Winter Bucket List

I recently ran across the bucket list that the kids made for last summer. It was full of all the standard stuff; splash pad trips, picnics, camp-outs. There were also some things clearly inspired by a momma who is happier on the run; climbing at Taylor’s Falls, exploring someplace we’ve never been, watching the stars. We really did a great job this past year of crossing a lot of great adventures off our list. I am so grateful to have had those opportunities and to have checked them off and more. I walked away full of happy memories, but later I began to wonder why I never make a Winter bucket list with the littles?

Well, I mean, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. When you despise something as much as I hate the season of frozen darkness, why would you ever make big plans for that time? For some reason this thought stuck with me. I decided that I’d write it out, sort of a winter must-do list and I’ve decided to share it here with you. This isn’t exactly an inspired list, and you won’t find me trekking through snow drifts all too often because of it. It’s a good list for me though, and even just looking at it makes me smile big!

Here it is, my list of twelve winter must-do’s; enjoy!

Burn big fires on the deck in the snow as many nights as possible.                                     This lovely fire devolved into an awesome snowball fight for my sweet husband and two of the children, the teeny and I went inside to make pizza where it was warm and there was little chance of getting pelted with flying snow. Having fires on our deck brings joy to the people that I love and I love that we all stand out there together even when it’s thirty-three degrees outside.

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Let the littles sleep under the Christmas tree lights.                                                                While this photo is adorable, these children did not sleep here. The littlest had an absolute meltdown and her daddy had to tuck her into her cozy bed. The second child came in ten minutes after I laid down and told me he could not possibly sleep upstairs. Only the oldest of the three managed to sleep under the Christmas tree lights. Not only that, but momma had a meltdown for herself because, “Why can’t I just let them do a sweet thing and make a freaking memory for crying out loud?!”. One year I know that this will happen, clearly we are not there yet, but hopefully it really does happen someday.

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Go someplace new.                                                                                                                               I’m not sure where we will go…we lightly considered loading up and heading to Texas for a Johnnie’s playoff game this weekend. That would’ve been cool, but it was a little unrealistic with such short notice. I guess we’ll have to think of someplace else to head off to. Suggestions welcome!

Lay in the sunshine as it slants through the front windows.                                                The dog is an expert at this. When the children were smaller we would sit on the living room floor and enjoy our after lunch read aloud time. I can’t remember doing this since the teeny came along though. It is something that I really want to get back to. Seriously, if you can’t go outside because it is so cold the sun should at least shine down on you in your living room.

Actually go sledding.                                                                                                                          We have gone once this year, on a half inch of snow, like we were in Georgia and had never seen snow before. I don’t quite know how I got roped into this, but it was a good day outside in the frosty air. I would like the children to go actual sledding though, on deep snow, down the big hill in the park. They love it and with snow pants on it’s really not that bad. We have gone a few times, but not since the teeny could enjoy it, which means it’s been far too long. This is our year.

 

Read more books aloud.                                                                                                                     Because, well, why not?

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Keep the driveway shoveled.                                                                                                          A modifier for this one as well, I will insist that my children keep the driveway shoveled well. This may seem unfair or a little harsh to some of you, but really, these children have boundless energy, they tear around my house knocking things over, jumping on the sofa’s…they can totally shovel the driveway.

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Eat less junk food.                                                                                                                                Somehow we have become a family who eats far too many “snack” foods. I know this began with my lack of desire to make dinner in the summer and was magnified by camping-life, but it has gotten out of hand. I can’t handle it, my body starts to scream out at me when I eat so much sugary/salty/fatty food. It really does, I’m not exaggerating at all. So the snacks just need to stop. My family has been a little annoyed by this, questions like; “why are there no chips?!” may have been asked. I feel like soon they will have all adjusted and come back to the light side (where we don’t have cookies, but we also don’t feel like shit all of the time)…maybe.

Be overly-kind to as many people as possible.                                                                           I want to do things like; make the frazzled barista smile. Give candy canes to the cashier at Aldi. Take cookies to the librarians. We have practiced this for a few Advent seasons now, but this year I want to outdo myself. I hope to inspire my littles to go above and beyond with their kindnesses and to challenge myself to simply give. Even when I don’t feel like it or think that I won’t be able. We are so richly loved, I want to do more to share that love. We took out our Advent calendar today and filled the pockets with opportunities to “do” instead of “get”, it made me proud to watch the littles decide when we would complete each of the nice things. Watch out, we may just get you with our RACK’s this year!

Write many more words.                                                                                                                    I’ve talked about this at length. There are no necessary words here, I want to write and so I need to simply sit here with my laptop and write. I’ve managed to find a direction I want to go for now, a path I’d like to follow through the snow. We shall see how it goes.

Plant a pot of succulents, or craft a terrarium.                                                                           We did this last Winter. The pretty little succulent ended up dead, because of course. I put the sad, dead, terrarium out on the deck and, as there was a broken place in the jar, the rain got in and we ended up creating a swamp. This was a really cool thing to watch over the Summer months. I’d really like to keep a plant alive in a terrarium environment though. I feel like a succulent might be more realistic because I can provide more care and control while a terrarium is supposed to be planted and left to survive on it’s own. However the whole idea of a dessert type terrarium is a little overwhelming to me, so we’ll probably just get a nice little potted cactus.

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Play the radio more-even if the house is loud.                                                                          This is something I have always struggled with. Silly right? I love to have the children sharing my space, playing, singing, even arguing, but they are so loud all of the time that I never turn the radio on. It always seems like extra noise. No sooner than I flip on the volume, do two of my kids decide to have an epic Nerf battle or someone is melting down because her Lego creation was destroyed. I can’t handle it. The radio adds this extra layer of sound that makes me want to pull my hair out. I want to turn the music on, it will help my mental state to do so. I am determined to find a way to make this happen. Perhaps I’ll report back with progress as the season progresses.

Well, there you have it. While I wish this list said; ; “drive as far South as is possible while still remaining state side…”. I am pleased with it anyway. I may print the bullet points and post them on my fridge. Am I alone in making a Winter bucket list? What would you add to your own list of Winter fun-time activities? Let me know, maybe I’ve missed something that will provide that ever-elusive Winter-joy.

 

 

 

 

The Reasons I’ve Not Been Writing

I don’t know if you’re wondering where I’ve been. Are you curious why there are no ramblings coming from my tiny clearing in the internet forest? Truth is, I wish the words would come. I wish I still felt the need to write every damn morning. I had the desire for so long and I would get really upset when I didn’t drag myself out of bed early enough each day. If the littles beat me to the living room I knew my chances were shot, if I took too long sipping coffee I could just forget it.  There was so much from my past that I wanted to sort through, and writing it all out really did allow me to move past a mental place that I’d been stuck in for far too long. As I sit down to type these days, I find myself slipping. Slipping into this normalcy.

When I was trying to remember the who and why of me I could pour so much out and still feel like I wasn’t scratching the surface of all the emotions I wanted to explore. It took some time and while I’m certain that I didn’t share everything that I’ve been working through publicly, I am in a good place now. Mentally at least, the weather outside is indeed frightful and I am not looking forward to the next five months.

This sense of being in a positive place, has brought on the writing difficulties though. My life now is what I would call average, easier than it has been, well, probably ever. There is no drama or anxiety or fear gripping at me these days. Which means there is nothing much to write about. Not really anyway. When I write about my kids, which I have done in a couple of other places, I know without doubt that I don’t want that type of writing to become my norm (though this one about my girl is good; Growing Up). I love being a stay-at-home/homeschooling momma-like a lot, but sketching out these little pieces of my soul on paper for y’all is my escape, my break from that part of myself. I get fifteen-hundred words to tell you how I am not “just” a mother and that’s really important for me to remember. Writing about day to day mothering does nothing to fill my cup, I need to keep this outlet for my own self-expression.

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When I write about my garden or the seasons and my joy related to those things I am happy, but these topics aren’t personal. I don’t feel a connection with the people I write for and that is a big piece of why I write as well. I want to know I’m not the only one, I want to hear you say “you too?, I thought I was the only one…!”. I want to see that the time I steal is meeting people where they’re at and that the ramblings that I simply must get out of my head actually matter to someone other than me. I struggle to feel that when the writing is quiet and peaceful. I like to write about gardening and I have learned, or understood rather, some of my best lessons while surrounded by nature (read here for an example of that; Teacher Bees), but gardening is a different piece of my heart and it’s not the one I most want to express in written form.

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I’d like to write about the adventuring and the travel and a life lived differently (this one is pretty good; Little Adventures), but we still aren’t there. Winter in Minnesota doesn’t favor much in the way of exploring (though we have been doing fairly well so far). At least not for a girl who does not want to go out in the cold for more than an hour or so a couple of times each week, and so my opportunities to write about wanderings are fewer and farther between. This is painful to admit. Primarily because the travelling sustained me over the Summer, I rarely felt like running. I felt connected to the earth and was trusting my place in it. Now the most mystical thing in my life is my Pinterest page full of poetic quotes and lush, forest landscape photos. That is sad to type out here friends.

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And so there are no words to share to you each week. No thoughts that beg me to give them a voice. No aching in my heart of hearts to cobble out a little quiet space and scribble these sentences…which causes me heartache, because I miss it so.

I miss it so.

I recently began giving my ten-year-old writing prompts at her request. She wants to write and she asked for help in becoming a better writer. I feel that I may need to follow her lead. I may take this space and this outlet and start writing some decidedly random (can I get much more random do you think?) articles or pieces of thought. I feel like perhaps that will lead me to what I want to share here, and that it will help me find that part of myself that I want to share with you all. I hope it will anyway. As the next few weeks come and go I further hope something that I give my time to will reach you, but I’m warning you it may get sketchy for a stretch.

I’m not afraid to set the writing aside if that’s what’s needed, but I keep coming back to it. Because I do, I feel that I should sit with it awhile, try to decide if there are words that have value still needing to be expressed. Or if there is something else out there for me, waiting to be discovered once this medium has fulfilled its need. I feel like whatever is next is right there on the edge of my consciousness, just waiting for me to catch up. I’ve asked myself to be patient and not rush along, I have time to understand what is next.

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I realize that I am in a waiting season again and I am comforted, I’ve been here before. It’s a quiet space to take the time needed to grow, to decide, to trust myself again. The waiting season will always remind me of my garden, hidden under the frozen ground, waiting for a Spring thaw to wake it back up…the plants will be healthy and strong from this time of rest and I can come out of this Winter full of the knowledge and peace that I’m looking for. Perhaps this is what the lack of writing is helping me with?

 

 

 

If For No Other Reason Than; My Heart Needed the Words

I cut my hair today. I had almost done it a few days ago, but I couldn’t find my scissors. Today I knew right where they were and I quickly snipped four or five inches off of the ends. If we are not friends in real life, it’s important that I pause here and tell you that I have a lot of hair, so the few inches I cut are really not that big of deal.

Or so I thought.

Before I cut my hair I suspected that I would regret it. I did it anyway because as Autumn’s endless layers have already proven, long hair and cold weather seasons do not go together. My hair had been what I would call “difficult to manage” before I had to pull on sweatshirts, sweaters, coats, and scarves. Now, on the occasion that I tried to brush through it, I just broke brushes with the tangles. Literally. My hair needed a serious trim and so I went on ahead and did what needed doing. Now though, I feel much more soccer-mom than gypsy-princess. It’s sort of bumming me out.

 

 

I know, I know, you don’t come here to read about my hair issues. Tiny apologies sent out to those of you who won’t make this connection, I know it’s a stretch. As I went to toss my recently snipped locks into the compost pile, I couldn’t help but feel like those strands were still a part of me. My mind quickly drifted to all of the other things I have cut out of my life over the years, how they still felt like part of me at the time. As I walked back up to the house in the late afternoon sunlight I continued to think how easy it is and how hard it is at the same time.

It’s sort of like this; you decide one day that you really are done with this, this whatever-it-is, it is suffocating or irritating or endlessly entangling, and you do the easy part. Speak the words that cut the line, the ones that burn the bridge, the words that sever. Then, hopefully, you follow through and do the hard part, you walk away, back to the house to pack up or lock the door or shed the tears. This is good, honest, soul-work.

It’s weird that I got here from a trim, isn’t it?

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When I think about the hard things, the big things that I’ve done to end relationships or endeavors, I often think about the regret I felt immediately after the fact. The fear rushed in and I could see all of the reasons that what I just did or said was wrong. In the looking back though? It is the times that I didn’t follow through, the times I didn’t let that bridge burn that I carry the most regret over. The bravest I ever have been has been when I have done just exactly what I said I would. In those moments I have developed the most respect for myself. Trusting myself is something I have to agree to daily. As I look back I can see that my initial response was nearly always correct, this observation alone should shut-up my internal negativity…though it does not always. It’s because of the words.

The words have often come too quickly for even me. They spill out before I think them over. I frequently apologize and even more often have to lie awake at night thinking over how some thing I said sounded to someone else. I have spent seasons praying that God would guard my tongue. I have spent what seems like millennia sitting quietly after a man told me to “sit there and wait” with an angry scowl on his face.

However, this is the message I now accept as truth:

God does not want me to be silent. He has allowed my voice to cause trouble, to raise questions, to make people uncomfortable. He is not worried by my words. Yes, I know that Ephesians 4:29 tells us to “…Not let any unwholesome talk come from your mouths…” I do,  I really, really do. I also know in my very heart that speaking passionately will not get me cast out of His embrace. That following those passionate words up with equally passionate actions will not cause me to lose His favor. If anything this world could use more passion and I am still aiming to fill it with a bit more of my mine despite my unguarded language.

***

I once thanked my ex for allowing me to sit in the truck while he unstuck it all of those times, because if I hadn’t have sat there I probably never would have

A) left his unkind self or

B) learned how to back my own truck up without getting stuck in the snow.

All of those things are good things. All were hard to sit with, hard to follow through on, hard to learn. My ex was not appreciative of my thanks and, in looking back, I probably used some harsher than necessary words. This too is something that I am now okay with, those harsh words spoken in the ecstasy of knowing that I could do something by myself-something that I had been told repeatedly that I could not do- were the exact words I needed to hear in that moment. Me. Myself. My heart needed these words, and isn’t that enough? The regret in saying them because he may have realized some wrong he may have committed was far over-shadowed by the joy in my self-realization.

Peace flows in at the merest remembrance of this moment. My words did that.

***

After a little more than a year of pouring my heart out onto the page , I know that my words can mean something to you too, and I am both grateful that y’all listen to the ramblings and amazed at what you pull from their inconsistencies. God does not need me quiet, He may want a specific message to pour out from me to you, but a message takes words; written, spoken, heard…not silence. I’m learning to think over my words a little more these days, I try to use the words that will heal more often than the words that will hurt. Ultimately, truth is my goal and although I have yet to master delivering the truth in a syrupy sweet way, I will still speak it.

I often tell people that my hair means little to me, that it just “is”. Sure, it’s a part of me, a piece of who I am, but I don’t give it all that much thought. Today that feels less true. I haven’t cut my hair since I was pregnant with my teeny. That teeny will turn four-years-old next week, the ends I snipped today have been with me through a lot of spiritual growth. It really was time for some of those old memories, ancient hurts, and tired feelings to be let go of. Right now I feel lighter without them weighing me down, hopefully I can still feel good about it when I look in the mirror tomorrow. That’s the trick isn’t it? Still loving yourself when you look in the mirror, regardless of the truth you may have spoken?

Reading, Writing, and Wandering

“…That it is possible to live in a different way: in your own way, part of the world, but not imprisoned by the rules. That you can know the ropes and yet not be hemmed in by them. That you can dwell alongside the mainstream, while not being part of it.”

From: The Stopping Places by Damian Le Bas

 

Isn’t that it though? What I have spent hours and days and pages trying to figure out for and about myself suddenly appears there in a book while reading late into the night. It continues to surprise me -especially when I stumble across a paragraph that seems to have been written on  my very soul- that so many other people feel similarly. I suppose I know that I am not all that unique, not so unusual, but still. The words will occasionally be more than I can handle. They will be so closely related to my own hearts writing that it skips a beat.

I get lost in a good book. Let’s be honest, I get lost in a mediocre book too. As I read the words really do disappear and the story plays in my mind like on an old reel projector. Friends are always recommending these “self-help” books, these relevant-to-my-SAHM/homeschooling-life types of books. While I will read most of those, or at the very least skim through them so that I can absorb the most helpful parts, I don’t want to read these types of books. I mean, I do want to be my best self and I know that educating myself on my chosen way of parenting and teaching has value, it’s just that these books don’t make me want to stay up until the wee hours of the morning wrapped in their words and a blanket.

I want to read some deep fantasy over a thousand pages long. A story so enveloping the world becomes real to me. I want to have a physical ache for the characters when they die or when I come to the last page and realize that our relationship ends when I close the cover. I want to be so enamored with a book that tears freely fall from my eyes, that I gasp out loud, that I can not physically put it down. There is a deep connection when you read a good book. I would propose that the works of fiction teach us just as much about ourselves as any self-help book out there. That they are capable of teaching us more even, if we read them carefully, allowing ourselves to become a part of the story.

“A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic” -Carl Sagan 

I’ve written about books before. I am kind of stuck right now, I have these words that I’d like to pour out, but also I am happy just thinking my thoughts, just talking to my husband, just living out what I’ve tried to spell out over the past year or so. That piece of myself that has been writing about wandering, about getting lost on back roads, about breathing deeply has actually been doing those things. It’s been really good. Not in the way that vacationing is good, but in the way following your heart is good.

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After having read two books and several articles about why nature is important in our daily lives I was done reading about what I knew to be true, and so we went out and we lived it. This Summer has been a season of adventure and the adventures have been bold and loud and fulfilling. This Summer has been one that I have ached for, it has taught me so much about myself, it has me slowing down so that I don’t get to the last page too quickly. Because even though I know the story doesn’t end as the seasons change, it still feels remarkably akin to the last chapter in a book when you know the next in the series is still a year away from release. You want to savor every chapter, every paragraph, you simply don’t want it to be over.

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The comparisons that I’m trying to make are not super clear, I know. As I mentioned the story is here, in my head, but it’s maybe not ready to be written. Perhaps there are more pages in this book of Summer yet to live first? I sure hope so. I would come back to something that I believe I’ve shared on this page before. How the path we walk doesn’t really dead-end when we think it does. How we may need to rest or to look for awhile, but the next step is already there, we only have to be willing to move our feet. Much like the next good book to get lost in. It is likely already written, even if I’m not ready to leave one fictional world for the next, it’ll be there when I am. Yeah, it’s a reach…but it’s good to be back here writing again. I’ll get something better out to y’all soon.

in the end, she became more than she expected. she became the journey, and like all journeys, she did not end, she simply changed directions and kept going. -R.M. Drake

 

Writing to Myself

…and so I stood there. In that normal place. The place I had been expected to stay, the place I truly thought I wanted to be, the place where I was supposed to end, but probably not the place I was supposed to “middle”. The place I was terrified to leave.

Turns out?

Walking is as easy as staying…leaving as hard as being still. …

There’s more to this piece of a poem that I wrote for my soul alone. But it’s mine, part of a chapter from the book of me that I don’t read out loud. I can’t help but fear that if I share it, the words will suddenly lose their meaning. I want to hold tight to the words, to the emotion that pours out of them even still when I reread them to myself.

I’ve been learning about friends lately, going deeper into who they are, not satisfied with the how that they are. It seems that we are all the same, our own unique version of the same kind of crazy. While we’re broken, many of us have put ourselves back together in such a way that makes us more beautiful because of the cracks.

You know how you find yourself in a situation and you’re not sure how everything spiraled to this certain place? You feel alone. “No one else could be going through what I am going through!”, you shout to the cosmos. I want to offer a simple reassurance this day; you are wrong. Even if the ones you know aren’t telling you, even if their social media shares are filtered through a vibrant shade of rose, even if you feel completely alone in this place you are. You Are Wrong. Almost all of the women I am close with struggle in a similar way, and the ones who don’t? It is likely they will one day.

When I went through the brokenness of my first marriage ending, the joy of building a life I could love, even the struggles and joys of living this life, I thought I was alone.  But you know what? I was wrong. I didn’t know it then, but I wish I had. I am this woman today because I went through all of the shit without any women to share it with. My mother, my sisters, my dearest friends claimed they either did not understand, or said they could relate, but remained judge-y and worse, cruel. I know now that a lot of those women were afraid, they didn’t feel safe sharing the darkest parts of their own story. Some of them hadn’t gone through any difficulties yet. Knowing that allows me to forgive them, but it doesn’t make the time I spent frightened (of judgement) and alone (without the emotional support of friends) any easier. Where was the truth back then?!

I know that I may have been the first in my circle to do something hard, to walk toward my own truest self. Life has led me down winding paths and I have a mostly different circle now, but these women are the same as the friends I have lost. They are afraid too, if only in a different way. They don’t want too many people to know about the hard places in their marriages, the emptiness that is their normal, the ache that consumes them. They don’t want you to think less of them, to think that they are failing, or not strong enough even to hold together the family that they chose in their innocence. They don’t want you to know the secrets they keep because they don’t want you to judge them and leave. We are all afraid of something.

This morning I simply want my friends to know that they are not alone. I want you to know that you are not alone. Whatever it is in your life that you keep on hiding, whatever pages you don’t read aloud, whatever thing you think is too scary to share…Someone needs to hear your truth. I never really believed that until recently, but it is so true. We need to know that we are not alone, that our fear is less when we are brave enough to share our hearts. I’m thankful to the women who have spoken this to me, to the ones who have shared what they’ve gone through and to the women who have asked me to walk through their hard with them. I am fortunate to have these women beside me, I know.

While I’ve known for awhile now that all I have lived in my life has been leading me to here, I hadn’t really realized how all that I’ve lived would help me to be a better friend in this place. I guess I assumed that my difficulties and successes were to grow me into the best version of myself. I’ve been wondering for a little while now though if those same trials that I felt were deeply personal, were also meant to help someone else? To allow a woman to learn or know without having to walk the roughest portions of the path herself? Let me tell you that it is intimidating to think that the pieces of my life that were the deepest, the most felt moments, that those are the parts that someone, maybe you, need to hear.

I’m not ready this morning. Or at least not on this platform. I’ve been holding this fragile piece of my heart for a long while and I’m not ready to break it open in front of everyone just yet. But I am closer. I am less afraid to share my life with you than I was, because now I can see that my dark may be the light you need to get out of yours.

It is important for me to note here that I have been fortunate to walk the last several years of my story with a man whom I love deeply. Without him reminding me of the love of my Savior, without his own intense love for me, I would not have survived my own story. I know that I am extremely lucky to have him. He knows me and “gets me” and doesn’t try to change me. These are things I’ve needed my whole, entire life. I am more unapologetically myself because he gives me a loving place to be just that. Love and life are hard, but with him they are both easier. He is my proof that taking the hard path is ofttimes the best path…as long as you have a hand to hold along the way.

Friends, I’ll leave you with a few more lines I wrote to myself, which are sort of a compilation of a ton of different quotes that I’ve read over time pertaining to my life, all modge-podged together, made to be just what I needed to hear at some of lowest points;

…Daring Girl, if you get one life, how many Summers will you waste?                           

If you only get one chance to live, why aren’t you doing the thing that is truest to you? 

Why did you settle for okay?                                                                                   

Why did you allow a tether to be a lifeline?                                                     

Brave girl, if you find yourself in the wrong story, trust that you can leave.                 

It is possible to change direction, but stay on the same journey.                       

Sweet girl, this life is yours, you owe it to no one but yourself. …

These words have been mine. They have been for me for a long time now. But maybe? Maybe they’re for you too? I don’t know. We all have to choose our own yesses, our own no’s. Each of has to know where the middle of our own story should take place, we only get one book after all…there is no sequel to this life of mine, of yours. While my choices can’t be yours, I’ll be hoping that you can write the story that you want to read, craft the life that you want to live.

I’m here working on mine right now, and while there are certainly a few chapters back there that are difficult to read aloud, I know that books have the power to change us…if we’ll just open them up. I hope to do more of that, opening up, I mean. If not here in this place at least while in the presence of those who need to hear a few lines from my life.

 

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