Just a Bowl of Butterbeans

In the past week or two, I’ve had a couple of friends discussing favorite foods and they have asked me what “my people” ate.  Do I eat grits?  Yes.  Do I like okra?  Anyway you want to serve it–absolutely!  Chopped onions on my black-eyed peas?  Step back and watch me go.  Do I love buttermilk and cornbread?  While I know this used to be supper for my Daddy and his family sometimes and it’ll eat okay, my favorite is really cornbread and pot liquor.  I love fried okra, fried green tomatoes, and a big ol’ bowl of grits.  When the garden was in season it was not unusual for a pot of fresh picked snap beans with red potatoes and onions to be our supper with a slab of cornbread on the side.  I love me some home-cooked vegetables.

And this right here, this is my ultimate comfort food.

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Just a bowl of butterbeans.

And it’s not surprising really.

The memories in a bowl of these–feeds my soul for quite a while.

Of helping Daddy plant the garden.  Of beans drying on the floor in my Granny’s “cold” room in the winter for spring planting.  Of sitting in comfortable silence with Daddy when we picked–or having gentle conversation, as easy as the breeze that lightly blew in the evening air.  Of sitting with a fan blowing on us to help relieve the heat as Mama and I shelled them into a washtub.  Of watching Mama blanch the beans and put them on the towel to cool for freezing.  Of the times all I wanted to eat was a bowl of butterbeans.

Oh me.

I’ve been eating on this pot of butterbeans I cooked for a couple of days now.  And today it hit me what this weekend is and why I might need comfort a little more than usual.  My Daddy went in the hospital for the first leg of his battle against his Goliath five years ago this weekend.  Five years?  How can that be when I remember the details of that day so clearly?  How I made the calls and cried in the dark and told my brother I could not breathe if my Daddy was gone.

Just a bowl of butterbeans.

Here I am, five years later, and well, I guess I know better.  Daddy left this life over two years after that, but he is not gone.  He is in the summer evening breezes and the memory of conversations we used to have sitting outside watching the sun go down and swatting gnats.  He is in the music I listen to, the good stuff he raised me listening to.  He is in the couch sitting over there, so full of comfort because that’s the last place I sat next to him before it all fell apart.  He is in the yard I gaze out over, remembering his vision for it and how he helped us move here.  He is in the children I love as I see in them his eyes or smile or recognize his wit and his frustration with folks when they just won’t do right.  He is in the bowl of butterbeans and all the memories that swirl amidst the beans and pot liquor.  He is in my heart.

Gone?  Never.

The food of my people was the good stuff.  Things from the garden or pasture or barn with a can of Vienna sausages or a fried Spam sandwich thrown in for a snack every now and then.  The soul of my people can be found in the fields, in the breezes, in the songs of the birds as they fly from the cedar tree to the fig tree where Granny had hung pie tins to run them off.  It is in the sandpile where we built froghouses and on the dirt road where we walked and rode bikes and threw dirt bombs at each other.  It is in the memories, and I give thanks my soul is very full.

As I was eating my bowl of butterbeans today, a song blew in and began playing in my mind.  I thought for a moment.  Was it a real song or had I only imagined it?  It’s been so long since I thought of it.

And so I did some digging–thankful for the internet, right?–and there it was.  Waiting for me, patiently, like an old friend.  It’s not my Daddy’s voice singing it–but the joy of the little girls dancing, the agility of the couples enjoying the song, and the fact that this Daddy and child have been performing together over sixty years…..it comes in a close second.

Hope y’all enjoy it too.  Love and the goodness of a bowl of butterbeans to all.

 

BUTTER BEANS (Charles D. Colvin – To the tune of “Just A Closer Walk With Thee)

Little Jimmy Dickens – 1965

Also recorded by: Johnny Russell; Papa Joe Smiddy.

 

Just a bowl of butter beans

Pass the cornbread if you please

I don’t want no collard greens

All I want is a bowl of butter beans

 

Just a piece of country ham

Pass the butter and the jam

Pass the biscuits if you please

And some more o’ them good ol’ butter beans

 

Red eye gravy is all right

Turnip sandwich a delight

But my children all still scream

For another bowl of butter beans

 

Some folks think that cornpone’s best

Some likes grits more than the rest

But if I was a man of means

I’d just want them good ol’ butter beans

 

See that lady over there

With the curlers in her hair

She’s not pregnant as she seems

She’s just full o’ them good ol’ butter beans

 

See that big, fat, ugly lad

He’s made everybody mad

They don’t love him, by no means

He’s the hog that ate the last of the butter beans

 

When they lay my bones to rest

Place no roses upon my chest

Plant no blooming evergreens

All I want is’ a bowl of butter beans

 

Just a bowl of butter beans

Pass the cornbread if you please

I don’t want no collard greens

All I want is a bowl of butter beans

 

 

Beep Beep Boop

So as seems to keep happening in this world, at least in my world, things keep changing.

I mean, I just found out that “Mystery Science Theater 3000” is still out there, only the newer ones are different.

Well, that’s disappointing.

And don’t even get me started on when Steve left “Blues Clues.”  I grieved y’all.  And this is not a word I take lightly.  (I mean no offense to his cousin Joe, I just really don’t like change.  And I really did like Steve.)

Recently WordPress, this site right here where I sit and visit with y’all each night, changed their format.  I didn’t even know what to do with that.  After a night or two of trying to maneuver it, I was so relieved to see a window pop up that offered me the option of reverting back to the “classic” mode.

Ah yes, please and thank you.

And so each night when prompted, I opt for the classic mode.

The only thing I really like about the “new” version is this screen right here:

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This cracks me up.  It pops up while I wait to be redirected to the screen for my “new post.”  I even find myself sitting here, giggling, making the sound over and over–beep beep boop, beep beep boop, as the three lights alternate movement.

Beep beep boop.

Beep beep boop.

Waiting.

On the next screen.

Or the next thing.

In limbo.

Waiting.

I feel like that’s where I am on my journey right now.

Right in the middle of beep beep boop.

Limbo lower now.

Sorry, my brain took off without me there for a minute.

That whole waiting, waiting for the destination, for direction, for a path.

That’s where I live right now.  Only I have moments and days and weeks where it’s not as entertaining living it as it is seeing those words blip across my screen.

Beep beep boop.

I live with the hope that one day the screen of my daytodailies, of this journey, will change and I will see clearly where I’m heading–where I’m supposed to be heading.

Until then, I suppose I’ll choose to be entertained, and maybe I’ll use my waiting time to go read a book.  Or unload the dishwasher.

Or–I might need a nap.

Love to all.

 

On Dreaming Big

There’s a woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo standing there.  In her lovely, colorful dress she stands in the middle of some, by our standards, humble dwellings.  The photographer Brandon asks her, “What’s your biggest dream?”

The woman, almost smiling as the camera clicks, replies, “To be the mother of a doctor, the mother of a minister, the mother of an engineer.”

Wow.  So there’s this amazing thing (I am not sure what else to call it) called “Humans of New York.” The photographer usually posts several photos and quotes from people throughout the day.  Right now he is on a UN World Tour, and the journey has been so beautiful and broken, I have cried or laughed at each post–and sometimes I’ve done both.  People are people all over, you know?  We are all made of the same stuff, and our hearts all break and fall and love– sometimes over the same things, sometimes different.  I follow the page on Facebook, but I guess it is based on a “Tumblr” account–something I’ve not ventured into.  I first read the woman’s story above on Facebook, and her answer touched me.  You can see her picture here.   She is beautiful and graceful and regal as she stands there, isn’t she?

And in her answer too, in my opinion.

But not everyone agreed.

I remember someone commented, “Shouldn’t her children have a say in this?”  “Why is she setting such high goals for them?  She should be happy whatever they want to do.”  And so on.

Oh me.

As a Mama, I get it.  I dream big for my children.  My Daddy once told me that each generation wants their children to have it a little better than the one before them did.  Maybe that’s it.  I want them to dream big, and I want to be right there encouraging and empowering and cheering them through to the finish line, until they figure out what the next big thing is, and off we go again.  I want them to be satisfied with where they are but never quite comfortable enough to stay there.  (Not necessarily geographically speaking, y’all. Staying put is fine, not moving is not.  There is a difference.)

I think that DROC Mama wants something better for her children too.  I think maybe something might have been lost in the translation since some folks seemed to read it another way, but looking at that picture, my heart heard what I think she is saying.  Her biggest dream is that her children will choose a path that could take them far away from the worry and strife and poverty for their own families–a path that will not only allow them to take care of themselves, but also to care for others.

Sitting here now thinking about it, I think her biggest dream is symbolic of her hope–the careers she spoke of for her children take care of the body, the soul, and their future.  All of which can give her hope that things will be better for them and for those who follow.  She wants her children to make a difference in this world, and she thought of three paths that will do just that if done with caring and compassion.

Both of which I’m hedging my bets she’s teaching them.

I’m sad that she was judged so quickly and harshly by folks here in our society–one in which the education and paths to all three of those choices are a little easier, I expect, than in the community this woman is living.  She is choosing strength and a foundation of caring for her children.

And her biggest dream is about them carrying on and making a difference.

That.  Right.  There.

Beautiful.

Her biggest dream wasn’t winning the lottery, if they even have one.  It wasn’t about owning a mansion or driving a fancy car.  It wasn’t about writing the next great highly-acclaimed novel.  It wasn’t even about having enough food on the table or clean water to drink.

She is a dreamer.  And her dream is about those she was given to love and to raise.  And it was a gift from her to them–a gift of hope blooming and them making this world a better place.

I don’t even know.

I don’t know what my own answer would be if asked that question.  I have so much.  So.  Very.  Much.

Dream?  My biggest dream?

That the world be a little less broken and that me and mine can be a part of getting it there?

Maybe?

Tonight I’m thankful for folks like Brandon at HONY who are changing our world, bringing us all a little closer together one photograph and shared story at a time.  And I’m especially grateful to my sister half a world away who taught me a big something about what matters and what real dreams and caring look like in this world.  Bless her.

Love to all.

 

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As I sat here writing tonight, this song kept going through my head.  I was a huge fan of David Cook’s as he competed in American Idol, and I LOVED this song he sang in the finale.  I guess that’s why I keep hearing “If you don’t dream big, what’s the use of dreaming?” over and over.  That and “Go big or go home.” 

Here’s the lyrics to the song with vocals by David Cook.  (The other videos had the judges’ stuff after and who needs that–we already know he WON, he’s just that fabulous.  And he’s a dreamer too…..)  Hope y’all enjoy. 

Because It Looks Like Y’all Have it All Together

Some days I feel like I have a good grasp on this journey, this life.  It’s not an everyday thing by any means, but there are days when I feel like I’m headed in the right direction, down the right path–in raising my family, educating them, taking care of things around the house, and in figuring out what I’m going to be when I grow up.

And then there are all the other days, where I count myself lucky if the littles are fed, the math is mostly done, the dog doesn’t have an accident indoors, and the house is still standing.  Even if we have to get creative on clothing choices because the laundry needs doing, I call it a win and move on.

Oh so many days like that.

It seems like everyone else has it all together sometimes, you know?  My Daddy used to say, “You compare, you lose,” and I know he’s right, but sometimes it’s hard not to.  You all look like things are trucking along just fine for you.

And then there’s me and the cacophony of ideas and thoughts and emotions running through my heart, mind, and soul.

So not together.

I picked up a book to read about men who changed the world.  I am interested to see who their examples are, as this is a book for young people.  Since I have been concerned, wanting to be sure I’m sharing good stories and role models with Cooter like I do with our Princess, I did some searching and found this particular book.

As I flipped through for a quick minute today, I came across this quote from Badshah Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a Muslim leader who led the world’s largest nonviolent force–100,000 people–for social reform in his country.

From "Akira to Zoltan: Twenty-Six Men Who Changed the World" by Cynthia Chin-Lee  http://www.amazon.com/Akira-Zoltan-Twenty-six-Changed-World/dp/1570915806/ref=pd_sim_b_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=1W3CXFY2R8FTYB8C2KTB

From “Akira to Zoltan: Twenty-Six Men Who Changed the World” by Cynthia Chin-Lee
http://www.amazon.com/Akira-Zoltan-Twenty-six-Changed-World/dp/1570915806/ref=pd_sim_b_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=1W3CXFY2R8FTYB8C2KTB

“No true effort is in vain.  Look at the fields over there.  The grain sown therein has to remain

in the earth for a certain time, then it sprouts, and in due time yields hundreds of its kind.

The same is the case with every effort in a good cause.” 

–Badshah Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988)

Oh these words.  How they touched me–had my soul doing an about-face.  Picking myself up, dusting my britches off, and saying, Okay, maybe I can do this.

One more reminder that things won’t necessarily happen in my time, according to my “script.”  One more reminder that things won’t always be this way. One more reminder to take a chill pill and be where I am, who I am.  Making true efforts for a good cause.

Tonight I am thankful for the words of others that I write on my heart.  The ones that others say, I don’t suppose I will always know the why of their words, but I do know what they do for me.  I wish I could have words like these and others that touch my being painted all over the walls and mirrors of my house.  Where I could see them and be reminded–keep up the good efforts.  Keep planting.  You may not see the harvest right away, if ever, but it’s there.  So much going on within, even though we can’t see it.  Growing under the ground…..growing strong and one day will yield “hundreds of its kind.”

What a beautiful picture that paints for me.

Y’all, let’s go out and sow some good stuff.  What does that look like?  I’m not sure.  How about we start with smiling at someone who looks like they could use it?  Take the time to text or call or email a friend with a meaningful, truthful message about how they are loved.  Or with a joke that you know they’ll love.  Even greater things will come from it one day–maybe not on our timeline, not when we had planned, but one day greater things will come because of it.  And until then, we just keep making those true efforts in a good cause, even if that means sitting quietly.  And waiting.  *sigh* Did someone ask for patience?

Love and best wishes to all.

Check Yo Self…..oh wait–

Today I had to text my college sophomore and ask her about this phrase I’ve seen floating around in social media–

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because those words kept going through my head.

Check yo self.

And I so wanted to say them today.

To someone else.

Ahem.

That’s right.  The day after I asked us all to stop judging and walk with folks in their messes.

I wanted to say this to folks who had their children in tow and maybe weren’t paying close enough attention to what their children were up to.  They were engaged in conversation and their littles were wandering a bit.  Nothing bad happened, no one came close to getting hurt, and yet I wanted to say this to them–“Check yo self and yo children too.”

Okay, pot–seen the kettle lately?

Sigh.

I’ve been there too.  I have been that Mama so needing adult conversation that I might not have been as focused as I should on my littles or their needs or behavior.  I might have been there as recently as today, but I’m not saying for sure.  Ahem.

This blog post was going to go in a whole ‘nother direction tonight, but when I saw my own words from last night-walk with each other with our messiness intertwined–it stopped my fingers and the direction of my thoughts cold.  I guess that includes our children and their messes too, huh?

Oh me.  I almost fell off the non-judgmental wagon there.

That was a close one.

I don’t get to pick and choose when living like that works for me.  It’s an “all in” kind of thing.

It’s a lot easier to say those words “check yo self” to someone across a crowded room than it is to the person in the mirror, the one who finds it so easy to slip back in her old ways, isn’t it?

Last night I mentioned that this parenting thing isn’t easy.

Let me add one more thing that’s not easy.

This living life.  Being intentional.  With kindness and grace.  Not.  Easy.

And I know I am having growing pains when I catch myself from falling back into the depths of holier than thou.  Nobody knows another’s story well enough to judge.  When I act like I do, I am opening the door for folks to do the same with me and my story.

And that has never felt too good, I’m not gonna lie.

So yes.  Tonight instead of telling y’all all about how these folks behaved and how they could have behaved better, I’m going to shrug and say, I don’t know.  It could have been way worse, and I have no idea why it was the way it was.  Me and mine did the best we knew how to do and that’s all I can be responsible for.  The only one I can really say “Check yo self” to is that chick in the mirror who finds it really hard to walk this high road of giving grace.  I’d much rather hightail it through the woods and find a shortcut.  The high road is hard.

But the scenery…..and the company–it’s gonna be worth it, right?

Off to check myself, and put this girl to bed.  About faces in attitudes can be exhausting.

Love and grace to all.

We Are All Beautiful Messes

My friend’s husband was out of town last week.  She missed him and commented genuinely that she didn’t know how single parents do it.

I thought about that for a few days, and I guess my answer would be–the same way folks who co-parent do.

The best they can with what they have at the time.

Which can look as different as the one or the two who are parenting at any given time.

I’ve been a single parent.  First, I guess some would say, by my own choice.  Only it wasn’t my choices that led me to that decision.

I had great supports.  My parents.  Family.  Friends.  Folks who were a part of my village in helping love on my baby girl.  I give thanks everyday for each one of them and the role they played in who she has become and in me keeping my sanity.  Well, most of it anyway.

The second time I became a single parent, it was situational and temporary.  Sixty-two days, ninety-five days, one hundred thirty days, and roughly ten months that one time–when the Fella deployed.  He was as much a part of things as he could be from his place in the Sandbox, but for the daytodailies it was all on me.  And my village.

This parenting thing, this thing I love so much, it isn’t easy.  Ever.  With a partner or without. I’ve walked both paths.  It’s all hard.  But it’s harder, just like everything else, when you’re discriminated against.

Oh, not the second time.  The second time folks were all willing to pitch in and thank me for my service.  (Umm, you’re welcome?  I’m just making sure everyone’s fed and the house doesn’t burn down, and occasionally I try to talk the Fella into things long distance–like getting a puppy.  I don’t necessarily make it easy for him.  He’s the one sacrificing here, but I do appreciate the support.)

But that first go ’round?  I hit some roadblocks.

The first time I remember was when I was looking for a school for my girl.  We lived in one town and I worked and spent many long days in another.  I wanted her in school where I would be closer.  I remember sitting in the office with the administrator at this one school.  She didn’t know our story at all.  But in one swift statement, she alienated me and mine and I never set foot there again. “We love to have our families involved.  It’s important to have both parents an integral part of the child’s life.  Studies show that children do better when both are very involved.”

Ahem.  Maybe not so much.

My girl and I were both better off.  Without sharing stories that are better left unshared, let me share this–she saved me because I wanted better for her.  A huge part of who she is today would be so different if we had kept the whole two-parent household thing going on.  So studies be well, you know.  The truth is, in many cases, the child is better off in a one parent household.  But a lot in this world tend to look down on single parent households unfortunately.  Single and stereotyped.  That’s it.

As evidenced by something that we came across in the past three or four years.  It was a school organization.  One of the tenets on their statement that had to be signed for membership gave their definition of family.  I was reading it, and Aub was reading it over my shoulder.  She frowned and shook her head.  “No, Mama.  We are not doing this.  According to this–‘we define family as a married man and woman with offspring’ you and I were never a family when we were on our own.  No, Mama.  Forget it.”

Yes.  Exactly.  We ourselves were plenty.  We were enough.  We were family.  And a much better one than we had been before.  We were safe and we were strong.

I’m sad when things like this happen.  When well-intentioned folks say, “Studies show that children are better off in a home with two parents.”  That takes away something important for all the rest of the families that don’t fit in that box.  Something very important.

Hope.

The truth is no one but me really knows all of my story.  About why I wound up where I did when my daughter was three months shy of three.  About why I am where I am today.  It’s my story.  Even if I told it, no one would be able to fully get it.

And the same is true with each one of us.  I don’t know your story, or yours, or yours.  I wish we could just give each other the space and the grace we all need to be who and where we are without folks judging or making us feel less than.  I just wish…..

I read this news article recently about a program in Canada, the Nanny Angel Network.  Founded by a cancer survivor who saw moms with cancer sitting in treatment rooms with their small children and who thought, this is no place for children, this non-profit provides free childcare for moms with cancer.  Over half of these young women have been single moms.

Oh bless.

I cried when I read about it.  This is it, isn’t it?  Loving without judging.  Taking care of each other.  Having each other’s back.  Being each other’s feather.  Yes.  This.

We need more of this in the world today, y’all.  And less guidelines and studies and belief statements that put folks aside as < less than.

That.  Ain’t.  Right.

Love is.

Bottom line.

Tonight I’m thankful for our village.  The way they allowed their stories to be so intertwined with my very messy one–is there any greater gift we can give someone?  Than not being afraid of their mess?  If there is, I don’t know it.

I give thanks for women like Audrey Guth, the founder of the Nanny Angel Network, who see a need and let their heart and mind figure out what they can do to help.  And then they DO it.  I aspire to be one of those women too.  Sometimes all folks need to shine is a little love from someone else.

Let’s take time to find someone with a messy story and go love on them and let them know it’s okay and #bethefeather, okay?   And if you feel like your story is too messy to be of a help to anyone, look at me right now.  (Well okay, the screen.)

You and your story are not too messy.

Read that again.  I’ll wait.

We are all beautiful messes, and we are meant to journey together.   Don’t let your mess keep you from letting folks in.  Ever.  Life’s too precious and there are people who need to know you and your heart and who need to hear your laughter.  Let it ring.

Love to all.

The Comfort When Things Get Wonky

Today we were on our new “fall” schedule in earnest.  I use the term “fall” loosely because there’s nothing remotely related to fall in August in Georgia. (97 degrees people.) Except for the fact that all of the schools have started.  There is that.

Today was “divide and conquer” day.  As in, if the Fella were deployed, I’d need a clone to get it all done.  But he’s not, so we each took a little and headed out in opposite directions.  We didn’t even all eat together tonight.  That is important to us, so it’s rare for us not to eat supper together.  Very different.  Very hard to wrap my feelings around it.  I like to be where my children are, a spectator and cheerleader when possible and appropriate, a quiet support when not.  So today was…..

different.  Have I mentioned that already?

The Fella and Cooter went to eat (because of our hectic schedules on Monday, it is unofficially our “pickup supper” night).  Then they headed to swim lessons.  Since our Princess made the swim team last month, Cooter wants to try his best and see where he lands (or swims–ha).  He will take classes for this lesson period, and we’ll let him decide if he wants to continue after.  This is all him–we have no pressure or expectations.

After stuffing the Princess with yogurt and having her grab a couple of healthy snacks and water for the car, she and I headed to her dance and gymnastics classes.  She loves it there.  And we love the people there too.  It’s a great experience for her.  I used to wonder at parents who over-scheduled their children.  Now my girl is in dance, gymnastics and swim team.  Ahem.  Be careful what you judge, my friend–yeah, you just never know.  I’m hoping that, since we are at home for school during the days and have little to no other commitments right now, this will be a stress free, really great year for us all.

Check with me again in May.

Yeah.  I’ll let you know.

After her classes were over, we did a run-in at the grocery store–I was out of Granny Smith apples, and that’s my usual bednight snack, so we HAD to stop for those.  Then we did our drive thru routine (minus food for the boys) and headed home.

All out of order.  Feeling rather wonky at how different it all was today–and will be for a few weeks.

And then we got home.  Cooter came and met us and our grocery bags and supper bags and dance bags at the door.

“Hey!”  Oh that toothless grin.  (He lost another yesterday, just came up and handed it to me with a smile and a hug and then ran off to play.  Bless him.) I will never tire of it.  “Guess whose group I’m in at swimming?”

“Who?” our Princess asked quickly, as she dropped her bags.  (I had the apples, thank goodness.)

He told us the name of the male instructor our Princess  had this summer.  He teaches the students at the other end of the pool.  This is a huge deal, y’all.

“What?!” she squealed, hugging her brother.  “That is awesome!”

The light in that boy’s eyes.  Oh me.  He was so happy.  And to have his sister celebrate with him…..good stuff right there.  The best.

As we moved to the kitchen and our Princess pulled out her supper and began eating, Cooter said, “Sooo, how was dance?  Who was there?  Did you have fun?”

I was putting things away in the kitchen with my back to him, but it straight tickled me.  To hear him asking his sister these questions, it was like hearing an echo from the past.  The questions I’ve asked over and over through the years.  They are listening, y’all, never doubt.  More than we know.

After baths and things started settling down, Cooter came in and called his big sister away at college.  He wanted to tell her too.   I could hear her excitement three feet away from the phone.  Sharing the joy.  I love it.

Tonight I am thankful that even when things get all wonky and out of sorts and far away from my comfort zone, there are things that stay the same and remind me how wonderful family is.

hugs and high fives between brothers and sisters

compassionate, tender hearts

voices squealing in excitement

caring questions of genuine interest

giggles and dreams shared

That’s the really good stuff in life.  The stuff that makes heading back out there into the unknown just a little easier.

Here’s to comfort when things get wonky.  May you all have a bit of that right when you need it most.

Love to all.