A Second Life for a Window Into Mine

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This was my father’s Petri 7 35mm camera.

Ten years ago this week, my father John Henry Knaak, Jr., suffered a fatal heart attack. It was 11 months after my mother, Yung Hi Knaak, suffered a catastrophic stroke and died days later. I still say dad died of a broken heart. I inherited my parents’ belongings. Every knickknack, every piece of furniture, every book, every bill (including electric bills dating back to 1984), every stitch of clothing, everything became mine, everything including a Petri 35mm SLR camera kit.

I grew up in Rochester, New York, which is considered the birthplace of photography, as we know it. My high school graduation ceremony was held at the George Eastman Theater, so named for the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company.

When I was growing up, you had to be judicious about the photos you took. Cameras, film (if you don’t know what film cameras were, go ask a grown up), processing and printing cost money. Cameras certainly weren’t cheap and film could be expensive depending on quality and type. You had to be selective with your picture taking – you only had 24 or 36 shots per roll of film. Oftentimes we took our film to a place called Fotomat – drive-through islands located in the parking lots of numerous strip malls across the country. Many of these are now drive-thru espresso stands.

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A photo of a Fotomat booth from my hometown newspaper, The Democrat & Chronicle.

Petri 35mm cameras came along in the 1950s and my father purchased his at a PX in the 1960s while he was in the United States Army. This would be the camera that documented my father’s tour in Korea, his courtship of my mother, and much of my childhood.

The camera itself was sleek and elegant, especially for the time. It was heavy, substantial in your hand. You knew you had a well-made piece of equipment in your hand when you picked it up and felt the heft.

My father used the camera to shoot slides. Yes, we regaled whoever would sit still long enough with the dreaded slide show. We had a projector and a somewhat portable screen. I still have the slides and their carousels. He also took snapshots with print film. My mother didn’t take many photos. You could always tell when she did. You were lucky if you actually were in the photo. As I’ve mentioned before, this is probably why I don’t have many photos of my dad, he was the one behind the camera.

Dad was a bit of a shutterbug. He enjoyed taking family snapshots, landscapes and exterior architecture on family vacations, family pets, zoo animals, antique cars and fire engines at various shows and exhibits. However, he was a bit lackadaisical when it came to getting the film developed. Hell, there might still be an undeveloped roll or two lying around here somewhere. I’m not sure if it was a money issue or a procrastination issue. As I kid I enjoyed taking pictures. I used a Kodak “disc” camera for a while. It was state-of-the-art at the time. The film was contained in a wheel, not unlike a View Master slide picture wheel. You still had to have it developed like regular film. We had a Polaroid camera too, which was the closest thing we had to instant photography.

This Petri camera my father bought halfway around the world was a constant companion on numerous excursions. We drove everywhere for family vacations. I didn’t get on an airplane until I was 18. From the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, to Boston Harbor, and Niagara Falls and Toronto in between, dad chronicled it all with his Petri 7. He treated that camera with care and reverence. There was more than just a hint of melancholy when the image quality started to deteriorate.

Eventually, the Petri 7 gave way to higher-end point and shoot cameras. I had a couple of Canon 35mm SLRs, and I shot with a Canon F-1 when I was in the Navy, but none of them garnered the respect that Petri was given.

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The Petri 7 on display in my cousin’s home. Photo courtesy of Melissa Salatino.

Over the past decade I have had trouble getting rid of some of my parents’ stuff. Household goods and clothes were easier than some other items. Dad’s music collection, my parents’ DVD collection, select pieces of dad’s die-cast metal 1/43rd scale model car collection, his model trains, will all probably stay. Knickknacks are gone for the most part, with a few exceptions. I still have a few pieces of furniture that I refuse to part with.

During a clean out of my home office last year, I came across the Petri 7 35mm camera. I was fairly certain it couldn’t be fixed. Besides, we live in a digital world now. We carry a camera built into our phones everywhere we go. Photography is no longer a luxury, it has become an important way we express ourselves in our everyday lives. The only excuse for not taking a picture now is running out of memory. It’s fitting that an Instagram post triggered the words you’re reading right now.

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A closer view of the Petri 7 in my cousin’s home. Photo courtesy of Melissa Salatino.

When I came across the brown leather case containing the Petri and its accessories, I felt so many emotions – nostalgia, loss, longing, and gratitude all passed through me. And like a very few other things I inherited, I couldn’t bring myself to just toss the camera away. I couldn’t fathom trying to sell it on eBay either.

A bolt of inspiration struck me.

My cousin Melissa, a descendant of my grandfather’s brother Carl, was getting ready for her wedding. I have often remarked that Melissa was born in the wrong decade. Her appreciation of vintage clothing, hairstyles, cars, décor and such is nothing short of remarkable. I thought if anyone could appreciate this camera, it would be Melissa. As an early wedding gift, I shipped the camera to her. It now sits prominently and proudly displayed in the home she shares with her husband Tom.

Melissa posted a photo from inside her home on Instagram today and the Petri 35mm is clearly visible. As I’ve thought about my father this week and how 10 years have already passed since his death, it was a bit of serendipity to see this photo on social media today.

I’m glad this piece of my history, this window on my life, will now bear witness to a new life my cousin and her husband are building together. I think my father would be happy that I found a loving home for one of his most cherished possessions.

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Struggling with Fitness Motivation

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Yours truly after a 4-mile run last weekend.

Since January 2013, I have only truly struggled with the motivation to exercise and eat healthier a few times. Usually the onset of disillusionment has accompanied an injury or setback of some kind, never the lack of results. Conventional wisdom and everything I read says to keep at it and the results will come. I’m not so sure anymore.

I have been known to read too much when it comes to research. I have written of information overload in previous entries. Most of the time I can’t make heads or tails of the information I consume. I read Runner’s World and Men’s Fitness. I spend time on numerous web sites from Men’s Health to bodybuilding.com. You would think after four years of better nutrition and consistent exercise, I would be seeing better results. You would think after four years I would understand my body. You would be wrong.

I have been a proponent of what I believe to be a simple truth. The body doesn’t need as many calories to subsist as we think it does. That being said, my calorie ceiling, no matter how much I exercise, seems to be pretty low. I have a FitBit Charge HR. I know how much I sleep, I know my heart rate, I know approximately how many calories I burn each day. Either I am lying to myself about how many calories I take in each day (I am horribly inconsistent with MyFitnessPal and logging my food), or my metabolism is much slower than I care to admit.

Actually, what’s crazy is the calorie burn estimates from each app you use. The Nike Run Club app says yesterday’s run burned 572 cal., while Smashrun says 761 cal. FitBit says 690. According to FitBit, I burned 3,106 cal. yesterday. I know I didn’t eat that much, but I guarantee you if I got on the scale this morning, it would have showed an uptick in weight. If that was the case, and knowing that you have to burn more than you take in to lose weight, you’d think I’d have this licked.

To recap – I once weighed 236 pounds. I lost 60 to get to 176. I put four back on and stayed at 180 for several months. I was quite happy at 180 pounds. Then I hurt my back. Even after surgery to repair a herniated disc, I stayed at 180 for some time. This was summer 2015. By January 2017 I have put about 20 pounds back on. November and December 2016 were bad for me. I backed off my running, I exercised three to four days a week instead of five to six, and I ate more holiday comfort food than I should have. Over the summer, I ate more backyard cookout food and drank more beer than I should have. From July on I took on a new hobby – podcasting – to go with blogging and working on my first novel.

Since the first of the year, a bout with the flu not withstanding, I have been back on my game. I have been running more often, especially of late, and I am back to five to six workouts per week. Trusting the process has been my mantra from the beginning and I don’t know what that process is anymore. I have forgotten how to do this. I don’t even know what to do anymore. I don’t know what to eat, how much of it to eat. I don’t know what workouts to do. I don’t know what not to do either.

I belong to a Facebook group affiliated with Jim Stoppani, an exercise scientist who has his own line of supplements. The group, known as the JYM Army, consists of people of all ages, shapes, and sizes and walks off life. Many post transformation photos. Instead of being inspired to achieve, I am jealous. I’m envious. And worst of all, I’m disgusted with myself. I know what I want. I know what I want to look like; I know how I want to feel. And I just don’t know how to do it.

The past few weeks have been frustrating. I have seen a little movement on the scale in the right direction, which is undone quickly. I am in a constant battle with needing to manage my life and wanting to live it. I used to get frustrated when my weight loss efforts stalled. But I never really considered giving up. My eyes were always on the prize. As I drove toward it I always thought the definition would come, the body fat would slough off. I figured I would build the body I always wanted while I did this.

But I think the past two weeks have seen my first real cracks, my first real thoughts of wanting to quit. I see people who have lost weight and gained it back and never go back to diet and exercise. I guess either life got in the way or they just said, “screw it.” I don’t want to be that person. Yet, despite my best efforts, I gained 20 pounds. And I’m debating being that person.

I lift and I lift and nothing seems to change. My belly fat is back in abundance and my muscles never seem to grow or define. I get a little stronger and I’m probably stronger that I ever have been, but that’s not good enough. My battle with the poster on the wall seems to be unwinnable.

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Same route, two years apart, and I’ve lost six minutes total run time, and a minute and a half off my pace.

I’m 47 years old. The one thing I have figured out about this 1969 rambling wreck is that backing off is the kiss of death. If I don’t maintain the five to six days a week of weightlifting and 10-15 miles a week of running, my fitness level goes right down the drain. The worst part about that is getting back to where I was, which gets harder as I get older. It wasn’t that long ago when I was able to consistently run 10-minute miles on three- to five-mile runs. I never could maintain than on a six-miler. I’m trudging along at 11-minute miles now. Sure I can turn in a sub 10-minute mile, but I can’t maintain that pace. Carrying 20 extra pounds can’t be helping. Two years ago I was running four miles in 38 minutes. Now? 44 minutes. I am an ex-smoker but I quit damn near nine years ago. I know that it takes 15 years to undo it, but you’d think my cardio-vascular health would be better than it is. Granted, I have not been able to get my speed back since back surgery.

My new problem is mystery quad pain and tightness I’ve never had before. I used to suffer from shin splints. Quality running shoes with plenty of cushion solved that. Now I wonder if my new running shoes are causing the quad problem. My new weight bench has a built-in squat rack and I am squatting more weight that I ever have. Maybe that is causing my quad issues. Who the hell knows? We’ve established that I don’t understand my anatomy.

Maybe I’m not sticking to anything long enough to get any real results. Getting enough protein on a daily basis is a constant struggle. I’m good once in awhile. But I forget my discipline and I don’t stick to it. I forget to make a shake, or miss the window to drink one. I don’t eat enough animal protein during the day because I don’t want the calories. The JYM Army and Stoppani tell you screw the calories, it’s about losing inches and fat and building muscle. I would say, “yeah, that’s great if you’re 25,” but the are 50-somethings in the group that look like professional bodybuilders. And for me, and my body, eating to fuel muscle growth and workouts is not what works for me. I just put on fat. I never shred.

Maybe it’s low testosterone. I have been tested. It is a bit low. Not catastrophically low, but lower than it should be. Maybe that is what’s hurting me. I read an article in the March 2017 Men’s Fitness that said people with sleep apnea shouldn’t take testosterone replacement because it could worsen the symptoms. It’s bad enough I thought losing 60 pounds would cure the condition only to find out I am stuck with it for life, only to read that something that would help lose weight, build muscle and provide numerous other benefits could also hasten my demise.

It seems like I am constantly stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think the added weight has not only hurt my running ability, but has also exacerbated my symptoms. Evening fatigue would be the most glaring. I have trouble getting up in the morning. During my last visit with the sleep doc, my CPAP machine was adjusted to help with that.

This week, I’ll try something new. I’m hardheaded I guess. I don’t know when or how to quit. But I do feel like for the first time since I started four years ago that there’s no point to it. That no matter what I do I’ll continue to gain weight no matter what I eat or how much I exercise. And that simply won’t do.

The Slippery Slope Has Been Coated with Grease

I have been on the fence with this one. I thought I could ride it out without feeling the need to articulate these thoughts but as events have unfolded the past few days in South Carolina and Florida, I can hold my keyboard no longer. I’ll cite sources as necessary but I may not need to because the source of my anger and angst is more visceral that literal.

I grew up on Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. The latter made me a Republican.

On Nov. 8, 2016, I voted for a Democrat for president for the first time since I came of legal voting age. I voted for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush (twice), John McCain and Mitt Romney. Voting against party lines was inconceivable. Every now and again, there was a Democrat state legislator, U.S. senator or representative I would find appealing. I never voted “Republican” when it came to ballot initiatives, save one (and I’d vote opposite if I could do it all over again). I had to be one of the few registered Republicans in the state of California who voted for our embattled high-speed rail. I am proud to say I voted for Hillary Clinton. I was no fan of her husband, but I believed she was the best choice.

President Donald J. Trump ran as a Republican. He defeated Democratic challenger Hillary Rodham Clinton, 304- 227 in Electoral College votes. He continues to lie about the margin of victory, claiming it was the largest since Ronald Reagan.

During a press conference earlier this week, President Trump continued to falsely brag about his victory, and refused to admit inaccuracies.

Politifact reported on Twitter that President Trump lies 69.9 percent of the time. During the campaign it was 71 percent, while Clinton was proven to lie 27 percent of the time, which happened to be about average for your average president or presidential candidate. So, our president lies more than he tells the truth. More on that later.

From CNN.com

Trump claimed at a news conference that he had the largest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan. When told later in the news conference by NBC’s Peter Alexander that information was false, Trump did not defend the argument, which he has made repeatedly in recent days, but said he was “talking about Republicans.”

“I was given that information,” Trump said, before quickly moving onto another questioner. “Actually, I’ve seen that information around. It was a very substantial victory. Would you agree with that?”

He spread blatant lies and misinformation throughout that press conference as he continues to demonstrate that he does not understand the hate that his election victory has allowed to fester across the country. During the debates, he was asked about Islamaphobia and he clearly didn’t understand what Islamaphobia is when he clearly practices it (as evidenced by the Muslim ban, not ban, yes, it is a ban, disguised as an Executive Order on immigration). He was asked about anti-Semitism and demonstrated that he didn’t understand the question or this term. He thought that the reporter, who happened to be Jewish, was asking him if he was racist or anti-Semitic.

The fact of the matter is, hate crimes rose sharply after Trump was elected. People of color, non-U.S. citizens, and people of non-Christian religious faiths have been targeted by bigots with graffiti and in-person confrontations. A Jan. 5, 2017 USA Today article indicated that hate crimes have subsided, but the indicated that the election and the incidents are not mutually exclusive.

Mr. Trump has escalated his war on the media. As someone who has worked as a journalist in one way, shape or form or another for more than 20 years, this is truly frightening. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees freedom of the Press. He continued that attack today at a rally in Florida. The term “fake news” is now being used to described legitimate news outlets when the “left” originally started using the term to call out Breibart, InfoWars and their ilk.

In fact, it was brilliant strategy by the Trump campaign. They co-opted everything the left tried to do to them during the 2016 presidential campaign. The “I’m rubber, you’re glue” strategy was unbelievably successful. “Fake news” has to be the most obvious example. However, while the Trump camp was screaming about Clinton’s use of a private email server, many of the president’s people do the same to this very day. He tweets from an unsecured Android device for crying out loud. Every time they screamed about the Clinton Foundation and “pay to play,” they planned to nominate Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Her family has donated $200 million to Republicans and several senators who voted on her confirmation, received money directly from DeVos and her husband. If this isn’t pay to play, I don’t know what is. The Republicans spent eight years obstructing President Barack Obama, and now they cry when Democrats offer any resistance to anything Trump and his merry band of fascists, racists, and xenophobes want to do.

The National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was asked to resign, quit, jump in a lake, and yet Trump defended him at this 77-minute rant disguised as a press conference. Which leads me down the Russia rabbit hole. I don’t have the bandwidth for this right now. There are smarter people than me dissecting this. However, whenever someone really gets close to convincing people who matter that a probe is necessary, Clinton and her emails get brought up again.

Every cabinet nominee has been tainted, either by being unqualified, unsuitability, corruption or a polar opposite viewpoint. Senator Mitch McConnell spent eight years obstructing Obama and his initiatives. And now he wants us to support Trump and the GOP. He’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This leads me to my actual point.

So many Democrats (elected officials and the citizenry) have been wondering and outright asking where is the Republican outrage. The short answer is that they don’t care. They don’t care that he lies, they don’t care that his cabinet nominees are unqualified and/or corrupt, they don’t care about the egregious things that came to light during the campaign even though they pretended to be mortified, they just don’t care. Why is that? I’m glad you asked. Because they are getting everything they ever wanted. They spent eight years waiting for Obama’s time as president to end so they could enact absolutely batshit legislation. Trump executive orders alone have been enough to scare the bejeezus out of me.

The folks who voted for Trump, for the most part, are happy with the job he’s doing, mainly because he is doing exactly what he said he was going to do. And that’s the rub, that’s where it falls down. I watched a story on the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt where people in a town in Wisconsin were satisfied with the first month of the new administration and one man who was interviewed told viewers to give Trump a chance.

I’ll point out that Trump lost the popular vote by three million, although he and crackpot conspiracy theorists say that’s because millions of illegal immigrants voted for Clinton in what would be the biggest case of voter fraud in American election history. Just in case you’re unclear, that shit didn’t happen.

And every time you point this craziness out, someone pops up and shouts, “but Hillary…!”

Well, it’s been a month. And it’s been a shitshow. Journalists have been fighting the good fight. And I hope they continue to do so. Trump also managed to piss of the judicial branch. Apparently he doesn’t realize that the three branches of government are EQUAL. He has a rubberstamp congress, but the judiciary will not be bullied. Neither will the intelligence community, but that is a different ball of wax.

Trump, his administration and his supporters all claim that the resistance is undermining the president and what he wants to do. Good. They want news outlets like CNN to soften its coverage of the president. No. None of this is normal, none of this should be normalized, and the bullshit flag needs to be raised every time – every time.

Now, you might be thinking that after almost 30 years as a Republican, that I have completely gone over to the other side and become a bleeding heart liberal. I am a registered independent and I am on the side of truth and facts. If the president can’t admit that Obama’s inaugural crowd was larger than his and then orders a government agency to find photographs that prove his delusion, there’s something wrong with that. That’s minor compared to all of the other lies and falsehoods.

He calls the mainstream media and major newspapers “fake news.” He says the general public distrusts the media. I read the subtweets, I read the Facebook comments. The attacks on journalists and anyone who would question the president are unbelievable.

This article will tell you what sites are truly fake news.

What I’d like to now is this, for those people out there who distrust the news media, do you think CNN, MSNBC, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, et al make shit up? Do you think they flat out lie?

So many folks believe the media is biased to the left. Maybe there is some bias for some outlets. However, I believe most journalists are telling truthful, factual stories. It’s what they were trained to do.

My broadcast journalism voice and diction teacher, Mr. Bob Runda, taught me that the newscaster is the subject matter expert (I think that extends to the news writer). It is their job to explain the world and world events to the viewer or the reader.

It doesn’t matter what you feel or believe – facts are facts. And the fact of the matter is, the GOP is trying to enact laws and policies that will slide us down that slippery slope straight into fascism. Our president and his spokespeople do not live in our reality. They lie and they get angry when you question them.

Read good journalism. Watch good television news (not panel shouting matches featuring Trump spin doctors). As Keith Olbermann ends every YouTube episode of his GQ series, “Resist.”

I Wrote a Book

scary-typewriterDuring the past four years, I have accomplished a great deal. I have also had several setbacks. From professional successes and failures to weight loss and injuries, I have run the physical, emotional and psychological gamut. I found my writing voice in this blog, I chronicled my fitness journey as I lost 60 pounds (gained 20 back), I regaled you with tales of the operating room as I endured two surgeries, including a major procedure on my back, and detailed my travel and running adventures. This past weekend, I accomplished a lifelong goal – I finished the rough draft of my first novel.

I have always wanted to write a book. Ever since I was a young student penning short stories for class creative writing assignments, I wanted to write a novel. Add that to my predilection for Gothic horror and vampire fiction and you have a recipe for my first book.

Writing has always come natural to me. I have never been afraid of a blank page or a blank screen. Writer’s block is something I’ve never known. I know that might make me sound like a braggart. Writing is not an easy thing, especially for most. But I won’t apologize for what I am able to do. I have been writing professionally in one capacity of another for more than 20 years. News, news features, sports, regularly scheduled columns, broadcast news and sports scripts, short stories, poetry  – you name it, I’ve written it. But I have never attempted a novel. Well, 13 months and 59,000 words later I wrote the last words of what I hope to be my debut novel.

ktpng.gifThere was no doubt in my mind this was going to be a vampire tale. I only had a character in mind. There was no outline, no character sketches and no real plan. But there was plenty of Tullamore DEW Irish whisky and Deschutes Black Butte Porter beer. I took days and weeks off. I even would take a full month off. Sometimes life got in the way. Sometimes the story got stuck. But every time I came back to it, I fell right back in and was able to keep trucking.

Now comes the hard part. I sincerely hope that I can get it published. I have been looking into my options and the traditional route looks to be daunting and expensive. Publishing an e-book to Amazon Kindle is free and supposedly easy, but having a physical book on the market in book stores is my first choice. It’s funny. I own a Kindle Fire and I love it. But I use it more as a tablet and for movie viewing than I do reading. I acquire paper books at an alarming rate – I just wish I was buying the time to read them.

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How in the hell is this a genre?

I’ve joined a few writers groups on Facebook, I’ve signed up for a few writers newsletters and I follow numerous authors, agents and publishing houses on Twitter. Hopefully, the connections I am making will assist me in going from unpublished aspiring author to published novelist. Regardless, as long as there are free platforms such as WordPress, I’ll keep writing and I hope you continue to read.

Throughout high school, I wondered what I would ever use later in life. Geometry, trigonometry, algebra? Social Studies? Meh. The drafting classes I wasted my time in? Science? I misguidedly wanted to be an engineer at one time. Earth science was fun, biology was okay, chemistry was too hard and I failed physics because my teacher was a wackaloon.

English.

That’s what I took away from high school. I never went to college. But I did receive an education thanks to the United States Navy and your taxpayer dollars. I hate math but calculators help with that. Social studies and history help somewhat when it comes to understanding the world we live in, our government (well, at least up until Nov. 8 of last year) and how to avoid the mistakes of our forebears.

Language.

Reading and writing.

We use it every day. At least I do. It used to be you couldn’t order from a fast food menu without the ability to read but now all you have to do is speak the right number for what you want. You can’t apply for a job, do your taxes, buy or rent a car or a place to live, pay your bills, deal with all types of insurance, shop for food, clothing household items and sundries without the ability to read and write. Hell, in this social media, iMsg, SMS texting society, you have to have some rudimentary command of language – even if it’s just a bastardized, emoji (electronic hieroglyphs if you ask me) form of it. You don’t even know you’re reading when you’re doing it. Try driving somewhere without reading. You can’t do it. Try shutting off that part of the brain that tells you to read words when you see them. You can’t do it.

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I could live in a bookstore.

I’ve developed a passion for it. I love words and language and sentences and phrases and prose and stanzas and paragraphs and quatrains and cantos. I love books and magazines and newspapers and web sites and blogs. I love a good pamphlet and I used to read the dictionary when I was a kid.

I have favorite fiction authors and non-fiction writers and newspaper columnists and sports writers. I know several published authors, some of whom I know very well and count as friends. I have counted myself among some, and now I hope to count myself among the published authors.

I’m not sure what my next novel-length project will be. I have a few thoughts. A childhood memoir perhaps? An old Navy buddy’s dad was a nefarious, larger than life outlaw (for lack of a better term). Maybe I’ll craft that story. The only limit is my imagination, which means there are no limits.

When my story is published, in whichever form, I do hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.