I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale

I know, I know…more song lyrics in the title. I can’t promise that won’t happen A LOT. I was not blessed with the ability to create music, but I appreciate it all the more because of that.

Memphis before dawn
Not quite ten feet off of Beale in this photo…

I look forward to our anniversary trip every year…the rest of January is pretty painful for me, but I have a handful of days at the beginning of year that I can celebrate love without hurting. The sweet without the bitter, if you will. Nick and I spent our anniversary (11 years since our first date, 6 since our I Dos) in Memphis, TN. Walking in Memphis has new meaning for me.

In the six years since we married, we’ve only spent one year at home, but it was at our NEW, just-built home, so that was a pretty wild trip in and of itself.

The Rundown
Married in a butterfly conservatory in Key West, then…

  1. Pasadena
  2. Chicago
  3. Bayfield
  4. NEW HOME!
  5. Back to Chicago
  6. Memphis

But back on topic: Memphis.

Our Memphis visit was little more than a whim. We had a new vehicle, so we figuratively threw a dart on a map within a specific radius of our home. Memphis was a manageable driving distance and would seemingly offer a break from Wisconsin winter. I think the emotional connection I felt to Memphis is all the more amazing because so little thought went into the decision to visit that city.

Memphis before dawn

We spent a week in the Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll, and I was mesmerized nearly every moment of the trip. I will never forget the opening of our first tour, when our guide said he was going to tell us about three kings—the King of the Blues, the King of Rock ‘n Roll, and the King of Civil Rights. Memphis royalty indeed. Of course, the tour guide was referring to B.B. King, Elvis Presley, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For whatever reason, I’ve felt a strong connection to the 1960s from a very young age. The music, the politics, the conflicts…my religion tells me that reincarnation is impossible, but there are times I feel like I’ve lived another life…series of dejà vu moments strung together then shrugged off. The mysteries of life, I suppose…but I digress.

There is too much to shove into one post, but consider this a warning that Memphis entries, probably several of them, will be coming in the near future.

Memphis in the morning

Eleven Years an Angel

This year, the anniversary of Mom’s death hit me worse than in years past. I’m not quite sure why…but for the first time in years, I spent a January 26th crying the night away. The last couple weeks have been emotional, really.

Nick was involved in a car accident ten days ago. He was hit from behind by a speeding motorist who was checking his phone. After the collision, he spun out of control across two lanes of traffic, the median, two lanes of oncoming traffic, down an embankment, and finally came to a stop in a field. Just typing that out makes my heart thud and my stomach hurt.

By grace, he was unharmed. I don’t know how that’s possible, considering the damage to the vehicle and all the little variables that could have changed that outcome. How did he avoid hitting any other vehicles during lunchtime on a busy highway? I can only believe that someone was watching over us from the other side.

The enormity of it all didn’t sink in until that evening. We were making dinner, wading into the darkest waters of what-ifs, when he said (trying unsuccessfully to lighten the mood) something like, “Not another one in January!” Dam: broken…poor Nick.

It’s just that I hadn’t felt terror like that in almost a decade—the doubt that life could go on, the feeling that all of the oxygen has left the room, the sharp ache in the center of my chest.

Obviously, life does go on, even when it seems cruel to leave your loved one behind to live only in memory. I am profoundly grateful that I do not need to relearn that hard truth. Thank you to…well, I’m not sure who or what I should credit…but I have my own theories.

Please keep looking out for me, Mom. I love you.

Caledonia Picnic

The weekly check-in

One post-per-week seems to be all that I am capable of producing lately, so I’m going to steal it for myself instead of dedicating it to Sophie even though it’s Sunday and all—call me a bad cat-mom, I know I deserve it. I’ve actually been trying to think of ways to keep this site updated regardless of the time (or lack-thereof) I have available to write. Maybe a weekly summary is the way until life calms down a bit.

So, last week was crazy.


Shortly after I moved back from NC
(I know I’m cut off in this one, but Mom’s smile is just so contagious.)

I did not write anything regarding the seventh anniversary of my mom’s passing on January 26th. I knew the seven year mark was approaching at Christmastime (of course), and I had hoped in that capricious part of my soul that she’d visit me à la Jacob Marley. Alas, the visit did not come to pass—besides, I don’t think she’s carrying around any chains for the way she lived her life…daisy chains, maybe.

I was silent on the day partly because I felt anger and frustration that I still fall into that vortex of sadness on the anniversary. I can’t stop myself from remembering those final, awful days of the Cancer…the way she looked…the delirium…the end. I am mad that those memories come to mind first while all the healthy years follow much later.

The morning started out hectic. I was keeping myself busy by polishing every wooden surface in our home. I hit the shower mid-morning and we went to a basketball game. I was still okay, still not thinking about it…except, when we arrived at the Kohl Center to watch the basketball game, every chair was draped with a Coaches vs. Cancer shirt. I stared at the ceiling, willing the tears not to fall.

Nick was making conversation with the people sitting next to him, but he turned to me (looking like I was about to lose it) a couple of times to say, “Don’t think about it…you’re thinking about the day…don’t.” Easier said than done, my friend. I continued to look to the ceiling and concentrate on my breath. I told myself to think of something, anything else—I failed miserably, but I was okay once the game was underway because I had a distraction. Afterward, Nick and I stopped for a drink to let the parking garage empty instead of entering into the fray. The bartender served our beers and Nick toasted me, “To your mom.”

Damn it.

There it was again, that fist squeezing my heart. I swallowed hard and sucked in deep breaths before taking a sip. Meanwhile, Nick noticed my reaction and had that “Crap, crap, crap!” look plastered all over his face. I didn’t sleep that night, but stayed up to organize the kitchen cupboards because I was afraid to let my thoughts wander unoccupied.

It’s like my surgical scars…the cuts heal and I become whole enough to live my life, but I never really stop hurting.

The Condo


As I mentioned in last week’s Sophie Sunday, Nick and I are in the process of selling our condo to buy a house. The realtor took pictures last Monday, hosted a broker open-house on Tuesday, and the listing was published on Wednesday. Someone booked a showing on Tuesday night, but then south-central Wisconsin had a snow storm and all frenzy calmed.

Sophie went over to her grandma’s house on Monday night so she wouldn’t be afraid with strangers walking around the condo without one of us at home. It isn’t easy for our cat to adapt to new surroundings…Sophie and her delicate emotional state were on my mind the rest of the week. Nick’s mom left for Florida on Thursday (for the next few weeks), and we started squatting at her house that night (for Sophie…and for us).

It’s seriously stressful knowing that every time I leave my home, I need to leave it show-ready. People, I have diagnosed OCD (or CDO as I like to call it…that’s OCD but in alphabetical order). This did a number on me (us). Every speck on the floor, spot on the mirrors, and smudge on the coffee table gave me a minor anxiety attack…and I was constantly frustrated with my husband who just didn’t see to the same level of detail that I did (i.e. his brain works NORMALLY).

I’m still trying to figure out which light switches work which set of lights, but otherwise I am settling in nicely at Joan’s house. We’ve scheduled an open house for the condo next Sunday, and realtors are now (well, as of tomorrow) able to show the space without confirming a time with us first. Why the sense of urgency? We’ve found a house that we really (really, really, really) like in a beautiful neighborhood. The sooner we can sell our condo, the sooner we can put in our offer.

As of right this very moment, I can’t think of another space in the condo to organize, polish, or scrub. I’ve been working at project: total organization for several weeks now, and I am tired. Our realtor says he likes the space and thinks it will sell quickly, but we aren’t sure if he’s just telling us what he thinks we want to hear (he’s a pretty nice guy that way).

I think those are my two main topics. As for the rest…

  • Sophie has been so clingy that I’ve started humming “Me and My Shadow” when I see her at my heel.
  • Nick thinks he’s getting sick…awesome—I’m sure to be next.
  • The Super Bowl is on as I type; I’m pulling for the (doomed, I fear) 49ers.
  • I want May to hurry up and get here.

There you go: my week in a single exhalation.

And love abounds…

We are in Chicago this New Year’s Eve. I wonder if this will become a tradition, traveling over the holiday. Tomorrow marks the start of a new year, yes…but also two years of marriage to Nick and seven since our first date. Where does the time go?

2012 has been a melancholy year for me. I have watched others cope with recent losses of their loved ones, and it rubs the wound raw. That is not to say that 2012 has been an unhappy year! Countless days have been a complete delight, and I am constantly awed by how sincerely wonderful life is.

I cherish all the tender people in my life. It is magnificent to feel so surrounded by kindness and love every day. I was lonely for so long after Mom died, and I know now that it was my own doing. I’ve found the courage to let people in again.

What will 2013 bring? Nobody knows…but that’s part of the adventure. It’s pretty difficult to fear the unknown when you know that you won’t be facing it alone.

I wish a very happy new year to each and every one of you…may you know joy.

Love is all you need


Nick gave me this song a few weeks ago. He heard it on television and found me immediately to share the lyrics (via YouTube).

Every now and then he finds a song that makes him think of me. I have been with Nick nearly seven years now. After all that time, he still works to win my heart. I think that’s pretty special.

Nick and I express ourselves differently. He says the first unrefined thing that comes to his mind. I am more reserved; I speak only after I’ve found the right words. This can cause some conflict.

I sometimes (unfairly and often during moments of frustration) label Nick a poor communicator. I couldn’t be more wrong. At times, he responds too impulsively for my comfort, but he knows how I value words. He gives them to me in his way by sharing messages that articulate his feelings.

I could not have found better words to give him than those he gave me just then:

And I am, over-whelmed, by you
Am, over-come with joy
You’ve, taken me higher, and shown me what love can do
Where would I go, or be, without you?

I am grateful for Nick this Thanksgiving (and every day)…my husband who continually makes me fall in love with him. He keeps our love fresh.

Nick, you communicate just fine.