Monday, August 25, 2014

LIFE OF A POET ~ KATHLEEN OF THE OZARKS

This week, kids, we are making a trek to the Ozarks, to visit talented poet and photographer, Kathleen Everett, who writes at The Course of Our Seasons. Kathleen took the glorious photos that grace this interview, and I was hard pressed to limit myself to a handful. Kathleen has a cool story, so gather 'round, draw your chairs in close, and let's dive in. 





Sherry: Kathleen, I'm stoked. I've been wanting to hear your story since I read of your love of the Ozarks. Give us a mental snapshot of where, and with whom, you live today, kiddo. Tell us about falling in love with the Ozarks.



A sweet pic of me and Bob, photoshopped by a friend 
- the background is pretend!




Kathleen: Sherry, thanks so much for inviting me for this conversation. I live in a small house on Table Rock Lake, in southwestern Missouri, in a region called the Ozarks. I live with my husband, Bob,  our precious pup, Theodore Valentine Everett, and my 83 year old mom.



THEODORE VALENTINE EVERETT


We fell in love with the Ozarks very serendipitously, one perfect October weekend. We were driving from our home in Dallas, Texas,  to visit friends in Minnesota and just stopped for the night in Fayetteville, AR. The weather was perfect, startling blue skies, flaming maples, and terrain filled with steep rocky ridges and deep green hollows with splashing creeks and rivers. How could you not fall in love – it was magical.

A few years later, we were in the position to re-create our lives – so after much consideration – we moved to NW Arkansas. And found it even more magical.

Sherry: Congratulations on recently celebrating your 33rd anniversary! And Theodore is a sweetheart! The Ozarks sound glorious. I get such a sense of where you live, from the following poem of yours.






sweet water from the well
casts the evenings magic spell
as the fiddlers resin up their bows
mandolins court and spark
in the early summers dark
lighting fireflies to twinkle and glow
its not every night but now
we will sing and tell stories how
we lived and dreamed and truly loved
its not every night but when
we will gather up to dance again
and the music rises
to the summer moon above

so grab your partner
and coo and dove
hug your friends and swing your love
cause all we have is the music
and the stars
its not every night but now
we are here and this is how
we celebrate the music of our lives



Bob on his birthday



Sherry: This poem gives such a sense of community. You are blessed, living there. Happiness. Is there a poem or two you would like to share with us?







The moon makes me laugh.
Her face pink-gold with exertion
Pushing past the horizon,
Filling the constellations,
To rise in her nights journey.
As she climbs, she prays
in the voice of my mother,
“I see the moon, the moon sees me.
God bless the moon and God bless me.”

The moon makes me laugh.
Her bright face silver with light,
Gracefully easing into space,
Moving in celestial dance.
As she rises, she sings
In the voice of my father,
“Don’t the moon look lonesome,
shining through the trees.
Don’t the moon look lonesome,
when your baby packs up to leave.”
The moon makes me laugh.

From the dark bedroom
My sleepy voiced husband calls,
What are ya’ll doing? Come to bed.
We can’t, I answer.
We have moon sickness.
As the dogs and I moon-bathe,
Naked on the back porch.

Sherry: Ha! I SO love this poem! Another?



SOLSTICE SUNSET



I

And there I will abide
Abide seems to be a word
filled with soft meaning

and deep intent

I will abide
Belong, rest, take comfort, dwell,
I will abide
Withstand, endure, await, sojourn
Accepting without hesitation
I will abide


II

My love is my abode
His limbs pillars of fragrant cedar
To shield me in my rest

His arms are oaks of sinew and might

Silver is on his head
Burnished and gleaming
Sapphire are his eyes
More beautiful than the morning sky
His heart is of precious stones
More valuable than the kings stores
He calls my name
And I am safe
My love is my love
And there I will abide





Sherry: Sigh.  You are one lucky woman! Prior to this home, there was another, The Last Really Good Shack, which became, as you have written “one of the great loves of my life.” And your “first true home.” We would love to hear that story! 



Sketch of the Last Really Good Shack 
by Carol Allen


Kathleen: Well, it was not love at first sight, I can assure you!

Bob and I would travel back roads every Sunday, just looking around and seeing the different parts of the county. He pulled into what looked like a private farm road – gravel and dirt. But it went past the chicken and turkey houses (these are a ubiquitous feature of NW AR) and as we made a curve – this sad old house half way up the ridge came into view. It was awful – but Bob pulled in the drive – proceeded to bottom out in a deep rut, so we walked the rest of the way to the house. It was very obviously abandoned and we when tried the door, it fell into the room. Bob turned to me and said – “Home, sweet Home” and I knew then I was in trouble.

But after 6 weeks of long days and nights of hard labor, we moved in and proceeded to make it our home. The house responded to us – I know that may sound a little crazy, but it had a good spirit and everyone that visited felt it.
We had many adventures and misadventures, that I chronicle on my blog under the category The Last Really Good Shack.

I would like one day to put all these stories into a book – but we will see.
And thank you for using the pen and ink drawing of our home by my aunt, Carol Allen. She was a gifted artist. She died last summer after a long fight with cancer. We are so blessed to have had her in our lives, and this drawing is very special to us.

[Kids, do check it out. It is a hoot of a story. Especially if you like home renovating stories! Complete with a crazy chicken!]

Sherry: I'm so sorry you lost your aunt, Kathleen. She was very talented. Reading your memoir, I came across this wonderful poem to that place. It goes straight to my heart, for I once had a home like that, too.


Dirty, abandoned and abused
Its structure sound for a century
Its only redemption
On (not love at) first sight
A stony hillside of sunlight
Filled with narcissus and daffodils
Tears, time and sweat
Revealed the sturdy heart
Scrubbed shining and painted
Pure comfort readying
Hospitality fit for the angels
Who would soon fill its rooms
Surrounded by woods and meadows
Seven acres of Ozarks ridge
Blackberried fencelines
Visited by fox and white tailed deer
Trimmed in pink fairie roses
To crown the summer queen
Each peeper filled pond
Chime laden black haw
Secret fern covered spring
Rocky paths lined by red clover
Became daily destinations
Of wonder and solemn beauty
Seasons of sun and moon
Stars, comets and fireflies
Signs and wonders revealed
Violet winter days of deep snow
Green scented spring breezes
Autumns golden splendors
Its old structure still sound
Filled with echoes of love
Magical decade now a decade past
Memory erases the sadness
Leaving only the longing
Of hearts first true home


Sherry: Sigh. I'm a little choked up. And I'm so happy you found another wonderful home when you moved from there. 

So, now, going all the way back, where did you grow up? Did you live close to nature even as a child?

Kathleen: Most of my growing up years were in Texas. My dad moved quite a bit for his job, so the longest we lived in one town was 6 years.  We lived in St Louis, MO, Northern New Jersey and Denver, Colorado. That is where Bob and I met.

I don’t know that I necessarily felt close to nature as a kid – I was a town girl. But my grandparents taught us the names of birds and trees. And my mom loved her flower garden and always had bird feeders in the yard.  I loved the changing landscapes of the different places we lived and had an appreciation for beauty in nature.

Then marrying a landscape contractor really started me on the path to learning more. And once he could get me to move into the woods – I was hooked!

Sherry: I gather from skimming through your memoir that your mom has shared your adventures for many years and was right in the thick of it helping restore your farmhouse.......tell us about your mom.



Me and Mom


Kathleen: My mom was never afraid to tackle anything – she would refinish furniture, paint and wallpaper like a pro, make curtains or tablecloths for her house, and dig flower beds or lay sod if she wanted.

My dad died soon after we moved into the Shack, so mom spent quite a bit of time with us. And I would put her to work!  We painted and wallpapered the kitchen and dining room, stained the porch and painted the old wooden chairs that Bob found on the side of the road! He is well known for finding abandoned treasures.

Now, after a series of strokes, her energy level is not what it once was – but she still has plenty of opinions about my projects and is always there for advice and consul. We are grateful that we were able to build an apartment on to our house for her – she loves to watch the birds and the boats on the water. And somehow, she ended up with the best view of the lake – imagine that!

JULY MORNING




As I sweep into my hand
from the table’s edge,
the small sacrifices
you left for me,

I think about the saints
and their reliquaries.
Bits of bone
and parings,
faded cloth
and dusty splinters,
locked away in glass cases,
reflecting supplicants
kneeling in prayer.

Walking outside
under the dark heavens,
I release from my palm
the fragments of you
as the slender fingernail moon
rises brightly in the East.


Sherry: So beautiful, Kathleen. I love that 'fingernail moon'. When did you begin writing? Did you write both prose and poetry from the beginning?  What does poetry do for you that prose cannot do?

Kathleen: I fell in love with words as soon as I learned what the alphabet was and what it could do. In fact, my younger brother credits me with teaching him to read. I was so excited, I would come home from 1st grade and teach him everything I had learned that day. Since he has a PHD and is a dean of Kenrick Seminary in St Louis, MO, I guess I did a pretty good job.

Poetry has been a great love – nursery rhymes and Dr Seuss books are my first memories of poetry in my life. I love the romantic poets – Keats is my favorite – and Whitman, and of course, mother of us all, Emily Dickinson.  
Poetry gives an immediacy to my writing – I can explore what I see and feel at that moment in time.

Prose is a longer, more studied writing. I enjoy researching and discovering things for my stories – and it takes significantly more time.


The quiet scritch of nub to page
Willing words to flow from pen
To enlighten minds or to engage
The subtle heart to open
Wages poor but riches deep
All these words we must not keep
But fling skyward in hurried flight
To give these feelings power and light

We write not what we want but need
Each kernel of soul, an egg, a seed
Watered in tears in anxious hours
Kind words encourage each to flower

Heed not the pain of doubt and fear
The willing hand gives help when near
And open hearts reveal for each to see
these lowly words become inspired poetry

Sherry: A beautiful poem about poetry! You are a very talented photographer, as well. I was hard-pressed to limit myself, among so many glorious choices. Tell us what you love about it. 

Kathleen: Thank you – though I would never claim to be a photographer – I started as a way to share what I see every day – the beauty of the seasons in this place I call home.  And a way to add to the visual interest in the blog.



A recent pic of me with my precious great niece Eva Rose, 
yes named after her great grandma


Sherry: Well, you have certainly succeeded in providing visual interest! And how wonderful to have a brand new little girl in your life!

What other things do you do when you are not writing and taking photos? What does a typical day look like?

Kathleen: A typical day starts about 5 am – I am up and on my elliptical exercise machine – that way I have done my daily exercise before I really wake up! Breakfast with my husband before he heads out the door to work,  I wake Mom and make sure she has everything she needs for the day – and then I am off to  work. I am assistant to the CEO of a small broadcasting company. It is fascinating work and filled with things I had no idea I had an aptitude for – spreadsheets and financial forecasts – always a new challenge to explore.


SUMMER PORCH

When at home, we enjoy many visits from family and friends – that seems to go along with living on the lake. Our screened porch is about 10X40 and filled with comfortable furniture – so it is the spot you will find me most weekends – writing, reading or just watching the hummingbirds.

Sherry: Your summer porch - and surroundings - are glorious! You have a book of poems, The Course of Our Seasons. [Kids, it is available here.]




Do you have plans for any other books? Maybe poems accompanied by your wonderful photography? (That would be stunning!)

Kathleen: I would like to do another book of poetry in the next year. I have the beginnings of a faerie tale on paper that I would like to see if it wants to be more. And as we talked about earlier, I think the Shack stories would make for a fun read for folks. So lots of plans – I will keep you posted.

Sherry: Memoir is my favorite kind of reading. I am so enjoying reading about your adventures with the shack on your blog. 

How did you find the world of online poets, what was your reaction when you found it and how has it impacted your writing?

Kathleen: dVerse Poets Pub was the first site I found. I began by reading different prompts and eavesdropping for a bit before I got nerve up enough to post anything. Brian Miller and Claudia Schoenfeld are so supportive of writers (wonderful interview with Claudia, by the way) that they made it easy to try. And its wonderful when people begin to comment and interact – something I had not experienced before outside my immediate family and a few friends.

I know that reading the many talented poets on this site and dVerse has made me a better writer. I continue to be amazed at the quality of writing on line – truly the unsung heroes of poetry. How can critics declare that poetry is dead when we all know it is alive and kicking!

Sherry: I love that! "The unsung heroes of poetry."  Cool. Do you have a favorite poet? What in his or her work calls to you? 

Kathleen: If I had to choose, ee cummings  is probably the poet I would consider to be the most influential in my writing. His whimsy and power are so apparent in each line – such grace in structure and word choice. I don’t try to emulate his work – but would love it if a little of his shine sparkled in my words.

Sherry: Is there anything else you’d like to share that I dont know you well enough to ask? What would your husband tell us about you? Your mom?

Kathleen: I am a faithful friend and a happy wife and daughter. And aunt to the most gorgeous and talented and brilliant of nieces and nephews. Can you tell I love my kids? :)

I can truly say that I am right where I want to be – living in my beloved Ozarks, surrounded by those people and things I love. And I can be hysterically funny.

Sherry: I gather that from your memoir! Anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Kathleen: As I said earlier – remember you are the unsung heroes of poetry – your grace and wisdom, creativity and talent – shows the world the importance of this art form. Write on!

Sherry: Thanks, Kathleen, for a lovely visit. Now we know how beautiful the Ozarks are, and it is no wonder you love it.

Well, kids, what did I tell you? I am loathe to leave the beauty behind. I could likely sit on that screened porch for the rest of the summer quite happily. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!




45 comments:

  1. Thank you so much, Sherry, for this wonderful interview. I am so honored to be a part of this for Poets United.

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    1. My pleasure, as always, Kathleen.....I am just back and wildly behind in every direction.....will catch up soon.......We are lucky to have you, kiddo......

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  2. what an interesting conversations ladies...that all you have is the music and the stars is evident in your lines Kathleen...loved your journey and the wonderful photos...may you be blessed by the presence of your loving mother for many more years...and Sherry this is one stellar interview...

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    1. Thank you so much - I very grateful to live where we do - filled with the beauty and wonder of the natural world - Mom has had a set back in her health since this interview - but she is holding her own and we are thankful for her presence everyday.

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    2. Thank you, Sumana. I so enjoyed putting it together and making another new friend! Smiles. Kathleen, I was so relieved that your mom pulled through. I hope she enjoys reading this interview, in which she plays an important part!

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  3. What a lovely interview...Kathleen, your home looks like a little piece of heaven. Your poetry is beautiful!

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    1. Thank you, Sherri - we certainly feel that way - and so enjoy sharing our little piece of heaven with friends and family. So appreciate your kind words - K

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  4. How wonderful to meet a fellow person from the Ozarks.

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    1. And we probably shouldn't tell everyone how beautiful it is - everyone will want to move here! Thanks, Gail! K

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  5. Wonderful interview. I loved getting to know you Kathleen and hearing about your lovely home in the Ozarks. Your poem "The Moon Makes Me Laugh" made me grin ear to ear.

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    1. Thanks, Debi - many ways similar to your area in WV, I think - happy you liked the moon poem - it always makes me smile too! K

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  6. Kathleen, I really enjoyed learning more about you, thanks to your interview by Sherry. I especially enjoyed putting a 'face' to a poet. First of all, I thank you for always being such a responsive poet. You understand the importance of community. Second, I am with you as far as being an 'early bird.' Smiles. I liked all the poems you shared, but most of all I enjoyed "Song of Songs -- There I will Abide." Just beautiful! Your interview makes me want to experience the Ozarks! Sherry and Kathleen, thanks for a great interview.

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  7. Thank you, Mary - you have always been very encouraging with your comments. The supportive nature of these communities has given so many of us the courage to lift our voices, to write and to feel heard is a very powerful alchemy. I wrote without readers, but I have become a better writer because of each person that took the time to read and leave a message.

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    1. I'm happy you enjoyed it, Mary. Kathleen, my writing had slowed to a trickle for lack of support and encouragement till I found Poets United. Since then I have written more and maybe better than I ever did before. Other poets reading us is such a gift - and also stretches us to grow in our work. I will be forever indebted to Poets United for the journey it started me on.........

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    2. Yes, I agree, Kathleen! Without support, many of us would not have 'lifted our voices.' An encouraging word from another poet means so very much! It is so rewarding to know that another person has taken the time.........

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  8. I enjoyed getting to know more about you, Kathleen. Like you, I am blessed with wonderful nieces and nephews. You are a great poet and, as Mary noted, you certainly have a great sense of community. Thank you for accepting to be in the limelight today. And thank you Sherry for this interview.

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    1. My pleasure, Gabriella. You are another reciprocal community member, always SO appreciated.

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    2. I had the pleasure of having my eldest niece and her husband with us this past weekend - I always remind them that they are my heart - how fortunate are we to enjoy the love and friendship of our nieces and nephews.
      Thank you, Gabriella, for your kind words

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  9. Excellent interview--like sitting down for coffee and conversation. I saw a few poems here I remember, and a few I must have missed. Your love of words, nature, a well-crafted line always comes through. I'm glad to know you!

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    1. That is exactly how it felt, Jeff. Sherry and I were just chatting like old friends - happy that it comes across like that too.
      Thank you so much - I have appreciated your many notes of encouragement especially recently - it has meant so much.

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  10. Another fantastic interview! Thanks Sherry! Kathleen, what a way you have of painting in detail, making words into lasting images. I enjoyed all here--as a I have when I make my way over to your blog, but my favorite is still "Reliquary." It is unique to the world of poetry, and to my inner sight makes sense of what I always thought a bizarre custom. I love this poem. Thanks for sharing so much of your life!

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    1. Thank you, Susan - I am so happy you like Reliquary - it is one of those poems that took a while to gel into its final form - I always appreciate when you drop by and visit my blog - thanks again!

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  11. Excellent post, interview, conversation, painting,,,truly enjoyed thoroughly.

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  12. Kathleen, I've thouroughly enjoyed visiting your blog. Your poetry is so heartfelt. I love this interview. It really let me know so much more about the person behind the words.
    Sherry, this was such a good interview. I felt like I was on that back porch too.

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    1. There is always room for one more on the porch, Myrna! Thanks so much

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  13. I know! I TOTALLY felt like we were chatting on that enviable porch. The Ozarks sound like the same type of community I enjoyed in Tofino. Lots of musicians, artists, writers, activists and visionaries, who seem drawn to these unique places.

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  14. Sherri - thanks so much for the introduction to another wonderful poet! And Kathleen, thank you for the glimpse into your life in the beautiful Ozarks, and also letting us see some more of your work...I will be watching for more of it now.

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    1. Thank you so much - I enjoyed the visit with Sherry for this interview - and I am always happy to share a little of the beautiful place I call home.

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  15. It is really great to know you Kathleen, your place is wonderful.. It is definitely on my list called "Places I want to visit"...smiles. I really enjoyed reading your writes here.
    Lovely pictures, wonderful poems and a heartfelt conversation... Sherry and Kathleen, Thanks for the great interview. :)

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    1. It is worthy of the visit, Ankita - a breathtaking landscape filled with steep ridges and deep hollows - thank you for your kind words

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  16. What a great interview.. Kathleen -- you was one of the first I followed... and your dVerse entries were among those that draw me into the pub..and Sherry --- a wonderful interview.

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    1. I did not know that, Bjorn - thank you for telling me! Thank you so much - you have been very supportive of my writing and I always appreciate your visits. K

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  17. the mountains, the lake, the summer porch - things i can only dream about. :)
    Kathleen, nice to know you. and Sherry, thanks for another great interview!

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    1. We have a small plaque in our den that states - 'If you are lucky enough to live by the water, you are lucky enough' And we know how fortunate we are to live in this beautiful place - we do not take it for granted. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! K

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  18. Hi Kathleen, it was pleasure meeting you here in PU. I laved your home and your poems..fabulous..
    Thank you Sherry for another beautiful interview:)

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  19. i loved song of songs... such a heartfelt poem... what a beautiful life sherry!!

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  20. Thank you, it was a thrill to be included in this interview series. I am happy to have been able to show you a small portion of this gorgeous region -

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  21. Thanks for the lovely interview Sherry ~ I so admire Kathleen's work and envy her lovely home with an amazing view ~ Always a pleasure to visit and read your poems ~

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  22. kathleen is cool people...one of the poets that i have actually met in person...we shared some time at a steak n shake in the ozarks...what beautiful country you live in out there...we def hope to return...and nice to learn a bit more about you as well...smiles.

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    1. Thanks, Brian! I loved meeting you and your beautiful family and hope you will visit again. I have always been so grateful to have found dVerse and everyone there has been so supportive and open - These welcoming communities of writers, Poets United, dVerse Poets Pub and others, are a safe place for many of us to stretch ourselves, to become better poets - and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. K

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  24. Late to this party...but I wanted to pop in and say how much I enjoy Kathleen's work. "Kathleen of the Ozarks"...that title evokes so much for me as my Grandma's name is Kathleen and she was from Nixa. So glad to have met you here in the blogosphere, Kathleen, and I look forward to reading more of your work! Thanks Sherry!

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer - I love that you have a Kathleen in your family - it is not a common name - and that she was from the Ozarks is very serendipitous - So appreciate your kind words - smiles - K

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