School Year Pledge

School has started, and, to be honest, I’m a little melancholy.

Most years, I’m glad to return my kids to school. And I don’t mean just glad, I mean ecstatic, overjoyed, beside myself with overwhelming happiness that I’m no longer part-time summer camp director, part-time jail warden, part-time personal chef and full-time zookeeper! When they go back to school, my vacation begins!

But with our oldest child already moved out, our middle child now a senior and only one left that can’t drive, I’m growing sad that these school years will soon be ending. Mind you, I’ve never been PTA President much less Homeroom Mom assistant to the assistant, and so I’m also growing concerned that my kids are going to remember me as the slacker Mom I was rather than the Mom of the Year I meant to be.

So while I still have some time, I need to rewrite history, sprinkle their memories with some fake news and make them completely forget all the times I picked them up late or made them pass off packaged cookies for homemade ones, at every single one of their school parties.

It’s time to reform my image. If Martha Stewart can serve jail time and follow her incarceration with a Prime Time Christmas Special, surely I can become super mom in the next year.

In an effort to replace my senior’s memories (and those of her brother while I’m at it), I pledge to correct my wayward ways as follows:

  1. I will not forget to pick you up from school on the days you don’t have your car. Not even once, because that is wrong and also because it seems to be that one thing you guys bring up over and over and over. I get it, you get out at 3, and I will be there. What, you get out at 2:50? Well, therein lies the first problem.
  2. I will make your school lunch for more than just the first week of school. This will, obviously, also entail my going to the grocery on a regular basis, which is really a huge thorn in my side but I completely understand, after 12 years you can’t eat one more chicken nugget. Have you tried Chick-fil-A nuggets, though, because those are soo good? Ok, no — you are right — make your lunch, done!
  3. I will no longer let my son wear girl shirts to school. Apparently boy polo shirts button up on one side and girl polo shirts button up the other – who knew – well apparently most of the 8th grade boys did last year, so this year, no girl shirts!
  4. I will not forget to wash your tennis, soccer, cross country, football gear every single night — twice — on HOT! Because throwing them in the dryer for 10 minutes with a dryer sheet and then Febreezing them is not the same… even though it kind of is.
  5. I will not wait until the last minute to work on your/my project because all that yelling is bad for everyone. Additionally, I will start working on your bug project at least two weeks earlier so I can order exotic freeze dried bugs and not end up super gluing regular old worms and bees to a piece of cardboard the night before. Because that not only gets you a bad grade but more importantly allows That Mom (you know the one) to make a better grade than me/you!
  6. I will remember to sign your agenda book/permission slip/sports waiver and won’t encourage you to forge my name when you call me from the school office. Because the principal has an odd habit of putting me on speaker and also because your dad’s signature is much easier to replicate.
  7. If there is a short period (promise, it will be short) where I can’t make your lunch and you have to eat cafeteria food, I will remember to put money into your lunch account. Because it’s embarrassing not only for you, but for me to get that call…day after day. And while part of me thinks it’s character building, your dad doesn’t think it’s funny.
  8. I will encourage you to attend all practices even if that means I will spend every single day of this next year waiting in my car or sitting in the bleachers for hours on end. One, because I love you and two, because I have a feeling your dad is keeping a file on me and I probably need to step it up.
  9. I will remember that it’s important that I get your teacher a Christmas gift, a Teacher Appreciation gift, a Valentine’s Day gift and an End of the Year gift because when I/you get that last tardy before Saturday school begins, she just might be “resting her eyes” as you slip into the room at 8:05.
  10. I will do my best to not look absolutely pained as I sit through your Academic Banquet, End of the Year Crossing, School Award Program…because you/I worked hard for that PE award, just as hard as that kid who has won every single other award for the past 12 years. Just as hard!

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Changing Lives

How a trip to Central America taught family invaluable lessons

A funny thing happens when you set out to help someone in need: They normally end up having an even bigger impact on your life. That’s something I experienced firsthand when I visited the beautiful country of Nicaragua in Central America with my dad and sister.

We went as part of a mission group from Friendship Christian School and spent a week working on various projects. But the trip wasn’t just about working on projects; we also got to spend time with the locals, listening to all of their stories. Moments like those were where we built true friendships and learned valuable lessons.

It would have been easy for us to complain on our trip, considering the cold showers, humid weather and having to sleep in hostels and hammocks — but that just wasn’t the case.

As soon as we landed in Managua, we left our comfort zones and realized the trip was about helping people. This trip gave me such a great perspective on how I go through life here at home and how I could change it for the better by just deciding to be positive.

I was also blown away by how welcoming everyone was there, even though they had only just met us. They invited us into their homes for coffee, let us hold and play with their children and treated us like we had been friends for years.

They helped us learn their language, laughing with us over our broken Spanish. And while they faced so many difficulties, that didn’t stop them from showing us kindness and making us feel at home.

We went to Nicaragua to help people, but we ended up learning even more from the people we went to help. I learned that a good attitude isn’t based on what you have or what conditions you live in. It’s a conscious decision to be kind to strangers and friends alike.

This trip was also special because I got to spend it with my dad and sister. We saw each other outside of our comfort zones and learned to appreciate all we have here at home. We also made memories that will last a lifetime — like sledding down an active volcano together.

It was a week I will never forget, and I am so glad I got to spend it with two of my favorite people!

Zoe Kane, daughter of Wilson Living Magazine co-founder Angel Kane, will be a senior at Friendship Christian School.

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Straight Shooter

Young woman sets a state record for turkey hunting

When imagining the ideal hunter, someone might think of a strong, burly man decked out in camo. But as Lebanon’s Brittnee Reynolds proves, hunting isn’t just for the guys.

Reynolds became the first female in Tennessee to harvest a turkey with a bow, a testament to her hard work and dedication.

“I love a challenge, and that’s exactly what bow hunting is for me,” she says.

A Watertown High School graduate, Reynolds earned her dental assistant license from the Dental Staff School of Tennessee. She now works in the service department at Lochinvar and married her best friend, Hunter, in October 2016. He’s the one who first got her interested in hunting.

“When I met Hunter, I had never been turkey hunting,” Reynolds says. “So, he took me on my first hunt three years ago, and I was hooked.”

This passion turned into a mission for Reynolds as she began looking at the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF)’s site, Nwtf.org.

“I love a challenge, and I love to set goals for myself,” she says. “I had been looking at the NWTF website and noticed there weren’t any females to register a turkey with their bow in Tennessee. So, I was bound and determined to make it happen.”

She put in “a ton of practice and patience” to get closer to her goal, mastering the skill of hunting with a bow. “I shot almost every day, from all different angles and ranges,” Reynolds says. “I wanted to make sure I was prepared to take the shot.”

When it came time to test her skills, Reynolds’s aim was true, making her the first female in the state to harvest a turkey using a bow. She shot an eastern wild turkey with a 9 4/16-inch beard that weighed 16 pounds, 6 ounces last September.

“It felt amazing,” she says. “After the long wait of 13 weeks, it was official and on the NWTF website.”

While she doesn’t currently have any specific hunting goals she’s working toward, Reynolds says she grateful the Lord has given her the ability to hunt. And she looks forward to it every time.

“There are so many things that go into a successful hunt,” she says. “Everyone that hunts, you’re always waiting on that giant buck to walk out or a turkey with a beard dragging the ground to head your way.”

Her advice to other young women looking to do something that’s never been done? She encourages them to never say never or limit themselves.

“Get out and work for what you want to accomplish,” Reynolds says. “I know not every female hunts, so whatever it is you love to do, do it with your whole heart.”

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Discovering the Spanish Life

How studying abroad became the adventure of a lifetime

Narrow cobblestone streets and tile-adorned buildings exuded the rich history deeply rooted in the breathtaking city.

Citrus aromas danced through the air radiating from orange trees that lined the streets, while vibrant hues of pinks, oranges, purples and yellows exploded from the flowers blooming on terraces and down sidewalks.

Gelato shops marked the most-visited areas of the city, inviting tourists and locals alike with masterfully crafted rose-shaped delicacies situated in crunchy cones. The sounds of Spanish voices rang from the doors of every shop and home filling not only Seville, Spain, but also my heart with the lilting syllables of the gorgeous language I longed to learn.

For three spectacular months, these sights, smells and sounds flooded my senses as I lived and participated in the Spanish culture as a full-time student.

I had not originally intended to spend the spring of 2017 studying in another country. However, as former plans fell through, with a leap of faith, I dove into what I can only call a God-orchestrated adventure.

The daunting idea of spending months away from my family transformed into the most spectacular journey of my life, resulting in profound personal growth.

My usual tendencies to stay within the safety of a comfort zone close to home were quickly challenged as I discovered studying abroad would require of me a boldness that I was unaccustomed to.

Hours wandering lost in the city thanks to my directionally challenged mind developed outstanding navigational skills. Comfort-stretching conversations were rewarded with beautiful, encouraging friendships and weeks stumbling over attempted conversations in Spanish resulted in the shattering of a language barrier.

Many of the most important aspects of my wonderful adventure happened outside the classroom in other areas of my life in Seville. By living in the home of a Spanish family, I was able to form relationships with both of my “parents” and my two little host brothers.

Their presence and our daily meals together quickly became an integral part of my weekly routine. Additionally, I met regularly with a Spanish student by the name of Ana to improve my Spanish and her English skills.

What began as a meeting for mutual advancement quickly blossomed into a friendship as our conversations were filled with shared interests and many fits of laughter.

These relationships and other encounters with people from various cultures opened my mind to better understand those around me with different ways of thinking and living.

Some of my best memories come from the moments I took to explore my temporary home on my own. The historic city came alive as I ventured into the winding streets, using the soaring towers of the Cathedral of Seville and Maria Luisa Park as my compasses to navigate.

Half way through my stay, I even had the chance to share my new home with my family as they visited Spain during their spring break. I fell so in love with Seville that by the end of my journey, I dreaded saying “goodbye.”

My story would not be complete without mentioning the continuous fulfillment of one of my greatest passions: traveling. One of the richest and most exciting aspects of my life in Spain was the almost weekly exploration of a new city or country.

From the desert sands of the African Sahara to the breathtakingly blue waters of the Tenerife Sea, the unimaginable beauty captured in the distant corners of the world still continues to astound my mind.

I have now traversed the cities and sites of Spain, beheld the magical aura surrounding the colorful Pena Palace in Portugal, explored the treasures of London, experienced the wonder of the snow-dusted mountains of the Swiss Alps, ridden a camel through the Sahara Desert and kayaked with dolphins in an unforgettable turquoise sea.

Time and time again, I have marveled at the blessing of being able to see so much of the world, and because of this, I have the courage to dream of the places my next adventure will take me.

For those marvelous three months, I discovered an amazing life in Seville, Spain, learning, growing and maturing. Many times, I would reflect on my life as if I was living a dream too unbelievable to be true. Countless interactions with people and living in the midst of an alternate culture greatly expanded my cultural view and acceptance as well as my ability to interact in Spanish.

I was blessed by an unmatched opportunity to traverse Europe to dream destinations, exponentially growing my confidence and independence. Ultimately, I credit this remarkable experience to the fact that it was situated right in the middle of God’s perfect plan for my life.

Through this journey abroad, I developed a deeper dependence on the Lord and His provision, which has prepared me to expectantly await whatever new and exciting adventures lie ahead.

Until my exploration of the world resumes, I am content to find the joys of life situated back home in Tennessee.

Rachel Pettross, a graduate Friendship Christian School, is currently a student at Tennessee Tech University. She enjoys traveling, reading and being with family. She plans to teach elementary school after graduation and continue exploring the world.

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Lasting Friendships

Gas cost 24 cents for a gallon, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the president and the first Frisbee toy was released. There’s plenty to remember from 1957, including a high school class that still comes together to celebrate their friendships and memories.

Many have lived and worked in Wilson County their entire lives, while there are others who have planted roots in Kansas, Montana, Maryland and South Carolina. No matter, they are all members of the 1957 graduating class of Lebanon High School.

And in June, more than 50 of the original class of 134 gathered together to celebrate 60 years of post-graduate bliss at the Veteran’s Building in Lebanon.

While members of the class meet at least every other year, this year is special, says Bill Denton, a fellow graduate and reunion organizer.

“Sixty years? That’s a big number,” Denton says. “Oftentimes, several can’t make our regular reunions, but they always make a point to come to the big ones.”

Several of the classmates have remained lifelong friends, knowing each other for much longer than six decades. They have plenty to chat about, from their school days to current updates on grandchildren.

So, what’s the secret to friendships that span decades?

“Besides keeping in constant contact?” ask graduate Marilyn Garnder. “You realize we all go through the same things: marriage, births, parents getting older, kids graduating high school and college, illness. Being there for each other…that’s what fosters friendship.”

Celebrating 60 years is something all in the class can be proud of, as they look forward to hopefully even more reunions. And until then, they will continue to keep in touch and grow those lasting bonds.

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Designing for Your Health

Run, run, run as fast as you can. This is the mantra of our days, and for most of us, it doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Whether it’s jobs around the house, carpooling children from here to there or any myriad of other things, many of us don’t end our days until the wee hours of the evening.

This leaves very little time for sleep — something necessary for everyone.

Per the National Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 25-64 need seven to nine hours of sleep a night to function properly. Sleep is critical for health, and although we feel as if we are resting, it is the time our body is doing its most important work.

Throughout the day, we accumulate many memories which are stored in a short-term memory bank. During sleep, our minds convert those memories into a long-term memory bank, which is referred to as “consolidation.” When we lack the proper amount of sleep, the consolidation phase is compromised, which can affect our memory.

Lack of sleep affects the body medically as well. Research shows it can be a contributing factor to heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety.

These negatives certainly build the case for getting the proper amount of slumber. But did you know the color and atmosphere of your bedroom can affect sleep as well?  Deborah Burnett of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) says our body uses “external or environmental cues, including color and light, to synchronize our biological rhythms to the earth’s 24-hour light/dark cycle.”

Chroma and value
When designing a bedroom, it’s not surprising that blue is a top selection. Studies show it can slow human metabolism and have a calming effect. Men especially love blue and are receptive to designs where it is included.

Green can also be used in bedrooms with positive effects for sleep. Cool, clean colors in contrast to warm, dirty colors are best for bedrooms — and the key to incorporating any color in the bedroom is with chromaticity and value.

Chromaticity is the intensity of a color, while value refers to the lightness or darkness of a color. When designing bedrooms, low chromaticity and low value in a color work best.

These are a few examples of colors that would well in a bedroom and be conducive to rest. The correct wall and ceiling application is another factor that can contribute to the restful feel in a space.

To learn more about color and my reference to colors as “clean” or “dirty,” email me or follow my blog, The Collected Interior, at Superior-construction-and-design.com. I’ve trained with leading experts in color, earning the certifications of True Colour Expert and Certified Color Expertand I can’t wait to talk color with you!

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Kid-Friendly Recipes

Just because the kids are back in school doesn’t mean the fun times have to end. Bring the whole family together in the kitchen with something everyone will enjoy.

Check out these three tasty recipes that Brandi Lindsey, owner and cook of WIldberry Café and Catering, loves to make (and eat) with her children.

Cheesy Chicken Dip with Tortilla Chips
Looking for an easy-to-make snack you can share with the whole family? Combine favorites like chicken and cheese to create a dip to enjoy after school. This is a great way to sneak in some avocado and beans for those picky eaters, as well.

Ingredients
3 cups of cooked chicken (you can use rotisserie from the store to save time)

1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese

1 8 oz. container of cream cheese, softened

8 oz. of sour cream

½ cup of black beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed and gently mashed

1 tablespoon of cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

½ avocado, finely diced

Tortilla chips

Directions
Mix all ingredients together except the avocado and chips. Place in a bowl for serving, and gently mix in the avocado. Serve the dip alongside the chips. Brandi’s girls also love this mixture rolled into a tortilla! 

Poppy Seed Chicken (Sadie’s Chicken with “Black Stuff”)
Brandi’s niece, Sadie, loves this easy-to-make dinner. Every time she comes for a visit or they all go on vacation at the beach, they make her favorite, what she calls, “chicken with black stuff” (the black stuff is the poppy seeds). Brandi’s girls also love to have this. It is a very easy meal to do after school and one the kids can help with too. They usually serve it with some green beans and carrots with ranch. What kid doesn’t love that?

Ingredients
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

2 10.75 oz. cans of cream of chicken soup (or one large can)

16 oz. sour cream

Pinch of celery salt, salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons of poppy seeds

2 sleeves of Ritz crackers, crushed

½ cup of butter, melted

Directions
Place chicken in a stockpot and season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Bring it to a boil until no longer pink (this will take about 20 minutes). Remove chicken from pot and let cool slightly and then cut chicken into medium-sized cubes. Mix the chicken with the sour cream, cream of chicken and seasonings until well combined and creamy. Add the poppy seeds. Preheat the oven to 350 and place the chicken mixture into a casserole dish. Mix the crackers and butter together and top the casserole with it, and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes until bubbly. Serve on top of white rice and enjoy!

Ice Cream Cake Sandwich
Looking for a sweet treat that’s as fun to make as it is to eat?

Ingredients
1 pound cake

1 cup of vanilla ice cream or whichever your family likes

½ cup of mini chocolate chips or other candies

1 cup chocolate ice cream

½ cup of M&M’S roughly chopped

1 cup of strawberry ice cream or any flavor your family likes

Chocolate magic shell ice cream sauce

Rainbow sprinkles, of course

Directions
Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap. Cut the pound cake into three pieces horizontally. Put the first slice of cake into the loaf pan and then cover it with one of the ice cream flavors. Place some of the mini chocolate chips on top of the ice cream. Add another layer of cake and then cover with the second flavor of ice cream. Top this layer with the M&M’S. Place the final layer of cake on top of the ice cream, and top with the third ice cream choice. Top this layer with your Magic Shell and then the extra candies and sprinkles. Fold over the plastic wrap once the sauce has set, and put it in the freezer for four hours until frozen, Brandi’s girls can never wait that long! When you are ready to eat, unmold it from the plastic wrap, and slice it for serving.

Recipes By Brandi Lindsey, Wildberry Café and Catering

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Lemons & Lyme Complex

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.  When life gives you Lyme complex, you make…?

After a few years of rapidly declining health with fuzzy labels such as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, I was finally diagnosed with Lyme complex. And I couldn’t have been more excited. Wait, what? If you’ve ever struggled with an unnamed illness, you know what I’m talking about. A diagnosis at least is confirmation that yes, you’ve been really sick and here’s why. 

Lyme disease is a big old political firestorm for reasons longer than I’ll delve into right now. Life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Life gives you Lyme, you’d better make a sizable annual income because treatment is going to be expensive. 

To compound the issue, no one agrees on the treatment plan.  Take long-term antibiotics, but how long? No, take IV antibiotics. No, antibiotics will wreck your already wrecked system, take herbs. No, detox from heavy metals and co-infections first before you even think about addressing Lyme.

So what to make with Lyme? Stephen Buhner, Lyme expert, herbalist and author of “Healing Lyme,” opines that one of the many functions of illness is to “teach us how to alter the fabric of our lives in order to become whole again…and how to remain that way.” Of course Mr. Buhner looks exactly how you’d imagine an herbalist would look like, with long hair spilling out of his beret, neck adorned by various necklaces and scarves. You can practically smell the patchouli wafting off him from his website picture. 

While I’m not about to don a beret any time soon (sorry, I don’t care that they are called fascinators across the pond and that Duchess Kate wears them), what am I going to make with Lyme? 

I started honestly examining my life and asking myself what I want to do with the precious time that I have on this planet. And my books popped back into my mind. I had written a couple of children’s books several years ago, sent them to a few big publishers and never hearing anything, so I easily gave up and moved on. So I’ll put my writer’s hat back on, OK maybe I will wear a beret after all, and pursue my passion, which is to see my children’s books published.    

Till next time. Make lots of lemonade between now and then!

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The Big Payback

It hit me a few days ago. We will be moving our oldest children into their dorm. Lately, I’d been all melancholy about this new life change. It wasn’t until the buzzer from our fridge woke me up in the middle of the night that I changed my perspective about our kids growing up and moving out.

You see the buzzer from the fridge only goes off when the door has been left open for an extended period. That means one of two things; 1. A thief with an odd MO broke into our home, opened the freezer door then left or 2. In the middle of the night, one of our boys decided they needed a snack and in the excitement of eating the last ice cream sandwich, forgot to make sure the freezer door closed properly.

It was 3 a.m., and by the looks of my now liquefied carton of Chunky Monkey ice cream, the offense most likely happened between 11 p.m. and midnight. Because this is not the first time our boys have shown that they are neglectfully wasteful, their dad and I have decided to make a comprehensive list of the things we plan to do when our boys get a place of their own. A place where they pay the water bill, electric bill, mortgage, etc.

  1. Not take our shoes off when entering your home — especially if it has been raining outside and preferably if we’ve walked through mud to get to your front door.
  2. Eat all the good snacks and leave the empty boxes in the pantry. We will do the same thing with milk.
  3. We will pour a full glass of milk, soda, or juice, drink one sip then leave it sitting somewhere out of sight. Fortunately, by the time you notice the smell, your dad and I will be on our way to your brother’s house to wreak the same havoc.
  4. Take all your forks, even the nice ones, and hide them under beds, below the bathroom sink, in the garage, etc. For good measure, we’ll also throw some in the garbage. Why forks? Because, why not? We’ve replaced three sets of silverware because eventually, all our forks disappear. Unless the person who breaks into our house to leave the fridge door open also takes the forks from our silverware sets, we know it’s you.
  5. We will take showers that take at least 75 minutes or just enough time to use all the hot water.
  6. Bring our friends with us to visit. We will eat and drink everything in your pantry, stuff granola bar wrappers and empty juice boxes under the bed. Before leaving, we’ll allow our guests to use the restroom, then remind them that yours is a “flushing optional” household. Be afraid, kids. Be very afraid.
  7. Hide your remote controls and game controllers.
  8. Use your car and return it with an empty tank of gas and something sticky on the steering wheel.
  9. Leave wet towels on the floor.
  10. Finally, we turn every light in the house on, then leave.

While there’s a few more we plan to add; this list should cover it for now. Until the time comes for us to enjoy our children’s homes much in the same way they have enjoyed ours, we will patiently wait and update our list as needed.

Comments? Email becky@wilsonlivingmagazine.com

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A Charged Household

Like many of you, my husband and I pay for the lights to turn on in the house. We pay for the food in the fridge, the water that comes out of the tap, and when the heat turns on, that’s us, too.

So, it would make sense then that when I need a phone charger, one of my children would hand me theirs.

The problem started when our eldest went off to college in August. She took at least three chargers that I know of: one for her phone, one for her iPad and an extra one for her car. Probably a little overkill, but at the time, so were the multiple bottles of pepper spray I stashed in her book bag, in her car and under her bed.

Little did I know the balance of power would shift right at that point.

And now there are not enough chargers to go around.

You really see the worst in human nature when resources are scarce. They say mankind will do almost anything to survive: be it for food, water or shelter.

Whoever THEY are, might want to study the human reaction when anyone in the Kane household reaches 4% on any electronic device, because Neanderthals would have nothing on us!

My husband now keeps “his” charger in his car. He claims he knows which of the white power cords are “his” by the little black mark smudged along the cord. I literally have to find my keys, go into the garage, unlock his car, find his cord, start the car and charge my phone in order to read my emails.

Our 16-year-old, likewise, has “her” charger.

“I bought this one with my own money!,” she states emphatically when I try to remove it from her room. Mind you, my 16-year-old has never held a job, isn’t on government aid, and hasn’t come into any inheritance that I’m aware of.

That leaves my 13-year-old son. My baby. My joy. My heart.

That little sneaky one never charges his phone in the same place twice!

Now a sane person would just go buy a new charger, right?

Which I did. Multiple, multiple times.

But the ones you buy in the check out aisles, never seem to work. You need the coveted white ones that are only sold at Verizon, and who has time for that?

So instead I steal, pillage and plunder each and every night, trying to find one stinking charger that works in order to keep my phone charged.

I literally can feel my blood pressure rising as I try to text or read my favorite blog while the phone quickly goes from 4%… to 3%… to 2%… can you feel yours rising too?!

And then… it goes dark.

At that point, my friends, only the fittest survive.

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