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You’ve been there before, but never like this.

You're smiling like a Cheshire cat.

We can’t be late. We can’t be late! We can’t be late.

This conversation is like falling down a rabbit hole.

You’re the Queen of my heart.

Clues. We had tickets in our back pockets to a local production of Alice in Wonderland and simply told her a week in advance that a surprise was planned. Hints. She begged for them every single day from sunrise to sunset and we did our best without giving in or giving it away entirely. The day finally arrived and she picked out a dress she’d been eyeing in her closet since her grandparents gave it to her then we appeared in front of the auditorium where her dance recitals are held.

She's been here before, but never like this.

We handed over our tickets and received torn stubs in return before finding our seats. The curtains were open revealing a set of clouds and rolling hills and various props all intended to exercise our imaginations. Hers of which was running wild by my side, her head turning from her mother to me and from me to her mother. Her eyes like fireworks, exploding with curiosity between blinks. She sat in her seat then stood up again, climbed in my lap then back out again, unable to sit still.

She was smiling like a Cheshire cat.

The time, she must have asked for it every second. She pulled at her mother’s wrist, turning her watch over and over and tracing the hands with her fingers, willing them to move faster with sheer mental concentration, but no such luck. Time, as we all know, cannot be manipulated. Time cannot be rewound nor fast forwarded. Time cannot be rushed. Time cannot be delayed. Time cannot stand still. Time, the struggle we as parents have come to realize as the unfortunate truth, cannot be paused. 

We can’t be late. We can’t be late!

One by one, the seats were filling up. Chatter from fellow patrons climbed the walls and bounced from the balcony. We waited until suddenly the lights dimmed and the first actor took their place from stage left and the show started. She fought the urge to talk, but quickly gave in to whispering her questions and commentary in my ear from her seat upon my lap because the seat we paid for was far too low for her line of vision. She delivered words and quotes and plotlines from the story we knew well.

It was like falling down a rabbit hole.

The show ended and the house lights brightened and they took their bows then turned to the audience for questions. Other kids asked about memorizing lines and designing costumes, but she offered her applause by way of affection. She jumped at the chance when it was her turn to speak then she asked for a hug. I watched her wrap her tiny arms around one of the people we watched lit by spotlight for the last hour before skipping back to her mother and me. She’s a sweet spirit. She’s a good kid.

She’s the queen of our hearts.


February 22, 2017

She left the house yesterday morning with a bag of Valentine’s for her classmates and she reappeared in the afternoon having received several in return. A practice of give and take. An exchange. A chance to share love on a day specifically designed to celebrate it.

Uniforms were shelved and Valentine attire encouraged, threads of pink and red and designs with hearts were worn in effort to spread the love. I thought about her throughout the day and pictured the heart shaped buttons on her dress, front and center for the world to see.

We’re told love is kind. We’re told that it’s patient. We’re told that love always protects and always trusts. We’re told it always hopes and always perseveres and nothing proves the strength of these sentiments more than parenting. We’re told love never fails and we tell ourselves this is true.

We hold their hands and whisper our prayers and we lift our wings to let them go a little more every day. We cross our fingers that our choices are good and their choices will be too. Attempts are made to be kind, to be patient, to protect and trust. We try our hardest to hope and persevere and we make every attempt not to fail them. 

It’s a constant game of give and take. It’s a never-ending exchange. It's a fact in the mirror staring back, every day is a chance to share love - not just the one designed to celebrate it. Every day is an opportunity to expose our hearts like buttons upon our chest, front and center for the world to see. Perhaps, love really is all we need.


February 15, 2017

“I’ve waited almost 28 years so another hour is easy,” I said to the couple complaining behind me. Mariah Carey was late, but I couldn’t stop smiling because I wanted the full experience. It’s possible I would have been slightly disappointed had she actually taken the stage at the time printed on our stubs. She was late, but I wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, this was the whole reason I was in New York City.

It was 18 days before Christmas, 25 days before her now infamous New Year’s Eve performance, and I was sitting a few rows from the stage with my wife by my side waiting in anticipation for the red curtains to slide open. Those around us had the luxury of hearing her in person a few times before, lucky locals, and discussed the gift that is her voice. They kindly answered questions I asked while we waited before the house lights finally dimmed.

On a pedestal lit by a single spotlight with a sheer curtain of glitter in front of her and an enormous Christmas tree behind her, she hummed a note and sang the first verse of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing backed by a piano. Then the curtain lifted revealing her completely and the choir joined in and for the next 90 minutes, I was in heaven. Her voice soared through the Beacon Theatre during each song while her laugh echoed in the aisles in between.

She brought out John Legend for a duet, a somewhat expected yet welcomed surprise once we spotted his wife in the audience. Shania Twain bounced along from the front row while other celebrities blended in among the velvet seats with the rest of us as confirmation the appreciation for Mariah’s voice stretches far, fame or otherwise. Her ensembles changed throughout the evening, but her voice remained intact – and very much live.

While it was a Christmas concert and she belted her way through most of the songs offered on her holiday collection, she also pulled a few songs from her impressive catalog to remind us just how she earned the title of Best Selling Female Artist of All Time. Well deserved, might I add. She was every bit of the legend you'd expect her to be and did things with her voice that seem practically impossible. It was beyond impressive.

Mariah Carey. Every single high note and low note and note in between proved to be well worth the wait, all 28 years and one hour. On the way out, I mentally checked off a box on the proverbial bucket list and once home, saw that she announced a tour with Lionel Richie in mid-2017. I promptly purchased our tickets. This time she’s coming to North Carolina so traveling isn’t necessary, three months and counting.


She whispered in our ears the moment we stepped off the plane to meet her. Quick words, flowing sentences, entire conversations inviting us into her world immediately and we didn’t resist. We let our eyes scan the height of her buildings and we inhaled the scent of thick crust pizza and we felt the sense of urgency that came with being in her presence. The rush of New York City and all her beauty grabbed us instantly, refusing to let go -- it was love at first sight.

We visited the city a few weeks before Christmas invited by the tickets we purchased on a whim for Mariah Carey’s annual concert (more about that on another post) and those we had for The Color Purple on Broadway, but we had no idea how overwhelmingly perfect everything would be. We didn’t prepare ourselves for the buckling of our knees the moment our feet hit the pavement. We expected to walk hand in hand through Central Park as we did, but we were surprised by the hard and fast falling for the city that occurred.

The contrasting views of water and nature with skyscrapers and purpose, the taste of cookies from heaven's bakery (or Levain Bakery, same difference), the throbbing pulse that ran through the streets, inspiring and viable and refreshing. It was a world far removed from the laid back normalcy of our upbringing in small town North Carolina. The hustle and bustle was rumored, of course, but it wasn’t until we were swept up in the current that we realized how often our day to day consists of treading water.

Several times I mentioned if I had visited her, New York, in my early twenties, I wouldn’t have left. My wife agreed. This affair with the city, breathing in every engaging quality, was something we both felt. Palpable. Infatuating. Magnetic. We spent the last morning of our quick trip browsing through listings both aware of how intoxicating the idea of moving would be and how absurd our addiction was. While we certainly aren’t in a place to dig up our roots to relocate, there’s no denying the heavy hangover from having a New York state of mind.


February 8, 2017

In single file, by teacher’s orders, we watched the kids walk from the building scanning the line of vehicles for their parents. I saw a little boy laugh from his toes and a little girl skip enthusiastically. I saw children in conversation not wanting the school day to end, but when I looked for my own I didn’t see her. Instead I saw the wind grab a yellow folder from an open book bag, tossing it to the ground threatening to run away with the papers inside. I saw the student keep walking oblivious Mother Nature just stole his schoolwork and I saw another child stop to pick up the folder. I watched her fall behind to gather the loose papers before running to catch up returning them to their owner.

I saw her, my child.

She climbed in our car with stories from the day and once her mother and I mentioned her good deed, she quickly changed the topic. Her cheeks flushed, she hid a smile, not wanting to acknowledge or draw attention to her actions. She preferred to work in the shadows, unseen, like a modern day super hero wearing kindness as a cape, flying loose behind her making a friend out of the wind instead of a foe. The stark contrast of that time she shoved someone on the playground moved from a mental category labeled Mistake to another labeled Lessons Learned, filed away as a reference point instead of a reminder.

They grow up fast. Cliché, but true.

There's a journal that sits on her bedroom desk, hand delivered from Santa himself several weeks back, that she uses as her sketchbook. Inside are drawings of people and animals and dresses that she draws with crayons or markers or her pink feather pen when she feels inspired to. Pages bound together and sandwiched between a white cover front and back with gold script that she traces with her fingers. I say the phrase every time I catch her and she repeats it after me. Sometimes we discuss it. Sometimes we don't, allowing the sentiment to fill the silence instead. In either case, I see the light in her eyes and the smile in the corners of her mouth and I hear the words echo between each heartbeat.

Kindness. Throw it around like confetti.


February 1, 2017

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