A Writer's Journey

January 8, 2018

(Almost) A Week in Virginia

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 1:00 pm
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Happy New Year! I know I wished you all that last week, but I wanted to repeat it. I hope you all had a great holiday week and that you ended 2017 on a good note.

I also hope you ended it some place warm because even though I was in Virginia, we were cold. I think we only got above freezing two days.

I flew down to Richmond the day after Christmas. I worked that day, running my company’s payroll for the last pay of the year. Then I hopped in my car and drove the ten minutes to the airport, leaving my car in long-term parking at Newark-Liberty International Airport.

Which is about three miles from the airport itself. I just kept driving and driving until I found the lot. Planes were landing overhead and I had to take a shuttle back to the terminals.

I got to Terminal A and breezed through security. I grabbed some food and then did some writing as I waited for my plane to show up. Our flight ended up being delayed but not by much. I think we got into the air about a half hour after we were supposed to.

Our flight was only an hour so we pretty much landed on time, though we spent some time taxiing to the gate. I hurried off the plane and met up with my parents, dismayed to find out it was just as cold in Virginia. No relief from the cold for me.

I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before as I was still packing. And then I had developed a stuffy nose that woke me up, preventing me from getting a good amount of sleep. While it hadn’t effected me while working, I was definitely tired by the time I got to the hotel. I took a shower and pretty much went to bed.

We spent Wednesday mostly shopping. Well, my parents did. I went to WalMart with them but then chilled in the room while they went elsewhere. We then met up with my sister for dinner before going to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

Spoiler alert: We loved it.

(If you want more information about the movie, you can check out my review/recap on my other blog, My Little Corner).

Thursday was spent at the Science Museum of Virginia, which was really fun. I learned that right now, I can’t outrun a rat, let alone a bear. I also can’t hit a baseball, but I already knew that. My hand-eye coordination is not the best. Nor is my spatial judgement.

We also watched a movie about dark matter in their giant dome theater that was narrated by Tilda Swinton. It was pretty cool but I’m afraid I got motion sickness, especially once we got to the CGI recreations of what is happening in the LHC. But then we got to see some giant renderings of planets, so that was cool.

After the movie, we then went down to the BOOST exhibit which is a bunch of cool interactive features for both children and adults. I did a bunch of them, including attempting to walk a tightrope (not very good). I also got a cool new recipe to try—peanut butter chicken. Maybe while my parents are away…

I also did an exhibit featuring yoga. My company’s annual health assessment suggested taking up yoga and I had started to consider it. So I gave some of the poses a try and I did ridiculously well at level 1 yoga. I might actually take up yoga now. I just need to get a mat—I already have access to a class since it’s offered at my Y!

We then spent the evening with my sister at her new place—she’s renting a room from a friend. Said friend has two dogs and his girlfriend has a dog, so in addition to my sister’s dog, four dogs greeted us at the door. Balto, my sister’s, was more focused on my dad and somewhat focused on my mom. Which left me at the mercy at the other three (very friendly) dogs. As a French bulldog, Rupert is now the smallest dog to jump on me. (I’ve learned that the bigger the dog, more likely it is to jump on me. You should’ve seen how big my eyes got when I realized my cousin’s Rottweiler was going to do that). My sister, mom and I went to get dinner at a nearby diner before we just chilled at the house, where boxer Maya decided to keep licking me.

Friday was another movie day. Since my sister didn’t want to see The Last Jedi, my parents and I went to go watch it instead.

Spoiler alert: I loved it. My parents were more so-so on it.

(Once again, you can check out my other blog for a review. Coming soon!)

We returned to my sister’s house and hung out with the dogs again as my mother helped her move a few things into her room. As I sat there, I was suddenly struck with everything I could’ve been doing—mostly all the writing I could’ve gotten done instead.

Eventually, we went out to get barbeque before hitting up a Michaels for items my sister needed to decorate her room. We dropped her and my father off before my mother and I drove to the airport to pick up my aunt. Then we drove back to my sister’s and picked up my father to head back to the hotel.

Saturday was probably our most eventful day—even more eventful that Thursday. We met my sister at the hotel and I drove with her to Williamsburg, listening to Pandora the entire time. We were listening to the Broadway Showstoppers channel but encountered a lot of Phantom of the Opera. So much so, she got annoyed with every Phantom song and I couldn’t help but laugh.

We had lunch at the Golden Corral before heading to Busch Gardens for Christmas Town! Every inch of the park is covered in Christmas goodies with special Christmas shows and some really good hot chocolate. There was musical retelling of the Christmas story that made you clap your hands and tap your feet. And there was a musical version of A Christmas Carol that was also pretty good as well.

My sister and I were able to do Invadr, the new roller coaster at Busch Gardens but were unable to do Verbolten. It ended up closing up because of the weather—it was too cold to run any of the rides. And it was definitely cold—but the warmest day of our time in Virginia. But by the end of the night, I could barely feel most of my body.

Night time, though, included a magical experience. They lit up the park in a ton of lights—putting them everywhere, including the flumes of Escape from Pompeii, since no one was going to do a water ride anyway. There was even a show called O Tannenbaum where they coordinated the lights on a giant tree in Oktoberfest to blink in time to a medley of Christmas songs. It was quite breathtaking. We also wore large plastic Christmas lights that lit up around our necks after the sun went down.

We called it a night and the next day was New Year’s Eve. It was a lazy day spent mostly in the hotel, broken only by Mass and dinner at Cracker Barrell. Still, we were much warmer than the people in Times Square. We rang in the New Year and I hope 2018 will be better than 2017.

And then I flew back to New York with my aunt on New Year’s, though we only got home about an hour before my parents. Still, it was better than seven hours in the car.

So, that’s how I ended 2017. Now I’m looking forward to diving into 2018, even if we started with a cold snap and a snow storm. How about you?

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December 5, 2017

My Favorite Holiday Movies

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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It’s December! I know Hallmark has been showing Christmas movies since right before Halloween because…well…that’s what they do but let’s talk holiday movies now that we’re closer to the actually holidays.

We all have our favorites—the movies we have to see before December ends. For me, the list includes a blend of old classics and new ones.

So here’s my top ten…this year.

1. Love, Actually

Who doesn’t love this movie? I had a friend in college who hated rom coms and after he watched it with his girlfriend, came back and admitted he loved it. There’s just something so appealing about these intertwined stories about love and Christmas that has lasted for over a decade. It also boasts an amazing cast—Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley and so many more!

This year, most of the cast reunited to do a short special catching the fans up with what their characters had been up to since the movie ended. You should check it out if you haven’t yet.

2. The Holiday

I absolutely love this rom com starring Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law. Diaz and Law have great chemistry and Winslet is an absolute delight to watch on screen as she plays a woman taking control of her life again. And it has shots of sunny California and snowy England. It’s the best of both worlds!

3. A Princess for Christmas

This is a popular Hallmark Channel movie that launched a genre of its own—regular girl falls in love with royal, is awkward but endearing trying to fit in at court and lives happily ever after. This one stars Katie McGrath and Outlander’s Sam Heughan and the two have amazing chemistry. You need to check it out if you haven’t.

4. A Charlie Brown Christmas

How can anyone hate this classic? Come on.

5. Santa Claus is Coming to Town

There’s just something sweet and nostalgic about stop motion. And this is a great tale about how Santa Claus came to be—abandoned baby taken in by kindly toymakers, a man who wants to give presents out of the kindness of his heart, a mean dictator who could represent communist dictators, and a beautiful schoolteacher who learns that some rules may be meant to be broken. The Winter Warlock is pretty cool too.

It also provided me some inspiration that has gotten me through a few hard times: “You put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking across the floor. You put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.”

6. Once Upon a Christmas/Twice Upon a Christmas

These two are considered on entry because they are linked—one’s a sequel to the other. They are more Hallmark staples starring Kathy Ireland and Touched by an Angel’s John Dye. She’s Santa’s daughter and when it seems that there are more naughty children than good, she goes to Dye’s family to try to turn their behavior around and make them want to celebrate Christmas again. It works and soon love is in the air…but she also has to stop her evil sister from ruining Christmas forever.

The sequel deals with the evil sister once again trying to destroy Christmas and sell the North Pole to Donald Trump (!) while Kathy Ireland tries to find out who she is, having forgotten everything due to actions she took in the first movie. It’s a romantic follow up to the first movie and has a pretty interesting plot. And I love both of them.

7. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

Over the years, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer hasn’t really held up for me. Everyone in it is pretty much a jerk—Santa included—and it makes me mad that everyone just kinda gets a pass in the end. But I do love this sequel, where Rudolph needs to save the New Year when Baby New Year runs away because people were jerks and laughed at the ears he no doubt would grow into. Rudolph jumps around the islands where every year goes to, meeting Ben Franklin, a knight and a caveman. There’s also a whale that helps him too. It’s a lot of fun…even if I’m just realizing that there aren’t really any female characters.

Geez.

8. Mickey’s Christmas Carol

This was a special made in the 1980s, just ahead of the Disney Renaissance that started with The Little Mermaid. It stars Scrooge McDuck as Ebenezer Scrooge and follows the classic Christmas story as he learns the true meaning of Christmas. Donald is his nephew Fred, Mickey is Bob Cratchit, Goofy is Marley, Jiminy Cricket is the Ghost of Christmas Past, Willie the Giant is the Ghost of Christmas Present and Pete is the Ghost of Christmas Future. It’s a cute little cartoon and I love it.

(Fun Fact: It’s the first official appearance of Wayne Allwine as Mickey Mouse).

9. The Santa Clause

The sequels were good but there’s just something endearing about the very first one, where workaholic dad Tim Allen accidentally kills Santa and therefore has to become Santa. Watching as he transforms into the jolly old elf and how it transforms his life is heartwarming and hysterical.

10. The Christmas List

My parents actually got me hooked on this one but I don’t think it’s aired in recent years. Mimi Rogers plays a mousy mall worker with a nose for perfumes who decides to submit a Christmas list to Santa’s mailbox. She’s surprised when it starts to come true—leading her to a possible new romance and new career opportunities.

So those are my top ten Christmas movies. What are yours?

November 20, 2017

Reading Challenge Update

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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It’s November. The year is almost over. So let’s take a look at how my Reading Challenge is doing.

As a reminder, I challenged myself to read 12 books this year, which would break down to one book a month.

I am happy to report that I am on track and may even finish early if I can finish one of my Once Upon a Book Club books before November is over. (My money is on A Strange Companion over The Saturday Evening Girls Club, though I doubt that won’t be too far behind).

So I’m proud of myself. I met my goal and read so many new books this year. Will I up my goal for next year? I’m not sure. I’ll have to see.

But one goal I definitely know I’ll set for 2018? Finally finishing The Night Circus. It’ll be going on two years and I don’t want to abandon it.

Did you challenge yourself this year? How are you doing? Will you challenge yourself in 2018? Sound off below! 

November 13, 2017

A Change in the Air

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 1:00 am
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Two weeks ago, I went to a YMCA training course on Fiscal Management. Pretty much, it explains the budget, how to build one and how to monitor one so you can help with your YMCA’s fiscal responsibilities. I’m in a department that’s considered “overhead”—we don’t have a revenue stream, so the other departments cover us. But I’m not here to explain that to you. It’s just…background. Setting, if you would.

That morning, it had been freezing in my room and I had been hesitant to get out of bed. But I knew I had to because I had to go to this training. So I pulled on a nice warm shirt, some warm pants and then checked my phone for the temperature. When I saw it was in the thirties, I knew I had to break out my jacket for the first time since the winter. My car heater was jacked up and I headed on my way.

When the training was over for the day, I stepped outside and paused. Because it was a day that just screamed “November” to me.

It was overcast and the skies were gray as a cool wind blew. My jacket kept me warm against the cold air as I hurried to the car. Around me were trees, all starting to change colors. Reds, golds, browns and oranges stood out against the gray. It was beautiful.

For a moment, I just stood in the parking lot admiring how perfect a fall day it was. It just reminded me how much I love the season.

October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween!

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
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I delayed this post until today since it’s actually Halloween today! Since it’s Tuesday, I myself went out on Friday night dressed as a vampire queen. I got the costume for New York Comic Con because the dress I got from Hot Topic for my Evil Queen cosplay didn’t fit and the costume’s dress was the closest to Regina’s red dress.

I hope you were able to get out celebrate the holiday but if not, I’ll try to help you a bit with a few ghost stories from my hometown of Staten Island!

Happy Haunts!

The Historic Old Bermuda Inn

It is haunted by the ghost of a former owner, Martha Mesereau, whose husband went to sea and never came back. She is still waiting for him and haunts her house, now a popular catering venue here on Staten Island. I’ve been there several times as I can walk to it but I’ve yet to see Martha. She’s been known to appear to guests as well as fiddle with women’s jewelry. The facility recently underwent some renovations and during them, a painting of Martha that hangs in the building caught on fire mysteriously. It wasn’t destroyed and the singed portrait still hangs. I know the owners as we attend the same church and they are more than happy to share Martha’s story. You just have to ask.

Vanderbilt’s Tomb

Magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt is buried in Staten Island’s Moravian Cemetery and his tomb is well known to us. It is said that if you go to the tomb and take a picture of it, strange things happen. People you don’t know and who weren’t there will appear in the picture or the people who were in the picture will not be there after it is developed. Needless to say, many people have flocked to the tomb so a fence was set up around it. Good luck, then, getting your picture.

The Kreischer Mansion

Like the Old Bermuda Inn, this spooky residence is close to my house. It was built by the Kreischer family, who ran a successful brick factory on the island. Some of their bricks can still be found around town. Unfortunately, the family fell on hard times when the factory burnt down and one of the brothers killed himself. And in recent years, it was discovered that one of the caretakers was a hitman for the Bonanno crime family and had destroyed a man he killed in the house’s furnace. Strange activity has been reported in the house, including red lights spotted in windows. It’s also said that sometimes, late at night, a gunshot can be heard going off inside the house.

St. Andrew’s Cemetery

The cemetery is attached to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, which is one of the oldest churches on the island. It dates back to 1708, though the current church only dates back to just after the Civil War, and was once led by the grandfather of Elizabeth Ann Seton, who would later convert to Catholicism and became the first American-born saint. Strange phenomenon have been reported both in the church (an organ that plays by itself) as well as the cemetery. One of the lingering spirits is a drummer boy from the Revolutionary War, who appears to people with a bandage on his head and asks for directions to the fort. I’ve also heard stories of a teenage girl who is spotted close to the road, often trying to lure young men in order to find her lost love.

Fort Wadsworth

A former military post, it is now operated by the parks department and open to the public. Located right by the Verrazano Bridge, it offers some amazing views of the Narrows and New York Harbor. My track team and I once took a long run down there but only once. After September 11th, it was used as a staging area and was closed to the public for a while. Strange phenomenon have been reported there. People have experienced time shifts, seeing battlefields and soldiers at war racing around though no battle was ever fought at Fort Wadsworth. People in clothes from earlier times have also been spotted walking around the fort before disappearing.

So there are five more haunted sites on Staten Island. And I’ve just scratched the surface. We have a few more haunted sites I might share next Halloween.

For now, stay safe and protect the black cats. And enjoy your Halloween!

October 2, 2017

Hello, Dolly and Paul!

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
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Okay, we’re going to put my computer woes aside for now. I want to talk about the fun I had despite all these problems!

On the Sunday that all my laptop problems started, my family and I went to see Hello, Dolly. It was Broadway week and many shows were offering two-for-one tickets, which we took advantage of. So did a lot of other people as our performance was played to a pretty packed house. I didn’t see all of orchestra, but there were no empty seats in mezzanine where we were seated. We even ended up running into family friends, who wound up having seats in the row in front of ours! It’s a small world after all indeed.

Better Midler was not performing Dolly at our performance, which we knew when we bought our tickets. It was Donna Murphy and I was overjoyed. She’s a two-time Tony winner! (Everyone else I was with were like “She’s Mother Gothel from Tangled!” It’s fair, but she’s a talented stage actress in her own right).

The show was absolutely amazing. I plan to review it properly on my blogspot blog (shameless plug here!) but let me say this: If you can go see the show, go see it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Bette or Donna, either way, you are going to get an amazing Dolly! (Though rumor in the ladies’ room was that Donna was better). I can’t remember the last time I went to a show where it was clear every actor loved and had fun performing the show. It was just a great way to spend an afternoon.

The day before, my parents, my cousin, my aunt and I had dinner together. My dad was planning to go visit my sister the next weekend and I knew my mom and aunt were going to the Paul McCartney concert on Friday. So I asked if I was on my own for dinner that day. My mom looked at me surprised and said: “You’re coming to Paul McCartney with us.”

I guess I should be grateful they didn’t tell me on Thursday night.

My boss let me go early from work on Friday with everyone telling me to enjoy the concert. I was planning on going home to change into a nice black shirt and my boots while keeping on my jeans. However, my mom told me that my aunt said we had to dress up because our tickets granted us access to the “board room.” I was surprised—it’s a concert. Why would we need to dress up? But I put on a nice dress and flats.

We trekked to Madison Square Garden and were directed to the “board room.” And guess what? Everyone else was wearing jeans. We nearly killed my aunt, who did apologize and said she thought we had to dress up. Her coworker and friend told my mom to always get her info from her (the friend), not my aunt.

Lesson learned.

So what is the “board room”? It’s a place with fancy booths and food laid out for us. There is also a bar and a very attentive server, waiting to make sure we have everything we want. He even gave us water bottles to take with us into the arena!

Paul McCartney took the stage and proceeded to perform nonstop for almost 3 hours. At one point his band took a break but the 75 years old continued on, singing such songs as “Blackbird” without them. He gave great performances and told some wonderful stories in between—Paul certainly has a sense of humor!

However, my row had a big moment early on. We were very close to the stage—not on the floor but close enough to feel the heat of the pyrotechnics used for “Live and Let Die” later in the show—and there were still two seats left empty. After the show had started, a couple showed up and it was clear those were their seats. The wife was very apologetic as she ducked past us, her husband following. I looked up and my mind was just “BRUUUUUUUUUUCE.”

As in Bruce Springsteen.

The Boss sat four seats from me for this concert.

Yeah, we were all pretty excited. I even tried to get a picture but it was hard when you’re trying to also play cool. I think the people on the floor had better shots than me.

Bruce and his wife left early, but I figured it was because he was performing with Paul. I was right—he came out and performed “I Saw Her Standing There” with Paul. Twice.

The concert ended and we returned home, where I went straight to bed. But it was a great night and I’m glad I went. It was just a great week…

Aside from the laptop problems.

September 18, 2017

Strange Dreams

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
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Nearly everybody dreams. Scientists believe we have between four to seven dreams each night, some lasting only a few minutes, some lasting about a half hour. The most vivid dreams occur during Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep. Sometimes we remember our dreams, most times we don’t. (If one wakes in the middle of a dream or during REM sleep, you’re more likely to remember it).

Like most people, I tend to forget most of my dreams. There are some I do remember but only for a few days at most. And then there are those that grip me and leave an impression for several days, maybe weeks. I might even be able to recall them months or years later. And these dreams always come in cycles.

I’ve just finished one such cycle and I had some doozies during it. Please allow me to share:

Surprisingly, I’ve had a few dreams involving tornados. In the first, I was staying in a hotel in the middle of storms when tornados sprung up. My family and I made it to the storm cellar just in time but a tornado hit us, picking us up, rotating us and then setting us down unharmed. We decided to get out of there before any more tornados could hit but then we found ourselves surrounded by flood waters!

That dream ended there but a few nights later, I dreamed of tornados again. Or more accurately, I guess, water spouts. I went down to the beach and a storm was rolling in. Somehow, I ended up on a boat and watching a spouts reaching into the air as they churned by the boat. I got back onto the land and raced away from the beach, the spouts and the storm.

So those were some of my “stormy” dreams. Let’s move on to a few other memorable ones.

Recently, I dreamed I was in a store. I was just browsing through some dolls when my mom asked me to find her something—I think a shirt. I agreed to go and headed away from her.

I think I need to pause to explain something here. I have what I call “dream” places—places that I often return to and always look the same. I have the same mall I go to (which I wish was real as it is amazing with a large food court, several restaurants and a lot of shops). And I have a version of “Disney World” I go to that, honestly, doesn’t look at all like the park. I just know it is Disney World.

(Though it has some cool rollercoasters I wish Disney would build).

I went through a few stores, looking to get to the right one so I can get the shirt my mom wants. As I enter, I then have to board some sort of ride vehicle. I get in the front and I settled in, even wrapping myself with a blanket as we go through some scenes, including something that reminds me of the now defunct Horizons ride.

When I got off, I met up with my friend Diana and found I was in a nice dress. We headed toward a restaurant but discovered the only way in was to go along with whatever the theme was. And the theme was a “shower” (I think bridal). So we had to pick out gifts and leave them as we headed into a room full of people we didn’t know.

That’s where that dream ended but it was pretty odd.

Another recent one involved me going to a school for a test. But all the instructions were in French and my boss was there for some reason. That one was just puzzling to me.

I’m sure more weird dreams will come my way, so maybe I’ll have a follow up post some time in the future. Feel free to share your weirdest dream in the comments below!

September 11, 2017

Autumn Plans (and Hopes)

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
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Well, it’s September. We’re about a week and a half away from the first day of autumn.

As usual, this summer flew by. We had some warm days and some rainy days. I wish I had gotten into the pool a bit more often but I did spend time outside. Got the mosquito bites to prove it too.

However, on September 2nd, I woke up and realized I was okay that it was almost autumn. I came to the realization that autumn was generally my season, not summer, and it was time to fully embrace it.

So I am.

(more…)

July 17, 2017

2017 Reading Challenge Update

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 pm
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It’s halfway through the year so I thought I would update you on how I’m doing on my goal to read more this year. On Goodreads, I set a goal of 12 books (one book for each month). How am I doing?

I’m actually on target! That’s right, I read six books through June and I just finished my seventh. If I play my cards right, I hope to have the eighth finished by the end of the month.

Maybe even the ninth.

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July 14, 2017

I Dream of Paris…

Filed under: off topic — mackenziew @ 12:00 am
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I knew that when I got to high school, I wanted to study French. And I did, even though Spanish probably would’ve been more useful. I was one of eleven girls in my high school class who learned the language and we all got really close because our class was so small. We also learned about French culture and history, enjoying our lessons. Our one dream was to go to Disneyland Paris as a class.

However, we went to Catholic school so there definitely was no budget to send us to Paris. We had enough to go to Quebec in Canada, which was gorgeous and still gave us a chance to practice our French. And in college, I went abroad to England and don’t regret it.

There was a plan for a family vacation to France when I graduated college. We would visit Paris and my father wanted to go to Normandy, since his father landed at Utah Beach on D-Day. He also spent a month stationed at Marseilles. My grandfather didn’t speak much of his time in the war so I guess my father wanted to feel closer to that part of him. However, I graduated in 2008 just as the recession kicked in, so that trip got scrubbed. We went to Boston instead.

Yet, I still want to go to Paris. I would love to stroll down the streets of the City of Lights, take in the sights, take in the history and just be there. It would be a dream come true.

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