So Long, Farewell

Until we meet again

Goodbyes are never easy. At least, not for me. Especially when they’re shared with loved ones, people I’m fond of, places I enjoy being, or blogs to which I feel a connection.

I guess you can see where I’m going here.

It’s my final blog on the Peanut Butter on the Keyboard site. I haven’t been a PBOK mom for very long, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. The camaraderie, the shared insight and advice, the comfort in hearing from other women with similar issues. Whether we have kids or not, have toddlers or adolescents or young adults, whether we’re married or single, whether we’re writers or not… we’re all women, striving to do our best, give our best, be our best… in a world that is ever changing, ever challenging, ever hectic.

There are times we want to fix everything, accomplish anything and feel like we’re SuperWoman. And there are moments when we just want to curl up on our couch, cover up with a warm blanket and take a nap.

We’ve shared celebrations, tragedies, family traditions, and posts about ideas or organizations or injustices we feel strongly about and staunchly support. We’ve questioned ourselves, our kids, our parenting, our actions—and in return we’ve received guidance, pats on the back, reassurance, tips, “hang-in theres” and commiseration.

I’m sad to see our time here come to an end. But the rose-colored-glasses, wide-eyed optimist in me refuses to think of this as “good-bye” but rather “FAREWELL!” Until next time. On the next blog somewhere on the internet. On the bookshelves. At a conference. In the grocery line. In spirit.

I wish you and yours a life full of peace, joy, health and love—much much love.

So, in the spirit of my musical theatre-loving family, I leave you with a song, a little dance, a little laughter and a fond, fond farewell.

If you’d care to share what movie or TV show farewell is your favorite, I’d love to hear it.

I watched many sad farewell videos before I selected this one. But seeing as how I prefer to close on a happier until-we-meet-again note, I close with this classic.

Until we meet again my friends…

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Writing beach retreat.

So for years now, Emily & I have gone on writing retreats to the beach. Usually 3 or 4 days where we sneak away from our regular daily lives and hole ourselves away to focus on nothing but writing. We’re here now with our 4 kids and we’ll play and chat and write and the kids will have a blast. But it hasn’t always been like this. Once upon a time there were 4 of us that would come, us and 2 other writers and that’s what I want to talk about today.

When we started these retreats, we were fortunate that one of us had a lovely beach house we could use and it made our twice yearly trips (usually February and September) even more of a treat. For the brief stint I lived in Tennessee, it made things more difficult as I would see family when I went to Texas and there simply wasn’t time to carve out for those writing retreats. But one  November we decided it was time for another one so I flew into Austin and together we piled into the minivan (this time with a very pregnant Emily and a rather chatty toddler) and we hit the road for the five plus hour drive down to Bolivar peninsula. We had these traditions with these trips, we’d usually stop at Chili’s in Houston and then make our way to Galveston where we’d load onto the ferry that would take us over to the smaller strip of land that housed the beautiful Crystal Beach.

I suspect that many of you might not have heard of Crystal Beach or Bolivar peninsula unless you remember Hurricane Ike, the one that hit shortly after Katrina. Ike’s damage didn’t get quite the media attention that Katrina did – Bolivar is obviously not as populated as New Orleans, but still many people lost their lives and even more lost their homes.

It wasn’t just writing retreats though that mark my memories of this blue house on stilts, it was a family vacation spot a few times, a place where I went with several friends for just a weekend away at the beach.

Before the storm, you could see rows and rows of houses, these are the pictures of the aftermath of Ike, you can see how nearly everything was leveled. Now I only lost a place where I have memories, I didn’t lose property or land or belongings or loved ones, and I can only imagine how those people will begin to put their lives back together.

I’m one of those beach people. You know, how some people prefer the mountains – The Professor is one of those, but me, I’m all about the beach. The waves, the sand in my toes and the sun warming my face. I can sit there and watch that water for hours. Or walk along the shore and pick up shimmering pieces of sea glass. It is a refuge for me, the one place on earth that fills my soul more than any other.

Changing beach locations is not the only way our retreats are different. As I mentioned before, now we have kids in tow, whereas when we started, we were both kid-free. Not only that but our dear friend, the one who owned the beach house that we lost now has late-stage Alzheimer’s. Our trips are different, but we still write and recharge and laugh and enjoy a few days away from our “normal” lives. But I miss those early retreats, I miss that blue house and I miss our dear friend.

A Love so Pure

I’ve started and stopped writing this blog all day. I have a running list of topics I’d like to write about, from marriage to kids growing up too fast, the meaning of home, and kindness. I’ve learned to jot down thoughts when they strike me, so I can always go back to them later. I no longer trust myself to remember.

But today, my notes weren’t enough…because yesterday my cat died.

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Her name was Sofie and she was 13. She came to us as a one-day old kitten, when we took in her mama and sister as fosters for a local rescue group. She was tiny and white and oh so sweet, and for a long time we laughed at what a sound sleeper she was. When we walked into the room, mama cat and sister would startle and look at us, but sweet Sofie would sleep on…as if she was completely oblivious to us. It wasn’t long before we realized that she was. Like many white cats, Sofie was born deaf.

Time came to put the kitty family up for adoption, but…we just couldn’t do it. We already felt so protective of sweet Sofie. We worried about what life might hold for her. About how vulnerable she was. About what would happen if she ever got outside…

So, yeah. Sofie never went anywhere. She opened her eyes into our world, and in our world she stayed…until yesterday.

But that’s not what I want to talk about…yesterday. The end. How hard it was to say goodbye, and the emptiness we all feel. The second guessing…and the soul-gnawing guilt. Well, actually I probably do need to work through all that, but right now, I’m more focused on the other side of the coin. Not on the loss, but the love.

I have no memory of a life without furry friends. I grew up with cats, adopting my own as quickly as I could once I moved into my first apartment. From there one cat became two, at times three. After I married, we branched out and brought canines into our realm of felines, and we’ve had a mix of both ever since.

And now I find myself sitting here, reflecting on my furry friends, and all that they brought to my life. When you share your life with a furry friend, you’re never alone. We tend to think that we care for them, but in so many ways, they care for us. They’re there. They’re always there, bounding to greet us when we get home, following us from room to room, crawling into our laps when we sit down, nuzzling us when we desperately need contact. They make us smile and they make us laugh, they give us love and make sure that we’re never alone. They love us. Unconditionally. They love us when we’re happy and nice to them. They love us when we’re busy and don’t have time for distractions. They love us when we’re angry or stressed, when we turn away or shut them out, when we don’t want to be bothered. They love us when we’re sad or broken-hearted. They just…love us.

And through them, our furry friends, through that pure, pure love, we learn far more than we could ever teach them. We learn about loyalty and forgiveness, about vulnerability and innocence and trust, about companionship, about silliness and simplicity, about being in the moment and loving the moment, about not worrying what tomorrow may bring, about the importance of hanging out and relaxing, about friendship. And love. They teach us how to love, what it feels like to be loved, and to love in return. Unconditionally.

Four years ago we lost our ancient black lab, Clyde. We went six months without a dog, before my (then) seven-year-old daughter started hounding us for a puppy. Kids today have way more resources at their disposal than we did. We had to look at classified ads. Kids today have the Internet, and my girl knew about Petfinder. She’d hunker down at my laptop, key in her criteria, and presto, she had an endless supply of puppy candidates at her fingertips.

My husband and I, however, were like….a dog. You know, all that work. The poop in the backyard. The vet and boarding bills. The training…. But after our initial reluctance, we realized allowing our daughter to adopt a puppy was about way more than poop and bills and work. It was about…her. Our daughter. Her childhood. It was about allowing her (and our son) to have experiences my husband and I had already had. It was about letting her love and be loved, about letting her learn and grow. And so Roxie, a clumsy white puppy who became a big white dog, came into our family.

And so I sit here now, my heart raw after a rough ten days, but so very, very grateful for the thirteen years we had to love our sweet Sofie. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Because no matter how badly goodbyes hurt, there is no greater gift, than that of unconditional love, them to us, and us to them. That is their legacy, and it’s worth all the dirty litter boxes and piles of backyard poop in the world.

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