The State of Things – September & October

Hectic. I need a better word for hectic. But the word summons up my life these last two months. It was been one thing after another after time consuming other until I turn around and see that November is already here.

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Well not quite and for that I am glad. I’ve taken this last weekend to head out of town. Normally, I don’t go out of town on Halloween as I like to spend the time honoring my ancestors and waiting for non-existent trick or treaters. This year after so much time in doors and not traveling I am taking the opportunity to stay with friends in Richmond and go to a Halloween parade that I have admired for years. A mini adventure to be sure.

Working from their craft room table so many of the thoughts and their corresponding weigh have evaporated from my shoulders allowing a great deal more work to flow. Breaking from routine can create a freedom of thought that for me lets me reconnect with my muse and things happen. (It also allowed to sleep 11 hours guiltfree.) The return to routine on Tuesday will, I hope, have a little extra energy along with three or four more chapters edited. (I’m 50% through the second round of edits.)

My day job is becoming more manageable and that leaves more free space in my noggin to be creative. With that in mind, I may resign from my tutoring position to free up even more space. It has been good for me financially while filling me with joy. The time it takes, however, driving up and down the mountain takes it toll especially in the winter months. It is something to think on.

In September, I had a small health scare. My chest began to hurt and I was exhausted. The school nurse checked me out and said my heart was fine, but if I felt as bad as I sounded I should go home. My stubborn self opted to see if I felt better in an hour. Ii didn’t. If I would have let myself put my head down on the desk, I would have fallen asleep. Once that happened, I asked to leave and my admin shooed me out the door. Two hours later after a nap, I felt no better and called my doctor who sent me to the hospital. Good news, it wasn’t a heart attack. Bad news, they weren’t sure what was happening. The only conclusion was the incident was more than likely related to having contracted COVID-19 last year.

Since my infection, recovery has been slow and I’ve had fits of fatigue that waylay me for days at a time. This time, it took three more days until I was back to myself. I’ve tried to be kind to myself, cut back on caffeine and increases as best I can exercise and meditation.

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Tonight while I am not going to be home, I will be honoring my ancestors and beloved dead by living and exploring the world around me. Loss is never easy and waking this morning to silence instead of the usual Samhain text from Ed was hard. It isn’t hard all the time. There are just moments when the weight of his absence bares down on me full force causing me to stagger and catch my breath.

When I return home I will light the candles and say the words that rest in my heart for my ancestors and beloved dead, Ed among them. And though the veil will close, they are with me as I walk through this life toward the next one.

Be well, my friends, and stay spooky.

I am alright? Short Answer. No

I am not ok. And I’m fine with that. There is no being ok. Not at the moment.

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Ok is a foreign state of being. There is only doing what I need to do to get through the next minute, hour, day. I get by like this and the days have turned into weeks and months.

Moments of happiness are mixed with every other emotion. Each breath, each dawn a victory or a stalemate.

What is happening? In short, life. Life and all is wonderous maladies. May brought news of Ed’s passing. Here on the blog, I’ve called addressed him as Papi. He inspired me to start this blog and encouraged me to write. His death was a shock to my system. I don’t think I can sum up neatly what he meant to me or what I meant to him. Honestly, there is no need to try.

Grief comes in ill tempered waves with memory rocks in its path. A co-worker talked about getting over the death of a loved one. How?

How do you get pass the absence of someone who shaped your world? Trying feels like an insult to the memory of what was and the potential lost.

There would be no more random conversation or plans to reunite. There are no more morning or good night texts. No sharing of songs or images that invoked emotion. All of that is ended. His phone cut off months ago.

Adding to the tempest of grief is the reality of being a teacher in 2021 combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, student loans and family issues. The issues that lurk in my life have become volumes. I’m overworked and underpaid like much of America and doing my best to tread water. There is no comfort in the fact that everyone is overwhelmed. Everyone is in the same boat weathering the same tempest. Except no one told us about the whirl pool. Or the Hurricane on the horizon.

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So, I am not okay. And I’m ok with it.

And just incase you think that I am remarkably stoic about all of this. You should check out Megan Devine’s book, It’s ok, not to be Ok. Her words and wisdom have helped me through this lost and the lost of my Papa, my stepfather. I’ve learned that there is no such thing as a return to normal or the expectation that life will ever be the same.

There, however, is the potential for a new normal and sunrises filled with joy unimaginable like the one I witness this morning.

10 years of Writing

A week or so ago, this blog celebrated it’s 10th anniversary.

Unfiltered Me Ten Years Past

I didn’t know anything about blogging when I started. I know slightly more about blogging now.

And the question on my mind is what to do with this blog. Do I continue writing this blog or do I stop and try something new?

Ten years ago, the blog was called Rosereads because I had intended it to be a place where I review books and eventually introduce my own writing. Papi gave me the idea. My book reviews never really did take off and I never did get tons of free books or advertising. Still, I continued writing.

And writing.

The fact that I have been actively working on writing for ten years is a success. That success has been bolstered by guest editors help me along the way and to each of them I am so grateful for that assistance.

If you are new here, I’ve dysgraphia which is an odd thing for a writer to have, but here I am. It makes writing a struggle. I have difficulty getting my thoughts out without making spelling errors, omitting words or using the wrong word completely.

I never thought growing up I would be a writer, let alone have a blog (those weren’t a thing when I was a kid) and two published works. My English teachers used so much red ink on papers they looked like victims of a massacre instead of term paper drafts. Friends and family ridiculed things I wrote. Poor grammar and spelling is mistakenly seen as lack of effort or intelligence.

Blood Child
My 1st Publication
My 2nd Publication

I’m still pretty shy about putting myself out there. Writing anything takes me a while because of the fear and anxiety of rejection and ridicule.

And yet, I am still writing.

This blog is going to stick around. It is an important part of my journey. It is something that Papi inspired me to do and even though he wasn’t happy with everything I wrote; it was his push that got things started. This blog will be everything that it should of been from the beginning, a record of my journey as a writer.

New blogs and adventures are beginning after all, what is the fun in making the rational decision and not continuing to do something that isn’t seen as a success. But, the writing while not award winning, it has reached people. It has touched them in heart and that to me is a success. Poe didn’t reach greatness until he had experienced long periods of horrible sanity.

Thank you, dear reader for all of your support.

Prompt Post: Gluten Free? Yes, I am….

Prompt: Gluten Free the early days…

To be honest, I don’t remember much from those days. I remember being in my first solo apartment, one that I was responsible for all by myself. It was my third or fourth year of teaching. Money was tight as it has been my entire life but Friday’s were my days to treat myself. I made it through the work week and still had my dream job. So Dominos and a six back of cider from the grocery store were treat.

My nephew had been diagnosed with gluten issues a few years before. So when I ended up getting sick every Saturday, something began to click. Every Friday, I had a whole small pizza and every Saturday and sometimes Sundays, I was sick.

The thought that gluten might to be to blame for the tummy troubles.

And it was.

It was also responsible for other health issues I was having at the time. I began to feel better the more I avoided gluten.

Those early days were filled with attempts to find a gluten free replacement for all of my normal meals. Pasta was probably the hardest. (try pasta made from more than one ingredient like corn and rice or make it yourself) Pizza, I’ve found good versions of and oh my god what were you thinking serving this to human beings versions. I still find gluten free food that tastes like card board and people who make it who aren’t gluten free that are way to proud of their nasty creations. They think that gluten free foods are a trend that will bring them business and don’t care what it tastes like.

The biggest thing that I learned was to go without replacements and find new ways of eating. More whole foods and less processed food, even gluten free ones makes me feel better. Don’t get me wrong, I still eat replacements but not as often. I love making gluten free treats for people: especially, my non-gluten free friends. The reason I do this is because too many times over the last decade I have been quietly eating my lunch and had friends comment on my food. How it is bland and tastes worse than cardboard, please note that I never let them taste my lunches. And I always loathed these encounters where people felt that it was necessary to have made fun of the food that I am eating while I am eating it.

It still happens.

My allergy is one of the reasons, I love to cook for people. First, I don’t get sick when I cook for myself. I control the ingredients and the cooking environment. Second, the people that I cook for gain an understanding of what is possible in gluten-free cooking and they learn that the food I fuel my body and soul with is good and nourishing. It also helps when they ask for seconds.

Food is a huge part of culture. When your culture is focused on eating food in mass quantities and scoffs at those who can not or choose to consume in a different way, you learn to adapt.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned to do.

  • Eat before potlucks of dinner parties. They may not have food you can eat.
  • Offer to bring something to dinner parties. I’ve learned to make some pretty yummy desserts.
  • Pack emergency food for road trips and aforementioned dinner parties.
  • Always identify that you have a gluten allergy to your server.
  • Beware of buffets. Ingredients aren’t generally listed
  • If you don’t feel like a restaurant is safe for you to eat in, don’t be pressured.
  • Don’t let well meaning people convince you that a little won’t hurt you, it will.
  • You get to decide your risk not other people.

Big thanks to my friend, Lori, for suggesting this prompt. If you would like to suggest a prompt, feel free to leave on in the comments below and it may very well end up as the topic of an upcoming blog.

State of Things August: Amended

The month of August has run off with my mind. If seen please return as soon as possible as I will be running through the fields until it returns.

August is the month, I return to my day job. It is the month that I should resign to take off this blog and other creative pursues as the chaos of the well planned plotted year unfolds. If you have a teacher friend or relative, ask them how the first month of school goes. If they say fine, then read them my description of the first month of school. They will then agree. Teachers tend to be humble folks that don’t want to make a fuss so they will douse negativity in a ton of sugar if need be.

I’m hanging in there. There is only one more day in the month as I begin writing this so I am pretty confident that I will be able to hold on.

Writing and editing are moving at a snail’s pace. The movement is a source of victory. Amid the chaos, work is still happening. The path may not be clear but there are times in life where we must push forward and forge our own path. Days like these it is important to remember that our memories are imperfect. The month of August began with the return to work, but there was also a campout and adventure with friends.

For the last twenty years, a group of my friends had been camping in the same spot. The only disruptions were the year the fields were closed and the pandemic. In both cases, we found ways to gather. The first time we found another location. During the pandemic, we held a virtual campout. It wasn’t the same but it kept the tradition alive.

This year we gather in the fields again surrounded by the majestic beauty of the Jefferson National forest. It was small gathering, the smallest since I started attending in 2015. Still, it was good. It felt right to gather and just exist in nature with friends that have become family.

Not having a tent of my own any more, I stayed in M’s tent. I was able to set-up a kitchen under her canopy as well. Although, I had brought food another friend furnished the sacred elixir of life every morning along for breakfast for me. The food was better than in most restaurants. I didn’t come back into town once. The closest I came was when a dog named George was spotted on the road. He was standing in the road looking for his friend. We were able to get George back to his people by driving down the road until we got signal and texting them.

Beyond that mini adventure; the field and the forest were the entire world for that weekend. It was the peace that I need before the start of the school year began properly.

Be well and take care.

Going Back In Time

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Florida was my home for 18 years. In a way, it will always be my home. So much of who I am today was formed in the Sunshine State, albeit from the shadows as I am not really found of heat or sun. Yes, I did willingly move to Florida but until you live here you don’t understand how oppressive the sun is. It never really stops trying to scorch the invaders so it can go back to being a happy mosquito infested swamp. We all have our glory days, and Florida misses when its very nature repelled development.

The journey here was longer than expected. We left my beloved mountains and solid ground around 7am thinking that with stops we would be in Orlando around 7-8 o’clock. Alas, we made it in shortly after 1am. While we were finishing lunch and getting gas, there was a multi-vehicle car crash 25 miles from the Georgia-Florida line.

We were rerouted by GPS so many times that at one point after a much needed stop we had to head North on 95 to be able to navigate around it. With all the detours, there wasn’t much time to think or reflect on my first trip back home in two years.

Reflection came after I relinquished the wheel and saw the Orlando area for the first time. Places that I had known flying by in the shadows and then the lights growing of downtown Orlando. This is not the land of the mouse. It is hard to define what it is the land of because Orlando and Florida in general is more than a vacation designation. It is home and not home.

Home is the solid footing of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but home is also where the heart is and pieces of my heart will always be in Florida with my family (both biological and chosen). There were so many people and places that I wanted to see. I managed more than my last trip in 2019. Time, however, was not on my side.

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I remembered Papi, first. I remembered the place where we first kissed and so many other bittersweet memories in between. We passed where my friend, Shannon, lived in the last days of her life. We drove pass what had been the home of my friends, Wolfie and Awen. Awen passed away in the home and Wolfie moved out more than a decade ago.

We briefly stopped at Lake Eola before discovering that our bladders wanted us elsewhere. I thought about the walks around the lake. One sticks out, we were walking around before Papa passed, my brother E was with us and we were all sad, but happy to be together in the sun and fresh air.

My companions and I walked through Disney Springs and all the happy memories of my best friend and I hanging out. Memories of family birthday gatherings at the Rainforest Cafe and the day I walked into the Chapel Hats and asked them to find me a hat to match my outfit.

There was a drive through my old neighborhood and so many memoires. My companions got to see the porch where the novella “Blood Child” was conceived. And the places where I used to walk with Luke

We wandered through the Greenwood Cemetery where I poured out every bit of knowledge I have concerning it. I couldn’t bare to take them to the Pulse Memorial but I could point out the section of Greenwood that were some of the 49 Angels have been buried. The City of Orlando donated the plots for them. I pointed out the trees and other features that mark it as unique.

My companions traveled with me back in time. They were most amused after dinner with Zee and the Professor where I had indulged into far too much wine. During the journey back home, I gave them Lucinda’s drunken tour of Orlando. Apparently, I had a lot to say about every building I could identify and quite a few that had been built in my absent.

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The present and the potential future blinked in and out of my days home.

The past is not a place you can stay. You can only really glimpse it. The emotions push through the veil separating past, present, and future. You are there for a moment, feeling all of the emotions, drowning in them. Then you are in the now, and nothing is right.

Nothing is the same.

Everything changes regardless of your desires. Your favorite nacho places closes after twenty years. Friends move out of your old neighborhood. And sadly, there are people you never get to say goodbye to again, even when you are going back in time.

State of Things July

Wow, what a month!! It is hard to believe that in five days it will be over. And then it will be back to my day job and the stresses and pressures of being an American educator.

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This summer, I have taken more steps to eventually leaving teaching to write and create full time. It is a slow process but I am working on it. Even if I never make a complete transition, I am happier when I am creating.

Most of my writing this month focused on editing, journaling and blogging. The outlines for my non-fiction projects haven’t really gotten off the ground. (Meaning, I’ve thought about them but not put time into the research.) I was hoping to squeeze in another trip to Richmond to write and research but alas I need to attend to more mundane things.

I did get to spend a wonderful day at the lake yesterday celebrating a good friends birthday and making some new acquaintances. It was the day of rest and relaxation that I didn’t know that I needed. Thank you to S for not only being my friend, but making me feel like family.

Family is important to me. In recent years, I’ve spent more time with my chosen family than my biological family. It hasn’t been something that I’ve done consciously. I tend to get lost in the day and when my spoons are gone, I am done. I am horrible at communicating with people I don’t come in regular contact with due in part to my anxiety. I want to, but… well anxiety is not a nice person, to say the least.

Momma and Me Many Years Ago.

This month, I got to see Momma and my sister and her wonderful kids in Florida. I won’t lie and say the visit was great. We all have issues that we need to work on as well as how we communicate with each other. Sissy, if you are reading this, I do love you.

The visit has prompted me to return to therapy sooner rather than later. I have a list of things that I want to work on so I can improve my communication skills, establish better boundaries and be a better me. Therapy has been helpful to me in the past, however, I never actively worked on communication skills. My doctor wants to see how I am feeling after a couple of therapy sessions how I am dealing with things on a mental health front. Did I mention that I love my doctor? Cause I love my doctor.

She did ask if the summer had been restful and I hesitated. It has been good to work on other things without the stresses of work. I’ve gotten to travel, hugged my Mom and good friends, saw new things and breathe the fresh air and sunshine into my soul. I’m lucky to have this time. Time to recoup.

The time is never enough. My gratitude for things I have is not comparable to the things I have lost, the things that have hurt me and the things I still need to heal from. The things I love lots, the things that have hurt me, and the things I need to heal from don’t compare to the things I am grateful for. I could rest for a thousand days and still not be ready to return to my work as an educator. I will, however, return, because I both love my job and need that sweet sweet health insurance.

Sometimes There Are No Villains

And no victims.

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In fiction, there is a villain to oppose the hero. In the wake of a villian’s terror, victims call and plead for help. In real life, no so much. And that’s just the way it is. No matter how much you want there to be. It is a hard concept for many of us to let go of.

In the days and now weeks since Papi’s death, I have thought a lot about this idea: villains, victims and heroes in everyday life. When we are hurt, we want someone to be responsible. We never want that person to be ourselves. When our heart is broken, we want to blame the one who did it. The one who made us feel this way. But is that healthy? Is it healthy to always seek to blame someone for our woes?

The simple answer is no. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what didn’t work out in my previous relationships. The common factor in all of those relationship was me. Sure, some of the guys I dated broke up with me in harsh ways but that only makes them a jerk not a villain. I’m not the victim. They weren’t the bad guy. They just weren’t the right guy for me and when they realized I wasn’t the right one for them they left. I was hurt but not victimized.

There were a couple that were toxic and not nice people. Yes, Patrick, I am looking at you. (kidding, mostly).

That maybe is over simplifying it. There are toxic people out there. People who seek to victimize others. They want to be the villian and get off on it. What I am talking about is villianing everyone with whom you have a relationship that doesn’t work. Playing the woe is me card over and over again and hoping that something will be different.

When we seek to blame others and take no responsibility for our own unhappiness, it is really hard to take responsibility for our happiness. Why is one in our control and the other not? There will always be things outside of our control but not everything is outside of our spheres of influence.

We can work to control our reactions. Notice, I didn’t say control our reactions. No matter how hard we work, it is impossible to control all of our reactions. We can get better at it. It has taken medication, therapy and a lot of self-reflection to be able to control some of my reactions.

Twenty years ago, I was a hot mess. I may still be a hot mess emotionally at times. Adulthood is a series of events leading to the collection of your shit and the collapse of your shit. We are all at some point in the cycle. Some people are better at keeping it together than other. There is also a whole league of people that are incredible good at making everything seem like it is all okay dokey when it isn’t. I like to call them influencers.

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These days, I am pretty good at making it look everything is shipshape when it isn’t. Not because I don’t want people to know the realities of my life, because if I stop moving long enough to explain things to them something else is going to come crashing down on my head.

Papi and I had a complicated relationship. I never hated him even when things were twisted. He was never a villain to me. I don’t understand why he did the things he did, but I loved him. I loved him so so much. He wasn’t the villain. I wasn’t a victim. We were two people who loved each other, were horrible at communication.

When I reflect on my own childhood, I see a lot of things that were done to me. I didn’t have power and agency as a child. Adulthood comes and we aren’t always ready for it. There is no magically awakening that occurs when we turn eighteen. We don’t suddenly get all the skills necessary to live as adults. We don’t learn how to deal with each other.

I’ve been a teacher since 2006 and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that adults don’t act very adultlike much of the time. They are petty and sometimes cruel for no reason. Logic may as well just be a pretty wreath of flowers that smells horrible. It is as rare as common sense.

Growing up as an eighties kid, a lot of the movies I watched pitted the underdogs against the popular kids. The good guys against the villains. Real life isn’t black and white. It is shades of grey and colors more beautiful than one imagines. It is seeing someone you love grow, love and live a life that makes them happy.

Papi had that with his partner. There is never going to be a day that I don’t miss him. There may never be a time that I don’t wish things had been different between us. But knowing he was happy, he was loved and loved in return, makes me smile.

Get Away – Don’t Tell

This is the second weekend that I have left the Big House on the hill for the wonders of the city and a room in a friend’s home.

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For the second weekend in a row, the stress and anxiety of the past weeks along remnants of the pandemic have drift away as I left the day to day behind for an adventure. This weekend’s adventure found me traversing the streets of Washington, D.C. in a quest to get to my friend’s house as close to four o’clock as I could. Waze, by the way, I don’t trust you any more since last weekend you guided me to the wrong restaurant and this weekend there was the detour through D.C. during rush hour. I made it to my destination in the nick of time but I fear you will do me wrong again.

This weekend, I decided not to post my trip on social media. Partly, due to fear of backlash for having the ability to get out of town. And mostly because I needed a break from everything. A break from my everything and a chance to refresh and renew my internal control system. I can not be the change I desire to be in the world if I allow myself to be crushed by the weight of things out of my control.

My weekend away let me reflect on the things that have been causing me anxiety.

Other People’s Perceptions.

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You can not change the way others think of you. You can not control their choices. You can only manage your own reaction. Do not be mistaken, you can not control them. So much of our lives are controlled by habits. The majority of habits are not set intentionally. We set them through routine. Resetting habits is difficult. Resetting thinking more so.

The anxiety that I have been feeling has been intense. I struggle to focus when my entire being is racked doubt, confusion and pain. The pain is so deep inside my core that I don’t know how to deal with it.

Recently, one of my closest relatives has been calling to vent. The anxiety and stress they feel has been passed to me and I have been waking up in the middle of the night racked with worry that I can’t do all these things at once. My relatives perception of what I have or have not done is beyond my control. Trying to control it and problem solve from hundreds of miles away is not working.

So, I am attempting to focus on what I can do and how I can help while maintaining my own mental, physical and financial health. It isn’t an easy balancing act, but it is necessary.

The Return

First, we are never going back to the way things used to be. Not a 100%, too much as happened and it is impossible to go back. Nearly 4 million people have died as a result of COVID. Business have closed and careers have been lost. The “normal” so many crave returning to was toxic to people of color, women and the working poor.

Maya Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”. We know as a society how much we rely on low wage workers to keep everything running. While some folks are still refusing acknowledge the importance of these lower skill jobs (there is no such thing as a no skill job, fyi.) and say that people just don’t want to work, that is simply not true. It is an excuse to ignore the issue. I would also argue that they aren’t low skilled at all. My own work history has taught me that much.

As our society attempts the return to “normal”, we will all adjust at our own speeds. Some have already rushed back to their “normal”, others are still testing the waters. Everyone had been affected. The stress I was feeling from personal and work matters stems in part from the pandemic. The pressure placed on family ties and the education system for which I work exposed cracks and widen others. We need to take our time personally so that we don’t go back to what a comfortable dysfunction.

The Social Media Break

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My weekend break from social media let me two things. First, I enjoyed the weekend without trying to narrative it the same time. Freedom!! The second was living fully in the moment and resting. For myself, not telling folks that I was taking the break or the weekend was key. The people who needed to know where I was did and everyone else didn’t need to know. The purpose of the weekend was to visit with old friends and recharge. Unplugging from my normal was exactly what the doctor order.

It is going to take several more treatments and a lot more hugs to fully recharge. Honestly, I need to recharge on a regular basis and make that a habit instead of running myself again and again to the point of exhaustion.

What about you? Have you gotten away ? Taken a much needed break? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.

Lucinda Rose is an author and teacher living and working in the mountains of Virginia.  You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagam

Let’s Stop…

Let’s stop saying those who cry are weak or babies

Babies cry to communicate to express what words cannot

Tears do not stop their duty when maturity takes hold

When other suppress what they should express

Some are cursed and blessed with tears

That do not obey.

Let us stop equating colors with genders

that we limit to two

Let us stop living our lives through memes

and share

But begin with hugs and touches.

Let us remember that our finite days

are filled with infinite possibilites

Let us acknowledge the privielege we have

and share with others so they may know the blessing

we take for granted.

Let us stop doing what hurts to others because we were hurt.