I’m Back

I am trying to start writing again. I wrote for about fifteen minutes earlier today, in between work and child care–really more like teenage care now. Like most people from the United States, we are still stuck at home. I’m hoping the masks requirements start reducing COVID-19. Until then, the kids and I will be at home doing remote learning while I try to work, and Rob tries to work too. And I try to write again. Because I have been missing my writing–time to pick up the ink and quill.

We have had a wonderful time all together mostly. Nothing like spending time with your family 24/7 to show you how much you need them. We are exploring our new home of Charlotte, North Carolina, and we are really liking what we are seeing. There are several great day trips from Charlotte, and I am starting to explore them with the kids. We also were able to get away for a few days to Todd, North Carolina, just north of Boone to a wonderful place called Camp Big Fun.

This past week it has been hot! We’ve had heat indices up to 105 or so. I decided to take the kids to Hooker Falls. It’s in the Dupont State Forest, about two hours away from our house and close to Asheville. What an incredibly beautiful place! The water was freezing cold, but oh so refreshing!

Son Number 1 at Hooker Falls

I have also spent hour upon hour of playing Animal Crossing New Horizons. This may seem like a colossal waste of time, which might be better spent writing, but actually I have been playing with some family members and we usually talk while playing. It’s been fun to catch up with them and live on an imaginary island where you can make millions of bells by selling turnips. Also, my little character pretty much looks amazing in any clothes, including bear costumes and princess costumes so that’s a plus!

The title of this post while seemingly simple was inspired by Poltergeist, which Son Number 2 and I watched together. Did you know Poltergeist is rated PG? This movie scared the bejeezus out of me as a kid, but as an adult not so much. Still such an amazing movie.

I’m hoping to start posting a few times a week again. Not all of my post will be about writing. I will probably write about whatever I’m thinking about that day, or whatever issue I wish to further explore. I hope to delve into some short fiction again too, and I want to further explore this story idea I’ve been mulling over. I may post bits and pieces of it here too.

So what have you been doing with your free time–if you have any–since COVID-19?

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Rules Are Made to Be Broken

I have a thirteen year old. I like to award him his privacy, and I rarely discuss my children on this blog. He missed an assignment in his Honors English class on haikus. I told my husband, and he said in honor of this day, we should only speak in haikus.

I sent him a haiku (three lines), and he replied back in haiku, of course:

The proper format
Haiku five seven five
Sorry about head

I have a headache today. But I must keep working through it.

Isn’t his haiku 5/6/5? The (1) proper (2) format (2) = 5. Haiku (2) five (1) seven (2) five (1) = 6. Sorry (2) about (2) head (1) = 5. I digress…

I find it funny Hubby is schooling me on correct haiku format. He gets irritated when I correct his grammar. How many times have I had to tell him which of these little words to use: you’re, your, their, there, and they’re?  I had to look up haikus, because, God forbid he be right.And he was right. Except that in the 17th Century, many poets broke away from the 5/7/5 form and just made a haiku a three lined poem. That’s because rules are made to be broken. But my husband likes it old school apparently. Not me. My motto has always been rules were made to be broken, or at least bent. I’m sure this made me a difficult teenager.

In honor of Hubby, I’ve written a couple of haikus that follow the 5/7/5 rule and a few that don’t. Enjoy. And hopefully Son Number One will complete his work, and I won’t have to give him a consequence.

Rustling wind moves leaves. (5)
On this clear first day of Spring, (7)
cold air tells the lie. (5)

Baby feet have grown (5)
too fast. Forgotten toys put (7)
away for electronics. (7)

Sweet sorrow of love (5)
that cannot be. Replaced by (7)
longing for the past. (5)

Sweat pours down my face. (5)
Running off the blueberry donut. (8)
The price of sugar. (5)

Apparently I’m not great at these. Maybe some of you masters of haiku can put a few in the comments. I plan to write a flash fiction piece for Chuck Wendig’s blog at some point this week. I’ve been working on a novel (different from my almost completed piece), but mostly I’ve been spending time with family lately.

Don’t forget to leave
a comment below, so I
know you are reading.

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An Ode to Mom

I have about 7,000 things to write about, and my series on race will continue after this break post.

Relationships with your parents are complicated to say the least. There’s this sense of gratefulness they gave you life. Then everyone’s had those feelings of, “Oh, I’m this way because my parents screwed me up with the way they raised me!” My parents did a good job, but like all parents they had their flaws. I’m sure my kids will say the same thing about me. Being a parent is a thankless job in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of pain and guilt (maybe that’s because I’m Catholic Lite). But being a parent is also amazingly wonderful. It’s great to see a child you raise grow and flourish.

My mom told my dad to read my blogs on race. “It’s wonderful,” she said, “and all about you. Like Lauren didn’t even have a mom.” Thanks for the guilt-trip, Mom.

I’m sorry, Mom, that I didn’t mention you. You were a constant in my life. Always there. Making delicious dinners–except that nasty chipped ham, talking to me about the birds and bees, and guiding me throughout my life. I remember when I’d come home from nights out you would come up to my room just to talk to me. Those are some of my best memories, of just the two of us. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without your guidance and influence.

And I just really wanted to give you props, because on December 12th, I saw all your hard work for Doug Jones come to fruition. You worked so hard on that campaign. I’m impressed by your persistence, faithfulness, and your ability to push yourself and work hard for something/someone you believe in. You taught me persistence and follow-through pays off. You taught me how to “just do,” even though I’m still working on that. You’re a strong woman and an inspirational person in my life.

I love you Mom.

Mom

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Family Values and Principles

This is the second installment in a series regarding race. Click here to read the first installment: Stereotypes and Preconceived Notions About Race.

The questions I’m posing come from Debby Irving’s book Waking Up White. 

Our families pass on certain values and principles. Today’s question:

What values and admonitions did you learn in your family? Think about education, work, lifestyle, money, expression of emotions, and so forth. Try making a list of ten principles, values, and unspoken beliefs. Consider what conclusions you drew about people who did not appear to follow your family’s belief system.

Oh values. The cornerstone of every American family. Values and principles shape the way you look at the world, and therefore the principles you’re taught as a child shape the way you see other races. This question is hard, because I love my parents dearly, and I’d hate for them to think I’m admonishing the way they raised me. They instilled some great values in me. They are wonderful people and yet flawed as all people are. Going by Irving’s question, I’ll make a list and then expound on the values my family instilled in me.

  1. Independence — My parents instilled in us a sense of indepence, and that we could do anything we wanted with our lives and did not need to depend on other people.
  2. Leadership — We were taught to be leaders and not followers.
  3. Work Ethic — We were taught to work hard in order to achieve.
  4. Intellectual — Being Smart — Perhaps being smart or educated was the value most instilled. My dad is so smart, and I always wanted to be like him. I strived to earn his affection, but I never did that well in school. I was creative and “had potential” but lacked motivation. Because of this, I felt like I could never measure up in Dad’s eyes. It affected my relationship with my middle sister, Ali, too because she always made good grades (which she worked hard to get), and I felt jealous of her. I saw that not being smart meant that you were less than. Going to college was not a choice—we were going to go.
  5. Open Mindedness/Understanding — perhaps one of the best values my parents past onto me. My dad refused to join the local country club because they wouldn’t allow African Americans or Jews become members. My dad taught me to question and to be openminded in regards to knowledge and to people.
  6. Frugality — My dad was frugal. My sisters and I went to an elite private school. The kids drove Lexuses, BMWs, and Mercedes. My dad did not approve of this kind of excess. He gave my oldest sister his ’83 Toyota Supra Celica (fast car, Dad), which then passed down to my middle sister, and finally to me. We looked at the kids at our school as spoiled since they’d been given new cars. We couldn’t understand why a 16 year old would get a new car which in turn they’d wreck. Conversations about the parents being irresponsible often followed. But more, I think we were jealous of their luck at having a parent who wasn’t a spend-thrift.
  7. Importance of Family — Family time was very important. We ate dinner at the table almost every night of the week. This was a time to reconnect.
  8. Positivism with a hint of realism (or catastrophe added) — We were taught to be positive, but to also look at situations realistically. There’s a lot of anxiety in my family, so I also added castatrophic-thinking to this.
  9. Honesty and Trust – honesty was cherished in my family, even if it hurt your feelings!
  10. Adventure – my parents took us SCUBA diving and to Italy. I was sent to Peru to do a Rain-forest expedition at 18. I did a summer study abroad in Salamanca, Spain at 15. My parents had the resources to give us a charmed life. We were taught to seek adventure.

I do think my parents’ values shaped who I am today. I fought against some of their notions regarding wealthy vs. poor. I had a boyfriend who came from a poorer family, and my family did not approve of him. I felt like they were being classist, and I continued to date him despite their disapproval.

Overall, I feel like the values and principles I learned taught me to be an accepting and open-minded person.

What values and principles did you learn from your parents growing up? 

For More Blog Posts in this series, click the links below:

Stereotypes and Preconceived Notions About Race

You’ve Got Class

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I’m A Finisher!

This weekend I did something I never thought I’d do. A few years ago, I never would have been capable of this. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to try. Eff that shit! I’m a half-marathon runner now! How things change!

My sisters and I decided in November to run the 2016 Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee. This race is huge, like 30,000 people. If you haven’t read my updates from before, I suffered a stress fracture at the end of February. It derailed my training until the first week of April. I went into this half feeling nervous, unprepared, and afraid of the hills.

We arrived on Friday night, and my sisters and I hung out and talked, and tried to calm our nerves. We ate a huge carby meal of spaghetti with meatballs then went to bed. When we woke up in the morning, we discovered the rain threat we were worried about the day before was gone. All our weather apps said it was cloudy with 0% chance of rain.

So how come there was rain when we arrived at the race?

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I have a tendency to make my eyes huge and crazy when I smile big for pictures!

I wasn’t so nervous at this point. It also helped that I kept getting texts saying the race was delayed because of “weather conditions.” I never heard the thunder, but apparently it was in the vicinity. So, we all waited.

And then we made our way to our corrals. When we got to the drop off point for my sisters, corral 25, Allison started crying. She was so emotional. There were like 30,000 people, and the first few corrals had already started by the time we arrived to ours. Plus, before you run a half your heart is beating fast and your stomach is in your throat. You have about a million emotions coursing through you. Kelsey, Allison and I hugged. I’m so happy I decided to do this with my sisters. It has brought us so much closer over the last year. What an amazing accomplishment to achieve together. I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life.

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Then I walked my butt back to the 2:50 time at corral 35. I’d decided to start further back, because I was worried about my foot. And at the corral, I met a lovely girl to run with part of the time. And hung out with 20,000ish people.

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We slowly made our way forward to the start line. My heart beat fast. I was scared, but also psyched, because I knew that after a few hours of running I’d be a half-marathon runner, and it would be over. Plus there were tacos and beer after the finish line, and then an awesome party at Paige’s house. I wanted to run for the beer! (We ate at Mas Tacos afterwards — if you’re in Nashville check it out. Delish!)

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My corral is next!

Then the run started. And let me tell you. It was HARD. Hills for days. And Montgomery doesn’t have many hills or hills so high and long. My parents parked at almost mile 3 and then coming back they were at almost mile 8. And when I saw them the first time the thing that flew out of my mouth was, “This is so hard!” My mom worried about me after that. But I kept going. The hardest part seemed to be finding my stride. There were so many people, I had to weave around a lot, and my breathing was off because of the humidity that set in after the rain started. I did okay for the first 6 miles, keeping my min/miles below 12, but after 6 I had to start walk/running a lot. At mile 7, I stopped and hugged my dad and told him my hip hurt, and that it was hard, and I felt like crying. But his hug gave me energy, and I took off for a few more minutes, until the next hill showed up.

The worst part of the whole race was the hill at mile 12.5. I mean, who does that? But I snapped this great picture of one of the signs The signs were hilarious! There was one that said WTF (Where’s the Finish?). And the Trump signs too: Run Like Trump is President and If Trump Can Run, Then So Can You! (I wish I’d snapped pictures of those!)

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Even the marathon runners hated THAT hill. On the hill, my friend of a lifetime, Andrea sat with her husband, so I pushed up and past her and then yelled back to her, “I had to run past you, but now I’m going to walk!” And we both laughed.

Then coming to mile 13, we had a downhill, and all I could think about was the beer I’d get to drink in just a few minutes and why there had to be a stupid .1 tacked onto a half-marathon. I thought I’d cry going over the finish line, but I didn’t. I felt euphoric. And the runner’s high didn’t wear off all day. I finished in 2:50:34 according to their clocks. (That included a potty break that Runkeeper timed as 1.5 minutes). And Runkeeper stated I ran 13.82 miles in 2:48. This is because I didn’t run the tangents, and the weaving adds mileage to your run, so no 13.1 is actually 13.1 unless you’re a pro at running tangents. In this race it would have been impossible, with all the walkers and the runners. It was so crowded.

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My proudest achievement

Overall, this was a great experience. And the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. To run a half-marathon you have to have perseverance and fortitude. And for me, it helped that I had my sisters and my parents support along the way. I couldn’t wait to have my beer, hug my sisters, and tell them how proud I was of them! What an amazing achievement. If you’re thinking of running a half, go for it! Maybe start with a flatter half, but the Nashville half was super fun and I’d recommend it!

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My sisters and I enjoying a beer after the run

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Disney World Vacation

I’ve been missing the last week, because my family went to Disney World!

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What a magical place. Honestly, before I left to go to Disney I dreaded it. I dreaded the crowds, waiting in line for rides, and screaming children. But, while there something wonderful happened. I enjoyed myself. I felt like a kid again. I saw the magic light up in my kids’ eyes as they imagined they were a princess and Jedis.

At the Disney princess breakfast in the Cinderella castle, Snow White told the girls to make a wish on their star. She told them to close their eyes tight and wish as hard as they could, and Hailey pressed her fingers against her eyes and squeezed them and murmured, “I want long hair.” I feel her pain.

Caden loved the rollercoasters, all of them, and Liam came alive most in Hollywood Studios on the Star Wars ride and during Star Wars training.

So here are a few things I learned out Disney, which might benefit you if you’re thinking about taking a trip anytime soon.

  1. Meal Plan is TOTALLY worth it! Food at Disney is expensive, and when you have a meal plan you’re provided one snack, one table service, and one quick service every day (they have different levels of the plan–this was ours). We ate a lot on this meal. If you don’t have the meal plan, you’re going to put down a lot of money just to eat for the week.
  2. If you are staying in a resort in the park, the cup you receive can only be refilled at resorts. It can’t be refilled in the park, unless you fill it up in the water fountain. We didn’t know this beforehand.
  3. We walked about 11 miles a day. Bring a good pair of tennis shoes, and a stroller if you have young kiddos. Make sure to park in stroller parking, because if you don’t your stroller will be moved.
  4. For us,the park hopper was totally worth it. We spent time in all parks, and we hopped most days. We liked the food best in Epcot, and ended up there a lot of nights to eat.
  5. If you’re going during a busy time and staying at a resort on property, make use of the Extra Magic Hours. We rode a lot of high profile rides during the Magic Hours.
  6. Plan your fast passes as soon as you can after you book. We were able to get on a lot of rides that people were waiting 180 minutes for, because we had planned our fast passes early.
  7. Carry your poncho and/or umbrella. Afternoon rainstorms happen often.
  8. If you have girls who like princesses, plan to drop extra money. The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is fun but EXPENSIVE.
  9. If you do the Jedi Training, arrive at Hollywood Studios early in the morning, and look for the guy holding the Jedi Training sign. You can go in the park early to sign up. This is one of the only ways you can get a slot to the Jedi Training.
  10. Have fun. Feel the magic!

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A Little Bit About The People I Love

I’m in a writing funk this month. Although, I’m not feeling particularly restless about it like usual. I think this is because my life feels full. And what a wonderful feeling that is.

We had photos done for Christmas cards this year. Don’t worry if you didn’t receive one from me. It doesn’t mean I don’t like you, it just means I’m a cheapskate and only ordered 50. So if you were in that lucky fifty, count your blessings!

Here are some of my favorite photos from the photo shoot by Amanda Kay Photography. You should go over and like her page, and if you’re local then use her! She’s very talented.

I felt like the photos are such a good representation of who my kids are. My oldest is always climbing, and the photo in the tree captures his personality so well. My middle one can be quiet but spunky. And my baby is sweet, but a little sassy too.

I was so impressed with how much their personalities shown through in these photos. I think it gives you a little taste of what my every day life is like. I will say, it took us awhile to get my oldest down from the tree so we could take the rhino photo. There’s always one stubborn one in my family (wonder where he got that from?). And I was a little surprised these came out as well as they did, because I felt like I was going to blow my gasket since they were running around like the little lunatics they are and complaining about having to sit still for photos! Aww, kids. You know what I mean if you have a few of your own!

So Merry Christmas (or Happy Chanukah or Happy Kwanza) from my family to yours!


 

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Expect Less, Live More

When I went to Midwest Writer’s way back in July (it now feels like eons ago), someone said to make a name for yourself you have to blog. She/he (all the faces blurred together-sorry for vagueness) said readers like to hear from authors consistently, so set up a blog schedule and stick to it. Well, obviously I’ve fallen short in that category. I intend to blog three times each week, but sometimes things happen (like lice, or vacation, sick kids, sick me, anxiety-ridden can only sit on the couch and watch seventeen episodes in a row of How I Met Your Mother type days). But it got me thinking about expectations.

A few years back, I felt unhappy. And during that time, I found my love for writing again. I started writing for catharsis, to heal old wounds, and new. I wrote to rid myself of feelings I deemed wrong or inappropriate. I wrote to find solace from within myself. I wrote so I could function every day and not curl up into a ball and rock back and forth in a corner even though some days I wanted to. Back then, I held myself and everyone around me up to sky-high expectations. And it was a nightmare.

Unrealistic expectations of others only serves to further unhappiness in yourself. When one has expectations of other people that those people don’t meet, then one is stuck in a state of disappointment. How can you be happy when you’re constantly disappointed with others? Expectations become a little like mind-reading. Come on, we all say we’re not mind-readers, but the truth is many of us expect others to read our minds. Many of us expect others to fill the void within us. Many of us expect to achieve happiness from other people, instead of searching for it where it really exists: inside ourselves.

When I really thought about this—letting go of expectations—I thought it was ridiculous. I mean come on. My whole life, I’d been trying to live up to my parents’ expectations, to my bosses’ expectations, to my teachers’ expectations, and to my own unrealistic expectations of achieving perfection. I wanted my marriage and life to seem perfect, and in the end I had set unrealistic expectations for myself. When I realized this, I sank further into the dark pit of oblivion called depression. And I had to pull myself out, one layer at a time. I had to realize by letting go of expectations that I had what it took to make myself happy and to spread that joy around.

You see, having expectations for yourself is okay, as long as you don’t set the bar too high. I have goals and expectations for myself on a daily basis, but I’m not afraid of failure anymore. I know failure is an opportunity to learn.

It took me a while to learn that pegging your expectations on others, well, that doesn’t work. It destroys relationships. It destroys friendships. It destroys happiness. Now when I reach out to a friend, I do it because I want to. Sure, in a perfect world, it’d be nice for my friends to always reciprocate. But I know when they don’t, it’s because they got busy. I’m not catastrophizing about all the reasons they don’t like me. I’m done obsessing about where they disappeared to when they didn’t call. Because all these things—they’re crazy-making, not happy-making! If you really want to know whether someone is your friend or not, then be there for them, and see if they give back from the deepness of their hearts. Talk to them. Put the phone down and meet them for lunch. Tell them how you feel. Stop guessing and expecting other people to read your mind!

The only person in this life who can make you happy is you. Let go of your expectations for others. Give because you want to give, not because you want someone to give back. I promise, if you do this you’ll see the world differently and it might even make you happy. Hold yourself accountable for your own happiness.

Have you found happiness? Have you found ways to let go of your expectations? If you’re a writer, do you write for happiness?


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Gigi and Gipop

I know this is supposed to be a writing blog, but without my grandparents, Gigi and Gipop, I’m not sure if I would be a writer.  When I was in 4th grade, Gigi sent me “Tuck Everlasting.” I remember trying to read the book and hating it. She usually was so spot on in the books she sent. Every year, she would send a book and while I think a lot of children would have hated that, I absolutely loved it. Reading was my life.  It took me about three more years, but when I finally read “Tuck Everlasting” it became one of my favorites.

I read it with the kids a few years ago, and as suspected it was too old for them. They need the life experiences of crushes and they need to rid themselves of the girls are icky stage before they can understand that book.  My grandparents persisted in sending us books, even into our twenties. I have a fine collection of leather bound classics thanks to them. I give them credit, and my parents for being an avid reader, which led to me wanting to write.

I usually spent a week or two during the summer at their house in Florida. They always had a dog, which I loved because we never had one growing up. My favorite dog was Zelda the dachshund. Guess who she was named for? They also had a white dog at one point, and he was so cute but so very hyper. I think at some point they had to give him away because he started biting.  At their house, they never turned the TV on. At night, after Gigi killed me at a game of Scrabble, they would watch what I called “the boring news” aka “The McNeill Lehrer” hour, so I had a lot of time to read, use my imagination, and explore on my own.  They also took me to the Junior Museum in Tallahassee, Wakulla Springs, antique shopping, to the mall, and maybe most importantly, Gipop let me out a gallon of whatever flavored ice cream I wanted.

I have tons of memories of them, but unfortunately few photographs. Most of those are at my parents’ house. Gipop passed away a few years after I graduated from high school. By that time, they were living in Tennessee, and I drove home for his Memorial Service.  Gigi carried on.  She lived to be ninety-five. She read every single day of her life. A lover of words. I still think about both of them every day.

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I love this photo, because it looks like Caden (my son) has a huge arm. That’s actually his cousin’s arm in the background! This is Gigi at her 95th birthday party.

Easter and Editing

This weekend, I’m going to read over the edits and send “The Devil Within” back to my editor. I must have told myself this about a thousand times as I watched the clock tick by. I didn’t literally or figuratively watch the clock. I mostly spent time with my family, because it was Easter weekend.

I am not religious, but I was raised in the church. Everyone in the south seems to be.  When Christmas and Easter come around, it’s a big deal. We had egg hunts galore, including one for my daughter’s daycare where the organizer brought an ice cream truck. Boy, that was popular! We know have candy pouring out of our ears–the dentist will be happy to see us coming soon. And we spent time with our family.

The thing is, my edits are done, but I really want to read through one more time and make sure no more changes need to be made. I’m also a hater of conflict, and there are several suggestions my editor made that I don’t agree with. I’m done procrastinating TODAY. I keep telling myself just to finish the darn editing. After all, the sooner it’s finished the sooner I can move on with edits on my other works.

Having your work edited is so hard mentally. Being a writer means you’re a creator of sorts. You create a world for your characters to live in, and when someone shoots that all down or doesn’t understand where you’re coming from. It can be quite hard to accept. It’s all part of being a writer though. Whoever said writing was easy? No one ever.

I’m glad I put editing on the back burner this weekend though, because I was able to spend a lot of quality time with my three growing kids. One day, they’re not going to want to wake up at the crack of dawn to see what the Easter bunny left. One day, Easter egg hunts are going to be things of the past. Until then, I need to enjoy these little moments.  I’ll leave you with this little gem from the weekend. I usually try to keep my personal and writing blog separate, but this photo of my middle boy is just priceless.  Happy Belated Easter!

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