i believe in santa

I was in 3rd grade, maybe? Too old to believe in Santa. I knew Mom bought my gifts, but I still believed Santa existed somewhere in my mind because I wanted to believe. My mom helped that by always leaving the tags off a couple of gifts that were bigger things that we really couldn't afford. She knew I'd recognize her writing, and I called her out on the ones she labeled from Santa, but somehow, after all the gifts were done, there were always a couple of extra things with no labels that mysteriously had different wrapping paper and hadn't shown up until Christmas Eve.

I think this was a holdover from her German family. Mom told us that in her family, they would go to Christmas Eve mass, but Oma would always have a reason to leave early. When they got home, Oma would have set up the tree and laid out all the presents. So everything showed up when the kids got home from Christmas Eve church. Before that, there was no tree, no real presents - but there was always the advent calendar.
We kept up the advent calendar tradition, but we decorated a tree and laid out some presents. Mom still held onto the tradition of not putting most of them out until Christmas Eve. By third grade, though, I'd found Mom's hiding places and as most of you who know me now would expect, I'd called her out on her lies. So she started putting the presents out earlier. But every Christmas morning, there were always a couple that hadn't been there the night before. 
So on one night, this night that I remember so vividly, it wasn't crazy for me to think there might be another explanation. My parents sent me to bed, and it was one of those magical Christmas Eves that had snow on the ground. I thought I heard something on the roof, so I looked out my window. I swore I saw snow falling from the roof. I can still remember everything about that moment...the glow of the colored christmas lights, the smell of the snow, the cold from the window.

And then I heard sleigh bells. I swear I heard them. I remember them. I ran out to tell my parents and only found my mom in the living room. She told me if I didn't go to bed Santa wouldn't come and if he was really here I must hurry and go to sleep. I'm not sure I fell asleep quickly, but I don't remember anything else anymore until the next day. I went out to check the roof. There was a disturbance in the snow above my window, clear evidence of Santa. There were also marks and deer poop in the yard. 

Of course I know now that my dad did that. He raked the snow over my window and he left dog poop in the areas where the sleigh had landed in the yard. My dad, and my mom guarding me, helped me believe for just a little longer - because they knew I wasn't ready to think it wasn't real. 

I know it wasn't really Santa up there. I know that what I really believe in is that magic of the world and love for all of our fellow beings. I hold tight to that one.

But when I think about that memory, I feel the cold of the glass window on my cheek, and I hear those bells - I never found those bells. And mom never owned up to that one. 

The mind can play wondrous tricks on a body, but maybe, just maybe, there's still a little bit of magic left in this world.


How Baseball Brought Me Home

Those of you who know me now might be surprised to learn that I didn't grow up a baseball fan. I grew up in the land of football and basketball, and honestly, because of my height, all I cared about was basketball. As a kid, my crushes were on the basketball players and the rodeo guys. And maybe sometimes those bad boy art kids. :)

None of this EVER extended to professional sports. My heroes were local. I may not remember all the names, but I sure remember pictures in brochures, posters on my wall, and events where I got to meet the latest and great basketball centers and team ropers. I used to ride my bike down to the park and sit on the fence to watch the guys practice before the shows when the rodeo came to town. Once I even helped unload the hay. That was a shining moment for me.

In terms of baseball - I heard about it, and when it came down to it I always associated with the Cardinals rather than the Royals for some reason. We were slightly closer to the Royals, but the Cardinals felt more big city to me. I never really watched the game, but I felt this affinity to St.  Louis that I couldn't explain. It wasn't about the city, though - it was about the Cardinals.

I went to my first baseball game in 6th grade. I didn't really understand the sport. It was super slow and nobody had to be in shape like we did for basketball. But our entire class took a trip to Kansas City. We watched a game between the Royals and the Mariners, and I saw Ken Griffey Jr. play. I had only heard his name, but I knew I was watching something special. I let it go after that until I got to college. Mostly because even at a young age I somehow knew I loved St. Louis and hated KC, and that had nothing to do with sports.

I went to college in St. Louis, and local sports took on a totally different meaning. The Rams won the superbowl my freshman year of college. The blues made it to the championships my Freshman year. And in case you didn't know, I had joined the winningest women's basketball team of all time at Washington University.

St. Louis is nothing if not a local "small town" made big. And it's really just a baseball town. So with all that was happening, when my new teammate (the guard with the shot that rolled off before you even got the ball into her hand) couldn't stop talking about her Cardinals crush, I started paying attention. She was all in for Rick Ankiel. So I started following the Cardinals more closely, for her. As a member of a national championship team, we ended up being celebrities in our own right at local bars (I've since found this happens when you're as tall as I am regardless of how good you are at any sport!) I recall one night we were all out with the older girls at Morgan Street Brewery in Laclede's Landing. Some of the Cards players were playing pool, and a couple of them came up to talk to some of the taller of us basketball players who were at the next table. All I really remember is my roommate going apeshit over seeing Rick Ankiel, and that although we didn't know the rest of the rookies at the time one of them turned out to be Albert Pujols. They were super nice, they were funny, and they didn't walk away when they realized we weren't fawning all over them looking for a hookup. And maybe somehow that solidified it for me.

So I moved out to San Francisco. And shortly thereafter I started dating a die-hard Giants fan. He had season tickets. So we started going to games. At first my Cardinals fandom won out, but slowly I learned the Giants, too. The stadium here is so amazing! It's hard not to fall in love. And then, my favorite player of all time, Mike Matheny (is it terrible that this is my definition of manliness?) , got traded to the San Francisco. So I had season tickets and my favorite player was the catcher in one of the best stadiums on the planet. It wasn't hard to become a Giants fan!

Within just a few years, though, I started started traveling regularly to Asia, and everything changed.

Time zones really fuck with you, no matter who you or where you are.

I started traveling to Penang, Malaysia, and a couple of things happened on the sports front. While I had always been football fan, I couldn't figure out how to keep up with the game. I tried for awhile. I knew my rams sucked and the SWMS (Now MS University) boys had their thing going, but it was just too difficult to follow from Malaysia. The problem and beauty with football is that you can only keep up with the game if you watch EVERY weekend. If you travel for a living, this is the death of your fandom. If you travel internationally, if you have ever spent months away from American tv, you understand why this is impossible.

We were all sitting in a meeting one morning at 6am Penang time during the 2012 playoffs. One of my leads who was traveling with me from the US had a SlingBox. So even though we had a 7am start time all of the Americans were watching Stefan's laptop. Instead of that being a problem, that became the agenda item for every hour for the next few days. GOD I love San Francisco people when the Giants are involved in a playoff.

ANYWAY. It turns out that when you're across the world in Malaysia, you don't share a lot with your family in Missouri and your friends in California. So even though my boyfriend in California really didn't care about the Giants 2012 performance, those Skype calls about how they were doing went a long way to connecting. And even though my mom in nowhere Missouri couldn't give 2 shits about baseball, connecting on how the giants did that night on the news meant a whole lot to her. I was up when everyone was else back home was asleep. But somehow, we all connected on the Giants progression toward the Series. Baseball gave me a link to everyone back home.

And so I came back home. And weirdly, I was more of a baseball fan than I had ever been before. I loved my Giants, because they had made me feel at home. And I loved my Cardinals, because they were my home. But I was still figuring it all out.

I had back surgery during spring training in 2014. I can't tell you my decision was made before then, but I'd like to pretend maybe I was still an open contender. The truth is. I've always been and always will be a Cardinals fan. (Maybe that's another post!) I spent the summer doing physical therapy and watching both teams closely. When I was well enough to fly, I took a trip back home to see my mom before I started a new job. That September trip didn't me much about baseball, but it sure did give me a lot of insight into my relationship with my mom and my home.

I'm one of those people who lived in the same house my whole life. Things changed over the years - we went from well water to city water, carport to drive ways, installed a small basketball court, built a cellar, planted trees, cut down trees, put in a shower - but it was the same house. That was my home. My home, with my Mom. My parents divorced when I was 16, and the last couple years I was in high school, plus all through college and a couple of years afterward, my mom and I lived very much like the Gilmore Girls. We were best friends who shared everything, including most of our time back home. Mom worked hard on her feet 6 days a week to make sure she'd be able to do what she could to get me out of our little town, and she spent her free time out going to all of my basketball games, so she didn't have a lot of energy for adventures and shopping trips. What she did have is a lot of love and time to sit with me in that living room for hours and seamlessly wander back and forth between conversation and quiet time - just the two of us.

When I moved to San Francisco, I think Mom found the quiet time was too much. She filled it with friends, but within a year her best friend died from the complications of breast cancer treatment, which my mom was also facing. Faced with her own mortality and the loss of her friend and distance from me and her other children, Mom allowed a persistent suitor to move in and make her home his own. It was just like her to take in strays - but cats were easier to love.

I spent that time home in September of 2014 trying to do everything I could to spend time with Mom. I spent as much time as I could tolerate in the house, but that was challenging. Partly because I have asthma and he refused to stop smoking indoors. But mostly because I couldn't refrain from fighting with him. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't keep my mouth shut. There were too many issues:
  • Mom was on oxygen and not supposed to be around smoke, but he smoked indoors
  • he had a confederate flag up on display in the living room and wouldn't let me even put in the closet while I was there
  • I had made a feeding station for the cats on a higher surface so my mom wouldn't have to risk injury by bending down to the floor to feed them, but he moved it because he didn't want the cats jumping up on stuff
  • He kept loaded antique guns all over the house even though he was usually drunk and Mom didn't know how to use them 
I could go on and on, but my point is that my inability to restrain myself from arguing was not about my not fighting, it was about me loving my mom and not being able to sit with her quietly and bond while all this was going around us. The few times we did try, he ended up turning up the tv really loud and complained that we were gabbing too much.

So I took Mom out. I took her to her favorite things and to things she might never get to do. We went to the big cat sanctuary and Mom got to feed the lions and tigers. The smile on her face still makes me cry. We went to Red Lobster and got subs at the Sub Shop. We went on an outing to find the spot where my mom and dad used to take me and my siblings to go play in the creek. Mom was happy, and we were bonding. But all she could think about was whether her partner was okay at home. She didn't think she should leave him alone that long. Her worry for him cut our time short, and I hated him for that, although I wouldn't know how much until a few months later.

I had my fill of trying to play nice and returned to SF to start my new job. The Cards lost to the Giants in the playoffs and I shed my tear before putting on the orange. Just a few weeks into it I got a call from an emergency surgeon. My mom was in the hospital and might not live through the night. Even if she did, she might not make it the week. I flew home the morning of October 24 and was watching game 3 of the WS when Mom woke up to talk to me. The first thing she said to the surprise of me being there was, "Am I dying?"

We never lied to each other. I told her I thought she might have been, and she'd scared me, but it was looking really good now. She didn't want to talk about how she was feeling, and she didn't want to call anyone, so she asked me about what I was watching. Once she figured out which team I was rooting for (obviously I wanted the Giants to beat the Royals), my mom asked me to explain baseball to her. My MOM asked me to explain baseball to her.

The next week was touch and go. I spent every minute they'd let me by Mom's side in the ICU. She couldn't even really see the tv, but she watched baseball with me. When the nurses came in, she asked them who they rooted for. She told them proudly that I was a Cardinals fan but I was rooting for the Giants because I was living in San Francisco. She couldn't remember what she ordered for lunch, but she remembered that. She told one nurse I had a crush on the catcher (she misunderstood - Matheny HAD been that catcher).

It wasn't about the baseball. I actually end up watching most of the last innings at a nearby bar because the games went too late. It was about having that time back. Mom and I were sharing space and moving back and forth between watching something and talking - just as we always had. Nobody else was there bothering us. The nurses coming in acknowledged they were interrupting, and Mom included them in the conversations. She even tried to set me up with the hot male nurse. Mom and I had our time back in a way that we hadn't in a decade. It was beautiful.

Mom and I celebrated the Giants winning the 2014 world series shortly before I flew home to go back to work. Unfortunately, the story of why baseball brought me home doesn't end there.

In February, after months of travel back and forth and many more scares, Mom died. After the funeral and taking care of everything I had to, I lost it. I pretty much flew home, got pneumonia, and stayed in bed for a month. When I finally started to come out of it, nothing mattered.

And then, all of a sudden, spring training was on tv. I can't explain the feeling of watching baseball again. The last time I had watched was with Mom. And now, I could watch again. So 2015 became the year of me being the biggest, most devoted fan I had ever been. Anytime I missed Mom, I went to watch baseball. And then people started talking to me and it became less about missing Mom and more about loving the game again. And then, it became normal.

So now, baseball just IS. Watching baseball is the best because if I don't want to talk to anyone I can be so into the game that I don't want to talk to anyone. OR I can go watch the game and use it as an excuse to get out and socialize. The great thing about baseball is that there are so many games I get to make that choice. There will always be someone out who I can teach something to, and there will always be someone out who can teach me something.

I do feel a little lost during the months without baseball, but I don't travel anymore, so maybe it's time to care about football again? It'll never be home, but it's something.

For the record, my heroes now are women who make it through careers while raising families, and my crushes are men like Mike Matheny who've managed full careers with no scandals.

Is it April yet?


he called my mom

I've been on a Gilmore Girls kick for a couple of weeks now, culminating in an epic marathon this weekend. I had never watched it before. I was in college when it started and too busy to watch much tv, and since we didn't have Netflix to let us binge I couldn't exactly start from the beginning. With the announcement of the revival my friends started chattering more and more about it, so I decided to catch up.

People who've only known me as an adult know one side of my relationship with my mom. But the relationship I had when I was a high school kid living in her house? After it was just the two of us? It's soooo like Lorelai and Rory. My mom had me when she was 38, not 16, and her dating life wasn't a central plot line - but the codependent best friend thing? We had that down pat.

The last few years, my mom gave horrible advice. I've noted some of those gems in this blog. But she was still my mom. There was a time I didn't know her guy advice was horrible. And, sometimes it wasn't.

Tonight, I had a super strong urge to call her to ask/vent about the recent spate of boy confusion I'm facing. Sometimes a girl just wants to talk to her mom. And then I thought about what terrible advice she'd give me. But I tried to remember a time she had good advice, and this amazing memory popped up:

When I was 17, I broke up with my boyfriend. He called my Mom to persuade her to change my mind. When that didn't work, he had his mom call my mom. Of course, the first thing my mom did was tell me and we spent an evening laughing about it together. Why? He was 24.

I can hear her chuckle now. Maybe because I'm making the sound myself?

God I miss my mom.

Onto more Gilmore Girls.



There's nothing like the smell of the trees after a really big thunderstorm. Lighting and thunder are not rare in southern Missouri. It's one of the things I miss most being in California.

I associated storms with my dad, but recently I've realized I was only thinking about part of the memory. Every time the skies turned grey, my dad would go out on our front porch. We lived on a VERY steep hill which afforded us a nice view from the front.

the hill is a whole lot steeper than it looks from the road below

When a storm came in, my dad used to stand on the porch to watch the valley below and the hills beyond. And of course I would join him. We'd leave the screen door open so Mom could fill us in on whatever the news was saying - just in case a tornado was coming, although Dad usually called it before it made it to TV. Standing on the porch watching storms, watching my dad watching storms, is as much a part of my childhood as school or summer road trips. Mom would prep the indoors, gathering the candles and flashlights, while we observed the conditions.

If you've never smelled a thunderstorm, you're missing out. There's something incredible about the way the air changes just before the wind comes in. This is especially true when there's a tornado, but we'll save that for another time. Both of my parents loved that smell. I had thought only of my dad on the front porch watching the clouds for so long, but recently I remembered something else.

After every storm that happened during the day, Mama would take me out to the backyard. Through the pinkish tinge of the sky that happens after a daytime thunderstorm, Mom and I would hunt for rainbows. If we saw even the faintest tinge of one, or if it looked like there might be one on the other side of the hill, she'd pack up the truck so we could all chase it. If we couldn't find one, the answer was always that we just couldn't quite see it from where we were standing.

My mom's endless search for rainbows taught me to never be scared of the storm. Every time it rained during the day my first thought was, 'I wonder where the rainbow will be!' I don't know if she did that for me, or if it was just part of who she was - I'd like to believe it was a little of both. What I know is I spent hours in my backyard and in my dad's truck hunting rainbows. I always knew they were the reward that came after a great storm.


In February of this year my incredible chosen family helped me honor the anniversary of my mom's death by celebrating her birthday at her favorite restaurant. Back home, there aren't a ton of options for great food, and Mom's all time favorite was Red Lobster. We decided to go the Sacramento location and make a long Tahoe weekend out of it, which turned out to be exactly what I needed.

You see, after Mom died, I got pneumonia. It gave me the perfect excuse to stay in bed all day for a couple of weeks sleeping and ignoring the world around me. I was too sick to let the grief really sink in. I lay in bed, and I cried - but I never could quite acknowledge whether it was from sadness or from sheer sickness and exhaustion from coughing. So I just existed in my bed. For almost a month.

I pulled myself together just enough to interview with a client who was doing something pretty spectacular. They were looking at ways to better monitor the long term health of clinical trial patients to eventually reduce the ill effects of chemotherapy. It was a little too close to home - Mom had died from long-term complications caused by her chemotherapy and radiation years earlier - but it was the only kind of work I was really capable of doing.

I dove in to my project, and I loved it. I loved my account team, and I started leading some efforts there. I took on a leadership role in our charitable organization. I let my work life fill up all the emptiness I was feeling everywhere else.

As the one year anniversary of Mom's death and her birthday (only 5 days apart) rolled around, I found myself starting to relax and let myself feel a little more. My project was under control, and I had such an amazing support network - we were building up to this 5 day break that was all about my mom - I felt safe.

So I let it all in.

Turns out, it was a little more than I could handle. Once the emotions really start flooding in, it's difficult to control the aperture. The anniversary was Feb 12, and we were celebrating on Feb 17, with a 4 day stint in Tahoe afterward to let me get my bearings. Once we had the date planned, I started letting go. By New Year's I had realized I didn't want to be in the relationship I was in at the time, by January I had pretty much stopped sleeping altogether, and by February I stopped pretending to be okay. On February 12, my best friend and I shared an amazing German dinner in honor of Mama, in which we told stories and showed pictures to our incredible bar manager - who made sure I had plenty of Underberg.

Underberg lets you keep eating (or drinking) after all that heavy food

In those final days before the birthday celebration, I let myself go completely. I couldn't think about anything else. I couldn't sleep for more than half an hour at a time. I wrote a lot - some that I posted here and some that will never see eyes other than mine. But on Mom's birthday, my incredible chosen family - even those who could only join by phone - spent an evening with me that I will never forget. What I will always ALWAYS know, is that I am so blessed to be loved by amazing people. And in true Mom fashion, the evidence is in how much they ate!

this was only half the table

They even supported me grabbing a lobster from the tank without staff seeing!

I can hear my mom's laugh now

A couple of us stayed up until 4 or 5 in the morning talking. Just loving each other. I was so thankful because there was no way I was going to fall asleep. But I did. And the next morning we all got into our cars to drive to Tahoe. I had made it clear I wanted to drive alone. I needed to drive alone. I wanted a couple of hours to myself before the weekend with everyone else. I needed some time to talk to Mama. I left just a little before everyone else. As soon as I got onto 80, this is the first thing I saw.

rainbows never really come out as bright in pictures

This doesn't happen often, but I actually had to pull over because I was both crying and laughing so hard I couldn't really see the road properly. It was just too. damn. perfect.


I don't know if I believe in an afterlife. I definitely don't think people who die sit around trying to talk to us. I spent several months after my mom died wishing I could talk to her. Wishing so hard I could believe in talking to her. I even tried. I tried some form of prayer - just talking out loud, or even in my head - but I always knew it was bullshit.

I talked to several people about this, and had one who I trust a great deal tell me that she felt very strongly that my Mom was present in some moments. Not hanging around, not some spirit trying to communicate, just present in some moments. I've tried to believe that.

I believe Mama is here because she lives within me. I believe her presence is in my mannerisms, my memories, and the things she has shaped in my behavior. I believe that's how I connect with her. When I break out one of her laughs - her signature deep-voiced "heh heh heh"- I used to cringe, and now I smile with pride. I frequently give myself the terrible relationship advice she would have given me before ignoring it as I always would have. I often look in the mirror and judge myself, and then find myself seeing the beautiful woman my mom was so proud to have raised.

My mom is here now because when I look at this picture of her making this crazy smile, I recall about a thousand pictures of me making that silly over exaggerated smile.

when I make that face I'm usually at least 3 drinks in

My mom lives now because she lives through me.

But for her to be some OTHER thing that can communicate with me? That's absurd.


So when this rainbow popped up on the highway, I actually thought in my head, "Mama?"

I pushed that away pretty quickly. I did try to talk to her. I stopped myself because it felt stupid, but I spent my hours on the road grieving and celebrating all that I could. By the time I got to Tahoe, the rainbow and the friends had given me this calm hope. I no longer needed to grieve or recover. I spent the next few days enjoying my time and moved on pretty quickly.

As soon as the weekend was over, I switched right back into "normal" mode. We had a couple months left of snow, and then had plans for a pretty epic Tahoe summer. My best friend was getting married and I was planning the bachelorette party. I was selling a new project to a client and delving into fun work stuff. And baseball was starting! Life had so many distractions to offer me!

It really was an epic summer.

And then about 3 weeks ago it started to fall apart. Tahoe summer ended. The wedding was over and all the people went home. And the last straw? The Cardinals lost. And then the Giants. So baseball was over. (I promise there's a post coming about why that matters so much!)

Without those distractions, whatever I'd been feeling before that weekend in February started to settle back in. It really felt (feels?) as if I let myself get swept up in distractions to avoid everything and now that those aren't around I'm finally coming back to the way I felt before that weekend in Tahoe.

I know it was silly to think I could put a cap on my grief in the first place. I know it doesn't work that way. I also know I didn't plan for all the major fun things that had been keeping me excited since then to disappear at the same time.

So things have been a little harder lately. I'm a little more tired than usual. Being social takes more energy. I'm not as focused. I'm not as sure about all of my decisions. And I haven't been feeling great about any of that.

But this past Sunday morning I woke in Tahoe and I stepped outside and I saw a rainbow that felt like it was shooting right of the ground in front of me. I know that doesn't really mean anything other than what I take from it. I know what I'm taking from it, though, is that whatever I'm feeling right now is okay. It's part of the process. The choices I'm making now are good, they are solid - because they are grounded in love and pain and wisdom and hope. I know there's a rainbow waiting on the other end of the storms, and that's only part of what makes them beautiful.

But my first thought, with no hesitation, was...

"Thanks, Mama."


Balancing Trust and Fear

When I returned to St. Louis after failing in my first move to San Francisco, I was devastated. Fortunately, I was greeted by the most loving arms of one of the older girls from my college basketball team. I showed up on her doorstep and started crying as soon as I saw her. She looked and me and almost laughed with such love for me as she pulled me into her arms. The joy in her embrace was because she knew what I was feeling, she knew I was safe and loved with her, and she knew I would be okay.

That image is burned into my brain and has become my definition of real love. Almost a definition of God, if I were going to define one.

In my late 20s, as I explored more about my own personal childhood and family issues, I found myself operating out of a place of fear - more like a child would. I envied my friend who knew everything would be okay. So I found a way to believe in the future person I would become who would know all of that and could offer that comfort to myself. I started channeling 40 Year Old Monika, who was wise and loving and laughed warmly when I hurt, to help me through my fears.

It really helped me. It helped to understand that so much of the time when I felt scared it had little to do with the situation, but because it reminded a childhood me of similar feelings. It helped me to know that I could learn to look to me (even if it was a future me) for comfort, rather than asking others to participate in something they didn't really understand.

To some of you it might sound New Agey or a like psychobabble, but 40 Year Old Monika helped me. I've grown into her in so many ways, and I can usually recognize when I'm sabotaging something because of old patterns when I have the power to heal it myself. But as I get closer and closer to 40 Year Old Monika, I start to wonder what's next. How can someone so close to who I am be a guide? And if I still need so much guidance when I'm this close to being the person I naively thought knew it all, how can I envision what the next step looks like?

What's more challenging to me right now, though, is how do I balance the wisdom and confidence of 40 year old Monika with the fears that I still have because even though I've gotten so close I'm still not there? It was very clear when I was 28, and I was envisioning the wisdom of someone 12 years older than me against the fears of a 5 year old me. But now, I'm not sure 40 Year Old Monika is old enough. I'm trying to tell myself 40 Year Old Monika knows what's going on in my life right now and she's got it under control. But the fears she's going up against aren't from 5 year old me. They're from 35 year old me. How does that work?

40 Year Old Monika wants to say to someone, "do what you need, that's okay, I know better, and I trust this." But 35 year old me knows enough now to know that maybe I don't know better. How do I balance thinking I know that someone is acting out of fear and thus staying steady versus not letting go if they really are pushing me away? Sometimes even when people act out of fear, the damage is real.

And so...I find myself in a place where all I know I can trust is to be open and honest and put myself out there. Because that's what I know is true. And I put this out there to you lovely people in hopes that maybe someone else feels this, maybe this touches you, maybe you have some wisdom to offer back to me. 

And I wait for my next version of 40 Year Old Monika to show herself (hopefully before I turn 40, dammit!)


repercussions of being a crazy cat lady's daughter: Part II

I started this story in a previous post, but it somehow feels more possible if I break it up a bit. Probably better for you, dear reader, as this is definitely an indulgent long one.

You can read Part I here.

Part II: The Surrender
(or, how to feel like the most awful person in the world)

Trigger Warning: This is sad and may make some people cry

When my mother got sick in October of 2014, I started taking care of all of those cats. My mom's partner was disabled, and the nurse who came to care for him couldn't care for animals. When I was in town, which I was much of the time for the months that she was in the hospital, then the rehabilitation home, I cared for them. When I had to return to SF to actually work, I paid for someone else to come take care of them.

After a few weeks, it became apparent that my mom wouldn't be well enough to return the house. I convinced her that if she did get well enough to leave the rehab facility, she would still need to be in a retirement apartment of some sort. In the few of those places that do allow pets, they only allow one. Mom chose to keep her small dog, and I promised I would take care of the cats. By mid-December, it was clear to us that my mother would probably need full-time care in the nursing home for remainder of her life, and I went home to clean out the house.

Mom's partner had just moved into the nursing home with her, and I ended up only having about a week to clean out a 2 bedroom home in which my family had lived for more than 35 years. By myself.

I had spent the last couple of months looking for homes for the cats to no available. I called every sanctuary in the region - as far as Arkansas and Oklahoma - and I begged pretty much everyone I knew with a farm. I had thought a supposed friend of my mom's would have at least let them live in her barn if I paid for the food, but at the last minute she told me all she would do is open the doors for them. I thought as a last resort I could take them to the local no-kill shelter my mom had supported for years, but I harshly found out they don't accept surrenders. After spending some time there with all the cats who really wanted to be loved and pet, I honestly wasn't sure that was a bad thing. My mom's cats really only loved her.

And now I need to step back for a moment. I had spent quite a bit of time in my mom's house over the previous two years. I had SAVED Hannah and bottle fed her myself, but she wouldn't come near me. Brett curled up on me and let me love her, but her niece Precious wanted nothing to do with me. And then there was Caleb. Caleb wanted to know me. He wanted to find out about me. But he'd never let anyone other than Mom or her partner pet him. Remember, this is the kitten my mom saved from the driveway and bottle fed because he wasn't weaned. I had spent hours sitting there talking to my mom, intentionally leaving a hand dangling down so Caleb would come up and sniff it. I was so proud the few times he actually let me touch the top of his head before he ran off. Once, Mom handed him to me in an attempt to show him I was okay. The skin on my arms and chest did not survive that encounter. Yet, I had this need for him to love me. I seriously debated taking him back to SF. If I hadn't adopted Gracie and Nolan before this all went down, I probably would have. I loved that elusive little guy.

All to say that I knew that these cats wouldn't be easily adoptable. Hannah and Brett were both 12 years old, and Precious was only a couple of years younger.

I called animal control, in hopes of guidance and in hopes of borrowing some traps to catch the cats that didn't want to be caught. The guy on the phone told me I'd be better off taking a 22 in and doing it myself. He told me what kind of poison I could buy to leave around the house. Looking back, he was probably right, but I knew I was losing my mom and I just couldn't do that. I called the Humane Society and they agreed to accept them for a small fee and a big dollop of judgment, but they clarified that they would most likely have to euthanize all but Caleb, who I told them was only a few years old.

So I waited. I slowly removed everything from the house. My dad's best friend came and hauled away a full truckload of junk, and I left dozens of giant trash bags for the weekly pickup. Once I got enough stuff out of the house that I didn't feel that cats could hide as well, I decided to try to catch them. Brett was easy, she just let me pick her up and put her in the laundry basket. The others were much more difficult.

After about an hour of trying to catch the cats, I finally got a hold of Caleb. Understandably, he was terrified. I held on tight as he ran by, and he leaned back and sank his teeth into my hand. I tried not to let go - I knew I had traumatized the poor guy - but it hurt so much and I was afraid he'd do it again. I let him go.

Another quick step back - some of you may know this, but in 2011 I was bit by a cat and came a lot closer to dying than I'm comfortable with repeating. I spent 4 days in the hospital hooked up to an IV while they tried 8 different antibiotics and had me sign consent forms to remove my finger to ease the infection. So you might say I'm a little more scared of cat bites that some people.

I cursed myself and decided to wait until the next day to try again. I figured I could get more of the stuff out of the house and trap them in a room and try again.

And then my hand swelled up like a balloon. It hurt like a mofo and I knew I was in trouble. So the next morning, instead of spending valuable time clearing out the house, I went to urgent care. I explained the situation to the doctor, who was amazing. First of all, he assured me that cat bites turning into major infections were super common, but that he wouldn't let this one get as bad as the other one. Then he told me I should have just taken a 22 to the cats. He told me given how swollen it was, I'd probably have to stay in the hospital for a night or two, but we had some time to try to ward it off. Then he gave me a giant shot in my butt, a bunch of antibiotics, and traced the line of the infection. My instructions were to not use my right hand at all, to keep it elevated, and to go to the ER and have them page him if the infection went more than an inch past the line he'd drawn.

During this time, I was also trying to spend as much time with my mom as possible. So of course she noticed the bandage on my hand and felt horrible when I told her what happened. She felt like it was all her fault and told me we could wait until she could go to the house to help me catch the cats.

But I knew that my mom was never going to the house again.

So I went back to the house. I realized I had a limited time before my hand was so swollen I couldnt use it, and I still had half a house to pack up. I decided I could hire someone to put traps out for the cats later if I had to, so I worked until the fever set in.

Before I got so sick I couldn't, I made the almost hour-long drive back to my friend's house where I was staying. The infection wasn't past the line, so after a long teary conversation with my friend about how I didn't have time to go to the hospital, I decided to fight through and just get some rest. I went to sleep terrified that I was going to wake up and have to go to the hospital. I fell asleep feeling like I've failed at everything

Thankfully, I woke up and the infection was down a bit. I spent the next day slowly packing up the house in between visits with Mom. The last day possible, I decided to try again with the cats.

I had a laundry basket with a lid, a box, a couple of blankets that smelled like Mom for them, tons of treats, and a bunch of duck tape. Again, Brett was easy. She was happy to curl up in a box and wait. I chased the remaining three cats into the bedroom with the least furniture left in it, I armed myself with work gloves, and I grabbed a big towel. I wish I could tell the story in the way that shows the humor in this moment. Maybe someday I'll be able to. If it was me catching them to take them to the vet, I could have you rolling in laughter. But I wasn't catching them to take them to the vet. And I can't make light of what it really was.

I spent 3 hours chasing cats in circles around a room and grabbing them with towels, forcing them into a box, and trying to hold them in there without hurting them. It was terrible.

The drive to the Humane Society took over an hour - it's far on the north side of Springfield. I cried the whole way. The woman I had spoken to about the cats saw my face and realized that I wasn't deserving of the judgment she'd given me on the phone. I filled out the paperwork for each cat. I paid the surrender fee. They told me they'd most likely have to euthanize all of them, but if they could socialize Caleb they would him up for adoption. They noticed the bite, and they told me they would definitely have to euthanize the cat who bit me. I told them Hannah did it because I knew she'd be euthanized anyway. I didn't want to hurt Caleb's chances.

I leaned down to say goodbye. Hannah and Precious were in one box and had no desire to be touched, so I just told them I was sorry through the cracks.

Brett and Caleb were in the laundry basket. Brett kept reaching up against it to be rubbed me. I hesitantly reached in to hold her, and Caleb didn't seem to mind, so I pulled her to me for awhile. I talked to both Brett and Caleb while I was doing this and I told Caleb I needed him to be friendly. I told him if he was friendly he might get adopted. I PRAYED - and I don't pray - for him to be friendly with them. All of a sudden he came forward and pushed his head against my hand. He was obviously scared, but he let me pet him. For the first time ever, Caleb let me pet him. It was a beautiful goodbye.

I can only hope he did the same with the technician who took them. I like to think that being in the basket with Brett led him to follow her cues. I like to think they saw how beautiful he was and were patient with him.

One of the conditions of surrender to most shelters is that you give up the right to know what happens to the animal. You legally sign away your right to know if they find a home or if they are killed. I know what happened to the other three. I know I saved a kitten in 2003 who I ended up loving and naming Hannah, and then surrendering to be euthanized in 2015. I know I took the cats my mom viewed as the gifts of her relationship with her best friend to be euthanized. But I hope, I HOPE, that I took Caleb to be adopted. I don't ever get to know.

And this is what I dream about. I dream about saying goodbye to animals who never asked for this.

And in awful twist of meanness, I hope that Brett went out getting pet and loved, and that Caleb, if they did euthanize them, bit the hell out of them first.

repercussions of being a crazy cat lady's daughter: Part I

I've been trying to write this for a long time. Every time I start, I stop and push it back. Tonight I decided I needed to get it out. Maybe if I put it here the nightmares will stop. Or maybe, at a minimum, someone out there will at least have a better understanding of why I have nightmares every single night.

The dreams aren't always about cats, but more often than not the worst ones are. It's always been that way. This won't be short.

Part I: The History 
(or, the part where you think I'm just going to talk a lot about cats)

Growing up, we lived on about an acre in a family-oriented neighborhood close to the middle of a small town. We always had cats, and more often than not they were indoor-outdoor cats. When I was born there were two: Babsy and Boots. Babsy was my brother's big blue tabby cat. I used to draw pictures of her with my blue and purple crayons.

Boots was an asshole siamese that didn't love having a toddler in the house who wanted to bug her all the time, but she was named after one of my favorite people on earth, so I loved her anyway. My first real memory of losing a pet was when the neighbor stopped by to tell my mom that she had hit and killed Boots. I don't remember being that sad.

But then there was Thomasina. Thomasina was a boy, but I refused to call him Thomas because I was in love with the movie. A neighbor saw him try to jump across the main road and hit the side of a delivery truck. I told Mom I wanted to see him one last time. I shouldn't have looked. His face was completely flat, and it still haunts me.

Then my dad let Timothy out on my 8th birthday. Timothy had never been outside, and he never came back. I'm still not sure I've forgiven Dad for that one, although I'm pretty sure Timothy went to live at a neighbors house who just fell in love with him and denied that he was stray when we asked.

That's probably when the first nightmares started. We had several other cats, and I started waking up screaming telling Mom that someone had returned Timothy's body and it was in the mailbox. I started crying in the middle of the night thinking that the other cats were going to disappear.

As a teenager, L.D., one of my most beloved cats, disappeared. Mom thought she saw his white fur toward the edge of the property, and thought the neighbor's dogs got him. She only admitted that later, though. For months she told me someone stole him because he was so beautiful. I was devastated, and honestly, so was she. I had dreams about him all through my freshman year of college.

We had other cats, Katie, Pepper, Bart, Gatsby - all who lived long happy lives in our home.

After college I briefly moved home, and a couple of pretty important things happened the few months I lived with my mom. Mom's best friend, Pat, had found kittens in her yard - beautiful kittens who looked like furry monkeys with giant eyes - and needed to find homes for some of them. Mom adopted two. I named them Brett (she was dignified and elusive, like her namesake from The Sun Also Rises) and Mallory (she would climb up to the highest point she could get and strand herself, never coming down unless we rescued her).

Shortly after we brought these guys into our house, I walked into work at Silver Dollar City and found that the sawmill guys were about to shoot some kittens. They had found a pack of feral kittens whose mother had "abandoned" them (or maybe she was scared of the big loud men with guns and ran away?) The kittens were under a shed, and some of them had already died or been killed. My arms were just long enough that I could get to them (and they were MAYBE 4 weeks old - too small to hurt me with their bites). I pulled out three tiny little beautiful kittens and kept them in a box all day. I ended up finding a home for one of them during the course of the day, and took the other two home to place them later. Of course, we ended up keeping both Talulah and Hannah.

I have great memories of hanging out with my mom and Pat, the four kittens, and Gatsby, the remaining grown cat. I moved out of the house a couple of months later. Talulah disappeared one night - she'd never been outside and she never came back. Mallory got out before Mom spayed her and ended up having a litter of kittens that all died except one. My mom's partner named it Precious - it's important to be clear that I would never do that to an animal - and they kept it.

Mom and Pat were both recent breast cancer survivors, and a couple of years later Pat got really sick. She died from complications of treatment. I don't think my mom ever recovered.

Right after that Mallory died, and something changed for my Mom.

She had always taken care of strays when she felt it was needed, but she started caring for a few of them to the extent that twice a day she was leaving out a bowl of dry food and a bowl of wet food, and they all started letting her pet them. One day she found that one of the strays had kittens - 3 of them were in the driveway. A dog had gotten to them and only one was still alive. Mom saved it, bottle fed it, brought it back to life. Like she had with so many other things while I was growing up. That cat became Caleb. He was one of the most beautiful cats I'd seen, with crazy big curious eyes.

Mom found it entertaining that she'd get the occasional opossum or skunk feeding at her house. She ended up feeding a litter of 5 identical cats, only two of which would let her get close. There was a gross-looking orange and white cat outside, and another cat that lived outside that my mom named Rags - ugly little fucker. There were a couple others who came over occasionally, but those were the ones I knew.

The last couple years, Mom had 4 indoor cats and 7 outdoor cats that she had fixed and vaccinated and felt responsible to feed. For years I'd been begging my mom to move into an apartment that would be easier for her. Her number one reason for not moving was that she wouldn't be able to choose which cat she could take. She felt like her moving into a home would be her choosing to kill all of those cats.

While I didn't agree, and while I promised I would take care of them - I had just lost my beloved cat back in SF, my mom had lost her best friend and so many things in her life, and there was no way I was about to force her to go through that.

Until she got sick.

But that story is in Part II.


battling the waves

I wanted to share a post about grief from reddit because I think it's probably the best description I've ever heard.

It's 2 days after my mom's birthday, 2 days before the anniversary of her funeral, and I - for the first time - attempted to tell my best friends how I'm really feeling.

I used this post to try to describe it. I wanted to share that with you, dear Reader.

This is the viral response to a question posted on reddit:
Alright, here goes. I'm old. What that means is that I've survived (so far) and a lot of people I've known and loved did not. I've lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can't imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here's my two cents.
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don't want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don't want it to "not matter". I don't want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can't see.

As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life. 

Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out. 

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks. 

This post terrifies me. It is so overwhelming that, a year later, I can still lose the ability to breathe while walking down the street. I've been told sometimes grieving only really starts at the one year mark. What I know is that it NEVER stops. From everything I hear, it doesn't actually even get easier. You just learn to navigate it. I think I'm just starting to do that. Or not. But I'm at least finally starting to try.

I read through the comments to this post, and I found one that I couldn't help but share.

My dad died 2 years ago and it still hurts. But the thing is, he knew he was dying (throat cancer). He deliberately went off his meds about three days before the end so he could be clear and lucid. We had that talk that people always say they never got. I got to tell him how much I loved him, and he got to tell me (and everyone else in the family) the same. It was the most beautiful experience. Two days later, I had my arm around my mother, as she held his hand. My wife held his other hand. He took his last breath. I am amazed at how beautiful death can be. As much as I wished he didn't need to die, his death was the most beautiful thing I've witnessed in my whole life (46 yrs). Goddam I love being a human being. Even grief is beautiful.

I added this one because I know I'm throwing a lot of sadness out there right now, but I want to acknowledge that I know how beautiful this all is. Life sucks, but it's still fucking beautiful. 


how Gracie got her name

In the letters between my mom and dad when she still lived in Germany, my mom demonstrates a strong grasp of the English language, but you can tell that she learned more formal English that she uses with my father.

I happen to love how she used the word crazy, and I love even more that she spelled it "grasy". She used it quite often, and I read these letters right before I got the kittens.

I couldn't think of a better way to honor this little smiley bit than the beautiful cat Gracie has grown into. Mom would have loved her!


Sometimes I'm lucky enough to get a rare glimpse into the woman mom my was when she was very young.

My mom met my father when she was a nurse in Wiesbaden and he was stationed in the Air Force in Erbenheim. Erbenheim was my mom's home town, and was about an hour train ride from Wiesbaden. They had one date, declared their love for each other, then wrote letters back and forth until they decided to marry.

This is an excerpt from one of those letters.

I can't tell from the letters what happened on their previous date that she references at the top. And it breaks my heart that I can't ask her.

But I will always chuckle when I see that my mom called my dad her "bedroom gangster".

the things you miss

My mom was known for some pretty fantastic tidbits of advice.

She was a wise woman in so many ways, and she was smarter than most people thought (funny how a thick German accent in southern Missouri will make people think you're dumb), but my mom was not the best mentor when it came to dating.

Mama was eager to have me married off and bearing her grandchildren. She never wanted me to be unhappy, and she never nagged, but every once in awhile her agenda came out in terrible, and terribly funny ways.

When I was frustrated that a serious boyfriend was still protecting his ex, my mom's advice was, "Why don't you just get pregnant so he'll marry you?"

Good job, Mom.

And when I was missing that boyfriend months after we'd broken up, rather than consoling me, Mom said, "You should just go over to his house now and propose."

Even better.

That was my mom. She wanted to see me be a mom, and she wanted to know those kids. Badly enough that in later years she thought the quality of the man wasn't nearly as important as the grandchild he might give her.

She wasn't serious - not completely. But she didn't filter herself. (I mean - we all knew I had to get that from somewhere.)

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. That same ex was up at the ski house with his new girlfriend while I was there. I played it cool and was very nice to both of them, but when I went to bed I lost my shit. I found myself crying and reading through old emails, and I stumbled across the ones where I shared my mom's "wisdom" with my sister.

And then I really lost it.

In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to call my mom and hear whatever crazy piece of guidance she had to offer. I wanted to hear tell me to make a scene, or go dump cold water on his head, or profess my (non-existent) love to him. I'm sure whatever I can think of that she would say wouldn't compare to the amazing gem she would have actually given me.

And THAT is one of the things I miss the most.

a thousand goodbyes

A year ago today I spoke to my mother for the last time.

I'm not sure she could hear me, and I'm not sure she could understand me if she did. She sounded like a very drunk person on the phone - someone on the verge of passing out, but trying to talk to you. The encephalopathy in her brain had taken over, and I knew it was only a matter of time before her body shut down, as well. 

I remember what I told her. I told her I loved her over and over, and I told her it was okay to let go. I told her I would be okay, that she didn't need to worry about her children - that we would all be okay. I told her it was okay.

I lied. 

More on that later. 

This had happened three times in the preceding 4 months. The first time, we thought she had a stroke. We were thankful to find out that wasn't the case, but the truth wasn't much better. Her congestive heart failure, accelerated by an infection that sent her into septic shock and almost killed her in October, was slowly depriving her body of oxygen. The other times it happened, she was rushed to the hospital and placed on BiPAP, and the encephalopathy quicky resolved. 

By January, however, my mom had had enough. She called me to tell me that they wanted to move her to a specialized facility where she would remain on a ventilator - her biggest fear and the one thing she consistently told me she didn't want to do. She told me that she didn't want that - that she wanted to go home. We agreed that she would return to the nursing home she had just moved into to spend her final days with her husband. I flew home to move her and spend the remaining time with her. 

The doctors told me it could be a few hours or a few days, but not likely more than a week or two. I set her up with hospice and helped her with all the things she wanted to do before she died. She wanted a bowl of these terrible candies I couldn't stand, a domino's pizza, and all the diet coke she could drink. She talked to her siblings in Germany. She asked me to bring her the paper she liked so she could write letters to people. 

She never did write those letters.

Mom immediately got better after arriving back at the nursing home. Her oxygen levels maintained without the ventilator, and she felt good enough to get out of bed and take her wheelchair to the dining room to show off her daughter to her new friends. We watched tv together and talked about plans. She talked about getting healthy enough to walk again and I asked her if she wanted me to get a red hat to join the home's red hat ladies club. She definitely didn't. 

I had heard from enough people that when someone is dying, they frequently get better right before they pass. That happened with my father, and I thought it was happening now. So I extended my trip home. I decided I would stay until she died. 

But she didn't die. She kept getting better. She had energy. She made jokes. She yelled at me for all the things I threw out when I cleaned out her house. She nagged me to marry the boy I was seeing who had the German last name. She let me fix her hair. We even had a photo session where she learned (kinda) where to look on the phone for a selfie!

She was happy. 

Almost three weeks after she decided she didn't want anymore treatment, we also decided I should return to San Francisco. She was doing fine. The doctors said it might be months before something else happened. I had already taken 8 weeks of unpaid time off at a job I started 3 weeks before Mom got sick. I was paying for so many of the bills that me losing that income was more of a factor than I would have liked. I was also scared that maybe Mom was just hanging on for me. I wanted her to hang on for me, but I didn't want her to fight through something if it was really her time to go. I struggled with the decision for a while before I finally booked a return flight. 

We talked about death. We talked about how this might be the last time we saw each other. We talked about what she wanted. I knew that I might never see her again - that the next call might be the last call. But I didn't really KNOW it. I made plans to come back and see her in March - a mere 5 weeks away. 

As I left her room after telling her goodbye and hugging her about a thousand times, I heard her call my name. I will forever remember her voice in that moment. 

I turned back, "yes, Mama?"
She looked at me with skepticism, "If you want to get me a red hat, make it a really funky one."

That was my Mama.

I promised, we laughed, and I went back and did the hugging goodbye ritual another few times before I finally left.

I called her as soon as we landed, and we talked the whole way home. We spoke every day for the next 11 days. I could tell she was getting a little more tired, but she was doing okay. And then she wasn't. 

I noticed on the 9th that she seemed a little more tired than normal and she wasn't responding fully. On the 10th I could tell the encephalopathy was taking over her brain again. 

On the 11th I talked to her for the last time. 

I tried to call her on the 12th, but her phone was busy. I called my sister instead. As I was telling my sister that I was ready because I didn't want Mom to hurt anymore, as I was telling my sister that I wanted this to be over, as I was fooling myself into thinking that it could ever really be over, I was telling my sister that I had already said goodbye, and that I could only say goodbye so many times - I got a call from my brother. Mom had just passed as her husband held her phone to her ear with my brother on the other end of the line.

Mom died knowing how much we all loved her. She died knowing that we all had good lives and people who loved us. She died having taken control of the decision and having chosen not to suffer more than she already had.

But she also died with me having just lied to her.

I told her I would be okay. 

I'm not okay. 

I honestly don't know if I'll ever be okay again. Or maybe I'll just find a new definition of "okay".


It's been a year since I last told her I loved her. I wish I could say it again and again and again. It's been a year since I told her goodbye. It's been a year since I believed I had said goodbye more times than I could.

Today, a year later, I wish I could say goodbye to my mama again. I wish I could say it every day and never have it be the last one. I wish for a thousand more goodbyes.


Songs the Perfect Man Would Sing To Me #4

How I Learned to Pray by Charlie Worsham

When I was sixteen, that set of keys was a pair of wings
Daddy, pretty please, can I take her out tonight?
I swear I won't get her over fifty-five.

With 'Back in Black' racing through my veins,
Last thing I thought was a flip in this thing
Don't get me killed.
I'm pretty sure my old man will.

And seeing his face when the wrecker hauled my freedom away
That's how I learned to pray.

It wasn't in a church with a chapter and a verse
Some preacher made sure everybody heard
Or just some words somebody taught me to say.

I was living like I wasn't long for the world,
Mama always said it'd take a special girl
To get a hold of me,
But I never let one get close to me.

The man upstairs must've heard her prayers,
'Cause I looked up, you were standin' there waitin' on me
Like you were made for me.

And I knew right then and there, I'd been saved
And that's how I learned to pray.

It wasn't in a church with a chapter and a verse
Some preacher made sure everybody heard
Or just some words somebody taught me to say.

I can fold my hands and bow my head,
But there's just some things that can't be said
Without a little walk-on-water kind of faith.
And that's how I learned to pray.

Have you ever looked up at the stars in the sky,
Felt a tug at your heart didn't know why
But you just knew
Someone is up there lookin' out for you.

Well you know just what I mean when I say Grace.
That's how I learned to pray.

That's how I learned to pray.