Writing 101, Day Ten: Franks and Beans

beans and franks

Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.

It’s so funny to think of it now, but my favorite meal as a kid, simple as it is, was franks and beans. My brother and I visited my maternal grandmother often as small children. My Gram would always ask what we wanted for lunch – pizza? burgers and fries? mac and cheese? But we would always shout in a loud chorus, “Franks and beans!” Gram would chuckle and shake her head, heading toward the stove.

My favorite memory is a rainy afternoon, me and my brother sitting around my Gram’s dark wooden table in her warm, sweet-smelling kitchen, looking out the small window next to the cabinets as the raindrops streaked down the glass. I remember feeling so safe as my brother and I played some game we’d made up, the rules of which I can’t even remember now, as our lunch simmered on the stove. My Gram would pull a huge canister of our favorite beverage at the time, sweet peach juice, from her cavernous pantry and opened it with her dangerous-looking can-opener, deftly creating two perfect triangular holes on each side, it seemed like magic to me.

Looking back on it now, I realize now why that meal was always my favorite as a kid, besides the fact that Gram made it best, it meant fun, Gram’s house, playing with my brother, no worries, simplicity, safety, love. Not bad for a can of beans and some cut up hot dogs. Sometimes, every blue moon, and maybe today qualifies since there’s a full moon on Friday the 13th, I still make it for myself, curl up on the couch, watch cartoons, and pretend to be five all over again.

Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View

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Today’s assignment:  A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

It was a pleasant morning. This would be easier if it wasn’t such a beautiful day. The kind of day where children were running across the grass in the park, kicking soccer balls around and playing exuberant games of tag and hide and seek. The sounds of their laughter pierced Dave’s heart, but he forced himself to maintain his composure. He didn’t want to be a burden to Maria any longer. The last year had been the worst of their lives. Their young son, Sebastian, had been born on a frigid winter day last February. They’d been parents for eight wonderful, devastating, anxiety-ridden days, and then he was gone.

Maria had been Maria, the fixer. She went home and robotically packed away the baby clothes and furniture, donating them all to a charity, she went to grief counseling, planned a small memorial service for their child. Dave had fallen apart. He spent everyday in bed, in the same bathrobe, ignoring Maria’s requests to accompany her to counseling, to help her plan the funeral, to get outside and get some fresh air. Maria did the best she could, tried to take care of him, nurture him through the dark times, get him to the other side, but it seemed impossible. She’d expended all of her energy on him, she had nothing left for herself. A month ago, she’d had her first panic attack, in the middle of work. She’d put her head on her desk and breathed her way through it, but it was the beginning of the end. Last week, Maria told him she wanted out. They both needed to heal. Being around each other was only making things worse in her mind. Dave had wished there was another way, but her knew she was right.

He glanced sideways, noticing an older woman with brilliant white hair sitting on a bench. In her lap was a tiny red sweater she was in the middle of knitting, her hands working furiously. It would have been just the right size to fit Sebastian, had he been here. Dave’s resistance faltered, and his eyes filled with tears.

Maria looked at Dave, saw the tears streaking down his cheeks and took his hand, feeling like a horrible person for the knot of annoyance beginning to form in her stomach. She was the one who’d carried Sebastian for nine months, given birth to him after 20 hours of labor, pressed his soft little body against her skin for only a moment before the doctors ripped him from her arms. She should have been the one to have the breakdown, not Dave. He should have been the one to plan the memorial service, to find the grief counselor, to get her out of bed every morning and make her breakfast, take her on long walks, hold her as she cried. She shouldn’t have had to sob alone in the shower each morning, for fear that Dave would hear her and start to regress, she shouldn’t have had to lean solely on her sister for comfort. It should have been Dave. Dave should have been her rock. And she couldn’t stop resenting him for that. Maybe if he’d agree to go to counseling, couples counseling, grief counseling, anything, it would make things different, give her some hope. But he seemed stuck, refusing to move forward. So now they were on their way to meet both sets of parents for brunch, to tell them that they were splitting up for good. She could see the cafe where they would meet up ahead. Maria was bracing herself for their cries of protest, the pleads to try one more time. She’d probably have to comfort Dave through that too. But that would be it. She was moving in with her sister tonight. She needed to be selfish, she needed her own time to heal.

The old woman finished the tiny sweater and admired it. Her grandson was coming for a visit this weekend. He would look adorable in it. She glanced up and noticed a young couple walking by. The man met her eyeline, his eyes beginning to water. She recognized the pain in his eyes. Many years ago, she’d lost her own child, a daughter. She’d been two months old. The doctors had told her it was crib death, something that just happened, no fault of her own, but that didn’t make her feel any less guilty. For years, she couldn’t look at baby clothes or toys without bursting into tears. But the pain, though it never truly disappeared, had diminished over the years, and she had her wonderful son, and her grandson, whom she loved more than anything in the world.

“Wait!” The woman yelled, as loudly as her frail voice would allow. The man stopped and turned, his wife looked at him curiously, then turned to face her as well. The woman stood and quickly approached them with a smile on her face. She handed them the sweater with a wink, before turning and heading down the trail away from them.

Maria held the tiny sweater in her hands, and her heart seemed to burst. The tears came, like a flood she couldn’t control. She leaned her head on Dave’s chest. It was the first time she’d cried in front of Dave since Sebastian died. Her shoulders relaxed, she felt Dave’s strong arms around her, taking care of her, nurturing her. She felt safe. Dave kissed her forehead.

“I love you, Maria,” he whispered into her hair.

“I love you too.”

She looked up at him, wiping her face with her sleeve. “Will you come to group with me? It’s tonight.”

Dave nodded. “I’m here.” He squeezed her hand. “I’m here.”

They did a U-turn and headed back down the tree-lined path that led to their apartment building.  Dave kept his arm around Maria and she leaned her body into his, letting the sun light their way home.

 

Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View

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Today’s assignment:  A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

It was a pleasant morning. This would be easier if it wasn’t such a beautiful day. The kind of day where children were running across the grass in the park, kicking soccer balls around and playing exuberant games of tag and hide and seek. The sounds of their laughter pierced Dave’s heart, but he forced himself to maintain his composure. He didn’t want to be a burden to Maria any longer. The last year had been the worst of their lives. Their young son, Sebastian, had been born on a frigid winter day last February. They’d been parents for eight wonderful, devastating, anxiety-ridden days, and then he was gone.

Maria had been Maria, the fixer. She went home and robotically packed away the baby clothes and furniture, donating them all to a charity, she went to grief counseling, planned a small memorial service for their child. Dave had fallen apart. He spent everyday in bed, in the same bathrobe, ignoring Maria’s requests to accompany her to counseling, to help her plan the funeral, to get outside and get some fresh air. Maria did the best she could, tried to take care of him, nurture him through the dark times, get him to the other side, but it seemed impossible. She’d expended all of her energy on him, she had nothing left for herself. A month ago, she’d had her first panic attack, in the middle of work. She’d put her head on her desk and breathed her way through it, but it was the beginning of the end. Last week, Maria told him she wanted out. They both needed to heal. Being around each other was only making things worse in her mind. Dave had wished there was another way, but he knew she was right.

He glanced sideways, noticing an older woman with brilliant white hair sitting on a bench. In her lap was a tiny red sweater she was in the middle of knitting, her hands working furiously. It would have been just the right size to fit Sebastian, had he been here. Dave’s resistance faltered, and his eyes filled with tears.

Maria looked at Dave, saw the tears streaking down his cheeks and took his hand, feeling like a horrible person for the knot of annoyance beginning to form in her stomach. She was the one who’d carried Sebastian for nine months, given birth to him after 20 hours of labor, pressed his soft little body against her skin for only a moment before the doctors ripped him from her arms. She should have been the one to have the breakdown, not Dave. He should have been the one to plan the memorial service, to find the grief counselor, to get her out of bed every morning and make her breakfast, take her on long walks, hold her as she cried. She shouldn’t have had to sob alone in the shower each morning, for fear that Dave would hear her and start to regress, she shouldn’t have had to lean solely on her sister for comfort. It should have been Dave. Dave should have been her rock. And she couldn’t stop resenting him for that. Maybe if he’d agree to go to counseling, couples counseling, grief counseling, anything, it would make things different, give her some hope. But he seemed stuck, refusing to move forward. So now they were on their way to meet both sets of parents for brunch, to tell them that they were splitting up for good. She could see the cafe where they would meet up ahead. Maria was bracing herself for their cries of protest, the pleads to try one more time. She’d probably have to comfort Dave through that too. But that would be it. She was moving in with her sister tonight. She needed to be selfish, she needed her own time to heal.

The old woman finished the tiny sweater and admired it. Her grandson was coming for a visit this weekend. He would look adorable in it. She glanced up and noticed a young couple walking by. The man met her eye line, his eyes beginning to water. She recognized the pain in his eyes. Many years ago, she’d lost her own child, a daughter. She’d been two months old. The doctors had told her it was crib death, something that just happened, no fault of her own, but that didn’t make her feel any less guilty. For years, she couldn’t look at baby clothes or toys without bursting into tears. But the pain, though it never truly disappeared, had diminished over the years, and she had her wonderful son, and her grandson, whom she loved more than anything in the world.

“Wait!” The woman yelled, as loudly as her frail voice would allow. The man stopped and turned, his wife looked at him curiously, then turned to face her as well. The woman stood and quickly approached them with a smile on her face. She handed them the sweater with a wink, before turning and heading down the trail away from them.

Maria held the tiny sweater in her hands, and her heart seemed to burst. The tears came, like a flood she couldn’t control. She leaned her head on Dave’s chest. It was the first time she’d cried in front of Dave since Sebastian died. Her shoulders relaxed, she felt Dave’s strong arms around her, taking care of her, nurturing her. She felt safe. Dave kissed her forehead.

“I love you, Maria,” he whispered into her hair.

“I love you too.”

She looked up at him, wiping her face with her sleeve. “Will you come to group with me? It’s tonight.”

Dave nodded. “I’m here.” He squeezed her hand. “I’m here.”

They did a U-turn and headed back down the tree-lined path that led to their apartment building.  Dave kept his arm around Maria and she leaned her body into his, letting the sun light their way home.

 

Writing 101, Day Eight: Death to Adverbs

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Sick day yesterday, playing catch up today.  I opted to re-write my day seven post without adverbs.

Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post. If you’d rather not write a new post, revisit and edit a previous one: excise your adverbs and replace them with strong, precise verbs.

The girl pulled her jacket tighter around her as she crossed the street, feeling self-conscious.  She tried to ignore the catcalls from the guys in the car parked at the red light as she passed. It was so humiliating, everyday, the same car, the same crude comments. She sat on the bench at the bus stop, waiting for the light to change, giving her a reprieve until tomorrow.

The light flashed a brilliant green, and her shoulders relaxed. The driver of the car hit the accelerator, the engine roared, but the car didn’t move. Her stomach knotted. She turned away, hoping to see the bus barreling toward her, but it was late today, of course. Her abdomen clenched, bracing herself for another flood of offensive comments, but there was nothing. The driver, by far the worst offender, stepped out of the car looking annoyed, slamming the door behind him and lifting the hood. He ignored her, avoiding making eye contact or even looking her way. She realized he was nervous. Her fear intensified and turned to anger.

“Hey!” she yelled.

The driver kept working on the car, pretending not to hear, as the other vehicles behind him honked the horns and drove around. She stormed into the street, two feet away from him. “Hey! I’m talking to you!”

He grimaced as he looked up, a sheepish expression on his face. “Look lady, I’m gonna be late for work, this car is a wreck, probably going to be a fortune to fix, I don’t need the hassle…”

“YOU don’t need the hassle?” She scoffed. “You don’t want to be hassled, but it’s okay for you and your disgusting friends to yell your vile comments at me every single day for months?”

He shrugged. “We’re just having fun. It’s not a big deal. We think you’re hot, you should be flattered…”

“Flattered? Flattered? That’s not flattering to any woman, trust me. It’s degrading.”

He shut the hood of car and faced her. She noticed the lines around his eyes and mouth, the few gray strands of hair. He was older than she thought. He was probably married, maybe even with children, daughters. Pathetic. She heard the roar of the bus engine rushing toward her, and stepped back on the curb.

“You and your friends are never to speak to me again.”

“Oh really…” he sneered.

The sound of the bus doors opening drowned out the rest of his comment.  She stepped inside, greeting the driver before finding her usual seat in the front near the window. She watched the man as the bus went around him and his stationary car.  He stared back at her. Maybe it was her imagination, but she thought she saw a trace of regret in his softened expression as he watched the bus go by. She stared back at him, wondering if things would be different tomorrow, until the bus rounded the corner and he disappeared.

Writing 101 – Day 7

respect the streets

 

The challenge:  Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.

The girl pulled her jacket tighter around her as she crossed the street, feeling self-conscious.  She tried to ignore the catcalls from the guys in the car parked at the red light as she passed. It was so humiliating, everyday, the same car, the same crude comments. She sat on the bench at the bus stop, waiting for the light to change, giving her a reprieve until tomorrow.

The light quickly flashed green, and her shoulders relaxed. The driver of the car hit the accelerator, the engine revved loudly, but the car didn’t move. Her stomach knotted. She turned away, hoping to see the bus barreling toward her, but it was late today, of course. Her abdomen clenched, bracing herself for another flood of offensive comments, but there was nothing. The driver, by far the worst offender, stepped out of the car looking annoyed, slamming the door behind him and lifting the hood. He ignored her, avoiding making eye contact or even looking her way. She realized he was nervous. Her fear quickly turned to anger.

“Hey!” she yelled.

The driver kept working on the car, pretending not to hear, as the other vehicles behind him honked the horns and drove around. She stormed into the street, two feet away from him. “Hey! I’m talking to you!”

He reluctantly looked up, a sheepish expression on his face. “Look lady, I’m gonna be late for work, this car is a wreck, probably going to be a fortune to fix, I don’t need the hassle…”

“YOU don’t need the hassle?” She laughed sarcastically. “You don’t want to be hassled, but it’s okay for you and your disgusting friends to yell your vile comments at me every single day for months?”

He shrugged. “We’re just having fun. It’s not a big deal. We think you’re hot, you should be flattered…”

“Flattered? Flattered? That’s not flattering to any woman, trust me. It’s degrading.”

He shut the hood of car and faced her. She noticed the lines around his eyes and mouth, the few gray strands of hair. He was older than she thought. He was probably married, maybe even with children, daughters. Pathetic. She heard the roar of the bus engine quickly approaching, and stepped back on the curb.

“You and your friends are never to speak to me again.”

“Oh really…” he scoffed.

The sound of the bus doors opening drowned out the rest of his comment.  She stepped inside, greeting the driver before finding her usual seat in the front near the window. She watched the man as the bus went around him and his stationary car.  He stared back at her. Maybe it was her imagination, but she thought she saw a trace of regret in his softened expression as he watched the bus go by. She stared back at him, wondering if things would be different tomorrow, until the bus rounded the corner and he disappeared.

Writing 101, Day Six: A Character-Building Experience

cupofcoffee

 

I don’t know if this person is the most interesting one I’ve met this year, but she’s the first one that came to mind that made me smile, so she wins.

I stumbled into the coffeshop on a gray afternoon, newly printed gift certificate in hand.  It’s a place I used to frequent everyday, now I only go every one and while, for the sake of my waistline and wallet.  I go when I think I deserve a special treat, or, like today, when I earn a gift card.  To say I’m not in a good mood would be an understatement. The peppy pop-rock music playing through the speakers does nothing to change that.  I’m under a ton of pressure at work and at home, praying that a jolt of caffeine and chocolate under an shameful amount of whipped cream will somehow turn my day in the right direction.  A customer exiting the building smiles at me and I grumble, making my way to the front counter.  Then I see her, a girl about half my age, behind the register, waving her arms in the air and dancing with her eyes closed, not a care in the world.  Her hair is long and dark and sways with her as she moves.  She’s so lost in the music she doesn’t notice me, standing there waiting.  She laughs when she opens her eyes, and I can’t help but do the same.  Her smile is infectious. I normally hate that expression, but it’s true. She’s corrupted me with her happiness.  I try to remember what it was like, to be so young and beautiful and happy, so uninhibited.  Was I ever that way?  Maybe there was a brief year or two after high school, before ADULTHOOD came knocking and ruined everything.

I give her my order as we both still chuckle.  As I wait for my drink I start to sing along to the song playing, the one that I hated just a minute ago.  Once my drink is ready we both sing, louder now, as the other customers look at us strangely.  I wave goodbye, exit the store into a new day that doesn’t seem as gray as before, dancing all the way back to my car.  I don’t care who’s watching.

 

 

The Letter – Writing 101 – Day 5

floor-boards

The first day in my home.  The movers will be here soon, with boxes and noise and heavy furniture.  But for now I’m alone.  It’s all mine.  I open the door to my favorite room in my house, my light, airy bedroom.  It’s so beautiful, a huge skylight over where my bed will be soon, floor to ceiling windows facing the expansive, lush green backyard with rolling hills as far as the eye can see.  It’s so full of promise as it is now, empty and full of afternoon sun, I almost don’t want destroy its beauty by adding a thing.

I sit on the floor across from the windows to take in the view, and notice something, the floorboard beneath me, wobbling slightly as I sit.  I rise and lift it, to see something crumpled, a tiny scrap of paper, scrawled writing.  My curiosity takes over and I reach for it, starting to read.  It’s a letter.  Very old, I can tell by its condition, the coloring of the paper.  It’s from a mother, to her daughter, the day of her wedding.  The house had been a gift to the newlyweds from the bride’s parents.  Now it is my gift to myself.  The letter is full of love, wishes for happiness and prosperity, and a confession, a secret one, from mother to daughter.  I imagine a bride, still resplendent in an old-fashioned, traditional white gown, in this very room on her wedding night, stealing a few moments for herself alone to read, maybe sitting for a while with her mother’s words,  then hurriedly hiding this letter where her groom would never find it.  I wonder if she took it out again over the years, or if she left it there forever, always remembering its presence, but having a desire to leave the past where it belonged.  I hope that she was happier than her mother was in her marriage to her father, as her mother had wished for her.  I wonder if she ever wept for her mother, having to spend her life married to a man she’d never loved, having lost her true love years ago.

I put the letter back in its hiding place, securing the floorboard.  I hear noise downstairs.  The movers have arrived.  I leave the bedroom and head for the steps, thinking about the pain of lost love and the mysteries inside every woman’s heart, wondering what secrets this house will one day hold for me.

Gaining by Losing (Part 1) Writing 101 – Day 4

best friends

When I was much younger, I had a friend.  She decided we were best friends, I never really had a say in the matter.  We had fun together; we were so young.  Lots of laughs, private jokes, prank calls (it was the ’90’s) late nights, sneaking out, sharing secrets.  It was a perfect high school friendship.  And it probably should have stayed there.

After we became adults, there was a distinct shift in our relationship.  We took drastically different paths in life.  I was happy with my path, but she seemed to want to drag me to hers, bring me to her level, so to speak.  I thought we were on parallel, if not different, roads, but she obviously did not.  And then the need for escape began to creep into my brain.  I needed a break from the person who was supposed to be my best friend, the one person in the world who was supposed to be my shelter, my soft place to fall.  I was breaking.  She made me feel lesser than, judged.  All of her compliments were double-sided, I was a beautiful girl, but my style was plain and unappealing to the opposite sex.   She convinced me to stay in unsatisfying relationships, because anything, ANYTHING, in her mind, was better than being alone.

I tried to confide in her, about the secret pain I carried with me everywhere.  I hoped it was safe to share those truths with her.  I needed to talk to someone so desperately.  The secrets were burning a hole in my belly, killing me from the inside out.  When she bothered to listen to me at all,  she’d just stare impatiently, waiting for me to stop  talking so she could begin.  When I left her, I felt drained, sucked dry, a shell, empty, worthless.  Was this friendship?  Is this how women really treated each other?  At least I had a best friend, someone to call on weekends, someone to fill lonely days.  But was it worth it?

I ended up losing this friend in the end.  I regret the way I handled the end of our friendship, but I don’t regret ending it.  I lost her,  but I gained self-respect, freedom of expression, a sense of calm, the right to be at ease in my own skin.  I’ve found new friends in the years that followed.  No one, yet, that I would call a best friend, but I’ll never stop searching.  The prospect that my kindred spirit is still out there propels me onward, like hope always does.

Writing 101-Day 3

pitch-black-skies

Human Nature is a song that has always spoken to me even as a kid, and I had no idea why.  To me it always felt like freeness, expressing yourself, being real, not being afraid of being open, letting the world see who you are, really are.  Whenever it comes on the radio, I let the windows down the car, sing along, let the wind and sun in.  It feels like outside, night time, running under the stars.  I feel music.  I’m not really a music fanatic, but the few songs and artists that I love, when I hear the sound, I close my eyes and feel it, see it.  That’s what that song does for me.  It transports me.  It always calms me.  It makes me feel proud of who I am.

When I got older, I read that the person who wrote the song wrote after hearing about a bullying incident involving his daughter at school.  After I heard it, I understood why it spoke to me so much.  Growing up, I felt locked inside myself, wanting so badly not to have to think so much about what I said or did, just wanted to be real for one moment in time.  That’s what the song is about.  To me anyway.  Why?  Tell ’em that it’s human nature.

unnamed

Love and War – a newer song that speaks to me because it discusses the not so pretty realities of love and marriage.  Most songs just address the beautiful side of love, the beginning, happy reunions, or the dramatic side, saying goodbye, heartbreak.   No one really talks about the middle.  This song talks about staying in the trenches with your partner, fighting alongside them to make your relationship survive the lows.  Once you get to the highs, you’ll appreciate them much more.  A lot of people now seem not to really value marriage, they discard it as soon as things don’t go their way, so I appreciate that the lyrics of the song really drive down to the soul of what marriage and commitment are really about.  Love, devotion, self-sacrifice, compromise, fights, forgiveness, and making up.

The assignment was three songs but, as stated before, not a big music fanatic, these are the two that immediately came to mind and gave me the most visceral reaction.

 

A Room With A View – Cumberland Island, Georgia – Writing 101 Day 2

I’ve never told anyone this, but when I was a little kid, I had a top-secret superpower: teleportation.  I could close my eyes and just be somewhere else in a flash.  I’d count down from three, open my eyes and be at the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London, asleep in a centuries-old bed at The Met in Manhattan like Jamie and Claudia Kincaid, or snorkeling off the coast of some exotic Caribbean island.  Unfortunately, once I turned 12, I had to relinquish my powers, someone needed them more than I did, but sometimes I wish I could use them once more.

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If I could, right now I’d close my eyes briefly, opening them to see a dark blue sky, streaked with gold, the sun in the east, peeking above the horizon, a lonely stretch of sand, me and a calm, endless ocean.  And then I’d hear a noise, something running toward me, piercing the silence, galloping, louder and louder until my ear drums are pounding to its rhythm.  I’d be fearful at first, then turn to see a family of horses, some black, others white spotted with brown, unusually long tails blowing in the ocean breeze as they run.  They’d blow past me as I’d watch in wonder, envying their freedom and wildness, reveling in the other-worldliness of it all.  I’d throw my satchel over my shoulder, dig my bare feet in the sand and head towards the sand dunes lining the edge of the beach. I’d climb to the top of the tallest one, my feet sliding as I go, turning around and taking in one last glance at the lonely beach before heading further inland.  After a long walk, I’d stumble across the ruins of a once-grand castle, Dungeness.  The wind would start to blow, whipping the leaves of the palm trees surrounding me, sending a cold shiver down my spine.  Standing against the wrought iron gate encircling the mansion, I’d imagine the grand parties, the romance, the people that lived there many years ago.  As I walked away, I’d see the house in all its glory, the story of the families that lived there, the intrigue that led to its destruction beginning to form in the my mind.  Reaching the ocean once more,  I’d lie down in the sand, pull my journal from my bag, and start to write.

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Now, life is a little sweeter, though not without problems, I don’t wish for a magical escape from my life any longer, but my fascination with adventure and travel remain, as well as my imagination.  Closing my eyes again.  3-2-1.