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I’ve been subtly (and not-so-subtly) letting Lara know that I think we need a live-in office mascot of the furry variety. I’ve had my mind set on a golden lab with a blue seersucker bow tie collar, but after seeing the handsome ring bearer at Kristal + Johnny’s wedding, I think we may have to go for a pig, instead!

Kristal + Johnny were pros at including their family in the small details of their big day. I especially love that Kristal surprised her momma with a mother-daughter dance and that Johnny’s best man was his father. Their pot-bellied pig, Hamilton, even got a little more time in the spotlight at the reception — K + J named their signature drink after him! We’re giving giant hugs to Kristyn Hogan for sharing this wedding with us.

Describe your wedding flowers: I had a bouquet using all fresh flowers in shades of blush, champagne, and cream for a soft, romantic look. This included garden roses, peonies, and wax flowers. The bouquet was tied with burlap, a handkerchief handed down from my great-grandmother, and a brooch handed down from my Nana.

We had a long engagement (over two years), so I had plenty of time to find the perfect dress. I visited several bridal stores in Tennessee trying on at least 100 dresses. I envisioned an all lace, strapless gown but ended up with something a little different. My Mom and Nana were with me the day I went to The White Room. I put on my dress, walked out to them, and we all started crying together. I loved the corset back, how it was fitted through the hips, and the multiple layers of tulle. I knew right then and there this was the one!

Initially, I was going back and forth with the idea of doing a “first look,” but I am so happy we decided to do one. Seeing Johnny before the wedding made me so much more relaxed when walking down the aisle. I loved that it was a special moment only between me and him, and that it was captured from afar by the videographers and photographers. I also had a first look with my dad. I gave him his gift, a custom made picture frame with the lyrics of our father-daughter dance, “I Loved her First” by Heartland.

Did you write your own vows? If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line? My vows to Johnny: “Today, I want to make a promise to you and to myself — in front of God, our family, and our friends — to give you my love, laughter, and commitment for the rest of my life. I promise to love you in good times and in bad with all of my heart. I will love you for who you are, and help you to become all that you can be. One of the things that I love about you most is your ability to make me smile even when I’m having a bad day. I promise to laugh with you often and to try and make you as happy as you’ve made me. I promise to put our marriage first and to stand by your side no matter what challenges we may face. I promise to respect you as your own person, and to realize that your interests, desires, and needs are no less important than my own. I promise to always be faithful and to communicate with honesty and with tenderness. Johnny, we have been dating for over nine years, which means I’ve been waiting to marry you, my one true love, for one third of my life! I’ve been looking forward to this day for what seems like forever and I can’t wait to spend eternity with you, my husband.”

What readings, if any, did you have at your ceremony? My grandmother read scripture from Colossians 3:12-17: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” I thought this scripture was a good reminder for how a husband and wife should live their lives and treat each other.

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story. (From the groom) It seems like yesterday. I was a college art student flying home from New York City for Christmas break. I was so anxious to get home, not really thinking that as soon as my brother’s silver Durango pulled up, my life as I knew it would change. I hopped in and saw Kristal — she was absolutely stunning, beautiful both inside and out. Instantly, I tried to be as clever as possible, wanting every comment to be funny with a flirtatious tone. Thankfully, it worked. As my brother and I planned to go to dinner a few nights later, I hounded him to invite Kristal. When he hesitated, I distinctly remember grabbing the phone, pleading for her to join us. It is that giddy feeling, that constant need to keep her smiling that has never left, and it never will.
Describe the proposal. It all started when Johnny opened his big mouth in front of my mom and dad. He said, “I wouldn’t even think of proposing to your daughter until I shoot a buck in Tennessee!” I knew then, with Johnny, being a city boy and never having hunted before, that I would be old and gray before ever walking down the aisle! However, a few days later, he did the impossible! He killed his first buck. I knew exactly what that meant and patiently (or maybe impatiently) waited for that special day to come. Four months later, on May 4th, my family met Johnny’s family at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, for a night of fun. After dinner, as we walked toward the casino, we stopped and listened to the band play Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” When the song ended, the lead singer asked if anyone named Kristal was in the audience. I thought for sure it had to be someone else, so I didn’t budge. That is, until Johnny took my hand and led me up the stairs of the stage, grabbed the microphone, got down on one knee and PROPOSED! I was so excited, I started saying “yes, yes, yes” before he could even finish!
In what month did you get married? May
How many guests attended your wedding? 111
Tell us about some of the songs you used throughout your wedding. My dad, mom, and I walked down the aisle to a live guitarist and violinist playing Pachelbel’s Canon in D. Hearing that song gives me goosbumps every time! We walked back as husband and wife to the traditional recessional of The Wedding March. Our first dance was to Ray Lamontagne’s “You are the Best Thing.” My dad and I danced to Heartland’s “I Loved Her First” and my mom and I danced to Carrie Underwood’s “Mama’s Song.”
Describe your wedding cake or dessert: The wedding cake was a four-tiered, traditional white cake with raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting. The groom’s cake was a tiered cannoli tower with a chocolate cake on top. The groom’s cake topper consisted of several wooden pieces of New York City’s most influential buildings, imitating one of our favorite views, the New York City skyline.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: Having our beloved potbellied pig, Hamilton, walk down the aisle with the junior groomsman and junior bridesmaid. Also, Johnny painted a beautiful 40” x 50” oil canvas of Cedarwood to be used in place of the guest book. We now have it hanging in our new home and are reminded daily of how blessed we are.
What Southern details or traditions did you include in your celebration? What was Southern about your wedding? We got married in Nashville, Tennessee, at Cedarwood. Our overall wedding theme was “Burlap and Bling.” From the burlap runners and chair ties, to the sparkling mason jars filled with candles and hanging from the trees, our wedding was very Southern. We even served our signature cocktail, “The Hamilton,” in mason jars!
If you are comfortable responding, what range did your wedding budget fall into? $25,000-$50,000
What is the one thing you are most happy you splurged on? Without question, our wonderful and talented videographers and photographer. Our wedding flew by in no time. There were so many little moments that we missed, but they were captured on film for us to see and remember for many years to come.
What was your most memorable moment about your wedding day? There were so many, but saying our own personal vows was a very special moment. It gave us the opportunity to speak from our hearts and make promises to each other that we feel will make our marriage strong and everlasting. Another was surprising my mom with a mother-daughter dance to our song, “Mama’s Song” by Carrie Underwood. My mom is my best friend and I can’t thank her enough for her unconditional love and support. Lastly, the best man’s toast from Johnny’s dad was incredible and a moment that we will always cherish. His dad has such a way with words – he made the entire audience laugh, cry, and smile!
What advice do you have for folks currently planning a wedding? Allow yourself to be emotional. I was so afraid of being an “ugly crier” and ruining my pictures, that I held it all in. It wasn’t until Johnny and I were on the plane to our honeymoon in Napa Valley that I let it all out. I burst into tears from being so overwhelmed from everyone’s love, and how perfect the day went, and how fast it all went by.
What’s next for you as a couple? What are you looking forward to in the future? We just moved into our new home in Auburn, Alabama. I recently graduated veterinary school and got accepted into a small animal internship program at Auburn University. My ultimate goal is to become a board certified veterinary oncologist. Johnny has been blessed with enough work to make his dream come true of becoming a freelance graphic designer, allowing him to work from home. Our ultimate goal is to settle down in the wonderful city where we married, Nashville.

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole

Hi, y’all! March’s Southern Bride of the Month is Ali, and she’ll actually be a familiar face to many of you! We featured her and her fiancé Eric’s Gator engagement session awhile back, and you can see all the photos here! I’m so happy to have had the chance to learn more about this athletic duo and their wedding — enjoy this month’s interview!

Hi! What’s your name?
Ali Peek

What’s your fiancé’s name?
Eric Wilbur

What do y’all do for a living?
Eric is a professional football player and I am a sports writer/reporter.

Anna Kirby via Southern Weddings

How did the two of you meet? Tell us your story.
Eric and I met the summer after our freshman year at the University of Florida. We were introduced by our mutual friends and bonded over our shared love of Florida Gator sports (and all sports, for that matter!). By that fall we were dating. Over the next three seasons, I became Eric’s biggest cheerleader. (Other than his Momma, of course!)

I knew I had found the perfect guy for me after Eric’s Valentine’s Day surprise in 2006. He told me to dress warm and be ready at my house at 7pm. He picked me up, blindfolded me, and drove me to his secret location. He carefully guided me through what seemed like a maze of steps and hallways. When we reached our destination, Eric removed the blindfold. We were standing on the 50-yard line at Florida Field! Laid out in front of us was a picnic blanket, candles, champagne, steak and lobster. Anyone that knows me knows this is basically my vision of heaven on earth! Eric has spent the last few years attempting to top that moment…so far, it hasn’t happened – ha!

Two of Ali’s bouquet inspirations! (Photos: Katie Lewis via Style Me Pretty and Haley Sheffield via Southern Weddings)

Now tell us alllll about the proposal.
I feel like this story wouldn’t be complete without first sharing with everyone how Eric asked my Daddy permission to marry me. I also need to tell you that Eric (and my Dad, for that matter) never miss an opportunity to win… at anything.

On Christmas Day, Eric and my Dad slipped out to walk three holes on the golf course behind my parents’ house. Eric and my dad have a great relationship. They also compete in everything. Whether it’s golf, beer pong, Wii or anything where score can be kept, they compete. So, of course, this day was no different. They had decided to have a “best of three” competition. Eric won the first hole and my dad won the second. The usual trash talk took place on the walk to the third hole. As my Dad lined up in the tee box, he told Eric “There is nothing you can say to break my concentration.” As he went to swing his club, Eric asked, “Can I marry your daughter?” My Dad turned to Eric laughing and said “touché”. My Daddy went on to win the third hole and he gave Eric permission to marry me.

On May 20th, 2011, Eric and I were packing up the car to head to Tampa to watch my little brother James play. We were running late (as usual!) and I was in a hurry to get on the road. Eric told me he forgot something, and ran back in the house. After five minutes passed, I went inside to see what could possibly be taking so long. I found Eric holding our new baby kitten, Mason. “Don’t you want to say goodbye to the kitty?” he asked me. I said “yes” and began kissing on the kitten. It took a full minute or so before I even realized that Eric had placed his great-grandmother’s ring on the kitten’s collar. As soon as I saw it, my eyes welled with tears and Eric dropped to one knee. He popped the question and I said, “YES!”

Let’s see the ring!
My engagement ring is a beautiful 15-carat aquamarine that belonged to Eric’s great grandmother. I had gushed over the ring years earlier, and Eric and his mom remembered. I feel so blessed and honored to have such an amazing piece of family history resting on my finger. When we say “I DO,” it will be with his great grandmother’s wedding band. Eric will be wearing his Daddy’s wedding band. It is inscribed on the inside with his parents wedding date and ours.

When’s the big day?
Our big day is April 21st, 2012.

Where might you two be tying the knot?
Eric and I are tying the knot at the gorgeous St. Leo Abbey, the heart of St. Leo University. The Abbey was built in 1881 and is one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen. After our vows, we will be heading over to the Lange Farm just a couple miles away to continue the celebration. It is acres and acres of rolling hills and moss-covered oak trees and a fully operational horse farm.

Photo of St. Leo Abbey by Stephen Dohring

I had actually always dreamed of getting married at this huge Catholic Church in the center of downtown Tampa, but when I started visiting venues right around the church, everything just seemed so cookie cutter. I casually mentioned getting married on a farm to Eric, but he was not that thrilled with the idea. I even called the Lange Farm, only to find out they were booked during the time frame we wanted to wed. After a few weeks of fruitless efforts, I received a call from the Lange Farm letting me know they had a cancellation on April 21st, our dream wedding day. A quick drive over to Tampa to tour the property confirmed my feelings and completely won over Eric.

Ceremony decor ideas: baby’s breath wreath and mason jars with baby’s breath for every other pew! (Photos by Mi Amore Foto via Emmaline Bride)

Who or what has been most inspiring in the wedding planning process?
In a word, family. I want our wedding to reflect not only where Eric and I are headed in our relationship with each other, but also where we have been. We are both so lucky to be blessed with amazing families and they have made us who we are. Both of our parents have been married for more than 30 years, and all of my grandparents are nearing the 60-year mark. That’s a huge legacy to live up to.

The last few years, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how lucky I am to be a part of such a big family (the oldest of 7 children!) and at 27, to still have all four of my grandparents. A few months after we got engaged, both of my grandfathers had some health issues, and I had so much heartache over the thought that maybe I wouldn’t get to spend my big day with all four of them. This resulted in many sleepless nights and tears. In a way, I felt selfish, because all of Eric’s grandparents had passed by the time he was 10 years old.

Then, on December 16th of last year, our world changed. We had just arrived in Tampa because the next day, my aunt was throwing a joint engagement party for my sister and her fiancé and Eric and I. We hadn’t been home ten minutes before the phone rang. Eric’s father was being transported to the hospital after suffering a suspected heart attack. We immediately ran out the door to the car to drive back to Orlando and straight to the hospital. We prayed the whole way that Eric’s dad would be okay. When we were about 20 minutes from the hospital, Eric’s mom called us and asked us to pull over on the side of the road. We did and she told us that Eric’s Daddy had suffered a massive heart attack and didn’t make it. During all the time I had spent worried about my 85-year-old grandparents, it never crossed my mind that Eric’s 57-year-old dad, his best friend and hero, would not be with us. In the week after Eric’s Dad’s passing, my outlook on our wedding changed. As I watched my future husband give the eulogy at the funeral and listened to him describe the type of husband and father he was hoping to be one day, I realized the details didn’t matter. We could get married at the courthouse and I would still be happy. I’m still a stickler for the details, but I have a whole new respect for what’s really important; cherishing every moment with each other and our families.

More baby’s breath ideas: Leo Patrone via Style Me Pretty and Madalina Lesan Photography (boutonniere by Holly Chapple) via Emmaline Bride

Has your vision for your wedding changed or evolved over the course of your engagement? If so, how?
Yes. When we first started looking for venues, I pictured a formal affair in a giant ballroom. I thought about long gowns, elaborate flowers and lots of glamour. The more places I toured, the more I realized this vision was so not me!

Which part of your wedding are you most invested in?
Financially, we are the most invested in our food. Our caterer, Anthony from Stone Chef Catering, Inc. has created an amazing menu filled with delicious Southern foods. We are serving Peach Bourbon glazed chicken, prime rib, a mashed and sweet potato bar, green beans, cornbread, crab cakes, two different kinds of mac and cheese, sweet tea and lemonade. Personally, I am the most invested in the DIY projects that Eric and I have dreamed up. We bought a pair of 10 foot tall French doors that we sanded and painted white. Our seating chart is going to be printed on the windowpanes. We bought three pairs of old shutters, painted them white and then antiqued them. Then, I rolled 100 clothespins in gold glitter and will use them to pin up wedding pictures of all of our relatives. My future mother-in-law got her whole school to save old jars and we have spent the last few months covering them in burlap, lace and twine. We’ve made over 200 of them! They are going to be used for flowers and candles on all of our tables at the reception. I’ve scoured garage sales for milk glass, teacups, picture frames and lace doilies. I hope all of our guests can see our personalities and our family history in our ceremony and reception.

Mason jar DIY from Notes on a Wedding and floral hay bale photo by Kim Box Photography

Have you picked your dress yet? How’d that go? What will you be wearing on the big day?
After searching online for wedding gown options and some window browsing, I knew I wanted a Watters & Watters dress. I went on Watters website and found 6 dress shops in Florida that were supposed to have a sample size of “the dress”. As I started calling the shops, I eventually found out that only ONE actually still had the dress in the store. The one dress shop that did have the dress was Vocelle’s Bridal Shoppe…in TALLAHASSEE!! Not only was I at least partially afraid that the store would somehow sew garnet and gold thread into the dress…but Tallahassee is a 5 hour drive from Orlando! I eventually got on the phone with the stor eowner, Kristen Vocelle. I knew the name, but I wasn’t 100% sure it was the same Kristen Vocelle who was a Tri Delt with me at UF. Sure enough, it was!!!

At this point, I was beginning to think this dress might be my fate. What are the odds that one of my very own gator girls had a wedding dress shop in Seminole Country?! But, I still had to decide if I was going to make the drive all the way to Tallahassee. I was explaining my dilemma to my future mother-in-law, and she had a solution! She was driving just past Tallahassee the upcoming week to pick up her grandson from camp. She told me I could hop in the car and we’d go look at the dress. I was in!! I called my sister and MOH, Gabbie, and asked her to come along for the ride. As I expected, I LOVED “the dress.” But now I had a different problem: Kristen had introduced me to another dress that I was also in love with! I did finally decide on a winner, but y’all are going to have to wait until the big day to see which one I picked. I know my fiancé secretly reads Southern Weddings, and I wouldn’t want to give him any hints!

Family photo display idea via Style Me Pretty (photo by Chris and Adrienne Scott), burlap chair decor via Hey Gorg (photo by Hailey Erickson)

What do you love most about Southern weddings?
“We don’t become Southern. We’re born that way.” Probably my favorite quote of all time. Since I was lucky enough to be born into a family that loves God, each other and SEC football above all else, I think I’d be doing everyone an injustice if my wedding didn’t celebrate those things that we hold dear. I hope our guests leave full, tired and sweaty from dancing and oozing with happiness (and pie).

What has been the biggest challenge so far in wedding planning?
I come from a very large family. When I say large, I mean 7 children, y’all! I have 16 cousins on my Dad’s side and 12 on my Mom’s… that’s just first cousins! So, working within a budget with what turned out to be a massive guest list was definitely a challenge. I have certainly learned the meaning of “thrifty” and have surprised myself with negotiating skills I didn’t even know I had!

What do you wish you would have known at the beginning of your engagement?
A couple weeks ago, someone sent me the quote; “A wedding is a party, not a performance. If at the end of the day, you married the one you love, then everything went perfectly.” This could not be truer. As much as I want the perfect wedding, what I really want is to spend the rest of my life with Eric. So no matter how smoothly (or not smoothly!) our wedding day goes, it’s still a win in my book. In the beginning, I think I got so caught up in the wedding, that I missed the bigger picture. I’m not praying for the perfect wedding anymore, I’m praying for the (almost) perfect marriage!

Burlap banner via Hey Gorg (photo by Hailey Erickson)

What are you most looking forward to on your wedding day?
I cannot wait until those church doors open and my Daddy walks me down the aisle to my best friend. All of our family and friends being there to watch is just the icing on the cake!

Any advice you’d like to pass along to fellow brides?
Everything is negotiable. I think that sometimes brides don’t end up with what they truly want because they are either too afraid to ask or they accept the first number given by a vendor. Don’t be afraid to do a little negotiating! The worst someone can tell you is no. But, they just might help you build the wedding of your dreams at a price your Daddy likes.

Now it’s your turn to ask for advice – is there anything you’d like to poll the SW readers on?
I want to find a few subtle ways to honor my father-in-law on our wedding day. My future mother-in-law already gave me his embroidered Florida Gator game day polo and I have had “Gator Dad #10” cut out in the shape of a heart and sewn into the inside lining of my wedding dress. But, I want to find some other ways to make his presence felt. Any ideas?

Thank you so much for playing along, Ali! Readers, if you’d like to apply to be a Southern Bride of the Month, check out this post for all the details! If you’ve already emailed me, you’re still in the running for future months!

P.S. One year ago, our first Southern Bride of the Month feature was posted!

Anna Kirby and Haley Sheffield are fabulous members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Sarah reply

    I love everything about their story and their plans!

  2. avatar Emily reply

    Hi Ali! Thank you so much for sharing your story! Here is the link to a past post we wrote about ways to remember loved ones in your wedding: There are some great ideas in the comments, too!

  3. avatar Madelynne Miller reply

    Ali – I can already tell your wedding is going to be GORGEOUS! Your stories brought my tears to my eyes. What a great hurdle to overcome the loss of someone you love dearly. My sympathy goes out to you and your fiance.

    I understand what it’s like to find something you love on your ‘enemy’s’ turf. I found my engagement ring in Tuscaloosa and I am an Auburn girl! Ouch! Your wedding is the week after mine – April is the best :) Good luck these next few weeks!

  4. avatar Ilana reply

    What a wonderful post! Your stories were wonderful!! Honoring your father-in-law or others in your wedding is one of the most thoughtful and beautiful things…My fiance and I are also considering ways to do this. A few things we will be doing: I have a strip of fabric from a family quilt that has been passed down through my mother’s side of the family and represents all of the strong women from whom I am descended. I will be wrapping my bouquet with a strip of the fabric. We will also be displaying photographs (possibly with memorial candles) of my grandparents who have recently passed away. I’ve also seen trinkets carried, meaningful flowers in the bouquet (I have seen one white or red rose in the bouquet which is then placed on an empty seat for a loved one). Good luck, I know you will come up with a beautiful and meaningful way to honor your father-in law.

  5. avatar Amanda Zerra reply

    Congratulations! I got chills reading about your fiance’s family heirloom ring and your soon to be wedding band. What a story! I also incorporated many family heirlooms into our wedding day. It just goes to show you that the day isn’t just about decorations and the dress. It’s also about family, love and togetherness whether in presence or in memories. Wishing you both a lifetime of love and happiness!

  6. avatar Brittney Perryman reply

    I could read this post thousands of times and would still tear up every time! Such an inspiration! Praying their day is as wonderful as they’ve dreamed of :)

  7. avatar Nathan reply

    I love how the boutonniere looks like a little bouquet!

  8. avatar reply

    Howdy would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using?
    I’m going to start my own blog in the near
    future but I’m having a hard time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your layout seems different
    then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  9. avatar Betsy @ Hundreds of Moments Wedding Photography reply

    Stunning yet simple details in this wedding! Beautiful inspiration ideas and photos. <3

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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After seeing the results from our mason jar and escort card challenges, we didn’t know if y’all would be able to top yourselves the third time around. Of course, we never should have doubted! Your entries were as creative and crafty and SOUTHERN as always, and you made it very difficult for us to choose a winner. But choose a winner we did, using a highly-scientific combination of reader votes and editor opinions.

Congratulations to Sweet Tea Photography, Petal’s Edge, and the rest of the Virginia team! We loved all of the burlap projects they submitted, from a burlap bouquet wrap to burlap pew cones, wreaths, menus, candles, boutonnieres and more. You can see their whole submission here!

Kudos also to our runners-up, the Tying the Knot team and Events Uncorked! We loved both of their ideas — combining burlap and oysters, and a DIY burlap bow tie, respectively.

And lastly, one more congratulations and thank you to ALL of our participants and finalists — Cedarwood + Kristyn Hogan, Rebecca Rose + Amy Lynne, Formal Fringe, Pretty Peachtree, and Dodeline Design.

Stay tuned, because the next Ultimate Southern Challenge will be posted next week!! Suggestions for future challenges are welcomed below :)

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Lisa Marie reply

    So exciting! Thank you SW mag!

  2. avatar Floral Cotton reply

    Super Awesome! Congrats Petal’s Edge! Sooooo Pretty!

  3. avatar Allie@HoneyBeeInvites reply

    great entry! just love it!!!

  4. avatar Gerry Rogers reply

    Thank you thank you thank you!! We had SOOO much fun!!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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