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Dreaming of Death

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Dali gets it…

Given the recent string of celebrity deaths, especially high profile celebrities like Alan Rickman and David Bowie, death has been a companion in my day-to-day doings. I walk to the mailbox and wonder what it would be like to have a heart attack and face-plant on the road. I wonder what it would be like if someone broke into my house and shot me point blank.

I wonder what it would be like if I got the news I had cancer and knew my days were going to be much more limited. I wonder if I should be worried at all because fate will take me when fate takes me and worrying is such a tiny human preoccupation. (Which is one of those things that give our life its blessing and curse – we are doomed to remember so much, yet blessed to remember at all). I grant you, it’s macabre. I can’t help it, I chalk it up to my imaginative writer brain exploring things from the deep well inside of each thing I explore.

At any rate, I went to bed last night feeling very good. My stomach aches were non-existent, my anxiety was nil, I really felt good in my mind, and my body. So it was interesting when I had a dream of going to a huge fair and getting on a ride that boasted it was three-times bigger than any other. It was an incredible version of a scrambler (combined with other things to make it one of the most unique experiences my brain has concocted yet). It could hold three-hundred people. Massive gears in the walls that spun massive wheels that ran on tracks. Me, my husband, my sister, my children… we all got on and had a fantastic ride. No one else was in line! We decided to go again.

This ride was housed in an enormous building, rides whatever the weather, you know? So we are going around again, lifted high into the sky, when my sister shouts to me, ‘Look over at that wheel, what is it doing?’ Sure enough, as I look over at the wheel gliding along its track, it is headed straight toward another wheel meant to elevate the riders (I know, wheels everywhere, tracks, confusing… bear with me). Obviously they collide.

Now here is where the dream goes from glee, to horror. The whole ride shudders. It groans aloud as the arms attached to the wheels buckle, then snap. It feels like slow motion as we spin in a way unintended and I feel the vibrations through my seat as the ride collapses onto the ground. Screams fill the air, I see the ground rushing up, and like magic… incredible magic, I breathe in slowly and say to myself, ‘Well, this is it.’

I hit the ground knowing my death has arrived. It goes black, then darker black and utter silence as the rest of the ride topples over me – I feel it crush me, though painlessly as I’ve accepted this fate. At this point, I think I actually stopped breathing in my sleep, because I can say… the totality of this darkness, this silence, this stillness that washed over me in the darkness was… much like when you go in to get an operation and they put you under… you’re simply gone.

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Beautiful “Dreamtime Sisters” by Colleen Wallace Nungari. (www.aboriginal store)

Then… a miracle. I begin to see the red of my eyelids. I literally think to myself, ‘I must be being born again,’ and I woke. There I was in my room, in my comfortable bed with heaps of blankets, having had what I can only say is something akin to a shamanic experience where my mind let me die to bring me back. Spiritual, because what I took from it is something I heard a woman say on a documentary as she took the drugs to end her life, ‘Oh, that wasn’t so hard… this isn’t hard at all…’

I don’t know what my end will be, when it will be, how it will be, where it will be… but I feel calmer this day. I was given a gift by my incredible brain, a teaching: when you accept something that seems unacceptable, when you stop fighting the flow of this mighty river of life, magic and miracles are sure to follow.

I think I needed that reminder, (and with luck, death will be exactly what I imagined it to be), because I’ve been fighting my nature and hearing that voice of gloom telling me, “You can’t.” Truth be told, I can. I just need to walk through the doors and create with all I’ve got. It’s all any of us can do, and everything we should do.

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Posted by on January 16, 2016 in Musings, Spirituality

 

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Thinking of You…

Thinking of You…

My first thought on walking back to my blog was… “Has it really been that long?” Good gravy, it has! It’s been almost two years since I last posted, but I have good reasons! At least I have to give myself the permission to see them as good reasons. Since this is a blog, allow me to explain.CRNewCoverTeaser

Since May of 2014, I have not only written two other novels since Carla’s Rivet along with getting a third ready for publishing, but have been working on Carla’s second edition (the one in which I finally can fix all the things that I didn’t like with the first edition). It will be given to the world in March, two years from the original publication date. I look at that and it already seems crazy…

I’ve been in disasters of theater which had me wondering what I’d done to land myself in actor purgatory. One of those actually sent me to the emergency room – so I’ll say it here – don’t ever let anyone get so far under your skin that you can’t dig them out. I should have left that rather abusive ride, but I stayed for some pretty wonderful cast-mates. They were the gold in the pile of… well… you know.

I have been dealing with some pretty crippling writer’s doubt as well. As I sit here banging out a first draft of my blog post (which makes me nervous, too), I have also figured out just how much money I will need to really push my next novel into the world… and it’s definitely a figure that makes that little voice in my head say, “Who do you think you are?” “Do you even think you have that kind of talent to ask the world for that money?” “Do you honestly believe you’ll be anything more than a nobody author?”

I tell you, that voice is incredibly nasty. Aneverythingd so, I look at other people creating art and taking no crap from anyone. I understand that I’m here to make words on paper – that’s all I can think about doing, it’s what I do even when I’m not doing it. So, it’s been a bit of a learning experience – giving myself room to feel insecure, but not letting myself absorb that voice’s opinions. I’m going to jump in this time, aim for the stars, shoot for the moon so even if I fail I’ve landed among them… all those idioms we use to simply say: ‘Do it already!’

I’ve handled anxiety so bad that I believe I may be sitting on a pre-ulcer, yes, I will get to the doctor soon. It’s distressing how much I’ve allowed the world to get to me this past year, but again, it’s allowing myself to feel bad but not beat myself up for being here. If I were to put a finger on it, frankly, it’s the Universe telling me that self-care is important. I think we all can learn from that.

So – in short – it’s been a bit of a crazy ride. I’m still not rich, I wish I had an amazing update to give in that department, but that I’m hoping is in the cards later. Hah! I won’t keep on with the negative, but I will end this post with this: I’m still here, I’m still breathing and grateful for it every day. I have a beautiful family supporting me with loving and gracious words, and through it all… I’m still writing, writing, writing and making the art that I hope the world will enjoy when I’m done.

Here’s to 2016 being a better year for all!

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2016 in Musings, Writing

 

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Learning Curves Ahead

Hello again!

It’s been a while, so I thought I should stop back in and bring everyone up to speed on what my life has been like since the publishing of my debut novel… let’s see… to get this just right… incredible.

I should start by telling everyone that the above word, “incredible,” does not mean I am rolling in the most awesome payday ever. Nor does it mean that I’ve gotten into major bookstores, nor that I’ve gotten a huge review from a well known source. Because none of those things have happened. What *has* happened is a ton of learning, discovering, and finding out that the community where I live is kick-ass.

Totally Kick Ass!

Totally Kick Ass!

First – the learning and discovering. This whole experience has held a steep learning curve on both the book prep side, as well as the publishing side. I’ve found out how many local bookstores detest CreateSpace and won’t even look at you if you use them, as well as the others that are happy to consign for about 40% of the earnings. I’ve found out that when I started up my publishing company, I ceased to be a “self published” author, but was an “Indie Published” author (much snazzier ring to it, if you ask me). I’ve learned that as soon as I exhaled the last breath of the writing side, I had to inhale the promotion side, then exhale the brand new outline for my next book (yep – it doesn’t stop if you want to have a hope and a prayer of making money at this job). I learned that the worst thing you can do is not ask people for help, that often you’ll find it in the most amazing and unexpected places.

Second – the community. I can’t begin to describe what this has been like. For the first month I had my novel out, I sold 29 total copies. Now, don’t get me wrong, for a nobody newbie like myself, that was a flashy number! Then came April and I sold 10. About this time I’m starting to sweat. All my friends, family, and acquaintances had bought their copies. Some sales came in from unexpected places, which was great… but my heart was beginning to sink a little bit. [As an aside, that was about the time I decided to look at this first book as a learning experience and start work on the second – not worrying about the first anymore. Not that I disowned it, but I wouldn’t keep hanging my daily well-being on whether or not anyone noticed me.]

Making friends with a great local bookstore is good to do!

Making friends with a great local bookstore is good to do!

Now we get to May, and the opening day of the Rail Yards Market here in Albuquerque. Well, I was too late to get my own space – vendors had taken up every available spot. The organizer suggested I contact Downtown Books and see if they’d share space with me… It took me two whole days to get the courage to write the owner of the shop. (I’m a little introverted writer, this was huge to me!) I debated on whether or not to do it, I chewed my fingernails off, I ate nearly an entire bag of potato chips… then I realized that this Market was set in the SAME location as my novel. If I didn’t do this, I would kick myself for life… and that’s when magic happened.

I contacted Scott and asked, and he was more gungho about inviting me down than I ever thought possible. I told him – “I only have 18 copies. I doubt I’ll sell any, but I’ll try and I’ll help bring people into the booth.” I gathered my things that Sunday morning – two tray tables, a sign I had made the night prior, a printout of my 5 little Amazon reviews, a handful of bookmarks – and walked up to the Market. I literally said out loud, “I hope this is worth it…” I proceeded to sell all the copies within 3.5 hours. My first sale was within the first five minutes of sitting down… I kid you not.

I was invited back the following Sunday, so with fresh copies, I proceeded to sell 14 more. Folks came up and talked to me, questioned me, chatted with me… I had a woman come back who had bought a copy the prior week and give me a huge hug to tell me how much it touched her. I had a Native American man tell me he didn’t really enjoy reading, only to ask me after he looked through it if I would be willing to trade him art for art. (I got myself some beautiful pottery for my story and a money making ceremony.) I had another woman walk up and look at the back of the book to tell me it sounded really good, then find out she’s from another bookstore I’d been trying to get into. She took copies for consignment on the spot.

So far, for May, I’ve sold 31 copies. I have to tell you, that alone is humbling. It’s amazing to know that my community is so incredibly supportive to a little writer behind her tiny tables. I’ve had people tell me they were inspired, I’ve had people ask advice, I’ve had people skeptical of my self-published ways (ah, ahem, Indie Published ways), only to turn around and buy a book when they hear what I have to say. I’ve had conversations with folks about fonts, typesetting, layout, cover design, politics, homelessness, and the love of pets… this is what I mean by “incredible.”

May has been magic. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had hiccups and blunders along the way (like getting an ISBN before I had my publishing house only to forget to change the imprint to the company name – I’m working on fixing that now), and have felt sometimes like I put all the work into something that no one will see… then the following: One man walked up, a self-professed book nerd, and picked up my book talking about how he knew who published it, he recognized the great work, the font, the layout… with pride, I told him I did it all myself.

I have a long road ahead of me, but I am so delightedly happy to be at the start of what I hope is a long, long career into sharing stories. I’m not rich, and I’m still learning (and I always will be), but man… there is nothing that has come close to this dream, and I’m only at the starting line and it’s going to be an amazing journey… I can feel it.

At the Rail Yards Market with Downtown Books.

At the Rail Yards Market with Downtown Books.

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“Carla’s Rivet” is available through Amazon (SC), Amazon (Kindle), Lulu (HC), Lulu (PDF), B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, and Scribd. Please feel free to join my page on Facebook and sign up for my newsletter for information and deals! If you’re interested in getting your own signed copy, click here!

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2014 in Experiences, Writing

 

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“Carla’s Rivet” is finally here!

“Carla’s Rivet” is finally here!

Whew! I knew I’d been away from my blog for a little bit, but I didn’t realize it was almost two and a half months!

Well, during that time away I had been absorbed practically 12-hours a day working on my debut novel, Carla’s Rivet, and after four months of creation, writing, typesetting, cover design, editing (and correcting edits made by editors/beta readers/writing group) – it is finally finished!

I am simultaneously elated, exhausted, and amazed. I can not only see this book available for sale online, but I have copies to hold in my hand. I’m holding my book… I’m holding my thoughts. Thoughts really are things!

I won’t bog down this post with self-aggrandizing. Suffice it to say – I’m astonished to have made my goal a reality. It wasn’t easy and there were a lot of tears and frustration along the way… but it’s done and I had to shout it from the rafters.  Huzzah!

So now, I present to you “Carla’s Rivet.” Below you will find what the book is about, and I hope that if you find it interesting, you’ll take a closer look and perhaps purchase a copy to help support a brand new writer on her journey. Thank you!

“Carla Flores, a homeless ex-cop, is living her nightmares. Her mind, a juxtaposition of real life, night terrors, and cocaine, leaves her isolated on the streets of Albuquerque. She constantly struggles to rid herself of the memories that overlay her waking hours – a traumatic shootout during a case of mistaken identity, being overpowered and taken hostage while her partner lay dying. The dangers of the long nights seem ready to swallow her completely until she is found by an unlikely companion – a stray dog named Rivet. Carla’s only salvation in a city that has forgotten her walks on four feet – a life line out of the darkness and into the light.”

Available through Amazon (SC), Amazon (Kindle), Lulu (HC), Lulu (PDF), B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, and Scribd. Please feel free to join my page on Facebook and sign up for my newsletter for information and deals!

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2014 in Experiences, Writing

 

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What Happens when Judging is Not Part of the Equation…

It’s been a little while since I posted last, as I’ve been busting my butt in my revisions and dealing with birthdays, holidays, and visits from family… the season is upon us, isn’t it? As I get nearer to publication, I get more and more people interested in what my book is about, and many of the people showing interest have ties in the homeless community. Which brings me to post this entry today.

I was trolling the internet (as can happen when you get sucked in), I came across a CNN video that really made my day. I will only caveat by saying: it shows what happens when people reach out a hand to help instead of passing a judgment and doing nothing.  Powerful.

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Nicole has written three novels, a feature-length script, and many short stories and short film scripts. Her debut novel, “Carla’s Rivet” is scheduled for release on March 1st, 2014.  Her short story, “Millsburg,” is available on Amazon.com and Smashwords.  Please visit http://nicoleagramlich.com for more information.
 
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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Musings, Videos

 

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Toddler Draft

Back in the earlier part of November, I started writing my novel, “Carla’s Rivet,” as part of National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo).  I had already laid out an outline prior to November first, and had been thinking it, dreaming it, and breathing it until I could finally put fingers to keyboard.  The result was a 50,000 word first draft in 13 days.  First of all, I couldn’t believe I did it.  I actually sat down and hammered out something relatively coherent in less than two weeks.  I was astounded with myself for all of five minutes.  Then I realized that fifty-thousand words are not enough.  The story was far from finished.

Good ol' Ernest...I often do what I call draft 1.5.  It’s the in-between draft where I go in and clean up the first draft just a little bit (any glaring grammatical errors, spelling issues, common sense errors) and add a little more to the draft to beef it up where it might feel lean.  Draft 1.5 is a way for me to really meet the creation I birthed without judging it too harshly.  It’s the cushion draft: no stress, no pressure.  I look at what my characters are trying to say and the story they’re trying to tell and help them just a little bit.  As if I’m not writing a 1.5 draft, but the characters are writing their first and they’ve hired me on to do a little light copy editing for them.

So I read through “Carla’s Rivet” and cringed in some places, applauded in others, felt the joys and pains and depths my characters asked me to feel, came to the end and sighed.  I took five days off.  Five days where I forced myself not to think about the book.  I played Sims 3, every little Yahoo game I could, wrote longhand letters to family members (because I can’t not write, even when I’m supposed to not write), drank tea, did a rehearsal for a play reading I’m in, everything to leave Carla and her Rivet behind for a little while.

While I sat thinking about writing when I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about writing, I picked up “The Stone Diaries” by Carol Shields and began reading.  I have to admit, I’m a serial reader.  I know, the shock, right?  I start multiple novels at once so that depending on the mood I’m in, I can pick up the story I’m most interested in that night.  That means I am currently in the middle of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera,” as well as Louis DeBerneires’ “Birds Without Wings,” and a little book of zen lessons I am eating bit by bit.  So, as I’m reading “The Stone Diaries,” a curious thing begins to happen: I am absorbing how to expand a thought, to make things more visceral and real, to go deeper into what my characters are trying to say.  I always read with dual purpose (if not more), but this time it really hit me what I needed to do with my second draft.  I needed to ask the characters what more they needed, truly needed, to say.  What more did they need me to see that I didn’t see?

Fresh from my partial week off, I picked up Carla’s Rivet again and started in on the second draft.  I’m absolutely amazed at what is happening.  Conversations I thought were finished and sufficient, aren’t.  the characters are talking more – and not in a overblown, waste-of-words sort of way – but in a true to life manner.  They’re showing me places that needed more work, things important to see and remember that come back later as meaningful somehow.  I’m seeing the cotton batting that needs to come out and the solid bricks that need to be put back in their place.  It’s slow going, but my wrinkled infant of a first draft that I speed birthed, is very slowly turning into a rambunctious toddler.  Third draft will be growing it into a young adult.  Fourth draft will be sending it off to college, and finally, after another once over, my little baby will be ready to hit the world all on its own.

I’m well ahead of myself now and having warm fuzzy feelings.  Let me back up to say, it’s been the reading that has made this possible.  Seeing how the other writers have navigated their worlds, how they’ve put their work down on paper in a way that makes me feel and visualize, and taking those lessons back to my own book to make it work.  Writers read… all the time… even in the middle of writing their own books.

Writing is a tough job, make no bones about it.  It is bleeding out a story onto a page that drains you from the task of putting it down.  It’s rearranging the story so that it is exciting, makes sense, and is so real from its fiction that you could see it happen if you only squinted hard enough.  Then it’s draft after draft to squeeze, mold, primp, paint, and deodorize.  Soon enough, that hard work will be left to the world, and your story will be walking under its own power.

http://www.jillgreenberg.com/For now, it’s back to draft two – the hardest draft, in my opinion.  You’ll have to excuse me, my toddler is screaming and it’s my job to pay attention.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2013 in Writing

 

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Experiences: Project Share

This past Veteran’s Day, a friend of mine decided to have a birthday celebration.  She asked her friends to join her at the local kitchen, Project Share, which serves meals to the homeless and low-income in Albuquerque.  I and my two children (both 12) decided to not only celebrate her birthday, but honor veterans in the spirit of giving.  The experience was unforgettable.

Project Share, Christmas Eve 2012.

Project Share, Christmas Eve 2012.

Project Share was started in 1984 by a chef who fed a homeless man.  They have grown now to serve nearly 750 meals a week, 6 days a week, with local chefs donating their time to cook meals.  To add to that, they have a small room where they give toiletries, diapers, bedding, clothes – whatever they happen to have on hand… and that’s where our adventure begins.

We pull up to a very nondescript blue building, beside which is “Hope’s Half Acre,” a garden for the chefs to use.  Inside, our very frazzled (but gracious) host led us to their back room.  A local hotel had just dropped off pillows, towels, washcloths, sheets, pillow cases, and light blankets and it was our task to make a bed packet.  My friend and my children began casing the pillows, then loading the pillow case with all the aforementioned items to make a sack of bedding.  These are given free of charge to any person who asks.  While they made packets, the birthday girl and I made packets of diapers, 10 to a pack, thanks to the donation of a local store who dropped off a large box in each size.

I can’t begin to accurately express what begins to dawn on you when you realize that people come to this placeHispanic Marketing and Public Relations Website so much for diapers, they were out.  As we were making packs, we have a young man come in and ask for some for his soon-to-be-born child.  Children and infants happen to be some of the most overlooked in the homeless population – but that they make up nearly a quarter of homeless people is staggering.   Here in Albuquerque, kids under 5 account for nearly 18% of the homeless population.  That doesn’t count the many children who have a home, but don’t know when they’ll be eating their next meal.

We also gave out toiletries to the people who came in and asked – little things like trial size shampoo, razors, a bar of soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, lotion, and Chapstick.  Seeing the gratitude, the relief, the joy on the faces of the people that came in and could ask for those small creature comforts and necessities was so far beyond words.   It was a reminder of humanity – compassion and caring, helping and loving your fellow man.

We closed up the “shop” and went out to get ready to serve dinner.  I had talked to my kids beforehand with a simple single sentence: Just treat them as you would any other person.  Neither myself nor my children had ever worked directly with the homeless and less fortunate.  My soul was utterly unprepared for the reality that faced me as they walked in to take a tray from my hands. 

I greeted them with a smile and eye contact and garnered the courage to treat them as I would anyone else.  “How are you today?”  The answers I received back were just mind blowing and incredible.  One man told me how he had been jumped the day before and had his bags stolen.  That he’d lost everything – his pillow, his blankets, his jacket, his toiletries.  I asked him if he was okay for the night, and he nodded.  “I worked hard to get some stuff back, so I’m good for tonight.”  Several people stopped to look at me, stunned that someone was bothering to ask them anything at all.  They smiled big, said they were doing the best they could, and asked me how I was.  Others told me how nice it was to see a kind, smiling face.  While so many responded with kindness, with joy, with relief – one woman sticks in my heart.  She had a large bruise on the side of her very stoic face.  When I looked at her and asked her how she was, she couldn’t talk.  She nodded and the pain… I don’t think we can call ourselves human and not be touched by someone in such deep pain.  I reached out and rubbed her shoulder and she walked on, wiping the tears from her eyes.

Most of the people we served that night were jovial and in pretty good spirits, meeting up with friends they hadn’t seen around in a while, catching up with buddies they knew.  The food, they said, was great (and it smelled fantastic, I can attest).  They came back for seconds, they stocked up on cookies after all was said and done, and I watched them leave with a chorus of “Thank you’s” and “God Bless you’s.”

I have been moved so deeply, as were my kids, but I’m not looking for a pat on the back.  I’m writing this because I am hoping that seeing our experience will motivate others to do this for the less fortunate in their neighborhoods.  Even if you can’t donate your time, knowing what small things you can give – razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hair brushes, Chapstick, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, soap, towels, washcloths, blankets – all those things we tend to take for granted, all of those things mean so much and are so necessary to someone who hasn’t the means to buy them.  Not to mention clothes.  I am ashamed to admit that even though I donated to Goodwill, I never thought about the people who don’t have the money to go to Goodwill.  There are people so at the bottom right now that they need clothes, and since it’s getting cold, they need them now more than ever.

I will absolutely be doing this again in the future.  My kids are excited to do it again as well.  I don’t take my life for granted – I am comfortable, my needs are met – but there are many others who do not have that luxury… at least not right now.  This experience was a lesson for me and my kids, not only to learn more about the people who in such dire straits, but to learn about ourselves and our capacity for compassion – something inside each and every one of us.

To find places in your area that will gladly take your donations or your donation of time, please visit: http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/  This site lists food pantries as well as shelters.

To learn more about Project Share, please visit: http://psabq.org/

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Nicole has written three novels, a feature-length script, and many short stories and short film scripts. Her debut novel, “Carla’s Rivet” is scheduled for release on March 1st, 2014.  Her short story, “Millsburg,” is available on Amazon.com and Smashwords.  Please visit http://nicoleagramlich.com for more information.

 

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2013 in Experiences

 

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