School started this week. Hard to believe. At work, we all talk about how short the winter break felt, how quickly we are back in the classroom, how much time the holidays eat. Honestly, I don’t feel I’ve had a break, though I did have time off. Two days after my last final, we packed the cats into the car and drove south. We spent nearly three weeks in Florida, where we ate an insane amount of sugar, attended a tree planting ceremony honoring Jesse’s dad, cried a lot, opened gifts, and then promptly got sick.

The virus, whatever it was, got everyone but Jesse. My parents, his mother, his sister, me, and my grandmother. One after the other, starting Christmas Eve. As most of you already know, my grandmother wound up in the hospital as a result. As official Patient Zero, I felt awful, worried sick. Fortunately, she’s home now, recovering.

So now we’re back in North Carolina, still recuperating, the semester already under way, and honestly the last two months feel like a blur to me. Unreal. How strange what has happened to us. All the illnesses, the loss, the travel. Sometimes I wonder, did it happen? Did it really happen?

We are doing our best to start the year off right. We are eating more vegetables. Cooking more. Taking walks around the neighborhood. Today, I slept in and lazed around, drinking coffee, reading. This afternoon, we played tennis, and then I took a nap with the cats. Tonight, we ate a creamy butternut squash soup and a big pile of green beans (a vegetarian day for the both of us).

Tonight, I feel restful, calm, satisfied. One step at a time, one day at a time. One meal at a time. We move forward. Still in a daze, still a little bewildered, but sure of one thing: every day counts.

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The End of 2012

Less than three weeks after I posted last, Jesse’s dad lost his battle with cancer. He passed away on November 27th, a Tuesday, about a year after his diagnosis.

This past year has been difficult, to say the least. I haven’t written here much. How do you write that your father-in-law is dying? How do you say your husband is losing his best friend? I never found the words for that. So, I stayed mostly silent. Posted a lot of cat pictures. What else do you do?

We spent Thanksgiving with Jesse’s family. After Thanksgiving, Tom wanted to go to Key West, and we somehow made the trip south, got to the resort, which Tom had selected and booked, and tried our very best to have a good time. We smiled in all of our pictures.


We did our best impersonation of a happy vacationing family. We ate Cuban food. We lounged on the beach in hammocks. Jesse, Becki, and I walked Duval Street. But we weren’t just a happy vacationing family. We were taking Tom on his last trip to Key West, and we knew it. We knew the end was approaching; we just didn’t know how long we had left.

The stress was unbelievable. But, the oddest thing is when I look back on that trip, it’s mostly happy memories I have. Tom was able to sit in a hammock, smoke a cigar, drink a pina colada, and eat Cuban food. One more time. And that is what he wanted more than anything else.

We came home on a Sunday. Jesse and I left for North Carolina that Monday. And on Tuesday, he died.

The first two weeks after his death were hell. I don’t use the phrase lightly.

I don’t want to write about those first two weeks.

There were bright moments, too. Our friends brought us food and kept us alive during the worst of it. We had a wonderful visit from Simona and Darren, two of the dearest people in the world. We received several amazing care packages. My students were incredibly supportive and understanding.

So now, we keep smiling for pictures. We have gotten good at it. It’s amazing how much pain you can be in and still manage to smile for pictures.

I guess, in a way, that’s what life is. Finding joy in pain, looking for beauty in darkness. Squeezing every tiny bit of happiness out of a bad situation. Enjoying the sun on your face and the sound of the waves hitting the sand, even when you know your world is about to come to an end.

So, I leave you with a picture and a quote. Goodbye, 2012.

“Finding beauty in a broken world is creating beauty in the world we find.” – Terry Tempest Williams

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No, this post is not about politics.

(To some of you: Sorry.)

(To the rest of you: You’re welcome.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately. All the changes we’ve undergone the past couple years. The changes we might see in the coming few. We’ve stayed in the same city, in the same house, with the same cats, but it seems like everything else has been up for review the past couple years. Our church home, our friends, our jobs, our life direction, our politics, our outlook.

We still really like Indian food.

So, there are some things that haven’t changed.

Has anyone else experienced years of almost non-stop change? I’d love some advice, some words of wisdom. How did you get through it? Does it ever stop? How does one continually come under change after change and keep up the energy to face new ones as they come along?

I’m just tired, is all. There were times in my life when I welcomed change, embraced it. My hope is I’ll get back to that place again.

In the meantime, Indian food. It’s the best. Really.

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Sometimes, I wonder why everything we own is covered in cat hair. Why are the perfectly clean clothes, in the closet no less, dotted with tiny little cat hairs?

Then, I walk into the living room, where our laundry is drying on the little wooden drying rack and on the couches. And then I know why.

Right after that picture was taken, Gracie jumped down to the floor, where Oliver sat. She curled up at his feet, and he gave her a bath. And then I didn’t care about all the cat hair on our clothes.

Yes, they’re keepers. Shedding fur and all.

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Bowl Cat

Why is the punch bowl such an attractive spot for Oliver? I offer no theories. Only pictures.

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