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Charleston

charleston sc visitors-guide

It’s been a recent dream of mine to travel to Charleston, SC. It’s a weird time in my life where my husband and I are actually discussing retirement options. Say WHAT?! Yes, it’s true. It’s not to say that we have never discussed retirement until now, but as our kids are starting to enter high school, the reality of where we would retire creeps closer.

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Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

Charleston, SC, came up as a place that I wanted to explore as an option. As luck would have it, my hubby had a business trip planned for this year, so I joined him there for the weekend prior so I could scout out this city’s potential as a future home.

flower basket Charleston

What an incredibly charming city. From the brick crosswalks, to the flower filled window boxes, to the gas lantern lighting and the federal style architecture, the place oozed with charm. As a photo fanatic, each step was a head turner for another slice of eye candy to capture.

federal style arch Charleston

We had no planned activities except, of course, dinner reservations! The trip was meant for both of us to relax and just explore and see what we would see. We checked into our hotel near Marion Square. It was a terrific location. Not much of a water view, but perfectly situated for us to walk wherever the mood struck us.

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We arrived just after Hurricane Michael came through and carried any type of bad weather away with it. The temps were terrific and nothing but blue skies for our weekend. It’s an incredibly easy walking city. Navigation is no problem, HOWEVER, ladies, take note of the time worn sidewalks that can snap an ankle if one does not pay attention (especially in heals!)

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Our dinner reservations for the first night were at Charleston Grill located in the Belmond Hotel in the midst of the delightful King Street. King St. is loaded with shopping. You’ll find stores that we all know and love, plus local establishments that can hold their own with the big boys.

charleston grill bar

Charleston Grill delivered some of the tastiest cocktails that we have ever had. The bar area was gorgeously appointed and they even surprised us with a tasty amuse-bouche while we waited for our table. We were seated at an intimate table by the window overlooking the hotel courtyard. It was quite lovely. We opted for the chefs tasting menu paired with a spectacular bottle of white burgundy.  As they say in the south, Cheers, Y’all!

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After our fantastic meal, we walked it off with a casual stroll through the city back to our hotel for a relatively early night. We are not party people and we had more than indulged at dinner.

charleston evening

The next morning we bee lined straight for the local farmers market set up in Marion Square across the street from our hotel. We enjoyed awesome breakfast burritos and took in all of the booths of food, local produce and products, and crafters. Before heading back to our room to regroup for the rest of our day, we grabbed some Starbucks. Yeah baby!

marion square sign

The goal for the day was to make our way down to the water by way of the famous Rainbow Row on East Bay St. But first a trip for lunch at a local Cuban restaurant called Cuban Gypsy Pantry Eatery on Calhoun Street. I suppose you’d have to classify this as a dive, as it wasn’t fancy in the least, but the food….!!!! The food was amazing. Luckily we were on foot for the rest of the day to walk off that delicious lunch that was almost impossible to stop eating. It was an easy walk to the water, full of quaint shops, historic architecture and amazing views.

rainbow row

I envy the people that live there to be able to walk that city every day. It is unique for sure. A combination of other places I have visited, but decidedly it’s own flavor. There was a little bit of Florida, a little bit of New Orleans and 100% Southern. It was heavenly during the day and magical at night. I couldn’t get over the number of church steeples in view and the mix of historic and new construction. And the water views filled with little sailboats….are you kidding me?

water view in Charleston

We made our way back to “our” neighborhood to check out a rooftop bar. Carolina Ale House did not disappoint. We sat at the bar and ordered from their impressive collection of beers on tap. We were surrounded by TVs everywhere, all playing college football, with different collage fans at each table. After enjoying a beer and the atmosphere, we headed back out to explore yet another part of the city; the restaurant district. This area had a plethora of super cool stops and every type of food one could want. After making a lap through that area we made our way home. We were exhausted from a day filled with walking (and beer), so we opted for dinner in. We grabbed take out from a local pizza place and headed back to our home base.

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The next morning I walked to church. It was an OOOOLLLLDDDD school Greek Revival style church built in 1838, complete with paintings dating back to 1814 and most of its original architectural attributes in tact, or at the very least restored. Again, the church was an easy walk to and from our hotel. We opted to have breakfast at the highly rated crepe restaurant called Breizh pan Crepes just off of King Street. It was a delicious meal with great views of the street for people watching. We returned to our hotel to check out so that my hubby could check into his hotel for his business trip.

St Mary's Charleston

This next hotel, The French Quarter Inn, was located close to the water and it was spectacular. We were greeted with complimentary champagne while we waited for his room to be ready. The rooms were very large and were beautifully appointed. Not one detail was missed, down to the brass finishing on the corners of the large baseboards. It was love at first sight for this architecture nerd.

The French Quarter Hotel

Alas, it was time for me to head home. Charleston, SC, was a beautiful host for the weekend and I cannot WAIT to go back. It’s southern charm and hospitality are notable and would make a great destination for any occasion.

charleston gazebo

Pure Love Macaron: The Next Chapter

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I have found myself in an exciting situation. In this post I get to do a follow up piece on my previous Guest, Kim Moehnke of Pure Love Macaron. In last week’s post, I talked a little about how serendipitous my blogging experience has been this past year. My original article on Kim and her lovely business went live in July 2017 (Guest – Pure Love Macaron). As you’ll recall, again from last week’s post, I reviewed one of the restaurants covered in the cookbook titled Fine Foods & Favorite Restaurants of Northern Virginia that I collaborated on along with Cayenne Pepper Studio. This recipe book will also be featuring Kim! It was so amazing for me to get to tell more of her story in that compilation, which is due out in November. And most recently our paths crossed again when Kim reached out to me to cover an event and new business venture that she was launching. Well don’t mind if I do!

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Sergio and Kim from wine pairing

Kim has collaborated with Sergio Mendes from The Ashburn Wine Shop, in Ashburn, VA, on the shop’s own next chapter of offering wine and small bite food pairings. The wine shop will bring in local chefs to create tasting dishes for guests to sample along with a thoughtfully paired wine selection. A constant on the menu will be Kim’s delicious macarons.

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macaron and wine pairing photos by Sandrine

I attended the inaugural event, as press, and was very much delighted by the fare for the evening. Kim and Sergio worked closely to create a divine pairing for the kick off. Kim is known for her creative and sophisticated flavor combinations and she stayed true to form. From pistachio, fig and goat cheese, to a whimsical waffle, maple and bacon, Kim concocted delectable bites perfectly complimenting the wine selections.

waffle macarons

Be sure to put a tasting trip on your calendar for your next date night, girls night out, or corporate event. It’s a super tasty way to spend an evening, and something new and fun to do in Loudoun.

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These tastings are just the start for Kim and her next chapter of business opportunities. You will also find Pure Love Macaron sharing retail pod space this year with the mobile boutique Nolly Pop in One Loudoun. You can shop the boutique and pick up some lovely treats as a gift or to sneak home and indulge just for yourself.

boxed macarons

Also in the works for Kim in 2018 is her collaboration with AALead.org and their upcoming Gala. AALEAD stands for Asian American Youth Leadership Empowerment and Development. The organization supports low-income Asian Pacific young people with educational assistance, identity development, and opportunities to emerge as leaders in their community through after school and summer programs. Kim has the honor of providing the party favors for over 300 gala guests later this month. No doubt her creative flavors and impeccable presentation will be a shining example of her fabulous taste and elegant style.

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This is my first opportunity to be able to do a follow up story on one of my Guests. It’s incredible to see the growth explosion in the works for Pure Love Macaron and I’m honored to be able to share it with you on Kim’s behalf. Be on the look out for Pure Love Macaron. Spoil yourself or someone else with a custom box. The opportunities for you to enjoy them are expanding!

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*Photos by Cayenne Pepper Studio

The Ashby Inn & Restaurant

The Ashby Inn

I’m not going to lie. Blogging sure hasn’t paid the bills around here, but what it has done is it has opened up a lot of really cool experiences for me in the past year. And this one is definitely one for the list.

As you may recall, I wrote a piece in February about a fantastic local food photographer, Sandrine Brubaker of Cayenne Pepper Studio:  https://jenniferthebeholder.com/2018/02/23/guest-sandrine-brubaker-cayenne-pepper-studio/. At the time, she was launching into a new project where she was polling the public, via social media, to get a list of favorite restaurants/chefs/dishes from local, Northern Virginia establishments. With that information, she was going to reach out to those who were nominated, interview them, have them create a dish or two, photograph the dishes, collect the recipes and put it all in one cookbook to be sold to benefit *The Tree of Life in Purcellville, VA.

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I was so intrigued by this project that I reached out to San to learn more. Sandrine’s is a lovely story in and of itself. She has turned her gifts and talents into a successful photography business as well as using it as therapy to help her combat the mental fatigue of living with a chronic illness.

Well, because she was so pleased with the article that I wrote about her, she asked me to be the writer for her upcoming cookbook. How could I say no?! I loved this project, and getting to be a part of it was a gift for me. I don’t often find ways that I can give back to my community, but I can through writing. I appreciated the opportunity to do something for others outside of my kids’ schools and my own church.

My workspace

Sandrine’s notes from her interviews with the chefs began coming in. I worked through them, did my own research, and put together each profile for the cookbook. The most historic site that she visited was The Ashby Inn in Paris, VA. She had loads of notes from the Executive Chef and there was a great amount of historical data that I could use to put together a nice bio. It was a great experience and I learned a ton.

One evening last month, I decided to rush out at the last minute to walk in for a manicure and pedicure at our local nail salon. They were booked at that time, but they asked if I could come back in an hour and they would stay open late for me to finish my services. Not really thinking, I agreed.

I returned later that evening for my appointment. While I was in my chair, they seated another woman right next to me. I’m a talker, but I try to be respectful of those who may not be or who just want some alone time, so I didn’t engage the lady in conversation.

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I did, however, hear her say to her tech that she was sorry that they would have to stay late to work with her. At that, I chimed in and said, “They told me the same, so if we stick together, we’ll be fine.” A little polite giggle and end of conversation.

I moved on to have my nails done. At this point, the other woman and I were the only customers left in the shop. Only our two techs and the manager remained and it was getting late. They seated the woman right next to me. So we began to chat.

The standard…do you live in the neighborhood? What do you do?

Lindsay, as I came to find out her name, had worked for an international hotel chain for many years and had been living in Singapore until relocating back home to Virginia. Being from Charlottesville, she didn’t know very many people in the area. She had just purchased a home in Middleburg and was setting down roots here. Oh, and she was the General Manager from a little place called The Ashby Inn, had I ever heard of it?

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Are you kidding me?! I was sitting next to the GM of The Ashby Inn. Sandrine was featuring their restaurant in the book! Uh, yes I had heard of it! I then began to totally geek out. We talked about all of the things that I had learned writing the piece for the book. I admitted that I had never been out to The Ashby and that my wedding anniversary was coming up. Maybe my husband and I would go there for our celebration. And that we did.

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Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

The Ashby Inn restaurant surely delivered. They offer a nightly chef’s tasting menu with or without wine pairings, and a vegetarian tasting menu, which I found fascinating and uniquely modern. You could also choose a 3 course al a carte menu. That’s where we landed.

The food was deliciously prepared. The presentation was picture perfect as was the service. The Inn is deceiving large. They have 5 dining areas, one being an ample outdoor area. We opted for an indoor seat (which bummed me out. I love to eat outside, but hadn’t come prepared with a jacket and this late September night was chilly ….for me.)

beef dish at The Ashby

The building was constructed pre civil war and retained all of the charm one would expect would come with that era of architecture. In the room where we dined, there were brass nameplates above the tables. We inquired and learned that those plaques were earned by frequently visiting guests. These guests lay claim to their favorite table in this way. When they call in for a reservation, they trump any non-regular for their table. It’s quite a special way to repay returning guests for their repeat patronage.

I can’t say enough about the meal we had. Although Paris, VA, is about a 40 minute drive from our neck of the woods, it’s a drive through one of the most scenic routes in Northern Virginia of rolling hills, historical homes and structures, and glorious wide open horse farms. Go the other direction for 40 minutes and you will make your way into Washington, DC. But at The Ashby, you can enjoy a fabulous meal, with zero traffic and a no stress parking situation.

The Ashby Inn restaurant

There’s a lot to take in from this post. My life as a blogger, thus far, has been quite serendipitous. I encourage you to look back at my article on Sandrine from Cayenne Pepper Studio and learn more about her and her cookbook project. Stay tuned about the release of the cookbook as a potential holiday gift as holiday shopping is ramping up. And please do yourself a favor and get yourself out to The Ashby Inn. If not to stay as an overnight guest, at least to eat at their spectacular restaurant.

Follow where your path leads you. You will meet fantastic people and it may lead you to your most delicious life.

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*The Tree of Life Ministries provides meals on the weekend to children who receive their meals from their public school.

 

Perspective – Technology

It’s no secret that I struggle with Technology.  I joke (#therestruthinjest) that I have some sort of technology repellant that has been imbedded in my body as I often deal with techno failures that usually infuriate me.  I began to think, am I the only one?  What do others think of technology?  Is it the be all, end all, or is it the AntiChrist?  Or is it something in between?

I’ve asked 7 women to share their thoughts on this topic (7 because I am #8!  I wanted to play too.)  I polled one representative from each age decade to see how they weighed in. Are we more alike or are we polar opposites?  Come with me to find out.

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“I think that there are some cases where technology can be helpful and some cases where it cannot be helpful.  Why I think it can be helpful is sometimes when I’m doing my homework and I have to research something, I can go onto Google and just research it.  Why I think it can be bad is because sometimes it can show me things I don’t want to see like a trailer for a rated R movie, something really scary, or something that is not kid friendly at all.   And that’s what I think about technology.”  ~ Caroline 10’s

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“I’m a fan of technology. Maybe that’s a bias perpetuated by my experience or some algorithm, but either way, technology as a whole has aided my experiences.

For me, personally, technology has been extremely beneficial. I have a background in science/engineering and have worked in a lab or two, so I’ve seen, firsthand, how beneficial technology can be. In the form of new equipment that runs experiments faster or more efficiently, to new and innovative techniques that help you get a deeper understanding of a certain disease process. Technology can have a real impact on advancement in many areas.

I also recently started blogging this past year and have seen another way technology can be extremely beneficial. It has allowed me to connect with others I may have never met. I’ve been inspired by, collaborated with, and formed friendships that may never have happened. It’s amazing how distance used to prohibit connection. But now, distance is no longer a factor. You can connect with people all over the globe. It has created many new and exciting opportunities for me, personally.

Of course, I’m not naive to the changes evolving technology has brought. As technology has evolved we have seen apparent changes in communication, education, politicking, etc. The complaints and fears are real. Lack of social engagement because everyone is on their phones. Algorithms designed to cater to your previous searches to make your life easier have, in fact, reinforced biases and often led people to live in a bubble. People desiring to live up to social media standards. There are countless ways technology can cause significant impacts that are not always for the best.

I understand and empathize with these fears of others. With the changes that are hard to accept. Though, in my opinion, it is not the technology to fear but the intention. Intention is something we often overlook and is the reason it is so easy for technology to bear the burden. But if we really look into the root of all, it is the intention of use that really is at the heart of it. I believe that, with anything (not just technology), if your intention is out of love, out of goodness, out of betterment, then technology should not be something to fear. It is when the intention is out of fear, out of selfishness, out of hate, out of power, that is when we see misuse. That is when we see destruction and that is when we should fear. To me, it is not the technology to fear but the user.

As history (and biology) has shown, change is often a hard concept for humans. All technological advances, from the dawn of time, have come under some sort of scrutiny (and many times, for good reason). Maybe I am too optimistic about the subject, but, as a whole, I believe technology is good and can harness great changes and connections for the betterment of humanity. And I will continue to embrace it with caution because the users are only human.” ~ Cristina 20s (Blog: https://www.spatialdwelling.com/)

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“I have an amazing love/hate relationship with technology.  As I sit here and write this, I’m currently without power for the second night in a row.  I’m absolutely humbled by how the lack of it can turn my life upside down.  Despite my careful meal planning, I had to throw it all out the window and resort to take out and peanut butter sandwiches for dinner since we cannot power our stove, oven, or microwave.  My 9 month old son is sleeping in the other room but I’m left with uneasy, new mom nerves without the video monitor that I am usually glued to.  It’s safe to say that we have become so dependent upon it that we’re suddenly crippled when we don’t have it.

Technology has done some great things.  I’m instantly connected to my faraway friends and family and can feel like I’m part of their daily lives despite the fact that I haven’t seen them in person in months or years. But there is also the negative side of technology, the time suck of getting pulled in only to reemerge hours later having done nothing productive with that time.  Sitting in bed next to your spouse only to realize neither of you have spoken to one another in you don’t know how long.  I guess it’s safe to say that technology is a necessity that when used carefully can be a powerful tool but should always be used in moderation.”  ~ Jackie 30s

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“My thoughts on technology…the first thing that comes to mind is how technology has given our kids such a drastically different childhood from the one I had.  Kids today have everything at their fingertips.  I have recounted many times how when I was a child we had to wait an entire year to see The Wizard of Oz on TV and if you missed it, you’d have to wait another whole year.  No recording it, no watching it later, no fast forwarding through the commercials either! (GASP!)

In this age of instant gratification, I see how my kids never have the luxury of being bored.  They are never forced to use their imaginations to entertain themselves.

We also had the benefit of not having to be in constant contact with our parents.  When I was a kid, I could leave on my bike in the morning and be gone all day.  My parents had no idea where I was or who I was with, but they trusted me to be on my own.  I’m sure on some level that helped with my confidence and growing independence as I got older.  There was a freedom we had as kids in the 70’s and 80’s that kids today won’t necessarily get to experience.

When I think of how technology has enriched our lives in this day and age, I can list many examples.  I have the ability to stay connected with friends and family who live far away.  Simply calling someone on the phone no longer requires watching the clock and dialing the number “after the long distance rates go down” at 9 pm, then timing your call to make sure it didn’t cost a fortune!  I can keep track of people from many different periods of my life on Facebook, many whom I know I would have otherwise never reconnected with.

My life is undoubtedly easier with the technology we use every day in our lives.  I can order my groceries online and pick them up in front of the store.  I can order clothing and shoes from internet retailers and save us from having painful trips to the mall, dragging uncooperative kids along with me.  I can reach out and communicate with my kids’ schools and their teachers at a moment’s notice.  I can monitor their grades and see what we need to work on more at home.  The list goes on and on!

It begs the question, if our lives are so drastically different now from how I remember growing up as a kid, what will the world and technology in our lives be like 20-30 years from now?!” ~Jen 40s

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“Although I definitely appreciate our modern conveniences, I still struggle with technology failures and how dependent we have grown on it for social interaction.  I think my favorite thing in my life after my family, my cat, and my bed, is my iPhone.  It is my entertainment, sometimes my workspace, and my chief means of communication.

Being a young child in the 70’s, I quickly began to understand that once a gadget stopped working, it was done for.  I often times struggle with getting technology to respond to me in the manner of my choosing.  I am the vampire girl who cannot be detected by the self check out machine at the grocery store.  I am the person who the fax machine will not work for until I leave the house.  (I have witnesses!)  And we all know this only happens when I’m in an extreme hurry.

But as a mother of one Millenial and two of whatever generation came after, I see the serious deterioration of the social skills of my children.  It’s of epidemic proporsions.  My teenagers have no concept of how to communicate with others nor any confidence in doing so.  How will this translate to interpersonal relationships as they move through their teens and into their 20’s?  How in the world are they going to be able to get through a job interview?  Cyber relationships do not provide the human contact that we must have as a species.  It’s very scary to me.  I worry that they will live lonely lives because they do not know how to build relationships.

These bad habits seem impossible to break.  I don’t see an end in sight.”

~Jennifer 50’s ish (I’ll be 50 in January 🙂 )

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It’s funny, but the first thing that I thought of when thinking about technology was Siri singing her silly song about technology.  Quite a catchy tune and spot on lyrics.  As a child, The Jetsons, Lost in Space and the 1964 World’s Fair in New York were my first experiences with technology.  I was awed by it.  Then came the space program.  Mind blowing!

I’ve always associated technology with the future.  I must admit, I am just as hooked as the younger generation.  It has made my life easier.  But I do long for a time when we were more connected person to person, not via text.  Holding hands instead of phones. Making eye contact with people as you pass instead of heads down and earphones plugged in.  I am inspired by how it has such potential for good when reading Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. Technology has changed us.  However, I must admit that it scares me as well.  As much as it can produce good, the evil and danger it can do if not kept in check is frightening!

So, as a person of hope, I believe in it’s ability to help make this world a better place.   I am grateful for FaceTime as a grandparent, and having family so far away.  And I pray that it will not do us harm.

Oh, by the way, I had to write this down with a pen before I could email it using the dictation.” ~ Barbara 60s

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“As I have aged, I realize how much easier my life has been in comparison to my mother. I no longer have to defrost the fridge, clean the oven, or spend a whole day using a wringer washer to do the laundry and I don’t have to hang it outside on the clothes lines.  I am not a big fan of new gadgets, namely rumba vacuum cleaners, iPhones, electric cars, or driverless cars.  I do like my kindle for playing games and emailing and I do like my Alexa.  I guess that I am still a little old fashioned.”  ~Peggy 70’s

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“I lived in the era of wringer washers, clotheslines and ice boxes.  When I got married I had a scrub board, a refrigerator, a record player and a TV.  Now I have a dishwasher, washer and drier, microwave, cell phone, and computer with internet.  All in the space of 84 years.

Am I happier?  In some ways, yes.  All of that expensive stuff was supposed to give me more leisure time..NOT.  In some ways it has … making long distance communication much better, but the cost is losing the warmth of face to face communication.  The ability to reach out to hug and comfort another human being.  I may have saved time with laundry, but used the saved time to talk to a non human person on the phone only to be directed to the wrong department.  All that so called leisure is usually spent in frustration.  If it was laundry day that is pretty much all I did.  Now I cram a dozen things in that small space of time.

Technology was intended to improve the human condition, especially in medicine.  New and far fetched cures are promoted so often no one is sure what is hurtful or helpful. That is one of the many downsides to technology.  It can be used for malicious reasons.  Fear is surrounding it, especially when greed is involved.  Cyber bullying, identity theft, etc, is waiting every time you open your computer or pull out a credit card.

I’m using technology with respect and I am getting along today.  But no idea what’s ahead in the future.  God bless us all!”  ~Temple 80s

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In reading the responses from each participant, it’s clear, at every age, that we all have become dependent on technology to assist in day to day activities and chores.  As a whole, we all appreciate the elimination of distance as a barrier for communication.  But I noticed a trend, as the participants got older, the actual fear of the repercussions of our obsession with technology for future generations.  With the exception of the very young, it was apparent to all that although communication with faraway friends and family has improved, the communication with those we live around day by day and minute by minute has deteriorated. At every age represented here, there was an appreciation for technology in general, but also healthy dose of fear.

What are the Odds?

1% of nothing is nothing. It’s a universal truth. If you have 1% of nothing, then you have nothing. So if that is true, then the opposite of that must also be true. 1% of something, then is something! But really? Is it really something? Ask a 30 year old woman who found her first gray hair, or a 15 year old boy who found his first chin hair! They will tell you. 1% can actually be something! We can see that relativity and perspective come into play. We could just leave it as 1% of something is something and be done with it, but our human brains, emotions, and intellect suggest otherwise.

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If I told you that you had a 99% chance of winning the lottery, you would play. Of course you would. But if I told you that you had a 1% chance of winning that lottery you probably wouldn’t. You still have a chance of winning, but here is where intellect weighs in. Your choice, when it comes to playing the odds can definitely just be a numbers game. Where is the threshold of those percentages when it comes to choices and decision making? Is it 90/10? Is it 80/20? Those seem to be fairly easy. But what if it was 60/40? Now you’re a breath away from what a friend of mine called a coin flip. Heads you win. Tails you lose.

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Here’s where I think numbers are no longer the leading factor, or at least cannot be looked at in a vacuum. What if your odds of getting the lead role in a major motion picture was 60/40. You’d try out, right? I mean, you virtually have a 50/50 chance of getting the part! It could be the choice of a lifetime! What if your odds of burning down your house by leaving a candle lit were also 60/40? You’d probably not take the chance and would blow the candle out before leaving the house.

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This time we see that circumstance factored with the numbers plays a role in helping us to make decisions. But it’s not always that simple. There’s also the element of emotion and faith. I am a religious person, but you may not be, so faith for you may simply mean faith in yourself to be prepared, and do your homework so that you can nail that job interview.

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Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Bear with me with some more religious examples, if you will. I promise they are not too painful. Are you like Abraham, who through blind faith was willing to sacrifice his son as a sign of obedience? Or on the flip side, are you more like the hiker begging for God to save him, but doesn’t have enough faith to cut the rope? Do you know these stories?

Here, let me just catch you up really quickly.…..

Abraham was told by God to bring his only son to the altar to be sacrificed. Abraham obeyed. Brought his son to the altar, even made him carry the firewood, and was prepared to slay his son in obedience. But God, seeing Abraham’s willingness said, “Yeah, nevermind. You’re good. Thanks for playing and obeying. You win!” Son was saved (but probably really pissed.)

The other story goes like this….

There is a hiker who is looking to make camp and it has already grown very dark. He loses his footing and falls off a cliff. After falling and falling for what seems like forever, the rope he was carrying catches in the face of the cliff and jerks him to a stop preventing him from hitting the ground. It’s pitch black by this time and he has no idea how far he has fallen, or how far down the ground is. He calls out to God, “Oh God, please save me!” A whispered voice returns to him, “Cut the rope.” He ignores the voice. That’s crazy! I am not cutting the rope! The temperatures began to drop. The hiker calls out again, “Oh God, please save me!” Again he hears the whisper, “Cut the rope.” The hiker thinks there is no way in hell that I’m cutting this rope. It is the only thing that is saving me and keeping me from plunging to my death.

The next day, the rangers discover the hiker suspended from his rope.   He has frozen to death over night. They proceed to cut his body down just 5 feet from the ground.

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Ok, do you have that blind faith of Abraham or are you more like the hiker? In Abraham’s mind he had 100% chance that he was going to have to kill his son in order to remain obedient. In the hikers mind, he had a 50/50 chance of cutting that rope and continuing to plunge to his death. God did not tell him cut the rope and you will have a 100% chance of survival or even a 90% chance.

chance

So here we are. Now the numbers, and the circumstances, and faith are all throwing their hands in the mix. So let’s go back and look as some situations. The lottery again. What would be your threshold to play? 80/20? Would you play at 60/40? What about applying for a job? At 60/40, would you send your resume? Now what if it was cancer. 60/40. Do nothing and there is a 40% chance that you will develop cancer. Would you play? Would you cut the rope?

Cut-Motions

On the eve of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I honor all of the women who have suffered from this horrible disease.  I honor all of the women who have suffered through the choices that they are forced to make.  And I honor all of the husbands, families and friends of these women for enduring the potpourri of emotions right along side.

If you haven’t already, schedule your mammogram.  Take care of your “girls”.

breast cancer ribbon

PERSPECTIVE

I’ve been writing this blog for over a year now. Early on, I would write about local (and sometimes not so local) entrepreneurs and creatives to get their perspective on what they do and why they do it. I’m fascinated by their guts and bravery to chase after a dream especially when the dream has components that just aren’t that exciting or perhaps are even risky.

top 5 logo redo

I’ve also written a lot about my perspective on travel destinations. From a European vacation to the Caribbean, and the West of the US, I’ve shared each trip with you. Sometimes in great detail and sometimes just as an overview.

Vacation pic collage

I’ve shared my perspective on color, design and…um…scented candles (#truth). But I found myself recently wondering how my perspectives measure up to others. I’m not talking about right and wrong, I’m talking about differences and similarities. So I’ve decided to run with this pondering and pilot a new segment called “PERSPECTIVE”.

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In these posts, I will share with you a single topic, but from the perspective of women from 10-80 something and every decade in between. I’m excited to see how different we are. I’m equally excited to see how alike we are. I think that there is so much value in hearing from all ages. “From the mouth of babes” is for real. And I want to especially consider the perspectives of our more mature members of the group. Each person’s perspective is colored by their history that they have earned or that they lack!

close up view of shoes
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I will caveat this whole project by saying that this first collection of women are not random people. They are my people. People that I know, people that I may even be related to, but ladies that I have a relationship with in some manner. Remember, this is just a pilot. I’d love to have women from all demographics participate. That is what the comments are for!!! Don’t be shy.

two man and two woman standing on green grass field
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And fellas, I am not excluding you here. I just wanted to have some controls in place for the initial group. I look forward to getting the menfolk involved for future topics.  And guys, please don’t hesitate to chime in with your two cents.

two cents

There is so much to be learned from one another. My hope is to open minds and hearts with this little experiment. Wish me luck, and please, feel free to share your perspective.

DENVER

Denver skyline

I had no real preconceived ideas of what Denver was going to be like.  I imagined a lot of brown as I always do whenever I equate something with the “Wild West”.  With the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, I was concerned about the state of its inhabitants.  Were they mindless, smiling zombies shuffling through town wearing pot leafed shirts, faded flannel, Birkenstocks, and their hands stuffed into a bag of Doritos to stay off the munchies?  And I admit that Denver has never been tops on my list of places to go.  I mean, it’s Colorado, so it must be freezing, right?  I think it’s well established that this girl hates to be cold.  The weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  Not cold in the least.

Me freezing

But off to Denver we would go.  Primary objective?  The fulfillment of a bucket list item for my husband.  It has long been a dream of his to attend a concert at Red Rocks.  As luck would have it, his favorite band, O.A.R. was on the roster.  He was so excited and I was excited for him.  Me?  I was more like, “Meh.”  I was more interested in some much needed alone time with my husband.  And I would go anywhere for that.

Chris and me - Bruno Mars encore

Off we went.  Left the kiddos under the capable, watchful eye of Grandma, hopped on a plane and entered into this adventure with a giant check mark poised and ready for Chris’s bucket list.

checkmark

The ride from Denver International Airport to the city is not glamorous and really doesn’t give much away as to what to expect from downtown.  I was super surprised to see a multitude of prairie dogs along the roadway.  They would appear like tiny statues sunning themselves in the setting rays.  Prairie dogs?!  I thought they lived in the prairie?  Or in zoos?  Denver is in Colorado….um, Mountain Standard Time..???  It’s “The Mountains”.  What?  Boy was I a moron.  Denver might just be the flattest place I’ve ever been.  FLAT.  (Try telling that to the poor pedicab driver who had to pedal us “uphill”. Really?  It’s flat.)

Prairie dogs in North Boulder county in Boulder, Colorado.

Anyhoo, I clearly had a lot to learn and now I was excited.  (Ask any mom how excited she is about leaving for a trip.  It’s almost not worth even going for all of the work and planning that needs to take place.  Generals could learn a thing or two from us moms about logistics, advancement of troops, and planning for worst case scenarios.  I digress.) Moms don’t get excited until they actual reach their destination, or at least the airport.

getting ready for vacation meme

Instead of exhausting and frantic, my excitement took on this strange form of relaxation and open mindedness.  Like sitting in a comfy chair and opening up a book that you’ve been dying to read.  Contemplating on it now, I think it was the lack of a schedule and responsibilities that really let me relax in a way I’ve never experienced before.  Of course, it could have been the high altitude and the pot smoke contrails from some of the people, but what evs!

Make America high again tshirt

We checked into our gorgeous hotel and decided to start walking toward Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies.  What I noticed straight away was that Denver is a super clean city, with wide streets, and plenty of sky.  Sure you had your ultra modern glass skyscrapers, but they were not concentrated which allowed a lot of sunshine in.  I am a self proclaimed architecture nerd.  I geek out over the different styles and workmanship.  I had to train my eye, in Denver, to spot the little gems of ages past.  I found most of the buildings to be very square.  What the city lacked in old world charm, it made up in clean lines and a peaceful uniformity.  Another feature of Denver that was striking to me was that the streets were not teaming with people and cars.  There were signs of life everywhere, but the city lacked the hustle and bustle and congestion of the Northeast cities that I’ve become accustomed to.  These people, now me included, could really enjoy this city in leisure.  Rat race?  What rat race?

Denver clock tower

And let me just take a moment to discuss the humidity.  Keep in mind that we had just left the Northeast that was experiencing the longest, highest humidity and heat wave that I can ever remember.  Weeks of 95+% humidity.  Weeks!  But here!  Here it was 41% humidity.  (And that’s apparently high for the area!)  It was the first breath of fresh air that I had taken in months.  It was spectacular.  And my hair!!!  Well, that could just be a whole ‘nother post!  Spectacular.

Denver weather screenshot

We decided just to do some bar hopping for the evening.  Something we never do.  We spent our evening sipping cocktails and craft beers and eating bar food like we were 25 again.  The bars were hip and the people working there even hipper. (I don’t think that’s an actual word, but let’s go with it.) We blended right in.  Sort of the Goldilocks of the crowd…not too old…not too young, but juuuust right.  Young enough to have a good time, but old enough to afford it.  I think our first stop had been an old west brothel in it’s previous life.  (Say what?!)  I had an herby cocktail there and sampled my first cheese curd all while watching a rerun of Soul Train. Yep!

Denver Hostile

The next bar prided itself on it’s infused vodkas and whiskey’s.  House specialty was a pickle juice unfused vodka shot with a dried up scorpion in the bottom.  You earned your stripes by doing the shot and consuming the scorpion.  Yeah, no.  We’ll leave that to the young ones.  After leaving that bar we made our way to the stadium.  I was too tired to sit through the baseball game, so we opted to make our way back to the hotel.  On our way, we stumbled on a super find; in collecting circles, a well known old school arcade and bar called 1 Up.  My husband, being an avid pinball and arcade game collector, was in his element.  When he saw the sign, I think his eyes lit up like the star eyed emoji.  Of course we went in!  We got a round of drinks and a fistful of quarters and played all the games that we didn’t own in our collection, including the world’s largest PacMan.  We ended the night with a few rounds of skee-ball and me playing some really dismal games of Centipede.  It’s been a long time old friend.  A long time.

Coors Field

Saturday arrived..um..early.  (MST, remember?  I was up at 5:15 am). We were meeting my cousin and her husband for lunch (shout out to Erin and Jeff!), but hadn’t locked down our plans for the evening.  Well, not to worry!  The city was teeming with events for the weekend.  I think every pro sporting team had a home game on their schedule and there were oodles of concerts happening in the area.  We narrowed down our choices to seeing Boy George and the Culture Club, B52s and The Thompson Twins and their 80s revival or Bruno Mars.  WE PICKED BRUNO!!!!  We were able to score sweet 4th row tickets and were treated to the most entertaining performance I’ve ever seen.  24 karat magic in the airrrrrrr🎵🎶.

Bruno Mars

Anyway….we had done a fair amount of walking during our short time in the city and quickly realized how absolutely pedestrian friendly it is.  Really easy to navigate, we could walk everywhere and to most everything.  And the 16th Street Mall provided an oasis of stores, restaurants and coffee shops to break up the walking.

Starbuck sign Denver

Sunday was the big day for Chris.  We unexpectedly slept really late, so we ordered room service and hung out watching the NFL season openers before we had to head out the Red Rocks for a VIP experience of watching the band’s sound check.  Red Rocks is a quick 30 minute drive from downtown Denver.  The park itself is spectacular, but the concert venue is even more so.  It is huge, but nestled between the massive rock formations feels really intimate.  Once you make the bun burning climb to the top, the venue is really amazing.  I loved it.

OAR Soundcheck pic Red Rocks

The band was awesome as usual, delivering another quality show.  And the warm up, Matt Nathanson was so much fun.  Momma got her groove on.  Lol.

Red Rocks

Friends, put Denver on your must see travel destination list.  You will be welcomed by kind people, and oodles and oodles to do.  Be prepared to walk, but I promise, you won’t mind a bit.  I actually think I could live there.

i heart denver

Mean Girls

First off, I never saw the movie, so I’m not going to even pretend to know anything about it or quote it. But sadly, I do know a thing or two about mean girls.

Mean Girls

Having grown up female (and still remaining female to this day LOL), I have lived through, and still live through mean girls. Not much rattles my chain like someone being unkind just for the pure sake of being unkind. To publicly make someone the butt of a joke, to point out physical flaws as a punch line to the latest stinger, to tear someone down just for who they are or what they look like; these things make me physically sick.

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Meanness isn’t often forgotten either. Anyone who has been subject to ridicule or cruel embarrassment can most likely recount the scene as if it just happened. I can remember moments from elementary school, junior high school and beyond. Each stinging memory can replay like a well preserved mixed tape stored in air conditioning so as not to melt and destroy its contents forever. (Said in homage to this crushing heat wave that we are enduring.)

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I was raised never to make fun of someone for how they looked. The best thing that my mother ever taught me was that everyone is someone’s baby. That someone loves “that person” more than anything in the whole world and therefore, that person is deserving of love, and respect, and kindness.

Me & Caroline xmas 16

Of course I have survived the verbal assaults of mean girls from the past, but now I’m having to watch my daughter live through them and that breaks my heart. And this $h!t started young…first grade???

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It’s a terribly hard lesson to learn. I’m certain we’ve all endured it. And I mean that. We have endured. And I will hold my daughter’s hand through this walk and we will come up with strategies for what to say and how to act in the event that Miss Mean Girl du Jour comes sniffing around (and we all know she will). And I know that these moments are building character and maybe even strengthening bonds between my daughter and me, but these mean girls have got to stop.

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I don’t believe that we are born knowing how to hate or be unkind. I believe these are learned behaviors. Are these girls being mistreated or ignored at home? Why is their own self esteem so fragmented that they feel the need to attack? What are they gaining? What are they really gaining? Animosity.

please keep your distance

I find myself feeling sorry for them. We’ve all heard the adage that they are unkind to make themselves feel bigger or better.  This history must stop repeating itself.  I think that we are taught to attack back to defend ourselves.  Meet blow with another blow.  Match insult with insult.  I recognize it sometimes in myself and I pray, and work, and practice to stop.  This crap has got to stop.

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In the era of women empowerment, we must stop being each other’s worst enemy.  In the wake of countless suicides as a response to bullying, we must teach our children and each other that it’s not ok. Even when my own kids are teasing each other and fighting amongst themselves, I remind them that we should not be tearing each other down. We should be building each other up. Girls, we need to do this for each other. To get kindness, be kind. In the face of a little jerk who’s going after you, be kind or at the very least be silent and get the heck out of there.

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I’m not saying we have to like everyone and be sickly and unnaturally sweet.  I am saying to keep your disparaging comments to yourself.  Stick with your friends.  Give your energy in positive ways to your circle.  Make yourself stronger by making the people in your life stronger and leave those that you don’t connect with alone. Friendship and kindness can be mutually exclusive.

Caroline and friends last day of 4th grade

There is always hope that the mean girls will outgrow whatever is fueling their unkind nature and will find kinder ways to feel better about themselves. I’m grateful that my daughter talks to me and shares these moments with me. I’m grateful that I can comfort her and reassure her that she is perfect just the way that she is. Sadly, I know these verbal abuses will be remembered. I hope for reformation for the mean girls out there, but in the mean time, just do us all a favor and leave us alone. We have no time for the unkind.

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Back to School – 2018-2019

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I think by now most of the country has resumed school for the 2018-2019 school year. My own children started back last Thursday, so this is their first full week of school. I have a few things to say about restarting school.

Who am I kidding? When have I ever had a “few” things to say about anything?

The upside down

First off, have you been outside in your neighborhood during the day since the kids went back to school? I find it more than a little disturbing. The streets are deserted. It’s like a creepy science fiction movie. Where did everybody go? Are they in The Upside Down? Should I start stringing up the Christmas lights? I digress into my Stranger Things obsession….

Staples Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Anyway, you don’t even have to be a parent to know that most parents can’t wait for the first day of school. There have been tons of funny back to school ads depicting gleeful parents and distraught youngsters school supply shopping. (My personal favorite is still the StaplesIt’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” ad. Hilarious!) The Holderness Family has made a career of their YouTube  back to school parodies. (Love them all Holderness Family. Keep up the good work.)

Holderness Family Baby Got Class

But, true confession time. I am not one of those parents who rejoices when my kids go back to school. Let me just state, that I am all for education and the betterment of my children as people and citizens of this country, but I do love the lazy pace of summer and just having them around.

Me and the boys at the luau

I used to look at the beginning of school as the New Year’s Eve of my year (’cause I actually hate New Year’s, ugh). I looked at it like a fresh start and a time to clean up my act, make good changes, work on great habits and grow. And then October comes.

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By October, my new school year buzz has worn off and I start sliding back into my old, procrastinator ways and my “well this is as good as it’s gonna get” attitude. Truth hurts.

Things to do today dated tomorrow

This is the first year that I didn’t feel like it was New Year’s Eve. This is the first year that I wasn’t hypin’ up the new year with trips to Target for supplies, a mall run for new clothes, and constant banter of, “I wonder what teacher you’ll get.” Yadda, yadda, yadda. Blah!

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I’ll admit that I did get amped when I took the kids for their orientations. Their schools are magnificent and their teachers seem so excited to teach. (I’ll check in with them again in February and see if they still feel that way. Fingers crossed.)

Fingers Crossed

I think it’s good to get excited about things (not to the point of nausea, of course). I long for those moments of excitement again. Instead I feel dread of the fast pace of the fall school and extracurricular schedule, the lack of off days to catch up on sleep, the minimal family time (because the kids just want to escape into their computers just to get some down time), not hearing the laughter and getting the extra hugs that I can sneak in during the day (whether they want them or not).  And let’s not forget the pending doom of the physical drop in temperature as the seasons change. (Winter is coming.)

Brace Yourself Winter is Coming

On the flip side, I won’t miss the yelling: “He targeted me!, “No, No, NO! The DIAMOND sword!”, “Mooooommmmmm, he’s mocking me!”, “Moooooommmmmmm! Make her stop singing that song!”, “Moooooommmmmm……” Instead I hear the air conditioner kick on and off…and on and off…

Pure joy

I sincerely want to wish your children and mine, all of the parents, and especially the teachers and coaches a spectacularly meaningful school year. May your passion and excitement on the first day of school sustain you throughout. If it doesn’t, I’ll meet you at Starbucks and we can complain together. Cheers!  Lol.

Me and Starbucks cup

Rose Colored Glasses

I recently purchased a pair of rose colored glasses. In truth, I don’t really know what color the tint of the glasses is, I just know that these new sunglasses of mine make the whole world look AMAZING!!!  (Ask anyone who I have forced to try on my glasses and look around.  LOL)

sunglasses

So let me back up. I recently had my annual eye exam and decided to purchase a pair of prescription sunglasses so that I wouldn’t have to worry about wearing contact lenses at the pool or beach in the summertime or when we travel. My primary purpose for the purchase was to use at the beach and pool, but I was kind of sad that I wasn’t using the glasses, so I decided to start wearing them for driving.

view from sunglasses

I was not prepared for what I experienced the first time that I wore these new magic glasses. It was the peak of cherry blossom season in Northern Virginia, which as I’ve established several posts back, I’m obsessed with this time of year. When I stepped out of my front door onto the porch, sporting my new sunglasses, I was nearly knocked off my feet at the colors of everything around me. These new glasses of mine even make brown look amazing!!!!

white pear blossoms

Have you ever seen video of a little kid…a really little kid getting glasses for the first time? Their reaction is always of such amazement and joy. They look around their little world and just smile at everything and everyone! Well, that’s what I found myself doing with my new glasses. I would even try pulling them down off my eyes to remind myself what the world really looked like. I was so hopeful that the difference would not be dramatic, but it was. I found myself preferring the world that I saw through my glasses to the real world. I began wishing that everyone could see what I see out of these magic lenses. I began dreaming of what the world would be like if we all did look through these glasses. And what it would be like if we could look at each other with equal assistance and filter.

Baby with glasses

I wondered, is it a bad thing that I prefer this enhanced world view? Is it bad that I would prefer to live looking through a filter than enjoying reality? Many would argue that living in any form outside of reality would be a bad idea; a mistake that could have dangerous repercussions. But then I thought, maybe it depends on the filter we use.

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If what we see filtered invokes thoughts of beauty and amazement in the simple, could that be bad? I think that we do this naturally, even without the aid of glasses. Don’t we see the ones that we love in the most beautiful light; maybe somewhat blind to reality?

couple standing next to each other
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And don’t you think we might already be looking at the world through a filter? A filter of someone else’s design and not of our conscious choosing. Our culture has a way of telling us what to think and how to see things. Just look at any commercial on tv. Are they not LOADED with innuendos of how we should think? Blonde is better. Taller is better. This brand of clothes makes you better. This car makes you better. It’s all a filter put in front of us to keep us from seeing the truth.

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The truth is the world is a beautiful place. It is filled with beautiful people of variety, and creativity, and heart. I wish I could shield everyone from the negativity that we are assaulted with everyday, but I struggle with it myself.

Caroline and friends last day of 4th grade

But I can tell you one thing. I’m going to continue to wear my rose colored glasses. I’m going to soak in as much as that filtered world can give me and I’m going to work hard to look at others through these magic lenses.

Sunglasses love