Helping Out Zephyr Hill


My alter ego lives on Blogger.  Unfortunately, recently Blogger has been editing my photos as it uploads them, bleaching the life out of my sunsets and sunrises as it apparently tries to “enhance” them–and there doesn’t seem to be any way to turn it off.

Trying to change settings, I noticed the “upload from a url” option and got an idea.  I’m going to upload the photos here (let’s see if WordPress will leave them alone!), then upload them to my Adventures on Zephyr Hill Farm using the url.  Let’s see if it works . . .

Sunrise from our front porch (which faces east).

Sun-limned clouds at sunset from our back porch (which faces west).

You may wonder why I bothered to specify which way our porches face.  It should be obvious if we see sunsets and sunrises, which is which.  Right?

Looking out my front porch as the sun set earlier this month.

Looking out my front porch at sunset just the other evening.  Really?  Sunset in the east?  That’s something I’ve never seen in almost six decades of sunsets!

Who says there’s nothing new under the sun?

A Window On: The Solution for Siding Around Windows



Following up on my last post, here’s what worked for siding around the windows and doors when my template didn’t.


This is what I started out with.  I followed several steps for applying the siding.


1) Measure.    In most places I could hold a siding strip in place and mark it from behind, as in the photo above.  Where that was not possible, I held the strip in place and marked it from the front.


2)  Sand.  I chose the smoothest edge of the strip and sanded lightly with 220 grit sandpaper for a cleaner look to the siding.


3)  Cut.  I used a scissors to cut along my marked edge.  Whenever it was difficult to get an exact mark because of awkward placement, I cut a slightly longer piece that I thought I needed.

4)  Try out for size.  This was the time to shorten too-long strips or even up crooked edges.




5)  Apply glue.  I applied a wiggly line of hot glue and got ready to quickly apply the strip.


6)  Glue down.  As soon as the glue was on I carefully positioned the strip and pressed it down quickly before the hot glue cooled.  Careful positioning is important as it’s extremely difficult to remove these thin siding strips.  They tend to shred as you pull them off, and you need to end up scraping them off with an exacto knife.  (I know this because when I got a bit tired I got careless with a couple of strips!)


I tried to be as exact as possible in my work, although I knew that when the windows go in they will hide minor imperfections like the one at the top of this window.


One final tip is that when you apply siding you will find that one whole strip us too short to cover certain runs.  In the case where you need two strips on one length of siding, be sure to stagger the joins so they do not all occur in the same place.  If you observe real houses, they never have a “seam” up one side where all the lengths of siding join.  To avoid an awkward seam, start succeeding runs from opposite sides of the house.  If your house should be exactly double the length of your siding strips, just cut them randomly to avoid creating a seam.

In this photo you can see a seam at the lower corner of the right hand window.  The others are hidden under the porch roof because that’s where the longest runs are.


It was a long, tedious process to get all the siding measured and applied around the windows and doors, but it was worth it in the end when I tried on my windows and door and got a glimpse of the finished house.

My final judgment on templates is this:  They work fine to cut angled shapes like gables where one or two straight cuts are all that are needed.  But when you’re working around windows and doors, there’s no method better than what a real carpenter would do–measure twice and cut once–for every single strip of siding!

When a Template is NOT a Template for Success


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My last post was a tutorial on how a template helped me apply siding to the gable of my dollhouse.


The other day I ruled the lines for the front of the dollhouse, glued a few strips of siding on up to the bottom of the window–and then decided that a template would probably help me fit the siding more easily around the multiple windows and doors.


So I cut templates for both sides of the house.  I took lots of photos of me using the 12″ scrapbook paper cutter and other steps in making the template, but I’m not going to post them.  You’ll see why . . .


This bag of siding had an irritating defect–a strip of paper glued tightly about half an inch from the end of each strip.  I prefer to take each strip and fine-sand the edge that is already smoothest, then glue it on the dollhouse.  When gluing the siding strips to the template, this sometimes meant that I had to lay the strips in different directions in order to keep the useless papered end far enough out that it would be cut off.  That’s why the template looks every-which-way.


I checked the front side of the template, and everything looked good.  (There are no siding strips on the bottom because I had already glued some to the house before I got the idea of a template.)


I began cutting off the excess part of the strips, using the template as a guide.  Then it was time to cut out the windows.  That’s when things fell apart–literally!  The spray adhesive I used to adhere the siding strips to the template was not strong enough to stand up to that kind of cutting, and pieces began to fall loose.

The pieces laying on the table to the left of the template show some of the cuts I started to make before the strips fell off the template.

This is when common sense took over.  I may have spent several hours making these templates “just so,” but if they were making things harder, it was time to give up.  The French say, “Il n’y a pas trente-six solutions.”  No, there aren’t 36 ways to do something–but there is more than one!

Stay tuned for the next post to see my solution!


‘Tis a Puzzlement! DIY Dollhouse Siding for a Gable


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DSC_9355The last post covered the fairly straightforward process for applying lap siding to a dollhouse–and ended when I got to this tricky bit.  I entitled this post “‘Tis a puzzlement” because that’s what the King of Siam (played by Yul Brynner in “The King and I”) always said to Anna when he didn’t know the answer to something.  It became a favorite quote in our family.  Here’s how I solved this puzzlement . . .


Make a template!  Luckily my gable had an easy pitch to it, and a sheet of sturdy white 12×12″ scrapbooking paper fit perfectly.


I used my thumbnail (fingers are such useful tools!) to crease along the line where I needed to cut.  Once I had cut, I replaced the paper template on the dollhouse to be sure it fit.  Then I labeled it so I’d be sure to remember which side to use.


The next step was to rule lines on the template the same width as I had used for the dollhouse.  I laid the template on the dollhouse and continued drawing lines on the paper going up from the last line on the dollhouse side.  Using the lines will keep the lap siding straight.


After the siding was glued on up to the bottom of the gable, I checked the fit of the template one last time.  Measure thrice–cut once!


It was time to break out my handy junk cardboard that I use to protect my table top from messy stuff.  I laid the template on the cardboard and sprayed it generously with spray-on adhesive.


Carefully peeling up a corner of the tacky template, I transferred it to a clean piece of scrapbook paper, sticky side up.




I laid my first siding strip along the lowest line drawn on the template.  It’s VERY important to leave enough siding strip hanging over both ends of the template.  The first time I didn’t, and although it looks fine when you’re looking at it, after you cut it you will discover gaps where the siding didn’t reach.  I can’t explain why (probably because I was terrible in math!), but I know from experience!  If you line up your siding strips like I have in this photo, you will be okay.


  I continued laying siding strips one on top of the other, just like on the side of the house.  I did not add any extra glue; the spray adhesive was enough to hold the strips in place.


I continued all the way up to the top of the gable, finishing off the tiny piece at the very tip-top.


Having goofed on my first try, I held my finished template up to the light to be sure that all of the paper was adequately covered.  It was!


Very gently I flipped the template over and carefully cut along one side . . .


. . . then the other.  No, I do not have magic scissors!  I couldn’t cut and photograph with my right hand at the same time, so I had to prop the scissors.


Once I was done cutting around my template, this is what it looked like on the back.  And by the way, I saved the discarded end pieces in case I need a filler piece later.


One final time to see if everything fit properly before I glued it down.


Laying the template wood side down I began to carefully peel away the paper.  One place I read online said to glue the paper directly to the dollhouse, but I was afraid it wouldn’t adhere well.  My method is a bit more labor intensive, but I think it will hold better.


I continued to hold down the wood strips as I peeled the rest of the paper template away.  Note that the strips will be a bit tacky still from the spray-on adhesive.


I’m missing a step in the photos here, so you’ll just have to take my word for it!  Holding the template-shaped section of wood strips very carefully, I flipped it over wood side up.  The strips separated a bit, but stayed in order.  That’s what’s important!  One by one, I hot-glued each one down exactly like the rest of the siding had been done.


This one little piece was still sticking out, so I used my fine-pointed pencil to draw a line along the edge of the dollhouse on back and then carefully cut it off.


Here’s the finished side of the dollhouse.


And here it is, close up.  I was pretty excited at how well it turned out!  I’m sure you’re doing exactly what I did–scratching your head and saying, “How on earth could something that looked so tricky be that easy to do?!”

I have five simple words:  The. Power. of. the. Internet.

There’s one more gable on the front of the house along with four odd-shaped sections of roof I’ll have to put shingles on, so I’m really thankful that I discovered the idea of using a template.

Stay tuned to see how I handled siding the front of the house with five windows, a door, a porch roof and pillars to work around . . .



Taking Sides: DIY Dollhouse Siding


Once I decided to make my dollhouse Victorian, siding became an important factor.  Old houses have that beautiful narrow lap-siding.  It’s a lot more time-consuming to install, whether your house is full-sized or dollhouse-sized, but it adds so much authenticity if it’s done right! DSC_5732Here’s my old Victorian.  The right-hand side is original.  The lower left-hand side was a 1980’s addition.  In 2002 we took off that roof and added a second story with a gable that mimicked the original gable right down to the way it curved into the roof and a large picture window that mimicked the original one, half hidden behind the porch. DSC_5712I fought with our contractor for the (more expensive) narrow Hardy-board siding on the addition instead of the cheaper wide version!  And when he advised me to rip off the unique, one-of-a-kind original siding, we found a different contractor and had him restore it.  This house was indeed a labor of love! So now that you’ve seen my inspiration, let’s talk dollhouse siding. DSC_9287This is the siding I ordered. DSC_9288 Here are the supplies I used:  Siding, a ruler, a fine-pointed pencil, a hot glue gun, a board for measuring and cutting, a scissors, and fine 220 grit sandpaper. DSC_9289The very first step is to measure the exact width of the dollhouse side.  (I like using a wooden ruler because I can pencil a measurement in and use it over and over without remeasuring each strip of wood.)  I marked the first strip of wood with a little “tick” mark. DSC_9290 Next I cut off the excess length of the wood strip with a scissors along the “tick” mark.  I’m pretty good at eyeballing a straight cut, but if you’re not, you might use a small T-square to draw a line, ensuring that your cut will be straight.  I plan to edge the open (back) side of each wall, so any slight imperfections will be hidden, anyway. DSC_9282 The next step is to draw lines on the side of the dollhouse to be sure the siding goes on straight.  I hot-glued my first siding strip across the bottom of the dollhouse.  I measured the strip vertically (height) and halved that amount.  Using that halved measurement, I ruled lines all the way up the side of the dollhouse, starting at the top edge of the first strip.  It works best to measure all the way up one edge and then all the way up the other edge, then draw straight lines across.  Depending on the size of your dollhouse, you may need a longer straight-edge for this than a 12-inch ruler, as I did. These lines, shown above, serve to line up each successive strip evenly so that it covers half of the strip below it and gives a nice, even appearance to the siding. DSC_9281 Like this! DSC_9291 One thing I did was to sand gently along one edge of each strip after I cut it to the correct length.  If you look at the first photo of the siding package, you will see shreds of wood on the work surface.  A lot of these cling to the siding strips, and gently sanding the edge that will be visible makes the final product look better. DSC_9293 Starting at one end of the un-sanded side of each strip, I applied a string of hot glue. DSC_9294 Hot glue sets quickly, so I took this picture FAST to show how much glue I used.  As you can see, my hand is not the steadiest, but it doesn’t matter.  Speed is more important. DSC_9295 Then each strip got pressed into place using both hands (except when I needed one hand to take this photo).  It’s important to place each strip accurately, using your pencilled lines, and then to press it quickly in place for good adhesion.  Hot glue does not tolerate sliding a strip into place! DSC_9281 Once again, here’s the look you’re going for. DSC_9299 Occasionally I got the glue started on a strip of siding and realized I had forgotten to cut it down to size first.  No problem!  Once it was glued down, I just cut it off carefully, even with the others. DSC_9304 You want this back edge to be as even as possible, although I intend to trim it for durability.  Since this dollhouse will actually be played with by children, I don’t want to risk the edges of the lap siding getting caught and pulled loose or broken off. DSC_9305 As you can see, the front edge of my siding against the existing trim is less than perfect.    I think by the time I put on a coat of primer and a coat of paint, everything will look just fine. DSC_9309 Occasionally a bit of hot glue extrudes beyond the top edge of the siding.  While this will be hidden by the next layer of siding, it can also leave a bulge under the next layer. DSC_9310 So, once the glue has cooled, I use a fingernail to scrape off the excess blob of glue.  An exacto knife is more likely to slip and cut the siding, which is why I do it this way. DSC_9355 Eventually, you will get to this point on your siding.  Hmmm, how to tackle that?  I did some research on the internet (how did we ever get anything accomplished pre-Google?) and came up with a simple (not fool-proof, though, as I found out to my chagrin!) solution. Stay tuned . . .

Construction in Narnia–Again!


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DSC_9303Back in April when this view of tender foliage was outside the window of Spare Oom, I started on a new construction project in Narnia.  Then life got in the way, and construction ground to a halt.  Now that working inside to avoid the suffocating heat of summer seems like a brilliant idea, I thought it was time to take my construction project public.  Maybe that will keep me at it!

“WHAAAAT?” you might well ask.  “Didn’t you just finish creating Narnia in your attic?  What could you possibly be building now?”  Well, here’s the answer to that very good question . . .

DSC_9352I’m building a house!  A dollhouse, yes, but a house!  This time I’m the general contractor, builder and decorator!


I bought this house before we moved to France in 1990, and it sat in storage with our furniture until we came back to the States in 2001.  At the time I thought I would decorate it in French style.  But it sat . . . and sat . . . and sat . . . in a closet.  Then in 2008, two things happened.

1)  We left my beloved Victorian house in Tennessee and moved out here to the country.  It was my idea to move, but oh, was it hard to leave my dream house!

2)  Our first grandchild, a girl, was born.  Now at last I had a really good reason to pull out the dollhouse and get to work.


But of course the work of turning this place into a farm took precedence, and somehow the dollhouse languished again.  Then earlier this year during the process of furnishing Narnia, Charis (now 4 1/2) saw the dollhouse and was enchanted.

That was all it took!  I realized that the idea of making a French house no longer seemed so appealing.  Instead, I would rather recreate my beloved old Victorian.  So I ordered lap siding and set everything up to begin construction–again!

So this is an invitation to join me up in Narnia while I build a house-within-a-fantasy-land-within-a-house.  And when I’m done with this, there’s an old Lionel train waiting for its own world to come to life in the basement.  So there’s plenty of magic still left in Narnia, just waiting to be breathed into life!

Goodbye, Dear Zephyr


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This post is copied from my other blog, “Adventures on Zephyr Hill Farm.”  I got Zephyr just before we found this place we would soon call home.  Incredibly, the previous owners called it Zephyr Hill Ranch.  Being from Texas, we couldn’t call 29 acres a ranch, so we called it Zephyr Hill Farm.  Zephyr was the first animal to come to Zephyr Hill Farm, and it seems impossible to think of it without her.

Zephyr has been the only dog allowed upstairs in Narnia, and she has been the dog our grandchildren loved to play with because she was so small and gentle that no child could be afraid of her.  If any dog would have deserved to be a talking dog in Narnia, it would have been Zephyr.

Goodbye, Dear Zephyr

In Memory of Zephyr,
“Zephyr Hill Windsong”
June 12, 2008 – June 17, 2013

It is with an aching heart and burning tears that I write this post.  It will be long and full of photos because it is a tribute to my wonderful, amazing Sheltie who was such a central part of our lives on Zephyr Hill Farm that we still can’t believe she is gone.

Herb and I were gone on a five-day trip and came home to be greeted by Hero and Misty, but no Zephyr.  We called and called and searched everywhere, sure she had just gotten left behind in a pasture or the barnyard, but there was no sign of her.  After 45 minutes of searching for her, a thunderstorm finally sent us inside when it became clear that she wasn’t anywhere we could find her.  A short while later Kara started over to her house and found Zephyr laying in the driveway, almost to the house.  Kara picked her up and raced to the house, and we rushed her to RIVER, the emergency clinic in Chattanooga.  We now know that Zephyr had gone away to die, as dogs often do, but when she heard us calling, she tried to drag herself to the house despite having one hind leg so stiffened out that it must have been sheer love and willpower that enabled her to walk or crawl.

I handed Zephyr over to the waiting team, and they went right to work.  Her heart stopped and she wasn’t breathing.  While they did CPR, the doctor let me go in to her.  All I could do was pet her head and beg her to come back to me.  Her heart began beating and she breathed on her own, and the wonderful team continued to work on her.  She was suffering from heat stroke and diarrhea, although we will never know what caused the diarrhea in the first place.  Kara joined me, and we stayed with Zephyr for the next three hours until she was stabilized.  Before we left for home, the doctor told me she gave Zephyr only a 50% chance of recovery.  She also said that she felt sure that it was because I was there talking to her that Zephyr was still here.

The staff at RIVER welcomed me to visit Zephyr as much as I wanted, so I joined her the next morning.  Before long, she began to have seizures, a bad sign.  When even a constant drip of Valium could not hold off the seizures, I buried my head on Zephyr’s side between the IV’s, oxygen cannula stitched in one nostril, nasogastric tube stitched in the other nostril, blood pressure cuff on one leg, and EKG leads on the other three legs.  I hugged her and begged her to stay with me, and after a few seconds, the seizures stopped.  When I raised my head and released her, they started again.  This scenario was repeated several times, and I knew that Zephyr was aware that I was with her and that somehow I was helping her in a tiny way.  Herb was there at the time, and he was as amazed as I was at her response to my hugs.
Eventually even love couldn’t hold off the seizures, and the doctor started a drip of propofol, the anesthetic notoriously used by Michael Jackson.  The seizures stopped, and we continued to monitor Zephyr’s breathing to be sure that her respirations stayed adequate.  By this time the doctor only gave her a 10% chance of recovering, but we all hoped that the seizures could be held off and her brain might begin to recover from all the damage that had happened to her little body.

During the afternoon, I received the bad news that Zephyr’s carbon dioxide level was rising, meaning she wasn’t breathing it off, and yet her brain was not responding by telling her to breathe more deeply.  The doctor said we had to diminish and stop the propofol and that the seizures were likely to return.  Zephyr would need to breathe better on her own or she would have to be intubated.  I had to decide whether or not to do that if the need arose, but he wanted me to be aware of the complications associated with her being on a respirator.

At that point I knew that the fight for Zephyr’s life was over.  We had done everything humanly possible to help her, and many, many people had been praying for God to intervene on her behalf.  He chose to answer differently than we hoped and prayed.  I continued to stroke Zephyr and talk to her, telling her that when she got over the bridge she should look for Alizée and Cider and Ditey, and especially Precious and Peekaboo and Tiger.  I told her to have a good reunion with Precious and Peekaboo and to tell them I love them.  I told her over and over what a wonderful dog she is and how much I love her . . . and then she didn’t take the next breath.
Herb and Kara were on their way and just missed telling Zephyr goodbye.  We brought her home, and Herb dug a grave near the top of the hill looking out over the farm, the spot where Zephyr has so often sat beside me while I took pictures of beautiful sunsets, the spot where I took a whole series of photos of her romping with Misty.  I can see her grave from the kitchen window and from my desk.  I still can’t believe she’s there and not sleeping on the rug behind me, snorting her funny little snore.  I keep looking up at the front door expecting to see her waiting there politely to be noticed and let in.

Zephyr leaped into our lives with the special joy that was always hers.  She loved to play with water.  She was Hero and Misty’s chew toy, wrestling happily with them even though she could never win.   She loved to play with Charis and Kol and could always be found under their seats at the table.   When Eden visited here for the first time, Zephyr stayed as close to her as she could get.  She loved chasing her ball or bone or a stick–anything that anyone would throw for her as long as they would keep doing it.  She was the only one of our dogs who never chased the cats, even in fun, and they rewarded her by hanging out with her.

Zephyr didn’t like to ride in the car, but she did love to go to Leahaven.  There, as here, she was the Queen of her domain.

Our son Jim (who is not a fan of dogs) said that Zephyr was the perfect dog for kids.  She was!  She was always gentle, with newly-hatched chicks and with the grandkids.  I never had to worry whether she might nip or growl.  Once before I could get there, one of the kids accidentally yanked out a clump of her hair –and Zephyr laid there without even moving away, without even a wince.  She adored the children!

I told Jim in response to his comment that Zephyr was the perfect dog for children:  “Yes, she was!  She was the perfect dog!”  Of course, she had her little quirks–like hating the vacuum so much she had to be put outside when I vacuumed.  We called the list of noisy things Zephyr barked at “Zephyr’s Rules,”and we laughed about them (most of the time).  We marveled when she learned the word “chill,” which could even make her stop barking at the vacuum!  I used to tell people that Zephyr “walked on water.”  It was a joke based on one cold winter when she walked on the frozen pond, but it was really quite apt.  Zephyr was a dog in a million.

I’m very grateful to all those who prayed for Zephyr during her brief illness, and for the many who have written and called to offer their sympathy.  Please don’t be shocked if I break down in tears; it’s going to take a long time before I’m all cried out, but your love and hugs really do help.  I know that dogs don’t live near long enough, but I thought I’d have many more years with my Zephie.  I don’t know why, but in God’s plan she raced into my life and out again too soon, and she’s taken a huge chunk of my heart with her.

We talk about the Rainbow Bridge.  I don’t really know where our beloved pets go when they die, but I  do know that God is good and that heaven, as Herb puts it, will not be the absence of everything good on earth. And so I hope that some day I’ll see Zephie come running to meet me and that I can hug her again and stroke her silky fur and smooth my hand over her face and eyes the way she loved.  And then I’ll throw her favorite ball for her for about a thousand years.  Until then, I told her before she left, you find Precious and Peekaboo and Tiger, and look up Alizée and Cider and Ditey, even though you didn’t know them, and they will all keep you company until I come.

Goodbye, my darling Zephyr.  I love you.

The Wardrobe Gets Around


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My niece, who works in the computer field, just had a post on our Narnia project published on the Homeketeers blog.  Be sure to check it out!  (It’s published under her nom de plume.)  For anyone who’s new to the story of how we turned our attic into Narnia, my niece’s account is clear and concise–and a good way to find out about it without reading through about 75 posts!


Marie’s Father Speaks: “We do not want anger in our hearts”


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Marie's sister graciously gave permission to use this photo.

Marie’s sister graciously gave permission to use this photo.

Yesterday an interview with Marie’s father, Pastor Antoine Schluchter, was posted online in the periodical La Liberté.   This incredible story was written by journalist Maud Tornare.  Here it is, translated to the best of my ability:

Marie’s Father:  “We do not want anger in our hearts”

It is after a long and heavy wait, full of hope and anguish, that Marie’s parents must now face the incomprehensible:  the death of their daughter, killed by an insane murderer shortly after her 19th birthday.

“Although we have seen our daughter, we still cannot believe it.  We haven’t yet processed the irrevocable fact of her death,” confided Antoine Schluchter.  At the other end of the line, the voice of Marie’s father is fragile, broken by long silences that speak for themselves of the immense suffering her parents are enduring.

Their daughter Marie had been living since September with a friend of her father’s in Payerne where she was apprenticed in the restaurant of a golf club.  Born in Madagascar, the young woman went home regularly to visit her adoptive parents.

After living in France for many years, the family returned here five years ago.  Before the kidnapping, the couple had never heard of Claude duBois, the man with whom Marie had recently formed a relationship and who coldly murdered her and abandoned her body in the forest.

“We’re haunted by the fear she must have gone through,” said her father.  “But at the same time, my wife and I are borne up by a hope that is stronger than everything else.”

Pastor at Villars-sur-Ollon, Antoine Schluchter affirms that he finds the strength to overcome this trial through his faith in God.  “I often doubt myself, but never the love of Christ.  This tragedy has not weakened our confidence in God, but has strengthened it,” he explains, weighing each of his words carefully.

Marie’s parents want to express thanks for the incredible support they have received from their neighbors and also from complete strangers.  The tragedy has created an international solidarity that extends well beyond Switzerland.

“This support and this caring expressed by many are so important to us.  I learned that the members of a mosque in a Moroccan village prayed all night for our daughter.  This is something incredibly deep.  We have received support from the United States where our other daughter lives, and there have been so many gestures of friendship from people here, too,” the pastor recounted with great emotion.

Not the least sign of rebellion or anger appears in the words of Pastor Schluchter—not even toward the system of justice that allowed the murderer of his daughter, a man with a serious criminal past, to commit once again an irreparable wrong.

“I have only one wish:  that a tragedy like this one we are living through would bring about a realization, better follow-up and handling of cases like this.  What happened to my daughter is something incomprehensible, but we do not want to fill our hearts with anger nor be at the forefront of a battle that we do not care to fight.”

Marie's sister shared this precious photo of Marie and her nephew.

Marie’s sister shared this precious photo of Marie and her nephew.

What can one say after reading such a story?  Just this:

“To God be the glory” and “Dear God, please bless this dear family.”