Mixed Feelings on the Change of Season

Seasons of Changefall - 2

Life change, Season change, Climate change

Welcome back friends and “Hi” to new readers!  I have been absent from the cyberworld of blog posting for awhile!  Change in our business life, change in season, and change in our climate are all coinciding to make life more challenging, and thus more hectic!

To start with, our business partner, and close friend passed away in July following a short but gruelling battle with cancer, resulting in my husband, Paul, becoming the sole proprietor for our business.  Paul is now responsible for managing two garages, and sixteen employees, as well as handling accident investigations for the RNC, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, along with his volunteer services in Ground Search and Rescue – GSAR.  The fallout for me is that I have inherited the A/P and A/R posting as well as other various and sundry duties that were handled by our departing administration officer, wife of our former partner, while handling the HR duties, payroll and financial administrative duties for the whole business.  Our business life has become ever more hectic and stressful, and plans for semi-retirement have flown out the window!

Speaking of stuff flying out windows, what the heck is going on with our weather?  I have lived all of my life on this rock, surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean, and despite the fog, and oft-crappy weather, we have never been subject to hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes, or other catastrophic climatic or geological events.  I have never been a great believer in man-induced climate change.  I have always thought that the changes in climate were more a natural phenomena, based on the evolution of the planet and that human-kind was to the earth, an infestation of pesky bugs that could be easily cast off with another ice age, scourge,  or collision with a random colossal meteorite.

I am more inclined to believe that the fear-mongering on climate change, engaged in by people like ex-presidents looking to carve out a career for themselves through book-writing and paid speaking tours, is just another money-making charade, much like the “gas crisis” of the seventies.  (We, in Newfoundland, by the way, are now sitting on one of the biggest oil reserves in North America.  Can you blame me for being cynical, when most of the world’s leadership is governed by a quest for money and power?)

The intensity of our weather systems, over the past few years, have definitely changed.  Hurricanes, developing in the tropics, are now some of the most intense ever seen, and are tracking further north up the Atlantic seaboard, still packing a wallop.  Systems that  used to dissipate into what is termed  “tropical storms”, once they encountered our colder waters, are now making landfall on our rocky coasts and causing devastating damage.  We have seen tornados and have felt the effects of tsunamis resulting from earthquake events happening out under the ocean floor.  While most of these events have not had the catastrophic effects of those experienced in other parts of the world, it is becoming clear that our days of living, unsusceptible to these geological and climactic changes, are over.  This certainly brings about feelings of unease.

Last Friday, the 22nd of September, marked the fall solstice, a time when the warm summer days fade into fall.  It is in a sense, the season of dying, or at least, going to sleep.  I used to always enjoy the season, with nature going out in a blaze of glory, but with the changes in our lives, and the feelings of unease, approaching hurricane season, along with the soon-approaching daylight savings time changeover, fall is no longer a season I look forward to.  Last winter is not too long past  to be forgotten, with  forty-plus-centimeter snowstorms, seemingly endless dark, and cold that lasted right up to May.  Winter is also not a season I look forward to.

Many say “change is good” and for the most part, that seems true.  While very often uncomfortable and unwanted, change is inevitable.  We either adapt, or go the way of the dinosaur.  The challenge is in making the most of the change and preparing ourselves for what the new challenges bring.  It can be exciting, or a source of stress and fear.  Each of us has it within us to choose.

In the words of John Snow, “Winter is coming.”

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New Reviews on The Lion’s Den! – Thriller/Military Action/Romance

So exciting to receive good reviews on The Lion’s Den!       

www.Amazon.com to buy

www.Amazon.com to buy

Needed:  More readers!  With great reviews coming in from Blue Ink Reviews and Clarion Reviews, I am hopeful that more people are becoming aware of The Lion’s Den and will pick it up or download it.  With over 3500 self-published books coming on the market every day, it is difficult to get any kind of recognition  when you don’t have a huge email list or marketing budget, or a literary agent! Good reviews from professional agencies, therefore, will hopefully lend some credence to the writing and get me some exposure.  Here is the latest on what the Reviewers have to say:

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728572 – The Lion’s Den-CLARION REVIEW

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clarion

Update on writing, The Lion’s Den

What’s new with The Lion’s Den, and what’s coming soon!    

www.Amazon.com to buy

www.Amazon.com to buy

 

It has been a while since my last blog post!  I have been busy spinning my wheels, trying to get my book, The Lion`s Den off the ground.  My first attempt at self-publishing did not yield great results, so I decided to use a self-publisher`s support service to see if I could get better recognition out in the publishing world.  What I learned was that there is no fast-track to success, and the only thing that is going to work, is good old-fashioned legwork and elbow grease on my part.

Self-publishing is definitely a numbers game.  We are depending on the big e-book retailers to sell our books.  In order to be seen among the masses of e-books available, we are depending on rankings, and these are determined by the number of positive reviews our books receive by readers.  I can`t tell you how difficult it is to get people to write a review of my book!  Even close, close friends, although they love The Lion`s Den, have yet to put pen to paper and write a review. Amazon is not helpful in this regard, either, because I am told that they will check Facebook to see if you are `friends`with your reviewers, and will take down their review if it looks like you are closely acquainted.  So much for `friending` folks who find you on Facebook, who just want to show you some appreciation!

So, the only way that I can see to make some headway in the recognition department is to begin with a mailing list, and stay in touch with readers.  By offering free ebooks for reviewing and asking people to share links about The Lion`s Den, this may be the way to create some buzz.  I guess it`s never too late to advertise, but had I known in the beginning what was required to self-promote, I don`t know if I would have taken it on.  Most of the successful self-published authors I know spend 70 – 75% of their time on marketing.  And that`s not only writing blog posts, sending out email newsletters, writing Facebook blurbs, contacting local bookstores and libraries, doing readings, asking to do interviews, etc. etc. etc., but also keeping up with your day job, the housework, and the homework, if you have kids, and your other family responsibilities, and oh, I forgot to mention, trying to get the next book written!

Arghhhhh!

Arghhhhh!

Don`t get me wrong, I am not complaining.  Nothing worth doing comes easy, and you just can`t buy your way to success!  Therefore I must get down to business and renew my commitment to my readers to stay in touch and give this writer`s insights into the writing process and my adventures in publishing land.  I hope you will stay with me!  Thanks for your support!

I have some sneak peaks coming up into the sequel to The Lion`s Den, which I am anticipating will be coming out this spring.  It`s called Behind the Firewall, and deals with Brad`s brother, Ryan, in his attempt to break into the bin Laden communication network.  There are lots of insights into computer espionage, money laundering and skulduggery at even the highest levels of society!  I`m so excited right now as I am in the middle of writing the climax, and I can`t wait to see how it all comes out.

So get your beach chairs dusted off and find a great recipe for sangria, because your summer reading starts right here!

Behind the Firewall, coming Spring 2017!  Sizzling hot!!!

Behind the firewall - setting

Behind the firewall – setting

Gran Casino Mallorca

Gran Casino Mallorca

Who`s behind the firewall

Who`s behind the firewall

 

Please support my Fundraiser for Fruit for All

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Support Fruit for All to promote health through self-reliance 

Dear friends,

I am selling pens as a way to raise money for the Fruit for all Initiative, and other programs undertaken by the Martin pur Christian Mission in Lahore, Pakistan.

The mission statement of this organization is to uplift the lives of the community through self-reliant and independent means.

As a writer of political drama/fiction, romance novels I have made many friends from Pakistan through social media since my first book, The Lion’s Den came out.  I guess that because the book deals with the political climate in the Middle East and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, people from there have a certain curiosity about a middle aged housewife from an island off the coast of Canada writing about their culture and conflicts.

The people who I have met and interacted with have been gracious and respectful.  It has been very eye-opening to hear about their daily lives and the challenges they face living and working, and raising their families in Pakistan.  It is unimaginable to us, as Canadians, to realize the abject poverty in which the majority of these people live.  Yes, you might think, we have our own poor people who our tax dollars support right here in our own country. In addition to that, we support our local food banks and the single parent associations and when any child is in need of health care or medical intervention which is not covered by our national Medicare program, our communities hold fundraisers and sell tickets and do everything we can to help.  Unfortunately, in countries, such as Pakistan, the poor are many and their access to any kind of help is very limited.

Poor people in Pakistan have never experienced a full stomach, have never worn decent clothing or shoes, and have never seen the inside of a doctor’s office.  Many have never even owned or used a toothbrush.  Their children don’t have toys, books and electronic games that most children in the western world take for granted.  Many of them, especially the girls, have never even had the opportunity to go to school.  It is heartbreaking to think that their lives are a day-to-day struggle and the outlook on living a productive, self-sufficient life is seemingly unattainable.

The Young Martin Welfare Organization was established to support and uplift Lahore’s impoverished and needy families.  In a community where people predominantly follow the Islamic religion, the mission introduces people to the Christian ideals of faith, hope and charity through the teachings of Jesus Christ.  The mission does its work hands-on within the community, through a group of dedicated volunteers ministering to families, gathering children together in Sunday school groups and celebrating  the seasons of Christmas and Easter together as a community.

This past summer, one of the directors of Martin pur, Amir Javed, initiated a program called Fruit for All, with the goal of supplying the people of the community with fruit tree seedlings, which  started with the planting of a fruit tree nursery.  Seedlings of a native species, the Guava fruit, were harvested and planted in a community plot, and were tended and raised by volunteers and families.  As the plants matured and could be transplanted, families  received their own seedlings to establish their own fruit gardens on their own properties, thus creating a sustainable source of fruits  for their families for years to come, at no cost. The growth of the seedlings is monitored by volunteers, to ensure the success of the program. As time goes on, it is hoped that more species of fruit plants can be added to the home gardens.

Presently, research is being done into the best methods and practices to be utilised to ensure the success of this undertaking.  Educational support from the local agricultural colleges and guidance from the Feed the World Organization, as well as other international sustainability programs is being sought.  Any input is welcome, as are donations for the procurement of tools and equipment.

The importance of availability to fresh fruits and vegetables to the nutritional well being of this community cannot be overemphasized.  The cost of buying fresh fruit is out of reach for most of the people living here, the poverty level is so extreme.  Being able to improve the health and well being of all members of this community through their participation in this program will be a Godsend.

Amir’s mission for his community is to create self reliance in all facets of community life. His vision is to work hands-on with every person who participates in the project. “We will start with our unique, small-scale agriculture model. This will provide a means of full nutrition, which supports and sustains healthy life. We have a simple goal – to teach families, communities, and villages how to thrive on their own. After they have been taught the skills necessary, they can duplicate those skills and pay forward the method. Our model eliminates dependence by helping families reach the goal of true self reliance that is sustainable.”

 

Would you like to be part of this community’s transformation?  Consider buying a pen to support the Young Martin Mission.  The cost is only $5 and ALL of the funds, apart from the cost of postage will go to support the mission.  Thank-you for your consideration.  Please leave a comment below with your email address and I will be in touch with payment information.

HELP CREATE A WORLD WHERE SELF RELIANCE IS THE STANDARD FOR ALL PEOPLE.

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Fruit for All – Making a Difference in Lahore

Martin Pur Christian Mission in Pakistan Fruit for All Program

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This summer the Martin pur Mission in Lahore, Pakistan, instituted a program named Fruit for All, whereby Guava fruit plants were cultivated, and distributed to families, so that everyone who could not afford to buy fresh fruit would be able to plant a seedling on their own property and grow their own Guava fruit.  The progress of the growing plants is monitored by advisors from Fruit for All  program.  Their hope is that families will work together to tend their plants, and in time will be able to sustain their own small orchard as more fruit seedlings are added to their gardens. Mango and orange plants also grow wild in Pakistan, and are a few of the species that can be harvested, raised in a nursery, and distributed once the seedlings are big enough.

The children of this community are pitifully poor.  They need clothes, shoes, and so much more to just bring them up to a reasonable standard of living.  I recently sent a package of school supplies for 100 children by mail to Martin pur.  The parcel, cost me $184 CAD to send and will take 2 months to get there.  They will most likely have to pay an import or custom fee when it gets there. As with any service run by the government there, it comes attached with  unreasonably high fees.  Just to get a customs-exempt letter for the mission costs over $200.

The sensible thing to do is to send a donation.

If you would like to help by making a donation, please contact me at normacook@nl.rogers.com.  Any funds  donated to this charity has always gone 100% to the children and their families, unlike other organizations whereby most of the funds go to “administrative costs”.

If you have any suggestions on other ways to help these people,  please get in touch with me.

Helping people in need around the world is the first step towards peace.

Thanks for reading!

love, norma

 

 


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My experience with iUniverse publishing

iUniverse logo

 

 

What have you got to lose publishing with iUniverse?  A LOT!

Hi friends,

I haven’t been posting much in the last little while.  Sorry about that!  My time has been taken up with having my book, The Lion`s Den re-published through iUniverse Publishing.

You see, I had not been achieving the kind of sales I would like to see with the book, and being that over 3,500 new authors self-publish a book EVERY DAY, it is very difficult to achieve any visibility on Amazon.com or Goodreads, etc., where your rankings mean EVERYTHING in order to show up in the top 100 books in your genre.  And let`s be real here, would you go through more than 100 blurbs, hunting for the next book you want to read from the Kindle store?  Not likely.  That’s why we authors depend on READER’S REVIEWS to encourage other people to buy the book!

Anyhoo…….

My Holy God!  What a saga! I was contacted some time ago by iUniverse, offering to help me re-publish my book.  They are a division of Penguin/Ramdom House and they provide a whole range of services for self-published authors, from editing, to cover design, to marketing, and you get to take advantage of their distribution channels.  “Great”, I thought, and I could take advantage of their “half price sale” on their packages to get an all-inclusive program of support for the low, low price of $2,800.  So, I says, “what have I got to lose?  My book is not making sales, so I’ll take a chance.”

Things were swinging along great.  I submitted my manuscript, and got the reply back that in order for iUniverse to publish it, the book would have to undergo an edit to “bring it up to their editing standard.”  For the low, low price of about $2,330, they could do a “line edit”  which just involves grammar, spelling, etc. or they could do a much more comprehensive “content edit” which would involve, basically tearing the book apart, possibly changing some of the time line, re-working the story line, along with grammar and spelling etc., This would cost quite a bit more!!  I figured that I had already paid a fortune to put the book through at least three professional edits, and I couldn’t face the idea of tearing it apart and re-working it, as much as it may make it better literature, so I went with the cheaper option.

About three weeks later, I got the manuscript back from the editor with minor suggestions on changing a few sentences grammatically.  Now, this was okay, because I learned that I need to be more clear in defining subject and predicate in my work to be sure the reader is clear on what I am referring to in certain instances, so it was a lesson learned, albeit an expensive one.  I also got a better idea of how to work the g’damn quotation marks, which can be quite challenging! So, having made the suggested edits, (Oh yes, you have to actually make the recommended changes yourself unless you want to pay more for an assistant to make them for you!) I sent the “clean” manuscript back and awaited the next phase of development.

Not long after, I was contacted by “Rey”, a representative from the iUniverse marketing team, who claimed to be all excited about my manuscript!  He was full of ideas about how they were going to promote my book.  They were going to get it on the USA Today list and Publishers Weekly in order to get it before traditional publishers who might be interested in picking it up.  They were going to hire me a publicist who would set up interviews and book signings all over the country, and I would make an iTunes video interview, talking about the book, etc etc. etc.  He even broached the idea of having a movie made from the manuscript!  My eyes just got wider and wider, until he dropped the price point for the “aggressive marketing plan” which was $18,000!  (which could, of course be paid in four equal installments of $4,500 each (US funds, of course!!!)) He was pressuring me to make the first installment immediately to get the ball rolling.  I, of course put the brakes on immediately, telling him that I would have to discuss this with my husband.

I thought I smelled a rat.  I had been under the impression that marketing services were included in the price of the package I had bought.  I was already pissed that the book had to be subjected to extra editing at extra cost, and it was starting to seem as if each phase of development came with another price tag attached.  A friend offered to have the iUniverse company checked out by someone he knew in literary publishing circles, so he sent off an email of inquiry.  Meanwhile, I called Paul and asked what he thought.  His scam detector immediately went up, and he told me to ask them for a complete breakdown of the proposed services  and a prospectus of the kind of profit that they felt the book would earn, utilizing this so called “aggressive marketing plan.”

When Rey called me back, he informed me that iUniverse did not break down the cost of the services, that they were sold as a package, and that the profit to be realized could not be determined, as I was not yet an established writer with a proven track record, and they could not release what other authors had done, due to privacy issues, but I could look at testimonials that iUniverse already had posted on their webpage.  Not a very satisfactory answer!  Rey kept trying to persuade me to go with it, so I told him to call Paul as we make all of our business decisions together.

Needless to say, Rey got nowhere with Paul, so about an hour later I got a phone call from Gloria somebody, claiming to be the marketing manager, and Rey’s boss, who insisted that my book was worth making the investment in, as it had tremendous potential to be quite successful.  I told her that we are business people, and that when we invoice people for our services, we always provide a cost breakdown of the work done on their vehicles.  We also expect the same of our suppliers to provide a detailed list of what we are purchasing from them.  In no instance do we pay a bill for a “package” price on something, especially when that something costs over $18,000.  She went on and on about what they were going to do for me, and the conversation was left at an impasse, as she was unwilling to provide the cost breakdown or the expected revenue information we required.

I never heard from anybody for a week.  That’s when I took another call from “Rey” telling me that they had worked out an alternative “less aggressive” marketing plan, in which they would do a pared-down version, for only $8,000.  I was still not impressed, and they were still unable to provide the cost breakdown we required, so I threw the ball back into their court.  This price could be paid out in monthly installments, so I knew that they thought that I was suffering from sticker shock, and by making the cost more reachable, that I would buy in.  Meanwhile, my friend’s buddy came back with a reply.

His first question was, “Had I signed away any of my rights to the book by purchasing this publishing package?”  The answer was no, although they have some restrictions on who I can sell the book through.  They have their own distribution channels, which, our friend says consists of the usual uploads to the Amazon and other e-book sites, and as for their Barnes and Noble stores, they have access to ONE B & N brick and mortar store!!!  All iUniverse is interested in, our friend says, is to sell services to authors.  They have little interest in how the book actually does, and apparently many authors have had trouble getting royalties from them after their books have been released!  Great!  says I.  Scammed again.

So, since the book is half-way to production, and iUniverse has committed to designing a new cover for it, which is included in the package price, I decided to proceed, since that money is already spent.  It didn’t hurt to have the additional edit, and the inside book design was also included in the price, so I figured what was the sense of pulling it, at this stage?  I had already recognized that I probably needed the cover re-designed to get better recognition in the romance genre, so presently they are working on that.  I had someone call me from the graphics department to feel me out about what I am looking for, and they will work up three designs that I can choose from.

In the mean time, Rey called me back the other night.  Apparently they did an unprecedented thing!  They had decided to “invest” in my book by further reducing the price of the “less aggressive” marketing plan to just $6,400!  What a bargain!  I told him that when I initially bought the package that I was under the impression that marketing services were included, and that I was shocked when they told me that additional fees were to be charged.  I told him that I was considering having my second book published through their services, but judging by what I had experienced with the first one, I was considering pulling the second.  So, he buggered off, and I haven’t heard anything from him since Wednesday night.  Nor have I heard anything from my “check in co-ordinator”, Andrea, whose job it is to oversee the whole project.

As it is the advice of a professional working in the publising industry to stay far away from iUniverse, I am regretting my decision to do business with them, yet, I will let this project go to completion and wait to see what sales generate from their distribution services, but I will not be allowing them to take on the second book.

There is ALWAYS somebody out there ready to cash in on your inexperience.  Many, many people have been burnt by these people, as I have read, since Googling the name on the internet, and while you  have doubts, you go on, thinking that, just maybe, your manuscript is as good as they tell you it is, and has all of this potential to do great, and the investment in the marketing plan is all it will take to jettison it into astronomical sales and recognition in the literary world!  Yeah………..they say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one, to quote John Lennon.

So, hear I sit, waiting to see what comes next in the saga.  I am expecting a call anytime from Rey with further cost reduction in a “wimpy marketing plan” costing just $4,000, payable in equal weekly installments.  I think I will tell him to go stuff himself!!!

On a brighter note, our friend in publishing has suggested the name of a traditional publisher who, he feels, may have an interest in looking at my manuscript!  Hope springs eternal!

And how was your week?

Your (discouraged and downtrodden, yet hopeful) pal,

Norma
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https://www.amazon.ca/Lions-Den-Norma-Cook-ebook/product-reviews/B00YPWVVT8/ref=dpx_acr_txt?showViewpoints=1

Please consider writing a review!  In exchange, I will send you an electronic copy of the book!

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Missions in Pakistan Need Our Help

world peace

How Can we help the poor of Pakistan?

Hi friends,

Since my first novel, The Lion’s Den came out, I have had many friend requests on social media from Pakistan.  I guess  where the plot of the book involves the hunt for Osama bin Laden, people from Pakistan are curious about an author from a province on the east coast of Canada, who chooses to write about the politics and customs of their country.  All of the interactions I have had so far with these beautiful people have been positive and respectful.  A couple of them, in particular, have shared snapshots of their lives and work, giving me a deep appreciation for the struggle and hardship that the majority of the people in this country suffer in living their daily lives.

Now, you may ask yourself why would I be interested in helping needy people in Pakistan  when there are plenty of poor people here in our own country?  I would say to you that a large chunk of our tax dollars  is spent on social programs for our needy.  We have medicare, welfare, support programs for drug and alcohol dependency, mental health programs, school lunch programs, and the list goes on and on.  In addition to that, as individuals, many of us support community food banks, and support groups , for example, for single parent families. We donate used clothing to charities for distribution to the poor and hold fundraisers for people who suffer health problems that require medical intervention beyond what our free government-funded health service provides.

Poor Pakistani families, by contrast, have no such support system. Work is difficult to find, therefore money to support a family, and to  look after their health is hard to come by.  A corrupt government system keeps the wealthy wealthy, while the poor people are left to scratch an existence as best they can.  We in the western world cannot imagine a world where people don’t have access to decent food, clothing, shoes, or clean water.  We can’t imagine having to sift through a dump in order to find something to eat.  Most of these people have never seen the inside of a doctor’s office, or even used, let alone owned so much as a toothbrush!  This is what abject poverty looks like.

 

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Thankfully, there are some people in Pakistan who are trying to improve the lives of people in their communities.  My friend, Asma Rehman, works through the Cottage Support Welfare Organization. They have been concentrating for years on getting the over 5 million children who are not in school  the financial assistance they need to get enrolled.  They advocate for women and girls, and fight for their rights to work and receive an education.  Through American-sponsored programs such as “Ball to All”,  Asma and her group have been able to provide free footballs (soccer balls) to deserving children within the community.  The result is that the youth have a positive outlet for recreational activity, and are less likely to get involved with radical religious groups.  Football tournaments are being held, and team spirit and community pride is growing. In addition to the Ball to All program,  the Cottage Support Welfare Organization is involved in holding food and clothing drives and many other positive outreach programs.

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cottage suoort welfare org

 

 

Another friend of mine, Amir Javed, is interested in creating a sustainable, self-sufficient community.  His mission, the Young Martin Welfare Organization, was established to support and uplift the needy families of Lahore, Pakistan.  In a community where the Islamic faith is predominant and the persecution of Christians by extremist Islamic groups is common, Amir’s mission introduces people to the Christian ideals of faith, hope and charity through the teachings of Jesus Christ.  The mission is very hands-on, with a group of dedicated volunteers ministering to needy and impoverished families, gathering children together in Sunday schools, and celebrating the holy seasons such as Christmas and Easter with joy and hope.

In addition to the spiritual teaching, Amir hopes to address the health and welfare of his community by instituting a “Fruit for All” program whereby native fruit tree seedlings will be harvested and  transplanted into a fruit tree nursery. Volunteers and community members will work together to raise the seedlings until they are mature enough to be distributed to all of the families in the community, providing fresh fruit at no cost to everyone. Species such as Guava grapes, mangoes and oranges are some of the fruits that can be successfully grown in this area.  The benefits to the health of these people, who are impoverished to the point where they cannot afford to buy fresh fruit, will be enormous.  Amir is presently doing research and is seeking the expertise of organizations such as  the Feed the World program, who are presently engaged in running similar agricultural programs in many areas of the developing world.  Funding will have to be sought to provide tools and equipment for this enterprise. If any of you have knowledge to offer on projects such as these, please get in touch with Amir through the Young Martin Welfare Facebook page.

Pakistan Christmas

 

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I can barely put into words how gratifying it is to be able to give to a charity where one hundred percent of what you donate actually goes to the people.  I made a modest donation to Amir’s mission at Christmas time, and he sent me this photo (left) of what my money went towards.  The joy on the faces of these children, who have so little is truly heartwarming.  We are presently working towards putting together some Easter Coloring books, which tells the story of the Passion of Christ in terms the children can understand.   I am working towards sourcing crayons at low cost to provide the 600 or so children in Lahore with this educational tool that tells the  story of hope for the world through Christianity.   I have no intentions of trying to influence people of any region to convert to Christianity, but it is my hope that through exposure to other religions that we can foster understanding and respect between our world neighbours.

What heartens me, too, is to see people of both the Islamic and Christian faiths working together within the same community to support one another.  The picture to the right shows children of Amir’s mission receiving footballs under the Ball to All program, part of the Cottage Support Welfare  Association that Asma helps co-ordinate. In a community in which Christians and Muslims are so often at odds with each other, it gives me hope that the more they work together, the better their community will be served, and peace can become a reality.

If you have information that you would like to share with the leaders of either of these missions, you can contact them through their Facebook pages under the

Cottage Support Welfare Organization or the Young Martin Welfare Organization.

or if you prefer, contact me by leaving a comment on this blog, and I will put you in touch with either Asma or Amir directly.

Either organization would be happy to receive a monetary donation,

I am soliciting help with a couple of projects I have undertaken to supply hand knit Izzy dolls and Prayers blankets to Amir’s mission.  If you are interested in contributing to either of these projects, please get in touch with me by leaving a comment on this blog.  I promise to not share your email address or contact information with anyone, unless it is your wish that I do so.  The comfort that these simple handcrafted gifts can provide is immeasurable.

https://www.facebook.com/izzydolls/

Izzy doll

https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=prayer%20blankets

prayer shawl verse
prayer blankets 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

love, norma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cats on the Keyboard – Alternatives to Child-Rearing

cats on keyboard

Couples choose to raise cats and dogs over babies

My twenty-seven year old daughter and I were sitting having one of our late night chats when the subject of babies came up.  She and her boyfriend had just recently adopted an adorable tuxedo kitten, whom they had named James T. Kirk.  Thinking that since the two of them were now settled away in careers, and had moved into an apartment of their own that the next logical step might be to consider starting a family.  When I broached the subject, all I could do was sit there and blink as she informed me that they had decided not to have children.

“I’ve never really liked babies.”

“Babies are really expensive.”

“You know that when babies come, the man’s life hardly changes, while the woman’s focus is totally on the childcare and raising and they are so dependant on you that you lose your own identity.”

“We wouldn’t have the freedom to travel and do the things we want to do.”

“What if we move to New York ? I wouldn’t have anyone to depend on besides Andrew to help me raise a baby.”

“I don’t have the patience to go through the whole school thing with a child.”

“Andrew is so over-protective, he’d probably end up in jail if anyone looked at his kid sideways.”

….were some of the reasons she had for staying out of the parent game.

frustrated mother“I see all kinds of women come through the spa stressed out and exhausted from trying to deal with working, managing a home and a husband, and trying to deal with one or more kids at the same time.  I’ve even asked a few of them if they had the chance for a do-over, would they choose not to have kids (barring the emotional guilt) and so many of them have said they would not have had kids, or at least would have waited longer.

Wow, I thought, seeing all of my plans for cute grand kids, (not to mention  revenge for  all of the trying moments she had me suffer, during her childhood!), going up in smoke.   Having heard stories of Andrew’s antics  as a child, I could envision Heather with irascible twin boys, running around the house like miniature ninjas, plotting the demise of teachers, schoolmates and possibly several law enforcement agencies.  I had been kinda looking forward to how she and Andrew would handle that, to tell the truth.  There’s one thing for sure, any offspring born of these two would definitely be a challenge to raise.

“But don’t you think that you would miss having a family around you as you get older?”  I asked.

“No, the family you choose is just as close as those who might be born to you, Mom.”  She countered.

“But there’s nothing like the bond between a parent and child.” I put forward, cautiously, expecting to be told to mind my own business.

“But we have Jim,”  She said, snuggling the precious ball of fur who lay sleeping in her arms.

“Look at the advantages:  No nine month gestation period, with stretch marks, breast feeding and horrible morning sickness;  The kitten can walk almost right out of the box, and within a couple of months, can eat solid food, walk on his own, and use the bathroom.  By six months, he knows everything there is to know about being a cat.  You don’t need to pay for a college education and you get all the love his tiny heart can give.  What more do you want?”

“Well it’s kinda fun to watch a baby grow into their own personality, and be able to recognize traits in them you see as coming from you or your husband,” I replied.

“But is it worth the power struggles and the temper tantrums and the terrible twos?”  She asked, “Keep in mind that my best friend is a day care worker and she loves kids, but is the first to admit that they are walking bags of germs and snot.”

Well she kind of had me there……..but I still wasn’t convinced.

“Look, I know we had our share of disagreements and times when we really didn’t like each other when you were growing up, but you know I wouldn’t trade you for a farm out west, right?  I hope that nothing about your childhood would have convinced you to live your life without allowing yourself the joy of having a child of your own?”

misbehaving children“No, mom. I just choose not to go through all of that.  I hate it when the women at the spa tell me “Oh you’re only young, you’ll change your mind,  children are different when they’re your own.”  Meanwhile their own kids are out at the front end, running around and poking at everything, driving the girls nuts.  I’m sure they come in to get a break from them.  No, we’re totally happy with Jim. I couldn’t love him more if I had given birth to him.”

 

Wow!

The more I look around, the more I realize that this attitude to pet parenthood over child rearing is a modern phenomenon.  The financial considerations are huge.  Who can afford to take a major (like 60 percent) cut in salary for a year in which child care expenses, feeding, clothing, diapering, equipment, etc. etc. etc gobbles up your income like the Cookie Monster chomping through a bag of Oreos!  Then when you get past the one year maternity leave, the cost of baby daycare is at least $250 a week, if you’re not lucky enough to have a stay-at-home granny willing to help you out. The pet alternative looks a lot better with a bag of kibble costing $25 a month and a box of kitty litter $10 or less.  Kitty can stay at home on his own, as long as he has some familiar things, like his bed, his food and water dishes and his litter box, plus a few toys around to amuse him.  He will be there to great you with purrs and head rubs when you open the door at the end of your work day.

petstorePet companies have hit the jackpot with this new trend towards pets taking the place of children!  Walking into a national brand pet store, the products and services available to pet parents are overwhelming!  The choices in foods, toys, litter, treats, (even clothing!) are mind boggling.  Grooming and obedience training are all offered on site, and pets are welcome to roam the aisles (on leashes of course) and pick out their own favorites from the myriad of products available.  Seasonal holidays are all exploited as the displays come alive with Hallow’een costumes and Christmas stocking stuffers.  Think  the pet stores are exploiting the hell out of people’s need for family love?  You betcha.

Well, as Heather and I made our way back to the car today, with our arms laden with our pet store purchases, totalling over $100, I bit my tongue about the price tag attached to caring for one small kitten.  To each their own, I thought.  People ought to know what they are able to handle in their lives.  Quite often people take on the responsibility of raising children, which is a life long commitment, when they probably should have stuck to the easier (and shorter) alternative  of caring for a pet.  Nobody should judge you for the choices you make in whether to have babies or not.  It is a personal decision and one not to be taken lightly.  People usually have to study several years, do practical training and write a final exam in order to be qualified to do a job, yet all they have to do to become parents is to jump in bed without birth control.  Ironic, isn’t it?  I wish more people would figure out what their limitations are and live within their financial and emotional means.  There would be a lot fewer messed up people out there!  And while you’re at it, if you decide to adopt a pet, do a little research to see exactly how much effort you are going to have to put into caring for it.  It’s very easy to decide, “Oh this is way too much work, I don’t have the time, I’m going to get rid of Tabby.”  Think of the impact that has on the little cat who is going to get dropped off at humane services or at the SPCA, and taken away from everything that is familiar to her, including her people.  You can’t do that with a baby, by the way, or you will be charged with abandonment.  It’s too late, in either case then, the damage has been done.  Time for people to be held accountable for their actions.  Put some thought into parenthood, whether it be of children or animals.

Oh, and a few points for some people who take pet parenting a little too far.

http://thriftyninja.net/2013/10/dog-child-quit-calling-baby/

love, norma

2016-01-13 13.18.23


 

Hysterectomy – Fire in the Hole

Prelude to a Hysterectomy

female reproduction

Hi friends,

You might be wondering where I have been these last few weeks.  I did kinda drop off the face of the planet, as I am home, recovering from a hysterectomy.

What happened was, I received a call from my doctor’s office, asking for me to come in.  “Hmmm” says I, starting to worry, as the doctor is so busy, you usually have to wait weeks to even get an appointment, and I hadn’t had any routine testing done lately. What could be behind this urgent request to see her?

So, over I go to the clinic at the appointed date and time and nervously wait for my name to be called.  I’m ushered into an examination room and shortly, the doctor appears with my six-inch-thick file in her hands. (Yes, I do have some health issues!)  She starts by yammering on about my cholesterol levels, explaining that we had been so long working on getting my arthritis under control, that her concerns with my tri-glyceride levels had to be put on the back burner.  Oh, fine, I inwardly groan, kissing my toast and tea habit good-bye.  This, along with the restrictions on my diet caused by type II diabetes, meant that I was going to be down to consuming  sticks and berries from here on in.  “Any other concerns?” the doctor asked, ready to clue up our visit while filling out a requisition for blood work.  “Oh, yeah, I thought that Aunt Flo had hit the road years ago, but it seems she has been making a reappearance the last couple of months.  What’s up with that?”

Well, I didn’t expect the firestorm that little admission would cause!  Suddenly all the concerns over tri-glycerides were thrown back on the back burner, as I faced a barrage of questions about my menstrual experiences.  I was to come back in two days time to undergo a PAP test (something I had been avoiding for years….stupid, I know) and we would see where to go from there.  I went home expecting to have to wait a week for the results of the test.

Two days after the PAP test, the phone rings and I am told that the test results were back and that I was scheduled to see a gynecologist at the end of the week.  Uh oh, something must have shown up.

I walked into the ob/gyn’s office on Friday.  The waiting room was lined off with pictures of pregnant women and healthy-looking babies, something I hadn’t thought about in years.  Shortly I was ushered into an examination room and a few minutes later, a young woman entered, introducing herself as Dr. Brown.  She seemed to be quite familiar with my file as she explained that abnormal cells had shown up in the PAP test, and a biopsy was needed to  shed some more light on what was causing the irregular bleeding.  “So when will that be scheduled for?”  I ask, unnerved by the word “biopsy.”  “I can do it right now.” Dr.Brown replied, making my head spin with how fast this investigation was going down, and the implications that had for their level of concern.

About a week later, Dr. Brown’s office called me with a return appointment time.  By now I was dreading her news, so I sat in the waiting room, bravely trying to envision the doctor telling me that it was all a false alarm, take a bottle of pills and I would be right as rain.

But she wasn’t finished yet.

“Your biopsy results are back, and there seems to be something going on with your endometrium (lining of the uterus).  We will need to do a D&C (dilation and  curretage)  procedure in the hospital to see what needs to be done.”  Having undergone this before, I had some idea what was involved, although the doctor informed me that years ago they did this under general anaesthetic, but now they did it with a light anaesthetic and local freezing.  Wonderful!  I thought.  I really wasn’t interested in being present during the procedure, pain or no pain, but I guess there were fewer complications in not being put completely out of consciousness.

On the day of the procedure, I presented myself to the Women’s Health Center at the Janeway Hospital, handed over my C-PAP machine, (Yes, I have sleep apnea, too) and was escorted forthwith to the surgical prep area. I was interrogated as to my medical history, even though they had a file on me a mile high, and was issued two stylish Johnny coats, booties, and a cap, and invited to change, then be seated in a comfy vinyl recliner to await the insertion of an IV and drugs for relaxation.  Okay  I thought, I can go for that.  Pretty soon Dr. Brown shows up, with a pack of residents, all dressed up in their greens.  She goes over the procedure and the after-care and asks if there was anyone staying with me during the surgery. Whut? I think. I hadn’t thought it necessary for Paul to take time off just to wait around while I had this minor procedure done.  “Nope, I’m flying solo,”  I reply, trying not to feel like a neglected house frau.

The time counts down, and I am escorted to the OR by a very nice nurse.  I silently gave thanks for the second Johnny coat so that I could walk around without my bare ass hanging out.  We enter the OR where a number of masked nurses and technicians are buzzing around.  The lights are bright enough to knock your retinas out and the whole sterile environment is rather intimidating.  The nurse introduces me to the anaesthesiologist, who explains his role in getting me “to sleep”.  He helps me onto the table, places a mask over my nose and mouth and I slip away into unconsciousness.

Dr. Brown and company must have arrived, as while I was floating around in that fluffy land between sleep and waking, I could feel a tugging “down below” and the sensation of instruments being used.  I don’t recall any conversation, which I was happy for, as it is bad enough lying on a table with your hoo ha exposed for the whole surgical team to see, let alone hearing about what they were doing!  Forty minutes later I was rolled back to recovery where I was reunited  with my C-PAP machine, and enjoyed an hour or two rest.

It wasn’t long before I got another summons to Dr. Brown’s office.  She somberly gave me the news.  The sample they sent to the lab from my D & C showed a number of irregular cells.  Not enough to call it cancer, but they weren’t ruling it out.  The endometrium was abnormally thick, another indicator that my time as a child-bearer was up. A hysterectomy was recommended, as soon as possible.

Now, I didn’t get all upset about the impending loss of my girlie bits.  I wasn’t using most of them anyway, and had already gone through the rigours of menopause. They could hopefully do the operation laparoscopically, which was a much better prospect than being cut open and gutted like a fish, so I resigned myself to an estimated six week recovery period, and went home to catch my office work up to date in case something unforeseen should crop up which would keep me in hospital past the one to two day expected recuperation period.

So, here I am, a week post-op,  resting comfortably at home.  I can’t say that I’m feeling too bad.  The nurses at the hospital were amazed that I refused pain medication.  I figure, if you can manage it without being too uncomfortable, why take medication?  Within a day or two, I was up and around and able to go to the bathroom.  The bandaging was minimal, only band aids.  Oh the marvels of modern laparoscopic surgery!  Moms, don’t discourage your kids from playing video games.  You never know when they will need that hand-eye co-ordination in their future careers!  Within two days, I was being sent home, and the extra day was just because they broke off a bowel retractor during my procedure, and wanted to be sure they hadn’t caused any injury to my soft and squishy internal organs with the sharp end of the instrument being exposed.  It was kinda off-putting thinking that it was possible, if they had nicked my bowel, to die from peritonitis, and it might not rear its ugly head for seven days, but the doctor was pretty confident that everything was intact and fine.  I was grateful to be informed about this incident, as I could be on the lookout for developing symptoms and would know who to sue, in the event of complications arising (just kidding!)  It must be terrifying to doctors the liability  issues they can face.  I’m sure that they have insurance to protect themselves financially, but the harm to one’s reputation can be enormous, not to mention the mental health implications, should a patient die from something that happened while under their care.  I’m kinda glad that we only deal with mechanical repairs!

Someone asked me how I feel, now that I no longer have the ability to bear offspring.  Do I feel less of a woman?  Stupid question, I thought.  Does a cat feel less of a cat when they are spayed?  Of course not.  The freedom from having to deal with the monthly periods, having to worry about birth control, and the lessened risk of endometrial, ovarian, uteran, or cervical cancers with those organs having been removed, is definitely worth the loss.  Luckily, I was post-menopausal when I went through this, so I am not expecting my life, post surgery, to be very different than before.  I hope that I don’t continue to experience pain “down there” as I do now, although according to some sources I have read, this is possible in a small percent of cases.  Hopefully my love life will be able to resume without any detrimental effects.

As a romance writer, I will continue to tell stories of the human experience, because, after all, doesn’t romance live in our hearts and imagination?  Love is such an interesting and fulfilling part of our lives that we want to hear about other’s relationships, in order to understand our own needs and heart’s desires.  I only hope that my readers continue to enjoy my work and that people enjoy and value the mental part of love as much as they do the physical.  To quote Paul, Love is patient, love is kind.  Love never ends.

love, norma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The skinny on “Thrive”

Thrive by Le-vel for your health!

Thrive 3Hi friends,

For several months now,  both myself and my husband have been using the Thrive program for weight loss and to improve our overall health.  We were introduced to the program by good friends of ours, who had been using it for about six months, and were looking and feeling great!  At first we were reluctant to try it, thinking it was one of those trendy 7-day wonder things and we were taking meds already for our various health complaints, and wondered if this was going to interfere with them, etc., etc. etc.

Well, we thought, as time went on, we might as well give it a try, after watching our friends do so well on the program, and feeling somewhat of an obligation to  help them out with their new venture, although there was not even a whisper from them of “You should try this!” only the pictures of them looking younger, happier, and more active than ever.  We agreed to give it a trial, although we both insisted we would only be customers, and would not be interested, ever, in being promoters whereby we would benefit monetarily from selling the product.

Well, what are the results?  Paul and I have been on the program since May.  To date, I have lost around thirteen pounds, and Paul has lost 25.  People are starting to ask us what we’re doing, so I decided to spill the beans about Thrive, the good, the bad, and the ugly!  You might get friends of yours promoting the program to you, and that is fine, but I don’t believe you get the full “skinny” on it when people are trying to sell it, so here goes!  I am copying Facebook comments I made to my cousin who recently saw my posts about my weight loss, and wanted to get the low down.

Her question read:

Hi Norma. Wondering how you were doing with your diet and what does it entail?

To which I replied:

I’m going to give you the true details on this program. It’s one of those things that, if you want to, you can promote it to other people and get free product for yourself, but I don’t do that, because I don’t think you get the whole story from people when they do that, so I choose to be just a customer, not a promoter.

Okay, so here goes, Paul and I started the program in May. There are three steps you do every day. First you take two capsules which contain 12 vitamins and minerals plus green tea, green coffee bean, and a whole bunch of other nutrients. Next, you drink a shake. You can get chocolate or vanilla, and they taste good. They contain fiber, protein, 19 vitamins and minerals, plus Garcinia Cambogia for appetite control, cinnamon bark for blood sugar control, natural caffeine, plus a bunch of other nutrients. After you drink the shake, you stick on a dermal fusion patch (DFT). It’s something like a nicotine patch and this slow releases more Garcinia cambogia, green tea extract, and some other stuff for slow release, lasting appetite control all day.

I have no problem with the contents of the program. There are several doctors and nurses  in our group and they totally endorse the program for it’s health benefits.

What we have experienced on Thrive: Paul and I have both lost weight. We have not changed our diet, and we do not exercise. We have found that our appetites are way reduced than before taking Thrive. We are both satisfied with much smaller portions, and do not feel starved before meals. Neither of us were big breakfast eaters, but we feel totally satisfied with our shakes, and hardly ever want breakfast anymore. The product contains caffeine, so we don’t feel the need to drink coffee in the morning, either. You certainly still can if you want to, but I don’t get that groggy, sleep-fog after taking my Thrive.

We have experienced much better mental clarity. It is so much easier to focus and get your day’s work done. I found, before, that I was easily distracted and felt disorganized, but the Thrive helps keep you on top of your game. You have lots of energy.

Paul has carpal tunnel syndrome, I have arthritis and diabetic neuropathy in my feet which is extremely painful. We have not found much difference in our pain levels taking the normal Thrive products. Paul gets muscular pain when he overdoes it, and has tried a supplemental product Thrive offers called Move. When he feels muscular pain or back strain injury pain, he takes the Move and his back automatically feels better. It is actually amazing how fast it works.

Where I am a diabetic, and insulin resistant, I was having a lot of difficulty losing weight, and the pain in my feet would not allow me to do much exercise, especially walking, so I relied on swimming for any bit of exercise I got. Since I have been on Thrive, I have lost 13 pounds. It’s slow coming off, and would probably be faster if I decided to exercise, but I am a lazy ass and hate it, lol! Paul has lost about 25 pounds, but he is way more active than I am.

In terms of side effects, at first both Paul and I experienced a little nausea after taking the capsules and shake.  Our mentors told us that that often results from the body’s detoxing, or getting rid of stuff that has built up in your body over time, which  the ingredients in Thrive is now helping to get rid of.  We found that you have to drink lots of water when taking the capsules, and neither of us liked making smoothies with the shakes.  They are quite tasty just mixed with water, although Paul prefers his mixed with skim milk.  I am lactose intolerant, so that would make me altogether sick!  My nausea has persisted taking the shake, because it does contain milk products, but it is not enough to give me stomach upset or diarrhea, like I would get if I drank a glass of milk.

Before Thrive, I was falling asleep mid-way through the day, and would often have to go lie down and have a nap. Some days I could almost feel myself falling off my office chair. Luckily I work from home! Now, I’m alert all day. The Thrive helps control my blood sugar, and even though, now, I have not seen enough improvement to come off any of my diabetes meds, I am hoping that in time, I will be able to reduce the amount of insulin I have to take, and maybe even come off some of the meds I take for the arthritis. (One of them costs over $1,500 a month, so coming off that would certainly pay for the Thrive!) Plus, I’d probably be saving my kidneys and liver from damage, and stop the risk of developing cancer and other diseases you become susceptible to by taking the biologic drugs.

Altogether,  we are killing ourselves by carrying this extra weight around. I was seriously considering gastric bypass surgery, like our cousin’s ex did, but I didn’t want to live with that for the rest of my life, and I don’t know how I would come out of it, being a diabetic which makes it hard to heal. Getting the weight off is such a struggle, and I have tried so many programs, like Weight Watchers, Tops, the Atkins diet, and have yo-yo-ed up and down for so many years, each time putting on more weight, it’s depressing. I look at how my aunts, and mom are doing (or did) in their old age, and I don’t want to end up with these kind of health issues. The one thing they all have/had in common was being overweight, so something has to give.

For me, I’m going to continue to use Thrive. I could use Garcinia Cambogia, Green tea extract, willow bark, and all these other ingredients which are already in Thrive, and maybe get similar weight loss results. With all of the meds I’m on, I could totally mess up my body (I got SO constipated from taking Garcinia Cambogia on its own before starting Thrive, I nearly broke my ass!) Thrive has such a great balance of these powerful ingredients in combination and in the right amounts to be kind and gentle on your system, while getting you the results you want.

So what are the downsides of using Thrive?

1. It IS expensive, if you don’t want to become a promoter. We pay $300.00 a month plus tax and shipping, about $353.99 a month for the couples basic pack. To buy the Move, it costs extra. For a single person, the cost is more like $126.00 plus tax and shipping, around $158.37 per month. Sometimes they have sales and promotions whereby you can get your product cheaper. In September, for instance, they had buy two boxes of chocolate shakes and get one free. A box of shakes is about $40.   Now, don’t forget, if you LOVE thrive and want the world to know, you can be a promoter, sign people up, and if you get two a month to buy it, you can get your product for free, plus there are plans whereby you can earn cars, trips and other bonuses. Like I said, that doesn’t appeal to me, much as I would like to get the Thrive for free! lol!

2. We found, at first, that we were running out of product even though we had signed up for auto ship.  It’s because we live in the ass-end of Canada (and an island out in the north atlantic, besides, lol!) and the product takes a dog’s age to get here because it ships from the US.  I have learned to keep some extra product on hand to get us through those few extra days in-between orders, so as not to run out!

3.  My menses has started up again, although I thought I had come through “the change” lol!  The capsules you take on Thrive are different for men and women, and I don’t know if there is some ingredient in it for supporting female hormones, but I was quite happy to have waved “Aunt Flo” goodbye!  I’ve since gone to my Dr. to get checked out and make sure there is no weird stuff going on.  If there is, I will be blaming the arthritic meds.  You should see the pages of warnings that come with that! I am not saying that Thrive caused this, it could be totally coincidental.

If you would like to visit the website, look up thrive.le-vel.com and read what they have to say. If you want to do a free trial, I can put you in touch with my friend, Ian who will send you out a three day trial with no obligation. It’s amazing how you will feel a difference just in using the product for three days. At least then, you can make an informed decision on whether it is for you.

Whatever you decide, good luck on your journey to good health! It is worth the effort not to have to face major problems down the road! If you have any questions that I have not answered, feel free to message me on facebook or comment at the end of the post.  It will get to me by email.  Have a great day!

love, normaThrive 6thrive 8

 

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