Our road trip took us all over the place, somewhat geographically, and for me, emotionally. We saw so many friends & relatives, made some new connections, experienced new places and revisited favorite ones. We worked hard (I published 2 issues of the magazine during the trip; Rod started working on some New Ideas,) and we played hard (our last day at Disney World, we started at 11am at Animal Kingdom and ended at 1:30am at Magic Kingdom.).

This picture was around midnight..

Our last stop was in one of our favorite places…Nashville(-ish. It was actually Smyrna, and then supposed to be on to Hendersonville). We saw our friends Jimmy and Liz (& Jimmy made my hair pretty) and then Chris and Noel. We had breakfast plans for the next morning with some other friends before we were to finish the drive home.

But then my phone rang at 11:30 at night.

But, in a good way.

It was my mom, who pretty much goes to bed by 10:30 no matter what, so I knew.

BABY NIECE was on her way!

Before I even called back, I started asking the entire room, “What date is this? What DATE is this?” because, well, we’d been on the road for 25 days and I really had only a vague idea.

And someone confirmed: It was October 6.

My baby niece… she was likely going to be born on her Great Grandpa Halpin’s birthday.

(If you don’t know why this is significant, this might give you a better idea).

I knew two things:

1 – I would not be “there” for the birth of my niece, no matter how quickly we drove. (Not that I was going to catch her or anything, but I really wanted to be around…)

2 – October 7th was going to change for us from now on.

See, eight years ago, I told my grandparents a fragile truth and big news about my life, on my papa’s birthday. In retrospect, a bad idea… but… life was busy and we were together so the moment seemed ripe.

(Also, I was younger and less experienced and certainly less wise).

So I told them, and there was anger and drama and, very simply understated, things were never the same.

And October 7th became sad.

But now… well… Chloe Marie, my brother’s second child, my ‘kinda’ namesake, my sister-in-law’s answer to prayer, is here. And her sweetness, innocence, quietness, reminds us that life goes on, that October 7th is a perfectly fine day to celebrate, to forget mistakes and trials and focus on joy and togetherness. Life may not be perfect, or how we dreamed, there might not always be peace or hugs or rainbows, but there are so many blessings that outweigh the conflicts.

And the older I get, the teensy bit wiser I get, the more I cling to those blessings:

Sometimes literally.

Chloe Marie: I already love being your auntie. I love what you bring to our family and to our world. You look like your mommy and your cousin Miranda all at the same time. You’ve turned my big brother into a big puddle of sap. And you have made us so proud and grateful and hopeful. I can’t wait to buy you tiaras and pedicures and ice cream and ponies. I can’t wait until you and Randa and KK have your first slumber party.

Papa: I thought I would be bitter, quite honestly, to have this little jewel share her birthday with you. But I think, I really do think, that God is smiling on October 7th. As I was walking through Hollywood Studios just a few days before your great-granddaughter was born, I thought so much of you and Gramma… I heard “Singing in the Rain” and the voices of Judy Garland and John Wayne and remembered all the wonderful music and memories you added to my life. And I told myself those 25 years were enough to cover the angry, distant few that followed. And now, Chloe’s arrival confirms it for me.

Love is love. You might hurt me or dislike me or disown me, but nothing can make me stop loving you.

Sweet little Chloe… she showed us the trump card we all need to see every once in awhile.

Love is love.