And they lived…

I’ve been brainwashed. Perhaps I started to notice a few years ago when I first read, “The Meaning of Wife: A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-First Century” by Anne Kingston. However, at that time, it made me realize I had a lot of issues to work out with being a “wife” before I could or would venture on that particular journey again. Consequently, I’ve been with my husband for eight years but only married for one of those. I had to work out those difficulties within my mind with how I thought about being a “wife”.

But this is different. A new, yet not-new, discovery within myself. I’ve been working on it for years as well, but have never thought it through to this conclusion.

From before I could read, I have loved fairy tales. “And they lived happily ever after.” It’s a Disney statement, if I ever heard of one. From fairy tales, I moved to Sweet Valley High and Janette Oake books. Then I graduated to snitching my dad’s romance novels when no one was home. As an adult, I read the occasional historic romance but I admit to a delicious delight in paranormal romance – particularly Sherrilyn Kenyon, Christine Feehan and J.R. Ward. All my most enjoyable fantasy books have happy endings and most have some sort of relationship that happens within the book.

They all have the same type of happy ending. They lived “happily ever after”, madly “in love”, forever unable to live apart, each can’t live without the other.

Teen magazines. Women’s magazines. Advertisements. Popular movies. Popular music. Disney. We all want our happily ever after. We all want the “perfect” man. Cosmo is always selling ways to find and keep the perfect man, to convince him to marry you, to blow his socks off with amazing new sex tricks. Most involve deception on the woman’s part: learning to love his favourite sports and movies, how to manipulate him in to doing what she wants him to do, how to “change” him into what she wants him to be, hiding the parts of herself that might be offensive to him and therefore, turn him off and make him not want to marry her.

Sound a little like the 1950s? We want strong, smart, independent women yet we tell our little girls that their big dream should be to grow up and have a huge wedding so they can live happily ever after with the “man of their dreams”. The illusive “One”. The “Perfect Man”. Their “Prince Charming”. Our “True Love”. Our “Soul Mate”.

There is no such thing. It’s an illusion, much like the cult of thin and eternal youth that tells us we should have the body of a porn star (anorexicly thin with big boobs and no hips) and the skin of a twelve year old.

Anyways, this is only part of the ongoing fight for me. I no longer expect those things and haven’t for a long time. My husband is “perfect” (no one is perfect so why should we expect him to be?) just the way he is. He has his faults, just as I have mine. But here’s what I had for an Aha moment just around our first anniversary (of marriage, that is): what is different about this relationship I have with him compared to my first two marriages and every romantic relationship I ever had? Why did I move on to fall madly “in love” with someone else? Why haven’t I done that here with my now husband? Why is this relationship so much better?

As I stood in the shower with the hot water beating down on me, it hit me. I’ve been brainwashed into believing that love is just a feeling, especially “True Love”. “Happily ever after” means we should be madly in-love, can’t live without him, co-dependant, helpless to feeling. I’ve married for feelings, which change at a whim. I’ve left because feelings have changed at a whim. I “lost that lovin’ feeling” so went out to chase it back down with someone else. I held that helpless, co-dependant leech close to my heart since my teens.

My big dream wasn’t to get married as a child. It was to play pretend – not Cinderella, but Cinderella’s fairy godmother, the wicked witch, Princess Leia. I didn’t want to play “mommy” or “daddy” while playing house, I wanted to be the pet bunny. Although, I admit to playing romantic stereotype heroes rescuing damsels with buttons and my beloved stuffed animals. But back then, Barbie didn’t have umpteen vacuous movies, and TV wasn’t inundated with back-biting, squabbling, fatuous girls obsessed with boyfriends – either getting them, wanting them or fighting other girls for them. It horrifies me that my daughter loves this Barbie movie her friend gave her. It scares me that McDonalds came out with a little girl’s Happy Meal toy that is a singing necklace. It sings, “My best friend’s brother is the one for me.” For under 12’s? Egads.

Disney hasn’t changed a bit though. If anything, they’ve gotten worse instead of better.

So as I was coming up to my one year yet into my eighth year of this relationship with my husband, I realized I have finally got it. Love – the REAL true love – doesn’t have anything at all to do with feelings. Feelings change all the time. There are times when I adore my husband and times when I want to smack him upside the head. (I’m sure he has moments like that too!) There are times when I adore my children and times I want to smack them upside the head too. I love them in spite of it and that never changes. So why would it be any different for this man that I’ve given marriage a second chance (sorry, third chance) with? I choose to love my children whether or not they are being difficult. There are no feelings involved – they are my children and, as such, I love them, no matter what. That is what my marriage is about. I love my husband because I CHOOSE to love him. I CHOOSE to stay with him whether or not I’m feeling “in love” with him. I CHOSE him because we have chemistry, yes, but also much, much, more. We don’t always collapse with lust at the sight of each other. We don’t always get along. We don’t always see eye to eye. But even in the midst of one of those cranky days, I CHOOSE to continue loving him. Love is a choice, not a feeling.

This is the first relationship where I’ve been able to “see” the future; that is to say, plan for the future involving him. Making goals has never been easy for me. More and more it comes with less difficulty. I can “see” what I want to happen in five years. I can plan what I’d like to be doing in ten years. Before, the future was nebulous, a foggy happening I had no choice or control over. Thoughts of the future were too scary for I had those co-dependant relationships where I “couldn’t live without him” and I would “die without him”. I was constantly terrified of “what if he died or left me, I couldn’t make it alone”. I would sob uncontrollably if someone brought it up. I would pine away if my boyfriend/husband was away for more than a day. How pathetic I was! Makes me wonder how I could say and believe such drivel. The Twilight series would have been something I would have been all over. Such passive, hopeless and helpless love was what I believed in deep down. Now, I pull away with a little fear I might get sucked into that kind of brainwashing again and a little disgust at myself for believing such shallow foolishness for so long. Don’t get me wrong… I would be heartbroken if something happened to my cherished husband. But I won’t be destroyed. I will go on. I will survive. I will recover. I will be sad but not devastatingly lost; sad but not completely hopeless; sad but not broken beyond repair.

I’m so happy I’m making (and have made) better choices in the last eight years. I almost didn’t! Sometimes it can feel like a real fight and I want to be swept away in the helplessness of feelings again. But I know better. I’m smarter and more aware now. I am cognizant of when those persuasive thoughts invade my mind. I’ve put myself through deprogramming and graduated from the course. I’m just taking the occasional refresher these days.

So now, the new question is… how do I prevent my daughter from being coercively manipulated into adopting these very same self destructive attitudes and beliefs?

*By the way, the original fairy tales and folk tales didn’t end with “happily ever after”. Occasionally they stated that the prince and princess lived and ruled happily together but more often the endings were gruesome warnings to those who tended towards living the life of the “evil” characters.  Many people have never read anything but the sanitized versions and most haven’t read more than the most popular ones (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, etc.). It is nie impossible to find a children’s book of fairytales that hasn’t been “disney-ized”.*

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Playing And Playing Around

The more I work with the kids doing this play at the Middle School, the more I realize how things will be going when I begin my own group. Some of these kids show real talent, real promise in the acting department. Some are so-so. None of them are hopeless cases. However, what makes all the difference is their attitudes towards the play. Some are gung-ho, ready to go. They’re paying attention, quiet, waiting for their cues, listening and watching what the others are doing. Learning what it takes to have the next great part and to do the best for their small parts as possible. I see the dedication there and the beginnings of love for theatre.

Then there are the others. I cannot grasp why they even bothered to sign up. This is an option, yet they complain. They don’t show up for practices. When they do, they pay no attention, talk, play, run around. How can you not put the effort in to learn just a few lines? How can jabbering to the people you see practically every day at school be more important that picking up your cues and being ready to be on stage when it’s your time? One cannot claim to love to act when one cannot complete the bare minimum of paying attention to the director.

As an outsider looking at people I would allow to “play” with me, these people would be fired within the first month. I’m sure there are a few of those kids who really dislike me. Tough, I say. When I talk, I expect you to listen and obey whether you like it or not. So far I haven’t told anyone to stop doing something they already weren’t supposed to be doing.

I don’t remember having so much trouble listening when I was told to. Being in the Amadeus Children’s Choir (before it was called that), I had no choice but to listen! If I hadn’t, Mrs. Schmore would have thrown me out, no matter if my parent’s had paid the $250 per month already or not. We paid attention. We practiced singing for hours. We attended competitions where we had to sit quietly for hours. There was no ignoring the director, no chatting pointlessly instead of listening, no texting or playing around. You either participated or you were out. Whether or not you were the guy (group) she was working with at the time.

With only two days left until performance, I have put more of my own time and effort into this play than some of these kids. I have spent hours on costumes (I hate sewing!) and set. I have attended all but two practices (I was getting laser eye surgery at the time). I even played the parts of those who didn’t show up to practice. AND I’M NOT EVEN IN THE PLAY!

Perhaps I am angry that they are given this opportunity and encouraged in this opportunity and they throw it away so easily. I would have given my right arm to have had that opportunity when I was their age. Sometimes I still feel angry that I missed out on something I should have been encouraged to become.

So now I sit (well, work) from the sidelines and watch those coming up to their talents. There are kids I would hire as a director and those I wouldn’t. I’ve also realized that I will also fire anyone who isn’t willing to put 100% commitment to whatever show we will do. There will be no divas in my group. We are all one and we will all be expected to put forth our best efforts and use our varied talents to the best of our abilities. Anything else is unacceptable.

Soooooooooo… anyone interested in being a serious part of a theatre group? :)

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Ranting Again.

So here we are again. He’s a month and a half behind in child support. Again. I give him chance after chance after chance. Every month I have to phone and ask when I can expect it to be coming. His kids are the LAST on his list of things to pay. While I can understand the necessity of paying your bills, these are your CHILDREN! I am so fortunate to be with a man who not only can hold a job, but that is a fantastic Dad and Step-Dad. If I was relying on this child support to get us through the month, we’d be starving on the streets by now. Ridiculous.

Anyways, I phone this morning. It’s 9 AM and I’m thinking they must be up since they had to get their boys off to school – or maybe they don’t have them this week, who knows. Whatever. As I said, he is a month and a half behind. It is March 14th and he’s paid up to the month of January. I HATE DOING THIS, by the way. I phone and they’re still in bed. Oops, sorry. But you did say that you’d bring by $400 last Saturday and it’s now Wednesday. Just sayin’.

She answers the phone all groggy, hands the phone to J. I ask if he’s fixed things up with the bank yet. Perhaps I should explain that. He wanted to open a joint account with me again, so he could deposit the child support in immediately, without having to come all the way over here to give it to me. The thing is, I don’t want my name attached to his anymore. I don’t want MY accounts frozen cuz HE didn’t pay his bills and this is just one more account to seize. I don’t want my new last name, D.’s last name, to be tarnished by the K. name and the K. bad credit. The K.s (his parents too) are well known by the government for not paying bills and mortgages and utilities. They are audited nearly every year. Why? Cuz they try and pull fast ones on their taxes, that’s why. Most people are audited MAYBE once every seven years. Maybe. I’ve been with D. for eight and we’ve NEVER been audited. Therefore, I don’t want to be linked to J. anymore for more than just financial reasons. Because of my refusal to open an joint account, he keeps telling me that he can’t transfer funds over to my account. Or email transfer them. Or anything. Apparently cuz he’s stupid or he’s a liar, since everyone else on the face of the earth can do it! At the beginning of this month, he told me he tried and couldn’t; that his bank doesn’t allow it; that he has to have a special account (bullshit); yadda yadda yadda. D. checked online and it says on that J. can’t email transfer but he can “transfer to external accounts” which needs the institution code, transit number, bank name, and account number – all of which I GAVE HIM LAST MONTH!!!!!!!!!!

As I said, stupid or a liar.

He says he’s going to the bank to sort it all out today (couldn’t have done that Monday, since you didn’t bring the support on Saturday?) and here’s L. in the background nattering away. I said what? What did she say? He says, “Oh, she just woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.” I said, “No, what did she say.” He says, “She says to back off.” Oh really? I was pissed but I just said, “I’m pretty sure she’d be where I am if her ex didn’t pay his child support.”

I’m STILL pissed. I have been for a week and a half. But now I’m REALLY pissed. See, here’s the deal:

Firstly and foremost, J. never would have even had to pay child support if he had paid off the line of credit. $26,000 completed and done versus $48,000 (give or take a few thousand) over ten years of child support. Does this make sense to you? And I didn’t even back file for two years like I could have. He was told that if he didn’t pay it off and deal with it, that when I filed for divorce, I would file for child support (and back support though I didn’t and obviously, I should have!). He didn’t do it, so I did.

Secondly, if he kept a job longer than six months or so, he wouldn’t have so much trouble with money. That and being a titch more responsible with it.

Thirdly, it’s completely NONE of her friggin’ business anyways! They aren’t her kids! She needs to worry about her own damn kids and her own damn ex.

Fourthly, I wouldn’t have been phoning today if he’d come on Saturday like he said he was going to. Or dealt with it on Monday. Or Tuesday. Or, hey, how about FEBRUARY 1st, like he should have???

I asked if he just wanted me to go through child maintenance cuz it’d be easier all around. (How many times have I asked that?) He’d never have to worry about getting it to me or how much or anything. It’d all be done for him. But ohhhhhh no. That way, the boys would come first and not all his other bills he’s behind on. We are dead last to be paid. It’s not the money. It’s the principle. He hardly sees the boys. He doesn’t pay any extracurricular stuff like he’s supposed to (and I don’t ask – I know better). He doesn’t pay support on time. What good is he? He can hardly be described as a father.

And SHE dares to get annoyed? Are you kidding me?

She thinks I’m a bitch. You know what? I feel like a bitch when I have to phone. I don’t WANT to phone! I don’t WANT to badger, annoy, harass, threaten. So why is he forcing me to??? Does he think I’m gonna roll over and take this the way I did with the Line of Credit? Not friggin’ likely! I’ve learned a lot since then. And he’d better catch up and she’d better shut her mouth. Or maybe I really WILL be a bitch and call child maintenance. I should have listened when the lawyer told me right at the start to file with maintenance immediately. I always try to give him the benefit of the doubt and he always screws me. Maybe I need MY head examined…

I’d sure save myself a lot of time, stress and hassle.

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Cheese Puffs (AKA Stilton Puffs)

I made this yesterday for the first time. I got this recipe from my lovely sister-in-law. She made them for my Mom’s birthday bash last summer and I thought, Hey! Maybe the kids would like these in their lunches!

These tasty little tidbits are called “Stilton Puffs”. Since I used Imperial Cheddar Cheese (the cheese in the small red and black container) instead of Stilton cheese, perhaps we should call them “Cheese Puffs” instead. They look like orange cookies when they are done. I guess that’s why the kids asked if they were a new kind of cookie when they first saw them.

Cheese Puffs

1 cup water
½ cup butter (or hard margarine)
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup flour
4 Large eggs
4 oz Imperial cheddar cheese (or stilton, if you prefer)
8 bacon slices, cooked crisp and crumbled
¼ cup finely chopped green onion
½ tsp pepper

Combine first 3 ingredients in medium heavy saucepan on medium-high until boiling and butter is melted. Reduce heat to medium.

Add flour. Stir vigorously for about 1 minute until mixture pulls away from  side of saucepan to form soft dough. Remove from heat. Transfer to medium  bowl.

Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition until well combined and dough is thick and glossy.

Add remaining 4 ingredients. Mix. Drop, using 2 tsp for each, about 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheet with sides. Bake in  425°F oven for 15 to 17 minutes until golden brown. Let stand on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove puffs from baking sheet and place on wire racks to cool.

I left out the green onions, as my kids are fussy and don’t like them. Make sure you don’t overcook them as any scorching can overwhelm the taste. They make a very good appetizer and even if they don’t puff up, they are still delicious!

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Basic Sugar Cookies (Or M&M Cookies)

I’ve been baking a lot lately. I thought that since I tend to modify things to make them so my kids will eat them, maybe I should put some of them here in my blog.

I’ll start with my simple sugar cookie recipe. It takes only about five minutes to prepare and only five minutes to bake (per sheet, of course). It has to be one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever come across. Because my kids love M&M cookies, I’ve been adding them into it too. They don’t last long around here. I think of all the things I bake, these have to be the kids’ favorite…

Homemade M&M Cookies

Here’s my sugar cookie recipe:

1/2 cup butter/margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour

Cream butter & sugar. Add egg, salt and vanilla. Add flour & soda (it’s always best to mix them together first). Roll it into balls, place on a cookie sheet and squash them. Bake at 375 degrees for 5 minutes.

I’ve been stirring in anywhere from 1/2 to 3/4 cup of M&Ms or Smarties but you can add (or not) anything you like!

I wrote this recipe out from one of my Mom’s cookbook years ago just after I left home. Every now and then, I’d get a craving for cookie dough (it’s great on ice cream) so I’d whip up a batch. Most of the dough never saw an oven. Yep, I’m a nutbar. I never worried about getting sick from eating raw egg. The dough tastes so good, you don’t even think about it being in there. Besides, don’t some of those crazy health nuts drink raw eggs for breakfast?

Guess cookie dough could be considered the breakfast of champions – Armchair Champions that is… *wink*

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To C

I have suffered another blow to the heart, a loss of a dear friend, C. I have known her since I was thirteen years old and she was just eight. Long before I dated her big brother, I cared for her and protected her. C looked at me as her big sister and me, as another little sister. C was the same age as my own beautiful sister.

C didn’t have an easy life. Her father had been extremely abusive and controlling though her mother left him when C was very young. She didn’t really remember her dad and mostly thought well of him. She heard the stories from her mom and brother but, it’s hard to not want the love of someone who is your parent, even when you know they’re a monster.
Though her mother left the abuse, she didn’t dare file for divorce or child support for fear he would kill her or take the children. She spent years hiding from the man until he had mellowed with age and gotten another wife. Contact was made but he refused to pay a dime for his children because she had taken them from him. Most times, he wouldn’t have anything to do with C or her brother. He especially seemed to dislike C.

There wasn’t much parenting in the household. C’s mother spent most of her waking hours working to pay rent, bills, and feed the children. I know for a fact, she didn’t sleep well and spent many nights pacing the floor when she wasn’t working one of her two or three jobs. C was mostly cared for by her brother and he wasn’t always gentle with her, having been abused himself. I recall sheltering C from her brother who had gone after her with a hammer while in a fit of anger over something she’d done. After that, she clung to me whenever I was around. I constantly soothed her brother’s anger over trifling childhood misdemeanours. He didn’t want to be a parent at twelve but what choice did they have?

I was a poor example to her, the same I as I was a poor example to my own sister. I lost touch with C for a few years after I did my own running away from family. We reconnected and I had been in contact with her for a long time now. I didn’t really get to talk to her mother much. When I lived again in my home town, she stayed overnight a few times. When I left again, we kept in touch via email and Facebook.

Her death was a shock. At age thirty-four, she died in her sleep. I found out, quite by accident. I happened to notice some pictures with her tagged in them on my main feed on Facebook. I opened them up to see how she was doing only to discover the pictures were of her memorial service. I kept saying, “No. No, this isn’t right. It’s not possible. It can’t be right. It just can’t be right.” I immediately messaged my sister to let her know. I called C’s mother the next morning. She kept apologizing for not being able to get a hold of myself or my sister. She doesn’t need to apologize. She has enough pain to deal with – does she need unnecessary guilt?

When I first starting writing to C again by email, she wrote about her grandmother’s death. She told me about how when her grandma was dying, C crawled into the bed with her and held her in her arms until grandma took her last breath. I thought she was so brave and compassionate to comfort her grandma like that. I don’t know many who would have. But now, all I can think is who held C when she was dying? Who showed C the comfort and compassion she showed her grandmother? Her husband left her and her young son a few years ago. I don’t even know if she was alone in the house or whether her four year old son was asleep in his room when she passed.

These things hurt me. I know C’s mother with care for her grandchild with all the love she has to give. C led a troubled life but she loved her son with everything she had. He was everything to her. He was her life. She would never have left him voluntarily. I remember little things – the freckles across her nose, her long hair, her laugh, her sense of humor, the love in her voice when she talked about her “lil Man”.

I don’t know how to say goodbye. I’m trying the best I can to let her go. I wish I could share my grief with my own sister but we are far apart in the world. It is times like this in which I acutely feel the distance. Email and phone don’t compensate for the lack of human touch. Today I have said my regrets to C, lit a candle in her memory and shared some of my pain and a little of her story with you.

Goodbye, Caro. You were my little sister and I love you. You deserved a better life and a longer one. I hope it is better where you are now.

In memory of C. I. R. : April 11, 1978 – Feb. 11, 2012

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Books, Books, Books

Bibliophile: (noun) a person who loves or collects books, especially as examples of fine or unusual printing, binding, or the like.
 Wikipedia says, “Bibliophilia or bibliophilism is the love of books. Accordingly a bibliophile is an individual who loves books. A bookworm is someone who loves books for their content, or who otherwise loves reading… The classic bibliophile is one who loves to read, admire and collect books, often amassing a large and specialized collection.”

I would classify myself as both a bibliophile and a bookworm as I both love my books and I love reading. I have always been this way. I first identified with a character in a book when I read of Elinor Loredan in Inkheart. Her heartbreak when her library was destroyed brought tears to my eyes. My books are some of my most precious objects. As much as this book is a children’s series, I enjoyed the idea of being able to read the characters out of books – not that I would want to really do that since the characters removed from their stories are all sad and do not fare well in the “real” world.

I grew up on books. My mother was an ESL teacher and my father loves novels. My siblings are both avid readers. All our houses are stuffed with books and bookcases. Even my grandparents and great aunts loved to read. I was reading shortly after I first began kindergarten. Back then, most didn’t learn to read until grade one. Consistently, I was in trouble from teachers for reading (or daydreaming) instead of paying attention. I didn’t do well in school because I spent more time reading than doing my homework. I still spend much of my time lost in a book – or five.

I’ve done some crazy things while reading. I don’t just limit myself to reading before bed or in the bath. In fact, I don’t dare start reading before bed or I’ll be up until four in the morning so I can finish the book! My baths tend to be two hours minimum. I read while cooking, read while eating, read during commercials, read while in line, read while resting, read while walking, read outside, read while taking out my contacts! If I could figure out a way to read while in the shower, I’d do it! Any chance I get, I dive into the world I’m currently reading.

Reading a book is like watching a movie in my head. Only, in my movie, I am the heroine, the superhero, the sorceress, the mermaid, the lover, the adventurer. I see all. I know all. The character’s life become my own, his journey mine, his agony mine, his world mine, his loves and hates mine. I vividly see each and every described item. I hear the voices; see the plants and animals; live the life. I have cried at the end of a particularly enjoyable book just because I feel the loss of a well loved “person”. I have sobbed at the loss of a poignant character, as though that fictional being had been a real individual I had known. 

Someone who has not experienced books the way I have cannot understand this. To someone outside of this, I am crazy, a nerd, a weirdo. I am those things. But I am also so much richer as a person from the extent of those things I’ve lived within those books. I am hardly ever bored. I can discover the most amazing things just by staring at the patterns on a blank wall. I put myself to sleep going over the adventures I have lived that day in my chosen book.

This deep enjoyment I get from reading transfers to the books themselves. I love the feel of the cover, the weight of the book, the slightly musty smell or new paper smell. An e-book is not the same. I can’t fall into the story the same way as I do with a physical book. It is lacking in some fundamental way. I found a “poster” on printerest the other day and it resonates completely: “The idea of e-readers taking over and the art of printed literature dying out makes me want to cry.” I completely agree.

So I build and build my library to the reaches of the ceilings and still books spill off the shelves and into other rooms. They pile in the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the living room, the kitchen, the office, the family room, the den… I try and downsize by getting rid of the ones I read but didn’t love but it’s fighting a losing battle. My dear husband is going to make me another set of shelves to surround and go over the doorway between the den and the family room. I can hardly wait! Already I can see how it looks and it looks wonderful!

I don’t quite know how to end this blog. For me, it is like a miniature version, perhaps a small chapter, of the life and mind of me. I’ll see you later. Maybe I’ll even meet you somewhere within the pages of my favorite books…

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