Tag Archives: writing

A Finale for Now

I started blogging soon after beginning my freshman year at FSU. It was a ujournal account, I don’t even remember my username and it was paragraphs lamenting about how tragically I missed my boyfriend. I didn’t use capitalization because #artsy and I would probably vomit if I found those entries.

Cut to today and I’ve shared about college, marriage, moving away, moving back, becoming an actual real life writer, adopting a goofy puppy, saying goodbye to our fur baby and welcoming two kids into our world. Through large periods of both transition and monotony, much of my life has been recorded on these pages.

But here’s the thing. I am basic and boring. The first app on my new phone was PBS, followed very closely by Target’s Cartwheel and Starbucks. I was overly excited to find a high chair cover with a decently cute print on it. These are my victories lately. Having a blog and the (self imposed) obligation to maintain it has added a pressure in my head that asks, "Is this blog worthy?" Quite frankly, the answer is usually a resounding no. As I take stock of every week for Five for Friday, two things happen: I start to search intentionally for the joy, the tiny celebrations or the frustrations that maybe other women and other moms would appreciate. (This is the thread that continues to tug at me and why I’ve plugged away despite lackluster motivation and content.)

But I also become increasingly aware of how little I do in terms of "people are going to care about this." And, really, that thought has no place in my orbit right now. I’m worried about keeping my kids safe and engaged, taking a shower a few times a week, delivering creative and on-time work to my freelance clients and supporting my sweet husband. It’s not very much on paper, or a computer screen, but it fills my days and nights. And when I happen to have the time blogging requires, I want to funnel it elsewhere. Finally putting the Lego pool and patio set together with Addison. Reading a book to Asher. Working out. Starting that children’s book. There’s plenty to do offline right now without the pressure of a perfectly curated online presence. I want to be here, in this moment, while it lasts.

I’ve also started to feel the weight of an older Addison, a young girl with peculiarities and a very specific personality. Is her story really mine to share? I want to err on the side of conservative in that debate and, when she can really understand, allow her to choose her own (pre-approved, fully clothed, thoughtful, heavily firewalled) digital identity.

It’s difficult to step away because I do feel deeply the pull toward creating community, facilitating a space of honesty, of support, of recognition, of hope for the women who are running homes and careers and after crazy children that they sometimes do not like. After three years (first typed "tears" and ain’t that the truth) and some change in this mothering mess…just…wow. Pull up a chair and let’s dish because this sh$t is real. There is so much that "no one tells you" because THEY DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN, SISTER. And the species would die off if they did. I’ve completely lost where I was heading, but eventually I would love to open that kind of dialogue. Sharing and gleaning and growing and returning to our messes a little bit refreshed. One day, maybe. But not this day.

I’m closing up shop for right now. Probably for good.  

So know that if you never commented or commented all the time (love you, Kisha!), read from the beginning or from a month ago, I appreciate every second you spent away from your life to read about mine. Now let’s go tear it up in our boring, unbloggable lives!

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Five for Friday

Comin’ at ya late today so I won’t waste time with niceties.

1. Last weekend Asher was dedicated at church. When Addison was dedicated we invited everyone on our Facebook friends lists and threw a huge party. This time, being the equitable parents we are, we didn’t take one photo. Sigh. Hopefully Asher forgives us if we agree to go halfsies on his future therapy.

asher dedication 2. Speaking of…happy four months to that little chunk!

asher 4 months

I got him crinkly table paper to celebrate and he loved it.

3. After the dedication Sunday, we spent the day at the suite where my parents were staying for their anniversary. Romance crashers, party of four. Naturally, the rain spoiled most of our pool and beach plans, but we were able to take Addison swimming for a bit before dinner and the view wasn’t too terrible.

little harbor

4. I escaped for a short respite one night this week and ended up scribbling some prose while jamming to Van Morrison. It felt like so many nights in college when I drove around late at night with overpriced coffee waiting for the poem to strike. And, like always, I was intoxicated by freedom and inspired by possibility.

coffee scrap

5. I braved the mall with a free range toddler. Addison was enamored with this pink suitcase and rolled that thing up and down the aisles. She was quite chatty with the mannequin about her find, and we were able to pick out all the items we’d need to put in her suitcase for our imaginary big trip. I don’t know the precise destination that would require a crock pot, rice cooker and fry pan (we were waiting in the kitchen department), but we will certainly be well fed when we get there.

addie suitcase

And here’s the first text I ever received from her, using my dad’s phone.

addie text

In a few decades, we’re going to discover that’s a brilliant code to solve one of science’s greatest mysteries…hopefully the first hair product that is actually resistant to humidity because, you know, priorities.

I hope your weekend is as awesome as crinkly table paper.

Closure & Contemplation

“The only way to find out if you’re in the right place
is to stand in the place.”
- Amy Poehler

During a brief respite from determining how I can force Amy P. to adopt me, I took a few minutes to watch this Smart Girls video of her speaking on courage. The above quote kept echoing in my head after I heard it for a few reasons.

Most obviously, I thought about our time in Virginia. Clayton and I had been so excited and optimistic to leave Florida. We’d talked about that leap for years, imagined it over and over, and finally had an opportunity. We were so ready. Never in a million years did we think that journey would circle right back to Florida two years later, at our own choosing.

nat shenandoahIn some ways, it felt like we’d failed. Scratch that, it felt like I’d failed. I was the one who couldn’t hack it less than a year in, I was the one looking for PA jobs in Florida (no one would even see me for an interview) after building up this dream of what life would look like anywhere but here. But Ames reminded me that we wouldn’t have known if that move was for us unless we actually packed up and moved. Turns out, Newport News did not hold the Noas’ glamorous, reinvented future. It did, however, hold a lot of military bases, terrible traffic and an insane job in a trauma hospital. (But weekend D.C. trips were pretty fantastic.)

nat clayton dc

So we moved on. I think about those years quite a bit, for better or worse. Maybe moving on didn’t necessarily have to mean moving back, but Clayton and I were both so desperate for relationships. Tampa had a whole vending machine of prepackaged, ready to consume friendships waiting for us. It would have been hard to take another risk in a new city at that point. Plus, I was pregnant and wanted my mommy.

When I think about where we’ll be five or ten years from now, though, I don’t know that Florida is sustainable. Crazily enough, I’m the one who will probably initiate another foray outside the Sunshine State. Clayton has the personality that accepts things as they are; I am the wanderer and questioner. He can’t sit still literally, but I can’t stay still figuratively. After only a few years being back, I cherish the family and friends that fill my life but still wonder what might be waiting. And, quite simply, we won’t know if there is another place for us until we’re standing in that place

Apart from an actual get-up-and-go battle cry, A.Poehls reiterated some thoughts I’ve been wrestling with about my work. Writing as a career in and of itself still thrills me. Factor in doing it from home, on my own schedule, and in between caring for kiddo(s), and it’s oh so tempting to ride this wave as far as it takes me without changing course.

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But then some days, like today, I will catch a glimpse of what writing about things and people and places that truly inspire me would feel like. And I know with certainty I could do that. That’s about where the debilitating blackness of the Unknown begins to stretch out ahead. I have no idea what “writing about what I want” looks like. A book, a column, a blog that is actually maintained, a journal that never sees the light of day. Or a more creative day job that nurtures me professionally but prevents me from nurturing my family in the way I am used to.

So far, I have not felt a strong enough pull to make any effort to change my work load. I take what I am given by my current clients, weathering the hectic months along with the silent ones. Thankfully, my income has remained pretty steady and everything balances out by the end of the year. Except for taxes. God forsaken taxes.

Now that baby number that’s-it is coming along, I’ve been getting a different thrill thinking about what comes next. I am sure this was a crux, but it seemed a little pointless to dive into a new lifestyle, hobby or work situation knowing a baby was about to be on board. Could I have opened a new business or enrolled in a doctorate program in my second trimester? Sure. Would it have led to a mental breakdown ending in a murder-suicide primed for a Lifetime movie? Probably. All signs now point to the imminent end of childbearing, and I’ll be “free” to and (eek!) responsible for creating what life will look like raising babies instead of making ‘em.

It’s an exciting proposition to feel like anything is possible. I honestly feel that way, as cheesy and PSA-sounding as it is. I’m looking forward to training for all sorts of running PRs in the next decade, planning trips that require air travel and being able to take the necessary sedatives to follow through with them, visiting far away friends more regularly, and who knows what else. I was semi serious about the doctorate program. Always the scholar.

oh the places

My future second mommy Mama Amy offered an added reassurance that yes, all those plans may crash and burn—okay, not cool to use that analogy related to air travel; double my dose, please—but taking steps to stand in those places, no matter what the result, is courageous. Even more, it’s living.

C’mon get happy!

I posted an overly obnoxious and whiny caption on Instagram the other day and have been feeling lame about it ever since. I was—and still am—extremely frustrated by our new insurance situation as of late, but hey, we can afford (loose use of that word) insurance for our family and one way or another, I can see a doctor whenever I need to. So, time to get over myself.

As a recompense, here are some things that are making me not frustrated right now, 90% of which are food related because hello, pregnant.

1. Cream cheese + red raspberry preserves. Maybe I ordered a bagel with cream cheese, added the preserves at home and devoured the combo like a starved mountain lion. And then made two more pieces of toast so I could have more of it. Related: how are your New Year’s diet resolutions going, those of you not baking a baby? Suckers.

2. Mama got a new pair of boots. And baby is about to get fancy.

boots

onesie

3. It’s been less of a meatless Monday and more of a meatless two trimesters over here, so I made vegetable enchiladas and they were filled with good veggies (albeit smothered in cheese) that I’ve been neglecting and lasted for three nights, i.e. I could slack on meal prep for two nights.

4. I ordered a decaf coffee at the Target Starbucks counter, and since they don’t keep a brewed pot of decaf, they made me a pour over. Holy delicious. It didn’t seem complicated until I looked it up; there are like 29 ways to make a pour over at home, so…whatever. Here’s my $3, pour hot water over powdered beans for me, please sir.

5. Doughnuts. I haven’t actually had one in a few months, but just the idea of them is putting me in a pretty good mood. Which reminds me of the ridiculous idea I had to do a pregnancy announcement using whimsically decorated Halloween doughnuts and the phrase “Something wickedly sweet this way comes.” Adorable, no?!

No.

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There was so much failure happening with the manifestation of this idea. First of all, the Dunkin Donuts commercials obviously used professionally trained, bakery owning frosting masters to craft the images I saw on t.v. Over at the ol’ local DD, I was treated to a “let me see what I can do” and gifted the scraggly interpretations of a moody teenager with some sort of clear musculoskeletal dysfunction. Then there’s the lighting, the giant plate, just a whole lot of no.

I was so annoyed I didn’t even eat one.

6. Breaking Bad. Not exactly an upper, but our two nightly episodes are little mini dates. Intensely graphic, drug-filled, cringe-worthy mini dates. We are at the beginning of Season 4 and OMG I want to punch Hank in the throat. (Source)

hank marie text1

hank marie text2

7. My brother (who is called Kunkle instead of Uncle) popped in this week and played with Addison for a couple hours. The next morning on the way to preschool, out of nowhere she shouted, “Kunkle’s here!” It melted my cold, dark heart.

8. Clayton, and now also Addison, playing the harmonica while Maya howls along. Never gets old.

9. Filling out paperwork and answering the “Occupation” section with “Writer.” Because stay at home pajama wearer, toddler chaser, kitchen avoider, stink eye deliverer and Instagram enthusiast usually takes up too much space.

10. The Bachelor is back and I don’t care who knows I am ALL IN already. With the sheer number of diagnosable alcoholics alone, this is going to be excellent television. SPOILER A’COMIN.

So sad to see you go, Tara. Thank you for representing Florida in a truly spectacular fashion. Enjoy that month long hangover. (Source)

drunk tara

Hollywood (the East Coast version) & Miami

Thank God for medical conferences. And my completely remote writing business that allows me to take advantage of them. Clayton attended some long-winded professional meeting in Hollywood (Florida) last week, and I carpooled with him Wednesday night to my own private vacation. As you’ll notice from the photos (or lack thereof), we aced taking pictures together.

Beach selfie. Happened.

Beach selfie. Happened.

We stayed at the Crown Plaza in Hollywood, which wasn’t slumming it by any stretch, but the conference was a block away at The Westin Hollywood, and that my friends, is a hotel. The lobby is four stories high with a glass ceiling and two rows of full size palm trees INSIDE. I walked in and was certain I’d entered heaven. A lot of people wear swimsuits in heaven, btw.

Hollywood Beach

On Thursday and Friday we had lunch together with Clayton’s boss at The Westin’s oceanfront café. It was amusing to see all of the buttoned up, badge-wearing conference attendees meeting their bikini and cover-up clad wives. I guess my plan to tag along was not all that unique. I was the only wife in an oversized Nike t-shirt as a cover-up, though.

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Clayton and I were able to explore a bit for dinner each night. Thursday we drove around for a long time with nothing to show for it before finding Portherhouse. Luckily it was nice enough to eat outside on the patio because they allow smoking inside, which is no bueno for my lungs. Stink eyes would have run amok.

Friday night we were slightly more prepared and headed toward downtown Hollywood. It wasn’t quite as rambunctious as we were expecting–okay, it was also 6 p.m. We’re so old. We walked around and attempted to take inconspicuous selfies, which is impossible, and artistic photos of yet more palm trees.

Downtown Hollywood

We had dinner right on the intercoastal at The Downtowner. Again, probably wouldn’t recommend indoor dining (it’s a cramped bar/pub inside), but we loved sitting by the water. We walked around some more after dinner until it was too dark to take any more palm tree photos.

the downtowner

As you should assume, every night ended with ice cream in some capacity. Totally justifiable because I worked out a total of one time. But I certainly thought about a few runs along the beach and packed my Garmin, so…that has to count for something.

We’d planned to stay Wednesday night through Saturday night and drive home Sunday. There was a teeny little hiccup when we came back from lounging at the pool Saturday afternoon and realized our room hadn’t been cleaned, and it was 1 p.m. My stomach sank a little bit, and after some troubleshooting, Clayton realized the room was only booked through Friday night, and had been that way since the trip was planned months prior. Oopsies.

Obviously, I was the picture of reason and understanding and forgiveness. At least I would have been if I was speaking to Clayton for the following hour.

In my huff, I assumed we were going to pack up and head home, but luckily my petulance doesn’t always call the shots. My caffeine addiction does. We parked it at Starbucks for (yet more) half price Frappuccino’s and I sulked while Clayton booked us another hotel in downtown Miami.

View from our 20th floor balcony.

View from our 20th floor balcony.

 

View from 11 degrees to the right of the previous view.

View from 11 degrees to the right of the previous view.

I guess it was okay.

The weather was overcast and rainy, so we didn’t really need to be close to the beach anymore. We had our nicest dinner Saturday night at the hotel’s restaurant, and I am still daydreaming about the steak I had. Which is weird because ”I don’t like steak.”

We drove around South Beach because we were too crotchety to deal with finding parking and actually walking. Watching other people have fun sure is exhausting, so we grabbed ice cream at Publix and called it a night. Stop judging us.

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Sunday morning we decided to give South Beach another go and had a delicious breakfast at Oliver’s Bistro before actually parking our car and traversing on foot. Gasp. We headed to the beach for a little walk, stumbled upon one topless sunbather, and that about did it.

Oliver's bike Miami South Beach fence the tides leslie narrow

I’m still feeling gipped about only seeing two alligators along a 4,000-mile stretch of Alligator Alley, but otherwise the trip was a roaring success. For some reason I never realized just how beautiful Miami is and how tempting it is to jet down there every single weekend.

But there is one good reason to stick around home, too. And I sure missed those 30 pounds of attitude.

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On Sunday, in the cafeteria of a middle school transformed to a church atrium,
my little girl, my fair-skinned, auburn-haired baby,
waddled across linoleum towards an expanse of tiled freedom,
trailed close behind by the narrow calves of an older girl chasing her with shared glee
pinching the oh-so-pinchable sides of my baby’s belly
and laughing a little girl’s laugh.

The girls reversed, and bee-lined back to mothers wasting time before getting back to
lunch making, diaper changing, nap fighting.
And the girls began to twirl
in cotton dresses skimming ankles,
the older swooshing in a large vibrant dance,
a younger sister joining,
my part-Spanish, part-her-father’s daughter watching with wild, eager eyes
this game she must learn,
this dance that spins and spins,
these brown-skinned girls that squealed and played
in the same high-pitched, reckless,
bouncing-off-the-wall-of-windows way
that my little lady often prefers.

My baby, with green-gray eyes and gold-flecked hair,
clapping, squealing, eager to be dancing
with other A-named girls.

There was so much sameness,
there in the different shades of skin and hair and eyes,
there in the twirling and escaping
and joining of hands.
And on a sunny Sunday morning,
I hoped that the mother of those girls who took my baby’s breath away
with laughter
and chasing
could hear the faintest sound
of history pounding deep in bones
of a ‘beautiful symphony of brotherhood’
tapped in quick-step rhythm
by little girls’ twirling toes.

“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together.”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 1963

Before 30 Wish List

I originally wanted to list 30 things to do before I was 30. Either because I am so prematurely accomplished or because I am detestably uncreative, I could only think of 10.

  1. Run a 5k in less than 30 minutes. (So close.)
  2. See college friends. If you think I’m talking about you, I probably am. Football season usually makes this easier since we take advantage of anyone we know still living in Tallahassee willing to put us up for FSU games.
  3. Make a few new friends. Gals of Tampa, get ready for a stammering, inaudible, likely inappropriate greeting comin’ at ya.
  4. Get out of my comfort zone. By accomplishing #3, I will most certainly take care of this one.
  5. Find a recipe to master. My husband should say, “Natalie makes the best [corn dogs, café con leche, pea soup or something equally as awesome and surprising].”
  6. Participate in at least one service project face to face. Writing a check is important, but getting my hands dirty is a must sometimes.
  7. Think of an idea for a novel. Write a chapter or two, solely to say casually, “I’m working on my book” for the next 10 years.
  8. Run another half marathon.
  9. Visit somewhere for the first time. California. Greece. Omaha. I don’t really care where.
  10. Read (or re-read) a couple of classics. Don’t persecute me for this, but I have not read one book by Jane Austen.

Identity Crisis

Saturday night I pretended to be

a. under 25
b. childless
c. awake after 11 p.m. and
d. in my element at a bar with hip kids wearing outfits I didn’t even understand

tallhart2

While those parts were a little misleading, the glaring truth was that
yes, being a mom and crawling around the floor with my mesmerizing mini-Clayton fulfills all of my heart,
and
yes, my soul feels alive when I am in the midst of creativity—music, theater and, most relevant, good writing (Mindy Kaling’s book need not apply).

I want to write, and my blog is the best forum I can think of to do that right now. It’s completely on my own terms and I have the luxury of writing always or never. But I want to write about more than spit up stains, even though many days that’s all that comes to mind when I dig for content. Of course by content, I mean a clean shirt to wear to Target.

There’s not a real reason why I’m sharing this. Maybe accountability. Maybe because it needs to stop echoing around my head and just stick on a page somewhere. But the motivation fairy hit me square in the face Saturday night, right around the first chorus of Tallhart’s “Drunk Kids.” (Hey, drunk kids, it’s a commentary, not a celebration. Put your plastic cup down and pay attention. Sorry, where were we?)

tallhart3

This is what drives me. To create with words. Not for money, because I get paid enough to shift commas around and pitch retirement homes, but to constantly step into who I am at my core. If I am not writing, I do not feel whole. That’s a heavy statement for someone who blogs once a month about the different fruits her kid is eating, but it’s a truth I realized years ago and bears remembering. Out loud. In a public space.

I am not asking you to stick around to read it. I know that one time I may have been witty and actually funny and worth a glance. I also know it’s been many moons since that day. I’m fine with that: my 8 pound, 3.7 ounce excuse is satisfactory for me.

But now I need this. To feed my soul and feel awake creatively, resulting in
a more gracious wife,
a more patient and attentive mother,
a more understanding friend
a more effective leader and even
a writer worth reading.

Thanks for sticking this transition out. The past two years have brought on an astounding number of changes to the who, what, where and why of me. Inevitably, my voice as a writer must change with it. I think I’m ready to see what that voice will say.

And most certainly that voice will say it sarcastically.

Okay, fine. There will still be A LOT of Addison up in here. I’m already embarrassing her in real life, may as well complete the digital circle.

nat A rays

Girls Week

Last week Clayton attended a conference for work in Chicago. He was gone Tuesday through Saturday. I survived, and so did my child, but just barely.

A nat lips

The biggest challenge was a freelance project I’d agreed to the previous week without carefully reading the last sentence in the email that said, “It’s going to be tight, but I think it’s doable.” “Doable” meant working through every nap time and after putting the peanut to sleep every night. Not impossible, but certainly stressful.

My mom was a saint the entire week and spent too many hours over here Tuesday pulling Addison’s fingers away from the electrical outlets they are so drawn to. I put that vintage desk in the guest room to good use. Clayton and I host a small group from our church every Tuesday night, so I called it a day early to clean up the house and run to the store for some snacks that no one ever eats. I threw dinner in the oven for me, fed Addison and found a t-shirt free of spit-up stains all in time to welcome the group at the door precisely at 7. Except there was no group at 7. Or 7:10. Or 7:20. Turns out they thought we’d canceled since Clayton was out of town. I drowned my disappointment in the hummus artfully displayed on the counter, gnawing on those few hours spent Swiffering up coffee spills on the floor that could have been spent working.

A computer

I spent Wednesday night at my parents’ house thinking the extra help with Addison would give me more time to work. My attempt at forethought and planning blew up in my face when Addison slept for two hours that morning. I’d already packed my computer in the car in hopes of a quick wake up and hit the road scenario. The reality was my pacing around the house aimlessly, “accidentally” dropping glass objects on the tile and nervously watching the non-productive time tick by.

After Addison finally woke up, I loaded up the kid, the dog, myself and 83% of all our belongings, and we trekked the 35 minutes to Wesley Chapel. My mom took over Addie duties and I got my work station all set up…only to discover I’d forgotten my laptop charger at home. No worries, I thought, I’ll just work until it dies. So I power up the trusted HP, and surprise—7% power remaining. Enough to move the cursor over about 1/8 of an inch before it shuts off.

A humiliating all-call on Facebook was useless, but luckily my dad had a charger at work he said he’d bring home. That still left us gals with three hours of time on our hands and no work to be accomplished. I nearly broke down. I wanted to, but my mom was close at hand and I didn’t feel like a pep talk, I just felt like chocolate. The realization that it was only Wednesday also played into the feeling that I was trapped in a never-ending week. I did end up getting a good chunk of the project completed once my dad came home and they tag-teamed Addison. They also did a great job of infant entertaining after dinner until it was time for her to go to bed.  

A ring

Being away from my own space proved even more stressful, so the three Noa ladies came back home on Thursday. I found time to sneak in the last portions of the big project, plus finish some smaller jobs that popped up in the inbox. I even managed to take Addie to her first baseball game that her Uncle Tony was coaching. The difficult-to-watch two hours of errors and restrained rage was a decent metaphor for the week I was having. I won’t mention the score, but Uncle T did not come out on top. 

I have to give a mama shout-out to my little girl because that kid slept like a dream every night. If I had to combine the tension of that week with two or three overnight wake-ups, I may have crumbled. Lugging her around the city probably aided in exhausting and confusing her throughout the day, so yeah, high-five to me for yanking any hope of stability away from my 8 month old. That seems to really tire them out.

A standing crib

In related news, I actually do know the exact location of the trash cans in the garage and which days all that garbage magically disappears from inside of them. I enjoyed two sweet potatoes in the absence of my potato-hating husband, and there was no one in my living quarters forcing me to share my sushi, ice cream or red wine. Or make judgments of how much of them I was consuming.

I don’t know how single parents do this day after day after day. My solace so many times throughout the week was looking at the calendar knowing, down to the second, when I has handing that baby over and clocking out of mom mode. My life is so very good, and ridiculously easy with the support system I have around me. A long list of people offered to help last week, so I knew that I had reinforcements whenever I needed them.

A abuelo

A beema

Still, Addison and I were both jazzed about Clayton getting back home, harmonica and all (don’t ask). She showed him just how much with a warm welcome from 2-4 a.m. that morning. I would have joined the party, but like I said: I was off the clock.