Unpacking

I still haven’t unpacked from my trip to New York and my grandmother’s funeral, which was three weeks ago.

The night I got back, it was late and I was exhausted and very emotional. I did take a few things out that I’d brought from Nanny’s, to make it feel like rather than having left the house, and rather than having Nanny be gone, I’d simply taken part of it and part of her back to Colorado. Maybe my current apartment could help represent the beautiful home she’d made back in Merrick.

But three weeks later, it’s mostly still scattered about the futon. My parents had taken things I couldn’t fit in my suitcase in the car with them, as they’d made a road trip home rather than fly. The day my mother gave all that to me – mostly beautiful capes that I will wear with pride and tears this winter – I couldn’t even deal at all. I just put the breakable things in the garage, high enough so that if we flood this summer, they will be safe. The capes are still in my trunk.

I think there is a completely irrational part of me that’s been feeling like if I just leave everything as it is for now, somehow it will go back to the way it was.

While every inch of Nanny’s house was filled with memories, there was only one thing I knew for sure that I wanted, so long as my aunt was okay with it: a banner of a blonde boy and girl. I doubt that “banner” is the right word, but it’s what I knew it as. It was Austrian and from Stowe, Vermont, but I didn’t know that either. I always just knew that it was on the door of “my” room when I was little, what later became the plant room, and later still, Nanny’s bedroom when she could no longer do stairs.

I don’t think that I’d ever seen that door without the banner on it. So even though I knew I wanted it, I couldn’t take it down and put it in my suitcase while I was staying there. My mother finally took it down quickly and quietly on the morning that we left for JFK Airport.

So the banner was part of what Mom gave me when she got back. But when I was putting the other things away in my garage, I simply couldn’t do that to the banner. It should always be hanging, never hidden. So I put it up on a nail, for now.

And soon it will be hanging proudly in a home again, once I pull it together and put everything away. Keeping things messy in my own home doesn’t mean that Nanny’s won’t get sold. Keeping my suitcase on the floor of the spare room won’t transplant me back to New York. Even if I could move back to New York tomorrow, holding my breath and clicking my heels won’t bring her back. New York will always be my home, but it will never be the same.

In the meantime, I have a pretty great home, and a life to live out here right now. “Growing old is not for sissies,” Nanny always said, and neither is growing up.

Nanny’s home was always filled with so much life – flowers, pictures and figurines of smiling children, Santa Claus soaps at Christmas. She gave that of herself, to us. She was not a fussy homemaker, but a joyful one.

I won’t let three weeks become four, like this. By next Sunday, everything will be put in its place, and the banner will be hanging not in the garage, but on the door to the spare room, the way it should. And when I clean, I’m not going to get upset at myself for letting it stay messy. I’m going to think, WWND?, and act accordingly.

Heart-shaped-box

Ready to Fly

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Let Me Take You On an Escapade

The last gift I remember getting from both my Nanny and Pop-Pop Posch was a golden vest from Escapade in the Baldwin Shopping Center on Grand Avenue.

Usually Nanny would be in charge of the gifts, and always skewed younger. Every little girl with blonde hair reminded her of me – I know this because she told me approximately 159,000 times in 39 years. Which is not to complain, but mourn that there will not be time number 159,001.

My childhood bedrooms, later adult apartments, and sometimes in the leaner years, storage spaces, were filled with figurines and cards featuring blonde little girls that Nanny never stopped giving me until just this past year. There was a period in my tween years, before we called it tween and just called it awkward, where I think that I feared she wished I would stay young and cute, all while I fought zits, terrible hair, and the overall ‘80s onslaught.

Except that her “action gifts” always fit not just my age but me to like, the nth degree.

When I expressed interest in musical theater at 12, she organized a day with Pop-Pop to take me to see “Into the Woods” in Port Jefferson. Afterwards, we walked along the water, then went to Friendly’s. Friendly’s was something I’d always put on the list. Nanny would always ask me to make a list of things I wanted to do with her and Pop-Pop on the days they watched me when I was little. So no matter how old I got, she always tried to work Friendly’s into the mix.

When I was turning 14, she took me to aforementioned-Escapade. As I traveled on foot and by Mom’s and friends’ moms’ cars, I’d not ventured much out of Baldwin Harbor, various malls, and Tri-County Flea Market, shopping-wise.

Nanny and (probably unwittingly but always willing to get outside his comfort zone for family) Pop-Pop changed my shopping world that day. Nanny was SO excited – an Escapade hipster! – as she showed me this tiny, yet super-cool and also kind of affordable little clothing store. As she pointed out, it was either a walk or a bus ride away.

So that summer, I learned how to ride the bus (though I did walk sometimes!). Nanny may have been Depression-era and a traditional lady, but man did she have sassy independence. When I got married in ’03, she handed me a five-dollar bill and told me that her mother always said that a woman needed to have her own money. In her stories of later years, she laughed about how desperately my Pop-Pop and everyone around her wanted to get married, but she just wasn’t ready yet.

Eventually she was. Eventually they got married, and had a beautiful life with two kids and grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors – so many people, who just loved them with all of their hearts.

Mine included. And I’m going to keep telling stories about my Nanny, hoping to keep her memory alive while also hoping that she’s up in Heaven dancing away with my Pop-Pop, who according to my aunt, only learned how to dance because he was a simultaneous perfectionist and doting partner.

To be continued :)

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From Page to Stage

I spent my formative years in a one-bedroom apartment in Hempstead, circa the ’70s. Television was rarely an option; my TV youth experience was relegated to the PBS kids lineup (“Sesame Street,” “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” and “The Electric Company.”) Here and there, my parents would humor me in the form of “Little House On the Prairie.” Now and again, I’d refuse to honor my bedtime and sneak out to watch SNL when my parents had company.

Mostly, it was all about the books. My parents weren’t *expecting* me, when they realized they were expecting me. Both were super smart and very hard working, so they did their best. That included my dad’s going to work for Doubleday, as in Nelson who owned the Mets — great company, but my dad was a fledgling lawyer. He kept our family afloat and while he and my mom couldn’t afford all of the Dolly Pops (holler to Krysi!), he could bring home free books from the publishing company.

And my mother, while working as a waitress may not have had the money for a pink bedroom for me, nor the time to spend all day with her daughter like she would have preferred, found the time to teach me to read via magnetic letters on the refrigerator whilst cooking dinner in our humble apartment.

Between the books and the book learnin’, my youngest years were carved. Now that I’m older, it’s extra impressive to me when those books are flawlessly embodied, via actors. Here is a short list of my favorites.

1) Kirsten Dunst as Amy March (Little Women)

This felt like a natural place to start. Little Women is the first book in my recollection that I was obsessed with, or should I say, with which I was obsessed, lest to leave a preposition dangling. I read it when I was super young, and obnoxiously refused to answer to any name but the March sister of my choice, on any given day.

But Amy was my favorite. She had the hair; she had the attitude, and she had the limes, thanks to her dramatic pleas to her sisters.

I loved and appreciated the Katherine Hepburn movie, growing up. But when I found out there was to be a remake? Psyched does not begin to describe it. I saw the new version at the Rockville Centre Fantasy with my mother. From the moment Ms. Dunst uttered her first words, I was completely hooked. No offense to Samantha Mathis, but I was sad when Kirsten went away. She embodied Amy to the nth level — cute but weird, sassy beyond the telling of it, and just as strong as I remembered remembering this character, when I was little, and my parents were young.

2) Jack Nicholson as McMurphy (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

Seeing as y’all know I’m a waitress, you might rightfully conclude that I was an English major. Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest always stood out to me, even among all the amazing literature to which I was exposed. I wrote one of my final papers on McMurphy.

It wasn’t until later that I saw the movie, and Jack Nicholson was impeccable. I’d known him more as “Jack,” and had not realized the levels to which this fine actor could go. He was absolutely perfect as the force of nature that goes in to fuck shit up, and gets fucked up in the process. Now that I’ve seen “Magic Trip,” I especially appreciate his embodiment of a man that it seems like Kesey worried he could become.

3) Megan Follows as Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea)

Even as I typed those words, my heart swelled and my throat choked. Tears came to my eyes, because that is Anne. I didn’t realize how much I needed her until I met her, via my sixth-grade reading class and L.M. Montgomery’s words. Anne changed my entire life, no exaggeration. She taught me the art of hyperbolic sarcasm, and for that among other things — like her renaming “The Lake of Shining Waters,” I will always be grateful.

And I’ll always be grateful for the ’20s actress methoding to the extreme by legally changing her name to Anne Shirley. But it is Megan Follows who will always be Anne. She was 16 I think when she filmed the ’85 version, but/so did a flawless job of portraying a hot-tempered young girl who grows into a hottish-tempered young woman.

Ask anyone who loves Anne of Green Gables – Follows is flawless.

4) Sarah Polley as Ramona Quimby (Ramona)

I can’t lie — I’ve not actually watched this series in full. It was like, too close. For Ramona is Ramona. That is my GIRL. I love Beverly Cleary, and Ramona is her star. Again, I’m choking up — gee whiz.

No matter what was ever going on in my life, Ramona and by extension Ms. Cleary was there for me. Every cozy memory of huddling into bed on a rainy Saturday afternoon was afforded by those women.

Obviously, I was going to hate any Ramona that graced the screen, because no kid could ever come close to what she was.

Except that Sarah Polley did. I checked out the show and knew I wasn’t going to truly watch it, because it just wasn’t the right time. And have I used the phrase “too close” enough? Because it was.

But Sarah Polley was perfect.

5) Jessica Prunell as Stacey McGill (The Baby-Sitters Club)

Talk about too close. Not only was BSC my last-beloved series of kids’ books, but I was of the baby-sitters’ ages, when I started reading The Baby-Sitters Club. The very idea that my former- and frustrated-actress peers were getting to play them filled me with angst! And that was pretty much after I’d stopped reading the books. But I did watch the shows, just to see. And sure enough, the actress who played my girl Stacey was actually really decent.

A year or so later, my cheerleading squad went to an away game at Holy Family. There on the sidelines was a girl that I recognized. Filled with the confidence my cheerleading uniform always gave me (’cause, superhero costume!), I went up to this girl.

“Is your name Jessica?” I asked, and she shyly responded yes.

“Are you the actress who play Stacey on ‘The Baby-Sitters Club?'”

And she said yes again.

“You’re an amazing actress, and the perfect Stacey,” I said, and her response was so sweet — a grateful beam, like she’d never signed on for random fan compliments. And it’s hard to explain, but that was the moment I knew in full, that she *was* Stacey. Stacey was always cute and effortlessly popular, but never the haughty bitch that most permed blondes were in the ’80s. Ms. Prunell’s sweetness sealed her as Stacey for me.

 

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Happy Birthday & Thank You

Twenty-three years ago today, Mother’s Day in 1991, my brother Robb and I went to go meet our new baby brother. I was rather disappointed that said baby brother was not the Elizabeth Grace I was expecting. My mother had decided to get surprised again, and not find out whether she was having a boy or a girl until she gave birth. But due to how she was carrying, she was fairly certain it was a girl, as it was more similar to her pregnancy with me than Robb. Also, I already had a wonderful brother, and was now ready for a little sister! Especially given my age – nearly 16. My own kid-hood was winding to a close, and I perhaps narcisisstically thought it would be cool to help navigate a new little girl through the peaks and perils of life.

But instead, my new sibling was Eric Christopher, a baby brother. And in the second I met him, all disappointment that he was not a girl washed away and was replaced by fierce love, loyalty, and annoyance at myself for wanting a sister in the first place. Because there in my arms was the most perfect baby anyone could ever wish to meet.

Eric went on to completely change my entire life. I already knew how to take care of babies from baby-sitting, but had never spent 24/7 around an infant. I learned how simultaneously strong and fragile little babies could be.

When Eric was 18 months, my mom went back to work part time in the summer. I got to watch him morning through early evening, three days a week. He taught me that I not only can wake up early in the morning, but love it, as there is nothing like a pot-bellied baby laughing excitedly about everything the world had to offer that day, to make those early hours seem downright magical. He taught me that housework and meal cooking was something I completely enjoyed, when I was doing it for someone for whom I’d give my life. He reminded me that there were people for whom I’d give my life.

Eric was always a hilarious baby, but I’ll never forget being stunned into silence when he was three, and gave a sarcastic reply to something I said. It was like, why is the sweet baby who validates all my jokes suddenly giving me ‘tude? When I was able to speak again, I just said, “Eric, are you being sarcastic?” He just laughed knowingly, pleased with himself, and sauntered away. We realized later that *someone* had figured out how to read the Calvin and Hobbes books in the bathroom.

Pretty much since then, it’s always been about everyone’s keeping up with Eric, and not the other way around. By the time he was 10, I was taking reading advice from him in the form of Harry Potter. When he was 11, he gave me a hard time for never finishing book four. And to this day, while I’ve still never finished the book, the sting of his admonishment remains.

Because 23 years after he came into this world as my baby brother, Eric is one of the people whose opinions I value most as a person. He is the one who bought me Children of Bodom’s “Follow the Reaper,” from which I learned how incredibly relaxing metal could truly be. He is the one who helps me logically sift through agenda, devil’s advocacy, and personal stubbornness when it comes to politics. And he is the one who’s taught and continues to teach me about ethics towards animals. I’ve always been a bleeding heart who saves bugs, but he is the one who truly practices what he preaches.

He is the better writer, the wittier one, and the possessor of true heart and mind, if this were a “Game of Thrones” episode that *I* wouldn’t understand.

Happy birthday, Eric. Thank you for being you.

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Goodbye, TWoP :(

27 years ago, my life was changed forever by “The Baby-Sitters’ Club.” I was 12, and it had been nine long years since I fell in love with Little Women, two years that felt like two decades since Anne Shirley had graced my life, and three years since SVH #13: Kidnapped! taught me that life as a teenager was not going to be a bed of roses!

I’d lived in my imagination for as long as I could remember. Not that it kept me from interacting with the world at large; I’m more ambivert than intro-.

But man, can I be an introvert insofar as I love hanging out at the computer – talking to people, but not being seen. So on and so forth, to quote Vonnegut and prove that my time as an English major was not spent entirely on YA novels.

Because I spent that college time reading Television Without Pity, née Mighty Big TV.

The first time I was alerted to the presence of such a wonderful site was in 2000 – late to the game, for sure, but at that point it was pre-social media, and so I spent my time fighting and bonding with fellow “Buffy” fans over at The Bronze, Buffy.com’s early answer to conversational satiation.

“New MBTV recap up!” someone/s would post, every week. Finally, I checked it out and fell in complete, immediate love. At MBTV, there was a smarter sort, filled with knowledge, yet/therefore, focusing it all on television. The hilariously ANGRY description of Buffy’s outfit in “Buffy vs. Dracula” sealed my like for this site.

Not sure how long it took for me to edge away from The Bronze and cleave to MBTV, which became TWoP not too shortly after. But I do know that MBTV/TWoP changed my life forever.

Within the site itself, I spent countless hours GOL (guffawing out loud) at the observations from the recappers, and later at the smart people on the site’s forums.

For the first time in my life, my love of imagination collided with my love of snark, a word that I do believe was officially coined by TWoP, though I’m not positive.

From that, I found Tomato Nation, the personal site of Sars, one of TWoP’s co-founders. As I’ve said before, Ms. Bunting helped save my life at a time when I was super listless, and lacking for hope.

Years went on, and I kept falling in love with TWoP in sometimes unlikely places. When I moved back to my parents’ after the ex-husband left, I had access to a computer but not in my temporary bedroom, so I’d print out Stee’s “Newlyweds” recaps, and read them in bed, just for a bit of a laugh during a tumultuous time.

After that grief started to wane, I recouped and found a job, but the depression didn’t flee, and once a week, I’d settle in with a coffee and Jacob’s “American Idol” recaps. Every single time, I knew that no matter how shitty I felt at first, by the end I would laugh and truly learn more about life.

Not gonna lie – I didn’t like TWoP as much after Sars and Wing Chun sold it to Bravo. I didn’t blame them in the least – what an amazing thing to be able to do, create a funny site for funny people, then get a paycheck for your efforts.

Still, it broke my heart into a million pieces when I heard the site was shutting down. TWoP still had aforementioned Jacob and myriad other writers filled with brilliance. And the site still had so many individuals hotly debating the intricacies of characters, plotlines…the “Degrassi” forum will stick with me as time goes on, because it’s helpful to know at 38 that you are not alone in caring about what happens with Maya and Zig.

TWoP closed shop on April 4th – yesterday, and a day after the birthday of Stacey McGill, my favorite of the BSC as a tween.

“Why don’t you free up the space in your mind that remembers BSC members’ birthdays?” one might ask, and one would be correct. But for nearly 15 years, that’s been the exact beauty of Television Without Pity – finding people who won’t just know that April 3rd is Stacey’s birthday, but who will discuss the intricacies of everything that means.

I won’t say that were it not for TWoP, I wouldn’t be alive. But I will say that it and everyone involved with it has saved my life and always-fragile mental state via its awesomeness. IMO, the world is less rich today, for lack of this amazing site and every writer that’s kept it running all these years.

Rest in peace, TWoP. Though I haven’t given up on a Dawn-in-“Forever” spell to bring you back, if yesterday was truly your last resting place, then all I can say — such small words for everything you’ve given me — is thank you.

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Instant(?) Karma

While I’ve been focusing lately on positivity – not just the passive kind, but the kicking-my-own-butt to get there kind, I’d had a rough 24-hour patch, and was feeling a bit self loathing when I arrived to Townhouse to celebrate one of our chef’s sendoffs, as he is about to move on up in the world.

I tend to get agoraphobic, so even though I spent roughly 90 percent of my summer there last year for work and play, it was a little nerve-wracking to go there last night, after weeks of play-absence and less than a handful of shifts, as I’m now working near-full time for my parents.

Those nerves were pretty instantly calmed, as I got to see so many people that I hadn’t in weeks or months, but have loved all the while. I was already having an amazing time. Not tying one on, just sticking with our seasonal microbrew, as I sat on the patio with the same old gang, minus one special member, plus a few new faces.

One drunken dude stumbled out and sat at our table, and I just figured he was friends with someone there. Until he first asked another couple if he could hang out with them, because “these people (at our table) suck.” Then he eloquently told one of my favorite friends to “eat a dick,” which is something you really don’t say to a derby girl who is also sitting at a table with two Marines.

He was swiftly cut off, because you also don’t say things like that to a former employee of bosses who simply don’t tolerate nonsense like that. Despite the political minefield of dealing with drunk people, I’ve never felt unsafe when I work at Townhouse, because the bosses ALWAYS put their employees’ and friends’ dignity first.

Once he’d left, after an aggressive apology to us but before he threw his plastic cup at our bushes, the woman from the couple he’d asked to hang with due to our collective suckage, came over and was all, “I love welcoming people, but he was cuckoo.”

Then she proceeded to bust out her bracelets she had for sale, and I realized she was the woman from whom I’d bought my awesome frog bracelet last year on the same patio. So I was down to buy another bracelet, as they are only five dollars, and super beautiful. I only had four dollars in cash. Despite for a change having some money in my bank account (thank you, tax return!), my aforementioned stress had been aided by not being able to find my debit card.

I asked my friend Anne to borrow a dollar to get the bracelet, and she gave it to me. Yeah, it’s “only” a dollar, but Anne is also one of the most generous people I know, and I’m sure she would have given me a 20 if she had it, and I’d asked.

So I paid for my bracelet – a beautiful, quirky little number featuring different glass beads of many colors.

Then the lady – a very pretty lady who was older than me but untouched by age, with soft blonde curls and a badass leather jacket, pulled out her purse selection that she also has for sale.

As she was pulling them out, I apologized for not having any more money, nor the possibility of obtaining any more to buy a purse. I’m really not a purse girl anyway, but was enamored with a silver one she showed us. I mentioned that I was going to be attending an ex-boyfriend’s wedding; he’d just asked me for my address that day. It’s not like a “Mindy Project” situation; he’s been a friend way longer than he’s been an ex – you know? I’ll be attending with the love of my life, and in no way feel competitive with the bride, a la sitcoms. I was just excited not just for his happiness, but for an excuse to wear a fancy dress – an occasion that comes along only once in awhile, and I have a silver Betsey Johnson dress in my closet that I’ve never worn, despite all my mental plans when I purchased it on drastic discount from an outlet years ago.

One of the purses that this lady showed us was simple and silver, and I was all, “OMG this would go perfectly with this one dress I’ve never worn!” I’ve always had visions of wearing this cute dress, paired with silver shoes and a silver purse. Which is really so not “me,” but if the dress fits…it doesn’t; I will need to get the top tailored, no matter how much weight I lose. Still.

This lady got all thoughtful-like, and then told me to put out my arm. I obeyed, and she put the silver purse on my arm, then told me it was mine, and to have a great time at the wedding.

Of course, I exclaimed protestations – I had no more cash! But the lady then went, “I believe in karma. I REALLY believe in karma. And I always know that I’ll give away about a third of my stuff, to people that I believe deserve it. And I like to pass it on with the acknowledgment of karma.”

As if this wasn’t enough to make me cry, my two best friends from Townhouse, Stephanie and Anne, started telling the woman, that no one deserved the karma gift more than “Judi,” as according to them, I’m an amazing person with the best heart.

That is when I broke down – not in physical tears, but mental ones. Because that is not how I think of myself. I tend to feel like anyone and everyone in any given room on any day, hates me at worst, or at best, would rather be in different company. Yes of course I realize that’s not a healthy attitude, and it’s one that I’ve been working to fight. But it’s real.

The woman selling the jewelry and giving me the purse was named Angela – “Like an angel,” I told her, and then she said “Judy, Judy, Judy” – because what is bonding without name clichés?

She reminded me about the karma deal; I told her I’d buy her next glass of wine, since I didn’t have cash but I did have a credit card, and instant karma is important too.

Then, Steph and Anne kept reiterating what they said. Steph said that she loved how I loved her daughter, and quoted something I’d forgotten saying but was true: that her baby was my favorite ever, save for my baby brother. And Anne kept chiming in with kind things about me.

I’m hardpressed to recall a time wherein I felt so humbled, and so grateful. Grateful to Angela not just for the purse, but for her clear-eyed, stalwart stance on karma. That she is a woman who does not see age as a reason to stop being beautiful in every way.

And most of all, I felt grateful, because last night was the night I realized that I have true friends out here. I loved Steph and Anne already, but hearing that they felt that way about me? It definitely puts a sledgehammer to my self loathing and overall alienation. There will always be the remnants after sledgehammers, but after countless months of feeling alone save for Josh, to quote “Degrassi,” “Isn’t it better when it’s not just you and me against the world?”

I spent 90% of last summer at Townhouse, having a great deal of fun, but always wondering if there was more after the Fireball shots. Last night I realized that the answer was a huge, clanging bell of a “Yes.”

Thank you to Angela, Steph, Anne, and everyone else who came out last night. We’re not just drinking buddies; we are friends.

And I think that now I really believe in the idea of karma, which is all I’ve been crying out to God for – a sign, some hope.

So thank you to the universe at large. I guess, now it’s time for re-payment :)

 

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10 Reasons for Joy In My Day

1) Having the very last slice of TH pizza for the season as my breakfast — thank you Trevor Stice; it was delicious.

2) Learning a few new tasks that keep Jan-Pro running, and that I can now help with.

3) Doing 1,000 steps on the stair climber at Bally’s, as I personally train for the Incline specifically — despite not feeling like working out at all.

4) The post-workout steam and sauna, always a relaxing blessing.

5) Hanging out at my parents’ house, getting nostalgic for 2011 as though it were 10 years ago, and letting Tommy and Crispin out after their long-suffering 48 hours of being indoors.

6) A couple of thought-provoking conversations regarding Manitou issues with people who agree, disagree, and everything in between, and still being friends when all is said and done.

7) Getting some time away from my teeny town for a breather and bit of anonymity, even if it’s only one exit away, and even though I’ll be thrilled to get back in a day or two.

8) Knowing that Josh Rotunda will be joining me after he finishes work.

9) Seeing my FB friends get excited about life — Coby Archa watching “Frozen” with his family in costume, so many NY friends preparing for/dreading with hilarity the half-marathon tomorrow, and even those who are not having the best days, fighting through and finding joy and hope for tomorrow.

10) Not needing to remind myself that “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” until I was winding around 24, already filled with joy.

It wasn’t a glamorous day — just a good one<3

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