Good Bye, Sweet Kiwi.

brown and white cat in heart shaped cut outThe year was 1999. I was newly wed, happy in love and in life.

My husband and I rolled up to the animal shelter in our little blue convertible, looking for a feline brother or sister for the kitten we had adopted just a few months before.

There were lots of kittens. Lots of them. But the moment we spotted the long-haired mutt of a cat with the corkscrew tail, our search was over.

We took the meowing ball of fluff home and spent the next few weeks trying to keep the older cat from killing him. It was so bad, we thought about taking him back almost daily for a while.

But eventually, peace returned to the household and the fluff ball (now named Kiwi) earned himself a permanent place on my lap and in my heart.

He’s been my constant companion ever since.

He stuck to me like glue through the worst of my depressions. Purred me back to health after three surgeries and countless broken joints and bones. He shared my lap through hundreds of late night Tori feedings and shared my desk through dozens and dozens of marathon writing sessions.

Heck, he even learned to say “mama,” in the same tone and with the same inflection as my young daughter. It was so eerily similar that I often couldn’t tell which one was calling me (and neither could  my husband).

He was my baby in every way that matters.

And last week he died.

It was time. He couldn’t eat anymore. Couldn’t walk more than a few steps. Couldn’t even seem to sleep. Every time I looked at him, he was staring at me with preternaturally green eyes.

I knew in my heart that it was time for him to leave. I’d been telling him to let go for days.

But it still hurts.

We will get another cat. And I will grow to love him or her. But no one will ever take Kiwi’s place.

I miss that special little guy. I miss him a whole hell of a lot.

Forgive me while I catch my breath

tori graduate

Tori graduated from kindergarten yesterday.

It was a sweet ceremony. A silly ceremony. Much like the six-year-olds who posed in their tiny caps and gowns on the stage.

Their little feet bounced as the slideshow chronicling their year played. Their little bodies swayed to the music. They made goofy faces at each other, and when the time came to get their diplomas, they rushed across the stage, forgetting to stop and pose as their teachers had told them to.

In the audience there were smiles and laughter, sniffles and tears. I found myself choked up, unable to breathe.

My Tori is a first grader now. It hardly seems possible.

I know there are still twelve long years ahead of us before she graduates for real and heads out into the world.

But it’s only twelve years.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was tearfully leaving her at daycare for the first time?

I look at my garage, still full of baby things, and I think, “it’s not too late to have another. Am I really ready to leave all things little behind?”

The answer, of course, is no. And yes (I think).

Is anyone ever really ready?

At least I still have at little while longer to cherish her warm body curled tight against mine in sleep. To make doody jokes and name fart smells as she laughs those belly laughs. And to participate in impromptu ballet lessons and epic bubble blowing sessions that follow her very specific rules.

I’ll soak in those carefree giggles and soulful cuddles while I can.

In fact, I think I’ll record her telling me, “you’re the best mommy in the whole world,” now, before she forgets.

Because she will. At least for a while.

And I’m sure I’ll sniffle and the tears will fall.

But we’ll also laugh, and talk, and hopefully cuddle every once in a while.

I’ll keep doing my best to be the Best Mommy in the World, even when she just wants me to go away.

Because someday, she’ll be me, watching her little one start to grow. And I want her to know she can call her mommy when it hurts… after all, I’m about to call mine.





To All the Middle School Girls Out There

Earlier today, I saw a post on Facebook that took my breath away.

“How do I help my teenager?” it said. “The kids are so mean she doesn’t want to go to school anymore.”

middle school sucks, but it's just the beginningt

I remember those days.

I remember huddling down low in my seat before class, hoping no one would notice me.  I remember walking as fast as I could through the halls, trying not to hear the taunts my classmates threw at me. I remember the torture that was finding a spot in the lunchroom, and the tears that I shed while hiding in the bathroom after school, trying to avoid the bully who said she was going to beat me up.

I remember looking in the mirror and hating everything I saw. I remember thinking that if I could just change this, that, or the other thing, then everything would be perfect. I remember begging for this bag, those shoes, that hairstyle…all in an effort to fit in.

I remember feeling completely and utterly bewildered. Why did they hate me so? What had I ever done to them? What did I have to do to get them to stop being so mean?

I remember feeling like I was stuck in a nightmare that would never, ever end.

But you know what?

Eventually it did get better. Not all at once. In fact, the progress was so slow, I didn’t notice it at the time. But now, looking back, I can see when it started to change.

Middle school was the worst. The. Worst.

The first year of high school wasn’t much better.

But eventually, I found a little spot where I belonged. I found friends. True friends. No more than I could count on one hand, but it was enough. We were enough. We knew we were different, but we were different together.

And although people were still mean, they weren’t often as blackhearted and cruel as they seemed in middle school. That helped.

But you know what helped the most?

I started to figure out who I was. What I loved (writing), what I  hated (dissecting animals), and what I really needed to be happy (books, a loved one or two, and a purring kitty).

And as awful as those early teen years were, in the long run, they helped me become stronger. They helped me become, well, me.

And now? Well, now I am awesome. Okay, not really. But I’ve got a great career, an amazing husband and family, and I’m a PUBLISHED AUTHOR.

Sorry ’bout the all caps, but if you had told 14-year-old me that someday she’d have a romance-writing career? Well, first of all, she wouldn’t have believed that she’d ever know enough about “romance” to write a book about it.

But if you had finally managed to convince her it was true, she would have squee-ed the world’s longest and loudest squee and smiled the rest of her way through high school.

I tell you all of this to make a single point (well, maybe two or three). Middle school (and sometimes high school) sucks. There’s no getting around it. People are stupidly, horribly mean.

But it’s just the beginning. And not even the good part of the beginning. If it were a book, it would be the prologue of your life. And not even the whole prologue.

Stay strong when you can. Let your mom hold you while you cry when you can’t. But you will get through this. And you’ll come out the other side smarter and stronger and even more amazing than you already are.

You’ve got this. Really. You’ve just got to believe in yourself, and know that we believe in you.

That might not be good advice, but it’s all I’ve got.

It’s better than nothing, right?



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