Let them be

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She is entering her sophomore year of high school next week. A driver’s license is in the not-so-distant future. Maybe a job, as well.

With every passing day, I watch her continue to change. Those changes are more subtle now than when she was small and every new experience seemed to bring dramatic growth and differences within her.

In many ways, I feel like all of my parenting thus far was to get us to this point: a place where she could navigate the changes coming her way independently, while also knowing she had a soft place to fall.

I used to push her. I know her potential and I know her talents. My biggest fear was that they would be wasted.

But I came to a realization at some point that those types of fears were pointless. My job is not to impose my dreams for her on her. But to simply help navigate her through the decisions that she has ahead. She is most certainly an extension of myself, but she is not me. And I have to understand and treat her like an individual.

If I haven’t done anything else right, I know my daughter. I really know her. I listen. And I try to parent her in a way that allows her to grow. Not in my expectations for her, but the ones she has for herself.

I’ll admit, she’s been an easy kid for the majority of her upbringing. Strong-willed, prone to anxiety, but she’s not defiant or disrespectful. She is strong. And capable. And the only thing that stands in her way are the obstacles of her own mind.

As parents, we need to know our kids. Not just know what we want to be true for them, but really know them. Their dreams. Their fears. Their needs. Protecting them from what could hurt them while also giving them the space they need to become.

At some point, we have to believe that what we’ve tried to do as parents will be enough. We have to let them begin to lean into their own lives.

What WE begin to do at that point may seem like letting go, or a relinquishment of control, but it’s more about an understanding. And with my daughter now 15, I’m fast approaching this point in my parenting journey.

I know, from personal experience, that by the time I was 15, I was DESPERATE to make my own choices. Now, I was a know-it-all, so I was infinitely more stubborn than my child who, though she could argue with a stump, still leans on me for support.

But she wants the freedom to make choices about her future. And to impose my will on her would only serve one purpose: resentment.

I made a lot of mistakes in my adolescence. But I am who I am today because of those decisions. I see how they ultimately shaped my life, eventually for the better. And I can live with them, have peace with them, because I made them. No one made them for me.

When I decided to get married at 17, my parents were, understandably, not a fan of the idea. But they knew that I’d need a place to come back to, so they treated me like I wouldn’t fail, even though they probably knew in the back of their minds what would inevitably happen.

They had so many opportunities to say “I told you so.” when my first marriage ended in divorce. They could have been bitter and frustrated with me. But they showed me grace before the fall, and grace afterward.

And that is what we have to do. We have to love and support our children, even through the decisions that we may want to make for them, and make sure they know that we believe in them, no matter what. Because, ultimately, it’s not their decisions that matter as much as the relationship we’ve built with them.

My daughter could and likely will live an entirely different life than I have. In many ways, I hope so! But, no matter what, I simply want to know that she knows that I have her back.

We should expect excellence from them, but recognize that excellence for each individual looks as different as their own unique goals and desires.

How boring would the world be if our children were only copycat versions of ourselves? How much would they, and we, miss, if we didn’t let them spread their wings and challenge themselves in ways uniquely their own to attempt?

I am not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination. And I don’t let my teenager do whatever she wants. I do, however, believe that she has the tools to become an incredible adult. I’ve spent 15 years showing her how to use them.

And it’s almost time to let her try for herself.

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Humility lessons

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I’m 37 years old. Sometimes, that feels every bit the 13,000+ days of it. Other times, I feel like I’ve just begun to really live my life as me.

A little over a year ago, I had a mental breakdown of sorts. At the time, I was very much living in my own head, and not in the world itself.

Not making excuses, but I do know now that so much of what I was experiencing was physically related to my body being in a state of utter and complete chaos.

My hormones were crazy out of whack, my thyroid was losing function, and y’all, I’m going to be brutally honest here: I was as close to suicidal as I’ve ever been. And I’m not exaggerating in the least.

Everything, EVERYTHING was making me paranoid, insecure, unhappy, angry, and profoundly, profoundly depressed.

I did and said so many things over the course of those few months that I regret. Even with the physical reasons beyond my control, I wish I could have handled them differently. Gotten help sooner. Recognized that the problem was me, and not others.

For the last few months, I have felt a “coming into my own”, mentally speaking.

Not that I’m “stable” or “normal”. How do you even describe that, anyway?

But I do feel so much better. I don’t live at the same level of chronic mental, emotional and physical pain as before. And I’m learning how to recognize when the problem is me. When to take a step, or several steps, back from a situation and assess my own responsibility within it.

Medication, therapy practices, spiritual practices, and the unconditional love of those closest to me have helped me move from a place of existing, to a place of living. And it is truly a humbling experience.

May I suggest, if you are struggling today, that you reach out in love and humility to those who can lift you up?

Help is always there. Sometimes we just have to fight like hell to get exactly what we need to heal.

Don’t give up. Don’t ever, ever give up.

Life itself is waiting on the other side.

Out of retirement

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So, after nearly a year off of Facebook, I reactivated my account in March so I could start selling some items and eventually get our house on the market.

Then my dad ran for a local public office and I thought I might better stick around to help promote his candidacy.

And now it’s August. And I’m still there. (My dad lost, by the way.)

I said I was only going back to sell stuff….but then I remembered how much I missed engaging with people that I rarely get to see. I missed getting inspired or laughing at some of my stupid friends who share nothing but nonsense. I missed the banter my husband and I enjoyed on each other’s posts.

And then, on Wednesday, ICE started raiding several plants and factories in my state and people did on Facebook what they always do when something like that happens: they showed their asses.

And I came REALLLLLLLLLLY close to showing mine.

I don’t know…..I think maybe my meds just have gotten me to a very “nofucksgiven” state of mind, because I ended up engaging with a racist on a post. A racist I KNOW. And have a history with. And it took a lot of self restraint to not get super petty with some of the smart ass comments that were swirling in my brain and being typed then deleted, typed then deleted, typed, typed, typed………then deleted.

But the point is, I was able to check myself.

Withdraw. Before my mouth got out of hand in a way that was not productive.

I couldn’t have done that before my hiatus from Facebook. I DIDN’T do that before my hiatus. I pretty much let loose any condescending superiority I felt in my self-righteous opinions, and God help you if you came up on me in the comments.

After one of those incidents (of which there were many), I would stew about them for dayyyyys.

Not just about the subject matter and what was said to ME, but I would stew about my own words. Be angry for not just shutting up and going about my business. For letting the ignorance of others drive me insane.

I got called out one night by a friend. Privately, she admonished my most recent rant. I cried into my pillow that night, so unhappy with myself. So unhappy with a lot in my life that had NOTHING to do with anything or anyone on Facebook. Broken parts of myself were beginning to cut through the surface of my soul. And I needed to step back.

So I did.

And for that year of no Facebook, my real, in-person relationships deepened. I found myself less distracted. I read more. Wrote more.

It was an all around good decision.

Yesterday, when I had my flashback to a familiar behavior, but was able to stop short of becoming a true ass in the exchange, I had to stop and think, “Do I really want to go back to this platform?”

And I decided I do.

Because I’ve learned how to be me, and not fear it. I had some mild anxiety inducing heart palpitations during my exchange with the racist yesterday, but I think it was mainly from trying not to unleash about 20 years worth of anger on somebody who, is not only a racist, but has said some truly hurtful things to many, many people in my family.

But I didn’t unleash them. In fact, I told him the truth. I told him that I pitied him, for all the hatred he carried in his heart, and that I would continue to pray for him.

And I will.

And I’ll continue to pray for me.

And I’ll continue to speak up about things that I’m passionate about.

I’m 37 years old. The time for a popularity contest is over. At this point, any information I share or exchange I have is in the hopes that people will realize they aren’t alone in their beliefs or their struggles, and maybe my coming out of the shadows will help them be a little braver.

Or maybe some know-it-all will start rethinking their POV on some issues (I DO make the occasional good point.) And I used to be that know-it-all. Probably still come across as one, but perception? I can’t really help that. I swear I know I don’t know everything.

But I’m going to share what I DO know.

I’m out of retirement, baby.

New views

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Somehow, I blinked and it had been a week since we moved into our rental house, and even longer since I’ve had the energy to write.

Last weekend, amidst the scorching July temperatures and stifling humidity, we, with the help of my SIL and BIL, transferred everything from one house to another without incident or injury.

The rental house is an old home, belonging to the grandmother of our landlady, who is now a grandmother herself. She and her husband lived in the house when their children were small, and they added on to it during that time.

In actuality, the rental is larger than the house we just sold. But mainly because you could fit 3 of my former living rooms into the master bedroom addition that the owners built during their time here.

I have to say, it’s a little “trippy” living somewhere else, especially something as ancient as this house, but I think we are all making the adjustment well. Hubs and I have been too busy at work not to – we’re just too tired to care. And the house itself has been kept up very well.

In fact, I was feeling rather trepidatious when we first came to look at it to see if it would suit our needs. But I was pleasantly surprised at just how well-maintained it was and how much space is actually in it.

I remember thinking that the living room and Reagan’s room would be a tight fit for the furniture, but spaces are so deceiving when they are empty, and it turns out I was mistaken. Everything fits without being suffocating.

The rental is about 2 miles from our former home. I say “former”, because the actual sale went through on Wednesday, 2 days earlier than planned. Finally, we are d.o.n.e. with the home-selling process and can begin to look forward to the home-BUILDING process.

Convenience-wise, this little house was quite a Godsend. We were faced with the prospect of having to either move WAYYY further out from where we are building and where Reagan is homeschooled OR having to move into town – which probably would have been extremely stressful for all of us since we are used to our privacy and the quiet.

I’m learning to cook on a gas stove and we are ALL adjusting rather quickly to the new normal of having two, count ’em, TWO bathrooms.

There is a concrete “porch” of sorts on the front of the house, which is built on a conventional foundation, so said porch is actually a bit high off the ground.

I have decided to refer to it as “the balcony”. Here was my view from it this morning:

Not too shabby. My great sunset views are gone now, but the sunrise view will more than suffice.

It seems appropriate anyway, now, to have the best view of days beginning instead of days ending.

When we first met with our builder in December to see if we could even afford to build a house, I remember telling my husband after the meeting that it felt like we were on Step 1 of about 5,892.

Today, 7 months later, it feels like we have made it to at least step 25. Ha!

Seriously though, I do feel like some of the hardest parts are now behind us. The packing up, the leaving, the sale process, the getting settled somewhere temporarily while we work on the build – all of these things took MONTHS, and were so involved. I’m glad that my husband and I have picked out the majority of the finishes we want in the new house because I could go without seeing the inside of a Lowe’s or Home Depot for at LEAST the rest of the year.

While we prepare for the building phase, life still goes on. Another school year begins soon, and there are many things happening in our professional and family lives. So, with that in mind, we are taking another week or so to catch our breath.

Then the fun begins.

I can’t wait to smell the sawdust.

But in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the view I have.

It looks promising.

Leaving the Boat

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We’re moving tomorrow.

When the first sale on our house fell through, I told my boss that he had jinxed us. Everytime I mentioned something about the sale, he would imply that it wasn’t going to happen, because there had been continual delays until, eventually, it came to a crashing halt.

When I mentioned yesterday that we were moving into the rental this weekend, ahead of the closing that comehellorhighwater is happening next week, he started teasing that something might prolong it. Again.

He thinks he’s funny, that one.

But I told him, half joking, that I was taking a disciple Peter approach and just stepping out of the boat in faith that the water would support my feet.

But in all honesty, that’s exactly what is happening. And, just like those steps of faith have always produced, this morning, I saw a little nugget of hope.

Because, quite honestly, I’m scared. Anxious for the future.

Not just that something will happen and we won’t close on the sale. Again. And we’d have to move. Again.

No, the greater fear of mine is the same as it has always been: the unknown.

I haven’t known anything but the life we currently live inside this home for the last 13 years. We are disrupting all routine, all familiarity, in the attempt to build something better. With no guarantees of an easy journey.

I’m the only one in our family of 3 that willingly runs toward change. My husband and daughter are creatures of habit. And yet, in this particular situation, I find that I have become so used to what I know, change is truly scaring me for the first time.

Anxiety has been gripping me hard this week, and then, I opened my email to this reminder:

It’s not just a new house that we are building. It’s a new life.

I find it hard to put into words, but this process is about so much more to me than trading one physical structure for another.

I’m a dreamer. And the older I get, the fewer dreams I seem to have. But this one…..this is a big one. Never has so much been on the line. Never have the 3 of us put all of our chips in, together, on something so life-changing.

It is both exhilarating and frightening, but the fear is beginning to give way to hope. We cannot achieve something new while clinging to the old.

And it’s time to let go.

So, we fix our eyes.

We hold each other’s hands.

And we leave the boat.

Together.

2019 Randoms – 6

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It hardly seems possible that we are beginning the second half of the year today, yet that is exactly the case.

I had sincerely hoped that by the time July 1 ticked over on the calendar, I would be writing from our temporary rental residence.

It would seem, however, that the buyer we have worked with for the last 3 months is simply not meant to have our house. At least, that’s what her realtor told us when she called last week to explain the situation’s latest obstacle.

It’s truly been one thing after another since we signed the contract, but this latest problem is not something that can be easily fixed. And it looks as though our sale has fallen through for good.

The realtor is bringing a new prospect this morning, but I refuse to get too excited just yet having been burned pretty hard on our first lead.

I had taken most of this week in vacation days, thinking I’d either be taking my grandmother for her annual oncology checkup in Memphis, OR, I’d be unpacking boxes in the rental house.

Since neither is my reality this week, I am choosing to take 4 days off and just do what I damn well please.

One of the things I damn well please is to update you on my latest entertainment indulgences.

Let’s just dive right in, shall we?

WHAT I’M READING

I picked up this little gem off a bargain table in Books-A-Million sometime last year. After the last two adult drama novels I finished, this selection is a nice change of pace. Whimsical, funny, mysterious – I’m thoroughly enjoying the simplicity of children’s literature right now. I feel the need to keep things simple in my life these days.

The other two books I finished were on my list I shared a while back. Neither of them really excited me or felt like an extremely good use of my precious reading time, but I finished them anyway.

WHAT I’M HEARING

I had to make an unexpected long drive last week so I asked my book club ladies for some podcast selections. The one that stuck out most to me was this one from Jen:

Learn more about it here.

I will just say, I listened to this hilarious and unique production for 5 straight hours and laughed out loud, in the car, alone, on multiple occasions.

A mix between audiobook and podcast, King Falls AM is highly entertaining and just the kind of weird yet humorous – even heartfelt – show I needed right now.

WHAT I’M WATCHING

I am still very much into my first ever viewing of The West Wing, and have taken to watching it on my lunch breaks at work.

My husband and I also recently finished Netflix’s resuming of Designated Survivor (following its very disappointing-to-us cancellation on ABC).

With another election year looming, both shows make me genuinely sad that we don’t have a Bartlett or Kirkman option for the ballot.

So there you have it, folks. A life update complete with moving details and a list of sensory delights.

Here’s hoping that the second half of 2019 is a bit more progressive toward our big goals, while never forgetting to enjoy the simple things that make life enjoyable, even when progress on the big picture seems a bit stalled out.

Naming it

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When something or someone matters to us, we give it, or them, a name.

From what we choose to call our children to the names we choose for those children to call their grandparents to nicknames and pet names and everything in between, names are significant.

They mean something.

Or, rather, they should mean something.

I’m big on the concept of meaningful names or, at the very least, putting a lot of serious thought into what to name someone, even something, if it’s important enough.

My husband has named both of the trucks he has owned since we met, and he has always named his vehicles. I never did that until I met him, but I started doing the same thing. It’s a bit amusing to me how the act of naming something can make it that much more personal to me, even though it may already be mine.

As we began discussing building a home from the ground up, I began considering some names for the house.

We’ve jokingly referred to our current house as “the Manor” for as long as I can remember, but the new one…..it deserves something original. Something that was given much thought and consideration. Something special.

The south has many sins to repent for still, but we also have some truly beautiful history as well. Some of the living histories are the historic homes scattered throughout the state, and the families that made them unique.

These homes have names: Mont Royal, Monmouth, Beauvoir, Waverley, just to name a few.

Our home won’t be something taken from the inspiration of Greek architecture. But it will be just as special, just as unique, just as personal as any home built to suit the family that calls it “home”.

It can be easy to overthink a decision like this, but it has been the thinking, the dreaming about this project that has made it already so special.

I believe all 3 of us have our reasons for wanting to build the house, but I know that all 3 of us have spent many an hour daydreaming about how it will look and what it will feel like to be finally settled into something that we built together.

In just considering that, I have decided, as wordsmith of this family, to name our yet-to-be-built home, “The Reverie”.

At this point, it is still only dirt. But I’ve seen some truly beautiful things come about from that soil. Even when the seeds were just taking root and there was nothing yet visible above the ground.

Setback after setback seems to keep our daydream only in our heads and not taking physical shape.

But nothing worthwhile ever came easy. This is no different. And until The Reverie becomes a brick and mortar structure where I can lay my head, it still exists. It always has existed. For a reverie is a dream. And dreams survive setbacks, disappointments, doubt, and obstacles. That’s why they’re special.

That’s why we have them.

Pride

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June is almost over. In just more than a week, half of 2019 will be behind us. I’d be remiss if I didn’t write something that’s been on my heart.

In the last decade or so, I have learned how little I really knew about so many things.

From politics to religion to parenting to marriage, I have experienced immeasurable growth in my willingness to search for truth, whatever it might cost me.

Namely, my own comfort in what I might have believed for a lifetime.

Our belief systems are fallible. Skewed by the environments we grow up in and the people in positions to teach us as impressionable children, adolescents, and young adults.

We often fear what is different, not even recognizing that the reaction of fear is rooted only in our most primal and unlearned responses. It is so often a lack of understanding that fuels our fears, not the reality of any actual threat.

I have been guilty of prejudice in my life. In my politics. In my religion. Following a hard line of narrow-mindedness that I felt completely comfortable in backing with my Bible.

Until I began to experience a great shift in the foundation I had stood on for a lifetime.

Two events in my life caused a “rebuilding”. A restructuring.

One, the loss of my childhood best friend.

Two, the return to formal education.

One of the events I chose. The other, forced upon me.

Both rattled me to my very core.

When Eric died, I felt very much like any last remaining shreds of my innocence died with him.

I had experienced pain and heartbreak before, but with this new found grief came new struggles. Doubt and uncertainty took the place of long-held assurances. Things that I once thought couldn’t touch me or the ones I loved became real. And I found myself navigating without a compass.

My faith remained. In tatters, but it remained. And I wasn’t at all sure how to rebuild it in the midst of the greatest challenges my mind and emotions had ever faced, both with my loss and with the necessity of opening my mind for the first time. If I was going to make the most of the sacrifices being an adult college student would require of me, I was going to have to be open to the possibility that I might be wrong about some things.

During this time, I met someone that shattered every norm I had known about religion, gender, and sexuality. A fierce liberal and passionate Christian, I began to sit under the teachings of a female, lesbian priest.

In one of our first meetings, I remember asking her if she had trouble reconciling who she was with her faith.

She said she did not.

She wasn’t insulted, or didn’t appear to be. Though maybe she should have been. But maybe she recognized an honest question from a genuinely confused and curious soul.

As I got to know her and her wife, instead of our differences, I began to see more of our similarities. And I began to form a huge respect for the genuineness I saw within her. She was one of the first people I had ever met in a position of religious authority that stepped on my toes not from questioning whether or not I read my Bible every day, but whether or not I was truly living out the grace and love of Jesus, and extending it, without conditions, to others.

She did that with her sermons. But mainly, just by being herself. Someone, I began to understand, she didn’t choose to be.

I drew closer to another gay friend during this time as well. Someone who is also unapologetically himself.

We became close enough that, when he and his partner became engaged, I was asked to speak at their wedding. And I did.

Later, I reconnected with a childhood friend who came out many years after we’d lost touch.

My circle of friends grew to include more and more gay human beings.

Soon, it was I that could no longer reconcile who I was to my faith.

For my final research paper, I wrote about Homosexuality and Religion. Exploring the topic from an academic standpoint while undergoing a transformation in my belief systems through new and rekindled relationships with people in the gay community was something of a watershed moment for me.

I continued to struggle with long held, legalistic and selective teachings from my past.

I prayed.

And in the end, I came to the realization that I had just been wrong.

Wrong about so, so many things.

If I was going to follow the teachings of Jesus, the ultimate authority on love, then I was going to have to make that my most important daily practice.

I find the Bible interesting and inspiring on many levels, but also recognize that the true “Word of God” was the One who has been there since the beginning of time.

“In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Now, when I hear people talk about “the word of God”, I think of Jesus. And I think of how His transformative love gave a voice to the voiceless. The oppressed. The outcast.

It is in that my soul has found a resting place.

You see, love really doesn’t require an understanding. Or a defense. Not real love.

By learning about homosexuality through a genuine curiosity and desire to understand, coupled with real, day-to-day interactions and building of relationships with gay people, both my mind and heart have grown.

I’m not who I was.

I am more than a disciple of religion. I am, by definition of “Christian”, someone who follows Christ.

When I began to walk in that, genuinely, for the first time, I began to understand the “persecution” that would entail.

And it came from, and still comes from, the same places it has since Jesus was crucified.

The “religious”.

I cannot change the minds and hearts of prejudiced people with arguments and debate.

I refuse to justify loving people, as they are, for who they are.

I simply love them.

I stand by them.

Stand with them.

And where once my pride was in my own “understanding”, I now find pride in the fact that I allowed those cornerstones to be leveled.

Because I would have missed so much if I had stubbornly held to a false religion that only offered the illusion of real, resurrection-style love.

I would have missed knowing, really knowing, some of the most beautiful people God created.

I thank God for my destruction.

And I thank God for my resurrection.

And I thank God for my gay friends that gave me a chance to really love them.

Better Days

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Coming on 13 years of marriage and blended family life next month. Ever closer to living a once-thought impossible dream.

Not just the building of a house – the physical structure – but the building of something bigger than that.

Together.

A unity that has been years in the making. One that has eluded us in so many ways before, now taking center stage in our lives and relationship.

A friend of mine put it best this week:

“It often doesn’t matter who or what pushed you to be better. Or how it happened. It is a simple blessing, nonetheless, that you ever had a reason to get better to begin with.”

We are each others’ reasons. We always have been. All 3 of us continue to learn how to be a better family. We’ve come such a long, long way.

This will be our front porch view. Watching the occasional car drive down the literal road-less-traveled. Sunset side. Home to deer and turkeys.

This will be the back porch view. Pictures don’t do it justice. SunRISE view. Overlooking pastures of rolling land and content bovine.

When we first started talking about building, there were so many things to discuss and figure out. And after talking to the contractor, I remember texting my dad and asking him if it was normal to feel so nauseated at the beginning of this process.

He assured me it was. And that it would continue. Until we spent the first night in the new house. I would know then, he assured me, that every challenge or stressor had been worth it.

My husband, daughter and I went out to see the dirt work yesterday. That’s all there is to see right now. Just the dirt. But standing there, on the ground where our new home will be, seeing it shaped and leveled and being prepared – the last two and a half months of frustration with the sale of our current house and delays and all of life’s aggravations suddenly shifted into perspective.

Our family, this meeting of the minds to create something of our own – it began to overshadow everything else.

The thing is, it isn’t as though we’ve been lost these last 13 years. Disconnected, at times. But never lost. But there is just something happening here that defies explanation.

Yes, it’s just a house. But it is so much more, as well.

Better days are coming. They’re already here.

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days
Cuz I don’t need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we’ll find better days……

“Two weeks”

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The sale of our home has encountered several delays. We were supposed to close a month ago but instead find ourselves signing yet another (our 3rd) contract extention.

It’s gonna happen, it’s just taking fordamnever.

But life isn’t on hold, even while our sale remains so.

My daughter has already completed one week of summer camp and is off this weekend for her 2 week visit with her dad.

And, in the midst of our hectic schedules these days, this is happening too:

So the dream is beginning to become reality, slowly but surely.

Writing, of course, has taken a back seat. I struggle to keep up with just my day-to-day responsibilities, let alone any artistic ventures.

But it is only for a season.

I won’t get *less* busy, but perhaps I’ll eventually get to a place where I can center long enough to write something beyond a mediocre life update.

In the meantime, I’m keeping up with you, my friends. Trying to comment when I can. Thankful for this outlet, whenever I can take a break for a moment and enjoy it.

Peace be with you.