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My Writing Journey

Sufism and Islam

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Islam is a living religion because Muhammad was a living man who lived in the world as husband, father, business manager, politician, negotiator, mediator, religious leader, and warlord. He became a model of behavior for all of these human roles. With all of its emphasis on a Day of Judgment, Islam is really about everyday life and how human beings conduct themselves in their relations with each other. Muhammad, as both Prophet of Allah and social activist, used his Prophethood to create a more just society for the people of Arabia.

The Qur’an, as revealed to Muhammad, provides divine guidelines for living a life that brings believers into constant remembrance of God (dhikr). Right behavior is modeled on the examples given by the Prophet and his Companions. If any questions come up, religious and legal scholars can consult the Qur’an, study the examples of the Prophet (sunna), and the collected sayings and events of the Prophet as reported by others (hadith). Legal rulings can be made according to the precedent set by Muhammad and his revelations in the Qur’an. This ensures that legal rulings remain in conformity with the religion and social order established by the Prophet.

Sharia Law is based on all of these components and developed to counter the corruption that was slowly undermining the Muslim Caliphate. Islamic life became a set of laws that believers were obligated to accept and follow. It was believed that if all believers ritualistically followed the same rules, society as a whole would become more just and equitable. Conformity, however, leads ultimately to nonconformity. Believers who craved a more spiritual fulfillment began to form spiritual philosophies and communities that rejected the emptiness of a life oppressed by religious and governmental control.

Sufism is a departure from the empty rules and obligations imposed on daily Islamic life. While Sunni Islam rejects monasteries and asceticism, Sufism embraces them. While the Qur’an condones violent jihad against others for self-defense, Sufism emphasizes jihad of the self (fana, which means overcoming the ego and the self (nafs) in order to dissolve into a complete union with Allah). Sufism was meant to be an ecstatic experience that rises above mundane daily life.

The central tenet of Sufism is the divine union between the lover (the believer) and the beloved (Allah). This individual relationship with God automatically excludes others, which contradicts the social nature of Islam. It emphasizes the exclusive authority of God over the individual. Many Sufis and Sufi communities came into conflict with governmental authorities because of their bizarre behavior and rejection of orthodox Islam and government authority. Some, like al-Hallaj, were executed for heresy.

Sufism developed a mystical philosophy that elevates Muhammad to a saint with mystical powers – something Muhammad fought against. The mysticism of the Night Journey, in particular, has been expanded on by Sufi philosophers. For Sufis, inner experience is more important than outer knowledge. And practices developed that cultivate the divine experience, such as chanting Al-Ghazali’s 99 Names of God; reciting mystical poetry that enhances the believer’s drunken, erotic union with God; and performing the mind-altering dances of the whirling dervishes. For Sufis, union with God IS the Divine Reality that trumps ordinary life.

Popular culture gradually embraced Sufi saint worship, pilgrimages to the tombs of saints and holy places, and items such as prayer beads and icons. When Sufi communities began to get rich off of the public, however, their influence gradually faded away. Sunni Islamic leaders have always been skeptical of Sufism and regarded Sufi practices as innovations that detract from the example of the Prophet Muhammad and pure Islam. But the remnants of Sufi practices still exist among Sunni Muslims and Sufi communities still exist today.

Sufism added a spiritual dimension to Islam that helped it to grow and develop as a living religion that would survive into the modern era.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 14, 2019; November 30, 2022

Copyright 2019-2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

18 Comments »

The Four Islamic Legal Schools

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In the ideal Islamic society, there is no separation between church and state. Laws are made and interpreted according to the Qur’an, the example of the Prophet and his Companions, and collections of the hadith. It took several hundred years to compile and evaluate the validity of the hadith. In the end, they were categorized into three Sunni categories of authenticity: the sahih, the sunan, and the jami (Esposito 74-75).

The sahih includes the authenticated hadith of Muhammad al-Bukhari (810-870) (Esposito 66, 74) and Muslim ibn al-Hijjaj al-Nisaburi (817-875). The Hadith of Gabriel (Hadith Jibril), which is part of the Sahih Muslim, was compiled by Umar ibn al-Khattab (586-644), “a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad and the second [caliph] of the Muslim community” (Esposito 75). It has been revered as “the defining statement of the Islamic creed (aqidah)” (Esposito 75) even though it is not elevated to the same level as the Qur’an.

The sunan are “collections of precedents” (Esposito 75) and include the books of Abu Daud al-Sijistani (817-888), Ibn Majjah al-Qazwini (822-887), and al-Nasai (830-915). Jami are collections of hadith that may or may not be authentic, such as Jami al-Tirmidhi, compiled by al-Tirmidhi (824-892) (Esposito 75).

Shiites “consider the traditions of their imams . . . to be equal in importance to those of the Prophet himself” (Esposito 75) because they consider the bloodline of Muhammad as something sacred and open to divine revelation.

Four schools of Islamic legal thought survive: the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, and Hanbali. According to Esposito, the Hanafi School “has the largest following of all the surviving schools . . .” The Hanafi School has been influential in the formulation of laws governing personal freedoms, women’s rights, religious practices, and “contract rules for business transactions involving resale for profit and payment for goods for future delivery” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e798). Basing laws on “reason, logic, opinion (ray), analogy (qiyas), and preferences (istihsan), the Hanafi School is the most liberal school in Islamic law.

The most conservative of the Islamic schools is the Hanbali School of Law, which is “the official school in Saudi Arabia and Qatar” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e799). Laws formulated according to the Hanbali School are based on “the Qur’an, hadith, fatwas of Muhammad’s Companions, sayings of a single Companion, traditions with weaker chains of transmission or lacking the name of a transmitter in the chain, and reasoning by analogy (qiyas) when absolutely necessary” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e799).

The Maliki School of Law is called the “School of Medina . . . [and] many doctrines are attributed to early Muslims such as Muhammad’s wives, relatives, and Companions” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/articles/opr/t125/e1413). Although the Maliki School relies on personal opinion (ray) and analogy (qiyas), it is best known for basing Islamic law on the examples of Muhammad’s Companions in Medina.

The Shafii School of Law, founded by Muhammad ibn Idris ibn al-Abbas ibn Uthman ibn Shafii in the eighth century, “considers hadith superior to customary doctrines of earlier schools in formulation of Islamic law” (http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com.article/opr/t125/e2148). The Shafii School emphasizes the use of human reason and seeks to find common ground between the different schools.

Shariah Law developed as a means to fight the materialism and greed that were gradually undermining the Islamic Empire. “Because Muhammad was believed to have surrendered perfectly to God, Muslims were to imitate him in their daily lives . . . Islamic Holy Law helped Muslims to live a life that was open to the divine” (Armstrong 160). This ritualized lifestyle was meant to invoke a constant reminder of Allah (dhikr) and to internalize taqwa (God consciousness).

The living example of Muhammad, then, is the key to living a divine life.  And Shariah Law must always trace its roots back to the Prophet and the Qur’an. Having a plurality of schools provokes thought and encourages discourse but undermines the original intent of Shariah law. And when you have Imams claiming divine revelation based on their kinship to the Prophet, this opens the doorway to “innovations,” which are discouraged in Islam.

Internet Sources – incorporated into the body of the post

Armstrong, Karen. A History of God. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993.

Esposito, John L. The Oxford History of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

~

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 7, 2019; November 29, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Autumn to Winter

by Dawn Pisturino

The old year is fading

and Autumn blows

the misty clouds

of Winter our way.

(A runaway grizzly bear meets Jack Frost and Old Man Winter in this vintage cartoon from 1934. My father loved these old cartoons.)
(My favorite Thanksgiving hymn – “We Gather Together”)
(George Winston playing his beautiful and inspiring piece, “Thanksgiving.” My mother adored George Winston.)

My parents always came for Thanksgiving. Now that they are gone, I always think of them at this time of year.

PSALM 95:1-5 (NKJV)

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, and the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; and His hands formed the dry land.

PLEASE NOTE: I WILL NOT BE POSTING ANYTHING UNTIL SOME TIME NEXT WEEK.

Have a joyful and blessed Thanksgiving!

~

Dawn Pisturino

November 23, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

58 Comments »

Poetry Book Reviews: Paula Light and Lamittan Minsah

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Monochrome: Poetry from the Ashes by Paula Light (2018). Available on Amazon.com.

Paula is a California poet whose poetry collection is a delight to read. She writes with a gentle hand. Her poems are like butterflies which attract us with rich colors, feather-weight movements, velvety textures, and delicate wings. She explores the nature of love, loss, sadness, and acceptance with profound understanding and peace. At the same time, she has a sharp wit and approaches life with humor and positivity. When you read her WordPress blog, you will experience both sides of this very talented woman.

“Immersed in words,

Steamed in verse,

Lovesongs burning up my dreams . . .

It must be true:

I still hold

A torch for you . . .”

And from her poem, Grace:

“The night sky knows my sorrow:

An ice wind screams your name,

While thunder booms in horror

And lightning damns this place.

Then softly comes the music;

Gently falls the rainsong;

Rhythms drip down smoothly,

And the moon is bathed in grace.”

Website: Light Motifs

Let’s Talk Bride: A Poetry Collection by Lamittan Minsah (2020). Available on Amazon.com.

Lamittan is a Kenyan poet who has written a collection of poems about a very special person in his life, Apostle Darlan Rukih, also known as the Bride of the Lamb, a minister in the Bride of the Lamb Ministries International.

This book has a fascinating backstory. Darlan Rukih was born a hermaphrodite (someone who is born with both male and female genitalia and characteristics, also known as an intersex person). Since this condition is not accepted in Kenyan culture, Rukih grew up isolated, alienated, and rejected by others. But faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ helped Rukih to overcome this disability and to serve by helping others. Rukih first married a woman and was blessed with a son. After that relationship failed, Rukih dated a man and got pregnant. Blessed with two children, Rukih is devoted to helping children in need in Kenya. Reference: Mpasho website.

Lamittan’s admiration for the Bride of the Lamb knows no bounds in this fine collection of poems which praise Rukih, God, and His son, Jesus Christ. Lamittan expresses both his joy and his sorrow in these poems:

“There’s beauty walking in Africa,

Traversing a lonely desert –

A damsel formed by the maker

Out of the ribs of Adam, long ago.

There is beauty

Such as one that never was before.”

~

“They nailed our Lord by force.

The heavens roared,

His pain had reached God,

And for a moment,

Darkness covered the firmament

And hid God’s gaze from his son . . .”

Follow Lamittan Minsah on WordPress to read more of his poetry and stories and to learn more about Kenyan culture. His business site, Laminsa Indies, encourages and aids “budding writers, musicians, actors/actresses, self-publishers, photographers, drawing artists, dancers and many other talents from the creative industry.” Check it out!

Website: Laminsa Indies

~

Dawn Pisturino

November 21, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

26 Comments »

Poetry Book Review: Gabriela Marie Milton

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Woman: Splendor and Sorrow by Gabriela Marie Milton (2021). Available on Amazon.com.

I met Gabriela a year ago, when she was editor for MasticadoresUSA. Impressed by the quality of the poems and prose I read there, I began to submit poems – both old and new – for her consideration. Well, she published them! And I have been following her ever since. It was her kindness and encouragement which prompted me to start writing poetry again after a long hiatus. She inspires me to reach farther and try harder than ever before.

A Pushcart nominee. A #1 Best-Selling Author on Amazon. The 2019 Author of the Year at Spillwords Press. Gabriela has published two books of high caliber poetry, co-authored anthologies, and edited the recent Amazon Best-Seller, Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women, which she published with Ingrid Wilson of Experiments in Fiction. She resides in a higher realm of imagination, pulling ideas and images out of the clouds that Wow! the reader and transport him/her to another world. She employs language that is lush, exotic, sensual, and stimulating to all five senses. She is her poetry. Her poetry is her. She pushes the boundaries of creativity and encourages others to do the same. She is poet, teacher, mother, friend, divine goddess of the poetic art form. Many of her themes revolve around the strength, resilience, and beauty of women. She adores children, the magic of childhood, and the blessings of motherhood. And then, there’s Love! — and the perpetual tango between two lovers.

Woman: Splendor and Sorrow is a testament to the hypnotic power of love and its ability to elevate us to the heights of ecstasy or fling us into the burning depths of Hell. Every word is exquisitely crafted:

“each word I write cries on the tunes of spring,

a spring that ends in graveyards and in dreams

the night I abandoned you on that bench and left

snows in my mind the syllable of hell

I wanted to return

I wanted to love you . . .”

Poetry and love are the divine twins that rule Gabriela’s heart:

“Poetry?

Oh, poetry was too good to be read.

We tasted it and ate it with silver spoons.”

Gabriela runs her own publishing house now, Literary Revelations Publishing, which seeks to publish high-quality poetry and fiction that grab the reader unawares and trample down the boundaries of creativity.

Websites: Short Prose

Literary Revelations Publishing

~

Dawn Pisturino

November 20, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

28 Comments »

Poetry Book Reviews: Barbara Harris Leonhard and River Dixon

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Three-Penny Memories: A Poetic Memoir by Barbara Harris Leonhard (2022).

       Available on Amazon.com.

Barbara is a retired English teacher (ESL) whose award-winning work has appeared on Spillwords, MasticadoresUSA, and other poetry sites and magazines. Most recently, her poetry appeared in Wounds I Healed: The Poetry of Strong Women (2022), edited by Gabriela Marie Milton, and a #1 Amazon Bestseller. She currently serves as the editor of MasticadoresUSA.

Penned with heart-felt love, devotion, and pain, this memoir is an honest family portrait that mirrors both the mother and the daughter. The bond between mother and daughter is complex, but Barbara beautifully describes both the comfortable and uncomfortable sides of this relationship. Anybody who has cared for a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s, will relate to Barbara’s experience. Anybody who has missed out on motherhood and lost a child, will find Barbara’s story deeply moving. But there is no self-pity here. She has written about her life with honesty and compassion. She has experienced trauma and heartbreak. But she accepts what life brings and looks hopefully to the future instead of staying shackled to the past. She presents herself as strong, determined, and willing to learn from life’s lessons. She has written a remarkable collection of poems that are powerful in their very simplicity. Whatever trauma and pain you have endured, her poems will edify and uplift you in a positive way. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

In writing about her miscarried child, she says:

“You left my broken womb

as the bloody remains of what

was never to come. I still feel you

in the waves, the flow

of my sacral river – your tears?

Your fears I’ve abandoned you?

No, Honey. No! I’ll never forget you.”

Finally, her experiences with encephalitis and her mother’s Alzheimer’s:

“Not enough that I am

the spitting image of Mom

and her namesake.

We both experienced

a brain injury. The encephalitis

burned away my young memories;

       Alzheimer’s, her short-term ones.”

Barbara has been nominated for a Pushcart award for her poem, Mom and I Play Lassos with Our Hysterectomy Scars, a deeply provocative and sensitive poem which is included in this collection.

Website: Extraordinary Sunshine Weaver

Lost in the Hours: A Poetry Collection by River Dixon (2020). Available on Amazon.com.

River is a multi-talented poet, fiction writer, and publisher at Potter’s Grove Press. His fiction leans toward the dark side. But his poetry is honest, raw, straight-shooting, and direct. The first thing you come to realize when you read his poems is that River is a realist, not an idealist. There are few hearts and flowers here. He writes with power, intelligence, profound understanding, and articulate expression. He shares a healthy cynicism about life and the world in general. I like his poetry because he says what many of us are only thinking. He’s not afraid to criticize the status quo:

“While you drown in a shallow pool

Of only three inches of self-worth

They taught you well

How to hold your own head under

And convince you of rainbows

While they blot out the stars

One by one . . .”

His works are also available from Potter’s Grove Press, along with other avant-garde authors.

Websites: The Stories In-Between

                 Potter’s Grove Press

~

Dawn Pisturino

November 19, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

20 Comments »

Poetry Book Reviews: Kym Gordon Moore and Patricia Furstenberg

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We are Poetry: Lessons I Didn’t Learn in a Textbook by Kym Gordon Moore (2022).

       Available on Amazon.com.

I’ve known Kym for about a year now and regularly follow her blog on WordPress. Although we don’t always agree, I’ve always found her to be intelligent, funny, well-educated, and articulate. And, she’s fierce! Whatever causes she embraces, she puts her whole heart and soul into them.

In her latest book, Kym provides a general overview of poetry and her vision for the future of poetry as an art form, a therapeutic tool, and an educational medium. She views poetry as a living, breathing thing that can transform the poet, the community, the country, and even the world. Poetry should be as rich, colorful, and diverse as life itself.

Her book is almost a textbook on creating poetry and would be a useful tool in the classroom. She introduces the concept of ArchiPoetry, which employs architectural ideas to design and perfect poetic creations. As she writes: “By combining the use of language, imagery, metaphors, and specific patterns, the design elements in ArchiPoetry have different disciplines and poetic variations.”

While journaling has been an accepted therapeutic tool for a while in mental health, Kym developed the concept of TheraPoetry, a process through which people can find emotional relief by expressing themselves with poetry. Kym speaks from experience. After the death of her mother, it was poetry – and writing poetry – which helped her through the grieving process.

Illiteracy is an issue about which Kym is very passionate; and she wants to use poetry as a medium to teach our children how to read and improve their reading comprehension skills. We all remember rhymes that we learned as children. Those rhymes stick in our heads as rhythmical pieces of our childhood, bring back fond memories, and encourage us to pass them on to the next generation.

Poetry is creativity, mental gymnastics, lyrical composition, and inner fantasy. Poetry is emotional release, mental growth, and spiritual expression. This is why Kym championed the cause of poetry in 2014 when she persuaded mayors all across North Carolina to submit proclamations officially recognizing April as National Poetry Month. Kym also endorses and supports the Academy of American Poets as a valuable resource for educators and poets everywhere. As she says, “Poetry is a revival and reminder of our aspirations, possibilities, and achievements for all people.”

Finally, I close with Kym’s own summation of poetry:

“Poetry paints emotion

art is imagination and passion

poetry inspires art

expressionism through creativity is art and poetry

-transformation-

poetry and art is creativity through expressionism

art inspires poetry

passion and imagination is art

emotion paints poetry.”

Website: From Behind the Pen

Christmas Haiku by Patricia Furstenberg (2018). Available on Amazon.com.

Patricia is a Romanian poet living in South Africa. Her poetry appears regularly on MasticadoresRomania, Spillwords Press, and other poetry sites and literary magazines. With Christmas right around the corner, I was drawn to read her book of Christmas haiku. Charmed by the simplicity of her verses and photos, I sincerely recommend this little chapbook as the perfect way to get into the candy-gingerbread-tinsel-lights holiday mood! Patricia has written numerous books for adults and children, which are all available on Amazon. So, grab a steaming cup of hot chocolate and enjoy!

“Christmas, snow, giggles,

Young and old around the tree.

Scent of fresh cookies.”

Website: Patricia Furstenberg, Author

34 Comments »

“The Girl on the Bus” on Spillwords

(Photo from Spillwords)

I’m pleased and honored to announce that my poem, The Girl on the Bus, has been published today on Spillwords. I want to thank Dagmara K. and the staff at Spillwords for publishing it. Please visit Spillwords and show them your support. Thanks!

The Girl on the Bus

by Dawn Pisturino

The bus driver watched you in the mirror,

His eyes wide with fear,

When you stood up in the middle of the bus,

Crying like a terrified child.

Passengers waited with bated breath,

Wondering what you would do.

The sharpness of your pain . . .

Please visit Spillwords here to read the rest. Thank you so much!

Have a beautiful day!

Dawn Pisturino

November 17, 2022

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

35 Comments »

Poetry Book Reviews: Jeff Flesch and Ingrid Wilson

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Today, I’m continuing with more Poetry Book Reviews.

Nature Speaks of Love and Sorrow by Jeff Flesch (2022). Available on Amazon.com.

In his newly-published collection of poems, Jeff teaches us how the human heart, mind, and soul are intimately connected with the natural order. All the pain, sorrow, and happiness which are part of the human experience can be offset and complemented by the awe-inspiring beauty and wonder of nature. WE ARE ONE with the natural world, and Jeff expresses this beautifully through his poetic vision:

“pausing to breathe

fireflies come in a whisper, a wide grin

cascades over the clouds, revealing

the stars’ hearts.”

Jeff is a regular contributor to MasticadoresIndia, MasticadoresUSA, and Spillwords Press.

Website: www.jeffflesch.com

40 Poems at 40 by Ingrid Wilson (2022). Available on Amazon.com.

In this collection of poems commemorating Ingrid’s fortieth birthday, we are given a glimpse into the mind, heart, and soul of an incredibly talented and articulate poet. Ingrid contemplates the misgivings and successes of her own life in astounding verses that speak to the minds, hearts, and souls of her readers. Her honest examination of herself and her world can be summed up here:

“As my own treasure house is my own soul

I have fought long, I have fought hard to keep it

and in self-keeping, still my dreams are whole.

I have fought long, I have fought hard to keep it

you cannot have it now, e’en if you would:

it’s my reward, and only I shall reap it.”

Ingrid has her own publishing business now, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

Website: www.experimentsinfiction.com

~

Dawn Pisturino

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

22 Comments »

Poetry Book Reviews: Bogdan Dragos and Michele Lee Sefton

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I recently embarked on a Poetry Book Reading Marathon since so many of my WordPress friends have created and published poetry collections. Since they’ve been supportive of me, I want to support them! I will be posting a series of reviews of their books.

The Muse’s Bad Touch by Bogdan Dragos (2021). Available on Amazon.com.

Bogdan is a Romanian poet who appears regularly on MasticadoresIndia, MasticadoresRomania, and Gobblers & Masticadores. His poetry is dark and rich, like strong expresso, and leaves you questioning your own reality. He explores the darker side of life with characters that can only be described as eccentric, exotic, and deeply disturbing. His ability to test acceptable social boundaries and express a point of view that would shock most people, is what defines his work. In this collection, he writes about his dark muse:

“After all

a poet can’t live without

his demoness

to which he sometimes refers to

as muse.”

Website: www.bogdandragos.com

My Inspired Life: A Poetic Journey by Michele Lee Sefton (2020). Available on Amazon.com.

When I met Michele on WordPress, I sensed right away that she is a woman who possesses a beautiful soul. I regularly follow her blog, which truly is inspiring; so, it was only natural that I would read her book. Michele’s inner music resonates as a lovely song, a joyous dance, a raucous cheer for the strength and beauty of women everywhere. She shares her inspiring journey with positivity and hope, reinforcing those qualities in others. Her uplifting thoughts, words, and emotions make the daily struggle worthwhile. She approaches the world with quiet dignity, joyful pride, and a sincere expression of faith in herself and the people around her. She embraces life for all it is worth:

“Before the brush and palette are put away a final time

I too will live vibrantly and outwardly —

living a life that is uniquely mine.”

Website: www.MyInspiredLife.org

~

Dawn Pisturino

Copyright 2022 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

28 Comments »

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