The Billings Outpost

Gara Mountain Man Run planned for Saturday


A little in this country goes a long way in Ethiopia.

A fundraising dinner in Billings in 2011, followed by some T-shirt sales, brought in enough money to do most of the construction on a dormitory that will house up to 50 street kids in Gara Muleta, Ethiopia.

With the proceeds of a fundraising 5K run planned for April 12, Eayoall Atsbeha hopes to have enough to complete the dormitory roof and interior finish work.

Atsbeha left Gara Muleta, his hometown in eastern Ethiopia, nine years ago. He first lived with a good friend in Bakersfield, Calif., then got a track scholarship to Rocky Mountain College in 2009. He has since graduated from the Billings college with a degree in physical education and is working for Yellowstone County’s Youth Services Center.

The seeds of Atsbeha’s project were planted in 2010, when he traveled to Ethiopia as a translator with Jesse Murphy, the founder of MyFight. That nonprofit organization, based in Billings, is dedicated to alleviating poverty in Africa, mainly through microfinancing projects.

Atsheba, who had been away from his village for years, was struck by the extreme poverty he saw, especially by the many children and young adults living on the streets. His mother was doing what she could, providing food and shelter in exchange for light chores around the house, but Atsheba wanted to do something more.

“I had the idea, but I didn’t know what to do with it,” he said.

After his return to Billings, he was out running with Joel Harris, who was also on the track team at Rocky and had roomed with Atsbeha for a time. Harris had also been involved in MyFight as part of a grant-writing fellowship.

Harris said Atsbeha — known to his American friends as Yole — never directly asked him to get involved in a new project. He simply told compelling stories about his trip back home, what he saw and what thoughts were triggered by the trip.

“Yole is just a really inspiring, vibrant person,” Harris said.

On that run, Atsbeha was wondering what he could do to raise money to help those street kids back in Gara Muleta. That’s when Harris suggested an Ethiopian dinner, cooked by Atsbeha. The dinner, held in late March 2011, proved a huge success, attracting about 90 people.

To raise additional funds, Atsbeha took a page from the MyFight playbook and started selling T-shirts. The funds from those two ventures were used to build the dormitory, which will be run by the government in cooperation with churches in Gara Muleta, once it is finished.

That’s where Atsbeha’s latest project comes in. He and Harris are organizing the 5K fun run-walk on Saturday, April 12, in hopes of raising enough money to complete the dormitory.

“The whole project is to finish up what we started,” Atsheba said.

The event was named the Gara Mountain Man Run. Gara Muleta means “the mountain you can see” in Amharic, Atsheba’s native tongue. Besides Harris, Atsbeha has received help from Elizabeth McNamer, a Rocky professor, as well as friends and fellow students Caryl Cammack, Kristi Oakley, Noah Kibrono, Megan Durfee and Caleb Strumberg.

The run will begin near Daylis Stadium and end in Pioneer Park. It will start at 9 a.m., with registration starting at 7:30.

Atsbeha, who has his green card and hopes to obtain full U.S. citizenship by the end of summer, said he would like to expand his charitable work to other parts of Ethiopia as well, moving from Gara Muleta to other cities.

To sign up for the Gara Mountain Man Run, go to and search for “Gara.” The race will begin at the southeast corner of Pioneer Park, at Avenue C and Third Street West.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 11:17

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Pollock artist in residence

John Pollock is no stranger to the regional arts community. The Yellowstone Art Museum has announced him as the seventh person in a succession of artists who have participated in the museum’s Artist-in-Residence (AiR) program located at the YAM’s Gary and Melissa Oakland Artist-in-Residence Studio in the Visible Vault, located at 505 N. 26th St. east of the main museum building.

Mr. Pollock is an emeritus professor of art at Montana State University Billings, where he recently retired from full-time teaching after serving the university and innumerable students from 1974 to 2010. Through the years, he has become a sought-out printmaker and watercolorist. In 1979, he was awarded the Visual Art Fellowship in Printmaking from the Western States Art Foundation.

Additionally, he has become an award-winning kite maker. In 2004, 2007, and 2009, he received the Grand National Champion Kitemakers Award at the American Kitefliers Association Convention. In 2009, he was awarded the Lee Toy Award for the Kite Artist of the year. He is currently being invited to festivals around the world to fly his hand-painted kites.

During his residency, which runs through June 18, 2014, Pollock will take advantage of the spacious studio, which features an abundance of natural daylight, to create a variety of large kites.

The YAM’s Artist-in-Residence program provides studio space to visual artists who represent a wide range of disciplines. While in residence, artists spend a portion of their time interacting with museum visitors who desire deeper knowledge about contemporary art practice. Area art enthusiasts can stay informed at the museum’s website ( about John Pollock’s open studio hours at the Visible Vault and an upcoming kite workshop to be led by the artist. Visits to the Visible Vault are free to museum members and are included in the price of admission for non-member guests.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 11:00

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Book sale keeps growing

Story and Photo - By ED KEMMICK -

Ron May and Ed Riesinger are standing in a storeroom at Central Christian Church, surrounded by thousands of books.

Some of the books are in plastic milk crates or open cardboard boxes. Many more are packed in boxes that tower high overhead. “It’s like putting water on rice,” May said. “It just keeps getting bigger. It’s getting beyond big and is approaching huge.”

He’s referring to the church’s twice-annual book sale, of which he is the coordinator. The sale began six years ago with about 1,000 books on a few tables. Next week it will feature nearly 40,000 books displayed on 65 to 70 tables.

May, Riesinger and two other volunteers — Janine Foster and Jeff Anderson — work on the book sale almost daily, collecting, cleaning and sorting books. Nearly everybody in the church pitches in during the actual sale and during the days leading up to it. This year, the sale will start with a preview next Tuesday evening and then continue during the day through Saturday.

May said the spring and fall book sales provide “a large source of income for our church budget,” funding its community-service, children’s and ladies outreach programs.

Some of the uptick in donations probably has to do with the phasing out of the Friends of the Library sale at the old Parmly Billings Library, May said. There will be sales at the new Billings Public Library, but without the permanent and virtually unlimited storage space.

Mostly, May said, the donations have grown through word of mouth and an expanding email notification list, which now contains more than 1,000 names. Volunteers pick up about half the donated books from people who call; the rest are dropped off at the church.

“Sunday we come to church and there’s three boxes on the church doorstep,” May said. “It’s like zucchini in the summer.”

Book sale details
The spring book sale at Central Christian Church, 1221 16th St. W., will begin with a preview from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25, then continue from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Paperbacks are 50 cents and hardbacks $1. There are also videos, music, games and jigsaw puzzles.
If you have books to donate, call the church at 252-1828 or Ron May at 656-5689. Books can be dropped off at the church Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 March 2014 18:26

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Bohlinger struggles against incumbent’s edge

By JIM LARSON - The Billings Outpost

BUTTE – John Bohlinger is the kind of candidate that we root for in the movies.

He is the type of guy that cares about what happens beyond the boundaries of his prominent nose, not the kind of man that we usually send to Washington.

When he spoke to Butte’s Burros last Wednesday, he was looking for some encouragement to stay in the race for the U.S Senate, he said, and he seemed to get it from the crowd that attended, but the donkey turnout was light.

The Burros is Butte-Silver Bow’s club for Democrats.

Mr. Bohlinger said that even though he’s of retirement age, he’s running for office because he has a “passion for public policy as it relates to the common good.” And that common good, Bohlinger maintains, would be best served if the Democrats maintain their majority in the Senate.

That majority, he believes, is a bulwark against harmful legislation generated by the conservative U.S. House of Representatives.

His prospect of manning that bulwark has been considerably dimmed, he feels, by Gov. Steve Bullock’s choice of Lt. Gov. John Walsh to serve the remainder of the Senate term vacated by Max Baucus. Baucus left the Senate to become the American ambassador to China.

Mr. Bohlinger said that he had hoped that the governor would have picked someone like Pat Williams or Carol Williams.

Pat Williams served for many years in the U.S. House, and his wife, Carol, served in the Montana Senate. She is the first woman to ever serve as majority leader in the Montana Legislature, Wikipedia said.

With the appointment of Walsh, the Senate race is no longer a fair fight, Bohlinger said. “It’s no longer a level playing field. It’s no longer an open seat,” he asserted.

Incumbency gives Walsh a fundraising advantage, Mr. Bohlinger said. He compared that advantage to having a 40-yard head start in the 100-yard dash.  “Money matters” in politics, he noted.

The candidate believes, in fact, that money matters too much in American politics.

“Because of the significant role money plays in politics, it is no longer a government by the people, for the people,” Bohlinger said.

The candidate said that, if elected, he planned to stay in the Senate for only one term. He said that without the pressure of raising money for a reelection bid, he could focus completely on his work in the Senate.

That work would include campaign finance reform, the expansion of Social Security, and the raising of the minimum wage, he said. Mr. Bohlinger, a practicing Catholic, also took a pro choice and pro birth control stance.

“We don’t need the church to tell us how many children to have. It’s a personal matter. It’s the same with a woman’s right to choose,” the candidate said.

Mr. Bohlinger added that he was against sequestration, an across-the-board method of budget-cutting that Republican candidate Steve Daines voted for. Mr. Daines is Montana’s lone congressman, and he is the front-running Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Bohlinger said that the 5 percent cut that sequestration entailed wasn’t the way to go. He said that expenses should be challenged item by item.

Continuing to take aim at Mr. Daines, Mr. Bohlinger argued that the congressman was among those responsible for the 17-day government shutdown that cost the American economy $24 billion.

He also attacked Daines for not voting for the farm bill, a bill that contains the food stamp program. “We have a moral imperative to feed the hungry,” Bohlinger said.

Mr Daines, Mr. Bohlinger said, comes across as an “Eagle Scout,” but noted that the congressman is a member of the Tea Party and holds to “the conservative agenda.”

“This is not right for Montana,” Mr. Bohlinger said.

Mr. Bohlinger hails from Billings. There he was a small businessman for 33 years. He spent 12 years in the Montana Legislature where he represented his district as a Republican.

When he was asked about switching parties, he said that he had become a Republican because he felt that they were better money managers, and because it would have been impossible to be elected in his district as a Democrat.

He noted that as the Republican Party moved to the right, progressive Republicans either became independents or Democrats. “I’m a Democrat,” he said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 March 2014 21:55

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Safari Club International focuses on wildlife, youth

By BRAD MOLNAR - For The Outpost

Hollywood usually depicts hunters as unwashed rednecks sipping moonshine and poaching by the headlights of a ’59 Studebaker-Packard or as villainous hunters mindlessly slaughtering African big game until Tarzan shows up.

In fact, hunters pay self-imposed fees. In the United States, at the urging of sportsmen’s groups, the 11 percent tax collected through the sale of ammunition, which became known as Robertson-Pitman Funds, has distributed more than $6.5 billion to state wildlife agencies to promote conservation efforts. The return on investment of these funds is calculated at a low of 823 percent to a high of 1,588 percent as the non-hunting public enjoys the benefits of wildlife conservation.

Add in the financial and volunteer efforts of groups like Pheasants Forever, Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Turkey Federation, etc., and it becomes apparent that the economic support of the hunting public preserves wildlife and wild places for all. These groups point out at every opportunity that, “No hunters equals no wildlife.”

They are also quick to point out that the Robertson/Pitman funds are mandated by law to be used for conservation efforts and if diverted to general fund expenditures would vanish like mist. Under this strategy, funding for wildlife is not subject to the whims of political power plays but rather is a steady stream of needed cash to help wildlife.

The Billings Chapter of the Safari Club International focuses mainly on local wildlife issues and local youth but also regional wildlife conservation issues. Along with Safari Care, they help fund the internationally acclaimed Wheelchair Foundation, making wheelchairs available to people primarily in developing countries.

Board member Tex Janecek points out that the Safari Clubs co-sponsors Hunters Against Hunger by providing for the processing of donated game meat to people who need food. A local buffalo ranch wants to cull six cow buffalo. The members of SCI will pick up the tab for the processing and the packaged meat will go to the Montana Rescue Mission.

SCI also has supported the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks by providing a mechanical deer and recording devices to help catch and prosecute poachers. Locally, Safari Club dollars provided wheelchairs in Billings, Red Lodge, Hardin, Crow Agency and Lame Deer.

The local Safari Club International also provides funds for a trout pond at ZooMontana so visitors can learn about the needs of the aquatic environment. Though not a wildlife issue, SCI also helped fund Big Sky Honor Flights taking World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their memorial.

Fundraising efforts are combined with those of other organizations to support fair chase hunting and the right to hunt. A partial list would include: The Montana Heritage Defense Fund, Save Alaskan Hunting Heritage Fund, the acquisition of critical wildlife habitat through the Brown Bear Trust (this program benefits all local wildlife not just the target species), and the Kid Fitters Program, which pairs members of the Big Brothers and Sisters program with Montana hunting outfitters, so kids can learn what it is to hunt and fill the home freezer.

During a recent conversation, Bob Gibson of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Janecek discussed that the break-barrel pellet rifles used in the Hunter Safety Program at the Lake Elmo location, which were hard for smaller students to pump up. The muzzles often wound up being pointed in less than safe directions as the students struggled. The Safari Club provided new pellet rifles that load from a compressed air cylinder, so safe gun loading and handling techniques could be taught and practiced regardless of the size of the student. Gibson said, “The members of SCI are very focused on getting kids engaged in hunting and conservation.”

The Billings Chapter of the Safari Club International sponsors scholarships for up to four qualifying students and four qualifying local teachers to attend the American Wilderness Leadership School in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. The teachers are taught about preparing outdoor lesson plans, map and compass use, firearm safety, fly tying, survival training and archery. They also interact with experts in wildlife management and conservation. This AWLS program is available for graduate credit through Colorado State University.

The scholarship program for students is similar but at different dates and without the lesson plans but includes wilderness camping and white water rafting.

For more information on the March 15 annual fundraiser for the Billings Chapter of Safari Club International, membership information, suggestions on how they can help, or to apply for a scholarship to the American Wilderness Leadership School, Google the Billings Chapter Safari Club International.

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 11:50

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Dale Mortensen running in House District 44

By BRAD MOLNAR - For The Outpost

Dale Mortensen (yes his cousin is the iconic bronc rider) has announced his candidacy as a Republican for the newly created HD 44 in the Billings Heights. Sandy Wong is running as a Democrat for that office.

The announcement was made at a meeting of the Midland Empire Pachyderm Club (an educational group of the Republican Party) of which he is the current president.

During his announcement Mortensen quipped that he was delivered by the wife of Charley Pride when Charley lived in East Helena. He said the first president he could and did vote for was Ronald Reagan. His political experience includes a one-year stint as a field representative for then-Congressman Denny Rehberg.

Candidate Mortensen started his career in law enforcement with the Bozeman Police Department, then transferred to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department, then to the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Department. For the last eight years he has been a private investigator.

Talking of government growth, Mortensen referred to his father’s career working for a solution to the brucellosis situation in Montana. He said reasonable solutions have been proposed but always stymied by “bunny huggers.” And though a satisfactory solution remains unfound after decades of research, the bureaucracy dedicated to the problem as grown dramatically. 

Mortensen favors the development of natural resources rather than tax increases and feels that using our state lands to drive the exploration and development of oil and gas production could provide jobs, tax revenue and infrastructure development.

He is a longtime member and supporter of the National Rifle Association, and when asked about his dedication to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Mortensen replied, “shall not be infringed” is not difficult to understand.

To other questions Mortensen replied:

Do you support the Common Core Educational Curriculum: “I do not believe in Common Core or any intervention of the federal government into our local education decisions. I have far more faith in the school board elected by the people of Billings than bureaucrats thousands of miles away coming up with one-size-fits-all solutions.”

Should the Legislature meet every other year just to repeal statutes and rules? “Sure. Why not?”

Will you compromise on legislation you favor or are you willing to let it die and lose it all? “I will not compromise towards liberalism. If I am in the majority, I should not need to cross the aisle to find support.”

What function of government, no matter how large of small, would you be in favor of totally eliminating? Mortensen answered, “The problem stems from the fact that the Legislature only looks at requests for new funding. We need to take a look at existing programs and have them prove their worth. Any duplication should be eliminated and not just rolled into other programs. That is the only way to actually reduce the size of government. It is called ‘zero-based budgeting’ and I would favor that as our new policy.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 11:33

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Vorachek runs for House

Mitzi Vorachek has announced her candidacy for the Montana House of Representatives in House District 58 in Carbon County.

Two Republicans are running for the seat: Julie Bauwens Jones of Fromberg and Seth Berglee of Laurel.

Vorachek, a Democrat who lives in Red Lodge, said, “I’m running for a seat in the Montana House of Representatives because I want the Montana Legislature to refocus on the bread and butter issues that are of the greatest concern to Montanans: spurring our economy, creating jobs, protecting our environment, improving education, strengthening our families, and making life better for our children and grandchildren.”

“I am also running because I believe in public service. My whole working life has been one of service, from raising two daughters to be ethical, good citizens, to teaching in public schools, to developing economic development projects, to advocating for victims of violence. Serving in the Montana House of Representatives is a continuation of this public service. I love Montana and its people, and my roots are here.”

Vorachek recently retired as the executive director of Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, an organization she founded in 1999. 

She is a native Montanan, born in Havre.

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 11:23

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VISTA seeks comments on homelessness

Illuminate Homelessness & Poverty, a Billings Metro VISTA Project, is asking for Billings resident's perceptions on homelessness. The VISTA project is run under the auspices of the City of Billings Community Development Division. The survey is posted on-line, and is a follow up to the recent Community Connect event at the Shrine Auditorium. Please visit to complete the short survey.

Last Updated on Monday, 24 February 2014 12:13

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Missing woman sought

HELENA – State and local law enforcement officials are asking the public for leads again as the one year anniversary of a Kalispell woman’s disappearance woman nears. 

Last November, the Montana Department of Justice and the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office sought information in the case of Nicole Waller, 32, who left Fairview, Montana to return home to her three young children in Kalispell on Feb. 14, 2013.

When Waller didn’t return, family members reported her missing; Waller’s vehicle, a maroon 1999 Ford Expedition, was eventually found on the side of Highway 2 outside of Poplar. Although an extensive search was conducted, Waller was never found.

One year later, Waller has still not been located, and investigators are asking anyone with information to contact them.

Agent Mark Hilyard of the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation said, “If someone out there has any information, no matter how inconsequential that person thinks it may be, it could be what we need to break this case open.”

Although law enforcement officials won’t go into details of the investigation, they are treating it as a homicide. Agent Hilyard references a number of factors that point to foul play, including Waller’s abandoned car.

“It appeared odd that Nicole’s belongings, as well as her children’s pet guinea pigs were still in the vehicle when it was recovered,” Agent Hilyard said.  “She’s also had absolutely no contact with her family in the past year, which is also highly suspect.”

Waller, also known as “Nicky,” had brown hair and hazel eyes. She was 5 feet tall and weighed 165 pounds. 

Anyone with information regarding Waller’s disappearance may anonymously contact Agent Hilyard by calling (406) 444-7068 or the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office at (406) 758-5600.

 Tips may also be submitted online to Richland County Crime Stoppers at; or by texting the code CSRC plus your message to: 274637 (CRIMES).  You may be eligible for a cash reward for information regarding this case.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 February 2014 21:24

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Plenty of ways to find magic in Valentine’s Day

By SHARIE PYKE - For The Outpost

Doctors of literature agree. The great works of history have only two themes: love and death.

And sometimes those two emotional earthquakes go together. But Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate amour; a red rose, red heart, red letter day, a time to celebrate life at the tail end of winter.

Lovers first exchanged Valentine greetings in the Middle Ages by composing verses and then either reciting them or singing them. Paper valentines came into existence in the 1500s and became generally available in the 19th century, when most people could read and inexpensive color printing made lovely cards possible.

E-cards are fun, but most people like to hold their valentine in their hands and even save them over the years. Always add a personal message, even if it’s only “Love” and XXOO. If you’re blessed with both time and creativity, make your own valentines.

The dollar store sells those paper doilies in white, gold and silver along with red construction paper.

“Charley’s sweet and Charley’s neat. Charlie is a dandy. Charley, he’s a nice young man. He brings his girl some candy.” And she reciprocates, the folk song says, by baking him a cake from the best ingredients.

Food as a token of devotion has been around since the beginning of the world. Male kingfishers bring their lady a fish, with the minnow being preferred. Male chimps show their interest with meat, fruit and veggies, persisting in their courtship until their love responds.

Human lovers should think outside of that heart-shaped box. There’s a sexy scene in “Tom Jones” (1961) where Mrs. Waters seduces Tom by simply eating a piece of chicken, tearing off pieces and licking her lips while keeping eye contact. It’s both comic and bordering on the pornographic.

Passionate dining includes more than applying whipped cream applied to various body parts. You may feed your beloved anything from traditional chocolates to slices of organic apple with tasty kisses in between.

Most women, no matter what they may tell you, like jewelry. But “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” is only half of the truth. Who can forget that moment in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” when Paul gives Holly Golightly the engraved ring from the Crackerjack box?

At the other extreme, Richard Burton presented Elizabeth Taylor with one of the costliest pendants in the world: a 69.42 carat pear-shaped diamond, now called the Taylor-Burton, for which he paid well over a million dollars. This may have been too expensive, even for Burton in his heyday.

When you’re buying a glittery gift, use your common sense. If you’re well heeled and present her with a cubic zirconia, you’re name is mud. Your miserliness not only tells her that you don’t value her, she will also know that it’s a harbinger of the days and years to come.

Of course, Valentine’s Day is only 24 hours long. Even the grandest statement will become only a memory along with the initial infatuation that spawned it. Here are some ideas to keep the love light glowing.

Send little love notes, preferably written, not emailed. (The internet is eternal and open to the public.) Tuck a message in a pocket, a lunch. Go all out and buy a card for no reason.

Does he/she have a favorite movie? If you don’t own it, rent it. Then watch it together while you eat popcorn and snuggle. Take turns selecting the week’s epic.

Buy a bottle of your favorite wine and pour it into lovely glasses, maybe even the two from your wedding. Link arms and drink from the other’s glass. You’re on your own from here.

Give your partner a foot massage. Use scented oil and give every little piggy his due. This humble act should be reciprocal, by the way.

Forget the stereotypes. Send your man flowers at work. A single red rose says everything. Men, do you know what her favorite color is, her favorite perfume or flower? Find out, then act accordingly. Pick a day at random and have the gift delivered.

Treat your partner with the same courtesy you would an associate at work. If he/she were a client, you’d be clean, brush your teeth, put on your make-up, shave. You’d talk in complete sentences and be attentive to their ideas. The person sharing your life deserves no less.

And above all, touch each other. Touch with your eyes, your thoughts, your prayers, your words, your actions. Hold hands when shopping. Hug and kiss each other at the end of a hard day. Then when the tough times come, and they always do, you’ll already be in the habit.

A final tip for everyone. No matter what the proverb says, making up should always come before kissing. Sex does not say “I’m sorry.” Flowers and candy do not say it, nor does cooking his mother’s spaghetti sauce. Actually talking calmly about what went wrong, then saying those words, does.

Then, with the spiritual and the emotional in order, the physical may surpass your expectations. May you walk in love all year long.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 February 2014 00:22

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