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Is it just me, or are you likewise experiencing post-holiday blues?

I noticed that as I grow older (and wiser, or so I would like to claim), I oftentimes experience these blues immediately after a trip, an extended vacation, and the holidays.  Well, truth is, even after weekends.

We know that the holidays are usually spent with family, loved ones and friends, marked by celebrations here and there, get-togethers, reunions and parties, late nights, hangovers, late (and super heavy) breakfasts, afternoon siestas, movie or tv series marathons, long trips and many other activities that surely made us excited and warmed our hearts.  We partied like there was no tomorrow, ate like there is no waist line or cholesterol level to worry about, and get fully entertained exchanging stories with family and friends we have not seen in a while.

After all the hoopla, however, we get this really bad hangover.  This holds true for most, whether for students or professionals, when the holidays are over and it’s time to go back to school or work, or both.  It takes a whole lot of energy and effort to go on rebound mode, and go back to “normal”, whatever “normal” you need to go back to, your life as you know it.  Before you realize it, you are suddenly thrust into long working hours, office backlogs (if you were not wise enough to have worked on that before year-end), shortened rest periods (if you get any, in which case you are still lucky), early morning rush, and in my case the need for sugar rush in between these things.  It is not helping that Baguio weather we’re having lately go as low as 9.6-deg, which translates to bed weather: the lure of a cozy bed, warm sheets and moments with my good old reliable Kianne (my e-reader) supposedly, were it not for post-holiday fixing and such other duties I just need to grapple with.

But whether we want it or not, the new year is here.  Reality sets in, holidays are over.  Responsibilities await, and new challenges abound.  2013 was a beautiful year for me: lots of travel with family and friends, reconnecting with old friends, meeting new friends, loads of precious memories and worthwhile lessons learned along the way, new books read, new characters met, stories lived and loved and experienced, and so much more.  I can whine and complain about this awful hangover, and be (overly) wistful about things we had in 2013 for some time, but like that year, it just gets really old.

Hello 2014, I am ready. 


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weirdest wish

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make new mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”  (Neil Gaiman)

Did I tell you I am a sucker for really nice quotes?  I am.  I love reading them, having those “awww….” moments after being struck by their beauty and depth, and “collecting” them by writing them down in my special journal, even using those special pens in metallic ink.  I love going back to them and just reading them, always as though for the first time.

Going over picture quotes on the internet the above quotation struck me as odd.  Make mistakes??? Times have really changed.  What kind of an advice is this, “make mistakes”.  Do you imagine your old folks giving you this piece of wisdom?  I would.

I come from a family of writers, poets in their own rights, artists, dreamers, crazies if you may.  (Sorry fab family, but I meant that in a really nice way.)  People who dare, people who are never scared to make mistakes, people who did make terrible mistakes in their lives but nonetheless rose from their fall.  I still have not gotten the privilege of knowing each one’s complete life stories and tragedies and lessons learned but I have a feeling each one of us have a warrior’s story to tell.

I only have the privilege of talking about the life drama of my mother’s bloodlines, for now.  I have no idea if I will ever find out about my father’s but that is already an accepted part of my own drama.  I have long embraced the complicated life as if it were a birthright.

So yes, we do make glorious mistakes, Mr. Sandman.  Every year.  Actually, many times in a year.  Thanks to your weird quotation it has made me appreciate my life more.  Because of your quote I now take pride in daring, in being open to change, in embracing all flaws and imperfections and working with them, in treading new paths and in oftentimes reveling in glorious mistakes.

I have the same wish for my family, and friends: that they be brave, and bold, and that they never stop learning and loving life.

Have a blissful 2014, everyone.  Claim your happiness. 





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The sweet journey continues.  After spending the night in Davao City’s very cozy Domicilio Lorenzo Apartelle, we spent the next morning visiting the Cathedral and having breakfast buffet at the Marco Polo Davao.  I got worried halfway through the buffet, knowing full well we were on our way to the beach island of Samal and would soon don my swimsuit.  How in the world would I fit into that thing with a breakfast like that?  Oh well, just worry later, enjoy the feast first.  I could be stubborn like that, but who cares?  I was not out for the best in swimsuit award anyway, even if I did decide to starve myself for weeks prior to the getaway. Hahaha.

After packing our things and bidding Domicilio Lorenzo sweet memories adieu, we started off for the Island Garden City of Samal. It was my first time to ride a barge and I was truly amused by the cars, buses (with passengers!) and jeepney actually on the boat.  It was only a ten-minute ride to get to Samal Island, but we were quite lost when we disembarked because we had no idea how to get to the resort where we had our reservations.  We picked it based on the photos shown online, made reservations online.  A wanderluster’s mantra:  Never hesitate to ask for directions.  So we did.  We were told that the common mode of transportation is the habal-habal, a motorcycle thing that’s just a bit bigger than the usual motorcycle.  I swallowed hard, looked at my BFFs, then looked at our baggages. I could not believe I overlooked that fact in my days of reading about this trip.  How will we (and our baggages) fit into that?  And at midday, with the sun shining proudly, when there is yet no such thing as SPF199++?  We noticed a bus and decided to ask if it was going anywhere near SECDEA Beach Resort.  The odds are ever in our favor, as the driver’s assistant told us they could drop us off the “town” and get us a tricycle to bring us to the resort.  Tricycle is good.  Tricycle is better than riding a motorcycle because it has three wheels.  I have a weird sense of balance, which is why I never learned how to ride a bike.

And so our journey continued on that tricycle, with a Manong driver who talked nonstop through the really, really bumpy ride amidst fields, and narrow dusty roads.  Again, imagine if we rode on the habal-habal instead under the scorching midday heat, our chunky baggages by our side.  The barge ride cost P10 per head, the bus fare P10, and the tricycle ride P300.  Wonders never cease.

45 minutes later, off from the trike and to another mode of transpo, this time in the resort’s caddie.  And then we’ve reached the SECDEA Beach Resort.

Wow.  One look and we knew: it is well worth the long, bumpy ride.  Weariness is nothing.

Hello, paradise.


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IMG_9764I have just gotten back from a four-day vacation, and it was an experience I will never forget.  Up until 3 years ago, I have never succumbed to the travel bug, as I would usually just travel out of necessity, be it job-related, or for family gatherings I simply could not get out of.  When my Mama died, however, it seems she had passed on to me her passion for travel and the good life, for which I am really so thankful.  It has officially made me a “wanderluster” – as much as possible taking good opportunities to travel more often, to appreciate and experience the rest of the world.

“Let’s go to somewhere we have never been”, has thus far been my family’s getaway mantra for the past three years, and although I would say the passion is more on my end I feel that the rest of them truly appreciate and enjoy the places we’ve been to so far.  Of course, it entails a lot of sacrifice too, and expenses obviously, so it takes some serious planning most of the time.

Through different (main) travel destinations I’ve been to, and many other towns, cities, barrios in between, I can say I have learned a lot as a wanderluster.  There are some essential virtues learned in our travels, and I have the honor to share them with you today.  I am certain I will add to this list sooner, as travels (hopefully) go by but for now, the wanderluster in me treasures what I have acquired so far:

PatienceThe trip actually begins with planning for months:  patience in scouting for promo fares (late nights, early morning scouting), in searching for travel packages (or prior to that, even in determining whether to go DIY or to go prof services), patience in packing for five.  It takes me hours to read and read online to plan out the trip and be certain on a lot of decisions and issues.

PassionI would like to think you need some level of passion for something  to be able to have that much patience with it. Res ipsa loquitur.

Audacity. Be brave, be very brave.  Ask for directions, seek an adventure, taste exotic food, enjoy the culture, gain new experiences, see the rest of the world with childlike eyes, befriend people from everywhere.  Taste, smell, listen, see, feel with much enthusiasm.

Spontaneity and CalmWait, do these go together? I think so.  Despite the hours of reading, planning and choosing, something is bound to go wrong (in a way).  Look out for the unexpected, be open to alternatives and try your best NOT to fret if plans do change.  Consider it as an opportunity for something better.  Think serendipity. You are already there, don’t let anything ruin your trip or else everything will go to waste.  You can either adapt, or spend the rest of the trip sulking.  Choose to enjoy rather than to fuss over things.  You did not travel far to do that, you could have stayed home and just locked yourself up in your room.

Gratitude.  A sense of appreciation for every good thing you encounter in your travels, and even seemingly “bad” things that have become blessings in disguise.

There is still so much more to learn.  Here’s to more marks on our maps. 





angel on earth
























(photo credits: thank you so much, Atty. Lisle Wadingan)


I still vividly remember the euphoria, that indescribable joy when I learned, on the evening of my birthday no less, that I passed the 2000 Bar Examinations.  Little did I know that that joy and victory was only the beginning, nothing compared to the rest of the surprises and learning experiences I will have as time goes by.

The morning after the bar exam results came out, I received a phone call from Atty. Rene Rondez, one of the best professors I had in law school and among the nicest teachers I had in my academic life, offering me a spot in their very prestigious law firm, then still known as the Law Firm of Rondez Rondez and Gandeza.  I did not hesitate, and jumped right in.  It would be foolish to consider any other alternative.

It was unnerving, being in the company of these bigwigs in the field, and for the first few months of my law career it felt like I was more of a liability than an asset – being new and practically untrained in legal practice, and within the first year of my being an associate, pregnant with my second child. Nonetheless in my five years with the firm I never got the feeling of being unwelcomed, or being unwanted, or treated as a burden.  In fact, I was embraced and loved like a member of the family and to this day still get invited to its gatherings and functions.

It broke my heart to learn of Atty. Teofisto Rondez’s death early evening of Sunday, the 24th.  In the course of eulogies, write-ups, posts and conversations we would hear about his life lived fully and about all the achievements of a great man: an outstanding lawyer, a great public servant, a major participant in many activities and organizations, an excellent educator, among others.  I recognize him as such, but I actually know him as so much more.  Sir Teop was none of the stern, grim, hard-hearted senior partners we see in a lot of John Grisham novels, legal thriller movies or courtroom dramas.  He came to the office very early in the morning and often sat in the conference room poring over case files, but however busy he might seem, he would always look up, smile and ask how I was, and oftentimes make conversation about anything and everything, enough to make my day.  He had the sweetest grey eyes that were always smiling, and when he conversed with you it felt like everything you say was of great consequence to him.  He made you feel cared for that way.  Even after I had been appointed to my current post, there were times when he would drop by and check on some papers, although I knew he had staff to do that.  One time when I told him he could just call and I would gladly send over photocopies, he said he also wanted to visit and check out how I was doing.

In my five years with the firm, he always went out of his way to be nice.  He was very pleasant not only to us in the office but to all his clients and acquaintances.  I had never heard him get mad or upset, and whether he was talking to Baguio’s top businessmen or the simplest of laborers, his tone would always be nice, respectful, pleasant.  Even in the number of times he came to SEC he would greet the boys as though they were long lost friends.

They say you cross paths with people in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.  My life with the firm may have been for a short period, but people like Sir Teop are meant to stay in my heart for a lifetime.  I had seen him with his wife, his kids, his grandkids, his clients, his friends, his acquaintances.  I had seen him with office staff, and with strangers from all walks of life.  He was one of the best people I had crossed paths with in my life.  More than anything, he had given me the lesson of kindness, of patience, of being a blessing to others, whether they be close to you, or strangers.  He never had an air of superiority, never insulted others, never shut his door.

The painful thing about his demise is that having gotten caught up with the busyness of life and affairs, it feels like I have not fully expressed my gratitude to him for having touched my life with the blessing of his friendship and genuine care, for which I am forever grateful.  Although he probably never knew that particularly, I know that his good heart and kindness had been rewarded with a blissful marriage, a loving wife, equally kindhearted and successful children, loving grandkids, and people who will always cherish his memory, and that he had been blessed with a life lived to the fullest.

Thank you, Sir Teof, heaven has gained an angel who needs no transition, as you had always been an angel on earth.


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plunder games

One day to go and it will be the Philippine premiere of the movie “Catching Fire”, the second in the Hunger Games trilogy.  I am a huge fan of both the books and the first movie, and I am hoping the second movie is a very good adaptation as well.

For those who have not heard of this trilogy, it is a futuristic thriller set in a nation called Panem, which is divided into 12 districts and headed by a powerful and wealthy capitol and a loathsome dictator. The capitol hosts the Hunger Games, an annual event which pairs a boy and a girl, aged 12 to 18 years old, from each district, to fight to the death in an outdoor arena until only one delegate – called tribute – remains. The whole “game” is televised for the amusement of the people of Panem, especially those from the wealthy capitol.

Refreshing my memory on the highlights of Catching Fire prior to its showing gave me an  idea.  It sounds quite (?) wicked so prepared to be shocked.  Oh well, nothing probably shocks us anymore, so here goes:

It’s time to prosecute those we suspect of having committed plunder, of having robbed us of taxpayers’ money, of having abused the coffers of our nation for their personal gain, including accomplices and accessories to the crime.  Let’s take out all the survivors from the Visayas and not rebuild the place.  Instead, let us prepare a stage – an arena – and let it be the site of the “Plunder Games”.  All those convicted will be shipped, flown or better yet be required to travel by foot to the arena, where they will be pitted against one another, facing challenges that will require them to fight it out – blood, sweat, tears and all – for survival.  They will have to hunt for food, bleed for sustenance, survive in any way they can.  Let’s watch them in our TV screens, bet on them, “cheer” them on.

Wait…it gets better.  They will be required to carry a huge backpack as they play, containing the amount of their respective loot, all converted into…coins.

The “winner” – the “survivor” – will have this for the much coveted price:  he will get the loot of others, of course still in coins, and be allowed to live in that island for as long he breathes. Alone.  Filthy rich, but alone.

Wait, that sounds twisted. But not twisted enough.


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After a seven-hour bus ride from Baguio to Pasay, I finally met with my college BFFs at the bus terminal and we took a cab to Terminal 4, the old MIA.  It looks ok, better than the Clark (DMIA) airport actually.  Problem is, there is not much choice in restaurants and snack bars there so we had to walk to the other side of the street with our baggages (certified wanderluster that I seek to be I have yet to learn the art of packing light), as we were already starving after check-in.  We settled for Shakey’s, and over pizza and chicken, the unending tale-telling, reminiscing and laughing began – the signal of what I already expected to be a mayhem weekend we would be cherishing for the rest of our lives.  The tales were “classic”, to use the expression, and mostly involved my “adventures” and “misadventures” as I was considered the one with the most complicated life way back in college.  Nope, I will not elaborate on that – I’d rather invoke my right against self-incrimination, but of course my BFFs remember the sordid details which had to haunt me from Day 1 of our epic reunion.  Suffice it to say that lunch left me laughing, sighing, blushing and just being plain surprised at their recollection of things, and people, some of which (and whom) I have already deleted from my memory bank through selective amnesia. LOL.

The flight was a bit delayed, although thankfully none of the nightmarish events we read about.  During the flight I could not nap as I intended to, so I ended up finishing Where She Went by Gayle Forman, the sequel to the uber emo If I Stay.  I don’t have much trouble flying but as I was reading the last few chapters of the book I suddenly had this hyperventilating feeling. It is by far the most intense and yet subdued ending I have ever read.  I do not know how that is possible, but my heart literally stopped in midair, 30000 feet above the ground.  None of the action-packed-excitement kind you get from Dan Brown or David Baldacci, just the hopeless romantic kind which in my book is actually more intense. Awwww….

Uneventful landing, check!  Davao International Airport looks good and orderly enough.  We immediately boarded at taxi and went to the Domicilio Lorenzo Apartelle where we’re booked for our first night in Davao, and we were all enchanted by the charming old house which, although situated in the middle of the city, appears very cozy and simply beautiful.  Our room has a wide veranda overlooking the garden and the pool.  For P2,300 per night it was undeniably a steal.

Dinner was at Nanay Bebeng’s: a buffet feast consisting of a mixture of home-cooked meals, seafood, chicharong bulaklak, snails (I got frustrated with this one as I could not get them out of their shells), fresh greens (one variety of ar-arosep seaweeds that was my first time to see and taste), fresh fruits and sashimi.  Dear extremely gluttony-indulging buffet dinner, you had me at tuna sashimi.  We all had both food and laughter coma during dinner.  Indeed, all three of us have travelled long and far – literally and figuratively – and this get-together is so worth it.



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The planning started out sometime in April, as soon as my bestie Manny confirmed that he is set to come home in October.  I have to admit, the wanderluster in me started the ball rolling, although at first I was suggesting a getaway closer to home, somewhere to the tune of Thunderbird Poro Point, just an hour’s drive from my safety net of an abode.  Originally we were five UP-CAL alumni planning out the whole getaway, AB English Language majors with Student Nos. 91 –.  LOL.  Seems like only yesterday we were seated in the same class under the inspiring tutelage of Prof. Milagros Laurel, the indescribable 7 am class of Dr. Ravina, and the cappuccino-ladened sessions of Prof. Ubaldo Stecconi.  I cannot exactly remember how it ended up being a Davao – Samal Island getaway, but let’s just say there could not have been a more perfect place.

So airline bookings were made, but just for the 3 of us, Manny our bestie from down under, Jeanette our “why-so-serious” Your Honor bff, and moi.  During those times I felt like an apt travel agent confirming schedules, flights, intended itineraries and stuff.  Manny said I was good enough, and should consider that as a fallback career should lawyering be too much of a burden. LOL. (Why not???)

Days and months after countdowns, teaser posts and daydreams, THE day arrived, the 17th of October.  It wasn’t an easy time:  I have to admit Hubby, the kids and I all have separation anxiety.  It was my first time in fifteen years of togetherness to be joining a getaway with friends without even one of the Mikaelas with me.  But they all recognize the need for me time, and I appreciate that no matter how anxious they were they let me be.  It’s something I will be grateful for endlessly.  (As a prelude to: there will be more times like these. LOL)

It was my first time to board a flight from Manila, and I realized it can be quite an effort for us from the north, having to travel 6-7 hours by bus, and another couple of hours flight to our destination.  But hey, no complaints – just an observation.  Travel is love, and anything worth loving is definitely worth one’s time and effort.  It was also my first time in a long while to ride the bus alone, and I have trouble sleeping on the trip when I’m alone; thanks to gizmos and gadgetry I was able to catch up on my Beauty and the Beast (2012) TV series, and continue my reading of Where She Went (Gayle Forman, 2011) on the bus.

My two BFFs were already at the Victory Bus Station at Pasay when my bus arrived.  They had no choice but to pick me up there because I had no idea how to go to Terminal 4.  The first time I laid eyes on them I could not help but squeal.  They looked exactly the same the last time I saw them, about 3 or 4 years ago, and we still sound very much like our Diliman selves.  That moment I just knew: this will be one hell of a weekend. 




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the void


As we took a joy ride and enjoyed family time last Monday, a holiday in view of the barangay elections, I noticed billboards, posters and flyers announcing this Halloween event and that.  I came to the realization that we are now more relatively attuned to Halloween celebrations, I mean as compared to when we were younger, and “trick-or-treat” activities consist of “pangangaluluwa”, much like a Christmas caroling event on hallow’s eve.  Quite self-incriminating fact there.

Anyway, All Souls’ Day is once again upon us.  These days it has come as a shock that we are again almost nearing year-end.  Sometimes I catch myself wondering where all ten months of the year has gone.  It seems to have gone by in a blur, and I am thinking if it is being really too busy and juggling with hectic schedules, or too many activities and some daydreaming in between, of life sometimes being a dream, within a dream, within a dream…but yes, November is here, surprisingly.  Start thereof being marked by All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

It has been family tradition to visit my Mama’s grave in Eternal Gardens Dagupan since her demise in 2008.

My Mama’s grave.  That’s something I still find very difficult to even mention.  Whenever I needed to say it, or to mention the fact that she’s “dead”, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.  Five long years later and it still takes my breath away.

I know she is already at peace, smiling down on us from heaven, but I still miss her.  Terribly.  I miss our talks, I miss our book discussions, I miss telling her my plans and wishes and dreams.  I miss her berating me for the mess in my house, I miss her pointing out to me that I seem to neglect those quiet times with myself, just to be, to listen to the whispers of my heart.  I know she knows that it is not always because I have a lot to tackle or that my daily schedule can get really crazy, but that sometimes being alone, and having that much needed conversation with ourselves may not exactly be comforting.  We may not like what we hear.  Indeed, at times inner noise can be more troubling, hence we find ways to drown it with other noise instead.

I miss her words of wisdom.  I have a feeling that if there is space for negativity in heaven she would just heave out a sigh and be disappointed in some of my life’s choices, for some reason.  But I am hoping there is no such space, and all she ever does is enjoy watching us from above, filtered negativity and all.

I remember one of Damon Salvatore’s lines in The Vampire Diaries (S04) when he was standing in his best friend Alaric’s grave, after he walked out of a lantern lighting ceremony for the dead: “What difference does it make? Because in the end, when you lose somebody, every candle, every prayer is not going to make up for the fact that the only thing you have left is hole in your life where that somebody that you cared about used to be. And a rock with a birthday carved into it that I’m pretty sure is wrong.” 


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In this so-called life we experience a lot of difficulties and face too many hurdles.  Sometimes our experiences get too overwhelming that they weigh us down and take our breath away.  But we know for a fact that those challenges are necessary: they make our lives worth living, our memories more precious, and our triumphs sweeter.

My life has always been full of challenges.  Most of those who know me say it’s a wonder how I seem to take everything in stride.  I did not have an easy childhood. I had a comfortable life, yes, but emotionally my experiences were enough to cause trauma had I not been brought up in faith and a lot of love.  At age 9, I witnessed my Papa shot in the head and back a few feet away from me.   I did not go through any post-traumatic stress treatment (I think it was unheard of in the ‘80s?) and just “healed” the trauma by myself, with my family’s guidance.  At age 16, while the rest of my generation were basking in newfound independence after having moved out of their parents’ nest for college dorms, I was heartbroken for my parents’ separation and initially had no one to depend on but myself.  Being raised as an only child I learned how not to depend on anybody but myself in dire situations, being the only person I can control and rely on 100% of the time.

But as I grew older and opened up to people I became blessed with friends, people who genuinely care, love and accept you for who you are.  I figured out early on that I am not an easy person to deal with, but I feel so grateful for having found friends who are always there.  I have a number of friends from way back elementary grades and high school – people I have no longer seen in years, but with whom I continue to communicate at times, just like we haven’t lost track all those years.

And then there are my college best friends I haven’t seen in ages, but with whom I had the privilege of finally bonding with over the weekend.  We had a blast.  It was not exactly picking up where we left off, it was like no years have passed and it felt like we were just all together a few weeks back.  We reminisced about good times and bad, and heard stories we seem to have buried in our memory banks just waiting to be unearthed for a good laugh, or a sigh, depending on the circumstances (I take the fifth amendment here!).  Our Davao adventure is perfect for the next couch chats, so stay tuned J.

There are also a handful of “virtual” friends I am grateful for.  People whom I haven’t met personally but with whom I share the same interests, with whom I can converse about some of the most important things in life without any awkwardness or shame, soul sisters who never tire of our tales and our whining, our weirdness and idiosyncrasies, but just offer smileys and comments that make us LOL.

Of course, there are those ‘bestest’ best friends with whom conversations about anything and nothing go on for hours in whatever medium and whatever time, or with whom silence is never uncomfortable, and faults go by unconditionally accepted.

Indeed, my life has never been an easy one.  But I deal, I cope…that is how I roll.  And I am immensely blessed with true friendships, among others, for which I am forever grateful.

The best kind of friend is the one you could sit on a porch with,

never saying a word, and walk away feeling like that was the best conversation you’ve had.”

~Author Unknown


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