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All Hallow’s Eve–on haints and scary stories

While the littles and I were visiting my dear Aunt a couple of days ago, they came across this in her play closet and pulled it out for me to see.

A puzzle from my Granny's I grew up playing with.

A puzzle from my Granny’s I grew up playing with.

Suddenly I was our Princess’ age, and I held out my hands, barely able to say the words, “Hand it to me. Please.”  But I did eke them out, and she handed it over.  My hands, the same ones that held it over thirty years ago, immediately set to work solving the puzzle without my brain really putting any work into it.  I had done it so many times before, so long ago, that the memory of how seemed to be in my fingers.

And then it was done.

Done.  My fingers remembered.

Done. My fingers remembered.

I asked my Aunt how long it had taken me, still dazed and overwhelmed with the memories that came up unexpectedly.

She laughed.  “Let’s go with 87 seconds.”

I’ve still got it.

I did finally let my littles play with it.

A place from the past--my Granny's house.

A place from the past–my Granny’s house.

In those moments of first seeing it and working the puzzle out, I was transformed back to this place, my Granny’s house.  And once again, my heart ached with the longing for that place, that time, when things were simple and my worst fear was losing one of Granny’s matchbox cars in a frog house or…..nope, that’s it.  I loved everything there from waking up to Honeycombs and milk to sleeping on a pallet made of her old quilts in the living room with my cousins.  I miss it, her, those days.

So much so that yesterday I found myself taking a quick detour.  I turned left off the main road and drove up that old dirt road, the same one I first rode my bike solo on.  And there, in the midst of some overgrown grass, was one of the houses that built me.  I got out of my vehicle and stood, not wanting to go any closer and disturb the memories that are tucked away inside.  I just looked and remembered.  I could almost hear the sound of children playing and cows mooing and Granny calling us in for dinner.  I could feel the warmth of the sun through the window and from the old heater at our backs.

Today, being Halloween and all, some folks like to talk about ghosts and “haints,” as some of my favorite writers call them.  Folks like to tell scary stories and sit on the edge of their seats until there’s nothing left to do but scream, run away, or pass out.

Growing up, we used to tell the story of the 13 steps over and over during this time of year.  There were others that were passed around from one to another, but as I grow older, I know that ghosts are real.

The ghosts of the past–the memories of times there at my Granny’s are very real.   If I had opened the door to that house, had it been okay, I might have seen us gathered around a Monopoly board on the floor, my three older cousins and myself.  I would have heard us challenging each other to do the puzzle, and the one with the smile that was so much like his Daddy’s, once again, he’d be here, and not gone.  And I would take more time to memorize his face, his voice, and to tell him how much I always was in awe of him.

I would have seen the cabinet over in the corner, with the Tupperware containers of cereal inside.  The bowls on the shelf in the kitchen, waiting for us to pull one down and fill up each morning–was breakfast ever more fun that at her house?  With the anticipation of what we had planned for the day and the smell of sunshine enticing us to hurry up and eat so we could head outside for hours and hours, with only a little more than our imaginations and each other to play with.

The sounds of laughter and the weekday afternoon Gunsmoke theme song might have echoed off the walls in the living room.  The breeze blowing through the window in the front bedroom was the sweetest I’ve ever felt.  Thinking about it now makes me weep, longing to be there in that exact moment when I looked up from my newfound copy of Witch of Blackbird Pond and saw the white curtain billowing perfectly away from the window as the breeze bowed, danced, and dipped the curtain, as though they were partners at a fancy ball.  It took my breath then over thirty-five years ago, and it still does now.

Ghosts are real, but they don’t scare me.  I am surrounded by them every day.  Memories and sounds and smells and tastes and stories–all lingering from the past. What does scare me more than anything else is the thought of living without so many of those I loved in these memories–for the rest of my life.  That knocks the wind out of me.  I just have no idea how I’m supposed to do that.

Tonight I’m thankful for the ones who are here, who share my love of the past and also love those who have headed on Home.  I give thanks for precious memories, worn paper-thin from my playing them out over and over and over again in my heart.  I appreciate the ghosts of the past, and all of the love and comfort I feel when I sit with them for a bit.

Today is All Hallow’s Eve, and tomorrow is All Saint’s Day.   A good day to remember and give thanks for those who are no longer with us in the way they once were.  Tomorrow I will light a candle and remember.  Much as I do every other day.   Remember.  

Ghosts?  Scary Stories?

Light a candle in the darkness, and never forget.  It comforts the soul like nothing else, and chases away the fears.

If only for a moment…..
Love to all.

 

Going Down the Fireman Pole–It’s a Big Deal

My little guy popped up out of the bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning.  As in, one second his eyes were completely closed and he was asleep, and the next he was sitting up and telling me his story.

“So I conquered one of my greatest fears…..I slid down the fireman pole.”

Sometimes I feel like I’ve walked in midway through a conversation he’s been having with me before I arrived.  Fireman pole?  He’d been having some kind of dream was all I could figure.  He continued on while I was trying to place what he was talking about.

“Wait, buddy, when was this? Did you dream it?”

He blew out an exasperated breath.

“No ma’am, see it was on the fireman pole.  Last night.”

Ummm?  Oh.  Yes.  The playground.

Last night was the last time for swim practice out in the open air. They are putting up the bubble to keep the swimmers a little warmer as the chilly air is going to hit us this weekend.  The pool where our Princess practices is at a park with a really nice playground.  Cooter likes to go over and play, but I am very overprotective about keeping an eye on him and telling him he can only go so far and never out of my sight.  Since it was a nice evening and the playground wasn’t crowded and it was the last night, I let him go over and play.

“Okay, the playground.  I gotcha.  Go ahead.”

“Well, see I faced my fear.  I went down the fireman pole for the first time, and I did it better than another boy who had been going down it over and over.”  I nodded.  “It was because he holds on too tight.  I let go a little bit, and that makes it work just right.”

Well.

I guess it does.

Another life lesson out of the mouths of babes.

When we hold on too tight, it’s really hard for things to work just right.  For us to move in the right direction.

Yep.

Tonight I’m thankful for bright and cheery faces full of stories to share, even if it is first thing in the morning.  I’m thankful for the bravery of this one who faced his fears, all by himself.  And I give thanks for that smile.  The smile so full of joy over succeeding.  He’s learned something very important–the first step to any and every success is trying.  You can’t move anywhere–even down a fireman pole–if you don’t climb up there and take that first step.  Tonight I’m proud of my little guy’s 374th first step.  And that he wanted to share it with me?  Priceless.

Off to think about what first step I need to take–what I need to let go of just enough so I can move…..you?

Love to all.

 

Getting to Know Each Other

Each day is a new adventure around here.

These little people, these ones I’m responsible for raising?

Sometimes it seems like I’m learning something new about them every day.

Yesterday I had a special art project planned.  (Thank you Pinterest.)  After reading a book about spiders together, we were going to each draw a web with markers and then, using thumb prints and paint, we would add a spider or two to our web.  Some days I get so excited about having it all together.

Until the day begins.

We started off with our Princess reading the spider book aloud.  I told Cooter to take a turn.  He got to the facts at the end of the book, and my baby girl lost it.  She ran out of the room and was crying.

What on earth?

She was very upset.  The facts had, in fact, “grossed her out,” and Cooter, realizing this, reveled in reading each one slower and louder than the one before.  As we could hear her in her room crying, he said, “I do believe she is  *sounds it out* a-rach-no-pho-bic.  Arachnophobic!  She is ARACHNOPHOBIC!!!!!”

Yes, thank you.  I am aware.

Now.

I finally coaxed her back out on the porch where we were gathering to do our lessons.  I showed them how to start the art project.  Still green around the gills and teary-eyed, Princess slowly and diligently drew her web, sniffling and sighing loudly the whole time.

Such fun I had planned.

Cooter threw some squiggles on a page and called it done.  I told him it wasn’t and had him redo it.  All the while my girl was miserable.  I got out the paint and a little plastic lid and poured some on it.  I just knew she would get into this.  Thumbprint art.  Who doesn’t love that?

Apparently her.

Princess' one spider--and she's done.  They will add the legs tomorrow.  Or not.  No need to relive the upset.

  Princess’ one spider–and she’s done. They will add the legs tomorrow. Or not. No need to relive the upset.

Cooter's happy spider family on one web.  Not sure that can actually happen but okay.

Cooter’s happy spider family on one web. Not sure that can actually happen but okay.

She made one obligatory thumbprint spider and called it done.  Cooter, being the *ahem* kind brother he is, loaded his web up with lots of spiders–“a whole family”–and with each one, he said how much fun this whole thing was.

Yeah.  And you aren’t trying to rub this in your sister’s face at all, are you?

I thought about the “spider fiasco” a lot today.  I just knew my girl who loves Wild Kratts and other shows about animals and insects would embrace reading the book and learning new things.  Because she loves art, I figured the thumbprint spiders would have her wanting to draw and create more all day long.

But no.

Learning new things about my littles everyday…..

Yesterday afternoon we visited the local used bookstore.  While Cooter goes straight for the Star Wars section (yes, they have one) and Princess finds the American Girl books, I look through the homeschool section.  I found a few books in a series of biographies.  I like for them to read about real folks and hear their stories.  These were perfect for Cooter–not quite long chapter book, but not a short storybook either.  Perfect.

I was trying to figure out if he would even look at the books, so I chose one that I thought would most interest him.  He has been all about cars since before he could talk.  When I saw the book about Henry Ford, I knew we had a winner.  How could my boy who loves things that go so much not get excited about a man who was instrumental in car production?  I mean, Ford trucks built Ford tough.  My boy knows that.

I just knew this would be a hit.  *sigh*

I just knew this would be a hit. *sigh*

I quietly called him in from his perusal of the Star Wars books.

“Hey, buddy, look at this book!  Don’t you think it would be interesting?  Henry Ford?  Want to get this and read it?”

For one second–one whole second y’all–his face lit up and I saw myself accepting the Parenting Teacher of the Year Award.  (Well, you know, if there were such a thing.)  Yes, he was going to read something about a real person and this would spark his desire to learn more, know more–just YES!  I was so happy.

And then he spoke.

“Ohhh, cool, is he related to Harrison Ford?”

#biggeststarwarsfanever

#mamadreamstoobigsometimes

“No.  No buddy, I really don’t think so.  He lived a long time ago and helped build the Ford cars.”

“Oh well then.  No ma’am.”  And he carried himself off to find another Star Wars book.

I know, I could have forced the issue.  But just coming off of forcing arachnid learning, I just didn’t have it in me.  I let it go, put the book back, and we left without a single educational book for my boy.

*sigh*

The thing is, while I missed the mark big time not once, but twice yesterday, I am intrigued that my littles are steadily becoming people I get to continue getting to know.  They are changing and growing and evolving, and I think that is pretty doggone awesome.  I mean, I don’t know them so well that they can’t surprise me.  I find that kind of fun, and I look forward to a lifetime of getting to know them a little better every day.

In the meantime, I’ve added to the “what I do know” about my children list.  Our Princess, who seems to have some interesting sensory issues–certain words are problematic for her and can upset her for days, does not “do” spiders.  (And I thought I was an arachnophobe–she puts my worries to shame!)  Cooter, who is truly one of the biggest star wars fans ever, is very serious about it.  So if anyone can do some family tree lineage and discover that Henry and Harrison Ford are, in fact, related, I sure would appreciate it.

Tonight I’m thankful for my crew who keep it interesting.  I give thanks for the privilege of being their Mama and their teacher, though there are times one might hear me express less than enthusiastic feelings about that second one.  (If they’d only sit down and get it done–it really shouldn’t take all day…..)  I love that I get to learn so much about them, and that they teach me more about the world than I could ever have imagined.  They are really the teachers, but don’t let them know that.   There are still a few things I need to teach them before I send them out into the world to figure out all the rest.

 

May we all discover something new and wonderful about someone we love.

Love to all.

 

To Dust or Not to Dust

My number one chore growing up?

Dusting.

Ugh.

We all took turns unloading the dishwasher.  Somehow the bathroom was always clean or, well, mostly.  I remember washing out the tub regularly, but it was never MY chore.  We rotated vacuuming and things like that, but dusting?

When you said dusting in our house, folks automatically thought of me.

Every Saturday.

Back in the days of Saturday morning cartoons, I would run out during commercial breaks and do as much as I could in another room, posting my baby brother as a sentry to “holler” when the show was coming back on.  It’s amazing, and you might not believe it, but that living room was the best dusted room in the house.

The others?

Not so much.

I had some “viewing” to do.

I miss Saturday morning programming.  (Thunder?  Isis?  Shazam?  HR Pufnstuf?  The Jetsons?  Those were great shows!)   But I digress.

Occasionally I had the choice of staying inside and dusting or going out and mowing.  I didn’t let the door hit me as I raced outside.  I wasn’t sure who picked up my slack inside at the time, but now I have an inkling.

No one.

I may hear differently from Sister, Mess Cat, or Bubba, but I learned in just the past few years that perhaps Mama was overdoing it, having me dusting every. single. Saturday.

A few years ago we were on the phone.   She used her special word that she and my great Aunt would say when they had done something they really didn’t want to do, but now felt awesome about having done it.  “I’m feeling pretty sanctimonious,” she said.  “I just dusted the whole house.  It’s been a few weeks.”

Excuse me?  Mama who had me dusting every week say what now?

Yep.  She no longer dusted the house weekly.  Which is why I’m pretty sure she let it go when I was out there mowing.

And I thought I was getting the better end of the deal.

Eh.  Considering all the stories I made up in my head while I was out there, I probably did.  I loved mowing grass.

Last night my dearfriend whose name is not Shirley jokingly complained that someone she’d hired to come sit with her Daddy did housework and even dusted her house while she was there.  “And I just wanted her to sit with my Daddy!”

“Yeah, who wants their house dusted?” I laughed.

“I know.  I had it all set and ready for Halloween,” she joked back as she waved bye.

Huh.

You know, that’s an idea.

Today I noticed, as I was looking for our copy of Be Nice to Spiders on our bookshelves, that it’s been a little while since I dusted.  Probably even longer than Mama ever let her house go.  And we all now know she was a slacker when it came to dusting.   Yep, it needs a good dusting job.

But wait.  There’s Halloween coming.  It does lend a spooky sort of air to things.

So I decided to wait until next week.  And then I saw someone post how few Fridays there are until Christmas (just stop it y’all), and I thought about how cute it would be to have the dust there where little elves could leave footprints or write messages in it.  Maybe Santa will even leave a print himself?

Perfect!

So of course no dusting before Christmas, right?  And I can’t on New Year’s Day because whatever you do that day, you’ll be doing all year long and well, we canNOT have that.  At all.

Dust makes me think of a light dusting of snow too.  Perfect decoration for January.  And–best part–absolutely free.

And when February rolls around, we can all leave little love messages on the shelves and end tables and what not…..won’t that be sweet?

That’s really as far as I got in thinking about how useful it is to have a dusty house. (I mean, now I’m thinking about how deprived I was growing up.  A dust-free house? So sad.) But give me time.  I’m sure I’ll come up with something for March too.

And then spring housekeeping will hit.  Maybe that will be the perfect time to dust?

Tonight I’m thankful for the laughter I hear in my heart that I am sure is my Mama.  She and Daddy always called me on my procrastinating, and I know she’s shaking her head at me now.  “Just go on and get it done, T. Annie,” she’d be saying, I’m sure.  “You’ll feel so much better after you’re through.  You might even feel sanctimonious.”

Ha.  I just might.

In the meantime, I’m worn out.  Coming up with valid reasons not to dust my house has slap worn me out.

Wishing you all some silly fun and well-intentioned procrastinating success.  Love to all.

 

the girl behind the counter

from the outside looking in

I watched through the window as she stood behind the counter, always moving,

grabbing sandwiches, putting them in bags,

fixing drinks and grabbing the right-sized lid first try

(something I never seem to be able to do)

she was all about the job

and the customer

the ones who saw her as the final step between

them and their supper

 

did they see her tired eyes?

did they welcome the gift of her smile?

did they see more than an employee in front of them?

did they see the girl?

 

the girl, the young woman,

who works each night to pay for gas and classes and books

who, tomorrow morning, will rise before the sun is up

and drive to the campus

of the college she chose and loves

 

she and her team will practice

teamwork and footwork and laugh and play hard

preparing for Saturday’s big game

later she will go to classes and listen and take notes,

holding back a yawn,

leftovers from a long night of working

and a later night of studying

 

after class there’s the paper to write

and the mid-term to prepare for

friends to meet and share notes with

research to do in the library

 

before she makes the drive back home

to change and get ready to work

to cook our suppers and serve with a smile

 

this young woman,

who works so she can learn

and get the education that will give her a head start

as she prepares for a life on her own

 

this young woman whose diploma one day

will make her smile

and bring back memories and all the stories

and just might smell faintly of chicken sandwiches and fries

and hard work

and service with a smile

 

and she will go places

not because of the diploma

but because of the drive that earned her

that piece of paper

and so much more

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Love That Wonky Pumpkin

Today our Princess decided it was pumpkin carving day.

She has been so excited about the prospect since she picked hers out at the Pumpkin Patch last Saturday.  Then on Thursday we found a pumpkin carving kit at the GW Boutique.  That thing has been burning a hole in her proverbial pocket ever since.

Today was the day.

I get it.  This is the first time she’s ever carved a pumpkin.

Mine too, as best as I can remember.

I have a vague recollection of Mama cleaning one out and carving it many, many years ago when I was very small.  My thinking is, after being a part of the carving today, that it was just too messy for her to want to deal with, what with four small children underfoot.

We all gathered out on the front porch as Princess traced a circle with a Sharpie around the top for the cut out.  Her friend Miss C was over, and she liked to offer her guidance.  *ahem*  I gently suggested that maybe she could let our girl do it her own way since I assumed Miss C had already carved her own (and expertly so, I’m thinking, from the suggestions she offered).  She graciously backed off with the suggestions for a few minutes but was sure to inform me that she was going to carve hers later tonight.

As my girl worked on cutting a hole in the top of the pumpkin with the orange tool that had all the sharpness of a dull butter knife, she chattered away happily.  Life is such a dream for this child of mine.  Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.  Everything is the “best ever,” and today was the best ever because she was carving her very own pumpkin by her very own self for the very first time.  Ever.

She’s pretty awesome like that.  I think she got it from my Mama.  That whole “finding so much joy in everything” thing.

After scooping out the innards, something she let her friend help her with, she was ready to design the face.  She drew triangles on, again with the Sharpie, which in hindsight might not have been the best idea.  When one was a little higher and bigger than the other, she tried to redraw it, not realizing at first that redrawing wouldn’t help.  The lines would still be there.  Her friend made one suggestion after the other.  I was about to interject again, when my girl said, “No, it’s okay, thanks though.  I like the way it looks.  They eyes will just look a little creepier and spookier this way.”

I am so proud of her.  So secure and confident in what she was creating.

I’m proud of me too.

I didn’t say one word as she drew the nose.  “I want it to be a square,” she said.  And the next thing I know, this “mouth-sized” rectangle was sitting below the two wonky eyes.  I so wanted to suggest she make it into the mouth and not worry about a nose, but I didn’t.  This is huge for me.  My Joyful friend and I used to congratulate each other when we let our children create without all the assistance and guidance (okay, we were intent on redoing the whole thing) when Aub and her girls were little.  So to be able to sit back and enjoy the creation and keep my mouth closed?

HUGE.

Her friend actually did suggest the whole make it a mouth and create a smaller nose above it idea.  Wondering how my girl would react, I again sat back and listened.

Princess did not disappoint.  “No, I really want to make the mouth below there.  And I like the nose.  Lots of light will show through.”

IMG_5236

And she carved away.

The only thing I had to help her with (don’t judge me please) was getting the mouth out without losing the teeth.  She hadn’t cut it quite all the way through and it threatened to turn into a crescent shaped mouth.  But she had carved the teeth, so I wanted her to have them.  A few more sawing motions and gently sliding it out, voila!

IMG_5242

Done.

Mr. Jack O’ Lantern was finished.  A bit wonky, but that only makes him creepier.  And spookier.

Don’t you think?

Tonight I’m thankful for the privilege of raising these precious children.  I’m thankful for this middle one who is as full of sweetness as she is spunk, which makes for a sparkling combination.  I give thanks that she is confident and creative and strong, and I am happy she can hear criticism and kindly continue doing her own thing.  Most of all, I’m happy that what made her most excited about creating her very own jack o’lantern all by her very own big self was putting a light in it and watching it shine in the darkness.

IMG_5249

 

IMG_5251

Because you know what?  She has a gift for that.  Letting her light shine, especially in the hard and sad times.

She got that from my Mama too.

Love to all.

The One About Being Recognized

Our Princess had a swim meet today.

Out.  Of.  Town.

It was kind of a big deal.

We’ve never done this before, after all, and anytime you do something for the first time…..well, it can be a little crazy.

I was helping her pack towels, robe, water bottle, goggles, swim cap…..

and doing her hair so said swim cap would fit.  No easy feat.

I did my usual OCD round of making sure doors were locked and things unplugged and fixed my own cup of water.

And we were off.  Like a herd of turtles, as the Fella often says.

Nearly two hours later we arrived.  Big city stuff,  y’all.  Big indoor pool, with more lanes than I could count, but I’m guessing around 25.  HUGE.

We immediately discovered that those of us attending as fans had overdressed a bit.  We were dressed for the cooler weather in our jeans and long-sleeved shirts.  We stood out among the locals who knew better and were in shorts and t-shirts.  It was h-a-w-t, hot in there.

It was a lot of fun though.  So much going on to see.  So many folks to people watch.  And then there was our Princess herself.  From our seats on the upper level, we had a birdseye view of her dancing around between her heats, always the ballerina at heart.  She found friends to sit and talk and play with, and she was her usual self, full of a joy for life that I often find myself envying.

During one lull, I needed to stretch my legs.  I went downstairs, where it was MUCH cooler, and visited the little girls’ room.  There was no one else in there.  When I opened the door to exit the stall, there was a big grinning face waiting on me.  Before I could completely register who it was, this girl, who is on the verge of being as tall as I am, grabbed me and gave me a full on bear hug.

My baby girl.

“Isn’t it funny running into you in here?” she laughed.

“How did you know it was me in there?” I asked her, still a little overwhelmed.

“Well, I came in here and I heard you jingling.  I thought, ‘I know that jingle,’ so I looked at your shoes just to be sure, and there you were!” She was tickled with herself.

My jingling.  That’s how she knew me.  My special, one of a kind jingle.   That’s precious right there.  We go through our days not realizing how what we wear or put on or spray on could be imprinting someone else with the essence of us.  But it does.  The smell of Jergen’s lotion still brings my Mama closer.

A year and a half ago my oldest bought me a Mother’s Day gift all on her own, with her own money–ordered it from the internet and everything.  It was a  necklace with a charm on it that said “mama,” surrounded by sweet things that Mama’s do.  Since that time I’ve added a charm with “family” and a heart and another circle that has the names of my three children on it.  I wear it everyday, and when I think about it, I realize it does jingle.  A lot.  But I hardly notice it anymore.

Until today.

Tonight I’m thankful for my sweet girl and her love of swimming.  Just as her older sister did, she is taking me on adventures to see new places and learn new things, all because of who she is and what she loves.  I’m thankful for the gift of my beautiful necklace that describes my greatest challenge and favorite role in life, all in one–being their Mama.  And I give thanks for being accosted by a big goofy smile on a beautiful face that knows me…..because she loves me enough to pay attention to what makes me me.

May we all have someone who recognizes our jingles, and whose jingle we could pick out of a crowd.  That’s the really good stuff, isn’t it?  That’s love.

 

Love to all.

 

 

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... a place for sojourners walking this spiritual path called life

Tales of a Wesleyanne

one girl's journey from Horrible Hannahbelle to College student

Centering Down

finding balance and grace in the midst of life

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