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      Life is about coming to grips with the fact that we will die. In fact, we really go through all five stages of grief for our own death. Childhood is denial; we think we’re invincible. Early adulthood is anger; we see the world for what it really is, and we don’t like it. Adulthood is bargaining; we try to eat right, excercise, save money for retirement, have kids, etc. We try to get the good things of life while we can. Depression is either a mid life crisis or a post-retirement feeling of worthlessness. Acceptance is when we truly see death as the eminent eventually that it really is.

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      The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I’ve never been so enthralled by a book that despite being filled with classic sexist female archetypes, is one the most empowering and unfortunately relatable books ever. I’ve lived in Alabama the past few years, and if I had read it without the perspective I’ve gained here, I’d’ve not thought of it as a book that touches on issues that are still in the upper echelons of southern culture (Just google University of Alabama Soroities).

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      A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith. It’s a novel about life in Florida from 1858 to 1968, which saw the transformation of Florida from a swamp and mosquito infested wasteland to a tourism paradise. As a native Floridian, and one who has roots that stretch back to post civil war Florida, it has a special place in my heart. If a non-fiction easy read is your goal, I’d suggest Crackers in the Glade: Life and Times in the Old Everglades by Robert Storter (my great grandfather’s brother). It’s a book filled with the art and journals of an old timer who saw Florida change. The art is amazing in its simplicity (I actually own one of the originals) and the writing is sincere.

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      As a former waiter, I think the biggest misconception is how easy it is. It isn’t easy. As a rule of thumb, I suggest tipping waiters and waitresses consistently (and well) regardless of the quality of service. Oftentimes, a bad waiter/waitress is simply stressed about something outside of work or some other customer is being horrid to them. I remember having to deal with horrid customers while also dealing with the stress of studying for AP exams, and I can assure you that you’ve had waiters dealing with worse.

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      For my Dad’s fiftieth birthday, we went on a canoe/kayak trip down the Peace River. Myself (aged 10), my dad, my mom, my older sister and younger brother and sister planned to paddle, set up camp, then the next day paddle to the end point and be back home in time for my uncle’s fiftieth birthday party. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men are often shitty and full of obvious holes. You see, we decided to pack more comfortably than our previous adventures (mostly hiking trips in the Daniel Boone National Forrest, where my grandparents had a summer home). Thus, we required a “pack canoe” that was towed behind one of the three person sit on top kayaks that were each manned by half of our family. Alas, the problem with having a pack canoe is that someone (my mom) had the bright idea of vacuum sealing the things that were bulky but light, like sleeping bags, extra clothing, etc. To make matters worse, we packed a large Dutch Oven and a portable camp toilet. After setting sail (paddling off?) looking like the Beverly Hillbillies on water in matching wool long johns and bright orange baseball caps and whistles and a pack canoe with very little freeboard (that’s the space between the waterline and the gunnel (side) of the boat for you landlubbers). The first part of the plan went off without a hitch. We paddled downstream a few miles, set up camp, pooped in our luxurious camp toilet, made an amazing dinner in our very heavy (and dense) Dutch Oven, put on our dry and vacuum sealed spare clothing and went to sleep in our very dry and warm sleeping bags in a very dry tent. Alas, this is the part where it gets good and unfortunately (fortunately), I was in the safest boat, and actually did not witness the events that I am about to recount. You see, it was only in the morning that we discovered a distinct lack of electricity, home appliances, and a dirt free environment in which to repackage everything that was vacuum sealed. We were stuck up the creek without a vacuum. Well, we managed to shove everything into the pack canoe, but now instead of looking like an unsteady and unseemly canoe that had been packed by hillbillies, it was a monstrosity that was unstable, cantankerous, and would lead to the eventual mayhem that I’m about to describe. We discovered that it was much more of a chore to paddle with this monolith of stupidity behind us, and decided to split up. Myself, my dad and my younger sister went ahead to get the boat trailer that was ten miles upstream via a cab, while my older sister and younger brother and my mom would take charge of the pack canoe. Obviously, when we returned to the boat ramp with the trailer, they were there despite it being after dark. You see, the pack canoe had hit a tree branch and flipped over, sending the contents of the canoe either floating down the river in their vacuum bags that were actually filled with air or sinking to the bottom. After a mad dash to recover what was possible to recover (the camp toilet was borrowed, so my mother made a Herculean effort to recover that and then dove to recover the Dutch Oven), which left them soaking wet and shivering in the middle of January (Florida January, but still 60-50 degree weather) as darkness rolled in on an alligator infested river. Fortunately, a few natives of the region (actual hillbillies) showed up in an airboat just after dark to go frog gigging, and rescued them and the belongings they’d salvaged. They actually left the pack canoe there, which caused the Florida Wildlife Conservation to send out an alert for missing boaters later until we called and explained the situation. That was the worst experience I’ve ever had camping.

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      I was charging my phone and working on a paper freshman year of college. It was on the floor of my dorm, and I was sitting in my chair that could rock back a bit. After I finished my paper, I rocked back to grab my phone and smashed it under the rocking part of the chair. The worst part was that it still worked despite the screen being completely black and useless, so at 6:30 in the morning, my alarm went off and I had no idea how to turn it off, because turning off the phone required swiping on the screen. So I just had to let it die loudly, painfully, and full of texts and alarms going off until it finally ran out of battery.

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