the loquacious brain

monday 22 august 2011

I recently read the book (something I can seldom do anymore) Shadows Bright As Glass by Amy Ellis Nutt. It details the brain injury and aftermath of a man named John Sarkin. It’s a book that’s jammed full of fascinating information about the brain in general and this man’s experiences in particular. I have used one of Ms. Nutt’s chapter titles for the title of this post. And I’ve done this because I myself have one of those very loquacious brains, and have known others with them too.

Among many other things that happened to Sarkin was this: after his brain damage was finished happening, and it was a process, he had an absolutely compulsive need to write and paint and draw. This stays with him still, as far as I know. He really can’t do much of anything else. He writes and paints and draws wherever he is, with whatever materials happen to be lying around. He cannot stop.

One of the specialists whom Ms. Nutt quotes in the book is Alice Flaherty, a neurologist at Harvard, and one who worked with John Sarkin. Here are some samples, all taken from the book.

1.  “In many ways, Flaherty said, Sarkin was a classic case of Waxman-Geschwind syndrome, a personality disorder characterized by excessive verbal output, an intensified mental life, and an obsessive preoccupation with detail.”

2.  “Psychologists have retrospectively identified hypergraphic writers, painters, and scientists, including Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Vincent van Gogh, Agatha Christie and Stephen King.”

3.   Flaherty believes it is the limbic system, the seat of our emotions and our most primitive drives, that kicks creativity into hyperdrive in those artists, writers and thinkers who exhibit hypergraphia, and it is suffering and pain that pricks the limbic system into life (italics mine). “…..   “Some scientists, in fact, believe that the act of compulsive writing and art may be an attempt to understand or manage the deep complexity of existence.”

I’m not saying that I disagree with any of Ms. Flaherty’s insights, which I happen to think are very keen. What eternally bothers me about psychiatrists and some neurologists is that every single bloody thing in this world that does not  conform to an arbitrary definition of “normal” (who the hell made that definition anyway? freud? jung? who?) has got to have some loopy label put on it and be classified as either a syndrome or a disorder. If you wash your hands more than somebody or other wants you to, you’re obsessive-compulsive. If you have trouble with small spaces, you’re claustrophobic. Whatever happened to things being just part of the huge variations in human personality? Where did that go? It used to be: Joanie always likes to have clean hands. Walter doesn’t do well with heights. Mary gets her really down periods. Mike is a good guy, but he’s got a hell of a temper. The wide range of possibilities in human personality. Not anymore. Joanie is OC, Walter is acrophobic, Mary is depressive, Mike needs to go to anger management classes. Why isn’t it that just the most extreme examples (like poor Sarkin) get the labels thrown onto them, and the rest just be the way we human beings can be.

Certainly in John Sarkin’s case, his need to create is very extreme, and maybe because of that it deserves labels and syndromes. And then I look at myself. Since the horrifically traumatic events that occurred in my life in 2008, I’ve been writing much, much more than I ever wrote before. Do I have hypergraphia, according to the psychobabbles? Do I have Waxman-Geschwind syndrome? If any psychobabbles would show up here and leave me a comment: yes, anne, you have one or both of those disorders, I might just answer them this way: So what. Who does it hurt that I write a whole lot? I’m doing the best Ican after a fatal blow to my psyche, after everyone I love was stolen and killed, after the worst trauma of my trauma-filled life. I’m not able to kill myself for some reason, so I write. I have no family to take care of anymore, so I write. Just as John Sarkin is doing the best he can after devastating injuries to his brain, I and many others are doing the best we can after equally severe injuries to our psyches. Leave us alone to get on with it.

I myself have always had an extremely loquacious brain, and I’ve known a few others who were that way too. I’ve always had a need for stimulating conversation, reading, writing, drawing, music, making things. The writing and conversation parts have become many times stronger since the events of 2008. So what. I have no one to talk to most of the time, no one to have stimulating conversations with, so I write even more. My brain has a huge need to communicate, in one way or another, and so does John Sarkin’s now. Maybe one of you reading is like that too. Why do we have to have so many labels slapped on so many things. This is the infinite variety of human brains, and human personality. If you paint pictures all day long, so be it. I bless you in your painting. You’re not hurting anyone, as far as I know. Maybe people like us are simply trying to “manage the deep complexity of existence,” and the deep complexity of the pain we’re in.


read…  Lifelines…    Stolen stars


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within the autos, I

saturday 7 may 2011

In whatever writing I have done online since 2008 concerning my own particular experience on the autism spectrum, I have remained largely on the surface of the thing. I’ve said I don’t smile much compared to most people, and this creates in others an immediate negative: the failure to smile is a negative thing. I’ve said I rock back and forth in anxiety, and this again sets up an instant negative response: rocking back and forth is childish, and weird. If you’re that anxious, have a couple beers, or run around the block, or do anything that we consider normal anxiety relief. I don’t like looking at the human face, for the most part. I do it, but it jangles the nerves. In most cases I don’t find the human face interesting, but rather a shifty, dangerous thing. And these are all important signifiers of a supra-normal (as I choose to call it) neurobiology, but they do not approach what it feels like to need desperately to live in the αυτος, the self. And I feel very strongly that those of us who are on the spectrum and are prone to write, should make every effort to describe as accurrately as we can the experience of being autistic, in the hopes of engendering some real understanding in the minds of neurotypical people.

But I have very little confidence in my own ability to do this effectively. I feel as though there must be other autisitcs who can fulfill this assignment much, much better than I could. And yet for months I’ve been nudging myself to try, and no doubt to produce an inadequate result, and having tried, will discover that no one is interested anyway.

Knowing all that, I still feel obligated to try. Autism is slightly different in each person who has it, so my autism isn’t exactly like anyone else’s. I can only make the best report, the best description I can. No doubt I won’t even get other autistics to come here and read it, much less any neurotypicals. This foreknowledge of futility makes the task even harder to get started on.

I try.                                     

I’m a little kid, three years old. On my bedroom floor coloring. For me the absorption in the picture and the colors I am putting on it are, for the moment, the entire universe. I am totally focussed on and interested in the colors and how they are going to go. Nothing else matters. Enter one of my parents through the door, talking about it’s time for supper or time to go out shopping. Yes, sometimes the parents come to the door bitching about something, but it doesn’t even have to be bitching to totally set me off. Some autistics act out when they are set off, others don’t. I mostly don’t. I get up and leave my colors and my pictures. I get up and leave the universe. But there are internal reactions to this interference from the outside. I am angry that I’ve been taken away from the sheer absorption of color by human voices, and therefore there is yet another reinforcement for my child’s Asperger’s mind that human voices are irriating things. They take me from absorption, they take me from beauty, they tear apart a sphere of bliss I was busy in, and wasn’t ready to leave yet.

Or, still three years old, I am just sitting somewhere, living my newly-devised life in my head. A parallel world I have learned to make for myself, where everything is safe. I make up people for my alternate life, adults and children, and I make up situations. And in every situation, I make the people behave in a way that I understand, that I don’t find confusing, and in that life where I understand, I am safe. I make up sad events and funny ones and all kinds of things to happen in this world I understand. I’m enjoying myself there, I’m energized by this world I understand. And then, again, comes a human voice. And though I usually show no signs, inside me it feels like a tearing, a great ripping, as if pieces of me were being rent from each other when I have to obey the human voices and leave my inner world where all is clear to me. In my teenage years, when I came upon T.S. Eliot’s poem with the line: till human voices wake us, and we drown, I found a line that runs through my head so very many times when a human voice tears me out of my world of the autos, where I am at home, into the sea of society that irritates and hurts and confuses me, and I drown.

There are physical reactions to this tearing, as well as emotional ones. Along with the anger and resentment can come a lurching stomach; or pins and needles in the skin; or a sudden, brief, all-over shudder; or pain inside the ears. Pounding heart, brief chest pain. And so on. Physical responses to being torn from one’s inner world.

Added to the distresses occasioned by Asperger’s, I had a whole other set that were brought about by my serious physical illness in childhood. More human voices piercing into my inner world with do’ s and don’ts and drugs and the words: she’s going to die. All of this resentment of the medical voices fused with the resentment of the ordinary voices that tore me out of my world, so that by the age of three I already regarded smiling as highly suspect and tricky; human voices as scratchy, grating and determined to snatch me from beauty and safety and pleasurable absorption. By the age of three, the human species was already mistrusted, dismissed as mostly unbeautiful and mostly unpeaceful, and impossible to decipher. Why didn’t they understand the way color can completely mesmerize you? Why didn’t they know that I had to stare at the lines of sunlight coming through the window because it was so beautiful that sunlightcould do this, and why weren’t the others completely engaged by those lines too? Why were they too dense to be fascinated by these things?

Most children can get very absorbed in play, but I could get intensely absorbed in almost anything. In watching my parents scream at each other, for example:  the redness in the face, the fire in the eyes, the tension in the muscles, the increasing volume of the voices. This made me nervous, of course, but it also fascinated me from a purely physical point of view to see that the skin and voice and eyes of the angry human could produce all these strange changes.

In light of the anomalous immune system that created so much severe illness, and the autistic neurobiology, and the non-average high IQ, what chance did I ever have to be average, or to be of any interest or value at all to average people? What chance did I have to be other than at some level a crashing weirdo, and more often than not, a burden to the average? I look back over many, many years, and still believe my chances of being anything like average and likable and acceptable and lovable were already, by the age of three, slim and none. No one knew I had Asperger’s, except me (and I certainly didn’t know what it was called, or that other people had it too), and even if they had, in the years that I happened to be growing up, not much of anyone would have tried to understand or accomodate it.

Has it been this way for scores of Aspie children, especially those of my generation?


read…   Neverending solitaire

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high-functioning adults with asperger’s

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Sunday I came across a reference to an article discussing the fact that “high-functioning adults with Asperger’s may not understand other people’s intentions.” I didn’t go and read the article itself, as I had other things to do. But boy oh boy, what an understatement: May not understand other people’s intentions. For myself, I would have to revise the sentence to read: rarely understand people’s conscious intentions. Because for myself, I don’t have nearly as much trouble with people’s unconscious intentions. The anger that they’re trying to hide, but you can feel it. Or the jealousy. Or the desire to use you, or whatever else. These subconscious, or conscious-but-I’m-tyring-to-hide-it-from-you, ulterior issues are often easier for me to grasp than the person’s planned intent.

What is their intent? What are their words that they just uttered trying to elicit from me? What is that particular sort of smile intended to make me feel? What does pretending to be fond of me when they really are not do for them, and what is it supposed to do for or to me?  What do they mean? What do they intend? What is their agenda?  Because if there is one thing I’ve finally figured out  — and it took me decades — it’s that non-autisitic people do, in fact, always have an agenda. Every word, every facial expression, every tone of voice is either consciously or unconsciously designed to produce a certain effect in and get a certain response from the person they’re performing for. Neurotypicals are always performing, and trying to manage others, and trying to manipulate others.

And while I can’t speak for any other high-functioning adult with Asperger’s, I can say that for me non-autisitc people’s intentions are a nearly incomprehensible minefield, a constant source of anxiety, a constant source of hurt, a stomach-sickening ordeal that I don’t get free of until I’m dead, apparently.

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(part of the book Neverending Solitaire)

all photos, graphics, poems and text copyright 2008-2011 by anne nakis, unless otherwise stated. all rights reserved.


the christmas pillows, 2002

Monday 24 January 2011…   turners twiddles

The tale of yet another stress-laden, depression-laden Christmas. I’m sure readers don’t like it — so many tales of gloom. What can I tell you. I don’t like it either. In fact I resent it quite a lot that since 1997 I’ve had to spend so many holidays and birthdays and plain old days with various ugly millstones hanging around my bloody neck. I don’t like it one bit.

In 2002 money was tighter than ever. I’d had a small part-time job for a good long while, and as small a job as it was, the money really helped keep me and my animals afloat. But after years of putting up with my two certifiably bonkers employers, I couldn’t take it anymore, and quit. They’d wanted me to quit for a long while anyway, because they had drained out the money they were using to pay me by buying a van. This money wasn’t theirs, but they had legal access to it. In September I quit.

I quit and began scrabbling to find either a roommate to help with expenses, or another little job. By Christmas I still hadn’t found either. I couldn’t buy any gifts that year, and I had a certain small number of people to whom I wanted to give gifts. That year was my big year of drawing. I drew more than I have in any other year of my life, and all this drawing started out as a way to relieve stress for a while each day. But around the time I quit my job, the drawing had become something else: a way to bring in a very few dollars. I’d found a store to take my bookmarks on consignment, and that brought in just a little bit. I also sold a good number of them myself, directly to people I knew. By the time December 25 rolled around, I’d actually had two very bad days when I’d gone begging with two small pictures I drawn. I begged one friend to buy one from me, saying that she could pay anything at all for it, no amount would be too small or insulting. They were small pictures, after all. Maybe 5 inches by 5 inches. She chose the one that had taken me the most time. Layers and layers of various colors and kinds of ink. A butterfly. She paid me $20 for it, and I thought that was a fortune for a small drawing by an unknown artist. The next day I went to Greenfield and took my other picture with me. I ran into someone I knew, told her that I’d begun drawing (she’d only known me as a writer), and showed her my little thing. She said she really liked it. “Would you want to buy it?” She asked me how much, and again I said anything at all. Ten dollars. I was pleased. Thirty dollars from these two small pictures; but that amount of money that almost everyone would consider small, made a difference to me and my animals that Christmas. There were several other kinds of begging I had to do that holiday season, and that’s enough said about that. Shame. Humiliation. And Christmas gifts? Everyone got either bookmarks or little pictures. More shame. I didn’t consider my art to be the right thing for a Christmas gift.                           

There was a blizzard that Christmas day. A real doozie. No human being called me, or visited me, or invited me over. I had my animals, and that was of course the most important thing. But as I’ve said elsewhere: at Christmas you expect to have at least a little something with family and/or friends of the human variety. The only human celebration open to me that day was a free Christmas dinner at one of the churches. The friend who’d bought my butterfly was running it. I’d been told about the time of the dinner before the forecasts for the blizzard started coming in. So on the day, I bundled up, trudged in the dark afternoon through the raging wind and the trillions of falling flakes and the piles of them on the sidewalks. Only to arrive and find that the dinner was nearly over. Most of the diners were gone, and those remaining had huge boxes of leftovers they were taking home. I sat down at the only table that still had a cloth on it, ate, and took a very few leftovers back with me, as there was practically nothing left. When I got back home to my animals, I wished I’d never left them on a stormy Christmas day to drag myself through nature’s fury for a bloody dinner that was over. I still wish that. I wish it more than ever. 

About a week before the big day and the storm and the dinner whose time got changed and nobody told me, I’d got two packages in the mail. One from my daughter with a variety of items in it, including more of the pens I drew with. And another big box from a friend. She’d told me in October that she was making throw pillows for people, asked if I’d like some, and I’d said yes. But in all the time since we’d had that talk, the stresses of my life had driven it out of my head, and I only remembered pillows when I saw the big box.

Five throw pillows, each a slightly different size, each made of a different fabric. They were cheerful, and cute, and hand-made by my friend far away, and in that particular gloom of that particular holiday season, those pillows delighted me. They delighted me for five and a half years, and I safeguarded those pillows like a security dog every time we had to move. I haven’t laid eyes on them now for nearly three years. They are in the storage unit, I hope. Four of them, anyway. What happened to the fifth is a post unto itself.  I miss all of my belongings, old and shabby as most of them are. But with yet another Christmas just gone, I’m at the time of year when I think of certain gifts that shine out in the gloom of my holidays over the last thirteen years. There’s always a smile for those pillows, and for the long-lost friend who made them.

The contradiction isn’t lost on me that while I found my own hand-done drawings a rather shameful thing to give at Christmas, I did not feel that way about Elizabeth’s pillows. Quite the opposite. Anything anyone else makes by hand is a great Christmas gift, as far as I’m concerned. But things made by me? Not so much.

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we’re all going to die

Page Eighty-two

Sunday 12 December 2010…  Turners twits

In 2005, I read the very popular book by Cathcart and Klein, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: understanding philosophy through jokes. And in this book Icame across a short summary of one of Martin Heidegger’s most famous ideas, and for my money, one of his most trenchant. Heidegger was an existentialist, and this is the idea in question:  We are all going to die, and since this is an immutable fact of every single person’s existence, then the best thing we can do with our time to live is to spend our days doing whatever it is that gives our time meaning and purpose. How simple, and how true. It isn’t about making  money or being some kind of hero or publishing thirty books, at least, not as such. It’s about doing what gives you meaning and a sense of purpose, and therefore fulfillment. For some that might be making piles of money or publishing piles of books, but each one of us has to find what it is for ourselves.

And when I thought on this idea, I realized it was what I had been doing, or trying my damnedest to do, all my life, without ever articulating it. The things that gave me this meaning and this purpose were these: animals, nature, books, art, music, and good relationships with a few humans, in descending order of importance. But the human part was always an ordeal, and while I never completely stopped trying to find those meaningful relationships with humans, by the time I was in my late thirties, I was putting more and more animals and nature and books and music and art into my days. The things from which I drew meaning without pain, and purpose without cruelty, and fulfillment without abandonment. All my life I’d been doing what I could to practice being toward death, the phrase that names Heidegger’s idea, without even realizing it.

I would have found meaning and purpose from love relationships with people if they hadn’t always been so fraught with things I simply cannot cope with. Maybe all human relationships are fraught with these things, and other people are strong enough to deal with them and I am not. That’s certainly possible. I have Asperger’s syndrome, which makes me greatly subject to bullying and also greatly unable to understand or condone many types of human behavior. From way back in the toddler days, I’ve found animals endlessly fascinating and humans endlessly disturbing. And as badly as I wanted it, and as hard as I strove for it, I never could get that sort of relationship with a person that I needed and wanted, and in whose context I could have practiced being toward death. More and more I plunged into more animals and more nature and more books, etc. Where I was enriched and comfortable and engaged and unharmed.

From 2004 to 2007, three women came into my life who over the course of two years saw to it that my animals, the absolute center of my world, were taken from me and eventually killed. They saw to it that I became a vagabond with no apartment of my own for two whole years.  Three vicious, unscrupulous, controlling and vindictive women. Humans. They completely changed my existence, completely changed many long-held beliefs I had had, and completely changed what the words Being Toward Death now mean for me. They mean nothing, now, that Heidegger intended. They now mean this: to go through each empty, bereft hour of breathing and having a heart beat, to suffer through it every day, until the heartbeat stops. To write about my animals on the internet, to write about what was done to us and by whom, as a tribute to them, and to the love we shared among us.  To breathe every day without them, without even the knowledge of where and when they died, without the reading and mostly without art and mostly without music and going into nature still, but now with a cloud over it all and a sharp point wedged in my heart. To move every minute with loathing for every human creature.

I did not have the money for the justice a lawyer and the court might have got me when these women practiced their viciousness. The person who cannot afford a chance at justice, who has had their way of life willfully decimated by others, is left with only one thing. At least I am left with only one thing: the justice of vengeance. I’m not in a position to bring about this vengeance myself, but I hope fervently and daily, in my new configuration of Being Toward Death, that the randomness of living, the thing we call luck, will bring about that vengeance one day or another. That what went around, will come around.

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(colorwheel watch at

(this post is part of the book Being Toward Death)


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living on threads

 by: mishiPosted on: 02-18-2010 @ 01:19 pm(with this post, the copying of the original Mishi blog from Wrongplanet is FINI! Only new posts from today, being 6 dec 2010. the date above is the original wrongplanet publication date.)



18 Feb 2010…..   Turners Fails —- This may well be the last post I ever write here on Wrongplanet. Though maybe I’ll come here very rarely and write something. Most of all the online writing I’ve been doing for nearly two years is being moved to WordPress. You can make a blog-based website there, and that’s what I’ve been working at since Jan 21. It’s a big job. Two years’ worth of writing that has to be moved around and knitted together with a seemingly endless gang of links.And that’s my existence; that’s all there is for meaning and purpose in my days now. One little guinea pig and one huge website. It isn’t nearly enough. For 55 years I had families of animals. More than one animal and more than one kind. And the more fool I that I didn’t realize the full extent of the meaning and purpose taking care of them gave to my life until it was all stolen by unprincipled, bulllying, neurotypical human beings.  One guinea pig isn’t a family, and that’s not her fault. And a website full of writng about what was done to us, and by whom, and all the ways in which this human cruelty has changed and broken me… well, it may be a good thing, I don’t really know. But as a meaning and a purpose to living, it’s flimsy in the extreme when you compare it to a lifetime of loving and caring for and being loved by a family of breathing creatures, of full and generous spirits.

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the printed page


Saturday 16 January 2010…     Greenfield  by: mishi

Posted on: 01-16-2010 @ 09:57 am



I’m re-reading Donna Williams’ Nobody Nowhere. There was so much in that book that was true for me too, both as a child and as an adult. I need to review that information. ….. And now much later the update that I wasn’t able to redad her book through a     second time. By January of this year, reading books without animals around me became impossible. I’m only able to listen to audiobooks, and only certain ones. If Donna’s book were available that way, I would certainly listen. I found a great deal of myself — my reactions and perceptions — in that book.

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(clip art photo)

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thursday 7 january 2010 by: mishi

Posted on: 01-07-2010 @ 12:20 pm



Turners Falls…   Thanks, Peter and Amarok, for answering. I don’t know how to do personal messages on most websites that I use, because I truly am a tecno-failure. So I do this instead; a public thank you on the blog.~~~~~~~~~  website  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


good riddance 2009

Wednesday 30 December 2009…. 

 by: mishi                                                      

Posted on: 12-30-2009

(originally on


turners fails

So the end of another year… the first full year without my own life and my animals and a home of my own. In 2008 I had all those things for a whole two and a half months.

The end of another year of not fitting, of finding most of what neurotypicals say either silly or totally lacking in any logical thought. Another year of being told by every Tom, Dick and Mary — whether they know me or not — to SMILE. The end of another year of oddness, of finding solid ground to stand on only in what little is left of my own world. I’ve had nearly 57 years like that. This is just the end of one more.                                                                             


read…    Braon…    Sehnen

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all photos, graphics, poems and text copyright 2008-2012 by anne nakis, unless otherwise stated. all rights reserved.

Changed utterly

Page Seventy-three

Saturday 12 December 2009

 by: mishi Posted on: 12-12-2009 @ 10:22 am…………..  Greenfield

 Questions for the solstice:

If I know a song of my cats and me wandering the canal, does the canal know a song of us?

If I know a song of my dogs and me on the riverbank and in a certain woods, do the woods and the river know a song of us?

If I know a song of a romance with the moon, a romance that went on and on with me and with cats and with dogs, does the moon now sing more sadly, now my love has been withdrawn?

If the sun in its standing still at the solstice hour in any way remembers how I honored such times, will it notice at all that my honor is put away under a shroud?

I got this question from Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen), from Out of Africa: If I know a song of Africa, does Africa know a song of me?

Of course the answer to all of these questions, Karen’s and mine, is almost certainly: No.

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