Business Lessons from Rollerblading

I gained interest in rollerblading when I was about 6-7 years old. My neighbour then called Barbs had a pair of shiny blue rollerblades that I really admired. One day I actually borrowed her the blades to try out, and the number of times I fell that day was more than the number of times I stood up. It was absolutely exhausting.

There were times I nearly crawled to get going, other times I held onto people and other times I held onto parked cars in the estate. I felt like a child learning to walk from scratch, but there was something truly exciting about falling and rising.

It took me several days to finally get the stability needed to move around, I would borrow those blades for about an hour a day and practice. One thing I knew for sure is that my father would not buy me a pair if he knew how much I fell with them, so perfection was key for me.

When I finally gained the courage to go round the estate, I approached my dad with a proposal. I asked him to buy me a pair, on condition that if I fell, he had the liberty to take them back. I pestered him for a while until he finally gave in and bought me a shiny black pair.

He brought them on a Friday night and when I woke up on Saturday morning there was a brand new pair of roller blades on the dining room table. The only catch was that I had to wait for him to wake up so that I could try them outside, and when I did, I went to the end of the estate and back, much to the amazement of my father. He had no idea that I had practised for almost a month prior to asking him to buy for me.

I finally got to convince my friends to pester their parents to buy them blades so we could be one big skating fraternity, funny enough, it was girls that actually took up this “sport”, boys stuck to the normal toys, bicycles. That was until our neighbour’s cousin came for the holidays, this boy was a pro, we had never seen anything like that before! He taught us new tricks, fancy tricks, to make out skating much more fun and easy, and  we were willing to learn. I remember one day we had a race, and we did not see a car coming from one end, that forced us to do something none of us had ever done before, we managed to get onto the pavement while still in motion, and back onto the tarmac, in full speed to avoid the car and continue with the race, that was scary and exhilirating at the same time!

Now, what lessons are these you ask?

I learnt that in order to succeed you will fail, once or twice or even many times, failure is part of success, I watched many people give up on the blades after the first fall, but I knew that was part of the process so I kept going till I perfected the art.

Do you want to be great at something? Keep doing it over and over again. Do you want to be a guru at trading shares or forex trading, use those dummy websites to practise a few minutes or hours a day until you get the hang of it. Practising with my friend’s blades made me ready to get my own.

When you become good at something you are able to convince others to join you aboard, when your idea is good, people will buy your products, enroll for your services and stick to your plan, how do you think I was able to convince my friends to get blades too, Barbs showed that it could be done.

Never stop learning, when you think you are the best at something, someone else comes along and proves you wrong, put your pride down and learn, learn, learn. If we had been stuck up, our neighbour’s cousin wouldn’t have taught us new  and exciting tricks.

Finally, necessity is the mother of invention. That car that appeared out of nowhere forced us to do something that we had once thought impossible, climbing pavements while in motion. We could have chosen to stop the race there and then, but instead we sought the next best solution, and that kept us going. When faced with a hurdle, learn to think on your feet, take risks that you never thought possible, you will be surprised at how much you can achieve outsie your comfort zone.

Now I don’t rollerblade anymore, I just admire the sport from a far, maybe one day I will go back, but for now I can refelct on the lessons this sport taught me at an early age.

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Strengthened Weaknesses

Sometimes your greatest weakness could turn out to be your greatest strength. You could come out of a place of despair and use it as a stepping stone to greatness.

If you are an old school Christian pentecostal like I am you probably sang songs like “Soon and very soon we are going to see the King”, or probably your mother was a fan of TBN and you were forced to listen to the Gaithers sing their hymns until you memorized them by default. Either way you heard or sang great and powerful lyrics written by Andrae Crouch, a gospel writer and singer whose career has span to over 50 years until the Lord called him home today at 72 years. I remember the lyrics he wrote for the song “Through it all” with such nostalgia. My mum had this song on repeat when she was recovering from a terrible accident that almost completely destroyed her mouth four years ago.

Andrae was not just your ordinary lyricist, he had dyslexia and had a severe stuttering problem, so much such that his twin sister used to be his spokesperson. One day his father challenged him, the only time he did not stutter was when he sang, so his father told him to answer questions while singing, that way his words would be much more coherent.

Now, dyslexia is a learning difficulty that mainly affects how people read and spell words. This problem saw Andrae match words to pictures so as to remember them as he wrote songs, like when he wrote “Man in the mirror” for MJ, he drew a mirror, just to remind him.

From dyslexia to a re-known writer? There are things that don’t carry a scientific explanation to them, rather a spiritual one. Andrae wrote his first song at 14 years, “The blood of Jesus”, within 5 minutes! He was at a friend’s house and there were writers in the backyard having a picnic. He was too shy to go join them and he kept on asking God to give him a song. Right there in that house, at the piano, he played and sang his first song, a song that has been re-done over 3000 times! He had not even heard those piano cords before!

Sometimes we look at our problems and our weaknesses as stumbling blocks, we keep thinking, “if only God could get rid of my weakness then I would succeed”. Andrae is a living testimony of the verse in the Bible that says “But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Cor 12:9 (NIV)

Don’t only focus on your strengths, as important as they are, learn your weakness to draw strength from them. I don’t know why they ask this question during interviews, but they don’t ask about your weakness in vain.

God is able to turn your weakness into a strength. Trust Him on that from today, it could be the method that God will use to make you impact the world like He used Andrae.

Blessed 2015!

Are You Up for the Challenge?

About a month or two ago I saw a random facebook post by a friend asking ladies to apply for a Microsoft Employ Mentor workshop. I saw the post a day before the deadline and I have to admit that I applied by mistake. I was really keen on getting a job (as I still am) not attending mentorship programs, but I applied anyway.

A few weeks later I got an email saying that I had been accepted, there was an online link for registration that I did not look at and the deadline for registration passed. Weird enough my laptop got spoilt during that weekend and I assumed that my chance had passed me by (bursts into the hymn “do not pass me by” hehe). I got a call insisting that I should apply and that they had extended the deadline for me, sijui I should call that grace, because I stopped believing in luck.

Anyway back to the program, the workshop was not what I had imagined, I wasn’t really enthusiastic about it because I thought we would have some people who work for Microsoft coming to tell us how to succeed, plus give talks and all that boring stuff but these people were focused and strategic, they had everything planned out, a full four day program, a huge manual with different topics to be covered, workshops divided into 11 groups, it was all so magical in a business type of way!

Each of the 11 groups got a mentor, we got a cool Brazilian guy called JP, whose role was to teach us the nitty gritties of business, how to come up with an actual business plan from scratch, work on the financials and build an actual windows app. Now all these may sound pretty basic for people who have studied business or IT (as I also thought) but their mode of execution was beyond natural.

The best part about coming up with a unique business plan and a subsequent app was being forced to think outside the box. Now this is what I realized, as Kenyans we are afraid to think big, literally, we want what man has already done, we rarely want to venture out into what no man has done already. This is what holds us back as Kenyans. When we decided to challenge each other as group members we were able to bring a simple concept into a complex being, making sure that we were going to be as unique as possible. This meant creating a unique logo, coding an app from scratch instead of using shortcuts, and creating an elaborate but precise business plan, plus the financials had to be realistic and on our fingertips.

At the end of the week, our mindsets were changed, my mindset was changed, I came out of that workshop believing in myself and my abilities, (not that I didn’t before) but that sense was now heightened. Maybe because the CFO and the country manager gave me a personal recognition after I presented on the financials (humble brag) with guidance from JP, but such recognition doesn’t go unnoticed, it builds a fire within enough to light up your future. At that point I came to realize that every rejection letter I got did not mean that I was not worthy of those positions, but that they did not take time to evaluate and harness the potential within me.

Now a week later I posted on twitter seeking for a cross platform app developer who could partner with me to create an app whose idea I had thought of during the workshop. I didn’t specify the type of person I needed, but here is the most disappointing part, 3 days later, I have received replies from strangers from so many countries but none from Kenya. I am still waiting for a Kenyan to reply before I consider any other option. The reason is simple, we have so much talent in this country, but people are reluctant to expose their talents, their expertise and their skills, they prefer to have security in employment ( which is perfectly normal) but they rule out the option of taking risks. (Big risks = big returns). I am really trying to challenge Kenyans to think out of the box, to think like there is no box in the first place, to work on inventions that seem absurd to people, to really maximize on their gifts.

If you are up for the challenge, (cross platform app development) for a unique product hit me up. If you have been thinking of taking risks but you have been skeptical, stop thinking and start working on it. Your best kept secret could be the very thing costing you a huge deal or that priced promotion. And next time you see a random post on a workshop, apply for it, I am glad I did.

The Little Things

Today was my day to binge eat, Yes there is such a thing as binge eating, eating unnecessary things, mostly out of stress, I have been stressed lately, may be I should start running, I hear exercising helps you release stress, it is therapeutic in some way.

Back to my binge eating, it never involves anything healthy, only greasy fast foods, lots of candy and chocolates. Then at the end of the day, the food doesn’t solve my problems, it only makes me feel worse, or rather fat!

I had these awesome plans today, ditch class, go shopping (another therapeutic session) then buy fast food and eat! The person who was to deliver my order wasn’t available so I went to class, then the lady in the kitchen (1st lady) made me have the lunch she was cooking (for free). So now I had no reason to buy food sigh.

The bus I boarded dropped me far off from home, about a forty minute walk, I decided to walk anyway, you know to exercise and stuff, in the heat, it was an excruciating walk but I did it, for the sake of those 2 kgs I have gained.

Along the way I met a man, looked like he was about 60 years. Normally I never say hey back to strangers, of late women included, but this was an exceptional case, he didn’t look like an old rich man. I insist on rich, because most of them are out to hook up with young  girls (for shame). This man looked troubled and indeed he was. 

 He asked for 20 shillings to buy food, I looked at him skeptically, not because I doubted him, but because I doubted what that 20 shillings could for him. He asked if I could buy him food from the nearby mall and I obliged.

Me: Do you have a wife and kids?

Him: Yes I do! How did you know? (I am a secret angel hehe) Is it because of my beard? (No, I noticed you have grey hair). I am 50 years ( I swear he looked 60, my paps is 54 but he looks much younger)

Me: Hehe I just guessed.

Him: You must be 20 or 21, you look like you are my daughter’s age.

Me: I am 22.

Him: Can I pick a basket?

Me: sure thing.

We shopped and he was very humorous in the way he was justifying everything he took. He actually made me laugh. At the end of it all this were his exact words,

“God bless you so much, I pray that He will bless you more, you will even stop walking and start driving soon, and if you have any clothes you don’t wear I would like you to give me I take to my daughter.”

His name is Wilfred, he made me realize that even though things are not working out as I would want them to do, I am still blessed beyond measure, I have the little things people take for granted, a home, food, family, friends and even clothes to wear.

I hope the little I got him will be much in his family’s eyes. Nothing makes me happy like giving.

All I could say when we parted ways was Amen!

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Tear Gas Festival

It’s been a bad day, literally. I queued in a government office for 2 hours, then the officer tells me, “kuna document haujaleta” (there is a document you haven’t brought)! 2 hours for that?? They didn’t even state that in the list of requirements, I was totally mad! Now I have to wake up early to be among the first tomorrow, sigh.

Now that is not even it, now to the real deal, I walk into a stall and hear a tear gas canister blowing up right outside the building and I said to myself, thank God I wasn’t out in the streets as that was happening, only to realize that the city council askaris (kanjo) had no prior experience in kati or even rounders! What type of childhood did they have? Smh. the tear gas canister missed its target (the hawkers) and went into a stall!! 

The real horror began, the tears, mucus, tightened chest, burning face, it was hell. I am pretty sure the description of hell matches what I was going through at that moment. God I never want to end up in hell, I am going to live for heaven everyday of my life! No amount of water can help you at that time by the way, only a swimming pool can quench that burning sensation!

After that ordeal I even forgot what I was going to do next and I went home, itching for a sip of juice from the person who sat in front of me in the bus, too bad he was a complete stranger, so I watched helplessly as my throat burned. I eventually got home and washed my face then proceeded to research about tear gas. (I am weird like that)

I have to be honest, ignorance is not bliss, do you know that I actually thought my contact lenses had some sort of superpower? They protect me from the onion sting but this time round they absorbed the teargas like a boss and locked the gas in there, the pain. In my research I read about saline solutions and decided to wash my eyes using the liquid used to store contacts, it helped alot!

I have realized that tear gases have basically been used by the armies since world war one, as a retaliatory technique or to confuse the enemy and conquer them. It was actually banned in 1993 at the Chemical Weapons Convention because it can cause death but the treaty doesn’t apply to the domestic laws of nations, so we are at the mercy of the police and kanjo.  

It got me thinking of the topic we are covering this month in our bible study group about Conflict and Resolution. These gases were employed because people could not use diplomatic ways to solve problems, so they resorted to war. Some of us are like that as human beings, we love to revenge and to make the person who hurt you to suffer. We do not know how to forgive so we want to make sure that “it’s going to go down”. 

We forget that we too are humans and we could easily hurt another person whether directly or indirectly, and that they too can plot for revenge, don’t you think it is possible? They say an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind, and as that kid who calls the mother Linda says ” and then what?” (by the way that video is hilarious but not in Africa because if it was me calling my mother Susan, I’d be given a whooping!)

Today, I want to challenge you to put your tear gas away, in fact get rid of it, face your misunderstandings like a man, and no I don’t mean fight because that is what boys do not men, talk it out with the person you are in conflict with, understand each others point of view, call a mediator if possible, forgive and let that burden out of your heart and mind, you don’t need that weight on you anyway.

And I know that you might feel like you don’t want them to be a part of your life anymore, fine, forgive them then release them to go their separate way, atleast they won’t reside in your head anymore. Don’t be tempted to throw a canister at them, they might just pick it and throw it back at you, which by the way Uon ninjas do! How do you pick up a canister thrown at you then throw it back to the police? lol

Always remember, don’t burn your bridges, you might need them to cross later on in life.

LIVE, LOVE, FORGIVE, GIVE and be THANKFUL.

I thank God I survived the tear gas festival!

 

Past the Post Card Era..

Missed me yet? I know you did hehe, I took a sabbatical of some sort from the outside world, ok I kid, what is important is that I am back.

So have you ever thought of sending a postcard or a letter? I am not talking about those in high school because that is the norm, the love letters with calligraphy on the envelopes, some sprayed with cheap perfume just to woo the other part. Oh I remember such days with nostalgia. When all we worried about was the number of letters you got per week.

A couple of months ago I got an email from a lady I admire and respect and this is what t read:

“My friend Fred Fuentes’ son needs your inspiration! His son, Devien, will be graduating from high school and is working on a little project and it would be fantastic if you could be part of it! It’s very simple – All you have to do is send him a post card with words of wisdom or an inspirational quote. He’s hoping to get 100 post cards with inspirational words as he moves into his adult life. What a great idea! Thank you in advance for sending your card! I already asked permission to publish their address, so please mail the postcards directly to Devien: Devien Malik Fuentes 2117 Tuloso Road, Corpus Christi, Texas 78409 USA”

Now some of you are already thinking “really?”, or “sasa huyu anataka inspiration ya nini?” (now why does this one need inspiration?), or this is going to be a timely and costly venture especially from this side of the Sahara. I should tell you that you cannot place a price tag on inspiration, motivation and a kind word. They are invaluable.

I am working on my dreams, in all aspects, socially, career wise, education wise, just as everyone presumably is. And sometimes I get so overwhelmed, so demotivated and worn out, especially when I think that some things are not working out in my favour. In such times, that text or call with an encouraging message lift my spirits. I would post one such text but the sender would probably kill me for exposing them lol. Simple acts of kindness melt the heart.

I have been a recipient of such love and kind words, and I plan to extend the same to others. Would it hurt to send an encouraging text, or a pass it on card, or a flower, for those who love flowers, or a hug, or cake? I am sure you can find a pocket friendly gesture to pass on and push someone forward.

Don’t you dare say, “But no one has ever done such things for me?”, because that there is a stinking attitude and ain’t nobody got time for that. We don’t do things because people have done such for us, we do things because we are catalysts for change, for good and for the kingdom.

Devien will be a recipient of my inspiration, lol I feel like Mahatma right now, but I hope that somewhere in all those words in the many postcards he will receive, he will find motivation, excitement, wisdom, love, kindness and knowledge. And eventually this will create a ripple effect in the long run.

I am all about empowering people to go for their dreams, encouraging them to take leaps of faith, and making a difference. Are you?

Let me go back to listening to Obama’s speech and some 21 year old guy from Zimbabwe who is already on his third start up… 🙂

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Here is my post card to Devien 🙂

xoxo

Of Nigerian Men and their secretive charm..

“What I have heard about Kenyan men makes me very angry, if Kenyan women were to come to Nigeria, you Kenyan men would not have any women to marry.”

That was a conversation over lunch made by our Nigerian friend. The Kenyan men were still in shock, many could not believe that this man had cooked all this food by himself, there was rice, spaghetti, fish sauce, chicken, gizzard sauce, beef sauce and some salad. And can I add that it was pretty tasty too!? Yes it was.

Anyway back to men, there was a sort of revolution among some Nigerian men, their fathers had not been good fathers, neither had they been good husbands to their wives. Instead of following in their fathers footsteps, they chose to take the path less travelled. They chose to be better men, Godly men, good and present fathers, good boyfriends and most importantly good husbands. This is not to say that they are perfect but they recognize that every day is a chance to become a better person to their better halves.

A lot of Kenyan men have been raised in a different century, they are still applying 20th Century tactics for the 21st Century lady. They are still stuck to the methods their fathers and grandfathers used. They believe a woman’s place is in the kitchen, some won’t even eat unless their wives cook! I have heard of a  man who makes his wife leave the office every lunch time to cook lunch for him. (I personally acknowledge that as madness, sorry but it is madness). They leave early and come home late to demand food that they will not eat, they cannot help with the house chores, they cannot even make tea because they believe that it will make them less of a man, they have become strangers to their own wives and children and they believe that providing money is all that is required of them. When their kids stray they lay blame on the mothers as though God did not give them an equal role in raising their children too!

The men have refused to recognize their roles as men, Godly men. They instead get advice on how to run their families from drunk men in the bars, as if alcohol has ever had any good advice to give. A man once said that he decided to beat his wife because that is the advice he was given by his friends at the club as a way of disciplining his wife, you think this is outrageous? You haven’t heard anything yet. Women, about men who drink, a man once told us that if your boyfriend drinks alcohol, he won’t stop when he marries you, in fact with each kid you get, the more the bottles increase, you might want to think about that. Steve Harvey goes on to say that “a man who beats a woman is a coward, most times you will find out that he is not able to hit fellow men.” Hitting has never been equal to love.

Men it is time you decided to change, for the better, choose the path less travelled, love your wives and girlfriends truly, love your families and kids and make time for them. Learn how to cook and surprise your wife ever so often, help around with the chores, it makes both of your lives less stressful and much more fulfilling. If you see your wife getting fat and you don’t like it, sign her up for a gym and go with her to give her motivation instead of whining and complaining. Learn how to read the bible and pray with your family, they say that “a family that prays together stays together”. Spending times with the boys is not bad, but it should not be an everyday kind of thing, you are married to your wife not your boys. Be open about money, plan together on how to spend your money, secrets concerning money are recipes for disasters. Learn to give gifts to your wives, they don’t have to be expensive but they have to be thoughtful. Forgive, forgive, forgive, both of you are human beings who are bound to step on each others’ toes every now and then. Forget the silent treatment, that is kiddish, yes I said it kiddish, because that is what we used to do when we were kids and our parents made us angry.Never beat your wife, NEVER.

Men it is time for you to man up, and if you think this is too difficult, Nigerian men do it hehehe (I am serious btw), but honestly if you think it is impossible, you clearly don’t believe in a great God.

These were the wise words of our Nigerian friend, his wisdom to the men was beyond this but this is what I could capture. But before I am branded a feminist, women, be the one that the one you are looking for is looking for and constantly pray for your future spouse, that they will be all that you want in them and more, those already married or in a relationship pray for your significant other constantly, prayers work.

Now choose the path less travelled, you will see your relationships and marriages change for the better.

*ps I am not married, these are the words of a married man, with a bit of chipping in from me.

 

 

Follow YOUR Dreams!

Last week as I walked along the stretch of our estate drive I spotted a lady on the far end of the drive. It looked like she was deliberating on whether to come into the estate or not. Well I do understand if someone deliberates on whether to walk along our estate drive, there are huge monkeys/baboons, columbus monkeys and you won’t believe it but there are actually warthogs when the forest is really dry! So if you don’t come from around our area you will be totally freaked out, men included but I won’t mention some of their names for security purposes lol!

Anyway so this girl: when I get to the end of the drive she stops me to ask a question, “Huku ni South B?” (Is this South B?). I almost burst out in laughter! She had no idea how far off from South B she was! She told me that she was going to meet someone in South B, and the person’s phone was off! Poor girl… First the guy doesn’t tell her which bus to board, second his phone goes off when she is actually lost! Smh.. I felt pity on her..

Since I was heading somewhere close to there, I offered to show her the cheapest and fastest way to get there by connecting buses and pay her fare because she kept on asking if it was going to be costly. When we got into the bus we started talking. She asked if I was in campus and what course I was pursuing. She went on to tell me that she had just finished high school and wanted to pursue medicine but people were discouraging her and instead telling her to pursue a teaching course! Smh..

This is  what I told her, “If your heart and mind are in congruence and you have decided to pursue medicine then by all means go for it. Let no one discourage you with lies from here to the end of the world. Many people will discourage you because they are afraid that you will become better than them and some hate to see you succeed, most are fueled by malice and they will not stop at anything to bring you down. Go pursue medicine and become the best doctor you can be.”

The reason why I told her so was because, four years ago, the same voices were knocking at my door. Every one had a reason why I didn’t have to go to Strathmore, people wanted me to choose a university with more “freedom” obviously oblivious of what freedom truly means, poor souls. Some even went ahead to discourage me because I had not done well in Math in my high school exams. They thought I wasn’t good enough to pursue any math related course! Someone felt like I should do HR! (I would have dozed off in every class). Atleast some wanted me to pursue my childhood dream and that was law.

But my heart and mind were in congruence, I wanted Strathmore, and I wanted Finance! I shut my ears away from all the negativity and chose to go my way and God was there every step of the way! As I write this graduation is 24 days away and I am graduating as a Finance major, with good grades. God has been truly faithful to me, and I believe that He will continue to be faithful. 

I chose to follow my dreams and it paid off, so choose to follow your dreams, no one except God knows where your dreams will lead you to, no one can share in your vision for your life, so stop listening to people’s opinions about your future and start working on it! 

I hope that girl got a bit from our short conversation enough to follow her dreams.

Patches Lost an Opportunity..

We have a cat called Patches. I used to hate cats, completely with all my heart, till the guy from KSPCA brought us this “mzungu” cat. Patches is not your ordinary cat. I suspect they used to give her cat food like Whiskas which is quite expensive. Here we don’t buy that for her, she eats what we eat and gets milk every now and then.

ImagePatches in a KFC bag demanding chicken.

The reason I call Patches “Mzungu” is because she is used to a different lifestyle, she hunts but doesn’t kill, she hunts to play. She will often go out of the house and come back with a lizard or a tiny bird, and play with it. She will throw it, kick it, slap it and bite it but not eat it. That really irritates us because she dirties the house in the process of playing!

One day she went hunting as usual and came back to play with the animal as usual. She spent a whole two hours playing along the staircase and proceeded to the dining room with her hunted animal, we got fed up and decided to take it away, far far away. I am sure that we upset her by taking it away but it was for our “good”. hehe..

Sometimes we watch our opportunities pass us by because we were busy playing with them or with ourselves. Sometimes the opportunities pass us by because they are dressed in hard work. I mean an 8-5 kind of job is too much, I want something much more “flexible” so I won’t take that job. Other times it’s because that opportunity seems to take up much of your “time” which by the way you have so much to spare.

What about those relationships you lose because you did not feel like being serious. You wanted to fish a bit more here and there before you could “settle down”. You wanted to play house and not marry, you wanted to be a player and not a one man/woman show. Then that perfect girl or that perfect boy slips through your fingers and finds someone better. Oh and those “friendships with benefits” kind of relationships, honey those don’t work at all. You waste each others’ times and one person ends up getting hurt because you are basically playing with each other’s emotions.

So stop playing games and act while you can, you live on borrowed time, there is no time to watch your chances go by.

Remember: Your playing small does not serve the world. – Coach Carter

                   “Moments, when lost, can’t be found again. They’re just gone.” 
― Jenny HanThe Summer I Turned Pretty