Azalea Mall Remnants

For a walk with restless Jo this week, I bring to you the leftover remains of the Azalea Mall in RVA.

looking thru

tree growing from concrete crack
This is linked to Thursday Special’s Traces of our Past Theme  because this old mall space whispers of days gone by.

 

thalhimers old terrazzo floor
Walking along this broken up terrazzo floor incited certain emotions. First, it was an experience to feel the hallow, crumbling crunch. Second, I thought of the shoppers who walked this very corridor: Rustling bags in a hustle, clutching hands in a stroll, or shuffling keys to open business. This interesting floor composite is also what made me look up the history of what used to be the Azalea Mall. As the boys skated briefly, I did a little research – and first I found O3’s cool post called the azalea wasteland – HERE.

 

azaela mall 1963-1982-2015
It turns out that the Azalea Mall was the first enclosed mall in Richmond, VA: It opened in 1963, closed in 1995, and for two decades it has been fenced off and waits for a new life
thal
The big anchor for the Azalea Mall was a department store called Thalhimer’s. When I thought about this German name, I wondered how a branding expert today would comment on using this  family name for a store chain, because name pronunciation and the mood invoked matters (check this site for a snippet on the bouba/kiki effect). I then found out that the name was in fact slightly modified when California based Broadway Hale Stores bought the chain in 1978 –  they dropped the apostrophe and made it Thalhimers. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what branding experts think, but sometimes it does.

 

thalhimer with weeds
Before                                                        After

 

azalea mall collage 2
In this collage, I include this shadow selfie – because it shows how long my hair is getting! Last summer, I chopped my hair and while it was something I always wanted to do, I really like having long hair again.
everything happens for a reason
This quote has been coming up a lot this month – and as I walked around the remnants of old mall floors filled with decay, it reminded me of when I used the “everything happens for a reason” phrase while teaching science. On nature hikes, I would always remind students about the natural life cycle of all living things.  For example, even though it is sad when a great tree falls, it also is part of a needed cycle, which makes way for other things. A fallen tree can open the forest canopy so sunlight can reach saplings and a fallen tree ends up nourishing soil as the FBI (fungus, bacteria, insects) do their part.  “Everything happens for a reason,” I would remind students as we moved along the trail. And the same goes for so many areas in life, whether it be closed malls or difficult life circumstances, sometimes what seems so devastatingly empty and void is usually part of a rich cycle that works for good and contributes to a meaningful whole.  small tree in pavement old shop center
woolworths azalea mall
When I walked across the checkered remnants section, I think this might be where Woolworths had an eatery. Did you ever go to a Woolworths? I used to go to Woolworths at the Thruway Mall in Buffalo, NY, which happens to be another one of America’s “dead malls.” The Thruway Mall will always be special to me because in 1983 I recall going there and feeling all grown up because I had my own babysitting money to spend. I only remember the year ’83 because on one fun shopping day – as I was looking for bargains, Lionel Richie’s “You Are” song was ubiquitous and I can still picture a couple of older ladies in a store singing along as it played. Go here to hear the You Are song. 
old mall
Well nowadays – I am all grown up, compared to those early shopping days in the 1980’s. However, I still like to find bargains and I am still maturing – you know…  just always growing and trying to embrace each day for what it has.  And in this above photo – you can faintly see my son’s car (back center left) – which is how we ended up at this vacated mall space – my son is logging lots of driving hours with a learner’s permit and they begged me to stop here real quick like.  I was reluctant, but agreed because even though I had a list of things to get to –  sometimes investing in requests is a simple way to deposit into that “relationship account.” I ended up with this enriched stroll down memory lane and when I told my son about it-  how I took a few photos and also soaked up spring sunshine, well he said something about how his good ideas pay off (ha! – oh…. the grandiose mindset of a teen) – but you know, it really “was” win-win. Remember folks, a lot of personal pleasure can come from being able to enjoy the very simplest of things that come our way.  Try not to miss out – don’t let life weigh you down – don’t take things so seriously all the time – I know life issues are not always easy and you may feel heavy and worn down – kinda like this old mall space, you might feel like you are waiting for some freshness and would like (or need) a whole new life – but never give up – because even though better things are coming – so much can be enjoyed right now.  Try and find it.  And know that God has good things in store, because He not only promises to give us peace that passes understanding, but He says that will give us the desires of our heart. And that is good news. 
emerson quote - kidn, honest, silly
Goals are important. Achievements are satisfying. But if you really want personal joy that goes beyond circumstance and if you want to know what surpasses the ups and downs that can come with tangible, overt success – try these three things that Emerson suggested for a rich life: Be Silly. Be Honest. Be Kind. It will serve you well. 

Hope you have a nice day and for more Monday Walks-  check out Jo’s blog HERE, where this week she also gives us some traces of the past with a Daffodil Walk at Farndale (and a fun shot of some well groomed poodles).

 

 

 

 

 


102 thoughts on “Azalea Mall Remnants

  1. Bit of a bittersweet post. Interesting to see the timeline of the mall and how it has evolved so much over the years. What is a Woolworths over there? In Australia, we have Woolworths and that refers to one of the top two biggest supermarkets chains.

    I like your shadow selfie. Very cool and hip 🙂

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    1. Hi M – 🙂 and let’s see- the first term that came to my mind was that Woolworths in the States was a “five and dime” store with discounted goods. A small store that had a little eatery section with a few tables and long counter. In the 1960’s it evolved into more of the department store, which also at the time had competition from emerging Kmart, Target and early Wal-mart stores… and I guess in the early 1990’s – hundreds of closed down Woolworths (and Woolco) were bought out by Wal-mart (or Zellers in Canada).

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      1. Woolworths in the States seems like a very different concept compared to Australia. in Australia, we call Woolworths “Woolies” for short – and there are stores nationally selling veggies, meat, snacks, containers…you get the idea, Y. I love it when Woolies have discounts on blocks of chocolates like Cadbury and KitKat once every two weeks or so 🙂

        We have Kmart and Target here too in Australia, but not Wal-mart. Would love to check that out someday 🙂

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      2. thanks for sharing that about the “Woolies” name – and I have heard that a lot of people are avoiding Wal-Mart (partly because their huge mega-stores are maybe too large – or out of principle because they do not pay their workers well – like Dr. Bronner’s soap refuses to be carried there for that reason) – but “wally-world – wal0mart” can change drastically depending on the location the time of month.
        check out this video:

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      3. Thanks for the clip. That is really a very diverse bunch of shoppers at Walmart…really outlandish attire or the lack of there…

        We have Costco here in Australia as well. Big megastores that sell things in bulk but still, I don’t think they appeal to most Australians who still prefers Woolies. I don’t know if Costco is that popular over there.

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      4. Hi Mabel – well did you notice Arnold Schwarzenegger- the former GOV of CA – in the wal-mart video buying protein powder??

        and yes, Costco is very popular here – and actually when we lived in Northern California – my husband and I noticed something was really unusual about the costco stores there. They were always busy — at all hours of the day – In contrast, the other costcos we have been to in States seemed to have a flow of busy times – like busy on weekends or have morning and evening rushes – but the 3 or 3 Costco locations we went to back in 2002- well we just thought it was weird how it seemed always busy.
        anyhow, I looked up woolies in australia and I think I would definitely want to go there if I loved near one. 🙂

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      5. Oh yes, I did notice Arnie in the video. However, my eyes popped open more at the lack of clothes on shoppers…Australians do like to show some skin but not like what I saw in this video!

        Interesting to hear Costco is very popular there, I would have supposed so since it’s an American franchise. I used to have a membership for the one here in Australia and always bought chocolate in bulk there 😀

        Woolies is everywhere here in Australia. You would love it 🙂

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    1. thanks so much for saying that – and for some reason right now I am thinking about how the Kardashians partied on your grandparents old property last summer…. I remember that post of yours sometimes when I see neighborhoods change to make way for the new…


      you wrote:
      “I do not follow the Kardashians at all, I have heard of them because it seems impossible not to. This summer the Kardashians rented a home in Southampton, which turned out to be the house that now sits on what was my grandfather’s property. As loathe as I was to watch the episode that took place there, I did. So did my siblings and all of my cousins.
      It was surreal watching them sit and have lunch aside the very tree we had played under.”

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  2. Great post. I find before and after photographs of urban areas and landscapes quite fascinating. Some are a little melancholy, but it’s a powerful thing to see nature reclaiming the land.

    – sonmi upon the Cloud

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  3. It is sad to see a place so desolate as this because of all the joy it once brought to people. One hopes, though, that whatever is done there in the future will bring as much joy to people.

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  4. We have a mall with a history like such here too, Woodwards, There was so much family history that it’s a shame the heirs didn’t quite run it well enough to keep it afloat, It was a shantytown for years before it was redone as low income housing, Sad still though :-\

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  5. Oh, what a walk this is! Woolworths? You bet…..loved those stores! And Lionel Richie? Loved his songs back in the day. Loved this walk with you. But how sad to see that mall so abandoned…….I think too many places are going this way now…..the power of the Internet…sometimes I do wonder if we’ll even recognize the world we grew up in down the line…..very strange to be living in times of such rapid change. But I like your lessons…great that you reminded us to hang in there and that better things are upcoming…..and yet, enjoying the simplest of things in the here and now is the best way to “pass the time” until they get here. I give you an A+ for this post!

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    1. thanks so much – I accept that A with a huge smile – thanks for saying that – and while I love internet shopping for some things – other items I hope to always have store access for, ya know?

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      1. Yes, very difficult to get a good fit online with clothes unless you’ve bought the same thing before and always I’m going to want to just browse out there in the world, you know?

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  6. What a lovely name for a Mall! So sad that it’s fallen by the wayside now, but you’ve shared great memories of shopping there. We have Woolworths in South Africa, and like in Australia, it’s a beautiful upmarket store. I really miss shopping there, as there’s nothing quite like it here in the US. In England, they have Marks and Spencers, which is very similar. Love the Emerson quote. 🙂 Have a great week.

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    1. well I once read that cherry blossoms and azalea blooms are so short and brief – that it is part of their expected “Ephemeral” charm – and so maybe the name of this mall was foreshadowing its brief existence of about 30 years –
      and I have not heard of marks and spencer – but I keep hearing about the more upscale Woolworth’s in Australia (and now SA) – anyhow, someone too me about a cool 1935 photo, which I looked up and grabbed a photo of – well a photographer names Olive Cotton lined up some teacups from woolworth’s and took an amazing photo to where the shadows look like ballet dancers…

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    1. thanks so much – and I have never been to the England Woolworth’s, but did get to visit about 6 or 7 locations in the States – so I feel grateful to have that exposure – have a nice day aloha

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  7. This mall is so eerie and sad. It looks like an earthquake ripped through it. Do you know why it was closed up?
    Beautiful message at the end about enjoying the ‘now’ and the simple things. We have so much to be grateful for!
    xx

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    1. Hi C – actually I did read that there were a few reasons is closed down – two malls were built rather close (one is VCC) and that pulled some business, actually they say VCC opening in 1991 was the last straw – and then when May Department Stores bought Thalhimers – it decided to close down the “small” location at this mall because it did not align with their goals.
      However, I also read that when it comes to shopping malls, people want updated and new – hmmm
      have a nice week

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  8. I really like the name of the mall. So sad that it could not survive through the times 😦 Your post is perfectly showing the glorious time and the ending of the mall perfectly! Talking about the selfie, I saw a lot of people doing the selfie on my trip and even on the street, there were so many selfie-stick sellers! Anyway, cool shadow selfie shot!

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    1. well I wonder how those selfie sticks work – I have not used them yet – and thanks for your comment -, I guess many malls are doing ago, but read that here int her States, “10% of the nation’s 1,000 enclosed malls will fail by 2022, eventually converting to uses other than retail.” (Green Street Advisors) – so I guess we can expect to see this more and more…

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  9. Those poodles weren’t half so much fun as the spaniel, Yvette. Stuck up, yappy things 🙂 🙂 (ok- live and let live 🙂 ) I used to love the sweet counters in Woolworths back in the day. So many choices! We have a semi derelict former shopping mall in our marina- prime location too, so it’s hard to understand. Thanks for the thoughtful walkabout, Yvette. Take care! 🙂

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    1. thanks Jo – interesting about the Marina mall – and does show that the demise is usually layered and has many factors. Also, I heard that some poodles can be stuck up and aloof, but agree – live and let live ❤

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  10. Ah, everything passes away with time. It’s good that you and probably a lot of other people have nice memories. That’s the way it should be! 🙂 Have a beautiful week, my friend. Be talking to you soon! ❤

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  11. I find it so interesting to see these abandoned places, though not having any memories of the place, I can look at it sort of dispassionately. Almost. Nice juxtaposition with the old and current photos.
    I remember the Thruway Mall from when we used to go to Buffalo shopping back in the days of our CAD being worth more than the USD!

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    1. oh wow – you shopped at the thruway mall – that is very cool – I guess the mall across the street – the Galleria, which is doing pretty good business, well i guess they cater to MANY Canadian shoppers still…

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  12. This is a favorite post of your’s, bringing your past and your present and everybody’s future together with words, pictures and ideas. I can picture eating at a Woolworth’s counter here in Syracuse, Shop City, 1983, the year I moved here from Maryland. Shop City was a mall mall then, with a Syracuse-owned department store by the name of Chappell’s. That department store, all locations in the city, has closed down. Woolworth’s is long gone. There is no department store, but Shop City has held on as a strip mall with a supermarket and other various small box chains. Not flourishing, but it’s in the city, and folks with no cars and walk there and take the bus there. Needed! Just like your Buffalo, right?

    I love your sharing time with your son at the dead mall in Richmond. That is a treasure for both. He drives and feels good about himself, you remember about the past and think about the cycles of life and feel good about both of you. Yes, my friend, what a win-win that is.

    I Iike your long hair on shadow-you! Looking good, Y!

    Have a great week, wise one. Yes, think of the good in life even when roads seem rocky and clouds are gray and thick. Thank you.

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    1. thanks so much Marky mark – and Shop City sounds exactly like the Buffalo scenario (you nailed it). and thanks for the succinct comments – my son and his good friend did a little skateboarding there and his friend is the one who told me about the hallow crunchy floors – otherwise I might have never walked back that way – now I wonder what will become of the area (and here is a shot of the boys in a gif)

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      1. Great skateboarding GIF, Y. That is a safe haven for your son and his friend, as long as they can navigate those neglected concrete cracks, that is. Nobody else to bother them, that’s for sure. Such a waste of a rich past. I don’t know why or nation doesn’t fix up and polish the best of history instead of tear down and leave barren. 😦

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      2. well there is an area to the wayyyyy back that has ideal ledges for the skateboarders – and so there were more kids -but I also told him i did not want him there any more after that day – we need to obey the sign, and also is just not safe – the conditions – and the seclusion to the back is just not wise. anyhow, there was an older guy (late 30’s maybe) to the very front who was also skateboarding and I think it was his first or second time – and it showed we are never too old….

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  13. Very bittersweet Yvette. Loved the composition of your collages then against now. I loved going to Woolworth’s when I was a little girl. You can always count on change. Sometimes great. Sometimes very sad. Thanks for taking us on this walk.

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  14. Kind of awesome, how you ended up in this area for this walk. I love that you took the time to do the research of the site. I really like the photos, there is something about urban decay that appeals to me. I think it is that idea that everything changes over time, for whatever reason that actually makes me feel better?

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    1. thanks amy – and having these computer phones sure make on the spot research possible. I looked up more at home, but I was really feeling grateful for technology as I wondered about the checkered floor. and I know what you mean with the affect part ❤ ❤

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  15. I thoroughly enjoyed this post. You gave such a careful and thoughtful look at what is left in this mall space, and how the evidence remains today compared to what used to be. I particularly liked seeing the big three-posted sign and how it changed over the years, and also how the paving and flooring buckles up now because the Earth is reclaiming it.

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    1. thanks crystal – and I really like the way you wired it – because earlier comments said nature was reclaiming – but the way you say the earth is reclaiming invoked a different mood when I read it – very cool.
      and thanks for the feedback on the sign, I had two others to choose from – one that was very similar to the 1982 – but now has the rust and a pothole in front – but I went with the up view because it just seemed to fit better – thanks again 🙂

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  16. Really enjoyed this walk with you Y and loved how you researched the before to show how it used to be. Nature is relentless isn’t she. Slowly, slowly she will reclaim any area not used. Sad about the closure of so many malls but I guess times change and now with online shopping that has risen so quickly, not so many people physically window shop and wander around the shops preferring to let the fingers do the walking…
    Over here on the Goldcoast, all the malls are in a process of upgrading, one did it a few years back now all the others are racing to compete for the interest of the tourists. Most of them built in the 1960’s to 70’s and are looking quite dated. So out with the old image and in with the new…

    I love your comments about appreciating and making the most of the now..
    BTW our “Woollies” is just a grocery store.

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    1. Thanks for your rich comment P, and I just looked up your Woollies and looks like a decent store to shop at for groceries = well that is…. when you are not cruising the high seas or house-sitting like you and J 🙂 ❤

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      1. Woollies is a huge multinational corporation over here and they are in almost every town of any size. There main competition comes from Coles another multinational but now Aldi from Germany and Costco from UK, I think, are muscling in and giving them some stiff competition on the pricing front…

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      2. ahhh – always competition – and here in our town we lost a very special store called Ukrops – I did not shop there all the time – but they were the place we liked to go for cakes/baked goods – and sometimes meats – they had grass fed before it was all trendy like now – and they had sales that really pulled ya in – and if we went to a party or cookout and the cake (or food) was from Ukrops – it was usually much appreciated. Oh the Ukrops presence is truly missed across Virginia- however, we have WEGMANS finally coming (which I think Ukrops kept away) and so the countdown is on for wegmans….
        ttys xxoo

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  17. A different Monday walk steeped in nostalgia,Yvette Dear!You have so vividly presented the glory of the once thriving Mall and its remnants.All things have a beginning and an end,life goes on and new things come into our life.You might get there something that will make people’s life easier and more pleasant.
    Loved the old b/w pics you included.They are so beautiful and classic!Enjoy your day 🙂

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    1. HI Doda – and I guess that neighbors in that area say they do not mind it sitting vacant – but they did not like it when it sat with abandoned buildings – and thanks for your nice comment 🙂
      especially this
      “life goes on and new things come into our life…”

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  18. ‘Be silly, be honest, be kind’. Remembering to do all three of these makes for a pretty perfet day I would say 🙂 And ties in perfectly wtih your nostalgic post and how no matter what is happening in our lives, no matter how down and out and decayed things are, or certain things are, there is always an uplifting message to be found if we just stop in the quiet and take our times to look for it. Just as you did here, on your day with your son and his driving practice. I loved how you put this collage together and showed us how the mall looked before and after. Sad though. Reminds me of a video store that went up the same time we moved to the town where we moved when the kids were small. Ten years we lived in that town and the same month that my marriage ended and the kids and I left for our new lives back in the UK, that same video store, where we had gone so many times over all those years, renting videos and games for the weekends, closed down. The end of an era. But time for a new one to begin. I’ll be in touch asap mon amie, have a lovely day 🙂 ❤ 🙂 And yes…you know it, the kettle is always simmering for you…always 🙂 xo

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    1. wow – the timing of the video store closing is so aligned with that life transition. I recall wakling to “blockbuster” – and funny how those stores are now obsolete. Thanks for the nice feedback, and I am ready for a cuppa ❤ ☕ mmm

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  19. (EN) Sometimes I don’t know what is more interesting: your posts or the comments.I have often no time for reading but when I read,wow! Past,present and reasons why things happen…and more!Thanks for your post 🙂
    (IT)A volte non so cosa sia più interessante: i tuoi post o i commenti.Spesso non ho tempo per la lettura ma quando leggo,wow!Passato,presente,ragioni per cui accadono le cose…e di più! Grazie per il tuo post 🙂

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    1. thx for that sweet comment forthemo – and I love when post unfolds like that to – it is not all the time, but so fun when it does – and thanks ( i mean grazie) for coming back when you had the time to read ❤

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  20. Such an effective contrasting to show the passage of time. A sad yet inspirational post Y. Yes seizing those little moments, especially with teens is so valuable.
    I hope things are all right for you. I sending positive energy and hugs your way. If all is well then fantastic you can deposit them in your emotional gas tank which sits next to the relationship one. 🙂

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    1. Well thanks for the checking in and actually things are nice. as noted in our email last month, I am still pondering a new direction for my blog – but for now, May is all about getting to posts ideas that I have had on my “idea list” – but thanks again for checkin in! And as a matter of fact, this post actually came at a special time for me because it was around one year ago today when my health nightmare was occurring. And so when I mentioned that part about my hair being long in the selfie – it was actually more fitting in this post than I realized – because my life will never be the same – and in a way my recovery was a lot like clearing our and rebuilding an area – but for me it was cleansing out and then fortifying my bioterrain. I am truly grateful for whatever microbe I caught – because I see who God used it to not only cleanse me – but to equip with me very important information about some of the modern day microbes that invade our bodies and lead to all sorts of malaise and issues. I also received the desire of my heart – which is to “get off” sugar – and that is one of the “catch up” posts I hope to get to this may – anyhow, thanks my dear friend again four checking in – xxooo

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