Tuesday, June 01, 2021

The Pandemic, the Road, and the Life In-between …

Some say the pandemic is winding down. That the time of obligatory masks and travel restrictions is close to an end, and we can go back to “normal”. Honestly, I believe that’s a bunch of hog-wash, myself.

What exactly do people understand by “normal”? Which “normal” are we hoping to get back to? The one before everyone actually washed their hands after using the bathrooms in the pub? Or the one after that?

The “normal” before saying “no” to being overly crammed in a restaurant, sardine-style, just so that the place could make the most bang for their buck, or the one after, where people get a little bit of elbow room due to mandatory capacity restrictions?

The “normal” before we shot each other for no particular reason at all, before every other person carried a semi-automatic gun (it seems) and hated everyone enough to start shooting? Or the “normal” after that?

The “normal” before Trump was in the White House, or the “normal” after it?!

I am really not sure if I ever want the “before” times, in most of the cases. One thing I do know for sure: the world of tomorrow won’t get us “back” to anything we know. Normal, or otherwise. Whatever happened in the past year and a half, or four and a half years, or … fill in the blanks … can never take us “back” to anything we ever knew before. It can just move us forward, if we’re lucky …

As for me, I am grateful and happy to be here now, to have survived so far and to be looking forward, in health (fingers crossed), to what’s ahead …

This year, just like the last, we have been just tackling every day as it comes, working, cooking, “socializing” mostly remotely, and heading out for day trips (still no overnight stays yet, although we’ve been vaccinated), sometimes for something as close as a stroll in a new park in a neighboring town. This is when we’re not working, which is most every day from early morning till mid-evening.

We have not left North Carolina this year, but we seem to find new places to visit, or old ones that we check out with new eyes. It’s always refreshing and recharging when it’s possible to get a change of scenery.

We drove to the beach late last year (North Myrtle Beach, SC), and earlier this year (Kure Beach, NC) for a day of shooting (think Canons, not guns) water birds and eating fresh seafood sandwiches on the beach. It’s amazing to me how much I can love the ocean and the beach in the winter, when there are hardly any people and much peace there, almost no crowds, and how much I want to hide away from it in the summer …

Mating water birds in Kure Beach, NC

We discovered a beautiful city park around UNC Charlotte one Saturday where we watched a track competition live – the first time either of us saw athletes compete in the pole vault competition. We went shopping in Charlotte, but to “relax” we grabbed a Mediterranean sandwich at Le Kebab Grill and headed for the park. We stopped at Childress Vineyards on the way back for a relaxing afternoon.

Sipping some sweet sangria wine at Childress Vineyards, outside Greensboro, NC

I lived close to 12 years in Greensboro (which is now about an hour away from us), but I never walked in the Bur-Mill Park. So, we headed that way on a chilly April day to see the first signs of an early spring and to literally get lost (not as a plan, but as a matter of fact) on the trails around the lake. The trails were great, groomed, smooth and easy, even for me; the park deserted and quiet, but this was the worst marked park we have ever experienced – we were never quite sure where we were and where we were headed. The city sounds make you feel safe though and give you the distinct idea what you are never “too-too” lost, and that all the trails will lead to civilization. Eventually.

Remains of last fall (the fragile skeleton of a leaf) on new life - the fresh moss of this spring, bright green in Bur-Mill Park, Greensboro, NC

Also in April, we drove to Wilmington, NC. We oh-ed and ahh-ed over the amazing 400-year-old live oak trees and the camellia gardens, as we welcomed spring, alongside active bees in one of the first truly “hot” weekends of the spring. We then headed to Wilmington’s waterfront for a seafood sandwich and some ice-cream.

Camellia and old live oaks in Airlie Gardens - Wilmington, NC

This past weekend, we headed over to Stone Mountain, in Dobson, NC where we found one of the entrances to the park closed due to Covid restrictions for occupancy. When the whole world is all but doing away with the masks and everyone’s slipping into that “normal” again … Covid is still out there, keeping the world changed, it seemed. One of the entrances was open, but the trails were not overcrowded, despite the holiday weekend. I guess the restrictions helped with something. We hiked the upper falls trail and shot the falls, draping like infinite pools over the edge of the cliffs, and some very active cedar waxwings – such interestingly lively birds!

Cedar waxwing and The Upper Falls in Stone Mountain State Park, NC

On the way back from Stone Mountain, we stopped at Shelton Vineyards where we tasted some wine on their beautiful patio, watched geckos playing peek-a-boo with guests and sunning in the gentle sun while listening to a cover band – the first outdoor concert this year.

The patio at Shelton Vineyards in Dobson, NC

In-between all these one-day road trips, we spent weekends celebrating birthdays, our anniversary, Easter, and getting to know our new cat, Blue – a skittish and fearless (yes, she’s a conundrum!) Siamese mix which has kept us busy since she’s come into our home in early March.

Blue looks pretty much settled in here. We hope it's true ... 

In addition to these outings and our regular walks, we also walked trails and parks in towns all around us – Apex, Hillsborough, Sanford, Fuquay-Varina, to name a few. We’re looking forward to do more and even go on some overnight trips this summer. But the time we’ve had so far has been wonderful to get to visit or revisit places we otherwise would have ignored had we been too busy chasing other states and countries …

During all our outings, we take the time to really pay attention to the world, the earth, mostly, time to observe the seasons, their passing, count our days and hours, learn birds, and frogs, and other creatures. We live slower lives and learn more about nature, its permanence. In other words, invest our time and senses in what’s eternal, rather than ephemeral. 

Maybe it's all a plan of the infinite to slow us down and protect us from ourselves, from our potential and inevitable wreckage. How can we not welcome it?! 

I am welcoming this lull. I am soaking it up, masks, and all. I am seldom in a rush to get into that “normal” again, whatever that might look like … tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

To My Nephew, on His 13th Birthday …

Dearest Pat,

I wanted to leave these thoughts for you on your 13th birthday. Here are some things I have learned in my life since I was your age. Some things that helped me get where I am today and be who I am today.

13 is a big step, and I am sure you know this, as feverishly as you have been looking forward to your teen years. You’re entering a new chapter. You’re no longer a child, but not quite a man yet. But you’re about to learn how to be one, one day, and you’ll learn it fast. Of that I am sure.

Be yourself. Always. They say that everyone else is taken, and it’s true. Only you can do you - a person much smarter than me said. So, do it. Be genuine.

Always remember that God put you on this planet because He thought you have something special. Something that no one else had. So, always look for what makes you - you and share it with the world.

Live your dreams. If you can dream it – you can achieve it. If you ever doubt this, always remember me. I am living proof of this statement. There are ways to reach your most hidden thoughts. I never thought when I was 13, in a small, Communist country in Eastern Europe that I would one day live in the USA. own a house, have a job and speak another language fluently. I dreamed it. Then I took every opportunity I had to get me here. And I finally did it. Because I believed it was possible.

When an adult is trying to teach you something, or forbids you from doing something, I know that it’s very tempting to disregard them or disobey them. But I tell you this: they have been as old as you are.  You have not been as old as they are. So, trust that they have seen what you see and they teach you from first-hand experience. They only try to protect you.

I know you will need to have your own experiences and make your own choices – I promise you that you will have every opportunity to do that. But also, listen to the full picture from those older than you that have it. Take the advice, weigh it in and decide what you need to do to stay genuine to you – which is rule number one.

Then, if something doesn’t work out because you did it your way and you disregarded the advice, learn from it. Remember the warning we all gave you and think about it next time you make a choice. This will help you grow and learn. You will be stronger and smarter for it.

Believe in your roots. When you’ll feel lost and alone, they will help you feel less lonely. You are a mutt - between Romania, Canada, Germany, and the US - you are already born and raised on a multi-cultural background. This is a gift. Lots of people don't know where they come from. Your heritage is part of your life. Embrace that! Remember that mutts are the best - they are the most interesting and they live longest. You come from good people. They are strong, they are fighters, and they are smart. You have all that in you – always remember that, when you’re faced with any challenge. You can do it, because it’s in you.

Don’t forget your roots, but make your own branches. Don’t be afraid to move away from them, but always remember what they are – they will support you.

Above all else in the world, be kind. You already are the most thoughtful and empathetic 13 year old I know, but don’t forget to keep that as your most treasured possession, even when among other kids, the wish of being cool in front of others less fortunate is strong. Always remember that there is nothing cool in being thoughtless or rude towards others. On the contrary. Always remember that love and light always win.

Always remember that between darkness and light, light always wins. Be the light. Be the hope for others. Be the shoulder others need to cry on.

Always be curious. Never push away any experience because you will learn from every single one even if in the beginning it doesn’t seem cool. Remember when you were 8 and you came to visit me in Utah and you wanted to learn how to knit? Then, you went to the woodshop with Aa. and helped him make wooden toys for you and your brother? Stay that curious. Always. You will be wise beyond your years before it’s your time to be wise if you soak up every experience that comes your way. The world will only be yours faster and more fully when you’re ready for it.

Your uncle Aa. reminded me to also tell you: it’s not all about the money. Sure, money helps get you further. But don’t do it just for the money. Do it because you love it, because you can learn something just to learn it, because it helps you grow and become a fuller human being. Do it because you can and others need you to do it for them, although they have no money to give you in return.

I have met some pretty miserable people that are stinking rich in my life. And I also met the most happy people that had no running water or toilets in the house, and only two changes of clothes: one for work, during the week, and the other for going to church. But these people made it into their 80’s singing all day long and loving each other and their families, in other words: they grew older being happy. Every day. Money is not everything … There is so much more infinite happiness in hundreds of other things before money.

Share your grief. When things get hard, don’t be afraid to ask for help and ask for compassion from others. It’s not a sign of cowardice, it’s a sign of strength. To know you don’t know everything or to know that you hurt and ask for help – that’s a sign of strength and bravery.

Work hard for what you want. I have not seen much that is of value that has been achieved without hard and focused work. The world is yours to master. But first you need to learn the rules. You’re not born knowing the rules. None of us are. Take the time to learn them and learn them well. This will take work. The rest will come easy. But first, remember the work.

Keep a journal. I don’t care how small and I don’t care whether you even spell correctly in it (for now!). But keep a journal and write in it your observation of the world. Things that people do that drive you nuts, and things that people do that you admire. Read it once a year at the end of the year and realize how fast and how much you have grown. It will give you power and courage to go on and be even more next year.

Forgive your brother. Use every opportunity you have to teach him the good in you and share the knowledge you have. You will find one day that he’s your best friend, the only person in the world who knows you better than anyone else. The only person in the world who loves you totally and unconditionally. I know some days (now) this may sound impossible. Trust me: I am an older sister like you are an older brother and I have been there. These things I am telling you – I know them to be 100% true. When all of us, your grandparents, your parents, your uncles, and aunts, all the older teachers you have now will be gone, your brother will be the only one there, remembering it all with you. It’ll be such comfort to have him around. So learn to love him totally. Now.

Be graceful. When you lose, remember there is nothing in vain: learn from it, and move on. Bend when life wants to bend you, or otherwise you’ll break. Stay flexible and graceful. When the tough times are passed, always, always move on.

Be brave enough to know when you did something wrong and apologize for it. Again, this is no sign of weakness, but of strength and nobility. Be noble. Be gentle. Be respectful.

That brings me to my favorite lesson that I have learned from my own father: always be respectful. People might not remember that you were strong, or rich, or powerful, or talented, but they will always remember that you respected them. People will always remember how you made them feel. Make sure you always make them feel good and important. As we say in Romania: “always leave room for ‘hello’.”

We are not here, on Earth, to get stuck. We are here to thrive, to learn, to grow, to achieve, to conquer. Any loss is nothing but a lesson. Learn it, score it, and move on to the next one, just like you do in math. Or French. Or art …

Never, ever say "no" to travel. Travel opens doors and windows into worlds you can never imagine. Watch how other people live, taste their foods, love their humanity. Accept their differences and grow as you're doing it. If you have to learn just one thing from me, if I can leave you with just one piece of advice is this: travel as often as possible. And don't be choosy. A small village is just as exciting and full of life as New York City or Paris. Take it all in. 

Listen to nature. Love the simple things. The camping, the walks in the woods, listening to birds, the biking, the fishing, playing with your pets. When life gets complicated, later on, you’ll find that nature will relax and revitalize you, charge you back up with good energy. And nature is always free, buddy. Always free.

I hope some of these thoughts resonate with you now. If they don’t, promise yourself to come back to this list when you feel like you forgot it, or you miss me. I would love for you to revisit it from time to time and to know that I have written it for you to find support and love, and trust that you are great and you will be even greater. Of this I am also sure.  

I love you with all my heart. I always have and always will. Never doubt that. I am a “text” away and always, always, and forever here for you.

Have a good celebration of your already amazing existence of 13 years.

Much love,

me …

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Where the Trees Float

I remember vividly the picture of Singletary Lake in Our State magazine from 2019, I believe. For some reason, I thought the picture was on the cover but maybe not? Wherever it was, it sat lying flat on my coffee table for about a week, haunting me. It still does, with the magazine long gone.

Earlier this year, on a cold, cold, windy January day, we made the trip to Bladen County towards the Eastern part of North Carolina to visit it. It was windy and so cold my face was stuck in one expression. The sun was trying hard to peer through the overcast sky but although its light was there we hardly felt its heat.

We drove down to the Singletary Lake State Park on an almost empty highway, on a Sunday. Everyone must have been indoors, around the fire – they cannot very well be at church during a pandemic, I reckon. But a fire is what one needed that day.

Research tells you that Singletary Lake is part of a huge chain of what they call bay lakes which were formed simply by precipitation water accumulating in the crevices of the earth. They’re usually round or oval shaped, Singletary Lake being oval. Some of these lakes have dried out over time and were transformed into farmland. If you want to know more, check out this article: https://www.ourstate.com/the-mystery-of-carolina-bays-north-carolina/.

Once at the park, we reviewed a few maps to find a trail. It was easy to find one, because there were not many. There were two of them, connected to one another, making sort of an eight-shaped course – Singletary Loop trail. The trail is flat and super easy, in addition to being very short (maybe a mile all in all).

You walk through a number of terrains along the lake and enormous pine trees and cypress trees are towering over your steps, as if in a cathedral. The walk has a ceremonious, sanctified feel to it. It’s quiet, except for the wind howling through the branches.

The terrains are anywhere from slippery clay to sand, moss, and regular soil. One minute you think you have a good, strong foothold under you, the next minute you’re sinking in moss or sand and you’re wondering if it’s supposed to feel that way or if you’re over a sand trap.

After walking a few yards, we realize the trail is flooded ahead of us. It is just covered by water, like it’s not even a trail anymore, but a river. We advance with caution and hope to find some higher ground around the trail, which we do. We step on branches and leaves and I am thinking: there is no way anyone can pay me enough money to walk this trail in the summer! The thought of the number of snakes in the warm months makes my skin crawl.

As you’re walking along the lake on its benches, you feel like you’re under the sea level … or lake level, as it were … The winds have turned the lake into a sea, with white-capped rushing waves, crashing into its low shores. The wave foam is splashing us and wetting our shoes … At one point, the trail is completely swallowed by water which turned into an ad-hoc stream crossing right across it. There is no going around this one and we had to turn around and go back, taking the opposite direction to see if we can complete the loop.

There are two areas that this trail crosses: one is slightly more remote from the lake (you can still see the lake from it, but the waves are not going to wet your shoes), and one is right on the lake (the longer trek). When we walk right along the shores, we see the cypress trees leaf-less, clad in Spanish moss, swishing in the wind, hundreds of small black birds, or starlings dressing them up like tree ornaments. They are strong and tall, their thick trunks springing right from the water, alone, unattached to the land we’re watching them from. It’s the image that’s been haunting me ever since I saw the pictures.

I normally look at trees as growing organically from the earth, like earth’s babies, their connection un-severed. These trees have no connection to any earth, it seems, they are happy to make it on their own floating on water … It's like the superfluous and everchanging realm of water is what birthed them and not the steady, permanent one of the earth. It defies logic and what we know about trees … You feel suspended between this world and another one, one that is possible (you’re awake and seeing it with your own eyes) but dubious. Although you’re clearly walking on land, the medium that wins here is definitely the water … The lake, the streaming flooded trails, the waves crashing at your feet, the trees surrounded by nothing but water, as if they were floating away … There is an eerie peace about it all, despite the loud wind and the crashing of the waves. The silence is primordial, and so is the rustling …

For some reason I thought these places are accessible only by boat. But you can walk right around them and no amount of beauty or awe is diminished. The lure of the complete silence, the wind, the beauty and magic of floating trees will be beckoning me back still for many more years …

I’ll leave you with some shots of this magical place …

A mossy/ woodsy trail towards Singletary Lake

A sandy trail 

That time when we had to turn around because the trail was completely immersed in water 

The floating trees at Singletary Lake

Waves, and moss, and reeds ... 

The pier of Singletary Lake. Click on the picture to see the whole album. 

Sunday, March 07, 2021

La Multi Ani!

Nu țin minte când ne-am cunoscut prima dată că eu aveam probabil câteva zile. Dar știu sigur ca m-ai iubit din prima zi. Am simțit asta toata viața.

Primele amintiri pe care le am cu tine sunt când aveai părul lung si negru ca pana corbului – Andy urma sa îl aibă la fel, mai târziu. Toate fetele din familie îl aveau scurt si făcut “permanent”, dar al tău era lung, negru si iți curgea lin pe spate. Mereu m-am gândit ca așa ai fost mereu: cu bun simț si eleganță, ai sfidat orice regulă si conformism, si ai ales mereu sa fii tu însăși, altfel … Asta am admirat mult la tine. 

Mi-aduc aminte că îmi doream din suflet sa port si eu ochelari, ca tine. Mi se părea ca ești așa de interesanta cu părul lung si ochelari cu lentile fumurii. Astea aveau a mă fascina mult timp cat mi-am căutat si eu o identitate.  

De multe ori copiii vor să fie mai aproape de mătușa lor decât de părinți, pentru ca mătușa nu ii ceartă, nu ii disciplinează. Ii iubește necondiționat si ii răsfață cu orice ocazie. Așa ai fost tu pentru mine și ești, și cu 46 de ani mai târziu. Mereu te-am simțit aproape și ți-am căutat si apreciat sfatul.

Mereu m-a uimit si atras puterea ta de a reveni la normal după multe tragedii repetate. Din multele pierderi din viață ta ai revenit mai puternică, mai senină, mai frumoasă, mai tânără … Calmul si dorința ta neclintită de a merge mai departe, in ciuda tuturor neșanselor m-au călăuzit in multe decizii din viață mea.

De ziua ta îmi amintesc de drumeția asta minunată pe care am petrecut-o împreună, parte din aceeași familie nebunatică, tu – mereu ancora si tărâmul calm al tuturor tribulațiilor noastre, a tuturor celor din jurul tău; noi – mereu îndreptându-ne spre tine, ca spre un far călăuzitor.

Rodi, iți mulțumesc din inimă pentru tot ce ai fost si ești pentru noi toți! Iți datorăm atât de mult că nu vom putea sa te răsplătim vreodată. Mă rog sa fii răsplătită tu însutit cu sănătate, putere fizică, siguranță financiară și nu numai, dar mai ales cu liniște si pace in toți anii (mulți pe care ți-i doresc!) care vor urma.

Te iubim, cu dor si drag, mereu

Si, pandemie sau nu, păstrează credința că ne vom vedea curând. La mulți ani, te îmbrățișam cu drag! 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Glorious Day!

On February 27, …

… 1560, the treaty that expelled the French from Scotland was signed.
… 1776, the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge in North Carolina broke up a Loyalist militia during the American Revolutionary War. (Some things are awfully stubborn to go away, aren't they?!)
… 1812, poet Lord Byron gave his first address as a member of the House of Lords.
… 1860, Lincoln made a speech at Cooper Union in New York that was largely responsible for his election to the presidency.
… 1900, the Brits founded the Labour Party.
… 1902, Detroit, MI held its first auto show. (Coincidence? Methinks not!)
… 1922, a challenge to the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, allowing women the right to vote, is rebuffed by the Supreme Court. (as it should have been!)
… 1940 – Carbon 14 (or radiocarbon) is discovered.
... Constantine the Great, the emperor (272), John Steinbeck, the Nobel Prize-winning writer (1902), Joanne Woodward, the actress (1930), and Dame Elizabeth Taylor (1932) were born.

We also have a full moon today and today is also, … International Polar Bear Day. (no joke!)

So many important milestones, but the most important one is … you!

Reading through all of them reminded me of you: serious and professional, dark, funny, explosive, literary, lover of creatures and everything British, artsy, principled and opinionated, admirer of history and politics, as good with your hands as you are with your brain, hopeless soldier of love, respectful and all wrapped up in jest and clever wit. 

Only you are much, much more:  my love, my friend, my soul twin, my mate in strangeness, my anchor, my calming waters.

Happy birthday, my love! I am forever blessed that I get to spend another day to celebrate you.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

O Nouă Zi. Un Nou An.

Sunt oameni in viața noastra pe care nu îi alegem - părinții, frații, surorile ... Ne sunt dați și fie că ne place, fie că nu ne place, vor face mereu parte din viața noastră. Într-un fel sunt parte intrinsecă din cine suntem și suntem parte și noi din cine sunt ei ... Acești oameni sunt organic integrați în materialul din care suntem făcuți; suntem atât de aproape, prin sânge, că mă întreb câteodată dacă ne mai aducem aminte cum “ne-am întâlnit”, de unde venim fiecare, care ne sunt intențiile, visele ...

Sunt oameni pe care îi alegem noi - prieteni, colegi, cunoștințe, soți sau soții. Care nu au obligații de sânge de a ne fi aproape și nici noi nu avem față de ei. Când relațiile cu aceștia durează ani și ani ... și ani ... putem spune că am ales bine. 

Apoi mai este o categorie de oameni - cei nealeși de noi, dar aleși de cei care ne sunt aproape, sau cei din familia noastră. Rude prin alianță, ii denumim. Așa căpătăm cumnati și cumnate, nași, câteodată veri si verisoare. Aceștia sunt o categorie mai aparte - nu i-am ales și nu ne-au ales nici ei, dar nu sunt aleși nici de soartă, ca rudele de sânge, deși într-un fel ... sunt ... aleși de rudele de sânge. 

Cumnatul meu a apărut în viața mea acum circa 25 de ani. 25! Eram alți oameni atunci, parcă despărțiți de cine suntem astăzi de veacuri de evolutie! 

Astăzi, de ziua lui, mă gandesc cu drag la acești 25 de ani! Deși nu ne-am ales unul pe altul, am făcut parte din aceeași familie de 25 de ani. E interesant cum se împletesc drumurile vieții! 

Până acum 25 de ani, noi nu existam din punctul nostru de vedere individual. Și astăzi, după 25 de ani, nu-mi pot imagina familia noastră fără el ...Am fi mai nu numai mai puțini, dar am fi și mai puțin ... cu siguranță mai altfel pentru că ne-ar lipsi tot unicul pe care îl poate aduce doar el. 

Mă gandesc astăzi la momentele de bucurie din acești ani și la cele mai triste - toate petrecute alături, în aceeași familie: petreceri, vacanțe la mare, concedii, nunți, pierderile celor dragi, divorțuri, cariere, multiple locuințe în care ne-am simțit în familie, mese bogate împărtășite la multe ocazii deosebite ... Gânduri bune si de dor, mai cu seamă de bine, pe care ni le-am urat peste ani. Totul, toată această viață culminând cu cei doi copii minunati pe care ni i-a adăugat familiei noastre, rotunjind-o și făcând-o cu adevărat completă. 

Când o alianță de acest fel durează peste ani și ani nu poți sa fii decât recunoscător și să admiri constanța și dragostea acestor rude alese de a rămâne lângă noi și a contribui zilnic la materialul unic ce alcătuiește familia noastră dodoloață. 

La mulți ani, Gabi! Multă sănătate și mulți ani înainte împreună cu noi toți ...

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Baby Is 10!

"Shake dreams from your hair

My pretty child, my sweet one.

Choose the day and choose the sign of your day

The day's divinity

First thing you see.” (Jim Morrison - Awake)

I remember when I saw you the first time. You were a couple of months old. I tried to come earlier, to be there for your birth but you had to come in your own due time. So, you came a little ways after I had left. 

I came back and you were maybe 2-3 months old and your little baby face was not a baby face at all. It was wide awake, aware, almost judgmental. Your dad said you looked so smart that you stared at everyone in the room as if we were all too stupid for you. It was probably true. We are. 

When did the 10 years go, I don’t know?!

You are becoming such an amazing human, Kev-Kev, that I don’t even know where to begin with my wonder. 

Your heart is amazing. You’re kind and you’re thoughtful. You share like no one else I know. You wait your turn. You’re grateful. You take scraps and make them better. You are clever. There is not one conversation we have that you’re not leaving me either thinking differently or laughing. You make us better as people and more fun as a family. 

Your quick temper reminds us all that you’re one of us, after all! As much peace as you’re capable of, your tantrums are punchy but quick ... They die as fast as they’ve come. You’re a typical baby who just wants to be heard. 

You have more wisdom than it should be legal for being 10. You’re a kids’ kid and an adult thinker all in one small body! Books and the written word are your greatest love (maybe only second to cats?!) and God, am I grateful for that! You read and know beyond your years. 

The creatures! Oh, they are your passion. You love them with every pore in your body, it seems. 

My favorite memory of you is this: a couple of years ago, we walked down the street to grab some brunch at your favorite place. After eating, you got a candy (of course!)  from the hostess’s desk and because you never stop talking, it fell out of your mouth as we were walking down the street. I thought you’d pick it up and eat it, but of course you didn’t. You looked at it with your head cocked to one side and said “Oh, I will leave it there for the ants.” You’re our little communicator with the animal kingdom, our little messenger, our cat and dog and bunny and owl and ladybug and all the creatures’ whisperer. 

You hear a vibration of the world that we don’t. It’s a world of wonder and magic and love. We trust in you that it does exist. Thank you for sharing that world with us, sweet Kev. May the wonder and the growth never stop. 

I’m not the best aunt in the whole wild world, like you say, but you are our best little (in stature, not in mind) wild man in the whole world! We love you today on your birthday and forevermore ...