At least we have a story (Thanks Southwest)

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From the So This Happened Files

Of course we have lots of stories. And our honeymoon was full of wonderful moments until the end. Everyone has survived some sort of travel nightmare. This is ours; it’s based on a true story. And maybe in a few years we can look back and laugh. Who knew it would take over 24 hours to get home from Jamaica. And no boats were involved.

We chose to fly Southwest. I’ve been a raving fan of theirs for many years. I studied them in business school as a company built on values and taking care of employees and customers. I really thought they were different. I didn’t really start flying Southwest until a few years ago when they finally arrived at the Charlotte airport after their acquisition of AirTran. I liked what I believed them to be as a company. And their flight attendants always seemed to be genuine and happy, unlike other airlines, where I thought the people might jump off the plane at any moment.

I understand that flights get canceled. I was a constant traveler for five and a half years. I get it. I know weather can’t be controlled. But this experience was the absolute worst I’ve ever been involved regarding a canceled flight. We arrived from Jamaica to Baltimore. Our flight to Charlotte was scheduled for 8:40 p.m. We get through customs, and the flight is on time. Then it was delayed two hours. Okay, we can deal with that. Lots of delays and canceled flights light up the screen. Then we are delayed another hour – waiting for the aircraft. Our plan arrives, and we are advised that after the passengers deplane, we will be on our way.

But we aren’t. The new message is that we need a first officer. Again, I understand that pilots can only fly a certain number of hours and that all commercial flights require two pilots. But they board us anyway. We’re on the plane. It’s now midnight. The first officer has landed in the B gates, and he’s on his way to our gate in A. Passengers are getting restless and start saying that we’re not going anywhere; that this is all a lie. And they are right. The next announcement is that there is no first officer; the flight has been canceled. I can only assume that the first officer fell into a black hole on his way to the gate. Someone should really report him missing.

After the cancellation, we are given no further instruction on how to get our bags or what to do. There’s one service desk and 100 plus angry and tired people. All the flights for Sunday are booked. Justin suggests we can just live in the airport like Tom Hanks did (and I’m not laughing). But we’ve got to get home. The dogs need to be picked up in the morning. We are six and a half hours from home. We can drive. The car rental is 24 hours at BWI. But we need our luggage. We ask how to find our checked baggage. “Just go to baggage claim,” we are instructed. Baggage claim is a nightmare. Our bags are nowhere to be found. Then we are advised that our baggage is in a “secure area.” We have to get in another line. While in said line, Justin keeps looking around. The luggage is found. It’s about 1:30 a.m. at this point.

We go to pick up the rental car, but I don’t have my driver’s license. I only have my Passport. I try to keep what I have to take with me minimal when traveling, but note to self – take your damn license! Justin has his license but no credit card. I have credit cards. Hertz says no – driver and credit card have to be the same. Not sure why – and we are married. Avis accepts his license and my credit card. We get on the road. It’s 2:30 a.m.

We make our way through D.C. in the middle of the night. There’s still a surprising amount of traffic. However, I’ve come to believe that D.C. has traffic no matter what time of day. We’ve now been up for 20 plus hours.

So we stop at rest stops all down 95, and run around the car to stay awake. He gets coffee; I have soda. He won’t let me drive because he’s a good husband (and is also aware that I’m not the best driver under ideal circumstances). But I have to stay up. So I plug in my iPod and start singing loud. We stay awake. I may have been holding my eyelids open. I think I was a bit delirious at this point as well. It’s kind of a blur.

Around 10:00 a.m., we roll into Charlotte. We’ve been up for close to 30 hours. It has taken us 24 hours to get from the resort to home (and again, we didn’t take a raft from Jamaica). We pick up the pups, who are very glad to see us and smell so nice from their go-home baths. Finally, at around noon, we collapse into bed.

But we survived; our first test of the marriage. And as for Southwest, I feel very different about them now than I did before. They are going to issue us a partial refund for the canceled flight. But now I just think they are like all the rest. There is no differentiation between them and the others. I’m not sure when I’ll fly them again. Our trips for 2017 will be mostly through American, as they own about 90% of our airport and I’m a card member. Listen, I have no love for American. But now I think Southwest is on the same level. They’ve lost my trust. I’m no longer a raving fan. It wasn’t the cancelation; it was the lying. I’ve never been able to take lying. Passengers don’t want smoke blown up our asses; we want the truth so we can make more informed decisions.

But as Justin said, we have a story. Yes, we do. Thanks, Southwest, I needed more material.

Forget Resolutions, Just Be Better

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Ever wonder how New Year’s resolutions originated? I did, too. So I did some research. New Year’s resolutions originated thousands of years ago, tracing back to the ancient Babylonians and Romans. Back then, these people used resolutions as a way to appease the gods. As Christianity emerged, Christians also began to make promises to be more devout and cleanse the sins from the former year.

New Year’s resolutions, which are mainly secular these days, have now turned into a joke with the likelihood to keep them very slim. I’m sure they still have meaning to some; if for nothing else than to contemplate the year that has passed.

I don’t make resolutions. I do set goals. But these goals don’t hinge on a new year. I don’t need any additional pressure to “change” my life come January 1st. I want to always be willing and open to change and growth. So why not start every day with the hope to be a better person? I’m not a self help expert or a motivational guru. I’m just a real person with real challenges that loves to write. I don’t have it all together by any means. I just try hard every day to be better. Here are some thoughts on “better.”

Be accountable. This is your life. You made the choices, for better or worse, that led you to this moment. Stop blaming everything and everyone for your situation. Yes, we’ve all had things happen to us outside of our control. Right now at this moment you’ve got to stop thinking that someone or something else is the reason for your current condition. Own your own life! We’ve run out of time to change the past. Stop being stuck in it. Being stuck in the past is like quicksand. If you don’t clear your way out, you’ll sink into it and disappear.

If you are depressed, anxious or both, get help! There’s no reason to suffer. And your spouse, partner or best friend isn’t the help I mean. Yes, having a support system is important, but I mean professional help. There’s no shame in this. Take meds if you need them. It’s okay to ask for help. Because guess what, your life’s not perfect. And it doesn’t have to be.

Stop being so self-absorbed. Try being present with those in front of you. Put your phone away. Look people in the eye. Have a real conversation. Self absorption isn’t just about the self, it’s often disguised by whatever you’re focused on like your children or job. Look, I’m no expert on kids. I’m not a parent. But I have been obsessed with my career. That was my priority. I was always working. And my relationships suffered. So whether it’s kids or career or something else, just remember that if someone is taking the time to be present with you then reciprocate.

Stop waiting for that magical thing to happen that will make you feel happy or successful or some other emotion you crave. It’s not going to happen. Maybe it will, but don’t count on waking up the next day with all your worries gone and a cloak of happiness. I fell in that trap, thinking when I accomplish this professional goal then I’ll finally feel like a success. It never happened. While I still struggle with what “success” means, I’m no longer waiting for that unicorn to ride in with a “You’re a Success” banner. The same thing with relationships. Thinking that if you’ll find the “one” you’ll live happily ever after is utter bullshit. There is no “one”; there are people out there you’ll be more compatible with than others. Ultimately though you’ve got to be right with yourself to have a real, lasting relationship that is healthy. Stop waiting on that happiness train; it’s never on time and will pass you by.

So that’s my non-advice. I call it this because I don’t really think I’m in a position to provide advice. What I can do is tell good stories based on what I’ve learned. Writing this is as much for me as for anyone who reads it. Just remember, you’re still here. You’ve successfully made it through a lot of spectacular and horrible things. The only thing you need to do is just be better.

What I Learned from 2016

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Well, 2016, you sure did not disappoint. It’s been up and down all the way through. And in the end, whether if just by a thread, I’m still here, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.

The year started with a break up; I left I job I loved for many reasons yet it was clear I needed to move on. What I hated leaving were mostly the people. These great people made a lasting impression on me. I learned a lot about myself through the eyes of these people and took some lessons from them as well. It’s a pretty amazing thing when you have the pleasure of being around fascinating people that make you want to just be better.

Since then my professional life has been on the rise. I got back to who I am and what I want to do. I relaunched this blog, which has been such a joy for me. To write about life and share my stories makes me happy. And I am motivated even more to keep telling more stories because of the response I’ve received. I’ve also been able to meet and work with many interesting and intelligent people on marketing strategies. My “day job” is a bit of a bore, but I’ve met many exceptional people.

Of course what took precedence most of the year was the remodel. I spent months with no floor, a few weeks with no kitchen and a few moments when I may have considered going to a hotel alone! And then finally, things came together. I won’t congratulate us just yet. We still have one more ceiling to scrape and two bathrooms, which means we’ll have to share a bathroom for a time.  Good luck to us.

While things have been mostly positive and joyful, the world itself has continued to be challenging. It’s nothing new. Conflict arises over the same things over and over – religion, race, power, money and anything that seems “different.” Have we learned nothing from history, have we really devolved? I’m not an expert on the human condition; I am however an observant storyteller. I’ve seen real anger and fear in the faces of many. Yet I’ve also seen beautiful signs of humanity. One afternoon on the way home, I saw a dog with no leash or human. It’s a busy road. He was definitely someone’s pup based on his good condition. I went to pull over and three other cars did as well. A lady jumped out and scooped him up as he was about to walk into the road. I needed to see that, it gave me hope.

I lost a lot of hope in this culture during the election. It showed a lot of the worst in people. I don’t believe that some people are all bad or good. I think people are all shades of gray, light and dark pieces in us all. But l learned something very important the morning after the election. I was on the train, earlier than normal. Two middle aged men were standing behind me on their way to offices in skyscrapers. They were complaining about lack of sleep because “They waited so long to call it.” Then one says to the other, “At least there’s not a woman in the White House.”

I don’t believe the race was lost because of gender. I’ve tried hard to dissect how and why things happened as they did. I get that things certainly aren’t as our founding fathers imagined. But I do know that when they wrote, all men are created equal, they meant white men like themselves. Everyone else has had to keep fighting for that equal. Those words I heard that morning helped me understand that I need to keep trying to be a strong voice and force for women in any way I can regardless of who is in office. I’m not burying my head in the sand. I’m going to stay as educated and informed as possible. Someone has to.

The year ended with a simple wedding, joining two people who are more concerned with a dazzling marriage. Marriage, and the wonderful man I now call husband, have taught me so much already. No matter what 2017 has in store, we will weather it together. This is perhaps the best lesson of 2016 – it’s the special moments and time with those we love that matter – everything else is just noise. I’m all for more joy and less noise in 2017. I’ll do my part; hope you will, too.

 

Thoughts on Westworld and What It Means to be Human

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So, we are fascinated by Westworld. Billed as a science-fiction thriller where humans live out their fantasies with AI-induced hosts, Westworld is actually about much more. It asks the question, “What does it mean to be human?” and has a running theme of “pain” as the crux of consciousness. The hosts are wiped clean after every trauma but soon begin to remember. Is this what pushes them toward consciousness?

In the real world, humans of course can’t have their memories erased. We carry them around. They may act as shields or barriers or even medals. Our experiences do shape us and inform who we are and the choices we make. Sometimes for good; sometimes to our detriment. But it’s worth asking: does pain make us human?

I don’t do a lot of what if anymore, where I would run through my life and consider alternatives. What if my mom would have lived? What if my father would have been a part of my life? What if I never had cancer? There are a million other ways my life could have gone. I have no idea if I’d be the same person without pain, but my guess is no.

Westworld also has a recurring thought about loss, that the pain from loss (in the show it’s the loss of a child) is all someone has left. I’ve written about this before. That my pain is what makes me know it was real, that my mom and her love and devotion to me were real. I long ago stopped trying to shred it, but it’s also no longer my armor. You don’t have to be consumed by your pain in order to hang onto it. It’s not going anywhere. I won’t miraculously wake up one morning and have a whole heart again.

If I had to answer the question, then I’d say yes, pain does make us human. I don’t think any of us are pain free, however, some have led a more comfortable life. If given the choice, I’d say many would opt for that comfortable life. Not me. I’ll take the pain. I’ll take all the good and bad that came with my life. I didn’t choose the pain. I didn’t ask to be born. But I choose to live this life that I have and make the best of it. Without this life and in turn this pain, I wouldn’t be able to write things like this with such passion. My voice would more subdued; my thoughts more simple.

Westworld has been a ride in its first season. I was so eager for every second of it, reminding me of my obsession over Lost. But like any great piece of art, it made me think about my own place in the world and question it. I’m glad to be aware of where I’ve been and where I am. And, I would always choose the pain even if enchanting Dr. Ford told me he’d wipe it all away.

Why I Want to Marry Him

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I promise this isn’t mushy. It’s just my version of a love letter.

People get married every day for the wrong reasons; I was one of them. Twelve years later I’m a different person, and this is a different relationship. So I think I’m doing this for all the right reasons. I wanted to share what real love looks like, that it’s far from a fairytale. We don’t always get along or agree. We’ve hurt each other. I’ve yelled; he hasn’t. Real, enduring love is what happens after the “falling” part.

So here’s why I want to marry him.

He keeps showing up for me. All my life that’s all I’ve ever wanted, for someone to show up when it matters. My life has been full of disappointment in this area, especially men. Until him, there were probably only a handful of men who had done this, mostly my Pop. But he shows up for me every damn day, whether I want it or not. Just the other week, I was deathly ill with a migraine. Usually I can manage, but not that day. I called and asked if he could come home. And he did. That may seem small, but to me it was huge. Knowing someone will show up for you and even pull your hair back while you vomit helps ease the burden of thinking you’re in this alone.

I’ve missed him so bad I’ve cried. Again, may seem small, but I don’t miss people much. I miss my animals terribly but people not so much. In a past life, I was a constant work traveler. I had relationships before this one and was gone all the time. Never missed those guys. In fact, I didn’t even call or text much (except to check on Honey). But with Justin, it was different. I was gone several times for over a week, and I missed him so bad I cried. I don’t miss the travel, but should my work situation change and I have to travel again, it will be hard. It’s different when you like who you come home to.

He’s not scared of me. I’ve had previous beaus say I’m intimidating. Maybe I am. I speak my mind and don’t take any shit. I have a backbone and an opinion. He’s heard it all. But he says he appreciates how passionate I am. He’s not scared to disagree with me or present the opposing view. In so many past relationships, the men were so timid. Justin is laid back and easy going, but he once said don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I never have.

He doesn’t try to fix me. Men want to fix us. It’s in their nature to diagnose problem and solve it. Justin is well aware that I’m not perfect. He sometimes struggles with understanding depression, but he’s never attempted to make me happy or thought he was the remedy. The struggles that I go through, he can’t necessarily relate to, yet he doesn’t discount them. He’s glad I go to therapy (and doesn’t think it’s a big con like an ex did – really?). He knows if I want to talk I will. And that if I need to be “fixed” in any way then it’s up to me to do it.

I don’t see an end. I think in almost all of my past relationships, it was easy to see the end. Nothing before, not even marriage, seemed permanent. I never felt much loyalty to other partners. It was always finite. I could see the end, and it didn’t make me sad. It made me relieved. I don’t have those visions about Justin. I’ve never thought about what will happen next or daydreamed about what I’ll do when this is over. This will never be over; we don’t need an end.

I’m sure there are a million more reasons why I’m marrying him: he’s terribly funny, sings songs to the dogs, has the most spectacular eyelashes, is highly amusing to watch during a Longhorns or Cowboys game, never lies, can cook better than any chef (while also keeping the kitchen tidy), can build or fix anything, tells me I’m his everything all the time and rarely snores.

And when it comes down to it, we know the secret to a happy relationship: a king size bed and separate bathrooms!

The Journey to Thankful

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Thankfulness is a journey. You don’t get there by sitting still. However, don’t be alarmed. This isn’t a post about how everything happens for a reason, and it will all be okay. If you know me then you know I think most of that is utter nonsense. And if I had to choose between being an optimist or a pessimist, I’d choose to be a realist. Because ultimately when things get out of control, and you are struggling, only you can dust yourself off and keep fighting.

I also understand that through time and reflection, I can now look back at times in my life that I thought were the absolute worst and be thankful. Because without those failures or disappointments I might not be who I am. And I like who I am, at least 67 percent of the time.

The not just broken, but shattered heart.

My heart had been broken before but more like little tiny cracks. I didn’t know the depths of true heart break until I ended a multi-year relationship with a man I had loved without restraint. But love is simply not enough to build a life together. If you think love is enough, you are wrong. There are so many other factors that determine if you can make it in the long run. It took years to heal from this. I acted out; I made bad choice; I put myself in bad situations. Anything to escape the utter hole I felt in my chest. I came out of it though. It led me to a more honest conversation with myself. I’m not completely perfect. I’m not completely healed. Some things simply can’t be removed from your heart. But I am unbelievably thankful for this hurt. It helped me, for the first time, realize that love wasn’t really about sacrifice or trying to shape yourself into what someone else was comfortable with. It gave me a healthy comparison to where I am now. And allowed me to be so very sure that I am where I need to be.

Not every opportunity will be the right fit. Learn what you can.

So I’ve had a variety of jobs: some good, some bad, some horrific, some just mind numbing. I’ve had every kind of boss you can think of: the crazy one, the arrogant one, the leader, the cheerleader, the friend, the idiot, the ghost. I’ve had some bad experiences. Everything from a boss telling me I was replaceable and fat to ones trying to get me to be unethical. One the other side, I’ve had bosses that appreciated me, believed in me and helped me be successful. There were a lot of tears shed and a huge cloud of self-doubt. But I took what I could learn from each of them and sorted it into things I should do and things I would never do. A lot of people dwell on bad experiences in the workplace. I could too. I’ve been sexually harassed, seen my opportunities and paycheck be less than that for a man and dealt with “mean girls” who thought the workplace was junior high. Don’t drag this baggage around. Just know that you can do better. And that you deserve better.

It’s so okay to let people go.

I’ve had to let a lot of people go in my life. It wasn’t always their fault, but a decision I needed to make to protect myself. I had a friend of almost 20 years who I loved dearly. She was family. But she changed. And with that change came a lot of anger focused on me and others I love. So I just let her go. I wish her the best, but she doesn’t get to hurt me ever again. It was so heartbreaking at the time. Now I can be thankful, thankful that I protected myself instead of trying to reconcile and take the abuse. There have been many more that aren’t part of my life anymore because I made the choice to say no. I chose to put myself first. No one else will protect you but you. If you let people mistreat you then you are facilitating that so just stop it. It will be hard. It will suck. You will cry. You will heal. Surround yourself with those that really want you to succeed and be happy. Practice some self love. I’m eternally grateful that I had the courage to cut the cord.

Being sick doesn’t mean you have to be a victim.

I’ve had my share of health problems. It’s not been easy. There have been times when I’ve had rows of prescriptions. There have been days of excruciating pain; days where I wanted to just give up. But I will NEVER be a victim. I will fight with every last breath to stay here on this earth for as long as I can. I’ve got work to do. I’ve got people to empower and stories to tell.

It’s easy to become a victim. It’s easy to be so absorbed with your ailments that you can’t see past hospital rooms and procedures. I’m not saying I never had a pity party. I did. I felt cheated, frustrated and just tired of it all. Again, I’m not saying I’ve always been uplifting or thought the glass was half full. I prefer to smash the glass off the table, and say there is no glass. There’s just me, standing up, maybe sometimes with a little help from the love I’m thankful to be surrounded by, and saying this is not the end of me. I’m much too scrappy for that.

It takes work to be thankful. It’s not something that’s natural. Even though you can’t be thankful in the moment (I never believed in a million years that a broken heart, an abusive boss or a cancer diagnosis would be on the list of thankful), time passing can certainly change your perspective. So when someone asks you what you are thankful for this week, don’t just say the normal, cliché answers, dig deeper to the ugly stuff that you never thought you’d be thankful for and realize what an absolute rock star you are for making it this far.

Today, a poem

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I’m busy working on thoughts and ideas. Sometimes you have to walk away from what you are writing and come back to it. So today, a poem. I wrote this many years ago. It’s still one of my favorites. Never think that words aren’t powerful. They absolutely are. And don’t ever think that you can’t come back from something. You may just realize you have wings that work when you take that jump or leap.

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I have this picture
You in that old olive recliner
Me poised on the arm.
We’re mirrored
From the green Izod shirts
To the blonde strands of hair.
It sits in a frame.
It hangs in my heart.
I remember you young & tan
Before too many things
Sank into your skin.
When I had pigtails
And called you mommy.
Maybe time fades pictures, curls their edges.
I’ve taken a million steps away
From that moment
It’s still clear, it’s still happening
Whenever I close my eyes.

 

How I Know I’m Not an A**hole

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Every once in a while I think a gut check is needed. I’ve been in a bad mood lately. Maybe it’s all the negativity in the air. And life is stressful. Lots going on then the holidays, which are often a time of sadness for me. I know I have a lot to look forward to and much to be thankful. That doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days; days when I’m pretty much winging it and holding on by a quickly fraying thread. So I decided to make this list to remind myself I’m not an a**hole, or at least not one most of the time.

  1. I pick up after my dogs. I understand that their waste belongs in a bag in the trash not on the ground for everyone to step in.
  2. I open doors for people, thank them when they do the same, say excuse me and respect people’s personal space. I do these things, not because I’m southern or a lady, but rather because it’s the behavior that was modeled by others. My mom and grandmothers were all very kind and considerate souls. Some of that apparently brushed off on me.
  3. I stop at stop signs and drive slowly through my neighborhood. I do this because I’m obeying traffic laws, and I’m never in a hurry. But I do look in disdain at the cars on the street not parked in the driveways or garages of million dollar homes. I side eye the yard signs that say, “Drive like your children live here.” Why? I’m driving through city streets right outside downtown Charlotte. This isn’t the suburbs. This is not a cul-de-sac.
  4. I don’t litter, and I pick up trash a lot in my neighborhood. Sometimes begrudgingly, thinking why does this not bother anyone else? But I care about the earth. It doesn’t deserve to be treated in the way that most humans treat it.
  5. I honestly try not to judge others. I may not understand why some people do the things they do. I may not agree with or like it. But I am not perfect, not even close so it’s not my place to judge others.
  6. When my temper gets the best of me and I become a bit snippy to those I love, I’m always able to calm down, reflect and apologize. Having this awareness and the ability to step back has saved me so many times.
  7. I don’t always have to be right. I mean, I am a lot, but being right isn’t a prize that you win. And if it was a prize, it’d be a very lonely one. I can admit when I’m wrong (even if it’s just a whisper).
  8. I will do about anything I can to help an animal. It’s easy to be loving and kind toward animals. They make my life better. If I can repay that in any way, I will.
  9. I do not chew loudly or make weird sounds. It’s fine if you do, but you may always be a table for one.
  10. I don’t put empty things back in the refrigerator. What kind of monster does that? Oh yeah, men.
  11. I stand up for my beliefs. I’m not a yes woman. I’m not a sheep. And maybe this does make me seem like an a**hole sometimes. But I think it makes me brave.
  12. I try, some days harder than others, to leave the world a bit better than the day before. This could mean that I do a lot of little things or nothing at all. No matter what’s going on in my life or my mood, I believe in being better. I do not have a poker face so it’s easy to see when I’m not having it; although my resting bitch face may make it harder to interpret. But I’m just a real person with real feelings. And I think it’s okay not to hide them.
  13. I make lists like these, which must mean there is more kindness in my heart than coldness.

So this is what I could come up with half an hour. Tell me, what are you doing in your life to make sure you’re not the a**hole?

 

What I Learned from Cats

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From the What I Learned Series

This is a companion piece to What I Learned from Dogs. As anyone knows dogs and cats are different. Each deserves their own story. Dogs usually crave attention and want to please; cats do what they want. I love both cats and dogs. I’d never choose a favorite, but I’d say I’m much more cat like.

The first pet that was really mine was my Kitka. She appeared one day in my yard. She was a little lady with a calico face and white feet. I didn’t know that I needed her, but she was so lovely; I couldn’t resist. This was the summer after my mom and brother’s deaths. I was feeling very alone in the world. And this little creature had a way of making me feel less lonely.

Not to say that Kitka was a sweetheart. She had an attitude. She was fearless. Most cats scurry when someone new comes along. Not Kitka. She wanted to know who you were and if possible to rummage through your handbag.

As a Maine Coon, she was a big girl. All her fur made her look bigger. More than once, I heard comments on her size. With a lot of fur, she needed to be brushed. She was not fond of this. It wasn’t unusual to return with a bloody finger. Once her fur got so matted, it required she be shaved. She was not a happy girl. Luckily, the fur grew back quickly.

Her Maine Coon traits also made her love water. She loved to sit in or drink from the sink. She was very social and chatty. And always up to something. After a move, I was home unpacking. She was nowhere to be found. I was calling her, offering treats. I was a wreck thinking she had gotten outside. I slumped down to the floor, tired and worried. And she just sauntered in and brushed up against me.

Kitka was an only kitty for a while. Eventually she had some siblings. She was, however, always the boss. The companionship and joy Kitka gave me are things I will never forget. She even welcomed Honey into our family.

Kitka taught me that not everything or everyone fit a stereotype. She wasn’t a typical cat. Her personality made her unique. Kitka also showed me the unconditional love that animals can give. She was in tune with my feelings and always glad to be by my side.

Losing her was beyond difficult. She got sick, and it happened quickly. I still think about her all the time and what a blessing she was.

My current cat Ellie is a tiny smoke gray sweetie. She isn’t as fearless as her sister, but she is certainly sweeter. Ellie never tries to bite or scratch. Well, there have been a few scratches in attempts to move her or place her in a cat carrier. Her chattiness is unrivaled. She expects her can food in the morning and has no notion of weekends or sleeping in.

The dogs don’t leave her alone all the time. She gladly pops them in the face with her little q-tip paw. Then they look at me, and I just say, “You’re in her personal space.” She is very graceful, hopping around on her cat tree or leaping onto shelves, which are not cat friendly. If there was ever a runway walker, it would be my Ellie.

Ellie has taught me about patience and kindness. She had been through a lot before she came to live with me. I rescued her when she was about a year old. I tend to try to adopt older animals, as everyone wants puppies and kittens. She was tiny but mighty. Her chirps and instant liking of me let me know she was the one.

Since then Ellie has been a loyal and loving cat. But I almost lost her. I was in Austin for the weekend. Justin was home, working on our first kitchen renovation. There was a lot of sanding. He left a window cracked. The next morning, there were little paw prints in the dust leading out the window. Justin and I had been together for less than a year, and to say I was upset is an understatement. Apparently, I may have said some things that weren’t nice. I really only remember using the word disappointed. I arrived home that afternoon.  It was rainy and cold. We searched the neighborhood and put up signs. We didn’t find her that day or the next. On Tuesday, we found her, outside on the back porch. She was cold but unscathed. Haven’t seen her try to make a run for it since.

But I learned a lot from that experience. Even though it was stressful and scary, I learned that Ellie would never really leave me. It’s hard to find anyone in the world who won’t leave you. It also taught me that even though I’ll never have human children, I am a mom. All the worry and fear I had in that moment was just as real as if I’d lost a child in a store.

All my cats have been unique and brought a lot of happiness into my life. Happiness was once hard to come by for me. Animals so many times made the difference. Even when the world has been inhospitable and screamed no at every turn, I have always been able to come home to a gentle purr and a fluffy friend.

Ready to forgive?

forgiveness

A wise woman once told me that forgiveness is acceptance that the past cannot be different. When we forgive, we have to accept. And that’s where we all tend to get tangled up.

I am certainly not a champion for forgiveness. I’ve fought against most of my life. It just wasn’t something I could entertain. How could certain people deserve forgiveness?

So I heard a lot from others about how forgiveness is something you have to do for yourself, not the person. That if you don’t forgive then you are subject to hate in your heart, and that hate will just weigh you down. Maybe. But for me, not forgiving you doesn’t mean I hate you. And it also doesn’t mean I’m still hoping things will be different.

So how do we forgive? How do we move forward? We can all attempt forgiveness. I’ve said it out loud on numerous occasions. I’ve reconciled that the past isn’t going to be erased. But in the end, it’s not 100%. Forgiveness doesn’t clean the slate. It doesn’t give anyone a free pass to hurt you again. That’s maybe why they say forgive but don’t forget.

There’s no innocence with forgiveness. It doesn’t rectify the hurt. Ultimately, forgiveness may mean something different to each person who has the capacity to forgive. When I have forgiven, it helped me stopped playing the past over and over – waiting for a different ending. It stopped the blame. It’s way too easy to blame yourself for everything, especially when you are a kid. As children, we aren’t sophisticated enough to understand we are not the cause. When something traumatic happens, a child can’t comprehend the way an adult can. It’s either blame the adult or blame yourself. Children blame themselves. To blame the adult would seem unfathomable for many kids. Because we usually love and trust the adult. This creates an internal struggle and a rejection of self-love. We don’t learn to love ourselves. We learn to blame.

I’ve blamed myself for much of what has happened to me. It’s a vicious cycle, often hard to correct. I’m better than I was, but the question is, have I forgiven myself? And this may be the hardest part of forgiveness. I’ve come to realize that forgiveness for myself is the first step. Everyone else had to wait.

Self-awareness can empower you to forgive. It can help you see the logical side of any internal argument. I’m still my biggest enemy in many ways. To forgive myself, I have had to accept my actions and choices; some of which were really bad. I can’t change the past. I can only hope that I honestly believe now that it cannot be different.

I’ve forgiven exes. Most of which didn’t ask for it. I once wrote a long email to a man I had loved. I had ended the relationship well over a year before. It took that long to heal. It took that long to forgive. I think he needed my forgiveness. It wasn’t easy to give. When someone hurts you, someone that you love, it can be hard to come out the other side. I did, although with some wounds that may never completely heal.

I’ve forgiven friends who have hurt me, knowing that we all make mistakes. I’ve forgiven my mom for not being perfect. I’ve forgiven my former bosses for treating me terribly. And yes, I have forgiven myself a million times. I’m sure I will a million more times.

But I haven’t completed my forgiveness journey. I still find it not within my current grasp to forgive one person. This person let me down my entire life, never there when it mattered. This person isn’t in my life anymore and hasn’t been for some time. No matter how much I want to forgive, there is something that stops me from being able to completely. There’s never going to be any resolution; I know that. Nothing will change the past. And I don’t have to ever give this person another chance to hurt me.

For now, the forgiveness is still a work in progress, as am I. Eventually, I think I’ll be at 100%. Forgiveness is not something this person ever asked for, and at times, I think it’s something undeserved. I’ll let go of it all one day. I’ll be brave enough to forgive.

When people hurt us, it’s hard to recover. It’s hard to stand back up and pick all the little shivers of pain out of your palms. When we are hurt, it changes us. Forgiveness doesn’t change us back. It simply helps us from wishing every day for a new ending. History cannot be rewritten. I will keep trying every day to forgive a little more.