Spiritual Sidebar-Maria

Ang met Maria at reiki training. Ang was inspired by Maria’s energy and commitment to healing. Maria’s life has not always been easy, but she has not let the negativity of outside circumstances eat away her soul. Her commitment to her spiritual journey is admirable and she shares her thoughts with us today.

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1. Tell us about yourself. My chronological number is forty-three, my mind, spirit and soul are ageless. I am a mass of energy made up of love, resilience, with a side of chicken. I am  a free spirit, lover of words, music, dancing and all things different. I am passionately curious. A natural born teacher, a solver of problems, a perfectionist, a SURVIVOR, a warrior. I am genuine. I am me and I am learning to love me.

2. What do you believe spirituality is? I believe spirituality is a force that lives deep inside of us. It is in the songs of the birds, the warmth of the sun and the light of the moon. It is all around us. I believe that when we self-care and self-love we nourish our spirituality and grow in it’s abundance completely flourishing! I believe spirituality is the fruit of our heart and must go through the harvest season in order to continue growing, rooting ourselves deeper and finding our true north.

painting by Maria

painting by Maria

3. Did you attend church? Did you identify with a specific religion? How was it presented to you? How did you relate to it? I had a very strict Catholic upbringing, in a very traditional home. Friday nights echoes of the rosary could be heard through our neighborhood. Padre  Nuestro, Ave Maria, Ave Maria, Gloria…Saturday was catechism and Sunday morning was service. Our religious release time slips were always signed. At Christmas, family, friends and neighbors would gather and recreate Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus’ pilgrimage for a total of 9 days. I loved it. Religion was always present in my life, it gave me a sense of belonging, of community that I loved and related to.

4. Tell us about a significant moment that caused a shift in your spiritual development. From the ages of 5-13 I was sexually abused. I clearly remember sitting in my hurt almost negotiating with God. I could accept the path and asked that in return one day know, feel and live in true love. A feeling so powerful, yet comforting, passed through me. That moment, I knew with no doubt he truly existed and thus my curiosity was born and my free spirit took over. In that moment, I was five, but my mind, spirit and soul were ageless.

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 5. Did your spiritual views change as you entered adolescence? As life went on, my voice was hushed by the same people who I loved and believed were there to protect me. My wings were clipped and my spirit defeated. That is when I begin to question, “why, dear Lord, why?” I fell into a deep depression, but still prayed and continued with my confirmation classes. I still believed and questioned. Because I did, I was told to live life by the cross, the most important part of life is that you have a relationship with God above and treat those around you with love and respect. I still questioned, but still confirmed myself as a Catholic.

6. Has your relationship with spirituality shifted as you entered adulthood? Spirituality and I have a love/hate relationship. I broken up and made up with it many times. After years of therapy, I was finally able to let go of the hurt, anger and grieve properly. I let go of all the pain. I am now building and growing new relationships with new friends, my family and my most cherished one of all, my mama. Today I am fully committed to my spirituality and have no plans of every breaking up again. Ever. I am blessed.

Maria 1 7. What is your spiritual life like today? It is one of abundance. I flourish in the lessons, the knowledge and strength. I continue honoring myself and doing the work. I walk with grace and see life through the eyes of my heart. Today, I am blessed.

8. Are there any books, movies, etc. on spirituality that have had a significant impact? I am a little stuck on this one. I have read many books, some I have read all the way through, some I start and go back to, as needed, some I have yet to open. The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz’s True Happiness, Pema Chodron’s Feeling Good, David Burns’ She Walks in Beauty, Poems selected by Caroline Kenney, Oprah’s What I Know for Sure, Victor E. Frankl’s Man Search for Meaning and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings are just a few. I believe one needs to find what works best for them, whether it be through painting, music, creating, journaling, going to park, beach, etc. Whatever brings your soul joy and comfort.

spiritual sidebar We are interested in hearing about your spiritual journey! If you would like to be featured on Spiritual Sidebar, please email us at spiritualbahana@gmail.com or comment here!

Mantra Monday: “I Speak My Truth Freely”

This has been the chakra I have (and continue to) the most active work with. It does not come naturally for me to speak my truth, but with very mindful intentions, I am slowly getting there.
 How do you speak your truth? 

Spiritual Sidebar: Kristin B

Kristin B is an infectious ball of light and love. She is one of Ang’s fellow yoga teachers and a overall lover of life. We definitely wanted to know her spiritual secrets! You can also follow her blog Sorta Enlightened for more inspiration!

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Hello! I’m Kristin Booth. Wife, dog-mama, yoga teacher, sandwich-lover, lover of travel and pretty things.

I grew up in a small town in Southern California and was introduced to ‘church’ at a very young age. My father, mother, sister, and I went to The United Methodist Church in my hometown every Sunday and were highly involved in activities and happenings going on there. It was not uncommon for us to be at the facility two to three times a week for various events and my parents could often be found cleaning up after spaghetti dinners and other gatherings late into the night.

The United Methodists are a denomination of the Christian church with the belief that Jesus is the son of God and through his death on the cross we receive the grace of God, should we accept it. This belief, and others, was taught to me through Sunday school, youth group, summer camp, and Bible Studies. I memorized scripture and was an acolyte- bringing the lit candles to the church altar during Sunday service. I met some of my best friends in my church home and credit them with keeping me out of trouble during most of my high school years and well into college. ‘Spirituality’ wasn’t a factor during this time- ‘religion’ was and I accepted all of it at face-value.

During my college years I didn’t go to church. I wasn’t used to not being in ‘my church’ and felt uncomfortable exploring other options on my own. There was the occasional venturing out, but nothing felt right. I felt guilty for not being involved in a church and felt ashamed that it wasn’t a priority for me to find a new church home.

It was during this time that I traveled out of the country for the first time, started practicing yoga on a regular basis, and started to develop my own opinions about who I am and who I want to be. It was on my yoga mat and in the outdoors that I started to feel more spiritually connected than ever before. I came to realize that my connection with the Devine did not have to be facilitated in a religious service- it can be anywhere- and that my relationship with the Holy Trinity, the Devine, is an actual relationship.

As most relationships go, they need to be cultivated and nurtured. Relationships go through highs and lows, they experience distance and extreme closeness and connection. My spiritual life right now consists of having a small space in my home that serves as a retreat where I can go to pray, practice breath work, and be. In addition, I have been become a student of the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda and A Course in Miracles. Both have given me fresh ideas and principles and have been building blocks to the foundation that my early church upbringing gave me.

It has been a long time since I have been in a traditional church service. In the meantime, I have been blessed by a Buddhist monk, skipped work to go hear the Dali Lama speak, prayed in the Sistine Chapel, seen heaven over the Alps, and experienced the greatest peace riding an elephant in a forest in Thailand. I feel like my spiritual practice is…practice. It’s sometimes easy and sometimes complicated. It takes effort, but sometimes is effortless. My practice is not pretty, but I cannot help but whisper a prayer of thanks when I’m surrounded by beauty.

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My greatest recommendation is to soul-search to discover your own connection on your own terms. If you spend all of your time in a church only surrounded by people who agree with you and never allow you to question your own beliefs, you miss out on the world outside its walls and challenges that will help you grow. This big universe was created for YOU- to enjoy, to explore, to love, and to cherish. Enlightenment is not a destination, it’s a journey. There’s so much joy in the journey!

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We are interested in hearing about your spiritual journey! If you would like to be featured on Spiritual Sidebar, please email us at spiritualbahana@gmail.com or comment here!

Spiritual Sidebar: Marcella

Marcella is one of our sisters. She is actually Ang’s younger sister by birth and best friend by choice. Marcella and Ang are only 20 months apart and have shared most of their experiences together. Marcella has always been there to provide comic relief to Ang when she needs it or exchange eye rolls when life gets annoying. She is a photographer and you can follow her instagram @marcellamartinezphotography.

1.  Tell us about yourself.

Hiiiiii! I’m Marcella and I’m 29 years old.

I’m Angelina’s younger sister.

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I’m the introverted, unorganized middle sister, a photographer, art seeker and food enthusiast. I prefer summer over winter and Lady Gaga and Daria Morgendorffer are my spirit animals….I also think I’m hilarious.

2. What do you believe spirituality is?

I think that spirituality is connection. A connection with you and others, with yourself and greater forces around us, and a connection with yourself! It’s weird to say a connection to yourself, but it takes a lot to really stop and listen to your heart. We so often ignore that voice in us, even though it’s probably leading us to what is best.

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3. Did you attend church? Did you identify with a specific religion? How was it presented to you? How did you relate to it?

I’ve basically have been going to church since birth. We were raised Christian and I attended Christian schools K-9!

Based on my personal experience, Christianity’s foundation is loving one another. That just seemed fairly simple to me. It wasn’t asking for an extravagant lifestyle, or harsh criticism, it was keeping life simple.

4. Tell us about a significant moment that caused a shift in your spiritual development?

Angelina has previously written about her great “spiritual spin out”, and I too have had that experience.

I call it “When My World Flipped…Literally”.

In April 2011, I had a major car accident. Long story short, I ended up UPSIDE down in the freeway embankment.

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I crawled out with only bruises.

 This was just the start of my world flipping.

A week after this month my grandma died.

A few months after that my sister gets in a car accident.

A few months after that our dad was murdered.

A few months after that our aunt was in a coma and hospitalized for a month.

This is now referred to as The Dark Days.

The Dark Days were heavy and scary and depressing and lonely. I constantly felt like I couldn’t take it anymore; hope was nearly lost.

I had to stop questioning everything and realize I couldn’t be in control. I had to (and still do) remind myself of the day my world flipped and know that I’m being watched over. It also made me extremely grateful for everything.

 5. Did your spiritual views change as you entered adolescence?

There would be times in church were I just really felt like they were using scare tactics to get you to listen…and it worked. I understand that they were so passionate about their message that they would do anything to get your intention, but I didn’t like being scared into this.

Sometimes it seemed like religion was impossible. It was just a list of what you couldn’t do and condemnation when you failed, but then I learned about love. Once I started reading more about God’s love, and how we are just supposed to love each other and ourselves, that’s when I feel I had a better grasp on spirituality. Spirituality connects everyone, even different religions. All religions, people, cultures have one common thing, Love.

6. Has your relationship with spirituality shifted as you entered adulthood?

I think it has gotten a little more practical. I use to do everything with church. Nothing wrong with that, but it was beginning to feel like a chore. I had to break away from some of those things so that church became something I wanted to do, not something I had to do. I appreciate it more.

7. What is your spiritual life like today?

I think I’m trying to be more sensitive, kinder, and intuitive.

I try to listen more to my spirit and trust that it’s leading me in the right direction.

8. Are there any books, movies, etc. on spirituality that have had a significant impact?

I was first introduced to Rob Bell in my early 20s. His book have really simplified Christianity for me. Two of his books really struck a chord with me, I constantly go back to them for reference. When he’s not writing books he’s spending time with Oprah, haha.

His first book “Velvet Elvis” is one that you should really read if you want a break down of Christianity…especially if you question it. Questions are good, admitting we aren’t perfect or worn out is good. This book goes into learning to be ourselves because that’s how God created us. He makes it very relatable.

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The next book that I HIGHLY recommend is “Drops Like Stars”.

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I recommend this more than the first book. This book is about suffering. This book is about what do we do when we feel like we have completely lost everything. This book is for everyone.

I attended Rob Bell’s book tour for this and it was amazing. The way he pointed out how we all suffer and it’s in that suffering where we have to reshape our thinking. It’s in our suffering that we rely most on others. There’s a line in the book that says “suffering unites”, and I felt so connected to everyone in the room, and that’s what spirituality is all about…a connection with you and others.

 

 

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We are interested in hearing about your spiritual journey! If you would like to be featured on Spiritual Sidebar, please email us at spiritualbahana@gmail.com or comment here!

Spiritual Sidebar: Leslie

Today’s Spiritual Sidebar is featuring Ang’s homie, Leslie. Leslie and Ang have been friends since they met while planning their weddings in 2006. Their conversations have evolved over time from candy buffets, to literature, to comforting and relating each other when they both lost their fathers. Ang has always found Leslie’s description of herself as a “Recovering Catholic” amusing and was very interested to hear her take on spirituality.

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1) Tell us about yourself. 

My name is Leslie, and I’m 35 years old. My Instagram bio describes me this way: Woman, writer, wife, mother. I’m many other things, too, but I move through the world with these descriptors most firmly anchored to me.

 2) What do you believe spirituality is? 

Spirituality to me is a relationship with what’s divine in the world. I believe that everything is, or has the potential to be, divine. Cheryl Strayed writes about this in one of her Dear Sugar columns, describing this phenomenon as “the ordinary miraculous.” I think mindfulness is a key aspect of noticing and appreciating the divinity in all things – if we have our heads buried in our iPhones, we will miss quite a bit of the ordinary miraculous.

I also believe very much in mystery, that there are many things in the world that do not have answers and never will. These things without answers range from where we came from to where we go when we die to the complete meaning of T.S. Eliot’s poem “Ash-Wednesday.” We can speculate, we can write treatises and books, but we cannot really know for sure. That uncertainty, that unknown, is something to be respected. For me, respecting mystery and my own lack of answers reminds me of how small I am. I can’t help but feel humble in the face of the unknown that surrounds me.

3) Did you attend church? Did you identify with a specific religion? How was it presented to you? How did you relate to it?

I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic Church for my entire childhood. (I also attended a Christian school from kindergarten through 5th grade.) At the age of 16, I was confirmed into the church, and shortly after, I stopped attending. Church was boring to me. Sunday school? Snoozeville. I’d been listening to talk about Jesus my whole life, but none of it resonated with me. And that made me feel guilty. I wanted to believe, but there was nothing in my heart but guilt. There was a fair amount of disgust for myself, too – it’s really difficult to approach the subject of sin with a sensitive child (as I was) and enable her to understand such a deep and complex subject.

I have no doubt that my teachers and elders within the church had the best intentions. I actually loved my church and my private school, all my Christian friends and teachers – none of them were bad people – but the things that I was taught about God did not feel true to me. Oh, how I wanted them to feel true. I tried so hard.

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4) Tell us about a significant moment that caused a shift in your spiritual development.

When I was 18, I met someone who called himself an agnostic, a term I’d never heard before. He explained agnosticism as a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type of thing, which didn’t make much sense to me. However, meeting someone who had a different viewpoint on all things God paved the way for me to really begin asking questions, reading different texts, and exploring what it was I actually believed – not what I was told to believe, but what I, as a free thinking individual, actually held to be true. This coincided with my first semester of college, which in its own right is a time of huge growth, change, and evolution.

As I grew into my early 20s, I started reading more philosophical and spiritual texts. I was in the process of working on my English degree, so I was introduced to many writers – the cool thing about studying literature is that you are essentially studying life. I read up on Christianity and Buddhism, Atheism and Kabbalah. My favorite book was the Tao Te Ching (translated by Stephen Mitchell) – as I read it, I felt its words sink into the very core of myself. “WOW!” my heart said. I experienced the same feeling when I read Joseph Campbell, who studied and wrote about comparative mythology. Through all of this reading and exploration, I began to really embrace the idea that there are many paths up the same mountain of life. I do not believe in absolute truth – or that any one religion or spiritual path is the right one for everyone. I completely respect that others might feel differently, because they are following a different path. For the majority of my 20s, I thought of myself as an agnostic with Taoist leanings.

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 5) What is your spiritual life like today?

My beliefs are still in the process of evolving. I’m still reading and learning and trying to undo some of my own fears and prejudices. I still struggle with saying the words “prayer,” “worship,” “religion,” “faith,” and “church.” (Even touching on the subject of divinity like I did earlier made me feel strange.) These are such loaded terms, and I’m slowly unpacking them and finding what they mean to me. Someone described me recently as someone who doesn’t know what she believes, and I would say that may be partly true – and I actually don’t think it’s a bad thing to not know. Remember, I’m a big believer in mystery, so I accept the unknown as a teacher and a guide in my life. I don’t need to know the answers, though they are very nice when they come.

My family attends a Unitarian Universalist church, which is a free, liberal faith with an emphasis on community service and social justice, and I find it to be a safe place to examine myself. I also think it’s a wonderful faith to expose children to, because they get to explore and learn about different faiths in their Religious Exploration classes – something I wish I’d gotten to experience as a child. I don’t read spiritual books with the rabidity that I did in my early 20s, but I do still explore through journaling, thinking, and attending church – and it’s not as if spiritual lessons are only gained through those avenues. Reading poetry, listening to music, washing dishes can all be spiritual experiences – remember the “ordinary miraculous”? As far as spiritual reading goes, though, I have carried a pocket-sized copy of the Tao Te Ching in my bag for many years, and I also have a Christian app called She Reads Truth on my iPhone. I love Anne Lamott’s essays on faith, and I find Pema Chodron to be one of my touchstones.

My main hopes for my spiritual journey are that I will remain open to possibilities, miracles (yikes, another heavy term), and truth; that I will grow in my mindfulness; that I will remain respectful and kind towards others; that I will embrace what feels right to me, even if I’m told it’s wrong; that I will continue to help others. I’m looking forward to where life will take me and how my spirituality will unfold. I know I have an infinite amount of things to learn with a finite amount of time in which to do it – but that is one of the beautiful things about life: it’s fleeting and thus it’s something to be cherished.

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We are interested in hearing about your spiritual journey! If you would like to be featured on Spiritual Sidebar, please email us at spiritualbahana@gmail.com or comment here!

Spiritual Sidebar: Barb from That Was Vegan?

Barb from That Was Vegan? is one of my vegan sisters and whips up some amazingly delicious creations that will literally have you saying, That Was Vegan? Check out her site for inspiration on cruelty-free eating that is still full of flavor and comfort.

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1. Tell us about yourself. 

I consider myself to be a very spiritual person. I was also raised as, and continue to be, an atheist. I know some people will see this as an enormous contradiction, but I don’t believe it is at all.

2. Did you attend church? Did you identify with a specific religion? How was it presented to you? How did you relate to it?

Growing up in a small New England town, it seemed that my family was the only one not going to church. I had friends who went weekly, or maybe just on the major religious holidays, but I was pretty much the only one never going at all. True story: I was never even inside of a church until I attended my grandparent’s funeral when I was in high school!

I wasn’t at all curious about it, either. I thought of it as something my family just didn’t do, if I thought of it at all. That started to change when I left for college. I read more, was introduced to a wider range of people and ideas, and began to think more deeply about it. I think this is pretty common phenomena among college students, no matter the topic.

3. Tell us about a significant moment that caused a shift in your spiritual development.  Did your spiritual views change as you entered adolescence? Has your relationship with spirituality shifted as you entered adulthood?

It was around this time that I began to consider The Universe as something of a greater power. I came to believe in a sort of “collective spirit” that I felt encapsulated the positive aspects of a society more connected to each other and the planet we share, but without the aspects of organized religion that I perceive as negative. I started to grow more and more into this idea, and I found comfort in it. Was something a coincidence? No, that was simply The Universe telling me something. When things went my way, was it luck? Maybe… or perhaps it was The Universe giving me what I needed.

After college I moved to California and within my first few weeks there a family friend took me with him to a Buddhist retreat high in the mountains outside of Los Angeles. This was my very first introduction to Buddhism. I remember being so nervous, not knowing how to act or what to say or do. I also remember the kindness of everyone there. The monks of course, but also just the other Buddhists, people who had made the trek up the mountain for the day or weekend. It was like existing in a cloud of empathy and compassion. It was a wonderful feeling. This was also where my earlier ideas of a collective spirit and the connection we share with all living beings began to coalesce into something more solid and meaningful in my life.

As soon as I got home I began reading everything I could get my hands on about Buddhism and how to inject the beliefs into everyday life. And while I never became an actual Buddhist, I have continued to try and incorporate as much of that lifestyle as I can into my own.

The Buddhist practices of mindful compassion, understanding, and morality have helped to shape me into the woman I am today. The belief that we are all connected, that all lives matter, and especially the karmic impact of every choice I make help to keep me on the path I feel is right for me. It plays a part in every corner of my life, from my veganism to my relationships to the way I interact with strangers. It has become a part of my spiritualism, the very core of who I am.

4. What is your spiritual life like today?

And who is it that I am? Well I guess I’m a Spiritual Atheist with Buddhistic Tendencies. Who doesn’t use or consume animal products. Who tries (and sometimes fails) to always be a good person. To do the right thing. I’m completely imperfect, and even that is a part of my spirituality, because it’s a constant reminder that no one is perfect, so I shouldn’t judge. I should instead focusing on improving both myself and the world around me, as best I can. I am a lot of things!

The Center for Spiritual Atheism describes Wholistic Ethics as the belief amongst those who describe themselves as spiritual that as they go about their lives, they should be striving to be healthy and happy, and to help the world around them be healthy and happy too. I love both the term and the definition. I believe if everyone, no matter their religion or beliefs, followed those basic tenets, the world could be an infinitely better place. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

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We are interested in hearing about your spiritual journey! If you would like to be featured on Spiritual Sidebar, please email us at spiritualbahana at gmail.com or comment here!

Spiritual Sidebar ft. Ric

Spiritual sidebar is a weekly interview featuring the spiritual practices of our readers and friends.  This week we are featuring Ed’s friend Ric.  Both of them attended Catholic seminary in 2000.  They have remained friends ever since.

  1. Tell us about yourself.  I’m a 37 year old Latino Male who migrated to the U.S when I was 10. I’m the first in my family to attend and graduate from college and I’m now working on my Master’s Degree on Clinical Psychology.
  2. What do you believe spirituality is? Spirituality is a connection with a higher being, in my case God. Through this connection I can ‘talk’ to God and at moments without even realizing that I’m doing it. There is a constant connection from my soul and it nourishes me as a person. When I am in grace I find myself more accepting of others, willing to help in whichever way I can, and I fill fulfilled/complete because my life has a purpose.
  3. Did you attend church? Did you identify with a specific religion? How was it presented to you? How did you relate to it? I attend church on a regular basis, and I am Roman Catholic from birth. I have come to learn and build on my Roman Catholic faith
  4. Did your spiritual views change as you entered adolescence? As an adolescent I drifted away from anything religious. My foundation was not solid in my faith and I wanted control over my life. There was conflict as I tried to understand why I was so naïve and why my parents only gave me a superficial teaching of who God is. It was this constant conflict that kept me from anything spiritual. Instead of searching for answers I took the easy way out and ignored everything.
  5. Has your relationship with spirituality shifted as you entered adulthood? There is a constant “shift” in any relationship as one matures. I believe that I now have a better relationship with God and I’m able to better communicate through my prayers. Although at moments I wish I had the innocence of a child when it comes to spirituality, I know that one must mature.
  6. What is your spiritual life like today? Whenever I lose that connection with God I get a feeling of emptiness. Recently I have been so concerned with the direction of my life and career, that I have set aside my prayer life. As much as I try to use my commute time to pray and meditate, it is extremely difficult to stay focus, since attention has to be on the road. I try to dedicate the first few minutes of my day to prayer, but I soon find myself wondering off and planning my day. I have noticed that my lack of spiritual life makes me angry and I become frustrated easily.

Next week, we’ll feature a friend of Angelina’s.

Love,
Ed