Beliefnet
How Great Thou Part

Seems like a juicy column, right? I’m guessing my high school friends are hoping it is.

The teenage years! What a ride!

I knew even back then I didn’t want to grow up. Only, even I was smart enough to realize that at least in the area of relationships – I needed to!

My high school friends and I are still close. No, not in the creepy we never let go of high school and grew up kinda way. In the normal, we went out into the world, built beautiful lives and families and stayed connected.

Somehow this huge network of people stayed together long before the Facebook thing. Not just with our best friends or close friends, but with all our people.

The ones that in many ways introduced us to life when we were just old enough to meet it.

People often ask me how I stayed close to so many of my high school friends. I usually joke and say that our high school was more like a college. It was way too big and we were way too unsupervised.

Like any other teenage melting pot, there existed the typical catty, petty moments that accompany that age. However, even then, despite the different cliques, there was a universal unity amongst us. It was unusual and I often wonder if growing up in the nation’s capital provided this underlying understanding and tolerance of individual differences.

A few years ago, I am chatting with friends at a reunion.

One of the guys asks me why I did and didn’t date a few guys?

All I could think was REALLY?? Do we have to go back to the beginning of what led me to this ending?

You know what I mean! A lot of us go on in life to shall we say – MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES!

The high school girl in me ESSENTIALLY didn’t get much wiser with age. BUT – I digress…

“I liked ‘hard to get’ back then,” I say. “Only I had no idea that ‘hard to get’ was code for difficult. Back then it just seemed like code ‘for fun!'”

“What does that mean????” He asks as they all roar with laughter.

I have definitely confused them with this riddle of self-reflection. Too deep for this late in the night.

“I didn’t date or stay with the guys I should have,” I say. “Back then I think I was a little immature or fickle.” (As a side note: A few guys reading this might agree with the latter, but I’m sticking with immature)

“BUT, in short – it just means I was young and dumb!” We all laugh. “Isn’t that what we are supposed to be at that age?”

What I am really telling them is two things:

Thing ONE:
It’s pretty high school normal to like someone until they like us back – OR – like the people who don’t like us while we are also not ready for those that do.

Thing TWO:
It’s not fun or challenging or healthy to go for ‘hard to get.’ Sure, like I always say the world’s not black and white so sometimes it works out and people mature. Only ‘hard to get’ can also mean that either this person just really isn’t that into you OR they’re too caught up in their own world to make time for you.

You have a fifty-fifty shot at them maturing in terms of relationships. As I said, a lot do. Only emotionally I was part of that fifty that did not and still gravitated towards the same relationship.

But back to the reunion…

They are still laughing. Still trying to decipher exactly what I mean. In hindsight, this might have been a better conversation for the beginning of the night. I find myself smiling. These are the guys that I admire. The ones who truly love their wives and children. The ones who stay devoted to their families.

So back in high school when we were all being introduced to the world and LOVE…

Did some of us make good choices then? Yes
Did some of us end up with our high school loves? Yes
Did some of us have the one that got away? Yes
Did some of us mature and go onto to great relationships? Yes
Did some of us continue to make the same mistakes? Yes

Nothing has changed over the years. These are the same answers to anyone who grew up and out of that teenage melting pot called high school.

Though I may not have understood love back then…

I ended up with so many that I love. A group of people whose friendships matured far beyond our adolescence.

I like to say, that it is with our old friends that we once again recognize our young selves.

The kind of love that grew up together.
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My Catholic mother wanted to teach me about love.

She wanted desperately to keep her marriage together. To show me an example of beautifully, in-love parents.

When it became unabashedly clear that she could not…

My mother taught me a different lesson about love.

In some ways, an even more remarkable love.

My Mother taught me…

1. We Could Ultimately Forgive – Believe me there were many times that I saw my parents argue. A troubled marriage rarely ends without it. In those moments, it was difficult for my mother to always do the right thing. After all, she was human and struggling to keep a marriage together with someone who was a drinker. However, in the years that followed, my mother did not hold onto anger, but rather spoke gently of the man who had broken both the hearts of her and her children.

2. We Were Loved – We knew who our father was. Children of divorce are smart. They live the situation. Even if they are temporarily confused by a parent, in the long run, they understand the truth. Our mother did not teach us to live in denial. We understood our father’s drinking problem. We understood that he ultimately made choices that kept him away from us. However, our mother always reinforced that it was an illness that kept him from us and that he loved us and that we should love him. The way she used to phrase it was, “he loves you as much as he’s capable of loving.” In an era, where many women and families would have been ashamed of this and of the fact that the marriage didn’t stay together, she proudly lived her truth and taught us to as well. There was no shame. She was strong and kept us strong.

3. We Were Blessed – I do not remember a time that my mother didn’t think and express that she was a woman who was incredibly blessed. I absolutely remember her worrying about financial things and being stressed or tired. However, I do not remember her ever complaining that she had been left to physically, financially and emotionally raise five children alone. My mother made it very clear that the five of us were her greatest blessings in life and that with us she had everything.

4. We Were Who We Were Meant To Be – My mother did not spend time apologizing or making us feel bad that our father had left. Instead, she reinforced that all things are a part of God’s plan and that this was ultimately how God meant to shape us in life. Her faithful fortitude and lack of overwhelming self-inflicted guilt or pity freed us. In fact, in many ways it made us feel special and not sorry for ourselves. We were not the children of a father who left, but rather individuals who were called upon to live a different path and purpose in life. At the same time, she made us feel absolutely unconditionally loved.

I remember a counselor that we had once seen asking me which parent that I blamed for my parent’s separation. When I told him neither. He was shocked. I explained to him the way my mother had raised us. In fact, though we knew my father was the reason their marriage ended, there wasn’t any long-term anger or pain.

I say long-term, because just as my mother was human so were all of her children. There were absolutely times when we were angry, disappointed and upset with our father.

“Remarkable,” he replied. “I wish your mother were alive today so that I could meet her.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I have been a counselor for many years,” he said. “There is always someone blamed for the dissolution of the marriage, one parent or the other.”

Of course, there was one parent responsible for the end of my mom and dad’s marriage. It’s just that my Catholic mother replaced long-term blame with God having a very special plan for our lives.

I hope to emulate her. I know I attempt to teach the same lessons. I also know that I am still in the very human aspect of divorce.

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I am proud to have grown up an Irish, Catholic. I think this is how most of us feel about our heritage and our faith.

I always knew that I wanted to marry another Catholic.

I remember the first column that I wrote several years ago The 3 Things That Ended My Marriage. I realized I had married a Catholic only in troubled times we turned out to be two very different types of Catholics.

I was raised to believe that difficulty was meant to shape us. That adversity is a rubber band yanking us back towards God.

I always say that I grew up imperfectly perfect.

I was raised by a single mother of five who worked tirelessly to be all things to each of us. We had a tremendous love together and a need for each of us to be fiercely independent and chip in.

When I met my husband I was so glad that he appeared to have grown up perfectly. No, not for the reasons which you are probably thinking. I wasn’t seeking nor did I have an interest in a perfect person. It was simply because when you love someone, you are so happy to believe they have lived with few struggles and much of what they deserved.

I have been asked what might have made my marriage survive. I believe that a spiritual commitment to faith and not a ritualistic commitment to faith would be the answer to that question.

Actually, I think if I was just meeting someone today, I wouldn’t just look at them as a registered Catholic. Think registered politician. What does that mean? Sure, you belong to a party, but what do you really believe? What do you really stand for?

I stand for the rubber band of adversity which yanks me back towards God.

Often, an initially unwelcome call to grow as human beings and to do so with purpose.

I made my world smaller and walked closer to my faith and family.

My husband and I were both Catholics, but we were not the same type of Catholics.

He did not find his way towards faith and family. Had he, we would still be together because according to the way that I was raised…

When you have God and family, you have everything.
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I chose to believe that my dad didn’t really have that large of an influence in my life. After all, he left when I was only five years old.

The good news? A really great dad improves a girl’s chance of succeeding at a good relationship.

The bad news? A not so great dad decreases a girl’s chance of succeeding at a good relationship.

Here’s the saddest aspect of this unfortunate reality.

There are plenty of men who love their daughters and treat them like princesses. Men who want the very best for their daughters. They devote their time to them, spoil them and tell them they deserve the very best.

It doesn’t matter.

It only matters if they treat their wife with that same loving devotion.

Children do not go out into the world and duplicate the love their parents made them feel. They duplicate the love they witnessed between their parents.

So a dad who cheats on his wife is setting his daughter up to attract herself to the same type of man.

A dad who is an alcoholic and turns his spouse into the enabler is setting his daughter up to attract herself to the same type of man.

Of course, there are the daughters who have a heightened awareness to their father’s bad behavior. Some are able to steer clear of repeating history since they are determined to. And sadly, others either don’t have the awareness or believe they can avoid duplicating it, yet they still do.

My dad was an alcoholic.

He behaved badly, blamed my mother and then abandoned the family.

I knew from an extremely young age that I did not want to and would not marry a man who abused alcohol. I was the daughter who thought she had awareness. In fact, I did avoid marrying an alcoholic. I thought I had conquered my childhood fears.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that I had married a man who…

Behaved badly, blamed me and then abandoned his family.

Each time my husband did the wrong thing he told it was my fault.

When I begged him to get counseling he walked out while I held my small children’s hands and they cried. He did this three separate times. I know what you are thinking. I am the idiot who let him have the chance to leave me three times. What can I say? That is love.

Even sadder and more telling about our own individual family histories? My husband who has absolutely no history of alcohol abuse, did in fact, abuse alcohol during the years I attempted to voice my concerns and leave him. No one is more distressed than I am that I have repeated not only my history but a footprint that my father put in place that I thought I could avoid.

I simply attracted myself to a different extreme and unpredictable personality rather than an alcoholic.

I still attracted myself to a man who behaved badly, blamed me and then abandoned his family.

What should have happened?

When an individual behaves badly it is up to them to have the awareness and self-responsibility to correct their own behavior.

They should not behave badly and say that their wife made them do it. I remember my dad telling me once that he knew he drank too much, but that my mother shouldn’t have yelled at him. It’s the false reality of a misbehaving individual. To convince themselves that the stable parent, who does not behave badly and yells in fear is the one to blame. And then, like my dad had done several times before, he abandoned our family.

He played the role of victim. The victim who claimed he had to leave the oppressive woman who was yelling at him.

The reality? She had already given a man she loved far too many chances.

And his daughters would be thrown out into the world to try and have the skills to find men who would not behave badly, blame them and abandon them.
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Divorce a cheater and society will hate them.

Divorce an addict and society will beg you to leave them.

Divorce an abuser and society will tell you that you should have left long ago.

Divorce a narcissist and society will tell you that you are crazy.

One of the additional angsts of leaving a narcissist is that they present well to the world.

Friends and strangers alike will see the overt behavior of a cheater, a liar, an abuser or an addict. There will be a public outcry. A demand that one must be treated better. There will be an obvious enabler and a more obvious individual who is behaving badly.

However, the individual who dares divorce a narcissist will meet quite a different societal response. There will be no public outcry. No demand that one must be treated better. There will be no clear vision that one spouse is actually an enabler and that the other is behaving badly.

Why?

A narcissist is two people. They are attractive, charming and successful. They are also cold, cruel and ruthless.

The inherent lack of empathy, something which is a development trait learned in childhood – results in a Jekyll to a Hyde personality.

Society will try and understand what you are saying and what you are going through. However, they will question you because their logic will tell them that if there was truly both a Jekyll and Hyde then why haven’t they met them both?

Most people won’t meet the flip side of a narcissist. That seems to be reserved for those closest to them and perhaps periodically, a few people who work too closely with them.

It can be in part because narcissists do not tend to form deep attachments and therefore have an improved ability to remain ‘surface’ charming. It can also be because a narcissist lives in their own world. As long as you do not complicate or injure their world they will remain charming.

However, if in the narcissist’s eyes one dares to anger, offend, hurt them or interfere with their world – they will stop at almost nothing to punish this person.

This is just one more of the reasons that divorcing a narcissist is impossible. They aren’t interested in a divorce. They are interested in control, retribution, and punishment.

Society will continue to see this seemingly light-hearted and charming person. How could this affable personality actually be inflicting bullying, emotional and financial abuse on their spouse and possibly their children?

Society will convince themselves that they are missing something. Perhaps the other spouse is exaggerating? Perhaps there is more to the relationship story? Perhaps the spouse is just more uptight than this charming person and bringing it on themselves? Perhaps there are two sides to this story?

There are not two sides. There is only an enabler and an abusive personality.

It is sadly the acceptance and confusion of an acceptable mental health disorder due to the fact that narcissists are attractive, charming and successful.

So society accepts these bullies as mainstream. There is no outcry. There is no real ability for the courts to help.

In some ways, even the people divorcing them understand this.

Why? Because they were habitually confused as well. The narcissist kept telling them who they were only they refused to believe it. That’s why they stayed in the relationship for so long. They kept seeing the good in the narcissist and brushing away the bad. They kept making excuses for the bad behavior. They kept enabling.

Society needs to understand the ruthlessness of a narcissist and the lack of support systems in place to divorce them.
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When we believe people love us it stands to reason that we believe they care about us.

Sadly, there are numerous ways that people who SAY they love us, SHOW us that they do not care about us.

The question begs, how is that possible? How could someone who loves us not care about us?

It is possible in what could be described as one-sided relationships.

A relationship where a person loves another person who needs to be in control, is selfish, self-absorbed, demanding, insecure, unhappy, lacks empathy and a variety of other variables.

5 Indicators that someone you love doesn’t care about you:

1. You talk, beg and they still don’t listen – You exhaust yourself verbally, yet your significant other either ignores you, says you never shut up, walks away from you, or implies that you don’t get over things.

Wake-Up Call – You are in a relationship with a person who finds your feelings (worry, stress, happiness, sadness, etc.) irrelevant.

The Truth: If you have to beg to be heard – Recognize this person does not care about you or your feelings.

2. When arguing, only you add love – You argue and like most say horrible things that you absolutely don’t mean. However, either in between that argument or later, you double back and explain how much you love this person despite the disagreement. You may even go so far as to tell this person that despite the trouble and insurmountable odds that you can’t live without them and that you are sorry. They do not, even in quiet moments add love.

Wake-Up Call – You are in a relationship with a person who has an ego bigger than any love they will ever hold for you.

The Truth: If love is never added either during or after an argument then you are in a relationship with a person who cares less about you than the beauty of love.

3. They are willing to leave you – If you are in a relationship with an individual who will leave the relationship for a few days, a week, a month or more – get out while you can. A person who truly loves another in the most healthy and confident manner will not regularly choose walking away from them. In fact, if a person leaves more than once, absolutely expect them to leave a third and fourth and continual time.

Wake-Up Call – You are in a relationship with someone who is self-absorbed enough to not miss your absence or confused enough to not value you enough.

The Truth: People who genuinely love one another do not want to abandon one another in good times or in bad. They see one another as what sustains them and not what is expendable to them.

4. They ignore your phone calls & texts – If you are in a relationship with an individual who has a million excuses why they can’t respond to you – SERIOUSLY, do not kid yourself. They have to respond to people they work with, their own family and friends, don’t they? Oh, and unless you are a serial texter, don’t believe it when they tell you that you are just too demanding.

Wake-Up Call – You are in a relationship with someone who finds you unimportant and does not have time for you.

The Truth – People who care about one another – WORRY ABOUT ONE ANOTHER. Write this down. People who really care feel worried, terrible, responsible, etc. about leaving another person hanging on the other end of a text or phone.

5. Their life is more important than yours – If you are in a relationship with someone who constantly references everything they have going on in their work or personal life as a reason for not having time for you – RUN! They are too preoccupied with themselves to care about your work or personal life or your combined relationship.

Wake-Up Call – You are in a relationship with someone who lives strictly in their own world and they will not find room for you.

The Truth – People who care – oddly care about not just themselves. They actually care about the people they love and are in a relationship with. They believe love means the beauty of experiencing more than one world.

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I am having lunch with my friend. I will call her “J. Law.” As a nod to the actress Jennifer Lawrence and her unbridled spirit.

I am ready to lend a sympathetic ear, pass her a napkin, buy her a drink – ANYTHING to ease the pain of a cheating spouse! I’m ready to cry. To hold her hand. To pick up the pieces.

Only “J. Law” is handling this loss with spunk. Makes sense. After all, everyone does grieve differently.

In between bites of fish, sips of tea and laughter, all I can think is “God help the man that messed with this little firecracker! He certainly did not know what he was doing!”

“J. Law” delivers the material and timing of a seasoned comic.

The stories may or may not (an attempt to protect the not so innocent) involve a Facebook exposé, some mysteriously forwarded e-mails, some calls to the ‘other woman,’ and some discarded clothing. They may also involve some very clever ‘in her own mind’ reverse fairy tales.

Do you blame her????

This was no recreational affair. Not that there is ANY good kind of affair, but the long drawn out, double life affair…OUCH!

In between spit out your food type of cackling, I am relieved. At least for “J. Law.” That her bubbly, comedic personality has remained just that. My bubbly, comedic personality hitchhiked away from my sorry, sniveling self a long time ago. AND – my marriage didn’t even end because of infidelity.

But…I did say, as I always do, that we all grieve differently in divorce.

I also think that because “J. Law” is a bit younger it’s a divorce advantage. Not for everyone. The world is not black and white, but sometimes we have a greater spunk that propels us to swim and not sink. A fighting spirit and a gumption that can pale with age.

Of course, “J. Law” has also cried those hurtful demons out. The ones that a guy who never deserved her in the first place burdened her with. And most certainly, like the rest of the injured divorcing she has been stressed and scared and felt lonely at times.

Oh, and did I mention anger? Pretty sure that emotion is at the top of the list. After all…affair, long-term, co-worker. You get the picture. It’s all bad. It’s double Band-Aid, gouge too deep to look kinda bad.

I attempt to offer some wisdom only honestly she’s actually lifting me up.

We finish our lunch.

All I can think is what a stupid guy! No, not stupid an idiot. No, not an idiot a moron – for ‘fooling around’ I mean ‘fooling with’ this beautiful firecracker. He never knew who he had AND he never knew who he was dealing with.

He won’t find another fairy tale like “J. Law.”

She will find her true Prince Charming. The villain, well, he will no doubt play the same role in the next story.

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I say hello to a friend of mine.

“Hey,” he says back to me.

He’s a cheerful guy so I wonder why he is so low key this morning.

“Everything okay?” I ask.

“We all got problems, right?” he responds.

I nod my head in agreement.

“Some days it’s hard to hide the unhappy,” I say.

I have learned this.

No, not just that some days it’s hard to hide the unhappy.

I have learned that it’s okay to let people be unhappy. To let them have their moment rather than steal it with cheerleading.

I have learned that being too much of a cheerleader can actually make a person feel so much pressure that they spend more time fighting the unhappy. Instead, they should just ride it like a wave and wait until that sad ocean spits them out back onto the beach.

Then while they flounder with exhaustion, joy inevitably sneaks back in, hits them upside the head, and resuscitates them.

Some days it’s just too hard to hide the unhappy.

And that’s okay.
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Healthy relationships involve two strong individuals.

One person should not allow themselves to become permanently weaker than the other. It creates an imbalance and a loss of control in one’s life.

Life is a journey of ups and downs and highs and lows. There will inevitably be weak periods in any individual’s life. That is why it is so critical to be in emotionally healthy relationships that keep one otherwise strong, happy, loved, and prepared to meet those valleys if and when they arise.

Here are 5 reasons individuals become weak in a relationship:

1. Giving Your Power Away – Being in a relationship does not mean giving your power away to another individual. If a person is a narcissist, controller, abusive, abusing alcohol or any other type of unhealthy and destructive behavior it is important to realize that if they do not want help, you will probably not be able to help them. People need to help themselves or ask for help. The longer one stays in a relationship with someone who is exhibiting unhealthy behavior, the unhealthier that person will become. It will also make one weaker and the strength to get out of a bad situation will become more than heavy lifting.

2. Being Overly Responsible for Another Person – Being overly responsible for another person means that one is neglecting themselves. The more a person overcompensates to rescue and save their significant other, the weaker that they become. All of the attention is being placed on the person who is not responsible for themselves. Thus, leaving little time to invest the proper time and energy into being self-responsible enough to stay strong.

3. Becoming Financially Dependent – Unfortunately, joint decisions to quit a job to move to another area, stay home with children, etc. can leave a person in a powerless position in a relationship. If and when these decisions are made there should be protective measures put in place to ensure that becoming financially independent doesn’t lead to one spouse mistreating or undervaluing the other spouse’s life or relationship importance. A bank account should be set up to maintain some type of independence and other financially securing measures. Perhaps when staying home with children an account with a regular paycheck is established since it is a real job. Society recognizes this as someone a babysitter or nanny would typically need to be paid.

4. Not Having Boundaries – A lack of boundaries will allow a selfish or self-involved spouse to take advantage of the other spouse. If an individual does not say ‘no’ occasionally or request balance in areas of the relationship they will wear themselves out. The selfless spouse with a lack of boundaries will become weak and frustrated. They will feel taken advantage of.

5. Being Extreme – Extremes are never good as they often lend themselves towards attracting other extremes. An individual should be self-aware and recognize their own tendencies, whatever they may be. Perhaps they help everyone and everyone, enable and make excuses for too much bad behavior, are so easy going that they allow themselves to be too controlled. It’s important to identify the extreme parts of one’s own personality so that they don’t get mistreated by allowing it to get too far out of control. A happy go lucky person who is always willing to make others happy will eventually at some point feel powerless when their spouse does not care about their own happiness. It will make them weak from giving too much of themselves away while asking for little in return.

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A few bad weeks pass by.

The weeks that remind us that faith is really all we have when our lives stopping making sense.

When we lack clarity. When we don’t understand the reason for the pain. When we feel alone.

When we are so confused that we lose our confidence in making the right decisions.

Celebrities are not immune.

We know this. We understand that they are simply real people who have chosen a high profile career. Yet, somehow we forget – whether it’s their audacity to chase their dreams or the talent which elevates them, we believe they are different.

Blake Shelton reminds us just how human he is with his new song, Savior’s Shadow.

He presents an exquisite blend of spirituality and music. One that allows us to cry along side of him in our own pain infused, faith seeking missile.

Blake Shelton possesses a spiritual confidence which is evident in his boldly penned beliefs.

Savior’s Shadow is a ballad created with the type of substance of yesteryear and the classic music which stands the test of time.

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