The Road to Spain, Update 5 ~ The Writing

When I decided to write my manuscript for “Walking My Mother Home”, I made many decisions on what to include and exclude from the story. In fact, I sat on the fence about even writing it because I was afraid that if I wrote the novella that the full length book would never be written. Sometimes I still have those doubts. Yet when I finally sat down to work on the manuscript and review my journal and emails between Rosa and me, I knew there was more than enough material for a book—and I’m still in the midst of living it out in the here and now.

Spain mapWhile I have a good idea of what parts I want to include from the story, what is uncertain is what lies ahead with my trip to Spain. This trip is a part of the story from several different angles: the spiritual pilgrimage, meeting Rosa, partnering with Pedro’s music projects, or just visiting Spain in general. Regardless of what may ever be published or interests others, the main missing piece for me personally has always been what transpired from Rosa’s perspective of the story 5,300 miles away.

Communicating Online

Although over these two and a half years of emails Rosa and I have used an online translator, there have always been holes in our communications. Some words don’t translate accurately between Spanish and English. There was also a lot of reading between the lines and assumptions that I made in the process. Sometimes we would go back and forth over the course of a week or more to get clarity on something. That still happens from time to time.

From Day 1 of my telling this family my desire to write about our story, they have welcomed the opportunity with open arms. I’m not sure I would’ve done the same had the roles been reversed—having a foreigner I’d never physically met write about me in a book? It sounds kind of bizarre. Yet it isn’t bizarre or strange in any way. It is actually quite beautiful. I have been humbled to try to do this story and our relationship justice by writing about it.

Word for word Rosa translated the manuscript from English into Spanish.

Word for word Rosa translated the manuscript from English into Spanish.

Rosa’s true stamp of approval on this story came even before she finished reading the manuscript. I sent it to her as a gift on the anniversary of her mother’s passing. The manuscript was in English. Instead of having Pedro or Rafa, her husband, read it to her, she spent hours translating and transcribing it word for word by hand. She was only a few pages into it when we heard that Cladach Publishing had accepted the manuscript. Now that was dedication to our friendship.

Communicating Face to Face

So in three weeks, I will finally meet Rosa, after three years of waiting. I’ve played that scene in the airport over and over in my mind many times. Although I’ll be loaded with a new camera for my Spanish adventures, I’m relying on Rafa to take pictures of our meeting. I’ll probably look like a train wreck from my 18 hours of travel and the tears running down my face, but those first photos will be precious to me.

Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain

Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain

When I settle in and Rosa and I finally have some quiet time together, there will be no more second guessing her words on the computer screen staring back at me. There will be instant responses—verbal and non-verbal. There will be hugs, smiles and tears to guide us through the difficult territory of breaking down the language barrier as we relive those days leading up to our mothers’ passings.

It’s All About the Journey

Although this trip would be a great candidate for a second blog—a travel log—I’ve opted to keep it simple. Aside from any personal writing that I do for the book, I have no idea how often I’ll post, or how much social media interaction I’ll partake in. In fact, I may even fast from it all, in favor of complete immersion in everything uniquely Spanish.

After all, I’m living out everything I want to write about. This is a unique and significant time in my life. It’s about what God is revealing to me on this next part of my life’s journey. It’s about how He is working in me. It’s about walking out of the unknown and mystery of my relationship with this family into the known and reality of it.

Following God’s nudge to write the story put me on this path in the first place. Now this family’s gracious gift of hospitality has made this trip possible. How much and how often I write over the next few months will be dictated a lot more by our daily schedule than by my selfish desires or any other marketing or publishing ‘shoulds’ that are sure to surface.

It's all about the journey.

It’s all about the journey.

This is storytelling—plain and simple. This is memoir. This is His testimony in my life. I’m proud to share my story in any way God leads—whether it is connecting one on one with this family, face to face with the Spanish people I meet, or in the written word that I hope will one day be published.

In any case, it’s all about the journey; and in three weeks, I know I’ll be walking into the next layer of healing that God has in store for me. I know I will come back a changed person. I hope it inspires you to boldly follow Him and turn healing into hope.

Time Out for a Blog Tour

For the past week I’ve been devoting daily time to working on my memoir as part of the 50,000 word challenge of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  However, a few days ago, I was reminded of my commitment to participate in my publisher’s blog tour for Journeys to Mother Love.  Decisions, decisions!

What’s a Blog Tour?

A blog tour is an opportunity for authors to interact with bloggers and readers of their book online.  As part of this blog tour, scheduled Nov. 8-12, Journeys to Mother Love is being reviewed by bloggers across the United States.  Each of the contributing authors in Journeys to Mother Love has been invited to comment on these blogs and engage the readers.  We were also interviewed in advance and our responses have been published on “Journeys to Mother Love” blog.  It’s just one of the benefits that the internet can provide authors and readers—ease of access to an audience from anywhere in the world.

Along with the literary responses and communication, Cladach is offering book giveaways.  You can enter by “liking” their Facebook page, following the “Journeys to Mother Love” blog or commenting on a blog post or the Facebook blog tour event page.  You can also enter (you get 3 entries) by sharing your story on the book blog.  (I’ve heard lots of positive responses to this book and how people are connecting to the stories, so dive right in by sharing yours!)

In addition to all that, the Kindle e-book version of Journeys to Mother Love will be free on Amazon.com November 8-10!

Support of my Writing

With this temporary diversion comes the possibility of increased traffic to my website and blog as well as new subscribers.  It’s a welcome sacrifice of writing time to invest in my platform and building relationship with others. After all, that is why I felt called to do this in the first place—to share the story of God’s healing power when we step out of our comfort zone and surrender to His will.

So I am diverted for a few days, but will be immersed in my writing again soon.  It’s all good.  It’s all for God, so I’m ok with that.

I hope you will participate in the blog event over the next several days.  Please share this post on Facebook, Twitter or whatever social media sites you regularly use (click an icon below to share).  If you download the free e-book, please shoot me an email at info@ardisanelson.com to let me know your thoughts or feedback on “Walking My Mother Home” (Chapter 8).  As a bonus to anyone who directly responds to me about the book, I will send links to two music videos based on the story with the music of Pedro González Arbona, the Spanish young man who is also part of the story.

Lastly, if you haven’t already done so, I’d love to add you to the list of people who are interested in following this story or are looking for a place to turn healing into hope.  You can subscribe to my blog by adding your email address and clicking the “Follow” button on the upper right hand corner of this page.  Or click “Like” to follow my writings on Facebook (upper right).

Thanks for your interest and visiting my blog today.  It’s not an accident that you are here.  And please do enjoy the literary event sponsored by Cladach Publishing.  Click this link for more information about Cladach’s “Fall Book Fling”.

Like, like, like, and hope to connect with you on the tour this week.

Reclaiming the True You

Last year at this time, I attended an all-day workshop developed by Tamara J. Buchan, an author and friend.  The material she shared from her book, “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You” was so significant to me, I ended up partnering with her on the book marketing team for a short time before she moved to California.

The identity breakthroughs I had at the workshop changed my life.  I left the workshop empowered to do the unthinkable—to write a book.  Within a few months my short story, “Walking My Mother Home”, was accepted by Cladach Publishing.  The book is still a work in progress.  You can read about my identity breakthroughs in an interview Tamara wrote on her blog at tamarabuchan.com.

Tamara and I at the book launch for “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You”, March 2012

Tamara’s book, “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You” takes readers through an identity journey which starts with our true purpose and moves to God’s invitation to become his adopted child in the  family of God.  Throughout the book, Tamara challenges us to change our minds about our true identity and to not accept the “orphaned” status that we so often cling to in our daily lives.

Each chapter reveals key principles that help to breakdown the internal barriers and lies we believe about ourselves.  At the end of each chapter, Tamara provides reflection topics and hands-on experiences that help to integrate the teaching through our minds and into our hearts.

I love how the last chapter reviews key points from the previous chapters.  It ties all of the identity roles together and ends with a call to action.  When I reviewed the various identities, it was confirmation of how I’ve been walking out my new identity and re-purposed my writing and speaking for Him.

Tamara’s words in the book are not just words on the page.  They are an invitation to living life differently—to not remain stuck in our heads or full of doubt.  It is an invitation to move forward and live our lives as God designed.

Having worked with and been mentored by Tamara has given me a unique firsthand perspective to witness how Tamara lives her life by these principles.  I have seen Tamara cling to her identity no matter what the circumstances might be.  In the face of life’s unpleasant and painful circumstances, I too, want to be able to stand tall and still declare my identity in Christ.

I was blessed to be able to attend one of Tamara’s workshops as well as read the book.  Earlier this year, Tamara moved from the Seattle area to the San Francisco area.  She is a gifted speaker and holds retreats, workshops, and speaking events that revolve around the spiritual truths in her book.

Regardless of where you are on your spiritual journey, as a long time follower of Christ or a new Believer, I highly recommend reading Tamara’s book, “Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You”.  Her book will challenge you to start thinking differently and to break free from the bonds that are holding you back from becoming all that God designed you to be.

For an Audience of One

I’ve been blogging for over a year now.  It’s not such a big feat, but for me it was the next step I needed to take to flex my writing muscle.  Just when I think I’m finding my voice and feeling more comfortable with my writing, I find myself getting caught up in what others think or what a blog is “supposed” to look like.  Self-doubt can creep in so insidiously.

The truth is that most people don’t follow any hard and fast rules to blogging—unless they want to take their writing seriously.  In today’s publishing industry, blogging is a way to prove to potential publishers that you have a “following” or as Michael Hyatt calls it, a “tribe.”  A large tribe equates into potential book sales and that motivates a publisher to take note of your manuscript.  Of course good writing is also key to getting noticed.

So why am I mentioning this on my blog?  It’s because I feel stuck on how to continue blogging.  In the months preceding the publishing of my story in “Journeys to Mother Love,” I pursued getting a domain name and developing my website.  That was when I realized I needed to brand my name, my image, my site, etc.  I hired Athena Dean from Book Jolt, to help with that process.

When Athena asked me what my passion was and what I wanted to write about, my answer was easy.  I love hearing and seeing how God transforms lives when people learn to trust Him and embrace deep healing.  Evangelism isn’t my gift.  It’s facilitating spiritual growth and encouraging people to walk through their pain to the other side of wholeness.  So we brainstormed on taglines and came up with “Where Healing Turns to Hope”.  (Thank you Athena!  That was worth every penny.)

The only problem now is that I am second guessing if my writing is really conveying that message.  I love the exchange of deep spiritual insights and sharing struggles at a heart level.  I am not embarrassed to share my own painful struggles, doubts or neediness.  The question is how much to share on a public blog.

Don’t be tempted by the allure of an audience.

In finding my voice should I deliberately write for affect or strip my spiritual candor to potentially draw a tribe?  Should I always write deep introspective posts that align with my branding?  “Where Healing Turns to Hope” doesn’t have to imply deep spiritual revelation or intense healing.  It’s about being a light in my words and deeds so that others may see Jesus as the author of healing and hope.

My voice is one of thousands of bloggers who have been redeemed and restored to our true identity in Christ—not perfect, but embracing our brokenness and moving forward one day at a time.  When I start to question my voice, the size of my tribe, my “likes” on Facebook and such, I am letting my pride get the best of me and going against the heart transformation that Christ has done in me.

In my recent period of questioning and doubting the direction of my blog, the Lord has graciously reminded me that “He is enough for me.”  When I look to a tribe for validation of my writing, mistakenly defining that as “fruit”, He gently whispers that “I am the fruit” of His labor.  So with that kind of encouragement to continue blogging, I know that I am really blogging for an audience of One—and I’m very grateful for that.

“Journeys to Mother Love” Book Launch

The last month has been a whirlwind of activities, culminating with the launch of Journeys to Mother Love, Cladach Publishing, at my Open House last weekend.  The emotions and the stress have been pretty intense.

Also during this month my son transitioned to a new high school, I began a new treatment plan for my ADHD, covered staff vacancies at my husband’s office, and bid farewell to the ministry leader I’ve served with for the last year.  No wonder my body is tired and my mind seems a bit mushy.  So it shouldn’t be a surprise that my writing, including this blog, has been on hold.

The Open House and Book Signing was truly magical for me.  As odd as it may sound, it reminded me of my father’s memorial service a few months ago.  I gave the eulogy and felt wholly unequipped to do so.  But somehow God showed up and anointed my words.  And that is exactly what happened last weekend too.

I spent hours creating the publicity documents, personally inviting friends and creating audio/visual segments for the program.  But when my head hit the pillow in the early morning hours on the day of the event, I didn’t know what I was going to say.  I do work well under a deadline, but that was really cutting it short.  I prayed and trusted that God was going to make it all work out, and He did!

When I awoke, I felt surprisingly alert, fresh and ready to write the program.  My prayers were answered that morning as God seemed to piece it all together in my mind.  There was no time to type it up or to practice.  I jotted some notes down on paper and made a B-line for the event.

I felt calm and at ease as I shared with everyone the key pieces of this story—interwoven with videos accompanied by Pedro’s original piano compositions.  (Pedro González Arbona is my Spanish son who is a key character in the published story.)  The response to the event was extremely positive.  I felt blessed and affirmed to start on this next season of writing and speaking.  I know that these things wouldn’t be possible without the love and encouragement I have received from friends and family along the way.  I am very grateful to them.

My mother has been physically gone for almost two years, but as I wrote in “Walking My Mother Home”, I lost her emotionally over forty years ago.  I still have a few moments when I get caught up in the loss of never really knowing my mother as a person—like when I see or hear about my friends connecting with their daughters—but the journey I’ve been on to wholeness these past two years has led to such amazing peace and joy in my own identity.  And it was with that sense of awe and wonder at how God can turn our healing into hope that I celebrated the launch of Journeys to Mother Love last week.

Since many of you couldn’t attend the Open House, I’m including the video below I created from the event.  I think you’ll agree that it was joyful.  In time I will share the other videos and soundtrack to the story.  Pedro surprised me with the song, “The Launch,” a few days before the event.  I hope you enjoy this lovely composition used with the video.  Thanks for following me on this journey to wholeness.

Where has God turned your healing into hope?  Where has God redeemed your pain and made you whole?  I’d love to hear your story or comments on the video.

It’s Time to Celebrate!

Today is a day to celebrate!  The countdown has ended!  It is the official release date of my book, Journeys to Mother Love.

It is a day I hoped for ever since I received the email seeking submissions to this compilation from Cladach Publishing.  Some thought it was a crazy notion since I had never written anything like this before.  But I knew this story was incredibly unique, compelling and inspiring.  I knew I HAD to write this.

When I sat down to write this 10,000 word novella on a personal writing retreat last fall, the events of this story were still fresh in my mind.  It was painful at times, but the writing brought about more healing.  And then with each publishing milestone along the way, the healing, transformation and joy seemed to integrate more fully into my soul.

As my writing journey started last year, a dear friend of mine often heard me say, “I don’t know what I am doing”.  I seriously believed that.  After all, I was a beginning writer.  It took months for me to retrain my mind and my tongue from thinking and saying those words.  I had to pray my way through the doubts, seek encouragement and ask for lots of prayer too.

And then I had to overcome a steep learning curve into the publishing industry.  Don’t think for a minute that this is all glamorous or that all one has to do is “write”.  That is generally all a writer wants to do.  But in reality, most writers today need to be their own publicity agent, financier and marketing guru—or hire someone to do it for them.  I blindly walked into this—following God’s leading down this path.

A few days ago I got an email filled with congratulatory comments and calling me a professional writer.  It felt very awkward.  That’s a lot to live up to.  In time that will feel more comfortable too.  For now, I’m excited to see what God has in store.

So today I celebrate what He has done in me and through me.  I celebrate what He plans to do with this book–not just for myself, but for the other eight women who so bravely bared their souls in this compilation of healing and forgiveness.

I celebrate our victories.  I celebrate the blessings and inspiration that this book will provide the readers.  I celebrate the connections that will be formed through the “Journeys to Mother Love” blog.  I celebrate God’s gift of mothers and daughters in our lives.  I celebrate Jesus!

How about you?  What are you celebrating today?  Will you celebrate with me?

The Barometer For Success

I am getting nervous.  In less than two weeks I will be an author when my first manuscript, “Walking My Mother Home”, is published.  What started as journaling and a strong desire to write after my mother passed away in February 2011 will be part of a real live book, Journeys to Mother Love, published by Cladach Publishing.

I am elated about this new venture.  I did my part, stepping out of my comfort zone to write this story and God has blessed it.  I’ve received positive feedback and encouragement from friends and family to pursue this dream.   Yet deep inside I am scared about what lies ahead on many different levels.

First of all, the story is very personal.  I wrote it from a place of deep pain.  I’ve been very protective with the manuscript and only shared it with a few people.  In fact, I didn’t even re-read it myself until after it was accepted.  And now I am nervous about telling my story.  It feels pretty vulnerable and risky.

Then there are the financial and promotional aspects of this venture.  I have invested a lot of my time and money into this project.  As a beginning author, I may be naive, but I’m hoping my personal sales from this book make enough money to cover the costs of my pilgrimage to Spain next summer so I can finally meet Rosa and write more of this story.

This all means I’ll need to personally promote the book and myself—build a platform, schedule speaking engagements, book signings, etc.  It’s been a large learning curve.  Thankfully, a friend recommended I consider working with a publishing coach.  I didn’t even know what that was.

Three weeks ago, I hired Athena Dean of Book Jolt, to help me with all of these decisions and the marketing.  These are all things I wouldn’t have imagined myself doing a year ago—and sometimes I’m still on the fence about all of this. Ultimately I do get to choose how much of this I end up doing though.

So as I prepare to launch my book, I am nervous about “success”.  I want the book to make money.  Like most authors, I really don’t want to promote myself.  I am stressed about all the things I still need to do to prepare for the launch.  I am trying to balance this with my other family commitments.

I’ve been pondering the words of a wise friend and mentor, Tamara J. Buchan, about this very subject.  She said, “Faithfulness to the Lord is the barometer of success.”  When I focus on success as being based on my faithfulness to the Lord, then I can release my stress and my desire to control the outcome. I have been faithful and that is what God rewards.  Maybe not how we want–financially, materially, etc., but with the kinds of treasures that really matter.  For me, that’s been
the relationships I’ve gained along the way.

I am nervous, but God has blessed me with amazing healing and is equipping me to take these next steps of obedience.  I am grateful to Him and feel called to share this regardless of how successful it may appear by the world’s standards.  I am gearing up to be faithful—and successful by God’s standards.

What’s your barometer for success?  How do you define it?

Writing: My First Year, Part 4 – Finishing Strong

Almost two months to the day I submitted my manuscript to Cladach Publishing, I received an email that my story was being accepted for publication.  It was the biggest confirmation possible that I really was on the right path with my writing.  Not only was I a writer, but technically I was now going to be an author.  This was such exciting news for me and worthy of a celebration.  (See “Waiting on Pins & Needles” for more information.)

Once the initial shock wore off, my mind was filled with a hundred questions and a new fear sunk in—fear of the unknown.  Thankfully I had a dedicated group of friends supporting and praying for me.  I also knew three authors, Tamara J. Buchan, Henriet Schapelhouman and Michelle Hollomon, who provided wisdom as I ventured into this unknown territory.

I nervously negotiated my contract with the publisher including the retention of the foreign rights in hopes of someday publishing it in Spain.  Over the last five months, I’ve had several conversations and emails with my publisher and been faced with numerous decisions along the way.

I’ve done multiple edits to the manuscript, had photos taken for the book (thanks to a friend’s time and talent), written a one-sheet (publicity document), sought endorsements (Steven Arterburn accepted!), and navigated my website set up.  With less than two months to go before “Journeys to Mother Love” is published, my attention will turn to marketing and promotional aspects of the book and facing more fears.

Over the past year, my writing has definitely taken me into uncharted territory and stretched me outside of my comfort zone.  There was a lot of time spent in prayer and physically spent writing.  The pain in my right arm and shoulder is a reminder of my devotion to this new direction in my life and my need for some self-care.

When I tell people about the events of the last year or that I am going to be published, I am often met with surprise and excitement for these bold changes in me and what God is doing in my life.  I’ve been told that my path to publication is not typical and that it generally takes years to be published.

I don’t say this to boast.  I have to remind myself of this because I know that it is God who has made all of this possible.  I’ve had to do my part, but I believe that He has put these dreams in my heart.  I believe He has given me these confirmations so that I will continue down this path.  He knew that I would need them to continue facing my fears.

Even though I totally sense God in the midst of this, that doesn’t mean it has been easy.  There have been lots of challenges and times of doubt.  When my doubts surface, I remind myself of His faithfulness and His promises.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

So from that day one year ago that I voiced my desire to be a writer, I’ve had to consciously choose to step into this new role in my life.  As I did I was also accepting my identity in Christ more and more.  In doing so, I have found freedom to write what God lays on my heart to write.  The foundational truth that I cling to is that God accepts me unconditionally even if and when my writing is rejected.  I’d have to characterize that as a pretty strong finish to a whirlwind year of writing.

Are you open to following God’s path for you?  Where are you partnering with Him in your life or where are you fighting Him?  What has He revealed to you along the way?  What’s stopping you from finishing strong?  I’d love to hear your story.

Writing: My First Year, Part 3 – Getting Side Tracked

One of the first emails I received after becoming a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association was a request to submit a story on healing in mother/child relationships.  Although I knew it was tailor made for my story—the reason I felt God calling me to start writing—I didn’t act on it immediately.  Writing a 10,000 word story about my healing with my mother seemed like a luxury.

I had just started blogging, was writing e-devotionals for my church, committed to help launch Celebrate Recovery at my church and took a part-time marketing job for friend and pastor, Tamara J. Buchan.  Tamara was ramping up her team to promote her new book, Identity Crisis: Reclaim the True You.

While I’ve done lots of marketing for my husband’s business over the years, I had never worked in the publishing industry.  I had a large learning curve to overcome in this position.  What appealed to me with this job was that I knew what I learned would be used someday for marketing the book I wanted to write.  I was also drawn to working with Tamara and being so closely mentored by her.

As the deadline for the story submission approached, God kept nudging me to write the story.  My biggest fear was if I wrote the story and it was published that I would never write the bigger book.  One night as I was journaling, I noticed that since my mother died and my writing started, nine months earlier, I had already written 114,000 words in my journal.  That was more than enough for a 200-page book.  That was all I needed to confirm that I have enough material for a book.

But there was one problem still remaining—I needed dedicated time to write the story in the next three weeks.  God was making it pretty clear to me that I couldn’t write this story or my book and also work for Tamara.  It was a painful decision that weighed heavy on my heart.

I loved working with Tamara.  But I realized that continuing down this path was asking God to sanctify my disobedience.  So I quit.  The irony in the situation is that the revelations I discovered about my identity directly correlated with the message in Tamara’s book.  Working for her and reading her book took my faith and trust in God to a higher level—despite the consequences.  It was a big blessing.

I booked a few days away at a camp over Thanksgiving weekend so I could devote quality time to writing the story.  Since I never wrote anything this big or submitted a story for publication, I also hired my writing teacher, Candace Wilson, to coach my writing.  Armed in prayer covering by my friends, loaded down with a huge stack of papers that I’d accumulated over the past two years and my new laptop, I dove into the story.  (See Counting Words for a summary of my writing weekend.)

On December 1, 2011, I submitted my story, “Walking My Mother Home”, to Cladach Publishing. I met my deadline.  I was relieved.  I released the outcome to God.

Have you ever gone down a road that seemed so right, only to find out later that God had other plans?  How did you respond?  Did you fight God, bargain with Him or relinquish control and trust His plans for you?

Writing: My First Year, Part 2 – First Steps

I’ve had a burning desire to be a writer ever since my mother died about 1½ years ago.  But it wasn’t until I voiced that desire in a support group meeting one year ago last week that my desire started to become more of a reality—emotionally on the inside and visibly on the outside.

Since that day, I have received one confirmation after another.  Coincidence? (more…)

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

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