So…Who Are You Voting Against?

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I know most of us feel that way right now. We want change, but we feel powerless to make a change so we don’t even try. The whole point of democracy is to give power to the people by allowing…

Source: So…Who Are You Voting Against?

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So…Who Are You Voting Against?

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voteagainst

I know most of us feel that way right now. We want change, but we feel powerless to make a change so we don’t even try. The whole point of democracy is to give power to the people by allowing us to chose leaders who will represent our interests, but very few of us honestly believe that that kind of system still exists for us.

Instead we have a system where only the wealthy and morally compromised can even afford to campaign, often leaving us with distasteful choices to begin with; a system where candidates are elected and laws are passed not based on merit, but on the funding of lobbyists and an absurd and nonsensical devotion to party affiliation.

We have a system where the popular vote doesn’t determine the outcome, and only those who live in “swing states” can feel like their vote even matters. It is a system that was designed in a time when only educated white men were allowed to vote, when there were only 13 states, and when the only way news travelled or campaigns were conducted was by print or word of mouth, delivered on horseback. It is a system that was designed (in part) as a safeguard, by a group of men who faced the very real possibility that an uneducated majority of their fledgling democracy could easily elect a tyrant and return them to the monarchical system they had just warred with England to escape.

We have a system that is overwhelmingly entrenched and is of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy, and we have grudgingly accepted it as “just the way it is”. But as broken as it is, we still do have a system that gives us the means to fight for what we believe in without the need for rifles and militias. Unfortunately, it only works when the majority of the population educates themselves and joins in solidarity, making a commitment to the long and complicated task of change, and most of us don’t have the time, energy, or interest…myself included.

I’m not a political activist. Honestly I’m not even a political enthusiast. Most of the time I pay minimal attention, enough to feel like I am staying informed, but rarely more than that. This election is different. I have literally lost sleep over it.

I cannot in good conscience vote for either major party candidate. They represent the worst in politics and the worst in humanity, and I know I’m not alone in that sentiment. Most of us are repulsed by our choices. I’ve heard the phrase “lesser of two evils” more times than I can count during this horror show of an election campaign. Recent polls show that an average of 60% of the population view both Clinton and Trump unfavorably.  That means only about 40% of the population is actually voting for a candidate.

Imagine if the other 60% of the population refused to vote for either major party candidate, but refused to not vote, and instead wrote in their honest choice. Yes, one of the major party candidates would still win this race, but based on current polling numbers would probably only win with less than 25% of the popular vote.

The popular vote may not determine the election but it makes a statement, and with such unprecedented numbers that statement might actually be enough to shake the unshakeable system. What’s more, it might shake our individual and national feelings of powerlessness and the resulting apathy.

I know most people don’t want to write in. Every Single Person I talk to believes one of two things: that it wouldn’t make a difference anyway, or that it’s the same as voting for the guy they hate more. But seriously, think about it, do you feel like your vote actually matters now?  I live in a solidly blue state. Candidates don’t waste their time here because one knows it’s in the bag, and the other knows it’s a waste of time. A lot of people don’t bother to vote for the exact same reasons.

So what do we really have to lose? Imagine if Every Single Person who feels that way decided to write in. It would be absolutely monumental. No, it wouldn’t bring immediate change, but a true movement of change doesn’t begin with elected officials, it begins in the hearts of the people.

If there is one thing this race has shown us, it’s that a major shift has already begun in the hearts of the people, but it is one of anger and division that has even at times come to violence. I am afraid to think about where that path will lead us if it continues much longer.

I doubt many people will have read this far, but if you have, and even a little part of you agrees with me, please share and encourage others to do the same. I know it seems miniscule. I know it will not make a difference in the outcome of this election, and may never make a difference in the grand scheme. But at least you as an individual will know that you have done something more than just complain on social media. You will have taken advantage of your tiny little opportunity to make your voice heard, and when the election results are being counted and the popular vote is reported, you will be able to look at that number, no matter how large, and know that you could have made it one higher and refused to. So many of us don’t want either candidate in office, and I would love to see that reflected in those numbers.

I have decided that I will not accept that this is “just the way it is”. I will not cast a vote that violates my conscience. Nor will I throw up my hands and abandon my right to have a vote. I will remember that there is another option available, and I will write in. If enough of us do, it might just shake us awake to the true power of the people, and give us a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, someday we might actually look forward to voting for a candidate.

#writein

So, I’ve Done It…

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So proud of my little sister!

DJ Ryder

You know how sometimes you hear people say things like, “All I want to be is a missing person” or “One day I’m gonna just get in my car and drive and whenever I run out of gas is where I’ll stay”? I used to say that a lot myself, and I was always joking, cause really, its not rational.

Well, I’ve done it. I packed up my car with a few belongings and headed down to Nashville, TN. As it turns out I know a few people down here, (which I didn’t know before I got here) but its nice to know I won’t be alone. I’ve applied for several jobs already, and I’ll be searching for a church to join to meet as many people as I can as soon as possible.

I’ve wanted to live in Nashville for years, I visited with my older since for a…

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Dear Broken America

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Please forgive me.  I know we don’t need another open letter.  But we need something, and we need it desperately.  We just can’t figure out what; or rather, we can’t agree on what.

We are broken.  We know this.  Our brokenness is everywhere all of the time.  We can’t escape it.  We can’t ignore it.  We have no idea how to fix it; or rather, we can’t agree on how.

We want to fix it.  But who can really say what the right answers are when the questions are so encompassing?  So complicated?  So impossible to agree on?

What do you think the answer is?  That is not a rhetorical question.  What do you really think?  What is the answer to the racial division that swells like waves in a stormy sea every time another officer involved shooting makes the news?  What is the answer to Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter?  What is the answer to the refugee crisis?  Illegal immigration?  Corporate greed?  What is the answer to Trump versus Clinton, and the sobering fact that we really don’t have any other options?  What is the answer to homelessness and drug addiction?  What is the answer to terrorism?  Rape culture?  An entire generation who can’t find jobs that will ever repay their student loans?

What do you think?  Do you want to know what I think?

I think The Problem isn’t the sum of the problems.  The Problem is the lies we have been told like lullabies and prayers, that we believe with all of our being and teach to our children and strive to live by.  The Problem is that all Americans know a universal truth that couldn’t be farther from the truth, and forgive me for blurting it out like this, but…

We are not all created equal.

I will say it again, in case you think you misunderstood me.  We are not all created equal.  Before you get angry, please realize that equal is not synonymous with valuable or important or absolutely precious, because every single one of us are irrevocably all of those things.  Equal means same.  And we are not the same.  Of all the human beings who have ever drawn breath on this ball of rock and water swirling through the cosmos since the first human breath was drawn, no two are the same.

And now here we are, an endless sea of people who are as different as can be, convinced we are looking for an agreeable same-ness to conform to, as though such absurdity could solve these massive crises even if it did exist.

It is no wonder we are in the throws of another Civil War.  It is not a war fought by armies, but ideologies.  It is not a war of weapons, but opinions.  This is a war full of propaganda and misinformation that is dividing families and communities and telling us that we have to choose a side.

And we choose sides quickly.  It isn’t difficult.  It actually comes quite naturally.  Why do you think that is?  How can we look at such enormous and complex problems and have no idea what the answer is, but when presented with a battle line we instinctively know what side we are on?  The Problem is another lie that we all seem to believe.  And again, please forgive me for blurting it out like this, but…

Your opinion doesn’t matter.

I can almost guarantee you’re offended.  But I didn’t say you don’t matter, and you are more than the sum of your opinions.

Opinions deceive us.  They are not fact, but they convince us they are.  They tell us we are right to think what we think and believe what we believe.

Opinions are formed by perceptions.  Perceptions are formed by experiences.  And experiences are colored by personalities, temperaments, IQ, EQ, culture, gender, and an array of other variables so vast and unpredictable and beyond our control that it makes me dizzy to think about.

We may stand firmly by our opinions, but there is nothing firm about them.  If any of us had lived a different life in a different place in a different tax bracket with a different body and a different personality, I guarantee we would have different opinions.  In fact, you don’t need a different life.  I guarantee that we could continue living our same lives as our same selves, and discover that the simple passage of time and the experiences it contains are more than enough to change our minds about things we were once so certain of.

Our opinions deceive us, but they don’t have to divide us.

We are not all the same, but we are all human.  We are all flawed and fragile.  We all feel the same emotions.  We all know fear and anger and disappointment and defeat.  We all desire love and acceptance and safety and belonging.  We all know the unspeakable desperation that comes from feeling invisible, unimportant, unloved, and unwanted.

Can you imagine what it must be like to live in a world where you are desperate enough to pick up a sign and shout at the top of your lungs that your life matters?  Not that it matters more than another person’s life, you just want it to matter as much.  Isn’t there something wrong if an entire race of people are desperate enough to pick up those signs?  Can you imagine feeling that disposable?

Can you imagine what it must be like to start each work day by strapping on Kevlar, just in case?  Could you choose a profession that makes you a constant target, where you are hated by many because of the actions of a few?  Can you imagine the courage it takes to serve and protect a community that hates you?

I don’t know where I’m going with all of this.  What I do know is that I can’t bear to watch where We The People are going with all of this.  I am saddened and wearied by the constant barrage of opinions flying from one side of the battlefield to the other, doing nothing to unify and creating further division.  I am grieved by all of the hurt and pain, caused by people who are full of hurt and pain, who are answered with more hurt and pain.

When does it end?  When will we realize we can’t have a conversation if we don’t stop shouting at each other and start listening?  When will we become more concerned with understanding and accepting each other, than we are with convincing each other why we are right?  Will we ever find the humility to admit that we could be wrong, and maybe we don’t have all the answers?  Because the truth is, until those things happen, there will never be any real answers to any of these problems.

But that’s just my opinion.

When It All Goes Up In Flames

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The summer before my senior year in High School, a neighboring beach community experienced an unforgettable 4th of July. Long Beach Island is a popular summer destination at the Jersey Shore, and every year thousands of people travel from all over the tristate area on to enjoy its 21 miles of coastline. But there is also a large community of locals, from both the island and mainland, who grew up feeling that this tiny barrier island off the coast of NJ was a part of our very soul.

In 1998, just like every other year, this mixed crowd of locals and bennies gathered at sporadic locations up and down the island, ready to enjoy the fireworks show prepared by whatever township they called their own. In Harvey Cedars, crowds gathered at and around Sunset Park, watching from beach chairs and blankets, from rooftops and porches, and from boats on the bay, eagerly waiting for the spectacular display to light up the night sky. The Harvey Cedars crowd gathered expecting what every other person in every other town expected, and for the first few minutes, that’s exactly what they got. That was, until the wind changed.

Only minutes into the display, embers began blowing towards the crowd and the show was halted. For the next ten minutes, the crowd sat unamused and disappointed, and grew increasingly restless while absolutely nothing happened. As soon as the wind let up the fireworks resumed, but just moments later the unthinkable happened.

A single ember landed in an open cooler where a few fireworks sat waiting for their turn to be loaded and exploded. Within seconds and without warning, a chain reaction set off 200 fireworks on the ground. I wasn’t there, but I know people who were, and they have said it was the most terrifying moment of their lives. Nearly 3,000 people witnessed in horror as an enormous fiery explosion at the water’s edge reminded them of the terrible fact that we all know and wish we didn’t. At any time and without any warning, it can all go up in flames. And there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

These past few weeks have been like that Harvey Cedars fireworks show, not only for me but for a number of those who are dearest to my heart. My life’s journey hasn’t traversed the calmest of seas, and over the years I have adopted the catastrophist’s motto: “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” The worst, however, can’t always be prepared for.

Sometimes the worst is as unexpected as a lighthearted and celebratory fireworks display suddenly exploding into a raging inferno. We all know that fireworks are dangerous, but although we are aware of the inherent danger, we also trust that the danger has been tempered into something safe. We trust that even though something bad could happen, it won’t. If we didn’t live believing that, we would never get on an elevator or into a car. We would never ride a roller coaster or eat from a roadside hot dog stand. We would never take medications or agree to lifesaving medical procedures. We would never fall in love, get married, or have children. We would never live our lives.

Subconsciously, we are all aware of the painfully fragile balance that our lives and everything in them are at the constant mercy of. When bad things happen, restoring that balance takes time and is – quite necessarily – followed by a season of uneasiness and excessive caution. The weak and wounded are much more vulnerable to further damage, and need to be guarded carefully until they have had enough time to heal.

But sometimes, the worst isn’t a single event. Sometimes it is like that fireworks show, when one event sets off a chain reaction that can’t be stopped. Sometimes the weak and wounded don’t have a chance to retreat to safety. Sometimes they are trapped in a place of pain and fear and vulnerability, where the inability to escape becomes even more terrifying than the thing you are trying to escape from.

Sometimes the worst is not one knockout blow. Sometimes it is like that fireworks show, and a number of smaller blows hit in rapid succession from every direction, keeping you swinging at shadows like a frantic game of whack-a-mole, until the swinging back has left you even more exhausted than the beating you’ve taken.

Sometimes the worst blindsides you. Sometimes it is like that fireworks show, entirely unexpected despite our awareness of the very real danger we have subjected ourselves to. Sometimes we are forced to face the terrible truth that although the event was extremely unlikely, the terrible thing we’ve experienced not only can – but has – happened to us. And facing that realization chills us to the bones.

That kind of shock pierces much deeper and causes much more destruction than we realize. We blame ourselves that we didn’t see it coming, that we should have known better, that we shouldn’t have taken that very specific risk at that very specific time, as though something within us could have possibly known the unknowable, or prevented the inevitable.

That kind of shock makes every unlikely and remote danger suddenly feel very real, and the most outlandish prospects of harm and hurt feel entirely present and possible and imminent every moment of every day. Every driver could be drunk, every man on the street a rapist, every friend a closet sociopath. Every phone call could be that phone call. Every storm could be that storm. Every person you love and trust could betray and abuse and lie and cheat and torment and abandon you, and you might never see it coming.

These past weeks have been like that Harvey Cedars fireworks show. There is chaos and crying and confusion and panic all around me, and I’m afraid to even pick up my head for fear that it’s not over yet. I’m afraid to look at the devastation once the smoke has finally cleared. I’m afraid to see how much damage has been done to the places and people I love. I’m afraid to discover how much damage has been done to me.

But then I remember that although the unlikely, unexpected, unbearable worst can and does happen, the unlikely, unexpected, inexplicable miraculous can and does happen as well.

In the aftermath of that Harvey Cedars fireworks accident, we learned that no one was killed. One man lost a finger. A few suffered cuts and sprains, and some were treated for smoke inhalation. But no one was killed.

Life is uncertain. It is messy. It can be painful and frightening, and sometimes it is absolutely devastating. But even in the midst of devastation, the divine spark that exists in the soul of every human being who walks this broken earth still flickers. It is always there, giving us strength to go on when we have nothing left to give and hope in our moments of deepest despair. That flicker never leaves us and never fails us, because it does not come from us. It does not depend on us, or on our abilities, or on our circumstances. It is the gift of the Divine Creator, and He is the one who keeps it burning.

I don’t know why bad things happen when and how they do. I don’t know how long deliverance or restoration or healing or help will evade us. I don’t understand why some prayers go unanswered, and why some people seem to face so much more trouble than others. But the beautiful thing about faith is, I don’t have to know.

What I do know is that God always is, always has been, and always will be working all things out for our good. He just doesn’t work in the ways that we expect or understand or appreciate, and He rarely works as quickly as we want Him to. We are so shortsighted, and so easily forget that His eyes have seen eternity.

His goals are different than ours. We want the pain to stop, the troubles to pass, and the blessings to flow. We want life to be good. We want everything to be easy. But He wants to make us the brightest, most beautiful, most perfect version of ourselves that we can possibly be. He loves us too much to leave us stunted and shallow and spiritually stagnant. He loves us too much to leave us ignorant of how much more extravagant life can be when we learn to live beyond the comfortable and the common. He loves us too much to leave us blind to the unfathomable beauty that exists in the world, in each other, and in ourselves.  We see our limitations, but He sees our potential.  And He is determined to see that potential reached.

Terrible and tragic things happen, and it never makes sense. But I know that if I hadn’t lived the life I have, with all of its trials and troubles and hardships and heartbreaks, and if I hadn’t known the people I’ve met or walked the paths I’ve both chosen and stumbled upon, I would never have survived these past few weeks. I wouldn’t still be standing, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to believe in the hope that this will somehow perfect one more weakness in me and prepare me for another challenge that awaits me somewhere in the unknown future.

I still wish I could answer the unresolved questions and alleviate the stubborn, lingering pain from the wounds that haven’t fully healed. I still wish I knew why things have happened the way they have. But the reality is I don’t know, and I probably never will. What I do know is how all of those experiences, both past and present, have changed me into who I am today. And somehow, that has made everything worth it.

Inspiration, or the Lack Thereof

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I haven’t written in awhile, mostly because I’ve been really busy.  Okay, maybe not mostly but at least partly.  Okay, I confess, busyness is just my favorite fallback excuse when I don’t want to admit that lack of inspiration is the real problem.

Writers, along with every other soul whose chosen task rests upon the creation of something new, can appreciate the importance of inspiration.  We all know that feeling when something suddenly ignites inside of us, and absolutely demands our attention.  We sit and write (or draw or paint or sketch) with an inexplicable sense of intensity and urgency, and with an ease that makes it seem like the finished work already exists somewhere inside of us and our job is simply to translate it from idea to reality without getting in the way.

There have been times I have typed furiously without stopping to think, only to read what I’d written and wonder where in the world all of that came from.  And then there are the times when I’ll do just about anything to avoid writing.  That blinking cursor on the blank screen just taunts and mocks, and every sentence is a struggle to formulate.  It is written and deleted and reworded and revised with a frustrating difficulty that makes cleaning the bathroom and paying bills seem like a welcome distraction.

I know that, eventually, something will break through and the words will start to flow.  But until then it’s a choppy stop and go task full of “what’s the word I’m looking for” and “what am I trying to say here”.

It would be wonderful if inspiration was something that could be concocted with a simple formula, like the mixing of ingredients in a favorite recipe.  Two parts this and five parts that, and voila, a tasty comfort food guaranteed to satisfy.  Alas, the ingredients that combined so perfectly the last time may be a flop this time.  Inspiration never seems to come the same way twice.

Sure, there are some ingredients that seem common to every great creation.  I’ve never baked a cake without flour, sugar, and water; and I’ve never written anything worth reading when I didn’t really care about the topic or have some kind of personal experience with it.  While those are crucial ingredients, they don’t stand alone.  You can’t bake a mixture of flour, sugar, and water and expect a result that even slightly resembles dessert.

Unfortunately, many of the other ingredients are intangible and mysterious.  They come from the spontaneous unexpected moments in life that cannot be manufactured, and spark something that cannot be explained.  They just happen, and we are thrilled when they do.

There are times in life when such moments are few and far between.  Even then, inspiration can be found in a walk in the woods or an hour at the beach, a heart to heart with mom, or people watching over lunch at the local cafe.  In this particular moment, however, it is cold and rainy, mom is probably still asleep, and the cafe isn’t open for another few hours.  But this happens to be when I have a little bit of time, and so here I am, struggling to make the most of it.

It occurred to me that as I’ve been sitting here pondering the question of where inspiration comes from, I’ve been extremely distracted by a number of other dilemmas and demands I am dealing with right now that just won’t clear out of my thoughts long enough to allow me to focus.

It brought to mind a video I stumbled across yesterday of a young elephant trying to fight off a pack of lions.  My first thought was that’s exactly how I feel right now.  There are two or three persistent problems that just keep on attacking and won’t give up, one that won’t get off my back, and another ten ready to pounce and feast as soon as I lose my determination to fight.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit heavy on the dramatics.  My problems don’t have literal teeth and aren’t actually going to make breakfast out of me.  But they are both time consuming and mind consuming, and are approaching the point of exhausting.

I often find that strong negative emotions can be just as powerful a catalyst for good writing as positive emotions.  On the other hand, boredom, exhaustion, and discouragement are inspiration parasites.

There was a moment in that video when the elephant had had enough of trying to escape, and turned and charged at its attackers.  Maybe that’s where I’m at.  Maybe it’s time to turn and face these things that are wearing me down instead of just trying to survive them.

Easier said than done, especially for a seasoned escapist like myself.  Honestly, I really didn’t want to go there today.  I really haven’t wanted to go there for awhile now.  I suppose it’s very likely that this is the clog stopping up my inspiration.  As much as I don’t want to face and deal with some of this stuff, maybe my next muse is waiting in the midst of that particular struggle.

It’s hard to believe I’ll be victorious there, but at the same time, I really didn’t expect to finish a whole post when I sat down this morning.  Yes, it took me twice the time and twice my average coffee consumption to finish a shorter post than most things I write.  It was a struggle, but I did it.  I finished.  Time to try it in real life.

So Long, Summer: A Discourse on Seasons

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I know, I’m a bit late saying au revoir to my favorite season.  I just didn’t want to let it go.  But then I woke up early this morning because I had become something of a human popsicle.  Turns out I set the heat last night but didn’t actually turn it on.  It was horrible.  As I shivered my way the ten miserable steps from the bed to the thermostat I began to remember what every morning of my life in winter is like, and the grieving for summer’s end officially began.

Summer is my refuge.  No, I’m not a teacher, I’m just perpetually cold.  I’m that girl who needs a sweater in 75 degree weather and never turns on the air conditioning.  Yes, I’ve had my thyroid and my iron checked, in case you were on the verge of being the latest in a never-ending line of people who think they’re suggesting something I haven’t thought of.  This is just me.  So when the weather outside is a steady 80+, it’s a relief inexplicable to those whose internal thermometer is normal.

But then Pumpkin Spice coffee shows up.  And Halloween stores open.  I ignore it as long as I can, not wanting to face the reality that the glorious feeling of warmth I am able to enjoy 3 months out of the year is once again about to evade me for 9 more.

I really don’t dislike Autumn.  I don’t mind sweaters and jackets during the day.  The leaves changing color really are one of God’s most glorious displays of splendor, and I happen to love Pumpkin Spice anything.  But chilly Autumn nights are an ominous reminder that the earth’s orbit is about to move my particular spot on the globe just a bit further away from the sun, which in turn translates to major temperature crashes.

As if the plummeting temperatures weren’t bad enough, the days have also grown shorter.  In peak summer, the sun shines until almost 8 pm.  Tonight, sunset is at 6:04.  And the dreaded nail in summer’s coffin – Daylight Savings Time – is still a week away.

Short cold days and long frigid nights are upon us.  No wonder the squirrels are in hyper-drive.  I’m kind of jealous of them, actually.  I would love to hoard up some food and lock myself in my apartment until April with no plans except eating and napping.  Alas, my status as a homo sapien requires me to throw off the warm covers every morning and venture out into the world, no matter what inhumane conditions might exist outside my front door.

Social media has been perpetuating the hysterical “it’s supposed to be another really bad winter” articles for a few months already.  I don’t give them any credence.  Since when is the weather report accurate 3 days in advance, let alone 3 months?  Still, I have to admit, even though I don’t believe they are accurate I still have a dreadful fear that they might be.  There was a time near the end of last year’s horrific winter – I think it was about the 17th snowstorm, or maybe it was the 23rd – where I actually started job and apartment hunting online for a nice new life in southern Florida.  Of course, that may have been spurred on by my brother’s Facebook posts of he and his girlfriend boating off the beautiful Gulf Coast in shorts and tank tops under sunny skies.

They’ve lived in Florida for a few years now, and every now and then I hear something about “missing the seasons”.  When I posted pictures of snow and sadness and offered to trade places, they never took me up on it for some strange reason.  And I don’t think they got the humor when I posted these:

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So basically, this is how the seasons translate to me:

Autumn is the alarm clock going off.  As much as I don’t want to, I know I have to drag myself out of bed and get ready for work.  If I’m lucky there is time for breakfast and coffee, but usually it’s a race against the clock just to get out the door on time.  Winter is the long, miserable, dreary work day in an office where the thermostat is set to frigid and I left my sweater at home.  The fluorescent light above my desk is burnt out, and every time I look at the clock it’s at least 2 hours earlier than it feels.  Spring is the drive home.  Traffic is annoying and the ride always seems so much longer than it actually is, but at least the office is behind me.  Summer is walking in the front door, kicking off my heels, and trading the pantyhose for yoga pants, then enjoying a nice dinner and an hour or two with Netflix.

I miss you already summer, and I’m dreaming of the day we are reunited.

(Betcha were expecting an extended cliche on the seasons of life.  Perhaps in May, when hope has returned…)

19 Things People Who Are Always Cold Understand