Category Archives: The Bear

Closed for the Season

To the ten or so people out there that actually read this blog, I have an announcement: Elderland is closing. To what season do I refer? Possibly the eternal one, but I’ll not sell the land just yet. I have decided to start a new blog in an effort to improve my frequency of posting. Elderland has meant a lot to me, and I have no intention of pulling its content from the internet, but I do plan to focus on my new endeavor for the foreseeable future.

The new space is called and now Mama, and there’s an About page with a little story providing further detail on my decision to transition.

I hope you’ll visit ANM, and I welcome any and all thoughts and feedback. Here’s to writing, sharing and connecting.

And here’s a cute picture.

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Love, me.

 

Words on Words

Creating the space to write has been a struggle for me ever since I first discovered that writing was something for which I had both an affinity and ability. Like many things I now appreciate, this connection happened only after reaching adulthood. It came about when a marketing internship I held for a few months lead to me composing a few blog posts about the Tour de France in an effort to add content to the online community my boss was building. I thought nothing of it, I was simply doing my job, but a few days after posting my boss casually mentioned that a colleague of his who “knows these things” read my babble and thought the writing was good. Who knew? I didn’t. Prior to that my writing career consisted of hastily written school papers and doodled nonsense passed as neatly folded notes to friends.

So blogging… this thing that certainly didn’t exist in any sort of friendly fashion prior to my university years, and even in college was still a mystery to most. I guess I decided to try it, first setting up a Blogger account through which I wrote all of three posts in as many weeks, one of which discussed the strength of our fandom for the Florida Gators and another of which bemoaned the maintenance of hair free legs. Truly epic stuff my friends. My dear Dad provided more praise and I was feeling lovely about this developing hobby, but then it died. As a childless woman working a part time job, it’s a wonder I found time to do anything at all, let alone write a few paragraphs about my high brow interests and opinions. I couldn’t allow anything to interfere with marathon viewings of the Sopranos or…um… what the hell did I do back then?? I didn’t work 40 hours per week, I didn’t have children, I didn’t have more than a thousand square feet of yardless townhouse to maintain, I wasn’t part of any sort of group or club or organization. WHAT DID I DO? I can’t even fathom the endless minutes available to me and what pile of meaningless fodder I filled them with. Point being, back then, I was fully setup for space to blog and back then, I didn’t.

But back then I didn’t work 40+ hours per week, and back then I didn’t have kids or a house or a fabulous circle of friends with whom I partook in all sorts of activities and endeavors. Back then I had little happening in my life that I deemed worthy of interweb discourse and so I lacked what every writer, artist, creator needs – inspiration. Of course with time came changes that created a more fulfilling life, one where adventure in one shape or another was seemingly always on the horizon, and one that no longer lacked excitement, but instead, lacked time. Ain’t it funny how life works? TNSTAAFL. Google it.

I suppose I’ll give myself credit though for the fact that Elderland here has existed since 2009. Dry spells abound, and it seems with every passing year I become less likely to keep at it, but I’m grateful for every last word I’ve written because those words are memories and those memories mean everything. I think about writing nearly every day, frequently frustrated with myself for not figuring out how to make it happen. I make a million other things happen all the time, why not this?

Well. It’s happening now. So how?

I started journaling. Nothing serious. Random thoughts, stream of consciousness, to do lists, wishes and wants, kid quotes, rants and vents, goals, feelings and anything else that I feel like privately expounding into my phone. Yes, it’s an app. I figured if I was going to make this thing work so I could make the other thing work, I better make it as seamless as possible, and what’s with me more than my phone? The “other thing” being writing of course, because aside from the mental health benefits that I’ve only recently realized the possibility of, the decision to journal came from my supposition that if I could just start writing some fucking thing it would lead to writing other things, and with journaling there would be less pressure (from myself) for it to be anything eloquent so it would be the walking that leads to running. Energy begets energy, so why shouldn’t writing beget writing?

And then there’s Norah. My burgeoning student. A couple weeks ago I came home to a beaming 5.5 year old proud to present her first ever award: Extraordinary Effort & Growth in Writing. The swell in my heart upon receiving this news was overwhelming in the most wonderful of ways. Having been an oft awarded, high achieving student myself, I’ll be honest and say that my expectations for these two little Elders in terms of their school skills are a little on the lofty side. Of course I’ll be supportive and grateful as long as they are putting forth a solid effort, but I’m looking forward to every ounce of satisfaction I’ll glean from the moments when they excel. So there she was, a certified achiever in the field of forming sentences, and there I was procrastinating as fiercely as ever on putting a few words on the web. Motivational magic.

I’m trying! I’ll always try. And fail, and cuss, and forget and then come back for more.  The benefits are many, and if nothing else, I aim to set for my children an example of determination – to show them that every goal is worth the work, no matter how many times you have to set it, and in the end, the simple act of writing it down can be a pretty big step toward success.

And lastly, for your reading pleasure, some sentences as recently written by future Pulitzer winner Norah Elder. There may be some room for improvement in her choice of punctuation, and in case you aren’t from around here, it’s Great Wolf Lodge…

“To mom, I cant wat for your berthday! I wont to go to grat woof loj on your berthday mom!”

“Dad can you have fun and play with me! Let mom play with Crosby at grat woof laj! Prity plees dad can you play with me at grat woof laj!”

“I love you mom! Can Gracie and Katie and Sylvie come to are berthday! I would reelee wunt to go to grat woof laj with my frends at my berthday!”

“I am so good at geting on purple.”

“I like yer shert dad.”

Take care. S.

 

Kindergarten

Norah’s first two weeks of kindergarten were awful. We anticipated a challenging transition based on previous experiences with her starting something new, but we were not prepared for the level of struggle we ultimately confronted. Dance class is a solid example of the former. Norah is now participating weekly in her third edition of studio dance, each of which has begun with an anxiety infused performance of the masterpiece “I don’t want to do it” – sobbing, clinging, begging as though we were about to force her into a perpetual time-out, or some other version of child perceived hell.  I’d like to make it clear that each time we’ve signed her up for dance it has been in response to her request for such, and only after we double, triple, quadruple checked that she really wanted to do it. But as was described here in one of the few posts I threw out last year, all is sunshine and rainbows when it comes to new things until just about the minute that said thing is slated to begin and she hits the wall of realization that the unknown is about to envelop her. So it went with kindergarten.

Unlike dance class, however, the panic performance had an unfortunate number of encores – nine to be exact. When I put it that way, it doesn’t sound too terrible, but living through it was exactly that (and worse). Drop off day one was fairly peachy. On day one there was no knowledge of the new life she was to lead five days a week. We were able to walk her into the room just like we had for several years at preschool, and the novel surroundings were familiar enough from the orientation we experienced a bit before. But then we left, and then all she had before known of school was pretty much overturned as she sat through not three but seven hours of rules and education, in full force as compared to a somewhat softer experience at her aptly named Playschool. So on day one when we picked her up, she wept.

Even then we attributed it to her being exhausted and we still did not foresee the crisis that was to ensue. The next morning, almost immediately upon waking her, the tears flowed again and then the begging began. “Please let me stay home. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t like school. I’m tired. I’m scared. I just want to be here with you. I miss you. I like my house. School is not fun.” and on, and on, and on. Drop off day two was dripping with drama, but at the very least we were still able to walk her into the room. Through tears we said goodbye, and a miserable me walked back to the car. Morning three, the same, and by the end of that first week I started to lose my shit. Sympathy and sadness turned into defeat and dismay, followed by anger, yelling, and my very own dramatic performance of “Scarah”. Depleted of patience and understanding, I was desperate for her to stabilize and settle into this new role, so each morning she cried, and each morning I reached peak rage, dropping her off with both of us in a horrible heap of stress, and then I wept my way to work.

Nine mornings. The entire first two weeks of her kindergarten career with the exception of that first day before we all knew. An eternity of negative emotions, with no ability to see our way to the other side. And then came Labor Day weekend. We got away, and we relaxed. We spoke about school and offered encouragement and support. We played and laughed and forgot about things that made us unhappy. We enjoyed time as a family and we did our best to find peace. And then upon returning home, and before heading back to school for week three, we introduced… the sticker chart (Gasp! Ooohh! Ahhh! Confetti!). Sure a long weekend in the mountains was fantastic for a lot of reasons, but that wasn’t the magic pill that kicked off our recovery from transition hell. Nope. I give majority credit to the sticker chart. Okay, yes, time was a factor, but not so much so as the promise of placing 1-2 gloriously enticing adhesive backed cutouts onto an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper lined with eager little boxes. “If we have a smooth, panic-free morning, and you help us to get you ready for school, you get a sticker.” Sold.

There were tentative moments where we teetered on the edge, but that looming reward always brought her feet back to the ground, and week three was an entirely different, better, more stable and enjoyable experience. Week four? “I like school! I like my teachers! I like my friends! I can’t wait to tell you about everything awesome that is my new life in kindergarten!” – sunshine, rainbows, fuzzy bunnies and all the happy things. The idea for the chart came from my boss who had used it for potty training with his son, so a HUGE thank you to him and a strong recommendation from me to you to give it a whirl if you find yourself in any situation where nothing else seems to be getting the results you so desperately seek with your little darlings. It may not work for everyone or everything, but it did for us, and thank goodness because another week of that would have lead me to drink (a lot) (more) (whatever, you get it).

Everything has been going smashingly since, and we love being a South Mebane Elementary family. This past Friday we attended the SME Valentine’s Dance and had a grand ‘ol time watching the younger Elders shake their booties to today’s top hits. I might have shaken mine a bit too, but kept it PG lest Principal Royal form a poor opinion of me. We’ve had the privilege and pleasure of participating in a few such events since settling in at SME, and each one is a happy reminder that even the most challenging changes are usually worth their weight. I’ve lots more to tell about our kindergarten experience and promise (hold me to it!!) to do so soon, but figured the beginning is always the best place to start.

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Take care. S.

Turbulence

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One of the realizations I’ve had during my years of parenting is that many life experiences that before would have been identifiable by maybe one or two emotions are now quite the mixed bag. Much of this feeling confusion stems from the fact that things I previously enjoyed or got excited about occasionally don’t or can’t involve my two darling children, so my enjoyment and excitement are now almost always felt in conjunction with things like sadness, disappointment, guilt, and whatever word you’d use to describe the emotion of missing someone or someones like crazy. I’m fairly certain it was a parent that decided we’d use the word bittersweet to define more than just the sensation of dark chocolate as that word is the perfect encapsulation of what we feel whenever we embark on something awesome that leaves our babies behind for a bit.

Like work travel. I’m a plane right now headed to San Antonio for my second business trip of the year, which is already one more than I took last year as my position within the company is one that tends to be more successful when I’m in the office. That said, this year we’ve made an effort to spread the travel around a bit more and I volunteered to participate in a couple events. I did so because a) I wanted to contribute to an important part of what keeps Kalisher growing and b) because I wanted more experience out there in the world of hospitality design. That experience is fun, exciting and fascinating. It makes me feel more connected to my career and affords me the opportunity to meet folks I’d otherwise only know by a voice and an email address. It gives me time with colleagues that I value, it gives me a break from my typical routine, it earns me airline miles and it means I get to stay in a fairly fancy hotel room ALL BY MYSELF. Alone time? In a new place? Paid for by someone else? And I don’t have to clean or cook or do anything else required by the normalcy of life with a family and a house? Sounds splendid!! And then reality sets in. Days away from the people I love more than TV and trains and flowers and cement mixers and fruit snacks and trees and all the other things my kids like to list off when they play the “how much do I love mommy” game. Gahhh, that game! And days away means days of not experiencing that cuteness. Days without hugs and kisses and nuggles and tickles. Days of waking up and rolling over to see no Pete, just an empty bed. Days of exhausting, nonstop working and schmoozing and being on my best game in a way that’s entirely different than being on my parenting game, a way that requires an entirely different level of energy, and barely leaves space for how much I miss my life back home. You see? All the feels all over the damn place.

I’m not signed up for any additional work travel this year and I don’t intend to seek out more opportunities, so chances are that this is it. I know Pete is crossing his fingers that that holds true. Single dadding for multiple days in a row is no cakewalk, although it may involve cake, or possibly donuts, and definitely adventures, because Pete is super dad and never fails to make it fun. Which just adds to my emotional panoply because I want to be doing all that fun family stuff too. This trip is 100% worth it though because it’s in San Antonio and I’m heading in a day early to spend time with some people I don’t get to see nearly enough. Dad is picking me up at the airport and after taking a tour of his new house we’ll be walking down the street to spend time with my brother, sis-in-law and niece. I’m silly excited and tremendously grateful that my job is affording me this time with far away family. It’s going to be great, it’s going to fly by, and it’s going to send me home on Wednesday completely sapped but totally satisfied because it will have been a time and it will be over.

XO.S.

Activities

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Around here, most recreational activities that children can participate in have their youngest lot signing up at age four, which makes Norah eligible for nearly anything she’d like to try. Our first attempt to expose to her to the wide world of participation came last fall when we signed her up for the Mebane Youth Soccer Association. You may recall a post about this boasting a photo of a soccer loving little girl in shinguards and noting near the end that “Norah thus far seems to love it.” Though I’m not exactly sure at what point in the season that post was written, my guess is sometime around practice number one, and definitely before game number one, because let’s just say I was totally wrong. As noted in the post, it was indeed appealing for its newness, excitement, and accompanying attire, but when it came to actually playing soccer, Norah’s enthusiasm died faster than you can say GOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLLLL! A typical game consisted of about 40 minutes of us begging, bribing, reasoning, comforting, scolding, negotiating, threatening, and fighting the urge to bicycle kick her into the farthest net (what?! we’d never do that), and about 10 minutes of her actually playing, during which time she looked sort of happy? It would be easy to say that she just isn’t into soccer, but deeper digging leads us to believe that a) Pete being her coach made her less likely to listen (go figure) and b) every other kid on the team was a good six months older than her and therefore faster and more experienced. It sounds sort of silly to say “more experienced” when speaking of little girls playing soccer, but we truly do believe that her inability to keep up dampened her enthusiasm. Of course our hope is that one day she’ll use this feeling of inadequacy to drive her to overcome the odds, but at 4 we are lowering our expectations regarding the power of adversity. We made it to the end of the season, but I won’t say the experience as a whole was a delightful one. That said, now that several months have passed, she has expressed interest in trying again, and we’ll gladly give it another go this fall, just with a team coached by someone else’s dad.

After the soccer season came the holidays which were plenty distracting from any efforts we might make to find the next activity, but as the new year rolled in and we had more space, we refocused on finding a class or team for Norah to join. The answer was quickly obvious as we observed the almost nightly hallway escapades to the tune of a series of Vevo videos of the latest pop songs – dance class! The Elder children (and parents) loooooooooove to dance, especially in our pajamas at home at night. I’m sure a number of passers-by have watched us through the undressed windows of our kitchen and wondered what fun was happening inside, as the height of said windows only reveals the taller two of us prancing and marching around, and our tiny dancers cannot be seen. Crazy neighborhood shows aside, a proper dance experience seemed timely, so I posted to the ‘ol Facebook asking for recommendations and quickly had guidance on the local scene.

We chose a studio in Graham that was favored by a few friends and offered a mini session for the folks that wanted to try it before they truly buy it, if you will. That’s not to say it’s free, but simply that it’s less money, less classes, less obligation, in order to get a feel for things before making the big commitment to what’s referred to as the dance “season.” Much to Norah’s disappointment, you don’t get the reward of a recital at the end of mini session, but she understands this is a stepping stone. During our discussions of such she politely requested that I find pictures on the internet of recital costumes so that she might pick the one she would like to wear when that day comes. I obliged on the photos and explained the small misunderstanding she had of the process, but she remained optimistic.

Then came February, the stupidest fucking month ever (except for the birthdays of all the people I love!!) and the first two of her classes were canceled due to inclement weather. Class number three happened while mom and I were away in Florida, and Pete opted to avoid the still icy roads, so once again, no class. On Thursday March 12th, she FINALLY got to go and from the moment I arrived home from work until the moment the door to her dance room opened indicating it was time to go in, Norah was over the moon excited about her new adventure. I quite specifically mention the moment that door opened because that was when she lost it. “I don’t want to go in without you. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I don’t want to do it alone. I’m embarrassed. What if I can’t do it? I don’t know how to dance!” This went on for a good ten minutes, her clinging to me, me balancing between comforting encouragement and frustrated forcefulness, the teacher trying to help, the other parents staring. Everything about it felt awful, but she eventually accepted her fate, and walked into the room. I closed the door and proceeded to sit on a chair with trembling hands and racing heart just waiting for her to come busting out balling. Minutes passed, the door stayed closed, I calmed down, I dared to go to the bathroom despite her plea that I stand right outside the entire time, and at 7:45 when class was officially over, a beaming 4.5 year old emerged from the room in her pink leotard and ballet slippers, full of satisfaction and pride. OMFG THANK YOU.

The following week she was an old pro – not a moment of hesitation when it was time to go into class and zero signs of anxiety – just straight up swagger like I got this guys (Pete and Cros came too), just make sure you’re here in 45 minutes to drive me home. I’m relieved and proud and excited and just plain happy! She’s pretty darn proud of herself as well, and given the emotion surrounding this simple six week session of trying dance, I can only imagine the explosion of feelings we’re in for over the next 15 years as she and Crosby take on (and BEAST) the great wide world of activities.

XO.S.

Migration

I was born in Southern California, Mission Viejo hospital to be exact, and when I was seven we moved to South Florida, where I spent the next 11 years of my life. Needless to say, I grew up warm, and my concept of cold meant someone was blasting the AC a bit too much. In high school I wore flip flops every single day; in the “winter” it was jeans and flips flops with an occasional hoodie, but still, flip flops, because I could, because 60 was our freak out temperature. When I showed up for college in Gainesville it was August and hot as balls, hotter than South Florida even, no ocean breeze and all that, just stagnate, disgusting, drenching heat, and so my wardrobe was still appropriate and all was right with the world. Then fall came and suddenly I realized how absolutely unaware and unprepared I was. The only closed toe pair of shoes I owned were trainers (that’s British for running shoes; of course I’m not British, I just told you I was born in California). Sweaters? I’m not even sure they sell those in Boca. So here I was, spending a solid several hours a day outdoors between waiting for buses and walking to classes, and seriously lacking the appropriate attire to manage anything more than a brisk breeze. Oh, and I was poor. Like ramen noodle poor. Dear Mom – please come visit me and provide assistance with my mission to avoid freezing to death. Hyperbolically speaking of course. The forties are considered frigid in Gainesville, so it’s certainly not threatening snow or anything winter legit like that, but I certainly wasn’t wearing flip flops either.

Now I live in North Carolina, still very much “the South”, but not in any way the South I grew up in, and with winters that feel far more North in my opinion. Indeed our winters are laughable to folks in places like Buffalo and Cleveland, but to me they’re 100% valid and just about the limit of what I’m willing to endure. Come February each year, I find myself bordering on depressed over the bleakness of our daily forecast, but I’ve survived 11 years of it and intend to be in NC for as far into the future as I can see. And every February of that future I intend to enter the same sad state of complaint over snow and ice and terrible temps, and I’ll surely spend a good 30% of every conversation on the topic of “Is it spring yet?”

Enter the annual mother-daughter trip which kicked off two years ago when I decided to surprise my mom on Christmas with a planned weekend away in Asheville. It was always my intent to continue the tradition beyond that first adventure, and part of the plan was to have said adventure within a couple months of actual Christmas. Guess what happens a couple months after Christmas? February! As in it’s freakin’ frigid everywhere within a reasonable driving distance and given our budget minded nature, we’re never too keen on flying for this trip. This year, however, I had a fancy Southwest voucher, and so I came up with the grand idea to pick a destination from one of Southwest’s many fare sales and get us way out of town. Of the ten or so places one can fly from RDU “on sale”, there are two that tend to cost less than $100 per person, per leg – Baltimore and Fort Lauderdale. I’ll allow you a quick minute to ponder the likelihood of me going to Baltimore in February (or ever)… all set then? Fort Lauderdale or bust!

So technically we went in March, but it was super early March which might as well be February, especially given the sleety mess that occurred back home while we were gone. I’ll summarize the trip by saying that it was exactly what it needed to be – an escape from the doldrums of winter to spend relaxing time in a tropical climate with my favorite mom. I’ll also say that I would not recommend Fort Lauderdale as a vacation destination to anyone really, unless you find yourself in a situation similar to ours where you need a cheap flight to somewhere with a beach and you have zero expectations about doing anything other than beaching (or pooling), and I’ll end my FL-FL hating right there to spare you any boring rants and also avoid the impression that the trip was anything less than great. We talked, we walked, we ate. We explored and took pictures and read books. We enjoyed hammocks by the pool, at least one proper tanning session on the beach, and a whole heap of chill time and together time, neither of which I get very frequently. On our last day we ate some badass Cuban food and avoided kidnapping by declining a ride from a stranger, we people watched the heck outta some Broward County transit regulars, and we witnessed a drunk guy at the airport make his wife cry and get escorted away by the police. What else is there?

If you’re up on my Instagram feed you already saw a smattering of photos from this delightfully luminous getaway, but as I’m sure you’ve been anxiously anticipating, there are a bajillion more! It was grand and I’m pleased as punch to have had this experience with my mom. Gallery time…

XO.S.

the somedays

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I decided today – possibly a little too late, but better late than never – that I’m going to start keeping track of all the somedays that Norah solicits and I agree to. What is a someday? It’s anything that Norah asks to try/see/do/experience/acquire that for some reason or another she has established is not likely or appropriate for the immediate future, and so with eyebrows raised in contemplative curiosity says “Mama, someday can I (insert thing to try/see/do/experience/acquire here)?”

This happens a lot. Several times a day in fact. And I tend toward the affirmative in my response. There’s the occasional maybe as well, as I don’t believe in empty promises, and I actually do take the time to carefully consider her request and gauge its feasibility before responding. Most of her somedays just happen to be quite reasonable and so rarely do I find myself saying any form of no. What I do find myself doing is trying to make some sort of mental note about said someday so that I can actually deliver on my agreement because, well, I love that little girl more than furniture (her comparison, not mine) and I want to make her super happy (when doing so is safe, affordable, appropriate and workable).

Do you know where mental notes in parent brains wind up? Neither do I. Maybe where the other sock from the laundry goes, or maybe where my red J. Crew or black Madewell cardigans went (I’m really good at losing somewhat pricey button down sweaters). Where they don’t go is to any place accessible or locatable, so anything that my darling daughter asked for before today is off in the ether with the rest of the things my mom mind has eschewed in the interest of leaving space for more pressing things, like asking Crosby if he needs to go potty every 12 and a half minutes so I don’t wind up with a puddle on the floor.

Finally accepting my failure at capturing these sometimes important and sometimes silly requests in any referable way, today, when Norah came to me in the kitchen with her latest someday, I opened the notepad on my iPhone and made a legit, locatable, accessible note…

She asked for taffy, just a piece. Taffy is one of those things I refuse to give to my children at this age because I value their teeth and feel they should only come out of their heads at a time that’s decided by growth and nature. I accept that there are good kinds of taffy that are less likely to cause dental damage, but the kinds encountered by the Elder children to date have been the terribly hard and sticky (cheap) versions that wind up in Halloween buckets or sent home with preschool party bags. Pardon me while I put on my judgy pants – why, why, why, why, why of all the candy out there would you choose that for a holiday party at a preschool? I’ll add to this the fact that apple slices are always the last thing to be signed up for, with cheesy poofs and cookies quickly claimed, and say one big WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS WORLD?!!??!?!??!??!?!, before stepping off my angry mom box.

Where was I? Taffy – when it comes home to Elderland, it goes in the trash, along with tootsie rolls, airheads, and that fun dip crap. I let my kids have treats, no doubt about that, but I maintain some sort of control over these treats. I explain to Norah that the taffy is too hard and isn’t very good anyway, and I offer her something more kid friendly and enticing like ice-cream. Today, however, she politely inquired as to whether or not she could try a piece of taffy someday, adding that she’d be careful not to bite it, but would just suck on it like a lollipop so it didn’t bust her grill (okay, maybe she said hurt her teeth, but I think I might teach her to say bust my grill). I sighed and obliged, but with the caveat that I’d like to get her a good piece of taffy to try, and now it’s here, in writing, and I won’t forget, and we’ll call this the kickoff to Norah’s someday wish list that I intend to satisfy as wholly as possible. I mean I’ve got like 50 years right? Easy peasy.

XO.S.