Only Human

I am only human, although I have gone by nickname of Dragon for years. My flesh is mortal and although I have dry skin, no scales adorn my body.

COVID-19 took me out for 3 weeks.

In the midst of these unpresideneted (only unpresidenet because we don’t really study history) times, I have faltered from my writing routine.

I know why it happen and I could list the reason/excuses for it, but they all boil down to the fact that I am human. I can only do so much and in order to maintain the silver of sanity I hold close to my chest, something had to give.

And it was my writing routine.

I started a second job tutoring, twice a week. I’ve worked through the pandemic and all of the ups, downs, twists and turns around. I wrote and I plotted new projects and then came the night when I couldn’t.

The Writer in Happier and Healthier times.

Couldn’t sit and write after work. I couldn’t write because I was asleep. Night after night, I crashed on my bed. The mornings were a blur of things I needed, wanted and could to get were all mixed together. In the evenings, the only thing that kept me moving was the routine of my family life. It anchored and has let me weather the continuous storm that these days have brought.

Writing and the routine of it has returned. I am writing for at least a half-n-hour a day; more when I can. Vaccines have brought hope and some freedom, but the end isn’t insight. There will be a lot more days and nights of this pandemic. And my routines might falter again, as long as I survive this, I am ok with that bargain.

Character Motivation

What makes you do the things that you do? What makes you reach for that cookie when you are on a diet? Or play that game when you should be sleeping? What really motivates us to act?

What motivates someone to murder?

Recently, I finished watching the Netflix docuseries “Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez” which doesn’t come to a definite conclusion as to the motivation for committing the crimes of which Hernandez is accused or as to the reason behind his suicide. It begs the question of what does motivate someone to commit the heinous act of murder.

FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 10: Aaron Hernandez #81 of the New England Patriots smiles from the sidelines in the fourth quarter during a game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on December 10, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Acts of passion are some how understandable if murder can ever understood. The idea of loosing control and taking a life has been used a character’s motivation over and over again. A typically upright and thereby good being is over taken by passion or it’s darker sister rage. When they come back to their senses with blood on their hands, what do they do? If we are dealing with fiction, the story doesn’t go forward unless they try and hide their crime. In real life, do they call the police or hide the crime? All of which circles back to fictional scenario?

Revenge is another popular motive. Along with greed. These are text book motivations. Understandable to the point that the reader doesn’t give them a second thought.

In watching the docuseries about Aaron Hernández, we see the life of an American athlete on the cusp of greatness fall apart. First with his arrest for the murder of a friend and then more cracks in the foundation of this perfect life appeared. It turned out that there more cracks than anything else in the life of Aaron Hernandez.

He was a young man with a good heart and a bad brain. After his death in 2017, he was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopath, which may have effected his behavior in life. If you haven’t hear of the condition commonly referred to as CTE, it is sometimes called fistfighter’s dementia. A number of former football players have been diagnosed with it following their early deaths.

Watching the life of Aaron Hernandez unfold in three episodes. I see how the series unfolds his character artfully, sympathetically. You feel him and yet you never forget what he is accused of doing. You see how in attempting to avoid the consequence of one crime, he provide the police with all the evidence they would need to convict him of the another crime. It is somewhat like what happens in mythology when the hero tries to avoid his fate and only ends up running directly towards it.

Real life is often stranger than fiction. It is always more complex. When authors water down motivation they water down their plots. I think about this as I write. Am I dumbing down my own plots by not considering the bad guy’s motivation? My current bad guy or gal has killed at least two people and as I work on rewriting the current draft, I wonder about their motivation.

I wonder about the complexities of my villain’s life. What has led them to this point where the death of another is the preferred option? Maybe it is just the easier option?

Death as the easier option is somehow more unsettling? Yet if we look around us there are tons of examples of people choosing that option.

These are the thoughts rattling round my brain.

What’s bouncing round your head?

The Idea Machine

Where do you get your ideas?

Simple, I have a machine in my house built from spare parts found on the side of the road and at yard sales that I crank up whenever I am in need of an idea. The crank is the most important part. The ones from Victrola’s are the best.

Really?

Yes, it’s how I came up with this blog title. Ok, not really. Ideas don’t come from a machine or a store. Although a visit to the store or watching an intrici machine work might spark one. What gets me going on a story or even an essay is a thought that worms its way out of my head onto the page. I have to get it out.

Sometimes it is the beginning line. When I started writing Blood Child, I was standing on my front porch in Florida holding a glass of wine watching a car pulling in across the street. My ex-boyfriend was coming home with his new girlfriend. I said out loud to no one in particular “I am not drunk enough for this.” and that became “I am not drunk enough to talk about it now.” The first line of my novella.

The idea that there was something that needed to be done or dealt with and the person faced with choice reaches for liquid courage. My fascination with Elizabeth Bathory, the Blood Countness, and love of mysteries did the rest.

Other times, it is an image. When I started Shadow’s Tale, I had been looking over some old photos. Shadow was a real cat and finding his picture, I wondered what would happen if a cat came back as a ghost with unfinished business.

Cooking with the Dead, a work in progress came from talking with a friend about how I cook. Cooking for me invokes my grandmother and when I sat down to write that day I started to wonder what would happen if cooking called other loved ones the way a medium does.

I started one short story after I was annoyed at how I had been cut out of the retelling of a neighbor’s tragic accident. I wanted to tell what really happened. How when our neighbor Larry fell off the roof, it was myself and my boyfriend at the time who reached him first, not our landlord who was frozen by his car or others who heard the commotion. Really, it was LJ who sounded the alarm and directed people to call 911 as I tended to Larry. Of course, the story turned into something else by the time it was done.

This may sound like inspiration strikes often but it isn’t as mysterious as it may seem. For myself, it is really about uncovering the story once the idea get out. Something that Stephen King talked about his book On Writing.

To finish what I am writing, I continually asking myself what happens next and repeating until the story is done. Sometimes, I play a game for ten minutes or take a walk before I sit back down to write. But that is a topic for another blog.

There are a couple of other things I do that have helped me generate ideas more consistently.

Read Constantly

A book or three go with me everywhere. When I went to France in 2019, I took three books with me. When I go to work, I have a book. Car rides and housework is perfect for audiobooks. If I am caught without a book, there is the Kindle app on my home.

In 2020, I read 72 books according to Goodreads. It was probably more, but somewhere along the way I gave up recording them and I read some books twice.

Reading feeds my brain. And as I write more I have begun to take note of how the authors I enjoy structure their work. The things they tells us and the things that leave out. Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot is one of my favorite vampire novels. Yet, he doesn’t use the word vampire until the last part of the book. He doesn’t need to for his reader to understand the horrors unfolding in the town of Jerusalem’s Lot.

Make time for Learning

Listen to or watch the news as painful as it these days is important for understanding how the world works. If you pay attention you will learn a lot more about human nature than you think. Listen to a podcast on a topic that interests you. Sign up for a distance learning class, study another language through an app. Watch a documentary. Right now, I am hooked on the MasterClass lessons specially those by Ru Paul and Neil Gaimen.

Learning in my opinion always adds to life and is rarely a waste of time.

Keep a Journal

Last year, I finished A Handbook for the Productive Writer by Bryan Collins. Several of his suggestions include keeping an idea file and/or journaling. He actually suggests keeping different journals for different things. Something I do and I don’t do.

I have a daily journal which I write in … you guessed it daily and take nearly everywhere with me. It goes to work with me. It went hiking last weekend and is tucked into my bag everyday when I go to work. And just in case, I forget I have a small emergency journal. Since February of last year, I’ve only missed a few days and those were due to illness (Thanks Covid).

My daily journal records ideas, lines from books that I like and other thoughts. I keep all of my journals once they are finished by my desk so I can refer to him.

An Idea book lives in the top right hand drawer of my desk which I use to record ideas for blogs and videos.

Another journal is my class notebook. When I take a course writing or otherwise, I keep notes in this journal. I learned the hard way to keep all of the journals handy for reference. Thanks to my sweetheart, I also have a fabulous Tarot planner from Writual planners that use for reflection as well as planning.

It really isn’t as much work as it sounds. Although one thing I am constantly doing besides reading is tidying my office so everything can be found when I need it.

Write Daily

Isn’t that the same as journaling? No, journaling is my writing warm up: a free write if you will. Typically, I journal while I am letting my first cup of coffee do its thing. On weekdays, I write after dinner and on weekends as soon as I can after the morning dog walk.

Do I miss days? Yes, when I am sick or traveling it happens. And when it does, I don’t beat myself up about it. Stephen King reports writing everyday but two; his birthday and Christmas. Right now, I have finished dinner and turned on the latest episode of the Watch on Amazon Prime. (I love Terry Pratchett!) When I get in the groove, I pause the show.

The more you write the easier it is to write. Developing a daily practice of writing takes work and I will admit some days I struggle with it still. Other times when I am trying to take a break I feel compelled to write because my body and mind know what time it is. I keep working on being a better writer because I know in my heart the stories aren’t going to stop coming so I might as well get better at telling them.

Making Space

All of the above couldn’t be done if I hadn’t started making space for writing and reading. My daily to-do list (something I know isn’t everyone’s cup of tea) always includes writing and reading as well as journaling as task items. Why, because if I write it everyday I know that everyday it is important to me to get these things done. It also helps with my depression and anxiety to see have a visual of these things even if it is something I know I am going to do, crossing it off feels good.

Rising earlier than I need to gives me time to read and journal with fewer interruptions. I don’t linger downstairs on weeknights after dinner so I have at least 45 minutes before heading to bed to write or edit.

It means planning ahead when I know I have a busy day to set aside the time to do these things. It also means being flexible. If I know that a hectic day is approaching, I tend to lower my writing expectations for that day.

My friend and fellow author, Marshall Stephen, has encouraged me so often on those days to just write a hundred words that now often hear his voice when I am struggling pushing me to write a few more words. And it works. Sometimes I write the hundred, sometimes it is more. Either way it is a victory because you guessed it, I wrote.

Last Thoughts

Writing is art. The act of writing is my chosen form of art; an expression of which I could not live without. Generating ideas for art is never as hard or as simple as it sounds. It has taken me several years to put together what works for me and I am still working on it. It is like most of life a learning process.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the creative process and how you come with ideas for your own art whatever that may be.

Be Well, Be Safe and Stay Spooky,

Lu

The Writer and Balance

balance ground relaxation rock balancing
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The days have grown dramatically shorter in my mountain home.  The sun was setting as we walked the dogs.  The Autumn Equinox is upon us and it at this time of year that I think of what I will banish my from my life.  The idea is to banish something in the fall that holds me back from balance.

There are a lot of things on this list; debt, self-doubt, along with a few bad habits that no longer serve as even inadequate coping mechanisms.

The truth is that I have gotten to the point a lot of American’s do in their forty’s.  I am talking about the middle aged crisis.  Life has started to slow down or at least I have. The aches and pains have grown into MRI’s and iced knees after every walk.  The weekends are too short to recover from the work week.

I haven’t been so lost and so happy at the same time.  My home life isn’t perfect, but I love my family.  I love the jokes we make and how we work together. I love my boyfriend and the freedom that our relationship gives me to be myself.  A year into dating and it is only getting better.

Things are good and they are bad at the same time.  An ex used to tell me that I needed to get my shit together. He meant it as an insult.  But,  The thing I realized is that adulthood is a continuous cycle of getting my shit together, watching and predicting obstacles, trying to avoid them and then the crash as everything comes down. Balance isn’t an easy thing.   It requires a lot of re-balancing and adjustments.  Yes, I do need to get my shit together just like everyone else.

No one has the perfect life.

I don’t have an answer for the one thing that is going to bring me closer to balance once I cast it out.  This equinox, I think is going to be hectic.

Or maybe I do.

I think I will work on banishing the idea that I can do everything, that I should do everything and there is time to do everything.  Writing is happening more and more.  I am not writing as much as I would like, but progress is being made.  Exercise is happening on a daily basis even if it is only walking the dogs. I am getting more sleep than in the past.  My life is good.  My art is developing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Movie Weekend

Three movies, one weekend and one exhausted writer.  Strangely, it was the exhaustion which enabled the movie watching along with Amazon Prime.

Movie 1: Late Night staring Emma Thompson, Mindy Kaling and John Lithgow.   

This is the movie that started the spree.  Emmy Thompson is on fire as the failing talk show, Katherine Newbury. She brings a lot of depth to the role. I loved see this character’s emotional development. While parts of it were disjointed and I wish they had done more with Mindy Kaling’s character, Molly, I enjoyed it. It left me with a sense of catharsis after a very stressful week.  A feeling that no matter how badly I mess up there is a chance for redemption.  It didn’t hurt that there were genuinely funny moments mixed with deeper emotions.

One reviewer didn’t like Molly’s romantic subplot calling it wispy, but I thought it fit.  The story isn’t about Molly, it is about Katherine’s redemption.   Katherine is unlikable in the beginning of the film. By the end, you are rooting for her success.  I think were the writing when wrong was that from the start of the film you expected there to be more between develop in the relationship with Katherine and Molly.  The film seemed like it was on two different tracks with these characters.

Overall, I loved the film and would watch it again.

Movie 2: Book Club staring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen.

Dianc Keaton and Candice Bergen are two of my favorite actors and I don’t think that Mary Steenburgen gets enough credit for her acting ability.  She brings something to every film she is in that is unforgettable. This movie was no exception to that.  Jane Fonda plays perhaps the most shallow of the bunch and has the most growth through out the film. Although it does take an intervention from her friends for her to final make the chance.

This is a chick flick that proves just because you are older doesn’t mean you life is over. The story line with Candice Bergen was the most surprising.  Candice’s character is dealing with watching her ex-husband marry a woman half his age.  Instead of going for revenge (which would be ill conceived as she initiated the divorce) or belittling the relationship, she wishes them well and gets on with her own life.

I loved this movie for being both unrealistic in the romance department (except for Mary Steenburgen’s storyline) and emotional validating that life isn’t over when you hit 60.

Movie Three – John Wick staring Keanu Reeves.

I watched this film mostly because some good friends of mine loved it and were raving about the third film that was recently released.  I get it now. I really get it and will watch the rest of the series in time.  Although, if anyone had told me the bit about the puppy, I probably won’t have watched it.

The take away from this film was don’t mess with someone’s puppy. Seriously, if anyone hurt Luke, I would go John Wick on them.  It would be nice to have a body disposal service like in the film.  And I would love to see a story or film about the day to day life of those cleaners.

This weekend was all about recharging although that wasn’t my intention at the start. I wanted to be productive and do things.  I did do things.  I did a big editing past on my next book, the Devil’s Due.   The biggest one was to take care of myself.  In doing so, I found myself reflecting on characters and storytelling.  There were unpredictable elements in each of these films which made me love them.  The characters were flat.  And each one had a element of escapism that helped me step away from my stress for a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Sans Clothing

I write naked. I write semi-clothed and sometimes just in my little black robe.

The point is I write.

Sometimes I write with wine although this can be dangerous as if the muse doesn’t kick in quickly I end up with an empty bottle of wine and only a few dozen words to show for it. This is a bad thing.

Sometimes I write while watching a movie. I know that I have hit my groove when I  get annoyed and pause it.  Sometimes I zone in so deep I forgot all about whatever I have playing in the background.

I used to write at the restaurant down the street when I lived in Orlando.  I loved it as it got me out of the house and since the manager was a friend often my writing time was fueled by complimentary wine.  My goal in those early weeks was a 1,000 words a week.

I have also written in hospital waiting rooms, during my lunch break and when I can’t sleep.  I didn’t write when I was sick, but I tried.  I read books when I was awake, watched movies and when I felt a little better I took notes. I didn’t really stop for those four weeks so much as a paused so I could heal.

Currently, my goal is 400 words a day.  It is the same number of words that Terry Pratchett wrote each day according to his friend, Neil Gaiman.  400 words a day is manageable even with my day job.  I can write that in a hour or two, maybe less depending on how the inspiration is flowing. I am not a particularly fast writer.

The thing that I am working on is writing even when it isn’t flowing. Writing when conditions aren’t idea.  Writing by pushing out the story regardless and not judging myself.  Writing is always hard work.

Finishing what you start is the advice from other talent writer, Neil Gaiman. It may take some time. But finish it.

Do what it takes to write and to finish what you start.

Write naked if that is what works, it does for me.

 

If you’d like more information on Lucinda’s work subscribe to this blog, follow her on Twitter or like her page on Facebook.  Her novella, Blood Child is available on Amazon.  You can also find her on Instagram where she posts random pictures of  critters and other adorably evil things. 

No Spoons, Today.

stainless steel spoon
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I ran out of spoons on Monday when forces combined to make my normal day, mentally three times longer than usual.  There were some physical challenges as well. All of which resulted in this writer feeling like she had been run over by a semi. A semi that backed up and did it again and again for three hours straight.

First, I went into to the day job on Sunday.  Four or was  it five hours later, I walked out the door without having accomplished what I had come to do.  There was no time when I got home to commit to my normal self-care/maintenance. The morning rolled around and the list of undone things was weighting me down before I even got in the car for the drive down the hill; unknowing leaving the dogs unsecured which would lead to the demise of some unattended baked goods.  I wouldn’t know about that until after my workday had ended.

The spoons ran out, because they aren’t limitless.  No one has limitless amounts of energy in adulthood when it comes to doing our day to day tasks; especially people dealing with chronic illness.  Think about your day and what exhausts you the most. Everyone has task they do that wear them out.Now, sprinkle some anxiety and depression and the number of spoons you have in a given day may not be as many as you think.

Even if I had been able to come home and do my thing on Sunday night, the spoons would have run out.  No matter how carefully you take care of yourself, bad days are going to happen.  It is like that expression, you can’t change how people treat you but you can’t change how you react.  You can’t change the bad day,but you take care of yourself afterwards.

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My latest Minecraft world. 

So Monday night, there was a detour on the way home to replace the baked goods and get a bottle of wine.  After talking the dogs for a walk and declaring that I had no spoons left, I retreated upstairs.  I did the bare minimum of writing work, mostly composing the first draft of this post, played some Minecraft and went to bed.  Yesterday, I did much the same except for making sure that I took twenty-minutes to eat my lunch and compose myself before tackling the second half of my day.  The day went much better, still exhausting, but better.  We had pizza for dinner. Although I was prepared to make dinner as plan, I did not turn down the offer to eat out.

This morning, I woke up rested and feeling much better with eight hours of sleep under my belt.  The day is going to be long.  There is a meeting first thing and then the day gets into full swing.  I may feel drained at the end of the day or I may be alright. Either way,  there will be self-care tonight in the form of dinner with my family, a walk with the dogs and a glass of wine before curling up with a good book.

How do you take care of yourself? Is self-care a part of your daily routine?

Lucinda Rose is an author and teacher living and working in the mountains of Virginia.  She is the author of Blood Child, a paranormal mystery and is working on her next project, Shadow’s Tale.  You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagam

 

Work-Life Balance vs. Dreams

Tomorrow, I will go back to the day job for the first time in sixty-four days.  Summer is over for me in less than twelve hours.   Nearly half that time traveling and writing; it has been wonderful.  Next Spring if the editing gods are kind I will have two new pieces ready for publication.

But, my wonderful summer is not what this post is about. It is about balancing work, life and the pursue of my writing dreams or as I like to call them goals.

Education does allow me to have time off even if it doesn’t pay well.  It does allow me to have that sweet, sweet health insurance and believe it or not, a lot of job satisfaction.  I love my daily interactions with students and staff.  There is, however, no denying that it is a hard job and balancing it with a healthy home life is hard.  Trying to figure out how to balance all three is more than a little challenge.

This past year, I have gotten much better at it than I have since I started teaching thirteen years ago.  The biggest thing I did was move away from a life that wasn’t working for me.

The life that I have built in the last year contains a lot more boundaries than the one I had.  I don’t let things bleed into one another.  Work, even as a teacher, stays in the building with a few rare exceptions.  I can do this because I get to work early and organize myself.  I keep a calendar that has both writing and work commitments on it so I know ahead of time when things are going to get tight.

This also includes scheduling time to write, date nights and chore days. Chore days are days that I set aside to work with my godfathers on big household tasks like fixing the barn roof or putting the pool together.  Come to think of it, I schedule a lot of things.

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One of three calendars, I use to keep me on track. 

 

And it works for me.

Why? Because as much as I schedule myself, I also forgive myself if writing doesn’t happen or if the dust bunnies start creeping out from the corners.

I forgive myself if having dinner with my family means that I don’t have time to write before bed. I forgive myself if I get into the flow of writing and three or four other things on the to-do list don’t get done or I stay up a little too late. Or when I get sick and the only thing I can do is take care of myself.

Balancing things can at times mean letting some things have more time as they need.  img_10851-1The beginning of the school year means that for the next month, I am going to be more tired than usual.  It happens to me every year.  I will write about half as much as I normally do.  Any writing deadlines that I have must be adjusted.

Balance isn’t giving equal time to everything, but giving things the time they need and letting go of things you can’t tend to.

What works for you to maintain work-life-dream balance?

 

 

 

Writer – Do Thy Thing

Two weeks in France and I was writing everyday. I am twenty pages and a few plot wholes away from a finished draft of The Devil’s Due. 

I wrote well when I was away from my writing desk.

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The room I wrote in while in France.  

Back at my writing desk for two weeks and I have two pages. Not so good when I was averaging a page a day and a blog a week.

Travel is good for me or at least getting away from my house where I intend to write and settling in to some place I do write.  Next Spring, I plan on spending a week in Richmond researching and writing a new book.

Do your thing.

If you write best at 4:30 am when everyone else is asleep in your house, then get up and write. Or maybe you work best at the local cafe. Where ever you work best, go there and do the work.   Neil Gaiman wrote parts of American Gods on a train going across the country.

Some people have writer’s rooms or corners in their house.   Others go to work early and write in their offices before the hustle and bustle of the day.

I wrote parts of Blood Child on the sofa of a friend’s house.  Whole chapters were composed sitting at the bar of a friend’s restaurant.  They gave me wine and food, in return when things got busy, I ran food and drinks for them.  I miss that place and the friends who tended me to while I worked on my dream.

I’ve written on my front porch and in airports.  Sometimes a new place to write is perfect because it gets you out of your head and lets your creative brain free.

Write where you are inspired or in my case where you aren’t distracted.

In any case, write.

 

Writer on the go

This morning, I woke up in a strange room in a city that neighbors the one I grew up in.  As my traveling companion slept fitfully in his bed, I moved through the room making coffee, showering, reading and doing my morning exercises.  The nervousness and tears that had marked my first day of travel were gone; now it is onto the adventure.

An adventure that as a writer  feel compelled to chronicle.   This is my first vacation in over a year, the last being a weekend trip to Sanibel, Florida, with a dear friend after the death of Papa.  It was a healing trip, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico washing away some of the stress and agony of loss. More than a year into my new reality, I know that there are no waters that can wash away sorrow and grief, only waters that can comfort and refresh the heart and soul.  I still miss Papa, he would have worried about me taking such a long trip.

Sanibel, if you have never been, is a small island off the west coast of Florida. It is known for its peaceful beaches and for the prodigious amounts of shells that wash up on its shores.  You can find 250 different types of shell on their more than fifteen miles of beaches.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit three times and each time brought with it a sense of serenity that just speaking the name of the island in my mind brings me joy.  Each time, I have gone I’ve stayed at the Sandpiper Inn, a colorful and very affordable spot on Donax street.  It is a quick walk to the beach to collect shells from there and they have bikes which are free for guests to borrow.  It was truly delightful to hop on a bike and ventured off to breakfast.  There are over 25 miles of bike paths.

The best and strongest memory of that trip was driving over to Captiva and renting a boat for the day.  We sailed around the bay for a couple of hours and were delighted when a dolphin joined us for a bit.  We sailed back and forward trying to follow him only to realize that he was playing with us.  It was absolutely marvelous.  The experience of a lifetime.

Now, in a few hours I will be boarding a plane with two friends heading to Paris where we will meet two more friends for another experience of a lifetime.  One of those friends is the same extraordinary soul with whom I went to Sanibel.

My heart at this moment is light. I know worry will return.  For now, I am delighting in the adventure ahead as I look out the window towards the towers of Dulles seeing the tips of airplane tails among the trees.

Au revoir mes aimes!