The Bike Ride (a short adventure)

I was determined to have a bike ride tonight! The weather wasn’t agreeable at first so I drove home from work with my bike firmly fastened to my bike rack. I had a snack, read my mail and waited for clearing skies…

After a half hour or so the lightning seemed to be moving out and the thunder just rumbled in the distance so I quickly jumped into my truck and drove the mile or so to the Cherry Creek Trail. Lovely, it had cooled down and was the perfect temperature. No one else was parked there (which was a little alarming) other than a truck and horse trailer. In the distance I saw people riding horses so I wasn’t completely alone.

I quickly donned my helmet, mounted my bike and off I went. There is a half mile of rough track before you get onto the Cherry Creek Trail and maybe I was riding a little too fast when I almost took a tumble, but I regained control (not a pretty sight) and continued to the trail.

There were a few people riding horses

Now the smart thing to do would have been to ride my bike in the same direction as those people who were on horseback, but no, I rode the other way.

I was doing just fine, going at a good speed until I wondered why my bike was making a funny sound, a kind of shrieking. I stopped, thinking my front wheel was going to fall off, but no it wasn’t my bike as the noise continued. My eyes followed the direction of the awful sound and there was a prairie dog looking up to the sky and  hollering its lungs out . I looked up to see what the noise was all about, just as a lightning bolt struck the ground close by.

Noisy Prairie Dog

Mr Prairie dog turned tail and disappeared into his hole. Where could I find shelter on this open trail. No buildings, nothing.

Then I heard something that sounded like a babies rattle being shaken violently……..didn’t see anything, but didn’t need to. I sounded like a rattle snake to me.


I didn’t bother trying to locate the source of the rattle, I turned my bike around and rode as fast as I could. There were no other human beings in sight and it was starting to rain hard.

I rode across the rough ground as fast as I could, managing to keep my bike upright. I could see the trailhead in the distance with its tumble-down shed and old haunted looking house. I was almost there, riding past the haunted house when I heard a noise from within the shambles of a building.  I looked across to see what it was and rode smack bang into a fence post. Almost fell off my bike again, scratched my arm and leg, twisted my thumb, but stayed on.

It was pouring down now with lightning hitting the ground too close for comfort. I quickly put my bike back on the rack, jumped in my truck and drove away. I may have not rode more than three miles, but I certainly increased my heart rate. I need to bring it back to a comfortable beat so I am doing that right now with a glass of ice-cold chardonnay.

Hey I tried to exercise tonight, but the odds were against me….tomorrow is another day, and that’s when I will try again.

I needed this

Check out the links below for my short stories and news on my upcoming novel:



German Ghost Story

Dortmund - Borsigplatz

 I told you I was getting organized with a come back, and here it is. This is a story I am currently working on, not finished yet, but close. I was lucky enough to find a photograph of Borsigplatz (don’t you just love google) so hopefully this will give some perspective to my story.  This round-a-bout was just about three blocks from where we lived, it’s where the supermarket and restaurants were. I may go back and visit one day.

 I think I am going to call this story ‘A walk in the Park’, but that could change. I was not going to post this story on my blog, but it actually helps me with my first edit if I do.  This story brings back a lot of memories and reminds me of how exciting life was back then. Enjoy!


It was July 4th 1982 and the weather in Dortmund was so hot it was almost unbearable.  There was no air conditioning and we lived in the Penthouse (so to speak), well at least it was the very top floor of an old building that had been turned into apartments. Heat rises of course, so it felt hotter than hell.  There was no balcony, the window in the living room was actually in the sloping roof, and opened up to the sky.  This window was wide open, but only let in hot air and little particles of silver that shimmered in the sun and although very pretty, I can’t be sure if it was good for the lungs. The shimmering silver shower was courtesy of the huge chemical plant that was less than a mile away.  I probably shouldn’t mention the name of the plant in this litigious society, but it was one of the largest suppliers of pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial chemicals in Europe, the US and Asia. I have to say, I have suffered no health issues from my proximity to the chemical plant, nor has anyone else to my knowledge, but the shower was certainly a spectacle. On that particular day I sat in that rooftop window and with my legs dangling over the ledge and watched the street below. It was a Sunday afternoon and there weren’t many passers-by. I am guessing that people were staying in their homes and away from the heat of the day.  Those people who did pass by were both amused horrified at my position, half in and half out of the window on the third floor of the building.  Those people who looked up either laughed at me and waved as they passed by, or yelled up at me with alarmed voices.  I had no idea what they were shouting about of course, I had only been in the country for a few months and not quite mastered the language yet. Maybe they thought I was about to jump.  My meager knowledge of the German language could get me by in bars (beer and wine was easy to order), or shopping and I could even get around on the local trams, but someone shouting up at me in German?  I just waved down at them and smiled causing most to continue walking shaking their heads as they did so. 

            Let me tell you a little bit about where I lived. The street was called Robert Strasse, and the area was Borsigplatz.  I am sure that spelling is wrong as it’s been a while since I had to write or talk in German.  I loved living there though.  Borsigplatz was an Italian area on the outskirts of Dortmund. Les was in the British army, and due to the lack army housing at the time, we were given what was called ‘overseas rent allowance’ to pay for an apartment.  Luckily Borsigplatz was only a short drive, or tram ride to the both the military base where Les was stationed and the military base on which I worked. We were very happy to find this place, which had been recently renovated.  With the help of a German-speaking friend we negotiated a good price and moved in with our scant furniture.  It really was my dream apartment and much nicer than the army accommodation!  It was on the top floor of a three-story L shaped building and ours was the only door on the top floor so we had some privacy. The living area was beautiful, up in the attic with a sloping ceiling. Stained beams divided the living area and eating area. There were two small bedrooms, a very small kitchen and a small modern bathroom. The living room itself was snug and was just big enough for our typically English overstuffed three-piece suite, a coffee table and our TV. Of course back in the eighties we also had two video recorders, a VHS and a Betamax.  Does anyone still know what a Betamax is??? I swear those machines were way better than the VHS recorders, but VHS were the ones that survived.  Now they are a relic of the past as we use DVD’s and Blu Ray.  How quickly times change. 



I sold another book!

You are probably all thinking I am crazy (and those of you who know me know I actually am a little) for getting excited about selling a two dollar book. It has nothing to do with money, and everything to do with me. I am actually writing stories about my life and people are buying them. No matter how small the amount, I am getting money for my hobby/passion and that can’t be bad!
My writing has also brought me back in contact with my two nieces in England. Thanks Adele for the photo I used for ‘Guy at the Bar’ which is still on sale for a mere two dollars on Amazon. You can purchase this directly from my blog by clicking on to the picture. Shelly, thanks for the art work I am using on my blog, I hope you get visitors through me, to ‘Shelly with Angels’
I have also met some wonderfully talented people such as a young artist and writer who has an outstanding blog ‘Lest I smite thee’ check the link.

A Peek at ‘A Walk in the Park’ – my next novella

Notes on the situation

Viktor was dead. He was alive but drunk when Anna left him. He knew where I lived because I had seen him (I think it was him) watching our building on the Sunday night I first met Anna and on other occasions. Maybe he had followed me home that night. Was it him I saw in camp playing tricks with me? Or was that his brother?  If it was Viktor, it was an angry spirit not a real person. Visitations/events in our apartment had happened over the last couple of days.

Questions for Anna

Did the papers say when Viktor died?

What did Viktor’s brother look like?

What did Herr Rutkowski look like?

Did she know of any relations Herr Rutkowski may run to? (I needed to talk to him, he was key to the whole thing and may know what happened and how the Evil Cossack died)

Guy at the Bar – Back to Books

Well I have goofed around long enough, time to get back to books.  ‘Guy at the Bar’ will be coming off Amazon soon.  If anyone wants to buy the $2 version of it, you have a limited time to do so. I will be getting it tidied up, edited and will re-publish it very shortly.  ‘Girl on the Beach’ will be available on Amazon and other eBook sites soon. I may also put this in print in a month or so, depending on finances, sales etc.  ‘A Walk in the Park’, if that indeed remains the title, will be finished pretty soon.  It is my longest book yet. This weekend I will be posting the second chapter of ‘Flat Country Snow’, the story that makes me smile. Stay tuned and enjoy my journey.  I am in no great hurry, but one day, I will make a living at this.  Have a great weekend and get your fill of wonderful World Cup Football.  Be Happy!

Websites and stuff!

If you see anything weird happening on my blog, be patient, bear with me, I am designing a website that will be linked to my blog. Yes me, a website…..stop laughing.  Eventually, when I am organized I will sell my books there, yes books. I will have four ready soon.  If you have already been reading my stories, you may even want to take a look at my new adventures.  The biggest adventure for me is designing a website!  Have a happy Memorial Day, and remember those who made it possible.  Good night!

‘Guy at the Bar’ or ‘Girl on the Beach’?

Give me some feedback.  Which did you think was the best?  Be honest!

I enjoyed writing them both. Guy at the bar will always be may favorite because it was the first one I plucked up courage to share.  I am hoping I get better with experience, but who knows.  Have a FANTASTIC long weekend everyone. Grill, entertain and relax.

Stephen King – Under the Dome

Yup, talking about a book I didn’t write!  Did anyone read ‘Under the Dome’ yet? I started it, but haven’t picked it up in weeks because of my own writing projects.  I am about to take a break and pick up where I left off (easy with a kindle).  I enjoyed the beginning!  He is pretty brutal, but does it in that ‘Stephen King’ way, so it’s what you come to expect from him.  Any views?  Which is your favorite Stephen King book?  ‘The Stand’ has to be one of my favorites, along with ‘Salem’s Lot. I really enjoyed Duma Key too.  Love his short story collections!!!!  Been reading Mr. King for the last 30 years.  He is my favorite without a doubt!

Chapter Eight – The End

Where I lived

So here ends my second story. There is a lot of truth in this chapter, but it would spoil the story if I revealed it. I have another couple of stories almost ready to go. Still hoping to put my book of short stories together by Christmas, but time is slipping away from me. The days seem to go by faster when you get older. When you are young the summers seem endless, and summer evenings just went on and on. We never think we will become our parents, but we do, and only too soon. I hope the ending doesn’t disappoint. Thanks for sharing my journey. 

I hope you like the photo, this could have been the field beside the house I lived in, lovely isn’t it. Maybe it will help make my story real.


            The rest of that day was fairly normal, no more crazy winds or thunder storms.  We just had our lessons like any other day.  Instead of a normal lunch that day, we had egg and cress sandwiches, provided by the big farm-house down the lane (the one with the nasty dog) because the man who normally delivered our lunches couldn’t come, there had been some damage to his van during the thunder-storm.  There weren’t many kids in school to feed so it wasn’t difficult for the housekeeper at the farm to put together sandwiches and bake us some oatmeal biscuits.  It was actually very good, even though I liked the school lunches, this made a nice change. 

            While I was sitting with Judy eating lunch, I heard Mr. Robinson and Mrs. Ball talking.  Mr. Robinson was telling her that he had been listening to the radio and the thunder-storm had done a lot of damage on its path across the country. It had been a fast and angry storm. Also there had been reports of a couple of ships in distress on the English Channel and just across the channel in Calais along with one or two other ports in Northern France. The weather men had missed this storm in their research. It seemed to blow up out of nowhere I heard him say.  I remember thinking how glad I was that the storm waited until my holiday in Blackpool had finished because I wouldn’t have been able to play on the beach or in the water if there had been a storm like this.  It would have been even more frightening by the sea. I got that funny uncomfortable feeling in my rib cage again, and the sunstroke dream flashed through my head.  I closed the door in my brain to shut it out though.  I sometimes joked with myself that there was a spare room in the back of my brain and I shut all unpleasant things in there, like the bad old days with my dad, when he used to hit my mum.  The sunstroke dream was locked away with those bad memories.  The door was locked to keep it there. I knew one day these bad memories would all come tumbling out, but I wasn’t ready for that yet.

            Judy looked at me, and then knocked on my head….which made me laugh because I had just been thinking about locking a door. I laughed out loud, and startled her, but she started laughing too.  We were laughing so loud that the kids around us looked at us funny, which made us laugh even more.  Soon everyone was laughing.  I think we all needed to, the day had been far from normal and laughter was the best medicine (that’s what it said in the Readers Digest anyway).

            The two teachers smiled at each other, clearly pleased that we were all laughing instead of crying.  This day could have turned out much worse….or so I thought.  The day wasn’t over yet! We worked on our lessons all afternoon, Scripture (yes back in the day we had scripture lessons, not even sure what you call them now as religion is such a taboo topic), history and an arithmetic quiz to finish the day as always.  I used to be good at arithmetic. The day ended on a much happier note with blue skies and a warm breeze.  As Judy and I left the playground to walk back down to the ‘road ends’ to get our bus home, a big yellow van arrived, with big panes of glass strapped to the back.  It looks like we would have a new window by the morning.  The branch that caused the damage still hung from the window like a severed limb, but it was no longer twitching and kicking like it had been when it did the damage.  It just hung there now, useless and isolated, and not nearly so frightening. 

            Judy and I picked up our pace so we could get to the ‘road ends’ quickly and take turns on the make shift swing, which had been set up on the tree that served as the bus stop.  It was a big old oak tree which was much-loved by everyone who had attended that school and waited for the bus.  It was a parent’s nightmare, as when you swung high, you almost swung onto the road, and if you didn’t time it right when you jumped off, you landed right in the middle of that road.  There wasn’t much traffic in those days, and I would guess the top speed was about forty miles an hour, as the road was pretty narrow and not very straight, but mothers liked to worry.  They had nothing to worry about that night because the well-loved, well used swing was no longer there. It lay on the side of the road, along with the branch from which it hung.  Judy and I stood and looked at it mournfully.  Neither of us spoke.  We both climbed up on the fence and sat there in silence.  I suddenly remembered I had not given my Blackpool rock out.  I had forgotten about it with all the other happenings of the day, so I reached in my bag and took out two sticks of the pink and white treat.  Judy’s face lit up and she thanked me.  We sat there on the fence sucking our rock and waiting for the bus to come. Five minutes later, it slowly rounded the bend and came into view, we heard it before we saw it. In fact I think we smelled it before we even heard it. I don’t know what sort of fuel those old ‘OK’ buses used, but it smelled bad, something like the smell that made you sick on a fairground after too many rides on the waltzers.  It wasn’t the spinning that made you puke, it was that awful smell of fumes. That’s how the bus used to smell. Not all busses, sometimes we went on school trips, those busses were special. They were coaches.  Jack Hall used to always drive us on our school trips.  I liked him, he used to sing and we would all join in.  We sang songs that were specially made for school trips. ‘I love to go a wandering, along the mountain track, I love to go a wandering with my knapsack on my back’ was my favorite.  When he sang that one most of us just listened and watched his reflection in the mirror at the front of the bus.  His big face looked so happy and full of fun, his big bald head bobbing around as he sang.

            Judy and I got on the bus and paid our money (you could tell at a glance this bus driver wasn’t going to sing), two halves (there we were again, not whole people, only halves). The bus didn’t take long to get home, along to the next road ends, past the quarry, past the village hall, past Gibson’s cowsheds, the milk stands and the manure heap, past the little red phone box and then the bus stopped, just by the driveway to the big house my mum worked in.  Judy and I climbed down the steps off the bus, candy rock stuck in our hands. It was so sticky by now that it would have to be peeled off our fingers. I watched Judy cross the road to go home to her house, I felt I had to as I was older than her and had to watch out for her.  When she was safely on the grass at the other side, I waved at her and then turned around to go home.  I looked at my house and there was a car parked outside.  It was my cousin, John’s car. That meant my Aunty Laura was probably visiting, as John and his wife Josie wouldn’t come without her. I don’t know why I wasn’t excited about their visit, I just wasn’t! Aunty Laura was nice enough sometimes!  She was little and a bit funny looking, and used to criticize my mum a lot, but that’s because she was her older sister.  Older sisters always thought they knew best.  My brother called her the poison dwarf! Her life ended very abruptly several years later, in a very violent and unexpected way.  Unfortunately (or fortunately for you) I can’t talk about it, but it wasn’t the way anyone would expect to meet their maker. I walked slowly to my house, but that funny feeling was back in my tummy and I didn’t know why.

            I walked around to the side of the house.  We always used the side door unless we were expecting visitors.  The front door opened into a little hall way and living room, but the door at the side opened right onto the kitchen. When I got inside my cousin John, who I loved to be with because he was so much fun, was sitting at the kitchen table with a very somber look on his face.  He smiled when he saw me though.  The door to the living room was shut, it was never shut.  I was going to go through when he stood up and stopped me.  “Let’s go for a walk” he said.  I can see his face now, he looked uncomfortable, not quite sure what to do.  I thought I could hear my mum crying, which made me feel uncomfortable because I hadn’t heard her cry since my dad used to beat her.  I looked up at him. “My dad hasn’t been around has he?” I asked. “No nothing like that” he said. I felt like I was going to cry.  “I know let’s go for a ride in my car, let’s go along the road to Inglewood and get some fish and chips”. Now he was talking!  We got into his car, which was a pretty green color, with grey leather seats, it felt very comfortable.  John backed out of our little driveway and drove slowly to the road.  Inglewood wasn’t far away so we were there in about five minutes.  I liked cars! My mum was learning to drive, I couldn’t wait until I could learn too. I opened the window and let the breeze blow in.  John didn’t say anything.  We went past Johnny Conner, who was biking along the road.  Johnny Conner was a nutcase who had a metal plate in his head.  It picked up radio signals and made him crazy.  He had long white hair and spent all day biking along the country roads. All the school kids (including me I’m ashamed to say) tormented him and sometimes he got off his bike and chased us.  Look John, Johnny Connor! My cousin John knew all about him, he had been around for a long time, and sometimes biked past his house too.

            We got to the fish and chip shop and the smell made my mouth water.  John ordered cod and chips twice and they came fresh and crispy served in newspaper.  We sat on a bench outside and ate our fish and chips, washed down with a bottle of dandelion and burdock. Delicious!  I forgot about my mum crying and just enjoyed the moment.  While we were sitting outside eating, Johnny Connor came along, parked his bike and went inside for fish and chips. I was shocked.  I had never seen him talk to anyone, in fact whenever I saw him he was either biking along the road, or chasing me.  I don’t think I had ever heard him talk. He sounded normal. The woman in the fish and chip shop was talking to him and they were laughing. He walked out of the fish and chip shop with a big smile on his face and sat down at the next bench.  He gave me a big wink with one of his piercing blue eyes and started to eat his fish and chips.  I stopped eating and just watched him.  I could hear John laughing beside me.  Johnny looked up and laughed to.  “Hey, even us crazies have to eat love” he said. I had a feeling he wasn’t crazy at all, it was just an act. I carried on eating again, but kept my eye on him, just in case. When we finished eating, we wandered across the road and threw some stones into the beck. The water was clear and gurgled over the pebbly bottom.  Too shallow for fish, but there were a couple of frogs hopping about. “I think we should go back now” John said “Your mum will probably wonder where we got to” I started to worry a little bit again. “Is everything OK?” I asked. “You should talk to your mum, everything is OK, just been a little set back, that’s all”. What was a little set back? I wondered.  We sat in silence going home. John parked the car up in our little drive again, and as he shut the gates, my mum appeared in the yard, her eyes all red.  I slowly walked over to her and she bent down, not too much because I was tall for my age, but she bent down just a little and hugged me.  We didn’t go into the house, we went into the front garden and I sat on my swing, my mum stood behind me and pushed me gently.  “Sheila, something bad happened today during the storm” I could hear her voice breaking as she talked to me! She was trying to stop herself from crying. I could see Aunty Laura peering out of the kitchen window.  My mum stopped the swing and crouched down next to me.  She was crying and could hardly talk.  Now I was really scared, what could be going on? Josie came out, she was a headmistress in a school and she was very matter of fact and knew how to handle emergencies and things. She was bossy too, she touched my mum’s shoulder and said Aunt Enid, go and sit down with John and my mother, let me talk to Sheila. My mum did as she was told, she was still crying.  I looked at Josie, her face was composed and she spoke gently but directly to me. “Sheila, you know how nasty the storm turned this morning!” I shook my head and kept my eyes on her face “Well in the Southern part of England, across the channel and in Northern France it was even worse.  Houses were damaged, boats and ships were damaged, and worse than that an airplane got struck by lightning and crashed just off the coast of Northern France, not far from Calais” My eyes must have been huge, I felt the blood drain from my face. Why was she telling me this? My dream, my sunstroke dream! Was the ball of flames in the sea a burning plane? No no-no, it couldn’t be.  “NO NO NO” I screamed, I really must have been screaming. My mum, Aunty Laura and John all came running out. Josie looked at them.  “I haven’t told her yet” She said. “Mum, mum, Maurice told me it was a sunstroke dream, it was just a dream, tell me this is just a dream too”. I was distraught, screaming sobbing. It certainly got my mum’s emotions under control.  The neighbor’s were looking over the fence to see what was going on.  My mum put her arm around me and took me inside. I was screaming, sobbing, choking and talking all at the same time. Finally John brought me a hot milky drink, I think it had something from the cocktail cabinet in it because it tasted sweet and strong all at the same time. It made my tummy burn.  Finally after my second cup of hot milk, I stopped screaming and my mum hugged me close.  Still no one had actually said the word so I did. “Maurice and Tim were on the plane weren’t they?” My eyes were red and puffy, I was shaking, I think I had scared my Aunty Laura, she was sitting at the other side of the room looking at me like I was in some sort of freak.  Josie was on her knees in front of me, my mum was hugging me. “Yes hunny” my mum finally said “we won’t see Maurice and Tim again”, and she started crying quietly again. John was outside sitting on my swing drinking a glass of whiskey and watching the sun set behind the trees in the wood at the bottom of our garden. I suspected whiskey was in my hot milk too as my second cup was having the desired effect on me and making me drowsy. Despite my sobs and aching heart, I was calming down a little. I wanted to tell them about my dream, even though it didn’t involve a plane, I knew it was a premonition of this. I couldn’t tell them though!  They would all think I needed a spell in Sedgefield, and I definitely didn’t want to spend any time there, I didn’t really know what ‘Sedgefield’ was, but I knew that if you were a nutter, they sometimes locked you up there for a very long time. Sometimes forever! I got my sobs under control, for now.  John came over to where we were sitting and he lifted me up.  “Put her in my bed” I heard my mum say.  As John carried me upstairs I heard drinks being poured.  My mum probably needed a drink more than anyone.  She had finally found a man who was good to her and made her eyes sparkle, and then she lost him.  Just like that! My cousin John put me in bed fully dressed, and despite everything that had happened, I did fall asleep.  I was vaguely aware of my mum getting in to bed and cuddling up next to me. I slept deeply and undisturbed, I had hoped I would dream of Maurice and Tim, but I didn’t. They were gone now. I knew they were alright because I had seen them in my sunstroke dream.  I wish I could have told my mum about it, but it would have been too much for her.  She would have never understood. Not then, and as time passed, it would have been too painful to talk to her about.  Life had scarred my mum, and she locked things up in the spare room in her brain too. We had to do that just to protect ourselves.  Sometimes it made us both appear hard and uncaring, but those people who knew us, knew it was the only way to survive. Life went on!

            The next day was tough and exhausting for me. I did go to school because I thought it would be less upsetting than being at home with my mum, who was trying hard to pull herself together and get on with her life. On my long walk along the road I told Judy about the plane crash, she held my hand all the way to school.  Sonia wasn’t at school that day, she had a head ache.  No one ever talked about the incident on the way to school the day before.  The storm had confirmed my story and I think she may have forgotten I hit her. There were a few broken branches in the orchard at the back of school, but the window was fixed and all of the petals gone from the playground.  Lessons that morning, were boring, but a welcome distraction from the horrible things in my head.  During our morning recess Melvyn came and found me. “Look at our tree” he said. I walked to the edge of the playground with him and looked at the tree.  There were still ribbons tied to it, pink ribbons.  It seemed no one but Melvyn and I noticed them.  He looked at me and said.  “My granddad comes and visits me sometimes, in the night.  Do you have visitors too?”

            I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t crazy, someone else saw the things I saw too, Melvyn’s granddad had died when he was five, so I understood why we were the only two people who saw the ribbons in the trees.  We weren’t crazy at all! Instead we had a gift, or talent or ability, whatever you called it, I think this was the first time I came to terms with it.  This was my ‘second’ encounter with things I couldn’t explain.  The first one had been locked away in my brain, and I might revisit it sometime in the future.

            Life went on, my mum went to a Memorial Service for Maurice and Tim! They were both remembered in the same service. My brother Bobby, took my mum, but I chose not to go, instead I stayed with another of my Aunties.  Aunty Jane, I will tell you about her later.  She was one of my favorite Aunties, and quite a character. She always smelled of gin. I hoped I would be visited by Maurice again, but I wasn’t ever!  Funny how things worked! I did see the little girl again, at times I least expected and for reasons I couldn’t explain. I still have a lot to learn!