Monthly Archives: March 2017

Year in Photos 2016

Sometimes pictures are better than words. They can tell more of a story, inviting the reader to infer their meaning, ask questions about their significance to the writer, and wonder what happened before and after the snapshot was taken. I’ve been telling a story of my year in photos for the past couple of years (click here for my year in photos for 2014 and 2015), and it is an exercise I enjoy, looking back through my year’s photos, deciding which ones to include and which ones are better left out. Without further adieu, here is my 2016 year in photos, in chronological order.

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Mosquito Battle, Part Deux

Last week, I sliced about an epic stand-off between me and a lone mosquito, where I, despite my current physical limitations, came out victoriously. Battle number two was last night.

My friend Lauren came over to keep me company, trading her Friday night plans for hanging out in my bed (this is, like, where I live now), swapping cute student stories of the week, eating pizza and ice cream, and watching This is Us (I had to introduce her to it!). As we were eating, what would fly over our heads but my arch-nemesis, the mosquito!

“I got this!” Lauren declares, clap-clapping around, with a determined look on her face. Spoiler alert: she didn’t have this.

With the mosquito safely (for now, buddy) in the living room, she settles back down and continues eating. I regale my earlier mosquito fight to her, brandishing my recently-acquired weapon to rid me of all mosquitos, the bug-zapper racquet. Another friend kindly gave me hers when I asked her where I could buy one like it. Slightly used, but it would still do the trick.


Lauren’s eyes light up! If you’ve never used one of these, let me explain. The satisfaction that one acquires when the racquet meets the mosquito and makes that flash of light and loud cracking sound, signaling to the user that yes, you were victorious, is simply energizing. (Side note: I’m a vegetarian, and against animals dying, but even I have limits. Mosquitos and cockroaches are okay in my book. Go ahead, judge away!)

With a renewed energy and determination to get him, she turns on the zapper, waving it above the bed to no avail. Setting it beside her, she’ll be ready the next time he tries to bug us (see what I did right there? 😉).

A little while later, he returns, presumably seeking revenge for what I did to his brother. At the ready, Lauren is on attack! Unable to get him from the bed, she’s up, chasing him around my tiny apartment, all the while swinging the zapper in the air. Unable to contain my curiosity, I crawl to the edge of the bed, cheering on my mosquito warrior. ZAP!!! “Did you get him?!??”

“Either that, or I just killed your plant,” Lauren says. Touching the racquet to the leaves of my plant and not hearing a crack, “Yessss! I got him!”

I thank her profusely, knowing I’ll be able to sleep soundly without pesky interruptions, and we resume This is Us.

Not even five minutes later, another mosquito emerges from the shadows, once again flying overhead, but just out of reach. With a winner’s high, Lauren sets out, to once again zap the life out of him. Zig-zagging around the living room, swiping the air, I take on the role of lookout. “Look! He’s there! By the couch!” Swoosh…no sound, no flash. “No wait, he’s under the table now!” Another miss! “Ahh! Ahh! He’s right there!” I say, pointing to the middle of the living room.

She’s got him in her sights, she’s poised to get him once and for all. With her finger on the power button, the racquet an extension of her arm, she swipes! I see the racquet connect with the mosquito, but where’s the satisfying crack and flash? Furiously swiping at him again, he still manages to stay alive. Looking at the zapper, we realize that in an ironic twist of fate, the little red light is off, indicating the zapper had run out of juice. “I guess that’s what you get by getting a used one,” Lauren points out. We laughed at our setback, but we weren’t giving up.

Lauren was in the bathroom, and I was sitting on the edge of my bed, eating mango ice cream directly from the tub, when he reappeared. My warrior indisposed, and with only one free hand, I wasn’t going to let him go. With ninja-like moves, I stealthily reached out and tried to catch him in my fist. Unsure if I’d gotten him or not, I squeeze as hard as I could. Opening my fist, a dead mosquito withers to the ground. “I did it! I did it, Lauren!” I shout.

Emerging from the bathroom, she asks, “What did you do?”

With a smirk, I say, “I caught him with one hand. Just call me the mosquito ninja!”

9 Things on Day 9

As I was reading through some slices for some inspiration, I came across All Things Purple’s blog, where her slice was full of lists of her favorite things, 9 per list, in honor of the ninth day of slicing. I love lists, as anyone who follows my blog or knows me in real life knows, so this was right up my alley! 🙂

9 Everyday things I wouldn’t want to live without:

  1. Books! (actual books or ebooks)
  2. A device (laptop, iPad, or iPhone)
  3. Wifi connection
  4. Tea kettle
  5. Toothbrush/toothpaste
  6. Live plants
  7. Backpack
  8. Reusable water bottle (loving my Camelbak Eddy at the moment)
  9.  My writer’s notebook

9 Adventures I want to have before I die:

  1. Step on all 7 continents (before age 40!)…just 2 more (Antartica and South America)
  2. Take a year off and slow travel around the world
  3. Write a book…and publish it!
  4. Meet someone I want to share my life with
  5. See the Northern Lights and sleep in a glass igloo
  6. Spend at least one month living in Inle Lake, Myanmar, volunteering at a school or an orphanage, riding my bike every day
  7. Go on an African safari
  8. Take my parents to all my favorite places around the world
  9. Show up at the airport, buy a ticket, and fly some place I’ve never been, with absolutely no plans whatsoever

9 Pastimes I never tire of:

  1. Listening to music
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Talking about reading and writing
  5. Cooking
  6. Throwing parties
  7. Visiting new restaurants
  8. Planning for a new trip
  9. Talking to my friends and family

9 Treats I could eat everyday (if they weren’t unhealthy):

  1. Chai tea lattes, preferably iced and from Starbucks
  2. Goat cheese
  3. Mangos
  4. Homemade ravioli
  5. Brownies
  6. Chips & Queso
  7. Hot Shipley’s glazed donuts
  8. Mercato’s homemade ricotta and jam with buttery, toasted bread
  9. Pavlova

9 People I’d be lost without (Only 9?!?):

  1. My mom & dad (I know, this is more than one…)
  2. My brother, sister-in-law, niece, & nephew (this one, too…)
  3. Shaggers
  4. Michelle
  5. Linner
  6. Kathy
  7. Sarah
  8. Sally
  9. Callie

9 Places I want to visit:

  1. New Zealand
  2. South Africa
  3. India
  4. Russia
  5. The Maldives
  6. Iceland
  7. Spain
  8. Bhutan
  9. Chile

9 Words I believe hold magic:

  1. Savor
  2. Love
  3. Vulnerable
  4. Change
  5. Play
  6. Serendipity
  7. Authenticity
  8. Gratitude
  9. Delicious

9 Gestures that make me smile:

  1. Receiving a gift from someone who knows me well
  2. Hand-written notes
  3. People who go out of their way when you’re sick/injured
  4. Quality time
  5. Playing a board game with me
  6. Hilarious texts, particularly ones accompanied by poignant GIFs 🙂
  7. A good book recommendation
  8. An engaging conversation where no one looks at their phone
  9. Little kid hugs

9 Favorite songs (as of this blog post) (How can I pick just 9?!?):

Click here to listen to my favorite songs

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What are your favorite things?

Wondering the Reason

It’s been five days
since the accident
Five days since my life
suddenly changed

No more going where I
want to go
doing what I
want to do
Heck, even going to the bathroom
is an ordeal

At first, being cooped up
isn’t so bad
You get a free pass
to binge-watch
your favorite shows
You can stay in your PJ’s
all day long
No judgements

But then
the desire to do
normal things again
sets in
Things like walking around
taking a shower standing up
leaving the house
without it being a big thing
And suddenly
being confined to your bed
isn’t so glamorous anymore
It’s suffocating

At first, you expect
the pain
You know you have to
endure it
But you think
it’ll get better
each day
Only it doesn’t

Throbbing, pulsing
pain
Blue to green to yellow
yet it still hurts
Glancing down
not my foot
but a balloon
ready to pop

Too many pills
too much sleep
not enough sleep
can’t get comfortable
No longer
self-reliant

And then the thoughts
Playing the what if game
What if I hadn’t
stopped for that bottle of water?
What if I’d left
five minutes later?
Would it have been
the same?
Everything happens for a reason
Wondering the reason

Trying to stay positive
But today
it’s hard

 

Enveloped in Kindness

Ever since my accident over the weekend, I have received countless kind words and actions from friends and strangers. I cannot get over just how nice everyone has been, especially given the fact that I’ve been here less than two months!

From the moment the crash happened, when several Good Samaritans came to my rescue, I have been surrounded by kindness! My friend and boss, Julie, went to incredible lengths to make sure I was taken care of. From taking me to the ER when the initial crash happened to setting me up in her house for the first day and night to waiting on me whenever I needed something to taking me to my follow-up appointment the next day to checking on me daily, she has gone out of her way to make sure I’m well taken care of. I cannot thank her enough for her generosity!

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My friend Lauren was the sweetest! On Saturday afternoon, she and Lincoln delivered a yummy Thai care package of a fresh coconut, mango sticky rice, and pomelo, all my favorite things here in Thailand! Later on that evening, she made me homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese, the ultimate in comfort food. She’s the best!

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After hearing about my accident, a colleague of mine, Dainty, brought over a bounty of treats including more mango sticky rice, bananas, bread and tomato salsa from the local Italian joint, and more pomelo. She barely even knows me, but went out of her way!

My colleague and friend, Elissa, has been checking on me non-stop offering to bring me anything I needed. She sent over fresh fruit and a Starbucks treat via her husband Mitch on Sunday. She’s also been helping me out in the lesson planning department by supporting my sub while I’m laid up in bed. I am so blessed to have her as a friend!

Josh, my friend, neighbor, and writing buddy, has also gone out of his way to help me, bringing me a jug of water, helping me tidy up my apartment, and hanging out with me. He’s coming over again today after work to keep me company and eat some dinner. I am so lucky to have met him during my first week, one rainy day at the hotel we were staying. He’s turned out to be a great friend!

I’ve also received countless texts and emails from colleagues, friends, family, and my students’ parents offering their well wishes and offers to help. Whenever strangers see me struggling to get around on my crutches, they offer support, by way of holding doors, helping me with my bag, or just a simple smile.

I am one lucky girl! I mean, getting into a motorbike accident is no fun, and in a foreign country, it’s definitely not ideal, but the people I’ve been surrounded by have made it a little more bearable!

An Unwelcome Wake-up Call

If you’ve been reading my slices lately, then you know I’m pretty immobile at the moment, confined to my bed to elevate my ankle and rest my sore body. Well, this makes everyday tasks a lot trickier than normal.

Last night, I ordered in for dinner, and while I was receiving the food with the door open, a mosquito flew in. I noticed him flying around me, taunting me, just out of my reach. I was not looking forward to going to sleep, fearful of his annoying, itchy bites.

Sure enough, I wasn’t able to catch him before my eyes could no longer stay awake. Laying down, I had hoped he wouldn’t fly anywhere near me.

Sometime around midnight, I was awoken by a bite on my cheek. Grrrr! I knew he would get me! Pulling the covers up over my face (man, I hate that, too!), I fell back asleep, satisfied that with my body covered up, he would not have access to my skin.

An hour and a half later, I was again woken up as that little bugger bit me twice on my jawline on the opposite side. Disgruntled and frustrated at my unwelcome wake-up call, I hatched a plan. I would turn on the light in the living room to draw him out, then quickly get back to my bed and close the sliding door, thus protecting myself from his evil ways.

Hobbling over to the living room on my crutches, half asleep, I turned on the light and I waited. And waited. And waited. He didn’t come. I thought insects were instinctually drawn to light. Not this one.

Irritated and tired from standing on one leg, I turned out the light and hobbled back to my bedroom. Turning on the light, I figured I’d try to kill him, that is if I could catch him. Even when all of my limbs are working properly, I find it difficult to catch mosquitos, but I had to give it a try. I refused to lay in bed being bitten all night.

Ah-ha! I saw him, on the wall near the curtains. Using my crutch as a sword, I smashed him, proud that I’d killed him so quickly. After removing the crutch to see him fall to the ground, a smashed mess, I saw him fly up higher. Dammit! The bottom of the crutch is concave!

Determined still to get him, I notice he’d landed on the air con, and I again used my crutch as an extension of my arm to try and smash him. He prevailed again. How is it that I am like 10 million times bigger than him, but he’s winning?

I decided to give patience a try. Kneeling on my bed, I waited until he came to me. Clap! Clap! Clap! He evaded my assassination attempts once again. He came back for more. Clap! Clap! Got him! Falling to the floor, twitching, I knew I’d wounded him, but he was still alive. Using my crutch yet again, I smashed him into the floor several times until I knew for certain he was dead. Victory was mine! Now I could sleep in peace.

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My Thai Emergency Room Experience

Yesterday, I was in a scooter accident that sent me to the emergency room. Click here to read the first slice about the accident.

After fighting stop and go traffic, where it took us 45 minutes to go the 5 miles to the hospital, we finally arrived. As soon as we stopped in front of the emergency room entrance, an orderly rushed out with a wheelchair, and I was promptly taken inside. Wheeling past the registration desk, I was taken to bed 7, and helped onto the gurney. Crying and unable to stay still, 2 nurses and a doctor were by my bedside in an instant. After ascertaining my personal information from my driver’s license and insurance card, they began checking my vitals and examining my wounds.

“Tell me what happened.” Through cries and fast, shallow breaths, I recounted the basics of the accident. Turned right in front of me…tried to stop…hit him…skidded on pavement…scooter landed on my ankle…I was wearing a helmet.

“We’ll need an x-ray to see if you’ve broken your ankle.” In preparation for the x-ray, the nurse laid pieces of gauze over my open wound. The simple act of placing feather-weight gauze on my ankle sent intense pain through my body. Clutching the bedrail, tears streaming down my face, I made them promise they wouldn’t clean the wound without first giving me pain meds. The thought of cleaning it without something to take the edge off was too unbearable to think about.

Another orderly appeared to wheel me to the x-ray room. Florescent lights streamed past, as we twisted and turned through hallways. As we entered the elevator, I thought, this must be what those patients on Grey’s Anatomy feel like. Only being able to look up, rather than forward, as you are wheeled through an unknown place creates another layer of anxiety of what’s to come.

In the x-ray room, the technician asked, “Have you dependency?”

With my face scrunched up, I asked, “What?”

“Have you dependency?”

“Do I have dependents? No, I’m single, no kids.”

“No…have you dependency?” This time, his question was accompanied by actions. Mimicking a pregnant belly, I finally understood.

“No, I’m not pregnant.”

Taking x-rays of my ankle in a couple positions, the process took just a couple of minutes. Then, we headed back to the E.R. where the real pain would soon begin.

The doctor, after having reviewed the x-rays, said the words I wanted to hear. “Your ankle’s not broken.” Thank God! According to her, there was damage to the soft tissue and muscles surrounding my ankle. I’d have to stay off of it for the next couple of weeks, but then I should be able to start putting weight on it again.

Per my request, I was given an injection of some pain medication, and told it would take effect in about 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes later, my pain had only reduced from an 8 to a 5, but the nurse said the cleaning had to happen in order to prevent infection. Preparing for a stream of saline, I clenched my teeth and held onto the bedrail.

What happened next was some of the most intense pain I’ve ever experienced. The nurse began spraying a numbing chemical directly into the wound, sending a searing sensation through my body. Uncontrollably, I began screaming bloody murder, cursing, and kicking my good leg. Julie held my leg down, as I later found out, in an effort to prevent me from kicking the nurse in the head. Another nurse stroked my arm, telling me it was going to be okay. I didn’t believe a word she said. Following the nasty spray, I was doused in saline, and the nurse began scrubbing my wound. Yes, scrubbing my open wound. According to Julie, I must have taken the entire road with me, as dirt and debris poured out and onto the plastic mat underneath me. There was so much junk in there that halfway through, they had to change the mat beneath my leg. The same procedure was repeated with my toes, which had also, despite wearing tennis shoes, experienced gnarly road rash.

After the cleaning, they applied betadine and anitbiotic ointment before placing a special thin layer of gauze-like material designed to prevent the dressing from sticking to the wound. My ankle was then wrapped up in a layer of gauze, as were each of my toes, which now looked like white little sausages. My arm, which sustained a 5-inch long road rash burn on my elbow and forearm, now needed to be cleaned. The procedure, along with the pain, followed.

Once I’d calmed down, I was seen by an orthopedic doctor, based on my complaints about pain in my hip. After I told him my medical history with back pain (scoliosis and sciatica), he scheduled a follow-up appointment to see me in a week, saying that at this time, with the damage to my foot and leg, he would be unable to ascertain whether my hip pain was related to the injury or not. He was very knowledgeable and kind, and didn’t rush, which I really appreciated.

My wounds bandaged, I was taken in a wheelchair to the rehab wing of the hospital to be fitted with crutches. The nurse gave me some basic lessons on how to walk with crutches, and then I was given some time to practice. Leg first, then crutches, when going up the stairs. Crutches first when going down. Being on crutches is no joke! It’s super tough, and I’m really glad it’s only for a few weeks. I admire those who have to do it for longer.

Last up was the pharmacy, where I was given antibiotics to fight possible infection, muscle relaxers, pain medicine, and Tylenol in case of fever. All in all, I only had to pay for the crutches, ice packs, and meds, which totaled about $90. Insurance covered the rest (less than $200).

Before we left, we talked the orderly into wheeling me over to the Starbucks for an iced tea and a sweet treat. Yes, there is a Starbucks inside the hospital!

While I was still in pain, I was grateful for the kind and attentive doctors and nurses, and the high quality medical care I received. Oh, and I was super pumped that my ankle wasn’t broken!

I was a little worse for wear (okay, a lot worse), but here’s me on my way out of the hospital. I’ll spare you the gory photos of my foot. It’s a little hard to stomach.

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Well, that didn’t go as I had planned…

“Why don’t you come over to my place and we can drive over together?” Julie texted.

“Sure thing! I’ll be right over!” I replied, and then jumped on my motor scooter to make the less than 10 minute drive to her house. On the way through her neighborhood, I decided to stop at 7-11 for a bottle of water. Exploring a new market in Thailand was going to be fun, but it was also sure to be hot!

Only a couple of minutes away, I hopped back on, strapped on my helmet, and took off. At the last intersection before the turn onto Julie’s street, the one where I need to go straight through, I was riding in the middle of the road. There was a guy riding a scooter just ahead of me, driving along the left-hand side of the road. Without using his indicator, and most likely without looking, he made a right-hand turn directly in front of me.

Shit! Immediately slamming on the brakes only lessened the speed of the impact. It was all a blur, but after crashing into him, my bike skidded to the ground, taking my left ankle with it. On the ground, screaming and crying, I realized my ankle was pinned underneath my scooter, the weight crushing me. Between my screaming and a steady stream of expletives, I remember shouting, “Get it off! Get it off!”

The man I crashed into, apparently uninjured, came to my rescue and lifted the bike off my ankle. With the immediate danger gone, and the intense pain setting in, I continued screaming and crying. So much was happening at once, but suddenly, a few people were standing around me, seeming to have materialized out of thin air. A Thai woman, who spoke English, crouched down beside me and held my hand. She kept reassuring me, telling me to squeeze her hand as hard as I wanted if I was hurting. Another woman was standing there, and I remember shouting, “Get my phone! Get my phone! It’s in my green bag. Call Julie. She’s my friend.” After asking me the passcode for my phone, the kind woman called Julie to say that I’d been in an accident. A Thai man, who had obviously been on a run, asked me if my head was hurting, and when I responded that it wasn’t, he removed my helmet, presumably to help me breathe better, as I was hyperventilating. Another man, an American who teaches in the high school, stopped by, too. I remember him telling me that it wasn’t that bad and could definitely be worse.

In what seemed like a few minutes, Julie appeared in her car. A whirlwind of things happened all at once. Julie got the other driver’s information, after checking on me. The lovely Thai woman who held my hand drove my scooter over to Julie’s house. I was hoisted up by someone, I can’t remember who, into the back of Julie’s car. Crying and struggling to catch my breath, I looked at my ankle for the first time. Swollen to at least twice it’s normal size, with a mix of blood and dirt in a large open wound, I began praying that it wasn’t broken. It sure felt broken.

On the way to the hospital, Julie fought the Bangkok traffic, while simultaneously trying to distract me by talking about other things. I really appreciate all that she did for me, as well as all of the strangers who stopped to help me.

More on the Thai emergency room experience in tomorrow’s slice…

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OLW 2017

For the past few years, I’ve chosen One Little Word (OLW) to guide me through the year and help me focus on my goals. I love the practice of choosing OLW rather than making a new year’s resolution because, like most people, I inevitably break my new year’s resolution within several weeks of making it. After I break it, I feel defeated and throw in the towel, vowing to try again next year. The difference between making a resolution and choosing one little word is that there’s nothing to break with OLW. It’s a focus for the year, something that’s always in the forefront of your mind as you make decisions, helping you go down the path you want to take, without the fear of messing up taunting you.

Last year was a tough year for me, personally and professionally, and I felt like I limped into 2017, beaten down and dejected. I’ve made some major changes in my life on my journey to finding happiness and joy again, and I’m determined that 2017 will be my year! So far, it’s leaps and bounds better than 2016! 🙂

In January, I began by making a list of potential OLWs. I mulled over my list, trying to pick the right word, the word that best seemed to fit what I want to get out of 2017. Some of the words on my list were heal, joy, rebuild, connect, begin, and empowered. As I pondered my list, one word kept coming to mind. One word gave me hope and felt like it would help steer me as I navigated the inevitable newness.

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Photo credit: aliedwards.com

Begin. This word hold so much promise. Begin means to start, initiate, or set in motion. I am determined to put one foot in front of the other and begin. I have recently begun a new job, and in the fall, I will begin another. A few of my goals this year are to begin writing again, reading more fervently, exercising, and get back to being me again. This word resonates with me on so many levels, and I am enthusiastic about all the things I will begin this year.

What’s your One Little Word for this year?

 

Right Where I’m Supposed to Be

If you had told me a year ago that I’d be teaching preschool in Thailand, I would have fell on the floor laughing and told you that you were crazy. Heck, if you had mentioned it a few months ago, I would have had the same response. But here I am, living in Bangkok and teaching preschool.

I was chatting this afternoon with my friend Melissa, who works at the same school and has joined the SOL challenge this year, and we were laughing about my day and my super adorable kiddos, when she posed the question, “Would you have ever thought that you’d be here doing this one year ago?” Smiling, I told her there’s no way that thought would have ever entered my mind, but somehow, I know this is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Life is funny that way, isn’t it? You think you’re supposed to do one thing, but there’s a whole other plan out there that you aren’t even aware of, and it turns out, their plan is perfect for you. It’s just what you need. Well, it was just what I needed anyway.

Being in Thailand, at this moment in my life, is so unbelievably, serendipitously perfect. Living in my new-found simplicity (more on that in a later post), surrounded by some pretty amazing people, has allowed me space to heal. Something I thought would take forever to happen has begun so quickly. The layers of hurt and fear and junk that I’ve piled on over the last year and a half have begun to slough off, leaving me feeling lighter, more like me. Things still creep up on me, reminding me of the past and bringing me back to those old feelings, but those incidents are far less frequent than they used to be.

Other than my good friend Lauren, who I knew before I came to Bangkok and who has been my biggest support here, everyone else I’ve met is new. Despite my newness, I have developed fast friendships with a few people, and I couldn’t imagine my time here without them. They encourage me, support me in times of doubt, and spend lots of time with me, chatting about life and exploring this incredible city. I already know I’ll shed more than a few tears when I leave.

And then, there’s the whole teaching preschool thing! Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would be teaching preschool. The fact that I am, and even more, the fact that I’m enjoying it, is huge! I always looked at early childhood teachers with a mix of wonder, respect, and confusion. I mean, who in their right mind chooses to work with little (and I mean little) kids all day! Well, having taken advantage of being in the right place at the right time and accepting this position, I can honestly say I get it. I know why they do it. Three- to four-year-olds are so full of life! They are unapologetically themselves. They say what they think, they question, they explore, and they do what feels good. What a way to live!

I’m savoring this season in my life, taking each day as it comes, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else unfolds on this new adventure I’m on…it’s sure to be a wild ride!

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