Six months

On the 18th of every month, I light a candle in honor of
Della, the light of my life. Every month, it is really hard.
Today marks six months since the car crash that took Della's life and forever changed mine. The last six months have been marked by much mourning and sadness, navigating seemingly infinitely complex legal/financial/criminal systems, pondering of my future in so many respects, and much more. I've been mostly avoiding posting on social media, as it can all get overwhelming, but I wanted to share some updates so everyone can know what's going on.

Recently, I learned criminal charges against the driver of the oncoming car have been filed by the state of Montana. The charge is Vehicular Homicide While Under Influence*. The criminal process will be (and already has been) long and drawn out and no one knows where it will go, in terms of sentence, plea bargain, timeline, or anything. Ultimately, it is between the state of Montana and the driver and doesn't involve me unless I get called to testify at trial (if there even is one). Nevertheless, I plan to stay apprised as best I can.

There is so much paperwork/business/financial stuff that goes along with someone's death and each element seems to have its own procedures, quirks, and failings. From cancelling Della's business license, to closing her bank accounts, to dealing with the other driver's auto insurance, to filing her taxes and so much more, I've been chipping away at the todos. The process is endlessly frustrating as, so far, not one of these companies seems to put any priority or consideration on communication, speed, ease, or (in some cases) accuracy. In some respects, having the mountains of work has been good for me, as the details keep my mind busy and makes me feel productive, but I'm hoping the end is in sight and it will be a task I can soon cross off my list.

I mentioned in the 2 month update that I was only recently back on both feet, after time on crutches and in a walking boot from injuries sustained in the crash. Now, my physical health is maybe 90% recovered. Functionally, I'm able to do most things (walk, jog, juggle, etc.) but there is still pain, weakness, and inflexibility, esp. in the right ankle. Part of me is sure there will be ailments that are with me the rest of my life, a constant reminder of the terrible day 6 months ago. But the human body is an amazing thing and part of me holds out hope that time will do its healing job. As for my mental and emotional state, it is so hard to say. There are good days and bad days. Some days, I'm crippled with anxiety about the future and sadness for the loss of the past. Some days, I make it from my morning cereal to evening Jeopardy! with relative normalcy, albeit with loneliness and loss as a constant companion. Overall, I guess I'd say I'm doing alright considering.

As has been the case throughout this ordeal, I have felt immensely supported—from diversions when I need, to talking through feelings and fears, to help with the so many details of everything. Besides the wonderful support I've received from friends and family, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been an amazing resource for both help with details in all the different facets (law, insurance, bureaucracy, etc.) as well just the feeling of support that can only come from someone that knows what it is like to lose a partner because of someone else's choice to drink and drive. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a drunk driving crash, please know that MADD is there to support you.

With COVID vaccines becoming widely available and things opening back up, we've started planning for a memorial service, likely to be held outside in late June in Bellingham. I'll post further details in the comments of this post as they become known. Planning is also underway for a month of celebration and remembrance of Della in October 2021 in the form of Dellapalooza. Info for that will be forth coming as well.

All of these updates are just a summary. I have further details on everything (the crash, insurance, business, criminal stuff, my health, MADD, etc.) that I am willing to share with whoever wants to know. Sharing allows me to be reminded that other people care and that I'm not in this alone.
Sunday April 18 2021File under: Della

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Photos of Me and Della

Over the past months, I've found myself going through photos quite often. Sometimes it is for a specific purpose (picking a photo for the obituary or my Valentine's Day project) or sometimes it is just a way to remember Della and the wonderful life we had together. (Then, of course, there are the times I can't bear it and have to avoid the painful reminders all together.) In going through the photos, I found myself pulling out ones that fit together for whatever reason. And while I know more photos in each category will emerge, I wanted to get these up so as to share them, but more so that I know they will be archived and I can come back and see them whenever I need to. (Many photos will be repeats, either from previous blog posts (hers or mine) or from my, our, or her instagrams, but I'm guessing a good number of them will be new.)

Costumes

For our job, Della and I had occasion to dress up frequently. But in looking back through the photos, I was reminded of how much we dressed up outside of work as well. Here are some fun ones from over the years.


Kissing

These are the photos I was immediately drawn to, for obvious reasons. I feel so fortunate that I have so many photos to remind me of the love Della and I shared. In organizing and captioning them for this blog post, I also was reminded of how we kissed our way around the world: Jordan, Italy, Indonesia, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Panama, and Mexico just in this collection alone! Then, of course, there were the business kisses, often onstage for the Bellingham Circus Guild's Valentine's Day show. I'm grateful for each of these photos.

Saturday March 13 2021File under: Della

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Twas The Night 2020

Twas the night before Christmas
In my cabin made of stone
It's my first Christmas in a decade
That I'm all alone

I'm avoiding it mostly
I'm hardly in any condition
For a day made for family
And observing old traditions

Instead I think back
To ten past years' yuletides
The memories flow over me
As I sit by the fireside.

There were the yules of adventure
Often in far off places
New foods, new experiences
Left smiles on our faces.

In Dubai we saw excess
In all shapes and forms
In Borneo we saw monkeys
And got drenched in jungle storms

The Jamaican Christmas music
Was loud bumping reggae
In Vegas, Christmas dinner
Was a fully loaded buffet

In those years we were traveling
We felt wild and free
We had time to ourselves
Which is how it should be

But the years here at home
They also had there perks
We had many years
When we had to "work"

We'd housesit for others
And look after their pets
For Della snuggling puppies
Was as good as it gets

Shared meals with our families
Was another delight
But after ham, pie, and oysters
We'd call it a night

"The animals need us"
So we'd say our goodbyes
Back to our own space
Where it was just her and I

As these thoughts of past Christmases
Swirl around in my head
I see very plainly
A clear common thread

While each year was different
Della was always there
Having my partner right beside me
Was all that I cared

The years of Christmas memories
Are almost too much to handle
So I blink away tears
And light a her candle

I send thanks and love
Where e'er she may be
The candle blinks back
As if she agrees

This Christmas is hard
To even write out this verse
Without so much support
It might be even worse

Though I'm alone in my cabin
I still feel quite blessed
I know I'm not alone
Through the love you've expressed

I want to echo that love
Right back your way
And ask a small favor
On this Christmas Day

Hold your loved ones so tight
On this special eve
More love in this world
Is the best gift I could receive

A very merry Christmas
I hope yours will be
Now please excuse me
While I cry myself to sleep

Thursday December 24 2020File under: holidays

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I Bought a Car - Chevy Cruzin

[This post is being added retroactively as 1) I was in no state to be posting about frivolities at the time and 2) it didn't (and still doesn't) seem right. My mind, heart, and life are still all Della all the time. But since, as I'm always being reminded, this blog is a record of my life, I feel like I should log this entry if for nothing else, then for posterity. 3-13-21]

I bought a new car. It's a 2016 Chevy Cruze 4-door, 6-speed manual with 40,000 miles on it. I've been needing a new car for some time, as the Hector the Echo continues to gripe and groan (muffler, wheel bearings, battery, etc.), and the recent car crash* helped encourage me in that direction.

I never saw myself driving an American-made car. In fact, I still kind of don't. But through a combination of feeling overwhelmed by the used-car lot experience and a need to find something, this fell into my lap. The price was right so I thought I'd give it a shot. It's always good to challenge assumptions every now and again, and my lifelong assumption that American-made cars aren't reliable is one I'm ready to give a second look.

So far, I've got some cheers and jeers. The cheers: it is super quiet, fun to drive, interesting electronics (tire pressure gauge, MPG monitor, etc.), newer (therefore, supposedly, safer), and inconspicuous. The jeers: auto-locking doors*, inability to turn on dome light with a switch, slow fading dome light*, absurdly few storage areas*, bluetooth but not for the stereo, and clutch/gas pedal length discrepancy just to name a few. But overall, my jeers are minor and cheers feel bigger, so I can say I'm pleased overall.

Since purchasing it, I've detinted the windows*, added magnetic ladybug dots*, and removed the back seat and built a small platform so as to have the ability to sleep in it, if the occasion arises*. I'm sure my relationship with it (him? her? Terry/Penelope/Tom?) will continue to grow. And now I have this record to look back on to know when and how it all started.
Saturday March 13 2021File under: transportation

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Obituary Addendum

Writing Della's obituary was really hard. How can one possibly encapsulate a woman like Della, much less with all the constraints (word count, readability, intended audience, history vs. heart, etc.) all the while in a state of such disorienting grief. I'm not displeased with the result, with much help from Deanna as well as a few choice phrases from others, but it hardly scratches the surface. With that in mind, I offer this addendum, some of the things I wanted to include but couldn't, about the woman I love.
  • Della worked at a La Conner retirement center, helping residents get to their appointments and planning fun activities to keep them engaged and happy. Throughout her adult life, this extra care for the elderly continued, organizing special opportunities for seniors to come to circus shows, performing at retirement centers, and more.
  • Soccer and Soo Bahk Do were a big big deal in her life. She often talked about how she felt her life went in 7 year cycles; 7 years when soccer was her life—breathing, sleeping, and eating soccer; then it was 7 years of Soo Bahk Do, again throwing herself wholly into it, achieving considerable success*. After 7 years of performing, she was seriously questioning whether to continue or if it was time to move on. She eventually found renewed passion and dedication through working with some amazing women and the ability to make a living, esp. from our Wren and Della gigs.
  • Della loved animals so much. In our house/petsitting tag team, she was the heart, loving on pets like they were her own. When travelling, she'd pour her heart into various street dogs and cats, cleaning, feeding, and petting them. I won't be able to see another tiny dog in my life without hearing her squees of glee echo in my ears. And it wasn't just pets: on all our travels, Della would also find so much joy in seeing animals of all sorts.
  • Before there was circus, there was dance. And although she performed with the Dirty Birds as well as belly dancing, she loved the act of dancing itself, for its freedom and for the communities it helped her form.
  • Della was a really good juggler, even by juggler standards (as opposed to performance juggling standards*). We passed 8 clubs, could run 7-club three count, and she would catch all the slop I would throw. Solo, she was getting 5 ball juggling down, a feat that takes determination and lots of practice. She made our juggling acts fun and successful through her personality and stage glow, but her juggling skill was truly noteworthy.
  • Many people know Della first as a performer, from her iconic chair dance and pig dance. From these thought-provoking, pants-peeingly funny Della creations to improv warm-up exercises and everything in between, she was a true performer. She made people smile, laugh, and think. She connected to audiences in a special way that left them feeling good and valued.
  • Della loved drawing as a kid and over the last couple years, she was enjoying so much rediscovering it. She made calendars, birthday cards, and most recently, My Animal ABC's: A Coloring Book!, a project that allowed her to connect with old friends and young friends alike. Let me know if you want a copy.
  • One word that maybe most embodied Della was "kind". But "kind" isn't strong enough a word for the good, caring, generous, friendly, considerate, positive person she was. And not only did she embody it in her actions, that feeling of kindness permeated her life. We didn't watch TV shows where people were mean to each other; she hated seeing such an influential platform set bad examples. She loved Mr. Rogers and his message of positivity. And you didn't want to get her started on Donald Trump or other politicians who were unapologetically unkind people. We talked a lot about what being kind meant and how to best practice it, finding that sometimes fine line between compassion and enabling. It influenced her performance style, showing respect to the audience. It was a part of everything she did.
  • Another competing word for most-embodying of Della was "fun". The girl knew how to have fun and to make fun. From planning ridiculousness to momentary punny word play to costumes, costumes, costumes, fun was at Della's core.
  • Did you know that Della sewed all of our juggling costumes? Fancy, professional looking costumes that always got compliments. And her pig suit? And tons of masks for people during this pandemic? And made super awesome juggle bags? And patched my shorts...a lot? Della was handy at a sewing machine and had an eye for creation.
  • In the obituary, we used the metaphor of light to describe Della and I can't get over how right that feel. Her happiness, caring, warmth, and radiance. It just doesn't feel like it can be overstated. My previous post talks about how she was the light in my life, and I know she was that to so many people.
  • Della was serious about her style of performance. She invested tons of time and money into taking clown* and physical theater classes, from Maine to Vancouver to Los Angeles and more with well-known names in the industry.
  • The accident that took Della's life was caused when the oncoming driver slid into our lane, striking our vehicle head on. The tires on his pickup were completely bald and alcohol was suspected to have been involved. [Update: the test results came back and confirmed the oncoming driver was drunk. Della was killed by a drunk driver.] Even though we were doing everything right (seatbelts, airbags, not speeding, staying in our lane), another driver's bad choices caused this tragedy. Please drive safely, for your lives and the lives of others.
  • Did you know Della kept a blog? It was mostly for documentary purposes, but there are some great pictures and stories. And did you know Della was a budding actress? Here's her resume. Other places to get more Della is on her instagram, our instagram, her youtube channel, her website, and our website.
Obituaries feel like a kind of message to the future about someone. I want the future to know how wonderful Della was. And while this silly blog post won't do that, maybe when someone goes looking for the obituary for Della Plaster in the future, they will also come across this post and get a little clearer picture than the newspaper's 353 words could give. And I hope they read this post and smile.
Saturday November 21 2020File under: Della

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The Light Has Gone Out of My Life


"The light has gone out of my life." These words from Teddy Roosevelt upon his life's great tragedy constantly run through my head, because I am at a lack of words of my own to describe how I feel losing Della, my partner, my light. The light has gone out of my life.

This article from the Bozeman paper covers the basics. (Archival screenshot here.)

Words are failing on so many fronts. All the wonderful and heartfelt outpouring of stories, remembrances, and praise for the amazing, caring, funny, thoughtful, joyful woman Della was hardly begins to convey her wonderful qualities. I am brought to tears throughout the day by tiny reminders of her beautiful smile, compassionate nature, and hilarious spirit.

Much has also been shared on the loss to the community, which is indeed great. A Bellingham Circus Guild show without Della won't be the same without her thought-provoking yet hilarious acts, her playful greeting of audiences, and infectious enthusiasm for the cast and crew backstage. A trip to the grocery store for the scores of people who knew and loved Della without the probability inevitably running into her and having their day made by a reminder of some shared history or joke will be noticeably missing. But words can't capture that loss either.

But most of all, I can't find words, much less wrap my head around, my loss: the loss of my partner, my heart, my soul, my light. My future without Della does not compute. I can't make sense of anything. It's like I'm missing a part of me that made me able to function, to feel. Anyone who has known me in the past 11 years knows this better than any words could encapsulate: Della was my light. And now she's gone. The light has gone out of my life.

In the days since the tragedy, I've tried many things to cope. One suggestion I got was to write. And while even now, I know my words are hardly coherent, then I was doing all I could to get my thoughts down. One attempt I made came out in the form "How Lucky I Was". I'll include it here as I don't know what else to do.

It was less than 12 hours from when I first met Della to when I got to hold her in my arms. The holding was more a matter of physical logistics, as we ended up crammed in a 1-man tent because of a goofy dare. But we stayed the whole night, cramped-snuggled together, her sleeping soundly as if she was oblivious to the magic building (she was always such a good sleeper), me not sleeping a wink because my heart and mind were so full of possibility. The next day, people we met asked if we were married because of how we were together. It was zero to partnership, just like that, the kind of magical creation story to match a magical relationship.

And it was a special relationship, if I do say so myself. We were partners in all the senses. We built a business together, a business that succeeded partially on the way we brought audiences into our relationship with us. We managed our crazy lives together, staying at this house or that, shuttling, sorting, and fixing a never-ending stream of circus props and costumes, always something new to decide on together and rarely a routine to guide us. We supported each other in our individual endeavors. We did so many fun and amazing things together. We were a part of each other to the core. And maybe this is the way a lot of relationships are. I hope so. If what I call special is what's par for the course, that means more people are as happy as I was. And I wish that for everyone

I was often reminded how lucky I was to have found Della. It was never meant in a "how does a schmo like you end up with a gem like her" overtly, but we all knew the truth in the unsaid. And I agree. How did I end up being so lucky: to find a beautiful, kind, fun woman who accepted who I am, who agreed to live in my mom's garage with me, who helped me become better in so many ways despite my stubborn nature, who accepted my [sometimes smothering] love of her gracefully. But miraculously, I did. I was so lucky, so lucky to have built a decade of amazing memories—of travels, shows, stupid jokes, heartfelt moments, incredible experiences, mundane shared trivialities, touches, insights, These memories will be with me even though she won't. And to have these memories, I do feel lucky.


This blog has always been a chronicle of my life, a way to share the ups and downs with the few friends and family that still bother to read. Well, Della's death is a down, a down that I don't imagine will ever be out-downed. It is deep and painful and disorienting. But I'm hoping that sharing it makes it slightly less deep, hurt slightly less. I guess I'm just really sad and don't know what else to do. Truly, the light has gone out of my life.


Tuesday November 3 2020File under: love

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The Real Food Show Video

Last year, I posted about the Real Food Show, the elementary assembly show that uses the fun and magic of the circus to teach about healthy eating and lifestyle. (If you want to know more, check out that post or visit www.therealfoodshow.org.)

Well, needless to say, Della and I aren't performing the Real Food Show (nor almost anything else) these days, so we've got a bit of time on our hands. And since a lot of schools are doing the whole virtual thing, at least for the time being, which we only imagine isn't easy on the parents, teachers, or students, we got an idea. We decided to record the Real Food Show and make it available for all for free as a video on youTube. That way, when a kiddo needs a break or a treat but still needs to log those educational hours, they can watch us juggle junk food, balance protein blocks, and ride unicycles, all the while learning about healthy eating in a fun, engaging way! Our hope is that the show will reach millions of little eyeballs spreading the important message of health while causing smiles on both kids', parents', and teachers' faces alike, so by all means, if you know someone who might find it helpful, please feel free to pass it along: http://www.tinyurl.com/realfoodshow

And since I know you, loyal BdW reader, want to see what all the health fuss is about, I'm proud to present the Real Food Show. Enjoy!


Monday September 28 2020File under: circus, food

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Money Map


Thanks to the time freed up by having all my work and adventures cancelled by quarantine, I've completed another long-overdue project! I've been dreaming and scheming of this money map for well over a decade. Every country I travel to*, I try to come home with one of each of the coins and bills under, say, $10. It's often the only souvenir I end up with. And over the past decade plus, I've built up quite a collection.

Before you ask, no, each country isn't made up only with coins from that country. I considered that, but logistically, it just doesn't make sense. Panama and Costa Rica together can only fit one small coin while Russia and China would have tons of repeat coins. It was hard enough deciding what to do with narrow land masses that were fractions of a coin wide. (Malay Peninsula, I'm sorry.)

It broke my heart to cut the paper money to make the shapes, but I consoled myself knowing that the money is either outdated, of so little value that it's no big deal, or that I won't likely return to the country to use to it*. Even so, there's well over the equivalent of $100 used which makes it maybe the most expensive piece of art I own.

This thing is not small, either. It is over 6 feet wide (obligatory artist with his creation shot for scale), partially to help deal with those pesky narrow land masses and small islands. And getting the coins to stick in place was a bear. I fully expect to awake to the plink plink of falling coins some night not too far off.

But overall, I'm inordinately pleased with how it turned out, and that I finally got around to completing a project that's been in my head for so long. Admiring at all the money while creating it and remembering the stories attached to each place was a great balance to the backache that came from being hunched over, gluing for hours at a time. Really, I don't think I could conceive of a piece of art better suited to my interest: travel and money. Sure, maybe I could throw in the equator made of gummi bears, but that's how you get ants.

What will the next long-overdue quarantine art project be? Check back in 5 months to find out!

P.S. If destroying money is illegal, I'm sorry. And I've got a lot of countries I better not show my face in again. Here's hoping the Governor of the Netherlands Antilles isn't an avid BdW reader.
Saturday September 5 2020File under: travel, misc

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This is 41

This week, I turned 41 years old. I celebrated the occasion with good food, a little adventure, and inevitable reflection. As to this last point, I thought I might record a bit of those reflections here so when age 81 rolls around (which I truly hope it does), I'll be able to look back and know what I was thinking (and see how not fat and not completely bald I once was.)

Notable occurances of this 41st trip around the sun were:
  • An wonderful trip to Indonesia etc. that, besides being a top notch adventure and thoroughly enjoyable time with my partner, also kept my number-of-countries-visited count higher than my age, a balance which I hope to maintain until I die.
  • The anticipated upward progress of our Wren and Della juggling brand was thoroughly twarted by COVID-19. The few gigs we've managed to get are sweet little birthday parties that do a lot to fill that place in my life for connecting with and making audiences smile but also remind me how much I like and miss my "job".
  • With the newly available time courtesy of the shutdown of basically all of my hobbies/jobs/interests, I re-learned how to run. While I can't quite yet say I enjoy it, I've impressed myself with both my stick-to-it-ive-ness and my progress—I'm doing 4 miles at a ~7:15 pace 3 times a week.* It also has kept me a fraction of a pound below 190, which I mention for data keeping's sake.
  • Regular albeit slow progress on a number of life goals: I continue to get an occasional crossword published*; I've racked up a couple more fun TV/film background extra appearances; I continue to apply for Jeopardy! at every opportunity with this year scoring my best yet on the qualifying test at ~39/50 (along with other random game show applications); maintaining good old Blog du Wren and its various data sets (sleeping around, jumping project, crossword resume, etc.)

What solar circumnavigation #42 has in store is more up in the air than ever before. I hope my custom tailored life stays pretty much the same, maybe just cranked up a tiny notch or two: slightly more adventurous adventures, slightly more successful successes, and slightly more noteable noteables. But we'll see what Dr. Fauci* has to say about that. But even if this life on pause continues until I'm 42, where I am at 41 is not a bad place to be paused: safe and comfortable home, wonderful partner, and diversions enough to keep things from getting too boring.

All in all, on the occasion of reflection, I'd say all is well: the reflection of my life I see makes me smile and what better birthday wish could a guy hope for?
Monday August 17 2020File under: misc

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Sleeping Around 2019-2020

I've always viewed the data collection project I call Sleeping Around as being a great way to quantitatively encapsulate my life. Where I spend my nights seems to summarize my life for any given period pretty well. And with 12 years of data, I can make comparisons and see trends that I might not otherwise be able to do. And, in 20 years from now, I can look back and see what my 2019-2020 Sleeping Around analysis said—in short, what a strange year.

Needless to say, COVID-19 and its accompanying quarantine is the reason this year's data is so different. Cancelled housesitting, cancelled travel, and cancelled gigs all make for a pretty bland data set. In the 12 years I've been keeping data, I've never spent more than twenty-odd nights in a row at home, with anything over a week being a rarity. This year, I've only slept away from the Outback three nights in 5 months, with a solid 3-month uninterrupted at home chunk in middle of all that.

Nights at home vs. housesitting

And while I know comparisons are basically moot, I'm a creature of habit, so here's a table of data:
# of housesitting houses6Even before COVID, housesitting was down a little. Being gone for 2 months in prime season didn't help either.
# of states (other than WA)2OR, OK (definitely lowest ever)
# of countries (other than US)3Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, which goes a long way towards keeping up on my '# of countries visited > my age' goal
Longest stretch at home99 daysI hope this a record that is not beaten for a long long time
Longest stretch away from home59Two months feels like real time away
# in car (/airplane/train)25Mostly in the van, but a couple plane/train nights
# in hotel/hostel50At an average price of $17


Other observations and thoughts:
  • It's nice seeing a few Boat Nights again! A sailboat, a ferry, and an exotic Klotok!
  • The absence of adventures that have become regular on my yearly calendar noticeably change the data (really missing Dude Camp, Crossword Tournament, fairs and festivals)
  • Will these numbers ever return to "normal"? While Della and I very much realize how lucky we are to have the living situation we do and it has been very nice as far as places to quarantine, I do hope the housesitting, travelling, and work adventures return soon!

This yearly recap always makes me nostalgic, contemplative, and excited for the future, this year maybe more than ever. And with so much around me different and upside down, it is nice to have the warm consoling arms of data to make things feel just a little bit normal.
Sunday August 2 2020File under: stats

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Recent Comments:
*Mark Anderson on Six months
*Chris on Six months
*Andrew on Six months
*Jule on Six months
*Teresa Okane on Six months
*Wren on Photos of Me and Della

Recent Content:
*Six months
*I Bought a Car - Chevy Cruzin
*Photos of Me and Della
*Twas The Night 2020
*Obituary Addendum
*The Light Has Gone Out of My Life
*The Real Food Show Video
*Money Map
*This is 41
*Sleeping Around 2019-2020
*Sunday Universal Crossword By Me!
*Minor Media Mentions - AMPulance Tour

Websites du Friends:
* Wren and Della
Della and my juggling website
* The Real Food Show
A circus-inspired elementary assembly show to teach kids about healthy eating
* Della Moustachella
Della's performance website
* The Fun Bags
Della and Sadye's Performance Troupe


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