Day 3 — the purge continues

20180103_204556Every time I write the word purge I laugh a little. It reminds me of the terrible The Purge movie we watched a few years ago. It was worse than dreadful — it was violent and boring. I couldn’t wait for it to end.

Now, of course, there are sequels. Go figure.

The word purge is an ugly word. It sounds ugly when you say it; it’s ugly when written. Even the meaning is ugly.

Purge (noun)

:an act of removing by cleansing; ridding of sediment or other undesired elements
:the act of clearing yourself (or another) from some stigma or charge
:rinse, clean, or empty with a liquid – purge the old gas tank
:eject the contents of the stomach through the mouth – He purged continuously
:make pure or free from sin or guilt
:an abrupt or sudden removal of a person or group from an organisation or place – he died in a purge by Stalin
:clear of a charge
:excrete or evacuate (someone’s bowels or body) – The doctor decided that the patient must be purged
:oust politically – Deng Xiao Ping was purged several times throughout his lifetime
:rid of impurities – purge the water – purge your mind
But my intent to purge my life of unnecessary things is not ugly. It is liberating. Like some forms of purging listed above, it is actually a good thing.
Today I rid myself of magazines. I have hung on to these magazines for ages. Some of them were from the early 1990s. I kept some of them in the bathroom in case someone needed reading material. I, personally, wouldn’t touch them. And as far as I know neither did anyone else. They were dusty, wrinkled from constantly being steamed from the shower, and out of date.
Dr. Oz’s advice on how to stock your refrigerator so you’ll lose weight is only good for one reading as far as I’m concerned. When I picked up the women-only fitness magazine and leafed through it I thought for one brief moment that I should try some of the workouts, but then I remembered that I went for a walk this morning. That’s good enough at my age.
It’s not like I ever want to wear a bikini again — no, a nice high-waisted tankini with tummy control, waist minimizer and boob support is my style these days. Something I can walk around the resort, beach, deck in with a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other. My pretty-young-thing days are all behind me and I’m happy.
I also got rid of Christmas and holiday magazines. I had been clinging to these as though they were precious artefacts. These magazines represented the romanticized versions of the holidays that I always tried to create. I made a few of the crafts, tried out recipes, and read inspirational stories of stranger’s special holiday memories. So many times I felt dissatisfied after the holidays were over because they had not lived up to the expectations I’d borrowed from the glitzy pages of those magazines.
This year I wasn’t home for Thanksgiving; I spent it with my parents and some of my siblings. I didn’t have to do a thing. It was my dad’s last turkey dinner and I felt blessed just to be able to be there and share that moment.
Christmastime, I was home, but because I spend half my time living in Fort McMurray where my husband works I didn’t decorate or put up a tree this year. I said I didn’t have time. Honestly, I just didn’t feel like decorating.
I didn’t go through my usual routine of replacing my dishes with Christmas ones, putting out Christmas linens or stringing garlands all over the place. The Dickens’ village didn’t get set up and didn’t have Christmas blankets and teddies strewn all over.
We spent Christmas morning at my son’s house and enjoyed all the festive decorating my daughter in law does. Their tree was lovely. We opened presents, we had our traditional eggs-benny breakfast and then my husband and I went home. None of it was inspired by a picture or article from a magazine. It was genuine, it was memorable and it made me happy.
When I saw all those magazines today it occurred to me that they are meaningless. Holidays are not about how your house looks, or how your table is dressed. It’s not about decorating advice from the pros or how to host the best Thanksgiving dinner – EVER! It’s about family, creating memories and sharing love and laughter, tears and joy.
I didn’t even break a sweat as I carried all those magazines down to the recycle bin.
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What Will Become of Us?

I was at the pool this morning, resting in the sauna following my aquafit class. As sweat poured down my face I looked out into the pool area. The place was full of happy, loud, exuberant kids — their year-end celebration at MacDonald Island Park. Seeing them made me think of my three grandchildren and I wondered what, if anything, they were doing today to celebrate the end of another school year.

Thinking of them made me suddenly wonder: what will become of them? Of us? Of this big, old, beautiful world?

Lately, I’ve been preoccupied with recycling, reusing and rethinking how I do things. How the things I do impacts the planet, impacts all the creatures I share it with. I try hard to recycle — have been for over 30 years. Sadly, I’ve come to find out that most of what I’ve saved from my landfill has simply made its way into someone else’s landfill. And, now, because there is such a glut of recyclable materials in the marketplace, companies are starting to refuse to take more. Municipalities are changing their recycling rules and reducing and restricting what can be placed in a blue box. I’m being forced to pollute.

When I shop I look for products that have minimal packaging so that I am not adding to the 8 billion tons of plastic that makes its way into the environment. I use cloth/reusable grocery bags, severely limit my use of plastic produce bags and when I do have to use them I generally reuse ones I’ve had forever. I try to make as much of our food as possible; try to remember to say “no straw, please”; carry my own water bottle, take my own travel mug when I’m on the road; wear my clothes til they’re rags, try to purchase clothes made from natural fibres, and on and on and on.

My point, now that I’m getting around to it is this: when I looked at those happy kids playing in this fantastic aquatic centre I saw how impossible it is for people to really change, to do what needs to be done if we are going to save our world for the millenia to come.

My bathing suit — and the hundreds of other bathing suits covering all those bodies in the water — is made of polyester and other man-made fibres. Billions of tiny microscopic fibres that will never break down were being shed into the water, then filtered out into the water system. Those tiny particles will make their way into our drinking water, our soft drinks, our beer. They will accumulate in our bodies. Maybe we won’t starve to death like the whales, seals, porpoises and sea-birds that we’re inundated daily with on social media, but one day all that gunk is going to wreak havoc on our bodies.

But what are we supposed to wear? Baggy, saggy cotton suits? Or, should we completely forsake things like public pools? There isn’t a square foot in the building that doesn’t contain something made of plastic. The slides, the lane markers, the flags, the diving platforms, the race stands, the nets, the life preservers, the whistles, the pool liners. It’s all made of some form of plastic. And if we were to decide that pools were verboten, then what? What do we do with all that stuff?

It’s not just public pools, either. It’s everything. All the advances that have been made to simplify our lives, to make them more enjoyable, more fulfilling, more meaningful, have contributed greatly to the slow and steady destruction of the very thing we wish to see and have more of — life.

Despite this gloomy outlook, I don’t feel completely hopeless. Everyday, people are waking up to the idea that this world and all it has to offer is finite. Entire countries are banning the use of disposable plastics like bags, cutlery and straws. Individuals from all over the world and from all walks of life are trying to effect change within their personal lives. They are writing companies and governments and manufacturers and demanding that changes be made in how products are packaged and sold. Entrepreneurs are starting businesses that are focused on cleaning up shorelines, trails and parks.

I hope, and I tentatively believe, that solutions to our pollution problems will be made. Probably not in what’s left of my lifetime, but not that far off, either.

Sitting there in the sauna, in my cute, but bad for the environment bathing suit, I thought I could envision a future where kids could still enjoy a day of fun at the local pool.

Zero to Sixty – the next installment

asphalt dark dawn endless

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

It’s been a busy month. I’m finally getting around to the next few achievements in my life thus far. It’s tough thinking about your life — what you have and have not done with it. I re-read my previous posts to get an idea of what I’d already written about and I was pleasantly surprised. My life has been a good one.

Here goes with some more of what sticks out for me:

36.  Taking a road trip to Arizona with Tim, and my brother and sister-in-law Rick and Connie. We drove to Vegas, then to Sedona. The scenery was breathtaking. We stopped at the Grand Canyon — truly as beautiful as the postcards make it. I can see why Canadians flock there in the winter.

37.  Going by motorcycle from our home in Bon Accord, AB to Dartmouth, NS. We were gone for three absolutely incredible weeks. We drove through every major city along the way, followed the Loyalist route and King’s Highway through Ontario and Quebec, had a lobster roll in Shediac, NB, walked the ocean floor at the Bay of Fundy, saw Stephen King’s house in Bangor, Maine, ate deep dish pizza in Chicago, drove by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cincinnati, slept like the dead in Toledo, and along the way we met some of the nicest and best people – on both sides of the border.

38.  Taking our son to Disney World for his 10th birthday. This was the only flying holiday we ever had as a family. We had so much fun on that trip — we also took in Universal Studios — Ghostbusters, The Jetsons, Indiana Jones; went to Sea World — hand fed sting rays, pet sea urchins, got splashed by Namu; and went to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Science center – Tim and Landon were completely in awe of all the space craft and the simulation command center.

39.  Being elected President of our Local Union — SSD#24 Local 4625. I held this position for 7 years and it was one of the most rewarding and personal growth opportunities I’ve ever had. I learned so much about people during that time — and how important it is to be involved and knowledgeable about how work works.

40.  Summer holidays spent in the back of a station wagon when mom and dad would take us home to Ontario. No air conditioning, eight kids — one in front with mom and dad, two in the back and five in the middle. My sister and I would be on the floor with pillows behind the front seat and the other three would share the seat. Dad telling stories about the Indian braves Falling Rock and Sharp Shoulders. Black flies, no-seeums and mosquitoes. Dad teaching us to skip rocks. The sound of loons in Northern Ontario when we were camped for the night. Mom making baloney sandwiches while dad drove — soft white bread, a slice of baloney and mustard — the best sandwiches ever.

. . . and after a prolonged delay. . . Zero to Sixty continues. . .

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

30.  Working as an Educational Assistant. I ‘fell’ into this job. And I loved it. I had to have — because it sure didn’t pay a lot. I worked primarily with special needs kids and it gave me a lot of pride and satisfaction to help them learn and thrive and grow.

31.  Going to a writer’s retreat for the first time. It was scary and exhilarating.  I am a writer!

32.  Years and years and years ago starting an environmentally friendly products business with a friend. We made re-usable coffee filters, produce bags and cleaning supplies. It didn’t last — we were too early on the scene. But, I still have some of those filters and produce bags!

33.  This is a joint one. Tim and I making the decision to move to Bon Accord from the city. Buying our big, beautiful house and making it our home. I’ve never regretted that decision. I am always happiest when I am there.

34.  Once I spent a week by myself at a friend’s of my sister’s cottage in Ontario.
I was going through some stuff and just needed a break. It was a wonderful, liberating time. All that solitude was seriously good for my soul.

35.  I won the Harlequin Romance Write Us A Romance contest back in the late eighties. I did it as a whim — had never read an HR novel — but thought, what the hey? how hard can it be? Well, once I started I realized it wasn’t that easy. I was so surprised and honoured that I won. That’s as far as it went though — it’s just not my thing.

Zero to Sixty, continued

architecture buildings business city

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

23.  Getting married. My husband, Tim, entered my life like a tornado. He was, and always has been, a force to be reckoned with. Funny, full of life, big-hearted, loyal, opinionated, joyful, energetic, frenetic, and in general a lover of life. I credit him with so much of the good in my life — loving him has taught me how to love myself.

24.  Being there for the birth of my grandchildren. Not in the delivery room! But there afterwards to hold each of those tiny, precious babies as they entered into the world and our family.

25.  Being a mom. I’ve said it hundreds of times — being a mother is the most important job I’ve ever had. And our son, Landon, has made that job such a wonder and a joy. Was I a perfect mom? No. But I gave 100% of myself to the task. It’s easy to look back now and say I should have done this differently, or, I could have handled that better, but, in the moments that were, I believe I was doing my best.

26.  White water rafting. This was something I’d always wanted to do. So, a few years ago, myself and two friends embarked on a trip down the Kicking Horse River. It was the year before the huge floods in southern Alberta and run-off had been extremely heavy with water levels much greater than normal. Our trip was supposed to be category 3 rapids — they turned out to be mostly category 5. It was terrifying! But exhilarating and incredible. We saw some beautiful scenery — unfortunately we weren’t able to take any pictures. Hard to do when you’re clinging for life to the side of the raft!

27.  My first trip to New York. Tim surprised me for Christmas in 2004. We had taken a trip to Ontario to spend Christmas with my parents, which I hadn’t done for many, many years. New York was a fabled place to me at that time. Some magical city that I didn’t actually believe I’d ever get the chance to see. Well, Tim made it happen. We traveled by train from Niagara Falls, New York to Manhattan. We were in Times Square for the 100th anniversary of the dropping of the ball on New Year’s eve. I will never forget the magic of that trip.

28.  My mom teaching me to play cribbage. I was never much good at math — I struggled so much with it in school I felt like an idiot. My mother loves to play cards and whenever she had a few extra minutes you could find her playing solitaire or, if there was a friend visiting, cribbage or rummy. Crib intrigued me. What were these fifteen-twos and threes they were always counting? So, she sat me down one afternoon and taught me how to play. I have loved the game ever since. Really, I love playing any game (except Monopoly and Risk) and I attribute that love to my mother.

29.  Writing my first-ever short story in high school and having my English teacher tell me I had talent.

 

and. . . I’m 60

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Life has a way of showing you just what you need to see exactly when you need to see it.

I celebrated my 60th birthday yesterday. The day started out like any other — we woke up, we said good morning to one another, and we talked about what we were going to do. With the understanding, of course, that somewhere in those plans was a birthday dinner with family and friends.

My assumption was that it would be our son and his family, maybe my brother and his wife, perhaps one of my other brothers who live a few hours away and a few friends.

When we set out for town in the morning, to get breakfast and run errands, I was feeling emotional — I wanted more than anything not to be having this birthday. What was the big deal, anyway? Sixty, it’s just a number, and I’ve never liked having a big fuss made over me. Why couldn’t we just have a bbq on the deck, open some beer and wine and call it done?

All I can say is thank God I didn’t get my way.

Tim took me to The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. The one in downtown Edmonton. We’ve been going there once or twice a year for over 40 years. Crazy. I had expected to see the group I mentioned earlier and I wasn’t surprised when I saw them sitting there. And suddenly, I was happy. Because, this, I realized, was something they were happy to be doing for me.

Then, they surprised me after all. As I was turning around to grab Tim my mother walked up to me and gave me a big hug. Beside her were two of my sisters. I couldn’t believe it. They flew in to help me celebrate this milestone that I’d been treating like a millstone. A little later, after having been fooled into thinking no one else was coming, my youngest sister and my niece from Lloydminster arrived. More tears of joy and gratitude.

It was a wonderful celebration and I can’t explain how absolutely wonderful and special it made me feel. In the big course of things, a birthday really is just another day. It will pass, and then there will be another day. BUT, what yesterday showed me about birthdays is this: it’s not just about you and how you feel about it, it’s about all the people who make you who you are and how they feel about you. It’s about letting them show you their love and being able to show them in return, just how grateful and blessed you are that they are in your life.

And Dad, I know you were there, too. I had a dream last night that I was lost and in trouble. You helped me out, helped me find my way to safety. Everywhere I looked were dimes, bright, shiny and new dimes. They were pouring down from the sky and as I gathered them up I felt you smiling down on me. I love you. I miss you. Thank you for our family.

Zero to Sixty

This Friday –May 11th — I will turn sixty. I’ve been a little preoccupied with that fact for a while. For a whole bunch of reasons. Not the least of which is my own mortality. I think, like most people do, that I fear dying mostly because I fear I haven’t lived.

So that got me thinking some more: what has my life, to this point, been?

Have I danced? Have I lived with gratitude? Have I embraced every moment of the life I was given as if it were my last?

Yes. And, No.

In sixty years I’ve done a lot. To celebrate this personal milestone, rather than wish it weren’t happening, I’m going to create a list of sixty things, memories, accomplishments from my life.

Here goes.  In no particular order.

  1. When I was fourteen I attended my first real play. With two of my cousins — Deborah and Susie. Our Uncle Bing was a foot soldier for Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra at the Shaw Theater in Niagara on the Lake.  Thus began my love of live theater.
  2. At sixteen I travelled by train from my home in Manitoba to NOTL to go live with my grandparents.
  3. My dad ‘teaching’ my sister and I how to do the dishes properly — at least once a month. He’d hear us bickering — which was on purpose — and come in to find out what the problem was. Then, he’d take over — “let me show you how this should be done”.  We’d just stand back and let him do our job. Thing is, the lesson stuck.
  4. Going for a ride in my boyfriend’s best friend’s Mustang. We would cruise up and down the streets listening to Aerosmith while our respective others were cheating together on us.
  5. Cruising down Portage Ave. with a different boyfriend listening to T-Rex sing Bang a Gong as loud as we possibly could.
  6. The first live concert I ever attended was BTO — fronted by Bob Seger. I will never forget him singing Turn the Page. BTO? Barely recall them.
  7. The first time I kissed a boy. His name was Charlie. We didn’t have a clue. But we learned!
  8. Roller skating with my aunt Val — who is only 9 months older than me. I would walk in to St. Catharines from NOTL to meet her and we’d go to the rollerdrome not far from my Aunt Sheryl’s house. I was never very good at it, but boy did we have fun.
  9. Falling in love with The Bay City Rollers and wearing everything plaid.

To be continued. . .

  1.  At eighteen, flying for the first time, by myself. I went to Calgary to visit my then boyfriend.
  2.  Having the courage to be rescued from an abusive relationship by three girls I did not know. One of them would become my best friend. We would live together for four years and attend each other’s weddings.
  3. Ate smelts. My grandfather — Grampa Jack — took me to the annual smelt fry in NOTL. They were delicious! I’ve never had them again, but it is a fond memory. Doing this small thing started me on a path of not being afraid to try new things.
  4. Meeting Tim Larson, a cute red-headed bus driver in Edmonton. He used to come in to the 7-11 where I worked nights and bug the hell out of me and my co-worker. I was his second choice for a date, but lucky for him, I said yes! LOL.
  5. Giving birth to a beautiful little red-headed boy. I had fantasized about a blonde haired baby, but when I saw that gleaming copper. . . Love was all she wrote.
  6. Finding out after years of feeling like a failure because I had not formally graduated high school, that I actually had — and that I had waaay more credits than I needed for a full diploma. When I think about that now, I just shake my head.
  7. Enrolling in University. Majoring in English Literature. I LOVED going to classes and only wish that I’d had the same determination to finish that I did to start. I keep telling myself that one day I will.
  8. Working as a Census Coordinator for Statistics Canada. It was a huge job, with tons of responsibility. I learned so much doing this job. It made me proud.
  9. Winning the Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Prize in 1996 for my essay A Place to Call Home. It took a long time for me to realize how important this really was.
  10. Skydiving. My best friend, Sandi, talked me into it. I was scared to death, but I did it. We had about 4 hours of ‘jump school,’ then they took us up in a little twin engine plane and forced us out. Literally. BY OURSELVES. Another reckless adventure that I’m lucky to have survived. I’m glad I did it, but I would never recommend anyone do it the way we did. To this day I can still recall that feeling of being snapped upward when my chute opened.
  11. Having my first piece of writing published in a national magazine. And cashing the fat cheque that followed.
  12. Writing an essay on the motif of stairways in The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje. It was my course final, and it was brilliant. If I say so myself.

I wanted to continue on the numbering from day to day, but for some reason WordPress does not allow that feature. So that brings the total of memories/accomplishments to 22 thus far. Until tomorrow. . .

A poem for today

I’m supposed to be working on a short story submission, but I got looking through my old poetry. I really like this one. Blackie was such a good dog. And I still miss her.

 

Blackie

©Kathy Larson

 

She was our first, and only, family dog.

We got her from the SPCA,

A little ball of black and tan fur.

Our son, for whom the puppy

Would be a companion and also

‘life lessons,’ named her:

Blackie Bear Rosa, a mouthful, for sure,

But he couldn’t settle on just one,

So we laughed and said why not?

Within days she became just ‘Blackie’;

It was the name her ears perked up to.

This puppy, who would eat with her

Back legs waving in the air made us laugh,

Made us glad to buy chew toys and treats

And special dog blankets and an old fashioned

Wind-up clock that we wrapped inside a baby

Blanket to keep her quiet and comforted at night.

While she was little she held our son’s attention,

But as with most ‘family’ pets, she soon became

Mine.

And I loved her, utterly and completely.

She was my companion on the days waiting

For the school bus to bring our boy back,

She took me on long, soul-searching walks,

Walked me out of depression, walked me out of

Walking out.

For fifteen years she was part of us and when

We had to take her in and put her to sleep

Part of me went with her.  I cried for weeks after.

Walking in the door expecting the pit-pat, pit pat

Of her coming to greet me, or waking in the night,

Sensing her still there, at the side of my bed,

Dropping my hand down to touch emptiness.

All that remained was a lighter spot on the carpet

Where her rug had lain for all those years.

In time, the pain lessened, but not the loss.

Now, I remember her as a dear friend,

Visit her in photo albums, and, on occasion,

When we’re all together, say, “Do you remember when. . .?”

 

Hodge-podge

The weather has remained spring-like — I can actually go out in sandals most days. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much rain so nothing is greening up or growing.

The river broke last Wednesday. It was amazing to see. I spent a day out just watching and taking pictures. Walked almost 11 km I got so caught up in watching the ice flow.

 

 

 

I am missing home right now. knowing that it is Spring and that my yards will be clear of snow I want to be there to get them cleaned up. I’m trying not to get too anxious about it, but . . . There will be time at the end of May. I’ll be home for about a week and I’m going to work hard to get everything ship-shape for the summer.

I’ve been trying to focus on my writing a little more these days. Working with my Aunt (ha,ha – she’s barely 9 months older than me) we are putting together a book of family recipes and stories. We have so many great stories in this family and it would be a shame for them to be simply forgotten. And when are stories told the most? Well, when you’re eating, of course. Though these days just about any recipe can be had by a simple click of a key, it would be nice to have family recipes preserved and handed down in written form.

Also, I’ve submitted a piece of poetry to a local magazine. Haven’t submitted any writing in soooo long. It was a bit scary. But now that it’s done I’m contemplating my next submission. There’s nothing quite so motivating as jumping in with both feet and saying ‘to hell with it!’

Tim and I got out for a motorcycle ride last Saturday. First of the season. It was incredibly windy, but a nice ride. We stopped at the Wood Bison lookout point near the Syncrude tailings ponds — I know seems kind of oxymoronic — but, hey this is Fort McMurray. While we ate our lunch a woodpecker – a pileated, I think – came by. I spent about a half an hour taking pictures of him. None turned out that great, but it was good practice.

 

 

Across from our apartment on what I call an island, but I don’t think it actually is, separated from us by the Clearwater River, lives a momma black bear and her cub. At first I thought she had two — might have been a different bear — lately I’ve just seen the single cub. I really hope that nothing happened, and that there is a mother out there with her two babies just happily foraging for grubs and goodies in the woods. Anyway, when I got home the other morning from my aquafit class I happened to see something big and black in the tops of the trees across the river. Dismayed, I thought it was garbage bags and got the binocs out to get a closer look. Lo, and behold! it was the momma and her cub up in the tree. I watched them for a while, amazed that they could be up in those skinny old trees like that. Then I decided to go across the street and see if I could get a decent picture. I couldn’t, but here it is anyway:

 

 

Well, I think that about sums up all the excitement in my life for the past week. I’m just a ramblin’ gal. Cheers!

April 24th – Spring has sprung!

I just got back from my daily walk. It is a beautiful, although extremely windy, day here in Fort McMurray.

The amount of dirt in the air is incredible. Thank God I wear glasses! And further thanks that I’m going to the pool tonight. That’ll get the grime gone for sure.

Here are a few pictures from the day. As you can see the river hasn’t quite broken up yet. It is actually looking pretty ugly. Up close and along the banks the water is like mud. The melting snow is black and sludgy.  I’m not sure, but I think the water level has risen a tiny bit.

Further downstream, near the bridge things are looking a little better, but not by much.

We need a good, cleansing rain to freshen things up. And start the trees budding.

A good community clean-up is in order, too. I’m going to check the municipality’s website and see if there’s one scheduled.

 

 

 

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Other than garbage this is all the colour we’ve got right now.

 

 

River update – April 19, 2018

You can see that the ice is getting ready to break up. It’s got an opaque quality to it. Sadly, I’ll probably miss the actual break-up as we’re heading back to Bon Accord for the weekend. Ah, well.

I’m so looking forward to going home – even if it’s only for a couple of days. I’ll get to see my grandkids! And their parents, lol. I miss them, too.

I miss my house, my yard, my bed, my everything that became’ home’ over the past 28 years.

I’m getting used to life up here in Ft. Mac, but it will never be home. For now, it’s an adventure and I’m trying to make the most of it. Someday I’ll be able to say: Remember when we lived in Fort McMurray? And I’ll have stories to tell.

That’s pretty awesome.

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