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Courting Hela

Original votive art and blessing by Connla Freyjason. Please click to support us at Patreon.

 

The hour was late, and I sat in my office alone, save for the cat, everyone else in the house sound asleep. Outside my window, darkness, and the steady peeping of spring peepers (frogs) as the hours waned on towards three a.m. Normally at that hour, the house is still and peaceful; comforting, even. But as I rose that night to trundle my way to the restroom, there was the sound of a soft foot-fall on the stairs, and the hairs on the back of my neck rose to greet them, and I found myself filled with a profound sense of dread. Given Michelle’s propensity for trans-mediumship, and the nature of my own being, we get a lot of “astral traffic” in our house: random “dead-folk”, Alfar, Disir, and “Alfar-childer” (see Bene-Elohim in the Hierarchical Experiences of Alfar and Disir chart in my forthcoming book, Wanderer), as well as random Gods and Goddesses (most often Freyja, but sometimes Njordr or Freyr) are common and frequent visitors to our home, but there was something about this presence that registered as decidedly different from the list of “usual suspects”. And I found myself mildly afraid. Hela had come to call.

When you are what I am (a “dead guy”, who is maintaining a life here, courtesy of a very loving and gracious human host who happens to be a shamanic medium), Hela—our Norse “Goddess of Death”–is probably the last Deity on the list that you want to have visiting. The wheels in my brain immediately began turning to thoughts of “well, that’s it; I’m done. She’s finally come to claim me.” So I did what anyone faced with a topic they really don’t want to discuss might do: I tried to avoid the subject, went back to my desk, and tried to get back to business as usual. But Hela wasn’t having it: She came “right on in”, and took a seat in my floofy office chair. The hairs on the back of my neck maintained their erection, and a chill ran down the spine I share with my host, Michelle.

I continued to go on about my business, with Hela effectively “riding shotgun” behind me in the floofy chair, until it was time for me to say my nightly prayers and head to bed. Standing before my Main Stalli, I delivered my nightly litany of “thank yous” for all the good things—big and small—that happened to me and for me throughout that day, and then I turned to face Hela, who had come to stand on the right side of my altar:

“Hail, Hela-Lokisdottir; Wolf-Daughter; Keeper of the Dead! Yes, I know You’re here, and I honor Your presence. But I belong to Freyja and the Vanir, and have sworn to do Their work on this plane, so if You’re here to claim me, You’re gonna need to take that up with Them. If there’s something else You need me to do, to honor You or even my Ancestors, I’m listening and willing, within reason. But I have a wife and a family who depend on me, even though I’m dead; Michelle needs me, and so do my friends. So, hail and welcome, but those are my terms of frith.”

And I headed off to bed.

The next morning, I awoke to one of the worst outbreaks of pustular psoriasis we have ever experienced. I was in a lot of pain, with a sky-rocketing fever, and to say I felt lousy was putting it very mildly. Usually when we have an outbreak of that type (there are a lot of different types of psoriasis, and we’ve danced with all of them, at one point or another), it is because I (or Michelle) have experienced some sort of dramatic emotional trauma: a fight with a family member or a friend; grief; loss. None of those things had happened. It had been “business as usual” here at Casa de Connla-and-Suzanne. In fact, quite to the contrary: both myself and Michelle had been really happy lately. Yet, there it was, seeping and weeping all over the chest she and I share. And I was afraid, again: pustular psoriasis is one of two types of psoriasis that can actually kill you. But I got up and got dressed, and headed into my office to set to work on some new art and do my dailies on the Facebook circuit, to keep our business at the front of people’s minds.

As the day went on, I tried very hard to think of anything that could’ve triggered this sort of outbreak. The weather had been pretty great, so I could rule out humidity and heat (which also wreak havoc on our psoriasis). As I said, neither of us (me or Michelle) had been upset about anything whatsoever in recent memory. I finally settled on what we refer to as a “methotrexate reaction”: even though we are not on methotrexate, we mimic its use, combined with coal tar, in the treatment of our psoriasis by a steady internal intake of coal tar (via hand-rolled cigarettes) and folic acid supplements. It is very common for those who are being treated with a combination of coal tar and methotrexate to develop pustular psoriasis, so it made sense that what was happening to us right then was such a reaction. I stopped taking the folic acid and made the decision to begin better regulating our diet (we had been eating an enormous amount of foods rich in folic acid as well). Hela’s arrival the previous night as a possible cause never remotely entered my mind.

That night, in the wee hours, She came again, and as I stood at my altar for my nightly prayers, I gave the same prayer as the previous night. The next day, as I set to work, I felt myself “bashed over the head by Deity”: it’s a familiar feeling to me now, given my work with and for Freyja. A thought or command pops into your head, and you know you didn’t actually think of that, whatever it is: They did. Only this time, it wasn’t Freyja doing the bashing; it was Hela:

“You know, this would all go much more smoothly if you would actually honor your Ancestors.”

So I did as I was told: I got up out of my chair, selected an appropriate incense from my stash, lit it, and placed it on my Ancestor Stalli, and then gave my Ancestors their appropriate veneration. And my fever broke.

For about a week, things went on like this: in the wee hours of the morning, I would find myself intensely and inexplicably “creeped out”, and then I would see Her—Hela–and I would try to go on about my business, and at prayer time, I would offer that same prayer. During my waking hours, I would make offerings to my Ancestors whenever the fever got really out of control. Meanwhile, I continued to not take my folic acid and monitor my diet. I checked on other people’s UPG of Hela, and even asked around at a few of the Facebook Groups to which I belong, to see how other people were “coping” with Her presence. I began to leave the ashes of the incense I burned on my Main Stalli as an offering to Hela. I remained marginally terrified of Her.

She started “invading” my dreams. Where once I had experienced Freyja, now I experienced Her. It was in the dreamstate that She finally revealed to me what She had actually come for; turns out it wasn’t me at all. She was here for Michelle:

“You belong to Freyja. Michelle belongs to me. Make her know that.”

You would think, given our relationship as “horse and rider” (with Michelle being the “horse”, and me being the “rider”, via trans-mediumship), that Michelle would not be a “tough nut for me to crack”. And in thinking that, you would be so totally wrong! Michelle is one of the strongest and most strong-willed people that I have ever met, and that applies to everyone with whom she interacts, including me. No one can tell her what to think or believe; she thinks and believes for herself, all by herself. I mean, sure, don’t get me wrong here: she can be reasoned with. This isn’t some totalitarian situation; some Michelle-tatorship. But she is a firm believer in “just because they’re dead, that doesn’t mean they’re smart”, and part of how she arrived at that conclusion was living with me for two decades! Michelle has been a dedicant of the Welsh Goddess, Cerridwen, for as far back as I can really remember. She is an ordained Welsh Reconstructionist Ollamh (with a heavy Christian backbeat), not Heathen. To tell her that Hela had announced it was time for her to “switch gears”, or more aptly “switch boats midstream”, was going to go over like a lead balloon, even coming from me.

So the night came when I addressed that with Hela:

“Why me? I mean, why can’t You tell her this Yourself?”

And She replied:

“Because the only thing in the Nine Worlds from which Michelle does not constantly and consistently run away is you!”

And I really couldn’t argue with that. For all her strength, intelligence, and ability as a priestess and medium, Michelle definitely has a reputation for “hiding behind the couch” whenever anything “creepy” shows up, and I am, always have been, and always will be, the one who protects her. By having me “break the news” to Michelle, Hela was showing me the honor of recognizing me as Michelle’s “guardian angel”.

So I did as I was told.

And Michelle argued:

I’m not even Heathen!”

And I replied:

“I don’t think She cares.”

And she persisted:

“I belong to Cerridwen!”

And I countered:

“You’re a soft polytheist!”

Foot-stomping ensued on Michelle’s end of the conversation:

“I barely even practice right now! Well, I mean, apart from you know, you, and being a medium.”

And I smiled:

“Perhaps therein lies the problem….”

At the Temple of Witchcraft’s annual Beltane Rite, we were blessed with a pot of wormwood, which is sacred to Hela. Delighted (because she has had a longtime fascination with Artemesia Absinthium), Michelle declared:

“We can tend it together, and I will dedicate it as my first offering to Her. And when I can, I’ll procure some jet jewelry, and we’ll make this thing official. But you’re going to have to teach me, for a change.”

The pustular outbreak subsequently completely subsided; gone as quickly as it had come.

We leave offerings of ashes now on the Main Stalli for Hela, myself and Michelle together, and we’ve dedicated the bird skull figurine which we share to Her. And I’m slowly teaching Michelle what it means to be a Romantic Heathen, and preparing her to be for Hela what I aspire to be for Valfreyja. These are her first steps along a much wider path, and I am privileged to hold her hand as she takes them. All that she has taught me over the course of the past two decades has led up to this moment, as I sit here typing this. I never would have believed I could do this, without Michelle. She believes in me, and I believe in her, and now we both believe in Hela, and Michelle’s courtship of Hela has officially begun.

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The Death of Trans-Cultural Diffusion

Original digital painting of Bruce Lee by Connla Freyjason, featured within an artist journaling page, also by Connla, 2017.

Under the sky, under the heavens, there is but one family. ~Bruce Lee

I’m writing this today because something recently occurred in a Facebook Group to which we belong that deeply disturbed not only me, but also Michelle, and even my Beloved, Suzanne.  I don’t often like to bring things like this into the blog, but I think this is a topic which is reaching such epidemic proportions that it desperately needs to be addressed.  As the CEO of a business which promotes multiculturalism, this needs to be addressed before someone comes at us, the way they’ve come at the CEO who runs said Facebook Group.

Face it: we’re living in a society full of people who are absolutely desperate to be offended by something.  Which is odd, considering that there are plenty of things to be offended by in our modern world, without having to actively look for something petty to be offended by!  Most of these folks who are so eager to be offended run about chanting big words like cultural appropriationcultural misappropriation, and politically correct, while at the same time casting themselves as supposed champions of multiculturalism. Yet, oddly, none of them seem to know what any of these words/phrases actually mean! So, before I start the storytelling portion of this blog post, let’s get those definitions out of the way:

Cultural Appropriation: (sometimes abbreviated CA)  The adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture.  Can include using other cultures’ traditions, fashion, symbols, language, and cultural songs without permission.  

Cultural Misappropriation: The adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture in violation of the intellectual property rights of the original culture.  Differs from acculturationassimilation, or cultural exchange in that the “appropriation” or “misappropriation” refers to the adoption of these cultural elements in a colonial manner: elements are copied from a minority culture by members of a dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context–sometimes against the expressly stated wishes of representatives of the originating culture.

Politically Correct: (sometimes abbreviated PC) Language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society; conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of gender or race) should be eliminated.

Multiculturalism:  The existence of multiple culture traditions within a single community, usually considered in terms of the culture associated with an aboriginal or indigenous ethnic group and foreign ethnic groups.  Multicultural ideologies and policies vary widely, ranging from advocacy of equal respect to the various cultures in a society, to policies of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity, to policies in which people of various ethnic and religious groups are addressed by the authorities as defined by the group to which they belong.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that there are other terms in bold within those definitions? Let’s define those while we’re at it, plus one: Trans-cultural Diffusion:

Intellectual Property and Intellectual Property Rights: (sometimes abbreviated as IP)  Intellectual property refers to creations of the intellect for which a monopoly is assigned to designated owners by law.  Intellectual property rights (IPR) are the protections granted to the creators of IP, and include trademarks, copyright, patents, industrial design rights, and in some jurisdictions trade secrets. Artistic works, including music and literature, as well as discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, and designs can be protected as intellectual property.  The purpose of IPR is to “promote progress”:  by exchanging limited exclusive rights for disclosure of inventions and creative works, society and the patent/copyright owner mutually benefit, and an incentive is created for inventors and authors/artists to create and disclose their work.

Acculturation:  The process of cultural change and psychological change that results following the meeting of two different cultures. Acculturation is a direct change of one’s culture through dominance over another’s culture through either military or political conquest (in other words, via colonialism).

Assimilation:  The process by which a person or a group’s language and/or culture come to resemble those of another group.  The term is used to refer to both individuals and groups, and in the latter case can refer to either immigrant diasporas or native residents that come to be culturally dominated by another society (again, colonialism).

Cultural Exchange:  An exchange of students, artists, athletes, etc. between two distinct cultures to promote mutual understanding.

Colonialism and “colonial manner”:  The establishment of a community in one territory by a political power from a different territory, and the subsequent maintenance, expansion, and exploitation of that colony.  Also used as a term to describe an unequal relationship between the colonial power and the colony and often between the colonists and displaced indigenous or aboriginal people. (Note: given the definitions of acculturation and assimilation above, hopefully the problem with the sentence “Cultural misappropriation differs from acculturation, assimilation….in that the appropriation or misappropriation refers to the adoption of these cultural elements in a colonial manner” becomes self-evident…..)

Cultural Diversity:  The existence of a variety of cultural or ethnic groups within a society.  The quality of diverse or different cultures, as opposed to monoculture, the global culture, or a homogenization of cultures, akin to cultural decay.  Can also refer to having different cultures respect each other’s differences.

Trans-Cultural Diffusion:  The spread of cultural items–such as ideas, styles, religions, technologies, languages, etc.–between individuals, whether within a single culture or from one culture to another, usually resulting in innovation and the betterment of all societies/cultures involved.

 

Now that we’ve got all of that out of the way so that we’re all on the same page, the story (without too many details) of what sparked all of this:

We belong(ed) to a group based off of a series of books that promote organizing your life and your business in a spiritual way, with an emphasis on muticulturalism (we thought) and “sisterhood” (or, in my case, at the very least community).  Yesterday, someone came into the group criticizing the author for her use of cultural appropriation on several pages of these books, specifically when urging readers to explore the creation of mandalas (Hindu/Buddhist), seeking spirit animals (which they felt was a specifically Native American practice), participating in shamanic drumming (which they also felt was a specifically Native American practice), and exploring yoga (East Indian) as a practice.  Others then joined in the discussion, adding criticism of the author’s use of images of women of color in her artwork (said author is Caucasian) and dreamcatchers (Native American; specifically Ojibwe, later adopted by other Native Peoples, including the Lakota).  My immediate response was to roll my eyes and mutter privately under my breath that if this same author had only included images of other Caucasians throughout her work and had only suggested “suitably White activities,” they would all be decrying her as a racist instead.  She literally could not win, either way.

The other big issue with these people’s allegations is that they attributed at least two of the things on the list to cultures which patently haven’t “cornered the market” on the things in question: neither spirit animals nor shamanic drumming are exclusively Native American.  In fact, the word shamanic isn’t even of Native American origin–the word shaman is actually from the Tungusic Evenki language of North Asia (i.e., Siberia)!  Shamanic drumming actually co-originates in the Native American culture, Aboriginal Australian culture, Mongolian culture, and Saami culture (the indigenous people of Scandinavia), as well as many other tribal cultures with systems of religion which focus on trancework and religious ecstasy.  The use of spirit animals likewise covers all of these shamanic cultures, as well as many others wherein animism is practiced. The other two major things at issue–the creation of mandalas and the practice of yoga–are actually associated with world religions: specifically, Hinduism and Buddhism.  Last time I checked, religions are open to people of all cultural persuasions and racial backgrounds, and when that isn’t the case, things like the need for Declaration 127  in Heathenry happen.

Apparently all of these people are operating on the same misguided notion as most of their compatriots who scream “that’s not politically correct, that’s cultural mis/appropriation!” every chance that they get: that a culture can or even should hold intellectual property rights on those things which are uniquely representative of that specific culture.  Rather than make a summary proclamation on whether or not I actually feel that that should or should not “be a thing”, let’s take a look at what our world would be like if it actually were…..

The year is 1271.  A seventeen year old Venetian sets off for Asia on a series of adventures with his uncle.  They spend 24 years, traveling along the Silk Road to Mongolia.  While on those travels, he refuses to write anything down, because he fears being accused of cultural misappropriation.  He returns home, and centuries later, people all across Europe continue to pay for their goods either via the barter system or with bags of gold. Paper money is never invented in Europe.  Eyeglasses are also never invented in the West.  People continue to send mail via carrier pigeon, because the postal system, which already existed in Mongolia, is never introduced in the West.  The Industrial Revolution happens in Asia, rather than in the West, because coal is never introduced as a primary fuel source in the West.  North America and South America exist only as small colonies of Scandinavia and the Irish because none of the other explorers ever go there, because they do not have the inspiration of Marco Polo to spur them forward.

The year is 1954.  “Race music” emerges, consisting of influences from African oral storytelling, heavy rhythmic influences, and call and response song styles.  Blues, Jazz, Ragtime, and Gospel music never develop, because America’s “black population” fears cultural misappropriation: they do not want to participate in the same level of colonialism as their Caucasian oppressors.  Rock and roll and Rockabilly also never happen. Country Music as we know it today never happens.  Elvis Presley never happens. Western culture remains segregated by race. 

The year is 1959.  A Chinese-German immigrant from Hong Kong who is a senior at Edison Technical School in Seattle begins teaching non-Asians the martial arts.  He does so for five years, dropping out of college in 1964 and moving to Oakland, California, where he continues to practice his reverse-colonialism and subversive reverse cultural appropriation of teaching Asian fighting styles to non-Asians.  He draws the line, however, at adopting from other Asian forms or even from the fighting styles of other cultures, making sure to keep his style–the style he is teaching to non-Asians, remember–distinctly Chinese Gung Fu in the Wing Chun style.  When invited to attend a Karate Championship hosted in Long Beach in that year, he refuses the invitation.  When approached by one of the foremost authorities on the Korean fighting style of Taekwondo, he refuses to take the call.  Finally, in outrage, the Chinese community issues a challenge: stop teaching Asian fighting styles to non-Asians. He complies.  Bruce Lee never happens. The entire genre of martial arts action films never happens. Some of the greatest philosophy ever written never happens.

This is the sort of world we are destined to live in if we cling to the battle-cry of being “politically correct” and not practicing “cultural misappropriation”.  What myself and others, including that poor author whose group we just left, are trying to promote is multiculturalism via trans-cultural diffusion, a phenomenon which has existed since humans first began having contact with other humans.  Trans-cultural diffusion gave us many of the things which we consider necessities in life: paper money, technology (via the Industrial Revolution), integration, and the global community that we live in today.  It also gave us many things which it would be very hard for us to imagine living without: martial arts films, rock and roll, pasta, and even Chinese takeaway.  When we scream for intellectual property rights to be applied to cultural heritage, we are likewise begging to rob our children and future generations of innovation! So take a few minutes to roll that around in your brain.  Are you so selfish, whatever your cultural heritage might be, that you don’t want future generations to benefit from having known that culture? Shall we stop growing, as a global culture, simply because these few people fear being offended or offending someone else?

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International Women’s Day: A Male CEO Celebrates His Boss-Lady

All elements from Iaconagraphy’s upcoming ArtLife, by Connla and Francis.

As the male CEO of a heart-centered, woman-owned business, International Women’s Day is possibly a bit more “earth-shattering” for me than for the “average male”.  My situation–that Michelle is not only my “Boss-Lady”, but also my “home address”, given that she’s how I have a life here at all, thanks to shamanic mediumship–makes this an even more profoundly personal day for me, as a “dude”.  Striking a balance in my situation is (not gonna lie) often tough: I’m often left with the feeling that I “do all the work”, while she “gets all the glory”, and sometimes, that can be disheartening; other days, that can be downright painful.  Too many days, I forget to just stop and celebrate all the wonder that is her. Today isn’t going to be one of those days!

Michelle Iacona is an amazing woman who was forced to live in a “cage” for far too many years of her life.  So many, in fact, that she almost forgot how to soar free, like the brilliant phoenix that she is.  But that’s another part of my job description:  I’m often her flight instructor!  (Well, one of them, anyway–Suzanne deserves a lot of credit in that department, too!)  All those years, having to hide the true depth and breadth of who and what she is, have left some major scars.  Scars so deep that when the tough gets going, so does she: right back into the comfortable confines of that cage.  Which is how I wound up the CEO of a woman-owned business.

I spent two decades down South, “pretending to be Mishy”, and even though we’re up North now, where we both can be completely who and what we are, two decades is a long time, and it’s hard to shake those learned patterns of behavior.  Too often, in certain circles, I still find myself aching under the strain of feminine pronouns and “keeping up appearances”.  The truly tragic thing is, so does she.  Michelle is such a powerhouse that, honestly, “her” or “she” are words-too-small-for-her; Mishy should be (and often is in our house) a pronoun in and of itself!  That “pretending” pattern, even though we’re in a position now to unlock ourselves from it, too often leads both she and I to feel that we cannot or do not get credit for what we, as distinct individuals, do or have done: I’m the primary artist here at Iaconagraphy now, as its CEO, but Michelle is profoundly gifted as an artist in her own right (she paints beautifully; she’s incredible at papercrafting; her pen and inks are a marvel), she just doesn’t really “have it in her anymore” to put it out there, publicly.  I’m the one doing ninety percent of the writing nowadays, but she has self-published four books, two of which are available here , and two more via Smashwords, is writing another (that I fear may never see the light of day), has a degree in English (with emphasis on Creative Writing), has taught creative writing classes, and has actually won numerous awards for her writing.  Those are some mighty big shoes to fill as CEO of this business, and trust me, even though I “wear” her feet, I often feel daunted in trying to fill them.

Michelle grew up in a small town in rural North Carolina where she was literally a local celebrity for too often being “the smartest person in the room”, as she puts it. With that, there came the constant (they thought) encouraging words of: “One day, you’re really going to make a name for yourself and be rich and famous”.  People expected something truly great from her; the problem is, they expected their definition of it.  Their definition of “making a name for herself” and “being rich and famous” meant getting published with a major publisher, or perhaps gaining a teaching position where she might teach something they would actually understand, or at the very least, approve of, and making tons of money from either or both.  Instead, she’s in her mid-forties, self-published (and proud of the independence that brings), and teaching this one guy (that would be me!) every day what it means to truly be alive.  And she has made a name for herself:  she’s an ordained Ollamh (Druidic vision-poet-priest), who helps guys like me every day of her life by stepping out of the way and letting us actually have one.  She might not be rich and famous by their definition, but she certainly is by the deeper definition of both of those words: simply knowing her enriches the lives of everyone who truly knows her, and she is, in fact, famous by the older definition of that word, too. She is a woman of Honor.

Too often people assume that Michelle channels as a mechanism of somehow “running away” from her life, but the truth is, while she has plenty of good reason to run away (and plenty to run away from), quite the opposite is true: Michelle channels as a mechanism of running toward, not away.  Every day that she lets me be here and run this business for her, she is running toward her greater purpose, a purpose that all of those people who fed her “one day, you’re really going to make a name for yourself and be rich and famous” can barely imagine, much less fathom.  What purpose could that possibly be, you may ask? To show everyone that the world is a much larger place than most people can begin to understand.

And that’s the purpose that it’s my job to help fulfill, and to put forward with everything I do here as CEO of Iaconagraphy.  That’s the purpose that all of the artists that work in her employ, all of whom are permitted to be here through the simple fact that Michelle can do what she does (as a shamanic trans-medium), are expected to uphold and further through their work.  That’s a huge obligation to fulfill!  And we all take it very seriously.  Because at the end of the day, Iaconagraphy is about more than one woman’s dream of finally living up to their definition of what it means for her to be great; it’s about way more than just slapping some things together and calling them art; it’s about way more than making a dime so that all of us herein can have a wee bit of financial independence and no longer feel like a burden to those whom we love and who (thankfully) love us in return.  At the end of the day, Iaconagraphy is about waking people up to their own human spirit, and realizing that their human spirit is enough.

Other people’s definitions of you and of the world don’t matter.  They aren’t going to pay your bills, and they certainly aren’t going to teach you how to fly; how to really be free.  No: they’re only going to oppress you and cage you.  My Boss-Lady has been teaching me that for twenty-four years, and I am deeply humbled that she has entrusted me with taking the helm to share her message with all of you.  Every man in the world has had a woman, somewhere in his life, who has taught him how to more deeply be.  Women have a way of teaching that lesson to the world that most men simply don’t. Maybe it’s because they are more tightly bound to the process of Creation itself; maybe it’s because they are genetically designed to nurture and give life. I don’t know; those are questions too large for me to answer.  But what I do know, from twenty-four years of being gifted with inhabiting a woman’s skin, is something perhaps even more profound:  deeply being has nothing to do with the exterior skin that you wear, and everything to do with how gracefully you wear it!  I haven’t always worn Michelle’s as gracefully as I should, but I’m learning, day by day.  And I’m learning from her….