NASA MatarikiIt’s mid-winter in New Zealand. The air is crisper than I’ve felt it for a while, the leaves have pretty much fallen and we have had the shortest day of the year.

This week also saw the appearance of the star cluster, Matariki, (The Pleiades), which heralds the Maori New Year.

This was not a festival I had ever heard of growing up but it has been revised and reinstated and there are now celebrations being held all around New Zealand. While different tribes traditionally celebrated Matariki in their own fashion, now it is universally marked by the new moon and rising of the Matariki star cluster with festivities running from 1st June to 30th July.

Traditionally, Matariki was a time of celebration, important for navigation and the timing of the seasons. It was particularly relevant to the preparation of the ground for the upcoming growing season and offerings to the gods, and specifically, Rongo, the Maori god of cultivated food.

Only a few New Zealand schools consistently mark mid-winter and Matariki but for our boys’ school, festivals are an important part of the culture and I have two mid-winter events to attend this coming week.

On Wednesday evening, my youngest son has a lantern walk through a public garden. Imagine a waterfall and a large pond with a bridge over it and a stream running throughout. Imagine 30 or so small (3-6 year-old) children clutching a paper lantern with a candle in one hand and a parent’s hand in the other as we meander through the park in, otherwise, pitch black. We will wander past tiny grottos of handmade gnomes and crystals, we will attempt to sing (although for the children, it’s enough that they manage to walk and stay upright!) and we finish gathered together, munching on a star shaped, ginger or shortbread biscuit.

On Thursday evening, my older sons have their mid-winter festival, beginning with a shadow play performed by their teachers. After the play, the children who are between 10 and 14 gather in small groups amongst the trees at school and the youngest children, guided by their lanterns and teachers, meander from group to group and hear the older children entertain them with a song, or a poem or a tune. The 10 year-olds then follow behind the youngest to see the older children’s performances and the 11 year-olds follow them, and so on. They will finish with their classmates and a biscuit and warm drink.

The magic in these events is heart-warming and the children just seem to absorb the atmosphere; they appreciate the small snippets of light amongst the darkness, the companionship, the quiet musicality of the ’entertainment’ and especially the sharing of food at the end! (So do I.)

Do you celebrate mid-summer and mid-winter? How do schools where you live mark these seasonal events?

Sources: NZ Ministry of Culture and Heritage; Wikipedia

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our writer and mother of three boys in New Zealand, Karyn Van Der Zwet.

The image used in this post is credited to Wikipedia images with editing from Dayne Laird (Ministry for Culture and Heritage, NZ)

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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CALIFORNIA, USA: Time flies by so fast; Let’s cherish what’s NOW

CALIFORNIA, USA: Time flies by so fast; Let’s cherish what’s NOW

with tali-1All parents agree, once their first child came into their lives, everything changed. Our life routine changed, some of our friends changed, our clean house no longer stayed clean, the term “empty laundry basket” became an abstract thing, our plans for the future changed…even some of our dreams. We no longer sleep, we no longer eat, we no longer have the time to take care of ourselves as much as we wish. Eating at a dining table is a privilege, at least in my house, because most of my meals are consumed on the run, and my kids are not even in school yet!

I go to mom’s groups, family gatherings, coffee with friends, and I hear the same thing over, and over again: “It will all pass faster than you expect, and you’ll become free again.” No more dirty diapers, no more wiping floors and ceilings after each meal, no more sleepless nights, no more this, and no more that…

And I’m thinking, is it really all that bad…having young children around? Is it really that hard? Yes, it is hard, but it will become harder. Sleepless nights, because the baby is hungry, or because she needs a new diaper will change to sleepless nights because my daughters are out on a date, or on a road trip across the country, and I’m left with all the visions in my head about what may go wrong out there. (more…)

Ewa Samples

Ewa was born, and raised in Poland. She graduated University with a master's degree in Mass-Media Education. This daring mom hitchhiked from Berlin, Germany through Switzerland and France to Barcelona, Spain and back again! She left Poland to become an Au Pair in California and looked after twins of gay parents for almost 2 years. There, she met her future husband through Couch Surfing, an international non-profit network that connects travelers with locals. Today she enjoys her life one picture at a time. She runs a photography business in sunny California and document her daughters life one picture at a time. You can find this artistic mom on her blog, Ewa Samples Photography, on Twitter @EwaSamples or on Facebook!

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WORLD TOUR: Daria’s World Music for Children

WORLD TOUR: Daria’s World Music for Children

Raising Respect & Love

Daria and her music speak to our mission, here, at World Moms Blog, and she has also supported our #Moms4MDGs campaign.  We recently invited her friend, Lisa from The Squishable Baby, to give us the full scoop on Daria’s World Music! 

Have you ever been in the car and a song comes on the radio that brings a huge smile to your face? No matter what mood you are in – good, bad or indifferent – you feel totally at peace and happy. And if you could just bottle up that song and play it over and over, you would? Have you met someone who must have a voice from Heaven? Whose beautiful voice advocates peace, tolerance and love. Someone whose voice celebrates the human experience in all its differences?

I am lucky enough to know someone like that. Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou makes children happy through her music that advocates peace, love, and multiculturalism. As a homeschooling family where art and music are at the core of our curriculum, it’s easy to see how Daria makes such an important contribution to this world. You go on her website where there are a myriad of resources for you to teach, enjoy and spend quality time with your children. I can’t think of anything better than someone whose very foundation and message is love. And she does it in a way to educate about others and celebrates everyone’s differences.

We listen to Daria’s CDs in the car all the time. The kids know the songs by heart. They are written in different languages and are about different topics but all of them have the same undertone; to love one another and to celebrate the differences (whether good or bad) that exist in each one of us. This is the message all children should be receiving in a world that screams intolerance.

It’s time to start raising a generation of children that can respect and love the differences in others; no matter the customs, religions, colors, heights, weights, etc. These are the messages in Daria’s songs. Daria has become a part of our lives and our homeschool in a big way. We use her website a lot.

When I am teaching about a subject or an area of the world, we listen to music from that area. We look at art, and then we see what Daria has in store. Daria always has fun crafts, coloring pages and special songs available on her website. It’s there and free for everyone. The items on Daria’s website are so fun and enriching for children … and adults. I learn just as much from Daria as the kids do. The most important thing is that we do everything together. It‘s a way of bringing our family together.

Here are examples of crafts we made from Daria’s website. The kids had fun making and playing a Cajon and a Didgeridoo (instructions given on Daria’s Website) from Peru and Australia, respectively. The instructions were clear and also allowed for some innovation and creativity! Check out all the fun we had making and playing the instruments.

Having fun playing Instruments
You can see the full review I wrote about Daria here.

Daria empowers children. She makes them want to be better for the world. No other music artist I know will provide children with such fantastic family-friendly upbeat music that they can dance to; and an overreaching positive message of hope and peace, while promoting and providing a well-structured, well-rounded multicultural education in the musical arts unmatched by anything else. I am so proud of Daria and everything that she has done to bring different cultures to children in all parts of the world. I am honored that she calls me a friend. — Lisa 

Daria biography For the last 20 years, Daria has traveled the globe sharing her music of hope, love, multiculturalism and tolerance. In the United States she has won several national awards; including, The National Association for Parenting Publications Award (NAPPA), a Parent’s Choice Award, and a Children’s Web Music Award. Her songs have been used in educational curriculum the world over, including Australia (respecting others), South Africa (teaching on tolerance) and the United States (a special song written to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).
You can visit Daria on the web: Facebook Twitter Website Pinterest

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World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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TEXAS, USA: Mixed Messages

TEXAS, USA: Mixed Messages

Question Mark

The past few months, I have been listening to a few songs which have really “spoken” to me. The first one is Katy Perry’s “Roar”. It just makes me want to stand up and really tell people what I really think instead of what I think is the polite thing to say. The second song, “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, says so eloquently what my inner self has been whispering to me for years…“I just want to see you be brave.”

Growing up, I went to Catholic school, and I was always taught to not draw too much attention to myself, and to always make everyone feel welcome. I always remember feeling that I should agree with what the majority said because my own ideas weren’t as good as the others. After all, who would want to listen to a gawky junior high girl?

As I got older, those traits seemed to stay with me to the point that I think I would go out of my way to please others because the thought of someone being upset with something I had said or done was too much for me to handle. I started to feel like no one really knew who I was because I had built up so much of a false identity trying to make other people happy when deep down I was unhappy because I was too afraid to be true to myself and tell others what I was really thinking.

In the last few years, I have started to realize I do have my own voice and my own opinions to share with others and my fear of disappointing or making others upset is dissipating. That may sound silly to someone who has never had any trouble speaking her mind, but for me, it is a huge deal.

Now that I have my own children, I often wonder if messages I am giving them (sometimes unintended) could cause them to feel the same way. I find myself telling them that they don’t have to be just like everyone else, but when we have friends over for dinner with their children and the kids have a disagreement with a friend over what to play together, I tell them that they should play what the other friend wants and then try to take turns.

Often times, we will go to another friends’ home and the children in that home are allowed to do many things that my children are not allowed to do. I find them coming to me and whispering to me about things that are happening, and I can only tell them that it is not acceptable for them to do those things. They observe the other parent saying nothing to their child. I know they don’t quite understand how I have one standard for them and another for other children.

I have always told my children not to tell a lie. So, when my daughter opened her present from a friend at a third birthday party and declared in front of everyone that she didn’t like it, I should have been proud, right? Or when my son told my Father-in-Law he was “fat”, I should have been proud of him for not lying, right? Embarrassed was more the feeling that was engulfing me at that moment. Cue the talk about the “little white lie” to my children so that we don’t hurt another person’s feelings with words we may say to them.

Are these “mixed messages” going to cause my own children to be afraid to speak their own minds and afraid to stand up to what they see is wrong? I guess only time will tell. I just keep hearing the words from Katy Perry’s song in my head, “I stood for nothing so I fell for everything.” I look back at my own life and how I am just now seeing how important it is to stand up for yourself. I guess it is all a learning experience. Along the way, we have to decipher the mixed messages until we come to our own conclusions of what is wrong or right from what we have been taught along the way.

I wish I could make it so simple for my children and tell them that when they speak their own mind and are true to themselves that they will always be accepted no matter what. But the truth is, they may not be accepted. And, isn’t that what true bravery is? Bravery to stand up for what they believe in is really what I want for my children. Being brave and true to oneself is what leads to ultimate happiness. I hope it won’t take them as long to figure out not to be scared of what others may think, but if it does that’s fine, too. My hope for them is that they do figure it out because it would be such a shame for the world not to know the bright, kind and brave souls that they truly are.

How do you teach your children to stand up for what they think?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Meredith. You can read more about her life as an expat in Nigeria and her transition back at

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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TEXAS, USA: Rat Race

TEXAS, USA: Rat Race

IMG_3597edThe air is slowly starting to get a bit cooler and the days a bit shorter (well, maybe not in Texas…but I know it is in some parts of the world), and I know it can only mean that fall will be soon approaching. Fall approaching in the Northern Hemisphere also means school starting, schedules to follow, and the onset of after school activities.

I don’t know how it is in your part of the globe, but here in Texas, some children start playing tackle football from the time they can walk (it seems). If they aren’t playing football, then they are playing year round baseball and look like mini major league players.  A few months ago, I was talking to a mom of a girl in my son’s grade and she was telling me that both her girls are in ballet two times a week, gymnastics one day a week, one takes piano and the other takes violin lessons. And the same daughter who takes violin lessons, gymnastics and ballet also has to swim four days a week at 7:30 pm at night to be able to compete on the swim team. Her daughter is only going into second grade!!! (more…)

Meredith (USA)

Meredith finds it difficult to tell anyone where she is from exactly! She grew up in several states, but mainly Illinois. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana which is also where she met her husband. She taught kindergarten for seven years before she adopted her son from Guatemala and then gave birth to her daughter two years leter. She moved to Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two children in July 2009 for her husband's work. She and her family moved back to the U.S.this summer(August 2012) and are adjusting to life back in the U.S. You can read more about her life in Lagos and her adjustment to being back on her blog: We Found Happiness.

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ISRAEL: Interview With Rita: Using Music As A Conduit For Peace

ISRAEL: Interview With Rita: Using Music As A Conduit For Peace

When you’re offered an opportunity to interview the biggest female singing sensation in your country, you jump at it. Last month during the Israeli Presidential Conference I was lucky enough to meet and interview Rita Jahan-Foruz a singer known simply as Rita.

Rita was born in Tehran, Iran and emigrated to Israel at the age of 8. Through hard work and lots of talent she became Israel’s most successful singing artist. For the last 25 years Rita has had an illustrious career both in Israel and abroad. Her latest album “My Joys” is entirely in her native language of Pharsi. That album has become a big seller on the black market in Iran where it is forbidden, along with all other Western music. Some say that Rita’s album would go gold in Iran if it wasn’t banned.

I waited in the VIP room for the interview to start, and I sat there becoming increasingly more nervous as I watched other people interview Rita and a host of other interesting people who were speaking at the conference. I did chuckle a bit to myself when Weili Dai, a top female entrepreneur and the CEO of Marvell (herself an amazing, friendly and gifted woman), came over to have her picture taken with Rita. It wasn’t the photo op that made me chuckle, it was the fact that right before the photo was snapped both of them fluffed their hair. It seems to be a universal quirk all women around the world have before being photographed. I was also quite in admiration how both of them managed to be on their feet all day in their beautiful but really high heels.

Okay, shallowness now aside.

Right before our interview started, a young man who was a waiter at the event came over, sat down on the couch next to Rita and started talking to her. It was spontaneous on his part and graciously received on her part. It was only after I had tweeted a picture of them talking and commented on how friendly Rita was that someone tweeted me back saying that the waiter is connected to an organization called OneFamily (a non-profit organization that rehabilitates, reintegrates and rebuilds the lives of Israel’s thousands of victims of terror attacks) which is a cause dear to Rita’s heart.

 rita and waiter

When it was my turn I came over, said hello and introduced myself. I sat down trying to look put together, which I can tell you is not an easy task when you are lugging a knapsack, a telephone, a tape recorder, notebook and ipad.

Before I even started asking questions, I gave Rita a World Moms Blog tote bag that Jennifer Burden, the founder of World Moms Blog, had sent me to gift to her. Rita loved it, and right away started putting all her things into it.

rita and totebag

I then handed her a little gift from myself, a keychain that said in Hebrew “Music is the language of angels.” She loved that too, and you could see that her reaction was genuine and not just polite. She right away pulled out her keyring from her bag. It had lots of keys and other keychains, including one with a picture of her daughters and she clipped my gift right on. She even proudly showed it off to others.

rita and keychain

As I was about to start asking her questions, I blurted out,  “I’m a bit nervous.”  She looked at me in surprise and said, “Nervous? Really? Why?” as if the concept was completely foreign to her that someone would even be nervous speaking to her. That put me completely at ease, and the interview, or should I say more of a conversation, started. When I watched some of her videos later I was able to once again see her natural friendliness and charm shine through. This video of Rita recording one of her songs in Pharsi is a good example of her being down to earth and approachable.

I offered to do the interview in English or Hebrew, but Rita wanted to practice her English so we started off in English but moved back and forth. I could tell how passionate she was about certain subjects (which was often) because that was when she moved back into Hebrew in order to be able to express herself so much more freely.

Susie: World Moms Blog represents mothers from around the world. Right now we represent 20 countries including Morocco, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and many others. We write about motherhood, culture, social good, about connecting people through what they have in common.

Rita: Wow. Do you have a writer from Iran?

S: No, but if you know someone, we would love to have them on board.

I think that what you’re trying to do with music is what we at World Moms Blog are trying to do through writing, which is to bring the world together one person at a time. (Rita nodded her head at that.)

Do you see yourself as an ambassador of peace between all countries or just between Israel and Iran?

R: I think with my own existence I represent the Iranian and Israeli connection but I would love to represent as much as I can. I think that as women we have a unique way of connecting.

The male and female species are in essence two opposites. You need them both in the world, like Ying and Yang, day and night. It’s a little bit like our reproductive organs. The male behavior, like the male anatomy is surging forward, conquering, moving on with energy that is outward facing.

A woman’s energy is like our wombs. It’s meant to contain/include* and to embrace what there is no matter what. We first embrace and bring things close. We need to be able to see the strength in this, we need to influence and to realize that the place of “containing/including*” others is our strength.

It’s like a a mother who is always the center of the house. Everyone in the family comes and goes, they go a bit nuts. They cry but in the end they always come back to the middle, to the center and the nature of women is the center.

We are mothers and what happens to our children, and to the world they will inherit  is important to us. We have to use our natural strengths of connecting to make sure we do what is best for them.

(*There is no great English translation for the word Rita used. The closest I got was contain but it is somewhere between contain and include with maybe a little bit of absorb.)

S: What would you suggest to women to do in order to empower themselves?

R: Not everyone can sing or dance or act or write books, but I think that each and every one of us can influence by connecting. One person connects with another and they connect with someone else from someplace place and so on. We all have to try to connect to others.

(Note: Rita is not only the best selling Israeli singer of all time, she also dances, acts and has published a children’s book. She received The Israeli Academy Award for Best Actress in 1989 for her role in The Thousand Wives of Naftali Siman-Tov, as well as the 2011 Best Actress award at the San Francisco International festival of Short Films for Ben returns Home. Her children’s book “The Girl With A Brave Heart” has been translated into English from Hebrew.)

S: That is something really close to my heart. That’s how I got to blogging, by connecting with other mothers though a forum overseas, getting to know them and having them get to know me. We were all from different cultures but we were all mothers.

One of the things which touched me was listening to you talk about how you got the love of music from your home and that your parents were very supportive of you.

R: They were supportive in their love. They didn’t understand what I was doing, going from class to class, learning acting, dancing and taking voice lessons. They didn’t understand anything about that.

S: But what I’m hearing from you is that they didn’t criticize either?

R: No they didn’t.

S: You have two daughters ages 12 and 21, right? Do you think parent/child relationships today are different then they were when you were growing up?

R: Of course. Of course. I think that back then children were not so important in what they said. They were children. Nowadays, we don’t look at children as children. They are much more important than us. We listen to them more, we are more attentive and sensitive to them. I don’t think it was like that back when I was growing up. Kids were kids. You ate and grew. No?

S: I don’t know. What I see is that kids these days are less connected to their parents than we were, at least on a daily basis. They have a lot more outlets than we had.

R: The world is changing. In this age of the television and computers, the “outside” world has more influence whereas once the “inside”  world, the inner circle, had more influence.

I think that these days we give our kids so much love that maybe we spoil them too much. We are more protective of them than anyone was of us. Right?

S: I think that these days we have more to protect our children from.

R: Yes, you’re right.

S: Has fame affected your family relationship and your relationship with your daughters?

R: Of course.

S: In what ways?

R: I’m not talking about fame because fame didn’t affect anything. I am talking about not having the privacy to go for instance with my daughter to the beach. People constantly come and want to take pictures with you and you can’t possibly have privacy with your family and children outside of the house. Of course it’s something that affects you.

S: What do your children have to say about it?

R: I think they don’t like it. They are much more sensitive to people passing by and looking at them or photographing them. They are very sensitive to that.

S: Do you think your children feel any advantages of your fame?

R: Of course. They come to the concerts. They have a different type of life. Once, my daughter Meshi came home laughing at a question that someone had asked her. “What is it like to be Rita’s daughter?” She said I don’t know, I haven’t experienced anything else.

S: It sounds like she has a great sense of humor.

R: Yes, she’s amazing.

S: What is your wish for world mothers?

R: I wish for all us mothers to have the power, strength and wisdom to protect our children until they themselves have the ability to protect themselves.

I think that the most painful thing in the world is knowing that children are raped or abused and that we are not really able to protect them. That is what I am most sensitive to, knowing that somewhere out there, there is a child that is helpless and there is no one to protect him.

S: Sadly, things like that happen even to children who have people looking out for them.

R: It’s even worse when the people who are supposed to be protecting the children are the ones who do terrible things and do them harm.

S: Do you have one particular defining moment that you remember as a child?

R: Yes, yes. In Iran, my mother had a hair salon in the house. All kinds of women used to come to her. Once, a women who was almost completely bald came. All she had was wisps of hair. My mother shampooed her hair and while she was doing her hair she kept telling her you’re so beautiful, look how beautiful you are, you’re so wonderful.

I was 6, and my sister who is four years older than me was 10. My mother was working in our bedroom like she always did because that was also her work room. When the woman left, my sister said to my mother, why are you such a liar? How could you tell her she was beautiful? She was bald, she almost didn’t have any hair.

My mother then asked my sister, why do you think I was lying? My sister said, you told her how beautiful she was, what beautiful eyes she has, but she was bald. My mother then gently asked my sister, but did you look at her eyes?  Her eyes were very beautiful.

And that’s the lesson I quietly learned there.

S: It seems to me that that is exactly what your book teaches, to look past the outer and see the beauty and kindness that is in each person.

R: That’s what I learned my whole life from my mother. When she looks at someone, first and foremost she looks for what’s beautiful in the person. That’s the way she sees people. That was a very big life lesson for me.

Every time I tell this story I still have goosebumps.

S: I find it amazing that I didn’t even know about your book until one of the other World Mom Bloggers told me that you had written one and it had been translated to English.

R: The book is gaining incredible momentum.

S: It should. It’s a great book with a great message and great illustrations.

(Note: The book is called The Girl With a Brave Heart. I read it in Hebrew and I love the many messages in it including the fact that people don’t always know how to ask for what they need and that we should let our hearts lead the way.)

Of course that’s when I pulled out the two copies of her book that I bought along for her to sign. I handed her a pen but she searched her bag because she has a special marker for signing books.

rita book signing

There is something so nice about talking to someone who is famous, who has performed for world leaders, who has bought so much joy to others through her music, yet still makes you feel no less important than she is. Maybe one day I will get to speak to her again because I really enjoyed our conversation.

I really hope Rita has unparalleled success in bringing people and countries together through her music. My wish for her is that one day she will get to perform in her native country of Iran, something that will mean that peace and acceptance has finally come to our world.

Before Rita’s performance at the UN’s main assembly hall, secretary-general Ban Ki Moon told Rita that many revolutions started from music and that it’s a place that politicians can never enter.

What do you think? Do you think music and musicians can help bring about change and be a conduit for peace?

This has been an original post to World Moms Blog by Susie Newday of Israel. You can find her positive thoughts on her blog, New Day New Lesson.

Photo credit to the author.

Susie Newday (Israel)

Susie Newday is a happily-married American-born Israeli mother of five. She is an oncology nurse, blogger and avid amateur photographer. Most importantly, Susie is a happily married mother of five amazing kids from age 8-24 and soon to be a mother in law. (Which also makes her a chef, maid, tutor, chauffeur, launderer...) Susie's blog, New Day, New Lesson, is her attempt to help others and herself view the lessons life hands all of us in a positive light. She will also be the first to admit that blogging is great free therapy as well. Susie's hope for the world? Increasing kindness, tolerance and love. You can also follow her Facebook page New Day, New Lesson where she posts her unique photos with quotes as well as gift ideas.

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