Their names are Forgotten.

And we pulled up in our bus,
Snapped on some gloves
Don't touch anything.

We stepped out in the sun,
Rolled up our sleeves
And took deep breaths.

You flocked toward us
A forest of brown, thirsty eyes
Hands turned out.

We pushed aside
Fear, Confusion, Horror?
And got busy.

Vitamins, aspirin,
Fungal creme, balloons
You wanted it all. Twice.

We didn't have enough.
We didn't have answers.
We tried to smile.

Parasites, brokenness
Hunger, pain, infection
Disease, darkness...



Her name is Paola.

Her name is Paola and she is selfless.
She wins our hearts--but first our bellies--
With silent movements and a shy smile.

She fries plaintains, seasons chicken,
Cuts fresh mango, pineapple, papaya,
Brews strong coffee for weary travelers.

She's the first to wipe up spills
The last to fix a plate
And I never once see her sit down.

One morning, before dawn,
I slip down the stairs and hesitate
At the sight of this dear woman on her knees.

Hands lifted, head bowed,
She whispers Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen! 
And the sun rises on her beautiful devotion.


His name is Santo.

His name is Santo and his joy is palpable.
He winces as they turn him on his side
And says "Amen! Amen!" as we pray for him.

His name means holy.
He hasn't walked since 15
And his mattress is chained to the dirt floor.

He has nothing.
He has everything.
He is without.
He is so rich.

He makes me weep tears
Of sorrow
Of confusion
Of injustice
Of admiration
Of inspiration
Of a faith I will never know.

We leave him simple gifts--
New sheets
A small radio
A plump pillow
And swat flies as he beams with gratitude.

And together, we sing
Santo, santo, santo
Yo quiero verte

And leave with him in our hearts.


Her name is Ingrid.

Her name is Ingrid and she loves to twirl.
She wears a smudged lime green shirt three days in a row
And her giggle is infectious.

They call her a "street kid."
She fights for juice, for toys, for the first balloon
And eats every bite of her rice and beans.

She runs into my arms and we are inseparable.
She wants to ride piggy-back
And be partners in the three-legged race.

Swaying back and forth in the blinding sun,
I hold her tight
And wonder what she dreams.


Repost: We the People

This week, I'm reposting some of my old favorites in celebration of THREE YEARS blogging...and because I am out of the country sweating my face off and hopefully having the time of my life. Enjoy!
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We the People

This is the duty of our generation as we enter the twenty-first century -- solidarity with the weak, the persecuted, the lonely, the sick, and those in despair. It is expressed by the desire to give a noble and humanizing meaning to a community in which all members will define themselves not by their own identity but by that of others.
Elie Wiesel


Growing up, I was the goody goody of the classroom. If the teacher asked a question, my hand was in the air. If the teacher left the room, I was the one put in charge. I learned early on that to excel in the classroom meant to be timely, studious, organized and compliant. And so I was.

As I entered high school, academic success shifted to include the ever-increasing obligation of extracurricular activities. Due to my inability to say no and my innate desire to meet expectations, I became the ultimate joiner. I juggled schoolwork with cheerleading, volunteer work with youth group and my sanity with the growing pile of multi-colored PostIts sticking out from a well-worn planner. All the while, I was assured that this kind of lifestyle was necessary, it was worth it, and that someday it would pay off. And I believed.
College hit full-force and with it, the constant push to focus on My Future. So, I got the grades, I landed the internships, I stayed involved...I played along. But at the end of the day, as I fell into bed, mind-whirling with never-ending To-Do lists and flitting from one worry to the next, I couldn't help but feel I was simply spinning in circles. Dizzying myself with relentless expectations that made me believe I could never do enough. And I began to question.

And now I've entered the workforce. And feel almost...betrayed. Tricked into believing that all of my sacrifices and scribbled lists and carefully-contemplated decisions should have resulted in something more. Something bigger than a 9 to 5 cubicle existence. Is this what I've been waiting for all this time?

I suppose this could be considered a mid-mid-life crisis. A sort of "rite of passage" into the working world as I transition from my glorified college years of exploration and independence into a more mature phase of responsibility and obligation. That it will pass.

But maybe this is proof that these traditional ideas of success do not apply anymore. Not to my generation. That we are searching for our place in society--not to arrive at a dream job and buy the house with a picket fence and live the comfortable, insulated, isolated existence--but instead, to use our passions to improve this broken world.

Our heightened global awareness has created a feeling of responsibility--a responsibility to build community instead of division and to consider others when society tells us to look out for ourselves. We are struggling to make traditional molds fit into this transformed way of thinking, and as a result, we are continually fighting feelings of frustration, dissatisfaction and overwhelming confusion.

Alone, we will likely falter. Succumb to the voices of doubt and reason that find us charmingly naive, endearingly hopeful but ultimately impractical.

But together, our uncertain whispers will unite to form a murmuring chorus. And our difficult questions may not be answered but neither will they be ignored.

May this be the new American dream.


Repost: The perils of gluttony

This week, I'm reposting some of my old favorites in celebration of THREE YEARS blogging...and because I am out of the country sweating my face off and hopefully having the time of my life. Enjoy!
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The perils of gluttony

Sunday morning. St. John's Lutheran Church. 1990.

After an hour of Playdough, Father Abraham and feltboard Jesus, I gleefully wriggled next to my best friend Marissa and settled in for a long service. As the organ blared, we rejoiced at our successful cajoling efforts that resulted in our families sharing the same long wooden pew.

Crayons in hand, we critically scanned our Disney Princesses coloring books to select the subject of our latest and greatest artistic achievements.

"Oooh! Cinderella! My favorite!" I squealed with delight as I haphazardly ripped out the selected page.

"She's okay," the ultra-cool Marissa sniffed. "But she's no Ariel."

"Girls! Shhh!" my mom hissed, eyes flashing.

I meekly bowed my head and resumed scribbling.

After a few moments, Marissa began rummaging around her Minnie Mouse lunch box in search of a snack. I heard my own tummy grumble and watched with piqued interest to see what would emerge from her fumbling.

She eventually produced a crinkly red package covered with several colorful dots. "Yesssss!" she cheered quietly. "My favorite!"

She glanced at me, expecting me to share in her glee, but was met with a blank stare.

"What's the matter?" she whispered. "Don't you love them?"

"Um...I don't know," I said. "I've never tried them."

"WHAT?!" she said incredulously and breathed a small sigh of pity. I could feel the color steadily rising in my cheeks.

"Here," she said, sticking out her hand while popping a few of the colorful discs in her mouth. "Try some."

Obediently, I plucked a purple circle from her hand and after dubiously inspecting it, placed it on the middle of my tongue.

I crunched through the sugary shell as my mouth exploded with fruity flavor. My eyes lit up with approval.

"Good, right?" Marissa said with an all-knowing confidence. "Here, have another."

I eagerly grabbed another piece of candy--this time red--and tossed it in my mouth. Again, my senses were awakened with delight.

"Yum!" I said, mouth full of sugary goodness.

Before I could even swallow, Marissa handed me more. Again, I accepted the candy without hesitation.

"Thith ith good!" I said thickly around the ball of goo as I reached for more.

Crayolas in hand, we continued our feast. But no matter how quickly I chomped on each delectable treat, Marissa was always waiting with more. As I added fruity flavor after fruity flavor, the growing glob of sugar between my cheeks ballooned at an alarming rate.

Suddenly, I didn't feel so good.

I focused intently on chewing, but the gummy ping-pong ball of infinite cavities didn't budge. Wide-eyed, I turned to Marissa in panic.

"Hchlmf!" I spluttered.

"What?" she asked.

"HCHLMF!" I repeated, sugary spit flying everywhere.

"I can't understand you," she said, peering at me with a furrowed brow.

Out of pure sugar-induced terror, I burst into tears, stopping only when safely perched on my mother's lap and with her coaxing, successfully deposited the fruity goo in a Kleenex.

Just in time for confession.

-end scene-


Repost: Tip of a Hat

This week, I'm reposting some of my old favorites in celebration of THREE YEARS blogging...and because I am out of the country sweating my face off and hopefully having the time of my life. Enjoy!
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Tip of  Hat

It was a typical Tuesday morning, which meant that I inevitably was running late.

I flew out the door, tossed my over-stuffed bag in the car and quickly scrunched my damp curls. As I pulled out of the drive and took off down the street, I made a mental note of all the things I should (but probably wouldn't) accomplish before a new day dawned.

I brought my car to a hurried stop at the end of my street and waited impatiently for an opening in the sudden surge of traffic. As I prepared to join the snaking train of over-caffeinated 9-to-5ers (yes, I just made that a noun...get over it), I saw him approaching the nearby crosswalk and inwardly groaned.

A pedestrian. Naturally.

He was a small man with slow movements. Old but not feeble. A bristly white beard poked out from under his hat as he ambled in front of my car.

Then suddenly, just as I was releasing a small sigh of frustration, he turned towards me with an appreciative grin, tipped his gray hat and continued on his morning stroll.

His face will soon fade from my memory and mine is likely already gone from his. But for a brief moment--a mere blip in our journeys--we allowed each other into our worlds.

And suddenly my to-do list really didn't seem that important. 


Repost: From T-town to Tinsletown...High-five!

This week, I'm reposting some of my old favorites in celebration of THREE YEARS blogging...and because I am out of the country sweating my face off and hopefully having the time of my life. Enjoy!
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From T-town to Tinsletown...High-five!

Brace yourself, ladies and gentlemen. I am about to reveal some ridiculous news. Even for me.

First, a little background.

My uncle hails from the great land of Topeka. (jealous? I know...) By day, he works at Hallmark. By night, he is a taxi driver. I'm not sure why he chose to pick up this as a part-time gig, but his interactions with the Topeka night life has certainly spiced up our family Thanksgiving dinners. Let's just say that taking taxis in T-town is a little more than sketch.

Anyway, I was home visiting a few weeks ago and my dad mentions offhand that Uncle Jay has been asked to be in a German documentary. As you can imagine, this strikes me as quite unusual since a) Topeka doesn't exactly seem like a logical filming location for such an endeavor and b) my uncle (though German) isn't who I would consider a prime source for said documentary. Needless to say, I was quite intrigued.

A week or so passed and over Easter break, I again was home. As we're sitting around the living room, my dad tells me he has quite the update with Uncle Jay. I snapped to attention immediately. And I was not disappointed.

It seems that Uncle Jay had been in the lobby of the cab business when a woman walked in looking lost. My uncle offered his assistance and she proceeded to tell him she was looking for someone to be in the aforementioned German documentary and that, in fact, he would be a perfect candidate. My uncle wasn't initially thrilled with this idea, but after a bit of persuasion, he agreed to the interview.

Originally, the interview was scheduled for T-town. But some bug hit the film crew which caused them to reschedule and before he knew it, my uncle was headed to KCI Airport to meet the elusive documentary crew. In a parking lot. By himself. (apparently he missed out on McGruff growing up)

So, he's waiting...and waiting...and waiting. And the parking lot is pretty much deserted and he's kind of getting ticked because time is going by...when suddenly, two 15 passenger vans arrive out of thin air and a flurry of activity follows as people are jumping out of vans, setting up cameras, mic-ing my uncle (is that a word? mic-ing?), mic-ing each other...it is all Uncle Jay can do to keep his head from spinning. Within a few minutes, he finds himself in his taxi with a European man in the passenger seat who appears to be the interviewer, a European gentleman hunkered down in the backseat with a camera and another European tech guy who tells him to drive slow and follow the van ahead of them so they can get it all on film. And so the adventure began.

As they're driving along, my uncle grew increasingly frazzled. His German passenger would pepper him with questions then break into rather heated German exchanges (or what my uncle thought was German) with the rest of the crew, leaving my uncle almost constantly bewildered.

To make matters worse, his strict orders to drive slow was not exactly winning him friends on the road. As he found himself going 45 mph on the highway and causing a snaking line of angry travelers behind him, he tried desperately to distract himself. Being a big fan of pretty much anything with an engine, he called out at one point, "Oh, check out that '53 Chevy!" to which the entire carload of German passengers erupted in almost sheer panic. "THE PAPARAZZI! IT'S THE PAPARAZZI!" the interviewer shouted, ducking down frantically. Completely caught off guard, my uncle paused as he tried to explain that the paparazzi certainly wasn't common in the middle of Kansas, and furthermore, there was no evidence that anyone in the Chevy was paying any attention to the Topeka taxi. But the Germans were quite convinced, shouting again, "THE PAPARAZZI! THEY ARE ALWAYS AFTER US! QUICK! YOU MUST TURN HERE!" The camera man, now curled into a ball in the backseat frantically tapped Uncle Jay's shoulder and insisted he take his next left. Realizing he was in the company of completely irrational though albeit very passionate strangers, he finally obliged.

Headed back towards the airport, Uncle Jay struggled to remain civil. His nerves were ragged. His patience was wearing thin. And to make it worse, his interviewer kept referring to his clothing and what famous German designer he was wearing. To which my uncle most certainly had nothing to say as he clenched his jaw and continued to drive.

As he pulled into the parking lot, he had the most maddening exchange with his feisty passenger yet.
Crazy Interviewer: Now I'm sure you don't know this, but I am actually famous in my country.
Uncle Jay: Oh, really? That's nice.
CI: Yes, I make movies. And I am famous...but I am sure this does not interest you.
UJ (absentmindedly): Mmhhmm. Wow. That's great.
CI: In fact, I have won many big awards for my performances. But you probably do not care.
UJ: Yeah...Oh, no, I mean, that's cool. Congratulations.
CI: I actually have these awards here. Today. In the trunk. But I am sure you do not wish to see them.
UJ: What? Oh. Um...sure. I mean, yeah. I guess I'll look at them. (trying to mask his annoyance at such leading questions)

The trunk was opened and lo and behold, several large, impressive looking awards are sitting there bubble-wrapped. Uncle Jay is not only expected to "oooh!" and "aaah!" but is also asked to take several pictures with said awards as his passengers continue their German exchanges.

Finally, Uncle Jay reached his breaking point.

"Look fellas," he said, "I am cold. I am tired. And it is getting late. Can we just wrap this up so I can get the hell out of here?"

Within minutes, the party is over and my uncle headed home, head spinning, as he tried to make sense of the madness he just experienced.

The next day at work, Uncle Jay is relaying this surreal experience to his co-worker, who, for reasons still unknown to me, gets an idea.

"Wait a minute," his co-worker said. "This sounds like something straight from Borat."

My uncle gives him a blank stare.

"You have seen Borat, right?" his co-worker asks.

My uncle shakes his head no.

They jump on a computer to google and pull up photos of Borat and his alter-egos, including Bruno, a gay Austrian fashion show presenter (at least according to Wikipedia. I am no Sacha Baron Cohen connoisseur).

Suddenly, my uncle gasps.

"That's him! That's the guy!" he says, pointing at the photo of Bruno. "That is the German passenger that interviewed me!"

Yep, that's right...as it turns out, Sacha Baron Cohen is following the success of his 2006 hit Borat with a similar film using--you guessed it--his Bruno character. So the interview Uncle Jay had for a "German documentary" was actually footage for the upcoming Bruno. And the pesky "German" interviewer was actually Cohen himself.

Which means, my friends, that in a few short months my uncle may be hitting the big screen (the movie is currently slotted to debut in October 2008).

Uncle Jay is currently racking his brain to remember exactly what he said. My brother is currently the coolest person in his frat house. And I am currently holding my breath and praying that Uncle Jay's big debut is not completely mortifying.

Holy. Crap.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.


Repost: Workin 9 to 5...

This week, I'm reposting some of my old favorites in celebration of THREE YEARS blogging...and because I am out of the country sweating my face off and hopefully having the time of my life. Enjoy!

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Workin 9 to 5...

It has come to my attention that surviving life in the working world—specifically one spent in the cubicle environment—is no small feat. The transition to cube existence can be particularly difficult after one is used to the on-the-go lifestyle of the typical college student and at its most extreme, can even trigger a momentary mid-mid-life crisis at the ripe age of 23.

In an effort to alleviate the shock such a radical change in lifestyle can often produce, I have decided to offer a few suggestions for those making the switch.

(By no means is this an all-inclusive list. It merely reflects my experience thus far.)

Without further ado, I offer you:
Sara’s Guide to Surviving Cubicle Life

1. Chat it up. If I could give one piece of advice to the up-and-coming office guru, it would definitely be this—get to know your co-workers. Sure, they may come off as a little strange at first and you may not agree with their choice of hairstyle, but don’t let that intimidate you. There is no telling what gems lie hidden amongst those never-ending cubicle walls. In fact, I could write a whole post on office characters I’ve encountered—Big Trent, RenRon, Lunch-Date-Disaster Lance, Julie the Workout Queen...I could go on and on. The point is, you won’t discover how quirky these people really are unless you make a little effort. Besides, what else do you have to do?
(Note: If you choose to nickname your co-workers, please be advised that while this makes for entertaining references, it can put you in quite the awkward social situation if the nickname manages to slip out in everyday conversation.)

2. Stop! Hey, what’s that sound? If you are planning on excelling in the office environment, it is imperative that you heighten your sense of hearing. This will come in handy on several occasions. First, while chatting with your co-workers will teach you a lot, over-hearing their cubicle conversations with others will teach you even more. Just remember they are most certainly returning the favor. Consider yourself warned.
But an acute sense of hearing has far more meaningful purposes than mere office entertainment—it is your link to these two magic words: office treats. Donut Mondays, Bagel Fridays, birthday cake, Christmas cookies, and all the trans fat sprinkled in-between, it is that listening ear that is your key to being the first to know.
So strain those ears, my friends. The essence of your very existence depends on it.

3. Caffeine? Yes please! Will it stain your teeth? Yes. Leave you with bad breath? Mmhmm. Possibly cause stomach ulcers? You got it. However, it is time you throw caution to the wind and embrace this fact—you (yes, even you) will likely become a caffeine addict. Think of it as a right of passage.
Don’t like the strong-and-super-crappy-office coffee? No worries. Add a few (or five) Splenda packets in that bad boy and you’re good to go. Cheers!

4. Cardigans and keds—so hot right now. As with most things in life, survival in the workplace often hinges on wearing the proper attire. In an office, this consists of several wardrobe necessities.
First and foremost is the cardigan. Start stocking up now, ladies, because this is one staple you can’t live without. No matter what the temperature may be outside, the cube temp is almost always guaranteed to raise those goosebumps faster than the donuts disappear from the break room. Unless you are planning on permanently planting yourself in front of a space heater, a cardigan is the way to go.
Second, and perhaps most heartbreaking, get over your high heels (or at least be prepared to bring a change of shoes). I know what you are thinking. “I will never fall victim to the skirt and tennis shoes combo! That has my mother written all over it!” You’re right. It’s not pretty. But as painful as this fashion disaster may be, it’s a whole lot better than hobbling around the office with massive blisters because you wore your sky-high heels while walking into work. Believe me, it is not worth it.
Note: I am not sure what the equivalent of this fashion tip would be for men. However, I do know that despite the trend, no work environment warrants the existence of the mullet. Sorry, but no.

5. Office space. Sure, it takes a little work. Okay, a lot of work. But if you’re going to be completely surrounded by dull gray walls every day, you must throw yourself into making it the best-looking dull gray walls known in your cubicle community. So go ahead, plaster that cork board with as many photos as humanly possible. Tack up a few posters with cheesy inspirational quotes. Display that Dwight bobble head next to the Kleenex box and germ-X. And when you’re finished, lean back in that ergonomically-correct office chair of yours and swivel around in satisfaction. Welcome home.

And finally, when all else fails…
6. Start a blog.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just overheard something about day-old cookies in the conference room…


To read on a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day:

(or in my case, when you realize you have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad attitude about something that could be totally awesome, amazing, and perhaps even life-changing if I would just get over myself already)

From Seth Godin:

"The worst moments are your best opportunity.

That's how we judge you and how we remember you.

You are presumed to be showing us your real self when you are on deadline, have a headache, are facing a customer service meltdown, haven't had a good night's sleep, are facing an ethical dilemma, are momentarily in power, are caught doing something when you thought no one else was looking, are irritable, have the opportunity to extract revenge, are losing a competition or are truly overwhelmed.

What a great opportunity to tell the story you'd like us to hear about you."


Happy dance, fist pump and general merriment.

No big deal.

Just notified in writing yesterday that my high-maintenance relationship with Sallie Mae will end in two weeks.



(((in layman's terms: no more freaking student loans)))

Um, yes I did throw my arms up with absolute glee and do crazy dance moves all over the apartment. Repeatedly. With unabashed dramatic flair. Thinking in ALL CAPS AND EXCLAMATIONS!

Yeah...it feels pretty awesome.

I told Adam to mark his calendar because on 3/25/11 we are freaking celebrating.



Taking crazy pills.

I'm leaving the country in less than a week.
(which always causes some underlying anxiety...anyone else?)

I woke up to a freaking weird dream.
(weird. weird weird. and disturbing. and sad. let's not talk about it.)

And the city's entire indoor football team (?!) just showed up at my work.
(also weird. but more of a hilariously weird.)

In summary: It's a two cup of coffee kinda day.
(p.s. I've slipped 5 times since I "gave up" soda. Please still be my friend.)



The best days.

I woke up with this song in my head and keep playing it over and over.

It's not new. It's not especially cool. But I think it's cheery and just sentimental enough that I can't help but think of fun childhood memories:

-Sitting cross-legged in my PJs on the bathroom floor watching Mom put her make-up on in the mornings, totally and completely in awe.

-Belting out "Wild Thing" in my dad's old Ford pick up and thinking he is the funniest and smartest guy in all the land.

-Little brother's fourth? fifth? birthday where ON VIDEO I am caught in desperation for the limelight, snatching his birthday cards out of his chubby little hand and reading them aloud with great theatrics. (okay maybe not a fun memory for him but definitely hilarious footage)

And I recall sitting in my uncle's house a few months ago, him asking about our life and us wearily saying, "Yeah, things are good. Just pretty crazy right now..." and thinking I can't wait for this season to end and him, not really knowing our life season but still saying with authority, "Look, I know it may not seem like it but life just gets more complicated with time. Things may not be perfect now, but soak it up. You're living some of the best days."

And I know there are many great days before and behind us, but it sure is nice to be reminded once in awhile that in this world of rush! hurry! move forward! move faster! ...that where you are right now is a stop in your journey that will never quite be the same.

And to feel the permission to just put your feet up a minute and rest in that truth.

Happy weekend, friends!

p.s. My husband is totally going to give me crap for loving a Taylor Swift song. I may or may not have said snarky things about her in the past. For that I sincerely apologize. Now, Adam please stop rolling your eyes!


Recipe: Cozy, Comfy, Non-Crumbly Coffee Cake

This is one of my favorites because a) it reminds me of home and b) my husband loves it. Oh! And c) it isn't chocolate so I feel diverse in my culinary skills. (stop laughing)

My mom made this growing up and it is the best. Really. It is. Even if you don't life coffee, that's okay! You will still love this. It's more of a suggestion like, "Hey! Perhaps you should sip coffee while you partake in such a delectable treat! Whaddya say?"

Adam and I disagree on how to classify this. I say definitely, positively, absolutely it's a breakfast food! Helloooooo, COFFEE in the title?! DEFINITELY breakfast-worthy!

He says (with an eye roll), "SARA. It's a dessert. Get over it."

Agree to disagree?


Recipe: Cozy, Comfy, Non-Crumbly Coffee Cake
Note: Sometimes my sweet tooth gets the best of me and I add extra topping. Okay fine. Every time.

Mix: 1/2 c butter, 1 c. sugar, 2 eggs
Add: 1 c. sour cream or buttermilk (I always go with the buttermilk myself)
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. vanilla
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
Topping: 1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c. chopped nuts 


Pour 1/2 batter into 9 x 13 pan.
Sprinkle with 1/2 topping.
Add rest of batter.
Add rest of topping.
Bake @ 350 for 30 min.



Today I slept in when I should have done yoga,
Ate breakfast on the run,
And wore fuchsia tights because I need a little color in my world.

Today I probably won't complete my to-do list,
Will likely daydream about summer sunshine,
And may create something worthwhile.

Tonight I'll go home late to a messy kitchen,
Ignore an incomplete home project,
And hug my overextended husband.

And as I collapse on our too-small couch,
I hope I can forget the should have's and the did not's
And just remember to give thanks.