what might a modern day plague look like?

“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.”
― Albert Camus, The Plague

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(a ravenous locust passes through the yard / Julie Cook / 2015)

I really don’t know where to begin. . .
I suppose I’ll start with the latter of the two trains of thought, work my way backwards (a little educational approach. . .backwards design) and hope the two will merge into one nice thought. . .

My son was showing me a video clip yesterday by some quasi news/ entertainment group that seems to take current event images out to the average joe on the street in search of reactions. They show random folks some random recent “viralesque” image, ask a question about the image and then record the responses and reactions. My son is 26 and he starts this little show and tell moment with “so this is how dumb folks are these days. . .” and he proceeds to show me a clip. . .the clip is filled with folks his age and a tad younger. . .hummmmm

It seems that with the new Jurassic Park movie having been recently released, Steven Spielberg, feeling a bit nostalgic, posed in front of a triceratops that was used in one of the movies in the series. The automaton dino was apparently dead and laying on its side with a smiling Spielberg sitting down in front of the creature. . .the not REAL creature.
A harmless enough image of some Spielberg nostalgia. . .

This little quasi news group was on the streets of London with microphone and camera in hand showing the picture of Spielberg and his dino and asked random folks, all of which who were young—late teens through mid 20’s, what they thought of the picture. . .

First of all may I just say that I was appalled by the blatant cursing–if someone with a camera and microphone asks me to answer a question for them while they are filming, I don’t think I’m going to pop out with the “F”word or the other lovely litany of expletives these kids spouted. . .

The other troubling thing was, and this was the point of the posting of the video, that none of those kids asked seemed to know A. that that person in the picture was Steven Spielberg and B. that that was a dinosaur, not to mention a nonexistent dinosaur.

It seems they thought how terrible it was that “this man” was posing in front of “his kill” with a sleazy smile. They were all appalled and thought how awful it was that he had shot and killed a rhino or hippo, as was the common assumption, and that he actually seemed happy about it.
Please note that my eyes are rolling around my head. . .

So now I am not only greatly troubled by the lack of decorum, manners and respect demonstrated by young folks on the street, but I am equally troubled that our young folks don’t seem to know the difference between a dead, non existent, triceratops and a rhinoceros or hippopotamus. . .

The other train of thought is even more troubling and has to do with a recent real life news story.

It seems we had a political debate in this country over this past weekend that seems to be all the rage in the world of news and politics.
Now I am not a fan of either politics or politicians—I don’t watch these so called rating topping debates as I could frankly care less. Comments, questions and responses boil down to the adult version of the he said, she said fussing of children.
Petty, bickering, hateful, assumptive. . .
These “professional” adults begin to sound like the teacher on the old Charlie Brown cartoon’s. . .
“waah waah, waah. . .”

This world of ours has some very real problems and some very real troubles yet we’ve got our potential top leader wannabes and our major news agencies babbling on and on about the idiotic comments offered by a bombastic business mogul / reality show personality and that of his loud-mouthed flippant comments during one of these dog and pony shows debates.

Frankly I want to know who really cares??!!

Who cares what a man dubbed “the Donald,” as if he were some sort of ancient royal, has to say about TV personalities or news commentators when we have the sort of troubles raging, in not only our country, but around our fragile world. . .What does this say about our priorities. . . or perhaps more correctly, what does this all say about how out of touch our major news agencies and entertainment shows seem to really be. . .or how really stupid they think the average American must be. . .
My observation. . .no one is on the same page!

The real issues and worries, such as our country’s latest implosion over race, the overt and rampant escalation of violence when people simply feel wronged, the continued killing, kidnapping, raping, torturing of individuals across this globe by militant Muslim extremists. . .all of which seem to me to be taking a backseat to the latest media obsession of men becoming woman, presidential wannabes, debates over flags being the catalyst for hate. . .

All of this as people continue demonstrating, looting, rioting, as if that’s going to help solve the real issue at hand, that people seem to think that it’s okay to kill for a killing’s sake . . . that Christians in the Middle East continue being systematically eliminated one by one, African girls continue being “taken,” Greek bailouts make the global economy nervous, Turkey erupts in violence and what of Ukraine. . .

I don’t know. . .I think those types of issues might be what those presidential contenders ought to be discussing and thinking about rather than the he said, she said stuff of children. . .

I tend to feel a bit like Goldilocks when it comes to reading the News. . .I scour a variety of sites, shifting though the printed stories, hoping to sort out the real stories minus the slants.
The following story concerning the latest attack on Christians in Syria caught my eye.
I can’t help but agree with the author’s concern about what our political leaders seem to be thinking when it comes to the blind eye to the global attack on Christianity.

Is anyone who has any sort of authority ever going to look at any of these latest crises with any sort of real concern. . .cause I really don’t think God needs to send any new plagues to get our attention, I think we’re plague enough . . .but then again when our younger generations can’t tell the difference between a dinosaur and a rhino maybe none of this really matters. . .

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/08/07/more-christians-kidnapped-in-syria.html?intcmp=hpff

A few observations

“We cannot create observers by saying ‘observe,’ but by giving them the power and the means for this observation and these means are procured through education of the senses.”
Maria Montessori

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(sea algae / Watercolor Beach, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

Life’s a bit hectic right now. . . leaving me absolutely no time at home and very little time to, let alone, think! Yet I have been rather keen to be observant, taking in snippets of life, right and wrong, on my many comings and goings as of late. . .

Earlier this week, on the way to Dad’s, as I was making my way around Atlanta’s autobahn, otherwise known as 285 or the Perimeter, I noticed a glaring billboard advertising, for what I think is to be some new sort of new Fall TV series. . . “How To Commit Murder”—-
Will someone please tell me, why in the world would anyone want to put up such a billboard in a city that once held the dubious rights to the title of Murder Capital of the US? I would think, sadly, Atlanta had regrettably already figured out such, not needing a billboard for instruction. My other question is why would anyone want to use such as a title to a new show, and what kind of shows are we wanting to watch these sad days. . .digressing. . .

After safely making my way on and off 285, arriving safely at Dad’s in one piece, Gloria immediately wants to show me the new bedspread she found for the front bedroom. As I make my way down the hall for the exciting viewing, I notice (observe) that my old bedroom’s door is shut. That door is never shut–not since an angst ridden teen use to reside in there oh so many years ago. It’s the room directly at the end of the hallway which now carries the official title of “Dad’s Office.” The same said office I had come to make some sense over, wading through the accumulated piles of bills, statements, invoices and chaos known as Dad’s world.

“Dad, why is the door to my old room shut?”
“Shut, oh, uh, I don’t know. . .”
“Daaaaad”
“Because we’re not going in there.” (shrugging of shoulders and a little snicker)
“Dad, that’s what I came for, to help you go through the bills. (I feel a battle ensuing)
“Ohhhh, don’t harass me today.” (digging in of heels)
“Dad.” (note stern voice)
“OOOOOhhhhhh NOOOOOO, NOT TODAY! I want a nice day.”
“Dad, you have a nice day every day” (as that is part of the problem). . .

And that is when I tell myself to simply let it go. . .today, we’ll enjoy lunch and a nice visit.
When the time arrives for my departure, I simply tell Dad that he best plan on opening that door next week because. . .I’ll be back. . . (using my best Austrian accent of course)
More shoulder shrugging and snickering.
UGH.

Another observation from today, of which I’ve noted that I must be the only person observing—or the only person that this seems to bother, is looking at the headlines and of the disparaging extremes over what seems to be important and what seems to be an after thought.

Here we have some news headlines touting what seems to be oh so important. . . A Dancing with the Stars participant has a new boyfriend. Oooooo.
Firstly whoever would have thought a show about the grueling (paaalllleeezzzeee) dancing of the famous or infamous would seem so important, let alone the news that one of them has a new boyfriend.
Go figure.

Or what of the slew of TV dramas, aka reality shows, with one of the latest being titled Utopia—of which sounds to me as if it’s anything but. . . maybe that’s the point. If we tend to seek out entertainment in order to avoid reality, then why is it that there is a flood of Reality shows. . .hummmm. . .

We’ve already discussed murder, which equates obviously to violence, which pretty much sums up most of the drama shows. . .we’ll move one. . .
What about the tiring endless obsession we have with our sports figures and of their bad boy behavior? Perhaps we should rethink that whole payment of millions of dollars for “playing games” as their behavior on and off the field is egocentric, childish bullish and piggish. Shame on us for allowing such . . .

Which brings us to the after thought headlines which really should be the REAL headlines—headlines such as:

The latest beheading of the French tourist by Algerian ISIS sympathizers.
Or what about the bombing of Syrian ISIS strongholds which in turn prompts an accelerated US threat. And yet we’re focused on the latest greatest IPhone. We may be facing devastation but we’ll do it with the best new phone out there.

Or what about the potential global political disaster, not to mention medical catastrophe, of those countries battling the spread of Ebola. An estimated 1.4 million cases of Ebola are predicted by the start of 2015. Sheer global devastation with the predicted collapse of several African nations, yet our concerns focus on the “stars” who dance and football players, which we’ve “enabled” to act badly. . .Are we about to get caught sleeping at the wheel again. . .?
Ugh

Or who heard about the thousands who took to the streets in Russia over the weekend to protest Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.
Really?
How great is that?
Yet who heard about it?

My life is busy right now.
Busier than I prefer.
And yet there is a world that is spiraling out of control.
Are we all so busy and or preoccupied by the little things in Life, those things we’ve allowed to become bigger than they should. . .so much so that we prefer merely to bury our heads into these things which are to be considered “fluff” and superfluous in hopes that all that is bad, troubling and negative will simply go away?

We must remain observant, vigilant and thoughtful of our world and of those things taking place that need our attention, our help, our sorting and not let the things which are secondary to act as blinders or detractors to the very REAL issues. . .

The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

Proverbs 22″3

Healing

“I didn’t expect to recover from my second operation but since I did, I consider that I’m living on borrowed time. Every day that dawns is a gift to me and I take it in that way. I accept it gratefully without looking beyond it. I completely forget my physical suffering and all the unpleasantness of my present condition and I think only of the joy of seeing the sun rise once more and of being able to work a little bit, even under difficult conditions.”
― Henri Matisse

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(roses / Boston Public Gardens / Julie Cook / 2014)

I’m traveling bright and early over to Atlanta today, taking my son to a specialist at Emory as we seek some much needed healing of body. Complications from the kidney stones are not getting better but seem to be worsening.

As we travel to Emory I am very mindful that Dr. Kent Brantly is currently in Emory’s infectious diseases facility for treatment of the dreaded Ebola virus he contracted while in Africa treating the growing number of victims of this frightening virus. Tuesday Nancy Writebol, a missionary also in Africa to help those victims of the virus, as well as, the second American to contract the virus, will arrive in Atlanta for treatment.

I am aware, as a mother, how I am concerned over the health of my now grown son–I can only imagine how the families of both Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Writebol must feel. The fear of the unknown coupled by the knowledge of what a virus such as Ebola can do to the human body with a vicious and deadly rate of speed.

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(roses / Boston Public Gardens / Julie Cook / 2014)

Today may we all offer our hopes and prayers for healing.
Healing for all who are currently afflicted by illness of both body and mind.
May we remain prayerful for those suffering in Israel and Gaza.
May we remain prayerful for those in China who were affected by yesterday’s deadly earthquake.
May we remain prayerful for those in Ukraine and Russia as that portion of the world remains in crisis.
May we continue to be prayerful for the families who have lost loved ones on both the Malaysian planes–one downed and one still missing.
May we pray for all in Africa who are afflicted with Ebola.
May we pray for all the healthcare workers throughout this world who work tirelessly to bring hope and healing to all who suffer.

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(roses, Boston Public Garden / Julie Cook / 2014

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:4-5

Where is your Peace?

Above all things let us never forget that mankind constitutes one great brotherhood; all born to encounter suffering and sorrow, and therefore bound to sympathize with each other.
Albert Pike

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.
Mother Teresa

“Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.”
― Meister Eckhart

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A female mallard glides gently in the pond in the Boston Public Gardens / Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014

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My heart is agitated and restless within me.
I am troubled by our times.
Global headlines are dire and grim.
Our own country is troubled by an exodus which is flooding into our land as we fret and worry how to best tend to these masses.
The weight of heartfelt burdens grow by the minute.

Yet you tell me simply not to worry.
“Forget about it”
“Don’t dwell on the negative”
“Think happy thoughts”
“None of this effects you, why worry”
“You can’t do a thing to change it, so don’t think about it”
“You don’t have a dog in this fight, therefore it’s of no concern”
“Be the ostrich and just put your head in the sand”

But I will not will myself to forget about troubles in our world.
I will not pretend everything is fine just because I am not being directly impacted.
It is true that there is very little I can do, if anything at all, to alleviate any of these maladies.
I am helpless, just as you are, watching dramas play out daily in the headlines.

But I ask you, how do I:
Tell the Dutch people not to worry?
Tell the Malaysian Airliner Company not to worry–agian?
Tell the Malaysian people not to worry–again?
Tell the Ukrainians not to worry?
Tell the Russian people not to worry?
Tell the EU not to worry?
Tell the small bordering countries of Russia not to worry?
Tell the Israelis not to worry?
Tell Jews worldwide not to worry?
Tell the Palestinians not to worry?
Tell the children of Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador not to worry?
Tell the Americans in the border towns not to worry?
How do I tell all the parents who have lost and are losing children throughout the past week to simply dry those tears and carry on?

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Where does your peace hide?
Where is your wellbeing located these woeful days?
Not your distractions.
Not your diversions.
Not your poisons to deaden any and all feeling.
But rather your Peace?
Your wellbeing?
Your clam?
Your anchor?
Your harbor?
Your refuge?

In such times, it is to Nature, which offers a soothing clam, that I turn.
In Nature is where I may observe life, as it goes steadily and happily along, despite global worrisome events.
To spend sacred time silently with the Creator of the Universe.
Finding in Him and in His handiwork the offerings of silence, of hope and of beauty which joyfully continues spilling froth from all His creation.
Here is where I find it possible to offer prayers for hope because here is where hope still exists.

May you find that place which continues to hold you in comfort and care—that place which offers you Peace. . . and may you then, in turn, offer prayers for the desperate healing of which our world is in such need. . .

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(St Francis in a small garden adjacent to the Old North Church / Boston, Massachusetts / Julie Cook / 2014)

Listen to my words, Lord,
consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
with you, evil people are not welcome.
The arrogant cannot stand
in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
you, Lord, detest.
But I, by your great love,
can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
toward your holy temple

Psalm 5: 1-7

What he knew and others chose to ignore. Déjà vu or simply a continuum?

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.
Winston Churchill

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Casablanca, 1943

On March 21, 2014, with the sweeping act of a single pen, Valdimir Putin signed away Crimea, transforming a portion of Ukraine back to what was Soviet Russia. Changing the world map.

In 1938 Adolph Hitler annexed Czechoslovakia, with a similar sweeping act of a pen, known as the Munich Pact.
Changing the face of Europe forever.

This week, Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaite, who is attending a European Council meeting of the heads of state discussing the EU’s response to the situation in Ukraine, told a BBC reporter that we, the world, are sitting on the edge of a new Cold War.

In 1946, Winston Churchill, addressing Westminster College in Missouri, introduced the world to the phrase “iron curtain” just as the Cold War was rearing its ugly head.

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Churchill surveys the ruins of chamber of The House of Commons after a German assault of the Blitzkrieg.

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The smiles of Uncle Joe deceive, while a wise Winston is all too keen to true motives.

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1943 Churchill addresses a joint session of Congress urging the American allies to remain steadfast, staying the course, in their “duty to mankind”

Within the blink of an eye and the sweeping act of a pen, the world changed this week. The world map shifted as a piece of the free world was unimaginably sucked back in time.
If we, the world, choose to simply remain as mere spectators, change will continue–history teaches us such.

Winston Churchill was the lone voice of foreboding warning alerting the World to the true motives of first, Adolph Hitler, then those of Joseph Stalin.
Each time, the free world chose to ignore his words.
Words which were alarming, scary, troubling.
Who wanted to think of such?
Why should anyone worry, it’s not like this was happening in the backyard of the US or that the island nation of Great Britain would be affected.
That was all over there, not here—these being our thoughts as we lulled ourselves into looking the other way.
Maybe it’s all just bravado and bluff.
We just want to live our lives.
We don’t want to dwell on bad things. . .

But then the bad things happened. . .

Each time, Churchill was correct.
And each time, the world was too slow to react.

I wonder what Churchill would say after this week’s blatant act of “what’s yours is now mine” by Valdimir Putin?
I somehow think there’s an “I told you so” out there somewhere.

May we be mindful of our continuing duty.

Prayers for the Ukrainians

Violence is like a weed – it does not die even in the greatest drought.”
Simon Wiesenthal

For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.”
Simon Wiesenthal

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This is a very old, very tiny Russian Icon.
It is just a tad bit larger than a postage stamp.
I found it in an equally small antique shop tucked away in a small alley in the ancient hill town of Cortona, Italy, one summer, several years ago.
The small image of Christ the Pantocrator is hand painted and very detailed to be so small but difficult to capture with a camera as much of the detail is lost.
The sterling silver covering, the Riza, or риза meaning “robe”, is not intended merely to protect the underlaying painting, as is often the common assumption, but rather is an added bit of reverence or veneration.

After being the guest at large for the past three weeks, the world has most recently departed Sochi, Russia happy, pleased, as well as relieved. We were welcomed into what is a massively vast country, which for so many of us, for so very long, has been steeped and shrouded in dark mystery. Those of us who have lived through the inception, duration and eventual fall of the tangible walls of a bitter cold war, delightfully enjoyed this most recent and uplifting visit. A large exhaled collective breath could be heard reverberating across the world as the extinguishing of the Olympic flame signaled not only the closing of this year’s games but it also signaled the closing of the possibility, of what so many believed to be inevitable which thankfully had not taken place after all— that being an act of terrorism.

With the unifying events of the Olympics being played out in living rooms around the globe, a more sinister fog hung heavily in the air, seeping its way eastward from the neighboring unrest playing out in the Ukraine. Ukraine, which in fact translates to “borderland,” shares not only its eastern border with its massive overshadowing neighbor Russia, but the inextricably intwined bond of a people bound by language, religion and blood. For years the relationship between the two countries has been tenuous and strained as Ukraine has woven in and out of life under Czarist Russian rule, Soviet rule, eventually turning sovereign neighbor. Yet now, as the world waits and watches, the disturbingly new question begs to be asked if Ukraine does not currently play the part of occupied nation by that of a much larger hostile nation?

As the very fluid events unfold faster than I can type, we, the world hold our collective breath fretting what may be next, not only for the Ukrainians, but for us all as well. We see the faces on the news of people just like you and me—men, woman and children caught in the middle of a power play of political ideologies. The rhetoric escalates as European and American leadership dicker over roles of responsibility. All as the situation seems all too familiar, with actions from the past demigods unfolding as if in a stop frame slow motion camera. The once massive growling grizzly portrayed under the banner of a red hammer and sickle snidely nicknamed “Uncle Joe” sweetly gave way to the childlike cuddly teddybear of the Olympics.

What we must cautiously remind ourselves of today is that all wild animals, even those tamed circus bears and sweet Olympic teddybears, still remain wild at heart, naturally demonstrating tendencies of reverting back to the unpredictable ways of their wild nature. We wonder which bear Vladimir Putin claims for Russia.

May we all pray for a peaceful resolve to the very dangerous and fluid situation in the Ukraine.

“Trust Yourself….”

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”
Golda Meir

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(Photograph: Botanical Garden/ Callaway Gardens/ Pine Mt., Georgia/Julie Cook/2013)

If you are unfamiliar with the author of today’s quote, Golda Meir, may I recommend further reading–as her story is most fascinating as well as inspiring. Born in the Ukraine in 1898, with an eventual emigration to the US by age 10, her family settled in Wisconsin. Golda attended a teachers college earning a degree which afforded her a career as an educator in the public school system.

In 1915 Golda joined a Zionist youth movement, she married and eventually moved to a Kibbutz in Palestine in 1921 where she continued work as a teacher. By 1924 she and her husband moved to Jerusalem. We must remember that at this time in our history there was no “official” Jewish State, no Israel as we know of today.

The area surrounding modern day Jerusalem had been under British control, being known as a Mandate State, issued by the League of Nations. Great Britain was chosen to serve as a “protectorate” of the people of what would become modern day Israel. It was the general consensus of the League of Nations, who believed the Jewish people of the region had a rightful, historical and ancestral “place” in the Arab dominated region which was an area surrounded and dominated by great instability–much as we see today—with kings and princes of Arab nations all jockeying for power and control. Familiar names such King Abdullah of Jordan, the grandfather of the current Jordanian king, acting as one of the areas more powerful figures.

For nearly the next 50 years Golda was heavily involved in the governing of what would eventually become modern day Israel working as an Ambassador to the Soviet Union, trade and labor union’s leader and eventually leader of the State. In 1969, at the age of 71 she was elected to serve as the world’s only 3rd female Premier (female World leader) as well as Israel’s 4th only Premier. She earned the name “iron lady” well before the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, would earn the same title. It was due to Golda’s steely determination which she exhibited during momentous crises and surprise attacks and brutal wars.

I think Ms Meir’s quote used today is most fitting giving her own life’s journey.
She was a woman who quietly began an assent to leadership just as women in the United States were given the right to vote. She lived and worked in one of the world’s most tenuous regions of instability that continues to be equally fragile to this day. She was a woman who, at the time, was expected to marry being a quiet supporter of her husband and of his career. And yet she decided at an early age to fan her own flames of possibility and potential.

May we all be inspired by the same desire of achievement and determination noting that possibilities abound for us all, no matter of our start in this life—some of us just have to work much harder at it but we should never be deterred. Trust yourself and go after those dreams with gusto…Happy Wednesday