Monday, September 22, 2014

LIFE OF A POET - TORIE GREGG

You are in for a treat today, kids, as we visit the young poet, Torie Gregg, who lives in Bakersfield, California. Torie writes at Inspired Leo.  She has shared a feast of beautiful photos, so we can enjoy the best that California has to offer - beaches, cliffs, canyon, forest trails - so hop aboard, and we'll zip down Highway One, swoop along the heavenly beach, cross the Golden Gate, and find Torie in her inland home.



Sherry: So nice to be meeting with you, Torie! Let's dive right in. Tell us about your writing. Have you always written? 




Torie: Hi Sherry. I would first like to say thank you for giving me this opportunity! I feel like this is such an honor.

I began writing poetry when I was 14 years old. I've always been very shy and an extreme introvert. Writing has always come naturally to me and I've found it to be very comforting. I've always been better at explaining myself in written form than in verbal. So the fact that all of these questions are coming to me in email form is right up my alley! 

I've kept all of my writings over the years in notebooks and binders. I've shared a few poems here and there with a very small group of friends from time to time, but I always felt awkward about it. As far as I knew, I was the only one around who wrote poems, so sharing them with others who didn't felt kind of strange in a way. I guess I began to feel awkward about it. I never really felt like anyone really understood me and why I needed to write.


Me, about five



Writing is very therapeutic for me. It's my way of sorting things out and it helps me to heal. I experienced a traumatic event when I was 14 years old and writing became my safe place.  I don't typically discuss the matter openly with folks I don't know, but it led me to where I am today. That's why I'm mentioning it here. I've written a lot about it and how it's made me feel. Writing made me feel less alone. 

Sherry: I love that. I think maybe that's why we all write.

Torie: I quickly found that I could write and say anything I wanted and that it was okay to do so. Writing has continued to be my way of working through my feelings and helping me to understand them. It's been a way for me to gain back some control that I thought I had lost.  And even if it doesn't turn into a poem, it still turns into something important to me. I journal a lot as well. I feel like writing keeps me centered and I always write how I'm feeling at that moment. I do have a deep passion for writing and I generally write everything down on paper before I bring out the laptop. There's just something soothing to me about the physical act of writing.

Sherry: Tell us about finding the world of online poetry, and what it has done for you.

Torie: I started my poetry blog back in 2010. I had recently reunited with an old flame (who's now my husband!) and he's the one who got me thinking about starting a blog. He sort of planted the seed. He's read  most of my poems and he's really encouraged me to put myself out there. I have to say that I enjoy it immensely. 


My writing space

So I started posting a few poems here and there and doing a little looking around for other poetry blogs. I ended up coming across this wonderful blog with this very welcoming poet who told me about Poets United and how I should join. The timing wasn't right for me then and over the years it seemed I was writing less and less. Then one day I figured out that writing poetry is what I really love to do. And we should all do what we really love and make the time for it. So I did. 

I had actually forgotten all  about Poets United up until a few months ago. I began posting more and more poems and writing more and decided that I really wanted to create a space for myself where I could share my poems with other poets. I wanted to have my poems read and I wanted to read other peoples' poems. So I took to google and looked up poetry communities. I looked around at a few different ones and when I finally looked at Poets United I knew the name sounded so familiar! I put it all together and realized that this was the place for me and everyone has been so welcoming!

Since joining Poets United I have come to find that there are so many folks out there that write in similar ways that I do. For me, that's so refreshing! It's been so great to read the wonderful words that other people put together. It's nice to give and receive feedback from people who genuinely care about poetry. 

There are several poets out there that I feel like I can really relate to and that feels like a blessing. Sherry, you are one of them. You have given me the wonderful gift of your words, when you  commented on my poem titled 'Weighted'. I don't think that I can ever fully express what your words have done for me. I just wanted to thank you again for that, and I just want to remind everyone out there in the blogosphere how wonderfully kind you are!

Sherry: Oh, my. Thank you. We leave our comments, and don't always know how they impact a person.  Words have such power. I remember that poem, now, and I'm glad I said something helpful. So now, Torie, tell us what you love about poetry?

Torie: I love that poetry is so versatile. Poetry can have so many different meanings and take so many different forms. It can bring out so many different feelings and emotions. I know that there are quite a few folks out there who just don't understand it. They say that they just don't get it. And that's okay. I feel like poetry is open to interpretation. There are a lot of metaphors, so sometimes it requires a little thinking and that seems to scare some folks away. 

Mostly, I  love how poetry can just pull right at your heart strings. When someone doesn't understand poetry, I like to ask them how it made them FEEL. I believe that poetry is written to evoke human emotions. Just reading a few lines of someone's words can bring back a memory. That's what I find so wonderful. And you never know what sort of emotion is going to come out of you. So that's what I love about it. I love that it makes me feel, and every feeling reminds me that I'm alive. And that's what it's all about!

Sherry: Well said! Do you have a favorite poem or two, written by you, that we can include here?




Torie: Yes! I would love to share this one named Beautiful You. I wrote this for my husband in 2011, before we were married. He has been the most supportive person in my life. He has encouraged me to try new things and to face my fears. He's my best friend and he makes me feel like the luckiest girl alive. This is a revised version that I made a few changes to in 2012, so it's a little different from what is on my blog. I added a few things. When I originally wrote this I kept hearing it in my head as a song. So, I added another verse and changed up some of the wording a little and I think this is now my first song.  Songs are just poetry with a melody, right?!


I want to feel you
inside of my bones
My heart's telling me
I'm already home

With you
Oh, beautiful you

You can make me feel
just like a child
So safe and so loved
and maybe just a little bit wild

Oh, you
Oh, beautiful you
Oh, you
Oh, beautiful you

I'll trace the outline
of your body each night
As long as each morning
you hold me real tight

To you
Oh, beautiful you
Oh, you
Oh, beautiful you

For as long as I live
I'll love your sweet face
The soft feel of your hands
and your loving embrace

Oh, you
Oh, beautiful you
Oh, you
Oh, beautiful you

When I look in your eyes
it's your soul I see
And when I'm with you
I know I can just be me
And I hope that you
feel the same way, too
'Cause baby I'm so in love

With you
Oh, beautiful you
Oh, you
Oh, beautiful you
Oh, you
Oh, beautiful you
Oh, you
My sweet, beautiful you

Sherry: It is - most definitely - a song, kiddo! Do you play guitar? I am thinking you might want to take this to the next level!

Torie: Well, let's see. I've been practicing the guitar for a while now. I've learned a lot of chords and strumming patterns and just sort of make up my own tunes. This is one of the most challenging things I think I've ever learned. There is still lots of room for improvement. Just strumming to myself, though, makes me feel good. I love the sound of the acoustic guitar and have wanted to learn to play since I was in high school. And if there's something out there that you've always wanted to do, then why not go out there and do it!!? So I am. It's been a slow process, but I'm not trying to win any contests right now.

I do a lot of singing when I'm by myself. One day I know that I will sing in front of others, but right now I just sing for myself. It makes me feel good. I would love to write my own songs and sing with just my acoustic guitar. That's a dream that I'm working on. Not as a profession, but just for fun!

Sherry: That was one of my dreams, too. I encourage you to do it! 

Torie: This next poem is titled, The Hero We Find. I wrote this as a reminder to myself that life is challenging for a purpose. And that we already carry the tools inside of us that we will need to over come any obstacle. There's a hero in each of us, we just have to trust ourselves and our hearts will show us the way.


The journey
may not always
make sense
But we still
must travel it
We will never know
how much strength
we carry
Until the day comes
when we must wield it
We'll wield it against
our dragons
our darkness
And when we walk
alone in the shadows
we must be brave
Brave enough
to see
to realize
That all the darkness
that we face
is only here to teach us
just how blissful
the light will be
Because when we reach
that light
we will feel
its warmth
its grace
We'll see that the light
has always been there
inside us
Waiting to be discovered
And the darkness will fade
and we'll know
just how strong
we truly are
And we'll find
that the only hero
we've ever needed
has always been
ourselves

Sherry: This is the absolute truth, Torie, and you have discovered this early in life. Wonderful! "The light has always been there inside us" and "the only hero we've ever needed has always been ourselves." Wow.

Where did you grow up, Torie? Have you always lived in California?

Torie: I grew up in Bakersfield, California. For those who don't know, it's just a couple hours north of Los Angeles. Bakersfield is a pretty centrally located town. We're just a couple of hours from the beach and about an hour or so from the mountains. I have always lived in California. I fairly recently moved back to Bakersfield after living in Oakland for a few years, which is up by San Francisco. 



The Golden Gate Bridge

Northern California is very beautiful and a lot different from Bakersfield. Bakersfield is one big suburb and is very heavy in agriculture and the oil industry. There are some beautiful places to go just outside of Bakersfield. Up through Kern Canyon there's a lot of lovely things to see. There are turn outs off the road  that you can park at and walk down to see the Kern River. It's really nice to go through there and hike around and explore.





Kern Canyon

Kern River

Sherry: There is a lot to see in California. I remember driving through millions of butterflies during their migration when I was  about your age. Magical. And I have always loved San Francisco, which I saw once, many years ago, driving straight through. Sigh. Tell us about your life now, and don't forget to tell us about your kitties. 




Torie: I just got married in May to my best friend! After nearly five years together we felt like it was the right time, so we got married with just a handful of very close family members around us. Being married has been an amazing and rewarding experience. We met in high school and then fell out of each other's lives for ten years. It really is amazing how the universe surprises us!


Lily and me

I have three kitties that I spoil rotten on a daily basis. They are my furry, four-legged kids. In January of this year I did have to say bye to my eldest kitty, Lily. I had her for 17 years. She was the sweetest cat you could ever meet. I still get a little teary looking at her picture. 

Sherry: I'm so sorry about Lily, Torie. It is so hard to lose them.


Gizmo

Torie: I do have her one and only baby, Gizmo, who is now 16. I'd say she's the complete opposite of Lily, but she has mellowed out with age. 

Next is Lucy. 


Lucy


She's all black and my little pride and joy. She's about to turn 12 and I can't believe it. I still think of her as a kitten. 


Mister Cat

Then lastly, there is Mister Cat who's only 7. He's so playful, but lives with two old ladies who don't care much for his rambunctious side! He's part mane coon and the cutest cat on earth and his furry face could make anyone smile. I know I talk about my cats as if they are my children, but that's just me! My husband and I don't have children yet, so these are our babies. Call me the crazy cat lady if you want, that's fine by me!

Sherry: You are talking to the Crazy Dog Lady here, so don't hold back, hee hee! I'm all about the fur-kids.

Torie: I'm also learning right now that life is full of ups and downs. I'm a true believer that everything happens for a reason.  For the longest time I could never fully understand why bad things happen. About a year ago I watched this documentary called Finding Joe. It's about the teachings of Joseph Campbell and about what it means to follow your bliss. In order to do that though you have to face your fears, or dragons, as Campbell says. 


     


Sherry: I like what they say about the "hero's journey". Really, when you take any life and look at what someone lives through, we are all heroes.

Torie: Following your bliss just means doing what makes you really happy. You must follow your heart. I've struggled with different things over the years and I've been in the process of learning to let go. It's definitely not an easy road to take, but it's the road that's going to -- and has made me -- a much stronger person. I turned 34 this year and  I feel like I'm truly living for the first time in a very long time. I've been making myself suffer for things that haven't been my fault. 

Recently I've come to the realization, with the help of different people I've crossed paths with,  that this is my time now. This is my time to live and to let go. We can't change the past. We can't change what has happened to us. What we can change though, is how we deal with it. And I believe that that is one of the most important things to remember. 

Sherry: That is one of the main mantras of my life, kiddo! 

Torie: Changing my thought processes has lead me to writing more and sharing more. It's led me to Poets United. It's led me to having the most remarkable relationship with my husband, that I never could have imagined. It's led me to forgive and to rekindle a relationship with my mother, whom I haven't had much communication with for far too many years.

Me and the Guys
left to right: my first younger brother, Andrew; me; my Dad;
my baby brother, Jason; and oldest brother, Jeremy

I also try to keep in touch with my three brothers and my dad as often as I can. One of my brothers lives here in Bakersfield, so it is a bit easier to see him.  I have one  a couple of hours away and then my dad and youngest brother are in two different states. I don't see them nearly as much as I would like to, but we do talk on the phone when we have time. I have great relationships with my brothers and my dad and I'm very thankful to have them in my life. 


Me and My Dad

I just wanted to give them all a little mention here, because I'm not sure where I'd be without them all. We were really close when we were young, but as we get older it just gets a little tougher to see each other as often as we'd like. But they're always in my heart and I keep the picture of the five us on my dresser and often times I just like to look at it for a minute or two and remember how nice it was for all of us to be together that day. What can I say? I get a little mushy sometimes!

Sherry: It is great you are close with them, Torie.

Torie: So, this is my life right now. Forgiving myself and others in my life. Letting go and realizing that we can't control everything. Things are not perfect in my life, but nothing is perfect. And I can honestly say that I'm happier now than I've ever been. I have my husband, and family to thank for that!

Sherry: That is awesome. It is such an amazing journey, isn't it? What is your field of employment? What do you like about it?

Torie: Most of what I've done is  retail. I work full time at a little home decor and greeting card shop. At the moment I'm actually learning a design program to make invitations. Learning this new program and how to create invitations for all types of occasions has been very exciting to me. I love to go to work everyday and know that I get to be creative. Sometimes I even feel like the day has gone by too fast! So I'm really relishing  this time, and trying to soak it all in. I love helping people and it's so great to make something for someone and then see the smile on their face when I'm done. It's been an amazing experience and I'm really happy that I grabbed on tight to the opportunity.

I also work part time at a big box toy store. I had actually put in my notice to leave, but was offered to stay on to work only several days a month. I really enjoyed the people I worked with and it's been fun working around the kids. It's pretty hard to be in a bad mood when you're working around toys and children. So I decided to stay on and now I'm extremely part time at that job. And I enjoy it, so that's awesome.

Sherry: What other activities might we find you involved in when you aren’t writing? 

Torie: My husband and I both love to read, so we do that together. I love reading fiction. Mostly sci-fi and fantasy. I love living in another world. I also enjoy watching films. I think that Alfred Hitchcock is a genius. My favorite film by him is Rear Window. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Although, Hitchcock isn't for everyone.

If I'm not watching films or reading books, then I might be out enjoying the fresh air and going for a bike ride or hiking. I don't get out in the fresh air as much as I would like, but the times when I do I enjoy it for as long as I can. I feel like being outdoors is good for the soul.

Pine Mountain

Sherry: It is, for sure. Do you have a favorite well-known poet? What do you love about their work?

Torie: I'm going to have to go with Anne Sexton. I like how gritty and raw her writing is. She suffered so much in her personal life and still achieved so much as a writer. I haven't read all of her work, but I like that she was honest and real.

Sherry: Do you prefer writing free-form poetry, or do you enjoy the challenge of trying different forms? 

Torie: I really do enjoy free-form poetry. I like being able to write however I want. To be quite honest, I've never really challenged myself to write any other way. I have been considering different ways to write since joining Poets United, though. I've read a lot of inspiring things from different poets and it's got me thinking what I could try next.

Sherry: It's fun to try. Where is your favorite place to go, and what do you love about it?

Torie: Most of my favorite places are in northern California. My husband and I took a trip to Gualala, which is right off Route 1 along the California coast line. It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. There are lots of cliffs and small beaches below. Everything looks so green and natural. It's just a very lovely place to be if you love looking at scenery.


Gualala



Sherry: Spectacular scenery, Torie. Wow! I have been down Highway One a few times, and would love to travel it one more time.  I was sped past it far too fast, by a driver who wanted to Get There and wouldn't stop. That was excruciating!

Torie: In Oakland, CA you can find hiking spots tucked away from the busy city life. There's a wonderful hiking trail that my husband and I used to go to a lot. There's lots of trees covered in moss and I loved going there. At the end, the trail opens up into this big park area. So we would often pack a lunch and hike through and then have a little picnic in the park. I think that's one of the things I miss most about Oakland. There's so many great spots to catch some awesome views as well.



Oakland Trail

I lived in a small mountain community for nearly nine years before moving to Oakland in 2009. I still have some family up there, so I like to visit when I can. Pine Mountain Club is only about an hour south of Bakersfield and filled with so much lovely scenery. It's quiet and peaceful, and there is an abundance of wildlife to see. I didn't appreciate all the beauty as much as I could have while I was living there, but when I go back for visits I take in as much as I can.

Sherry: Is there anything you’d like to share that I dont know you well enough to ask?

Torie: I love cooking for people! Last Christmas I hosted my very first Christmas dinner and did all of the cooking. I had a blast. It was probably one of the best days ever. It was a lot of hard work, but so worth it. I even made homemade caramel apples and they just might become one of my Christmas traditions. I just love filling peoples' bellies with something yummy!



Since I'm on the topic of favorites, I'll go ahead and tell you that my favorite book of all time is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. That book has something for everyone. I think I've read it at least a dozen times and actually just recently started to read it again!

Sherry: Cool, Torie. Those caramel apples look wonderful!! Is there anything you’d like to say to Poets United?

Torie: Yes! I just want to say thank you to everyone for making such a wonderful community where we can share thoughts with one another. Everyone has been so welcoming. It's nice to find a space with so many warm and talented writers. It's truly an honor to be among you all. So, thank you! And a big thank you to you as well, Sherry!

Sherry: It has been my pleasure, Torie. We look forward to enjoying more of your poetry in the months and years to come.

Wasn't this a lovely visit, kids? The scenery in Torie's part of the world is certainly beautiful. Do come back and see which poet and country we visit next. Who knows? It might be you!


33 comments:

  1. So nice to meet you Torrie. Your happiness is palpable. I can feel it in your enthusiasm for life. That's so beautiful. Good luck with everything you do.
    Great interview Sherry.

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    1. Thank you so much, Myrna!! Sherry did a wonderful job with the interview :)

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  2. "My heart's telling me / I'm already home"...this can also be said of Poets United isn't it?... what a lovely poem Torie and such an engaging conversation!!..love the wonderful photos you shared...thanks Sherry for another lovely interview :)

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    1. Thank you, Sumana! It is true about Poets United :) I love coming to see who's filled up the pantry every Sunday!

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  3. Another wonderful interview, Sherry - thank you for letting us get to know Torie a little better. Torie, you are so open about the changes you have made in your life and your positive outlook is infectious. Congratulations on your marriage- I wish you much joy!

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    1. Gosh, thank you so much! I was a bit nervous for the interview, but Sherry did such a great job with it.

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  4. My pleasure, as always, my friends. I love these weekly journeys, visiting beautiful people. Torie, love stories with happy - not endings, but beginnings - make me happy. Thanks for sharing your story, and your positivity.

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    1. I just can not thank you enough for everything, Sherry! You are a marvel and gift to the world!! You did a very beautiful job with the interview :)

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    2. I also wanted to thank you for adding in that trailer for Finding Joe! That's so great of you. I hope people watch the documentary. It's amazing!

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  5. Sherry, what a wonderful interview. I enjoyed the Heroes poem. Wonderful!

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    1. Thank you Gail :) Sherry is the best!

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  6. Sherry, another delightful interview. Torrie, Joseph Campbell is a must if one wants to create what is truly unique to the individual. I go back often and read his words and know that he helped me see what was most important to me. He also hooked me on the whole concepts of mythology and symbolism. Wishing you all the best...

    Elizabeth

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    1. That's great. That's awesome! My husband introduced me to Joseph Campbell about a year and half ago. Each time I watch Finding Joe I find something new that resonates with me. It's amazing! Thank you :)

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  7. Thank you to everyone for the support! Thank you Sherry for putting this interview together and for making it so wonderful! I'm so glad I said yes to this opportunity. It's always good to go out of your comfort zone :)

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  8. Torie, so nice to get to know more about you! I have really enjoyed your poetry, and now I can appreciate it even more -- knowing the person behind the poetry! Always good to see your work at PU! Thanks, Sherry, for another fine interview.

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    1. Thank you so much, Mary!! I'm so glad I found this wonderful community of poets. It's been a great pleasure to be among such talented writers :)

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  9. What a peaceful environ you have and it is bound to affect the depth of poetry, good to know you:)

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  10. Great interview, Sherry and Torie. I admire your grit and determination to not allow yourself to be defined by your past!

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    1. Thank you, Karen. It's really something to learn that the past doesn't exist anymore! Life is full of second chances :)

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  11. Great interview. Torie, its so nice to get to know you.

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  12. great interview, Sherry. nice to get to know a little about you Torie.
    these interviews are tell tales of how every heart yearns for that calm and comfort place. that window to find love. and when we can find a way to take a journey toward this path we are embraced by the warmth that we are all in the same place and little difference is my soul to yours.

    no poem is better than another for they all begin by the attempt of telling one's inner truth

    gracias for sharing, Torie and Sherry gracias for including that trailor that reminds us of our 'hero'

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    1. I agree with you wholeheartedly, Macroantonio! Thank you :)

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  13. Thank you Sherry for introducing Torie an amazing writer-full of hope joy and enthusiasm. 'Poetry makes a home' it sure does' and brings in peace and love. Dear Torie wish you all the best .

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    1. Thank you so much, Anjum for your kind words!

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  14. My heart always feels all warm and fuzzy when I come in and read the fellowship and encouragement here. Thank you to each and every one of you, for taking the time to read, support and encourage the folks we feature here on Mondays. I so love this community of kind souls.

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  15. Thank you for this Sherry! Torie I admire your work! And we should hike together! I am across the estuary from you in Alameda!!

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    1. I wish I was still in the bay Audrey!! I'm in Bakersfield now. Thank you for the nice thought though! I miss the bay so much. My husband and I may head back one of these days.

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  16. "That all the darkness
    that we face
    is only here to teach us
    just how blissful
    the light will be"

    What a delightful and creative person you are, Torie. Sherry, this is my new favorite interview!

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    1. Thank you, Susan for such a lovely comment!!

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  17. nice knowing you, Torie.
    and hey, put some chords to that beautiful poem "Beautiful You". :)

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    1. Thank you dsnake1 :) My guitar playing is a work in progress, haha! ;)

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