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My Brain Runs on Energizer

My Brain Runs on Energizer 8

Last Friday, I went to the New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. Despite living only three hours away and always having a decent-sized group of local writers in attendance to hang with, this was the first time in 20 years that I attended.

(I actually don’t know if they’ve been holding it for 20 years, but that’s how long I’ve been in RWA and my local chapter. Yikes!)

I attended some good workshops, met a few people, held my breath for my friend who’d finaled in the contest during the award ceremony, failed to win any prizes, sold 7 books at the literacy signing, and actually danced at the after-party. It was a great time, and I’m really glad I went.

But then came this:

Room ViewThis was the view from my balcony from Sunday through Tuesday.

Long-time readers might recall that I have a thing for the beach. Like a lot of people do, I guess, but mine’s all tied up with childhood memories and my complicated relationship with my mother and her death 11 years ago, blah blah blah. I live inland now, just far enough to be within reach but not close enough for it to be practical to actually go there. My family doesn’t particularly care for the beach, so years go by between visits.

This year, I needed some ocean. A break from my day jobs and real-life stress, a chance to focus on writing and recharging. I did a lot of both. :) And it was very close to perfect.

The first flaw was Monday morning. Twenty minutes after I woke up, a migraine hit. I had my vibrating-lightning-bolt aura for about an hour. That makes it hard to see, and uncomfortable to use a computer screen. Typically, the longer I have the aura, the worse and longer-lasting the pain is. But…there was no pain. Talk about dodging a disaster!

But I wasn’t satisfied with that kind of dodge, apparently.

FeetI finished editing a novella and prepping it for publication and went for a walk in the surf. The weather was gorgeous the whole time  I was there. Low 60s and sunny. The water wasn’t cold (not that I cared if it was), so I rolled up my jeans and went for a nice, long walk.

This is where the Energizer Brain comes in. It never shuts off. I stood at the water’s edge, watching the waves and the gulls, staring out to the edge of the world, and it just would. not. stop. I thought about my family and work and this blog post and Facebook and my manuscript and the conference and my car and every tiny little thing that runs through my head on a normal day. I was relaxed and re-energized, sure, but that just seemed to rev up my brain even more.

And then I paid for it.

I was walking along, and watching the waves rush up into these rocks:


The surf was running about a dozen small waves and then one big one that rushed up the beach, and it was coming up higher at the rocks. I knew I was likely to get my jeans wet if I got caught in there, so I was going to go around them. But they were still a good way’s away, and guess what? Yeah. I got lost in thought again. And I started to walk into the rocks at the water’s edge. And that one big wave came rushing up, and not only would it probably splash up my thighs, it was going to catch me where I was, before the rocks. I dodged—but “inadequate” describes that move.

So I started running. Ha! The sand was very deep and soft, and I sank a good two inches for every step. So by “running” I mean “stumbling sideways.” It wasn’t going to be enough. The water was going to soak my cuffs, so I tried to move faster, knowing that was dumb, that I couldn’t get my feet clear, and I was going to fall. And sure enough, I did. Big ol’ belly flop onto the sand, with a good two inches of surf still under me.


I was wet from chest to ankles, and covered in sand. My sneakers, which were in my hand, got super-soaked. Luckily, my Kindle in my back pocket and new smartphone in my front pocket didn’t get wet at all. The cash in my other front pocket got slightly damp by the time I got back to the room, because of the water soaking through my sweatshirt, T-shirt, and jeans. And it wasn’t at all cold, so I stayed on the beach for a while longer.

Then I had to re-enter the hotel (and spa! high-end place!) and cross the gigantic lobby to the elevators. Again, luck was with me, and the lobby was mostly empty, unlike the rest of my time there (starting about two hours later) when there were always like 50 people milling around.

My only remaining clothes were a truly ridiculous combination, which wouldn’t have been a big deal to drive home in, except I had to go back to the conference hotel to pick up a sweater I’d left when I checked out, and I couldn’t really be in public dressed like that. Also, I was going to need Starbucks. So I wore the ridiculous combination of clothes to the laundromat and washed and dried my salty-sandy stuff.

Then I walked on the beach some more before dinner. :)

I also held the room service cart hostage for a full day so I could write like this:

Writing in Room

If I can manage it, I’m totally going back next year! And hey, maybe I’ll make belly-flopping a retreat tradition. :)

8 COMMENTS | Categories,Natalie J. Damschroder | Tags

Icebox Trolls and Other Mysteries 6

Let me just say upfront, as husbands go mine is about as housebroke as they get. He does dishes. Laundry. Someday possibly even a toilet, but let’s not get crazy here. And yet, I am still baffled.

Why does he put little bits of leftover food in the refrigerator when he knows no human being in our household will ever consume them? Not once since the beginning of our cohabitation (which yes, was just after the beginning of time) has either of us ever eaten a leftover French fry. Not a single, slimy, wilted time. And yet he persists in stuffing the damn things into To-Go boxes at restaurants, as if even the dog wants to eat day old grease. For the love of our arteries, leave the fries, man.

Then there are the chicken nuggets. Our son almost never eats all of them. Always there are one or two left sad and neglected in their little paper box. The boy who would not eat them when they were as fresh as a chicken nugget can be (and let’s not think too hard about that concept)? That boy is not going to eat the same nuggets when they have been rubberized to steaming perfection in the microwave two days later. And yet, even as I type there is a fast food bag lounging on the second shelf of my refrigerator, the nuggets inside well on their way to petrification (assuming that is a word).

My husband never removes these odds and ends from the refrigerator for consumption by himself or anyone else in the household. As far as he’s concerned, this is a one-way portal. What goes in does not come out. So one has to wonder…where does he think they go? Does he assume it’s like an old school freezer, the kind that would eat away at your forgotten Popsicles until nothing was left but a stick coated in purple goo? Or perhaps he believes that deep in the night, our gangs of mice gather round to haul the door open and wine and dine on flat Pepsi and hockey pucks formerly known as McGriddles.

Or, and this is my favored theory, he believes there are trolls who live in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. The one marked ‘Produce’, because God knows no one ever opens it so as far as we know, we could be harboring any number of loathsome creatures. When the menfolk are gone, the icebox trolls come grumbling and growling out of their lair to feast upon the remains of the not-so-happy-now meals, their faces screwed up into perpetual scowls of disgust as they make the tantalizing tidbits disappear.

Or possibly that’s just me, cleaning the refrigerator.


Kari Lynn Dell – Montana for Real




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‘Cause Your Hot, Then Your Cold… 4

This time of year always makes me think of this song:

Because we keep see-sawing from near 80s in the afternoon to low 50s in the morning. For me, sitting around in pj’s all day, not such big deal. I have a tiny space heater under my desk. I keep gloves…somewhere. Not on my hands right now where I’d like them. This is really one of my least favorite times of the year.

For kids going to school, even less fun. Too cold for shorts in the morning. Too hot for pants in the afternoon. So as I make a daily search through Son’s closet, I stand there singing this, dreaming for winter, spring and summer.

What’s your least favorite season of the year?


4 COMMENTS | Categories,Keri Ford | Tags, ,

Ride Your Best Horse First 7

Last weekend some folks that I judge horse shows for gave me a bottle of wine and a western sign as a gift. The sign read, “Ride Your Best Horse First”. They said that after my rides at their horse show the week before they figure I needed it! What can I say? They know me very well!

Because they welcome green riders and horses I love to judge there and haul my own horses there as well. This year I haven’t gotten to ride nearly as much as I should but I figured since my schedule was open and my horses needed hauling I decided to go. I took my seasoned gelding and my green mare that’s only been hauled a few times.

The morning of the show was the first cold morning and first frost that we’ve had so of course the horses were absolutely full of it! Fortunately, we pulled in to the show grounds with an hour to spare and I was able to get both horses in the ring to see all the sights. Aside from a little snorting and upturned tails, it went well. I knew both of their energy levels were up more than usual and expected them to be a handful.

My husband took the green mare into her In Hand Trail class. She’s never even seen a trail obstalce let alone backed through an ‘L’ shape but she handled it all like a pro. She didn’t give the water obstacle a second look either. I was hopeful that the day might go well after all.

Then it was time for the seasoned “been there done that” gelding to go through the same class. When my husband went to trot him between obstacles, my gelding had all four feet up in the air at one point!

I had a two class break before I was supposed to ride the gelding in my Trail class. I figured if he was that bad on the ground, he’d be a lot worse under saddle. I know him well knew I needed to lope a few circles to get the bucks and crow hops over with.

I took him to a nearby paddock  to work him and sure enough after a few strides he gave me his best shot. He bucked, crow hopped and reared and put on a pretty good show as he caught some air. I think some of the pleasure folks were appalled at such a display of outright rankness but over the years I’ve pretty much gotten used to it.

The first Trail class he wouldn’t settle for anything and pretty much obliterated the trail pattern because he was moving around. I’m sure I didn’t help anyhow because I was still jacked up from the bronc ride we’d just had.

The second Trail class he was a little better but still wasn’t really paying attention or settling until the last three obstacles. The very last obstacle we had to rope the dummy calf. He side passed in to pick up the rope beautifully and then stood perfectly still while I threw and then as I coiled my rope up. Where had this horse been all this time?

My husband showed him in Showmanship and Halter and he behaved very well through those.  After that I tied him to the trailer and sure enough a little later he was bucking there too.

I rode the mare in two walk/jog pleasure classes and a horsemanship class. Granted she wasn’t as finished as the other horses in the class but she trafficked well and didn’t look at the all the stuff outside the ring. She managed to keep a good consistent pace in her Horsemanship class too. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud or happy after working one of my young horses. She redeemed the day for me!

I think I know who my best horse is and it’s not the horse that’s done everything from sort cattle to extreme cowboy racing. It’s a little mare that’s done everything I’ve asked her to do. Yes, I’ve got to put some more training on her but I think she’s earned the title of my best horse!




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Review: Ecstasy by the Sea by Chris Almeida & Cecilia Aubrey 0

Ecstasy by the Sea (Bytes of Life #2) by Chris Almeida & Cecilia Aubrey
Published:  July 6, 2012

This steamy spinoff to COUNTERMEASURE sees Trevor Bauer and Cassandra James having just tied the knot and moving across the pond to their new digs in Ireland to begin their life as a married couple. Their days have been swamped with planning the wedding, setting up their new business, and Trevor’s NSA commitments—not to mention their continued investigation into his parents’ disappearance. So when it’s pointed out to him that a key launching point for a new marriage has been overlooked, Trevor takes matters into his own hands.

Unbeknownst to Cassandra, Trevor plans the perfect honeymoon getaway down to the daintiest swatch of lace. His detail-obsessed wife won’t know what hit her when he sweeps her away for what will result in nothing less than a weekend filled with pure ecstasy by the sea…

**Hotness Rating 3 out of 5**

For those of you that have read Countermeasure by Chris Almeida and Cecilia Aubrey you have to read this book. I can not tell you how many books that I’ve finished and just wished I had a little more of what happens next. Ecstasy by the Sea is that book. The Bytes of Life series could be read independently of the Countermeasure series, but I would advise reading them as companions.

In Ecstasy by the Sea we get a peek at Trevor and Cassandra’s wedding and their move to Ireland. I loved the descriptions of how Bob is stepping up to be the dad that he should have always been. Trevor is so sweet and works so hard to surprise Cassie with an unexpected honeymoon. Their love comes across even more in this short story and the scenes are a ton hotter.

I can not wait to read more on this couple and the characters that make up the Countermeasures series.

I give Ecstasy by the Sea 4 Flaming Hearts

4 Hearts

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Comings and Goings… 1

I got up this morning and headed for my coffee pot and realized it was Saturday and I had a blog to write. I have been off work since the beginning of September while I recover from some minor hand surgery. In any other profession I would have been back to work but because there are restrictions on how much weight I can pick up/push/pull I can’t drive a bus so I am off until my doctor releases me.

I don’t know how those of you who work from home do it. I have no idea what day of the week it is, what the date is, or what’s going on in the world. The only reason I even know it’s the weekend is because my husband stays in bed until noon instead of rolling out at about 9 am to head to work!

I promised last week to tell you the story about the newest member of our family, but today I am also going to tell you about rehoming  one of my many dogs to a new family.

Rehoming is a big deal. I think I have mentioned before that I do a LOT of rescue–dogs and cats mostly but I have also gotten a horse or two over the past couple of years. Sometimes I end up keeping the animal but mostly I find them a good forever home. It’s a great feeling matching a homeless or unwanted animal to a family who needs them in their lives!

Cash, the dog I wrote about last week who was stolen from me, came from a litter I raised when my husband’s miniature Dachshund, Halle Weenie, and my Pomeranian got together and had pups. I never fixed my male Pomeranian because he was a show quality dog and I really wanted to find a nice female to breed him with so I could have another Pom when Tavi got older.  Halle came to us as a rescue and we had no idea if she was fixed or not. Well, SURPRISE! She wasn’t and we ended up with four pups. Halle was a TERRIBLE mother and we fixed her as soon as we could so we wouldn’t have to deal with her again, but the pups were beautiful and I found homes for them without any trouble.  All of them, that is, except the little girl.

Princess was given to my adopted daughter for her birthday with the understanding that when she got on her feet financially she could take her home. I expected to have the pup for 6 months tops, but as time went by I realized that a dog was more than my daughter could handle and I decided to find Princess a different home. The person who wanted her kept flaking out on me and so I finally posted her yesterday on a group I am a member of on Facebook. It is a local rescue group for dogs and cats who are lost or found and we try to locate the original owner or help find a new home for the displaced animal. Anyone on the page has already been vetted pretty much so I knew it was a good place to start. I got an immediate response and after chatting for a bit I realized I had found the perfect home for my little girl.

So this morning it was with mixed emotions that I handed Princess to her new mom and said good-bye. The woman who is taking her is older and is home all day and wanted a companion dog. She lives on her daughter’s property and her grand-daughter (who is 5) comes to visit every day and is going to absolutely fall in love with her new puppy! I have already been told her name will be changed–which is fine with me–and she will either be Elsa or Anna, one of the princesses from Frozen! I gave my little girl a kiss and wished her well and watched with a smile as she was snuggled in her new mom’s arms as they drove off. I think she is going to be very happy in her new home!

As for our newest member. I think you all remember my beloved Tango and how I lost her. I had already mentioned to my husband that I wanted another tiny dog–I really loved my little pocket puppy–and had started looking  a little before Cash went missing. My cousin kept telling me to go to the pound and adopt a dog, because as soon as I did I would find Cash.

So I went. And I looked. There was a litter of Chihuahuas that wasn’t ready to go yet that I was interested in so I kept going back to look at them. In the aisle of small dogs that were already approved for adoption was a small, wiry-haired black and tan pup that seemed overwhelmed by her surroundings and crouched in a corner of the kennel watching everyone come and go with big sad eyes. I noticed her and my husband told me to look at her but since she wasn’t a Chihuahua I wasn’t that interested.

A week went by and I took my 2-year-old grand-daughter with me to check on the Chihuahuas again. They were supposed to be released that day so I thought I would go and see if they were available yet. They still hadn’t been processed, and as DriDri and I walked through the kennels looking at all the hopeful faces I noticed a woman coming back in with one of the kennel volunteers and they had that wire-haired pup. She put her back and I was surprised that she hadn’t been adopted yet. Since I had nothing better to do, and I felt sorry for the little scruffy thing, I asked if I could see her.

They brought Babes, her name at the time, into the visitation room. Since she was so tiny I decided it would be better to sit on the floor instead of the chair. As soon as I did she ran to me and curled up in my lap. Okay–she scored big points right there! When DriDri grabbed her and squeezed her as only a toddler can all the pup did was wag her tail and lick her. I was gone. I picked her up and I started to cry. It was the first time I had cried since Cash had gone missing and I had lost Tango. She just felt right in my arms and I knew I couldn’t leave her there. I took her to the front desk and asked what I needed to do to take her home, handed over my debit card, and she became mine.

She has now been named Jacki Daniels. My husband says she is Jack Daniels illegitimate sister, which made me laugh. She is very smart and uses a potty pad, which is great because I won’t allow her in the back yard with the pool! JackiD loves her toys, she loves the family, she loves the other dogs and cats, and she loves me. Cash and she get along well and he has even started to play with her! She was the perfect dog for us. I can’t believe I was lucky enough to get my little Jacki before someone else scooped her up! before

If you are thinking of adding a new pet to your family, I would  like to strongly suggest checking at your local animal shelter first. There are so many loving dogs and cats who just need a chance and all they want is a loving family they can call their own. It breaks my heart to see all those wonderful faces and realize that many of them won’t ever leave the cage they are living in. I can promise you a shelter animal will be the best pet you will ever have! Adopt, don’t shop! sweet babyJacki bogarting toys from Gannon(This is JackiD, bogarting all the toys!)



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Writer’s Butt 9

I’d like to buy into the concept that my embiggened backside is the result of hours spent at the keyboard versus hours scaling the climbing wall or striding smoothly through my local marathon. After all, I’m a recovering fitness-professional (that’s what we call ourselves when our 26 certifications finally lapse and we don’t renew them). I understand the equation sedentary time=higher body fat.

However…however…the truth is, I don’t spend nearly as many hours at the keyboard as I did when I was still teaching a couple yoga and belly dance classes per week. When the first book of mine came out, I was chasing a toddler (who now spends the bulk of his weekday in someone else’s classroom). For me, the math hasn’t been quite so simple. I don’t have writer’s butt, as much as I have chauffeur’s butt, mother-of-a-teenager butt, good-Lord-but-I-need-another-glass-of-wine butt, and “Are you gonna finish that cheesecake?” butt.

Enter Julia Cameron. I first encountered her in college when I was introduced to THE ARTIST’S WAY. Her core tool for “artistic healing” and creativity generation is a three-page daily morning brain-dump (my term, not hers), during which you draft stream-of-consciousness until your mind is relatively clear. There are tons of other exercises to do as well, but the brain-dump is key.

I’ve done my morning pages off-and-on ever since. I tend to go off them for the same reason I tend NOT to be a diarist–for me, at least, I fear that it’s self-indulgent whining that feeds upon itself. If I’m going to write three pages in the morning, they should be heartfelt, emotionally true, fascinating, delightful fiction without typos.


Are you gonna eat that other Pop-Tart?

I just ran across another Cameron classic I hadn’t seen before: THE WRITER’S DIET. I’ve peeked at it–and sure enough, the brain-dump is a core factor. But I haven’t delved and dug.

Have you? Do you find that the more you write, the easier it is to manage your body and spirit? Or do you have to struggle with basic writer’s butt?

And are you a Cameron fan (or, like me, a child who runs to her spiritual mother for comfort, and then periodically rebels?)

9 COMMENTS | Categories,Uncategorized | Tags, , , ,

I *Heart* Facebook Groups 13

by Laura Drake

As many of you already know, I’m quirky. I have many odd and not so odd hobbies, interests, and obsessions. How cool is it that we now have a ONE stop shop for all our oddities? You can find almost any group you can think of, on Facebook.  Are you an albino (wait – has that become a politically incorrect term?) There’s a group for that. Are you afraid of heights? type Acrophobia in the search box.  Are you transgendered and looking to date? Yep. It’s there (no judgement).

After researching, my groups seem almost normal. Along with a family history group, one for graduates of my high school, several writing and knitting groups, I also belong to:

Lady Bikers

Two-Wheel Females

The Tweethearts (Pro bull riding fans)

Herdies – (ditto)

The Bull Pen – okay, so there may be a theme

Cowboy Stalkers Anonymous – I may be venturing into the lunatic fringe here.

Love, relationships, Social and Psychology Help Center – that one MUST have been for research.

But the one I love the most is one that I began with eight other authors a couple of months ago:

WRC Photo

We started it as a place for readers of Western Romance to come, hang out, and discuss everything Western Romance. Oh, and the founding authors have a place to announce their next release, and a giveaway or two.

At least, that’s how it started.  We now have over 550 members, a conversation starter question three days a week, and a ‘Campfire Book Club’ group. We might have brought up the idea, but the members ran with it, reading and discussing a book a month.

In the couple of months it’s been in existence, it’s taken on a personality that has little to do with the founders, and I think we’ve ALL met interesting, stalwart, and funny women we wouldn’t have known otherwise.

Sigh. Don’t you love when that happens?  If you love Western romance, come look us up!


Author Headshot SmallLaura Drake is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women’s Fiction and Romance.

She sold her Sweet on a Cowboy series, romances set in the world of professional bull riding, to Grand Central. The Sweet Spot (May 2013), Nothing Sweeter (Jan 2014) and Sweet on You (August 2014). The Sweet Spot won the 2014 Romance Writers of America®   RITA® award in the Best First Book category.

Her ‘biker-chick’ novel, Her Road Home, sold to Harlequin’s Superomance line (August, 2013) and has expanded to three more stories set in the same small town. The Reasons to Stay released August, 2014.

Laura has long wanted to make a foray into another genre she loves, and she currently has a Women’s Fiction novel out on submission.

In 2014, Laura realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She’s a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours.

Twitter / Facebook / Writers in the Storm

13 COMMENTS | Categories,Laura Drake, Uncategorized | Tags, , , ,

Book Brain 10

9780373069958I’m just about to turn in book #6 for Harlequin Medicals. It’s due October 15th, but I got it done and I have to say given the last little while, that’s quite a feat. And I say that I’m just about to turn it in because I’m rejigging the synopsis. Blech. I hate writing synopses at the best of times, but since the book has changed since I did the proposal I have to rework the synopsis. *shakes fist to the sky*

It was when I was rejigging I remembered it’s actually Tuesday (this past weekend was Thanksgiving up here in Canada) and I had a post here.

It’s been a wee bit stressful around here to say the least.

OH and I had my 4th book DARE SHE DATE AGAIN? with Harlequin Medicals come out.


So I have book brain. Big time. I think after I turn in my book I’m going to do some purging of junk (that always makes me feel better) and knitting.

I’m making Outlander arm warmers courtesy of Smart Bitches’ pattern. I’m almost done one arm.

Usually I take a couple of weeks to recover, but I don’t have that luxury this time. Book #7 is in a quad with three other authors and we have to plan our world and make sure our characters etc are all connected.

At least they’re understanding about book brain. A couple of them have it too at the moment.

Writers do you suffer from book brain? How do you bounce back?

Readers, you guys are worth the book brain! HUGS!


10 COMMENTS | Categories,Amy Ruttan | Tags, , ,


His Kind of Perfection



Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure this is still a reality.  It seems like just yesterday I received the call from my agent that Harlequin Super Romance wanted to buy my book when in real time it occurred three years ago.  That book (Out of the Depths–August 2012) was followed by two more, The Summer Place (April 2013) and Moonlight in Paris (February 2014).  At that point, I signed a four-book contract, and the dream I was living became an actual second career.  So it’s with much pride that I present my 4th Harlequin Super Romance–His Kind of Perfection.

I love writing for the Super Romance line because it gives me a chance to make up stories about characters who could be my neighbors.  Yeah, I know how wildly popular the billionaires and the sheikhs are in the romance genre.  And when I’m looking for pure fantasy, I have no problem settling in with one of those guys.  But the stories that truly steal my heart are the ones that convince me that hunky hero is just an ordinary guy who makes the world a better place, not with his money, but with his heart.

Enter my latest hero–boat mechanic Kale Barlow.  Mmmm-mmm.  I think Kale is one of the hottest heroes I’ve ever written, ad I love him to pieces.  He’s just so … so real.  Despite how thin the model on my book cover looks, my hero Kale is overweight.  In fact, at the beginning of the book, his girlfriend breaks up with him because he’s gained so much weight, she isn’t attracted to him any more.  In an effort to win her back, Kale joins a gym and enlists the help of a personal trainer, who just so happens to be the  heroine, Bree Rice.  In her work, Bree has been surrounded by buff guys with drool-worthy physiques, and yet it’s Kale who wins her heart with his engaging personality.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure this concept would fly.  I’d never read a book with an overweight hero, and my husband keeps telling me to remind people that “the fat hero” isn’t based on him. :-)  But the RT reviewer set my mind at ease when she wrote that Kale’s weight didn’t make him seem unattractive in the least.

That was precisely the Kale I was going for.

To me, Kale’s the boy-next-door.  The one who really is out there, waiting to be noticed and appreciated and loved for the kind, gentle, and honorable way he faces life everyday.  He’s not perfect … but he’s as close as most of us are ever going to get.

His kind of perfection is perfect for me.

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