Ten Things Of Thankful

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Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. – Melody Beattie

He was my introduction to so many things in life, my first in so many ways.

He was my start line to events I never knew I wanted to experience, my cheerleader along the way, always waiting there with a smile as I crossed the finish line.

He was my gas pedal when I didn’t know I needed a push and my brakes when I was unaware it was time to slow down.

He loved a road trip –  teaching me so much about life and himself on the open road during long talks I still treasure.

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He taught me lessons I didn’t always learn the first go round, but left me with a knowledge I would find priceless one day.

He was my guiding light when I couldn’t see the darkness that threatened to surround me. A beacon of hope I still gravitate toward.

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He was the first to hold me with strong arms that embraced me in such comfort and safety their presence still lingers on my skin.

He made me laugh when I took life too seriously, always reminding me to seek the joy in the pain.

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He not only worked hard to provide the basic necessities for his family, but more importantly the sense that what we had was more than enough.

A few days of bare feet on warm sand was enough to carry him through the harshest of winters.

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He loved with all his heart and made me want to love and live life as passionately as he did. Music made him come alive in a way that was contagious.

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He gave me more than ten things of thankful. He gave me life and left a legacy of love I will always treasure.

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A special tribute to my dad, my hero, my best friend.

It has been 21 years today since we said good-bye

and while I miss you every day,

I always take a moment on this day to honor you in a special way.

Thank you for being you and in turn making me the woman I am today.

 

Lizzi Rogers from Considerings does a weekly event called “Ten Things of Thankful” and for the first time I am participating. A bit late or a bit early, but participating nonetheless.

In Lizzi’s words – “One day when life was particularly tough, I remembered a trick I’d employed when life had been tough before:

Find ten things, right now, to be thankful for about today.

And I began to write them on Considerings, partly to share what was good in my life, and partly so I could hold myself accountable for doing them. A week’s self-challenge of ten things behest a ten-day challenge, then a two-week challenge, and by that time I’d realised how much change I’d made in myself.

By actively choosing to seek the Good things – by hunting them down and dragging them out (kicking and screaming, sometimes) I was making a change in my own attitude.

Not only that, but people seemed interested in how I was doing this. Inspired to try taking charge in their own lives and actively seeking the Good. So very tentatively, I began a blog hop, with some very supportive, wonderful co-hosts, and Ten Things of Thankful was born.

Dear High School English Teacher, Don’t Kill My Buzz

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I sat at the old worn oak table and nervously tapped my foot on the linoleum floor, stealing glances at my parents as they sat next to me obviously trying to hide their own anxiety. How many students had awaited the unknown in this very room through the years? How many parents accompanied their children, likely being transported to a time when they were the student awaiting the fate thrust upon them by adults they never imagined becoming?

As the black hands ticked on the unsuspecting clock hanging on the wall, student became teacher, teacher became parent, parent became teacher, entering and exiting a place where respect was demanded, expected, obligatory, instilled in us and drilled into our psyche alongside the alphabet.

You, sir, entered the room without so much as a greeting, never acknowledging us as you took the furthest seat possible, distancing yourself and immediately setting the tone for our meeting. My parents said, “Good afternoon” to which you nodded, shuffled a few papers, and let the silence hang heavy between us. My dad and I made eye contact, the look exchanged between us saying, “this should be interesting” as we sat a little straighter and waited for you to speak.

 

“So, I’m told you want to be in Honors English. I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

I looked at my parents and took a deep breath. How could you possibly think it wasn’t a good idea when you had never met me and still hadn’t since you didn’t bother to introduce yourself to us?

 

“I’ve been in Honors English all through high school and would like to continue taking an Honors English course at this school.”

Another deep breath, silence, waiting.

“Well, just because you’ve taken Honors English at your old school doesn’t mean you belong in my class.”

 

Well, this was going splendid. At this rate, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in your class after all.

 

One of my parents spoke, I can’t remember which one, “Her current English teacher here recommended she transfer to your class because she did so well on her first two assignments.”

Red Circle Days

My first book, Red Circle Days, is available through Amazon, Nook, Kindle, Apple iBooks, and Sarah Book Publishing. Click on the photo to buy a copy!

It was then you took the time to look at my parents, almost as though you were surprised to find them in the room. Immediately, I could see the disdain in your eyes because they expressed themselves in English, not their native language, and spoke with an accent. You stared them down as I shifted uncomfortably in the hard, wooden chair. I wanted to tell you I was no longer interested in being in your class. I wanted to tell you I could already tell I would hate it because it was evident to me you were a horrible teacher and even worse human being. Anger bubbled up inside me when you finally responded to my parents. Unfortunately, so did a little something called determination.

“Obviously, English isn’t your first language and while your desire for your daughter’s transcript to reflect four years of Honors English is evident, I don’t believe her past courses have prepared her for my class.”

Looking back, I should have bowed out then, thanked you for your time and not pursued your class. However, I was young and naive, and you made me feel like I had something to prove. I’m not sure what we said to finally convince you to allow me into your class, but you did and so began the year of English hell for me.

It seems you were as determined as I was, except your goal was to tear me down, and constantly remind me I wasn’t good enough for your class. You shot down my creativity, wanting me to follow a set formula for every assignment, going so far as to demand I begin every last paragraph with the word “Thus” and never giving me a grade higher than C. I tried so hard to write the way you demanded, losing my voice in the process, but determined to show you I was a good writer. I approached you for your help since all you offered was critique with no tools to help me on my next assignment.

 

“What can I do to earn more than a C? What am I doing wrong?”

Your response stayed with me for years.

“Nothing really. You’re just not a very good writer.”

And, just like that you extinguished my creative spark. You planted a seed of doubt that grew with each sentence I wrote for many years to come. The sad part is, I let you. I allowed you to convince me that I wasn’t a good writer. I let you strip me of the confidence I had when I took pen to paper and made my words come to life.

I was 18 then, under the impression that teachers always know more than their students, that all teachers want to better their students . I’m now 43 and know better. I now know not all teachers are good teachers, not all teachers have their students’ best interest in mind. Fortunately, I also know teachers like you are the minority.

I don’t know where you are or if you’re still on this earth, but I want you to know something.

My creative spark was reignited. These days, I grow more confident with each sentence I write. I make words come to life and never start my last paragraph with the word “Thus” because to this day that word makes me cringe. However, I’m going to make an exception today because (no thanks to you) I’ve learned I have a way of expressing myself in writing that touches people, that stirs enough emotion for them to come back for more. The beauty is I didn’t have to lose my voice to do so.

Thus, I AM A GOOD WRITER.

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My second book, a collaboration with a group of women writers, is available through Amazon.

My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends is officially released today. My story is on page 69. Click the photo to buy a copy! 

Have you every had a teacher, a boss, a co-worker, a friend, plant a seed of doubt in your mind? How did you handle it? Did you dismiss it or let it grow?

Dear Mom, Can You Tell Me How You’ve Done It?

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As human beings, we wonder what mark we will leave upon this world. As busy moms, we wonder if that’s even possible between changing diapers, meals and laundry, as our mom role takes up our waking moments as well as our sleeping ones.

Today, I’m at Inspired By My Mom with a post I’ve shared before, but one that is near and dear to my heart. I hope you’ll take a moment to visit and read stories of moms who have left their mark in this world by the sheer act of being an inspiration to those around them.

Inspired by My Mom is dedicated to moms and to all the unsung female heroes that influenced, inspired, and encouraged us.  They are made up of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, friends, teachers, mentors, and all the other women that have come into and passed through our lives.  They have all left an impact and many of us may not have had the opportunity to recognize or acknowledge them at the time.

Dear Mom, Can You Tell Me How You’ve Done It?.

Slippery When Wet – Photo Friday

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Slippery When Wet – Photo Friday

During our Farewell Tour of Puerto Rico,

we spent a family day fishing in San Juan

with a company called Magic Tarpon.

We had an amazing day and even caught a fish or two!

 

The Hug That Has Lasted A Lifetime

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I cling to him, feeling the slippery slope of time catching up to me as the ticks on my watch drum in my ears like a tribal rain dance circling round my brain. If only I could freeze time and force it to turn around and head back in the opposite direction, even if it is against oncoming traffic. I know this is a route he is all too familiar with as he has spent his life on a similar road, always heading in the wrong direction, dodging incoming obstacles. It wasn’t always like this for us. There was a time when we traveled a different road, one smoothly paved with stones of hopes and promises. The uphill challenges on that road seem like small bumps compared to the mountainous climb that is his life now. I hold on tight savoring the hug, not knowing when I will have the opportunity to experience it again. My only thought being that it is the kind of lasting hug I will revisit time and again in the future, when he is out of my reach once more. It is the kind of hug that also makes me revisit the day I officially lost him.

Big Sister, Little Brother, First Meeting, Love At First Sight

I found him in his room. The youngest of three, he was the only one left with a room at home. As I approached, trying to connect words of comfort I didn’t believe existed, I realized he was putting on a shield of armor I would find impossible to break through. As he tied his green apron strings and adjusted his name tag, the look in his eyes showed turmoil more akin to a battle weary soldier than a nineteen year old stock boy. As my sister and I carried on with our distant lives in other states, my brother had lived the daily nightmare of slowly losing the man we all thought invincible, our father. He said he wished he could just go to work like normal…like none of this was happening. My heart understood his wish more than he would ever know. Still, I couldn’t let him leave as panic swelled within me and the minute hand ticked on the black cat clock on the wall, left over from our younger years and more innocent times.

I did what I thought was right at the time. I somehow convinced my little brother to stay and face our nightmare with the rest of us, and within a couple of hours of being home our father looked around him and took in each and every face in that room including my brother’s. He asked our mother if all his loved ones were there and when she reassured him they were, he took a deep breath and finally went home. I hugged my brother, grateful he had stayed by our side.

I would like to say that was the end of our nightmare, but for my brother it was the beginning of something much worse. For the next twenty-one years he has lived behind bars with visitation rights that are never long enough, and in a cell that doesn’t often see the light. He is trapped in darkness. Of his own making or mine?

You see, the day my brother stayed and witnessed our father’s death he died along with him. Gone was the nineteen year old stock boy who played basketball with his headphones on because to choose between the two things that gave him the most joy wasn’t possible. Gone was the son who took pride in handing over the earnings of a grocery store employee to help with the bills at home. Gone was the light in his eyes. When I look into his eyes now I still see the turmoil of that fateful day and no medication has ever been able to erase it. So…I find comfort in revisiting these hugs, for it is the only reminder of the person I once knew.

Grandmother's Cross, Faith

The Tiny Gold Cross

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Today, I’m featured over at Our Life Songs  a non-profit organization designed to inspire, heal and motivate women who are struggling with disease, depression, anxiety and other difficult issues. I am honored to be a part of such a worthy mission. Please take a moment to visit them.

 

I sat across from her unable to take my eyes away, entranced by the weathered hands whose long, slender fingers wrapped around the tiny gold cross hanging on her neck. She slid it side to side, left to right, over and over again and I was mesmerized by the repetitive motion. I watched the cross swing on its matching gold chain at times of its own volition, others with a purpose it seemed only she understood. Much time would pass before I understood the meaning of it, not the meaning of the man who died on a much larger scale of the small cross, rather what it meant to the woman who loyally wore it.

Grandmother's Cross, Faith

As a little girl, I found myself looking for the hint of gold against her chest each time I visited. I walked closer to greet her, my eyes searched for it. As she held me at arm’s length, steps before I reached her, commenting on how much I had grown since the last time she saw me, I looked for it. Younger still, I can recall my small hands reaching for it as she held me in her lap and rocked me to sleep. She never pulled it out of my grasp the way other adults yanked things out of reach of a young toddler for fear of destruction. Instead, she let me soothe myself to sleep, my tiny fingers rubbing the gold until I drifted off into peaceful slumber.

Through the years, it was always there. And, as I got older I noticed she not only held onto it during the happiest of times as though thanking the Lord for all he had blessed her with but also in the saddest of times like when we learned of my father’s cancer diagnosis. She held it as she watched her daughter, my mother, absorb the news. And, as she watched my mother I watched her as the pain in my mom’s eyes reflected in her own. I leaned forward a bit as though in so doing I would be able to make out her plea as her lips moved in unison with the motion of the swaying cross. Back and forth, left and right, over and over again she slid the cross, her lips rapidly moving in a whispered prayer.
At those times, she seemed to wrap her fingers around it a little tighter, begging for it to provide more. More what?

Strength?      Hope?      Faith?

I would sense the urgency in the way she held the cross, and desperately slid it back and forth on its chain. By then, the once smooth skin it had rested upon when I was a child, was now etched with line upon line – each representing her walk of faith, her life’s journey. At times, the lines intersected on her wrinkled skin. I sat and wondered if perhaps there were paths that led her to other paths, each presenting a trial she was meant to endure, an experience that would shape the woman she became. Some lines seemed to have no direction, no beginning and no end, as though they consisted of choices left unmade or decisions changed at a certain point in time. However, it was clear to me even then that each line told a bit of her story, perhaps, because I can’t recall an occasion when I didn’t see it on her.

My grandmother always had it on her person, close to her heart and often reached for it. I think it kept her grounded, a constant reminder of her faith and something greater than her in this world.

Years later, as I entered the hospital room and approached the bed in which she was taking her last breath, my eyes immediately searched for the tiny gold cross. At that point, I needed the strength it always seemed to bring her. I needed the feeling of peace I had seen on her face after she held that symbol of faith in her hands time after time. As I looked at her chest where the hospital gown was pushed back a bit to reveal a hint of gold, I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. The lines were now many, blanketing her body like a road map of sorts and I like to think that’s exactly what they were. A road map of her life, her experiences, but most importantly her undying faith. And as I reached for the tiny gold cross that had become a symbol of comfort in my young eyes, I realized that it was so much more than that. Seeing it now through the eyes of a woman, I understood what it meant to my grandmother and in my times of doubt, during moments of desperation, I find myself holding the tiny cross that sits close to my own heart. I can’t help but pray that in the end my life’s road map is as beautifully etched as hers.

 

I Slip It On Like A Well-Worn Pair Of Jeans

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They came to this country with only the clothes on their back and a light of hope in their hearts that the strongest gust of wind couldn’t extinguish. They walked away from all they knew for the promise of freedom. They left it all behind for visions of a better future for themselves, but more importantly for their children. Those brave souls made huge sacrifices for myself and my siblings, and I wouldn’t be who I am today if not for them…my parents. As with anything or anyone we leave behind, no longer accessible to us, we don’t fully bid farewell. We still carry with us a little something that will remind us of times we will never again experience.

Denim, Well-Worn Jeans, Favorite Jeans

My parents may have bid farewell to their homes, their families and friends, and the island they called home, but they held on to their language, clothing themselves in it like a well-worn pair of jeans, slipping into it and feeling the comfort of the fabric as it wrapped them in the many memories of their history and home. While my parents learned the English language of their new country, in our home, we were encouraged to speak our native language. Around the dinner table, we slipped into it easily without even realizing it. At family gatherings, children and grown ups alike easily conversed in the Spanish sounds of a faraway land.

I may not have understood my parents adamant rules on embracing our native language, but nowadays I see things clearly. Being fully bilingual has opened doors for me in many areas of my life from career opportunities to lifelong friendships. I can easily slip from English to Spanish and back again in the blink of an eye, often amazing those around me with the ease in which I do so and begging the question, “Do you think in the language you speak or do you think in one language and translate in your mind before speaking?” To answer the question, I think in Spanish when I speak in Spanish. I think in English when I speak in English. There’s no rhyme or reason to my language of choice. I prefer to read in English rather than Spanish. I more often dream in English than I do in Spanish. However, when I pray I find I slip easily into a Spanish conversation with God…possibly because I was taught to pray in Spanish. My conversations with my mom are conducted in Spanish more often than English.

Well-Worn Jeans, Favorite Jeans, ,Blue Denim

An article titled, How Speaking Two Languages Can Improve Your Brain, at About.com discusses this in further detail. According to a growing body of research, not only does speaking two languages not confuse people or slow their learning in other areas, it may actually improve your brain—carrying benefits that go far beyond communication. According to Ellen Bialystok, an internationally known psychologist and distinguished research professor at York University in Toronto, there is overwhelming evidence that being truly bilingual—speaking two languages and using them regularly—will improve your brain. For bilingual people, both languages are “always on,” always active in their brains, no matter which language they are speaking at the moment.

All scientific research aside, I am grateful my parents encouraged me to embrace our native language. I have personally witnessed those who believe everyone should speak English as it is the universal language, and frown upon those who don’t. I have personally experienced people being offended when they do not understand a conversation being conducted near them, in a language they do not understand. Thanks to my parents, when I am around someone speaking their native language, I keep in mind that those words may be the only familiar thing they still carry with them. It may be the only remnant of their homeland, helping them keep their history alive while they make a new home and create a new history in a foreign land. And, I remember what it feels like to slip into my favorite pair of well-worn jeans, the comfort they provide, each tear a memory that no amount of fading can completely erase.

If you are bilingual, do you think in one language and translate to another

or do you think in the language you speak?

 

Her Every Day Hero

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Sitting behind the small wooden desk, she watched the clock…2:20pm. Only ten more minutes and she would hear the sound that brought her closer to spending a few minutes with the man who filled her world with laughter and imagination on a daily basis. She brushed a curl off her face as she stole another glance at the old clock on the wall above the chalkboard whose black surface was covered with the dusty remnants of that day’s lessons. She wondered, how many questions that board had answered through the years? How many equations had been solved? How many teachers had written their name on the board as a form of introduction, their hand flying across its surface with a certain flare that came with the beginning of a new school year? She giggled as she looked up at Mrs. Hudson now. With only a month left in this school year, she had lost that flair, and looked as dusty and worn out as the chalkboard behind her. She better quit daydreaming or Mrs. Hudson would remind her to “join the rest of us in this world” again. Another peek at the clock…

2:25pm – Mrs. Hudson called her row to gather their coats and backpacks out of the closet. This always baffled her. Why did she refer to it as a closet, when in fact it was more like a tunnel with an archway on either end, two walls lined with hooks at just the right height for third graders? Curls bouncing she rushed through the tunnel pretending to be the conductor on a long train, chugging toward faraway lands filled with adventures. She could almost hear the train whistle as she exited the tunnel and took a left turn toward the classroom door, single file behind her classmates.

2:30pm – The sound of her train whistle was drowned out by the ringing of the school bell and it was all she could do not to run out the door. Mrs. Hudson gave her that look again, the one that said, “patience Regina, all in due time.” She hated to be told to slow down as much as she hated to be called Regina. Once out of the building, her little legs pumped as she rushed home to the man who never told her to slow down, encouraged her to dream and who never, ever called her Regina. She sprinted home pretending to be a two-time Olympic gold medalist as she crossed the finish line, flung open the front door and flung her backpack on the floor.

Catching her breath, she quietly tiptoed down the hall, careful not to wake him, knowing he only had a few minutes before his alarm woke him for his night shift at the plant. As she climbed into bed beside him, she carefully placed one tiny knee on the bed, having memorized where the springs of the old mattress would squeak. Unable to resist, she curled up against him, reveling in the strong arms that instinctively reached for her. “Hi Reggie.” She smiled and whispered, “Hi Daddy.” She knew what came next. She would lay beside him as they created stories based on the shapes of the water stains on the ceiling. One day it was a ship at sea, another day a fire-breathing dragon, each a lesson in possibilities. She never tired of it.

She would climb all over him and smother him with kisses, never caring that the stubble on his face would scratch her soft skin. He would laugh as she scrunched up her nose every time his face touched hers, and smile when it didn’t stop her from coming in for another round of kisses before he had to get ready for work.

She would follow him to the bathroom and watch him as he stood before the mirror and shaved. “Shall we pretend I’m a pilot getting ready to fly to Antarctica? How about a high-powered attorney trying a big case? Or a Super Hero about to save the world? What will it be today, Reggie?”

 

 

Reggie sat on the edge of the bathtub mesmerized by each stroke of the razor against his skin. In her eyes, he could take on the world. Suddenly, she stood and opened the linen closet. Her little hands pulled something from behind the towels and as she turned to the man with a recurring leading role in all of her adventures, she said. “No need to pretend Daddy. You are my Super Hero. Happy Father’s Day.” Holding back tears, he took the yearly gift of his favorite after shave and a homemade t-shirt. He never tired of it. He scooped his little girl up in his arms. Happy Father’s Day, indeed.

To My Daughter: It’s A World Full Of Sea Glass

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Happy 12th Birthday, Olivia!

Beach Treasures, Beach Finds

Dear Olivia Rose,

Twelve years ago you entered the world and as I held you in my arms and looked into your eyes, I once again voiced the many promises I had been whispering for months as I gently rubbed my growing belly. I promised to always love you with all my heart. I promised you would never be alone in this great big, complicated world of ours. I promised to love you unconditionally, and I promised to guide you on your life’s journey in the best way I know how.

You are turning into an amazing young girl full of wonder and imagination, full of compassion and love, full of hopes and dreams. In all the promises I’ve made to you, the one thing I couldn’t promise – I can’t promise – is to shield you from the doubts and fears the world will create in you.

When we take our long walks on the beach, both in awe of the amazing untouched beauty that surrounds us, I often wish I could keep you in this protective bubble of endless sea, a world in which human nature and life experiences can’t dull your spirit.

However, if I did that there is so much you would miss out on, so I shall continue to walk by your side through all that is in store for you – walking ahead when you need guidance and falling behind when you need to face the world on your own. I do promise to always remain present on your walk, understanding it is your walk and your walk alone, and all I can do is offer my love and my wisdom.

As you continue to grow and mature, my hope is that you walk through life the way you walk along the shores, eagerly searching for sea glass. I hope you never lose your sense of adventure, always imagining possibilities beyond anyone’s expectations or jaded views. I hope you comb the earth for hidden treasures and view the world as a vessel of sea glass waiting to be discovered. Each person you cross paths with a treasure, whether they’ve been smoothly polished from tumbling around or a bit rough around the edges. Each has something to offer you. Do not be quick to discard them.

Sea shell heart

As you travel, I hope you embrace the many colors you will encounter on your walk and understand the world isn’t always black and white. I hope you learn the lesson intended for you when you expectantly reach for a piece only to be hurt by its sharp point. Learn the lesson and move on. Do not let it stop you from continuing to search for the beauty that lies in wait. Never give up hope. Sometimes the most beautiful pieces are buried a bit under a layer of sand. Do not be afraid to dig a little deeper. There will be times when facing your fear of what lies down the path you are on is the bravest thing you will do. The reward will be great and the experience the greatest treasure you will ever uncover.

Walk on the beach

As I walk a few steps behind you, I can’t help but hope that you will always see yourself through my eyes because I see a beautiful young girl both inside and out with so much to offer this world. I see an intelligent young girl who is practical and wise beyond her years, but also one who refuses to close her mind to a carefree world of imagination and possibility.

My hope for you is that you never let the obstacles that lay in your path change you, but mostly that you take your time and treasure your walk one step at a time.

And, whenever you find yourself needing company, know that I’m always up for a walk.

Love,

Mommy

 

Puerto Rico Comic Con – Photo Friday

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I’m usually a big believer in “Being Yourself” and am always encouraging the kids to be true to themselves at all times.

Every now and then though, it is definitely okay to be someone else!

We had a blast at Puerto Rico Comic Con and next year we will join these folks in costume!

Enjoy your weekend everyone!