23 September 2016

The Life of Sabine

This past weekend, I had the first glimpse of healing. On Friday afternoon, the crematorium called letting me know that Igor's remains were ready to pick up. When I got him back home with us, I felt better. It's hard to articulate, but it made me feel like I could talk to him again. That he was with us again.  On Friday night, Sabine and I had a memorial for him. She sat on his bed, while I put his ashes in a little gaudy golden box I bought for him. It was cathartic. It was healing. On Saturday morning, when I was feeding Sabine, I joked him with him about how demanding she was in the mornings.

The weekend was good. Like really good. I was productive, again. Sabine and I got a ton of couch time. I was starting to feel like life was turning around. Or at least, I was finding a way to turn it around. I was starting to see the silver lining. Folks had been talking to me about how I should maybe get another cat, a companion for Sabine. But I was imagining Sabine and I like two old gals in our golden years. We'd sit on the couch, joking about how hot Idris Elba is while we sipped rose. She'd keep me company in the bath. See, it has never just been the two of us and I was looking forward to a few more years where we could do that. Just two ol' gals, living out the rest of our days together.

On Monday night, I took two pictures of Sabine. One where she was perched at the end of the bed. I took it because Sabine usually sleeps in her own bed and only gets in my bed to wake me up for the morning feeding. I anticipated sharing the picture, remarking how sweet it was that she was trying to comfort me since my usual snuggle companion was gone. The second picture, which she would be mad at me for posting, is her snuggling right up next to me and watching Narcos with me.It was so dark in the room, so I used the flash. It was the kind of picture you take of your friend and she says to: "Delete that. Now. Seriously." I fell asleep around 11:30pm.

But then, I woke up around 1:30am. When I first woke up, I heard some howling downstairs. I was in that foggy just-awake feeling. I heard howling, but I thought, omgato, is Sabine really hungry right now? Then, I heard claws on the floor and I thought I was having weird sensory memories of Igor (and the sound of his little nails as he ran across the floor). I heard something else. It sounded like something falling down. Then, I heard more howls. So, I jumped up figuring that Sabine was causing trouble because she was hungry.

But no, there she was. She was laying on the floor, approximately two feet away from where Igor had died. I went to touch her and her whole body was limp. Loose and limp. And she just stared at me and howled away. In the next five to ten minutes, Sabine would die in my arms. In those few moments, time moved both fast and slow. At first, I threw on my shoes and started to dial the number to the emergency vet. But as I held her, I realized, there wasn't time. I could see in her eyes that she was suffering. I could see that she was leaving me. And just like that, she was gone. Both of them were gone. And the house was quiet.

Sabine came into my life in August of 2004. Some friends of mine, well, actually ex-roommates, had several kittens that had been born. They asked me if I wanted one or two.  I remember the kittens were living in some strange conditions. At first they lived underneath the sink in a party house. Then, they were living in a shed behind the house. When I went to pick out the two I wanted, I remember we opened the door to the shed, the sun shone in, and their sweet little eyes narrowed at the light. I picked out two little girls-- a tabby and an all black kitten. When I grabbed the tabby one (who would later be named Sabine), I remember she bit me.  I decided to name them after two characters from the novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I know, I know, I'm like a teenage girl, but I loved that book. And so they would be Sabine and Tereza.

One of the funniest memories I have of them as kittens was when I received a phone call from the previous owners. One of the other kittens had bitten someone and broke the skin. There was a whole rabies scare. Since the kittens were so little and  their mothers had run off, there was no way to verify whether or not the kittens had rabies. They had been advised by animal control to quarantine the other kittens, until they could find out. They called me to warn me. I remember coming home from school that evening...Sabine and Tereza were standing in the living room. And it was a stand-off, I was sure they were going to destroy me. They were trying to play, but I successfully corralled them into the bathroom where I would keep them, maybe for the rest of all time. It was a rather hilarious night, as I ran from these two tiny kittens. A day later, I realized this was ridiculous and took my chances.

Sabine was certainly beloved. She was a character. She was Sabine, Beanie, Beanz, Beans.  She was the girl you didn't fuck with. She was also the girl who didn't give a fuck what you thought. She did what she wanted. All the time. 

Sabine was a survivor. Where Igor was sensitive and delicate, Sabine was tough as nails. I think its because of her life growing up. Even once we were together, Sabine did not have it easy. Within the first month or so, her sister Tereza would pass away. Within the second month or so, my apartment would be broken into and the cats would be the only eyewitnesses. When I arrived back home to find the door kicked in, Sabine was cowered behind the couch, terrified and shaking. When Sabine was old enough to get fixed, she had a botched surgery, which caused her a significant amount of pain. I had to take her back to get it stitched back up, and in the aftermath, she was forced to wear a cone around her head for months.

When I first introduced her to Igor, she acted like she didn't really care. But as I mentioned in the eulogy for Igor, within a few months, the two of them would start to cuddle up with one another. That Christmas when I found Igor in the tree, Sabine even made friends with my mom's dog, Julius. I remember on Christmas Day finding the two of them sleeping on the couch together. She certainly was a peculiar little lady. She was the kind of cat who either liked you or didn't. She wasn't lukewarm. It was all or nothing with her.

As a young cat, Sabine was quite agile. She was obsessed with laser pointers. She actually performed a trick where I'd shine the laser up near the window of the front door, and she'd jump clear up to the window. She was also obsessed with rubber bands. When the mail would arrive, she would take the rubber band and spend hours throwing it up in the air and catching it on her own. When I still lived in Charlotte, I told the mail-lady about Sabine's love of rubber bands. And she started bringing more. I'd be in the kitchen working, with the front door open, and I'd hear the mail-lady say, "Hey Sabine. How are you?" Sabine would meow a hello. She'd reply, "I have rubber bands for you today!" She also loved balled up pieces of paper. She was obviously a cat that lived with a graduate student. On those endless days and nights when I'd be working on a paper, I'd ball up a piece of paper and throw it across the floor. Very quickly, Sabine started playing fetch with the paper, like a friggin' dog. She'd go pick it up in her mouth, walk across the floor howling, and promptly drop it at my feet. And then, we'd do it again. See, she was very peculiar.

In our years together, Sabine slept in her own bed. Here in Flagstaff, it was on a shelf in my bathroom closet. She also went to bed on her own. Igor and I would still be downstairs watching television and she'd quietly make her way up the stairs to her own bedroom. She only came to my bed when she wanted to be fed. When it was time, she let me know. She would sit in bed next to me and tap my face, and tap is probably a nice way to say it, but tap my face until I woke up. In the days when I wanted to sleep in, Sabine wouldn't stand for it. She would get on the bedside table and knock every single item off, until I woke up. While this often drove me crazy, it also made me laugh. She was manipulative about it. She would knock one item off at a time, then pause, turn to look at me like she was saying "See. See what I did. I'll do it again. Or, are you getting up?" The girl knew what she wanted. And she intended on letting everyone know it.

She loved birds. In all the places we've lived, Sabine would perch in the window to watch the birds. Here in Flagstaff, I'm pretty sure she friended a baby bird who had its nest right outside the living room window. I'm not sure friend is the right word, but she loved loved loved to watch that little baby bird. She also loved toys. Her favorite toy, a stuffed rainbow scented with catnip, was a gift from her Uncle Art. She acccumulated quite a few toys over the years. Like a parent of a toddler, I'd put them inside this little cat house they had. And, pretty much every day, Sabine would get them out. She'd put it in her mouth, carry it through the house, then carry it up the stairs while she howled away, leaving them at the top of the stairs as gifts...or maybe she was trying to trip me? You could never be sure with that one.

Her favorite party trick, well, maybe it was mine, was how she would screech when you tried to pick her up. She hated to be picked up. When you tried to pick her up, she would screech and flail about until you put her back down. In some ways, it became a game. How long could you hold Sabine before she scratched you? The first few times this happened, I thought she was mad. But as soon as you put her down on the floor, she'd come running back over and rub her face on you like crazy. And her and her Uncle Art did this all the time. Actually, Art and I were talking late last week about the loss of Igor, he joked about Sabine's screeches. So, I took a video of her, while I tried to pick her up, and she screeched. It brought a smile to my face. And him and I laughed on the phone together.

Sabine was a big girl. She wasn't tall or long, but she was just round. Super round. Sometimes when she laid out on the couch or floor, she would almost look like a tabby pancake. And every time someone met her for the first time, like maintenance people, they'd remark: "Why, you certainly are a big one, aren't you?" She did not hide how she felt about this. She would give them a snarky look. See, she didn't feel bad about her size, she loved herself. She would also lay out on her back with all of her belly up in the air. I can remember people always joking about how she was thinking, "Paint me like one of your French girls."

One of her favorite things that we did together was taking baths. Well, more accurately, I'd take a bath and she'd hang out in the bathroom with me. Most of the time, she would perch up on the side of the bathtub, which actually I found terrifying. A few times she'd almost jump in. Other times, she'd just lay on the bathmat next to the tub, keeping me company. It was one of our things.

She also worked as my personal trainer. Every time, I'd retreat upstairs to do yoga or exercise, she watched over me. I felt like I could always hear her pushing me to keep going. She was also a talker. I swear, she learned how to say, "Mama." And when she'd want my attention, she'd meow out a "Mama." And I'd give anything to hear it right now.

If anything, she was notorious for her resting bitch face. She was simply not easily amused by your antics. Or mine, for that matter. 

Sabine was the queen of the castle. It was always her way. She let me know it. She let Igor know this. She reminded him regularly. If he got on her nerves, she was quick to take a paw and slap him across the face. Once he was sick, she did this less, but she still reminded him of who was in charge around here.

Although Sabine was totally independent, she knew when I needed her. When bad things happened in my life and I was on the couch crying, she would stay right next to me. She was intuitive like that. While Igor was not discerning, she picked her moments. Although she probably preferred to be off doing her own thing, she knew I needed her. And after Igor died, she was like that. She was next to me, every single moment.

I'm still in shock that I lost Sabine. She wasn't sick. While I was crying into the phone that morning to Rami and my mom, I kept saying, "I don't fucking understand why this happened." And the only thing I could think was that she died of a broken heart. See, her and Igor had been companions for the past 12 years. In cat years, that's like 70 years or something. For some reason, all I could think of was June and Johnny Cash. I think for Sabine, life didn't make sense without Igor. Some friends of mine have suggested maybe Sabine knew that Igor couldn't make it in the otherworld without her. But I think she just couldn't make it without him. I think while she loved me, Igor was her person. But for me, they were my persons. And its another Friday night, and I'm having another funeral.

And that's what is the most fucked up. I lost both of my companions within the time span of a week and a day. I've tried to make jokes about how I got a discount at the crematorium. Its one of my defense mechanisms, to joke about how ridiculous this feels. But the truth is, I feel lonely. When I was talking to my students about losing Sabine, one of them said: "How are you?" I remarked: "We are okay." But then, I paused and said: "Oh, its just me now. Fuck, yeah, *I* am okay." And that's how it feels right now. Isolating and lonely. I've lived alone for many years. But somehow, I never felt lonely. Even moving out to Flagstaff was a little less terrifying, because I felt like I was doing it with the two of them. We were a family. The three of us. Always together.

And I still move through the house like they are here. When I wake up in the morning, I automatically glance around the bed for them. When I make dinner, I look over to see if they are going to try to eat my food. When I set something on the table, I still move it to the side, just in case they might knock it over. When I go into the bathroom, I look around the corner for one of them to show up meowing at me. When I start to go downstairs in the morning, I always pause at the top of the stairs, thinking to myself, "Are y'all ready for breakfast?" And I'm still pissed that neither one of them ever learned to make my coffee. See, humor, my defense mechanism.

But it hurts. It really hurts. I'm still struggling with the heaviness of the loss. Sometimes, I close the shades on the windows, because I don't want to be reminded of the sunlight that they loved so very much. I haven't been able to wash one of the covers on the couch, because it still has their cat hair on it. I haven't been able to vacuum the carpet, because there are still little bits of litter that they tracked upstairs. And then there is that scratch on my arm. On Sunday morning, Sabine decided that laying next to me wasn't close enough, so she crawled on top of me with all her big glory, but she slide off and scratched me on my arm. And the scratch is still there. All throughout the day, I reach over and touch it, because it reminds me of her. It reminds me of when she was still here with me.

But I know, I know that all of these things will have to go away. The scratch will heal. I will start to clean the house and to store away the extra food and litter I bought in bulk for them. And eventually, the house will no longer smell like those two little babies of mine. My catpilots. My companions. My family.

Life of Sabine Photo Album

And one last dedication to my catpilots, Igor and Sabine...

13 September 2016

The Life of Igor


I keep waiting for him to come around the corner, his long nails clinking on the hardwood floor, jump up on the couch, yawn so that I can smell his horrible breath, and snuggle up for the rest of the day while I rub his nose.

Igor. Igs. Iggy-baby. Iggy-poppin’. Igsa-poppin’. Stravinsky. The Golden One. The Soft One. My little old man. My baby boy. Stinky butt. Stinky breath. Cuddlebug.

Igor came to me in such a mysterious way in November of 2004. When I first adopted Sabine, I also adopted her sister, Teresa. Teresa met with an untimely demise shortly after their adoption. At the time, I was working full time and had just started my graduate work in Charlotte. Because I was rarely home, I felt it was unkind to leave Sabine by herself for 12-14 hours a day. Very quickly after Teresa’s death, I sought out to adopt another cat. I found the cutest tuxedo cat at a rescue outside of Charlotte. My mom and I traveled down to check it out. While I was checking out the tuxedo cat, my mom came across another cat. He was shy. He had this beautiful golden fur. I remember so clearly, my mom said to me: “You should get this one. This is your cat. I know it.” The woman at the rescue told us his story. He had been found as a kitten out in the woods. He was the only one found. It was suspected that someone had dropped the litter out in the woods and likely that owls had attacked the others in the litter, but this one kitten had survived. Despite all the odds, he was rescued. She had named him Cubby. 

And so I listened to my mom. And we took him home. At first, he was terrified. He hid under the couch for days. Sabine tried to be friends with him, but he wanted nothing to do with either one of us. And then, slowly, with bribes of chicken, he came out from the couch. Within a couple of weeks, Igor, as I decided to name him, began to spend time with Sabine. Within the first month, they even cuddled up together on the couch.

My favorite early memory of Igor has to be his first Christmas with me. Since I had recently lost a cat, I did not feel comfortable leaving Sabine and Igor at home alone, so I took them with me to my mom’s house for the holidays. In the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, I woke up to hear something rustling in the Christmas tree. I nervously jumped up, walked over to the Christmas tree, pulled open the branches to discover that Igor had climbed up the tree. He was about halfway up the tree, howling away. 

Igor had many friends and many homes over the course of his 12 years. He lived in Charlotte, Nashville, and Flagstaff. He was Sabine’s sister and also, Biscuit (who we lost earlier this year). When we lived at the beach, Igor was in love with Gravy, a male vagabond cat who wandered the streets of Myrtle Beach. Every single time Gravy showed up on the porch and jumped in the window, Igor would lose his mind rubbing up against the other side of window, desperately wanting Gravy’s attention. During our years in Nashville, Igor became somewhat of a mascot for 7th Avenue North. He would sit in the window and garner all sorts of attention from the folks passing by. He earned all sorts of nicknames from my fellow graduate students. Everyone talked about his soft fur. And how incredibly sweet he was. One time, Art made a faux-mustache out of his fur. He had so many amazing aunts and uncles who helped to take care of him and his sister Sabine over the years. So, I must thank Ashley L., Michelle, Ashley A., Art, Amada, and Marisa for always stepping in.

I always thought that Igor was a peculiar little fella. He was sensitive. He deferred to Sabine. When it would storm outside, he would run and hide. He loved the sunlight. He loved food. And he loved loved loved to drink out of the toilet. But most importantly to me, he was a snuggle bug. He almost never left my side, with the exception of when I let them out on the porch and he’d spend almost all day in the sunlight. Throughout the years of writing my dissertation, Igor would perch next to the computer or sit in the chair behind me. He slept next to me almost every single night. And he never liked it when I had overnight guests, because it meant he couldn’t be next to me. 

Igor started to get sick after my first year here in Flagstaff. And he never really recovered. We had him on meds, but they seemed to do little to help. Honestly, I thought I would lose him by last Christmas. But he kept hanging on. I started to read articles about how you decide when it is time to put your animal to sleep, because the one thing I really did not want was to watch him suffer. In the last month or so, we had changed his meds, because he kept losing weight. We put him on another med, a steroid. And he seemed to feel better. He seemed like he was putting on weight and he had more energy. I was looking forward to taking him to his next vet appointment, where they might tell me that his thyroid levels were good and that he had gained some weight. I was planning to take him in the next couple of weeks. 

This weekend, Igor and I spent much of our time on the porch. He sat in the sunlight. It wasn’t until Sunday that I realized something was different about him. He kept his distance. He got sick. He didn’t want to eat. He secluded himself to the downstairs bathroom. And I knew something was not right. I had that feeling. That same fucking feeling that I’ve had since the first person I lost. But I had hope. When I went to bed last night, Igor didn’t come upstairs with me. I couldn’t sleep because I was so worried about him. About every hour until 1:30am, I walked back downstairs and checked on him. He was crouched in a corner, resting. One time, I picked him up to get in bed with me. He stayed for a moment, then, he went back downstairs. I walked down once more to check on him. While I was about to fall asleep, I heard him yell out. As I laid in bed, I thought to myself, that’s it. But I didn’t get up. I think I couldn’t really handle it at the moment. When I woke up this morning, I looked over to the pillow and saw that he wasn’t there. And again, I had that feeling. I knew. I walked downstairs immediately to find him. He had collapsed in the downstairs office. He had one paw in his mouth. I can only imagine that his heart just stopped working. He didn’t fall sleep and die, no, he collapsed. Right there on the floor, all alone. When I saw him, I reached out for him. And I discovered that it had finally happened. After a year and a half, I had finally lost my lil’ old man. My best buddy. My sweetheart. The love of my life. 

When Igor first got sick, I remember thinking that I didn’t want him to suffer. I spent many hours reading about when you make “that decision” for your animal. I always closely monitored his health. I always felt that if I ever saw that he was suffering, we’d make the hard decision. And I take solace in the fact that for him, it was quick. Actually, I take solace in the fact for me it was quick.

 It’s hard to let go of Igor. If anyone was my co-pilot, it was him. He was always right next to me. When I slept. When I worked. Every single day, he was right next to me. He even followed me to the bathroom. And so that is what makes it so difficult. Because at every moment, I keep looking for him. I keep waiting for him. Igor was never just a cat to me. He was my best friend. He was my constant companion. He was my best friend. He was my catpilot. 

Photo Album of Igor 


21 April 2016

"Honey, I know I know I know, times are changing...": A Blog for Prince, my Prince, and our Prince

“I am yours now and you are mine. And together we’ll love through all space and time. So don’t cry. One day, all seven will die.” –Prince, 7

When I was 8 years old, I had one of those small trampolines. On an almost nightly basis, my mom would put on Prince’s album Purple Rain and I would take to stage on the trampoline and perform from start to finish his album. From Let’s Go Crazy to Purple Rain, I lip synced. Every. Single. Song. #LipSyncForYourLife.

I believe that Michael Jackson may have been my first “boyfriend, "as I remember dreamily staring into the opened album Thriller. However, when I was introduced to Prince, I felt something else. While I thought of Jackson as my boyfriend, Prince was without a doubt my first “lover.” I mean, he was sexy and beautiful. And yes, at 8 years old, I probably had no idea what that meant, but I knew that Prince made me feel things. All the things. 

When David Bowie died earlier this year, I remember thinking how tragic it was to lose someone so important to the lives of so many of us—well, you know, us weirdos. I read countless social media posts about how Bowie was the performer who taught so many of you that it was okay to be weird, but also to cross and question traditional lines of gender and sexuality.

You had Bowie. But I...see, I had Prince. And he was everything to me.

And so, I danced to Prince. I sang to Prince. I performed Prince. I was IN LOVE with Prince. And from as long as I can remember, Prince has been woven into my memories.

When I was in the 2nd grade, Purple Rain the movie came out. I somehow convinced my mother to take me and my best friend Kim to see the movie countless times. Hell, maybe my mom was in love with Prince too. Shortly after the film came out, my mom remarried. I got a new house. I got some new friends too—two girls a year younger than me—Chelsea, my neighbor, and her friend Eliza. The three of us were obsessed with Prince. We had crushes on some boys from our school. So, we choreographed a dance to the song Let’s Go Crazy that involved all types of acrobatics on the couch at Chelsea’s house and some very interesting costume changes. We practiced often. We were sure, once we performed this for them, this would win over the hearts of our elementary school boyfriends.We never did. But I'm still convinced it would have worked.

When I was in the fourth grade, there was a talent show at the end of the school year. My sister, Ashley and I were performing. But also, some of our neighborhood friends were performing too. In particular, Alvin and Calvin, twins, were set to perform Prince’s Kiss. They performed the song flawlessly in Prince wigs and they brought down the house.

And these early memories are the way it has always been. Prince was just always there. When I was in high school, my friend Chelsea called me to tell me she had an extra ticket to see Prince perform in Charlotte and invited me along. Although in the years leading up to that night, we had grown apart, we sat there that night reminiscing and laughing about our childhood days of Prince.

Into my adulthood, there was never a dance party that I threw or attended that Prince did not figure into prominently. And it wasn’t just the songs he performed. It was all the amazing songs he wrote, like When You Were Mine and Nothing Compares 2 U.

If ever there was a musician that echoed the sentiment of my eventually-to-be-written book on music and memory…it is Prince.

I can remember my dance company performing to I Would Die 4 U, while I stood in the wings performing all the dance moves (actually, I'm doing them right now). I can remember listening to Diamonds and Pearls as I dressed in babydoll dresses for junior high school, well, okay, and early days of high school. I can remember how my favorite lyric of all times (and singing about countless ex-boyfriends) in Raspberry Beret was “Overcast days never turned me on but something about the clouds and her mixed....She wasn't too bright, but I could tell when she kissed me, she knew how to get her kicks…” I can remember how my friend Matt Tomich made me a mix with the song, I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man. I can remember me and my friend Sam Favata listening to If I Was Your Girlfriend while I was on a several week road trip around the Southeast. I can remember when my dearly departed friend Dan and I listened to the song 7 and he spray-painted the walls of his apartment with lyrics from the song. I can remember Carly and I driving up to the mountains for a writing retreat and dancing our butts off to Kiss in the car. I can remember when my ex-boyfriend Justin and I threw a party at my parent’s house and we played Prince’s version of Nothing Compares to You on repeat at least 15 times while we both belted out the song to the rest of the party. And who didn’t listen to 1999 like a million times on New Years? And I can’t lie, one of my all time favorite songs was of Baby, I’m a Star. Just turn it on now, I dare you. You can’t stop dancing. 

One, two, three, four
Hey look me over
Tell me, do you like what you see?
Hey, I ain't go no money
But honey, I'm rich on personlity
Hey, check it all out
Baby, I know what it's all about
Before the night is through
You will see my point of view
Even if I have to scream and shout... 

And I remember that every single fucking time, Art and I went somewhere with a jukebox, we ALWAYS played Prince. See, Art and I were both really obsessed with Prince. There were nights, when we were at my apartment on 7th Ave North talking about some shit, we played Purple Rain on repeat and cried our little eyes out. We decided when we both get married (either to each other or to other people) that we would sing Prince at the wedding. Hell, I think we even talked about dressing like Prince for the wedding. And only a couple of weeks ago, Art left me a message where he reminded me of this. 

I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted one time to see you laughing
I only want to see you laughing in the purple rain... 
As I sit here right now listening to 1999, I find my body betrays me. It knows every beat. And while I want to weep for Prince, I can’t help but dance. Because like my mentor said to me earlier, “It’s how he would have wanted it.”

One of my last memories of how Prince was woven into the memories of my life is the night of my dissertation defense. After a successful defense, my mentor, Richard took me and a group of friends and faculty out for dinner. Towards the end of the evening, Richard stood up to make a toast. He started with, “Dearly beloved…” And I began to laugh. He continued, “We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” And then, I jumped in, “Electric word life it means forever…” And then, for the rest of the toast, we went back and forth with the lyrics. I’m not sure everyone at the table had any idea what we were doing, but it was a moment for me. And I can't think of a better way to celebrate finishing my PhD than to incorporate Prince into the matter. After all, he's always been there.

When I heard the news today, while I was making my way to campus, all of these memories flooded my mind. I wrote to Rami, my partner, about the passing of Prince. Since he isn’t from this part of the world, I’m not sure he initially understood the significance. As I tried to explain, I kept thinking just what it was that Prince meant to me. And as articles have flooded the interwebs, I think I’m not alone in figuring out what it was that Prince meant to me, and to us.

He taught us it was okay to be weird. He taught us to embrace the non-binary of gender. He taught us that we could be just about anything we want to be. He taught us that we could change our names to whatever the fuck we want them to be. He taught us how to be fucking sexy as hell. He taught us how to dance. He taught us how to really live life. And he taught us how to walk into a room and be the coolest motherfucker in the room.

Because, Prince, you were the coolest motherfucker in every single room.

How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that's so cold?

31 December 2015

The Year of Courage, 2015: A Year in Review

The Year of Courage, 2015: A Year in Review

"Let me be brave." - Clara Oswald, Doctor Who

It is the morning of December 31, 2015. I am awake at 8:30am. I am drinking coffee without the slightest of hangovers. I am snuggling with Igor. There is an amazing man still slumbering in my bed upstairs. I've been messaging with Ashley. Or, in other words, #blessed, #recovery, #lotsoflove #itsbeenalongyear, #ithasbeenanamazingyearforme.

Without a doubt, 2015 will be a turning point year for me.

I went from being a "her" to being a "me." Now, I know, this sounds crazy to some of you, but it is true. In the past, I always sat a little outside of myself, just off to the side. I wasn't connected to me, but rather, I saw myself as performing some version of who "Katherine." Like, I had double vision, where I was blurry, almost two blurry versions of myself...but little by little this year, they've come into focus. To become a singular me. But maybe even more than that, I am realizing that ME has value. I deserve things. I deserve good things. This also means that I'm far less apt to give my time to people who don't value me.

Yeah, I know....2015 has been like an exercise in self help.
But guess what, I'm happy now. I mean, most of the time.

#recovery is fucking hard. It is a daily battle. But, it is getting easier. Because, now, safety and trust and deservingness are becoming more of a habit. But there are some fucking days, I just want to pull the covers over my head or run away from this lovely man in my life or tell the girls that I don't want to talk. BUT, I'm trying to be brave. To be vulnerable and bad ass all at the same time. To put on my cape while also saying, "Hey, I'm afraid you might hurt me." And like Clara Oswald said, "Let me be brave." I need to be brave. Every. Single. Fucking. Day.

In review of the year, here's what happened:

1. Obviously, the DISSERTATION. I was reviewing what I wrote last year on this date and completing the dissertation was priority two. I'll get to priority one, which is actually quite sad in retrospect. I started January with a #31daysofdissertating. I started a habit of writing for the first two hours of the day. And now, it is done. I'm still in a little bit of shock that I'm officially Dr. Everhart. I'm still lost some days when I don't have to get up and pull up those files and try to hammer out two hours of writing.

2. It hasn't been all roses this year. The year started by my family losing one of our best, Brad Stafford. I remember that it was a couple of days after Christmas that we discovered that Brad had liver cancer. And it took a toll on the family. It was so hard on my mother. And it pained me that I couldn't be closer to her. I've certainly realized this year how much it means to be close to your family. Now, let's not get carried away here...I don't want to live in Charlotte. But I would like to be closer one day. That being said, when I was faced with the financial difficulty of trying to get back home to be with my family for Brad's memorial, I came to realize just how amazing my department here can be. Without my knowledge, they circulated an email asking people to donate to a fund to get me home. They raised enough money to buy me a round trip ticket home so I could be there with my mom. It still makes me weepy to think of that generosity and how supportive they've been. I think of Brad often. In my living room, I have a picture of him playing baseball as a child. He was so amazing. I think we will always miss him, without a doubt. If you feel so inclined, here is a link to my eulogy.

3. Health and Self Care. This was another resolution for 2015. And I must say, I've done a stellar job of it this year. I've started exercising again, even if sometimes that means drinking wine while riding my exercise bike. I started yoga, which has been absolutely amazing for my mind and body. I get a massage every three weeks with a really great massage therapist who just gets what I need. And, I mean, come on, y'all. BATHS. BATHS. BATHS.

4. THERAPY. I mean, seriously, y'all, this has been so important to me this year. I started therapy in July of this past year. Some sessions are rough, rough, rough. Some sessions make me feel like my therapist is giving me a gold star for being so brave. But this I know, my life has changed so significantly because of the work we are doing together. My therapist is kind and patient. She never judges me, even when I'm suggesting something so very far fetched. Because she knows, I'll get there. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but eventually. I tell my students often about going to therapy. Most of my colleagues think it is quite strange that I share so much of my personal trials and tribulations with my students. However, I have spent most of my life struggling with some of the same core issues. And I can't help but sometimes be a little pissed off that my life might have looked very different if I had started the road to recovery much earlier. BUT, in a typical Milan Kundera fashion, I dare not spend too much time thinking about my other lives. I mean, like Rami might say, "Nobody knowsssss." And it is true, BUT, the important part for me is to model to my students how I navigate all of this. To let them know that therapy doesn't mean you are a damaged person, but rather, it means you are so very strong. And that therapy is good for everyone, not just when you are the bottom desperately clawing your way back up.

5. Relationships. Okay, so I saved this for number five. Not because it wasn't as important, but mostly because it was a result of the items that came before. All the health, self care, and therapy drastically started to change my intimate relationships.

Last night, when I reviewed my journals from the past year, I saw that my first priority for the year had to do with Manny, my ex. I wrote that one of my resolutions was to learn to trust him more. For those of you that know about our relationship, this is #funnynotfunny. For those of you that don't know, Manny and I were in a long distance thing on and off for about three years. I'd see him maybe once or twice a year. It was good at times. And it was very bad at other times. When I look back on it now, I don't want to place blame. Though, I'm often still very angry. I think what is best to say is that we were two people very ill-suited for each other. We were two people with so many walls and defenses up that we were never able to really ever say what we needed from each other, but instead, it was an endless cycle of shame, blame, distrust, fear, and lashing back at each other in very aggressive and very passive ways. It was NOT healthy. As you know, I'm not someone who often regrets. And I don't regret my relationship with Manny. But I do regret that I let this cycle between us go on for so many years. It was incredibly hard to put an end to it. We had become habit for each other. But then, it happened. I wanted so desperately to learn how to trust someone else and for the umpteenth time, this was violated. It reaffirmed everything that I've thought about myself. And at that moment, I realized, "No. You have to stop this. This hurts too much." And I did.

I also went through an awkward tinder phase. It was entertaining. But ultimately, really unsatisfying.

And then there was...that one. When I first moved to Flagstaff, I felt crazy alone. I felt like I was out here on my own with little connection to my life back in Nashville. And there was this one man who helped keep me tethered to the world. He wrote to me every day, inquiring about my life here. I needed that. But then, it turned into something else. It wasn't my finest moment. And yes, in retrospect, I look back and realize just how flawed it was. But alas, this is what you learn in therapy. You start to pull back the layers and see something for what it really is. Undoubtedly, I've come to see him for who he really is, but at the same time, I want to recognize just how important he was for my growth. He was one of the first men EVER to call me on my shit. Because he SAW me. And then he asked me: "Why are you doing this?" A very emotional day in Nashville in June, this question forced me to see myself. I thought to myself, why AM I doing this? And then, I opened the deep dark recesses of my mind. And then, there was therapy. And then, there was a realization that this relationship was not healthy for me. And so, I have to thank him for that. Because I learned what it really is that I WANT in a relationship.

And it wasn't just amorous relationships...I stood my ground in my friendships too. I learned how to set boundaries with friends. I eliminated stressful and negative relationships.

And of course, now, there's a new relationship...more on that later.

6. The girls. The entire recovery process would not have been able to really happen without the girls. After that fateful day in June, my emotions were raw and terrifying. I was staying at Carly's place...and I was sort of dramatically flung on a bed crying my eyes out. My hands were shaking. I was starting to have some very huge realizations about myself. Really fucking scary realizations. And the girls reached out to me. We didn't have plans to get together that night, but they saw I needed them. Ashley picked me up and we headed over to Michelle's. We sat on the stoop and I let them see me, like REALLY SEE me. I said things I've never said to anyone. And they held my hand and listened and told me how proud they are of me. They realized I was about to embark on an amazing, yet arduous, journey. And it was really that moment on the stoop that propelled me to get better. We also started a group chat on Viber called "Trifecta." It is like this safe haven. No matter what is happening, we know we can go there, send a message and at least one of us is available. I am so thankful for this. It makes me feel like they are always close by, cheering me on.

7. Nicki Minaj and Beyonce.

8. Watching Baseball at Picazzos. Hell, just Picazzos in general. I'm sure going to miss Gilbert when he departs for a new adventure.

9. My road trips. There were so many last year. I've realized just how important it is for me to travel at least once a month. Last year, I spent time down in the valley for spring training. And subsequently, so many other baseball trips-- Las Vegas, Salt Lake City. Thank goodness spring training is just around the corner.

10. My newest nephew, Jack. I finally got to meet him at Christmas. And I'm totally in love with him. So absolutely beautiful.

11. #HolidazeRoadTrip and Rami. Yes, yes, yes, you know. You've seen. I'm all goofy and silly and swooning over a man these days. Yes, it is out of character for me. But perhaps, what is the most out of character is the man I've chosen to do this with. I told my therapist about him. She said to me, "So, what happened? Your picker must be off. You've chosen a man very different from all the others." And she is right. He is so very different. And exactly what I need right now. Plus, y'all, omg, he is soooooooooooo cute. But mostly, I love these small moments that we have together. Like, when we were on the road, it was about 8pm at night. Pitch black everywhere. No gas station in sight. We were on fumes in the rental car. It was 16 degrees outside. We were stressed. We were sitting quietly, both fretting. I think he was praying and I was just thinking, WTF are we going to do? I pulled off an exit where there was suppose to be gas. It was so dark, I wasn't sure where the road was...and we were both exhausted. Rami said, "Why you go this way? This is wrong! Turn that way!" And I yelled back, "I don't know where we are! How am I suppose to know?" I think we both wanted to strangle each other at that moment. We found our way back to the interstate. We drove in silence for another 15 miles, as the gas light blinked over and over again. Somehow, we made it. After we filled up the gas tank, we got back on the road. And within a few short moments, the two of us were laughing hilariously about how freaked and tense we were. Now, we keep laughing about it. And I think that's it....I'm pretty sure we could laugh our way through anything. But again, he's also reallllllllllly cute too.

2015. You kicked my ass. But I love you for it. Because I feel #blessed today. I feel like I am being seen and heard, not just by the people in my life, but most importantly, by myself.

So, cheers to all of you. I hope you have an amazing new year. And remember, be brave my darlings, particularly, all the bad ass/boss ass bitches in my life. Because YOU are amazing. And you are what remind me to be brave, everyday.

20 December 2015

One Foot in Front of the Other: Katherine's 14th Annual Mix 2015

One Foot in Front of the Other: Katherine's 14th Annual Mix 2015

Pulling Back the Layers. 

I usually start out my description of the year by saying, "I don't know where to begin." But maybe for the first time ever, I know exactly where to start. 2015. I saw myself. I heard myself. And I started to realize who I really am, and even more so, what I deserve. Can I throw in a hashtag? #recovery

I won't lie. I had an amazing year. But also, I have to admit, shit was hard this year. First, I remembered who I was as a teacher. And my students responded resoundingly. Then, I remembered how much I loved the student movement at the University of Puerto Rico of 2010...and I finished my dissertation. But more so, and probably more than any of these achievements, I remembered who I am. Maybe it was less about remembering...and more about discovering. Opening the flood gates and letting me really be me. It hasn't been easy, as most of you have observed, but here I am. Exposed. Revealed. And finally, ready to let myself to be seen. By my friends. By him. By you.

In my next end-of-the-year post, I can review more what happened...but you should know this before I present you with the annual mix....I'm in love. I'm in love with happiness. I'm in love with pop music. And I'm in love with a man (though, this part scares the shit out of me).

Undoubtedly, you'll notice a huge departure in my musical tastes from the past years. I wish I could explain it in a way that would make sense to most of you. But I know I can't. Here's the thing. I got tired of listening to sad-bastard music. And actually, this happened because of a student. She wanted to do an independent study with me on the feminism of Beyonce and Nicki Minaj. I was apprehensive, but I thought it would be interesting. And she won. By the end, I was convinced. But more so, I fell in love with pop music. I realized while I was listening to the musics of these two women, I felt happy. I felt strong. I felt brave. And then I realized, I wanted to feel like this all the time. These women made me feel good. And so, I kept listening. And it is true, I feel empowered listening to their music. And without a doubt, my life has changed as a result.

No, it wasn't just the music (sorry, Nick Hornby), but it was the music in conjunction with so many changes that I MADE happen this year. Probably for the first time in my life, I'm recognized how much I can control what happens in my life. I can make my own decisions. I can say yes. I can say no. I know, I know, so many of you think, "Well, yeah." But for those people like me, who endured the traumas, this is a big deal.

So here is how you can find access to the mix:
1) On Spotify at: One Foot in Front of the Other Mix

2) On YouTube at: One Foot in Front of the Other Mix

1. Darlin' All I Ask: Jaymay
"How I loved you suddenly, it just totally scared me. That don't mean I don't take you seriously. And I love you terribly, its just ridiculous. All I'm just saying, is I want you so bad. I wanna love you like that, I wanna be your lover, why don't you just think about it?"

2. What's My Name: Rihanna (feat. Drake)
The first song he played for me was a Rihanna song. But when I heard this one, I realized it was about him. And when he called me that night and sang, "Uhhnahhna, Uhhhnahna," into my phone, I fell in love. Because, he listened to the song I sent him. He heard me. That's it.

"Hey boy, I really want to be with you, because you're just my type..."

3. Ex's & Oh's: Elle King
Now, let's turn the clock back. Those fucking ex's and o's.

4. Hotling Bling:  Ceresia
Sorry, Drake, let's flip the script. I'm sorry you feel left out. Ladies, we have to do our own thing.

5. Love in the Dark: Adele
Okay, so we need one song on the mix about the heartbreak of this year. Yes, I fell in love this year. The most fucked up part of it is that it was in a place in which I could never actually have it. Which if you know me, it isn't that weird. But, I'll dedicate this one to him. Because he made me realize so very much. He made me realize how much I was worth, despite the fact he couldn't give that to me. And with his words on that fateful day back in June, everything started to change.

6. Hiding: Florence + The Machine
And the biggest part of the fuckedupness of what happened before was that I sought out therapy after the fact. I couldn't have done this without the amazing support of Ashley and Michelle. Whether it was the shame hotline, our group chat on Viber, or sweet notes of encouragement and support, these ladies really helped me find my way. And this song, well, I dedicate it to the little girl inside of me. I just want her to know that I'm here to protect her, even when she is too afraid to let me in.

7. Nicki Minaj Records "I Still Rise" by Maja Angelou Still, I rise.

8. I'm Out: Ciara (feat. Nicki Minaj)
'Nuff Said. For my ladies.   

9. I'm the Best" by Nicki Minaj
I listened to this song, over and over again, before my dissertation defense.

"To all my bad bitches, I can see your halo..." 

10. Feeling Myself (feat. Beyonce)
Ladies, anytime the self doubt creeps up, just turn this one up loud.

11. Only: Nicki Minaj (feat. Drake, Lil Wayne, Chris Brown)
Listen to Nicki's verse.  I fell in love with here with this song. I mean, seriously, duct tape, pop quiz, cutlet and seasonin'. Goddamn she's good. 

12. Birthday Cake: Rihanna
This was the song. He won me with this one.

13. If I Can't Have You:  Etta James
When I realized, that I need you. 

14. Compartir: Carla Morrison
"Quiero dormir y soñar, caricias contigo, 
Quiero reír y llorar, con tus ojitos,
Quiero compartir mis secretos y mis suspiros,
Quiero aprender a entender al mundo contigo 

Pero hay una cosa que te debo decir,
No es nada fácil, estar tan lejos de ti..."

15. You Da One: Rihanna
When you fall for someone hard, but rather, you realize you choose to fall for someone. Because you deserve it, and they deserve your love.

"You the one that I dream about all day
You the one that I think about always
You are the one so I make sure I behave
My love is your love, your love is my love
Baby, I love you, I need you here
Give me all the time
Baby we meant to be
You got me, smiling all the time
'Cause you know how to give me that
You know how to pull me back
When I go runnin', runnin'
Tryin' to get away from loving ya
You know how to love me hard
I won't lie, I'm falling hard
Yep, I'm falling for ya
But there's nothin' wrong with that..."

16. I'm Yours: Alessia Cara
 Alessia Cara is absolutely adorable.

"Some nerve you have
To break up my lonely
And tell me you want me
How dare you march into my heart
Oh how rude of you
To ruin my miserable
And tell me I'm beautiful
Cause I wasn't looking for love no
Nobody asked you to get me attached to you
In fact you tricked me
And I wasn't trying to fall in love but boy you pushed me
So all that I'm asking
Is that you handle me with caution
Cause I don't give myself often
But I guess I'll try today

Cause I've had my heart
Broken before
And I promised I would never let me hurt anymore
But I tore down my walls
And opened my doors
And made room for one
So baby I'm yours..."

17. Best I Ever Had: Drake
At first I thought that I only had one king in my kingdom, which was Idris Elba, but this year, I also made room for Drake. Not just because his dance moves, but because yes, he gets it. And yeah, there are some other fellas who might think this is about him, but this is about my one and only, because he is the best, the best I ever had.

18: Simple Things: Miguel
Yes, baby. I just want someone. I just want you. And maybe Miguel. Haha.

18. Flawless with Beyonce (feat. Nicki Minaj)
Again, to all my bad ass bitches, to my boss ass bitches, you are fucking #flawless. Every time I hear this song and watch this video, I can't help but think of all my ladies.

Yes, I worship at the altar of Queen Bey.

"Bow down bitches..."

"But tell them winning is my motherfuckin' protocol, ' cause, I score before I ever throw the ball, this bitches washed up and there ain't no fucking soap involved...mayday mayday, earth to bitches, slap these hoes like we birthin' bitches, the Queen of rap slaying with Queen Bee, if you ain't on the team, you playin' for team D..."

19. Can't Feel My Face: The Weeknd
What can I say about The Weeknd? Beautiful. 

20. All Eyes On Us: Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill
You heard us, we are the ill-est. I think he catchin' feelins. I can't wait to celebrate the New Year our counterparts, Nicki and Meek. 

21. Amen (feat. Drake): Meek Mill
The day after my defense, I listened to this one 873 times. And one of my favorite parts is when I forced Jennie Ann to listen to this song in the middle of the night. And she wrote me back and said, "I'm not sure I'm listening to the right song, this one is about church..." And I wrote back, "Listen more closely." Ha. I love love love this song. Wealth and health, y'all. Plus, how can you not love a song with Meek and Drake. What's good, Nicki, what's good?

"Plus I’m on probation, when they test me I just pee Rose..."

19 June 2015

I See You: Reflections on A Trip to Nashville

Since I moved to Flagstaff last August, I've found myself looking around to find my Nashville places in Flagstaff. Oh, The McMillan, that's my Silo in Flagstaff. Oh, The Campus Coffee Bean, that's my Red Bicycle in Flagstaff. Oh, BunHuggers, that's my Cowboy Kewl in Flagstaff. Obviously, leaving behind Nashville, but more specifically, Germantown, has not been easy for this ol' gal.

I did not have a chance to visit my old home until 10 months after I left. In May, I breezed into town for a mere two days in a whirlwind trip. When I left, I cried my little eyes out, missing all the faces and places. When I returned to Flagstaff, I made a decision to come for a longer visit. A 10 day visit. Oh, those fateful 10 days...

Those 10 days were something. It was intense. It was sweet. It was sad. It was nostalgic. It was weird. But when I finally left (which I was luckily able to do, since my wallet got nabbed while I was there), I was okay with leaving. Now don't get me wrong, I heart heart heart Nashville (well, Germantown); but, I think I grew to accept that it isn't where I live anymore. I assume some of this has to do with the fact that two of my bestest friends there will be leaving in the next couple of months, as well as most of my grad school friends will not end up living there. And so, Nashville, as I know it, will look very different when I return next. I suspect in the future, I might spend more time there. Hell, I might even return before too long. But for now, I know that it is good that I'm in Flagstaff. And I intend to embrace Flagstaff for what it is, without trying to discover the Nashville in it. THIS is a big step for me.

So, what happened? You know me, I'm not one to give too many details...so, I'll just give a quick rundown before I get into the reason for this particular post.

Cancelled Flight. Rebooked. Missed Shuttle. Rebooked. Late Arrival. Allison. Silo. Ben and Charles. Brunch at Mad Donnas. My Koozie. Kick Ball. Rosepepper Cantina. You Stupid Ass Bitch. Chronology. Kickball. That One. Silo. My Girls. Jack Browns. Late Nights. Lyfts. Sophie. Afternoons. Carly's House. Taco Mamacita. Movie Night. Germantown. Germantown. Germantown. Stairs. O'Reillys. Silo. Sandra. Jack Browns. Heath. Nice White People. Silo. Lost Backpacks. Lunches at the Cafe. A BREAKDOWN. Ashley and Michelle. Realizations. South Street and Pork Shoulders. Stoop Time. Zeke and Troy. GLAAD CMA festival. Play. Kicked Out. Kellis. Get Robbed. Pedestrian Bridge. Downtown. Flowers. Saying Goodbye to the Trifecta. Silo. Jack Browns. Cafe. Silo. Kelly. Grand Gestures. Brunch at Marche. Pool Day. Silo. West End with Allison. OITNB. Pool Day. Baseball Game.

But yes, right there in the middle at "BREAKDOWN" is the moment when things changed rather drastically for me. I might call it breakdown, but it probably more accurately is a breakthrough.

I don't want to get into the details, but some shit went down. I hurt someone. And for the first time, in so many years, I felt bad about it. As I tried to apologize, I found myself explaining myself, but in the rawest way I ever had. Because, see, this person is someone that I care about so much that I couldn't just mail it in. No, he could see through all of that. Looking at myself like that for the first time in so many years was painful. Luckily for me, two of my bestest friends were in close proximity and changed their plans so we could talk it out. And that is just what we did. We cried it out. We talked it out. And I remember a conversation about being seen by someone. Like really being seen, without all your bullshit and boundaries and walls and all that fucked up shit. But, rather, someone seeing you and calling you on it. For the first time in so many years, someone called me on my bullshit.

I can't lie. Its much more complicated than that. But I do know this, I learned so much about myself during this trip. And I can't help but thank two of my bestest girlfriends for allowing me to talk through these realizations, and to you, for calling me on my bullshit and making me look in the mirror. You see right through me. And I thank you for it.

"Defend my honor, protect my pride. The good advice, I always hated. But looking back it made me greater."  -Nicki Minaj

"You see right through me.
How do you do that shit
You let me win,
You let me ride
You let me rock
You let me slide
And when they lookin'
You let me hide.
Defend my honor
Protect my pride.
The good advice
I always hated
But looking back
It made me greater.
You always told me
Forget the haters
Just get my money,
Just get my weight up.
Know when I'm lying,
Know when I'm crying
It's like you got it
Down to a science
Why am I trying
No you ain't buying,
I tried to fight it
Back with defiance.
You make me laugh
You make me hoarse
From yelling at you
And getting at you
Picking up dishes
Throwing them at you.
Why are you speaking
When no one asked you.
You see right through me.
How do you do that shit
You see right through me.
How do you do that shit
What are we doing,
Could you see through me?
Cause you say Nicki
And I say who me?
And you say no you
And I say screw you.
Then you start dressing
And you start leaving
And I start crying
And I start screaming
The heavy breathing
But whats the reason.
Always get the reaction you wanted
I'm actually fronting
I'm askin' you something
Yo, answer this question,
Class is in session,
Tired of letting
Passive aggression
Control my mind,
Capture my soul
OK your right
Just let it go.
OK you got it,
Its in the can.
Before I played it
You knew my hand.
You could turn a free throw into a goal.
Nigga got the peep hole to my soul.
You see right through me.
How do you do that shit
You see right through me.
How do you do that shit
Would you just stop looking through me
Cause I just cant take it.
No I cant take it.
You see right through me.
How do you do that shit
You see right through me.
(you see right through me baby)."

31 January 2015

In Memoriam of the Amazing Brad...

My mom and Brad with their two babies, Julius and Luigi.

Loss is not new to me. Not only have I lost several people very close to me in the early 2000's, but I lost my grandmother only a few years ago, and now, this week, we also lost Brad. Given my history of loss, I know what I need to do in order to properly grieve. Writing this blog is one of the ways that I do this. So, indulge me and celebrate the life of one of the most amazing people I have ever known-- that of, Brad Stafford, my mother's partner.

I can't lie. I'm still in shock. And I don't think it was until today that I fully realized what has happened. See, this wasn't expected. I was home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. And while I knew that Brad wasn't feeling great, I had no idea. None of us knew. We thought maybe he just wasn't feeling well. We had no idea that on merely two days after Christmas, we'd find out he had a very advanced cancer, one that would take his life in merely one month. And while cancer is never easy, it seems fucking unfair that we lost Brad within a month of his diagnosis. I'm pissed off that everything happened so fast. That this amazing and wonderful man disappeared from our lives so very quickly.

So, what can I say about Brad? Well, he was absolutely amazing. In the past week, my head has been haunted my memories of him. And those memories are mostly of him laughing, joking with my mother, dancing, telling me just how much he loves my mother. And, you know, this is the part that is the most painful-- while I loved Brad on my own, the most painful part is watching my mother deal with the loss of her life partner. Yeah, okay, he was her husband, but I continue to refer to him as her partner, because, that is what he was. He wasn't just a husband. He was her partner. He was her person.

The television station he worked for put together a tribute to him. I posted it online a couple of days ago. But I haven't been able to watch it until today. I just couldn't. And when I finally did, I let go of the strength that I've held onto for the past few days. They featured co-workers talking about him. His patience. His kindness. And they nailed it. That's Brad. He was kind. He was patient. And these are exactly the reasons he was perfect for my mother. This is what she needed.

When he fell in love with my mom, it happened quickly, for both of them. I knew nothing was ever going to be the same after that moment. Mostly, what I realized was that my mom was in love, she was with the person she was always destined to be with. He was kind to her, he was patient with her. He loved her in a way that I had never seen before.

There are so many memories, so many moments that flash through my head when I stop and think (which until tonight, I've tried to avoid). Actually, there are so many, it is hard to confine them to a few moments to convey to the rest of you. I remember my mom telling me about the first time the two of them every spent time together and she played Bright Eyes for him. I remember him on the Sims. I remember us driving out to Concord to hear some music in some really strange bars. I remember all those trips to see Bright Eyes in various cities and Brad talking to Conor, Mike, and all the great folks that play with those guys including Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. I remember all of those holidays together, I remember us all doing karaoke that one Christmas, I remember him always losing at Monopoly. I remember him dancing to Sir Mix-A-Lot. I remember us all sitting around listening to old country music. I remember showing him and mom different television shows and how he always questioned the validity of the show. I can still hear him saying, "Well, now, I don't think that is possible..." I remember him dancing with my best friend, Jennie Ann and her husband, Derek, during their first dance at their wedding reception. I remember me, him, and mom going to see Justin Townes Earle a few years ago. I remember how much he helped take care of my grandmother when she was dying. I remember him being contrary, very very contrary during all our fantastic discussions about social issues. I remember how him and mom *always* fell asleep five minutes into watching whatever show I was showing them...and I remember the exact look on Brad's face while he was sleeping. I remember him looking up the traffic and the weather reports. I remember his selflessness. I remember how from the very beginning, I realized, this man loves my mother so very much. I remember thinking how I would be lucky to find a person like Brad in my own life. And mostly, I remember how Brad welcomed me into his life. And it was all so very easy. One moment I didn't know him, and the next moment, he was someone I loved so very much.

Brad was one of a kind. One of the best kind. And I'll always treasure those moments, during the day while mom was at work, when Brad and I would sit across from each other at the table in the house and talk for hours. I would tell him about my work. He would tell me about what he discovered on the internet. We would spend hours sitting there together. Those are the moments I will miss the most, when it was just the two of us.


31 December 2014

The Year of a Buscabulla....A Year in Review, 2014

The Year of a Buscabulla....A Year in Review, 2014

"I've come to realize that we're only here briefly, and while I'm here I want to allow myself to feel joy. So fuck it." -Amy, Her

"Don't know if we will survive your departure." -Robbie, President of Germantown

What can I say about "The Year of a Buscabulla?" I'm not quite sure. Mostly, there is so much I can't really tell you. Hence, the name of the year. But at the same time, there is so much. Too much almost. It was a whirlwind and I'm still trying to catch up.  One thing is clear, it has been one of the best years of my life. At the beginning of this year, so much was left unknown. I had no idea where I would be in the coming year. I had to say goodbye to way more than I wanted. There were so many new beginnings. But most importantly, there were so many wonderful people that coursed through the fabric of my life at any given moment. And because, the last song on the annual mix was this one, I wanted to share it again, because I want you all to know just how much I love you and thank you for all the wonderfulness that you bring into my life. So, cheers to another year to all of you and keep bringing all that joy to me in 2015, my darlings.

So, what were some of the highlights of this past year?

1. First and foremost (and obviously), one of the most important aspects of my past year has been Germantown, my old neighborhood in Nashville. 37208. I loved it so much, I had it tattooed on my forearm. Saying goodbye to it was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. I'll never forget that morning when I drove away in the Penske truck on my way to Flagstaff. I felt as if I was leaving behind a huge part of my life.  And I was. However, I know it is always there with me, right next to me with all the memories.

And some of those memories...Gals of Germantown, 8th Avenue Market, the Rite-Aid folks, the Farmers Market, the Red Bicycle, The (Germantown) Cafe, 312 Pizza, City House, and all those really random nights at Silo (mostly, with the President of the neighborhood in tow). It sure was nice being the First Lady of Germantown for my last year. One of my goals in the new year is to put together my pictures from #28daysofgermantown, a hashtag I created for my final days in the neighborhood with the purpose of capturing everything I've always loved about the neighborhood. More to come on this one. And soon.

But yeah, Germantown, because I've never known a neighborhood so fucking fantastic.

2. Obviously, my career. I had the chance to present my work at the Young Scholars Social Movements Conference at Notre Dame and meet some of my scholarly heroes, I published my third article, I spent *most* of the year doing interviews on the job market (like, 13-14 phone interviews and two in-person interviews), I got a job offer (on April 23rd), I got a R&R on a collaborative article, I took a new job at NAU as an Instructor in which I've fallen in love with the department and students, I've continued to work on my dissertation (as time allows). One of the things that I can say about my career this year...I picked the right job. I love being back in the classroom. I remember while I was trying to decide about which job to take this past year, one of my mentors reminded me, "This is YOUR life," and it continues to ring true.

So, yeah, Sociology. You continue to rock my world.

3. I watched a shit ton of television. And I loved all of it. The list is incomplete, but some of my favorites this year: Sherlock, Doctor Who, Queer as Folk, OITNB, True Detective, Orphan Black, Gilmore Girls, American Horror Story, The Wire, Black Mirror...trust me, the list goes on and on.

4. "MARRY ME, PLEASE!" I realized in going through my last year that this statement originated from my New Year Day celebration with Ashley and Michelle from our watching of Valley of the Dolls. It happened here first. But then at the Capitol Street Festival in Germantown (see, I told you, it would come back again), it came to epic fruition with Russell. I don't think there was ever a moment when Russell and I didn't grasp one another in a huge hug and scream out, "Marry Me!" And, only a couple of weeks ago, when I was missing my friends in Nashville something awful, I got an audio message from Russell that said just this same thing, "Marry Me! Marry Me!" And Russell, in case you are wondering, the answer is YES!

5. All those late night conversations with Jennie Ann, Allison, and Carly. Ladies, y'all keep me sane.

6. Um, BASEBALL. The Sounds groundbreaking event in our neighborhood with Michelle, all those games with Michelle (like a ton of them), the #lastcheeratgreer, #mylastcheeratgreer, those crazy ballplayers, listening to baseball on the radio with Michelle on the stoop, listening to the games once I moved to Flagstaff and tweeting the game with Jeff, a trip to ABQ to see our guys play and well, and lastly, all those weird exchanges (ahem, buscabulla). ABQ, baby, ABQ. See y'all at spring training.

7. Finding my winter fashion. You know, the one that looks like a child put together my outfit.

8. Those Nashville rock shows. The Pixies with Anna, Allison, and Ryan; Neutral Milk Hotel with Erin; Tacocat with Allision; and Dave Dondero with Manny, Allison, and Heath.

9. My brother John's amazing wedding to Jessica in Mobile, Alabama.

10. Sam Favata. (I thought about specifying all the reasons why, but I think Sam just deserves one line that reads his name after his presence in my life this past year).

11. All those amazing out-of-town visitors to Nashville and Flagstaff. You know who you are darlings, Ian, Manny, and Bobby. Let's add more to the list for 2015. Yes, I'm looking at you, Jennie Ann, Allison, Ashley, Michelle, and Robbie. You heard me!

12. Sleepovers with Allison. Actually, all of my times with Allison. All the shenanigans. But mostly, when we would wake up in my bed after a long night, screaming to Igor or whomever else may be in the house. Our random and weird nights throughout the neighborhood and all of Nashville. That gal is one of a kind.

13. QDP. Not once, not twice, but maybe thrice. With all sorts of guests. With all sorts of pictures. With all sorts of shenanigans. And all the moments when I felt like Leslie Knope (I hope you get the joke, because pokerfacepokerface, I felt like it was true at the time).

14. #katherinesbestofnashville

15. My going-away party.

16. All the new friends I've met in Flagstaff, but mostly, the wine o'clock Friday celebrations with Marisa and the Wednesday Super Supper Club with Marisa, Michael, and Krystin.

17. Yvonne in Flagstaff...and all our wonderful conversation over bottles of Malbec and the foods.

18. Every single time I've remarked, "I really need a burner phone." Because, it is true. Trust me, for those of you in the know, I've got a collection. In fact, enough to make an entire calendar, or two.

19. Idris Elba.

20. The Flagstaff earthquake. Not to mention, the fact I thought it was simply Sabine running up the stairs in the apartment.

21. The amazing generosity of my friends and loved ones who helped me financially get to my new destination. You all were amazing and I still can't believe I raised enough money to get get me here. I couldn't have done it without you. Literally, I couldn't.

22. Robbie and our shenanigans. Every single one of them. The list. You know the one. I almost completed it. So close, but yet so far. And, always, walking home from Robbie's house and every single scar I brought home from those nights.

23. 8th Avenue Market. That weird show in East Nashville. QDP. Afterwards. An afternoon. Then, three afternoons. And the fact that, actually, if anyone has really been there for me since the move, it was you.

24. Silo. That weird and wild bartender, An-tony(!), the formerly Tiny Chef Larry Bird, and his hat, and all the other shenanigans that took place...including the many, many nights that we (as, in all of us in the neighborhood) ended up there with cheeseburgers and drinks.

25. All of you that have entertained my weird late night text messages.

So, I guess what I've learned from this year; if 2013 was about learning who I was, 2014 was about learning who I wanted to spend time with, because if anything, this year was about spending time with the people I love, every single one of you.

And on this last day of the year, I think forward to a new year and what that means. As the year comes to a close, I find my heart heavy with some potentially bad news. I can't help but try to think of the sun shining in my face and to relish all the joy of the people that I love. Here's to hoping for good news. And most importantly, as one of my loved ones said to me today, albeit in his broken English, "Forget it and start fresh new year."

So, to all of you, no matter what your year brought, forget it and start fresh new year.