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Posts Tagged ‘Arizona’

“A wall of flames 40 feet high was sweeping its way up the canyon, 400 yards away. At that point, they would have had about a minute. Since they couldn’t get to the safety zone, they had to make one of their own. Andrew Ashcraft and Travis Turbyfill, the two sawyers, started attacking the brush with their chain saws, while the rest of the guys swung their Pulaskis, frantically doing what they were trained to do: move dirt, and move dirt faster.  They dumped fuel from their drip cans around the zone they’d created, then set the chain saws at the outer perimeter, so that when they exploded no one would get hurt.

[The team’s leader,] Eric, got on the radio. The Hotshots’ escape route had been cut off, he said, and they were deploying their emergency shelters.

Eric’s voice was calm – some said the calmest they’d ever heard him. At 4:47, he radioed his last transmission: ‘Deploying.’ And then, just like they’d practiced, the Granite Mountain Hotshots climbed into their shelters.

Finally, at 6:30 – an agonizing 103 minutes later – the helicopter was able to get on the ground. The onboard medic hurried to the site where they’d seen the shelters. As he approached, he spotted the metal blade from a chain saw and a pickax with the handle burned away. The ranch house was unscathed. Everything else was a smoldering moonscape.

Experts estimate that the fire burned between 3,000 and 5,000 degrees. In the end, there wasn’t much left. But what there was told a story.

The 19 Hotshots were all together. No one panicked, no one ran. Travis Turbyfill and Andrew Ashcraft, the sawyers, were at the edge of the group, closest to the flames. They were cutting lines up until the end.

When Juliann [ed – Andrew’s wife] got Andrew’s effects back, his boots and clothes were gone. His metal belt buckle didn’t make it. His pocketknife. The journals that he kept. There was a piece of Velcro from his watchband but not the watch itself. Even the metal plate and eight screws in his leg, from when he shattered it in a rappelling accident a few years back, had disappeared.

Two things, she discovered, had somehow survived the fire. One was Andrew’s wedding ring, titanium. The other, shrunken and black, was the rubber wristband that said: be better.”

–Excerpt from an excellent and comprehensive article The Last Battle of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, by Josh Eells, for Men’s Journal.

 

Singed Wings - detail

Singed Wings – detail

I initially created today’s image to be a companion piece for this photo of Katie and I, honoring the fallen firemen in Yarnell, Arizona almost a year ago.

To The Lost

To The Lost

A childhood friend of mine, Andrew Ashcraft, had been one of the lost.  As I do with most painful things, I channeled my grief into my art.

Though it always makes me cry to think about it, there is such beauty in the men’s calm acceptance of their sacrifice, their solidarity, that they were a complete, solid unit until the very end. Josh Eell’s article says it so wonderfully.  They stuck together.  In the face of immediate, certain death, they did what they could and then turned to each other for comfort.  Shoulder to shoulder, they stuck together until the horrific last.

That unity, that love, that solidarity and bravery touched me more deeply than I could, or can, express.  The only chance I had at touching on it was through art.  I set up a shoot with Katie and Bryce to portray the doomed but brave men.  It happened that some tree branches and very tall bushes in my yard had just been cut down, forming what appeared to be a huge, natural nest.  Thinking of the Hotshots as birds with broken, burned wings helped me find the metaphor I wanted to use, a way into the truth I was trying to get at.

It was an easy shoot, what with all the branches having been set up for me by the workmen.  I lit a few smoke bombs, snapped the frames and it was done.  I loved what I had gotten from this shoot as I looked at the images later.  All the same, I found I couldn’t face editing the image.  It took many, many months before I felt like I could emotionally handle editing working it up.

I didn’t consciously realize we were coming up on the anniversary of their deaths, but I must have felt it subconsciously.  I’ve been haunted by memories of Andrew recently and finally felt that it was time, urgently time, to finish this piece.  As I finally brought the files into Photoshop and started working on them, more memories flooded my brain.  Like how Andrew, as a young child, had always said “Jee Jie Joes” instead of “GI Joes” and frequently got tripped up between “brought” and “brung.”  The trip our families took to Mount Shasta together.  Their shelties, who seem huge in my mind, but who I know were actually smallish dogs.  Drawing together, playing in the sprinklers, going to the beach, sharing snacks, going to the park, getting into fights, crying and making up again… all the things children do.

I’ve said before that one of the things I mourn in this is that I missed out on getting to know Andrew as an adult.  I’ve tried to remember that lesson and have made a point to stay in touch, or get back in touch, with people in my life.  I won’t get another chance at Andrew, but I can try and apply the lesson to other friendships.

None of these men deserved their fate.  They were true heroes, actively running into the worst, most dangerous situations.  That is what the Hotshots were there for; an elite team of firefighters comparable to Navy Seals or Spartans.  The only thing I can try and do about it is make an attempt to honor them and their sacrifice.  I know that I will always fall short in this goal, but it’s important to try nonetheless.  I am also keenly aware that this is not about me or my pain.  The pain of Andrew’s family and loved ones is something I can only imagine.

The Hotshots were trapped; birds unable to fly away.  There was no escape from the flames.  But what remained was love. Love triumphing over the flames by preserving Andrew’s wedding ring and bracelet with his personal motto.  Love for the people they were protecting, though they would never meet them.  Love for their families, though they left them behind in the line of their duty.  Love for each other.  Love for humanity.  Just love.

That love is what I wanted most to capture in this image and I hope it shines through.

Singed Wings - detail

Singed Wings

Singed Wings - detail

Singed Wings – detail

Singed Wings - detail One of the three smokey roses scattered through the photo.  I used an image I had taken of beautifully carved roses on a tombstone, which felt so fitting.  The delicacy and beauty they add are still tinged with sorrow.

Singed Wings – detail
One of the three smokey roses scattered through the photo. I used a photo I had taken of beautifully carved roses on a tombstone, which felt so fitting. The delicacy and beauty they add are still tinged with sorrow.

Singed Wings - detail

Singed Wings – detail

Singed Wings - detail

Singed Wings – detail

My heart goes out to the family and friends of all 19 fallen heroes especially as we approach the anniversary of this tragedy.  I’m sure it’s an extremely difficult time for all of them.

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First post of 2014!

How was everyone holiday and new year’s celebration?  Geoff and I had the chance to take a little road trip to see some family, which was really fun!  We got to hit some stops coming and going we’d been wanting to see for a while, so I’ll just get right into it.

First stop was the Arizona Deer Farm!  I visited the deer farm with my family when I was about 4 or 5, and I remember it quite vividly.  I was very excited to realize that not only was the place still around, it was pretty much right on our way!  It’s more of a large petting zoo than a farm per say, and they encourage photographs to be taken.  I have a series coming up which is taking a lot of inspiration from deer, so it was very much a win-win situation for me!  Thanks to Geoff for taking all the photos that have me in them!

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There’s a path for people to walk on, and most of the deer mill about freely inside a large enclosure.   They have plenty of places they can go and hang out or take a nap that are well off the path, so they only are interacting with you if they want to.  And since you get a big cup of feed when you go in, many of them want to 🙂

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Most of the deer are fallow deer; as you can see, they don’t get terribly large, they come in a variety of beautiful colors, and they retain their fawn-like spots into adulthood.

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The price of food: one smooch on the head. This one thought it was a fair trade.

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Checking my hair for edibility; sorry, buck.

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Sadly, my coat is also not edible.

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The males have the most stunning antlers of any deer I’ve seen!  I took lots of photos of this handsome gentleman.

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Once we arrived safely in Kansas, we settled in to the cold weather.  They had an unusual amount of snow for this time of year, which was sighed at by all the locals but I rejoiced in.  We met up with Erick Riedell, a friend of Geoff’s since Junior High, who also got ordained and married us, and who is also a photographer.  In addition to being an all-around great guy, he’s a cancer survivor twice over now.  He had volunteered to be a part of DreamWorld while we were back, and I wanted to find a way to honor his battle and triumphs… hopefully I’ll be able to share the result of that shoot soon!

While we were wandering around a snow-covered wood for the shoot, I was enchanted by the fairy-world sparkle the snow gave all the plants.  I snapped this shot, which reminded me of the fairy tale of The 12 Dancing Princesses and the underground world where all the trees and fruit are made of jewels.

Little Jewels

Little Jewels

On our way back home we stopped at the Wigwam Motel, the epitome of Route 66 kitsch.  We’d stayed there once before, and while the rooms are humble, they are so fun to stay in!  It looks like very little has changed since it opened in 1950.

A cellphone snap of our wigwam.

A cellphone snap of our wigwam.  Those are my gloves on the car trunk, not a wad of used tissues as it appears.

As we made our way home from Arizona, we stopped at The Roadkill Cafe, another historic Route 66 stop.  They had great food (which was not at all made out of roadkill) along with a lovely hand-drawn sign honoring the fallen Hotshot firemen.  I had an unsettling moment when I saw the sign; my heart sank at the reminder of all the brave souls who were lost that day, but I loved that the cafe was honoring their lives and memories.  Regular readers will remember why the loss was hard for me.

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Thank you, Roadkill Cafe, for your very sincere and personal gesture showing your gratitude to the firemen heroes.

So now… on to the first photo of the year!  As much as possible, I feel it’s important to start a year off right with my photos.  Get going on a direction that will determine a positive trajectory.  I wanted my first photo of 2014 to be one I’d look back on proudly.  This photo ended up being quite a bit more work to edit than I’d expected, but I felt waiting a little longer would be worth it.

This concept was actually one I’d shot with Katie at our very first shoot many months ago, but it just didn’t turn out quite like I’d wanted.  The concept was a DreamWorld character; a wind spirit, or perhaps wind goddess would be more appropriate.

I started by making her an art nouveau-inspired headdress.  I remember I’d been looking at one of my books on Alphonse Mucha and had wanted to make a headdress similar to what many of his women are adorned with.

I used my foam head to pin and hot glue sensual, looping ribbons into a headband shape.  The forehead and sides were decorated with masses of little white flowers and small glitter-covered styrofoam balls in a variety of sizes.

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It was meant to be worn rather low over the forehead, which almost instantly gave it that art nouveau feel.

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After that, I hot glued long strands of ribbon to the headband and dotted them with a few more of the styrofoam balls which would help show the blowing wind, along with making it feel more magical.

The second shoot went much better than the first one did!

Where Earth Meets The Sky

Where Earth Meets The Sky

Where Earth Meets The Sky - detail.

Where Earth Meets The Sky – detail

Katie always plays ethereal goddess-types so easily!  Her acting chops are so important to the kind of photography I do.  We both would like to see this kind of headdress become fashionable so we could just go around wearing them all day, at, say, the grocery store… so how about it?  Would you like a wind goddess headdress of your own to help start a trend?  🙂

Thanks to Katie for her patient modeling and to all my readers!  I hope your year has been off to a great start!

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First of all, happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrated it!  I had planned on a Thanksgiving post, listing what I’m grateful for and whatnot, but I woke up yesterday with a swollen, very unhappy wrist on my dominant hand.  I’m being ginger with it today, and trying to really limit my computer use, but I did want to get this timely post out.

So, the holiday shopping season has officially begun!  I, for one, despise the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving or Black Friday.  Crowds are not my thing in the best situation.  Even a gentle trip to the grocery store on an average day can be too much for me.  This is my hiding out period where I really try to leave the house as little as possible.

A less stressful approach to holiday shopping, in my opinion, is in Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.  Now, I may or may not technically qualify as a “small business,” but I think I fit the spirit of it if not the letter 🙂  You don’t get much smaller than buying from a single person!  And Cyber Monday?  Heck yeah, I’ve got that covered!  Everything of mine is available online.

And what, pray tell, are these wondrous wares?  Well, let me give you a little run-down!
I have blank greeting cards available at my Red Bubble shop!

One of the many blank greeting cards I offer.

Personally, I love having a stash of blank greeting cards in a drawer, ready to go at a moment’s notice!  You never know when you might need them.  And I’ll confess, I sometimes buy cards for their sheer beauty, with no intention of giving them away.  Those ones usually end up on my wall somewhere.  Either way, they’re very well-made, handy and inexpensive!  And if there’s an image you’d like but don’t see in my shop, let me know; in almost every case I can add it for you!  Stocking stuffers, anyone?
I also sell 2014 collectable calendars!

Sarah Allegra 2014 Calendar

Sarah Allegra 2014 Calendar

Each year I put out a new calendar with 12 of my most popular recent works.  This year’s batch includes images from my DreamWorld and actor portraits series as well as my CFS/fibro/ME series Enchanted Sleep.  I genuinely love the quality Red Bubble puts into their calendars; they’re printed on gorgeous, thick, heavy paper which is perfect for jotting down as many notes and reminders as you’d like!  Plus, I love the extra magic the calendars sprinkle into every day.  And need I tell you they make excellent gifts?  🙂

On a side note, I keep my Red Bubble prices low so that they’re available to as many people as possible.  I don’t make much from these sales, but it’s important to me that as many people as possible have access to my images.

For those looking for a unique gift, either for themselves or someone they love, my on-line, self-discovery-through-photography course Introspective is an excellent choice!

Introspective

Introspective

Introspective is a fun and truly unique, eight-week experience.  Each week I will guide you through a new concept to explore with photography, such as love, fear, secrets and joy.  What do those subjects mean to you?  And how would you portray them in a photograph?  Let’s find out!  Self portraiture is encouraged (as I think it’s an invaluable way to know yourself better), but by no means is it required.  At the end of the eight weeks, you’ll have gotten to experience yourself in a new way and learned things you never knew before.

This would be perfect for your artsy sibling, the person who has everything or anyone with a desire to have an adventure and come out knowing themselves better!
And of course there are always prints available!

Sarah Allegra Etsy Shop

I sell prints through my Etsy shop, which are printed by an amazing local printer.  They are printed on museum-quality, archival, thick, luscious paper which is not unlike watercolor paper.  All the images are printed in very small, limited edition runs and come individually signed and numbered.  They come in three different sizes and are truly stunning.  These really have to be seen to appreciate how beautiful they are.  The level of detail captured in these prints is spectacular.  And as with the cards, if you would like a print of something and you don’t see it in my shop, just let me know!  In almost every occasion, I can accommodate your request.

Thank you to everyone for supporting my art through your kind comments, well wishes and purchases.  I so appreciate all of them and I hope everyone has an excellent holiday season!  Here’s a lovely DreamWorld image, featuring the gorgeous Katie Johnson!

Faerie Dust

Faerie Dust

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During the five years of being chronically ill to the point of having to change my life to revolve around my illness, I have tried to keep my spirits up.  I’ll readily admit I’m naturally more of an Eeyore, but I also know that having a positive outlook can have a huge impact on one’s quality of life.  So I try to train my brain to be on the lookout for silver linings; for the beautiful amidst the ugly.

Of course, I can’t speak for everyone with ME, everyone with fibro, or everyone with other chronic illnesses.  These are just the shiniest of the silver linings that I have discovered personally.  Yes, there is a lot of bad along with this good, but that’s a subject for another time.  For now, I want to highlight the positives.

 

1. You Become More In Tune With Your Body

I, for example, have learned that I am quite sensitive to nearly all medications, even more than my small frame would account for.  There is a certain cold feeling I get in my stomach which is the warning for a bout of coldsweats and vomiting coming.  While I used to drink lots of caffeine and couldn’t get through an afternoon without some kind of energy dose, I now drink black tea in the morning, and rarely anything beyond that.  My body felt noticeably cleaner and fresher after I made the switch, and again when I became vegetarian.  You learn to listen harder to the signals your body gives you and take them more seriously.

Vanity's Murder

Vanity’s Murder

 

2. You Learn Who The True Friends In Your Life Are

After the fifth time in a row of my having to reschedule an outing due to the unpredictable whims of my body, most people would stop trying to make the outing happen.  I have been extremely fortunate to have wonderful people in my life who are as understanding about my forced flakiness as anyone who doesn’t have a chronic illness could be.   They know by now that evening events, large crowds and physical exertion are especially hard for me, but they continue to invite me to dinners and parties, always letting me know that it’s ok if I’m not up to it.  I love them for continuing to invite me, even when I have to say no 90% of the time, but even more for not holding it against me.

To The Lost

To The Lost

 

3. You Come To Terms With Your Mortality

Everybody dies.  That is an unavoidable fact.  I’ve found that I, along with many of my chronically ill peers, have given our lifespans much greater thought than our healthy counterparts.  Whether our disease is something known to shorten your lifespan or whether it’s a roll of the dice, we are generally able to come to peace with the knowledge we won’t be around forever much earlier in our lives than is typical.  This can even lead to what I call The Walter White Effect, which essentially says that when you have faced the fact that your life may not be as long as you had once believed, you are motivated into working much harder in the present.  It’s true, any of us could go at any time in an untold number of ways.  But there seems to be a quieter acceptance of this inevitable fate when you’ve had your body occupied with chronic illness for a long time.

All Hail The Queen

All Hail The Queen

 

4. You Life Distills Into The Most Important Components

I have days when there are only a couple hours (often scattered through the whole day) when I can actually get anything done.  Usually I’m able to get a little bit more done than that, and it helps that much of what I do can be done laying in bed with my laptop, but if you only had three or four hours to accomplish anything, what would you use that time for?  Lunch with friends?  Taking care of your pets?  Showering?  Taking photos?  Making love?  While chronic illness robs you of so much time, it also forces you to look long and hard at each of the things you do choose to engage in.  I won’t, for example, spend time editing photos which I’m less than satisfied with.  Which activities you choose to keep can say a lot about what’s truly important to you.

Beloved Of The Crown

Beloved Of The Crown

 

5. You Look At The Big Questions

Can you believe in a god who would allow you to live your life so sick with no cure?  Would that strengthen your faith or wipe any trace of it from your life?  What kind of legacy will you leave behind?  If you’re too sick to work and thus always short on cash, how do you define success in your life when society places so much emphasis on status, power and wealth?  If you, like most of the chronically ill, had to scrap your original plans for what you wanted to be when you grew up, how will you find meaning in the life you’re given?  What is the meaning of life when that life is often confined to a single room?

In Between Awake And Asleep

In Between Awake And Asleep

 

This is, of course, an extremely subjective round-up, based mainly on my own experiences.  What will my distilled, concentrated life look like?  What causes will I champion and where will my energy reserves go?  Where will yours?  Chronic illness tends to create mini philosophers, whether we will have it or not.  And while I will never have all the answers, the questions are still worth pondering.

 

Fae Light - Dedeker looks like she's pondering Big Questions.

Fae Light – Dedeker looks like she’s pondering Big Questions.

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I’ve been pretty quiet online (for me) recently, but only because I’ve been VERY hard at work at some really cool, exciting things!  Hopefully I’ll be able to show you the fruits of my labor soon 🙂

In the meantime, I wanted to tell you about two fundraisers I’m participating in, which both happen to be this Saturday evening.

One is to benefit a theater group which my neighbor is involved with, Parson’s Nose Productions.  In their own words, “Parson’s Nose Theater is a non-profit, 501(c)3 theater company located in Pasadena, CA dedicated to introducing the classics to audiences of all ages. Through condensed adaptations of the works of Shakespeare, Moliere, Shaw, Goldoni, Goldsmith and more, we enrich the lives of the old, young, and in-between by introducing them to the works of some of the greatest writers who’ve ever lived. Our productions are presented in a fun, commedia dell’arte style that makes them both engaging and easy to understand – no sleeping through a two & a half hour Shakespeare production here!”  I can testify to the fun and inventive plays they put on!  As a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing classic art to the public, they have periodic fundraisers to allow them to keep doing what they do.

This Saturday, they will be hosting their On The Radio Fundraiser, where they will be performing some classic comedy acts from the likes of Abbot and Costello, Jack Benny, Allen’s Alley, and George and Gracie.  In addition, there will be a silent auction where you can bid on a gorgeous, museum-quality, completely archival, framed and mated, signed and numbered, 10″x15″ print of my photo Saturn Ascends:

Saturn Ascends

Saturn Ascends

The event will take place in Pasadena, CA at 7:00pm.  Their site has all the details and you can RSVP there.  It’ll be fun!

 

If you won’t be in California this Saturday but will be in Arizona instead, you are in luck!  Heaven’s Heroes is holding an event with great food and music to benefit Andrew Ashcraft’s family.  Andrew is, you’ll remember, the boy I grew up with who died along with the rest of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew.  Andrew left behind a young wife and four very young children, the oldest of whom is merely six, so you can imagine that they could use a lot of financial help, especially as they are currently being denied the full benefits owed them.

Since I created the image To The Lost to honor him and the other Hotshots, it seemed only fitting to donate a print of it to the Heaven’s Heroes event.   This print is also gorgeous, museum-quality, fully archival, signed and numbered, coming from a very limited run of only 10 prints in this size, 15″x15″.

To The Lost

To The Lost

 

The event will take place in Gilbert, AZ starting at 6:30pm.  Also, if you have not done so, please take a moment to sign the petition to grant the Hotshot families left behind full benefits.  They deserve it; it’s the right thing, and it only takes a few seconds.

Hope to see you all at one of these events!

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You all remember Andrew.  My childhood friend who grew up into the biggest badass.   And as a result of that heroism, he and 18 of his comrades died in the recent fires in Arizona.

Now the city of Prescott is trying to deny paying his family the benefit package promised to them.   Because his poor widow doesn’t have enough to deal with after losing her husband and best friend, and is faced with raising their four very young children on her own.  No, what she needs is an ugly, drug-out argument with heartless state officials and insurance companies.

I sign a lot of petitions.  Really, a LOT.  But I very, very rarely mention any of them here.  Not this time.  Andrew’s father Tom (who I also remember from when I was very young) has started a petition to get Andrew’s family the benefits promised them.  That’s only fair.

SO much more should be given to this family.  After the loss they suffered… a loss of their main provider, in the line of duty while protecting the state’s land, they absolutely should not have to battle this too.

So please, take a second and sign the petition.

And while you’re at it, get a copy of To The Lost as a print, card or IPhone/Pod/Pad case.  75% of the proceeds go to a fund for the families.

EDIT: As my sweet husband Geoff pointed out, it’s the city of Prescott that refuses to pay Andrew’s widow.  The mayor sounds like a peach.  To quote the article, he said of Andrew’s widow: “She’s a neat little lady… but money took hold in this situation real fast,” he said. “This is big bucks when it’s all over, big bucks. And money seems to be leading some of the battle over the city’s participation.”

What a swell guy.  An amazing man.  Does he kick puppies in his spare time too?

Cote of Arms - a semi self portrait with Katie Johnson.  I think the love and comfort displayed by the characters in the photo fit well with the aim of the post.

Cote of Arms – a semi self portrait with Katie Johnson. I think the love and comfort displayed by the characters in the photo fit well with the aim of the post.

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As a continuation of my last post, this one will also be talking about Andrew Ashcraft, the boy I played with when I was young who grew up to be one of the fallen Hotshot heroes from Arizona’s recent fires.

I created a photo to work through my grief, as I often do, but it didn’t feel like enough.  I kept thinking about Andrew’s poor widow, left with their four very young children to raise, all on her own.  And then I’d think about the families of the 18 other firefighters and how would they get by, and I had to do something.

So, 75% of all profits made from any sales of To The Lost will go to directly to the families through the donation program set up This applied to anything and everything To The Lost appears on.  I have, of course, my extremely beautiful and archival fine art prints, and also blank cards, stickers, clothing, Ipod, Iphone and Ipad cases.

There are 19 families left without fathers, husbands, providers.  The last thing they need while they’re still reeling from the profound loss is to worry about how the bills are going to get paid.  Let’s give them some of the aid they need.

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To The Lost

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