Thursday, May 30, 2013

These Days

I haven't written in so long. I don't know why. I think maybe it's because I'm slowly losing the extremely tenuous hold I once had the knowledge of who I am, why I'm here, and where I'm headed. Or it could be something else.

Not much is new with me, in case you were wondering. I've been living with my parents for the last 5 years and in a few more years, I will become a full-fledged spinster. Once I reach full spinsterhood, I plan to buy a bicycle with a basket and ride around town with my small dog pretending not to notice the nakedly judgmental stares of the people I ride past. I will sit in the shadows and yell at schoolchildren when they dare each other to run up on my porch. That is, if I have a porch, which let's face it, I probably won't. Even with slightly encouraging trends in current mortgage interest rates, home ownership is still out of my grasp. No, chances are in a few years I'll still be living with mom and dad, and since we don't have a porch, I'll have to yell at schoolchildren from the roof. They probably won't hear me yelling, so I'll have to resort to throwing water balloons. But hey, in this economy, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Last week I went to the dentist for the first time in six years. I went to the same dentist I've always gone to, the only dentist I've ever gone to. When I got to the office, the receptionist started questioning me about my living situation. She looked at the computer screen, then back at me, then back at the computer screen. "There's a note here that says we're supposed to start a new file for you since you're on your own insurance now." Long pause. "But, you still live at the Nepessing address?" I nodded. "And your parents still live there too?" She looked at me with a mixture of sympathy and pity.

"Yes, I live with my parents." I felt the overwhelming urge to explain why I still live with them, but I thought it would be weird if I started telling the receptionist at the dentist's office that I'm afraid to move away because I'm convinced that if I do my parents will die and/or I will end up living in a hovel eating ramen noodles I cooked in a microwave that's balanced on a milk crate.


So I let it go. The truth is, people don't care if I live with my parents. And if people ask me if I'm married or if I have kids, they don't care what I say. They probably don't even listen to my answer. They're just being polite. But I still retain the right to hate them for asking. 

In the immortal words of Sam Cooke, a change is gonna come. I can feel it. Soon I'll move out and when I'm old, I'll be grateful I got to spend so much time with my parents these last five years. So I guess it's worth all the insecurity that comes with being thirty and living with mom and dad. Yeah, it's definitely worth it. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Things I Don't Like

Recently I've been thinking that my creative soul may be slowly dying, since I haven't been writing. So to combat that I decided to start writing again, and the easiest place to do that is here on my blog. After all, it's here that I feel I can be my truest self. It's here that my words and thoughts spill out freely and easily. I'm hoping that someday I can read some of the entries I've posted here and think to myself, Wow. Who WAS that girl? In my mind, my future self is a glamorous, icy, THIN, woman who wears tailored black dresses and pearls and goes to benefit dinners. I don't know how I'll morph from the person I am today into the clearly much better version of myself that I've just described, but you'll all be along for the ride. 

A long, long time ago (we're talking months, here), I started a list of things I don't like. I created the list as a note on my iPod touch, and I've been adding to it ever since. Theoretically this list could grow and grow to the point where my iPod touch would no longer have the memory to house it, so I thought I'd better transcribe it here, as long as everyone who reads this understands that the list will continue to grow in my head forever and ever.

Things I Don't Like:

Defrosting meats
Getting pulled over
Yogurt
The fact that I feel like a failure if I don't brush my teeth for a "full" two minutes
When people stand too close to me while I'm ringing myself up at the self check out
Cash only places
That I now have to worry about people who own their own zoos getting depressed, setting all their   animals free, and then killing themselves
Family style restaurants--I want my OWN food, thank you very much
Sharing a bed with anyone other than a boyfriend
Sharing
Old chocolate (like when you get a chocolate covered cherry at a gas station and it's got an old whitish-looking, frost-looking coating on it, and it's all imploded)
Sand in my bed
Small talk
Dry feet
The sound of someone snuffing out a cigarette
The high cost of movie theater snacks
Paperwork
Strange noises that make you think your electronics are about to break
Icy roads
Repeats on TV
When weathermen (and women) do the weather in a threatening way that makes me feel like the world is about to come to an end just because there's snow in the forecast
Overstuffed couches
Velvet
Weeks that I don't get paid
Really expensive mannequins
The fact that other people seem to be "better at" life than I am
Raw eggs
Baby/wedding showers
A really full garbage can that I don't feel like emptying
Being out of paper towel
The fact that I am both mesmerized by and terrified of deer
Magazine inserts
Having to change the toilet paper roll
People who just set the new roll of toilet paper on the sink instead of actually changing the roll
Tying my shoes--what a hassle!
Being out of ice
Those popsicles that have no stick and are in a long plastic tube--I know everyone loves those, but I DON'T and I don't know why everyone else does and that bugs me
Having to sit in the middle of a movie theater row--I don't want to have to climb over people to go pee or to go purchase $18 worth of chicken poppers and snow caps
When someone is following me
The very early morning hours--that's my scary time
Making phone calls
That feeling right before the roller coaster starts when you're "not sure" your bar is clicked down all the way
When my cursor goes nuts
When my chimp won't take a bath no matter how many times I play Everybody Hurts (usually works like a charm)
The movie Rachel Getting Married
Climbing a lot of flights of stairs next to someone who is more fit than I am  and worrying that they are judging me for being out of breath
Beets
Bridge collapses
Hidden fees
That open space in a public bathroom stall that seems really easy for strangers to look through and see me half naked
Missing people
Heartbreak
Spinach

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wistful Thinking

Most days, it's easy to feel good about my life. After all, I have so much more than so many people. For one, I don't have a hook for a hand. Also, I've never done that thing where I put one red sock in with all my whites. Actually, I don't sort my laundry because that requires patience and a desire for "crisp" colors that I frankly don't possess. I have been called fat while riding my bike in my bathing suit when I was in my early teens, but I'm just about over that. So yeah, my life isn't horrible. But there are still days where I feel trapped and helpless. There are days where I feel like I made a terrible wrong turn somewhere and I have no idea how I ended up where I am.

My mom and I took a trip recently, to Nashville, for a family wedding. In the days leading up to the trip, when I would feel my usual "where is my life headed?" ennui, I told myself not to worry because soon, I would be on the road, hurtling toward a new place, a place entirely different from my usual surroundings. This trip, this change in my routine, I convinced myself, would give my life meaning--at least for a few days. And that's what I long for. I want to feel alive, I guess.

It did feel good to get out of Michigan. I sat in the passenger seat, not listening to music or watching movies on my iPod or reading one of the dozen magazines I brought, just looking out the window at the countryside, the farms, the towns, the trees and open fields. I've always liked looking out the window. Maybe it's the writer in me. I like to get a glimpse into other people's worlds. I have a deep melancholy for places I've never been and lives I haven't lived.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was when my mom and I stopped at Arby's. The employees all had southern accents, and because I don't have a southern accent, I imagined that they were all delighted by my uniqueness and entranced by my lack of twang. I long to be cool and mysterious. I wanted one of them to say something to me like, "You sound like up north." And later I actually told my mom that one of them did say that to me, because it just makes for an adorable anecdote, even though it's a completely made-up lie.

The wedding was beautiful, but it served as a painful reminder that my life is bitterly empty and without meaning or purpose. I don't have a boyfriend, so I'm certainly nowhere near getting engaged or married. And I probably won't have a baby anytime soon, which I want even more than I want to get married. I might have to go to a sperm bank. I might! Just let it go. I think I can do most of the process of picking out the ideal sperm donor from my iPhone, so it's not going to be a big hassle when I decide to do it. And that's nice. At least there's an app for that, you know??

The other day, I was lying in bed doing nothing, so I decided to watch one of the myriad of programs I taped thinking oooohhh that sounds good, I'll want to watch that later. This particular show was on TLC and it was called "Half Ton Killer?" It was about this woman who weighs around 850 pounds and how she killed her nephew by rolling over on him. Or did she? The show was trying to figure out if she killed him or if she was covering for her sister. I'll save you an hour. She was covering for her sister, who beat the child to death with a hairbrush. It turns out the half ton woman couldn't have killed her nephew by rolling over on him because, you guessed it, she can't roll over. The point of me telling you all this is that this woman, the half ton woman, was married! And before you ask me, her husband was pretty normal looking! And he was nice.

That's it, you guys. I give up. I've heard that you meet "the" guy the minute you stop looking. So I guess I'll stop looking, which means my future husband is probably the crane operator who'll be helping to remove me from my bedroom once I reach half-ton status. A girl can dream, right?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

This Isn't Spam: A Love Letter to my Most Loyal Readers

Hi everybody,

When I say "everybody," I'm really speaking to the random foreign people and basement-dwelling weirdos who comment on my blog with paragraphs of ungrammatical information about headphones I should buy, nude celebrities, and ways to get more "visitors" to my "nifty site." How I love these freaks, because they are my only fans. They get me. They do.

I just know that the next time my not-so-nice boyfriend leaves me stranded at a gas station or on a highway median, I can call upon one of these comrades and they will race to be there for me. They'll pick me up, give me a knowing, sympathetic look, caress my cheek, and say, "Oh sweetie! Not again." And I'll just nod, because yes, it happened again. And then we'll go to breakfast and I won't have to pay because I've been through a lot--and it won't even be a big deal if I order the most expensive thing on the menu (a five egg farmer's omelet with a side of Belgian waffles, a hot mug of chicory coffee, and an entire package of Hershey's Hugs) because, like I said, I've been through a lot.

These folks are the ones who support me and listen to me no matter what. When I start in on one of my maniacal rants or one of my crime sprees, they don't try to stop me. They just stand back and watch, or if I'm on the lam, they let me warm my hands by the heat of their trashcan fires. That time I freaked out and started screaming because my boyfriend didn't want to pay $18 for a lobster roll, they didn't tell me I was overreacting. Because I wasn't overreacting. I mean, people put their lives on the line to catch lobsters. There are kids growing up without dads so that abusive jackholes like my boyfriend can enjoy a lobster roll while strolling around a farmer's market on a crisp fall day. And he won't pay a lousy 18 bucks?!! What the FUCK is wrong with this world?

When all of my other friends had abandoned me because I wouldn't stop chain smoking cigars in their homes after they politely asked me not to, and because I kept begging them for reassurance that I looked good when I got that pageboy haircut and replaced all my jeans and T-shirts with power-bitch pants suits, it was these loyal readers who had my back. I mean, literally. One of them took me to get one of those hot stone massages and it felt SO good on my lats.

And why shouldn't I have a hot stone massage after a long week of work or a particularly nasty argument with my butcher? Sometimes he cuts the pork chops too thin, for fuck's sake! If I wanted a fucking thin pork chop for dinner I'd have my bastard dick boyfriend butcher my meat. Am I right? And you know, sometimes I work up to four full hours two to three days a week. When I get home on those days, I'm fucking spent. I've fucking had it. I deserve some peace in this life. I deserve some peace and I deserve a fully loaded Audi R8 GT Spyder, plus 4 months of vacation time a year so I can go to fantasy baseball camp.

But I digress. I just want to acknowledge that there are a select few people in this world who truly get me and who are there for me. These people, my spammers, will be in my wedding someday. They will be godparents to my children. One of them may even get to keep my firstborn if he can help me turn a room full of straw to gold and I can't guess his name in three tries. And I'd be OK with that. So thank you, my true friends. Thank you for reading and thank you for your useful comments. I will print out your comments, fold them up, store them in a keepsake box I bought at Michael's, and cherish them always.  

Til we meet again,

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Goon

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Oh god, she posted another blog entry that I'm supposed to read? I've got STUFF to do. I don't have time for this shit! I was gonna do laundry and watch The Biggest Loser makeover episode! Well geez, if you're gonna get all mad about it, then feel free not to read. Just do your stuff, you self-important ass. You don't have to keep reading, but I'm going to keep writing because I'm trying to get back to who I am. And who I am is a writer.

So let's get into what I did today. I went to the movies. I talked to my dad. I yelled at my mom to turn down the TV. I sat in my car. I talked to my sister on the phone. I worried about whether or not it was going to storm. I kept pulling up my pants because they're cheap pants I bought at Target. I looked at luggage. I moved some shards of a broken mug out of the way of someone's car tire. I made a vegan black bean casserole. I also, of course, watched TV.

The movie I saw was called "Goon." Everyone who asked me which movie I was going to see said they'd never heard of it. But I had read about it in a magazine, probably Entertainment because that's the only magazine I have a subscription to that would mention a semi-obscure movie like "Goon." It really only has a couple of famous people in it and they're sort of marginally famous--Seann William Scott (Stifler from the American Pie movies) and Jay Baruchel (he's been in stuff like Knocked Up and She's Out of My League). Seann William Scott plays Doug Glatt--a sweet, simple-minded guy with a gift for knocking people out who becomes the enforcer on a struggling Canadian hockey team. Jay Baruchel plays his hockey-obsessed best friend. It may not sound like it would be a good movie (or the type of thing I'd be interested in), but I actually really, really enjoyed it. There was an undercurrent of sadness to it. I wanted to take Doug Glatt into my arms and tell him everything's gonna be OK. Plus, part of the movie took place in a city I've wanted to visit for a while now--St. John's, Newfoundland. To me, there's something magical about desolate winterscapes and blue collar people. St. John's has all that, and so did the movie "Goon." It spoke to me, and I highly recommend it.


One of the best things about today was that when I went up to buy my ticket for "Goon," the ticket agent (whose name was Mick, I gathered from his name tag) asked for my ID!! He didn't think I was old enough to see an R-rated movie!! I thanked him for the compliment and handed over my license, and even then, he kept shaking his head and saying, "What? No! What? No!" But he did let me in, thankfully. It was very flattering, but if he'd tried to keep me out of the movie, I would probably have had to skewer him with the trident I keep in my purse (the weapon, not the gum).         

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mysteries and Tracey Gold

I am getting pretty sick of my life, you guys. Ever since I graduated from nursing school and landed my first nursing job, it seems like there's nothing new on the horizon for me. I feel like I'm walking in lock-step with the rest of the disenfranchised human race to my death. Is that too heavy? 

 
It's just, there's still so much I want to do. Like for instance, I want to captain a riverboat. I want to swim with wild dolphins. I want to see sharks from a boat, and sleep in a hammock on a beach. I'm not sure if I can realize any of these dreams because I'm stuck in a rut--a bad rut. And I might be too fat for a hammock.

You wanna know what I did today? I woke up at about 10:15 am, got up to wash my face and told myself while I was in the bathroom that when I got back to my room I was going to go right back to sleep. But then I decided to take a shower and get dressed, because I thought that then when I laid down and fell back asleep, it would be more like taking a nap and less like sleeping in until 1:00 pm. But of course, after I showered I was awake. So I decided to eat a bunch of honey roasted peanuts and watch one of the dozens of episodes of 48 Hours that I have taped off of TLC. Let me just digress for a moment to discuss the emotional ramifications of watching an endless string of 48 Hours episodes. It makes you feel like at any moment one of your close family members could snap, drag you into the garage, stab you 28 times, dress you in clothes you would never pick out for yourself, shove you into the trunk of a car and then drive that car to a bad part of town, leave it (and you) there, and then walk home while making phone calls to your friends and family asking them if they've seen you because you never came home from work and you're always on time. I watched an episode of 48 Hours, telling myself that when it was over I would get up and walk the dog. But when it was over, I decided to watch Face of Evil, this old Lifetime movie starring Tracey Gold as an evil co-ed who kills a girl she meets in an airport, then shoves the girl's body into a suitcase, CHECKS the suitcase, then flies to New Hampshire without incident and throws the suitcase into a pit on a construction site that is soon to be covered with cement and proceeds to take over the girl's life while simultaneously seducing her rich roommate's rich, lonely daddy. It is an amazing gem of a movie that opens with a scene in which Tracey Gold is feeding a sparrow while a nearby cat is clearly stalking the little bird and getting ready to pounce. A concerned youngster throws a ball at the bird to get it to fly away when she sees the cat coming near and then says to Tracey Gold's character, "Didn't you see that cat?" To which Tracey Gold replies, "What did you think I was feeding??" Does it get any better than that?? Does it?? I really don't think it does.

But anyway, back to what I'm doing with my life. After I watched Face of Evil, I decided to throw away my half full jar of honey roasted peanuts in an effort to make me stop eating them. I also decided to throw away the rest of the trash in my garbage can. So I grabbed the dog and my bag of trash and went outside into the beautiful, clear, breezy day. I threw away my garbage and walked around, listening to a book on my iPod. The book I'm listening to is about teens with cancer who fall in love and then one of them dies. They also have a blind friend. It's kind of a downer, but if you haven't sensed a pattern yet with the type of media I consume, I like that sort of thing.

While I walked around, I listened to my book, but I also thought about what's wrong with my life. I'm fairly healthy, so I've got that going for me. I'm pretty smart, so I've got that going for me. I have a good job, so that's good. But...I don't know what to do next. I don't have a purpose. I think about going to graduate school, but I don't want to go further into debt. I want to move, but I don't want to leave my family. I want to meet someone, but I'm intimidated by the whole dating thing.

I guess I just want things to be easier than they are. But I know the answer. I need to push myself to do something. Take a step in a direction--any direction. In a few weeks, I am going to face one of my bigger fears--flying in a plane by myself. I know lots of people who fly on a regular basis and it's no big deal to them, but it kinda scares the hell out of me. Even still, I'm doing it. I'm flying across the country and I'm gonna have fun goddamn it! Well I probably won't have fun on the plane, but once I get off the plane, then I'll have fun.  

Me writing this blog post today is sort of an effort to get back to one of my first loves and to one of the things I feel is very true to who I am--writing. Because when you don't know where you're headed next, sometimes it's good to remember who you've always been. Ugh. Wow. Could I be any more cutesy and obnoxious? I'm really annoying myself here. No wonder one of my family members is going to snap and kill me any day now. Just make sure that on my 48 Hours episode when they show pictures of me, they do a voice over about how "vibrant" and "full of life" I was and how I "never had any enemies" and how all I ever did was "spew love and happiness onto everyone" in my life. That's really the truth, anyway.        

Thursday, February 2, 2012

NLYSYITM

Gina,

I don't know if you've noticed this about me, but I can be a little dramatic. So when I found out a few weeks ago that you were moving to New York, I immediately broke down crying. I knew there was a strong possibility you would be moving there, but to find out that you were leaving for sure and that you'd be going in just one short month, I felt like my heart was being ripped out. And I guess it kind of was, because you are my heart.


I feel incredibly lucky that we have the relationship we have, because being sisters doesn't necessarily mean you have to like each other or even know each other very well. Some sisters could be standing in the same room together and yet be further apart than you and I would be if we lived on different continents. Also, some sisters kill each other. It's called sororicide and it happens more often than you'd think.


From the very start, we were a special pair, like two sides of a coin. You, the gorgeous, cute one and me, the smart, interesting one. No, but seriously--we go together like cake and frosting. And it always has been that way.          I remember the day it all started. I had just been born, and mom put me down for a nap in my crib. She thought you were quietly playing with your dolls, so she went out to smoke on the porch. Little did she know what a scamp you were! You snuck into my room to peek at me, your new living doll, while I slept. But you couldn't leave it at that. You just had to hold me. So you climbed into my crib, picked me up, and began singing to me. When mom walked in and saw little three-year-old you standing in my crib, holding me and singing, she let out one of her trademark shocked gasps, which scared you so much that you dropped me. Wham!! I fell onto the crib mattress like a sack of potatoes. Soon, everyone was crying and the day was ruined.


Of course, I know you meant well. You just wanted to cuddle with your new baby sister. Still, this was not the last time you caused me bodily harm. There was the time you insisted on giving me a piggy-back ride down the stairs. You couldn't hold me up and I ended up crashing off your shoulders, falling down the stairs, and slamming into our fancy glass umbrella stand. Another time, you chased me out into the DeArmond's front yard, threw me to the ground, sat on top of me, and began pelting me with weak little punches. I can't remember what I had done to make you so mad, but I do remember being beaten to within an inch of my life. In those early years, you used to taunt me with kitchen knifes, slap me, spit on me, and hug me so tightly I could barely breathe. You'd pull me into one of your vise-grip hugs and say, "You're my teddy bay-o, you're my teddy bay-o!" until I begged for mercy.
You also used to wait until I went to sleep, then creep into my room, crouch down by the side of my bed, and then pop up and scare me. I developed crippling anxiety because of this and couldn't sleep through the night until I was 16. But still, I knew you did it all as a way of showing how much you loved me. It also helped us bond. I became just as much of a prankster as you were. Remember the time I called mom and asked her to ask you to get her peach-colored coat out of the hall closet and then I hid in there for over an hour, waiting for you to come and get it so I could jump out and scare you? This is how we love each other.


It wasn't all violence and pranks between us. I remember you reading me bedtime stories. Specifically, I think you read me the story "Jonathan Cleaned Up--Then He Heard A Sound" hundreds and hundreds of times. And that's not a short story. We would cuddle up together in your bed in our house on Forest Drive and you would read me that story. It was my favorite, and I guess it was yours too, or you just wanted to make me happy. We also always shared a love of music. Remember the hours we spent singing in the back of mom's van on trips up north? We came up with harmonies, singing show-tunes and songs we learned in music class, like "The Eagle Song" ('Born for a western sky, sweeping a circle as he flies. He was free-ee-ee when they let him be...'). We would also spend at least a half an hour saying goodnight to each other every single night. Our bedrooms shared a wall and we would talk to each other through it.We came up with a whole series of little phrases we would HAVE to say each night, otherwise we were both convinced that "something bad" would happen. To save time and energy, we eventually shortened our goodnight ritual so that in order to avoid the untimely death of one of us, all we have to say to each other is "Night, love you, see you in the morning." We still say this to each other every time we say goodbye or goodnight. Well...sometimes you say it and then I wait a REALLY long time to say it back just because I know that you, being as superstitious as you are, won't go to sleep or hang up the phone until I say it. I love this power I have over you...but I always do end up saying it.


As we grew up, we didn't always understand each other. You were a wild child, and I was determined to be the exact opposite. That's why you ended up in trouble with the law and I ended up in AP English. Hey now, I'm just teasing. We have always been different, though--in some interesting ways. For one thing, we don't look alike. Remember how we used to say, "Hey, let's do that thing where we look in the mirror and see how much we don't look alike?" And we would. We would stand, side by side, and stare silently into the mirror for a few minutes. Finally one of us would say, "Wow. We really DON'T look alike!" It blew our minds. You have also always been a little more free spirited than I am, more of a social butterfly. I always had friends, but I was just as content to sit in my room for hours reading and listening to Nat King Cole as I was to spend time with them. You were into make-up, clothes, and hair. I was into not wearing make-up and only buying clothes from thrift stores. What a nerd I was (an ugly nerd!). Our differences stuck with us, but I think we also influenced one another as we grew into the relationship we have now. You taught me how to do make-up, showed me how to loosen up a little, and I made fun of you for being afraid to return a video to the video store by yourself. No, but seriously--you have made me a more interesting and fun person, and I hope I have done the same for you.


Honestly, I think the things we have in common have defined our relationship more than our differences have. We're both funny and creative. We both do pretty amazing British and Jersey girl accents. We're both devious pranksters. We both love horror movies, fly off the handle when we're hungry, overreact, cry at the drop of a hat, hate flying, love roller coasters, fear death, and embrace life. We may not look alike (it really is remarkable how much we do NOT look alike!), but our personalities, our collective off-the-wallness, the shorthand we have with one another that only exists between people who connect on the deepest of levels, proves we're sisters. I'm still probably gonna order a DNA test, just to be certain...you understand.


There is so much more I could say about you and me. But instead, I'm going to leave you with some confessions: One of my all-time favorite days is the day we spent filming Killer Doll. Looking at pictures of you when you were a little kid fill me with joy--I love your little chin dimples and your ridiculously large glasses. I love that you are a crazy hypochondriac. A memory that always makes me laugh is the night you were writhing around on your bed in our house on Calhoun Street, looking like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, screaming "My ears! My EARS!" I like that you never get annoyed when I call you a  "frail little woman" or compare you to a garden gnome. I admire you more than you probably know--you are a dreamer, you are passionate, and you aren't afraid to go for what you want. I wish I could be that fearless. Lastly, I will miss you so much--our sisters nights in Royal Oak, our limp hugs, our vegan cupcake feasts.


I know this is not an ending. This is the beginning of a crazy new adventure. In a way, even though you are going, I am keeping you here. Because like I said, you are my heart. And in a way, even though I am staying, I am going with you. Because you are my heart.

I love you, and I'm proud of you. 

NLYSYITM,

Liz 

"There's a special kind of freedom sisters enjoy. Freedom to share innermost thoughts, to ask a favor, to show their true feelings. The freedom to simply be themselves." –Author Unknown