midnight summer rain, i love you.

Laying in bed, should be asleep. To sleep during a late night storm is a waste though, I think.

I’ve been waiting to get to a point where I had enough time in my days and space in my brain to actually write on this thing. During the school year, writing just to write is a nonexistent concept. The other day, I was at work diligently wasting time googling random things–well, truthfully they weren’t all that random, my assignment was to put together a table on Excel filled with notable authors that the school is thinking about getting to speak at Convo next semester and Google so graciously guided me to Nicholas Sparks’s website and my boredom, ADD, and harnessed procrastination skills (if that’s even possible) led me to a piece he wrote about one of his novels. ANYWHO, tangent aside, he wrote that people that write as a profession write more than people that write because they like to, when in reality, it should be the other way around.

After clicking around his page awhile longer and pointlessly roaming back to Facebook (one new notification: Cheryl George posted on your wall, “Get off Facebook, you’re at work.”), I worked my way back to seemingly insignificant quote that had grabbed my attention. Sparks, you sappy, sensitive, super-feminine man, you are right. I always claim to like writing, and I always claim to be good at it. However, the last time I’ve sat down and written something start to finish, that wasn’t for a grade or monetary reward, was almost two years ago.

This blog, initially, was an assignment for my Feature and Opinion Writing class and I remember my teacher saying that the main purpose of our student blog was to just write. Brilliant, clearly, but he knew that just writing about anything–and writing about it frequently–was good experience. Saying practice makes perfect sounds queer so I won’t, but he was right. And so was Mr. Sparks. Guess he’s good for something other than coaxing tears out of the eyes of women everywhere and turning his books from dusty shelf decor to the chick-flickiest of chick flicks.

It’s summer. I can finally breathe. I have enough time to write what I want, read what I want, go where I want, stay up late, enjoy the sound of the rain outside my window, and clean my cave of a bedroom more than once every four months.

Roger

Just like any other day, Mandy watched him from behind the coffee shop counter slowly walking east on Main St. He stopped at the corner of the intersection, waited for the bright orange hand telling him not to walk to change and continued walking with his head down. He dragged everything he owned behind him, all of it strapped to a dolly with dirty, blue and yellow bungee cords.

He made his way up to the Black and Brew patio and swung open the door. Today, the door bore a sign stating that the coffee house would be closed the following day for Thanksgiving. Without giving the sign a second glance, he parked his dolly full of odds-and-ends in the corner and made his way to the counter to stand in line.

He took his place in line behind families, young students who had the day off from school and businessmen and women on their lunch break.

He wore a dark-colored, long-sleeved shirt underneath a tan vest. The vest had several pockets that snapped closed, all seemingly full of odds and ends. On his left hip sat a fanny pack—yet another compartment in which he could store his things. His glasses sat in their usual spot—on the very tip of his nose, where he could easily see over them when he wasn’t reading.

Mandy and the other girls working behind the counter greeted him.

“Hey, Roger,” they all said simultaneously.

“Hey,” he said quietly, almost to himself.

He waited patiently behind the several people in line. He watched them pull $20 bills and credit cards out of their leather wallets and overflowing purses to pay for their meals and coffee like he did everyday.

When he made it to the cash register, he gently placed his portable coffee mug on the counter.

“How are ya today Roger?” Mandy asked.

“Oh, I’m alright,” he mumbled.

All the girls at Black and Brew had long gotten used to how quiet he talked. The whistle of the espresso machine and the many lunch hour conversations often swallowed his soft mumble.

“Just some coffee today?” Mandy asked.

“Some water too, if you don’t mind,” he said quietly.

Mandy took his thermos and the lid that went with it and rinsed it out with soap and water before she refilled it.

It used to be a blue mug, but the heat, the cold, the rain, the journeys it took on the back of Roger’s dolly, and the twice-a-day washing and drying had taken their toll on it. The paint had slowly chipped off until all that was visible was the shiny silver underneath and the faded Black and Brew sticker Roger had placed on it after another employee bought the portable mug for him as a gift.

At Black and Brew, the coffee is cheaper if you bring your own mug.

The baristas at the coffee shop gradually stopped letting Roger pay for his coffee though. He used to come in everyday and just ask for a plastic cup of water, extra ice. Every few days, he would accumulate enough change to be able to buy a coffee. He would carefully count his change before he dropped it all on the counter. Exactly $1.34 every time.

After Mandy washed away yesterday’s coffee residue from the inside of the mug, she placed the full cup in front of him.

“How’s the weather lookin’ for today?” she asked him.

“It’s not supposed to rain for another couple of days,” he mumbled. “Supposed to get down to 40 tonight though.”

“Ugh, I hate the cold.”

“Yeah, me too,” he said.

He had blankets, a thick, hooded coat and a pair of boots that someone had bought him, but once the temperature dropped below 60, he would walk into the coffee shop with his hood up and his gloves on, shivering.

Roger studied the weather from the newspaper everyday and he could recite the high temperatures, the low temperatures, humidity, chance of rain, and the high and low pressure systems on cue. His daily routine depended on the weather.

“Well, my blankets haven’t been stolen yet so that’s good,” he told Mandy with a small smile.

Mandy placed his water next to his coffee, obviously scrambling for a response.

“Thank you sweetheart,” he said.

“See ya later, Roger.”

He shuffled to the condiment station to bulk up his coffee, and a few minutes later, balancing his coffee and water in one hand and pulling his dolly behind him with the other, he pushed through the doors and headed back towards his bench in Munn Park.

Once at his bench, the same one he sat at everyday, he unfastened everything from his dolly and arranged it around him.

He had blankets, newspapers, cigarettes, crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, books, and notepads. The largest piece of luggage strapped to his dolly was his guitar. He pulled it from the bulky black case and set it on his lap. He left the case open at his feet and began to play a simple tune.

He used to have no need for the dolly because the guitar case had a handle and everything else could be put into a backpack. Once the old, rusty handle finally detached itself from the case though, he was forced to carry it around the way a businessman would carry a stack of papers pinned between his arm and his side—if a businessman was required to haul around a 15 pound stack of papers for several hours a day.

Occasionally, he sang along quietly while he played. His singing, like his speaking, was mumbled and passersby would have to strain to make out any words at all.

Eventually, he fell into his daily pattern of alternately playing his guitar, solving Sudoku and crossword puzzles and smoking cigarettes. He broke up this monotony by taking a slow walk around the park. He bravely left his belongings unattended on his bench while he walked from trashcan to trashcan. He looked up to check inside each black, metal bin, reaching in every so often if something caught his eye.

Today, like most days, he came up empty.

After a few hours, Roger made his second trip to Black and Brew. Again, Mandy spotted him through the glass doors before he walked through them.

“Hey, Roger,” she said.

“Hey,” he said back, in the same tone as before.

“Just coffee?”

“Please.”

She watched him as she poured his coffee and noticed, even more so than most days, he looked clearly more disheveled and tired than when she saw him earlier in the day.

His reddish-gray hair that he usually kept neatly slicked back into a low ponytail was messy and unkempt. The hairs on his head were sticking up and away from his head in a way that, instead of concealing the baldness on the top of his head, further exposed it.

Usually, when Roger is having a good day, he makes it obvious. He makes conversation about the weather, his Sudoku puzzles, or the day-old pastries that he has every morning, courtesy of Black and Brew. At the very least, he smiles.

Today, the day before Thanksgiving, he wore his not-so-good day on his sleeve. Roger took his second cup of coffee after muttering the softest “thank you” possible—his dispirited demeanor obvious.

He walked back out the door while Mandy had her head turned, not giving her a chance to tell him to have a happy holiday.

Black and Brew closed at 8pm and from the time he’d gotten his second cup of coffee until then, Roger busied himself with the same things he’d been doing earlier.

From the patio where she was stacking chairs, Mandy again spotted Roger. Across the park, he was packing up his belongings and carefully situating them around the guitar case and strapping them all to the dolly.

He was leaving his day spot and heading to his night spot—an area presumably less than a mile away that no one but Roger has any knowledge of. He started walking towards the intersection where Mandy first spotted him that morning. Before he could get there, she crossed the road to meet him.

“Roger, what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” she asked.

“Oh, I’ll be here,” he said.

“Are you going to have anything to eat?”

“Well, sometimes on Thanksgiving I get a lot to eat,” he said slowly. “Sometimes I don’t get nothin’.”

“Well, my family’s going to have lots of leftovers,” Mandy said. “I’ll bring you some.”

“Okay,” he said with a smile. “Thank you sweetheart.”

The next day, Mandy found Roger on his bench, writing in a notebook. Piled next to him, among his usual clutter, were three Styrofoam to-go boxes.

“Hey, Mandy,” he said cheerfully as she walked up with a covered plate of food in her hands.

“Looks like you don’t need my food, do ya?”

“I got way more than I thought I would,” he said, smiling.

After a short conversation about who brought him what and what was in each box, Mandy asked him if he wanted her to save the plate she brought him for the next day.

“Yeah, I don’t even know how I’m going to carry what I’ve got,” he said.

“How about I take what you can’t carry and keep it at Black and Brew?” she asked. “You can come get it tomorrow or whenever you want it.”

“Yeah, if you wouldn’t mind,” he said. “I just won’t be able to carry this stuff.”

“Yeah, sure. It’ll be there tomorrow.”

He handed her two of the to-go boxes—both labeled Golden Corral. The top box contained only desserts. The bottom box held what looked like a 16-course meal.

Roger is a quiet man that the people that know him don’t actually know much about. He has family somewhere but he doesn’t speak to them or about them. He sleeps somewhere off of West Main St. but no one knows exactly where. It’s some people’s guess that he’s a war veteran, but no one really knows for sure.

They do know that he has made friends with the employees at various businesses in downtown Lakeland, as well as the policemen that patrol the area. He never causes trouble. He has a few friends that also inhabit Munn Park. He shares his day-old pastries with them. He doesn’t like when Black and Brew closes because he has to get his coffee from Harry’s, the seafood restaurant across the street from his bench. He’s good at solving Sudoku puzzles and has gone through an entire book of them. His favorite soup is Potato Bacon and he doesn’t eat white bread because it’s bad for him.

Roger is soft-spoken and kind. He doesn’t expect handouts from anyone. He is a man of few words, but the carefully chosen words he does speak, despite being muffled and sometimes hard to understand, are enough.

“Happy Thanksgiving Roger,” Mandy said, as she walked back to her car with more food than she came with. For anyone else, this might be considered an inconvenience. Because it was for Roger, it wasn’t.

“Thank you sweetheart,” he said.

Behind the Little Pink Door

Inside Cameron Titus’ head, there are probably a swirling variety of things. She could rattle off the diverse list of things that she likes to do for hours on end. Her bright-red hair would fall in front of her blue eyes as she would animatedly tell her 7-year-old story, inviting all who listen into the careless, stress free, happy-go-lucky world she calls her own.

The inner workings of her mind probably resemble the type of fascinating chaos typically found on the shelves of a toy store on Christmas Eve. Her hobbies, her favorite toys, her favorite people, her favorite foods, her favorite TV shows and her favorite places would all be depicted as shiny new toys, cuddly stuffed animals, and tiny trinkets strewn about haphazardly on endless rows of mile-high shelves.

The gateway into redheaded Cameron’s imagination is probably represented by a little, locked pink door—to which only she holds the key. Behind that door would lie the unpredictable tangles of youth that most adults have regrettably lost.

I swing open the door, expecting to look down and see Cameron. Instead I look up and see the face of her father.

“Where’s Cameron?” I ask her dad.

“She’s over there,” he says as he points to an area of grass I cannot see on the side of my house.

I glance in the direction of his pointed finger and see nothing. I do, however, make out the faint sound of humming.

After a short conversation, her dad says good-bye and tells me he will be home by 7pm, so I can drop her back off then.

“Be good Cammie,” he hollers over his shoulder, to seemingly no one in particular.

She briefly stops humming the unknown melody.

“Okay!” I hear her call back.

The humming resumes.

I walk towards the railing of my front porch and lean over it to find Cameron crouched over the untended azalea bushes lining the side of my house.

“Cameron, what are you doing?”

“I’m picking three leaf clovers,” she answers, without looking up from the ground.

Only then do I notice the fist full of weeds in her hand. She is picking only the biggest and best clovers, completely unaware of the fact that most people consider them undesirable nuisances.

She continues picking a little while longer until finally I ask her, “Why don’t you pick pretty flowers?”

Finally she looks up from the ground and says, “We won’t be able to find any. They died when it got cold. That’s why I’m picking clovers. They can withstand any temperature.”

While I grapple with what my response should be, she finishes, “And they’re pretty.”

This incident would probably be represented by a small vase of three leaf clovers that easily blends in with the rest of the clutter upon the shelves of her mind. The next week she might be interested in pulling the Spanish moss from low lying branches of a tree or snails from leafs of a gardenia bush after a light rain.

Boredom is never an option with Cameron. Her eyes move too quickly, her warm heart beats too steadily, and the gears in her head rotate too swiftly for her small, energetic body to ever rest. The odds and ends filling the shelves of her imagination are constantly multiplying and outgrowing the existing space they inhabit.

We sit down at my dining room table—Cameron with a stack of colored paper, markers, watercolor paints, feathers, glue, scissors, and googly eyes, me with a stack of homework.

Before either of us get situated she asks, “Do you have anything else to drink here besides water?”

“I don’t think so. What do you want?” I ask.

“Chocolate.”

I shake my head. “Nope.”

“Okay,” she says cheerfully. Without missing a beat, she turns her attention back to the heap of arts and crafts supplies I have piled in front of her.

Her hands comb through the mound of odds and ends so quickly that I find it hard to keep up. She paints a blue heart on a piece of scrapbook paper, lays a thick layer of glue on top of it, sticks feathers to it, draws a beach scene around it, looks at it, and seemingly happy with the product, sets it aside and starts on a fresh sheet of paper.

Corinne, Cameron’s 13-year-old sister, joins in on the fun as they both begin designing their own breeds of animals.

Corinne skillfully constructs a creature that has an elephant head and wings equipped with feathers and an extra set of eyeballs.

Cameron, on the other hand, has designed a creature that she has creatively coined a “hicken.”

This “hicken”, as she so carefully describes it to me, is an arbitrary combination of a kangaroo, a kitten, and a heart. She tells me it’s pink, because that’s her favorite color. It has one eye. Corinne helps her draw out the specifics.

“It only appears on Valentine’s Day, once every century,” Corinne says.

“Yeah, yeah!” Cameron exclaims, obviously appreciative of her older sister’s willingness to help her pan out the details.

Cameron adds two pink feet to the bottom of her feathery hicken, and then draws on them a pair of red high heels.

“Pink feet and red shoes?” Corinne says, “That doesn’t exactly go with the color scheme.”

“So what,” Cameron snaps back, “Maybe it doesn’t like colors.”

Later on, after her masterpiece is finished, I hold it out in front of me and give it the once over.

Apparently happy with my reaction—and unaware of the fact that half of the feathers fell off as I picked it up—she is glowing with pride.

“I’m an ar-teest!”

There is nothing organized about the inner workings of her mind. Where as other 7-year-olds might find it necessary to stick to a hobby long enough to grow sick of it before moving on to the next thing, Cameron never remains tied up long enough to grow sick of anything.

While her attention span is short to last, her brain is like a vacuum. She is a human sponge, soaking up all the information she comes across. The facts that would ordinarily sail over any other first-grader’s head float directly to their very own spot on one of the toy-store shelves in Cameron’s mind. As a result, conversations with her tend to take unexpected turns.

“Aren’t you cold?” I ask her.

“No. I can withstand any temperature,” she says. “Like the Inuits.”

“Who are the Inuits?”

“They live in Antartica, where it’s about…zero degrees.”

Cameron and Corinne, with both their eyes glued to yet another art project, begin talking about the popular girl in Corinne’s class, whom Corinne cannot stand.

“Does Julia ride your bus?” Cameron asks.

“No, thank goodness.”

“Does Julia like you?”

“Of course not. She’s mean to me so I’m mean to her.”

Cameron stops to think without looking up from the table.

“Well,” she continues, “you should be nice to her. Then she’ll be nice to you.”

“No, when you’re nice to Julia she just cheats off your tests.”

Cameron pauses again, this time looking up with an utterly puzzled look on her face.

“Well,” she says, “that’s not very nice.”

While eating ice cream, Cameron starts telling me about SMAD, the program at her school that teaches first graders how to learn subtraction, multiplication, addition, and division. She looks up from her rainbow-colored ice cream that she has graciously covered in gummy bears to casually tell me that her SMAD tests show that she’s on a third-grade level.

I ask her if she’s allowed to help out her classmates.

“You can’t help other people,” she says as she picks a gummy out of her ice cream and eats it. “It’s a challenge against yourself.”

As I did homework next to her at the dining room table, she took a break from what she was doing to graciously look over my paper.

After a second, she points at a three consecutive lines in which I started sentences with the word why.

She tells me matter-of-factly, “You need varied sentences.”

It seems as if her imagination is ever changing and ever growing in order to fill the space inside her mind, which she obviously perceives as unlimited. She loves things that many young girls love. She loves Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake, the color pink, marshmallows, cartoons, Scooby Doo, chocolate cake with sprinkles, the park, recess, her big sister, making messes, swing sets, running through the grass without any shoes on and most of all, cats.

Her imagination is sweet, innocent perfection. The toys sitting atop shelves in the biggest toy store would not compare to the youth spilling from the shelves of her mind. The gateway to her imagination will always remain open—she will always hold the key to the little pink door.

Her favorite toys of the moment are called “Furreal Friends.”

“They’re these little animals but they’re not real,” she tells me. “But they really look and sound like they’re real. They’re kittens. I got the rescue ones. It’s where they’re just these little cats and they have all these little bottles because they’re hungry and sick because they just got rescued.”

“And,” she says, ending her descriptive explanation in true Cameron style, “I have to go to the bathroom.”

The very first post of my very first blog.

I’ve always wanted to start a blog and never have because I was scared. I’ve read so many beautiful, funny, eloquently written, knowledgeable, and creative blogs that I was sure that once I was assigned my very own domain name, I would become instantly intimidated by all the professionals out there. I was certain that my mind would draw a blank at the sight of the ‘new post’ button and my blog posts would read like a Dr. Suess book (not that I’m knocking the guy, I did after all steal one of his book titles for my blog title). Hopefully this blog will allow me to effectively transfer the literary and comic genius inside of me (wink wink) to cyberspace’s composition notebook that never ends.

So, about me. My name’s Olivia. I’m 21-years-old. I love to write. I love to read.  I love my family. I love my friends. I have a dog. I love to lay in bed. I love to be creative. I have pet peeves. I hate the cold. I love the rain. I love Florida. I get stressed easily. I love to travel. (Please note the resemblance of those sentences to Dr. Suess. I prove my point.)

I love to write. My mother will not let me live down how my love of pen-to-paper began. She loves to remember (and frequently remind me, as well) of the play-times in Kindergarten I spent, not playing with coloring books and Lincoln logs, but writing down the names of every kid in my class over…and over… and over. A very humble beginning yes, but it led to much better things. Like for instance, the spy notebook I had when I was ten. The very day I saw the movie “Harriet the Spy” for the first time, I pledged the following year of my life to writing down everything I saw. This data was, of course, attained in the most 10-year-old of ways. I sat on my front porch peeking over the window sill with binoculars. That long lost notebook held high security secrets. I distinctly remember writing down all the license plate numbers of the cars driving down my street and the type of soda my neighbor was drinking that day. Obviously, it was really valuable information. However, several years and several diaries later, I’ve found myself pursuing a journalism major. I’ve saved almost every paper, story, article, and essay I’ve written since my junior year in high school and love to glance back over them from time to time, laughing about how I would always turn them in thinking, “I better get the best grade in the class.” I love writing and I love reading other people’s writing. Unfortunately, the combination of the two makes me destructively critical of my own capabilities. I’m sure it will be my favorite part of my future career. Not.

I love to read. I will admit that for a journalism major, I have not and do not read as many novels, short stories, poems, newspapers, and magazines as I should. Sometimes, I allow my 21-year-old tendencies and lack of sleep to come before a trip to the library. However, I love books and I have since I finished my first one when I was five. This is yet another story my mother would be flattered to tell. I can hear her now. “You read Charlotte’s Web, beginning to end, when you were still in Kindergarten and then you pulled A Tree Grows in Brooklyn off of my shelf and tried to read that and you only got about five pages in before you gave up but still, you tried and you were just so smart and so cute and really, you finished a chapter book when you were five! Blah, blah, blah…”

I love my family. I love my friends. After I graduated high school, I moved to Tallahassee to attend Florida State University. Upon living there for, oh I don’t know…37 minutes, I decided that I was not one of those people that was able to live comfortably and happily when not surrounded by the people I’ve known and loved all my life. In fear of being a quitter, I spent the next two years in Tallahassee trying to make myself become one of those people. I never did. I gave up on the big city with its never-ending traffic, dirty streets, limited parking, freezing winters, horrible job opportunities, crappy apartment, high rent, awful roommate, drunk frat boys exuding obnoxiousness just by breathing, drunk sorority girls exuding sluttiness just by getting dressed (or by not getting dressed, whatever), consistently worsening Florida State Seminoles, insanely huge class sizes, crowded campus, and nightmarish location… four hours away from the people I can’t live without.

I have a dog. Her name is Mowgli and she is psychotic. My friend and I were driving late one night and there she was, running head-on towards our car like a moron. I scooped her up, got her fat, bought her a pretty pink collar, and she’s been making my life a fur-infested circus ever since. The only reason I included her in my post is not because she’s a sweet angel dog, but because she’s gnawing on my pant leg as I speak.

I love to be creative. I’ve gotten lucky up to this point in my life that my “being creative” can consist of literally throwing random things onto a sheet of paper and will still actually yield a decent looking product that I can be happy with. I use my tendency to throw feathers, glitter, paint, sharpies, magazine articles, pictures, letters, tissue paper, scrap-booking paper, mosaic tiles, stickers, paper clips, envelopes, fabric, and the kitchen sink together as a way to express myself when what I’m feeling can not be articulated enough to be articulately written.

I have pet peeves. Several of them. I do believe that a list is necessary. 1) I hate it when people breathe like a rhinocerous. Seriously, if your sitting at your computer cruising around Facebook and you’re breathing like you’re an inch away from death, you have problems that could probably be sorted out at a doctor’s office or a gym. (If you legitimately have a health issue of which obnoxious breathing is a sympton, I will make your unfortunate case an exception.) 2) When people misspell “you’re” and “your”. It’s called a contraction and if you didn’t learn what it was in third grade, then I pity you. (In the off chance that you find this very mistake in my blog posts, feel free to let me know. I will not be ashamed because I assure you that it is merely a typo due to my lightning fast, superhuman typing skills 😉 and not a severe lack of education.) 3) I work at a coffee shop that closes at 8pm. If it’s 8:45 and we’re vacuuming, dimming the lights, and stacking chairs around you and you STILL refuse to even acknowledge that we’re doing so, then you are rude, inconsiderate, self-absorbed, and clueless and you make me want to go home and feed my psycho dog my right arm. 4) When people ask me who my favorite author or what my favorite book is just because I’m a journalism major. I do not have an answer for this question. My favorite book changes every time I finish a new one, as does my favorite author. For example, right now my favorite book is Their Eyes Were Watching God making my favorite author Zora Neale Hurston. This will probably change next week when I’ve read something else. I like to read, I like to write, and for some reason I feel that I’m good at it. These are really the only pieces of information you need to know.

There are probably more, but in fear of sounding like an extremely angry, people-hating individual, I will not go there. 🙂

I hate the cold. I love the rain. I love Florida. I live in an old house that sits around two feet off the ground. The ceilings are 10-feet tall and the walls might as well have been made of tissue paper. When it’s summer, the heat, for the most part, remains outside. It knows its place and does not typically test its boundaries. But for some reason, in the two weeks of winter we have in Lakeland, the cold attacks our 90-year-old house the way I would greedily attack a pepperoni pizza and it remains there much longer than the cold front itself (and much longer than it takes me to finish a pizza). It will remain 50 degrees inside even though the temperature has slowly made its way up to 75. Not okay. Thankfully, the frequent rainstorms make the threat of .02 seconds of “bitter cold” seem less intimidating. And endless trips to either Florida coast and random day excursions through the Florida wilderness turn the peril of the cold into merely a walk on the beach.

I get stressed easily. I have a tendency to collect all my responsibilities into one heaping pile and stare at them, consider them, contemplate them, cry over them, and worry about them until it seems that all the hot air that is propelling them higher and higher into the sky eventually will scorch them and they will all combust. The invention of the day-planner was a miraculous thing. I would die without mine. But this bittersweet tool makes it that much easier for me to line up my seemingly endless list of tasks, become overwhelmed by them, and pile them into the hot air balloon that is my mind and send them on their journey to inevitable explosion.

I love to travel. Every summer, my mom, my sister, and I take a trip to any far off destination of our choosing. We usually spend the entire year before hacking out all the details and getting excited for the trip. We usually drive because we’ve always found that we have more fun that way. The second we pull out of our drive way and begin bumping along our brick road towards the interstate, we waste no time transforming into our 7-year-old selves. This one week out of the summer is the one week that I never stop laughing. We laugh at billboards, we laugh at the radio, we laugh at the fact that we’re about to run out of gas and the nearest exit is 20 miles, we laugh at each other, we laugh at other people, we laugh at inappropriate things and we laugh at things that really, truly are not even funny. I actually wonder why I’ve never returned home with a set of chiseled abs from endless belly-aching laughs. Now that I think of it, I return home with just the opposite…a jolly looking belly filled with fast food and road-trip snacks. Nevertheless, our summer vacations have become sacred to all three of us. We escape the confines of our little Lakeland, Florida bubble and journey to the much bigger bubble beyond it, all the while filling it with laughs, smiles, photographs, and priceless memories.