in a world lost in a sea of grey, black and white remain

black and white are not colors.  it’s true.  ask an art instructor or student.  there are primary, secondary and tertiary colors, but not one of them is white or black. black is “characterized by the absence of light” and white is characterized as “free from color”.  the words, themselves are used in regards to race, moral standing and of course: color. those words are often used in conversation where the topic is referred to as either “black or white”.  while considering this concept i found myself continually saying “but white is white and black is black”.  actually it was more like the aggressive self mumbling of “right is right and wrong is wrong”.  yes! i dooooo understand that it’s all relative and there are many variables involved, but in the end is black not black and white not white?  isn’t the truth the truth?

black and white are one hundred percent.  black is one hundred percent “absent of light” and white is one hundred percent “free from color”.  but the truth and the lie… well, those are horses of a different color, pun intended.  the percentages contained within a truth or a lie can be hundreds, but tend not to be. i believe that it is the relativity and the variables that truly determine the percentage of truth or falsehood. you disagree? what about a “white lie” or a “half-truth”? are they right or are they wrong? how can you tell? and by how much? doesn’t that percentage DEPEND on something? i think they do. they do depend on something: relativity and morality. the relativity of any subject depends on the speaker and the listener. the teller and the receiver and their level of morality and whether the topic or subject is relative to them. what if you’re discussing something with someone who has never seen it, heard about it or experienced it? your version has been experienced and cited by you. what if one of the two is more compromised than the other? what if one person isn’t as moral as the other? the relativity of the truths then comes into play and each person is then scrutinized for what they feel or believe.

while black and white are not colors, i think these words should be descriptive of a truth or a lie. black and white represent absolutes. AB-SO-LUTES. there are so many things in the world that are debatable, but being truthful or being a liar shouldn’t be debatable. either you told the truth or you told a lie. you cannot have both. there should be no elective level of ambiguity allowed. either tell the truth or tell the lie but do it absolutely.

what a great image. referring to living life and not to divulging truths, but it's presence comes across just the same.

so then, what is the purpose for “bending the truth” or telling a “white lie”? i’ll tell you! it’s purely for oneself. no one likes to be labeled as a LIAR. no one. but telling a “white lie”, a “half truth” or “bending the truth” makes one feel .. umm… not so guilty of having LIED. if you didn’t tell the truth, bent the truth or omitted anything from the truth, you told a lie.

no? you disagree? why? let’s example, shall we?

if i work from 9 to 5 and expect to pick my son up from childcare by 5:30 but bend the truth and say i’m off at 5:30 and i will pick him up by 6, so that i have a few moments to myself, have i not LIED? yes! i have. i lied to my provider who is also  working. she is caring for my son and she wants time to herself as well. but what would happen if she found out that i lied? i’ll tell you! she’ll verbally warn me about such indiscretions, she’ll modify my “travel time” almost forcing me to leave work early and she will not tolerate tardiness or excuses. one more of those and we’re done. horrible outcome for a “bending the truth”, you agree? yes, i know you do.

let’s get closer to home: what about a “half truth” with family or loved ones? those are most surely the most hurtful. to tell a coworker you enjoyed her homemade carrot cake (which you can’t stand) is hardly the same as not being truthful with the people who love you and are the closest to you. if you ever find the need to tell the coworker that you don’t like her cake, chances are she’ll shrug it off without much concern. if you’re lucky. but if you tell your great-aunt that you love her carrot cake, you can almost guarantee that anytime you are near you will receive one of this beautifully hand crafted carroty delights: WHICH YOU CAN’T STAND. what will happen when you reveal the truth? what will happen when divulge that you LIED about enjoying the carrot cake, that you simply scraped it into the trash can, but since that day, all you have ever seen or received has been carrot cake. i’ll tell you!! she will be crushed. she will be heartbroken. she will recount the number of times that she went to buy special ingredients for that famed carrot cake, stayed up late preparing it and the number of times that she presented it to you with the pride of knowing that she had made you something that you liked and that she knew you would enjoy. and she will be crushed. she will be crushed recounting the times that she boxed up the leftovers thinking that you would enjoy them later but now realizing and knowing that you gave them away or dropped them in the trash. you wouldn’t dare, would you? yes. you would. you have and you did. and she will vow to NEVER make you a carrot cake again. the problem now is that she may not ever make you anything. she might feel so dejected and so DECEIVED that she removes her apron and flings her hands in the air surrendering and never, EVER, preheating the oven for you. again. surely, this is not what you meant to have happen…. but it IS what happened because the half of your truth was that you LIKE CAKE. not that you like CARROT CAKE. perhaps telling your great-aunt this fact would have served you better.

now, let’s venture for the jugular: where love is concerned, there is no room for lies. not with family, but particularly with loving relationships. the boyfriend/girlfriend, or the husband/wife or any variation thereof. finding out that you have been lied to by someone who you share your most intimates with is more than disheartening. it’s inflammatory and suspect. lying about any one thing, NO MATTER HOW TINY, is still lying and will prove detrimental to your relationship. uh huh, it’s true. no one ever, EVER, ever feels good about finding out the “truth”. especially where the complications of love are involved. if you love someone, you should love them enough to feel vulnerable and truthful with them, no matter how painful it might be to YOU right now. lies FESTER and grow. they start small and eventually morph into something that you can no longer control or remember. they are hurtful and selfish little things that serve only one purpose: to make YOU feel better about YOU. and that is sooooooooooo not the way to be. really, it’s not.

my theory is that if you life a selfish life, you will live a lonely life. you won’t have anyone to share with or confide in. at some point in time you will have pissed off everyone on some level and they will keep their interactions with you to a minimum. they will love you from afar for the person that you are, but they will be cautious about what they share with you, what they request of you and most importantly what they trust you with. you will never have the relationship that you need to live out your final days. and all over a “white lie” or a “half truth” or whateverthehell you wanna call it.

yes, darlings, do yourself a favor, live your life, your way, but do it with tact. have some discretion and providence. make your life one to remember, not one to regret. be your own person. care for yourself and your family. live life to it’s fullest as often as possible, for as long as possible. never be afraid to speak your mind (you don’t have to be rude about it, but you can be to the point). but the most important thing you can do is be honest. BE HONEST. be honest about your likes and dislikes. be honest about your feelings and emotions. be honest with your significant other, your better half, your spouse, your mate and your children. be honest with yourself. your life, your reputation and your happiness depends on it.

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required to join the arbor day foundation

i am now, and have always been some sort of administrative assistant. i have worked in offices for my entire working career. that’s a lot of years. i know my way around an office, with my eyes closed. i am familiar with the majority of office machines and their requirements. as well, with having the hobby of making invitations, i also speak “paper”. yes, i speak paper. i have an affinity for all things related to writing including paper, pens, pencils and every tool needed to scrapbook (although, i’m not a part of that cult).

in the last few years, i have found that offices tend to “go green” due to the amount of copies and duds that take place. but even still, there are a few that remain reserved and conservative and require hard copies of everything. i have recently ended employment with one such place. and it is because of that employer that i will need to join the arbor day foundation. the number of copies i made was insane. INSANE! there were four copies required of everything. everything. there were PACKAGES of copies required for each day, each week and each month. none of those packages was less than thirty pages, sometimes up to sixty for one of them. i literally used a box of paper a week. THASSALOTTAPAPER!!

my office was not really an office. it was paper storage. solely. other than the space that my desk and i occupied, there was nothing but paper, in stacks, piles and boxes. even my desk with four drawers had two drawers full of paper. a large, four-drawer file cabinet also full. i had a book shelf on top of the file cabinet, full. and there were no less that twenty to twenty five banker’s boxes full of paper. any of the available storage anywhere in the building was completely full of banker’s boxes full of paper. just prior to leaving, i had requested an additional filing cabinet. i don’t know exactly where i was going to put it, but i needed a way to try and keep myself and my office from drowning in paper. i honestly had dreams and nightmares about filing and paper storage.

i will have to plant a tree a year for the rest of my life to make up for what i have done. i can see the way that trees look at me when i walk by and hear their leafy whispers “there she goes, the one who’s killed every tree we’ve ever known, all by herself”. if they weren’t rooted, i’m sure they’d reach out and grab me. scary stuff. yes, i’m going to have to plant trees, make amends with the tree world and if at all possible, never make another photo copy in my life.

i don’t love it, i like it a lot

i took a humanities class once and a classmate made the statement “i love blank” (it doesn’t matter what word you use instead of blank, as long as it’s not a person). she didn’t mean that she loved it but that she liked it a lot. another student in that class (born and raised in another country) was astounded and made the statement:

“americans and “love”. you guys “love” everything when in fact you don’t. you like it a lot. you over-use the word “love” and therefore it has no meaning. “love” describes your feeling for another. not how much you like chocolate cake. americans need to use vocabulary.”

i was totally floored. she was right. and i was soooooooooo guilty of this slaughtering of such a phenomenal word. it made me think. hard. i was baffled by how much i used the word “love” to describe my affinity for items of interest.

“i love strawberries.”

“i love candy.”

“i love Outkast.”

what a verbal faux pas. and i have always considered myself word savvy. i can express myself well and i have a medium-sized vocabulary, but i tend to stick with “love”, and using profanity to express my levels of love. when prompted to express how much i actually love strawberries, my response used to be:

“i %&*@$#& love strawberries, like so &@$^*$# much.”

i know, poor form, right? bravo! for being crude. perhaps, a metaphor would have worked better. something like:

“i love strawberries the way babies love milk.”

still overusing the word, which is the opposite of what i am trying to accomplish. the fact of the matter is that the statement should be:

“i really like strawberries. in fact, i consider them my favorite fruit.”

it expresses my adoration and even expresses a level of comparison. yes, i think this is better. i took that class about thirteen years ago and i still struggle with not liking something a *&@%$#& lot. i need to do better. and considering that my down time is spent either reading with my son, blogging, words with friending or wordfeuding, i am really going to have to do better. yes, better BETTER! i will back that up with the following:

*right hand raised* i vow to use my vocabulary for all that it is worth. i solemnly swear to like things that should be liked and love people…only. i hereby promise to try my very hardest (and that is really hard) to eliminate profanity and the like from said vocabulary in an attempt to a) be a better parent and b) to put that broader vocabulary to use. yes, these things i will do. i’m gonna have to find my thesaurus.

have you seen my soul mate?

a sweetheart of a message?... or is it just sugar coating??

“You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.”  ~C.S. Lewis

do you believe in soul mates? you know? the idea that we are each half of one soul and that the other half is locked inside of our long lost mate??? seems plausible, right? and explains our need to have another person close to us… near and dear to us, to whom we can confide, share, explore and learn about ourselves? right? i did believe. i mean, i do. at least, i think i do, but i can’t say for sure. i want to continue to believe, but it gets harder over time. i have to find ways to renew my faith and understanding in such an unconventional concept.

i think the term itself is over-used. it’s hard to know the true meaning of something when it is always misused. when using the term “soul-mate”, one should refer to LOVE or a loving relationship, not friendships or acquaintances. we all have different definitions of love. for most of us, we can’t even pull the words together to provide someone with a description. we know that what we feel is something deep and profound, but to actually describe it is almost outside of our abilities. we end up using emotions to relate how the love of another can devour us whole or how we thoroughly, though sometimes reluctantly, fall heel over head for someone (yes, heel over head, because that’s the way it happened for me. the one time, that i think it happened, but i still can’t say for sure).

...he loves me, he loves me not...

in my quest to further understand this concept, i have done some research. i don’t know about you, but when i have questions, i require answers. most times, those answers lead to more questions and i find myself enveloped in vicious cycle of ask, answer and awe. i dig further, in hopes, that i may find the final answer and not have to use any of my lifelines. if ever there were a case of “i need more information”, it is the quest to understand the “soul mate” (imma stop using the quotation marks (“”) every time i say “soul mate” because it’s just getting redundant and you are well aware of the topic). how can i find/locate/track my soul mate if i don’t know what my soul mate is supposed to be or entail? so… let’s start with the basics: a definition.

here is the definition of soul mate as stated by merriam-webster online:

1: a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament
2: a person who strongly resembles another in attitudes or beliefs
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that seems simple enough, right? but temperament, attitude or beliefs are not limited to loving relationships. that definition could be applied to just about any relationship and that is the opposite of what i want. it can take a lifetime to find someone with the same attitude. and beliefs? well, we could spend yet another entire lifetime trying to match those criteria. let’s dig deeper, shall we? here’s a description of soul mate as stated by wikipedia:

A soul mate is a person with whom one has a feeling of deep or natural affinity, similarity, love, intimacy, sexuality, spirituality, or compatibility.

that seems a lot like the merriam-webster definition with a few more adjectives. i do like the incorporation of “natural”. we’re getting closer, but this is not the cigar. we have yet to discover why the “soul” is involved. let us continue in our quest. ok, ok.. here’s some additional input by urban dictionary:

A person with whom you have an immediate connection the moment you meet — a connection so strong that you are drawn to them in a way you have never experienced before. As this connection develops over time, you experience a love so deep, strong and complex, that you begin to doubt that you have ever truly loved anyone prior. Your soul mate understands and connects with you in every way and on every level, which brings a sense of peace, calmness and happiness when you are around them. And when you are not around them, you are all that much more aware of the harshness of life, and how bonding with another person in this way is the most significant and satisfying thing you will experience in your lifetime. You are also all that much aware of the beauty in life, because you have been given a great gift and will always be thankful. by elliek Sep 2, 2006 (this was the first and most adored response on the site. thank you elliek.)
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very good. more criteria for our checklist, but this version brings to light that we are “drawn to them”. she uses the word connect. i think those are key points to what i am trying to define. obviously merriam-webster is a well known and recognized source for facts. both wikipedia and urban dictionary are “wikis” and so those descriptions are derived from us: the readers. we are the major contributors. since what i am looking for is from within, based on feeling and derived from emotion… it might be best to go with a more modern version instead of the conventional. who’s to say that any version is wrong? you can’t tell what another person feels and you can’t tell them how to feel. for example; you can’t look at another and determine if they have a headache or nausea (unless they are suffering a physical manifestation of this problem like loss of balance or vomiting). you can’t tell if someone has a migraine, a toothache … or, if they are in love. you can only inquire and you are then forced to believe what they tell you (well, there’s what whole actions versus words debate too, but we’ll get into that at a later date). some people, like myself, wear their hearts on their sleeve. you can look at them and almost see what they are feeling. but truthfully, they still have to confirm it with you.

by these definitions, i am soul mates with just about everyone. there is nothing here that provides me with the “a-ha!” that i am seeking to define. i am a lover. and a giver. i care deeply for family and friends, but also for people who might not always be deserving. my gramma used to tell me that i “love too hard and too fast”. it has proven to be difficult but i have learned to reel it in over the years. i tend to be overly helpful and secretly inspirational to most anyone i come in contact with. more helpful and inspirational to others than i am for myself. none of this helps me in my plight to define and locate my soul mate. perhaps i should seek a deeper description of the word(s). it is a word/phrase that i have heard many times over my lifespan and i am certain that it’s history is richer than what i have already listed. let me lookee see what i can find. (*click*type*click*type*) …aaahhhh, here we go.

according to greek mythology:

Aristophanes presented a story about soulmates in The Symposium by Plato. (The Symposium is a philosophical text by Plato dated c. 385–380 BCE. It concerns itself at one level with the genesis, purpose and nature of love.) It states that humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces, but Zeus feared their power and split them all in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them (let me add that: Aristophanes was a comedic poet. considered vulgar and shrewd but also considered a genius).

well, that certainly sheds a little light on that underlying feeling. the want that stems from the inside. i don’t know how realistic it is, but it certainly makes sense that if we were together as one, and then forced to split, that we would spend all eternity soul searching. there are several other definitions from several religions and philosophies providing reason and explanation to the fact that we may have been “one” a long time ago, and now we are two. or that we somehow became estranged from our other half via divinity or karma. whether we were separated from or just looking for.. we all seem to NEED someONE else. not someTHING. someONE.

with all of those answers, i still wanted more. so i “took it to the streets”. i presented the simple question: “Do you believe in soul mates?” it was presented publicly on facebook as well as personally via text message and conversation. i received a little more than a dozen responses. facebook provided: eight for yes, one for no and two i don’t knows. i received an additional three for yes via text message and one verbal confirmation. no one chose i don’t care. it seems that most everyone feels the tug of love. the internal, sometimes subliminal, quest for completion. oneness.

have you ever seen a couple that makes you stop and stare? their love is magnetic and contagious. without really knowing it, you watch them and smile, maybe even blush. they might be having an outright public conversation but there is something overtly private about them. an “inside joke”, if you will. their connectivity is intoxicating and you want to hug them both and say “you crazy kids!!” i have known a few of those couples, but one stands alone:  DaShaun and Alegria. i knew DaShaun when i was eighteen. we were acquainted with one another for maybe three years, about eighteen years ago. we had many mutual friends and shared a fondness for hip hop music. facebook brought us back together and reintroduced him to me as a family man. he married his teenage love and they have two phenomenally gorgeous children. each time i communicate with them and look at their photos, i am taken aback by the sincerity of the love that shines through. when i originally posed my soul mate question, i knew in my heart they would both answer and that their answer would undeniably be yes. read what they had to say and see if your jaw doesn’t drop!

blog research topic: soul mates

questions:

  1. what’s your theory on it?
  2. do you believe?
  3. why or why not?
talk to me people.
  • Alegria: my theory is that it depends on your personality and who you are…I know my husband is my soul mate and I definitely believe. I will say though that I am not sure that everyone has one for them out there if that makes sense…TBC!
  • Tanisha to ‎DaShaun: what do you think? 😀
  • Tanisha to‎ Alegria:  sweetheart, from the outside looking in (and reading) you two were meant for each other. it’s phenomenally beautiful to see.
  • Tanisha:  i think the same for your parents Willy and Salvador. what i see when i look at your photos, your art, your lives and being able to read about them all.. i feel honored, involved and certain that you were all handpicked for one another.
  • Alegria: oh my Tanisha you are beyond lovely! thank you and yes I must agree…D and I reunited after so many years from our youth so it always felt meant to be and my parents…well it goes without saying. I only hope that everyone gets to feel that once in their life!
  • Alegria: I am looking forward to your next blog post on this subject!
  • DaShaun:My earth hit it right on the head ! Although I must say in theory I do believe That there is someone 4 everyone, Just depends if you were in the right Mindset in that space time 2 receive your love . I do believe just Like My earth said.
  • Tanisha:  see that? poetry in motion. you two are kinetic and contagious!!!

Alegria and DaShaun

holy cow! he calls her his “earth” (i underlined, bold and italicized that in case you didn’t see it). what could be more romantic and heartfelt than that? they really are amazing people and i am anxious to see them. to reunite with DaShaun, to actually meet Alegria and to see their wonderful children: live and in living color. but, back to my point… doesn’t this little tidbit of their story renew your feeling? it does, for me. and if you’re a non-believer, how can you be after that?? did i mention that they knew each other once, went their separate ways and returned to each other years later??? that oughta be the kicker! it’s true, not everyone gets a fairy tale. every couple is not a “love at first sight” situation. we don’t all meet each others gaze across a crowded room.. and sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees (meaning, sometimes that person is right in front of you, but you’re too busy looking everywhere else). what i have come to understand is that sometimes, most times, there is something bigger than us: navigating us and guiding us. something that puts us in the right place at the right time and them BOOM!!

still, after all of that; the question, the definitions and explanations, the other questions and answers, i still find that i have more questions. what is my soul mate based on? what part of my soul? and from what age? where am i likely to find them? are they from my home town or my favorite place? are they from the place where i “found myself”? are they lost along my travels and perhaps left behind? did i just miss them, like the tour bus or the elevator? what if they are none of these things? what if my soul mate is a stranger, in another country? what if we have absolutely nothing in common, but are still “drawn” to one another? and the list could go on and on with the “what if’s” and “but’s”.

it is that entire line of questioning that brings me back to skeptical. like a lot of other life questions, no one truly has the answer. i mean, it makes me think that the mere idea of soul mates is just emotional comfort food for relationships. something we tell ourselves to stay positive and upbeat. particularly after break ups or horrible blind dates. in january, there were approximately 6.8 billion people in the world. that’s a lot of souls, a lot of match making and a lot of what if’s. i’m sure you’ve heard the statement “there’s someone for everyone”. really? are you sure about that? how sure are you about that statement? i know it sounds like i’ve given up, but i haven’t. i am just inquiring. analyzing.

do you feel like half? like half of yourself? i do, sometimes. as if there is something missing. i occasionally feel an emptiness. a yearning for someone. someone to talk to, laugh and cry with. someone with whom i share my secrets, my dreams and my weaknesses. you know, that person that “gets me”… the one that “really gets me”. that quote makes me think of the movie Hancock. with wil smith and charlize theron. they were .. uhh, different– super-hero like. she spends the majority of the movie trying to keep him away from her family. she doesn’t give any particular reason and towards the end of the movie she explains to both Hancock and her in-the-dark husband, ray (played by jason bateman), that whatever they were, they were made in twos and she and he were the last two left. “the others paired up and died”. she further clarifies their realtionship by stating:
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Mary Embrey: [talking to her husband ray, referring to Hancock] We broke up decades ago. Long before you were born. He just can’t remember.
(i skipped ray’s dialogue here).
Mary Embrey: Whatever we are, we were built in twos, okay? We were drawn to each other. No matter how far I run, he’s always there. He finds me. It’s physics.
Ray Embrey: What are you saying? Are you saying you two are fated to be together?
Mary Embrey: I’ve lived for a very long time, Ray. And the one thing I’ve learned: Fate doesn’t decide everything. People get to choose.
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charlize theron as mary embrey and wil smith as john hancock

oooooohh! physics. well that’s a nice spin. it explains the PHYSICal need to locate this other person. it helps to think that there is something innate to guide us to where we need to be. that it’s not just left up to me to try and discover this person, wherever they may be. and then here come the questions… what if you’re not in tune with your innate need for another? what if you’re oblivious to the signs? what if subtle hints are not your brand of tea? what if your soul mate is a complete non-believer and has no intention of buying into the theory? ugh.. back and forth and back and forth.
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i guess that’s where the “people get to choose” part comes in. i CHOOSE to believe. i choose to follow my heart. and, well, soul mate, if you’re out there, I HOPE YOU CHOOSE. i hope you choose to be conscious, to listen to your insides that will guide you to me. yes, soul mate, i’m talking to you. i hope that you’re prepared to have someone know you, really know you. someone who won’t mind caring for you and sharing with you. someone who wants to love you, wholeheartedly and uninhibited. someone, like me.
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while conducting my research, i spent a sizable amount of time surfing the net (as always). one of my favorite new websites is stumbleupon.com. i stumbled upon this quote, smack dab in the middle of my online ask and answer session with facebook. coincidence? happenstance? who’s to say? no matter how, it’s an awesome quote and i am so excited to share. through my three thousand words, i could not have sought a better explanation. i believe, yes, i believe. you should believe too.
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“Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.”

~ Bob Marley

the majestic music-making hands of mr. bob marley

father’s day stinks. period.

this is my father.

Kenneth Howard Ware - 1956 ~ 1977

this may very well be one of the last pictures taken of him. it was taken in october of 1977, outside of the house i grew up in. my father’s name was Kenneth. that is also my son’s name. did you notice i said “was”? i guess his name is still Kenneth, but he is no longer. the fact is, in october, he will have passed away thirty-four years ago. i know, a total bummer right? yeah, for me too. trust me when i tell you that if i could enjoy and celebrate the day known as “father’s day” i would. but for me, it just pours salt in a very, very old wound.

i was only two when he died, and he was just twenty-one. we were taken from each other far too soon. in that photo he is leaning up against his motorcycle. a twenty-first birthday present from my grandmother just two months prior. that is the motorcycle that he crashed on. a crash that eventually ended his life. i have tried, really tried, over the years to find a reason, any reason, to celebrate on father’s day. but no matter what, i end up mourning. even now that i am a mother and my son has a father, i still can’t get into the swing of it. i have known some wonderful father’s over the years and i appreciate them for all that they are worth. but they are not mine.

i’d be a liar if i said that everyday felt this way. i have outgrown the “poor me” portion. i have moved beyond the anger, the disappointment and the general depression that come with not only losing a parent, but losing one that i didn’t get the chance to know. i hope this doesn’t sound too harsh, but i am thirty-six years old. he died when i was two and i can honestly say that i don’t have any memories of him. i only have photos and the stories that others have shared with me. i don’t remember what it felt like to look in his eyes and have him look back. i don’t remember his hugs or his kisses good night. i don’t remember him at all and perhaps that is the worst feeling ever. i don’t just have a missing parent, a missing family member. i have an emptiness that never EVER seems to fill. it won’t close, it won’t divert and worst of all it sometimes feels deeper and darker than the years before… mostly on father’s day.

i changed my profile picture on facebook to that of my mother, to honor her for mother’s day. almost everyone did and it was so nice to see. we left them there for the entire week and changed them that following monday. today i noticed the photos changing to that of the dad’s. i did it too. to show my pride and to honor him, but every time i looked at the picture i felt that salt again. and boy did it hurt. it was only there for a few hours, and i actually had things to do and left the house. but that picture didn’t ever leave my mind. as soon as i returned home i changed it back to a picture of me. it’s just too painful for me to see his face over and over. writing about him now has brought me to tears. and oddly, i always try to hold them back thinking “there’s no need for this”. no matter how hard i cry today or tomorrow, father’s day will bring a whole new bout.

i have tried to ignore it. i have tried to channel it and i have even tried to actually celebrate it, but my heart’s never in it. all i really wanna do is curl up in a ball and say “why me? why me?” but no matter how many times i ask, i never get an answer. even if i did, i don’t think it would make me feel any better. i recognize the importance of celebrating the people that we have loved and lost, but i would rather black out the day on the calendar and sleep right through it. i’d rather not see the signs posted to “not forget” or the advertisements for ties, tools and daddy related stuffs. this is one particular holiday that i could really do without. so yeah, father’s day stinks. period.

here are my favorite pictures of him. i left them just the way they were when i scanned them. discolored from the magnetic photo albums, the sun, the dust and the photo frames. i have preferred to leave everything of his… just as it was. i did the best i could to keep them in some sort of time sequence according to what i remember of what my sweet granny told me. i could be off a little, but you’ll get the picture…

here, at just a little over a year old..

my dad and his grandma: Annie Pearl

decked out in a three-piece suit WITH bowtie

the little conductor, at christmas. my gramma said he was ecstatic to have received his train set.

my dad and my gramma. i still don't know why he looks so scared.

i think this is my favorite of all time. i think it was from a christmas morning.

my dad on the far left. always tallest. this photo was in the newspaper. i don't know why.

all of the potential in the world...

a man and his guitar. i still have the guitar.

his last driver's license. issued june 1977.

and here are the only pictures of us, together:

daddy and daughter.

he had surgery for his horrible fallen arches. arches he passed on to me. and we are next to his beloved GTO (i think).

lovin' his baby girl. my gramma said "he never could get enough of you."

i've been told that whenever he was near me, braids and barrettes came out and the afro was picked, plucked and shaped. like daddy, like daughter.

so this, my lovelies, is why father’s day stinks. for me. i hope i didn’t break your heart. mine will be broken for all time. to you i say: love your fathers! LOVE YOUR FATHERS!! love your uncles, brothers, cousins and husbands. love your children’s father. love them because you can. even if you’re hurt or angry, love them. know that on father’s day i will not be happy or cheerful. i will not pretend to be something i am not. i am a daughter without her father and i will always be this way. missing him is my way of life, but it doesn’t get any easier. ever. you’ll forgive me if i don’t change my profile picture or come to your barbecue, won’t you?

baking blog: 1 ~ lemon cake by ina garten

did i mention that i love to bake? i do. specifically desserts, but if it goes in the oven, i’m game. last year, for my aunt’s birthday, she asked me to bake her a cake.

“just a lemon cake. a plain lemon cake. you can just buy the box kind and make it. it doesn’t need to be ‘gourmet’ or fancy. you know how you are. no peel or anything like that in it(she meant zest). just a plain lemon cake.”

puh-shaaaaaaw!

lemons! in varying states. a knife: to halve, an old-fashioned-requires-elbow-grease juicer to juice and a zester to... zest!

if you know me, you know that i have no problem buying and using boxed cake mixes and frostings. they are predictable and almost (yes, almost) foolproof. simply follow the directions adding this and that, bake and Viola! cake! i prefer to use them when i am working with large numbers of servings. dealing with homemade recipes can become difficult when multiplying. the most i will duplicate any recipe is tripled. after that, the percentages and consistency become compromised and the end result is not what you anticipated, expected or wanted. fail. but in this case, for my aunt’s birthday, it was one cake for one person. a box? again, i say: puh-shaaaaww! as if!

i took the next week to locate, research and compare lemon cake recipes. i look for recipes that require ingredients. not mixes of this or that. i enjoy the process so much that i refuse to short myself. as well, cake that is made with a list of ingredients is simply superior in every way. at the close of the week, i had chosen my recipe: lemon cake by Ina Garten. say whaaaaaaaat? that’s the barefoot contessa! yes, imma go with HER recipe. from the notes, a photo of the cake had been published in her cookbook prompting many readers to request the recipe. yes, that’s the recipe for me. peel, ummmm.. i mean, zest and all.

the recipe called for lemon cake, drenched in lemon syrup and then drizzled with lemon glaze. i know, right? sounds delicious. i read the recipe over and over. i don’t like to try new procedures on my first run through a recipe. i’ve made cake, i’ve made syrup and i have made glaze. SCORE!

i made that cake and it was a hit. my aunt had only the first bite in her mouth and i heard:

“mmm. mmmmmm. mmmph! that’s good. that’s goooood.”

SCORE!! i made the cake again and it was so so good that i couldn’t not share it (and a few of my baking tips) with you. before we get into the specifics of this particular recipe, here are a few of baking tips:

bsb’s baking tips (1 – 7):

tip 1: clean up, before you mess up. simple. start with a clean kitchen (and some fresh, warm dishwater).

tip 2: read the recipe! read the whole thing from start to finish. don’t skip anything, don’t omit anything and for pete’s sake, DON’T ADD ANYTHING (until you have mastered the recipe and you OWN it and can make it flawlessly). read it and understand it.

tip 3: never, NEVER try a new procedure, new recipe or new flavor at crunch time. you don’t want to botch the procedure due to inexperience. you don’t want to get lost in the recipe if it’s your first time and you don’t want to make something that you don’t like or doesn’t taste right when it’s your time to shine! bake with pride! if you want to do new things, try new things and mix and match flavors, by all means, do it, but do not do it the night before. or, as i have many times, you will be sitting on the kitchen floor, covered in ingredients and tears trying to figure out how you’re going to pull it all together before you’re due to deliver. trust me on this.

tip 4: there’s nothing more agitating that being knee-deep in a baking project and having to stop and look for a gadget, tool or ingredient. be sure to pull everything that you know you will need.

tip 5: measure out your ingredients. dry ingredients first, so you don’t have to wash and dry your measuring utensils before continuing.

tip 6: if at all possible, test your oven. make sure that 375-degrees is actually 375 and not 325 or you will be excruciatingly surprised.

tip 7: i don’t believe in margarine. i believe in BUTTER. real butter. Grade AA butter. if i don’t have butter, i don’t bake. you do what you feel is best for you, just know that i always always always use butter.

if you follow those tips for this recipe, or any recipe, you will be prepared and delighted when your masterpiece is complete. except, for the butter thing. that is more of a preference. just know that when you vary ingredients you are changing the final outcome.

and noooooow (drumroll, please)… here is the recipe for Lemon Cake by Ina Garten (<—– did i mention that’s the Barefoot Contessa!?)…

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

whole lemons (in a bowl i painted) , one beautifully zested lemon, some fresh lemon juice and a mound of ZEST!

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. (i got the lemons from my neighbor and wanted to share the ‘labor of their fruit’ with them, so i went with mini bundt pans) You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

after cooling, spoon or paint the cakes with the syrup. on all sides. don't be shy!

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

and now (another drumroll, please) TA-daaaaaaaaaaaa!

i made mini lemon bundt cakes. easy for giving. sharing is caring! always share with the neighbors that gave you their lemons. 😀

(i know that last picture is a little on the fuzzy side… i was working with my cell phone, but wanted to show some detail… ).

note: there is no rhyme or reason to why this is “baking blog: 1” other than:

  1. it’s the most recent baked good that i’ve made.
  2. i really enjoy making and sharing it.
  3. i was really happy and proud with the final product.
  4. i wanted to blog about baking.

i hope you get the chance to try it! you won’t regret it. let me know how it turns out for you and if my tips were any help at all. until next time… Stay Sweet!

the house that keeps on giving

a house is not a home. as so elegantly sung by the late luther vandross (thanks, mama, i love you for that song). it is a structure built with the intention and desire to one day be purchased and fulfill it’s destiny to actually become a home. some houses struggle their entire existence trying to become a home. i have been blessed to know many “homes” during my time. my mama’s house, my gramma’s house and my aunt’s house– no matter where they have been or will be, will always be my home(s). but i am lucky enough to have another home. it belongs to my best friend’s parents. they have been married for twenty-five years. they are both retired but have a busy social life and still manage to take care of their parents, their kids and the Three Grandkid-teers. this is a story about the home that they made, provided and shared. a home unlike any other.

in the thirty plus years that i have been a part of their family, i suspect that i have spent years at their house. i don’t know the exact number, but it’s safe to say that it would rival the actual number of hours that i spent at my own home. for as long as i can remember, the front door has been unlocked during normal operating hours. the front yard has not changed that much, and neither has the house for that matter. the only things that i can actually recall being changed affect the aesthetics of the house: the windows, the paint, several screen doors (not for pretty, but because of big headed, strong willed canines) and the decorations. it is now as it has always been — simple, warm and inviting.

the queen of the castle is meticulous. there is a method to her madness and if you don’t know it, you’ll soon find out. she likes her things “just so” and her things like it too. they are used to her and will unknowingly tattle-tell, if and when, you misplace or abuse them. she will see what you have done before you do. confess. it’s in your best interest. the king of the castle is laid back. not much bothers him that i’ve come to find. together, they manage their household seamless and flawlessly.

i grew up across the street, hence the amount of time i spent there. it’s a great house to grow up in and i have always known that. but recently, i had the opportunity to stay there for a week. the king and queen were away on travel. they provide weekly childcare for their three youngest grandchildren. with them out of town, the responsibility fell upon Nanny. the queen’s mom. but she’s eighty-four and while she can handle herself, expecting her to care for the two toddlers is outside of the comfort range. that’s where i came in. i agreed to house/baby/granny-sit in order to ensure comfort, ease of mind and a change of pace for all involved. what an adventure. so there’s Nanny, my SweetHeart Callie, her little brother the MadMan AJ and their littler cousin the PetiteSweet Emmie. not to mention, that i had with me my effervescent and energetic four-year-old SuperBoy Kenneth and me. whew. if there was ever a place to watch and care for a senior citizen, elementary schooler, preschooler, two toddlers, three dogs, a guinea pig and a betta fish.. it’s this house. thank the lord for the house on BlahBlah Street!

let’s start with a sorta-tour of the premises. the front yard is large and accommodating. there is enough play room and comfort room to watch the kids out front. through the front door is the formal living room. it’s formal. the furniture is white and there are lots of fragile breakable ceramic and glass items in there. stay out. it’s not a request, it’s an order. just don’t go in there or be in there unless it’s christmas eve and you’re with the rest of the family opening presents. moving on.. leaving the formal living room takes you to the formal dining room. again, it’s formal. stay out. unless it’s your birthday, they’re having a party for you and it’s time to blow out the candles. the formal dining room gives way to the family dining area. it’s cozy and comfortable and centrally located. from there you can go one of two ways, into the tv room or into the kitchen. there is a den, respectively known as “the tv room” and it holds one of the four televisions in the home, the fireplace and a pool table. yes, a pool table. the bestie and i used to play pool for hours. now it’s covered with plastic and serves as the queen’s craft table. uuummmm, don’t move her stuff. 😀 i don’t want you to think that she’s mean or territorial, she’s the queen. it’s her castle and she has rules and regulations. she is extremely generous and kind. it is because of the queen that the house is able to give relentlessly. technically it’s all her, and she just uses the house to share her love.

the tv room and family dinner table are right off the best room in the house… the kitchen! i love kitchens. all kitchens. they truly are the heart of the home. besides the appliances, you’re more than likely going to find Nanny in the kitchen. she cooks and bakes constantly. you will also find any and everything you could possibly want to eat. there is always cereal. probably four different kinds as well as a variety of milks to choose from. there is a fruit basket that is never empty. the most astounding part to me is that it always has apples, oranges and bananas. how awesome and healthy is that? it makes me smile just to think about it. the children will have good eating habits, even without their knowledge or effort. there are several other items that are a staple including yogurt, jell-o, popsicles, tortilla chips, a microwave meal or six, low-fat popcorn and sandwich fixins. oh, and a fifty-gallon bag of shredded cheese. again i say, how awesome is that? and what a great place to grow up in. there is now, and has always been a ‘snack drawer’. it’s what the bestie and her brother used to pick their lunch box treats from. it’s moved locations a couple of times, but it seems to multiply when your back is turned. it is never close to empty and always full of variety. more awesomeness.

just off the kitchen is the laundry room. the house (more like the queen or Nanny) processes no less than three loads of laundry a day. everything required is conveniently placed within reach. it also has a storage area full of food. yes, more food. the kitchen is full of food and the laundry room is half food, half cleaning supplies. next you’ll enter the “front bathroom”. it’s got a pink theme. always has. it also has two doors which can be confusing and/or embarrassing, depending on what you’re doing in there when the other door opens. there are four bedrooms, one of them is a part-time office. the beds are always made and every room has a ceiling fan to ensure maximum comfort. there are four televisions and a computer in the home. everyone can pretty much watch what they want and not have to fight with or disturb another.

the backyard is complete with plastic playhouse, small swing, things with wheels and a swimming pool with diving board and slide. what could be more inviting? i know! an on hand barbecue and the pool is fenced in so there’s no need to obsess about the kids falling in. the house is constantly telling you:

“you’re safe here. take a load off. you hungry? sleepy? rest. relax, i got you.”

now, if you have yet to be impressed by what i’ve described, take a trip out the back, into the garage and down the stairs. from what i remember, the garage has never held more than one car at a time. the king has his woodcutting hobby down there and of course there’s always storage, but what will catch your eye is the stock pile of food items down there. yes, more food. it’s breathtaking. i’m sure that Sam’s Club buys from her, instead of the other way around. there is so much food. but also, the consumable products: paper towels, paper plates, napkins, plastic cups, ziploc bags and the like. they make clean up with kids quicker and easier and who doesn’t love that? there’s more detergent in the garage than on the whole block. and all of these things add to the comfort of the home. they add to the ambiance and feeling that you are cared for when you’re there and you needn’t worry.

ok, so let’s zoom back in time to the beginning of last week. the king and queen left on tuesday and my aunt dropped us off on BlahBlah Street that afternoon. my son has many allergies and when we stay away, i pack my whole house. we unloaded and started our week-long working-vacation. we entered the house and immediately were harassed by the resident dog family: candy, peachy and mickey. we greeted everyone in the house and Nanny was already cooking dinner. she had promised us a chicken dinner a few weeks earlier but got held up running errands with her grandson. on the menu was fried chicken breasts, nanny-tatoes (kinda like homefries but better), green beans and chocolate covered vanilla cake. whooo hoo! it’s great to be home. my son was too excited to eat. he loves my bestie’s kids and just wanted to be outside running a muck. the rest of us ate and let the weight of the day slip away. the backyard calls to the children. they spend the majority of their time outside. however, it was a little chilly and the sprinklers came on so we corralled them and brought them inside for a movie.

the PetiteSweet, the youngest of the group leaves around dinnertime. both boys were broken hearted. she’s a people watcher and pretty quiet. but she’s quick on her toes. it looked like the two boys were getting physical and a hand came flying her direction, not only did she block it but she responded just as fast with an almost-hit-back. you go, girl! my son had instantly become enamored with her. Callie is his first love. he followed her everywhere to the point of annoyance. they all love each other though. it’s very cute to watch. dinner, movie, baths and bed. we slept in the SweetHeart’s room. she has a guinea pig, named G-force, and he is loud at night.

something about the combination of the guinea pig, the princess bed unlike my own and the realization that no one can say “i love you” louder and more clearly than if they ask you to care for their child(ren), made me not sleep that night. i was excited and a little nervous to wake the next day and have the responsibility of “the house” on my shoulders. eventually i fell asleep and when i woke up, the bestie had gone to work, the SweetHeart was already gone to school and the MadMan was still asleep. it was just Nanny, SuperBoy and i. i found Nanny in the kitchen (duh), drinking her coffee. you can’t get close to Nanny without being offered something to eat or drink, or eat. she wanted to know what i was going to eat. was it cereal? was it toast? was it chocolate covered vanilla cake? what, what was i going to eat?

“nothing right now, Nan, i’m ok.”

she continued… for at least another fifteen minutes. finally she told me:

“you’re makin’ me nervous by not eating! you want me to fix you something? i’ll fix ya whatever ya want, you know that. what can i fix? ya want some pancakes?”

“yes, Nan, pancakes would be awesome.”

“goood. i’ll start on um right now.”

she made me a stack of pancakes everyday, for four days straight! they were almost as big as the plate and drenched in butter (i love butter). she made me a stack of four, SuperBoy a stack of two and just one for the MadMan. that’s enough pancakes to satisfy an elephant and enough butter to last for the rest of 2011. death by pancakes. but you won’t catch me complaining, honestly. it was a pleasure and a delight. we should all be so lucky as to be forced to eat fresh pancakes every morning. before i could take the last bite and walk my plate into the kitchen, everything was cleaned up. i couldn’t even tell she made anything and then she was off to do the laundry while telling me to leave my plate in the sink. amazing.

Nanny allows the kids to help her do any and everything. SweetHeart is a junior chef already. she likes to be involved in all cooking processes somewhere along the way, and she doesn’t want your help, just your guidance. she can “do it”.  Nanny let’s the kids sit on the kitchen counter next to her while she instructs them accordingly. she lets the MadMan, a two-year-old, help her with the laundry. it’s the cutest and sweetest thing. he’s standing all tippy-toe on top of the tiny dryer-lent trash can and she hands him the clothes items one-by-one. she’s so patient and easy going. unless you’re refusing breakfast. i aspire to be as sweet, gentle, caring and wonderful as she is.

the days flew by pretty easy. (note: the PetiteSweet is only at the house for a few hours in the afternoon. and she didn’t make it the rest of the week. 😦 we enjoyed our day with her though. we look forward to the next time we see her.) with two boys in the house all day there is a lot of running, screaming and hitting. occasionally spitting, immediately followed by time-out. there was also a lot of “give it, gimme it, stop it” and “mine”. but all-in-all, they are like brothers and play as well as two brothers could. inside, outside, inside, outside and inside. outside. and with them, there are no inside voices. there’s one voice for the both in and outside. and it’s LOUD. they are more entertained by classic animation including tom & jerry and scooby doo than any of the newer, more impressive, pixar created movies. they love them all, but tom & jerry genuinely makes them laugh.

on the second night i proceeded to give SuperBoy a bath, once the water started running the MadMan came around the corner faster than lightning. i think all children have super-sonic hearing. especially if they hear the sounds of something they want to be doing. my son was in the tub and i was getting a towel from under the bathroom sink. i looked up and AJ was already out of his pajama pants.

“i wanna takey baff”

dammitalltohell. now there’s two of them in there. they did pretty good, there was only a quarter of an inch of water across the bathroom floor. it reminded me of this:

we pretty much did this same thing everyday. i got to start each morning with fresh pancakes. i think it was on the third day that both boys were seated and waiting. AJ said “yummy yumma”. if it had been warmer i would have braved the swimming area with the boys. there’s a hot tub that would have held the three of us comfortably. speaking of hot tub.. did i tell you that i found a rawhide dog bone, swimming pool brush head and superman in the bottom of the hot tub. i retrieved the items and gave the superman figurine back to the MadMan only to blink and see him actually throw it and watch superman hit the surface and sink to the bottom. i left him there for a day or so. 😀 as well, i found the fabulous and rootin’est tootin’est cowboy Woody in the hose attachment point of the shop vac. i present to you, exhibit a:

exhibit a

shop vac toy torture

can you see that? here.. lemme help you.

exhibit a zoom-in

the rootin'est tootin'est cowboy

the days flew by almost effortlessly. what a fun time. it wasn’t work at all. nothing out of the ordinary. i was happy to have some time away from my home, to allow my son to have an outing, to give my aunt some personal space, but also to be taken care of by the house, Nanny and the kids. they really took care of me. i left there happier and healthier. it made me grateful for all of the wonderful people that i have in my life. from Nanny all the way down to the PetiteSweet, i am loved. my aunt makes and saves a place for me and my son in her heart and in her home. she’s a saint. my bestie’s family loves me enough to entrust me with their little angels and their sweet sweet gramma’s. i am blessed! i am truly cared for. i hope that if i am ever fortunate enough to purchase a house that i will be able to turn it into a home. a home that will provide and embrace my family and friends for generations to come. a home that can cater to the elderly, small children and a variety of pets. a house that will keep on giving.