A Letter to My Son on the Eve of Graduation

To My Awesome Little Man,

Here we are, sweet boy. An incredible milestone—elementary school graduation. It’s a big one. Tomorrow you cross that bridge to official tween-hood, ready to begin your junior high journey, and I can’t believe how far we’ve come.

From a curious little preschooler who yammered obsessively about sharks and dinosaurs all day, to a silly grade school jokester with the most infectious laugh anyone has ever heard, to a now handsome and studious young man with hopes, dreams, and a heart bursting with love, it’s been one heck of a ride watching you grow.

Your grade school years won’t soon be forgotten, not by me anyhow. I remember your first crush—how it took you two years to work up the nerve to give her a Valentine’s Day card (and a mere five minutes to get over it when she was mean to your friends in the school yard. Bros before…well, you know).

I remember how crushed you were when your best friend stopped talking to you because you weren’t as good in sports as he seemed to think he was. It broke my heart to see you hurting so much, but unbeknownst to me, it only pushed you to try harder than ever. Last week your football team won the championship thanks to your impressive quarterback skills (Go Eagles!).

I remember how nervous you were to start in a new school, how impressive it was to watch you progress from the shy new kid to someone who helps out his classmates and is loved by friends and teachers alike.

I know we clash a lot –A LOT— but it’s only because we are more alike than you’ll ever understand. When you’re in pain, I feel your pain. It’s not just a mom thing— it’s because we are so much the same, you and me. The anxiety, the shyness, the sarcasm—you get it from your mama! I’m sorry for some of it, but not all of it. I’m so insanely proud of the young man you are that it’s helped me overcome some of my own insecurities. I suppose if I could create someone as wonderful and amazing as you, I must be doing a few things right.

When I say I’m proud of you, you simply don’t understand just how intense that feeling is. And you likely won’t until the day you have a child of your own. When I look at how far you come, what you’ve accomplished, and how much you’ve grown….I’m overcome with this emotion I can hardly explain. I’m in awe of you. I’m bursting at the seams with pride. It’s indescribable, this feeling of love mixed with pride. Quite simply, you (along with your sister, of course) are my greatest accomplishment ever.

I’m already bracing myself for the teenage years. I haven’t heard many good things about that particular stage of parenting so I’m gonna need you to go easy on me, ok? I’m having a hard enough time as it is loosening my grip, giving you another inch of freedom every day. I can’t bear the thought of letting go of your innocent little hand for good.

So tonight I say a final good night to my elementary schooler, who will wake up and be closer to adulthood than he’s ever been. I’ll try not to cry as you flash me that signature, awkward, half-smile you plaster on when you’re feeling uncomfortable on stage. And I promise I’ll try not to squeeze the life out of you after the ceremony, when I wrap my arms around my gorgeous little graduate, savoring one of the last public hugs I will likely be permitted for a very long time.

I love you, my sweet, hilarious, handsome, funny, unbelievably amazing little man. Congratulations on this big step.

Love always,

Mommy

It Doesn’t Get Easier

Despite the title of this website, my kids haven’t seen a highchair in years. They do, however, still give me headaches. Migraines, in fact.

Sometimes we lie to the newborn or toddler parents still stuck in the dirty diaper trenches, telling them it’ll get easier. It doesn’t.

Physically, yes, it does get less demanding. I don’t envy parents who can’t shower or shit without a tiny person watching their every move. I don’t miss midnight feedings or sleep deprivation so bad you start absentmindedly putting bottles in the garbage and used diapers in the sink.

When your kids get older, there’s arguably more free time, more sleep and more personal space. It sounds like a dream, right? Don’t get too excited. The next phase is a total mindfuck and you will have no idea whether you are doing anything right at all. None whatsoever.

My son once told me a fellow fifth grader showed him a bag of weed he’d brought to school. Drugs in elementary school?! I had to narc on a 10-year-old!

He is adorably immature about sex and girls now, but some of his friends aren’t. How much longer do I have before someone introduces him to the World Wide Web full of free porn? A guy once told me to keep an eye out for crumpled socks by his bed–that’s how I’ll know he’s started, um, doing THAT. Just plan my fucking funeral for that day, ok?

Or plan it for the day I catch him sexting some seriously graphic stuff with a girlfriend on his phone, like a friend caught her 14-year-old son doing recently.

Or for the day I find a dick pic on my daughter’s phone, like another friend did when checking her 12-year-old daughter’s phone one day. 12!!!! How do you even UNSEE some little boy’s…thing…. ugh.

Its enough to make you want to deadbolt the doors to their bedrooms forever.

My son has recently started asking for more freedom than I can comfortably handle. He asks to go to the park with his friends—their parents let them, he begs. And I’m wracked with guilt no matter what I do. I feel guilty if I say no because I’m not ready for all this independence and I’m not sure he is either, and he’s gonna hate me for making that call. And I feel guilty if say yes because I’ll feel like a terrible mother letting my baby go out into the world unsupervised.

Observe below how I slowly lose my shit, and he is not concerned in the least:

And my daughter? She’s 7 going on 17. She steals my son’s phone and holes up in her room for hours listening to loud music and doing God knows what else. You might think I sound like a bad mother but can you honestly say you are looking over your kid’s shoulder every second? If you say yes, go check their YouTube history and let me know if you’re still so confident.

Most days everything is sparkly and sunshine and rainbows and butterflies, but once in a while she purposely dresses like she’s attending a funeral and I wonder what kinda goth shit is waiting on the horizon.

She has classmates that are incredibly mean to her sometimes, and I have to explain to her that in life people will often be cruel to her because they are jealous and threatened by her, that she should ignore them and as long as she is always nice to everyone she doesn’t need to worry. Then a week later she’s claiming the bullies are her friends now, and I just know the cycle is on repeat and she will be hurt again.

You aren’t a parent if you haven’t visualized kicking the crap outta some asshole kid for mistreating your child at least once or twice.

The thing is, kids are testing the looming adolescent waters as they grow older and leaning on you to save them from drowning. They think they can swim perfectly, but you know they can hardly hold their head above the water yet. It’s absolutely terrifying.

They ask difficult questions. They test your boundaries. They don’t listen, don’t care, don’t understand there is a big scary world out there that’s going to swallow them up if they aren’t careful. They just want more freedom to do as they please and it’s your job—in between the cooking and cleaning and working and hectic schedule— to keep them safe and sane while you loosen your grip on them a little more each day. It’s an impossible feat, and you WILL fuck up. Over and over. And it does not get easier. Not now, not ever.

So hang in there. Or don’t. What the hell do I know? My 7-year-old is upstairs listening to a song with the word “fuck” in the chorus, on repeat. Gotta go.

Don’t Mind the Mess

When my husband and I were dating, his mother had this wastebasket in her bathroom that was always empty. Always. It seemed to serve virtually no purpose whatsoever, having a wastebasket in your bathroom but not using it. Sometimes I’d throw tissues in it, just to see something in there. Within the half hour, the tissues would magically disappear and it would be empty again.

Her house was always immaculate, but this useless wastebasket is the thing that haunts me to this day.

I’m now married with a family of my own, full blown adulting to the fullest, and my wastebaskets are overflowing. All of them. They are *never* empty. There’s one in my room, in my kids’ rooms, the bathrooms, the kitchen, and the basement. And they are all packed to the gills with God-knows-what.

When I empty them, they fill back up as quickly as my mother-in-law’s wastebasket seemingly emptied itself.

It’s obviously not about the wastebaskets. If I were just a person with surplus garbage in baskets around my house, it would be a manageable problem.

But I’m also a person with dirty laundry in almost every room, just lying about. There’s also clean laundry, the unfolded kind we all get dressed from in the morning. I’ve been “still doing the laundry” for about six consecutive years now.

I’m also a person with a sinkful of dirty dishes at all times. A person who will leave them there overnight, even sometimes more than one night. Some days there just isn’t enough time — or energy — for emptying and filling the dishwasher and then washing pots and pans forever.

I’m a person with smudges on windows and doors and mirrors. Not because the smudges are unavoidable, but because I have even less time for fussing around with Windex than I do for emptying eternally full garbage bins.

I’m a person who doesn’t sweep and mop and dust on a schedule.

I’m a person with random papers and notices and letters and bills lying around all over the place.

I’m a person with a growing mountain of clothes in the bedroom corner, the reject outfits that I simply didn’t bother hanging back up.

I’m a person with toothpaste on the mirror and gunk at the bottom of the sink and the toilet.

I’m a person with dog hair on the couch and carpet, and dust bunnies under the bed big enough to hop away and celebrate Easter. A person with messy counters, random toys and shit strewn everywhere.

I’m a person with mismatched furniture, unpainted walls, a half-finished kitchen, hardly any décor worth mentioning. The epitome of a lazy homeowner.

Frankly, I’m a person. Just one person. A person caring for a whole family, performing the impossible balancing act of work and kids and marriage and life. A person who has no time or patience for tidying up. A person who prefers to spend my rare free time relaxing rather than scrubbing.

This is harder to admit than you think. I’ve revealed much, much more personal details of my life to the general public, but this one is honestly one of the hardest. I fear the judgement of the OCD-addled mom or grandma, shaking her Costco jugs of Lysol and bleach like a pitchfork in my direction. I’m terrified that my lackadaisical attitude toward housekeeping will horrify people who are disgusted by a mess of this magnitude.

But I think, I THINK, there are less of those people around than it seems. And I mean no offense toward them (pitchfork cleaning products aside)—truly, how I envy them!—but I just will never, EVER be one of them. And I suspect many of you will never be either.

I was talking with a mom from the kids’ school recently who kindly admitted to sending her daughter to school in dirty, mismatched socks. My kind of mama! I laughed and told her the sweats my son had on simply passed a sniff test from the dirty laundry pile earlier that morning. We then both admitted that binging Netflix is a lot more fun than doing laundry, and bonded over all the series we’d devoured while disaster piled up around us.

I want to be organized, neat, tidy. I’m sure it feels wonderful living in a beautiful and orderly home.

But I also want my sanity — and unfortunately, they don’t sell jugs of it at Costco.

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My Unposted, Unperfect Life

img_7184If you scan my recent Instagram posts, you’ll see my family went sledding a few weeks ago. Smiling, we posed around the six-foot snow man we constructed together, with his fuzzy ear muffs and wooden stick arms and funny face. There’s footage of my kids giggling as they slid down a snowy slope, and me cracking up as I tried and failed epically to hold my phone when sliding quickly down the trail myself.

You’ll see pictures of my daughter selling girl scout cookies at a booth sale one afternoon; and photos of her dressed adorably at her first dance recital; pics of my son scoring touchdowns at football and holding up sports trophies; of both kids proudly holding up “Leader of the Month” certificates and good report cards. There are images of family trips to waterparks, amusement parks, museums, playgrounds, the beach; and holiday snapshots of everyone gleefully ripping into Christmas presents, overflowing Halloween candy buckets and pretty Easter baskets.

You’ll see the occasional date night photo of the hubs and I smiling over drinks at a restaurant. You’ll see some “selfies,” taken from various flattering angles on particularly good hair or boob days. There’s birthday tributes to close family members and friends, once-in-a-blue-moon “girls night out” shots, parties and weddings and family gatherings. Essentially, it’s a smattering of memories all fitting snugly together like the puzzle pieces of my life.

Except, if I’m being honest, there are hundreds of puzzle pieces missing. I’m just as guilty as the next social media user of creating a false reality that my life is seemingly perfect. I very carefully select only the most picture perfect of moments to share. Even when I’m complaining or angry or upset about something, I spin it on my Facebook page into a joke, as if to say “my life is a hot mess but it’s a funny hot mess so I got this!” Admittedly, I’m filled with a sense of satisfaction as I watch my “likes” climb in the hours and days after a new post.

Like most of you, my life is absolutely nowhere near the level of perfection those “likes” would indicate. For every smiling family members’ face I post, there are ten, maybe twenty, real-life frowns. For every joke I type into my feed, there are hundreds of tears pooling on my keyboard. For every fun family outing I’ve splashed across my page, there are countless days of sitting at home listening to my kids whine of boredom whenever they get the chance to take their eyes off YouTube for five seconds.

Real life isn’t found scrolling mindlessly through an app on your phone. Real life is in the pictures we don’t post, the moments we don’t capture and share with the world. Sure, it can be beautiful at times, but often it’s just empty. Lonely. Painful. Boring. Frustrating. Overwhelming. Terrifying. Depressing. Unperfect in every way.

Looking at my carefully curated social media content, you might not guess I battle depression and anxiety every day of my life. Zoom in on those pictures of my family sledding this winter and you might notice my wedding ring missing from the photo. People are rarely quick to post that their marriage is falling apart. And what you don’t see from the other side of the camera, in the photo where my daughter beams while holding her “Girl Scout Cookies for Sale” sign, is a mom with crippling social anxiety who is self-consciously struggling just to make it through the event without drawing attention to herself or looking awkward or saying something stupid in front of the other moms.

I never post images of my son crying when he missed a ball and cost his team the game, or of my daughter berating herself for getting another bad grade on her math test. I don’t post angry footage of me losing my shit every morning when the kids are getting ready for school at a snail-like pace. And I certainly don’t screenshot those scary credit card statements after I’ve gone overboard around holiday time.

I’ll never post a selfie first thing in the morning or without sucking my stomach in until breathing is physically impossible. I admit I only post pretty pictures of myself when boosted with the false confidence of liquid courage. I always feel silly the next day — and even sillier knowing all those “likes” really do feel good after all.

I sometimes (always) look at others’ pictures and feel like I’m failing epically at life. I’m filled with envy as I thumb through their lavish vacation photos or bikini pics or perfect homes or exciting social lives. I chastise myself for not doing enough with my kids, for my incessant social awkwardness, for not working out enough, not cleaning the house enough, self-deprecation to the highest degree.

And then I remind myself, as crazy as it seems to me, someone else might be looking at my posts and thinking the exact same thing.

So maybe, for those folks, I’ll share some footage gulping down my 20mg of antidepressants in the morning. Maybe I’ll share my shameful recycling bin brimming with empty wine bottles I consumed entirely on my own. Or better yet, maybe I’ll take a selfie with my therapist after our next session. Frankly, my life is as much of a mess – maybe even moreso- than yours.

But this is life: real, unfiltered, unedited, unplanned life.

It’s what happens when the camera is down. When the apps are closed and the phone is out of reach. And no one’s life – NO ONE’S – is perfect. So you can choose to laugh about it, or cry about it, forget about it, or even share it with the world. Just don’t feel bad about it, because we are all going through it.

It’s like they always say: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. So put down the phone and go live your own, unperfect, unposted life.

When Your Kid is THAT Kid

img_1678I missed a thing at my daughter’s school the other day.

Doesn’t matter what kinda thing; it was a thing. The kinda thing that some parents make and some parents don’t. The kinda thing that leaves some kids teary eyed and sad, watching as classmates joyously reunite with the same parents who just dropped them off a few hours prior, wondering why their own mommy or daddy didn’t care enough to come. The kinda thing that some parents reluctantly use vacation days on, simply to avoid their kid being THAT kid– the sobbing one whose mom and dad didn’t show up because clearly they hate him and bask in his misery. The kid making everyone uncomfortable. The one breaking everyone’s heart.

I usually make all the things. I work from home so there’s no reason to miss them and make my kid be THAT kid. The worst part about missing this particular thing is WHY I missed it. Her classmates’ parents think I was too busy with work to make it. I could never fess up to the truth. Nope, no way I’m telling the folks — the ones who consoled my little girl as she sobbed — that I had simply forgotten about it.

That’s right. I forgot. I fucking forgot.

Somehow, in the midst of all the deadlines, conference calls, meetings, girl scouts, boy scouts, gymnastics, football, doctors’ appointments, birthday parties, holidays, homework assignments, tests, trip slips, bills, theme outfit days, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. etc. etc., something managed to slip my mind. Can’t imagine how on earth that happened.

I had written it on my calendar, the one hanging in my kitchen with a different family photo for every month that makes visitors think I’m an organizational supermom with her shit together.

Unfortunately, no one told me wall calendars are SO 2017, because I hadn’t also plugged it into my phone. Nor did I instruct Alexa to set dozens of piercing reminders to chime at 10-minute intervals until I got up off my lazy ass to get ready.

So at 1pm Friday afternoon, when I should have been herding into in a hot classroom with 20 or so other parents, feigning enthusiasm while silently counting down the minutes until we could be released back into the wild, I was instead staring wearily at a computer screen at home, contemplating quitting my job and moving to an uninhabited island for the tenth time that day.  Meanwhile my seven-year-old was at school just two blocks away crying big, fat tears into her pink and purple sequined tee-shirt.

I’m just so angry with myself. How could I miss it? I know these things happen; even the best parents forget stuff sometimes. Still, I keep seeing her sad little face in my head. I’ve been beating myself up since the minute I picked her up from school and she hurled a venomous “you weren’t there!” in my direction. Her words stung me the way my actions did her. The difference is she came home and busied herself setting up a tea party for her American Girl dolls, already unaffected by the day’s disappointment — my indiscretion forgotten more quickly than it occurred. Yet here I am, still chastising myself over the whole thing, two full days later. My guilt even lead to an epic Wendy’s trip that night, complete with cheeseburgers, vanilla Frosties and giant chocolate chip cookies (sanctimomies, save your fast food lecture. I already feel like mother of the year).

But how could I care so little that I’d actually forget to be there for my child?  Well, I’ll tell you a secret: I never wanted to go to begin with.  NO ONE really wants to be at these things! No sane parent ever wakes up like “YAY! I can’t wait to sweat my tits off in classroom today listening to my kid read a story about purple tigers,” as though she doesn’t spend hours describing, in detail, every thought that enters her head, every single moment of every single day. No normal person wants to clear an afternoon for that shit.

But you do it. You do it for your kid. You do it so she’s not THAT kid.

Wouldn’t it be great if they just stopped doing these things, like, altogether? I mean, some parents aren’t total dumbasses like me. They have legitimate reasons for not making every school gathering under the sun. They have work, young children to care for, other commitments to tend to. They want to save their sick days and vacation days for their intended purpose, not waste them merely to avoid wading in the same tepid pool of self loathing I’m currently drowning myself in. They want to keep their newborns out of germ-ridden classrooms.

And just for the record, I’m not blaming the teachers. It’s not up to them. In fact, they tend to empathize because their kid is usually THAT kid. They can’t miss a day of work at the drop of a hat. They’re just following directions from the higher-ups who require staff to encourage parent involvement. But can someone let their bosses that two hours of begging my kids to finish their goddamn homework every night is all the parent involvement I can bear?

It’s not the PTA either. A PTA superstar, I am certainly not and will never be. But someone has to do the bake sale stuff because it contributes to much-needed funding for school programs. Or so I hear.

So can’t we all, like collectively as a community of parents,  just agree once and for all that these things are hurting a lot of kids more than they are helping?

There is a solution. A real one. You might have seen it making rounds on social media. You probably tapped the “haha” button, or maybe even went for a “love” click before moving on to the next like-worthy post.

But I’m serious, people. Let’s do this. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it.

You just need to write a quick, hefty check on the first day of school, with a little reminder in the notes section that this generous amount should cover financial contributions AND attendance at all events occurring between the first and last day of school.  Holiday fairs, basket auctions, book fairs, bake sales, class parties, literally all of it.

Let’s keep our kids and everyone’s kids from the yucky feeling of being THAT kid. I will gladly fork over at least a buck for every would-be tear shed by my child if she were left parent-less at a school event.

Wouldn’t you?

25 Alternative Facts of Parenthood

pinocchio1I’m no politician, but I know a fancy phrase for bullshit when I see one.  It doesn’t bode well when you’re the actual advisor to the President of the United States of America. But as a parent? Let’s just say there hasn’t been a better made-up word since “threenager.”

When you have kids, lying becomes second nature. No one is saying you’re proud of it, but it’s true. The older your kids get, the more quickly you can come up with the perfect line of bullshit to suit every situation. Few parents will make it through their kids’ childhood without crafting a few necessary “alternative facts” here and there. I like to think of it as a survival tactic. So to celebrate my new favorite expression, I thought I’d share some of my favorite alternative facts of parenthood.
“The elf is watching everything you do and Santa is leaving you nothing!”

“No I’m not on Facebook, I’m fact checking your homework assignment.”

“What’s wine? This is grape juice.”

“Daddy was just in the bed checking mommy’s legs for tick bites.”

“Caillou isn’t on today. Actually, they cancelled it. Forever. Ditto for Max and Ruby.”

“Only grownups are allowed in the restaurant on date night.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“If you call 911 when there is no emergency, the police will come and take you to jail.”

“I LOVED doing homework as a kid.”

“Wow! That is the prettiest stick figure I’ve ever seen!”

“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose — as long as you had fun!”

“Your face will freeze like that” (technically this is true because I’ll snap a pic and share it on Instagram, where it will remain frozen forever).

“Sure, I’d love for you to help me cook dinner.”

“No, I don’t mind waiting (an eternity) while you button your own coat.”

“My kid will NEVER get away with (insert literally any offense at all) when he/she is a teenager.”

“It gets easier after the terrible twos.”

(To your spouse after being home with the kids all day) “I’m just gonna take a fast shower, be out in a few minutes.”

“I’m ONLY going to Target for diapers.”

“My Costco bill will be under $300 today.”

“I don’t have a favorite kid.”

“You’re never watching YouTube again!”

“Sure, I want to see your Minecraft house.”

“I missed you guys so much while you were in school today!”

“Yes, you can cut your finger off with a butter knife.” (also technically true, right Uncle Mike?)

“You can only use your tablet for ONE hour today.”

What are some of your favorite alternative facts in parenting?

It’s About Time

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I just came across this on a lovely friend’s Facebook page and man, it hit me right in the feels.

Go ahead, read it. Then read it again, take it in.

Ugh, right?

Time. The only truly constant aspect of all of our lives. It’s the one thing we all share. No matter who we are or what we are doing, time is always, always passing us by.

Some of us are wishing for more time.

Hell, I want at least six or seven more hours in the day. I want to stop running late for every appointment, party, play date, and errand on my calendar. I want to tack on an extra hour between my first alarm and second snooze in the morning. I want to add an extra hour before it’s time to get the kids from school. Girls’ night out needs to be at least two hours longer to make up for how rarely I actually attend one.

Some of us want to freeze time.

I’m watching my kids grow so quickly it breaks my heart. My oldest turns nine this year. NINE. Almost into the double digits. He’s getting smarter and more mature every day, and I swear he grows at least six inches in his sleep every night. But he still gives me a huge hug every day when I pick him up from school, despite his friends being fully able to see, and it’s a reminder that he’ll be my baby boy forever (even when he towers over mommy like most boys eventually do).

My youngest said goodbye to toddlerhood a few years ago, along with her chubby cheeks and baby curls. But when she laughs really hard, the giggles still come straight from her belly like they did when she could barely talk, and the sound makes me weak with love for her.

I know her belly laughs are as numbered as his afterschool hugs; I just don’t know how many I have left. I never know when the last one is coming, so I cherish each one as though there will be no more.  In my own, way I freeze time.

Some of us are wishing time away.

I remember waiting impatiently for my husband to come home from Iraq and meet our newborn son, and I admit I wished away the first three months of his tiny life. Who could blame me?

I wished away two pregnancies like any normal bloated, exhausted, aching woman carrying the equivalent of a small watermelon in her uterus would. But that was still 18 months of my life I watched swirl down the one-way drain of time.

When I was a stay-at-home-mom, I spent half the day staring at the clock, wishing away hour after hour until my husband came home to save me from the endless pit of loneliness and boredom. I measured time in TV shows: 8am Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, 11am Dino Dan, 1pm Day of Our Lives. By the time Dr. Phil came on I knew I was almost there. Tick tock, tick tock.

Time connects us all. It’s as though the earth is nothing more than a giant hourglass and we’re all just one single grain of sand making our way from the top to the bottom, birth to death. You can love or hate the people around you, but they’re merely sand like you, passing time all the same.

Some of us are running out of time. My parents are always telling me they are “in the September of their lives.” It sounds so depressing, right? But I get it. We are all getting older, we know our time is limited. We’re all just one cancer diagnosis or terrifying car crash or sudden heart attack away from the bottom of the hourglass.

Some of us are even wasting time, which is perhaps the biggest tragedy of all. In the wrong profession. The wrong location. The wrong marriage. The wrong state of mind. We waste time for a thousand different reasons, but none of them are really justified.

Because if there’s one thing being a slave to time has made me realize, it’s that time doesn’t really matter at all—hell, it doesn’t even exist. Whether you’re running out of time, hoping for more time, freezing time, wasting time, wishing time away – it doesn’t matter. All that matters is what you do with the time you have. The places you go, the people you meet, the friends you make, the love you share, the family you have.

It’s not about the time you have. It’s about the times you make.