Long Live Love ❤️

There’s nothing more magical, hilarious, and terrifying than a group text with four teenagers, a preteen who thinks she’s 20, a mom, and a dad. 

Take November 15th, 2022 for example. 

No quotes, just the texts exactly as they flooded in.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

My bar has moved a little

We’re getting there 😫

Not mine

Do I skip class and just sit here with my computer


Absolutely not!!

Go to freaking class

No skip

Guys I’m scared

2000+ people ahead of us in line. A holes. 

I just watched tik toks that said people are getting in

We’re getting these mf tickets

We’re literally fighting the whole US for this 😭

We’re going for sure

This is a once in a lifetime experience

I’ll pay all my money



Oh shit (with screenshot of getting access to purchase tickets)



Ur insane rowan





Language bruh’s (me trying to keep some semblance of control and being uncool at the same time)


U guys are so gosh dang annoying (bless the lone boy’s heart)

Omg u got it


Go go go

Get any 5. Doesn’t matter where

Does matter

Bruh there’s not gonna be much open

there’s only upper level

so i’m getting that

That’s good

Get it



Go go go

That’s awful

Upper level is good. That’s what I had for reputation

U can see everything 

It’s better than zero (me being dad again)


Dang row! 

What section Row?

AH (with a screenshot of tickets in cart)




What section

324 it’s right in the middle

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Y’all are smart folks. 

I’m sure you realized this entire dramatic, cussfest was about securing tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. 

For us, the stop in KC. Our hometown.

Saturday, July 8th. 

5 tickets in the nosebleeds. 

As life does, many things have twisted and turned since that Tuesday November morning. The one we thought would take an hour max that turned into an all day affair. 


  • Begged our girls to let us sell all five tickets.
  • We told them I was for sure selling mine.
  • Addi’s hoops team ended up being in Chicago for a tournament, we debated who could take her ticket. So many friends and/or boyfriends would love to join, surely.
  • We tried to convince Addi to sell her ticket.
  • We begged them again to sell all of them and buy a small island in the Caribbean with the funds.

And no matter the twisting, the story eventually came back to the original plan of the four girls going and one parent. 

With Brooke drawing the “take Addi to Chicago” straw, I got the “Swiftie Dad” straw. One I’ve been drinking deeply from for all 17 years of her professional career.

I’m sure we’re not alone in this feeling, but when our firstborn, a girl, broke onto the scene in 2004 and Taylor’s innocent, sweet songs began serenading us in 2006, in many ways, her music, and evolution, has ushered us into our own eras as well.

The advent of the iPhone in 2007. The explosion of streaming music. The rapid adoption and acceleration of social media. The cringy invention of the selfie. The incomprehensible changes of giving billions of people superpowers in their palms in the form of a supercomputer, especially little people. The comparisons and insecurities and haunting realities of what it means to be a girl and then a young woman in today’s society.

All while, as parents, we grew up with phones attached to walls, with curly cords. With whole swaths of the world that we didn’t know we were missing out on or made to feel bad about. This journey felt like trying to navigate explosives laying around in minefields, while having no damn idea where any of them were buried or even where we were going. 

Parenting is the most disorienting thing, and the haunting news is there’s no guarantee even your best-intentioned inputs will spit out a squeaky clean product who is perfectly protected and simultaneously prepared for the horrors and highs of the real world. 

No one told us any of this in 2004, when we loaded Kamden up in the back seat of our Mitsubishi Montero and brought home our bundle of joy to the safety of our suburban budding dream. 

How could they have? 

We had no idea the world was going to change in the palm of our hands. 

For the better, to be sure. But also towards complication and complexity.

When you’re in the middle of the diapers and drama and sleep deprivation, you get by on sheer stubborn love. 

And when you do that five times in a span of eight years, you undoubtedly mix in a bit of denial and dread in the middle of the beauty of it all. 

And when the first three are all girls, born in 2004, 2005, and 2007, when they’re of dance party age, Taylor and iTunes (RIP) were the obvious choice. 

In her debut self-titled album era, with Brooke filming on a MiniDV recorder, and me still wearing t-shirts from college, we filled up the tapes with Taylor’s first tracks.

“If you think Tim McGraw, I hope you’ll think of me.”

“Drew looks at me, I fake a smile so he won’t see.”

“You should’ve said no, you should’ve gone home.” 

“I was riding shotgun with my hair undone, in the front seat of his car.”

Pigtails and princesses were the themes of those parties, while providing and prevailing through the chaos were those of the parents. 

That Taylor is a far cry from Midnights by the way. 

And so are we judging by the family text above, ha.

But anyway. 

In 2008, Taylor ushered us into a familiar era, with some growing up distinctions with Fearless. 

“You take my hand and drag me headfirst, fearless.” 

“Cause when you’re fifteen.”

“You’re on the phone with your girlfriend, she’s upset.”

“We were both young when I first saw you.”

Cause when I was 15, I fell hard for the girl at Greaser’s, we were both young, and little did I know it would be her who would take my hand and drag me headfirst into being fearless.

Not the other way around.

With fear being the most powerful current in my subconscious, I’d played so many roles of it all being fine, that she helped me face my fears. 

And many times that meant stepping into what it looked like to be a husband, and a dad to three daughters at that point. As best as I could see it at the time.

In 2010, 20 Speak Now tracks got dropped as Taylor spoke then what she’s still speaking now. Including a hot off the press Taylor’s Version last week.

With a baby boy in the mix now, our three girls were 6, 4, and 2 and we had new material to fill the airwaves. 

“Kiss me on the sidewalk, take away the pain. Cause I see sparks fly whenever you smile.”

“Turn around and make it all right, I go back to December all the time.”

“There I was again tonight, forcing laughter, faking smiles.”

“Oh, darling, don’t you ever grow up.” 

Shit, did they ever grow up. 

Our baby was born in 2011, our fourth daughter. 

Before the album Red came out later in 2012, Brooke threw the best combined birthday party in history. 

A winter Taylor Swift themed jam for Kamden turning 7 that January and Addi turning 5 the previous December. (December 22nd birthdays are tough from a party perspective)

Complete with real and fake guitars, keyboards, a backstage green room, make up areas, “Mean” water, and a staged music video on that same amazing MiniDV.

“You with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you used against me. You, have knocked me off my feet again, got me feeling like I’m nothing.”

20 or so little girls, all dressed in cowboy boots, hats, and fringe, belting the lyrics to “Mean” in our living room while I sang along in the background.

To keep them on cue of course. 

Actually, it was because I was in love with this stage of life and the soundtrack of our story. 

At one point in Taylor’s famous bridge work, as the girls were belting out, “All you are is mean, and a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life and mean. And mean. And mean. And mean. And mean. But someday, I’ll be living in a big old city. And all you’re ever gonna be is mean.”

I screamed out, “Louder”.

Then the choir belted even further off key, “SOMEDAY, I’LL BE BIG ENOUGH SO YOU CAN’T HIT ME.”

In hindsight, maybe we should have chosen Enchanted or Back to December. 

Hell, even Haunted.  


Either way, the era was obvious. We were smack dab in the middle of watching them step onto their own stages. 

In the midst of friends and all the beautiful sadness those relationships serve as side dishes. 

Later in 2012, Taylor released Red. 

Of course, our soundtrack kept going alongside her release parties. 

“All I know is you held the door. And you’ll be mine and I’ll be yours. All I know since yesterday is, everything has changed,” she and Ed Sheeran informed us. 

“We are never ever ever getting back together.”

“Once upon a time, a few mistakes ago.”

“Stay, stay, stay. I’ve been loving you for quite some time.”

Indeed, everything had changed. 

By the time the next album dropped in 2014, we’d moved from KC to Florida. 

And back to KC. 

A mix of adventure, opportunity, and disaster left us with a cocktail of confusion and a hangover of shame. 

Alongside a bucket of lists that were more full when we returned than when we departed. 

So 1989 became a playful pop, yet heavy, dose of beats that matched our mood.

“Had me in the palm of your hand then why’d you have to go and lock me out when I let you in?”

“Cause baby now we got bad blood. You know it used to be mad love.”

“I stayed out too late. Got nothin in my brain. That’s what people say.”

“And I remember thinking, are we out of the woods yet?”

“Remember when we hit the brakes too soon. Twenty stitches in the hospital room. You started crying baby I did too.”

But we were far from out of the woods. 

The three years between 1989 and Reputation felt like a lifetime to Swifties, and my own adult unhinging came in that window as well while we waited unknowingly for what was to come. 

So in 2017, the old Taylor died and was transformed into a complex, dark, narrative, nuanced artform that as parents made us cringe a little. 

The teenage door had just been kicked open, like the scenes in a bad horror film, when the homeowner tried hard to resist the onslaught. 

Futile as it may be. 

And while we hesitated with the “influence” of this new album on our children (which basically meant Brooke was the responsible adult and I was flippant), to my own soul, it tasted like the stiff drink I was looking for to take the edge off the unhinged parts. 

“I know I’m gonna be with you, so I’ll take my time. Are you ready for it?”

“X marks the spot, where we fell apart. He poisoned the well, I was lyin’ to myself.”

“I wanna be your endgame. I wanna be your first string. I wanna be your A-team.”

“I’m sorry, the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh! Cause she’s dead. Oh! Ooh, look what you made me do.” 

Taylor’s hand-crafted, small-batch good girl reputation took an interesting turn, and I could relate. My own midlife undoing, unknowing, dismantling, and journey inward felt much more like turmoil than triumph.

Even though the portraits of my own reputation looked damn good on Instagram. 

So deeply immersed in my own soul work and the start of a bootstrapped business, that 2019’s Lover album has the most songs of any of hers that I had to ask about at the concert. 

And yet the cords of my heart knew the lyrics. They resonated and reverberated in my soul from the dark night season.

“I’m drunk in the back of the car. And I cried like a baby coming home from the bar, oh. Said, ‘I’m fine’ but it wasn’t true. I don’t wanna keep secrets just to keep you.” 

“All’s well that ends well to end up with you. Swear to be overdramatic and true to my Lover.”

“Combat. I’m ready for combat. I say I don’t want that, but what if I do?”

“But who could stay? Cause they see right through me. They see right through me. They see right through. Can you see right through me? They see right through. They see right through me. I see right through me. I see right through me.” 

“Flashbacks waking me up. I get drunk but it’s not enough.”

An Irish twin album later, when the world screeched to a halt, folklore launched into areas of my own heart that were laid bare during this season of recovery. 

And also, for our now two teenage daughters and one knocking aggressively on the door, this album carried them through the confusion and brutality of a year ripped from their grasp as they were stuck in their rooms to wade through the shit-infested, depressing waters alone. 

“I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace. And so, the battleships will sink beneath the waves. Look at how my tears ricochet.” 

“The only thing I want to do is make it up to you. So, I showed up at your party. Will you have me? Will you love me? Will you kiss me on the porch in front of all your stupid friends?”

“I want you to know. I’m a mirrorball. I can change everything about me to fit in.”

“Second, third, and hundredth chances. Balancing on breaking branches. Those eyes add insult to injury. I think I’ve seen this film before. And I didn’t like the ending. 

Then, while the world continued spinning off its axis, five short months later, Taylor dropped evermore. 

She is The Man, after all.

She said at the concert that she imagined this cabin in her mind while writing these songs, and it makes sense, because I built one with Brooke and our kids in our backyard while we were sequestered from society. 

Finding ways and moments to be together, all while the terror of not knowing if our business would collapse, our extended loved ones would stay healthy, or our friendships would dissolve. 

Our souls craved connection, but we were stuck in solitude. 

And again, Taylor helped bridge the gaps.

“The more that you say, the less I know. Wherever you stray, I follow. I’m begging for you to take my hand, wreck my plans.” 

“What a shame she’s fucked in the head, they said.” 

“You won’t remember all my champagne problems,” as I surrendered my own the end of that year.

“And when I was shipwrecked, I thought of you. In the cracks of light, I dreamed of you. It was real enough to get me through.”

“And I was catching my breath. Floors of a cabin creaking under my step. And I couldn’t be sure. I had a feeling so peculiar this pain wouldn’t be for evermore.”

But damn, didn’t it feel like it actually would be for evermore in those weird, uncertain days. Days of childhood that felt ripped and robbed on one hand, with endless possibilities and resets of time and priorities on the other. 

And, as it always does, the sun kept coming up. 

Hope kept rising.

The light kept pushing back the darkness, little by little. 

2020 turned to 2021, and then to 2022. And in the best month of every year, October, Taylor floored all of us with a 23 song album that put to words the dark nights of the soul that we’d all experienced. 

At least I had. 

The anxiety. The sleeplessness. The turmoil. The regret. The dreams that felt close to the surface yet a lifetime away. The did-I-make-too-big-of-a-mess. 

The era we were in personally was one we shushed and ear plugged from all the well-intentioned elders in our lives all those years prior. 

You know the ones. 

Don’t blink, sweetheart. 

It flies by. 

If only you could freeze them when they’re innocent and sweet.

Just wait until they’re teenagers. 

When we were having Mean parties, and dancing to Our Song, and sing-songing to country Taylor with our girls who then watched Dora and Miss Pattycake before bed.

But here we were last October. 

Our oldest 1,200 miles from home in college. Two other daughters in high school. Our son smack dab in the middle of middle school. And our baby in her last year of elementary school. 

My God, where did it go? 

My God, we’re now them.

Weren’t we just tucking them in and telling them to eat their peas and promising them we’d be much older and wiser and richer and ready for them to go to college someday. 

As I stared into my own internal abyss much of the last seven years, I realized those promises were adorable but so naive. 

That no parents really know. 

They’re all just doing the best to offer stubborn, resilient, please-God-help-because-we-have-screwed-up-so-much-type-of-love. 

And, as I tried to write to the world over a decade ago, no set of 15 well-manicured list of things could ever prepare me for what I should know.

Life doesn’t unfold in such predictable patterns.   

The horrible, yet hopeful, reality of the human heart is that you can shield it, protect it, and shrink its capacity to an existence of safety, scrolling, and sarcasm. 

But once it gets ripped open, once the self-protection and denial and safe-guarding gets blown away, from your own doing or with the help of a healer in your life, those waters below are tremendous. 

They’re treacherous. They’re wild. They’re frigid. They’re powerful.

And, while they seem to be the cause of the turmoil, once they’re surrendered to, they’re the source of the journey ahead. 

The freedom and healing lies in the depths. Not the shallows of the self-protected and defended self. 

“Taylor’s done some work,” I texted a friend after I binged the Midnights tracks for days on end. 

Finding the unhealthy and unhelpful tendencies, as well as the good parts, of my own in those songs, and reminding myself that old stories don’t have to be the new ones. 

“Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism like some kind of Congressman? Tale as old as time.”

“Sometimes I wonder which one will be your last lie. They say looks can kill. And I might try.”

“What if I told you I’m a mastermind? And now you’re mine. It was all by design, cause I’m a mastermind.”

“And I damn sure never would’ve danced with the devil.”

“My town was a wasteland. Full of cages, full of fences. Pageant queens and big pretenders.”

“Industry disruptors and soul deconstructors. And smooth-talking hucksters out glad-handing each other.”

“Breathe in. Breathe through. Breathe deep. Breathe out.”

Taylor, you’ll be fine.  

A month later, give or take, we were in virtual Ticketmaster waiting rooms waiting to buy behind 2000+ other A holes. 

Texting like maniacs. 

This past Saturday, I picked Addi up at the airport at 5:30. Her flight was delayed due to a malfunctioning seat belt, on a flight that wasn’t full. 

She was pissed and didn’t want to be late. 

When she strolled out of the swanky new KCI terminal, she jumped in the back seat of my truck, and changed from the comforts of flight attire to the costume thousands of others her age put on that night. 

Hers in the form of a lavender dress with white cowgirl boots. 

As we parked at Arrowhead and began our walk to meet her sisters (who had been there for hours already), I still had the “I could have sold this concert ticket for lots of plane tickets” thought in my mind. 

But after a long walk to the gate, and then the spiral climb to the nosebleeds, that all changed a little after 8pm when Taylor began ushering us through the eras. 

The set was incredible. 

The effects, insane. 

The music and choreography, on point. 

The Swifties, at least the four I was with, brought their A game of shrieking, screaming, and crying (except Henley). 

And of course, Taylor was a megastar who matched anything either Michael (Jordan or Jackson) has done. 

And let’s be clear, she’s the only one who can buy a small, or rather large, island with the concert proceeds. 

Back to that haunting, hilarious group text with our family. 

This exchange, initiated from Addi while she sat on the plane in Chicago, about to head this way.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Okay everyone going tn. What song do u think ur gonna cry to? (Addi)

Pick one (Addi)

All too well (Rowan)

10 minute version (Rowan)

Taylor’s version (Rowan)

None (Henley, spoken like a budding Enneagram 7, attagirl)

Kamden? (Addi)

The archer (Rowan)

Champagne problems (Rowan)

Marjorie (Rowan)

I said one bruh (Addi)

Long live (Addi)

Oops, sorry (Rowan)

Rowan, you’re a mess! (Brooke)

Long live 100% (Kamden)

I know mom (Rowan)

Taking off hoes (Addi)

See ya on the other side (Addi)

See you with mother (Rowan, not talking about Brooke, her own mom, talking about Taylor)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

As we stood, because heaven forbid, anyone sit down for 3.5 hours, and Taylor talked about owning her music and Taylor’s versions and how the fans always have her back, she was handed a blue, koi fish guitar. 

And our four daughters immediately started screaming (definitely not the first time in the evening). 

They knew what was coming, long before I did.

I know way more Taylor songs than the average old man, but I didn’t know this one.

I leaned over to Henley, “what song is she playing?”

“Long Live,” with a shut-up dad voice. 

“Oh, I don’t know this one.” 

I’m glad I didn’t. 

Because instead of singing, dancing, raising my hands and bobbing my head like I did the rest of the night (hopefully the evidence is minimal), I just stood there, arms crossed, and listened. 

She was a half mile away, stripped of all the lights and effects. 

Just a spotlight on her and her guitar. She picked the baby blue Taylor and sang lyrics that weren’t directly about my life, but swirled through me in a surprising and unsuspecting way. 

With our four daughters to my left. Now young women, all of them.

With our 13 year-old son at home with his cousin, fully capable of holding it down on his own.

My wife, partner, and best friend of 20 years enjoying a quiet night in Chicago. 

The seven of us with this imperfect, but far from pretend, long live type of story.

Like the welcome waters of a warm bath, the lyrics hovered over me.

“I said remember this moment, in the back of my mind.”

“It was the end of a decade. But the start of an age.”

“Long live the walls we crashed through. How the kingdom lights shined just for me and you.”

“I was screaming, ‘Long live all the magic we made.” And bring on all the pretenders, one day we will be remembered.”

“I said remember this feeling. I passed the pictures around. Of all the years that we stood there on the sidelines, wishing for right now.”

“Hold on to spinning around, confetti falls to the ground. May these memories break our fall. Will you take a moment? Promise me this, that you’ll stand by me forever.”

“Long live all the mountains we moved.”

“I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you.”

I teared up. Then I cried. Then I lost it. 

Like weeping and sobbing in front of strangers kind of weird cry. 

The eras all flashed through my mind, faster than Taylor’s wardrobe changes.

The dancing babies. 

The pigtails and princesses.

The comfort and control. 

The Mean video shoot. 

The moves and the madness. 

The drama and dysfunction.

The isolation and loneliness. 

The darkness and questions. 

The connection and the subconscious. 

The moments and the money. 

The adventures and the anxiety.

The unhinged but hopeful heart. 

The transformation and the turmoil. 

The love. 

Oh, the love. 

The one through-line in every chorus. 

Kamden saw my shoulders shrugging and switched places with Henley. 

She threw her arms around me, burying her head into my shoulder, hers now shrugging under her own sobs. 

In the Sea of Red, the sea of lavender and bracelets and black and lights and smoke and confetti and fire and snakes and flowers and cabins all melted away to a singular point of focus.

That moment with her. 

“I just keep thinking about that Mean birthday party, that was so fucking long ago,” I said. 

Language, bruh. 

“I know, dad,” was all she had to say. 

Like tears do, they cleansed the moment, leaving peace in their salty wake, even when they feel so scary at the start. 

We shared one more big hug, her empathy showing up in ways I can only hope to show others. 

I pulled out my phone and texted Brooke.

“I hope your night has been restful and relaxing. Just want to say what a privilege it’s been to raise children with you. It’s been the greatest joy in my life to do this with you. I love you.”

A few songs later, Taylor was on the same far end of the stage. Singing another slow song.

Last Kiss. 

Her near perfect performance took a human twist when she false-started twice. 

Getting a few lines into the lyrics, then abruptly stopping. 

Saying, “Oh my God, I know these lyrics.” 

If that’s all you saw of the evening, you would have thought she was butchering an American Idol audition. 

But her humanity in that moment was one small signal of why the ticket prices skyrocketed and swag sales broke records and TikTok views soared. 

After fumble number two, she recited the lyrics out loud, then said, “Would you allow me the honor of starting over?”

Start over she did, and on attempt three, she stuck the landing. 

I scribbled her question in my notes app. 

Would you all me the honor of starting over?

Not knowing how or where it would make its appearance in this story. 

But I knew it would.

Don’t we, as parents and lovers and fighters and career makers and business builders and doing-our-besters, sometimes just want the honor of starting over? 

Because we butchered the lyrics. Made a mess. Fucked things up. 

While it works for a song, it actually cheapens the road we’ve already walked.

Being stuck in wishing the princess and playdate era were here again only diminishes the power, beauty, uncertainty, and awe that exists in building relationships with budding adults. 

Right now. 

In this messy moment. 

With these kids. 

With everything that’s at stake and everything that’s to come.

Created in the perfect love and image of God.

Raised with the stubborn, imperfect love of their parents. 

Surrounded by the half-hate, hilarious, all-love sisterhood and brotherhood bonds with each other.

Bruised, battered, and beautiful by all they’ve seen and experienced. 

With the Swiftie Soundtracks providing the sometimes quiet, sometimes sad, sometimes incredible, sometimes screaming strums of the soul’s chords underneath it all. 

Long live all the mountains we moved.

I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you.

Long live love. ❤️

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