Saturday, December 31, 2011

Days gone by

So, I don't have a specific list of things to reflect on, necessarily. 2011 was more like this:

House on the market. House sold. We moved. The end.

Wasn't that enough in itself for the year?

But there was so much in the every day, so much in the posts, in the prayer, in the pictures ... checked out this reflection of a year--20 questions for asking yourself--and I was surprised, and not surprised, at some of my answers.

Some status writers on Facebook are eager to say goodbye to 2011. But one friend's response resonated with me--that even the bad was something to cherish and not wish away--especially if it provided opportunity to grow. I couldn't agree more. I find myself thankful.

I haven't stopped counting thanks, but they haven't appeared on Mondays like they used to. I give credit to that mystery woman at church a few weeks back. At the computer prepping the list of thanks for that week, I stopped short, remembering my conversation with her. My thanks paused here:

2571. thankful for my broken heart

I think sometimes when it's all good, it's good enough. But brokenness triggers a searching, a yearning, a grasp for hope. Brokenness spurs change, passion, determination, faith. Broken places heal stronger, make us stronger, and position us to be compassionate to others in a way that might not happen at all in the granted of the all good.

Worship was intensified in the brokenness. And in that trail of thanks, over 2,500 steps long, I know I wouldn't have been able to declare 2571 a moment earlier. Now the visuals and the every little thing that pixelates this life, they just flow unnumbered, but not uncounted. I might pick it back up in lists again. But sitting quietly with 2571 this evening. (Oh, and Shane too.)

I don't suppose God sees it as coincidence that the song that ignited a word for me nearly a year ago, would be the last song I sang tonight at church. Heh, or maybe he does. But I don't.

Looking forward to a new year. Looking forward to our continued progress of making this home ours. Looking forward to a fourth year on 66Books. And a focus for 2012: Joy.

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Ready for joy.

Happy new year!

More than infinity

Cuddling with Erin. Hugs and kisses. Love looks between us.

"I love you more than you love me," she said.

"No, I love you more. Way more than you love me," I countered.

"No, I love you way, way, way more," she said.

"Well, I love you infinity," I said.

She looked at me, hesitated, said,

"I love you more."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A little like slow motion

Like running for the long jump. Feet pounding, thump, thump, thump. And then the spring: legs stretching, arms reaching, face grimaced. That's what 2011 felt like to me. Parts of it. Viewed in hindsight, slow motion. And the cry out, kind of a growl, like tearing off a band-aid stuck on too tight. Ly. Tightly. Waiting for my feet to touch ground ...

... thinking of the chance meeting with a woman at church a couple of weeks ago. She told me things. My response to her like it was meant for my ears ... only God knows your heart. Thoughts lately of that ... quiets me.

... the ending of a year that started in one house and finishes in another. I'm sitting in our school room tap-tap-tapping on a keyboard looking around me. Hearing the hum of the heater. Woolly socks on my feet. Christmas wreaths still on doorways. I am frequently amazed we're here. Frequently amazed. We are here.

... thoughts on a word of the year. Reviewing posts of 2011, a playlist sounds. Worship. What a year. What a year.

... prepping a reading plan for 2012; a new team of writers and some returning. I'm on Thursdays starting next week. Entering a fourth year. And, for me, a new focus point:


I sat and colored with the kids yesterday. And Denise. All of us doing our own thing. In big, bold, block letters I spelled out J O Y in red on orange paper so it filled the page. Outlined it several times. I looked up and noticed Denise and Lanie also writing out J O Y like a banner across their pages.

"I like that word," Denise said.

"Once you start to focus on it, you'll see it everywhere," I told her. Which we did throughout our errands that afternoon. (I made sure to point it out.) We shared smiles. And I felt grateful to count her as a friend.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry indeed

When I was little, we'd stay in our rooms until we heard music playing on Christmas morning. Then we'd come down to open presents and have breakfast, usually cinnamon rolls. In our other house, I couldn't carry on that tradition because of the open floor plan. One step out of a bedroom gave full view to the family room below. But this house is different. And each room has a speaker.

Lanie and Erin were eagerly standing at our bedside Christmas morning with merry wishes on their lips and big smiles. "Go turn on the music!" Lanie said. So I went downstairs and plugged in the lights on the tree, turned on the coffee, preheated the oven and turned on the music. Our first Christmas here. And while Thanksgiving wasn't the warm-fuzzy experience I'd hoped it would be, Christmas was.

The coffee was good. The cinnamon rolls were hot. A sausage and egg breakfast bake followed with fresh berries. Lanie called it pajama day. And I said to Shane, "Part of me feels like having a fire in the fireplace."

"Which part of you would that be?" he joked.

"The cold part," I said.

Erin dressed up for church

Christmas Eve at bedtime

The after hours

Christmas blur

Bed heads


"My house is warm, my friendship is free." Thank you, Anita, for making my walls and my life so beautiful.

Cinnamon rolls

Window clings

Mini mugs for hot chocolate

Cookies gifted and gratefully received
 Thinking of loved ones lost ... or left ... or far away ... and missing them.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Shane said it doesn't feel like Christmastime to him. But it does to me. Tree up, lights glowing. Advent lollipop trees, garland on the mantel, wreaths on doorways, candle tarts warmed, cinnamon pine cones, cookies and music.

Enjoying Christmastime by Michael W. Smith this year. By far, my now favorite is Carol of the Bells by Barlow Girl.

My dad's girlfriend told me when she was a girl, her relatives would spend Christmas together, getting a tree on Christmas Eve, propping it in a sand pail undecorated. She said when all the kids and cousins woke up Christmas morning, the tree was fully decorated and lit up, presents underneath and stockings full. She said it was magical. It sounded that way. I can only imagine the party it must have been for the grown-ups pulling an all-nighter (how fun!). I bet the coffee tasted good that morning.

My girls already requesting the color wrapping paper for their gifts. When Erin was much smaller, we color-coded packages so the kids could spot their gifts if they couldn't read their names. Funny this has stuck with them as being part of Christmas in our house. I was about to abandon the idea, since Erin can spell and read her name. But it looks like a tradition is born of anticipation.

Revisited a former tradition by bringing back the cookie swap. We skipped last year's since our house was on the market, but it felt good to be back in the kitchen baking, and sitting with friends for an afternoon. Shane was going to take the girls to the movies, but Erin decided to stay home in her tutu. I loved having her here, and we sang songs and prepped until the friends arrived.

The day went fast, the hellos and hugs too brief, a lot like the season. I sat down at the end of the day, covered in a baby blanket, drinking the last of the salted caramel hot chocolate. And whether it felt like Christmas or not, I was glad it felt like home.

Monday, December 12, 2011


chocolate dipped marshmallow with Christmas sprinkles. Cute and easy.

cheese plate in shape of Christmas tree

pretty meringues (store bought)

craft activities

heart shaped cheese on snowflake Ritz crackers. E. Z.

the cake from a local bakery

birthday song

Erin with my dad

filling goodie bags (snowman Peeps!)

used first for musical chairs (snowflakes), reused for glitter craft

snowflake glitter ornaments, crafts, and winterscape color pages

peppermint kiss cookies and white fudge Oreos with snowflakes piped on

Fun day.

Lucked out with all the fabulous ideas others have scouted out on the internet and shared through Pinterest. Got the tree cheese tray, Oreo snowflake, peppermint cookie, the dipped marshmallows (and the Christmas ornament garland) all from there.When I thought I'd never actually do one of the hundred images/links I'd saved, I did five in two days.

Had a happy celebration with Erin, who chose to wear her little black dress to her party. Easy theme, easy prep, made it easy to relax and be hands-on with the party instead of working behind the scenes. Of course, it helps having a room full of awesome friends and relatives who jumped in to slice up, dish out, photograph, etc.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Decking the halls

Shane gave me such a great compliment once. That he could walk into the kitchen of total chaos ten minutes before guests would arrive, then turn his back and it was magically transformed and ready for company. He said it always surprised him I could pull it together so fast.

Until this year. Big fail at Thankgiving. Family showing up 40 minutes ahead of schedule, me still in pajamas, the kitchen all chaos and I hadn't even started the mashed potatoes. Not my best moment. Or the ones that followed.

With Erin's birthday party tomorrow, I got a head start on it yesterday. We've always done a casual playdate party, but this year, I thought I'd spruce it up for her. I even decorated.

Whether or not I can pull it off and be out of pajamas before her friends arrive remains to be seen. But I'm hopeful.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Do'in it Friday

By the second cup of coffee, I was reviewing my things to do. Mental list of this and that. Thought to myself, "I'll do it Friday."

Then I realized ... it is Friday.

Getting ready for a winter wonderland tea party for Erin, who turns five on Sunday.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chocolate frosted with Christmas sprinkles

Rainy day. Drive downtown. Rushing kids out the door. Sandwiches in bags in hands out the door. Navigating streets of memory. Slightly stressed. Parking garage. Erin doesn't want to walk down the steps. Rainy streets. To the symphony hall. Get tickets at will-call. Find seats. Up one. Up two. To the third (after one relocation). The very.last.row.


Frowny girls. Grumpy voices. Squirmers till show starts.

Erin sits on my lap the whole time. I didn't mind. Half way through whispers, "I'm tired. Can we go yet?"

"We're almost there," I said.

Lanie needs a potty break.

"But we just had one. It's almost done. A few minutes?"

She coughs. And coughs. And coughs. Lights rise. We're out. Potty break. To the rainy streets. Up the garage stairwell. Out into afternoon traffic. Through the city. On the highway. On the expressway. One falls asleep. I had promised a treat. Dunkin' Donuts ahead. Two kids out of the car. In the rain. In line.

"One red icing with sprinkles," I said. "And one chocolate frosted with the Christmas sprinkles, please."

Pay. Out the door. In the car.

"Who might let Mommy have a tiny bite of their donut," I asked.

"You take big bites!" Erin protested.

"You can take a bite of mine, Mommy," Lanie offered.

Donuts handed out, and I stopped.

There was an extra chocolate covered donut with Christmas sprinkles. I smiled. Thankful.

Brighter days

It was a weekend in July. Shane brought home the box truck the real estate agent let us use, so we could load up the kids' play set and take it to our next house. Amazingly, it fit.

Shane got the truck situated so all I had to do was put it in drive and go.

"I set the radio to your favorite station," he said. Because that's the kind of guy he is.

It's been awhile since I heard the song "Move" by Mercy Me. It played today while the girls and I were on a rainy commute to a holiday symphony performance downtown. I remembered the heat of July and the heartache of all that, how that song had played as I started up the truck and pulled out of the neighborhood, the opening of a new chapter. I remembered being thankful that day for a hope-full song and a catchy beat. I sang and I laughed at the sometimes-soundtrack life offers up. So fitting on many levels.

I’m not about to give up
Because I’ve heard You say
There's gonna be brighter days
There's gonna be brighter days
I won’t stop I’ll keep my head up
No I’m not here to stay
There’s gonna be brighter days
There's gonna be brighter days

I just might bend but I won’t break
As long as I can see Your face

When life won’t play along
And right keeps going wrong
And I can’t seem to find my way
I know where I am found
So I won’t let it drag me down
Oh I’ll keep dancing anyway
Gonna move move
Gonna move move

I’ve got to hold it steady
Keep my head in the game
Everything is about to change
Everything is about to change
This hurt is getting heavy
But I’m not about to cave
Everything is about to change
There’s gonna be brighter days

I just might bend but I won’t break
As long as I can see Your face

When life won’t play along
And right keeps going wrong
And I can’t seem to find my way
I know where I am found
So I won’t let it drag me down
Oh I’ll keep dancing anyway
Gonna move

No matter what may come
Gonna move to a different drum
No matter what life brings
Gotta move to a different beat

Monday, December 5, 2011

One thousand gifts and still counting (2562-2570)

  • writers at 66 Books who've contributed through years
  • new writers up for the possibility of 2012
  • a new reading plan selected for next year, if it's a go
  • the change in me since I've been a part of it
  • the difference here makes, I can't say it enough. 
  • opportunities to connect with others
  • new friendships made
  • seeing family friends so frequently because we're "just around the corner"
  • how she joins us on Fridays for dinner, and we are closer for it

Make no mistake--when I count these gifts and give thanks, it's only to God. Because while I'm thankful for the Big Gifts (salvation, forgiveness, hope), I am thankful for the endless little gifts. Abundant life ... I wonder if it's in the awareness of and abiding in his presence--that I can be thankful for coffee deliveries before a holiday weekend, for kids who embrace and love me, for picture-window sunset views to replace the sunrises, a captain's bell under vine, the company of friends around a table, the silky sweetness of chocolate. It's no generic thing--my thanks is intended for a father who gives good gifts. I'm eternally grateful.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


The whole house has been under infection of some sort. I think I started the ball rolling with the fever/sinus infection combo, followed by Erin with skyrocketing fever. Then Shane to cough and losing his voice. Lanie boasted immunity and then fell victim to fever and cough. Erin's been the longest though, with a cough that won't let go and taunts her at night. For the past three nights, we've let her sleep in our bed.

Coughing fit tonight called me to comfort her as she fell asleep. I lied next to her and held her close, savoring these last days of four. She turns to face me.

"You're my Christmas present," she said. That love. I know it. How she tries to explain it so I'll understand.

"While you were out today, I found a rock," she told me. This important news before she fell asleep. "It looked like gold!" We smiled.

Four years old, my rock hunter, still. Excitement of golden rocks. And joy at love like an anticipated gift on Christmas morning.

I write this down so I won't forget.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Eye of the beholder

David's been over the past few days supervising brush clearing in the jungle. We walked around looking at trees and he made comments about them--some being ugly, haunting, not graceful. To my interest, I had never considered the trees that way--I rather liked some for their imperfection and quirks (and the haunting, spooky ones were my personal favorites). I suppose that's the melancholic in me.

In today's reading, the heart and the beholder.

When an enemy would flame with words, criticism, condemnation–the Lord corrects in love, stands with me in my retching admission, forgives.

Writing today at 66 Books

Monday, November 28, 2011

One thousand gifts and still counting (2541-2561)

  • a big box of coffee delivered the day before Thanksgiving
  • a painted dining room
  • turkey plates, little cups and saucers, unpacked
  • happy faces at the table
  • icing on cupcakes, swirled high

  • the less-than-perfect, and learning to find peace in it
  • handmade potholders from my dad
  • that he was here to see his lights twinkling at night in the garden
  • dirty dishes on the counter for morning
  • an impromptu visit from David and Anita

  • her still-warm pumpkin bread, gifted
  • our first Thanksgiving here
  • mild weather with sunshine
  • the winding down of a third year on 66 Books
  • belly laughs from the best kids ever

  • the looking forward to holiday traditions
  • a glowing tree
  • raked leaves
  • photo cards in the mail
  • catching my husband eating pie from the dish the day after

  • and sunsets.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas ornaments

This year's tree; a pre-lit tree because Shane is done hanging lights. And my JOY reminder front and center, quite likely to be my 2012 focus word, if I do that kind of thing again.

Every year our family heads to a nearby nursery that is decked out with Christmas trees and ornaments. There, we select a new ornament each. I try to pick an ornament that is symbolic of something of the year. Like the first year of being a mom, I got a snowmama holding a snowbaby. Another year, per the (then) annual cookie swap, I selected a gingerbread man dressed in cook's clothing. Last year, the girls and I saw a lovely performance of The Nutcracker, so I chose an ornament of Clara holding a nutcracker.

The kids tend to get whatever is pretty or sparkly or catches their eye. This year, Lanie picked out a stained-glass cross. Erin got a Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, second year running.

I got a sock monkey. Which has nothing to do with anything, yet is somehow fitting.

We passed by a woodland section of ornaments and Shane and I shared a good laugh over spiders, squirrels, foxes, groundhogs, mice, and snakes.

"You have to get a mouse or a snake," I encouraged. He didn't pick one out, being our resident humbug. I'm half tempted to go back soon and get one for him.

The girls decorating the tree.

Friday, November 25, 2011

His and hers

Black Friday morning. Hum of heater. Warm covers. Sunlight streaming. Shane and I head downstairs for coffee--revving up for the day ... our annual trek to pick out an ornament for the tree and lunch at Wegmans. I peek into Lanie's room: bed made, everything tidy and ordered. Pillows centered, covers smoothed. I point into her room and Shane looks. He smiles.

"That's my girl," he says, and I know.

We look into Erin's room: pink lump under pink covers, tousled hair, toys strewn haphazardly across table, dresser and floor. We laugh. She's all mine.

Not into the hands of men

1 Chronicles 21 opens with Satan inciting, and he does it still today. He does it in communities, in homes, at holidays. He incites God-lovers to sin, and men to grudges, cruelty, hatred.

Writing today at 66 Books.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A room with a view

Before, the early mornings I'd get up and catch the sunrises. On Fridays, they were a colorful perk of a quiet start.

The woman who moved into that house saw them too. Me, here, in the after, acutely aware that I had no sunrise view. Her, there, telling me how beautiful the morning starts are.

I loved the sunrises too, I told her.

Me, here, getting used to where I put things, which light switches control which lights, season giving way to season. I soaked in fall's color palette. Luxuriated in the senses. Captivated by leaves falling, falling, falling ... their silent drift like snow, slow motion.

One evening, I sat in the dining room. Summer's lush and weeks of rain had hidden the view, now revealed. I looked out into the garden and the woods, tree silhouettes, all bare. I caught my breath. A frame of bay window aflame in spectacular--a sunset view that made me gasp and marvel, a cry of gratitude for beauty.

A room, with a view.

Monday, November 21, 2011

One thousand gifts and still counting (2519-2540)

the smell of freshly painted walls
wood stacked

fancy Christmas dresses, one red and one purple with glitter
turquoise tulle for a winter wonderland themed tea party
baby blankets on a couch
a good homeschool review with the county
a turkey defrosting in the fridge

tears that come quickly
a Friday night sermon on the drive home
the miracle of here, God provides
antibiotics for a sinus infection
Girl Scout cookies hand delivered with a lunch--catching up with a bestie

bursting love and thankfulness I felt today: hot coffee in hand, breakfasting with my girls at Panera, a honey glow of pendant lighting against a drizzle gray sky, a hint of fog, my heart singing

an opening for a feverish four year old at the pediatrician's
how she slept in my arms in the waiting room
lollipops that bring smiles
a leaf banner across our mantel
silver glitter

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Get well soon, love Pottery Barn

So I'm on the fifth day of fever, aches, coughing, nausea. Oh, and the chills. Daily wearing several shirts, sometimes a jacket inside the house, socks on my feet. Bundled on the couch in the evening in baby blankets because I'm not sure where our throws are.

Pottery Barn sends me this.

It's like they knew I couldn't find our throws, and that I'm bundled in baby blankets and multiple shirts and sometimes a jacket just to ward off chills.

It's like they knew I've been eyeballing and mentally wish-listing the blue smoke cable throw that reminds me of Cindy's curtains I've been taking down in the living room. The throw with the fleecy looking other-side. The throw made to cover a grown-up. Who is sick. With chills.

Oh, they knew.

Well, I'm sure they knew because they often send me reminders of stuff I've looked at and walked away from. Like, "Hey, Courtney, you were just here. You forgot to buy this." Oh, their clever marketing. This time, they put it on sale. How they toy ...

(Am I the only one who sticks items in the online shopping cart and then waits on buying them because I don't really need the stuff but I want the stuff, and the need and want sides have to battle it out? Usually neither side wins ... because I wait so long that something is eventually no longer available.)

Alas, thank you Pottery Barn for your concern. But I hope my only purchases today are at the grocery store (we are almost out of bread and milk) and the library to pay the 5-day overdue fine on the Mayflower book.

Monday, November 14, 2011

One thousand gifts and still counting (2504-2518)

for a husband who still hugs me when I feel achy and chilly
and who doesn't mind being seen with me in public when I wear white socks with jeans and loafers

a child's kisses and hugs
horsey rides across a hardwood floor
a playdate for Erin
a quick hello with a friend that turned into an hour's chat
a cord of wood to be delivered

home warranties
a word for the year: worship
that he doesn't complain about three weeks of leaves on the ground
a dining room table for eight (or more!)
brave fronts

a visit from my sister-in-law

Friday, November 11, 2011


Stayed under covers too long. Later start to everything.

Erin breakfasting on frozen bread (and Nutella) because I forgot to take it out to thaw last night. Lanie across the table from me while I get a post ready.

"Today's 11/11/11," I tell her. She works on her math pages and looks up to smile ... things amusing to a nine year old and a forty-something mother.

None of this has anything to do with 66 Books.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Boots, shovel, book on snakes

Here's how it went down.

"Mommy! Mommy! There's a snake outside! There's a snake outside!" Lanie yells.

I go outside. And yes, there's a snake sunning itself on the sidewalk. I look at it closely, but still from a distance. If it was a black snake, I would have walked away. But this one was brown with markings, and I've been told copperheads are out here.

I call Joel and explain the situation. He asks lots of questions about the snake and its markings. He tells me what to do.

"I'll stay on the phone," he adds.

I can only imagine how much he heard and what he thought.

Slam! of shovel against concrete.

"Ahhh! Ahhh!" (that's me screaming)

Slam! Slam! Slam!

I get back on the phone.

"It didn't work," I said. "I just pissed him off." And, yes, that's the terminology that falls out of your face when you combine caffeine, a shovel and a snake.

For the record, snakes don't squish like a worm when you stun them with a shovel. They get really mad, coil up and hiss at you. I don't know why I thought they would squish ...

And as a follow-up on the snake, he slithered off with a bad attitude.

Lots to learn out here. When I thought our woodland wish list would consist of books on leaf identification, bird watching, shade gardens ... now I'm adding snakes to the list.

And a pair of boots.

And a better shovel.

"Mommy! Mommy!" Lanie comes running in this morning. "Did you see in the woods?! There are big deer out there with antlers!" Fingers splayed and hands up by her head for dramatic effect.

This is life in the woods.

Monday, November 7, 2011

One thousand gifts and still counting (2487-2503)

chocolate glazed donut coffee in the morning
curtains off the big bay window
light streaming in
a woodland view

Snicker bars in the freezer
how the leaves sound like waves crashing when I rake the big piles
black crows
getting caught grouchy
apology note

 sighting Joel
candle tarts in a bag
a cuddlebug back in the bed
playdate with a former neighbor
thick, green grass

Sunday morning paint run
color swatch on the wall, "Weimeraner"
green that goes white on the doors

Sunday, November 6, 2011

In a well-ventilated area

Pandora. Key word: The Cars.

"You're listening to The Cars?" he asked. "I hate The Cars."

The 80s were so much more than Madonna and Toni Basil.

Steve Winwood, Eddie Money, The Cars to name a few. Thank you, Pandora.

I crank up the volume and pull out the primer to paint over the doors leading into the dining room. Lots of home projects inside and out. The process of transformation, literally and figuratively.

"If we were on DIY, would we be Marriage Under Construction or DIY Nightmares?" I still have hopes of running into a Crasher at the hardware store. No such luck.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dear, dear grace

Life feels fractured in a before and after of sorts. Life one way, then another. Before kids, after kids. Before the move, after the move. Before Jesus, after Jesus.

Writing today at 66 Books.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


A thump at the door and a dink of a ring as her finger presses the backdoor bell. Through the storm door she calls out loudly, "I LOVE YOU, MOMMY!"

I answer back, "I LOVE YOU TOO, BEAN!"

And I wonder how anyone could limit themselves to only one thanks per day in November.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The other firsts were woven together, a tight weave of life fabric. First home, first child, first Christmas. Years built upon them to the beat of the chugging time train. First steps, first teeth, first trick-or-treat. With card-flipping fast speed, my mind remembers. First pumpkin patch, first wagon rides, first friends. And many, many more firsts of that first real home.

And life feels splintered between them ... the former firsts, the new firsts. Things seem familiar, and different. Putting up balloons for Lanie's birthday, I remembered the years I celebrated her before--but this one stands out against the melded memory of others: our first one here.

My hand to paint brush, it had been so many years between Dr. Seuss (a first room for my first child) and Pink Singe (a first for my last).

Erin's first room. Her first night in her first bed of her very first space. She calls the bed rails "fences" and sometimes calls the bed her "cage."

New firsts.

First night. First swim. First friends over.

First boo boos. First autumn. First birthday celebration.

First dinner party. First trick-or-treat. First snow.

These new firsts stand in arrest against time. Because any other year, it would have been another party, another Halloween, another snow. But because we are here, and here makes all the difference, they stand out as firsts.

"Life feels fractured," I said to Shane. "I thought it might move seamlessly from one chapter to the next."

"It wasn't seamless," he said.

"No," I agreed.

The kids got suited up to play outside. Pure joy on their faces. I looked up at the tallest treetops and watched the snow fall.