Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I Am Your River: Part 2

(Continued from Part 1…)

From the west coast, the jam band Displace started making their way through the storm from Tampa. They were scheduled to go on at 4:00, but they didn’t make it. We’d decided to move the stage upstairs to the back house, where the equipment would be safer, and we’d still have enough room for a band and 60 or more spectators, depending on the weather. We had unplugged everything before the lightning started, and had secured the cover, thinking we were good. But, water got in, anyway. I found the microphones in a bag, sitting atop a rain-soaked rug. The speakers got a little spray, and every electrical cord and power strip we’d gathered and saved over the past two years got wet. Guests pitched in and brought everything inside. I blew on the microphones with the cool setting of a hair dryer for 30 minutes. We all prayed for sunshine.

We were expecting over 100 people Saturday night, and had anticipated collecting $2,000 or more. Instead, the rain changed everything; we started an hour and a half late, lost more than half our crowd, and spent almost zero time outside, enjoying the yard, playground, and stage we’d worked so hard to make just right. Everyone was discouraged, including Josh, whose band mates had deserted him. And then, after we fed five starving boys from Tampa and scrounged two dry power strips, the first band played.

Displace (and guest)

I met Displace and their manager in my yard in the middle of the night when the neighbors brought them home following a gig at Guanabanas. (Driving out here with strangers, to the dark back end of our neighborhood, they were surely terrified.) It was a no brainer to invite them. It was a thrill to watch them play for almost two hours in what was essentially our living room. (Loved their “GAS MONEY” jar.) Josh grabbed a stool and a guitar after the boys loaded up and headed west, and he entertained the small, intimate crowd of 30-40 for another hour or so. Again, the atmosphere was electric – magical – and we all sensed we were participating in something very rare and special.

Josh Hayden of Operative Me

Also victims of the weather, along with a grueling “Driving 95 South” tour, John Eddie and the guys arrived exhausted and three hours late. Not spying Kenny in the group, I inquired and learned about his family’s recent loss. My heart sunk, both for him and for the band as they’d be boarding the Kid Rock cruise without him. (His replacement, bassist Ethan Pilzer, played with Big & Rich and Jewel.) While guests helped carry gear upstairs, I welcomed everyone and filled them in on the changes from previous years. It wasn’t what they’d signed up for, but I hoped it would suffice, like it had for the previous bands. When the equipment was inspected, and it was determined the setup wasn’t adequate, we feared JE wouldn’t play at all.

But, he did. And it was the definition of rare and special. Among the twenty or more Kid Rock cruisers in attendance to witness the acoustic set he and P.K. performed were a half dozen or so dedicated souls who’d followed JE and the guys all the way from Jersey. Everyone sang along, and Laura knew every word to every song. She even brought a huge “who the hell is john eddie?” banner for us to hang before the show and a huger tray of hamburger cookies, with a side of chocolate and butterscotch guitars (can you say, mmmm?!). The next day, she sent me this note:

Thank you so much for having us at your party and into your home. I know the weather did not cooperate, but we had an awesome time. It was such a blessing to hear John’s real singing voice without electronics. It was truly a unique experience. Thank you again.

John Eddie and P.K. Lavengood

"John Eddie Unplugged"

Josh and Displace, like the prior bands, walked away happy with tips they never expected. Having agreed to play for donations like everyone else, JE didn’t roll on to Boca to “entertain the poor people” with much more than gas money, either. But, I was impressed he stepped up, anyway, and gave us a glimpse of himself that few are privileged to see. He also walked away with the satisfaction of knowing he’d made it possible for us to promote interaction between local musicians, help build their fan bases, expose diverse musical genres to a new audience, and support Florida musicians who, more often than not, still sleep in the van. I can’t thank him enough and am very proud to have been a part of it.

All that said, the highlight of my roller coaster weekend happened shortly after the music started on Saturday afternoon. Peanut’s daddy brought her over for a couple hours, so she could see music played for real. Her first musical love was Old MacDonald. By the time she reached the ripe age of six months, she was into James Brown and Donna Summer. Three months ago, she was mesmerized by Dorothy’s rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Lately, she loves First Kiss, but her new favorite is I Am a River by the Foo Fighters; she sings it all the time and often passes out instruments, so everyone can be in the band.

The band from Tampa had just started their set inside, in front of the bay window. Peanut was perched on her daddy’s shoulders as he hustled through the drizzle, ascended the stairs, crossed the deck, and entered the room. Her little blue eyes were transfixed. For several seconds, she didn’t move, only stared at the boys playing all those instruments in her house. Then her arms started to wiggle and her toes started to tap. When she looked down at me, still with a bewildered look on her face, I held out her blue and pink light sticks (gifts from a friend who attended Wanee with us last year). She took one in each hand and started waving them around. Her eyes twinkled, and she gave me a big grin and a tickled laugh. Then she wriggled to get down. And that was the end of that.

She spent almost the entire two-hour set dancing, singing, and playing with the band. And by that, I mean directly in front of the band (scroll up to the Displace photo). If we had allowed her past the extension cords, I’m sure she’d have crawled on top of Tucker’s base drum. She gazed, she studied, and she hysterically mimicked their “in the zone” faces (she seemed to really like Sam). I uncovered her ukulele, lighted tambourine, maracas, and princess keyboard, so she and the other two, only slightly older girls could join in. When she wasn’t front and center, she was dancing outside on the deck, or handing instruments to random people. It was priceless. We literally watched the river flow from the boys to the little girls.

I’ve always known it, subconsciously, but Dave Grohl helped me find the words: We are all connected by an invisible, underground river of music – every kind of music. My grandfather played jazz saxophone; Dad sang silly country songs whenever the mood struck, and Mom sang along with Dionne Warwick in the car; I played classical piano, sax, and percussion, with a little vocals thrown in (and I still sing in the car); my siblings played drums, trumpet, and trombone; my son plays guitar. Everyone in my family and circle of friends loves music. We turn each other on to new artists and sounds all the time, and I have met some of the finest people through those connections. And one person continuously leads me to the next. Whether we play, produce, promote, or just listen, sing, and share, music binds us and carries along its current, on to the next connection. At one and a half, our peanut has already firmly grasped hold of the raft. That makes me the happiest grandma on earth.

When the party was over and the final guests had departed, Scott cleaned out the last of our belongings from the motorhome, climbed into the cockpit, and set a course for Lorida. I followed some thirty minutes later, tired, sore, hoarse, and almost wishing I hadn’t had so much fun over the previous two weeks. On the hour and a half drive, I had time to watch the sun set and reflect. To be honest, I haven’t been this proud of myself in a while; I not only (FINALLY!) found a way to pay Josh Hayden a performance fee – he won’t take our money – we supported live, local music, made new friends, witnessed an amazing transition in our peanut, and overcame some of the most unexpected and bizarre hurdles the Campground’s ever encountered. And we did it with style.

Everything happens for a reason. I don’t know why it rained, but nothing would have been the same if it hadn’t. I don’t know why the same equipment we used last year didn’t work this year, but the evening wouldn’t have turned out like it did if it had. And, I don’t know how that beer got from the top of the table to the top of Canada’s luggage, tucked safely underneath, but…well, I guess there’s no silver lining to that one. Point is, I believe everything happened as it was supposed to; good, bad, or indifferent. And, I am a river. Just like Peanut. Just like you. And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let a few rapids get in the way of flowing on to the next connection.

Listen. Play. Sing. Dance. Pass it on.

~ Dawn

I Am Your River: Part 1

“There is a river I’ve found
Into the wild
Under the ground
So here I go.” ~ Dave Grohl

“Don’t try to decipher the meaning of things...replace hatred with music.” ~ Lukas Nelson

“If you can’t see my heart you must be blind.” ~ Kid Rock

“I’ve got a real big deck.” ~ John Eddie

Our 1½-year-old granddaughter experienced a live music performance for the first time this past Saturday. And it wouldn’t have happened without Nashville singer/songwriter John Eddie. While I don’t make a habit of approaching performers on the Kid Rock cruise – or anywhere else, for that matter – I was impressed with JE and His Dirty Old Band when we saw him on the boat in 2012, and I just happened to run into him in a hallway while making a Jack Daniel’s run, so I thought, why not? To my surprise, he actually took a few minutes of his time to chat, which made me even more impressed. We bought a CD, I painted a sign for the signpost at home to direct guests to Scott’s “Real Big Deck” (named after the song), and we chalked up the experience as another amazing CTM ride.

The following year, after an interesting and unexpected chain of events, JE and his band kicked off CTM4 by performing in our back yard. With help from friends, the neighbors and I built a stage, cleaned up the property, coordinated food, snagged a local band (Operative Me) who offered to start the show and play free of charge, and – with only two weeks’ notice – put a Monday night party together that could only be described as “epic.” In 2014, for CTM5, we roasted a whole pig, had our neighbors’ oldest sing the National Anthem (she has the voice of an angel – everybody got chills), brought back Operative Me to open for JE and the band, and rocked the house again. It seemed only natural to do it a third time in 2015.

John Eddie at the "Scott D. & Dawn E. Scovill Amphitheatre at the Campground," 2014

Now, it’s worth mentioning that Scott and I haven’t been on a Chillin’ the Most Cruise since 2013. Some might get the impression our interest is waning. It’s quite the contrary, actually; through Kid Rock, we’ve discovered so many musicians, we decided to take the money we spend on the cruise and, instead, catch as many festivals and/or concerts as our schedules allow. Last year, we hit Wanee along the Suwannee River in Live Oak, SunFest in downtown West Palm, and Farm Aid in Raleigh, NC. This year, we’re heading back to SunFest and Wanee (and possibly Spirit of the Suwannee’s MagFest in the fall), plus we threw in a bucket list trip on July 4 to Washington, D.C., to catch the Foo Fighters’ 20th Anniversary show, which is a story, in and of itself...

My husband has a man crush on Dave Grohl. Until last summer, we didn’t know much about him beyond the fact that he’d played drums for Nirvana (being from the Pacific Northwest, specifically a town fewer than 100 miles from where Kurt Cobain grew up, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that). When HBO started promoting the new series Sonic Highways, our interest was piqued. Before the end of the first episode, we were converts. By the end of the second, we were worshippers. When the credits started rolling on the eighth and final episode, I made a silent, personal pledge to defend Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, and the rest of the band to the death.

To quote a recent, brief acquaintance, “I might be bullshittin’ you, but I ain’t lyin’.”

Dave Grohl is a badass, and Sonic Highways – and all the offshoots it bred and will continue to breed – is a masterpiece. The concept that all music and all musicians from every city are connected through an underground river of history, sweat, vision, tears, persistence, and resistance is nothing short of inspiring. It’s also brilliantly true. For example: The first time we saw New Orleans artist Trombone Shorty was on a Kid Rock cruise. (To say I love New Orleans is an understatement.) When Shorty came to West Palm last year, we stood in the rain to watch him play Green Day’s Brain Stew, and it was the highlight of SunFest for us (yeah, that Kid Rock guy was alright, too). Learning more about his background on Sonic Highways was a treat, and we can’t wait to see him again at the July 4 show in D.C. this year as one of the seven other acts performing with the Foos.

Here’s another example: John Eddie’s bassist, Kenny Aaronson, has performed and/or recorded with a gazillion artists, including Joan Jett (also a scheduled performer July 4), Bob Dylan, Billy Squire, Lita Ford, Hall & Oates, and Brian Setzer, and he even teamed up for a year with Scott’s favorite Red Rocker Sammy Hagar – along with Journey’s Neil Schon and Santana’s drummer Michael Shrieve – and toured throughout 1983-84 under the band name HSAS. (Incidentally, for those who recognize the significance of numbers, I graduated high school in 1983, Scott graduated in 1984; once you start looking, you discover signs everywhere.) ;)

When I learned a few months ago that John Eddie might come back to the Campground, I took inspiration from Dave Grohl, Kid Rock, and JJ Grey, a back porch blues performer from Jacksonville we discovered at South Florida’s Langerado Music Festival in 2007, and grasped the opportunity to invite more local bands to join us. Thinking at least a couple would decline, I asked four bands: one from Tampa, three from here in the Palm Beaches. I told them they’d have to play for free, but I was confident we’d have a crowd, allowed them to bring/sell merchandise, and I promised to do my best to at least pay their travel expenses. To my astonishment, all four said yes.

Knowing there was no way we could guarantee a significant crowd for an entire day (and how many musicians do you think would be ready to play at 10am?), we were forced to turn our “OMG Not Another Pre-Pre-CTM Cruise Party” into a two-day festival. Room and tent reservations started pouring in. Back in November, when we made plans to borrow Scott’s parents’ motorhome for the Daytona 500, we didn’t realize the weekends were back-to-back, but – as it turned out – we were very grateful for the extra (dry) beds. For three months, and with help from the neighbors, local friends, family, and small contingencies from Michigan and Canada who generously arrived a week early to help, we clipped, scrubbed, pressure-washed, weeded, painted, groomed, nailed, glued, and screwed two acres, two houses, a playground, and a pool, all while managing to keep the baby and the chocolate boys (and their friends) fed and within the perimeters of the fence. We succeeded most of the time.

Squirrel Hollow & Enchanted Playground

The days between February 18 and 25 are a blur. My brother Jack and nephew Zachary flew in from Portland, Oregon, a day late, but we still managed to celebrate too much, stay up too late, watch a NASCAR race or two, catch a Kid Rock show, and build a stage in the yard. The Wednesday before our big party, I woke up at 4:30am (okay 5:22) and wearily drove the boys to the airport and said goodbye. Because we were expecting three new houseguests that afternoon, I knew I’d have to clean and/or replace linens in the Blue Room upstairs before they arrived, so I crawled back into bed after the airport run. Gotta say, though, it’s tough to sleep when the baby’s screaming outside the door, and you hear distant, far-off calls for “Rocko!” and “Roland!” indicating the chocolate boys had found another way out. I put a pillow over my head for a little while. It didn’t work.

By the time I drudgingly pulled my aching self away from the comfy bed, Canada had already turned over the Blue Room, and Michigan had done my laundry. I don’t think I hugged them hard enough. We cleaned (again), re-themed the back house (i.e., removed the Daytona memorabilia and switched to CTM stuff), re-stocked the fridge and coolers, finished weeding the yard, continued with the pressure-washing, took out the garbage and recycling, washed the windows, mowed the grass, fed the dog, watched the baby, and marveled that we had only two days left to prepare for what we hoped would be a bigger, badder, even more epic party than the previous two. (For the sake of full disclosure, we’ve actually hosted four pre-pre-cruise parties, but the first was held in Miami, so it wasn’t exactly the same.) Boy, were we in for a treat!

Our new houseguests arrived about 4:00, just after I tried to lie down again, and food prep commenced shortly before Scott got home around 6:30. For two days – armed with the knowledge and skill of a top rate chef – Scott and his kitchen crew brined, smoked, baked, pulled, chopped, stirred, sauced, and grilled enough food for a small army; neighbors and guests helped put the cover on the stage and set up electrical cords and lighting; our new friend with the beautiful white shepherd grabbed a shovel and went on poo patrol; I printed up flyers for guests and signs for the yard, hung banners, scrambled to finish last-minute stuff, guided the port-o-john truck to the proper location, fed (and repeatedly retrieved) two retrievers, responded to traveling guests’ questions via Facebook and phone, and tried my best to keep my blood pressure under control.

It rained a little on Friday, so we held off setting up tents until we needed them, and put the first guests in the motorhome. Luckily, it wasn’t warm that night, because – somehow, from the driveway to the yard – the power system shut down, rendering whoever slept there without lights, water, and A/C. When the first band arrived and started setting up, a section of the stage collapsed. Luckily, it wasn’t an area anyone needed, so they made due. (I understand we were also short two cables, but they made it work.) After they hit the kitchen to get poofed by the “staff,” they hit the stage. There was still a misty rain, but the crowd had continued to grow, nonetheless. By 7:00, attendance was at about 30.

First, Last & Always

Andrew Rodriguez of First, Last & Always blew us the fuck away. We’ve known Drew since he was in high school, the older brother of our son’s best friend. We hadn’t seen him in years, but we keep in touch on Facebook, I knew he had a rock band, and I thought I’d give him a shot. I’m SO glad I did! After their hour-ish-long set, Jangle Leg played for another hour or so. Scott and I first heard their folksy, bluesy sound the night before Thanksgiving last year, when we were invited by Josh of Operative Me to join them and a few other bands at a small nearby studio. The skies cleared, the music rocked, and the atmosphere was electric – with the assistance of the awesome “fairy lights” loaned to us by our dear friends in North Palm – and, while the bands had agreed to play for free, enough people threw money their way to give them all ear-to-ear grins. I was happy.

Crowd enjoying Jangle Leg

The weather was beautiful when we woke up Saturday. There were two tents and four dogs in the yard, and every room in the house – plus one bed in the motorhome – was full. The peanut was at her dad’s, and the holes in the fence had been fixed, so the morning was quiet and leisurely. Guests visited over coffee on the real big deck, petted the dogs, and made new friends. A really nice biker fixed our stage. A kind-hearted woman with a beautiful white shepherd picked up a shovel and embarked on poo patrol. Scott got the motorhome up and running for the rest of the arriving guests. If you asked anyone around me, I bet they would tell you I was glowing. And then it started to rain. And it didn’t stop.

(Go to Part 2)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

5 Minutes of Zen, or How the Dog Ate Christmas

If you’re holding your breath right now, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Scovill family Christmas card – along with its clever and humorously presented recap of the year’s most notable highlights – don’t. It’s not that I’ve forsaken the practice; I have half a dozen boxes of cards in the closet (that didn’t get mailed for reasons similar to those I’m about to share), and I sincerely enjoy the opportunity to reach out and check in with friends and family during the holidays. But, here in the land of babies and puppies, finding the time to write, then print, stuff, fold, and lick sixty or more letters is like trying to wipe cheese off a cutting board. (Give it a shot – good luck!)

Long before the baby dog swallowed a sock and lost a foot of intestine, I started editing a manuscript for a writer friend. I figured it’d take me a few weeks, maybe a month. That was mid-July. Later that month, a few days before flying to Seattle for my family’s annual BBQ, I lost my bottom front tooth. While it certainly would have been both appropriate and hilarious, I chose not to attend the Hillbilly Luau without it, so the dentist re-glued it to the wire he’d installed the previous year (to stabilize the two front teeth that have been loose since childhood), handed me a scrip for antibiotics and the number for a good oral surgeon, and sent me on my way.

Roland was scheduled for neutering in early August, a month before his first birthday. We were looking forward to it, because we hoped it would curb his interest in jumping the fence and trying to play with every dog that walked by. For me, the interruptions – stop what I’m doing, grab the leash, chase down the dog, etc. – were merely annoying and counterproductive. The people walking their dogs, however, were seriously not impressed; if two “giant,” “viciously” barking chocolate Labradors sped toward you from across the yard, and the smaller, sixty-pound “baby” hurled himself over the fence and started running toward you, how many layers of clothing would YOU have to change? But, after determining our vet was too expensive, I cancelled the appointment and hopped online to make him a new one at a cheaper facility. Lucky for me, their earliest availability was in October, so I had plenty of time to edit and start the pre-extraction process with the oral surgeon…when I wasn’t chasing down the dog.

Okay, maybe “plenty of time” isn’t exactly right; sometime in the blur of July-August-September, our daughter got a second, part-time job working evenings and weekends. She had a sitter for her day job, Monday through Friday, so I didn’t mind the occasional peanut-sitting duty. (Actually, I like it more than I’m willing to admit.) About a week into her new schedule, she lost her full-time, day job, so she added more nights and weekends. (We haven’t had a Sunday to ourselves in months.) Then, sometime in August, the neighbors brought home a band – as in, they were out and about, ran into a band that needed a place to stay, and invited them to the Campground – and, while I was cleaning the upstairs guest room bath (at around 11pm), I discovered a little, black “caterpillar” growing on the floor next to the shower. I snapped a picture, cleaned it up, and the band had an enjoyable stay, but I urged Scott to take a look at the floor at his earliest convenience.

So, anyway…the black mold issue was the first thing that kicked me out of my office. That was sometime in September. I think. Also in September, Scott and I made a last-minute decision to drive to Raleigh, NC, to attend Farm Aid for the first time and visit our friend, Anita. At home, Roland spent most of his time in the kennel, because no one was here to chase him down. Family visited for a long weekend at the end of the month when we celebrated the peanut’s first birthday. Roland went under for his snip-snip on October 2; he jumped the fence the following day – with the cone of shame. Then he developed an eye infection. Then an ear infection. Then he gave both to Rocko.

I started peanut-sitting 4-6 days every week – minus alternating weekends, except when there’s a Dolphin’s game – but, somehow (miraculously) knocked out that first editing job. Of course, I immediately started another, just before the oral surgeon pulled FOUR front teeth and inserted two implants…seven days before Thanksgiving. I was most grateful for the extension Scott added to the fence, so the baby dog couldn’t clear it, anymore. Once the bathroom floor was “excavated,” and I was convinced the mold was gone, I moved myself back upstairs into my office. It was a blissful two days. Then, the Friday after Thanksgiving, we discovered the dogs had gotten into an opened bag of organic bone meal for the garden. Rocko was a little lethargic, but Roland couldn’t move. I was peanut-sitting and nursing a still sore mouth, so Scott rushed the little boy to the vet; then he transported him to the ER on a stretcher. Our vet and the ER clinic were awesome, but we worried he might not make it through the night.

Amazingly, the baby dog came home the following day, none the worse for wear. He and Rocko were normal, playful, perpetually starving dogs all day Saturday. Then, Sunday morning, Roland ate a sock. It wasn’t his first; we’ve been finding “sock poos” (“glove poos,” “bikini top poos”) in the yard for months. And we didn’t know right away – we learned after surgery on Monday afternoon. He spent four days in the ER. When we brought him home, he had 27 staples, his meds/feeding schedule was crazy, he was required to be on a leash at all times for two weeks, and by NO means was he allowed to do stairs. (That was the second time I got kicked out of my office.) I set up a temporary desk beneath my actual one, downstairs in the East Ball Room, so I could keep working. Two days before his staples were removed, Roland developed a stomach acid problem. We still have to feed him special food, one spoonful at a time, or he’ll throw it up. We’re hoping our vet bills will soon be finished raining down. Which reminds me…

Last Thursday was my only peanut-free day last week, so – since I finished the second editing job the previous day – I planned to (finally!) decorate, shop for gifts, and put together the “Hillbilly Highlights” calendar I started sending the family up north every year. Unfortunately, my plans changed when the peanut’s mommy got called in to work on her only day off. I was near tears with frustration. Then, Friday morning, she got another call, telling her not to go in that day. Can I get a hallelujah?! It was 11:30am, I grabbed my car key, put the baby dog in the kennel, and headed out to shop for an hour, so I could FINALLY be somewhat ready for the peanut’s first “real” Christmas. Picking up Roland’s food at the vet, first (so I didn’t forget, later), I rolled down the windows, cranked up Foo Fighters’ Sonic Highways, and basked in the freedom and the cool but sunny Florida day.

Twenty minutes into my first stop, the vet called. They asked how Roland was doing. I said, as long as we fed him small amounts, he didn’t throw up. The tech on the phone asked me to hold while she consulted with the doctor, then she came back on the line and said, “She’s concerned he’s still vomiting, wants to run tests on his esophagus, and needs you to bring him in immediately…” Maybe, if I could get more sleep around here – get more work done, find time to relax, stop feeling like my life is remote-controlled by someone/something else – I might have handled the disappointment better. Instead, I paid the cashier for the few things I’d found, walked to my car, and cried all the way home.

I stay up later than I should at night, because it’s the only time I spend with my husband; I wake up earlier than I should, because babies and puppies can’t be ignored. I had big dreams and good intentions for Christmas this year: wanted to send cards and letters, because it’s been too many years since the last time; wanted to spruce up the yard, because I’d hoped to surround the family with beauty; wanted to get all those boxes of baby things to the post office, because the kids back home can really use them (and soon); wanted to spend time with my son, picking out local and organic gifts, because we like to do that and can’t get our paths to cross much these days; wanted to get that calendar done and really wanted to put something under the tree, because it’s Christmas! But, we don’t always get what we want.

Roland stayed at the vet for testing while I detoured for lunch (and a shot and a beer) and finished shopping at the first place I’d stopped. He wasn’t ready when I returned to pick him up, so I sat in the exam room and waited. And waited. And, eventually, nearly fell asleep. Besides the dentist chair, it was the closest to “peaceful” I’d felt in months. Three hours later, the baby dog and I returned to the Campground. It was 7 o’clock. I told Scott the tests didn’t show any damage to his esophagus, but we still needed to be careful feeding him, and he has to go back if the problem continues. I told him about the “5 minutes of Zen” I’d had, too, before Roland was brought in to wait with me. He didn’t ask why when I started to cry again.

I have another editing job waiting for me after Christmas, and I’m disgustingly far behind on too many things. Until I’m able to dive in, though, I plan to step away from my office, spend time – on purpose – with my family and our favorite chocolate boys, and remind myself how fortunate I am to be wanted and how lucky I am to be able to be there when I am. Yes, the peanut will wake up soon, and I’ll have to stop typing and put on my grandma hat; yes, the baby dog needs another spoonful of food; yes, Scott’s probably whipped up something incredible in the kitchen and stopped waiting (impatiently) for me to walk downstairs and eat; and, yes, I still have to manage one last trip to the store for gifts. But, in the last two weeks, alone, we learned our dear friends from Seattle split after 26 years, a delightful and charming friend left behind a devastated family after an unexpected heart attack, and another friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. No matter how overwhelming my world becomes, I’m reminded regularly that there will always be someone out there with taller hurdles than mine; they need my strength, not my sense of defeat.

In reality, the land of babies and puppies is as wonderful as it is chaotic this year. When our peanut smiles, she lights up the room. Watching the chocolate boys nap side-by-side and run in the yard, again, after so many weeks of confinement and/or separation, warms my heart. And the same family that drives me to drink is the one I can’t live without. This Christmas, I hope you take time to appreciate the many things for which you can be grateful, hope you’re wanted and able to be there when you are, and hope you find your own five minutes of Zen amid the chaos.

Believe there is good in the world – then be the good.

And have a very Merry Christmas.

With Much Love ~