Divine Spark

When we’re born, or maybe when we’re conceived, or perhaps when we’re reaped from the Garden of Souls and sent plummeting to this wretched rock of earth and sea, we’re implanted with a divine spark given us by whatever cosmic force is out there plucking and hurling souls about with such reckless abandon. Indeed the fibers of creativity are woven in with our tendons, and arteries, and all those little flickering wires running across our brains. We are brought into existence intact with divinity: we were created, therefore we shall create.

None of us remember the first thing we created, but it’s likely it was the idea that something was very, very wrong. As screaming, writhing humans, we couldn’t grasp the severity and complexities of our own birth. We cried for the first time. We feared for the first time. We created a worst case scenario in our own minds based purely on what we understood to be true: I exist, I am warm, it is dark, this is good.

And when that great, seemingly impenetrable truth was rent at the seams, we created, we perceived, we formulated, and so we wept. All we’d ever known was gone. None of us since have tapped into the legitimacy of that fear. We have lost and we have hurt, but as long as we’re still breathing, we retain something known. We were our bravest as infants given milk, choosing not to cry anymore and instead open our eyes. We will never again be this courageous. We will never again know this terror and yet choose to keep breathing.

And did we ever keep breathing. We all went on to make things with our hands, our minds, our mouths, and our hearts. We made macaroni necklaces, painted handprints, and handmade cards. We painted rainbows. We drew spotted dogs. We played games in the yard or on the street. We wrote “I <3 you” and we meant it. Despite our many differences, we all created our entire childhood away.

And then we grew up and many of us started creating less and less. We settled on the creativity of others for a nice place to lay our heads or a seemingly important job to do. We accepted someone else’s creation for entertainment, rather than create entertainment ourselves. Our solutions to common and uncommon problems are no more than a click away, broken down and defragmented and titled “hacks” and “cheats” . Someone else has already created a solution. Nothing more is required. Many of us have all but abandoned unique thought in exchange for the small comforts of predictability and emotional security. We’ve got Pinterest and Instagram and Twitter and Google. What else do we need?

But, those of us who can’t put out that divine spark, we toil on under the hot sun of cultural pressures and societal limitations. The spark burns deep within our chests, safe and protected and valued above all else. It haunts us when we ignore it, consumes us when we free it, and drowns us in intoxicating blends of sorrow and joy when we engage it. Humans were never made to possess divinity and so our creative spirit drives us mad. We are drunk on the power of creation. We are gods of small things that seem so very big.

But, we are not gods. We are mortals and we are fragile. And thus our spirits are fragile. We carry the Divine within the glass chambers of our souls and we live in a world of rocks and stones. Life is terrifying for bearers of precious goods and your soul is precious. Your spark is essential.

And I say all this because I’m begging you and I’m begging me to honor our divinity and create new thoughts, pictures, songs, stories, memories, and objects until the days we all die. This is all we have ever controlled and it is the most powerful thing we possess. So possess it. And let it in turn possess you.

The world needs divinity. The world longs for creation.

Mona Lisa

I flick flour and Crisco off my fingers and into the sink in one passing swoop, before hurrying past it and back toward the stove. Cathead biscuits are going into the oven and water for potatoes is coming to a boil. I always look closely at my hands as I roll the dough between my fingers and wipe it off on my apron. Though not as lean and effeminate, I think of my grandmother’s hands whenever I get a thought to bake something.

I like to remember the good things about my grandmother, rather than the unpleasant things. I remember that it seems she lived in her kitchen. She was always fixing something to eat, or putting a load of dishes on, or sitting at the table in a big wicker chair, smoking a cigarette and playing Rook with my grandfather. In my mind, she lived in that kitchen. She had long nails, usually painted up in some sort of deep red or a rustic mauve. They were natural and rounded at the ends. They balanced cigarettes and made smoking look sexy long before Don Draper lit up.

It’s no wonder my grandfather loved her. She was spirited, cussed like a sailor, and curled her hair. Like all good Southern women, she had a dresser full of Mary Kay cosmetics and a closet full of pumps. There were sequined dresses with shoulder pads and clutches with complicated beadwork. There was the way she wore a pair of nylons that made you think she used to be a movie star. When I watch Jessica Lang on television, I feel like I’m watching my grandmother. She was so sexy. And she could cook.

I picture her as she was then, and not as she is now. I like to remember the woman in her early 60’s, floating in her pool out back, with a pair of sunglasses on, and a sweet tea in her hand. I like to recall white denim shorts, floral tanks, white Keds with low socks, and a colorful visor to match the top. There were rings, bangles, and earrings. There were always sunglasses and painted nails.

And there were always biscuits and cornbread coming out of the oven. There was her rough way of loving you just enough, but never too much. The ways she called you, “Baby”, that sounded like she was saying, “I love you”, because she never actually said, “I love you.” “Baby, run get Papa and tell him to check the grill.” “Baby, what did you do to your hair? Good god, looks like someone took a lawnmower to it.” “Baby, hand me my lighter. The blue one. I think my black one is about empty.”

I like to think of her that way, and not the way she was as I drove her to the hospital to visit my granddaddy in a coma he would never wake up from. Nat King Cole’s “Mona Lisa” came on, because I liked Nat King Cole, and she shut it off, half screaming, “Turn that shit off, baby. I can’t hear that right now.” She was crying and muttered, “Papa used to sing that to me.” We sat in silence for the rest of the car ride. At 19 years old, I was far too young to understand the complexities of her sorrow.

She told me once, “It’s my fault he’s dead. He went out to get my medicine so I wouldn’t have to.” A car accident mucked up his insides and eventually he passed because of it. I only saw him once in the hospital before he died. I don’t do well with death and we were all drowning in it.

Her beautiful, wrinkled hands grasped his, as he lay in that bed, unconscious. She brushed his hair away from his face, and whispered, “Johnny, Tamara’s here.” I started to cry. She told me not to let him see me cry. So, I didn’t. I stopped crying for a long time after that.

The water is boiling and the potatoes are going in. I step out onto my back porch and light a cigarette. I imagine all the moments she and my grandfather shared. All the cigarettes, all the biscuits, all the dishes, and all the love songs.

I like to imagine he’s still here with us, humming Mona Lisa while she peels potatoes.

Reasons To Stay In Alabama


I’m sitting on a friend’s back porch. It’s early November and in North Alabama it’s perfect weather. Today especially is a perfect day. Our children are out running the edges of her property, which backs up to dense forest and a nearby creek we can’t quite see, but we can hear gently gurgling in the distance. My friend and I are knitting and drinking margaritas and talking about our marriages and the complications of getting older. I have the first signs of rheumatoid arthritis in my left hand. She has some homemade ointment for that.

We pause our conversation a moment to holler at the kids to chase the chickens back up toward the hen house. There’s a hawk hovering overhead and some of the hens are too involved with scratching around in the tree line to heed the signs of a circling predatory bird, despite the roosters already growling and heading to safety. The children respond with, “Yes, ma’am!” and scurry after the chickens, who in turn bicker back at their pursuers and at each other, but do eventually high-tail it into their hen house.

The sun is bright above them, with a few passing clouds, and a subtle breeze. It’s cool out, but the sun warms their skin. Each child dons a sweater and a pair of boots. Each child has messy hair and dirty fingernails. There have already been some tears and some squabbles, but they’ve declared each other all best friends. My friend and I shake our heads and laugh and roll our eyes and sneak a cigarette when they aren’t looking.

I ask my friend, a recent transplant to Alabama, why she and her husband chose here, of all places, to buy up some land, a nice house, and 50 chickens. They’re retiring in North Alabama and I struggle to grasp their reasoning.

My friend is Puerto Rican and grew up in Boston. She lived in the heart of Boston for over 20 years before meeting and marrying her husband. She’s used to the noise, sprawling neighborhoods, and urban charm of big cities. She’s a product of a rough, inner city school. She’s been a waitress and a bus driver. Her mother is one of Boston’s finest, who regaled her children with stories of crime on the streets of Boston. She’s tough. She cusses like a sailor, and proudly tells her children, “If people don’t like you, fuck ‘em.” She talks about life as a Brown woman. She tells me about how she expected to be treated in the Deep South compared to what she found in her small community of less than 8000 souls.

The affordability drew them to North Alabama first. Cost of living in the South is low. Their two year old house, with 4 bedrooms, a den, formal dining room, eat-in kitchen, large master bathroom, 2 additional full bathrooms, hardwood floors, granite countertops, 11 foot ceilings, and 5 acres of land cost them just $350,000. “We could’ve gotten it all for less.”, she muses, and she’s probably right. TVA (the Tennessee Valley Authority) keeps her electric, water, and gas bill low too. For their buck, Alabama offered a lot of bang. A helluva lot of bang.

Price wasn’t the only consideration. Growing up in Boston with a single mother policewoman taught her a lot about how you wanna raise your kids. “I didn’t want my kids getting shot up outside school or while walking down the street. $350k gets a lot here. Not so much there.” She homeschools her two youngest children but her oldest attends the local high school: a small, 2A school down the road a few miles. Her oldest is “the only Brown kid” in the school’s marching band, but she notes that he’s flourishing. They all expected him to face some prejudice and she prepared him for it, but instead he’s found neither prejudice, nor special treatment. He’s a normal kid to his predominantly White peers. Another face in the crowd. Or trombone in the band.

Her Abuelita and much of her family still live in Puerto Rico, where she was born. The countryside and simple folk who wave to her and each other as they pass through her small town remind her of visiting family there. Her Abuelita keeps chickens and has ample advice about raising, killing, and cooking them. She’s passing that advice onto my friend who in turn is passing it onto me. She’s giving us some of her chickens and a rooster this coming Spring. She’s got more than enough for now and needs a second hen house. We’re part of a circle of family and community that spans generations, language barriers, and hundreds of miles. And it’s some kind of wonderful.

She sips her margarita through a Dora The Explorer straw and turns the tables on me. “Why did you come BACK to Alabama?”

She knows I have a love/hate relationship with the South. I was raised military, spent my childhood in England and Panama, returning to Alabama only once or twice a year for holidays or family reunions. I have a brain full of visions and memories from beautiful places most of my peers in the Deep South will never see. I describe my childhood as magical and idyllic, which it was. So when we moved to Alabama when I was 10, I grew increasingly resentful. I felt different from my peers. I didn’t have a Southern accent. I didn’t have a preferred football team and had never seen the Iron Bowl. I talked about sheep in Scotland and Coatimundi (or Kudamundi) in Panama, and they talked about Bo Jackson and Bear Bryant. I pronounced words oddly and I didn’t understand any of the Southern slang. People would say, “Slow down! You talk too fast!” I was misunderstood. I was weird. And I began to hate the South.

We moved to North Carolina when I was 14. North Carolina is still considered a Southern state, but it’s a bit different there and we were on the coast, just a few feet from the beach. I stayed there until I was 20 and I vowed to never return to Alabama. I did it anyways in 2005 when my grandfather passed away suddenly and my grandmother needed an extra hand around the house. I met my husband here in Alabama and away we went again in 2008…away from the South and into DC. And then I had my daughter, and after 2 years gone, we came back…again. Neither one of us could escape the South and specifically Alabama. We talked about it after moving here once more. We discussed work in Washington, Colorado, Texas, and California. But, we stayed. Because it’s affordable. Because people were relatively friendly. Because the crime statistics. Because the tight knit communities.

I tell her my reasons and she says, “And there ya go.”, winking and pointing a finger at me. She understands.


The sun is starting to set and the children are laying in the field in front of us staring at the sky and pulling at the grass. She glances at her cell phone and says, “Oh, shit, Alejandro isn’t riding the bus home today. He has band practice. I gotta go pick him up.” We’ve lost track of time and it’s almost 4:30.  We call the children up to the porch and start the frantic search for missing scarves, mittens, jackets, and toys. We end up leaving a scarf at her house. We end up taking a stuffed unicorn home.

As we pull away her children wave wildly from the driveway. We roll down the windows and wave back, before disappearing out of sight. It’s a 25 minute car ride back into the nearest “big” city, which is still just a small town with 24k residents. We pull into our own driveway and my daughter is asleep in the backseat, the unicorn in her lap, and leaves in her hair.

I step out onto the first layer of jewel toned leaves littering our front lawn and pause for a moment under our oak and maple trees, now ablaze with brilliant yellow, oranges, and reds. The sky is a deepening purple and pink. It’s relatively quiet and still. The elderly gay couple next door are walking their dog. Four teenagers are riding bikes down to the corner store, bundled in hoodies, and laughing contagiously. Somewhere in my neighborhood someone is using their fireplace for the first time this Autumn. I can smell the wood burning. I can feel all the reasons I still live in Alabama.


Give Me A Small House

An essay that inspired this painting.

“Give Me A Small House”

You will not be filled with awe in my home.

No stately columns, nor glorious high ceilings greet you. There will be no grand foyer and neither will you be captivated by an exotic, floral centerpiece and exquisite chandelier. My home will not dazzle you and I will not throw fashionable parties there.

My home, like me, will be unassuming. You will pass us both on the street and you will not lose breath at our presence, if you notice us at all. My home will not be featured in magazines and papers. My home will be all but invisible, blending into the background of your day-to-day.

My home is not famous, at least not to strangers. She is and will only ever be known as a place that housed small and gentle souls. My home is a reflection of the life I choose to lead. My home will not seduce you. My home will make you feel safe.

My home will be constrained enough for intimate gatherings between old friends and new. My table will hold only a few chairs but will feed the many mouths that enter our dwelling. My home will welcome you to curl up in a warm, wool blanket several decades old and within its embrace your soul will rest. My home is a refuge for broken hearts and broken wings.

You can not hide in my home, nor will you lose yourself. With every corner you will be met by another face and ultimately, your own reflection. You will be forced to work together in my home. You can not run away to the west wing, or the east wing, or the guest house. You will fight within my home and you will fight face to face and cheek to cheek. You will be better for it, having no ability to flee your problems. You will be better for it because this is your life and life in close quarters is grand in small ways.

My kitchen will be cluttered with cookbooks and my pantry will be full. It will hold only a few people, chosen carefully by myself. And if you are chosen to join me in my swaying and bending and kneading and mixing and baking, you are highly favored…as long as you stay out of my way. My kitchen will create comfort food for comforting souls and it will please the heart more than it does the palate and the waistline.

You will have to wait in line for the bathroom. You will have to step over small children and small animals and small toys. We will not ballroom dance in my home. We will shuffle, and sway, and squeeze in altogether; backs and breasts, and arms, and legs, filling the space, and allowing us to connect with each other physically, without the complications of sexuality.

We touch in my home. We snuggle on our couch and we rub elbows at our table. We lean in and pat knees and stare into each other’s eyes as we share our innermost thoughts and feelings with those we cherish. We hug and we kiss. We caress. We love outwardly and openly.

Within these thinning walls, you will be at home. The words, “cozy”, “comfortable”, and, “quaint”, will graze your lips. You will love my home because you don’t feel small here…you feel big. You feel important, and noticed, and valued. You are all these things and my home will reiterate this fact. My home is small so you won’t feel small. My home will be a warm, tiny space to bury your face and settle in, and let go.

My home is not large. It is not grand. It is not stately. But within it lies the simplicity of a paradise now nearly forgotten in the haze of MacMansions and villas and ticky tacky boxes. Where others want room to hide all their skeletons, we want to delight in our skeletons and cherish them and respect them and be unashamed to have them on display. There is no escaping in my small home. Only embracing. Only accepting.

So give me a small house filled with big hearts. And you will have given me all I’ll ever need.

Stop Blaming Time

When I go to bed early, it is inevitable that my brain will awaken me within 5-6 hours of falling asleep and will proceed to fill my head with thinks.

Tonight it’s thinks about how quickly things change. In just a year things can break beyond a point you ever thought them capable, but things can also be healed when you once thought they were too broken. In just a year hearts can mend deep wounds, or inflict deeper ones than had ever existed before. In a year promises we’ve made become obsolete, and things we’d swore we’d never promise again come tumbling from our lips.

We’re told we only live once and life is so short, but life feels very long to me. Regardless of time’s imaginary constraints on our life’s decisions, we push through it with such speed and recklessness it’s only inevitable that we leave a few tragedies in our wake. And we chalk them up to circumstances and time and things better left unsaid and all the while we have *so* much time to say, “I’m sorry”, and “I forgive you”, and “I still love you”.

But, instead we say, “I need time”, when what we really mean is, “You’ve broken me so badly I don’t think I can ever again trust you to put me back together”, and “I’m afraid of you and this pain I feel and I don’t know what to do with that”. We blame time, but we should be blaming ourselves and other people. Blame is looked down on, but sometimes others are to blame for the shitty things we feel. We have to assign blame: To ourselves and those who’ve hurt us. But, we should never blame time and never blame its perceived speed.

Stop blaming time. Life really isn’t as short as you think it is. It’s true that some people will die young and abruptly and you wanting to be sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity in life just in case is all fine and good, but be mindful of the rush you’re in trying to make YOUR dreams come true. Be mindful of the broken hearts you’re leaving behind. Be mindful of the Sorrys you’re not saying.

In just a year your up can become down, your right become your left, and your yes become your no. Accept your fallibility and be accountable for your flaws. Apologize more than you do and more than your pride tells you that you should. Forgive, even if you need not forget. (And you don’t always have to forget.) And disregard time. We humans don’t understand it. We build monuments to it, but it is so far beyond our ability to decipher. So, forget about it. Neither rush to the future, nor linger in the past. Be present: this moment, this day, this hour, this minute.

Be here. Now. Like this. Me and you. Naked and vulnerable and broken together. Let’s hold hands and pray and chant and recite and cry. And forget time. And remember life.


There’s a true danger in “eventually”. “Eventually” is the careless whisper you hold tenderly as you lie awake in bed, trying to cope with the disappointment we all sometimes and often feel. “Eventually” became my favorite lullaby and on numerous sleepless nights the only thing that pushed me into dreams was the poetry and schemes of “Eventually”. “Eventually”, I thought, “eventually I will be successful, I will be affluent, I will have all those things I have never had, and eventually, I will be happy”.

“Eventually” requires something extra though, and here’s the part that gets tricky, because you can fill your whole life up with Eventually’s but if you have not the leg work and the can-do to acquire those dreams, they stay unrealized in your mind, limited to empty promises and empty lies called Eventually.

And so my Eventually remained for many years as I wallowed in self pity and self destruction and self inflicted sorrow and pain. But, be it by the hands of fate, or luck, or maybe a little of my own fighting spirit, eventually I became a mother, fulfilling one dream; eventually I became a wife, fulfilling another; and eventually I started thinking much bigger than I’d ever dared to think and dream and hope and wish and scheme.

But life is long and we’re all living longer these days. Most of us will see our days fill a century and then some, and in those hundred and so on years we will continue gathering Eventually’s. They will always creep into our beds at night and keep us from surrendering to REM sleep and deep dreams.

“Eventually I will make something of my life”, my Eventually’s still whisper to me. “Maybe I will write, maybe I will sew, maybe I will paint, or maybe I will speak, but eventually there will be a sidenote on my gravestone and in my obit and it will say, ‘She leaves a legacy of something, something, and something else.'” It’s all just a matter of Eventually and possibility.

More than likely you and I will never be famous, or successful, or memorable, or extraordinary. We will pass from this life into the next having accomplished very little other than the small helping of life God handed us before setting our souls walking into existence. If we’re lucky we will be mourned by people we loved dearly and shared our life with. If we’re even luckier we will have left our families and communities in better condition than they were before we arrived in this plane of consciousness.

But, if we’re truly fearless we will depart our loved ones with a list of Eventually’s all crossed out and checked off, with the last one being, “Eventually I will die”, to be scratched out by Death himself, as he takes our wrinkled hand, pats it gently, and whispers, “I’ll walk you home, my darling.”

Do not die with a bucket list of Eventually. Do not go gently into that good night, with Eventually’s still curled up at your feet, purring empty promises softly. Be not enslaved to your Eventually’s, but be their master, driving them toward Paradise and a reality worth marking off the list.

Eventually you will stop procrastinating, make that phone call, take that leap, quit that job, end that relationship, break down that wall, be free of that addiction, and make something of your life. Eventually you will do all that and more.

Turn your Eventually’s into realities. Make your Eventually’s count for Something’s.

Even When You Stop Feeling It

When I left church and much of Christianity, I felt an initial surge of, “YES! I CAN DO THIS! I’M FIGHTING THE SYSTEM! I’M DARING TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT! I’M FOLLOWING MY HEART! LET’S GOOOOOOO!!!”

It was a feeling of knowing I was finally taking a step in the right direction for myself and my family. After years of sorting out my disenchantment and my spirit longing for more, I made the leap. It’s like standing at the end of the diving board, looking down, knowing you’ll *probably* be okay once you just jump, but you have those seconds (sometimes minutes, if we’re being honest) before the jump where you fight the urge to go running and screaming back to solid ground.

And then, you JUMP. And you’re falling. And you hit the water, you’re engulfed by the cool weightlessness of the “deep end”, and you come up, gasping for air, and feeling like you just did the most amazing thing any human has ever done. That moment…the first time making that jump, you will never forget it. Never. Even if you decide never to do it again, you’re proud of yourself for just DOING it.

And leaving church was a lot like that. A few years after the leap I’d settled into the rhythm of this life, but still felt the need to tell people *why* I did it. I needed them to understand, but actually I didn’t need them to understand. I just thought I did. So, I blogged about it. I talked about it. I tweeted and Facebooked it every chance I got. My move away from religion led to a new sort of religion, and it would take me another few years to let go of that too.

Now is the hardest part. The part of just living it. The need to talk about it is gone (save for in this blog post for the sake of what I’m leading up to), and it’s less about proclaiming my choices and more about simply living them, in a mostly quiet manner.

I am an artist. I am a seamstress. And sometimes I write and illustrate children’s books too. And the hardest part about my current state isn’t needing anyone else to recognize who I am or what I’m doing, but just *doing* it, until “it” becomes something I can do and support myself while doing.

The ultimate goal for most creatives is to have this little “hobby” become a passionate career. Even if in your own mind that’s what it is and what it’s going to be, you can’t really expect the whole world to see it the same way when you’re spending your last dollar buying fabric, not knowing if you’re going to recoup that dollar or not. If success is all about sinking or swimming, I’m at the sinking end of the spectrum, and I’m comfortable enough with this choice to admit that.

This is where it’s hardest.

I’ve jumped. I’ve proclaimed it. I’ve reasoned it and explained it to my peers. And now, I simply live it. And hope it works out. And believe it’ll work out. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.

Some people will find relatively overnight success. Alabama Shakes is a Grammy nominated band from the town I live in and only a few short months after they recorded their first album, they were on Lettermen. Seemingly overnight success. There was a lot of leg work before that EP, but all it took was one. And it was late night tv spots and Grammy noms from that point on.

But, I’m not going to be an overnight success. And you probably won’t either. We’re going to be at this for a while. We’re going to be honing our craft, making those connections, and dealing with disappointment for a while before it all “clicks”. And we have to keep doing it, even when it stops feeling good.

Even when you stop feeling it.

Keep going, even when you stop feeling it. That’s the only thing that separates you from every other person with a hobby. Or quit. Maybe this is just a hobby for you and maybe it should be. But that’s something you need to sort out for yourself. And you won’t get there just by standing at the edge of the diving board, waiting.

A very good week <3

This past week I finally opened my booth at a local store called Prairie Child Design. PCD is an awesome store all about upcycling and features ONLY local creators/artists/crafters and the like!! It’s a huge honor to be included in this store!!

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It feels SO good working like this and moving forward in this way. I’ve been so excited to set a schedule (“Okay, I sew on these days, upload/edit photos on this day, take new things to the shop on this day, list things on Etsy on this day.”) and feel like this is all coming together. I feel that way now. It’s only the beginning, but this beginning feels amazing.

I have several commissions in the works right now (a bunting due by June, a hairbow holder I need to finish and ship out on Monday, another bunting due before October, a few other things), and new ideas are still coming to me. Like aprons! This weekend I’ve been planning and working on aprons to list on Etsy and go into PCD. I am LOVING making them too!!

Overall, I am such a happy camper. My cup runneth over!!

Mockingbird, Don’t Has An Etsy and I Love You. <3


On May 1st, I took an incredible and exciting step forward: I officially opened my Etsy shop!!! I have 11 items for sale in it (a few pouches, a tote, a few dresses), but I’ll be adding to it as quickly as I create for it. I am SO happy to be at this point (another off the Bucket List!!), and looking forward to what’s ahead!!

The next day, May 2nd, I met with a local shop owner and showed her several of my pieces. Ultimately, we both decided I was a good fit for her store, and starting this week, I’ll set up a booth in her shop to start selling my stuff!!

Needless to say, these are all very good things going on in my life right now. I’m only at the beginning, but what a glorious beginning it is!! I am so incredibly blessed and looking forward to what’s ahead!!

Thank you all for the support, the love, and the encouragement. You people, man…I know the best humans. <3