Tuesday, October 14, 2014

365 Days + Eternity

To mark the One Year, we rented a house in Port Aransas. The house full of people, the visits with friends, having us all in one spot was all great - but it didn't feel like therapy. I thought I would feel something on that day, that one year anniversary. I thought I would feel different or tragic or weird. I think I was just too busy driving, working, and visiting, and quite honestly I didn't want to stop and breathe, and think about what it being ONE YEAR really meant.

While there I had a conversation with a family friend about "outlets." It's not new news that everyone grieves and processes grief individually. I think I took a lot of time during my dad's decline, and while he was still alive, to prepare and grieve in my own way. But I also know now that I truly fulfilled my type-A, controlling personality stereotype and I threw myself into work and moving forward, without really looking the beast in the eye. So it's hit me in little waves, and affected me in more subtle, slow-growing ways. I keep coming back here to write about it, because that is truly the outlet that works for me. For now. I can talk about it, without having to talk about it. I can unload and then hide away for a month or two. I can write to an invisible audience, but not have to listen to anyone's opinions or advice. I think some grief counseling might be in my future - not really because of losing my dad, but because of the WAY we lost him, and what I witnessed in that death, and how it changed me as a person, and all the questions about life that now seem uncapturable and, certainly, unanswerable.

It's been a weird month. Like so much of the last year and a half, I'm not really sure what to think, but I do know I'm having a lot of thoughts. Like ALL OF THE THOUGHTS. I feel as though at least one of them must be profound, worth remembering, or at the very least therapeutic to write down, so I am. This is rambly and winding, but I need them to get out of my head and out into oblivion.... so I can let some of them go.

Most of the time now I'm just tired. TIRED. I don't have a baby or even a true 40 hour work week to blame so I'm going to point the finger at the blanket of sadness we all got wrapped up in last year. If I can name one way grief has affected me, it would be that it has exhausted me in a very deep, penetrating way. I have what I call "foggy brain" most days - unless I'm doped up on coffee. I was never good at small-talk, but now I'm reeeeally awful and completely lose my way in conversation - stopping mid-sentence searching for a common word or to even remember what I was saying seconds ago. I have no attention span or short-term memory, and mostly - I want to sleep. No amount of sleep makes me feel really rested, just craving more, and yes, I'm well-aware that these are all pretty key signs of depression. It comes and goes. Being busy helps.

To be honest, some of the best and the absolutely worst moments of my life happened last summer, so there's really no surprise I haven't left it behind just yet. I've talked about that before: how you have cherishable moments brought on by horrific circumstances, that make you feel all at once so thankful and so guilty for that same gratitude. But the absolute worst of last year's events ended on September 25th.

That the day my dad died was not the worst day of my life, in and of itself feels awful. That was the day my dad slipped away at 4:05am, with my mom's head on his shoulder and her hand in his, and we gently bathed him, sang him songs, and helped carry his body down the stairs, watching as the hearse carried him off and forever away. But as awful as that day was, it wasn't the worst.

The worst was the week before. The worst was the last doctor's appointment we had, the last time my dad left the house, the last day we brought him home with news that felt like boulders in the bottoms of our stomachs. Yes, that was a terrible day. That was the day that finally a doctor looked us in the eyes and told us with a sense of finality and no false hope that my dad's liver was one big lumpy tumor mass. That we needed to call Hospice. Not tomorrow or next week, but today. That day... That day was the day my dad hobbled out of the hospital leaning on me, his once strong grip weak and submissive, his arm around me and mine around him, holding him up. I took deep breaths to hold in the wave of nausea and fear and panic that was rising like a tsunami inside of me. My sister and I helped him into the car, and I remember so so so clearly: concentrating so hard - on waiting until I was sure my parent's car was out of sight so they wouldn't see, before letting that wave crash over me, finding a bench to sit down, and admitting to myself we were not going to be the lucky ones. And the second wave hit sitting in my sister's car - trying to dictate what needed to happen next. Trying to think clearly enough to delegate. Trying to be "okay" enough to drive myself home, having been told my Dad had just days to live. That day was it for me. All of my fears crushed me. That day was awful.

There was more awfulness in the week that followed, the worst got worse. I quite honestly can't even recount it, because my heart starts palpitating and my stomach starts churning. But September 25th wasn't the worst day. It was a day of true sadness, with a depth and a meaning unlike anything I had ever known, but not despair. No, I felt relieved. What we had witnessed in that last week made death seem so innocent by comparison.

So, my disclaimer should have been, no one can hate me for saying that - you can't know or understand unless you really have cared for a hospice patient. Unless you have watched someone die in pain, rather than in peace. If you have administered liquid morphine, and suctioned out saliva, and rubbed vaseline on peeling lips, and changed bed sheets, and watched your family member shrivel and become hollow and waxen, unable to form words or to grasp your hand or even open their eyes - sure, go ahead and pass judgement on my feeling that the day my dad died was not the worst day I've endured.

There are certainly terrible things that come afterward, which is why there are thousands of people who've built careers around helping the grieving and thousands of books to guide you toward rebuilding. When people say it's a nightmare, there's a reason. That's exactly what it feels like. Over a year later, and I'm still not sure how we just wake up and do normal things each day. It feels as though the world should have stopped, or everything should have been somehow distinctly different from that moment onward. And weirdly, it's not so different, even though so many things have changed. And that in itself is the most frightening aspect of death and loss to me so far. Time doesn't stop. We don't wake up, because we're already awake. We start to forget. Life grows around that little blip, that little timestamp in history, and continues forward like it has for hundreds of thousands of years. 

Some days I think, "did it really even happen?" Some days I can't be sure.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dear Dad - Happy 61st Birthday

Dear Dad,

Today was the weirdest birthday celebration I've ever been apart of, because the birthday boy wasn't at the party. 

Those of us who could manage it logistically (me, Margaret, Milo, Samson, Mom, and all the pups) gathered under the roof of the house you built for us to gather in. (In true Tim form, he was absent so he could brew beer... gotta love the priorities, but I'm sure you would have more than approved.) There weren't balloons, or presents, or even cake. (Ironically, there were often no balloons, presents, or even cake on your birthday when you were here to "celebrate" anyway, but that's beside the point.) 

I visited your bench at the new dog park with Oscar. It's in the best location - by far - under a big shade tree. I can see it being the bench that people head for as soon as they enter the gate. It will attract a lot of butts (and mutts)! The park has a long way to go toward being completed, but it's fun to think of you on that bench overseeing all the development - and probably telling them how it should be done faster, stronger, better.

We took the dogs to the river and let them swim and romp and get some rowdies out. The river was a little high and really muddy from all the recent rain. Mom brought the walking sticks and walked the dogs up the river a little, but not too far because there were other families out. They had so much fun, and they all got baths when we got back.

Samson asks for GiGi, constantly, and cries when she can't hold his hand or play with him, or do anything less than devote 120% of her attention to him. She's earned his love, but I can't help but think how attached he'd be to you as well, if he'd had the opportunity. Oh, the trouble you two would have rustled up - and probably a couple of trips to the ER! You would love him at this age. He's learning so much so quickly, has such a vocabulary, and is starting to understand jokes... I predict he'll be a prankster. I'm pretty sure he would have adored your goofy sense of humor.

To finish out the day we celebrated with dinner at your favorite restaurant - The Huisache, of course. Sweet Potato Fries, Chicken Fried Steak, a glass of good wine. All a tribute, in simple recognition of this day on which you were born, 61 years ago.

I think you would have appreciated the gestures, without all the fuss.

I've always felt it was so appropriate that your birth date falls within days of the annual autumnal solstice. It's even more appropriate that this year the season change actually fell on your birthday. Symbolically, we are all entering a new season together: a whole year since you departed this world and headed onward to new adventures. Last year feels simultaneously a million light years ago, and as if it were yesterday.

There's something about this one year mark that makes things feel different and official. We survived. A whole year. In some ways this makes me feel relieved and proud, like I wasn't sure we could do it... or that life would actually GO ON. We did, it does. In other ways, the sadness develops a new facet, and deepens. As if, there really is no doubt anymore that you aren't coming back. You're not just on extended vacation, or downstairs puttering around, or hiking on the back of the property. This is it: our new reality. We don't get to wake up from a bad dream, and get soothed with a hug and celebrate with a family reunion dinner.

I thought today would be much, much harder, but I feel your presence so strongly in our lives and hearts each day that it's not quite as lonely as I expected. Maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better. Or maybe the true challenges will come later, as it gets harder and harder to remember details, and deny the truth. I hope not. I hope it doesn't get more challenging than this!

What can I say? On a less melancholy note, I'm really happy you were born. I'm so glad my family tree turned out the way it did! It definitely has its less than perfect elements - notably, the Green nose and aptitude for harsh criticism - but all-in-all I cannot for the life of me imagine my world with a different father. I'll take the good, the bad, and the ugly, over whoever else might have been in the running! I'm so glad I got you for my DNA. 

I'm so incredibly happy that you were born to be my dad. Even if 60 years was all we got - I'll celebrate each one... and I'll continue celebrating each year I get to look back on the memories, too.

Happy 61st Birthday!

I love you, always and forever.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Dear Dad - Happy Father's Day

Dear Dad,

A year ago for Father's Day we gathered - knowing, but not accepting, it might be our last - and we made you a dinner that was organic, alkaline, GMO-free, and nutritionist approved. By the time the meal was ready, mom had to coax you from the basement where you were puttering around, because you didn't have an appetite and felt bad about not wanting to eat all the food we'd prepared in your honor. That made me want to cry more than anything. That you didn't want to let us down, after all the effort. If you only knew...

This year our world is so different. Worse in so many ways, better in some. I did nothing to celebrate except spare a few spiders' lives. You never really liked us to make a big deal out of commercial holidays anyway. I thought about you. I thought about what the day was meant to be. I wondered if maybe I should be more contemplative, or perhaps watch some home videos or get out pictures. The ugly truth is... I don't really want to remember right now. Sometimes I feel like if I let the full magnitude of this whole life and death thing really wash over me, it will completely swallow me and I will drown in uncertainty. I'm trying to find the balance between carrying you with me always, and letting go of all the parts that hurt. Right now it all hurts. Not everyday or every minute, but it somehow seems easier to just keep on pretending everything's okay, than to face the weight of reality.

I still wrestle with the fact that you're not here. Given the nature of our relationship, it's fairly easy to go a few days or weeks now feeling pretty "normal," caught up in daily drama and stress, before something acts as a jarring reminder. I try to tell myself this is a good thing. We are moving forward and keeping on keeping on, just like you would do if the shoe was on the other foot. But a part of me just has this deep well of guilt for doing all those same things. Guilt for not wanting to shed any more tears, guilt for getting caught up in shallowness and superficial "life" stuff, guilt for not honoring your memory more often and in more meaningful ways.

I think missing you isn't as easy as JUST missing you. For me it's also a whole lot of questions and uncertainties that I don't have answers or assurances for right now. It's simpler to just shelf the whole thing, and try to live life. But....

That seems so unfair. 

Unfair to all of the memories, and the love, and the years you spent dedicated to providing for me, guiding me, growing me. I haven't forgotten. Oh Lord, keep me from ever forgetting the good parts. That is so terrifying. I really don't know what else to do but just keep living, and hope the answers will come or peace will take their place. If you were here, I'd ask you - but if you were here, I don't believe I'd need to ask. 

So, Dad, I rescued a few spiders for you! Pretty sure you would have valued that more highly than most other things. I don't need a special day to be reminded I had a wonderfully complex character for my dad. One who valued even the tiniest spider's life. That fact is with me everyday, carved into my heart.

I love you, always and forever.


Friday, May 16, 2014

LOST (the TV show) as a little metaphor for life

How do you decide when it's "the end?"

All my life I've had a really good knack for hanging on too long.

I'm THAT person that just can't just let a good thing die. I have a lot trouble with finishing chapters of my life and starting new beginnings in a fresh, focused way, without constantly looking in the rearview. So it's no surprise that I have trouble with goodbyes, trouble with endings.

Remember that TV show LOST? It took me and all my friends by storm in college. We would get together and watch each episode as a group. Even after we graduated, we all kept up with it separately and discussed on Facebook. I remember listening to an interview with the creators after the much anticipated finale of the final season had aired. They talked about how when they created the show they knew how it would begin, and they know how it would end, but everything in the middle was made up as they went along. I couldn't, and still can't, wrap my brain around that concept. How could you know a beginning, but make up such a complex middle "as you go along," in such a way as to end up where you planned from the start?

I assure you that if I were writing for that show, the show would probably have morphed 4,815,162,342 times, we'd have changed the show's title at least once every season, the "right" people would have ended up together making sweet island love, and there would have been showers and a change of clothes for everyone - in every episode. There is no way I could have plotted out the ending before the pilot even aired and kept heading in that direction, through thick and thin. No. Way.

But, in the muchmuchmuch bigger picture... how are our own lives really any different from the way the LOST writers created the show? We know our beginnings as early as we can really "know" anything. We come to understand birth and life at the very first with precious, naive minds, and in the simplest of terms we accept it. We celebrate our beginnings annually on our birthdate, and acknowledge the journey through another year: from Point A, to B, to C.... But then there's Z.

Unlike those clever TV show writers, we don't get to know our ending. We just know we have one. Whether we like it or not, every day is a little step in that direction, and no matter how jumbled or confusing, long or short the storyline becomes along the way, we all end up roughly at the same spot... faced with Point Z.

Last night was the end for Portia, our family rottweiler mix of 14+ years. She was facing Point Z, her finale had arrived, and we allowed her to take it -- with a little less pain than she might have experienced otherwise. I hope. I mean, one always hopes that when you have the power and the ability to make that choice, that you make the right choice. 

I personally didn't have to make the choice last night. I'm thankful for having people in my life who are brave enough to say when it's time, or have the knowledge and experience of having observed this hundreds of times to feel confident saying it's time. It takes megaballs to snipe the threads of fate, and not doubt yourself. And I'm thankful that, in the scheme of things, this was a good end: the kind of end you might write for yourself, if you could do that sort of thing... you know, plot out your ending ahead of time like the writer of a TV show. You might ask that you just go peacefully to sleep, with your family sitting around you, hearing loving words, in the home that you adopted for yourself when you showed up at our door over 14 years ago, and then refused to leave.

Saying goodbye is hard. Duh. Old news. I've gotten a really good, solid lesson on that this last year. I'm clear on how hard goodbyes are... thank you! No more lessons needed. But sometimes what's even harder are the questions those goodbyes raise. Was it the right time? Did we make the right decision? What could have been different? What if....? The lollygagger in me is always going to keep one eye looking back, over my shoulder, down the road I just came. Like I said, it's my nature. I am a retrospective person. Sometimes this is awful. OhMGee. I can work myself into having nervous breakdown second-guessing, analyzing, AGONIZING, imagining different scenarios.

Portia was a piece of my childhood. She is a stamp in my memory passport. She wasn't our favorite dog, by any means, and to be quite frank she was really even a big pain in the ass sometimes. But her end - like anyone else's - is to be acknowledged and respected. It reminds me of all the endings yet to be written out there, for me and everyone else. We can't forget that endings happen, every day, every minute. Not even just by way of physical death, but every day we say goodbye to opportunities and choices and friendships and experiences, that we'll never be able to recreate or rebuild. 

Sometimes, looking back is not a bad thing. Sometimes we need to look back, and remember where we came from and those people, furry friends, encounters, and memories, who moved in our lives and that shook us to our core. They are all apart of our ending, even if we don't know what it is just yet.

Portia "Carlos" at the Guadalupe River.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Grief Cliches - a brief commentary

When you lose someone you love, you hear a lot of cliches. I've spoken my share of them before, too, without knowing really why, except that there seems to be an understanding - from hearing them over and over - that those are the things you say to people who are grieving. Let's talk about those for a second.

A few of these cliches are true....

"I'm so sorry for your loss."
"Your _____ was a good person."

You probably are sorry for their loss. Saying so is perfectly acceptable and nice to hear. Sometimes there is NOTHING else to say to someone except that you are sorry for whatever unfortunate event just took place. So say it. It never hurts.

If their father, mother, brother, sister, spouse, child, etc, was a good person... tell them. Saying so might make them cry harder, but it's a good cry. It reinforces that they are not alone in their grief, it acknowledges the dead person's presence will be missed - not just by them, but by others. It reminds that a good life was lived, even if it was cut short.

My dad was a good person. Hearing from all the people whose lives he affected has meant a great deal to me. I take great pride in the number of people who had tremendous things to say about him, or amazing stories to share with us. It has enlightened me to this other side of him we sometimes or never got to see in action: who he was outside of our family. It reminds me that we are not the only people who miss his presence here on earth, or whose lives have been drastically altered by his absence. It feels good to know that we are not alone in our grief, in our missing him.

Most of these cliches, however well-meaning, are just inappropriate....

"At least they aren't suffering anymore."
"They are in a better place."

I'll lump these two in together, because of the whole religion issue. If it's appropriate to comfort someone by telling them their loved one is in a better place, OKAY - your call. If their Faith guarantees that they are healed by death, set free from suffering upon passing over, SUPER - maybe this is an okay thing to say. However, I can say from experience that no matter how amazing this "better place" might be, or how strong your Faith, it doesn't really make us not want that person back here... on earth.... with us. 

In the midst of grief there is often a lack of reason. It might be reasonable to think "they are at peace" or "they are no longer suffering" and that is an improvement over what their immediate situation was right before they died, therefore I should be relieved or not as sad now that they are gone. But if you love someone, and they die, you miss them and you want them back. End of story. Being reasonable doesn't matter, knowing they are "better off" doesn't heal that wound much faster.

Watching my dad die of cancer wasn't pretty. It was an inhumane amount of suffering. But I cherish every second that I experienced with him during that time, because he was alive. Here. On earth. With us. Yes, he was set free from pain upon death, and I do believe that he is in a place that can't be comprehended by our small and unimaginative minds. At the same time, this isn't as comforting as you might think when you are dealing with the reality of being left behind.

"Time heals all wounds."
Does it? How much time does it take, exactly? I don't think time heals all wounds. In fact, I'm not sure it heals them at all. I think we just grow around them. We change. We look at things differently. We choose to go on living without that person, and that choice changes us. We cope, but the wound doesn't just heal up clean and pretty.

Honestly, in some ways, wounds get worse as time goes on. As time goes on you realize with more and more certainty: that person is NOT coming back. It stops feeling like a surreal experience, or a nightmarish dream, or like they just took a really long trip away with no cell phone or email. You have to stop pretending it didn't happen as you take their names off bank accounts, give birth to children they will never meet, or have family holidays without them. It's not something that is just going to "go away" eventually. It's here to stay. You adjust, but you don't necessarily heal.

As more distance accumulates between September 25 and my present day life, my wounds have not healed. Maybe the bandages hold for longer and longer periods of time, but each time something rips them off... the wound is just as deep and raw as it ever was. The shock is even harsher. No. Time has not healed my wounds.

"Everything happens for a reason."
Don't say this. Just resist the urge. 

Perhaps everything does happen for a reason. In fact, I believe that it does. If I didn't - if most of us did not subscribe to this line of thought - we would probably go insane. But, there is nothing reasonable about early or untimely death to a grieving individual, and this offers zero comfort to someone who is feeling that pain.

No one wants to hear that there is "a reason" for a senseless death. A reason that I should be without my father at the age of 28. A reason that my dad won't be around to see me buy my first house, advise me as I plant my own garden, or hold my babies. A reason that I can never again ask him for advice, or make him proud of me, or give him a hug. 

Even in my sad haze, I can see that beautiful things did come of the whole traumatic experience, that pieces fit together so perfectly only a divine hand could have made them so, that life will go on, and that things happened for a reason. But I don't need to hear you say that. It doesn't make me feel any better.

A simple: "I'm so sorry. Your dad was a good person." will do.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

It's a New Year 2014

I had really, really high hopes for 2013.

My outlook since graduating from college in 2007 has just basically been Rocky with a capital R. Entering adulthood with jobs, responsibilities, committed relationships, etc, just took a lot of adjusting for me - like 5 years worth. Sometimes I still don't feel fully okay with the reality of adulthood. Once married, I entered a whole new era of first world hardships - mostly pertaining to finances and the constant pressure to "get our lives in order." (And for what, exactly? Babies? Retirement? The Rapture? - well that's another post for another day...) The economical crisis, and being unemployed, didn't help that outlook much, but the benefit was that at least I was no longer dealing with it alone. Tim and I were a team.

I was sure that 2013 was the year that everything was going to fall into place for us. We would pay off our debt, and start saving more. I would lose the 15 lbs that had crept up since graduating, and Tim would work on his sexy bod. I was really motivated to eat right and spend more time in the kitchen. We would live this happy, simple life - eating well, focusing on our health and general happiness, and working towards our goals. The main goal being to just live and enjoy life, whatever it had to offer us.

Of course, you know, much of that didn't happen. Our world was rocked by the appearance of an unwanted guest: cancer, and then by the loss of my dad, and ultimately by deep and unexpected grief. There are three sections to 2013: Before Cancer, During Cancer, After Death. All three were strangely beautiful phases with terrible realities that I do not want to revisit. There are many things I want to leave behind me as we embark on 2014, but I know better than to think the rolling of the clock and dropping of the ball will somehow magically propel me beyond the After Death phase. No, I will be in After Death from now on and forever. I cannot un-learn, un-see, or un-know the overwhelming realities that come with the death of someone you love, especially by terminal illness. I feel more adult, more "old," more heaviness, more plum worn-out than in any other time of my life. But I also know have a better understanding of gratitude, love, and purpose. Just because I'm excited for this year to be over, doesn't mean I can forget or will leave unchanged by 2013, or that I necessarily want to.

However, 2014 is still symbolically a restart for me. January 1st is never any different than any other day, except that we all take a moment to simultaneously reflect on the past year and look forward to the future one. We take note of what we've learned, and what we'd like to change. We promise to make better choices, be kinder to ourselves and to others, and live life to the fullest. It's an opportunity. I'll take it. This year I think I have a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the importance of these opportunities. I believe that 2014 is going to be better.

*  *  *

I began answering this "A Year in Review" questionnaire two years ago. This is my third year, and I always enjoy looking back on my answers from the previous year and comparing life as I know it now to what my expectations were at the start of the year. You can compare my reviews of 2011 and 2012, if you have absolutely nothing better to do. If you feel so inclined - leave me a yearbook message in the comments section below with YOUR answer to the final question. I will enjoy reading them. :-)

1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?
Celebrated two years of marriage, turned 28, "experienced" cancer, lost a family member, planned a memorial, attended an Indian wedding, met Snoop Dogg-Lion.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Let's review.
Goals for 2013:
1. Buy local, Cook more, Eat better.
2. Save money instead of Spending money: pay off debt.
3. Study a foreign language.
4. Watch less TV, Read more books, and Journal/Blog regularly.
5. Maintain active lifestyle and be dedicated about strength training.
6. Work hard at building my business, and plan for the future.
7. Visit Susanna & Nathan in Scotland (tour the UK).
8. Organize my life, my data storage, my business, and get rid of everything we don't need!
9. Try new things instead of falling into habits.

We kept none of these. Big fat ZERO. Except we did pay off a lot of debt and are making good headway on that account - we just haven't saved any.

My only and all encompassing goal for this year is: BE WELL. 
Maybe I'll add a few more to that, but right now it's the only goal I care to make.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No, but they are about to!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, my daddy.

5. What countries did you visit?
None. Scotland sadly did not happen.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
Peace of mind.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
September 25, 2013 - the day Dad left us for good.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Spending time with Dad, and planning his life celebration.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Living in denial. Taking care of my health and physical condition.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
YES - The new year had better bring good health.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
The iPhone 5.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Some of the Hospice nurses we met were simply amazing.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Doctors who obviously didn't care, and the healthcare system in general.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, gas, and food. We were so exciting in our spending!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Any good news we happened to get from doctors, my new job with WHITT.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
Stop This Train, by John Mayer and What Sarah Said, by Death Cab. Also - sadly - Blurred Lines, by Robin Thicke.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

I. happier or sadder?

II. thinner or fatter?
Not much change.

III. richer or poorer?

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Spent time with my Dad.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

20. How did you spend Christmas?
In a rental house in Dallas with the Kingtons, minus Maggie, Milo, and Samson.

21. Who had the biggest influence on your life in 2013?
My dad.

22. Did you fall in love in 2013?
I fell in love with some ideas: strong families and life on a farm. I also fell more in love with Tim's heart. He was and is a true and utterly selfless servant to my family.

23. How many one-night stands?

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Homeland & Downton Abbey.

25. Do you dislike anyone now that you didn't dislike this time last year?
Several doctors.

26. What was the best book you read?
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn -- was the most entertaining. The best book was probably The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling (way underrated by fans).

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

28. What did you want and get?
A dream job planning and designing events with Gina at WHITT.

29. What did you want and not get?
Remission. A cure. More time with Dad. Travel.

30. Best movies this year?
The best movie I saw was Silver Linings Playbook, but technically that was released in 2012. But there are many others... and I haven't seen any of them yet! Blue Jasmine, Catching Fire, Secret Life of Walter Mitty, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, Her, August: Osage County, and moooore.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
My birthday was low-key - number 28. I honestly cannot remember what we did, except I know I just spent it with Tim (I needed a break from the cancer stuff) and I shopped for myself. Tim made me a funfetti cake. And iced it.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Lack of illness on all accounts.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
I wore a lot of pajamas, because I was home a lot!
Otherwise, I tried to keep it classic, and wore a lot of grey and black. So: "a lazy New Yorker?"

34. What kept you sane?
The support of friends and family. Treats from 2Tarts! Whatsapp and Group Texts with my mom and sisters. Cuddles with Oscar.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Jennifer Lawrence - love her! She makes me laugh.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
None that I can think of - it was like we were living in a bubble.

37. Who did you miss?
Before September, Susanna and Nathan in Scotland. After September... broken record... my Dad.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
The Tarts - April and Ashley!!!

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013:
Most cliche advice is dead on: don't take anything or anyone for granted, find the good in people, don't give up Hope.

40. One word or sentence to describe how you feel about 2013:
I survived.

Happy 2014 from My Family to Yours,

Love, Laurel