8 reasons Luna Lovegood is the best Harry Potter character

Hello dear friends!

The other day’s April Love theme was “inspiring person,” which gives me the opportunity to put together a fun piece I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Because what better way to spend a blizzard than to think about Harry Potter books, right?

So today for my inspiring person I’m picking the lovely and fictional Luna Lovegood, complete with eight reasons why she’s the best Harry Potter character. Well, my favorite, but you know.

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1. She’s the most original character you’ll meet

Even by magical wizarding standards, Luna is odd. Harry’s very first impression of her confirms this.

The girl gave off an aura of distinct dottiness. Perhaps it was the fact that she had stuck her wand behind her left ear for safekeeping, or that she had chosen to wear a necklace of butterbeer caps, or that she was reading a magazine upside down.

Luna is fascinated by magical creatures others’ don’t think exist, reads a magazine Hermione dubs as “rubbish,” and makes her own jewelry out of strange objects. Luna is one of a kind, and it’s not just her uniqueness that makes her awesome, but how she is true to herself and is honest about the things she likes. That being said…

2. She doesn’t try to stand out

Luna’s character doesn’t read as one who tries to stick out. In fact, she sometimes seems blissfully unaware of how others perceive her. What makes Luna’s quirkiness so much more palatable than say, Professor Trelawney’s, is that Luna isn’t trying to put on a show. She simply is as unique as she seems.

3. She really doesn’t care what others think of her

Luna is one of the few people who seem not to care about others’ opinions. She can wear radish earrings or a lion hat and be totally cool with any reactions she might get. Further, she isn’t angry even when others steal her things because they think she’s weird.

“How come people hide your stuff?” he [Harry] asked her, frowning.

“Oh…well…” She shrugged. “I think they think I’m a bit odd, you know. Some people call me ‘Loony’ Lovegood, actually.”

“That’s no reason for them to take your things,” he said flatly. “D’you want help finding them?”

“Oh no,” she said, smiling at him. “They’ll come back, they always do in the end.”

Even when targeted, Luna would rather be herself than conform, and simply deals with the reality of getting things back rather than worrying about how her classmates find her odd.

4. She’s genuinely kind

One of Luna’s most striking characteristics is the kindness she shows toward others, a pure kindness unmarred by superiority or judgmentalism. She reassures Harry that he’s not crazy for seeing thestrals, and after Sirius’s death she shares with Harry her experience with loss after her mother died. It was also Luna who spoke at Dobby’s burial, offering a just the right words during such a sad moment.

“Thank you so much, Dobby, for rescuing me in that cellar. It’s so unfair that you had to die, when you were so good and brave. I’ll always remember what you did for us. I hope you’re happy now.”

5. She’s a devoted friend

Luna deeply values her friendships, perhaps because her oddities have made friendship difficult for her. She’s thrilled when Harry asks her to come to a party:

“Oh no, I’d love to go with you as friends!” said Luna, beaming as he had never seen her beam before. “Nobody’s ever asked me to a party before, as a friend!”

Her gratitude to spend time with a friend is unparalleled by anyone else in the series.

Later, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione visit Luna’s house, they find that she’s painted her bedroom with the faces of the three of them as well as Ginny and Neville, with the word friends threading through each picture. This is especially endearing since it doesn’t seem any other the others have shown the same degree of appreciation for Luna that she’s shown to them.

Additionally, it’s suggested in the seventh book that after the DA’s disbanding, Luna was one of the few who kept checking her coin to see if they were getting together again.

6. She has a deep and open-minded wisdom

One of the best and perhaps most underrated of Luna’s qualities is her intelligence (she is, after all, a Ravenclaw). Behind her strangeness, what I appreciate about Luna is the special kind of wisdom she has. When I was younger, Hermione was definitely my favorite character. She was the smart one, and very well-read. And while Hermione certainly is brilliant, I think now I resonate with the creative and intuitive wisdom that Luna possesses even more than Hermione’s logic.

Luna certainly thinks outside the box, and while she’s very well-read, she’s open to original thoughts and ideas that aren’t found in textbooks. She sees the deeper meaning behind The Tale of the Three Brothers and believes in the Deathly Hallows before any of the other students do. She later goes on to discover many of the creatures others scoffed at but she believed in. Luna also makes sense of the voices that she hears from behind the veil in the Ministry of Magic.

Luna also seems to get people and their relationships, offering thoughts on others’ behavior that could seem rude but is actually merely observant.

Altogether, Luna’s creative thinking, intuitive understanding of people and mythology, and wisdom beyond her years help make her my favorite character.

7. She stays strong in the face of danger

In addition to being one of the six students to go the Ministry of Magic at the end of Order of the Phoenix, Luna spends quite a lot of the seventh book locked in a dungeon of Malfoy Manor. Ollivander credits Luna with helping him bear the horror of being imprisoned.

“I’m going to miss you, Mr. Ollivander,” said Luna, approaching the old man.

“And I you, my dear,” said Ollivander, patting her on the shoulder. “You were an inexpressible comfort to me in that terrible place.”

8. She helps Harry locate one of the last horcruxes in the final battle

When Harry enters Hogwarts to find the final pieces needed to defeat Voldemort, it’s Luna who paves the way. She knew about and believed in Ravenclaw’s diadem, even when everyone else considered it long-lost. Luna also knew to talk to the ghost of Helena Ravenclaw about the diadem, suggesting that, like Harry, she had also discovered several things about Hogwarts few other students knew about. It was her knowledge that enabled Harry to destroy the diadem and thus defeat Voldemort at the end of the battle.

 

That’s all for now, friends. Time to enjoy the fire and read from these books I’ve been talking about.

Who is your favorite Harry Potter character?

 

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Happiness is acceptance

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We all know that person, or–if you’re lucky–those many people who make you breathe a little easier. Who, when you’re with them, you can feel your shoulders relax a little because it’s alright.

We know what it’s like to be with those people who let you know that it’s fully okay to be fully you, who don’t question or try to change you, who you can feel yourself opening up to without fear of judgment over the things you have to say.

We know that safe and glorious feeling of having permission to let your fears and weaknesses show and know that it won’t change what the other person thinks of you.

We hopefully all know that keep happiness and love that can only come with true acceptance.

Thank those people in your life today. And be that person who listens with patience and understands that we all are fighting a battle, and sometimes we just need a little permission to breathe.

light never leaves

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can i tell you a secret?

 

light will never leave you

strange as it may seem while we wait out the inky black

deep that falls no matter how bright the sun shone on our bare faces

today we knew it had to end

 

even as we strike the match to bring life to a dusty

candle from the back of our closet to cheer the day

of darkest skies that cover snowswept fields

it’s not really gone, is it?

 

i’ve seen people search life for what was in front of their

eyes that couldn’t see the truth of the stars that shine while dawn sleeps

but can you see there, the pine’s silhouette against the star-drenched sky

how even on the darkest of winter nights there’s still enough to tell the branches

from the rest? how we’re never really left alone?

 

the absence of light remains for the few who seek caves

and tombs and hands to strain out the rays,

but you have to walk toward that kind of dark don’t you?  it doesn’t just happen

naturally out here under the vivid night sky, there’s always enough

ever enough to never leave you dark

April love: 2018 so far

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How do I sum up 2018 so far?

I could dissect it, with a rational scalpel: the minutes passed, the percentage gone. It’s just another time around the sun.

I could weep over it, over the lives lost in schools, the conflicts arisen abroad, the injustice delivered everywhere. Over anger and disagreements. Just 94 more days of strife.

I could find power in it, in the children standing up for safety, in the women seeking equality, in new medical developments, in the slow-but-sure movement toward a more understanding society.

I could shrug at it, at the everyday hum of driving to and from work, returning phone calls, taking out the ever-growing pile of recycling (I swear it’s on steroids), all powered by daily cups of chai.

I could find pain in it, in the ache of my joints, the suffering of friends and family members, the news of young children in surgery or chemotherapy. Is there anything not deteriorating?

I could find excitement in it, in addressing envelopes for my sister’s wedding, in friends moving to new horizons, in new dogs and new jobs. In the fact that no two days are alike.

I could find love in it, in cards written and meals given to those in need, in phone calls and hugs and gifts and helping strangers. We’re all in this year together; we might as well help each other out.

Which of these measures a quarter of a year passed? Perhaps one, perhaps none. Perhaps there’s no real way to do it except acknowledge the bad and embrace the good. Perhaps each day is an opportunity to learn, and to leave the world just a tiny bit better.

 

April love: We smile. We fight.

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These are the smiles of sisters.

Of women who have stuck together for 22 years.

These are the smiles of two people who have been mistaken for twins more times than I can count, though in all honesty I still don’t see it.

Behind these smiles are more laughing fits, creative thoughts, and defeated tears than anyone can count.

These smiles shine, however small, in the midst of ongoing physical pain that the medical world doesn’t seem to have a place for. But no matter what, we know that our iron wills can’t be touched by whatever storm our bodies decide to deal out on a particular day.

These smiles haven’t always come so abundantly or easily. They’ve made it through years of scrutiny; of believing our noses are too weird or skin too spotted or lips too small. Of being told by fellow girls that there was just something wrong there, that for whatever reason, we didn’t belong.

Does anyone come out of those years unscathed?

Now we know what the beauty narrative doesn’t: that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you put on makeup and a red dress or if you slapped on a hat and ripped-up jeans over unwashed hair and unshaved legs. Neither make you more or less of a woman. Neither change who you are inside.

These smiles have made it though times of undue attention, of whispers behind the hands of insecure teenage boys and cat-calls on the streets near our college. They’ve made it through boys who want ownership when they should show respect, make fun when they should say “I’m sorry,” exhibit anger when they can’t understand that “it’s over” means that yes, it’s really over.

We learned a lot from those times, I suppose. And now we cherish the gifts of respect, maturity, and thoughtfulness in the men we’re with today.

My sister is beautiful, in every sense. She’s been through more than I can say, more than I even realized at the time. Some days I wish I could go back and love her a bit louder than I did. All days I’m grateful for who she is and how she’s using her voice to make some right in a world that sometimes seems only skin-deep.

These smiles haven’t come free. Keeping them has been a fight. These women have been through hell, but they’ve seen heaven too. There’s far more on the road ahead, but if there’s anything I know, it’s that they will stick together, and will keep on smiling.

These are the smiles of women who have stuck together for 22 years.

These are the smiles of sisters.

 

This is a video my sister made, in which she speaks out about her struggles with bullying and self-image. I think everyone should listen to it. Your words matter. Be kind.

April love: Inspiring quote

In my little world, it’s both spring break and Eastern Orthodox holy week. It also feels like February at my parent’s house in Wisconsin, following a full-day snowstorm that left a fresh eight inches of fluff. What a snowy Pascha it will be.

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s become hard to find the time or energy to craft lengthy think-pieces, so I’m embarking on an exercise in both simplicity and consistency by giving Susannah Conway’s April Love 2018 a go. Expect some short and sweet posts this month. Maybe I’ll throw in a little poetry too:)

Cheers!

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Photo from the inspiring A Year in the Wilderness book

Winter, illness, and positivity

It’s been a long winter.

Our first snowfall came just in time for Halloween, and has stuck around until spring. Throw in some -40 windchills around Christmas and a few 8-foot blizzards in February and we had ourselves a good old-fashioned winter, the kind I remember as a little girl, with no 50 degree weeks in January or February rain. Just snow, and cold, and quiet.

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Late October snowfall

I love winter: the silence, the clean feeling of a fresh snow. I love strapping on my snowshoes and having whole sections of the Superior Hiking Trail to myself, and snuggling up by the woodstove with a book after. I love stacking and bringing in firewood: the wholesome act of exerting energy and having it be for something. There’s something deeply satisfying about having activity being naturally integrated into other necessities of life, like staying warm.

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Nature’s art

I love how people in Cook County love winter: I suppose if you live this far north you have to. When I lived in Wisconsin, though, I sort of dreaded winter. Complaining about winter seemed to be some sort of state pastime, like between the months of December and March everyone got this free pass to be as vocally ornery as they pleased. In my opinion, if you live in the Midwest, you should make the most out of winter or move…but that’s just me.

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That’s no puppy

But along the North Shore, where we love our snowshoeing, skiing, dog sledding, ice climbing, skijoring, curling, hockey, winter camping (yes, you read that right), and basically any activity you can fathom that uses snow or ice, winter becomes fun. And to be honest, being around people who approach winter positively has made all the difference in how I see this season.

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Snowshoeing the Superior Hiking Trail

Positivity has been on my mind lately, not as a luxury or an ideal, but as a necessity. Somehow in these last few months my health has taken an unexplained nosedive, limiting my ability to work, write, hike, or really do anything more strenuous than sleep for half the day. I haven’t been able to keep up with most anything I’d like to do (including contribute to this blog), but being housebound has given me time to think, albeit foggy, fragmented thoughts. But even scattered thoughts have shown me how, when you’re sick long-term like this, thinking positively is sometimes the only thing you can do to make your days bearable, let alone enjoyable.

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Frozen roses

As I was leaving the doctor’s the other day, I ended up behind a car with one of those stickers that says “Wag more, bark less.” Normally I don’t take life advice from bumper sticker tropes, but maybe because I was in need of a happy thought (or because I recently adopted a dog), this one stood out like it were in flashing neon letters. Our world is so full of barking–from the bloodbaths of Facebook and Twitter to the seeming inability of adults to discuss a nuanced topic without it becoming a partisan anger fest. We all fancy ourselves as vigilantes with the one correct view that will save the world…if only we can scream or snark our opinions into other people’s heads. But what is it all good for?

Nothing.

I believe in being kind to people. I believe in standing with the hurting, the abused. I believe in generosity and love and noticing when someone is sad. I believe in looking up even if everyone else is looking down. I believe that acts of kindness within a community, within relationships, are what will change people, and that moments spent online, on concepts and problems that I will never change, are moments wasted. Moments that could be spent calling a family member, engaging with the person sitting across from me, snuggling with my dog, even thinking of the things I’m thankful for. Wagging more, barking less.

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Northern Light Lake with Leif

After school got out the other day, I ventured onto Artist’s Point. The sun shone warm on my skin, and sent the retreating snow piles cascading down the rocks in newly made streams. The waves rolled in happily from a sea of imperial blue. I could smell the rocks and lake again. And as I sat there next to that mammoth lake, under the endless sky, I saw once again the reassuring truth of how small and insignificant I was. One small piece of the big, big picture.

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I’m not big enough to change the big, or even medium-sized picture. Heck, if you’re into the whole ranting-about-politics-on-Facebook-thing I don’t think this post will change your thoughts on the habit. But I can change me. I can change my thoughts, change my habits of kindness, change how I spend my limited energy. I can wag more and bark less or live and let live or whatever catchphrase fits the picture.

Spring is lovely, but winter is beautiful too, made even more so by seeing it positively. I suppose the same can be said about life.

 

 

 

 

Life in grayscale

I open my eyes to the light of a new day, blinking at the aspens and background of sky outside my window. Gray.

I stand on the shore at the edge of Superior’s waters, eyes blurring at the miles and miles of steely waves. Gray.

I drive home in a sort of absence, mind numbed by a wintry earth and sky that blend into a monochromatic blankness. Gray.

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I’ve been avoiding writing this post—or any post—for quite a while. Perhaps I’ve been waiting for something better, something more exciting to jump out of the recesses of my mind and onto my waiting page. Some way to impressively start another year of blog writing. But days turn to weeks, and nothing happens. I watch the slow drip of honey fall from my spoon to the bottom of my teacup, willing some sort of idea, some feeling to come. Nothing. I walk through a hoarfrosted world, breathing the damp air and watching the mist wisp by trees, willing that flicker of inspiration to appear. Nothing. Not even a cohesive thought. I sit down to write, staring at a blank page that I feel I no longer have the words to fill. Nothing.

Gray. And nothing. Not the way I would have hoped to start a new year.

Somewhere between New Year’s and today the colors went muted, and my world has been playing in grayscale. It’s not a strange sensation to me, not really. I’ve had some form of mental health issues for probably most of my life, changing forms from year to year, from my childhood ‘shyness’ in groups to last year’s panic attacks and onto this year’s gray. Sometimes the flip-flopping seems logical: the anxiety reaches such heights my body begins to numb itself in protest, or I start a medication that can make things worse for a while. But a lot of the time, mental illness isn’t logical. There aren’t specific causes you can ascribe to an episode. It just comes and goes like the morning mist. It is what it is.

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But this time, things are a little better. Even in the gray, there’s an outline of sun behind the clouds. Call it reconciliation, call it acceptance. It’s the voice that tells me that in this moment, this is how things are, and this moment is desolately beautiful.

My word for last year was see, a nod to awareness and mindfulness. I’m not fully enlightened on the concept, but last year’s journey did breathe into me this sense of acceptance that has made life–even the grayest moments–just a little easier. Like when I got out of bed at some strange hour of the night last week, restless with the weird thoughts anxiety gives you, and really noticed for the first time just how wonderful soft carpet feels under sore feet. Sure, it was a small thing. Just carpet. The anxious thoughts didn’t evaporate. But still, in that moment, feeling the weight of my feet pressing down on the floor, I felt grateful. No huge breakthrough. Just grateful. It was a muted form of gratefulness, sure, but grateful nonetheless. And for that night, thinking about how grateful I was for our house, for its soft, cozy carpet, I was finally able to fall asleep.

In writing this, I’m not saying that mental illness is okay or I’m accepting it as how my life is supposed to be; it isn’t. However, for many years I was plagued by this sort of guilt that accompanied every episode, like I couldn’t believe this was happening again and was ready to exhaust myself trying everything I could to make it go away as quickly as I could. Needless to say, that worked really well at making things worse.

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However, it was through my word see that I began to see the value in embracing the present moment, however lackluster it may be. It was through my word that I began to understand that grasping for improvement isn’t always the best thing. It was through my word that I learned the value in less. Less striving, less lamenting, less wishing things could get better immediately, less try-these-five-tactics-for-a-happier-you-in-thirty-days. It was through my word that I began more of the right things: more stillness, more presence, more grace, more patience, more hugs, more jokes.

And so here I am in winter’s familiar gray, only this time with a little less worry and a little more acceptance. A little less impatience and a little more observance. A little less guilt over feeling this way and a little more grace to give myself the time and things I need to make it through. Perhaps I don’t know where my life is going, whether I should go back to school, how I’m going to continue writing with no inspiration, if I’ll be free from this anxiety someday, if this darn sun is ever going to show its face. Perhaps it’s all muddled in a sea of gray. But I’m still here. I’m alive, safe in the quiet woods, and have even written something that sort of looks like a blog post. It could be worse.

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In case you were wondering, my new word for the year is unconventional, certainly breaking the rule of picking a quality you’d like to grow in. But in a sense it’s the logical conclusion of last year’s word, for instead of picking something I already have pre-conceived ideas about, this year’s theme is one of observation and discovery. I chose the word wolves for this year partly because of one of my favorite songs and partly because of a recurring dream I’ve been having.

In the dream, I’m walking along a wintry scene, sometimes a curving road and sometimes the forest, and there in the outer edges of my sight is a gray wolf, standing peacefully. Watching me. I go to follow it, each time getting a little closer, but the dream ends before I can discover where it’s leading me.

It’s a little more mystical than I usually get, but ever since doing a Word of the Year I’ve liked the idea of choosing a word that’s a mystery, and embarking on a year of discovery where I have pretty much no idea where it will take me. I have no end goal: I’ll watch and learn whatever it is I need to.

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And so I begin 2018, with no breakthroughs or fireworks or fanfare, just a wanderer traveling through a sometimes-bleak world and onto an unknown destination. And I accept that.

Reminder and thank you

First off, many thanks to everyone who has ordered and read my book! It’s become a cheesy thing to say “I couldn’t have done it without you,” but you dedicated bunch of family, friends, and readers seriously rock. Your support has made all the difference in this crazy journey they call writing.

If you’re still interested in my book you can check it out whenever you want, but there are only two days left in giving-back December, where I’ll give 10% of the earnings to support the crisis in Yemen. If you’d like to support a good cause, order before January 1st to help the cause!

Thank you all again, and have a fabulous New Year’s celebration!

Love,

Rae

On writing my first book

Well, it happened. After years of practice and dreaming of being a writer I finally published my first book. How cool is that? It’s been quite the journey to this point, with more effort than I’ve put into any other project and some fabulous support from some wonderful family and friends. But even considering the late nights, lost GPA points (who cares about math worksheets when you’re writing a novel?), and newfound reverence for anyone who can put up with (what I consider) the frustrating world of graphic design, writing has been the best work I’ve done. A hard job, but my absolute favorite.

I began writing Meryton High when I was in high school, and what began as a fun project on vacation became the first novel I would complete. Meryton High is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic book Pride and Prejudice, which I was basically obsessed with at the time.

Learning to love the classics

Mind you, the obsession didn’t start that way. Until I agreed I would try to choke down some Jane Austen I hadn’t willingly touched classic literature. Heck, I was in high school, and to your average unassuming sixteen-year-old, a title like Pride and Prejudice sounds, well…kind of boring. And boring was exactly what I thought when a friend suggested we watch the movie at a sleepover for the first time. But luckily my friend insisted, and after giving the movie two tries my mind was officially changed and I was hooked.

What I came to realize with Pride and Prejudice–and with all subsequent classic literature I’ve read–is that what can come across as inaccessible to modern readers today is just the extreme surface of most older stories. Beyond aspects like language and setting, the characters and stories depicted in classic books are like anything we experience today. In her books, Jane Austen spent a great deal of time poking fun at social customs, norms, and wacky human behavior. And wouldn’t you know, a lot of those behaviors she satirized still take place today. There is a whole wealth of insight, humor, and wisdom in our culture’s classics, a great depth of material that it seemed most of my peers and I weren’t confident or excited about accessing. Enter Meryton High.

I wrote my book as a way for high schoolers (like myself at the time) to appreciate the characters and themes in Pride and Prejudice but with modern language and in a familiar setting. I understand that the older style is what some people like about classic literature, and that’s okay. But for me it was the characters, the relatable people in the stories that I fell in love with, and the purpose of my book is to help modern readers, especially younger readers, appreciate the classics and see them as relatable to their own lives today.

My hope is that you’ll enjoy this book, and perhaps not only enjoy it in and of itself but that it will be a gateway to exploring some of the great classics that we’re lucky to have. And if you’re already a classics fan, then I hope you have fun with this modern twist on a favorite story.

Giving back in December

In this season of Christmas I’ve been thinking more about giving back, and have decided that for the month of December I will give 10% of the earnings from my book to support the famine and health crisis in Yemen. I’ll be doing this by giving to the IRC‘s work in Yemen, as they are one of the highest-rated and effective humanitarian groups in the world. If you want more info about how this will work please don’t hesitate to ask.

In conclusion

This whole writing-a-book thing has been a wild ride, and I thank all of you devoted readers for your continued support of my writing. Your notes and comments always mean a lot to me, and I’m looking forward to sharing more writing adventures with all of you in the future. I hope you all have a most wonderful holiday season.

Lots of love,

Rae