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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It’s Going Down, I’m Yelling Tinder

Hi, everyone.
I know it’s been a while since I last wrote, and I apologize. I’ve been pretty busy lately running around with friends and trying to find a job (as ever). You might remember that at the beginning of May, I wrote about how the Buzzfeed post I authored went viral, and it resulted in me getting a job offer to write articles for the British website WhatCulture.com. In the month of May I wrote three articles for about 90 bucks (whoop WHOOOOOO)!!!

SOMEONE PAID ME MONEY TO WRITE WORDS THIS IS CRAZY

You can check them out here:
9 Underrated Kid’s Movies You Didn’t Realise Were Awesome
20 Reasons Being A Single Woman Is The Best 
20 Obscure Movies With Hilarious IMDB Descriptions

Just a note, the single one was originally written as just being directed at single people in general, but then my editor randomly changed it after I submitted it and so now the title doesn’t really makes sense.
Ah, the realities of writing for someone else.
But seriously, I love writing for What Culture and everyone has been incredibly kind and I strongly encourage you to go check out, not just my articles, but everything else on their cool Britishy website. I’d love it if you’d share or comment on my articles, too, as it helps my standing within the pecking order.

But now, on to the most exciting thing I’ve been doing lately.
Friends, it’s finally happened.
I joined Tinder.

Heh. Heh heh.

I know what you might be thinking here. Sara, you’re saying, don’t you know Tinder is for hooking up?
Yes, yes, Unspecified Mystery Reader, I had heard that. That’s why I never tried it or anything; I was just as skeptical as you. But I actually talked with one of my friends that had Tinder, and she told me it’s not really that bad and she recommended I try it.

I thought about this for a good long while. As you all may or may not have figured out by this point, I’m a bit awkward and unfamiliar with this whole dating tomfoolery. If you don’t count times when parents drove because we were too young, I’ve never been on an actual date. At the age of 22, this often comes as a surprise to people, and makes trying to date even more awkward. It’s made it easy to make excuses and never really give dating much of a go.
Now, as I have said repeatedly on this blog, I do NOT think there is anything wrong with being single. In fact, I think being single for a long period of time is one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. It allowed me to really sort myself out and figure out what I wanted and needed in a potential partner.
On the other hand, however, I’m just getting dang curious what all the “dating” fuss is about, and I’d really just like to give this whole thing a whirl. I even made a resolution for New Year’s that I would go on a date this year (probably).
But by May, my options still weren’t looking good. So impulsively one day, I plunged in and downloaded Tinder.

Eh, why not?

Let me explain the basic premise of Tinder for those of you who have never been desperate enough to use it. You create a profile where you can pick a few pictures to put on, along with a short bio. Then you set parameters like age range, gender, and distance from you. Then, Tinder looks for people who fit into your parameters in your area

Genuinely one of my favorite things to come from the internet.

You look at the profile and pictures of the people Tinder suggests to you, and it will show you if you have any mutual friends or likes on Facebook. Then, you either swipe left if you’re not interested, or right if you are. If someone you’re interested in also swipes that they’re interested, too, then it will show you that you are a match. You then have the ability to message each other and start a conversation. If you swipe left, then you never see that profile again–even if you swiped left by accident.
The first time I tried to use Tinder, I became very stressed out. I am terrible at making decisions, and Tinder is literally making what is essentially a snap judgement about someone based almost entirely off their appearance. I didn’t even swipe the first time I got on, because I felt so agonized about the prospect of making a mistake. I stared at this one guy’s profile for like fifteen minutes, paralyzed with indecision, before I finally panickedly closed Tinder by hitting the back button like five times unnecessarily. It took me a few hours to get my courage up again.
Tentatively, I tried again, resolving to be firmer and more hard-hearted. I braced myself, and swiped no on a couple of people. I immediately felt incredibly proud of myself. I could do this… I could Tinder!!!!
Then I came to a guy who I WAS interested in. Again, I felt crippled with indecision. What if I swiped yes on him but he didn’t swipe yes on me?! What if I was rejected BY A PHONE APP?!
And then, the beauty of Tinder dawned upon me.
WHO CARES IF YOU ARE REJECTED BY A PHONE APP, YOU NEVER HAVE TO SEE OR SPEAK TO THEM EVER AGAIN!!!! IT’S LIKE DATING WITHOUT ANY SORT OF PHYSICAL CONTACT!!!! I DON’T EVEN HAVE TO LEAVE MY HOUSE TO PARTICIPATE!!!

The excitement this realization brought me is perhaps a bad omen for someone who claims to want a date.

But back to my story. Bravely, I overcame my trepidation, and swiped yes for the first time. Instantly, a little message popped up on my phone saying we were a match.

Classy girls protect identities.

Classy girls protect identities.

Wait…. we’re a match? We really are? You’re saying someone looked at my picture and my profile and thought, YeahI’d be interested in her?!?!?!

God, what was I waiting for?! This dating thing is a PIECE. OF. CAKE. I started swiping like crazy, soon becoming drunk with the power to reject or approve potential soulmates (probably). And, even more heady, almost every single guy I swiped that I was interested in had already said they were interested in me.
It was a miracle– THESE GUYS DON’T THINK I LOOK LIKE I’M TWELVE YEARS OLD!!!!!!!!
Pretty quickly, a few guys even MESSAGED me. I was chatting with guys in a romantic context on my phone…. THIS IS THE FUTURE.

And, happily, most of the guys were really nice. Unfortunately, one fella got right off to a bit of a personal start, and inquired about my feelings on “butt stuff.”

And so I blocked his ass; hopefully that got the message across. One of the nice things about Tinder is you can block someone at any time and they can never see your profile or contact you again.
Overall, most of the guys I was matching with who messaged me were really nice and not creepy. However, there were definitely a few interesting profiles I came across:

Oh, hi there, pretend Eric Church.

Oh, hi there, pretend Eric Church.

Okay, but I really like his style.

Okay, but I really like his style.

wpid-screenshot_2014-06-01-18-40-27.png
I left his name because, oh my god his name is Countryman?! Also, I thought he was Kevin Durant for a minute.
But speaking of NBA players, the most exciting moment of my Tinder experience came when a profile was suggested to me that is most likely someone pretending to be Steven Adams of the NBA Thunder (my new favorite Thunder player if Derek Fisher retires), but OH MY EVER LIVING GOD IT COULD BE STEVEN ADAMS ON MY TINDER AND THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY HE MIGHT SWIPE RIGHT ON ME.

THE ONLY PROBLEM IS I WOULD PROBABLY SPONTANEOUSLY EXPLODE

I should’ve taken a screenshot of it, but I have NEVER swiped yes so fast on a Tinder profile in my life.
The most traumatizing moment definitely came when I discovered my own cousin on Tinder (I CAN NEVER UNSEE), and also horrifying was when one of my best friend’s younger brother appeared. But also cool was finding a couple guys I knew and went to school with. We both swiped yes on each other and then laughed about how we were both on Tinder.

Then, a guy I went to high school with but I didn’t know at all during that time matched with me. I’d actually played against him a couple seasons in indoor, so we’d at least nominally met, but I didn’t think he’d really remember who I was. Yet he straight away asked me to play with his indoor team, but I unfortunately have been injured with quad tears for the past two months (a whole other story that I will get to on another post). But, to my shock, even after I told him I couldn’t play, he asked me to still come watch his game. AND there was definite flirtiness (I think).
Was… was this a…. DATE?!?!

COME ON SARA KEEP IT TOGETHER

Let me just explain how surreal this is to me. This guy, who we will call The Lad (remember, classy girls protect identities), was really popular in high school and played football. I NEVER even came into contact with him in high school, much less spoke to him. I always just admired how hot he was from afar. And now I think he might have possibly asked me on a quasi-date??????

hahaha what I don’t know how to react or handle this or even breathe send help please help

But, as with all things when it comes to me and guys, this situation is not so simple. The Lad asked me last Sunday to come to a game that is tomorrow, Saturday. So Sara, you’re saying. What’s the problem with that? That actually sounds really simple. Why don’t you just go up to the game and watch? It’s not a big deal, and it’s not like you don’t spend a majority of your time in soccer arenas anyway. Just do it. DO IT. GO TO THE GAME.
Well, Overly Insistent and Pushy Mystery Reader Who Sounds Like My Family and Close Friends, here’s the problem.
I haven’t spoken to him since then. He hasn’t messaged me or contacted me at all since Monday. What if he forgot he invited me, or he only matched with me so he could ask me to play and then when I couldn’t he felt obligated to invite me to the game to be nice? If he was really interested, why hasn’t he talked to me? What if he’s just a big creep?
Now you may be thinking that I sound absurd, or silly, or why in god’s name don’t I just message him? But I have accepted this about myself and dating– I have to take baby steps. Really, really tiny baby steps. Maybe more like a couple weeks old baby steps that aren’t really steps at all but are just the baby kicking its legs around in the air under its mobile.
To date, I’m going to need a LOT of encouragement and reassurance. I am the most oblivious girl alive sometimes, and I NEVER realize when guys like me unless they come right out and say it– and even then I’m still a bit skeptical. Dating is just a whole new world for me, and I am no Hernando Cortez to go rushing right in and conquer it ruthlessly and without fear– the natives reportedly ripped out hearts, remember.

Yep, I mix history and dating. Maybe why I'm still single?

Yep, I mix history and dating. Maybe why I’m still single?

And so I waver indecisively, as agonizingly unsure as the very first time I faced a profile on Tinder. Should I go? Should I not? Should I message him? The answer is not clear to me, and I am struggling mightily with my natural shyness and awkwardness in a romantic context. I’m sure I’ll update you on the thrilling conclusion to the pathetic sagas of my love life, whatever they may be.
I just don’t understand why I ever thought Tinder was a good idea. Maybe I’m going to give up on this whole dating thing after all; my stress levels are rising exponentially and I don’t understand how so many people do the dating.

I’m starting to seriously question whether I’m cut out for it at all.

I don’t think it’s for me.

 

 

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.

The Single Lady’s Calendar

(UPDATED NOTE: I’ve turned this post into a Buzzfeed post, which I would be so unspeakably grateful if you would check out and share any way you can. You can also read a little bit more about it on my other post explaining why I did so!)
Happy Valentine’s Day, Dear Readers!
As you all probably know, I am perpetually single, and I haven’t had a date on Valentine’s in nearly a decade. But contrary to what you might expect after hearing that, I love Valentine’s Day. I really do; it makes me happy because it is a holiday dedicated to celebrating my favorite emotion–love. Last year, in fact, I wrote a whole blog post about just how much I love Valentine’s and why. You can check it out, it’s one of the most popular posts I have ever written for the blog (so you know it’s, like, totes good).
All this being said, I know that there are probably just as many of you who plainly loathe Valentine’s Day–and hey, I’m not going to pretend like that’s not completely understandable. I love chocolates and gifts as much as the next girl.
A few months ago, I began kicking around an idea in my mind. I had seen those hilarious someecards on Pinterest that divided the months up into months for single people, and I thought they were pretty darn funny.

Like this.

Just trying to be funny (as I strive so hard to do), I started thinking up titles for all the months. And then, like a bolt of lightning, it hit me– why not make an actual calendar for single ladies?!
The more I thought about it, the more I loved the idea. But one thing I knew right from the beginning was that I would not be able to accomplish this feat on my own–my skills, such as they are, rest in writing, not photography or Photoshop or anything like that.
Enter my lifelong friend, Cindy Benton. Luckily for me, Cindy is extremely talented, crazy creative, and amazing with a camera–and she both had and knew how to use Photoshop. Together we cooked up ideas, ironed out details, and over two days in January, with the help of Cindy’s equally creative sister Erin, we shot The Single Lady’s Calendar.
Initially I planned to post this post on January 18th, the one year anniversary of the blog (YIPPIEEEEE!!!). But I was young, and naive, and I did not understand the rigors and treachery of trying to navigate Photoshop that Cindy would have to face down. It took much longer than I expected, but thankfully Cindy never threw up her hands and said she quit.
So we reassessed, and then I realized, when would be a more perfect time to post the calendar than Valentine’s Day?
After all, I wrote last year for all the people who loved Valentine’s Day. Why not create something for those who don’t feel quite so positively?
And so, in solidarity for all you single gals (and heck, even guys!) out there who consider February 14th to be Singles Awareness Day, I feel you. This one is for you.

The Single Lady’s Calendar

Jealous of Couples January

Fictional Boyfriend February

Movie Marathon March

All By Myself April

Marry My Cats May

Just Friends June

Join A Nunnery July

Always Alone August

Single September

Online Dating October

No Ring November

Don't Date December

There you have it, my friends! I hope you have as much fun with this as we did making it– and to all of my wonderful Readers, single or not, I hope you have an absolutely lovely Valentine’s Day! :)

PS Again, I cannot stress enough how much help I had in doing this. It literally would have never happened without Cindy, and she deserves just as much (if not more) credit for this than I do. I cannot say thank you enough to her, because she made it possible!!
And of course, special thanks to our assistant Erin ;)

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!

 

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.

Cash

Grief is the strangest thing.
Currently my ears are hot and I’m a little bit sick to my stomach, and I don’t want to write this. I’m not crying, but perhaps that will change shortly.
When I wrote about my beloved cat Boo dying in September, I had to wait a few weeks before I could even get back on this blog and put words down. But what comforted me often during the period after I lost him was thinking about all the words I was going to write down when I inevitably blogged about it. When I finally did post, I sat down and just let all the words I wanted to say flow out, along with my tears. My grief for him was a storm– it was wild and often out of control, and descended upon me suddenly, often without warning, and sometimes when triggered by specific conditions.
On Friday evening my sister and I were at Target when my mom called me to tell us they were rushing our dog to the vet because he had collapsed. We found out he had an auto-immune disorder, where his immune system attacked his red blood cells and caused him to become dangerously anemic. He had possibly suffered a stroke when he had collapsed, and his spleen was enormously swollen. The doctor gave him injections, prescribed medicines for us to give him, and told us that he had a very good chance of being fine.
We took him home– we had to carry him because he was too weak to walk– and we settled him in our living room to watch. The vet had told us he would hopefully be up and around by tomorrow even. Throughout the night, he was able to lift himself and drink water numerous times, which our vet told us was a great sign. I sat up all night with him, and around seven in the morning, I realized he could no longer sit up. I thought he might have worn himself out, and so I hesitated to wake my mom up. After a little bit, however, I checked his eyes and realized they were rolled up into his head, and his breathing was becoming labored. I flew into my mom’s room and told her, begging her to call the vet. He told us to meet him at the vet office in thirty minutes.
We only live about five minutes from the vet’s office. It’s incredibly difficult to stall for time when you think your pet might be dying. We lifted my dog into the backseat of our car, with his head on my lap so I could hold him in place, and rushed over to the vet’s office. We arrived about fifteen minutes before he did. Or maybe that estimate was completely wrong; all I know was that my dog was not responsive and I was in something of a daze. We sat waiting in the car, desperately watching for our vet, while I ran my hand over and over my dog’s laboring sides, muttering soothing nonsense words to him.
Suddenly he jerked, and his breathing became erratic, and he started thrashing. He jerked so hard his back end fell off the seat. I was holding his upper body and desperately blowing air into his mouth, imploring my sister to push on his chest and doing it myself before she had a chance. I kept shouting his name, over and over, and telling him to wake up, to stop, to hold on.
It was so surreal. It felt like a moment in a bad movie, when one person dies and the other hovers over them, dramatically pleading with them to hang on even when they know they can’t. My sister and my mom had gotten out of the front seat of the car and were standing at the door, and they were crying and crying. And I just… I couldn’t cry. Because this moment couldn’t be real. It was like my brain simply could not comprehend what was happening. My dog was dying in my lap, and there was literally nothing I could do. Nothing. I was irrelevant. I didn’t matter.
I’m starting to tear up now as I write this. But I wasn’t at the time. I think someone finally said, “He’s gone.” And I just sat there, holding him in my lap and not crying, and in the back of my mind I distantly could hear a voice say, why aren’t you crying? but all I could do was just look at my boy, all I could feel was the way his body had gone slack in my arms, all I could hear was the absence of those deep, hard breaths he’d been taking.
What I’ve learned in the past few months is that one of the worst, most confusing moments of death is that moment right after they’ve gone. Literally seconds before, this body I was holding in my lap had contained my dog, Cash. It had just been the puppy we’d raised from birth, the one who had a white spot on his chest, even though he was an AKC registered Labrador, and they weren’t really supposed to have white on them. This was the dog my parents were going to sell because we already had three. He was the last of the second litter that we’d raised to sell to still be at our house (we had a boy dog named Riley and a girl dog named Sadie, and we’d already had a litter of puppies from them the year before that we’d sold, except for one named Johnny, who we kept).
This memory is so crystal clear to me. Cash was a few months old, and he was sprawled sleeping on the floor of our living room, right by the couch (because it was in a different place in our living room at that time) and next to the step up to the entry way. He was sleeping away, that hard, committed sleep of a puppy that’s worn itself out, a sprawl of black limbs, and I could just see that white spot on his chest. And they were talking about giving him to this sheriff who was interested in him, and how he could be a sheriff’s dog, and ride around with him, and I just started crying. And I laid my head against him and he looked up at me with these melting ambery-brown eyes and I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t bear for him to go. He was my Cash puppy; a strange name for a dog, but I was the one who had chosen it, because I was reading some ridiculous Diana Palmer romance novel when we were naming the puppies, and the hero was named Cash (the heroine was named Tippy, so the naming thing went better than it could have). And we already had a one year old dog we’d kept from our first litter named Johnny, so how cute to name a puppy in the next litter Cash! And now, how cute if we had dogs named Johnny and Cash! And I cried and I cried and I cried, and even after my parents agreed to let us keep him, I couldn’t stop crying for a while, because I was so scared at the thought of him going.
So come Saturday morning, I’m sitting here holding the body of this dog in my lap. And I’m so bewildered, because I’m staring at that little white spot on his chest, where the fur grew upwards for some strange reason, and I can’t understand how that white patch of hair means nothing anymore. This sudden absence, this disappearance to a place we simply cannot follow, is one of the worst things I’ve ever been forced to experience when losing someone I love. A few hours before, we were doing everything we could to care for that body, to make it better. And now, it was meaningless.
The vet arrived probably five or ten minutes after Cash was gone; again, I might be a little hazy on the details. My mom got out to speak with him; I couldn’t move because I was holding my dog on my lap. And my sister was sitting in the car crying and crying, and my sister never cries, and she kept saying, “Why can’t he just stop talking, we just want to go home!” and it was so strange because she is always the calm one, the reasonable one. And I remember thinking in this very distant way how I felt bad for the vet, because he’d had to drive from a long way out to meet us specially on a Saturday when the vet was closed and he was making an exception for us, and now he’d come all this way for nothing, and perhaps the least we could do was have our mom speak to him to tell him what happened.
Finally my mom came back and told us that the vet was pretty sure that Cashy must have suffered another stroke that morning. It seemed strangely irrelevant to me at that point. I was already bewildered with the rapidity of what had happened, the shock of finding out that our eternally healthy Cash had collapsed, to finding out he had some bizarre disease we had never heard of and knew nothing about, to thinking that he was improving ahead of schedule, to his sudden and abrupt decline.
My dad had had to work that day, and I realized I needed to tell him what had happened. I called, but he didn’t answer, and so my mom started the car. As we were pulling out, my dad called back, and all I could say was, “Daddy,” before I collapsed into sobs. As painfully dry as my eyes had been before, belatedly the truth struck me like a fist and I couldn’t even speak. I cried on the phone incoherently as we drove home, Cash’s body still in my lap, and I couldn’t seem to stop myself from still running my hand over him, like somehow that would soothe him from the trauma of dying. My dad just kept saying he was sorry over and over again, and again, somewhere in the back of my mind, I was so sorry for my dad, who feeds and waters and takes care of our dogs practically every day, and who had to go through an entire day of work before he could even come home and try and deal with what was waiting.
There was nothing to say when I finally could stop sobbing about how Cash died in my lap, and so I hung up the phone after telling my dad I loved him. We got home and parked in the yard, close to the gate to our side yard where we have an old pen that we kept the puppies in when we were raising them. We lifted Cash out in the sheet we’d put over the seat, and laid him down under one of the trees. It was cold outside, and my shoes had fallen off while we were trying to move him, but I couldn’t care enough to go get them and put them on.
Death is rarely a clean process, and I was determined to clean Cash up as best as I could. My mom brought me wipes and paper towels and I sat outside alone in my front yard, crying and snotting all over my sleeves, and doing the last thing I could think to do for my little black puppy with the white spot. The sheet Cash was on was very dirty by this point, and I was determined he would not be buried in it. I took the bright green sheet that I’d slept on my first year of college, and when I was finally done cleaning up Cash, my mom came outside with me and helped me move him onto it, and into the old dog pen. I wanted desperately to bury him, and it seemed impossible to wait the hours and hours for my dad to come home from work (it was barely eight, and my dad wouldn’t be home until around four or four thirty that afternoon). It was cold outside, and I just didn’t want to leave Cash laying in the yard in the cold. It was so wrong; I didn’t care if his body was empty of him, it was the closest thing I had left. I was ready to dig the hole and lift him into it myself at the point, until my mother quietly pointed out that my father would probably like to be there when we buried him. I thought of the hours and hours and hours my father had devoted to our dogs, and there was no more talk of burying him then.
I went inside to take a shower, as I was fairly cold by this point, especially since I hadn’t been wearing shoes. But when I went in the bathroom, I was suddenly overcome by the finality of it. It seemed like if I took a shower, I washed off the last traces of Cash’s life, and I just couldn’t take it another second. I kept repeating over and over that I couldn’t bear it, I just couldn’t bear it. My insides drew up so tight that it felt like I’d been punched in the stomach, and I kept doubling over in a fruitless effort to alleviate the pain. I kept flashing through parallels of my beloved Boo dying before my eyes and not even three full months later my precious Cash doing the same. And I was suddenly overwhelmed with the crippling, paralyzing recognition that there are so, so very many I love that can die, and it just didn’t seem possible to live with the knowledge.
I put my clothes back on and put on a bigger jacket, one which I always wear when I go outside to play with the dogs. I went into the pen where we’d put Cash, and I laid down in the leaves next to him and cried as I stared up at a beautiful blue sky, and ran my hand across his silky black ear.
I’ve no idea how long I stayed like that, but when I finally got up to go inside, I took my jacket off and spread it over him, so he wouldn’t get cold.
I slept until my father got home, and when I woke there was that brief, cruel moment where I didn’t remember what had happened, and the crushing, agonizing recollection that followed it. We buried Cash in the pen where he was raised, and I saw my father cry for one of the very few times in my life. We wrapped him in my sheet and tucked a tennis ball in with him and buried him.
I don’t know why I shared all of this. I didn’t want to start writing this post, unlike with Boo’s, and I in no way wanted to recount what was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. But these words have just come out, with no prior planning and intent. I couldn’t stand to post what the actual end of Boo’s life was like, because I physically cannot type those words. But for some reason, as I’ve written this, I couldn’t stop myself from speaking of Cash’s death. I am constantly perplexed by the infinite types of grief that exist, and the endless array of ways we deal with it. I’m sitting here and I cannot make sense of why I’ve done this. I still want to speak of Cash’s life, too.
He was barely seven years old, and I’m still stunned by the injustice of his death. He was the youngest of our four dogs, and he’d never been sick a day in his life. His favorite thing to do was chase tennis balls with his mom, Sadie, and they would play endlessly. Anytime Cash got the ball from Sadie, he would tease her with it, and jerk it away the second she got close to him. Then he would chew messily on the ball, drool flying, chomp chomp chomp, until I took the ball out of his mouth or Sadie managed to. If you scratched above his tail, he was physically incapable of stopping himself from lifting his back leg and scratching. He loved to roll around in the grass and half the time he didn’t even eat the little dog bones we give our dogs, because he was picky. He was ornery, and he loved to rile up his brother and dad, and you couldn’t have him in the house too long because he would usually try and pee on something.  He wasn’t a small dog, but compared to his 120 pound father and 100 pound brother, he always looked so slim and young darting around everywhere. When it snowed a few weeks ago, I remember looking out our bay window, and he was the only one out, rolling gleefully around in the snow. Cash was the most expert jumper I’ve ever seen. There was not a single fence or gate in our yard he couldn’t get over, if he wanted. But Cash loved us and loved his pack fiercely, and he never once tried to get out, even on a couple memorable occasions when certain naughty other dogs did and left the gate open. Cash always was a happy dog, and he always looked like he had a little grin on his face. We don’t have very many pictures of Cash when he’s older, because he was always running and moving and playing. It seems impossible to me, sitting here in my living room typing this, that he’s not outside in the backyard now, curled up with the other dogs. For seven years, every time I’ve looked outside my mind automatically looks for four, and for the past couple of days I’ve literally felt a stab in my heart when I count one missing.
I once read in a book that heaven is a place where every animal you’ve ever loved comes to greet you when you arrive. That’s certainly the most beautiful idea of heaven I’ve ever heard of, and that’s what I’m hoping for.

I love you so, so very much my sweet Cashy boy, and I promise you that will never, ever stop. And if I could go back this very second to that moment six years ago, when you were laying on the floor and I was sitting a few feet away looking at you and thinking about giving you to someone else, it wouldn’t even take a heartbeat for me to lay my head down on you again and cry until my parents let me keep you.

Cash

My precious Cash when he  was a puppy and my sweet Boo baby not being too pleased about his presence.

My precious Cash when he was a puppy and my sweet Boo baby not being too pleased about his presence.