“The Non-Friend”

In the course of living life, we forge friendships. Some of these friendships last a lifetime, changing and maturing with us. Some follow a cyclical pattern of closeness and drifting apart. Some fade into mere acquaintanceship. Some sadly wither into a state we shall dub “the non-friend.”

“The non-friend” is someone with whom you once shared a close relationship, but for any number of reasons, the relationship has deteriorated into indifference, at best – at worst, an almost hostile state. Yet, both parties remain a part of the same social circle and therefore are often thrown together despite the dissolution of the relationship. Perhaps the break occurred because the relationship was all take and no give on one side. Perhaps both personalities changed drastically – or just one changed. Perhaps your patience ran out. Perhaps you discovered that your “friend” values possessions or popularity over the feelings of others, including yourself. Perhaps you found that your principles and those of your “friend” varied too widely to be reconcilable. Perhaps you found a cruel streak in their personality that you simply could not live with. Perhaps they simply stopped talking and/or caring and refused to explain why.

This state of affairs is quite painful and often embarrassing, as others who knew of your relationship ask why you aren’t close anymore. If you’ve invested much time and emotion in the relationship, you may experience a sense of loss. Maybe you took on what I call the “savior” role – being a problem-solver, therapist and life coach for your friend, only to find that they were using you. Losing the friendship may cause you to feel that you have failed.

When the dust settles, however, you may find that no longer expending your energies on a one-sided relationship is to your benefit. You may begin to seek and/or strengthen healthy relationships with more considerate people who truly value you for who you are and who exert a positive influence in your life. You may discover the meaning of a truly equal, give-and-take relationship. You may learn to value yourself more as a result.

But what about your “friend” – now “the non-friend?” As they follow their chosen path without you and you perhaps take the high road, your paths may cross. How these interactions flow may depend heavily on how you choose to behave toward your one-time friend – “the non-friend.” If you continue to take the high road, showing kindness regardless of the other person’s behavior, you will not only keep from deepening the rift, you will have something to be proud of – self-respect. If you choose to view the entire experience as a lesson, you will likely move on in your life with more wisdom and less angst.

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Have you had an experience like this? Please share your thoughts!

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A Balanced Body Image

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I ran across the above photo while feeding my Pinterest addiction. It was captioned “Ideal 1950’s woman.” What struck me immediately was how healthy she looks. Not heavy, not thin, just right. What struck me next, though, was that most people today – many of them women – would call her “fat.”

Having dealt with various health issues and related diet restrictions over the years, my weight has fluctuated from the line between healthy and overweight to downright scary skinny. The fun part? It was never for looks. I was simply seeking an end to my illness, a healthy balance. At one point I had cut off all sugar and dairy intake in my quest for health. My weight plummeted to a frightening 92 pounds. I could count my ribs. I felt ill. Despite that, I received more compliments from other women at that period of my adult life than at any other – some even expressed a wish to have my illness so that they could lose weight! Are we brainwashed? I would say so!

Ironically, in modern times and especially in the United States, obesity has reached an all-time high. While many across the globe can count their ribs as they starve, here at home waistlines expand as we fill our bodies with processed, sugar-laden, genetically modified, hormone-enhanced “food.” Despite the ready availability of a variety of foodstuffs – healthy and unhealthy – in this country, quality food comes at a high price. Basics such as fresh fruits and vegetables rise in price regularly, yet somehow, the price of Twinkies and the like does not seem to soar. Struggling families are forced to cut corners which inevitably affect their health in the long run.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, currently 34% of American adults are obese. They project that by the year 2030, 42% of American adults will be obese. You would think, as a nation, that a healthy weight would be the ideal to aspire to. Instead, extreme slimness is upheld as the picture of beauty, when in fact it is just as unhealthy to be underweight as it is to be overweight. Emotionally, it is unhealthy to aspire to an unrealistic ideal – and this can reach far beyond the realm of weight.

Take skin, for example: most of us desire to have smooth, flawless skin. Perhaps this is natural, perhaps it is due to the influence of airbrushed photos of beautiful models. One thing is certain, it’s very rare to find someone who possesses perfect skin. We all have scars. Some have acne, eczema, keratosis pilaris, dry skin, oily skin, freckles… Having suffered with acne in the past, I still see lingering scars, softened and lightened with time and treatment, but nevertheless there.

As a little girl, I used to look forward to the flawless, womanly legs I would have. Dotted with scabs and bruises, my 10-year-old legs were anything but attractive. Now an adult, I find that my legs are not so different. Yes, they are womanly. But I still bruise easily, so black-and-blue (and shades of purple and green) marks still decorate my legs. Allergic to various bloodsucking insects, I swell up at the site of insect bites. Perhaps in early spring I have the lovely legs I hoped for as a child, but throughout the rest of the summer, I possess the colorful legs of a 10-year-old. I’ve made peace with that fact, however, considering that if I were to keep my legs flawless by remaining still and indoors, I wouldn’t enjoy my summers. Likewise with the various scars I have: they provide a visible record of the many life experiences that make me who I am. From my appendectomy scars to evidence of shaving mishaps to a scar from falling while playing with the dog – the experiences which caused the scars have shaped who I am today. I’ve learned from them.

Then there is the tanning obsession. Desperate to achieve a fashionable skin tone, many cause irreparable damage to their skin in tanning beds and booths or “frying” themselves in tanning oil while lying outdoors in full sun. Others “fake-n-bake,” using self-tanning products until they achieve a truly fake shade of tan. There is also an opposite extreme: those who are convinced that the slightest ray of sunshine allowed to attack unprotected skin will certainly cause skin cancer. These heliophobes carefully slather on the SPF – just to take out the trash. If forced to spend time outdoors, under the domain of the deadly sun, they don sun hats and other protective clothing – perhaps even an SPF parasol – in addition to the SPF 80, just to be safe. There has to be a balance here!

So, what is a healthy body image? Is it skinny, tan, and airbrushed? Is it overweight and pale? The key lies in balance and a healthy lifestyle. And when I say healthy lifestyle, I don’t mean the health nuts who obsess over every carbohydrate or gram of fat and spend hours at the gym each day. I mean eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and getting moderate amounts of exercise on a regular basis. Equally important are a positive mindset, realistic goals, and time spent doing what you enjoy. Then maybe, we can have a balanced body image and a healthy body!

If you would like to find out what your healthy weight range is, use a BMI calculator.

What’s your opinion on the weight of the woman in the photo?

Random Thoughts, Quotes, and Pearls of Wisdom

• Good friends are truly priceless. Treasure them.

• The ability to walk at a vigorous pace for any space of time is something to be very grateful for.

• Take full ownership of your health. No one can take care of you better than yourself. (Except God.)

• There are few things as endearing as a fuzzy Greyhound snout in your face; chattering teeth telling you “I’m so happy you’re here! I love you!”

• Banana pancakes are special, not just because they taste good, but also because they represent slowing down to enjoy simple pleasures. (Just ask Jack Johnson.)

• There is nothing as precious as a child. If more adults put children’s best interests ahead of their own (truly, not spoiling them) the world would be a much better place.

• Fathers, be good to your daughters; daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, so mothers, be good to your daughters too. – John Mayer

• Animals are one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. They make us laugh, they show us beauty and nobility, they comfort us.

• The Lion King is full of important life lessons: the Circle of Life, the past can hurt but you learn from it, life’s not fair, leave your behind in your past (or something like that), and Hakuna Matata!

• Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else. – Judy Garland

• Family is family, regardless of the past, annoying habits, embarrassing behavior, or personality clashes. Love them, just don’t let their mistakes define you. And remember, you make mistakes too – don’t let that define you either; let it make you more understanding.

• Life’s like an hourglass glued to the table… So… Just breathe… – Anna Nalick

• Repeat this to yourself each day until you believe it:

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• Right now I’m looking at you and I can’t believe you don’t know you’re beautiful! – One Direction

• Last, but certainly not least:

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Creative Outlets, Hobbies, and the Modern Woman

In previous posts here on Diverse Philosophies I’ve discussed my views on traditional roles of women in society and the detrimental impact of the modern “career woman” role on families today.

One area I haven’t touched on in reference to modern roles, is the dying art of housewifery – more than the ability to cook and clean, but proficiency in other tasks that were once a necessary part of creating a pleasant and healthy home and life for the family. Knitting and sewing garments and household linens as well as cooking and baking foods that are not only nutritious, but also pleasing to the eye and palate are some tasks that come to mind. Interestingly, many of these skills still live on in our modern society of store bought sundries and restaurant or store-prepared meals – as hobbies.

I believe each and every human being has a need for a creative outlet. Some search for their ideal creative niche, some dabble in various fields of creativity, and some just know instinctively which is the perfect creative outlet for them. I tend to be a bit of a dabbler myself. I greatly enjoy many different creative activities – including drawing, knitting, amateur photography, cooking and baking.

I come from a very creative and artistic family. My family includes a professional photographer, a professional artist who produces wonders with just paper and pencil or oil on canvas portraits as well as seamless crochet garments, a skilled seamstress who once made for me a perfect reproduction of a gown from the American Colonial era, a jewelry maker, a scrapbooker, a couple of writers… and a potential actress make up the rest of my relatives.

As previously mentioned, I aspired to a career as a housewife from early childhood. In line with my juvenile aspirations, I learned to cook at an early age, under my mother’s supervision. As I got older, I discovered that I had a talent for learning by watching and/or reading. A cookbook that I received as a gift led to me honing my skills as a cook and baker – not up to par with a professional chef, but definitely quite adequate for a housewife. I took up quilting, and learned basic knitting from an encyclopedia. Sadly, now that I am a grown woman and a wife, I have little time to pursue these interests that should be my full-time occupation, due to being obligated to work outside of the home. The necessity for two incomes has shattered the dream I once aspired to.

Never one to accept defeat with facility, I still devote some of my free time to these arts of housewifery – now considered hobbies by most. Here are some of my exploits in knitting:

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My very first original design

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Cabled hat with brim

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Cardigan with antique buttons

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Infant hat with knitted flower

I’ve been fortunate enough to make some extra cash by selling some items I’ve knitted. I take custom orders and requests for specially designed items. The best part? I enjoy the entire process, from design to delivery. I equally enjoy cooking and baking and trying new recipes or improving on old favorites.

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An American classic: Homemade Apple Pie

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Fruit Tarts

I’ve even tried my hand at soap making.

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The above “hobbies” were once parts of the traditional housewife role throughout much of history. They have come to be classified as hobbies because they are no longer a necessary part of homemaking. Garments, knitted or otherwise, can be bought ready-made at a variety of retailers. Likewise, food can be purchased in various stages of preparation – from raw ingredients to fully cooked meals and desserts. Cooking and baking from “scratch” has definitely become a dying art amongst the masses of the Western world. The biggest reason for this is women in the workplace. It is next to impossible to hold down a job and have the time to cook a healthy homemade dinner every evening. But let’s get back to hobbies.

There are many other avenues of creative expression that can more accurately be described as hobbies. Some that I enjoy include drawing or doodling:

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Photography and photo editing with a touch of the poetic:

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Note: The above images are my property and may not be used without my permission.

Interestingly, whenever I knit in public I am asked whether I am an expectant mother. It seems that despite modern gender roles, in the general consciousness knitting and similar activities are associated with wives and mothers. Hmm. Conversely, when I make my “famous” brownies from scratch, I am often greeted with incredulity upon the discovery that they did not come from a box, but that I actually mixed together the separate raw ingredients and baked them. It’s a confusing society we live in, isn’t it?

If you are interested in custom handknitted items or would like to view more samples of my work, please visit my Facebook page.

Strength Amid Trials

Have you ever felt like you were at the end of your rope, so to speak? Or worse yet, past the end of it?

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. With all the upheaval of the last few months, to say I’m overwhelmed would probably be an understatement. Yet, when asked if I can continue or perhaps give just a bit more, I find myself responding truthfully, “Yes. OK.” I feel like Jim Carrey’s character in “Liar, Liar” when asked if he could continue his case in court after being brutally beaten by “a mad man” (himself). Unable to lie, his face shows absolute incredulity as he answers, “Yeeesss…” because even he cannot believe that his answer is true, despite knowing he cannot lie for the time being.

Incredulous is an accurate description for that feeling – at the end of your rope, suddenly finding a hidden reserve of strength that you’re sure you didn’t have before. Or did you? Where does this secondary fortitude come from? Has it been there all along, or has it suddenly come to you in a time of need? I think perhaps the answer may be both.

Often, we underestimate our own strength. We tell ourselves as we see the trial unfold, “I’ll never make it through that.” Yet somehow, we do. Perhaps even as we are telling ourselves we can’t make it, we are actually planning ahead mentally for how we can make it. Or maybe at the point where we thought we’d crumble, we tap into that hidden reserve of strength. Perhaps the we hide this reserve so deep in ourselves that we don’t realize it’s there because of a very natural desire to never need it. What normal person looks for trials, just so they can show off their inner strength? Or maybe this secondary fortitude comes from a different source altogether.

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10, New International Version

Could the source of this power be God? In difficult times, many often pray for strength or help to endure. Is the answer to that prayer this previously unknown fortitude we find? I believe that to be so. But let’s not cut the hand of God short. There are many ways He can answer our prayers for help. Perhaps a friend reaches out to us at just the right moment. Perhaps someone else needs our help, and our efforts in that direction help us to pull ourselves out of our own misery. And maybe, just maybe, we are the answer to their prayer for help.

Sometimes, just being aware of the trials another person is facing and watching them meet these trials with grace and quiet fortitude helps us to meet our own problems in a similar way. It may also deepen our appreciation for the person who has modeled these behaviors. It may add a wider scope to Plato’s words, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

So, as you fight your hard battle, show some kindness and consideration for those around you who are fighting their own.

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The Gracie Chronicles – Chapter 9. Summertime

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A few weeks after the Greyhound picnic, Mom and Dad pack some bags and my crate into the car and then early in the morning, we all get in the car and go to… “Grandma and Grandpa’s.”

They unload the car, put their bags into a different car and bring my crate inside the house. Mom’s mother greets me as she usually does – loudly. I let her hug me and give me a kiss loud enough to burst an eardrum.

“You’ll be careful, right? You’ll hold her leash tightly?”

“Yes, honey, yes. Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of her.”

“OK. Here’s her schedule. Her toys and food are in the bag. You’re going to put her bed in your bedroom, right?”

“Yes. Don’t worry. Don’t get her upset.”

Mom comes to me, crouches down, strokes my head and sighs.

“You be a good girl, OK? We’ll be back in less than a week. I love you.”

She kisses the top of my head and walks out the door with Dad, who just pats my head and says, calmly and briefly, “Bye, Gracie. Be a good girl!”

They get into “Grandpa’s” car with him and leave. I go the window and whimper.

Hey, come back!

“It’s OK, Gracie-Grace, they’ll be back.”

When? Where did they go???

I go to the window throughout the day to check for them. Mom has left me here before and come back for me in a few hours. She’ll be here by bedtime, I know it. I settle down for a nap.

* * * * *

Bedtime comes and goes – for a few days! Still, Mom and Dad don’t come for me. “Grandma” enjoys my company, and I try not to be too depressed. I spend a lot of time in my crate – by choice, I’m never told to go in there. But it smells like home, so I feel comforted there.

I hear “Grandma” talking about me on the phone. She tells me she’s talking to “Mommy.” I know that’s Mom.

Please ask her when they’re coming back!

“Don’t worry, Gracie-Grace. They’re coming back.”

When???

But she doesn’t answer, because she doesn’t understand.

I stop counting the days. One day I’m out in the front yard with “Grandma” and “Grandpa’s” car pulls in. Someone steps out of the car very quickly. I freeze in place. Is it…?

MOOOMM!!! DAADDD!!!

I burst into a happy dance, bounding up to them, twirling and jumping for joy.

“Hi, baby girl! I missed you soooo much.”

Mom crouches down and hugs me while Dad strokes my head and neck. I’m ecstatic.

I knew you’d come back for me! I knew! Can we go home now?

“Come on, baby girl, let’s go home.”

They move their bags to our car and collapse my crate and put it in the car. When they lead me to the car, they don’t need to coax me in – I jump right in. I want to go home with my family!

We arrive home and Mom and I take our walk. Then it’s back inside to unpack. Before we know it, it’s bedtime. Mom spends the next day with me. It’s good to be home.

* * * * *

About six weeks after my stay with Mom’s parents, on a very hot day, Mom gets her sister to help her load my crate in the car and tells me to get in the car as well.

Uh-oh. Are you leaving me again?

“It’s OK, Gracie-girl. You’re going to your other grandparents’ house this time.”

But you’re leaving me??

We take the drive to Dad’s parents’ house. Dad isn’t with us; he left as usual this morning. I’m a little worried.

When we arrive, Mom clips on my leash, lets me out of the car and tells me to “Go pee-pee.” I comply. Then she leads me up to the house, where my other “Grandma” is waiting for me. She greets me happily, but not nearly as excitedly as Mom’s mother does. They bring me inside, then go to the car to unload my crate. They bring the crate into the large room in the back of the house and set it up. Mom gets me some water and then talks to “Grandma” about my food and potty schedule.

“Thank you so much. And please call us if you have any questions.”

“Don’t worry, Sweetheart. We’ll take good care of her.”

Mom kisses me, tells me to be good, and leaves.

Hey, wait!

But she’s gone. I go to the window and whimper a bit. Then I settle down and sigh. I guess I’ll take a nap. I wonder how long Mom and Dad will be away.

A few hours later, “Grandpa” arrives. He takes me out for a jog. That night, he sleeps in the large room with me. I’m glad for that. I haven’t ever slept in a room alone.

The next day, “Grandpa” takes me for a jog again. I spend most of the day under the ceiling fan, relaxing. I still go to the window periodically to check for Mom and Dad. In the evening, “Grandpa” goes out, and “Grandma” watches TV with me in the large room. She sits on the couch, I lie on the floor. It’s raining outside. It begins to thunder. I’ve dealt with thunder at home with Mom and Dad. No problem. But now, in a place that’s not home, without my family, I’m a bit scared. A sudden, exceptionally loud thunderclap startles me, and before I know what I’ve done, I find myself on the couch next to “Grandma.” She laughs and pets me gently.

“Oh, it’s OK, Sweetheart.”

Whoa. That was scary. Sorry.

The rest of the evening passes and “Grandpa” returns, takes me outside, and sleeps in the large room with me again.

Two more days pass. Then, in the evening, Mom and Dad come in! I’m lying on my bed under the ceiling fan. I roll over joyously.

HI HI HI HI!!!! I’m SOOO happy to see you! Rub my belly!

They laugh and pet me. Mom hugs me. They load up the car with my things and we go home.

* * * * *

About a month later, there is excitement in the air. A storm is brewing. I can feel it. Mom and Dad keep talking about evacuation.

“We are on a hill, but we’re less than a mile from the ocean. We should go.”

“Well they said we can stay the weekend, but they don’t want Gracie there.”

“I know, but I’m not leaving Gracie with anyone else in this kind of situation. My parents are in a mandatory evacuation zone, so it makes no sense to leave Gracie with them. If there’s a disaster, our family stays together. That includes Gracie. If they won’t let us bring her, then we’ll have to evacuate elsewhere. I’m not leaving her.”

“OK, baby. I’ll see if I can convince them.”

The next morning, Mom and Dad pack a suitcase for themselves and a bag for me. They load up the car, tell me to get in, and drive for an hour. When we stop, we are at a large house on a large property. We go to the back door.

“Hey. Come on in.”

“Thank you so much for letting us bring Gracie.”

“No problem. She just has to stay down here – she can’t go upstairs.”

“That’s perfectly fine. She’ll be OK down here.”

“OK, well, we’ll let you guys get settled. We’ll be upstairs.”

“Thanks.”

I sniff around. It’s a cozy apartment in the lower level of the large house. I can smell faint traces of Dad’s scent. He’s been here before. These people are his friends. Mom brings my bed into the bedroom and pats it.

“Come here, baby girl. You have to stay here. We won’t be far – we’ll be just upstairs. I’ll come check on you. And we will sleep down here with you, baby girl. OK?”

OK. As long as you don’t forget me…

Mom and Dad go upstairs and I’m alone. After an hour or so, I start to whine – loudly.

Helloooo! I’m lonely!

Mom comes downstairs a few minutes later.

“Shhh, baby. I know you’re lonely.”

She stays with me for awhile, then returns upstairs. She checks on me at regular intervals. She feeds me at dinner time. Late in the evening, she comes down to stay. She gets into pajamas, starts a movie, and crawls into bed. About an hour later, Dad comes down. He gets into bed and we all sleep.

* * * * *

BEEEEP!

We all wake with a start.

“There goes the power. The storm is here.”

“What time is it?”

“2 o’clock.”

We go back to sleep. When we wake in the morning, it is raining and the fierce winds I heard overnight have calmed a bit. Mom takes me outside to relieve myself.

“Wow.”

There are branches down everywhere. The creek in the backyard is now a river. The ground is carpeted with wet leaves. I relieve myself and we return inside.

The day passes much like the one before. When Mom and Dad are downstairs, I hear them talking about how we will get home and the conditions there.

“The Township’s website tells us which roads are impassible. And so far, any of the roads we must use to get home are either flooded or are closed because of downed power lines. And there’s no power at home or within a couple of miles of home.”

“Then I guess we’ll be staying another night here.”

“OK.”

* * * * *

The next morning, Mom and Dad pack up the car and we set off for home. There are countless detours and delays, turning the one hour drive into a much longer journey. Finally, the car stops.

Hey, this isn’t home…

“OK, we’ll get her set up quickly and I’ll get you home so you can get your work clothes and go to work, although I still think it’s ridiculous that you have to go.”

“I think it’s ridiculous too, but I don’t have a choice.”

We walk up to a house that smells familiar. It’s my Grandparents’ house – Dad’s parents.

“Hi Sweethearts. You can set up Gracie’s things in the family room.”

They set up my crate and bed in the large room where I stayed when Mom and Dad left me here the last time. Then they begin to leave.

Are you leaving me again?

“I’ll be back in a couple of hours, Mom. Just going to go home and get some clothes and stuff.”

“OK, honey.”

Oh, good. You’re coming back.

Dad comes back in a few hours. Mom comes back an hour or two after that. They feed me and eat their own dinner with Dad’s mother.

“Your Dad won’t be home until late tonight – after the storm there’s a lot of cleanup work they have to do at the plant.”

“OK.”

We spend a quiet evening and Mom and Dad set up a makeshift bed on the oversized couch and ottoman. Dad gets up early like he does at home and leaves. Mom gets up about an hour later and has breakfast with Grandma. Then Grandma leaves and Mom and I take a long walk.

When we return, Mom gets changed and leaves me with Dad’s brother. He stays away from me – he doesn’t like animals. So I nap in the family room until someone who likes my company gets home.

The evening passes like the last. They talk about going home the next day.

“The power should be back tomorrow.”

“Good. I can bring some of the stuff home in the morning because it’s my day off.”

In the morning, Mom loads up her car and leaves. In a couple of hours she’s back and stays with me for the rest of the afternoon. After dinner, they load up Dad’s car, put me in Mom’s car, and we go home.

Mom sighs after unpacking everything.

“It’s good to be home. But you know, I didn’t mind living with your parents for awhile. And Gracie was so good.”

I was? Thanks, I try.

The hurricane brought with it the end of summer. Autumn is on the way. I’ve been with my new family for almost a year now. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

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