Category Archives: gingerbread

Stories with Gingerbread

Yes, this post is a shameless promotion. But this is a good book that not enough people are reading to truly appreciate that fact. When I was a boy in the 1960’s, there really was an old German lady who lived in a small tar-papered house, all ginger-brown in color, which we all called the Gingerbread House. She really did love to give out sweets and cookies and popcorn balls to the kids in our town. And she really did love to talk to people and tell them little stories.

Grandma Gretel Stein

Her name, in real life, was Marie Jacobson. She was, in fact, a survivor of the holocaust. She had a tattoo on her right forearm that I saw only one time. Our parents told us what the tattoo meant. But there were no details ever added to the story. Mrs. Jacobson doted on the local children. She regularly gave me chocolate bars just because I held the door for her after church. But she was apparently unwilling to ever talk about World War II and Germany. We were told never to press for answers. There was, however, a rumor that she lost her family in one of the camps. And I have always been the kind that fills in the details with fiction when the truth is out of reach.

Ignore the dates above. The Free-Book Promotion runs from June 24th to June 28.

I based the character of Grandma Gretel on Mrs. Jacobson. But the facts about her secret life are, of course, from my imagination, not from the truth about Mrs. Jacobson’s real life.

Marie Jacobson cooked gingerbread cookies. I know because I ate some. But she didn’t talk to fairies or use magic spells in cooking. I know because the fairies from the Hidden Kingdom in Rowan disavowed ever talking to any slow one but me. She wasn’t Jewish, since she went to our Methodist Church. She wasn’t a nudist, either. But neither were my twin cousins who the Cobble Sisters, the nude girls in the story, are fifty percent based on. A lot of details about the kids in my book come from the lives of my students in Texas. The blond nudist twins were in my class in the early eighties. And they were only part-time nudists who talked about it more than lived it.

Miss Sherry Cobble, a happy nudist.

But the story itself is not about nudists, or Nazis, or gingerbread children coming to life through magic. The story is about how telling stories can help us to allay our fears. Telling stories can help us cope with and make meaning out of the most terrible things that have happened to us in life. And it is also a way to connect with the hearts of other people and help them to see us for who we really are. And that was the whole reason for writing this book.

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Thinking About Thinking About Christmas

Yeah, I know… The title seems like a typo. But this pointlessly obtuse Mickian essay is actually about metacognition of the concept of having the “Christmas spirit.” In other words, I am writing about and analyzing how I think about Christmas. A nerdy thing to do done by a nerd who wants you to think he is smarter than he really is.

The Reason for the Season

Yes, I live in Texas, so I am constantly seeing the “Reason for the Season” signs in every Southern Baptist churchyard. So, what do I think is the reason? Yeah, you probably don’t want to know. I was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for 20 years. Not that I believed in the evils of celebrating Christmas. I only stopped following Witness commands when they abandoned me in times of spiritual need, but I do retain the belief that if Jesus was a real human being, he was not born on December 25th. If the shepherds were watching their flocks by night, then the latest it could have been was in October. Shepherds don’t graze their flocks in winter. The celebration is what the Christian bigwigs decided they would use to co-opt the pagan Saturnalia. The date represents the rebirth of the Sun after the Winter Solstice on December 21st. The Sun, not the Son.

But unlike Jehovah’s Witnesses, I don’t see the Christmas holiday as a bad thing. People, Christian or not, are nicer to each other this time of year. They are much quicker to think of others and take pity on those who are suffering or are in serious need of help. And they think about giving gifts to others. particularly family. Growing up a Methodist Christian, I never noticed any parents at all giving their kids lumps of coal. Even the really bad kids got cool stuff as gifts from Mom and Dad, or Grandma or Grandpa, or whoever else was lucky enough to have to put up with them daily throughout the year.

People actually willingly spend time with their family this time of year. They hear the minister occasionally when he reads aloud the Bible verses about what Jesus commanded concerning widows and orphans, the homeless, and the poor. And Jesus never said that their reduced condition was their own fault for not working hard enough or not being a good-church-goer enough. And people who choose to reach out and spend time with each other during the season of good feelings generally find they actually like those fellow human beings they chose to spend some of their time with. All people are generally good when they are not being swayed by a way to make lots of money or enraged and vengeful for the real and imagined hurts that others have inflicted on them. I think it is absolutely vital that people have a celebration when they have survived another year of life in which not all of their family and friends are dead and they may even have a little money on hand to celebrate with. If Christmas didn’t already exist, we would desperately need to create something just like it.

Vincent Price’s Christmas Tree again

Vincent Price’s Christmas Tree Explained

The picture above, a surrealist picture-poem of how I feel about Christmas now that I am retired and no longer a Jehovah’s Witness, has never really been explained by me. Now that I am baring my soul as a Christian Existentialist Nudist Atheist who believes in God, I should elaborate on what it means.

The picture is named after the photo-shopped Christmas Tree in the back corner. I photo-shopped it from a photo of Vincent Price, the horror-movie actor, in a TV Christmas special in the 1960’s. I photo-shopped Vincent out of the picture, of course, just clipping and pasting the tree itself. I spent a good share of my youth, including all of my teen years, nursing a terrible secret. I was sexually assaulted at the age of ten. I believed I was a monster. But the Christmas I created the picture and photo-shopped Vincent out, I had successfully made peace with the monster in my past. My story is not a horror story. So, horror-movie-star Vincent had to leave this party.

And part of that is represented by the Cotulla Cowgirl basketball player. Vivi here represents all my 31 years as a public school teacher. By serving the children of South Texas, and later the ESL kids of North Texas, I managed to prove to myself that I was a good and worthy person. I know because of the many things they told me over the years, that my students would mostly agree with my self-assessment that I am not a bad man.

I put myself in the picture as a happy, confident nude boy. This is a thing that I wasn’t able to be after the age of ten. Doubt, fear, and depression clouded my world from 1966 to 1976. When I spent time trying to explain to the high school counselor what was wrong with me, he had to admit that he knew something was wrong, but he did not know what it was nor how to help. And I could not at that time admit what had happened, as I could not even allow myself to remember the actual trauma. So, becoming a nudist in 2017 and coming to terms with the scars and trauma, was a gift to myself. The mental chains are gone.

Anneliese, the gingerbread girl, represents my mental linking with the German-American world of Aunt Selma’s Christmas parties in the 1960’s. The gingerbread cookies, the candy, and the Christmas stories she told with a charming German accent led to the writing of my book Recipes for Gingerbread Children. Christmas is a day full of gingerbread men… and now, making gingerbread houses.

And Annette Funicello is in the picture because Christmas always used to have a Disney-movie, happy-endings sort of theme. I needed that happy ending to every year to keep me going. It was an emotionally essential thing I counted on every year to be able to face a brand new year.

I am an atheist. And an Existentialist. Oh, and a nudist. But I need Christmas. It matters to me. And I know I am not the only one.

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Filed under autobiography, family, forgiveness, gingerbread, humor, Paffooney, philosophy, religion

Holiday Happinesses

This holiday season has not been all blues and depression as I have probably been sounding like in this blog this week.

It is true that the still-progressing pandemic has been rather hard and grueling on me and mine. Since it began I have lost both parents, though neither caught the disease itself, and the impacts on funerals and family support of each other has been difficult. I also lost a cousin, two friends from high school, and possibly an uncle on the Beyer side that we haven’t heard from since before it all started (his surviving children and their families don’t have our contact information, and we don’t have theirs.)

But it never pays to only put the dark things on the scale, and ignore the side where happiness goes.

I have had a lot of good gingerbread to eat, and , ooh, boy! Pumpkin pie!

I got to see Spiderman, No Way Home with my kids in the theater. And I got to see the whole Hawkeye series on Disney +.

Both of those stories were epic and made my comic-book-loving heart warm and happy.

I have become a third-part owner of the family farm in Iowa, the farm where my Grandma and Grandpa Aldrich lived when I was a child and spent a considerable part of every Thanksgiving week and every Christmas week there I and my two sisters successfully bought our brother’s share, and the farm will continue to be a part of our family into the future. The older of my two sisters is now living on the place and managing the farm, though a renter actually grows things on the farm.

My mother’s final Christmas gift turned out to be an inheritance large enough to pay off property taxes and finish off my Chapter 13 bankruptcy. I was also able to replace my failing computer and old cell phone.

So, of the three Christmas ghosts, the Ghost of Christmas Future might be the most welcoming ghost of them all.

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, family, farm boy, gingerbread, humor, photo paffoonies

Gingerbread Houses 2021

Since the holiday tradition of the Beyer family gingerbread house got derailed by the pandemic last year, this year we did two. Team 1 led by my future daughter-in-law took on the gingerbread castle. Team 2, the pre-built gingerbread house was led by my daughter the Princess (and she did all the work.)

Materials were laid out. Decoration bottles and construction frosting was opened. Squeeze bags that had to be filled were filled and the nozzles were opened.

The castle had to be glued together.

My daughter used her art talent on the house to turn it into the snowman’s house. One snowman accidentally became a pirate.

The castle was built and ready to start decorating like heck to catch up.

The pirate eye patch turned out to be the Venom symbiote.

The snowman named Ron, the home-owner made of icing, was all melty with sadness over the Venom on the roof.

But the Princess focussed on other details, vowing to fix things later.

The other side started to look better.

The castle was trying to catch up. My son’s art skills helped a bit.

Ron was definitely happier about his house. See him smiling? No? Neither do I, actually. But the Princess declared him elated.

Voila! The finished and fixed snowman house. Ron s sitting there happily in his socks and funky tie.

The castle is gloriously done also. That only left demolition and as much gingerbread-eating as we could manage. To be fair, we had two gingerbread domiciles to consume, and only six of us to do the eating, with at least four of us on diets that don’t allow that much sugar all at once.

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The Necromancer’s Apprentice… Canto 2

An Ordinary Day at Bob’s Place

Eli Tragedy, my master, was busy writing on a parchment with a quill pen.  He did a lot of writing, that one.  He claimed that he didn’t like writing magical script, especially with a quill pen made from pigeon pin feathers.  Yet, he was writing morning, noon, and night whether he really needed to or not.  And he wouldn’t use any pen but a pigeon quill.

“Bob, be a dear and pour me more of that head-straightening potion,” Eli said as he held out his mug made from an acorn shell.

“Master, the slow ones you stole that from call it coffee.”

“Of course, they do.  The giant piffle-brains never name a thing for its actual usefulness, now do they?”

“No, sir.  Of course, they don’t, sir.”

“Bob, you call me sir way too much.  You need to vary it up some.”

“What else will I call you, sir?”

“How about Gloriously Majestic Magic-Master Tragedy?  Or the Most Powerful Mage of Tellosia?”

“Yes, sir.  I shall try, sir.”

“I guess that’s the best I can hope for, isn’t it?” the master said in the grumpy voice he always used before he had enough of his stolen head-straightening potion.

The master, of course, told me regularly that I was not very smart.  And being the master, he was, of course, right about that.  But I thought it best not to contradict him in any case.  After all, I was only a stupid Sylph boy that had to be reminded to wear pants every day.  I never actually forgot my pants before being reminded by the master.  But I regularly took his wise directions anyway.  He was a wise and famous Elf Sorcerer known far and wide amongst the Fey Children throughout the countryside.  And I was his apprentice.  He was going to teach me real magic one day.

“When will you teach us real magic?” complained Mickey the Wererat.  He was in the tub near the stove, bathing himself by the master’s orders, trying to remove at least some of the stench of being a wererat.

“I am teaching you real magic now.  Use that magical stink-removing potion on yourself.  Every bit of your furry little stink-factory body needs to be covered with the magical lavatory potion.”

“The slow ones you stole that potion from call it soap, master.”

“Of course, they do, Bob.  You are so good at reminding me of the English name for all the little things we borrow.  Now if only you were not so dumb all the time…”

“Yes, master.”

It didn’t pay to argue with a sorcerer.  Especially not one who could turn you into a frog, newt, or grasshopper.  I had been a grasshopper for a week once.  Once is enough.

“I just wish you would teach me a spell to allow me to control my were-form so I wouldn’t always be a half-rat boy all the time,” complained Mickey, scrubbing furiously at black rat-fur.  His body always seemed to naturally morph into the form he was trapped in at the moment.  He had a mouse-like face, the naked body of a regular Sylph boy covered in black-and-white fur, a rat’s tail, and paws instead of feet.  We would’ve called him a “weremouse” if it weren’t for the fact that he got lycanthropy from the rat-bite of Augustus the Gut, wererat from Suchretown.

“So, when are you actually going to teach us real magic?”  That question was a central theme to Mickey.  I wanted to learn magic as badly as he did, but I had also learned that asking annoying questions only got you one of two answers.

“Stop complaining.  Magic is a volatile thing and must be handled with great care.  You should be grateful that I am making you master slow-one magics like coffee and soap first.  It keeps you from blowing yourself up with a fireball or freezing yourself with a winter-wind spell.”

So, there was one of the two answers.

“Or shall I turn you into a newt?  Newts smell better than wererats.”

That was the other possible answer.

At that moment, Anneliese the Storybook came in through the castle passage into our tower rooms.  Now she was a fine-looking young Sylph.  But, of course, she was way out of my league.  Storybooks are immortal Fey magically created when a human storyteller writes down actual stories that happened to the actual fairy.

“Hello, Eli.  Hello, boys.”

She had a rare Germanic beauty about her.  I was told that she had once been a human girl, put to death by evil Nazi humans in the slow ones’ years of the 1940’s.  And her mother brought her back to life with human witch-magic.  Her mother. Gretel, was also a Storybook Sylph now, and served as our castle cook-witch.

“You have gingerbread for us, Anneliese?” asked Eli while slyly looking over her bare-bodied beauty.  Some Storybooks wear clothes.  Anneliese and Gretel did not.

“You know I do.  Mutter knows you have a taste for it.  And it is fortified with magic to make you healthy, strong, and wise.”  She put the basket she had brought for us down on the table.

“Bob, can you bring me my pants?” begged Mickey from the tub.  Mickey was shy. He was like a tree with no bark on it when he was naked in his rat form, and he didn’t want the beautiful girl to see his naked personal twig.  I grabbed his little blue lederhosen from the chair where he left it.  I looked briefly at the two yellow buttons he always wore on the front of his pants.  No suspenders to attach, but buttons there anyway. He snatched the pants from me and put them on while still wet.  Then he was out and greedily sorting through the basket to find his favorites before I might take one.

“You are very kind to your brother apprentice, Bob,” Anneliese said to me.  “And I am amazed at the way you always seem to notice everything,”

“I am teaching him that.  One must be very observant if one is to succeed at the ancient arts of Sorcery.”

“Yes, I see you are teaching him by example, Eli.”

She had him there.  She was fully aware of the parts of her that the old Elf was looking at.  Probably aware that I was trying not to look at those parts as well.

My master wasn’t evil or anything.  But he did appreciate girl Sylphs and fairy beauties.

I liked the fact that Anneliese came by at least twice a week.  I wanted to see her even more often.  But I could not for the world summon up the magic it took to talk to her on purpose and tell her how I felt.

But the moment ended with a gingerbread boy coming through the door.

“Ah, Pavel, what brings you to my tower, cookie-man?” the Master said to him in a joking manner, managing to hide any embarrassment he might’ve felt in front of Anneliese.

“You are to come right away!  The castle is under attack by a second bone-walker!” said the animated cookie.

That, of course, immediately had us rumbling out of the tower door to do our magical duty.  Necessary implements of magical firepower were all well in hand.

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The Fey Children

The Fairies : Butterfly Children

In the background of several of my novels, there lurk little people with magic powers. In this modern age of science they still exist, but are reduced in size to about three inches tall for the adults. As I am now working on a book set in their world, I am therefore using today’s post to elucidate what they are and categorize them a bit.

Butterfly Children is a nickname for the winged fairies. And most fairies not only have wings, but don’t wear clothing because, not only do shirts, jackets, jerkins, and such interfere with wings, but they, like me, prefer to be nude if possible.

The Butterfly Children are not really made of flesh and blood, but rather coherent magical energy. That is the reason they rarely become spellcasters themselves, but can lend their energies to the spell-casting Sylphs; witches, wizards, sorcerers, warlocks, liches, and some Storybooks.

They refer to us as “the Slow Ones” because we are easily fooled into not seeing them for what they are. They use concealing glammers to convince us that we are seeing a bug or a bird or a glare of sunlight instead of what they actually are. They also have the ability to allow slow ones to see them if they choose to voice the necessary spells. Some rare slow ones are able to see through their glammers and view them in spite of their wishes.

Sylphs and Elves : The Man-shaped Fey

Once, long ago, the Fey Children who looked human could pass themselves off as slow ones. The Elves, of course, had pointed ears to hide. But they looked like what we would call “regular people” because they were our size. But human science developed things that stop magical energies like brass or drain magical energies like iron and copper. The Fey became smaller and smaller. Things like discarded nails and lost pennies decreased the places where they could live and build homes.

Eli Tragedy (in the middle above) is an example of both an Elf (with pointed ears) and a magic-using Sorcerer. His apprentices, Bob and Mickey, are both Sylphs. Like Butterfly Children, many Sylphs would rather not wear clothes. Magic-using Sylphs and Elves learn to wear clothes because garments can be invested with protective spells.

Mickey is different than other Sylphs in that he has been bitten by a wererat and has been infected by lycanthropy. Since he is now an uncontrolled wererat, he constantly looks like a boy with a mouse head and tail, a fur-covered boy’s body, and paws instead of feet.

Sylphs can occur in many different non-manlike forms. The Mouse from Cornucopia is a Sylph in the form of an anthropomorphic mouse. Radasha, also seen to the left, is a Faun. Pixies, Nixies, Boggarts, Gremlins, Centaurs, Minotaurs, and other magical creatures have gotten far smaller since ancient times when human beings added greatly to the magical energy loose in the world through their imaginations, faiths, fears, nightmares, and dreams.

All of those magical creatures have odd and sometimes horrific shapes. You can see that in the insect-like Pixie to the right.

Storybooks : Immortals Amongst the Fey

The other Fey Children that need a special mention are the Storybooks like Silkie pictured in the acorn beret and leaf dress to the right. These lucky Sylphs, Elves, or other Fey Children who’ve been singled out by slow ones in their slow-ones’ books and literature are made magically immortal by the power of stories told by humans, especially those preserved by print. They no longer die. They can no longer be killed or grievously wounded.

General Tuffaney Swift is another good example of a Storybook. He exists as an immortal because some of his early adventures, were overheard and written down in stories about Tom Thumb. He was instrumental in bringing Grandma Gretel and her daughter, Anneliese, into the Fey World. She is responsible through her magical baking skills for the entire races of Gingerbread Children and Cookie Monsters.

So, there’s a brief overview of the Kingdom of Tellosia and the World of the Fey Children.

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The Art of the Faery Tale

Definition of Faery. 1. Noun. A small being, human in form, playful and having magical powers.
Faery Tales are a thing for me because I have lived so much more of my life inside my own imagination than I have ever even tried to do outside of it.

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‘Tis the Season…

Yesterday I posted one of my patented conspiracy-theory posts which was intended primarily to give my three kids more practice at using their Eye-fu skills. You know, that ancient Chinese martial art of using the dramatic eye-roll to combat the embarrassing way elderly parents have of saying what they actually think for the sole purpose of humiliating their much-more sensible offspring. So, today I need to humbly contemplate the many reasons I will not get any Christmas presents this year and begin to generate some holiday spirit to lighten the mood of what is likely to be a rather lonely Christmas season.

So, here’s a selfie from old Grumpy Klaus, wearing the aggravated countenance of the Jolly One looking at the Naughty List to determine who gets the bricks and who gets the lumps of coal… and who gets referred to Old Krampus.

Ho ho ho… kinda…

Having married a Jehovah’s Witness twenty-six years ago, I have gotten mostly out of the habit of celebrating Christmas. The Witnesses believe that holidays with pagan origins are from Satan, and bad for you. But it has been almost seven years now since they decided I was from Satan too, and so I stopped believing in knocking on doors and trying to get homeowners to reject their own form of Christianity because we are somehow more right than they are, and if they don’t swear off celebrating Christmas they are doomed. Among the many other things you have to swear off of for that religion. Like swearing.

Don’t get me wrong… Jehovah’s Witnesses are wonderful, loving people who care about others and whose religious teachings are more helpful than harmful over all… just like all other Christians who aren’t ISIS-level radicals. (The Westboro Baptists leap to mind for some reason.) If you really need religion, it is a good one to have. But even though my wife still needs to be one, I have begun to feel like I do not.

I personally cherish the holiday traditions I grew up with, and I really wish I could have shared those with my children. (This is another point for practicing Eye-fu right here.) I fear however. that like most devoutly religious parents, we managed to raise three devout agnostics and atheists. I have trained them in the last four years to like the tradition of making and eating gingerbread houses and gingerbread men. That’s probably of pagan origin too, but it’s too late now to save my sorry old soul from gingerbread.

Anyway, I am trying to look forward to the season of Peace on Earth once again. And though I will be celebrating mostly alone and ill and condemned by gingerbread, I do have pleasant memories. I can still reach my sisters and my mother by phone. They share some of those memories. And my kids will be around enough to eat the gingerbread castle I bought for this year.

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Same Old Woes…

I am running another free-book promotion this month, once again for Recipes for Gingerbread Children. Same song, third verse. It seems no one wants this book. I can’t even give it away for free.

I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that there are nudists in the story. It’s true, the Cobble Twins are teenage girls who love to be naked. And in the story, they spend time at Grandma Gretel’s house walking around with no clothes on. And when they get their junior high friends to visit Gretel, eat her gingerbread cookies, and listen to her stories, they also try to convince their friends to get naked too. But, really, it is a part of the charm of those two characters. It is not a pornographic story, and they basically fail in promoting nudism among eighth graders.

But nudism has a slightly different meaning for Gretel Stein. She barely escaped the showers at Auschwitz. It is the hardest story she has to tell.

Sherry and Shelly Cobble

I am roundly disappointed. I have every reason to believe I am a good writer and this is a good book. But how can I get people to agree if no one is willing to read it? I have to just keep trying. The book is still free until Tuesday midnight.

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Stories with Gingerbread

Yes, this post is a shameless promotion. But this is a good book that not enough people are reading to truly appreciate that fact. When I was a boy in the 1960’s, there really was an old German lady who lived in a small tar-papered house, all ginger-brown in color, which we all called the Gingerbread House. She really did love to give out sweets and cookies and popcorn balls to the kids in our town. And she really did love to talk to people and tell them little stories.

Grandma Gretel Stein

Her name, in real life, was Marie Jacobson. She was, in fact, a survivor of the holocaust. She had a tattoo on her right forearm that I saw only one time. Our parents told us what the tattoo meant. But there were no details ever added to the story. Mrs. Jacobson doted on the local children. She regularly gave me chocolate bars just because I held the door for her after church. But she was apparently unwilling to ever talk about World War II and Germany. We were told never to press for answers. There was, however, a rumor that she lost her family in one of the camps. And I have always been the kind that fills in the details with fiction when the truth is out of reach.

I based the character of Grandma Gretel on Mrs. Jacobson. But the facts about her secret life are, of course, from my imagination, not from the truth about Mrs. Jacobson’s real life.

Marie Jacobson cooked gingerbread cookies. I know because I ate some. But she didn’t talk to fairies or use magic spells in cooking. I know because the fairies from the Hidden Kingdom in Rowan disavowed ever talking to any slow one but me. She wasn’t Jewish, since she went to our Methodist Church. She wasn’t a nudist, either. But neither were my twin cousins who the Cobble Sisters, the nude girls in the story, are fifty percent based on. A lot of details about the kids in my book come from the lives of my students in Texas. The blond nudist twins were in my class in the early eighties. And they were only part-time nudists who talked about it more than lived it.

Miss Sherry Cobble, a happy nudist.

But the story itself is not about nudists, or Nazis, or gingerbread children coming to life through magic. The story is about how telling stories can help us to allay our fears. Telling stories can help us cope with and make meaning out of the most terrible things that have happened to us in life. And it is also a way to connect with the hearts of other people and help them to see us for who we really are. And that was the whole reason for writing this book.

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Filed under autobiography, fairies, gingerbread, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney