hope and excitement. This is going to work out, I told myself. The same type of feeling I had when my daughter was just days old and had a large lobe of one of her lungs removed.

I was SO happy that my kids and I could be at the hospital in Minneapolis for the procedure and be there when he woke up. I was the first person in my dad’s hospital room when he woke up from the surgery. I sat there with him as he nodded his head with big eyes open and a breathing tube in his mouth. I held back the tears as we experienced an emotional moment. That day was one of the best days of my life. We were feeling together that the hope was still alive. Seeing the excitement in my dad’s eyes, knowing the lung transplant finally happened and at that moment, my dad was going to be okay.

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My family prepared for the lung transplant for months, even years. My dad was staying optimistic, as he is, yet preparing for both the best and worst that could happen. My family wanted to prepare me and the kids for the time that my parents would be away. I’m not a cook, or at least I thought I wasn’t before my dad’s transplant. I have felt pride letting my parents know that I have been cooking for myself, the kids and sometimes friends, while they have been away. One of my favorite meals I’ve made while they have been gone was Hawaiian marinated pork chops, white rice and vegetables. I am experimenting with the food that we have available to us. I hope to experiment more during the remainder of the time they are away. I am going to cook for my parents when they get back home. The plan is for them to come back in about a month if my dad’s health is stable.

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Since my parents have been away, I have occasionally been attending church and a group called Celebrate Recovery. We sing, learn and are able to talk in a group setting. We go when we can and if the kids are not too tired. I listen and isolate myself at times, and focus on the voices in my head. My psychiatrist said that isolation is a way to end up back in the hospital. I enjoy talking in the group setting with people who are also experiencing life. It’s nice to actually express my feeling and thoughts to real people. We are often told to talk less and listen more. One of my friends recently told me that she feels like she is in an interview session with me. I guess I just like to learn about peoples’ lives. It’s pretty awesome when I get to express myself too, and when questions are asked of me.

Overall, some consistency is coming into my family’s life. Kids seem to thrive on consistency.

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Since my parents have been away, I have really felt the social stigma about mental illness. I can pretty much guarantee that a few people reading this are scared of the mentally ill, or they just don’t know what to think about them. We are not all scary, no more than the normal population. Like it or not, I am an individual with the label of mentally ill. I admit, I used to feel the same about people with the label of mentally ill. My grandfather used to work at a state hospital in Jamestown, North Dakota. When I was young, I recall thinking of the mentally ill as being locked away, shut out from society, walking around with nowhere to go. Weird, strange, do not talk to them because they are dangerous, living a different life. Yet, I found them interesting and found some connection with their lives. Little did I know that I’d be one of them someday. These days, the mentally ill are usually given respect and people are talking out about their illness. We are able to thrive and live normal lives. I spent a lot of time in a state hospital years ago, and know how frustrating it can be to be shunned from society. I have met many people in different institutions that I have found much in common with. Many people who are just scared of being themselves. Some people who are just reaching out for someone to be there for them. I do not feel that I am scary, I just have a gigantic label placed on me. We are all unique and different.

I cherish friends, family and strangers who have accepted and allowed me to be the person I am meant to be. I am grateful that God blessed me with two kids who make my life worth living. I am more than just a face. I am single and talk often in my posts about finding love in any kind of relationship. Sometimes I have found a false love that I wanted to be there, to be real.

Recently, I met with my psychiatrist and let him know what was going on. I also told him that my dad was doing great! I told him that often I don’t know what to say while having a conversation. The rules we have as a society are tough. I’ve learned that people can either accept me or reject me. I have a strong support system either way!

My dad and my daughter have had major health issues with their lungs. Dealing with these life-threatening illnesses has made me a stronger individual. I have become much more realistic about what is important in life and what really doesn’t matter. In dealing with real-life trauma both in my life and others’ lives, I have become stronger and more focused on moving forward and not looking back.

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My Perception of My Dad

This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Tiffany has shared a monthly guest post on my blog since February 2015. The purpose of her regular posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. Last month, Tiffany honored our mom’s unique journey through motherhood with a guest post thanking her for all the ways she’s supported my sister from childhood to current day. This month, Tiffany is honoring our dad with a special post for Father’s Day. If you’d like to read all the posts written about Tiffany’s journey, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.

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Who is my dad?

Those who have interacted with him know he loves people, always making small talk with people he comes across in life. My dad has always been a role model to me, and I’m sure to others as well. My dad is waiting another month to be put on the lung transplant list. My hope for my dad is for him to live a few more years without having to rely on oxygen. To take walks together, to talk a few more years and to have my dad around a little bit longer.

My dad has always been my cheerleader. I always remember him saying when I was younger and many times now, “Way to go Tiff, you can do it.” His encouraging words always seem to make me feel better. My dad has always pushed me further than I thought I could go. I feel that I succeeded in many activities and stayed strong because of my dad.

My dad worked two jobs while my sister, brother and I were growing up. He was a band director and a car salesman. He always left time to hang out with his family. Our family would have dinner each night and hang out with my dad while my mom was cleaning up from dinner. We would practice our instruments, fly kites, go to the park and play what we would call “tricks.” Our “tricks” consisted of being held up in the air with my dad’s feet and arms. We would sit on his foot and be pulled around, and we’d ride around on his back. My dad was the one who taught me how to pray. He would pray with us, and us kids would fall asleep afterwards.

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My dad and I have always taken walks together. Before he was sick I could barely keep up with him. We’d talk about whatever and look at the stars together. One of the only consistent stars I can point out is the big dipper. We still have our talks, which we’ve had since I was younger, but they’re just different now. I am looking forward to the future, so we can take walks and fast walks again.

My dad has been through my life during the ups and downs. After completing my bachelors degree from the University of Minnesota – Duluth, I worked for a few years in Minneapolis. After that, I decided to check out The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles. My dad flew out to LA to look at the school and for places to live. I was going to live in Venice Beach.

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During one of our trips to the Los Angeles area, we took the bus a few places. My dad was communicating with everyone. I told him that in LA, everyone doesn’t talk to each other. We had coffee at a place that ended up being my favorite in the hood. I left my dad at the coffee place and took off to hang with some new friends. We played music together. Then I went back to pick my dad up.

My dad came to visit a few times during my time in Los Angeles. On one of his lasts visits to me in LA was mass confusion. I was working with Jim Carrey as an extra in an airport scene in a movie, and I had to go and pick my dad from another airport. The people I was working with wanted me to change my wardrobe, and I did not want to stand in the wardrobe line again. I was crying and Jim Carrey asked what was going on with me. The issue was resolved. On my way to pick up my dad from the other airport, the battery on my phone died. I started getting psychotic! My dad was in LA for over two weeks, and I rarely saw him. I get very emotional when I think of our times in LA. My dad always introduces me as an actress. The truth is that I never envisioned myself as an actress. I do NOT have good memory skills. I was pretty good in the background, and I miss all the lights and cameras.

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My kids have been able to utilize my dad as a father figure. He enjoys when they’re around if they are behaving well. We are working on that. My dad’s energy is very low right now, but we’re doing what we can. My dad has a boat that we try to go on as much as possible during the summer months. He reads a lot with my kids. He treats my kids similar to the way he raised us, always playing and big hugs and have a good day. I know my growing up years were great. I know that my kids and I are being helped the right way by my parents and others.

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One guy in my history of my living has asked my dad for his blessing to marry me. I’ve known for a few years that I was not in the right place to get married, not yet. I wasn’t sure if my dad would be strong enough to walk me down the aisle. It just makes me sad. As I was walking out from an appointment at the hospital the other day, I was thinking to myself that I am prepared to take this journey alone. Then I looked down and noticed a fairly large diamond. I told the hospital I found it, but nobody has claimed that diamond, so it’s mine, I guess?! Either way, I am prepared for whatever God chooses for me. If I could find some guy who treats me as my dad has, maybe I’d make some sort of decision?!

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My dad has always been the person in my life who I can talk to without being judged or feeling judged. My dad is a very positive person, most of the time. I have learned a lot from my dad’s style of living. I wish him many wonderful years ahead, full of love.

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Carol Femling - Great tribute to your dad, Tiff!! Yes, you three kids were blessed to have a dad that spent so much quality time with all of you!! Love you! ❤️June 18, 2016 – 1:11 am

Angie Hanlon - This is so heartfelt, with so many great details. Bless you and your dad this weekend!June 17, 2016 – 10:11 pm

Sandi Bishop - YOU are both blessed! What a wonderful tribute. We are believing for that transplant to take place soon and for a positive recovery.June 17, 2016 – 6:19 pm

Dianne Kay Dahl - Tiffany, what a beautiful tribute you have written! We are all praying that you have many more years to make happy memories!June 17, 2016 – 5:20 pm

Denise Korman - Tiff, As I read your blog about you and your Dad I have tears running down my face…knowing you so well and feeling like a part of the wonderful Femling family I understand exactly how you feel ! I believe your Dad has such a positive attitude on life that he will receive a transplant quickly and recover to take those long walks with you and talk and talk like he has always done.It’s in the good Lord’s hands now and he will take care of your Dad ! Keep your faith strong, be positive and watch for the incredible miracle ! As our Jewish friends say , ” To Life, To Life, Lukieum..” As I say, “To Life To Life Bruce”…We are all praying and pulling for him in SC…see you when he gets the call !June 17, 2016 – 4:57 pm

Hidden Blessings

It’s a joy to introduce you to Disa who’s sharing her unique journey to and through motherhood as part of our month-long guest post series, Special Mamas. Disa and I went to college together. We attended the same campus church, were student deacons together, and I’m sure we had some overlap of coursework as she was majoring in education and I was majoring in speech-language pathology. Disa is now a mom of FIVE, including a set of QUADRUPLETS! Today, she’s sharing the hidden blessings she’s found as a mama of quads. I think you’ll find her post interesting, enjoyable and easy to read. And yeah, there are a bunch of super cute big brother + quadruplets photos you won’t want to miss! Please extend a warm welcome to Disa.

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As anyone will tell you, being a Mom is a blessing in so many ways. For the past six to seven years especially, I have been spending many days thinking about the hidden blessings that have occurred in my life. For me, some are very evident, and some took me a while to realize the blessing God was busy creating for me.

I am a daughter, sister, wife, mother of a nine-year-old son, six-year-old daughter and THREE six-year-old sons (QUADRUPLETS). I am a planner and organizer, and until the end of August I had been a stay at home mom for the past five years. Now I am back to work teaching 4th grade. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I didn’t think I could ever be a full-time stay at home mom, but I loved that a teacher offered some stay at home mom opportunities for me. I knew I wanted this long before I went to college or was even close to becoming a mom. I also knew I wanted more than two kids; four kids was what I thought would be perfect. 25+ years later, I am back to teaching again after being a stay at home mom for the past five years to care for my busy family. (I got my four children, just a little different from how I thought or planned!)

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Finding out we were pregnant with quadruplets was an extreme shock and took us forever to fully grasp, maybe it still hasn’t sunk in. We knew having four babies at once was a HUGE blessing but seeing all of the blessings it would offer is still coming into view for us. Upon finding out this news, we were struck with worry. How would this affect our then three-year-old son? How would we financially handle this? How would we fit four more children in our modest three-bedroom home? How can we handle four babies, a three year old, and still have some form of a life without living close to any family? How would all of this affect us mentally and emotionally?

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Our nearest family members were three plus hours away. We thought for sure we would need to be moving closer to family, but the thought of trying to sell and move while pregnant was too much for us. From the instant we told our families the news, they were by our sides. They made extra trips to visit, took care of our son, found extra baby things we would need, and prayed. They are family, we knew we could count on them regardless of the distance.

Early on in my pregnancy, I remember a good friend of mine coming and offering to help me in the classroom once a week right after she was done volunteering in her daughter’s classroom. My first instinct was to say no, but I distinctly remember a voice saying to me, you need to say yes, you are going to need a lot more help in the next few years, you better start saying yes now.

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At school, my coworkers were amazing. Once they found out I needed to rest as much as possible, but needed to work as long as possible too, they started doing little things like walking my students to lunch and other places so I wouldn’t have to. They also started preparing food for me and my family twice a week starting in December and continued to bring dinners to us until the end of May. It was amazing to not have to worry so much about food and grocery shopping.

A good friend from church started a list of people in church who would be available to help when the babies come home from the hospital. For at least the first two years, I had helpers come spend time with us. It allowed me time to run errands, spend time with our older son uninterrupted, and just give me a break to save my sanity. Little did we know this would create some incredible bonds for all of us. Because of the connections we have made in the past six years, we have rooted ourselves in our community. We have gained some wonderful “extended” family. One of our helpers lost her 50-year-old son to an accident just before our babies were born. The time she was able to help hold and play with the babies was healing for her too. We are still close with all of them and they are still available to help when needed.

We knew I would need to stay home with the kids for several years, so now we are significantly cutting our income and more than doubling our family. Also, remember I thought I wasn’t cut out to be a stay at home mom, full time anyway. But, amongst this struggle we knew we needed to do something different. Our three-year-old son was really having a difficult time going to daycare the weeks and months before we found out we were pregnant with quads. We knew we needed to make some type of change, but we were not sure what that would be. In reality, I don’t think I would have ever considered staying at home with my children if I had only been pregnant with one baby that time around either. Funny how God works in these situations.

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The more I stayed home with the kids, the more I realized how much I enjoyed it. I was there for all the little things. I remember calling my husband on more than one occasion to thank him for working so hard, so that I could stay home and be there for the little things. Like the few times my son forgot his tennis shoes and he didn’t want to miss gym as it was his favorite class. I was there to get them to him. I was able to make myself available to volunteer in his classroom every week. I was available for the little programs and events in the class. I could stay home to take care of sick kids without having to worry about missing work. I had the time to bake and cook for my family. We had time to do little projects, play games, just let the kids be kids and stay in their warm winter pajamas all day long as we weren’t going anywhere and it sure felt good on a cold winter day. I was able to get involved in our local MOPS group and meet other Mothers of Preschoolers. Being it was difficult to leave the house with five kids, I was able to have moms over for coffee and playdates. Connections I was able to make because I was at home. I didn’t realize these little things were so important to me, but as I stayed home I began to realize how much I liked doing all of those little things.

If there is any suggestion I can offer to mommas regardless of the number of children you have, remember: there can be hidden blessings in everyday life, just be open to watching for them and willing to say yes to any help that is offered to you. Above all, have faith. God will provide in ways you may not be ready to see yet. I am still working on this daily.

Disasig

 

 

 

SpecialMamas2016_smallThis post is part of a month-long guest post series titled Special Mamas. The series runs all May and is in honor of moms who have unique journeys to and through motherhood. To read all 10 posts in the Special Mamas series, CLICK HERE and you’ll be directed to the introductory post. There, you’ll find all guest posts listed and linked for easy reading!

Jan Hillstrom - Absolutely beautful, both the writing and the pictures. Fun to see again the early photos of the kids. You are an amazng Mom, Disa. So proud of you and so thankful for God’s provison and guidance for your family. Could I also mention an incredible Dad, Trevor. Father’s Day is just around the corner!May 31, 2016 – 6:40 pm

Sheila Hiney - Wonderful testimony Disa. Read it with a smile. SheilaMay 31, 2016 – 1:41 am