Category Archives: Life

Lens-Artists Challenge #120 – What A Treat!

This week, at the Lens-Artists Challenge community, Tina shared with us her thinking behind the theme: “There are many terrible aspects of the COVID 19 pandemic, too numerous to count really. On the other hand, there are a few positives as well. This week I experienced the latter – which in the spirit of Halloween week here in the U.S., I am calling ‘quite a treat.'” 

Visiting my family is always an enjoyment, but our last trip was surely a treat to me and my husband.

When Autumn was born, I flew to Portland, Oregon once a month to spend time with her and my daughter Mercy. After her first birthday, I went every six weeks. Being an educator, watching her growth and learning unique skills was an amazement. In March this year, because of the Covid, I cancelled my trip when Mercy gave birth to Nora. Eventually, I took a trip to meet Nora five months after she was born. As to my husband, Lynton, his last time being with Autumn was January 2019 when we took a family trip to Hong Kong and Japan.

Early this month, it was a real treat to me and Lynton to visit Mercy’s family and spend time with Autumn and Nora.

Autumn was attached to Lynton right away. She came into my room to wake me up gently every morning and said, “Where is grandpa?” “I think he went to the store to get a newspaper,” I said. She wanted Lynton to read to her, doing puzzles and other projects with her.

Nora grew so fast. She loved to smile and make distinct sounds. Lynton enjoyed interacting with her.

I took tons of photos, of course!

We did many activities, even though it was limited by the Covid. We went to a pumpkin farm. Autumn visited the cows, goats, and pigs. She and Daddy went on a hayride, train ride, and jumped on a giant bouncing bed.

We went to the school playground across the street from my daughter’s house. We went on a walk in the neighborhood. Three nights in a row, we played board games after the kids went to bed.

What a Treat!

Taking family photo is a challenge to get the kids look at the camera.

The rain stopped when we arrived at the pumpkin farm and the rainbow appeared.

Reading and cuddling

Interacting

“I want grandma to get in.”

We played Yahtzee, Scrabble, and a detective game. I’m as competitive as Mercy and Will.

Autumn’s new favorite is the geometric block patterns. She knows the names such as hectogon and trapezoid.

Autumn is a loving big sister. When Nora fusses, she would pat her, hug her, and bring her a toy. She can hardly wait to run around with Nora.

Reading and learning through playing are important for the kid’s growth and development. Mercy and Will read to the kids from the beginning of their lives.

Our next visit to them is Thanksgiving. We look very much forward to it.

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Lens-Artists Challenge #120 – What A Treat!

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Lens-Artists Challenge #115 – Inspiration

This week for Lens-Artists Challenge, Tina invited us to explore the theme of Inspiration. I could name many aspects around are my inspiration. I finally decided on three for this post.

Gardening is my hobby and my joy. My life is enriched by the inspiration from gardening. There are several basic things for a healthy garden. 1) Good soil. I started a butterfly garden and vegetable garden this year. Several sections have heavy clay soil. I dug at least one foot, soaked the soil and drained, mixed in several inches of organic soil. Use the correct amount of fertilizer periodically. 2) Watering. Test the daily watering to ensure the soil is moist, not just wet on the surface. 3) Proper planting space. The full-grown milkweed will be several feet in diameter in the butterfly garden, whereas the Zinnias are several feet tall but several inches wide. 4) Trimming the withered limbs according to different plants by season or regularly.

Learning from gardening, I need to continuously cleanse, nourish, and make changes to my mind, my heart, and my action to be a healthy person.

Traveling gave me the opportunity to see the wonderful nature near and far. We were at awe with the vast Denali wildness in Alaska, over 10,000 hydrothermal features such as geysers, hot springs, mud pots, travertine terraces, and fumaroles in Yellowstone, and four active volcanos in Hawaii, to name just a few.

Nature comes in all shapes and forms, all kinds of temperature, and different colors as reflected in our human life.

The maternal instinct in the animal kingdom was my inspiration and touches my heart at the deep spot. Humpback whales migrate farther than any other mammal on earth. They can travel around 3,000 miles between their breeding and feeding grounds regularly. During the migration with the newborn, the female Humpback would lift the calf above the water for it to breathe. The female and the calf are caressing each other constantly for affection.

A nest in my front porch was a cradle for four births of baby Mourning doves. The dove eggs are smaller than chicken eggs. I observed the female doves lay two eggs at a time. It takes about 35 days after hatching for the baby doves to fly. Last year, one baby was ready to fly and left the nest. The female dove left for a while but came back in the evening to stay with the second baby, kept him warm until he was ready to fly. The bigger baby also came to keep the little brother company. Then they flew away together.

Even though I was not able to be a stay-home mom when my daughter was a baby, I’m now a big fan of stay-home moms for them to treasure and enjoy those precious moments.

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LENS-ARTISTS CHALLENGE #115 – INSPIRATION

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Fiction In A Flash Challenge Prompt Week #13 – The Key to Unlock the Mystery

This is Fiction in a Flash Challenge Week #13. Each week Suzanne Burke will be featuring an image and inviting you to write a Flash Fiction or Non-Fiction piece inspired by that image in any format and genre of your choosing. Maximum word count: 750 words.

Here is the week #13 Image Prompt.

The Key to Unlock the Mystery

“Mom, thank you for telling me about the adoption. I appreciate you and Dad. I still have this strange feeling of belonging to someone else.” Clara frown.

“I understand, Clara. Your dad and I wanted to have a family, but I couldn’t conceive, so we adopted.”

“How did you decide where to adopt?”

“Most of the countries listed the criteria of children being adopted. Many orphans had major physical or mental handicaps. We were not equipped to handle those problems. The orphans in China were either abandoned or given up for adoption because of the one-child policy. We hoped to adopt a healthy child.”

“Your document helped me to locate my birth parents. I want to meet them. This seems to be a good time for me.”

“What do you want to do when you find them?”

“I don’t know. I was always curious about living with them.”

“We support you whatever you do.”

“My flight is tomorrow night and arrives on the third day. China is fifteen hours ahead.”

“Message us and send us many pictures.”

“I will, Mom. I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.”

~ ~ ~

Clara met her driver and translator at the airport. The city welcomed her with heavy smog covering the mountains in a distance. The sky had no trace of blue. She could gaze into the sun with a patch of light and fuzzy layers of haze.

The concrete buildings with hanging signs stretching out into the streets slowly disappeared. The sight on both sides of the car turned into scattered cottages and fields. The car bounced on an unpaved narrow road.

A small village with about fifty two-story narrow houses came into sight. The red bricks crumbled from the roofs and the fences between the houses.

“We arrived, Miss.” The driver announced.

“Xiè xiè!”1 Clara surveyed the surrounding.

The driver led her to a doorway where a weathered face woman dressed in grey top and black pants waiting.

“Nǐ hǎo?”2 The woman dropped her clasped hands and nodded at Clara.

“Nǐ hǎo? Hěn gāo xìng jiàn dào nǐ.”3 Clara reached and held her arms.

“Huān yíng. Qǐng zuò.”4 The woman extended her hand toward a chair.

“Xiè xiè.”5 Clara nodded and approached the chair.

After greeting the woman, Clara had the conversation with her through the translator.

“I’m here to learn about why you gave me up for adoption.”

“I had no choice. The government only let each family to have one child. We wanted to have a son because the son carries the family name and passes down the generations. Many women had abortions when they found out they had girls. Some of them were into seventh months of pregnancy. I didn’t know you were a girl until you were born. The only way we could have a second chance to have a son was to send you to an orphanage.”

“Did you have a son?”

“I did. My mother watched him for twelve years. My husband and I went to the big city to work in a garment factory and sent money home to my mother. We came home every three months to see our son.”

“It must be difficult not to see your son.”

“There was no work in the village. The factories are in the big cites. When our son was twelve, he got in trouble with other boys and didn’t want to go to school. I took the last train ride to come home to take care of him. I didn’t go back to the big city.”

“I’m glad I came to see you. Here is some money gift. I’ll write letters to you when I go back to the America.”

“Thank you for coming to see me. I’m happy for your bright future.”

“Xiè xiè, Ma. Zài jiàn.”6 Clara hugged the stiff woman.

“Zài jiàn.”7 She grinned and nodded.

~ ~ ~

“Clara, welcome home. Tell me about your trip.”

“It was an eye-opening journey, Mom. I had the mystery locked up for so long. Understanding was the key to set it free. I now have the balanced perspective of my past and present, and the appreciation of you and Dad for giving me a better life.”

~ ~ ~

Footnotes

1 Thank you?

2 How are you?

3 How are you? Very glad to see you.

4 Welcome. Please sit.

5 Thank you.

6 Thank you, mother. Goodbye.

7 Goodbye.

Lens-Artists Weekly Photo Challenge #108: Sanctuary

Xenia at Tranature is the guest host for Lens-Artists Weekly Photo Challenge this week. She invited us to look at the theme of Sanctuary.

We have been in lock down because of Covid-19 since March 11. The initial projection was to close schools and stores for several weeks. Five months have gone by, we see new surge of cases in many countries. This is an unsettling time of the history.

Xenia’s theme is timely for us to think about and find sanctuary among the chaos.

 

Sanctuary is the tranquility where the mind and soul find serenity and peace. It could be in the ocean, a park, or your garden.

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It seems to be miles away but Laguna Lake is in the midst of the residential homes.

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My garden

Sanctuary is the harmony where the chaos, strife, and discords dissipate. It could be somewhere in the forest or the perception through our filtered lenses.

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Trees find their way toward the sun at Laguna Lake.

Sanctuary is the quietness where the demands, interruption, and disturbance fade away. It could be a bench under a tree or in the depth of your heart.

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Benches like this one are facing the water around Laguna Lake.

Sanctuary is a resting place where the struggles, conflicts, and confusion subside. A nap can be a pleasant luxury, a mini-vacation. It can provide an easy way to get some relaxation and rejuvenation.

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Tucking the head under the wings is a perfect way of napping for the ducks.

Sanctuary is a hobby you emerge yourself in for leisure and pleasure. You may find it in reading, hiking, or fishing. I find mine in singing and painting.

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This family enjoyed fishing at Laguna Lake

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My watercolor painting

Sanctuary is a haven where one finds security, love, and care for the young.

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A content mama duck with eight fuzzy ducklings

Lens-Artists Weekly Photo Challenge #108: Sanctuary

 

I love to hear where you find your sanctuary. Please share with us in the comment. Thank you!

 

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #107 – Winter

This week for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #107, Ann-Christine invited us to look at the difference in the winter when we compare the Northern Hemisphere with the Southern Hemisphere. 

The first time I saw snow was my first year in Portland, Oregon. It was in November. I walked along the hallway from one classroom to the next. My eyes glanced through the floor to ceiling window. A thin layer of white stuff drifting down in the air. I stopped and observed. Each layer above seemed to get thicker and whiter. I realized what happened and called out while jumping up and down, “It’s snowing. It’s snowing!” Some male students walked by and looked at me. Probably the last time they saw and heard of it was from their little kids.

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When I finished school in Portland, I went on to Seattle Pacific University for my second graduate study. The city welcomed me with seven inches of snow. When the snow came to a pause, I put on my knee high, custom made leather boots and my leather gloves to make the first snowman. The leather gloves got hard and stiff after they were dry. My boots were fine, probably they were made differently.

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Is winter warm or cold? I think winter is warm because it’s the time for events such as Christmas concert, Christmas light cruise, Christmas parties with family and friends, and my daughter’s birthday the day after Christmas.

One New Year, we visited my sister’s family in Vancouver B.C. We couldn’t go skiing in Whistler B.C. because the heavy fog came in. We managed going to a nearby mountain for my husband, niece, and nephew to do snowboarding.

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Back home in southern California, our chorale started rehearsing for the Messiah concert first week of November, leading to the two performances before Christmas. This is the highlight of the year for me.

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The adult fellowship group at church has many Christmas parties. One year we had a catering dinner at a deluxe retirement home. The chef built a gingerbread village every year. He made one gingerbread house at a time throughout the year and froze them. By early December, he assembled the village with a train track and an electrical train going around it.

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The last two years, we went on the Christmas Light Cruise and watched the Christmas Boat Parade.

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Two years ago was the first-time snow and Christmas met. My husband and I went to Portland, Oregon to spend the holiday with my daughter’s family. I saw snow before the plane landed and was so excited to have a white Christmas.

Most exciting of all during Christmas time is my daughter’s birthday on the day after Christmas. Here, Mercy opened the birthday card from her daughter Autumn.

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Is winter warm or cold in your part of the world? I would like to hear from you.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #107 – Winter

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 106: Autumn

The theme from Patti this week for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #106 focuses on the season autumn.

Forty years ago, I came to the graduate school in Portland, Oregon. One thing I appreciated Oregon is the distinct four seasons. Autumn is the most impressive with its red, yellow, and orange foliage. The highway by the school lined up with trees displaying the splendid colors for miles and miles. I finished my studies and moved to southern California, and I left the four seasons behind.

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My daughter went to the university in Portland, Oregon. She continued to stay there to work and then got married. Even though I visited her often, but somehow those visits didn’t fall into the season of autumn until my granddaughter Autumn was born.

Autumn was born on September 28, 2017. I was there to help such as doing laundry so Mercy and Will could concentrate on taking care of their newborn.

I took these photos early October in Mercy’s neighborhood. Trees started changing colors. One tree was indecisive, so half of the tree changed to yellow and the other half wanted to wait. Other trees around the corner had green and yellow and orange and red.

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There was a park nearby surrounded by Acorn trees. Squirrels were everywhere collecting acorns, ate some and buried some for the winter. Another squirrel was chewing something. It turned out that what he had was a fruit, not an acorn.

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During my stay in October when Autumn was born, we went to the Cathedral Park. Someone was making giant bubbles. The kids had fun chasing them.

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In Portland, Oregon, one annual fun thing to do in the autumn is going to the pumpkin patch. Autumn picked her favorite pumpkin last year. We don’t know if we’ll go to the pumpkin patch this year but I’ll be at her third birthday party for sure.

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This is the park with the Acorn trees. Autumn is in the center of the autumn leaves.

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I would like to conclude this post with one of my favorite song “Autumn Leaves” sung by Matt Monro.

“Autumn Leaves”

The falling leaves

drift by the window.
The autumn leaves of red and gold.
I see your lips

the summer kisses.
The sunburnt hands I used to hold.
Since you went away

the days grow long.
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song.
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall.
Since you went away

the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 106: Autumn

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #102: Quiet Moments

This week, Patti is challenging us to capture “A Quiet Moment.”  Maybe it’s a walk early in the morning or the time you sit down with a book and a cup of coffee.  Include shots captured at home or in your neighborhood, or from a trip to a faraway place months or years ago.

Yesterday was the first time we got together with Hubby’s siblings. They live in a quiet place with neighbors who are acres away. We practiced the social distancing, wearing masks, sitting several feet apart. Hubby and I brought our own food, water, and utensils for lunch. It was surreal that we finally see each other after a time that seems like an eternity. We didn’t have a large family party; we only had a precious quiet lunch with a few members.

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A pair of mourning doves fixed up the old nest on June 5, the female dove came back to lay eggs on June 7. Today, June 22, the dove took a break from her incubation. I stole the chance to take a photo of the nest. One squab was hatched. It’s amazed of how tiny the eggs are. According to my observation during the previous years, the dove would nurture the squabs until they are mature. By the time the squabs are ready to fly, they are as big as the adult doves.

The squabs are quietly growing.

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After I spotted a Monarch and a Swallowtail butterflies in my garden, I looked into cultivating a butterfly garden.

The Monarchs face many risks that are resulting in declining populations in both the eastern and western parts of their North American range. The largest effects come from the loss of habitat for breeding, migrating, and overwintering. In addition, pesticides that are used to control insects and weeds have harmful unintended consequences for monarchs, a changing climate may make some habitat less suitable and forcing changes in migratory patterns, and monarchs face many risks from natural enemies, such as predators, parasitoids, and diseases.

The loss of milkweed in agricultural fields is a major cause of decline in monarchs, though there are other factors contributing to the decline in milkweed availability.

If you’re interested, you can download a Milkweeds: A Conservation Practitioner’s Guide https://www.xerces.org/publications/guidelines/milkweeds-conservation-practitioners-guide

I wanted to create a butterfly garden from seeds. I ordered the California native Narrow leave and Showy milkweed seeds.

The seeds are in quiet germination.

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I wait with anticipation to see more butterflies in my garden.

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #102: Quiet Moments

 

 

Sunday Stills: Home is the Happiest Place

The theme for Sunday Stills this week from Terri is: Home. 

As much as we enjoy traveling, I always looked forward to coming home before the trip was over. Perhaps the tours I booked were too vigorous, and I got tired by getting up early or sitting on the bus too much from city to city.

I’m comfortable at home. This morning I spotted a Swallowtail butterfly staying on one flower for twenty minutes. I thought she came to lay eggs. I checked after she was gone. No, she didn’t, but I found a tiny grasshopper only 1/3 inch long. 

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About a dozen mourning doves, many house finches, and sparrows perching on the telephone wires around 4:00 p.m. every day, waiting for me to feed them. A pair of mourning doves came to fix up the old nest on Friday, June 5, and the female dove came back last Sunday to lay eggs. Now she is patiently incubating her young.

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My home is shared by a family of four hummingbirds.

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My home is the happiest place to me!

I’m even happier when I’m at my second home, my daughter’s home. Nothing gives me more joy than being with my granddaughters. So far, I only spent time with my two-and-a-half years old granddaughter, Autumn. I love playing with her and reading to her. I haven’t seen my second granddaughter Nora in person yet because of the coronavirus. I look forward to seeing Autumn and Nora when it’s safe to travel.

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My daughter’s home is the utmost happiest place to me!

I love to hear what make you happiest. It could be something, some place, some people, or something you do.

 

Sunday Stills: Home is the Happiest Place

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #94: At Home

This week for Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, Amy said, “Due to the lock down, we are spending more time at home. But, hopefully this isn’t limiting our interest in photographing. This week, we invite you to share photos taken at home.”

“When you’re safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; when you’re having an adventure, you wish you were safe at home.” – Thorton Wilder

This is the seventh week staying home for me. Like most of the people, I go out only when it is absolutely necessary. I face each day with the hope to stay healthy to enjoy my grandchildren when the pandemic is over. There are enough things at home to keep my life interesting such as gardening, checking my daughter’s Tinybeans account where she posts the photos of my grandchildren, reading or re-reading paperback books, exercising, and even cooking a couple times a week (my hubby took over the full time cooking when he was retired in 2016. Lucky me!).

Spring is in the air. The buds are all over my 30 rose bushes. I started with 12 pink rose bushes. Eventually I added 10 white iceberg rose bushes, and some orange and yellow roses. Now it’s not so boring looking at the roses.

Most of the plants in my garden are low maintenance. I do have several patches  for annual flowers and this is the time to plant new flowers.

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Nothing gives me greater joy to see the photos of my granddaughters every day.

When weather permits, I go on a walk in the neighborhood. On some other days, I can do yoga at home.

Piles of book for reading and re-reading.

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My new cooking is this Sausage and Vegetable Casserole. One 9″ x 13″ dish last for three alternate days for lunch. On the other four days, hubby cooks his regular lunch.

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #94: At Home

 

 

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #91: Simplicity

Patti Moed invited us to focus on the theme Simplicity this week as the Coronavirus pandemic spreads and intensifies, many of us around the world are spending a lot of time at home, following governmental regulations to shelter in place.

As of April 6, 2020, California has 15,221 cases reported and 351 deaths, according to a New York Times database. The government issued the rules of wearing masks outdoor and when shopping.

 

We have tried our best to stay home and keep things simple. We set up a home gym with workout bench, dumbbells, and treadmill. Hubby has a manikin to practice boxing. He runs in a nearby park. I walk around a nearby lake or in the neighborhood.

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We eat simple food with eggs, avocados, tomatoes, and fruits for breakfast, vegetables and alternate chicken and salmon for dinner. The shopping list is simple, so Hubby only goes once a week for a quick run. I rarely go to the stores.

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To increase physical activity, I do more gardening when weather is clear. I planted some seeds for gladiolus several years ago. They multiplied, and some flowers grew under a grapevine last year, not getting enough space and sunlight to grow. I dug them up last week and transplanted to another area to grow better.

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My daughter has a Tinybeans.com account where she posts photos of her kids and family activities. I checked the account every day to look at the photos and videos. They give me much joy and I look forward to them every day. The daycare is closed, so Autumn stays home. She plays in the backyard, rides her balance bike or skateboard in the nearby park or on the street.

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Stay safe and please share with me in the comment how you maintain simplicity yet keep your life interesting.

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #91: Simplicity

 

 

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