30 December 2016

The Year of Balance, 2016: A Year in Review

"I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade." -Hattie White in Lemonade

The last photo I took of Igor and Sabine together. September 9, 2016.

The Year of Balance, 2016: A Year in Review

I'd like to think of 2016 as a year of balance. But the truth is, it wasn't at all. Rather, it was full of navigating extreme ups and downs. There were months where I felt like life couldn't get any better. And, when that happened, life was fucking fantastic. But then, there were months, where I felt like life couldn't get any worse. During those months, I lost all sense of balance. Reflecting on the entirety of the year, I think the biggest lesson that I learned was the need to find balance, particularly in those dark days. Especially, in those dark days. Toward the end of this year, I started to find my way back to balance. I started to find that inner strength, that I know I always have, but I often forget when things go to shit.

I think it will always be difficult for me to remember this year without thinking of it as the year that I lost my #catpilots. When I reflect upon the year, I tend to forget everything else that happened. I forget the amazing way I started the year. I forget the great spring semester I had at school. I forget the fun of last summer. It seems all I can remember is September 12th and 20th, the days I lost Igor and Sabine, respectively. It feels like the only thing that happened was the loss of Igor and Sabine. But, I think it is that way with loss. It consumes so much of everything else around it. I forget the nine months of the year that I shared with them before I lost them.

And, I forgot all the other amazing things that took place this year. I think it is really important for me to also remember the people and places that I feel gratitude towards from the past year. It is all these moments that made up 2016, and here they are, with the intention of remembering balance:

1. New Years in Vegas with Rami. Last year when I wrote the end-of-the-year blog, Rami and I were about to take off to Vegas for our NYE celebration. It was his first time to visit Vegas. We made the road trip from Flagstaff to Vegas. It was fantastic to watch his eyes light up as we entered the city. And, later that evening, we got dressed in our finest and made our way to the Nicki Minaj show. It was a dream come true for me to see Nicki perform. But, the best part was spending the evening with this amazing man and all our little inside jokes from the night...drinking rose, fireworks and missed countdown kisses, getting lost, gambling, paying for free drinks, and "THAT BUTT" signs. Being with the person I love so dearly on the new year ultimately was one of the best NYE's I've ever had. 

2. Therapy and Recovery. I won't say that it's easy to be in a new relationship, while you are still in recovery. But, my time with my therapist is still one of the most positive things I've ever done in my life. Without her guidance and encouragement, I don't think I would have had the courage to do the hard work that it took to get to where I am today. And while this isn't a new aspect of this year, I think its important to acknowledge the continued hard work we do together.

3. Oakland and 40th Birthday. One of the things hardest about being so far away from my friends and family is when you have big celebrations in your life. This year, I turned 40. Fucking 40. To me, this is a BIG birthday. And I was really nervous about celebrating, or rather, I was nervous about the fact I likely wouldn't be celebrating with most of the people I'm closest to in my life. But luckily, I have Yvonne. We went to Oakland for one of our annual conferences, and on our way back, she organized a whole night to celebrate my 40th in Tempe. I feel so very fortunate to have her in my life. One of my favorite memories from this day/evening was when I pulled a Rihanna in the pool with a swan float and a Bud Light. Keeping it #klassy, Everhart....even, in your 40s.

4. Graduation. The biggest highlight of my year. While I finished my dissertation and technically became Dr. Everhart at the end of last year, it was in May of 2016 that I had the chance to formally celebrate my graduation. As someone who has chosen not to be married or have children, it feels like there are few opportunities to celebrate your life choices. After a certain age, it is unlikely you'll have your entire family together celebrating you. So, for me, it was a HUGE deal that my entire family made their way to Nashville to attend my PhD graduation. While my mom had visited me once during my time at Vanderbilt, the rest of my family had not visited me in Nashville. So, it was amazing to have the whole group of them together in my favorite town. Also, my bestest friend, Ashley, made the trip to be with us. And IT WAS SHEER FUCKING JOY TO HAVE EVERYONE TOGETHER. We ate, drank, laughed, and celebrated. And everyone got to meet one another. I don't think I could ever explain to them how much it meant to me that they were there. While my dear friend Red wasn't at my official graduation, we got to spend some time together in the aftermath. Now, Red and I have a pretty hilarious relationship. We joke around with each other all the time. The night after my graduation, we sat together at the Germantown Pub. As we talked, he started crying and put his arms around me and told me how proud he was. That moment floored me, and will stay with me for the rest of my days.

5. Summer in Germantown and 8th Avenue North Market.  Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to spend three weeks in Nashville. With Rami's roommate back home in Egypt, I was able to stay with him. Not only that, I pretty much spent everyday with him at work at the 8th Avenue North Market. And outside of my everyday moments with him, I also got to spend so much time with my friends, like Allison, Robbie, Russell, Sandra, Carly, and all the amazing people of Germantown. It was lovely. Food. Baseball. Drinks. Late-Night Laughter. But my favorite moments were those mundane afternoons, when I'd run to Kroger to pick up a cheap sandwich for me and Rami to share for our lunch. We'd sit on the stools behind the glass at the store and have lunch. Or, maybe it was every night when we'd stock the cigarettes in the store together. Or, how I'd wait out front while he locked up the store and we'd find our way to the only bar still open for some late-night dinner. Or, that night when we ordered a pizza and watched a movie together. It was hell to leave Nashville after those three weeks.

6. Seattle. 

7. Visiting Ashley in Lafayette and Ashley's Visit to Flagstaff.  Ever since my first friend moved away from home, I've always felt it to be extremely important to make the trip to visit them in their new home. Mostly, I think it is about being able to visualize the places in which they move on a daily basis. You know,  they tell you, "I'm going to the coffee shop," and if you've visited, you can see them in your mind. You can see the scenery, you can imagine the route they take to walk there, and, it makes you feel a little closer to them. So, this summer, when I was in Nashville for three weeks, I decided to make the trip to Lafayette to visit Ashley. We had too much fun. But of course, she moved shortly thereafter, perhaps so she could get another visit out of me! But then, the biggest thing for me was when she came to visit me in Flagstaff. Since I've been in Flagstaff, none of my lady friends have been able to visit with me. Having her in Flagstaff started to change the town for me. We ran through the streets. We met new friends at the local restaurants. And she was able to see all the places I navigate. I realized just how important it is to me that my friends and family come to visit me in my place. I've said it before, but that girl is a treasure.

8. Loss.  There was all that loss. Igor. Sabine. My wedding. Some friendships. For a moment, my relationship. Some of this loss was about expectations. And, when I think about that kind of loss, I feel like I understand it. We often have to cut ourselves loose of expectations and all the "should's" of our lives in order to really figure out what we want in our lives. It opens the door for change and new things. But, you know, the loss of Igor and Sabine is really fucking hard to think about in that same way. As I honored them in their funerals and eulogies, I remembered how important it is to translate my grief into joy. The joy that I had from sharing 12-13 years of my life with these two amazing beings. But, its fucking hard. Yes, I'm happy they were with me. They brought so much joy. It's hard to be without them. But, I do realize how lucky I was to have them. I was lucky for them to live with me from Saint Julien Street in Charlotte to Seaview Street in North Myrtle Beach to 7th Avenue North in Nashville to Riordan Ranch Street in Flagstaff. I was lucky for every single moment we shared together. And that's the only way I know how to continue to process the loss and grief that comes from letting go of people, places, expectations, and a life that we may have imagined for ourselves. And then, open ourselves up to the next ones. The next cats. The next friends. The next phases of our life.



9. Teaching. My teaching career is always a source of joy for me. The students give me life. In this past year, it was a highlight to teach a couple of new classes. I had the chance to teach a graduate course in Qualitative Research Methods, which allowed me to meet a bunch of our graduate students and to end up chairing their thesis committees. Their colleagueship (and friendship) has been a light in my life. I also got to teach a course on the black feminisms of Beyonce and Nicki Minaj, in which I had the chance to observe 24 first-year women navigate their first semester of college. But more so, I was able to see them make such incredible process. The course was difficult, as any new course is to develop; but I'll never forget our challenges...and even more so, how kind they were to me as I navigated all the difficulty of this semester.

10. Fostering. Liam and Anna. Pirate and Lily. After the loss of Igor and Sabine, my life felt very lonely. Living across the country from most of my loved ones is difficult. But, having those two waiting for me when I got home always provided me with a sense of stability and belonging. When they were gone, everything felt more lonely and quiet and empty. But, fostering kittens has brought that joy back into my life. It isn't always easy. I'm learning the lessons of how to love something unconditionally, and even, maybe more importantly, how to be loved back unconditionally...and then, how to let go. But, to let go in a healthy way. When you don't have a history of harmony in relationships, you don't really know how to mourn and grieve and let go without it being full of broods and drunkenness. And so, the fostering is actually teaching me this lesson. It is teaching me a sense of balance. And every single time I drop them off to be adopted, I feel a tinge of sadness, but I also feel so optimistic about their lives to come. And for me, that's a really big step. To remember they will be okay without me, but, likely, much more importantly, to remember that I'll persevere without them. There will be another set. And one day, one day very soon I hope, there will my next #catpilots. And I'll start to rebuild my family, all over again.

As I write this, it is December 29th. I'm sitting at the dining room table at my mom's house. I've had the privilege of spending so much time with my family this holiday season. I also had the opportunity to drive down to see Michelle in her new home in Mt. Pleasant. Tomorrow, Rami is making his way to Charlotte to spend the next few days with me and my family. After the fact, I get to head to Nashville to see my friends and family in Nashville. Ultimately, life is good. I know it. But I also feel sad to close out this year without my two #catpilots. There are still things I want to be different in my life. I have things I'd like to change in the new year. But y'all know me, I never really like to lay out a bunch of resolutions. Rather, I think I'd just like to keep myself focused on the notion of balance. To find balance between my life and work, to find balance between the ups and downs, and more than anything, to remember to maintain balance when things go to shit. Because, undoubtedly, they will again.

Earlier tonight, my mom played this song for me. And I can't really think of a better song to summarize my emotional state at the end of this year.

A year from now, we'll all be gone, 
All our friends will move away,
And they're going to better places,
But our friends will be gone away.

Nothing is as it has been,
And I miss your face like hell,
And I guess it's just as well,
But I miss your face like hell.

Been talking about the way things change,
And my family lives in a different state,
And if you don't know what to make of this,
Then, we will not relate. 
So, if you don't know what to make of this, 
Then, we will not relate. 

Rivers and roads,
Rivers and roads,
Rivers 'til I reach you....

19 December 2016

Las Altas y Bajas: Katherine's 15th Annual Mix 2016

Around mid-May, I remarked to my family, "I think 2016 is going to MY year!" And I honestly really thought that. Things seemed awesome. I had completed my dissertation. I fell in love. My whole family came together to Nashville to celebrate my graduation in May. And, I was planning to start a new chapter of my life, with another person. Or in other words, it was "Las Altas..."

And then, it was like, the world came crumbling down. That new chapter got paused, and then, stopped. Then, I lost my two #catpilots. Then, I pseudo-lost my man. And fuck, things just seemed to stay in: "Las Bajas..."

Therefore, the year was one of ups and downs. When I look back upon what I've written in past years, it doesn't seem all that surprising. I mean, honestly, every year contains these ups and downs, right? But honestly, this year had some of the highest and lowest moments that I can remember in quite some time. I wish I had more to say at this moment. I wish I could really write about how it feels, but I just can't. I'm still processing. But, at the moment, I think the mix can do that work....and as I think about writing the end of the year blog, I might get closer. 

So for now, enjoy las altas y bajas. 

You can find it in the following locations:

3) Or, I can send it to you....if you email me an update on your life and your address...

1) I Must Belong Somewhere: Bright Eyes
So, this year’s big lesson didn’t come until quite late in the year.  BELONGING. I realized as we circle around December, that I want to belong. I want to belong somewhere. I want to belong to someone. I just want to belong. And, at the time of writing this, I still don't know where I belong. I think it was what made leaving Germantown really difficult. For the first time in life, I lived in a neighborhood in which I felt like I belonged. I belonged somewhere in between Silo and the 8th Avenue North Market. For most of my life, I've been somewhere in between. I AM THE IN BETWEENS. But, I'm starting to get tired of that. I'm ready to belong. I'm ready to put down some roots. I'm ready for some permanency.

And here’s hoping that in 2017, I find where I belong.

2) I Found You: Alabama Shakes
At the end of last year, I started to fall in love. At the beginning of this year, I fell in love really hard. I spent part of my winter break and spring break and summer break with a man. And y’all have heard it already, you know who he is. I spent most of this past year in love. I started to plan a wedding. Seriously, I was THAT in love. I actually wanted to get married. And we made plans. We were to be married in May. And then, it was June. Then, it was July. And then, it wasn’t. But I knew that the universe brought someone to me, the person I was looking for my entire life.

“I traveled a long way. And it took a long time. To find you. But I finally found you.”

3) Knock on Wood: Otis Redding
Once I found him, I don't have any plan to lose him.

“Oh ‘cause your love is better than any love I know

I said, “It’s like thunder, glowing like lightening”

Baby, the way you love me is frightening,

I think I better knock, knock, knock, knock on wood…”      

4) Soy Yo: Bomba Estereo
Theme song of 2016. I played this song for my students on the first couple of weeks of classes. And it became their theme song too.If you do anything, you should watch this video. And then, you should go be the weird little freak that you are.

5) Hamaki: Agmal  Youm
Obvi, my Arabic isn’t that great. But from what I’ve been told this song is about how it is the best day for him because it is the day they see each other and are together. Yep, that sounds about right. I'm counting down the days.

6) Hands to Myself: Selena Gomez
When I was driving back to Nashville, I kept listening to this song. Because its so true, when you are waiting to see the person you love so very much, you can’t wait to get there. And put your hands on them. Again, I'm counting down the days.

7) Sherine: Sabri Aleel
All I really know about this song is that it means "I'm not patient." That's all, folks.

8) Scars To Your Beautiful: Alessia Cara
I dedicate this one to my ladies. Because, ladies, you are beautiful just the way you are.
“She just wants to be beautiful,
She goes unnoticed, she knows no limits,

She craves attention, she praises an image,

She prays to be sculpted by the sculptor,

Oh, she don’t see the light that’s shining,

Deeper than the eyes can find it,

Maybe we have made her blind,

So she tries to cover up her pain and cut her woes away,

‘Cause cover girls don’t cry after their face is made,

But there’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark,

You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are,

And you don’t have to change a thing, the world could change its heart,

No scars to your beautiful, we’re stars, and we’re beautiful…”


9) The Party: Regina Spektor
And then, I lost Igor. This one is about Igor. It is the song I listened to on repeat when I had his funeral. Because he was like a party. He was my little man. My first therapy appointment after his death, my therapist said: “I’m so sorry. You and Sabine lost your little man.” And I realized, he was our man. He was the man who was always there. And his stinky breath still haunts me. I still miss him every single fucking day. So tonight, I raise a toast to the ones who loved me the most. Another round of applause for the best. Because he was the fucking best. 

10) I Have Never Loved Someone: My Brightest Diamond
And then, I lost Sabine. FUCK. I still can’t believe how fucked up this semester has been for me. I lost Igor, then, I lost Sabine, within a week. And to speak of belonging, I lost the two who always made me feel like I belonged. When I came home after work, those two were always there waiting for me. When I moved across the country, they were right there next to me. While I felt incredibly lonely in the past two years that I lived here, I always had the two of them to come home to. And then, in a week, they were gone. I’m still not over it. I’m not sure I’ll over be over it. But, Sabine, she was my girl. She was the strongest of the bunch. She kept both of us, me and Igor, in line. She reminded us that we needed to be strong. And so, when I lost her, I forgot. I forgot how to be strong.

11) Don’t Let Me Down: The Chainsmokers
When the cats died, I felt super lonely. It was hard. It was hard to navigate the stupid bullshit of the day-to-day without family. Like, who is supposed to help me drive to the crematorium? It was fucking hard. And I felt really lonely. And so, I was happy to find that some people were there to help me. But it also became super obvious who the people who were there for me and those that weren’t. It was like a line in the sand. Let's try to stay positive, for those of you that *were* there for me and sent me flowers and gifts, you have my gratitude. Thank you.

12) Stormy Weather: Etta James
And then, I lost him. Or, well, I sort of lost him. We were in the middle of planning a wedding. We had picked a date. I had ordered a dress. I had ordered a veil. I had started to plan with a florist. Even, my best lady, Ashley, had ordered a dress. And then. It stopped. But Katherine, this is confusing, aren't you going to see him soon? Yes, see, its fucking complicated. I didn't lose him because we don't love each other. Actually, if there is anything I'm sure of in this life, it is that we love each other. But rather, we had some familial issues. I don't think its fair to go into, but we had to call off our planning. And, we distanced ourselves from one another for a few weeks. And we still have no idea how this will all really end up. It's hard y'all. Like, really fucking hard.

13) Copper Mines: Mothers
I heard this band for the first time in my favorite coffee shop last week. And it broke my heart, because yesssssssss. It resonated.

“Stillness of limbs

I am hardly what I say I am

I’ve imagined you

One hundred pennies

Underneath my tongue

And my soft dumb heart

Grows stale at the thought of it

What I have to give

Is small but at least I can admit it

But the sum of it may add up

To your pin-pricked finger

Or the number of times

I’ve dreamt it

This is me combing your hair

In the wrong direction

In the wrong direction

This is me mouthing words to you

From the longest distance

From the longest distance…”

14) Close: Nick Jonas
Yeah, okay. I have a crush on Nick Jonas. I’m happy that he wasn’t someone that I adored in a boy band when I was younger, so I don’t feel weird about my crush. But the notion of being close and how problematic that can feel is resonant to me. But seriously, the real reason this is on the mix...ya’ll, he’s handsome. Treat yourself and watch the video.

14) Needed Me: Rihanna
“Fuck your white horse and the carriage.”

15) Here You Come Again: Dolly Parton

16) My Church: Maren Morris
This song reminds me of Michelle and Andrea. It makes me think of our nights together around the table. And when I’m driving across the country, I'll be in my church. And I can't fucking wait.

“When I put this car in drive,

Roll the windows down and turn up the dial,

Can I get a hallelujah?

Can I get an amen?

Feels like the Holy Ghost running through ya

When I play the highway FM

I find my soul revival

Singing every single verse

Yeah, I guess that’s my church…”

17) A Losing Season: Sorry About Dresden
I’m pretty sure this song isn’t by Matty O. But, it felt right. Matty O. wasn’t one of my best friends. But, he was very dear to the so many people that I love, particularly those folks from Omaha and Chapel Hill. I remember one night at a house party in Virginia (maybe), where Matty O. said to me, “Hey, Chapel Hill Girl….” because those days I spent so much time in Chapel Hill, he thought I lived there.

And I suppose I felt saddened by Matty O's death for a few reasons. For one, I was worried about his friends and family. I think about how it must feel for Conor to have lost his brother. It makes me wish I could put my arms around him again and tell him it'll feel better one day. But, I think the bigger thing for me was that it reminded me of a past life. I think about all those people that I probably would have never met if it hadn't been for Tomich. I think about how our lives intertwined for a few years. And, how even after all this time, I still miss their faces and laughs and all the trouble we caused. But I guess that's the thing, you share your life with people for some unspecified amount of time, then, life changes, you go different places, you are a different person. They always stay in your heart, regardless of how much time has passed. 

So, I think this song works, because this has been a fucking horrible season for many of us. A losing season.

18) You are the Treasure: Antony and the Johnsons
This one is for Ashley. That woman is my treasure. She is a treasure for all of us, but in particular, she is my treasure. On those days when I thought I was about to lose everything, she was there to remind me. And even, as I continue to navigate some pretty tough times, she is always there. Like a sunrise, Ashley is there to remind me of my magic.

19) All Night: Beyonce
Redemption. For my grandmother, and my mother…This song breaks my heart every single time. Please, promise me, if you do anything, LISTEN to this song. And share it, with your best friends, sisters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers.

"Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life. Conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kitchen. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your own daughter, who then, passed it down to her daughter."  

Everyday, I still miss my grandmother. Because she knew. 

And I am reminded… “Nothing real can be threatened, true love brought salvation back into me, with every tear came redemption, and my torturer became my remedy.” Because, the truth is, my torturer is myself. And, I am my own remedy. 

I’m ready to find my redemption, my remedy, my belonging. But in the mean time, I’ll also be patient. I’ll try to remember that love takes it time. Sometimes, life takes a crooked path. And sometimes, we have to wait. And, god knows, I'm waiting. And I'll find my belonging. And then, it will happen.  

"We can't hear them."

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?