One Year

Exactly one year ago, I lost my best friend and the light of my life.

It seems impossible that it’s been a whole year, because not a day goes by where I don’t think of him and miss him and feel the ache from the hole in my heart that was left after he was gone. For sixteen years, my cat Boo taught me unconditional love and comfort, and brought peace to my soul even when it was the most troubled. And although I will never be able to resign myself to the fact that I had to lose him, I am amazed at how he continues to teach me how to grow as a human being even after he is gone.

I’ve spoken before about how after his death my life took a very dark turn and I struggled enormously with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. It’s not an experience that I would want anyone to have to go through, but as times of trial often will do, it helped me mature and gave me strength and wisdom that I might never have had otherwise. Some of the most important lessons I have ever learned came from my love of one chubby gray cat and I will never stop missing him. But I’ve learned that’s the comfort in loss– just because he is gone doesn’t mean I have to stop loving him. I truly believe that love really is greater than death, because what effect does death have on our love for others? The loss of Boo has not dimmed my love for him even the tiniest bit. It remains as strong and steady as ever. And I truly do find comfort in that; even though he is gone, no one can make me stop loving him.  

These realizations have been especially relevant to me lately. On Tuesday, my uncle VW passed away at the age of 73. It wasn’t a complete shock, but can we really ever fully prepare ourselves for death? The utter finality of it is unequaled to any other experience on earth, and I don’t know if that’s something we can ever truly be ready for. But lately I’ve begun to wonder if grief is something that you have to practice. Of course, that is not to say that you can get used to grief because every loss is different. But with every loss of a loved one, I have learned new lessons. And these lessons have helped me go through the process of grief with at least a little more understanding than the last time. 

I was terrified when we lost my uncle that I would be plunged right back into the same morass that overtook my life the last time something like that happened. And though I am utterly devastated by his loss, because he was a wonderful uncle and one of the kindest, most amazing people I have ever met, I can take the very, very hard-earned wisdom I’ve gained in the last year and comfort myself that, even though the pain is enormous, it was still worth it to have him as my uncle. And the comfort is that I never have to stop loving him.

But having experienced grief before can only do so much, and it in no way lessens my desire to have my uncle or my cat back. Sometimes at night, the spot against the back of my leg where Boo always used to sleep will feel so cold it’s like there is a block of ice pressed against me, burning my skin–and I recognize it’s the physical manifestation of how much I miss him. And, of course, there have been times when the pain of losing him was so great that I could almost wish that I’d never known him– but then I imagine my life without that cat and I know it was all worth it to have the privilege of loving him for sixteen years.

One of my favorites quotes of all time comes from one of my favorite books of all time–The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I read that book over and over after losing Boo, and a few months later after we so suddenly lost Cash. I have said before that I think it’s an amazing book to help deal with grief, and it has helped me come to terms with losing my baby boy.

In the story, a fox explains what will happen if the little prince tames him. He tells the little prince that, as he is now, he doesn’t know one human from the next, and they all look and sound the same to him– they mean nothing to him. But if the prince tames him, then he will be special to the fox, and when he looks on the wheat fields he will be reminded of the little prince’s bright golden hair. This quote follows:
“So the little prince tamed the fox. And when the hour of his departure drew near– “Ah,” said the fox, “I shall cry.”
“It is your own fault,” said the little prince. “I never wished you any sort of harm; but you wanted me to tame you…”
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“But now you are going to cry!” said the little prince.
“Yes, that is so,” said the fox.
“Then it has done you no good at all!”
“It has done me good,” said the fox, “because of the color of the wheat fields.”

I am crying as I write this, and I have cried more tears in the past year than I can ever remember crying before in my life. I’m probably going to be crying about losing my baby until the day I die. But when the pain seems too big for my heart to handle, I will think of sixteen perfect years of love and know it has done me immeasurable good. 

I planned to write a long post about this, but I honestly don’t know what else there is to say. A year’s distance from losing him has rather reduced things down to the simple truths of grief– the facts are that I will love him forever, I will never stop missing him, and the pain is not going to go away. There’s the old cliche that time heals all wounds, but really I think time just allows you to come to terms with things. The pain never actually leaves, but you learn to live with it. I told a friend that today is very bittersweet, but the strongest emotion that comes through is, and I think always will be, how much love he brought into my life. And I also comfort myself with the fact that no one could have loved that cat more and I believe he was well aware of it. Just as he gave me sixteen years of utter happiness, I like to think that we did the same for him. 

So to finish this post, I think I’ll leave you with another quote from The Little Prince that also helped me to deal with my grief. It’s beautiful and poignant, and worthy of a post about the love of my life, and in memory of the very best uncle anyone could ask for.

“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night… You–only you–will have stars that can laugh!”

And he laughed again.

“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky!”

 

I miss you so much already, Uncle V.

uncle v

And I’ll love you forever and for always, my precious Boo baby.

boooodie

 

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The Metamorphosis

Hi friends.
Isn’t it crazy how different your life can be from one point to another? I look back on my life at this point last year, and I hurt for what that girl was about to go through.

Life already wasn’t perfect for me at that point; I had graduated college for one thing. And that’s a wonderful, amazing thing to accomplish, obviously, but it just left me… floundering a little bit. I’ve talked before about how school really provided a lot of the framework for my life and time, and when I graduated I was suddenly faced with a world of utter uncertainty. On the other hand, I was happy because I re-fell in love with my novel and started working on it constantly. Then, shortly after graduating, I began getting sick every time I ate. This time last year, I literally could not eat without feeling like I had to vomit shortly later. I lost a great deal of weight in a period of two or three months and essentially lost my appetite, and it took a very long time to finally figure out the problem and treat it properly.

In September, my best friend died. My cat Boo was my most faithful, loving companion for 16 years and losing him simply devastated me. I couldn’t sleep at night; instead, I would lay on my couch and just cry, always trying to muffle my sobbing so I wouldn’t wake anyone up. The littlest things would set me off and at times it felt like I truthfully was never going to be able to function normally.
Finn became so affectionate and sweet after we lost Boo, like he knew how much I needed him– but he just wasn’t Boo. Getting Gus in November both helped and hurt, as well. He is a hilarious, energetic, mischievous cat that keeps us on our toes, so it was a good distraction. But on the other hand, it felt so painfully wrong. Boo had only been gone two months; how could we get a new cat? Gus got worms only a few days after we got him and I had to take him to the vet. They put me in the same room where they’d told me Boo had a tumor– I cried in the room until the vet got there, and then cried the entire way home.

I wanted to take Gus right back to the Humane Society. I suddenly felt the most overwhelming panic– what was I thinking getting a new cat, one that was only going to get sick and die and shatter my heart, just like Boo had? I already was feeling this agonized resentment mingled with love towards Finn, and then I just added one more cat to feel that about.

None of this was their fault, of course, and they’re both wonderful, amazing cats that I love deeply (Finn is laying on my arm and half on my laptop as I type this, purring happily and blocking half my view of my keyboard). But I was going through some serious grief and trying to cope with it. I was finally beginning to make some sort of sense out of life again at the end of November; holidays always help cheer me up and I love Thanksgiving.

Then, two days after, my youngest dog Cash died in my lap. I know I talked about it before, but the memory is just so strong in me of how it felt as I kept bending over and clutching my stomach and saying over and over, “I can’t stand this, I just can’t stand it.” There was literally so much pain and hurt and devastation inside me that it just didn’t seem humanly possible that my body could contain it all. How could this happen?  An already uneven world suddenly tipped completely upside down, jumbling and jarring and setting into chaos everything within it.

By this point, I’d already been applying for jobs and getting rejected–repeatedly. Over the next few months, my nana had a stroke, we found out my uncle had cancer and his Hepatitis C (got in the 80s from a blood transfusion, before they screened for that) worsened considerably, and I hurt my quad muscles and ended up not able to play soccer for almost four months.

After Boo had died, I suspected I was depressed. When Cash followed him so soon after, I was pretty sure of it. But I thought it was something that would just get better.

It didn’t.

Every night seemed endless for me, because I couldn’t stop reliving all these bad things that had happened and crying about them. I slept poorly and never felt rested, so I was tired all the time. I lost my appetite again, and I just felt upset a lot. I have ALWAYS been a cheerful, happy person. I am passionate and enthusiastic about life, and there are so many things I tend to get excited about. But my novel that I’d been so feverishly working on seemed stupid and awful, and I abandoned it. I just started watching movies on my laptop at night, just to try and distract myself from the bad memories. I started re-reading all my favorite old books to give myself something to do when I couldn’t sleep.

Another thing I started to notice was how anxious I felt all the time. As morbid as it sounds, I started just being swamped by this overwhelming worry that my loved ones were going to die unexpectedly. I thought about it almost constantly, and I couldn’t make myself stop, no matter how hard I tried. I’m not the type of person who can hold a grudge or stay truly mad at someone for a long time; I just don’t have the personality to sustain it. I’m a happy person.

But that was no longer true. I wasn’t happy; in fact, I just felt terrified and upset and off-balance all the time. I also started getting sick chronically again. The day I left the vet after hearing Boo had a tumor, I bawled the entire way home. I was by myself and when I got back I got horribly sick and eventually passed out for a minute. The night before Boo died, I threw a screaming hysterical fit for hours and made myself sick again. After Cash died, I was so angry, and I just wanted to lash out at everyone and everything. I was aware of this, even as I couldn’t stop myself from feeling like it. I would feel so furious, and then suddenly I’d be in the shower and I’d just start crying.

One night I came home from soccer (before I got hurt), and my mom was afraid that Gus had eaten something poisonous. I started feeling sick and so I got in the shower, because that used to help when I was having all my stomach issues. I ended up getting dizzy and sick and my mom and sister had to help me out of the shower. I started bawling, and I kept asking what was wrong with me. I laid on the couch in my towel and cried and cried; I just couldn’t seem to stop. At some point we read in the paper that someone had seen a mountain lion only a few miles from my house. For a whole month, every time I heard my dogs bark outside at night I eventually went out there with an air rifle and a flashlight, convinced they’d been mauled to death. When my nana had her stroke, I got horribly sick again, even though she ended up being fine. My cat Finn also developed a horrible cough, where he would sound like he was choking and hacking but never cough anything up. He gulped and swallowed constantly, and at night he would often wake me up with a coughing fit and send me into a panic attack. I took him to the vet and they guessed it was bronchitis, so they gave him an antibiotic to take. It seemed to help only moderately, and then he went back to doing it and I kept panicking.

One day, I went outside and found a huge lump on my dog Riley’s hip. Quite simply, I melted down. I was home alone again, and I got sick and started crying and became convinced it was cancer and he was going to die just like Cash and Boo. By the time my sister got home, I was desperate and felt out of control. We called and scheduled an appointment for the next day at the vet.

When we got there, it didn’t take long for the vet to tell us he didn’t think it was cancer. Apparently it’s very common in older dogs to have lumps, and as this one was right over his hip the vet figured that he’d simply lost a lot of the muscle on his hip joint and scar tissue had built up to protect it.

Riley was okay, but I wasn’t. Increasingly I felt this almost constant sense of overwhelming doom, like at any moment something horrible was going to happen. I was sick and anxious and upset almost all the time, and was home constantly by myself. I kept getting rejected by jobs and my family was all at work, so it felt like all I did was sit around and think about awful, horrible things.

I kept making excuses for why I couldn’t see my friends or go anywhere, because I was afraid something might set me off and I’d have a panic attack. I never wanted to leave the house; I just wanted to lay in bed. I was essentially just a shambles.

The next time some little, silly thing set me off, and I found myself crying and upset, I talked to my sister. As you’ll know if you read my blog, my sister is my best friend and there is nobody more important to me in the world. I share everything with her. And though I’d talked some about what I was feeling–it was impossible to miss– I’d never really come right out and said that there was something wrong, because she was having stress of her own as she’d taken a long-term sub. She was busy and tired most of the time, and I just didn’t want to bother her–I also didn’t want to admit something was wrong with me.

When I finally spoke up, my sister– who has a degree in Psychology– told me she had suspected I was depressed for a long time. We both agreed that something needed to be done; it was starting to affect my daily life and I was getting to a point where I felt like I couldn’t even function right anymore. I was having panic attacks weekly, sometimes two or three or four or even five times a week.

One night I sat down and just opened up to my parents. I told them how I felt scared and anxious all the time, and how I thought something was wrong and I needed to get some help. They were wonderful, just like my sister–loving and supporting. I had a doctor’s appointment only a couple of days later. My doctor told me it sounded like there was absolutely something wrong, and she recommended me to a counselor so she could diagnose me and then my doctor would be able to treat me appropriately.

I felt very apprehensive about going to a counselor. There truly is an enormous stigma around mental health issues in our society; even though if someone told me they were going to counseling for depression or something like that, I would NEVER think ill of them, somehow it seemed like people would think I was lying or over-exaggerating or just crazy.

My counselor was incredibly nice. I saw her three times, and over that course she gave me tests to take so she could diagnose my problem. Turns out I had GAD, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and it had gotten so bad that it was causing me to have Panic Disorder as well. I also was suffering from a moderate to severe case of depression.

It was so terrifying to hear this put into words. It felt like I was doing something wrong, or I was being a baby, or just overreacting to everything. On one hand, I didn’t want to hear it and I didn’t want to talk to a counselor or a doctor.

On the other hand, this was a nearly unfathomable relief. To actually hear a qualified professional tell me that, yes, there is something going on here and you aren’t just making it up was liberating. She explained to me that essentially what had happened is my brain’s coping mechanism had just gotten overwhelmed and basically shorted out. I could no longer react and cope with things appropriately, so the littlest things were setting me off and I was overreacting enormously and having panic attacks. She referred me back to my doctor with this diagnosis.

My doctor explained things to me. Depression, and the other things I was feeling, were being caused by a lack of serotonin in my brain. It’s the chemical your brain creates that makes you feel happy essentially. What was happening is that my brain was creating the normal amount of serotonin, but then reabsorbing it way too fast so it wasn’t staying in my brain. She discussed with me how medication could help get me back to normal.

I didn’t like it. I resented the need for medicine. But she explained to me how it was the same thing as taking an antibiotic for an infection. I think that’s what is so hard for us to realize; that taking care of your brain is just as important as taking care of your body, and both can get sick and need to be treated. I still didn’t like it, but I knew I needed to do something.

My doctor gave me something called a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor–or an SSRI. More specifically, she gave me Zoloft, which I take daily. This would stop my brain from eating up the serotonin too fast. She also gave me something called “Boost Bars,” which were little pills to take in case of a panic attack that would work almost immediately.

In the beginning, I had to take them fairly often. We thought a tornado might be heading for Mustang, and so I took a couple. Quite a few times Finn woke me up from a sound sleep coughing horribly, and I had to take them. Various other things would start to set me off, and I had to take them.

But since I first went to the doctor a few months ago, I have only had a panic attack two or three times. I feel unspeakably better–I’ve felt like myself again.

My life, which for so long seemed to be on a downward spiral, slowly began improving. Little things started happening.

I began bringing Finn in the bathroom with me while I showered, because I read somewhere that the steam could help with something called kennel cough, which we think is the most likely culprit. It’s incredibly common in animals that come from a shelter or a rescue, which is where we got Finn, and there’s just not really a cure. It periodically acts up. But since I’ve been having Finn in the bathroom with me, his cough has gotten a hundred times better.

My nana has been doing very well, and after the last stroke they finally prescribed her some regular medicine to take that will help her from getting another.

I met my idol (and future husband) Steven Adams randomly at the mall, and he really was incredibly nice and took a picture with me:

Don't mind the height difference

Don’t mind the height difference

Incredibly, I finished, edited, and self-published my book, and the support and encouragement I have received has been overwhelming (that’s my next post). I published it exactly one month before my 23rd birthday and fulfilled one of my deepest dreams.

And then, like a miracle, not ten minutes after I met Steven Adams, I got an email asking me to come in for an interview to the bridal shop I had applied to on a whim and without hope for getting it.

The interview went really well, and they seemed incredibly nice. A week later I had a second interview. Then I took a wonderful, amazing vacation with my family to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon(!!!). A few days after I got back, I got an email inviting me to become an employee of Meg Guess Couture Bridal.

Today marked one week since I started at the shop, and it’s already been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. One of my biggest fears was that the people who work at a bridal shop would be snooty or hateful, but they are exactly the opposite. Meg is one of the nicest, most encouraging people I’ve ever met and I love all of my coworkers already. Every day has been different, and an adventure, and I love it. I’m excited to get up and go to work in the mornings.

Even more amazing, the evening after my very first day, my very first best friend Brenna got engaged, and a couple days later asked me to be her maid of honor.

It’s like after months of seeming famine, suddenly there is feast. Life is bright and exciting and filled with possibilities again. I feel happy and passionate and enthusiastic about the things I am doing, and surrounded by my wonderful loved ones. I laugh and smile and enjoy life again.

I guess the reason I waited so long to talk about my anxiety was because I didn’t know how to talk about it. I felt embarrassed and confused and overwhelmed by it. But after steady medication and a couple months of life being good instead of bad, I finally feel like my old self, and it’s so important to me that I share my experience. I want to make sure anyone who has gone through the same things doesn’t feel stupid, or crazy, or melodramatic like I did, and I want them to know that it IS possible to get better, no matter how bleak or hopeless life seems. I was never suicidal, but I have an all new understanding for people who feel that way. Some days it just seemed like I didn’t want to be here. To people who feel like that, and that the only answer is to end things, I beg you– try counseling. Try medication. Try just talking to your friends or your family or even a random stranger. That’s the hardest part to overcome, I think, the trying. Because after awhile it seems like what’s the point?

But there IS light at the end of the tunnel. Looking back on where I was this time last year, I still hurt, so painfully, for what that girl would have to go through. But the only constant characteristic of life is that it changes. I have grown into a whole new person. I named this post The Metamorphosis because of one of my favorite short stories of the same name by Franz Kafka.

The basic plot is that a man suddenly wakes up one morning and realizes he has been turned into a bug. There is no explanation for this change, and he slowly loses his humanity as he struggles to continue living life exactly as it was before the change. Eventually he becomes so lost to humanity that his family becomes terrified of him, and ultimately causes his death, which he accepts willingly.

The sudden dark turn that my life took was as bewildering to me as if I had suddenly woken up and turned into a bug. I felt the same sense of unfamiliarity with my own self, as if without my permission it had changed into something I did not recognize or understand and had no control over. Life felt absurd and pointless, and it seemed as if I was trapped in a dark room alone simply waiting for what life might throw at me, much like the main character in Kafka’s story was. I struggled miserably and in vain for months to try and regain the patterns of my old life, to keep going on as I had been.

But that was the thing– I was not as I had been. I had been irrevocably changed, without warning or permission, and the person I was had essentially died. I had to accept that I was not the same person.

I don’t know what lies ahead for me. Maybe at this point next year I’ll look back on myself at this point and feel the same agony for what I will face. Or maybe I’ll look back at this point and think what an amazing, wonderful adventure I have to look forward to. I have no idea, of course, but I do know that life is series of peaks and valleys. I could be facing the Mariana Trench, or I could be about to climb Mount Everest. I’m sure you’ll hear about my view when I know.

Either way, I’m looking forward to my next metamorphosis.

A Stroke of Miraculous Luck

(Warning: slight bad language ahead, as well as a serious topic)

Oh, Readers.
Why does it always seem that just when I think I’ve got things figured out, life throws something completely unexpected my way?
I apologize that it’s been so long since I posted, but I’ve had a lot going on. I recently finished my first novel, did some subbing, and then went out of town for spring break. I was working on two different blog posts, one over the experience of finishing my first book, and one that was just a humorous experience that I went through with running a blog.
But, like I said, life made a mess of all my plans.

Last Saturday I had an indoor soccer game at 6:20. My dad and I headed off, and at some point while I was playing I got a phone call from an unknown number (which I didn’t hear). After the game, my dad and I sat around chatting for awhile with some of my teammates, before we finally got in the car to head out. A couple minutes later, my dad noticed that he had a missed call from my uncle Mike, my mom’s brother. This was very unusual, because my uncle very rarely calls us. Curious, I checked the missed call I’d gotten during the game–and I realized that it was also from my uncle. It was an unknown number because I forgot to put him in my contacts when I last got a new phone.
My uncle lives with my nana. She’s in pretty great health for 76, but she’s had strokes in the past that resulted in her having a lot of short term memory loss. She gets around wonderfully on her own power, but living alone for her is a little dangerous, because she might put something on the stove to cook and forget about it, or things like that.
As soon as I realized we both had missed calls from my uncle, I got a bad feeling in my stomach. Immediately I called him back, only to have my fears confirmed– my uncle suspected that my nana was having a stroke, and he was getting her ready to take to the hospital with my mom, who had stayed home from my game. Thankfully we live next door to my nana, so my mom–who deals with all of her insurance and medical history–was able to get right over to her and figure out the best place to take her.
Meanwhile, my dad and I had the long, thirty minute drive home from the indoor arena. We had no real idea what was going on, or what state she would be in. It was one of the most endless car rides of my life. My mind was blank and I felt numb, except for the sick panic in my stomach.
When we finally got home, they had gotten everything together and were getting my nana into the car. As I found out, we were incredibly lucky because my uncle and nana were having dinner when her stroke started. They were sitting at the table, and my uncle noticed my nana had begun to garble her words, and wasn’t making sense. He was able to recognize what was happening immediately and to give her an aspirin right away. We got her in the back seat of our car, and I slid in next to her so I could sit with her on the ride to the hospital.
When I got there, we think she was still in the process of having her stroke. I cannot explain to you how terrifying it is to see one of the people you love more than anything in that state. That being said, I was at least somewhat reassured by the fact that none of her motor skills seemed to be impaired. She could walk relatively well, and she wasn’t having any paralysis on either sides of her body. The only real symptoms she was having was the slurring of her words and the inability to make sense when she was talking.
I got a firsthand view of this on the way over. I sat hugging her to me the twenty minute drive over there. She kept trying to ask me why she was so confused and not making sense, but she was mixing up letters and words and not being able to get out her thoughts.
It was so upsetting to watch, because I could tell she knew that she wasn’t making sense, but she couldn’t figure out why and kept forgetting what we were telling her.
My nana has always been one of the most important people in my life. She has been a source of unconditional love to me since I was born, and if there is one thing I have never doubted in my life, it’s that my sister and I meant everything to her. We are her only grandkids, and she has enough love to spoil thirty grandkids–but she just lavished it all on us.  Rachel and I were the prettiest, funniest, smartest, nicest, most talented and wonderful kids in the world, and nothing anyone said or did would ever change her mind.
I tell you this for two reasons, so you can get some sense of just how important she is to me and so you’ll see just how much of her character is made up of the loving nana, which was obvious during this entire ordeal.
If you have ever been around someone experiencing a stroke, you’ll know what I mean when I say their words just don’t make sense. Here and there they’ll be able to speak a few clear words, or maybe get out a mostly understandable sentence, but a lot of what they try and say is just a mix of garbled sounds or words that don’t have anything to do with the words around them. I cannot stress how terrifying this is, and how helpless it makes you. My nana was getting more and more frustrated, and I was getting more upset in direct proportion.
But my nana has always been one of the most amazing women I have ever met, and do you know what she did? She actually managed to make us all laugh. That’s right. In the midst of experiencing a stroke, while rushing her to the hospital, my nana still found her sense of humor and helped ease a little of the tension. In the midst of one the most tortured attempts I’d yet seen of her trying to talk, my nana just threw up her hands and goes, “Oh, shit,”–her favorite curse word. Then she grinned at us so big, that there was just nothing for it. We had to laugh.
Like I said, she wasn’t making sense when she tried to talk, and she could occasionally get a few clear words here and there out, but she couldn’t manage even short sentences–except for one thing. The one sentence that my nana could say, clearly and without trouble, over and over was, “I love you.” She must have told me that twenty times on the ride over there. She would be agonizing over her words, and I would squeeze her hand or try to reassure her in some way, and she would say, perfectly intelligible, “I love you, I love you, I love you!”
A curse word and her love. Those are the things she could get out with no trouble. That’s my nana for you.
As I mentioned, my nana has had strokes in the past, and it resulted in her having memory problems. She forgets things very easily, and will ask you the same questions over and over again. She also tells the same stories over again, often within the same conversation. This has never really bothered me, because many of the stories she likes to tell repeatedly are stories about things we did in our childhood. I think that says something about my nana, that the things her brain always holds on to revolve around her love for us. How could I be frustrated or impatient with my nana when the things she remembers and that makes her happy to tell us about are about how precious my presence in her life has been?
When we arrived at the hospital, things happened very quickly. They immediately got my nana back into the emergency room and began running tests on her. The good news was that she wasn’t having paralysis or any of the other common side effects of a stroke, other than the impaired speech and confusion. I stood next to her in her hospital bed, answering her questions as she kept asking them over again. The doctors were talking to my family, but I wasn’t really listening. A nurse kept doing tests with her to try and see if her speech began improving, but it didn’t seem like it was. They have a stroke test that they do where they have you read sentences and describe pictures and identify objects. She couldn’t do them.
After we’d been there for about thirty minutes, my dad finally caught my attention and asked me what I thought we should do. Wait, what? Do about what? I had no idea what he was talking about. Shortly I discovered just what I had been missing when I was focused on my nana. When someone has a stroke, you have the option of giving them a drug that can possibly reverse the effects of the stroke, whatever they are. Strokes are often the result of a blood clot in the brain that cuts off the oxygen flow to certain areas, and that is what can result in permanent damage–like my nana’s short term memory loss. So they can give you a type of blood thinner that hopefully dissolves the clot and allows blood flow to resume before the damage is permanent.
But there is a catch, of course. This drug has to be administered within three hours of the stroke to work. There is also no guarantee that it will work–it might or it might not. And, worst of all, it carries with it a minor risk of death. You see, they inject the blood thinner into your veins, and so it doesn’t just dissolve clots in your brain–it can dissolve any clots anywhere in your body.  This can result in internal bleeding and, in some cases, your brain hemorrhaging, which generally results in death. There’s also the chance that if you don’t give her the medicine, she’ll get better on her own.
So when someone you love has a stroke, you are suddenly thrust into this extremely agonizing decision with only a very limited amount of time to make it. By the time we got to the hospital, got checked in, had initial tests run, and had everything explained to us, we estimated that about an hour and a half of our three hour window was already gone.
I’m sure you can imagine what kind of thoughts might run through your head when faced with this decision. What if we don’t give her the medicine and she can never speak properly again? What if we do give it to her and she has a brain hemorrhage? If we don’t take that risk, she might even get better on her own. If we give it to her, it might not even work. You just have no way to know–a stroke is an incredibly individualized event, and there’s a million variables that might affect each case. You’re just taking a shot in the dark on the risks, and the life of someone you love is the stake.
The doctors gave us our space and our time to try and make a decision. I went back to standing by my nana and just trying to talk to her as much as possible, to see if she was possibly beginning to improve on her own. When I first thought that she might be starting to speak a little more clearly, I was afraid that I was just wanting to believe that she was so we wouldn’t have to take the risk.
You might be wondering just how much of a risk there was, and it was admittedly pretty low– the doctors estimated about 6% for the worst case scenario of brain hemorrhage. That might not seem like very much, but let me assure you that when you don’t know anything for sure, and you realize the medicine might not even help, that a six percent chance seems like an enormous risk to take with your grandmother’s life.
We were especially scared because we know all too well that even with something that has minimal risks, the worst can happen. In 2012, my papa, my nana’s husband of 50+ years and my mother’s dad, went into the hospital to complete a simple, outpatient procedure to look at his heart. There was supposed to be minuscule risk, and not a single one of us thought that anything serious might happen. During the procedure, however, my papa suffered a massive heart attack, went into a coma, and died two days later. After something like that, it’s hard to take even a six percent risk with your nana’s life.
So as time is ticking down, no one is making a decision. I am desperately listening to every word my nana says to try and see if she is improving. At first, maybe one sentence in fifteen was making sense. It wasn’t looking good at that point. But after a little while, she would be saying maybe a couple sentences in a row, before things would get muddled again. Then, as our window began to draw to a close, I started counting how many sentences in a row she was getting out clearly. It was four, then five, then nine out of ten sentences she was saying were making sense. Finally, we were within the last ten minutes of our window, and still no one had made a decision.  I said I didn’t think we should give her the medicine. I felt that she was beginning to get better on her own, and I was truthfully just terrified of the risk.
You might wonder what my nana thought of all this, and why we didn’t let her make the decision. But I promise we tried to discuss it with her, but even though her sentences were making sense her brain was still confused. Her short term memory was also worsened, and she couldn’t seem to remember what we had told her every five minutes. All she could tell us was that she wanted to go home–my nana has always been a very terrible patient. She hates people fussing over her.
In the midst of our last minute attempt to make a decision, the neurologist came in and told us that our window had passed and the time factor had made the decision for us. That was almost as scary to hear as thinking about trying to take the risk. What if we were just being selfish and we’d forced our nana into being frustrated for the rest of her life every time she couldn’t get her words out?

But, as you’ll notice, this post is called “A Stroke of Miraculous Luck” and it’s for a reason. We didn’t have too much time to worry that we’d made the wrong decision. After my nana’s initial test results came back and all of them looked actually really good, she was admitted into the hospital and moved into her own room.I knew she was going to be okay when, after the doctor told her she had to be admitted, she pulled her covers up in front of her face, leaned over to me, and whispered, “This is bullshit.” By that point, she was already pretty much back to normal. When we were getting her settled into her own hospital room, the nurse gave her the stroke test again. She did them all without fail, only forgetting a word one time out of three tests. My mom and I were tearing up. Only a couple of hours before she couldn’t have read a single thing on them.
Somehow, by some miracle, the stroke did not seem to have had any permanent effect on her. Maybe it’s because my uncle reacted so quickly and gave her the aspirin immediately, maybe it’s because my nana just has an unusually resilient brain. Whatever the reason, she was speaking normally and already throwing a fit about having to be admitted into the hospital barely five hours after the stroke. The doctors told us that she would have to stay to be monitored because sometimes a minor stroke proceeds a massive one, but if that didn’t happen and  if all her test results came back clear she would probably be able to go home on Monday morning. Nana was NOT pleased by this news. She was even more displeased when she failed the gag test they gave her. This is when they test you by sticking a tongue depressor really far back on your tongue, which makes most people gag. My nana didn’t, and they were afraid that the stroke could have possibly affected the muscles in her throat, which meant that if she tried to eat or drink they might not function right, and she could suffocate. That meant that she couldn’t eat or drink until a speech therapist could check her out–and one wouldn’t be there until Monday. So only an IV for an entire day for her.
The next day and a half was a struggle to keep her from breaking out of the hospital. She was in as fine a form as I had seen her in ages, sassing us left and right and making us and the nurses and her doctors laugh. She complained about everything and asked if she could go home every ten minutes, insisting she felt just fine now and they’d kept her long enough. Sunday was a looong day, I can tell you. She kept trying to make us lay down on the bed with her or calling for another chair for my dad.

The Queen of Ornery.

The Queen of Ornery.

But Monday was even longer. Luckily, someone came in early to do her gag assessment, and they decided that she just had a really high gag tolerance, so she was able to eat. But as often happens in a hospital, things take a lot longer than they often are predicted to. Instead of leaving early on Monday morning, we didn’t leave until really late that afternoon. Of course, my sister and mom had gone to the cafeteria not five minutes before the doctor came in to tell us that all her test results looked great, she was being released, and he was starting the paperwork, and I thought I was going to have to sit on her to keep her from running out the door. She kept trying to make me let her put her clothes on, even though she was covered in wires and still had an IV in. She kept bustling around the room trying to get all our things together, and to be honest, I was exhausted just watching her. The hospital apparently really agreed with Nana.
Finally the doctor had signed the papers, and eventually our nurse was able to make his way back to us and get her all unhooked. He brought a wheelchair to take her down to the car, and she looked at him like he was crazy. “Is that for me?” she asked him. No, Nana, it’s for Rachel. Definitely not for you, the lady who just had a stroke. Then she told him, “I can walk out of here– I can RUN out of here!”
Thankfully we were able to convince her that was not the best idea, and we talked her into taking the wheelchair, albeit reluctantly. It just so happens that months in advance of this, my mom had scheduled my nana a dermatologist appointment for that Monday to check some worrying spots on her cheeks that we were afraid might be skin cancer. And as it turns out, she was feeling so well that we ended up able to make the dermatologist appointment–though she was less than pleased about going to another doctor instead of getting to go home. I just had this horrible fear that she was going to somehow avoid disaster with the stroke only to find out she had skin cancer. And yet, wonder of wonders, both spots turned out not to be anything. She really was fine.
The whole thing seemed to happen so quickly, and we went from such a low to such a high so fast, with an enormous barrage of emotions in between. Only two days before she had her stroke, we had taken her with us for the day out to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, and drove her all through it and up on Mt. Scott and taken her to lunch at a little restaurant we love down there. In those first terrifying moments when I didn’t know what might happen, all I could think was how grateful I was that we’d been able to do that before this happened.

On Mount Scott

On Mount Scott

And so yet again, I was reminded of this lesson– you never know what life will bring you, so you have to make the most of every day. It’s one of the most cliche sayings there is, I know, but in the course of my life it has been reinforced to me time and time again. So I just want to encourage you to take a minute to really appreciate the things you love in your life, whatever they are. Hug a family member, go to dinner with a friend, cuddle your favorite pet– because those are the really precious things in life that make it worthwhile. And if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that just when you think you’ve got a handle on life, you can almost bet it’s going to throw something crazy your way.
Miraculously for me, things worked out pretty dang well this time.

My Year in Facebook Statuses

2013

JANUARY

4thFirst day of spring semester, booo- Oh, wait. That’s right. I DON’T HAVE CLASS ON FRIDAYS, YEEEEEEEEAH SENIOR YEAR. On the other hand, this is my last semester of college, omg.

7th– I’ve coined the perfect name for people who hate naps: haterZzzzz.

8th– Overheard at work today from a five year old: “I love her and she’s going to be my only girlfriend forever. We’re going to buy a house, it needs to have at least four bedrooms. It’s gonna be really nice.” Glad to see an upstanding youth getting his life sorted early.

10th–  I realized a sad truth today- sweater tights were not made for thunder thighs.

18th– I’ve ventured into the strange and terrifying world of simply blogging, without the bargainy outfity thingy. Two posts await your perusal, if you are so inclined.

21st– I love mornings with my kitties. Cuddled with my Boo baby and then shared a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats with Finn because he’s a freak. Just makes the rest of my day brighter when it starts with my boys. #CrazyCatLadyPerks

29th– “The logic of the rebel is to want to serve justice so as not to add to the injustice of the human condition, to insist on plain language so as not to increase the universal falsehood, and to wager, in spite of human misery, for happiness.”- Albert Camus, The Rebel. Ohhh, Camus, you so often make my brain melt but every once and awhile you throw out something I can really get behind.

31st– Got dressed this morning at 8:30. Just now realized that my belt wasn’t even in a couple of the loops on my pants. Why am I writing a fashion blog again?

FEBRUARY

6th– Just drove past a scruffy old guy wearing a Statue of Liberty outfit with a flag stuck in the crown and playing some kind of guitar/ukelele, standing on the side of the road, who proceeded to point at me as if to say, “What up, bro!” In four years, this is officially one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in Chickasha.

10th– As befits a consummate Facebook creeper such as myself, I have just spent thirty minutes creeping my own Facebook. I have come to the conclusion that, 1. I was not a worthwhile human being until at least senior year of high school, 2. I had a bewildering amount of angst between 2006-2008, and 3. I should be much more forgiving of young girls who post things they shouldn’t on Facebook because, good lord, Young Me, learn to hush.

24th– Got toothpaste in my eye this morning. Toothpaste. In my eye. What am I doing wrong, world?

27th– From the mouth of a five year old: “I’m drinking dungeon juice! It tastes like metal…. and prisoners. It’s delicious!” Wha….????

MARCH

11th– Reasons I Love My School No. 28: There are people fencing on the Oval. — at University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

13th– Maybe it’s bragging to post it on Facebook, but I found out today that I’m receiving the Distinguished Graduate Award for the Division of Arts and Humanities (ooh, fancy!) and I’m just so honored. Or, less formally, I’M SO EXCITED AND I JUST CAN’T HIDE IT!!!!

28th– If you’ve ever happened to wonder what I do in my free time, let me give you an idea. Today I watched The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on my phone while hot gluing a headband with a bow on it. Being perpetually single is a committed effort, guys.

APRIL

2nd– To sleep or not to sleep–that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous schoolwork, or to take arms against a sea of classes and by ignoring end them. To nap, to sleep–No morning class–and by a sleep to say we end the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to early in the morning. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

3rd– Tiffany Cordova: “Butter knives are a gateway knife.”

9th– So I was honored today with three different awards (Distinguished Graduate in Arts and Humanities, Stuart Meltzer English Scholarship, and Graduate with Honors), and I felt pretty proud of my life. I then proceeded to nearly break my toe by walking into a cart at Atwood’s. Fame totally hasn’t changed me, guys, don’t worry.

12th– Crazy Cat Lady Tip No. 27: Get cats that are fat, because when you grab them and cradle them on their backs in your arms to forcibly cuddle them, their own weight makes it nearly impossible for them to get up and escape. Gravity: a helpful friend of the CCL.

14th– I got on Facebook today while taking a break from writing my approximately 25 page paper over Albert Camus and absurdist theory, and there were THREE notifications in my little side area thing of people getting engaged. I think Facebook is doing this on purpose because it’s silently judging my perpetually “Single” relationship status. FORGET YOU, FACEBOOK, MY 4.0 GPA IS MY BOYFRIEND. I’m going back to my books and my cats now.

15th– My last ever week of school has commenced.

17th– You know it’s finals week when you see more than one person taking stumbling steps through the Oval, until they finally come to a stop to stare at papers in their hands with a look of despair before trudging, defeated, towards class.

18th– Three and a half years I’ve worked at Epworth Day School, and they’ve been some of the most frustrating, enlightening, happiest, and worthwhile times of my life. I’m absolutely heartbroken to say goodbye, but I will never forget this incredibly important and rewarding chapter in my life.

19th– It’s 6:18 in the morning. I have not slept. I have 33 full pages written for my senior seminar paper over Albert Camus and his theory of absurdism. I do not know if those pages are of good quality; I do not know if my argument is sound, or even coherent. What I do know is that I have dedicated four months of my life to this, and I have nothing left to give. As of now, Camus and this paper and I are never, ever, ever, ever getting back together.

19th– I cannot say thank you enough to all the wonderful people who came to support me tonight at my graduation, I have the best family and friends in the world!!

20th– Well, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, it’s been real. I am officially graduated and moved out, so I guess it’s time to say goodbye. Thanks for everything.

27th– Me: “What kind of tea is sometimes hard to swallow?” Rachel: “Sharp cheddar!” Me: “Sharp cheddar…that’s what kind of tea is hard to swallow…” Rae: “Ohhh, I thought you said what kind of CHEESE!”

27th– BREAKING NEWS: I possibly broke my nose playing indoor. It sure looks wonky enough to be broken. Updates to follow. (Do you see what I did there? I made a pun. Breaking news…because I think I broke my nose. I’d like to see you make a pun right after your nose got potentially broken. Dedication to my English degree, right there.)

28th– NON-BREAKING NEWS: Sadly, it looks like I have the much less exciting nasal contusion as opposed to a broken nose. Can’t be 100% sure without a CT scan, but the doctor felt there was no point in doing that since they can’t really do anything for it anyway. Alas, all my English puns were for nothing.

MAY

1st– Trying to write a resume. Soul slowly dying.

4th– I almost killed Richard O’Rourke and myself tonight by driving the wrong way down a street. I figure that’s a pretty good sendoff for him before he goes back to Ireland.

21st– I love my state. Oklahoma Strong.

25th– Walked into the living room this morning and my dad was watching the video for Demi Lovato’s “Heart Attack” and just singing the words “heart attack” over and over. I have the best dad ever, all other dads can go home.

29th– I can’t believe it, but it has been one year since I started my bargain fashion blog. That means it’s been one whole year of me blowing up your Facebook with my clothes and my words. And, boy, am I looking forward to another year of doing so. I’m SURE you are, too.

31st– I have honestly never been so scared in my life as I was this evening, but by a miracle all family and pets are safe and our house is fine. We have lots of downed trees and debris and we’re worried about flooding, along with the power being out in all of town. But as of right now, just feeling so incredibly grateful.

JUNE

4th– Day 4 of the past 5 without power… Getting real tired of trying to put makeup on in the dark.

5th– Attempting to curl my hair again after almost a week of no power and constant buns. It appears to have forgotten its old life where I sometimes styled it, and is now refusing to take up those shackles again. It simply won’t acknowledge that I am curling it, no matter how much hairspray I use to persuade it.

8th– Total number of views on my blog for today- 323. My dad’s suggestion: “Why don’t you send your blog into a publishing company, make some money off that thing.” Thank you so much to everyone who read and shared my blog, you guys make it worthwhile!!!

11th– I know summer has officially started when I’ve looked at my legs while wearing sunglasses and got excited because I had a tan already, but then remembered I don’t.

13th– You know it’s hot when your dad answers the phone with “Golly gee willikers, Batgirl, my goose is cooked.”

17th– Sitting at home in my sweaty workout clothes wondering why I ever was excited about doing Zumba.

25th– Nerdy thought of the day: The best thing about reading so many books that I honestly can’t remember them all anymore is that after a year or two I can unearth them, and then I get to experience the joy of reading them again like they’re new.

29th– Three indoor soccer games in three days… My body is laughing scornfully at my foolishness.

JULY

1st– I hate you, job searching. You only serve to remind me that I’m apparently qualified to do nothing but soul-crushing, menial labor.

8th– So I just found out that my four time great-grandfather was named Augustus Leonidas. My family officially wins the coolest name ever award.

11th– Rachel Rowe: “You know what you get from bad boys? Herpes.” Ah, the words of wisdom I am gifted with from my big sister at nearly three in the morning.

22nd– *Sarcastic comment about not caring about the royal baby yet obviously caring enough to mention it* = people on my social media feeds today. #icare #noshame #royallove

24th– There is a man with a tiny grill grilling in the parking lot of our hotel whilst wearing a shirt that says “hustler” on it. Oh, Galveston, I missed you.

26th– I’m pretty sure that Boston Market is a gift of ambrosia from the gods, and the fact that there are none in Oklahoma is punishment for every bad thing I’ve done in all my past lives.

29th– I had a dream that a nice, cute boy asked me out on a date in an adorable way, and when I woke up I was so excited that I had half-written a text to tell people that I got asked out on a date until I realized I was still half-asleep and my life is very, very sad.

AUGUST

7th– It’s 2:20 in the morning, and I am lounging on my couch in utter, perfect bliss because I DVRed Whose Line Is It Anyway? earlier today, and now I can fast forward through the commercials. This is what true happiness feels like, guys.

7th– That’s right, folks, it’s time again for that moment every night when Sara thinks her hair is a spider and tries to smash it.

8th– Job-hunting inevitably leads me to the same conclusion over and over again– life would be so much easier if I were a cat.

15th– I made a most bewildering discovery just now– Chick-fil-a has complimentary mouth wash in their bathroom.

17th– If you are getting married and need help planning your wedding, please take a look at my wedding board on Pinterest and consider hiring me for the job. Because–and I’m getting pretty sure of this– I think this is my calling.

22nd– It’s not even 9am on my birthday and I’ve actually been voluntarily awake for almost an hour. This is what becoming an adult is like, isn’t it.

22nd– It’s officially the best birthday ever, I got a Blake Griffin OU jersey for ten bucks, and a lady in Academy straight up just had a monkey.

22nd– I don’t know about you, but I’m feelin’ 22!….Aaaand like Taylor Swift really needs to start singing some age appropriate songs. Like, seriously girl, get it together.

30th– Just watched Up for the first time ever… I don’t know whether my heart is broken or just so full it hurts.

31st– That awkward moment when you’re watching college football and you realize that from here on out, you’re going to be older than pretty much every player.

SEPTEMBER

1st– For the first time in 18 years, August is over and I’m not going back to school. Brb, having an existential crisis.

5th– It is physically painful for me to watch Amanda Bynes play soccer with her hair down in She’s The Man. Truthfully, it’s painful to watch most of the soccer scenes in that movie, and yet for some reason I still enjoy it.

8th– 16 years ago, we took a scared little kitten home who was only supposed to stay a week until we could find another owner. I had no idea then that the scared little kitten would become the love of my life. Today, one of the best and most beautiful parts of my soul passed away, and the depth of my grief is simply impossible to put in words. So all I can say is that I will love you forever my precious Boo baby, and there will never be another cat as perfect as you.

12th– Had a blast at my first practice as assistant coach to Brenna Skillern and our girls’ soccer team, can’t wait for our first game Saturday! Let’s go, Chargers!

20th– That awkward moment when you’ve been waking up all night because you can’t stop coughing or sneezing and you finally manage to get comfortable and are almost asleep when suddenly the box of Kleenex on the bedside table flares up in the breeze from the fan and you’re convinced for a couple of soul-chilling seconds that a small, white ghost is flying towards your face in the dark…

20th– Today is the happiest I’ve been in a long time, because today is THE day… the day I get to wear leggings again. Hello again, hello my friends, helloooo.

23rd– Help, I can’t stop eating croissants. Like, I seriously just ate all the croissants in my house. If I were a dinosaur, I’d be a croissantasaurus.

27th– I did it, guys… I applied for a big kid job. Weird.

OCTOBER

2nd– I just got a suggestion from my LivingSocial deals to get a Pumpkin Cheesecake Enzyme Facial. Don’t enzymes break things down though?? I feel like that sounds like the pumpkin cheesecake is going to eat my face, has the inevitable finally happened and the predator has become the prey? Is our food finally going to start eating us???

3rd– I had a dream last night that I was jumping on a bouncy castle with Amy Poehler, and I really did not want to wake up :(

6th– Did you know that if you really love cats then it is a huge mistake to search “cat clothing” on Etsy?

7th– If the songs of Lifehouse were embodied in a human, I’m pretty sure he’d be the most sensitive, best boyfriend ever.

16th– I don’t care what anyone else thinks, that fox song makes me laugh out loud with genuine joy every time I hear it.

17th– My waiter at lunch today was cute and I’m actually pretty sure he was flirting with me and by halfway through the meal I COULDN’T EVEN MAKE EYE CONTACT anymore because I was so flustered. This is why I will die alone, people.

22nd– If I was to die by choking on a crescent roll, I would be perfectly fine with that, as long as I got to finish it and it was the last bite I choked on.

29th– I just wanna know Ed Sheeran better.

31st– What do you get when you drop a pumpkin?…… Squash. Hahahahahahaha I can’t stop laughing about this, WHY IS IT SO FUNNY TO ME?!? Happy Halloween, guys…. hahaha

NOVEMBER 

1st– The only thing better about getting up in the morning as opposed to going to sleep at night is that in the morning I don’t have to floss.

3rd– I don’t care that you’re almost double my age and already have a wife, marry me Derek Fisher.

6th– Nothing quite brightens your day like finding one of your cat’s hairs caught in your girl moustache, especially after you realize you’ve already been out in public for two hours. Real self-esteem booster.

9th– Heard a knock at the door and assumed it was Kasey Phipps coming to pick me up, so I answered the door without looking and treated my mail lady to a view of me shirtless. You’re welcome, ma’am.

11th– I am just so thrilled with The Voice this season, every single person I wanted to go on to the Top 12 did. So no matter what, someone I like is going to win– BEST. SEASON. EVER.

12th– There’s two old men behind me at lunch engaged in an intense, heavily detailed discussion of Malteses and it’s pretty much the most hilarious thing ever. Like, one guy just started making whining noises to show the other guy what his dog sounds like.

13th– I moustache you if you have met the newest member of our family, Gustav Mustachio?

15th– Watching Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta and my dad just looks up and goes, “Is that Bruce Jenner? Are we watching Kardashians? What is going on?” Oh, Daddy. What’s going on is the pathetic fact that the most exciting part of my day is watching Friday Bride Day on TLC with my father who hates reality TV shows.

17th– Flossing is such a bittersweet endeavor, because on the one hand you’re like, “Eww I can’t believe this stuff was in my teeth!” but on the other you’re like, “Oooh that stuff is now out of my teeth!”

27th– Me singing to Rae: “Damn you look sexy, let’s go to my yacht in the West Keys, ride my jet skis.” Rachel: “You know, sometimes you sing to me, and I don’t think you really mean it… I don’t think you really have a yacht in the West Keys at all.”

28th– I just applied for a job on Thanksgiving, I’m going to go ahead and assume that my day was more productive than yours…. But just barely though, because I also fell asleep against my own father earlier after eating more food than I have in about two months.

30th– This morning, unexpectedly, my baby dog Cash died in my lap. We raised him from birth, and when my family wanted to sell him (because four dogs are a lot), I just couldn’t stand it, so we kept my sweet boy. We don’t really have many pictures of him, because he was such an active, happy boy, always moving and running around, chasing the ball with his mom Sadie. He was the youngest of our dogs, barely seven, and losing him came out of nowhere. Life really just isn’t fair, and my heart is completely broken.

DECEMBER

4th– I reread my blog post about Cash earlier and cried and then I’ve been playing on Neopets for like an hour and now I’m about to make an omelette at 2:16 in the morning somebody please send help I don’t know what’s happened to my life it’s a bad joke

5th– You know you have Labs when you go outside to break through the inch of ice on their water, and they show up layered in snow with tennis balls and plastic pots they expect you to throw for them to chase.

6th– Me: “Rae, do you know what ChatRoulette is?” Rachel: “Um, red cat. Wait, that’s chat rouge!” …..Guess that answered my question.

18th– A couple weeks ago I was doing the dishes and my daddy walked over to me and handed me one of those round scrubby shower loofahs and asked if I could use it and I told him that I’d take it, and he said that no, he meant can’t I use it to do the dishes, and I said I guess, and when he realized I was confused he said, “Isn’t that what these are for?” And in retrospect, he’s both the cutest but really also a genius, because what’s stopping us from using a shower loofah to do the dishes, really?

19th– I had a dream that I taught Robert De Niro how to “make it rain” with playing cards. Soooo… yep. That was a thing that happened.

21st– It’s 3:30 in the morning, and with one hand I’m reading the current draft of my novel-in-progress with the Kindle app on my phone, and with the other hand I’m twirling around a cat toy for my two cats to chase… this is my life in a nutshell

22nd– After years and years of wanting to go, I’m so happy I FINALLY got to see The Nutcracker with ma mere, it was simply, absolutely amazing! Thank you Momma!! — with Cheryl Munyon Rowe at Oklahoma City Ballet.

24th– “A crummy commercial??? Son of a bitch.” <– Me when there’s a pause in 24 hours of A Christmas Story.

26th– I’m exhausted because I stayed up all night watching the marathon of Pushing Daisies, and the only regret I have is that it ever got cancelled in the first place. Seriously one of the best shows ever made, and I’m still outraged five years later on its behalf.

27th– Three engagement notifications from Facebook…. only further rubbing salt in the wound of Peeta Mellark not being real and the acceptance that I’ll die alone because I’ve set my standards impossibly, fictionally high.

29th– I woke up at 7:30 this morning because my two cats were sprawled on my legs and feet giving each other baths that turned into a fight and I just want to know is this what my future looks like???

31st– From the fortune cookie app on my phone: “If you eat a live toad in the morning, nothing worse can happen to you throughout the day.”
….. I’m so grateful to be armed with this vital life wisdom as I face a new year (even though I highly question the veracity of that statement).

31st– Sending off 2013 with a blog post about my year in review through Facebook statuses… and so, appropriately, I’m going to take this time to announce that I am finally making a Facebook author page for my blogs, which I hope you’ll go like, even as my soul withers silently at the presumptuousness. 

 

Thank you everyone who has read, commented, shared, liked, and just generally supported my blog throughout 2013. It has been a year of enormous changes, with incredible highs and plunging lows, and I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without this blog to express myself. But that’s the thing with life, you never know what you’ll get, and I’m just thankful for the one I have. I’m also thankful for every single one of you– you all are truly what makes doing this worthwhile. I’m wishing you a most wonderful end to 2013, and a fabulous 2014.
Cheers to you!

 

Dashing For the Tow

Or, Five Pointless Calls, Four Hours Waiting, Three Women Panicking, Two Tow Trucks Fighting, and a Bribe of Twentyyyy! (Rae and I couldn’t decide which to go with, but I liked hers better so that’s the title post).
Hello, friends.
I’ve got a bit of a tale for you this holiday season.
As you may or may not have guessed from the time stamps on most of my blog posts, I’m something of a night owl. I prefer to do my writing– and especially my reading– during the night. I’ve been that way as long as I can remember, and it has oft gotten me into trouble.

Sorry not sorry. Except you, Professor Karjala, since I slept pretty much every single morning in your 9am government class no matter how hard I tried, and you were the best and never called me on it…even when I snored.

Also as you may or may not know, I am unemployed. Since graduating in April, I have applied to six different jobs, and so far have not received a single call back. This fact, while extremely hard on my pocketbook (and Christmas shopping, sorry if your gift sucks this year–if you even get one), has led to the most self-indulgent reading period of my life. I can stay up however late I like with essentially no repercussions, unless there’s one of those very rare occasions where I need to do something somewhat early the next day. But those days have been very few and far between. Mostly I’ve been wallowing in reading all night and sleeping late the next day.
So, on the morning of Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 9:16am when I heard the angelic voice of Mariah Carey seemingly screaming from my mom’s purse those immortal words “I DON’T WANT A LOT FOR CHRISTMAS, THERE IS JUST ONE THING I NEEEEEEED!!!!!!!!” two, perhaps unsurprising, things were true:
A) I had only been asleep for about two hours, and;
B) The only thing I needed for Christmas at that point was for Mariah to shut her damn mouth and let me sleep

Preach it, Grumpy.

Mere seconds after Mariah finally made my wish come true, unfortunately my phone began vibrating angrily, and I hazily staggered to answer it. Bewildered, I saw that my sister was calling. If she is calling me to make me walk into her room, I thought to myself, I will go in there and bludgeon her unto death with this very phone. And before I answered I stumbled into her bedroom, where I had previously believed her to be tucked up in her bed all fast asleep. But what to my wondering eye should appear but an empty bed, with no sign of Rachel near.
Utterly mystified, and still essentially asleep, I answered my phone, which was now buzzing threateningly. All I got out was a confused hello before my sister informed me that she had wrecked her car and needed us to come pick her up from her meeting at work and we were going to have to find a way to tow said car.
I’ll be honest, Readers. I actually pulled my phone away from ear and stared at it for a few seconds, like it would disappear before my very eyes and this would all suddenly dissolve into a nightmare. My sister was telling me, not only would I have to wake up to answer this call, but I would have to stay awake, dress myself, and then drive to pick her up.

It’s not, is it? This is a joke. A terrible, not funny joke, but it’s a joke, right.

You may not know this about me, but I kind of love sleep. Like… I consider myself to be in a committed relationship with sleep. No, it may not be during the regular hours people usually expect me to sleep, but true love does not concern itself with conventions. Sleep and I are blissfully happy together, spending hours and hours with each other on our own terms.

Yes, I am that girl who never wants to do anything because I’m too dedicated to my significant other… sleeping.

Guys, do you get how meta this is?! Because, like, by giving itself to me, sleep is fulfilling its love for me… my sister clearly didn’t get this memo.

Now, perhaps I should have mentioned a little background here. Just in case you were living under a rock (a tropical rock) or, you know, in Florida, much of the US was in the grip of an enormous winter storm for a couple of weeks, Oklahoma included.

Touche, Florida. Touche. You might almost say they were too hot to PANhandle. Get it? GET IT?! HAHAHAHAHA (please send help)

My sister, who my tired brain finally processed had gone to a meeting at the restaurant where she works, had apparently hit a patch of ice while trying to go around one of those little curve roads that go under the interstate and put you around on the access road on the opposite side, and ramped her car up onto the concrete divider area and almost ran into the cross street. Luckily, the car got stuck on the concrete and stopped before that happened, or this post could have been not very funny at all. Most important of all, my sister was not hurt in any way– but her poor car was. Some nice people had stopped to try and help her push the car off the concrete, but before they got it very far they told her that it looked like it was too damaged to drive anywhere, and so they just gave her a ride to her work, which was perhaps two minutes away. The back end of her car was still already hanging out into the road, and Rae was terrified someone would do the same thing as her and crash into it.
Amongst this beleaguering onslaught of information, I also came to understand that someone was going to have to drive up and retrieve my sister, and wait with her while a tow truck came for her car. After informing me that we needed to be there to pick her up from her meeting by 10:15, my sister hung up on my stunned person.
There was only one solution– Mom. Normally anything relating to cars in our family is handled by our father, but my poor daddy had been called in this particular Saturday to work overtime (he’s a mailman) and there was not the slightest possibility that he could deal with this particular mess. But there was another adult in this house, and she could totally drive– I was saved.
So with this shining exit strategy of promise burning brightly in my mind, I blundered into my mom’s room and told her what happened (probably rather incoherently). But what I did manage to say very clearly was that she needed to go get Rachel, leaving me ready to stumble back to bed, my problems solved. Unfortunately for my state of mind, my mother soon made it clear that she had only had a few hours of sleep, and that I was most certainly coming with her, if only to ensure she didn’t fall asleep on the way up there and wreck herself.
I tried, Readers. I tried so very hard to find a way around this. I utilized every ounce of mental acumen that was available to my fuzzy, sleep-deprived mind–but it was not enough, and my struggles were in vain. This was really happening, and I was really going to have to get ready, get dressed, and go with my mom.

So you’re saying it’s not a joke then.

Somehow, somehow, I managed to make myself presentable to the world (I think–details are a little hazy), though I dozed off brushing my teeth and when I laid back on the bed to put my pants on I fell asleep for a minute and didn’t think I was going to be physically capable of getting up. Finally my mother and I managed to cobble ourselves into something resembling functioning members of humanity. But you’re fooling yourself if you think I got into that car without my blanket and pillow. We were on our way–and it was 10:15. The time we were supposed to be picking Rae up. I thought about mentioning this to my mom, but were twenty minutes away and nothing was going to change that. Plus, I literally could not bring myself to care.
Luckily Rachel’s meeting went long, and we picked her up on time. Then we pulled into a gas station next to where Rachel’s poor car sat, like a beached whale upon concrete sands. Let me go ahead and give you this expertly prepared, very accurate, official map of what this all looked like, so you can really get a sense of the story:

Because I am an artist and a professional (Seriously, this took me like thirty minutes).

Because I am an artist and a professional (Seriously, this took me like thirty minutes to freaking make).

Luckily we have AAA, and we were close enough to our house that they would tow Rae’s car for free. So we called the number on our card and were then informed that it would be four hours until one of their drivers could get to us. FOUR HOURS. FOOOOUR HOOOOOOURS.
My sister explained how her car was in a very dangerous place and we feared there would be another accident if we waited that long, and so eventually the AAA person told us that we could contact another towing company to do the job and they would reimburse us. With that settled we googled towing services near our location and found five or six names that would work. Five calls later, and not a single one of the nearby towing place could send a truck any sooner than an hour, most of them closer to two. We called my uncle, who told us about a tower in our  actual town, which might not be as busy and which would make it much more convenient for him to tow back to. So we called the guy, who was very kind and told us he could be there in 45 minutes. Perfect!
This settled, we decided to drive to the Starbucks in the shopping center across the street, but abandoned this plan halfway to it when we realized that no one had actually wanted coffee, we just thought that the other person had. We turn around and start driving back towards the gas station, when we realize a cop has stopped at my sister’s car. We panic suddenly, but cannot get over to the gas station in order to flag him down, because we need to cross four lanes of traffic to get to it. Frantically we try to find a gap in the extremely busy intersection, but are unable to. We aren’t sure what the cop is doing, and by the time we finally get over to the gas station and Rachel gets out of the car to walk across the street to the area where her car is at, the cop drives away.  We’re now afraid that the cop has written down her license number to possibly call someone to impound her car or who knows what. Shortly after this, the guy from our town calls to tell us that he’s having problems with his truck and he actually can’t come at all.
……………………………………………………………..

The guy apologizes profusely, and recommends that we contact the local highway patrol (Fun fact: the number to call them is *55, did you know that? Because we did not know that). Rachel calls back the towing service that had the least amount of time, and for once during this developing debacle luck is on our side, and they tell us that they had a truck just come back and they would send them out immediately, and it would probably be no more than twenty to thirty minutes.
Next, we call the highway patrol and explain the situation, and shortly after a nice policeman arrives and parks his car behind Rachel’s with his lights on, so no one will hit her. Then we settle in for a long winter’s wait, which is interspersed with employees from the gas station coming out and shooting us suspicious looks since we’ve essentially been camping in their parking lot.

Sigh.

It’s the po-po!!!

Now, if you follow college football in America, you might be familiar with two of the major teams in Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma Sooners and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys. As you might guess (or know), there is something of a rivalry between these two teams, and when they play it’s known as Bedlam because things can get just a tad bit crazy. Well, it just so happens that December 7, 2013, was the date of Bedlam. And in all the madness, we had forgotten the game was even on–not that we could have watched. But we were able to occupy ourselves during this time at least by listening to the radio broadcast (BOOMER SOONER SUCKAS).
Suddenly, Rachel’s phone rings again; AAA was calling. And do you know what they had to tell us? One of their drivers would be arriving to tow our car in about three minutes.
Wait….
what?
What?
WHAT?!?!
As Rachel is on the phone receiving this news, into our sight drives the tow truck driver from the other place we called. He drives through the parking lot we’re sitting in, in fact, headed straight for our car. In a sudden frenzy of confusion, my sister starts asking what we’re supposed to do, and my mom–who was trying to call the non-AAA tow truck to cancel– hangs up. The AAA lady tells my sister that if we use this tow truck now, they probably won’t be able to reimburse us and we need to wait for their tow truck. Just as my sister is relaying this to us, the non-AAA tow truck pulls up to the exit to cross the street and begin to hook my sister’s car up.
Suddenly my mother, in an Olympian feat of athleticism, springs out of the car and begins sprint-hopping her way across the icy, slushy parking lot in furry snow boots, waving her arms and shouting, in an attempt to flag him down. Simultaneously my sister and I feel our jaws drop as she races over to it and begins banging on the sides of the back of the truck to try and stop him. He is immune to her cries, however, and pulls over behind the police officer, who proceeds to back his car up and block off the curve ramp. My mom, in a continuing stunning display, goes darting through traffic like a figure skater in the winter Olympics, and begins gesturing and talking to both the police officer and the tow truck.
And suddenly into this bizarre, incredible scene, the AAA approved tow truck comes bursting in like an avenging angel, cutting off the other tow truck and backing up to my sister’s car with complete disregard to the one-way nature of the road,  and then proceeds to load it onto his tow truck without speaking a word to anyone.

 

Throughout this entire exchange, I am trying harder than I have ever tried to sink into my chair and let it swallow me whole in order to deliver myself from this embarrassment. I am now grateful that I brought my pillow, because I am able to use it to bury my face in. My sister is in the back seat just murmuring expressions of disbelief. We are actually witnessing a tow truck standoff.

Us: "Is this happening? This can't be happening."

Us: “Is this happening? This can’t be happening.”

Let me give you a hint– this was, in fact, happening. In less than five minutes, Rachel’s car was loaded onto the second tow truck, and my mom directs him to pull in over by where Rachel and I were slowly, agonizingly dying of embarrassment.
She then goes over to explain the situation to the policeman (yep, he was still there) and the first tow truck driver, before hurrying back over to the car. We, of course, don’t actually have any idea what is going on at the time, and my mom opens the door but only briefly to pull a twenty out of her purse and mumble something about paying the other driver for his time. It’s then that I realize…. “Rachel… is she… is she bribing him?!”
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. My mother bribed a tow truck driver.
Finally she comes back after the policeman and the first tow truck driver drive away, and goes to speak with the AAA driver. After extensive conversation, she gets back in the car, but before we can say anything she starts telling us how the AAA driver was freaking out and in such a huge hurry because, quote “I’m not even supposed to be over here, this is another towing company’s territory! I have to hurry because I’m not supposed to be in this area!”
……….
…………….
……………………

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. My mother bribing someone was not even the strangest part of the day. Oh no. Instead, it was the revelation that apparently towing truck companies are gangs.

“THIS IS OUR TOWING TURF!!!!!!!”

We didn’t witness the equivalent of a tow truck standoff, folks, oh no. Instead, we witnessed a RUMBLE.
Really, the bribe was perfectly in character considering.
So we make our way home, and the tow truck that won the rumble deposits Rachel’s poor car in our driveway. Finally, we stumble into our house at about half past noon, I’m not sure if I was more dazed when I left or when I came back, and all I can think is……

You know, some people talk about how sometimes their lives feel like a movie. Well, guys, mine isn’t like a movie– my life is a farce.
So be careful out there this holiday season, Readers. You never know what kind of shady situation you might find yourself accidentally mixed up in.

Snippet Three: Not In Vain

I have been trying to write a book since I was twelve years old. But somehow, in the ten years since, I have never been able to. And while I have been unsuccessful in this long endeavor of mine, I think I at least have finally managed to discern what the problem is.
I have started a vast amount of stories; lack of ideas has never been the impediment. Instead, I have struggled with an overabundance of ideas. I will start and work on one story, but suddenly I will be struck with a new, brilliant idea, and I cannot seem to stop myself from veering off on it. But before I get too far, another plot comes to me and it is imperative that I work on it, and so on and so forth. For ten years.
I have never been able to figure out this flaw in myself. I have pondered a million reasons why—perhaps I was just afraid of commitment? Or maybe I was just too lazy. Or it might even be that I am a poor, delusional imbecile who was only fooling myself to think that I was actually a writer.
I think this is the inevitable fear of every writer, at least in the beginning, and the only way to truly overcome it is to simply decide that you are going to believe in yourself and your talent. So what was the problem, once I chose to think that I do have some ability? Why did I write something that seemed dynamic and poignant as I put it down, but when I went back and reread it seemed clumsy and juvenile? Why did a plot that seemed to spring to life in my head and develop rapidly and with a rich array of details suddenly go stagnant, and lose all interest for me?
Here is what I have come to believe the problem is—I keep changing.
Now, of course this is not some revolutionary, brilliant idea. The whole point of life is growth and change (at least I think that is what it is supposed to be). I mean, change is always inevitable, even if in no other way than the aging of your body. But somehow, in the course of ten years, it never dawned upon me that as I changed, so too would the stories inside of myself. And let me tell you, the ten years between twelve and twenty-two were rather crowded with life changes.
In the past three months, I have experienced the loss of two beloved pets, one whom I had for sixteen years and was my best friend, and the other a precious, lively spirit whom I did not get nearly long enough with. On top of the loss of my grandfather and grandmother within the last seven years, I have been slowly, and then quite suddenly, being forced to come to terms with death. And I think I have finally reached a change that alters you irreparably. As tired and cliché as it sounds, death makes you achingly aware of the fragility of life. I look around now, and the world seems so delicate, so unsteady. My time has now been shown to me to be undeniably finite, with no assurance of fairness or joy or longevity. With no assurance that everyone I love or care about will not be taken suddenly.
Perhaps this all seems very obvious to you, because you yourself have already experienced the irreparable change. You can never unknow the reality of death once you know it. Of course, I have been aware vaguely of these tried-and-true truths since I was very small—but I did not really understand them until now. If you let it, death can loom on your horizon at all times, larger even in your view than the rising and the setting of the sun each day. That has been my paradigm for the past few months, certainly.
However—I do not want the deaths of my loved ones to be in vain. For some reason, it always seems to help when you say, yes, they have died, but it was not in vain! Of course, this often only works for heroes in stories and the like, when someone dies so that someone else can live. How do you make the death of a cat or a dog to be not in vain?
This question is why I am trying desperately to effect a paradigm shift. Instead of anxiously fixating on that looming specter on the horizon, sickened and afraid of my newly cemented knowledge, I want to turn my eyes to the infinitely precious life around me. I want to grasp every moment with open hands and take charge of it, instead of letting them flow around me, always flinching in fear of each one because I know now, fully, what might be waiting within. Yes, death will always be there, undeniable, but I would like to keep only him in the corner of my eye, instead of dominating the view.
This is how I hope to make the death of those I love not in vain. Their loss has taught me an ugly but inescapable fact, that is true. It has taught me the wildness and vagaries of grief, the searing burn of injustice, the nauseating weight of terror, the clawing grip of anxiety. It has taught me sorrow, those fathomless dark depths.
But. It has also taught me about myself. I have come to know myself better, and I have gained an understanding of a fundamental characteristic of myself that has eluded me for years. Ever since I have started writing, I have been plagued by the doubt of an essential thread of my very self. Now I can say, even if you never write a book, you are a writer. Yet this new appreciation of life has kindled in me the fervent desire to boldly go forth and achieve my dreams, instead of just hoping that somehow, someday in a vague, dreamy future they will make themselves come true.
Yes, my loved ones have forced me to confront the bald-faced, ugly reality of dying. But, more than that, more importantly than that—they have taught me about living. They have died, but in doing so, they have allowed me to live.
And so I say, they have not died in vain.

May 31st Was the Scariest Night of My Entire Life

UPDATE: This video is what we were listening to on our weather radio in our cellar. At the beginning of the video (0:05-0:08) he drives by a Taco Mayo. That Taco Mayo is in front of my neighborhood, and my house is barely two minutes from there. He stops in front of the the bank that’s on the corner of my neighborhood, and that’s the building he’s filming over during the video.

Hi again.
In my last post, I described what the May 20 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, was like for someone nearby but not affected. I have never been affected by a tornado, actually, at least not personally.
There’s even like this running joke that the town I grew up in, and the town I live in now, are protected by some Native American blessing from tornadoes. It’s almost easy to believe, because I cannot even count the number of times a tornado has been heading for my house, and then it will abruptly turn and go somewhere else, or barely miss us.
On Friday, I was even joking about this with one of my friends as we discussed how the risk for tornadoes that afternoon and evening was really serious. It was the last day in about a three day period where we were in a serious risk, the second week in a row where Oklahoma was supposed to have bad weather. We were all just grateful that, so far, we had had nothing like the week before with the May 20th tornado.
I went home to make sure we could keep an eye on the weather, and we kept hearing ominous warnings from the news that “the cap was about to break.” This meant that the conditions were about to become perfect for a supercell, which is what produces tornadoes. Finally, it did. Once that happened, things got serious really fast. I live in the central part of the state, just to the southwest of Oklahoma City. To our west, storms started building up and getting violent. Eventually a EF3 tornado broke out near El Reno, the town I was actually born in. It was particularly bad because it seemed to just be following the interstate. Most of the people who died were caught in their cars by the storm. We waited anxiously to see which way the storm would go, but it looked like it was going to go just north of us. As I stood in my yard, we could look to where the tornado was, and there was this constant growling, roaring sound coming from the clouds. Above us, hail clouds were blanketing the sky, but no hail was falling:
wpid-2013-05-31_17-50-39_676.jpg
I thought we were going to be spared again, and my mounting anxiety began to subside.
Suddenly the storm began to shift to the southeast.
Towards us.
Then, other storms began popping up all around to our west. Very quickly, the weathermen started calling out my town’s name. And all of a sudden, things got very real. We began gathering up our most important things to take to our storm cellar right next to our driveway. Only once before had we put stuff into the cellar, but the storm had turned pretty last minute, before we had to go down. I kept waiting for someone to say, nevermind, the storm has turned. But they never did. It was actually going to happen.
I have grown up in Oklahoma, and I have grown up terrified of tornadoes. A lot of people have recurring nightmares, and I am one of them. My nightmares are always about tornadoes. I have a very staunch respect for how dangerous they are, and I get very stressed about bad weather.
As I ran around my house, I was in a state of utter panic. I was grabbing things and running them outside into the cellar then running back in. I have two cats, as you may know, and I had to get them in the cellar, too. We only have one cat carrier, and Finn has to go in it. There is no way we could carry him anywhere, because he would flip out. Unfortunately, by the time I was putting Finn in the carrier, I was nearly in tears because I was so upset, and Finn could tell. He proceeded to flip out nearly as badly as I was. I’ll go ahead and tell you now, the only injuries sustained by anyone in my family that day were the claw marks Finn left on my legs and hand. Finally, I had to wrap him in a blanket to get him in and pull it off his head only after he was inside. I hurried to take him down to the cellar as he meowed piteously a few times, and then went quiet.
I rushed back in to get Boo, who was casually sprawled on the loveseat watching the proceedings with sleepy interest. I wrapped him in a sheet, listening as I did so to the weathermen telling everyone in my town that they needed to take their tornado precautions. My sister appeared with my nana, who lives next door, and her and I went down into the cellar to wait.
The rest of my family, who don’t have quite the same anxiety as I do over tornadoes, stayed in the house to keep watching the news. I sat with my nana, holding Boo, nearly paralyzed with fear. Some of my friends started texting to make sure I was getting to safety, and I was shaking so hard I almost couldn’t text them back. Then I waited, listening to the thunder growling and the wind blowing and hoping my family would come and tell me it was all a mistake.
I don’t know if you have ever sat in a tornado shelter, but it’s not terribly pleasant. Ours is not particularly big. It’s also damp, musty, and has lots of bugs. I fixedly watched the stairs, waiting for someone to come and tell us something. I was too scared to be above ground, but too scared to sit and wait without knowing.
My sister finally came back and told me that it looked like the tornado was turning and heading towards a town just barely north of us, the town our high school is rivals with. I know a million people that live there, and I was in no way comforted by this. My sister says to wait downstairs, just to be safe. After a little while, she comes down again, bringing some more stuff, and she tells me the same thing. Suddenly filled with restless, frenetic energy, I beg her to hold Boo so I can go in the house and clean the scratches Finn gave me. As I had sat in the cellar, some of the adrenaline from earlier was wearing off, and I was beginning to feel the scratches, especially a particularly deep one on my ankle.

This one.

This one.

As I rushed into the house, unable to bear not seeing what was happening while I was down in the cellar, I noted how ugly the sky looked, and what a bizarre color it was. The wind was whistling around me, and I was quick to get in the house. I cleaned the cuts up, but as I listened to the TV the weatherman started talking about how a new circulation was forming that looked like it would head towards my home. I pleaded with my dad to come to the cellar, and he said he would be down soon. I went back down to wait some more.
Eventually my sister and my mother joined us, and very quickly after my dad appeared. We were going to close the door. Our shelter was already in place when we bought the house we live in, and it’s pretty old. The door is partially rotted and pretty rickety. We chained it down taut to the stairs. Then, my dad placed a door that they bought on clearance in front of the stairs, and braced it with with a 2×4 against the walls. We had managed to get our weather radio on by this point, and we anxiously listened. Storms were forming everywhere, so many that the weathermen almost couldn’t keep up, and one of them was coming towards our town. In the confusion of all the storms they were trying to track, we were unsure of just exactly which part of our town it was going to hit.
Tornado shelters are very eerie. Ours has these two little holes in the ceiling that are the ventilation vents up to aboveground. It is bizarre, because it allows you to hear what is happening outside, but it is strangely muffled. We could hear the rain pick up and start hammering the metal door of the shelter. Our house is surrounded by trees, and we could hear them whipping and tossing. Things got louder and then quieter, and we had no idea what was happening. No one had mentioned my town on the weather radio in a while and I began to hope that they were wrong, and it wasn’t going to get to us.
Out of nowhere, the weathermen start talking about my town, and one of the stormchasers starts yelling that there are power flashes at a Lowe’s that was two blocks from our house, and that something is touching down on one of the roads that we live off of. Very shortly after that, the light we had plugged in downstairs goes out, and we have to turn on our lantern.
I spent three hours in that cellar. They were the most terrifying of my life. Honestly, I have never been so scared. It was mostly a haze of absolute terror for me, and I alternated between almost throwing up and almost passing out. Every time we thought about getting out, they would talk about how there was threatening rotation that could potentially hit us. Finally, as it got later and later, it seemed as though things were dying down. We kept waiting for the rain to stop pouring so we could get out, but it never did. Eventually we could stand no more, and we decided to venture out. My dad peeked out from under the lid, and to our relief he confirmed our house was still there. I was the first out, and it was pouring down rain so I was instantly drenched. There was still a little bit of light left,  and I was amazed to find a giant tree branch was blocking most of our driveway:
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I rushed to the backyard, my number one concern to check on our four dogs. We have Labs, and they are big and very unruly. There is simply no way to bring them in the cellar and still have room for my family. They also would probably get in a fight. This is probably the worst part for me in regards to tornadoes hitting our house; our shelter is really secure so I was never really afraid for my life. When I got to my backyard, I couldn’t even get to my dogs, who we keep in another part of our yard, because a huge tree branch had fallen on the gate and part of the fence dividing our yard. I splashed through my already flooding backyard to an unobstructed part of the fence and started yelling for my dogs over the noise of the rain and thunder. Johnny and Cash were the first ones I saw, and finally Riley came trotting up, completely unconcerned. But I could not find Sadie anywhere. I called and called, and finally I saw her little head peek out from under our storage building where our dogs love to lay. I called for her to come for me, but she simply laid there and whimpered. I was terrified she was hurt. I had to run to the back part of my yard and squeeze through another gate we never use in order to go around and get to her.
Sadie is a very courageous dog. I would venture to say she is tougher than any of the boys, and we are pretty sure she fought a coyote or something along those lines once. When I got to my poor girl, she was shaking so hard that water was flying off of her, and she was whimpering like I’d never heard her do. I was afraid she couldn’t get out from under the building, but finally she managed to drag herself out. She was scraped up and not putting pressure on her back leg, but she was not seriously injured. I cried because I was so relieved, and I knelt there, absolutely sopping wet with rain and tears and holding Sadie, while my other dogs came and rubbed their wet, muddy bodies on me.
After I knew everyone was okay, things didn’t seem as bad. There were giant tree limbs down everywhere, and our yard was turning into a bog, but there was no serious damage. Somehow, all the tree limbs had fallen just around our cars and our house instead of on them, even though we had parked our cars under the trees to protect them from the hail. We had no power, but we had a home still.
We began carrying things up from the cellar and lighting candles in the house and changing clothes because we were soaked. My uncle, who had drove away from the storm, showed up and told us that the nearby town we thought the tornado had hit was, in fact, essentially fine. He’d stopped and picked up food for himself. We all very quickly became aware of how hungry we were since it was nearly 10pm by this point. We decided to try and drive to the town to see if we could find somewhere to eat since we had no electricity and were too hungry to just eat simple, no-heat food.
We almost did not get out of yard because it was so muddy, and we were afraid if the water got any higher on the roads that we might not be able to make it back to our house. As we drove out of our town, there was no power anywhere that we could see. It was still raining ferociously, and on the way to find a restaurant, it started hailing again, big, ugly hail that beat the roof of our car. Desperately we pulled off at a 7-Eleven and tried to wedge our car in with the mass of other cars taking shelter by the gas pumps under the structure that shielded them. Eventually the hail began to slow, and we pulled out and hurried to find somewhere to eat. We tried IHOP first, but they told us there was a nearly two hour wait. Eventually we made it to Waffle House, who were short-staffed. It tooks us nearly two hours to eat there, but it was some of the best food of my life.
When we drove back home, we decided to look around, and drove through the Lowe’s parking lot that had been reported hit. The little metal sheds and display buildings they had in the parking lot were torn to shreds, and there was debris randomly scattered about. A power line was down along the road in front of it.

Photo credit: Jon Watje

We then drove down the main road we live off of, and the powerlines were destroyed. About a half a mile from our street, one had even fallen on top of a car and into a flood of water on the side of the road. It was nearly midnight, and already there were brave crews working on them. We almost drove onto a downed powerline, and quickly realized we needed to get back home.

Photo credit: Jon Watje.  The road we live off of, the next day.

On the road that crosses ours in our neighborhood, we found the entire road blocked by an entire giant tree that had fallen across it. As we went to go home, a fire truck and a towing truck were arriving to try and move it.
The next day was beautiful, and we spent it cutting and dragging limbs around. I made sure and took pictures of some of the worst damage:
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We are fairly certain that the tornado came right through our neighborhood, just skipping around and never fully forming. I could not sleep that evening because there were still thunderstorms coming through, and every time it thundered I got intensely stressed. We had no power, and all of our phones were dying, so it was nearly impossible to check the radar, even though there was not supposed to be anything serious. When I finally fell asleep, I kept having tornado nightmares. It was a long, rough day for all of us.
I can only say how incredibly thankful I am that we were so lucky. 14 people were killed as a result of the storms and the flooding that followed them. Our situation could have been much more tragic, and I am amazed every time I think what might have happened to us. Perhaps we truly do live in a blessed town; the tornado even tried to get us, but pulled up as it went over.
Sadly, I know that my tornado anxiety just reached a whole new level.

I want to say thank you for reading this. The past two weeks have had a profound impact on me, and I needed to write about them. Hopefully you found my story worthwhile.

With my gratitude,
Sara