Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

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The last few weeks this true story has come up on more than one occasion, so I thought I would dust it off and share it once more. Enjoy!

The sound of the waves, the sand beneath his feet, the warm ocean breeze were all a part of him, ingrained into his very soul. He was a true island boy, climbing palm trees in the blink of an eye to retrieve a coconut, catching fish with his homemade spear in the most primitive manner. It was the only manner he had ever learned…not from his father, as he had never met the man who had given him life. His mother never spoke of him. He carried his questions in his little heart, the one place they couldn’t cause the fleeting glimpse of pain he sometimes saw in her eyes…the pain she thought she hid so well.

Puerto Rico, Army Jeep, Black and White Army Military Photo

He studied the only photo of his father he possessed, memorizing every detail. Even when he closed his eyes he could still see the way his father looked in his uniform, the way he slightly leaned into his military jeep as though someone had caught him on his way somewhere. Where was he going? Who held the camera that provided the only piece of the puzzle that was his life, his story? He held the tiny black and white photo, yet held not a single memory of this man…a stranger to him.

Mike and Mom Rita early to mid-1950's

It came as no surprise when the little island boy grew to be a soldier as well. He and his mother moved to the United States so he could join the army at the age of eighteen. It wasn’t long before the island boy fell in love, married and had a family of his own. His young bride, wanting to know everything about him would ask him to tell her about his father. She wanted to know if he ever thought of him, if he ever wondered what became of him, if he was ever curious to meet him. His response never wavered. He had a good life, a loving family, and no need for anything or anyone else. After years of seeing the hint of pain in his eyes, she stopped asking him. Many years would come and go before she would tentatively broach the subject once more.

It was the age of computers now, when the internet was becoming all the rage and she had embraced the technology. She loved being able to communicate with all the friends she made during their numerous military relocations. And, she had become interested in a genealogy website where she could build a family tree. Once again, she asked her husband about his father. This time, he handed her the tiny black and white photo his own mother had placed in his small hand a lifetime ago. She scanned it, placed it on the site and listed her husband’s name as someone looking for his father. Neither one of them thought anything would really come of it. Yet, life has a funny way of making connections so intricately weaved, they leave us mere mortals astounded.

Across the ocean, a secretary at a military base happened on that very website. She gasped when she saw the photo and immediately printed it. Her boss arrived shortly after, and headed straight to his office. The first thing his eyes landed upon was a printout of a tiny black and white photo of a man in military uniform. There was no mistaking it was his father. He immediately took the contact information his secretary provided, and made the call that would forever change the life of a little island boy. He never doubted for a moment this man was his brother. Their father had shared a story with him, and the time had finally come to share it with his brother.

Their father had been stationed on a small island and had fallen in love with a young girl. He had returned home at the end of his assignment, but headed back to the island during the first military leave he had only to find that young girl gone. He questioned friends, family, neighbors to no avail. In the end, he found one person willing to talk. The news he was given was heartbreaking. The young girl died giving birth to a baby boy who also didn’t live.

Their father had refused to believe it. In the following years, he made several more attempts to find what his heart believed to be true, but all attempts ended the same. With a heavy heart, he returned home, went on with his life, married and had children, never returning to that island.

Somehow his heart knew what no one was willing to tell him when he sought answers so many years ago. His son lived, and one day he would know their story. He had hoped to look in his son’s eyes, and share this history with him, hug him and let him know he had gone back for them. While on his death-bed, coming to terms with the fact he would never get that opportunity, he shared this story with his youngest son. Their father requested when the brothers finally found each other, the story be shared with the son he never met.

There was silence on the other end of the phone line as a lifetime of questions were finally answered. The island boy, whom my husband calls Dad and my children call Pappa, found a family he never knew he had and a story he never believed could be his own.

Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

Reflections

RIP C.R. – Gone But Not Forgotten

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Dear C.R.,

It has been one week since you departed my side for the after life. I have opened my eyes each morning refusing to believe it is true. They say time will heal and each day will become a bit easier to bear without you by my side, but how can that be true when all my most memorable moments are ones we captured together, memories we created for many years to come. I’m not sure I can go on without you. I know you were tired and it was time for you to go, but selfishly I wish you had been able to hang on just a little longer.

One With The Ocean, Beach Calls Me

 
I know I must find a way to let you go, but today I simply can’t bring myself to do it. It was you who showed me the world in a way I had never experienced before you came into my life. It was you who encouraged me to share my vision with the world and allow them a glimpse into my mind and the randomness of it. Through the years, you were with me at so many of the big occasions. Most importantly, I knew I could always count on you for life’s little moments.

It was you I turned to time and again through my children’s many stages, the good, the bad, and the ugly. You never questioned my views, yet somehow managed to always bring me back into focus on what’s really important. You helped me see the details even when I was intent on the big picture. If not for you, I shudder to think how much I would have missed out on.

I hope you are resting and in a better place, a place full of color because it was you who taught me that color can instantly brighten a mood even though seeing things in black and white can evoke a level of emotion some people just aren’t prepared for.

May you rest in peace C.R. As I continue my life’s journey, I promise to carry your lessons and memories close to my heart in all I do. I vow to create many more memories because I know it’s what you would have wanted. And, although I will eventually find another because after all life goes on for the living, you were my first and I will always have a special place in my heart reserved just for you.

Canon Rebel

RIP Canon Rebel. 

Gone But Not Forgotten

Do you have something you’ve had with you through the years that you find difficult to let go?

Water Droplets

Misplaced Artist

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She was an artist. She was a mother, a daughter, a wife, a teacher…but what I remember most about her was that she was an artist. She loved to paint and as I sat beside her, I found myself watching her more than the canvas she was bringing to life with her brush strokes. With each stroke she seemed to come alive as though transported into the very scene she was creating. Mesmerized by her dreamy look, I longed to join her and with the fervor of an eight year old I wished for her to take me along on her journey.

Water Droplets

I wanted to feel the wind in my hair as my feet carried me over the rolling hills she painted or dangle my legs in the ocean water as I lay back on the wooden pier and stared up at the pale blue skies born of her imagination. I wanted to be aboard that ship, my hands on the captain’s wheel steering the vessel and myself into uncharted waters, traveling toward the unknown and embracing the anticipation that comes with not knowing where you’re headed. I wanted to be a part of the story she was telling by simply dipping her paintbrush in her palette of colors.

From a young age, I was often told I was “born old” as though misplaced somehow in an era that didn’t fully embrace me and my complex personality. I thought the same of her. Not that she was born old, instead that she was born young. Looking back I wonder how different she may have been if she had been born in more modern times when freely expressing oneself was more acceptable. A time when she didn’t have to consistently maintain a proper exterior, instead allowing herself to just be, lose herself in her art, live out those scenes she meticulously created. Embrace her passion and soar.

Stairway to Heaven, Landscape Photography, Nature

What would her life have been like if she wasn’t born in a time of horse drawn carriages when suitors came to call and ladies were obligated to always look their best, abide by the rules and never rock the boat? What if her adventures weren’t limited to the confines of a frame?

Nature Photography, Outdoors, Flower Photo

She was a graceful woman. She was a compassionate woman. She was a woman of elegance. She was my grandmother…but most of all she was an artist.

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Lover

Goodbye Nightmare Lover!

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The nightmare took over. It came to me night after night, tiptoeing into my peaceful sleep and curling up beside me like a longtime lover. Quietly climbing into my bed, slowly inching over my body, not near enough to touch, but close enough to hover over my warm skin, its breath upon me. Beginning with a gentle caress, it traveled over me, inch by inch, plying my body to its will, allowing no resistance until the moment arrived when it entered me in my weakened state of slumber. At first came only a moan, barely audible, but enough for my brain to register it was happening. In denial, I ignored it and settled deeper into the mattress, rolling over, the universal sign for “not tonight, please…I’m tired” but with its one track mind it seemed to draw strength from my unwillingness to participate. The more I resisted the louder the moans came, until…

Lover

MOMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!! MOMMY!!!!!!!!! MOMMY!!!!!!!!

They were the screams of my daughter and they came from down the hall. The nightmares were hers, this routine one I was all too familiar with and one I was sure I could not physically keep up with much longer. While she had always been one of those children who didn’t require a lot of sleep thus never slept through the night, through the years her lack of sleep was taking a toll on my own. I like sleep. I need sleep.

Yet, every night after an exhausting bedtime routine of prayers, stories, and night lights, kisses and hugs, questions and comforting answers, more kisses, more hugs, more night lights, I dreaded allowing myself to fall into a deep sleep knowing it wouldn’t last. The nightmares would arrive, the fear would take over and the screams would begin.

I tried everything – night lights, prayers, staying with her until she fell asleep, each night putting a bit of distance from her until I sat in a chair right outside her door – Dr. Phil recommended it, claiming it helped to progressively reassure the child you were still there. Obviously, Dr. Phil had never met my kid!

As our daughter got older, my husband introduced her to one of his passions, Superheroes. He started telling her stories about his favorite Superheroes and eventually started watching some of the movies with her. He explained that in his dreams, whenever something bad was about to happen, he pretended he was a Superhero and changed the course of the dream, fighting off evil and sending villains back where they came from.

My Superheroes

One thing we never did was discuss her nightmares in the middle of the night, believing she needed comforting more than we needed a play by play in that moment. Thus, many a conversation over breakfast consisted of our dreams, nightmares, and ways we could control them. My husband insisted our brains could be trained to control our dreams as he described his often becoming quite animated. He depicted scenes in which he picked up a villain, dropped him on his head, and his cartoon teeth flew out. My daughter soaked it all up like a little sponge, but the sleepless nights continued.

One morning, I woke to the smell of toast and the realization that I had slept through the night. Not sure if I was in dream state or reality, I shuffled my way to the kitchen to find my daughter and husband laughing and hugging over breakfast. When she sensed my presence, she rushed over to me. “Mommy! Guess what?! I had the best dream last night!”

To me, sweeter words had never been spoken. Words tumbled out of her mouth as she described a dream in which terrible, scary things were starting to occur, fear tried to envelope her and she almost succumbed to it. “Instead, I became a superhero and flew above it all! They couldn’t reach me up in the sky and once I realized that, I flew around the city. You should see the view from up there!”

In dreams we set aside the rules of real life. We are in control and can be anything we want to be. Believing in superheroes cured my daughter’s nightmares. What tools have you used to control your dreams?

Red Circle Days, Blue Circle Days, Mental Illness, Calendar Days

Blue Circle Days – You Can’t Schedule Mental Illness

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He called the other day. He doesn’t have a phone or at least not one from which he can make long distance calls. The Assisted Living Facility frowns upon that, and I guess it makes sense, but I can’t help but wonder then how all those people living away from family members reach out to someone in that moment. You know the moment don’t you?

I know it.

Red Circle Days, Blue Circle Days, Mental Illness, Calendar DaysI’ll be going about my day, some times all is routine, nothing new, and some times as the day progresses and Murphy’s Law seems to be in full effect, I think of how nice it would be to pick up that phone and call a friend. How quickly my day can get turned around with a simple phone call. At times, it’s just about laughing out loud at something and as I listen to the sound of my laughter almost echo in the empty kitchen, I feel the need to share it with someone, hear their laughter too as they smile on the other end of the line. That need to connect with someone instantly must be one that people have experienced for years. Otherwise, why would Alexander Graham Bell have found it necessary to progress from letter writing and long roads travelled to connect with a loved one, to being able to dial them up in that moment when the sound of their voice is something we crave.

And then, there are those other moments.

Through the years, I’ve answered many phone calls from him. Some were filled with grandiose plans of how he would one day rule the world, and as he described his dreams in the utmost detail for me I couldn’t help but wonder if given his intelligence those dreams may have become a reality if not for the fact that the brain filled with such promise was the same one who betrayed him on a regular basis. Maybe his big plans weren’t so much about taking over the world, but more about taking over his mind, allowing him some sense of control of his brain, his thoughts, his life.

I don’t know.

I’m not Bipolar or Depressed or whatever label the mental illness experts have come up with for him. I’ve never stayed awake for nights on end too afraid to close my eyes for even an instant, needing to keep watch lest my own mind betray me in the dead of night, giving life to my darkest of thoughts. I’ve never had to pick up the phone and dial someone’s number because I knew my survival depended on it.

Those particular calls are ingrained in me forever. The times he called because he had lost all sense of control and needed the sound of my voice to drown out the voices in his own mind. At times simply hearing me breathe on the other end of the line gave him a sense of calm. Seconds would turn into minutes as I was equally soothed by the sound of his breathing as he was by mine.

Then, there were the calls when he knew he needed more than my voice to soothe him and the call was simply a prompt for me to jump out of bed, throw on some clothes and go find him…get him somewhere that would provide the help I so desperately wished I could give him, but knew in my heart I couldn’t. Those were the times when I experienced my own sense of betrayal. How could I not help the person before me, the little brother only eleven months younger than myself, the baby who shared a crib with me? What did my own brain have that his needed? And, why couldn’t I find a way to share it with him much the same way I shared my bottle of milk? What was I missing?

Spiritual Calendar, Red Circle Days, Calendar Pages,

Many a calendar page has been turned since I’ve received one of those phone calls and I’m thankful for it. I am on my knees with gratitude kind of thankful. My brother is doing well, on the right meds, in therapy, living a normal life with assistance. He hasn’t had a “crisis” in years and his phone call recently (from my mom’s phone) wasn’t out of fear or desperation.

Instead, he had an idea his therapist had suggested during their last session and he wanted to tell me all about it. It was the first time in a long time I heard true excitement in his voice. I had almost forgotten what he sounded like when he was so pumped about something that he couldn’t wait to share it with me. His therapist suggested he work with me on a book about his life journey with mental illness. I can see why the therapist thought it might be a good idea.

My first book, Red Circle Days, is about those moments in our lives that are imprinted into our very soul. Moments that don’t require a photo album or memory book for us to revisit them time and time again. Some may bring to life the very feelings of sheer happiness they brought the day we experienced them. Others bring the heart wrenching sorrow we spend years trying to erase. These are moments that don’t need a reminder or a red circle on a calendar date, our hearts wrapping around them much like the tiny box on a calendar, keeping them contained only to bring them to the surface each year.

He even threw out a title, Blue Circle Days, and immediately many a calendar day flashed before me… hospital stays, doctor’s offices, the nights the phone woke me in the middle of the night, and the nights it didn’t ring.

As my brother’s excitement travelled across an ocean to me, I couldn’t help but wonder if I am up for that challenge? Is he up for that challenge?

He says he believes his stories will help others out there, and I believe sharing them alongside the perspective of someone who loves him and shared in the journey would likely help many families who have stood where we’ve stood, afraid to take another step for fear of what comes next, knowing at times the only comfort comes from listening to each other breathe.

And yet, as I wrap up this post if not my thoughts, I can’t seem to catch my breath.

Also in Mental Illness by Little Miss Wordy:

The Hug

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

Related Sites:

The Official Blog For Mental Health Project

A Canvas Of The Minds

Sheri de Grom

#teamsports, #sidelines, #boystomen

Boys To Men: A Glimpse Of The Future

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#teamsports, #sidelines, #boystomen

I watch them from the sidelines as they stand side by side on the edge of the field. Every so often they turn and high five each other, throw an arm over a teammate/friend’s shoulder. With the short attention span of little boys, a couple of them roughhouse with those standing closest to them until the coach reminds them to focus on the game. In these instances, I catch glimpses of their faces and can’t help but wonder if I’m catching a glimpse of their future as well.

My eyes methodically travel down the line, and come to rest on each jersey, seeing more than just their number. These boys already exhibit certain characteristics that will become prominent as they grow into men.

#boystomen, #teamsports, #lifelessons

Number 17 stands still, eyes directed at the field and his fellow teammates in action. He watches each play intently, tuning out the more restless boys on either side of him. Will he grow to be the kind of man who is focused and driven, eyes on the prize at all times? Will this cause him to neglect those he loves most, not understanding they need his love and attention more than his paycheck?

Number 23 is just as focused on the game, but expresses his enthusiasm not only for each pass completed. He also jumps in the air, his little cleats stomping the grass as he yells “Good job guys!” and “That’s the way we do it!” Will he be that guy who always encourages and supports those around him? Will he be the go to guy when someone needs a little push to overcome life’s obstacles or will he be the man who hides his true emotions behind a facade of smiles and cheers, always giving others, never sharing of himself?

Number 4 is more focused on the blades of grass at his feet as he pulls one, twirls it in his hands as though he’s seeing it for the first time, oblivious to the activity surrounding him. Will he grow up to be a man who takes pleasure in the small things in life? Will he appreciate all the parts that make a whole or will he get so caught up in the little things, that he misses the big picture?

Number 32 can’t stand still as he shifts his feet this way and that way. He alternates between watching the game and watching his teammates goofing around beside him. Will he spend his adult days always on the sidelines, watching but never truly participating? Or, will he be the type of man who tunes in to everyone around him, always fully present for each?

Whatever these little boys turn out to be as they grow into the men in our lives, our daughter’s lives, and our communities, I hope they take the lessons they are learning today and hold them close to their hearts.

The field may be a tough place at times, full of surprises, wrought with confusion, and a place of decisions both instant and well thought out, but isn’t that life? I hope these boys take their commitment to their friends and teammates today and turn it into commitment to their significant others and family in the future. I hope they apply the same drive and determination they display today to the things they are truly passionate about as they make their way through life. I pray they hold on to the pleasure they currently take in the small things and truly take the time out to embrace the little things that will tend to be harder to see as they get older. I wish for their future self to be the guy who encourages others from the sidelines when necessary, but also the guy who knows when to jump in and make things happen. More than anything, I hope they will be ever present in each moment life presents for themselves as well as those around them.

We, as a whole, spend so much time complaining about our youth today and the mistakes they make. We try to find a way to mold them into what we think they should be or what society needs them to be when they are all grown up. And yet, our children already hold admirable characteristics that they are applying on a daily basis, in sports, in the classroom, at home. They are exhibiting admirable qualities every time they help someone up, cheer someone on, show up for practice, commit to an entire season, and hang on to a belief that won’t let them quit. It is our job, as parents, teachers, coaches, to support and guide them from the sidelines, help them embrace the great qualities they already display today, because one day the little boys standing on the sidelines will take the field.

Front Porch, Leave A Light On

Are You Leaving The Porch Light On?

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Her stockinged feet scurried over the linoleum floor into the kitchen to double check the stovetop knobs were all turned to the off position. She carefully carried the empty glass milk containers out of the kitchen, through the living room, and set them down on the floor beside her feet. As was customary at this time of year, the temperature was dropping at an alarming pace and she braced herself for the cold blast that was sure to hit her when she opened the front door. She took a deep breath, turned the knob and was jolted by a frost that seemed to wrap it’s cold limbs around her and seek to pull her right through the threshold of her warm abode into the frigid unknown of night with it’s dark shadows and nightly sounds. She quickly set the milk bottles outside and closed the door as a cold shiver ran through her. Turning back to the living room, she turned off the television and slid around the room flipping off lights. As she made her way back to the kitchen, she could hear her mom’s movements and knew she would find her standing in front of the kitchen sink washing the few items that always seemed to make their way there long after the “kitchen closed” each evening. Curls bouncing as she picked up her pace, she snuck up behind her mom and hugged her tight. “Want me to finish that?” Leaning back into her daughter’s arms her mom responded, “No need…I’m almost done.”

Front Porch, Leave A Light On

“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

This exact scene had played out night after night since she was a little girl. This was their usual bedtime routine. Her siblings had already headed to bed after a little coaxing from their mother, but she always lingered for a bit to ensure she helped her mom with the nightly rituals. She effortlessly pulled herself up onto the kitchen counter, recalling how years back climbing that perch took a bit more effort when a chair was required as a bit of a stepping stone.  She watched her mom as she finished the dishes, telling her the lights were all turned off and milk glasses were set out. Suddenly, she jumped off the counter, startling her mom as a spoon clattered into the sink. “I forgot to turn the front porch light on! Be right back!”

Every night for as long a she could remember, her dad worked the night shift at the local car manufacturing plant and never arrived back home before 2am. Her mom always made sure to leave the front porch light on for him, and it had become part of the young girl’s routine as well. Full of curiosity she had asked her mom years ago why it was so important to leave the porch light on for her dad, why on occasion, she had left the warmth of her bed and traveled through the house to make sure the glow of the small lamp flooded the porch. Why was it so important?

Her mother replied, “We want your dad to know that while we might not be awake to welcome him home, our last loving thought before ending our day was of him.”

It’s been years since my father passed away, and longer still since I was that little girl who lit that porch light, night after night. And yet, I still find myself leaving a light on, even when my husband and children are at home with me. I find comfort in the ritual  and am forever warmed by it’s glow.

Who do you leave a light on for in your life? Is it someone who comes home to you? Is it habit? Is it for someone you know will never arrive? Maybe it’s not even for a person, instead for something in your life you still hope for?

Do you recall a ritual from your childhood that you still carry out today? If so, share it here. I would love to hear about it.

I Slept With Him For Years…featured on Erma Bombeck website

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I am honored to have my piece, “I slept with him for years for fear of being alone” featured on the Erma Bombeck website today.

Please check it out and share away!

Hope your weekend is filled with love and laughter wherever you may be!

Little Miss Wordy – Featured On BlogHer Today

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Little Miss Wordy is being featured in BlogHer’s Family section today.

BlogHer Badge

Please take a moment to head over and share the post, leave a comment, or just show me some love!

Here’s the link: Granting My Kids’ Wishes One Dandelion At A Time

granting_wishes

Thank you all and I hope you enjoy your Tuesday!

You Shook Me All Night Long…At A 6.4 Magnitude!

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I was startled awake to my entire world shaking. Living at the top of a high-rise, I felt like a bird being rattled out of its nest by a being greater than itself. The wrought iron panel that normally leans against my wall, was rattling and falling forward. The hanging lamps across the room did an interpretive dance all their own. My first thought, that of my baby birds as I stumbled down the hall to their bedrooms. One was awake and terribly afraid. The other fast asleep in his innocence. The building swayed to and fro as I made my way back, shaken to my very core and still in a state of confusion. The steady ground I took for granted had been pulled right out from under me. We had just experienced an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4.

This Puerto Rico quake comes almost exactly 4 years after a powerful 7.0-magnitude quake devastated another Caribbean island – Haiti.The 2010 disaster took more than 100,000 lives.

Etch A Sketch Drawing, High Rise Etch A Sketch, Cityscape Etch A Sketch

As I lay my head back on my pillow, still shaken, but so very grateful to be okay, I couldn’t help but think of the wake up call these moments are in life. Our lives are much like the Etch A Sketch of our younger years, at the mercy of some greater force, natural or otherwise.

“The toy can be considered a simplified version of a plotter. The inside surface of the glass screen is coated with aluminium powder which is then scraped off by a movable stylus, leaving a dark line on the light gray screen. The stylus is controlled by the two large knobs, one of which moves it vertically and the other horizontally; turning both knobs simultaneously creates diagonal lines. To erase the picture, the artist turns the toy upside down and shakes it. Doing this causes polystyrene beads to smooth out and re-coat the inside surface of the screen with aluminum powder. The “black” line merely exposes the darkness inside the toy. Filling in large “black” areas will allow enough light through to expose parts of the interior.”Wikipedia

As kids we spent so much time, focused on getting the picture to look a certain way. We would concentrate so hard on making the lines perfectly straight and the end result one we would be happy to present to the world, but only after we had erased any flaws and forgotten all mistakes. As adults we carry on much the same way, with the belief that the final Etch A Sketch masterpiece of our life should scream perfection before we let those around us see it. We grip those white little knobs for dear life, refusing to give up control, believing we alone decide which direction the next line will be drawn. In our ego centric state, we have no doubt we control our destiny.

And yet, in one swift move, with a shake here and a rattle there, it can all disappear. Worse yet…the Etch a Sketch we worked so hard to create, can suddenly look a whole lot different than what we ever imagined. 

Maybe it’s time to start looking outside the confines of the Etch A Sketch and start living outside the box we have limited ourselves to…there’s a whole world out there full of possibilities to explore. Show the world your flaws. Its response may shake you up in ways you never imagined!