Not Simply Brides, but Waking Warriors

As I pour out these thoughts that I felt led to share with two beautiful brides-to-be at our church bridal shower this past week, it may quickly become evident that I am surrounded by testosterone. Being mom to 10 & 12 year old boys and being the only girl in the house, my analogies tend to create a great visual for the male species who are wild at heart, but, fear not, I prayed over these words and God is faithful to translate in a language our hearts understand… and an added bonus is that when shared with our manly half, these truths should be fairly simple for them to compute. Those that know my story of nearly losing all that I cherish by blindly embracing my own selfishness can understand the battle cry from my heart to young couples to fiercely protect their marriage relationship from day one.

Brides, as you enter into this sacred covenant with the man you love, not only are you becoming wives, you are becoming guardians. Not only guardians, but, for when the inevitable battles arise, you are becoming warriors. This beautiful promise is fragile on its own; it is to be guarded like the rarest of treasures as you & your partner build a stronghold using the bricks of your relationships with Christ and each other to protect it.  The definition of stronghold is a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack. Marriage is often painted as the “Happily Ever After”… and while God has created it to be our most fulfilling and intimate earthly relationship, it is critical to understand that we MUST prepare ourselves, as a couple, to battle for it because the attacks will come.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12

Before us is a battle that we cannot hope to bring to victory on our own strength. We must unite as one and put on the full armour of God as outlined in Ephesians 6. The Father of Lies would love nothing more than to destroy the relationship between a man and his bride, a relationship that is used to represent Christ and his church. This representation alone speaks to the sacredness of marriage.

Three areas of our marriage fortress that can be easily penetrated by the enemy if left unguarded are our words, our time and our hearts.

Guard your Words:

We’ve likely all heard children on the playground defending themselves against teasing verbal attacks with a sing-song chorus “sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.   If we could remove the sting of words, I believe there would be world peace! The simple truth is that words can be the most powerful weapons of mass destruction on the planet! I have had nuclear bombs leave my mouth witnessed the devastation at ground zero that can take years to clean up. When speaking with your prince charming, keep in mind that words can wound deeply and it can be so easy to throw out little knives in defense to pierce the heart flesh when we feel wronged or hurt by this man chosen to be our earthly protector. By our own strength, it can be hard to repurpose that weapon into a building block to uplift and strengthen, and, in those times I need to cry out like David in Psalm 141:3 – Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. At times, I’d even prefer that the Lord throw a security system on that door and not give me the pass code.  A wise warrior knows their weaknesses and draws strength from the Master.

Guard your time: 

Time. The ultimate resource. It can be pretty overwhelming to consider how we will use this precious resource when faced with these 2 facts;

1) time is limited. No restart button, no growing it on trees, no mining it from deep underground pockets. You have only what you have.

2) You have no idea how much you have

It’s like we’re given one bottle of sparkling fine time. The glasses we pour our time into are the ones that get filled. There’s a simple truth.

You are the one hosting your life’s glitzy garden party (see… I have a girly side) and it’s not the fancy waiter deciding who gets the time. All the guests that you’ve invited in are parched and eager for a taste or gulp of your precious time and you are the one topping up glasses… or leaving them empty. Kind of makes you want to pour that bottle wisely since you can’t be sure which will be the last drop. There are aggressive guests that beg and plead, but are the least deserving, and, perhaps you even regret inviting them… social media, TV, impulse shopping, junk food, toxic relationships… yet we often find ourselves standing there pouring mindlessly. As a result, the glasses of some honored guests begin to go empty… relationships, health, our own soul… the thirst becomes withering. So choose wisely and then pour generously.

It may sound simple now as you so look forward to pouring ample time into the awaiting glass of your new husband, your co-warrior, but be diligent in continually giving him the first of your time, as routine settles in and life elbows its way to the front of line. Set aside undistracted, electronics-free time daily to reconnect, consider this as part of your disciplined training… a warrior is always training because battle doesn’t announce itself with time to prepare.  The enemy thrives on surprise attacks when we are at our weakest. Not only should you set side time to reconnect with each other, but take time to train together under the tutelage of the Master.  It is beyond my comprehension how often weak areas in our marriage have been pointed out during mine and Scott’s devotional times.  The Holy Spirit is always faithful to nudge us in the right direction if we are willing to humbly sit together and be taught.

Guard Your Heart: 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23 

I have to say it again because it really is that crucial to victory. Above all else, guard your heart, for EVERYTHING you do flows from it. The innermost chamber of our heart… this is the war room (not to be confused with the movie, though I can’t wait to see it!). The place where strategic decisions are made, where battles are planned… the commands for tactics that come out of this room will make or break the war. Our core values reside in this vault. Be on guard for the Trojan horse that tries to enter under any number of guises; entertainment, friendship, advice.  The things I allow to enter this chamber directly impact my thoughts, my emotions, and my actions. A warrior wife can even be fooled into questioning whether her hubby is actually her opponent… or even a double agent?!

I happen to be a film lover, so I’ll use this as one teensy example of reasons to guard one’s heart. Consider the ocean of romantic, tender, swoon worthy plots out there… the princes, the heroes, the knights…all saving their damsels in distress, reciting heart-melting poetry, brushing loose tendrils of hair behind their lover’s ear. If left unguarded, this is a weak spot in our princess hearts where the enemy can niggle in and slyly, deceitfully point out ways that our man can never compare. Or on the flip side, and more of an area where I struggle since I’m not into girly movies, the action films with the strong independent women in combat, doing super cool flips and kicks… If left unguarded, my prideful heart gets the notion that it can win this war alone. I don’t need my husband to help me, I can make this the best marriage ever… on my own?! Oh, I could write a book on reasons to guard our hearts.

We are to guard our hearts against any relationships that dares to vie for the position our husband holds.  Genesis 2:24 says “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh”… One flesh.  The moment we are joined in that covenant before God, our marriage relationship becomes the single most important earthly relationship we have… above our friends, above our family, even, dare I say it, above our future children. I am a serious family girl and it would be ever so easy for me to consider my parents’ or siblings’ opinions, plans, and the like over my own husband. But, we leave our parents, as close knit as that connection might be, and we must cleave to our man… we are one. We fight together as warriors to remain that way.

Guard your heart. Our hearts are fickle… Jeremiah 17:9 goes so far as to say “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” We cannot trust our hearts and, therefore, we dare not let ourselves be in charge of that war room.  Give that position to the Ultimate General. We, as His warriors, will fight for our marriages, for our families, to protect that sacred covenant.

Our words, our time, our heart. We have to battle in prayer to keep these vulnerable areas from being susceptible to the enemy’s attack. Prayer is our most effective weapon. It is a valuable training strategy for building up strength in times of joy and then the most powerful battle strategy during tumultuous times, times where hope is all but lost… when there is absolutely nothing to be done by our own strength. Pray. Pray individually and pray together. You may have seen those little cross stitch pictures with vibrant thread spelling out “a couple that prays together, stays together”. This is truth. Be Prayer Warriors!

The most dangerous action take to take can be to take no action at all. This is relevant to the veteran couples as much as those standing on the doorstep of their wedding day. As you prepare in anticipation for this precious union in the coming days and weeks, keep in mind that behind the stunning gown and gorgeous shoes is not simply a beautiful bride, but a waking warrior. Etch that title on your heart as you vow to battle to protect that promise until death do you part.

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Be Still My Melting Heart

On occasion, children create moments that melt hearts. As a mama, you want to grab the nearest roll of the Quicker Picker-up to soak up every drop… Maybe because you’re a clean freak and can’t stand the thought of drippy heart staining your good linens … But, more likely, because you want to lock that messy ball of melty moment in a vault to sneak into and hold every now and again.

Even boys need to share the, albeit rare, heaviness on their hearts… especially when that heaviness is in the arena of sports disappointments. A mom sometimes panics when surprise tears well up in the eyes of her nearly grown little boy at the most random of moments.

Is someone hurting him?? Is it a girl??!? What kind of life altering struggle has befallen my son??!

He fights to choke out a few words that express a deep pain at a loss in that afternoon’s hockey game, and, while I feel relief in the quick realization that no one was breaking my son’s heart, or face, …  those choked up words strangle my heart and I still want to say all the right things!

After a little coaxing to understand the current hardship, in all my imperfect mama wisdom, I respond in soothing tones and share waaaaaay too many words while my mind questions me at every syllable…

Am I talking too much?

Am I being too hard?

Is he analyzing the thread count of his jeans??

Not being hard enough?

Maybe I should listen more?

Wow, the knees are pretty worn on those jeans.

Is this even helping?

He’s gonna pick a hole in those jeans!

Should I stop talking?

“Dude, leave your jeans alone for a sec!” I don’t claim to have any discernible amount of patience.  We arrive at the moment where I am certain his eyes have glazed over and the innocent jeans will need a patch, so I wrap it up.

“Ok, buddy, how about we do some Christmas shopping on Amazon?”

His eyes moved! He’s alive!! “Bored to death” seemed to be sniffing at the edge of literal there for a sec.

The evening then proceeds in normal jovial fashion… hugs, lame jokes, typical goofy atmosphere. With the regular bedtime routine of praying, tucking, hugging, tickling, and the sort, complete, hubby and I retire to the kitchen table.

The first 30 seconds are the most peaceful, as the boys lay in near darkness, holding their breath in ultra silence, doing that “hearing with your eyes” thing, waiting for the perfect moment to get up and go to the bathroom. Never fails. They take their turns staggering out with squinty “I just woke up” eyes because obviously sleep hit hard and coma-like in the past minute since tuck-in.

After the theatrics, the boys each return to bed, the next 5 minute phase of silence has passed and I hear a “Mom, can you please come here?”

“Buddy, I was just in there!”

This is a very regular occurrence… always one more hug…or kiss… or report of some cool mind-blowing trivia that must be shared this second lest it be lost forever.

I’m a sucker tho.. I always go in ooooone more time. I lean in to see his face, dimly lit from the hallway light, and my boy says …

“Mom, I just wanted to say thank-you for taking the time to talk with me today.”

Clean-up in aisle 2, bring the Bounty.

Imagine Her Last Dance …

Fated… no, some would say cursed… to deep slumber after only a brief reprieve of lush vivacious life and warmth, she feels that familiar subtle chill begin to breathe upon her neck. Preparation must begin for a last brilliant gala before being tucked beneath a heavy blanket of shimmering white.
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Gold, ruby, bronze… she dons a splendid array of color atop her slowly fading emerald. Slipped into her hair are sunshine yellow petals bejeweled with fresh glistening raindrops.

 

 
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Adorned with dangling fuchsia as though complementing the softest earlobes, her beauty is beyond compare.

 

 

 

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While the ambiance of this event is near ceremonious with its  dignified grace, a formality such as footwear would only serve to diminish the natural elegance found in her simplicity.

 

 

 

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There is no need for a red carpet to be rolled out as the ballroom floor is instead glittered with evanescent memories of laughter floating on a summer breeze, of scents from late night bonfires, of sweet kisses stolen beneath a starlit canopy.

 

 

 

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Her mesmerizing dance ends far too quickly as a curtain of crisp, cool air draws the celebration to a close…  her stunning attire slips to the ground, slowly each bright color fades, the warmth of life now stored in the hearts of her admirers as she lies down awaiting her solemn sleep.

 

 

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She closes her eyes.

She is at peace.

She is Autumn.

Something Old Meet Something Blue

Below is a tale of a rather unfortunate plight that had befallen me during renovation season. I do, admittedly, push my luck to the edge of the precipice far too often… recklessly stepping on its fingers, one at a time, as they cling for dear life. My luck … Well, it pushes back sometimes.

But alas, let us begin at this plight’s innocent birth.

The previous night, the stars aligned allowing a genius plan to collide with a rare healthy dose of motivation. Oh, heck yes! Pinterest addicts ain’t got nothing on me. Awkward bathroom, aka: project ugly duckling, will transform into a beautiful swan by my own hands!

Demolition ensues in the form of trim removal. Interestingly enough, there is a lot of trim in my oddly huge bathroom due, in large, to the fact that the previous DYI-er opted to forego the sleek, modern taped and mudded corners for a simpler, more traditional (and frustrating for me) corner trim. 22 pieces later, I have half the room de-trimmed. Half. Motivation slightly waning, I have adjusted the initial plan to include only painting the south and east facing walls. Marvelous, plan B means the de-trimming requirements have been satisfied and I can rest up for the big paint day!

I nearly choked on the creative energy flooding the air that morning. Calling in sick niggled at being a viable option, if only my ridiculous conscience would get on board. Silly work ethic! My next artistic fix would have to wait until lunch hour when I could indulge in a quick hit of selecting the perfect paint in the optimal finish. The winning shade: Yarmouth Blue. Excitement mounts. Why can’t it be home time?!

Being able to see into the future would be so convenient sometimes. I could have just walked away, left my luck tucked in its cozy nook and washed my hands of the whole plan. I could have left well enough alone.

Nope.

Proudly, I journey home after a full exhausting work day of suppressing my design prowess. The formalities of feeding my family finally dispensed with, I can continue the bathroom transformation process. Prepping the wall. I hate prepping. It requires patience. Patience means I can’t put the paint on the wall yet. But it’s dying to be on the wall for all the world to see!!

Fine, I’ll prep.

Proper, no shortcut prep. Wash the walls, tape the edges, tape the tub, find a container for all the billions of cleaners we never use that are taking up shelves space, clear off the shelves… Uuugghh… There always seems to be one more thing to do! Remove the shelves …well, in a bit…Maybe I’ll just start painting the edge of the first wall. Just to see what it looks like. Yes, of course … My genius has been spot on all day!

I pop the lid off the brand new gallon of Yarmouth Blue, breaking the smooth creamy surface with clean bristles. With excited trepidation, I guide the saturated brush along the first edge of the wall…. The color stunning! So fresh and crisp! This is even cooler than I imagined!

The paint can sitting on the porcelain lid of the toilet tank at the perfect height for efficient and swift wall coverage, I make it back to that corner with the wretched shelves in short order.

Fine, I will finish taking out the shelves. Where are my minions when I need them??

With each strangely secured section removed, I see that the back portion of drywall has not even been screwed in. My curiosity has me poking about in the corner when, at long last, a minion appears.

“Mom, what are you doing?”

I explain that it’s an adventure renovating someone else’s renos … You never know what you’ll come across. He leans, with great interest, into the corner to observe like a bright young Padawan eager to soak in wisdom.

Things become slightly blurred at this point. Due to us both possessing gangly limbs, it is unclear which one made that awkward movement …. That fateful lurch … The proximate cause of damage. Each working at getting an expert view of the corner, each one standing on either side of the toilet… Suddenly a sickeningly tinny thud as the paint can slides off the toilet tank lid and bounces off the toilet and onto the floor, spewing forth a fountain of blue on the entire journey down.

One gallon. One entire gallon, save for that beautiful test edge, of Yarmouth Blue running down my toilet, across my immensely large 8 foot length of bathroom floor and then up my pedestal sink.

In times like this, some might panic. Some might freak right out. Some might see this as a calamity.
But hubby was outside.

I urged my minion to flee from the scene and stared for a second at how cool the blue looked across the floor, then my Mennonite frugal flair took charge and reminded my muscles to get moving because we are not buying another gallon of paint! Armed with a clean dust pan, I start scooping up gobs of paint and carefully pouring it back in the nearly empty can.
This feels productive. Yes, I see progress here! Scoop, pour, scoop pour. Uh-oh…. The familiar sound of hinges announcing entry tells me that hubby has found his way in.

Hmmmm, this is inconvenient… I really had hoped to weave this tale for him in a more fictional fashion. As a “hey, it’s all good now, but you know what happened earlier?!”

Not so.
Caught blue-handed.

Perspective is a funny thing… While I revel in great joy at the amount of Yarmouth Blue I am rescuing, hubby is failing to see humor or joy or anything besides what I can only assume is a faint shade of red. You see, the bathroom floor is one of the only floors in our entire house that is not being replaced in the overhaul. So Mr. Glass Half Empty is far more intent on rescuing the faded old cream vinyl with the blue square pattern…. On a side note, having the 2 blues in such close proximity makes me want to high five myself for the keen color matching.

My man is not so much in the high-five mood right now so, in guilt ridden silence, I work alongside him armed with thick rolls of quilted paper towel. Three quarters of a gallon of paint having been slopped back into the can, one dust pan at a time, the task of cleaning up that old vinyl begins.

If you can imagine a steam roller taking a wrong turn and crashing a crowded Smurf party, you have just envisioned my crime scene. I sensed by my hubby’s tone and demeanor that perhaps I should be taking this more seriously. After all, who knows how many Smurfs had to die to make one gallon of blue paint??

Is it weird that I feel we should be bringing out the bottles of bleach??

My pride really wanted me to handle this on my own, it was my mess. But, time being of the essence, hubby joined me on all fours and we swiftly scrubbed before the paint dried. All in all, it was humbling and humorous. I’ve learned to embrace my tendency towards less than graceful movements, but the fallout can be more far reaching than I’d like to admit. I surely do appreciate hubby’s patience on this front!

I’m sure that there are bushels of wisdom that could be reaped from this entire catastrophe, but there’s one fact that shine through the brightest.

My old vinyl bathroom floor has never been so clean.

Not Your Regular Fashion Show

One can come to think themselves quite adept at hiding dirty black spots that mar the appearance of their character. Layers of lies strategically placed with cunning, or shame, to ensure none of these ugly spots peek out. Cloaked safely beneath the thick robes and skirts of deceit, the tar-like blackness slowly spreads and oozes onto clean virtue, smothering it in the sticky mess.

Over time, as the blackness grows, each layer becomes heavier with all the muck it absorbs. The filthy spots begin to seep through, a little here… a little there. Quick, cover it! Throw on another pair of lies! The fear that one’s family and friends discover them drowning in a self-made pit of tar, flailing clumsily in ridiculously weighty costume, grows to be consuming. Exhaustion takes hold.

There are but two options that emerge. Add more layers in vain attempt to conceal the darkness beneath, eventually drowning in deception, or, step out of the robes and reveal the oozing mess so that it can be washed away. Though simple it may sound, the stripping of this gory gown can prove painful. Shame and guilt threaten to grip the messy ensemble in place.

It becomes a courageous feat to trust that the one washing away the ugliness will not turn away in disgust. But, with a warm cloth of unconditional love, all the thick grime and each spot that blemishes the soul is tenderly wiped away and light fresh attire is presented. The feeling becomes like that of floating in comparison to the mountain range worth of tar being carried before.

The battle does not end there. Black spots threaten to stick all the time. As humans, we misstep and tend to trip in the mud on occasion. Be diligent in letting that grime be washed away. Be open. The discouraging part is that after the exhausting toil of hiding and covering up, and then the agony of revealing all the ugliness and asking for forgiveness, it is now in this burden-free walk, in an effort of cleanliness without cloaks and robes, that others smudge black spots on you. Spots that mimic what at one time would have been an accurate representation of the character blemishing filth, now, though false, are served as fodder for the herds starving for gossip. Smearing the untruths further and further as the herd clambers about for any speck on which to feed.

Pushed around in this ravenous fray, it is easy to forget that the old muck is gone and washed away. Like phantom pains from an amputated limb, this slop being thrown summons feelings from the past. A past that has been severed from this new walk, forgiven and forgotten by the one hurt most. If all is forgiven, who am I to dwell in the stirred-up memory of suffocation in a dark lonely void? With a humble heart, I must simply brush the mud being slung off my new gown of grace. Grace gowns are made with Teflon.

The truth will set you free and, if the care instructions are closely followed, that gown will remain unstained for life.

Dr. Jekyll and the Blood Moon

There exists but one window in our home that peeks towards the southern sky, and so it is that our walk-in closet became the cozy venue that hosted the lunar eclipse gala. Thick fuzzy blankets spread on the cold laminate floor (yep, still waiting for that plush chocolate brown rug to finish off the new closet), I squished together with only 2 of my 3 handsome fellas as we lay in wait to each claim our view of the brilliant moon’s time in the spotlight… Or rather, out of the spotlight. A warm memory to be cherished.

With slumber party whispers, because, in the dark even your inside voice takes on a certain bullhorn quality, we observe the slow cloaking of the bright glowing orb which eventually leaves only one tiny portion lit giving the perception of an enormous eyeball engaged in a cosmic staring contest with the teensy shy star down to the right. With Mars keeping score, the orb ultimately grants victory to the little star as it darkens into an eerie red slumber.

Unfortunately, only 3 sets of heavy lidded eyes were to behold this sight. As thrilled as he was while being tucked in the evening before, those that truly know my baby will understand my futile attempts to wake him at 1 am for the rare event of the red moon. A soft coaxing voice, gentle nudges, kisses on the cheek…all met with sleepy, faint smiles and confirmation that he would love to come lay with us in our moonlit nest…that is, until this mean mama had to make it clear that this would require acting upon the absurd notion that he dislodge himself from his current cocoon.

Given that the boy can walk around tossing cookies in his sleep and is prone to being vexed at pulled pork while merely preparing a school lunch at 7am, this idea of waking the child at 1 am seems a rather kamikaze mission. But, in love for the sweet boy, I gear up and press on despite the angry groans and incomprehensible words, limbs flailing but then, just as quickly, retreating to grasp his crumbling cocoon. An offer to carry him to the viewing area was answered with more grunts of compounding dismay.

In my continuing perseverance, my brain pulls a book off it’s “currently reading” shelf and waves it frantically in comedic warning. A classic recommended by my 10 year-old, the bold black title pulses in my mind’s eye…”Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”. I honestly don’t know how it ends yet, perhaps a partial factor in my retreat and decision to let this sleeping dog lie.

After a night of wonder, the morning dawns far too soon for the audience of three. My heart breaks just a bit when my little Jekyll wraps his arms around my waist and softly inquires why I didn’t wake him for the eclipse. A vision of the tiny rage-filled creature from a few hours ago threatening my mind’s capacity to believe this is the same child. Returning the embrace, I chuckle in sympathy…

“Oh, sweetheart… I tried”

Dancing Queen

Fond moments fill my tattered cerebral memory box labelled “the lifetime before my very own high heels and mascara”. I dust off an old favorite from deep inside, clearing a vision of my mama cranking Abba as we danced like superstars around the living room of our old house trailer. An 80’s brownish, or greenish, shaggy type carpet became our makeshift stage on this warm Texas afternoon.

My mom danced.
My little 7-year-old heart leapt.

(I’m certain time is rather skewed in this particular memory box since I seem to be aged 7 years in every recollection.)

I gaze up at her, golden blonde hair glistening in the sunlight that clamors through the window to join us as we brought the rhythms to life. I don’t recall if we were alone, but in my mind, this scene belongs entirely to us. In a chapter of our story that was not always abounding in joy, these moments fell on my heart like a fresh spring rain quenching the desperate thirst of winter weary foliage.
Her laughter … Oh, how I drank it in.

In that instant, we were silly and I loved her for it. Nothing shackled us while those happy notes flowed through our hair, brushing our ears to ward away all worries for that brief time. Twirling and swaying, her slender frame spoke the words the music intended to convey.
An angel in acid wash jeans.
These rare candid moments ignited in me a lifelong love of dance.

Fast forward a billion years and 20 lifetimes to last night, my boy cranks some 80’s metal in the car to liven up our long journey home. Grey leather seats set a new stage, air band of awesomeness ensues. My wicked cool drum skills on the steering wheel complementing his deftly moving fingers on invisible guitar strings. He lip syncs the lyrics as I belt them with passion, no holds barred.

All the while my brain observes, permanently sketching that golden hair, sparkling eyes… The laughter … The silly that I love him for. For a boy that has admitted embarrassment by his own mama’s dancing around the living room, we still move in sync to our own type of waltz.

Though my G may not find these moments as cherished as I, each air band session with my son is as rare and splendid to my soul as those afternoon dance parties with my mom.

Today I will tuck both those memories, though eons apart, side by side in a new box labelled “coolest moms ever – the musical”