Days Of Summer-Going…Going…Gone

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There is a common theme with many bloggers as summer begins to wind down. For those with children returning to school, the end of summer is not based on changes in weather like a sudden crispness in the morning air or the exchange of summer shorts for warm sweaters, but more likely it’s dictated by the posting of bus schedules and shopping for school supplies. Many schools in America have started classes and the rest are not far behind only waiting to begin classes after the Labor Day weekend. Georgia students have been sitting in classrooms for about two weeks now and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for the teachers to manage the energy. Sun and heat still equals summer time to most children and it doesn’t seem fair to send children back inside while the days outside are still so inviting.

With the recent graduation of my only child from Virginia Tech, I no longer gauge my days of summer on any one else’s timetable. Although many of the flowers are beginning to fade here, there are quite a lot still blooming and everywhere you look there is life and color. In Georgia, the blackberries bushes would have closed up shop and ceased production marking the end of summer in a pointed way with only the thorns left behind. Here in Cornwall the blackberries are still fat and juicy with more waiting to ripen before they go for the season. There’s more than enough to freeze a few gallons for winter and make another pie or two, but pie making aside we seem to have missed what makes it feel most like summer.

After years of living in Georgia and suffering through the oppressive summer heat and seasons of drought for the last few years, Cornwall in contrast has had it’s third rainy summer in a row and waking up to another grey day I feel as if in some ways I am still waiting for days of summer to begin. To be fair, this part of the world is a wonderland in rain or with sunshine but occasionally I must admit, I’d be happy to see a bit more of the sun. I’ll leave you with a few summer pictures as we begin slip into fall here and I’ll head out the door to pick a few more blackberries for a last taste of summer before it’s completely past.

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The last three pictures serve as an example of what we do to blackberries around here. Mmmmmmm!

Don’t forget tomorrow is the day for TMAST so please consider writing a post for tomorrow using one of the topic sentences left behind over at the Tell Me A Story Tuesdays site. Send me a link and I’ll post it tomorrow on mine. So far Judy Harper has been the only one to join me in the story writing piece of this online group. Others have left topic sentences and I do appreciate that. It’s more fun for me to use someone else’s sentence so even if you don’t want to write a story for TMAST, please consider leaving a topic sentence here.  It’s practice writing not perfection so let your imagination run wild and see where it takes you.

A Room Of One’s Own – Week 7 – Update

This week John has managed to get quite a bit accomplished on the renovation, but it’s hard to photograph in a way that is as impressive as walls going up or the roof going on. The bathrooms are framed out and have flooring in place. Additionally, the pipes for the showers, sinks, toilets and tubs are in along with the insulation and sub-flooring. He also did a bit of plastering and finished off the new window in the master bedroom and closed in an opening in the master bedroom wall that will be part of my bathroom medicine/storage cabinet. He’ll be putting up plasterboard tomorrow in the master bath and building the wardrobe/closet back into the master bedroom. He’s decided to focus most of his efforts on the master bed and bath so we can get out of the guest room and back into our room. We’ve picked out a new bed and mattress…well actually, I’ve picked them out, but John is so agreeable that as long as it falls within a few parameters, it is pretty much whatever I want.

I have a bit sad news about Brian who you may remember is one of our builders. Last week he fell off a ladder on another job site and broke his left shoulder in three places. He’s had surgery and will be out of work for a while, but he should be all right.

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If  you look closely you can see some of my paint samples taped to a door in the back. I put them up to see how they look in the different light that comes in from the window throughout the day. I’m undecided somewhere between pale greens and buttermilk yellow for my walls. Any suggestions?

Feeling LandLocked

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Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide.  For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. - Zora Neale Hurston


Karen Walrond from Chookooloonks is sharing some interesting insight and technique for her Love Thursday post. If you are feeling a bit landlocked today you might enjoy seeing what she did to make her dreams come true.

Tell Me A Story Tuesdays – Second Thoughts

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“Hurry inside, he’s having second thoughts!”

” Second thoughts”  thought Ella, “he’s having second thoughts,”  hearing those words she felt flash of something somewhere between fear and anger before realizing the vicar was trying to be funny. ” Good grief, what do they teach these people in divinity school? ” she thought to herself.  Ella tried to muster a smile for the vicar who according to tradition had come out to meet the bride before preceding her down the aisle. Back home in America, the minister always waited down at the front near the altar with the groom, usually stepping out from an inside door a few minutes before the bride came into the church. Here everything was different. Not hugely different, but just different enough to keep her slightly off balance.

Nigel was waiting for her inside now and she thought for a minute about how they’d gotten to this day. Six months ago Ella had been cycling through the village stopping at the only pub she seen for miles when Nigel had walked in with his arms full of loaded egg cartons.  She’d watched him as he spoke hearing him say what sounded to her like, ” Yer aright ? ” which she now knew was the regular greeting for folks in these parts. This Cornish way of saying hello was different from her standard, ” Hi, how are you? ” even though it meant about the same thing.

She’d been tucked out of sight or so she thought, as she sat in a corner of the pub drinking a diet lemonade when Nigel began talking with the men near the bar. Tall and thin with a head full of prematurely silver hair reaching past his shoulders, he was wearing an old leather cowboy hat that seemed so much a part of him even then that it looked as if it might as well been permanently attached. Looking more like a musician than a chicken farmer that first time, he’d had a rock and roll air about him despite holding a handful of egg cartons instead of a bass guitar in his grip.

Ella had eavesdropped on the conversation so openly trying to pick out snatches of phrasing that she might understand from the mix of British accents, that after a few minutes Nigel had turned to her and invited her to join them. Staying longer than she anticipated, it was dark before she realized it and the idea of riding her bike the six miles needed to reach her hotel on the dark and tiny lanes made her more anxious than she normally was when riding her bike around the rural countryside. Nigel had offered to give her a ride back to her hotel over near Lanhydrock. Lifting her bike into the back of his truck before opening the door for her to jump into the red cab, she thought how his truck seemed much larger than the vehicles she normally saw driving the hedge lined lanes in Cornwall. Hedges so tall and thick in many places that she was reminded of the scary maze of hedges in Stephen King’s novel, The Shining.  She found the lanes spooky enough late at night in a car and the idea of riding alone on her bike had made it easy to quiet the voices in her head that reminded her that this man was practically a stranger. Ella had been grateful for the offer and after hanging out with Nigel and his friends at what was clearly his local hangout, she felt more like she was accepting a lift from a friend than someone she’d just met a few hours earlier.

By then she’d found herself terribly attracted to him and when he asked if she minded stopping by his place so he could put his chickens in for the night, she said,  “Sure..no problem ” and meant it thinking she wasn’t ready to say goodnight yet or even worse, possibly goodbye. Ella listened as he told her why he needed to tuck his chickens in before it got too late. He explained that his “girls” would not be safe from prowling animals if they were left on their own and that he’d try to be quick, but he needed to check for eggs before locking them in for the evening.  She fallen in love with him that very night listening to him as he talked to his hens, coaxing them into the henhouse and caressing them with his words in a way she’d decided very quickly that she wanted him to do with her.

Ella had no doubts about marrying the local ” Egg man.”  She couldn’t help but smile thinking how the vicar had responded when she’d said she wanted to enter the church to an instrumental version of the Beatles, ” I Am The Walrus.” Born in the late fifties, the vicar had been old enough to remember the lyric, ” I am the egg man,”  on the Beatles nonsensical hit, ” I Am The Walrus” and she let Ella know very quickly and quite firmly that despite wanting to stay open and progressive, the Church of England was not ready to shift so completely down the ” goo goo g’joob ” path.

“Just as well,”  thought Ella touching the small round bulge of a belly that for now, was hidden behind her flowers. They could save the “goo goo g’joob ” for later, she thought…knowing without a doubt that it was too late now for second thoughts.

Whew!  This one was tough for some reason even for practice writing and it took a bit to finish it properly.  Thanks again to Judy Harper for her suggestion that I used for this week’s TMAST. Judy’s link to TMAST and her story can be found on her blog here.  Please take a look at the pictures for next week’s TMAST and offer up suggestions for topic sentences based on the photographs.

A Room Of One’s Own – Week 6 – Update

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I will begin with a picture because that is what today’s post will contain for the most part. As you can see Brian and Bob moved inside after last week. They finished up the outside with a Tyrolean finish and it looks great. The color is slightly brighter, but that’s okay because John wanted to freshen the paint on the rest of the house anyway.

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You can see here where the ceiling is going up along with the scattered bits waiting to be used or carted off.

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Here’s the truck that carried away the skip.

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Brian is plastering over the Artex ceiling that is sadly in all of the rooms. I like it well enough in a few places, but the overall effect tends to make the rooms look smaller and dated. Although this house was built in the 90′s, Artex, the popular finishing method for ceilings in the 70′s has covered the ceilings in all of the rooms until now.

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Bob is making sure the plaster is mixed and ready as Brian needs it. This part has to be done properly or it doesn’t matter how good the person is applying it to the ceiling. They did a really great job covering the Artex and John is pleased every time he looks at the new ceiling.

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Brian and Bob were gracious enough to give me one more photograph before they wrapped things up here for a while.  When they began this project, the back garden looked like this nestled between the back of the house and the garage.

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Brian and Bob will be away working on another project for bit while John frames out the walls and get all the plumbing and electrical pieces in order. Then B & B will be back to put up the plasterboard (or sheet rock) and finish off the walls and ceiling with plaster.  John will do the tile in the bathrooms and put down the hardwood floors throughout the addition and the master bedroom.

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That’s it for this week. Come back next week to check on us. We’ll still be here shuffling around in the dust.

Asking For What You Need – Comment Support

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You probably have noticed I’ve changed things up here at Gifts Of The Journey and I think I’m happy with this new look, but I need a little help from my friends to finish it up the way I want. I’ve made myself half crazy trying to do it myself which is one of my best and worst traits at times… not knowing when to give up and say,  “Help!”  I’ve had no success so I’m reaching out now saying, “Could somebody please send me a little directional support on how best to change the comment area of this template.”

The message that pops up when one tries to leave a comment is extremely off putting to me and not something I would ever say to anyone gracious enough to take the time to leave a thought behind. I appreciate each comment and value the opinions of others so until I get this worked out please ignore the tone of the comment section and thank you as always for your interest in my world and words.

I’ll Say It Again – Deep And Simple


Fred Rogers & Benjamin Wagner (Photo Courtesy Of Benjamin Wagner)

Fred Rogers & Benjamin Wagner (Photo Courtesy Of Benjamin Wagner)

About a year ago I posted Deep And Simple on my first Gifts Of The Journey website. A few things have changed since then, one being that I can no longer find the direct link to the essay published in the original “2DO Before I Die” book, but you can read about how he met Mister Rogers by going to Benjamin Wagner’s blog. After funding the making of this documentary out of their own pockets with an investment of $30,000 dollars so far, Benjamin and his brother Chris Wagner need a little help to finish this worthy project and get it out to a wider audience. I know everyone is hanging on to their money a good bit tighter in this economy, but if you’ll read his story I think you may decide this film has a message we can all benefit from…especially now. Please consider making a donation to get this film completed.

If you’re a blogger reading this, you might include the ” Please Help Mister Rogers & Me “ link or forward this post on to friends to increase awareness. Thanks for taking time to read this and I’ll leave you with a Mister Rogers quote from, ” The World According to Mister Rogers “

” I hope you’re proud of yourself for all the times you’ve said ” yes,” when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to someone else.”


Deep And Simple – July 26, 2008

In bookstores everywhere it only takes about half a minute to glance around and see book titles referencing lists of things to do or see before you die. These types of books have been around for quite some time, but a few of us actually had a list long before Oprah and every one else began promoting them. My list dates back to my college days and at 47, I’m only about a third of the way through it. While I’ve crossed off and enjoyed a goodly few of the important ones, at the pace I’m going I may be the oldest person Running with the Bulls in Pamplona in 2041. Maybe number fifty should be something like walking to the mailbox unassisted instead of dodging livestock when I’m old and wrinkly.

Lists can be important though and while I won’t share the complete contents of mine, I’m glad I had an opportunity to read about just one of the things that Benjamin Wagner accomplished on his list. It has made a tremendous difference in my life and I hope you’ll be as positively affected as I was when I read about it a couple of years ago. Reading about Benjamin’s meeting with Mr. Rogers, the gentle creator of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood made me cry then and it still does each time I read it. It’s sweet in the telling, because Benjamin Wagner knows how to reach into your heart and pull out an emotional memory you thought you’d locked away for safekeeping. Deeply feeling, he is able to convey his own fears and vulnerability in a way that makes it feel safe to share your own. Benjamin is an unusual mix of singer songwriter, MTV Executive, and documentary filmmaker. And while I love his newest CD release, it is his work on the documentary, “ Mr Rogers & Me “ that I want you to know about today.

Take a minute to read ‘Meet Mr. Rogers’ and then see if you can shake the message from your thoughts. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself talking with perfect strangers about it and hearing the words, deep and simple cross your lips over and over until it sounds as natural as telling someone your own name.

Benjamin Wagner and his brother Chris have been working on “Mr. Rogers & Me” on their own time and with their own money for the last four years. Both of them lead mega busy lives already without all that goes into creating this film. Take a look at this site and see some of the people they’ve interviewed for it like this great woman and this good man and then start spreading the word. I believe so strongly in this message, that the best things in our lives really are the ones that are deep and simple. And if I may quote Benjamin Wagner regarding the goal of the documentary, “ to afford the viewer the opportunity to reflect not just on a great man, but also on the values he espoused and embodied every day: compassion, kindness, and reflection.”

Just remember there are five words to put you right when life becomes too shallow and complex.

Five words to bring you back to your best self… compassion, kindness, reflection, and say them with me now….deep and simple.

Tell Me A Story Tuesdays – Seeing Things As They Are

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As the world started spinning, Gary thought, “What did Amy put in my drink?”

Gary reached out for the wall hoping to steady himself, but slipped instead scraping his head against the bricks as he tried to sit rather than fall down onto the sidewalk. He’d only had a couple of drinks with this woman he’d met in person a few hours ago, but he felt like he’d been drinking all night. “What is going on…” he thought to himself?  They’d talked on the phone a couple of times after meeting online and had decided to take a chance and meet in person. He’d found her easy to talk with sharing parts of his life he never spoke about, not to anyone. It was easier most days to just keep quiet, but drinking with her had opened doors he thought he had closed and locked years ago and he listened as he shared a little more each time he signaled the waiter to bring them another round. After a couple of drinks, she’d had enough and now that he thought about it, maybe he had more to drink than he’d realized.

It was the first time in a long as he could remember that he’d met someone he even wanted to talk with about more than the weather or what kind of prices were down at the gas pumps. Working at the fire station, he lived a life of extremes with every thing being either too boring or too terrible to share with his mother who seemed like the only person around lately to keep him company when he wasn’t working his shifts down at the station. Gary had lived with her for the last four years moving back home after his dad had died suddenly. He’d only meant to stay long enough to help her adjust to life without the old man, but before he knew it, his leave of absence from his job in North Carolina had run out and he’d made a decision to stay with her in the small town where he’d grown up.

He hated sleeping in his old bedroom smelling the scent of his youth day after day. After 16 years, you’d think the smell of sweaty socks and grubby football jerseys would have disappeared or at least have been covered over by all that damn air fresher his mom keep spraying around the house, Hell, you’d think she was trying to hide a dead body as often as she had that hot pink aerosol can in her hand. Still the smell of canned potpourri was better in some ways than the memories he had when he walked through the door into his room at night. It was like stepping back in time, as if four years of football games and wrestling matches was still ongoing instead of just gone.

Gary didn’t like to remember those days…not anymore.  He had struggled at first, fighting his memories of a time that for the most part, had been the happiest days of his life. He’d had a girl back then who looked at him like he was all she could see and he’d loved that. It was kind of like being the star quarterback on a winning team and even though he’d never played the quarterback position, his high school had gone all the way to the state finals in his senior year before losing in the last 4 seconds of what some people still talked about as the stolen game. He had been so angry that night over sudden loss that he drank more than he usually did after a game. Gary was always pretty careful about how much beer he had not wanting to lose control like some of the people closest to him.  He didn’t like it when saw his dad stumbling over the last step of the home they’d outgrown after the birth of his two brothers. If he hadn’t carved out his attic room he never would have had any privacy. He hadn’t thought much then about the smallness of the house or how it must have made his dad feel never being able to afford move up as the walls of the tiny two bedroom house strained to contain it all with the addition of each child.

Gary swore though that he’d never be like his dad watching him bounce off the living room wall coming through the front door every night and made a silent promise each time he heard his parents fighting in the kitchen, that he would never let booze run his life like it did his dad’s. Losing that night in the state finals had done something to him though and he found himself drinking vodka straight from the bottle with one of the boys he’d grown up with. Seventeen years of fighting over playground equipment, football and who’s girlfriend was the prettiest made for some close friendships or at least that’s what he’d thought until that night. When Joe Little had handed him the bottle with the clear liquid in it he’d resisted at first looking around for another beer. Joe had pushed it back at him saying. ” Go on…it’s practically like drinking water.” Gary had taken it after realizing that the six pack of Coors he’d brought with him was gone. He wondered how he’d managed to drink six beers so quickly as he took the bottle from Joe. Closing his eyes, he put his lips on the bottle trying not to think about how Joe had just had his mouth all over it wondering if the whispered rumors about him were true.

Taking a long pull on the bottle he felt the burn of the liquor as it filled his mouth before swallowing it down quickly, impatient to get away from the taste. The warmth of the 80 proof alcohol hit his body like stepping in from the cold just as he was handing the bottle back to Joe. “Go on man, have some more.” Joe had said and Gary drank holding on to the bottle afterward thinking he’d have just one more and then give it back to Joe. This feeling was different from the slow steady buzz he got by drinking a few beers and he found himself free of the edginess he’d felt after the game. It was as if all the anger had been softened somehow and he felt his adrenaline fading as he took another drink from the bottle.

He struggled for a second to focus his eyes realizing as he read the writing on the bottle that the words didn’t quite make sense especially since it seemed he could only pick out one or two instead of reading the blurred words that made up the paragraph on the front of the bottle. Picking out the word distilled, he wondered to himself if distilled meant the same thing as diluted and for a minute he thought about sitting in Mrs. Hull’s English class and how maybe he’d know more of what words meant if he’d payed more attention to what she was saying then and less about things at home. Passing the bottle back to Joe, Gary thought he could say he was feeling either distilled or diluted inside… he didn’t care which and wrapped as he was in the comfort of his alcohol haze, he guessed either might be a good fit.

Thanks to Judy Harper for her sentence above and more importantly for joining me today with a story of her own to share. Please take a minute to go by and read Judy’s contribution to TMAST.  If you’d like to join us next week you can do it by leaving a topic sentence for others to choose from or by taking a sentence that has been left and using it to write your own short story. Remember it’s practice writing and just for fun.  This morning my story took off in a completely different direction that I imagined just as this type of writing often does. It’s a good opportunity to find your authentic story telling voice and even if you think you’ve got nothing to say…you may surprise yourself.  I hope more of you will join in next week and even if you don’t join the story writing piece please go here and leave me a topic sentence to work with next week. You’ll find three photographs to choose from or you can comment on all three. Thanks for playing and I’ll look forward to reading your words.

If Cows Could Talk

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I spend a fair amount of my time in the company of these great beasts when I’m walking with John on the moor or cutting through a farmers field while out on a run. It never caused me one minute of concern even when they had horns as sharp and pointy as these at least not until I received a comment from Sarah. If you remember, Sarah read this post after searching for information about a coast path walk she was interested in doing in Cornwall. If you scroll down to the last comment on that post, (from Sarah C-S) you can see the comment that marked the beginning of our friendship.

After a series of emails back and forth, along with this post designed to talk more about potential safety issues on the coast path, we arranged a meeting. Being able to meet people in person that you enjoy talking with is one of the best benefits of blogging.  Sarah who lives north of London, came down to camp near here with her sister Suzanne who is so funny she really should consider doing standup comedy. Between the two of them I laughed and smiled so much my jaw actually felt a bit sore by the end of our visit. I spent a delightful afternoon acting as tour guide showing them the area around the village where we live. I took them around to some of my favorite places..we even posed for a picture on a footbridge you may recognize. It’s one where several pictures of both me and John have been taken near the buttercup field.

It’s been about a month or so since they were here and I have to say that whenever I see a cow or bullock that might look as if they’re sizing me up, I think of Sarah and remember that occasionally these gentle animals may charge and trample people passing through their space.  As I said before, it’s usually when a walker has a dog with them that is not on a leash (or lead) and the cows are really after the dog.

Still, I’m not sure Sarah would like to know that whenever I see a cow now, I think of her. It’s kind of funny, but I do appreciate the increased awareness and so far the only direction the cows seem to be running is …away.

"Look Out Bessie, Here Comes That Woman Again."

"Look Out Bessie, Here Comes That Woman Again."

" Shush...Just Pretend You Don't See Her."

" Shush...Just Pretend You Don't See Her."

" Oh Good Grief...Is She Following Us Now!"

" Oh Good Grief...Is She Following Us Now!"

Here is a picture of us near the buttercup field.

Suzanne, Sarah, & Elizabeth

Suzanne, Sarah, & Elizabeth

Remembering Without Regret

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At 18, On A Weekend Pass Between Basic & AIT Training (Letting My Hair Down)

I am generally not bothered by birthdays. I tend to see getting older as just a different set of opportunities and I haven’t been worried in any significant way about the proximity of 50 as I turn 49 in a few weeks, but something shifted this morning.

Yesterday, I spent a good deal of the day scanning slides and old photographs into the computer. These images captured moments from my army days or just before and I was reminded how very young I really was then. I can’t believe how much responsibility the military gave a woman barely old enough to vote, someone whose parents still wanted her in by midnight when she was already 18. Going from grumbling about a midnight curfew, to rushing down to the motor pool on alert at 3:00 am before getting my M-16 rifle from the Arms Room was a shift of substantial proportions.

Sometimes I forget how significant that time period that was when I think back to the decisions that led me to where I am now. Looking back at those photographs, I see a young woman… still a girl in many ways, jumping into the water with barely a look to see how deep the level or even a pause to test the temperature. I’ve always been someone ready to take a chance, but seeing all the people and places in pictures yesterday made me go back to memories I’d packed away..many of them shut away in a small box of slides I’ve been moving from place to place over the years. I found myself reflecting with sadness at times about some of the decisions I’ve made over the last 30 years and I am amazed how easy it can be for both regret and gratitude to share the same space.

It’s good you don’t know everything when you’re 18, but I do wish I’d had a better understanding of one thing back then. It’s a simple concept that took me years to get…that a moment lost is really gone forever. I still struggle with letting go of worry about the future and even worse…looking back at things I wish I’d done differently. It sounds trite and we hear it all the time, this talk of living in the moment, being present in your own life, but it is a common theme and one which has been illuminated by a variety of quotes for hundreds of years. I’ll leave you with the one that makes the most sense to me this morning. If you have one you’d like to share, I hope you’ll take a minute to leave it in a comment.

We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow.

~Fulton Oursler