My Best Decade

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Today is my 40th birthday. Birthdays are my favorite holiday. They are proof I’m still here and survived another year of what life threw at me. 40 is great because I get to move up another age group in running. 40 is significant because I have now outlived my paternal grandmother, who passed away from a stroke at age 39. Each decade I’m alive keeps getting better, so here’s hoping that 40 is awesome.

Looking back on my 30s, they were pretty amazing. My 30s were definitely better than my 20s.

The three major challenges I had in my 30s were the heartache of Kip’s death, the heartache of Kitty’s death, and my stroke at age 37. There were other really bad things too, but these three were the worst.

With those notable exceptions, my 30s were (so far) my best decade.

In random, but somewhat chronological order, here are 10 things that made my 30s the best decade ever:

  1. I completed my bachelor’s degree.

It took 15 years to do so. In those 15 years, I did get an associate’s degree, live in at least 4 different states, battle homelessness, and work 3 jobs 60-70 hours per week, but I got it done. My bachelor’s degree was the only degree for which I was not valedictorian, and it was the only graduation ceremony I attended. Out of all my degrees, finishing my bachelor’s was definitely not only the most challenging, but also the most fun.

  1. I ran marathons.

More than one. I’ve ran in Philly, Boston, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Scranton, and a few other cities. Each one is precious. I ran a marathon down the longest street in the world (true story). I ran my first point-to-point (city-to-city) marathon. I represented Team USA internationally. I had the opportunity to run into an Olympic Stadium (not during an actual Olympics). I’ve gotten a high five at the finish line from the Mayor of a major American city.  I’ve had limo service to my pre-race dinner as a “visiting athlete.” My medals actually mean more than my degrees.

  1. I got to see my MLB team play on home turf.

Every baseball fan should have this experience at least once in their life. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it is completely magical to be at the stadium on game day, to watch the maintenance people prep the lawn, and then finally see your heroes take the field to play the best game on Earth. If you have not yet had this experience, it should definitely be on your bucket list. Pro sports tickets are extremely expensive, but try to save to go just once. It’s one of my favorite memories of all time.

  1. I got to see my MLB team win the World Series (on TV, not in person).

This is another experience that everyone should have at least once in their life. I’ve seen road wins and I’ve seen home wins. The home win is just something everyone should be able to experience once. No one should have to die without having seen their team win the World Series.

  1. I fell in love.

You hear this all the time. In my 20s, the remark was almost flippant. In my 30s, this phrase took on meaning. I don’t mean the lightning strike love-at-first-sight moment that is a complete whirlwind and then all of a sudden fizzles. I’m talking about the kind of love where you have known a person for decades through good and bad and are 100% supportive of that person, even when they are doing things that are not necessarily great. I’m not talking about being a door mat. I’m talking about actually being someone’s partner and having the ability to love a person so much that you are always there for them even if their life choices take them away from you. The kind of love that you know that is your person and there is no one else you click with like that, who knows you so well.

  1. I finished my Master’s degree.

If my bachelor’s degree seemed an impossibility, then grad school was a pipe dream. I actually think I was in the final year of my bachelor’s when I started asking people to explain grad school to me. No one in my family had ever even gone to college and the only people I knew with graduate degrees were my professors. It was like some hidden Holy Grail that I was finally able to unlock. I am now a Jill of all trades and master of ONE!

  1. I rode the unicorn into extinction.

By this I mean that I had that elusive experience of all adulthood – I had my dream job. I had a job I loved so much that it didn’t feel like work. I just showed up to do what I wanted to do – what I had spent 20 years of my life preparing to do – and happened to get paid to do that every day. I would have been so happy to do that every single day until I died or retired. How many people in this country have the privilege of being able to say “I love what I do” and actually mean it? Or should I say, how many people can actually say “I love what I do” and are getting paid to do it at a level that meets all their living expenses. All dreams must come to an end, and the company I worked for decided to pull out of New York State. So I rode the unicorn to the end of the rainbow not to find a pot of gold like I had expected, but just an empty void that I still have not figured out how to fill. Once you’ve had your dream job, nothing else will ever live up to that experience. Especially when the job you find to replace the dream doesn’t even respect you. Now, this is extinction.

  1. I bought a house.

If my masters degree was a pipe dream, well, I’ll tell you right now that buying a home was never on my radar. At all. I have never lived in a house. I have spent a chunk of my life being homeless. I never figured a “person like me” would even own a home. I never entertained the idea or even saved for one. Owning a home was a joke. My back-up plan for housing was – well, if things go bad, I’ll just move back to Massachusetts or buy a house, insert excessive laughter literally rolling on the floor laughing here. Buying a house is one of the scariest things I have ever done in life. So far, it’s also been one of the best choices I have ever made. I kept my family together and the cats are so much happier here than they were in the apartment. Funny, I never thought they were unhappy in the apartment, it’s just a contrast to see how well they are doing in the house.

  1. Anything less than 110% is … okay?

I spent almost 25 years of my life burning the candle at both ends. I slept 4 hours a day. I worked 3 jobs to make ends meet because really, who can survive on minimum wage? I worked 60-70 hours per week while going to school full-time working on my degrees. I excelled in school. Some call me an overachiever. So, when my stroke completely knocked me down a few years ago, it is quite a shock to only operate at abut 86%. Which, by the way, is considered my “level of functioning.” I am also considered “fully recovered.” Even though the doctors consider me fully functional, it is hard for me to accept that this is all I can do now. I’m used to doing so much more. What my stroke has taught me, is that it is okay to slow down. I can rest and still get things done. I’m pretty grateful to have learned this lesson now and be at 86% than to have just worked myself into the ground – it could have been worse. Listen to your body is the greatest lesson I have learned in my 30s.

  1. Family First

Family first has been carrying me through life since Kitty, as a 4-month old kitten, first climbed up onto my shoulders at the animal shelter and would not get down when I was 19. He picked me out. I took him home. We were together until he passed away from cancer just before his 19th birthday. Every major life choice I have made has centered around keeping my family together. Through everything that has happened with work, school, running, and health, at the end of the day, I come home to my furkids. They are always here, happy to see me with unconditional love. Family first is the tenant that will carry me into my 40s. As long as we are all together, everything is okay. My primary job is keeping us all together, loving my cats and being loved by them.

Of course, none of this would be possible without God. That’s the bottom line. God has done great things in my life through my 30s. I can’t wait to see what’s next for 40. Thanks for making my 30s my best decade so far.

My life verses:

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT)

Don’t Fill My Space

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Owning a home is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is overwhelming. I have finally come to the conclusion that I at least need help with the grass so that I can regain some sanity. Between trying to take care of everything inside and outside, I am losing my mind. I am constantly exhausted; falling asleep pretty much as soon as I sit down at the end of each day.

I am very fortunate in that I have many good friends who have been helping and supporting me in this process. Many people have lent their time to helping me. Some people have brought me practical items – wine (consumables always welcome), screen for my vents, hedge clippers, etc.

Most people know that I am a minimalist. As a new home owner, I am already overwhelmed, so the last thing you should do is bring me a car load of stuff to overwhelm me even more. Yes, I did move from a 600 square foot apartment to a 1,600 square foot house.

Don’t fill my space.

I have spent the past 14 years in stable housing. Except for the particulars necessary for home ownership (like lawn care items), I have what I need. In fact, I was surprised to find that I have things in every room. I was honestly expecting to have empty rooms when I moved into the house, but that was not the case.

I had to purchase three new towels when I moved into the house due to the water problem at the apartment. Normally, as a minimalist, I would have taken the three stained towels from the apartment and donated them to the animal shelter. However, as a new homeowner, I have actually kept those three stained towels in a bin in my basement – I have used them twice to clean up water in the basement due to washing machine mishaps. For the record, the washing machine issues have been addressed. The basement is completely dry now, and I am laundering loads of laundry with no issues.

One of the splurge purchases I made after I moved into the house was purchasing blue Adirondack chairs. I have always wanted blue Adirondack chairs. I got four of them for my front porch. I purchased four because people have been visiting me in groups of two or three people at a time. I have had more people visit me these first two weeks in my new house than visited me in all the 14 years I spent living in the apartment.

I figure that the four chairs are a good purchase, as they can also be used in the back yard for the fire pit when we have a housewarming bonfire. I have to figure out a date for this event when I am not feeling overwhelmed and if it finally stops raining.

The four chairs will be able to be moved indoors this winter so that I can have game night at home. I definitely have the space for them. By having open spaces in my home, I have the space available for what is most important in life – family, friends and fun.

So if you feel the need to bring me furniture or other indoor household items, please don’t. I have all that. I have been living independently. Being a minimalist in a larger space does not mean that I am going to start accumulating items. It means I finally have the space for the most important things in life. In my apartment, three people felt cramped. In the house, there have been four people here at a time, and the house still feels huge.

The cats have been settling in and  enjoy running and playing. They go upstairs and downstairs all the time. I have been finding their toys strewn about, so I know they feel comfortable here when they are home alone while I am at work.

At the end of the day, the only thing that needs to fill my space is love. I have that with my family and the presence of my friends. Don’t fill my space with things.

Peace, Love & 2018

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Sometimes you need a change of scenery. Sometimes you just need to change your point of view. I recently changed clubs for my gym membership. It was a great choice. In this instance, I definitely needed a change of scenery.

Mostly, the new club is easier to drive to, has more parking available, and better hours to accommodate my bizarre schedule. I typically rename the treadmill “the freak mill” because I hate being on it and the people at the gym are a little crazy. However, this year, I am just happy to be running. I’ve also changed my point of view. I am so thankful to be running again after my lost season due to stroke.

My 2018 running season is planned. I start training for my marathon the first week of June. That means that the first six months of 2018 are all about building base and preparing to implement my new training program. Running brings a lot of peace to my life, and I am definitely in a good place right now with my running schedule.

Love

Introducing … Simon.  (Photo above.) Simon has been apart of our lives for about two months now. I know I said I would not adopt again and that Jude was going to be an only child. Except Jude was quite vocal about being alone (and he is typically the shyest cat EVER). I was apprehensive about adopting again. I was not sure if I was ready. I actually visited and played with Simon for about three weeks in the shelter before adopting him.

I’m glad we did. Simon is 1 ½ and has a lot of energy. He is bringing Jude out of his shell and keeping me on my toes. He behaves like a little demon, but he is so darn cute that it’s hard to be mad when he’s acting his age.

Simon has brought the love and a sense of normalcy back to our household. Looking back, I can see that not only was I super depressed (and still sad) about Kitty dying, but I was depressed before Kitty died. I took care of him and did his cancer medication for over a year. Our entire household felt like death for about a year and a half.

Simon has brought the love and sun back for Jude and me.

2018

While minimizing my life and living simply is an ongoing journey, my major goal for 2018 is my kitchen. With kitchen changes, come food and nutrition changes, so this will hopefully be a positive for both my running and management of my food allergies.

I now have five glass Pyrex bowls for work lunches. My goal is to get rid of all the plastic in the kitchen and use glass only.

All the plastic is going into a box for a year. Typically, I put donation items in a box and get rid of the box as soon as it’s full. Most people will suggest putting things in a box and saving the box for three months. If after three months you have not opened the box and don’t need anything in it, then get rid of the stuff. With the plastic items, I am boxing them for a year.

The reason why I am boxing kitchen plastic for a year is that even though I am confident that I can go glass only in the kitchen, plastic is useful when I am traveling. It is lighter weight and won’t break. So I am boxing the plastic for a year and only taking out what I absolutely need for travel this year, which will include my usual camping trip and marathon trip. This way, when I completely get rid of kitchen plastic next year, I will only keep enough plastic pieces absolutely necessary for travel. I figure this is better than trying to guess or choosing an arbitrary number, like keep 5 plastic containers.

I am also going to be menu planning this year to be sure that I am managing my food allergies well, getting all my nutrients, and using up food. I have a lot of food in my house. Part of it is the multiple food allergies – I stockpile because it is challenging to find things I can eat.

This year, I have made a 5-day emergency food kit. The recommendation is 3 days, but I am going for a 5-day due to the food allergies and the fact that during the blizzard of 2017, I was literally snowed in my house for four days. The snowplow was stuck at the end of my road, so we could not go anywhere if we wanted.  This way, even if I eat all the food in the house (unlikely), I have a 5-day supply emergency supply.

Now that I have the 5-day emergency kit, my goal is to eat the food in the house so that there is not so much of it and so that I can do a better job of food planning instead of just having a bunch of random things everywhere. For example, in addition to the food cupboard, I also have two storage racks of food. My goal is to just have the food in the cupboard. As long as we are not snowed in, I can get to the store at least once a week, so there is no reason for all this food. Time to focus on nutrition and planning.

Peace, love, and running for 2018. Happy New Year!

 

 

Enjoy the Ride

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One of my favorite well wishes is the reflection that a birthday is the start of another 365-day journey around the sun. Enjoy the ride! Birthdays are my favorite holiday. Not only are they a celebration of life, but also recognition of those people who are important in our lives. I always say that every time I get a birthday, it is like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me.

My birthday is coming up soon, so it is that time of reflection upon the prior year and also goals and wishes for the year forthcoming. My wish for 36 was for a quiet year. Ages 34 and 35 were quite tumultuous with negative life changes and health crises. I had wanted 36 to be quiet after all the excitement. I got my wish. Not only was age 36 a quiet year, but also it was quiet with a sweet sort of joy I have never before experienced.

In my early 30s, I had read an article quoting an English study regarding happiness across development that claimed that age 33 was the happiest age across the lifespan. In general, I would have to say I agree. I have been saying for the past few years that age 33 was the best year of my life, before it all went to hell with age 34 and 35, but you never get a rainbow without a little rain. Age 33 was a great year. Sure, it had some challenges, as life always does, but there were some major milestones and great moments in my 33rd year. I was able to see my favorite baseball team play in their home stadium for the first time in my life. It is an experience that I know I will think of dearly when my time comes and my life is flashing before my eyes.

However, as age 36 comes to a close, I have to say that in its own unique, unassuming way, age 36 has now usurped age 33 as the happiest year of my life. As with any age, this past year has had it’s own set of challenges, yet the positives of the past year have far outweighed the negatives. This is what has made age 36 my best and most favorite year ever:

  1. I fell in love (again). Anyone who has ever been in love and then somehow lost it, either through death or through the drifting apart that people sometimes do, will tell you that love is that magical feeling that seemingly comes once in a lifetime. We often do not even realize that this is IT: this particular person/relationship/event is love until after it has passed. In general, I would agree. The person with whom I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with passed away 10 years ago now, and I had resigned myself to the fact that I had found the love that you only find once in life, and that the only thing I would be able to find in the future is maybe a comfortable companionship.

This year I fell in love again and I would have to say that not only was it not expected, but it is also the type of love that I realize and understand that this is IT. It is not something fickle or fly-by-night. Rather, this is a person I have known almost all my life, and has grown quietly through the years while I was busy making other plans. If there were ever a pure form of love, I have it, and to experience that type of love is truly a gift. I have learned that love can give you joy and love can bring you pain. Loving someone means being comfortable with and giving them room to be their own person, make their own choices, and find their own happiness, whether or not that includes me. I have learned that I can love someone very deeply, even if it is a person with whom a relationship does not work out. While love is pure, time is of the devil’s making, and true love understands the only way to love is to give yourself so completely that you are vulnerable to the possibility of loss.

  1. I found myself, and I did not experience an existential crisis in the process. I am the Queen of the Existential Crisis. Pretty much everyone around me will attest that I spent most of my 20s in Where’s Waldo mode, only to have matured in my 30s to a more suave Carmen Sandiago persona, complete with brimmed hat and dreams of world travel. I am staring down age 37 and can proudly say “no mid-life crisis for me” (yet)! I completed my final degree after spending 20 years in school and have eased into my retirement from my life as a professional college student more comfortable in my own skin that I have ever been at any point in my life. I have been better able to handle life’s challenges in stride and have surprised myself with my ability to adult.
  1. I have arrived. Life is a journey, and while I agree with that sentiment in general, I have to say that there is some feeling of accomplishment when we cross a finish line and recognize how far we have come, even with so far to go. I am at a good place in life. While I still struggle and face health challenges, I am finally at a position in my life where I am able to take care of myself in the best way possible. After over a decade of working multiple jobs, 60-70 hours per week, with often only holidays as a day off, I now have employment I enjoy. I have employment I enjoy, that pays me well, and gives me days off. This gives me the freedom to have time to spend doing whatever I choose and also time to be able to take care of myself better than I have been able to take care of myself before. While I face many challenges with my multiple food allergies and autoimmune disorder, I can say that especially in the past year, I have finally been able to make the life changes necessary to put me on the path to good health instead of simply being subject to the whim of my disease.

Part of my efforts to rewind real slow is to help me take care of myself better so that I can enjoy life more. Life is short, and I have sacrificed so much in the pursuit of my education. This past year, I have finally arrived at the point where I am able to live instead of simply survive, and I now see how truly sweet life can be. In 35 years, I had never seen this sweetness of life on such a broad scale. I had caught glimpses of happiness at certain times, but this past year has been the first time I have experienced a sustained sort of joy and contentment in life I have never before seen.

Looking forward to age 37, my wishes are that I am able to take everything I have learned in the past year and continue to grow. I am hoping to be able to get my autoimmune disorder and food allergies under control so that I can enjoy parts of life I am sure I have never imagined. I hope that I am able to make good choices and can continue to surprise myself with my ability to adult. In all honesty, I am hoping to be the type of person this year that my cat thinks I am. Out of all the things I have learned in the past year, I have discovered that the most important is love. While it may sound trite, my cats are the only ones who have been constant in my everyday life for 18 years, and I hope to be everything to them that they have been to me, especially as Kitty will probably only be around for a few more years. I want to enjoy this life I have created for myself and utilize the freedom I have to chart my own course.

So while I am unsure of what age 37 has in store, I am at a good place with firm footing to face whatever is coming. I am hoping that after all the storms I have weathered, that this is my time for a rainbow, and that I can truly take my time to enjoy my ride around the sun.

Running Down A Dream

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Boston. It’s the Holy Grail of running. Every runner strives to earn a Boston Athletic Association medal. We throw around acronyms like BQ, PR, maxO2, and Gu. Ok, so Gu is a food group, but you know what I mean. Most likely when you meet a non-runner who finds out you run marathons, one of the first questions they ask is, “have you done Boston?” If you are in the Midwest, they probably ask, “how many Grandmas have you done?” referring to Grandmas Marathon, not your beloved senior citizen relative.

Everyone knows about Boston. Boston is the oldest, most prestigious, and has the strictest qualifying guidelines of any race outside of the Olympics. Qualifying standards for Boston are like Victorian chastity belts with a lock and key. Each year we look to see if the standards have changed, and pray for more birthdays so that we can change age groups to perhaps a less competitive one, or simply to get that extra 5 minutes to qualify. Many non-runners do not even know or understand that you have to qualify for Boston. You have to be invited. It’s like waiting for the fancy invite in gold calligraphy to be delivered to you by a guy in tuxedo tails wearing white gloves on a red carpet. You do not just “sign up for Boston.” It’s an elite club that not everyone can join. It’s kind of like a country club, except this one has lots of sweat and trail mix involved.

It is every runner’s dream to cross the finish line in Boston. It is truly the people’s Olympics. The finish line in Boston is the physical manifestation of everyone’s hopes and dreams as they sweat, train and run to achieve what less than 1% of the world population does – run a marathon. The magic of Boston is that in addition to all the professional runners who have 7 hours a day to train with professional trainers and chefs, it is also the housewife who rolls out of bed at 4am to get 15 miles in before the kids are awake and works in a supermarket that can qualify for Boston. You rip a training plan out of a magazine, and say, “I’m going to run a marathon.” Maybe your sister just got a cancer diagnosis, and you’re going to raise money and work with Team in Training (lymphoma and leukemia research). Maybe your mom just passed away from breast cancer, and you are going to run 26.2 with Donna (the marathon in Florida where all the proceeds go to breast cancer research). Maybe you ran a 5k with your kid and remembered how fun and free it feels to run and just “caught the bug” to run a marathon. Maybe you want to lose 40 or 60 or even 100 pounds, and start out just by walking around the block.

Whatever your story, wherever we come from, we are runners. We all have the same dream. The beauty of Boston is that the dream is attainable by any of us. Boston is not just for the people who have the privilege of making Olympic Dream Teams. Boston is the dream that many of us everyday people who have mortgages and kids and work 40 or more hours a week can make true.

Personally, I do not run fast enough to qualify for Boston. Maybe in a few years, once I reach the Masters category, and some minutes are tacked on to my qualifying standard, I will, but I’m not going to hold my breath. I would have to shave at least 40 seconds off of each and every mile to qualify for Boston. The full marathon is not my fastest distance. It is my most favorite distance, but it is not my fastest. Something happens between miles 22 and 26 where, even if I have been on track to earn my BQ, I completely lose my mind and blow it.

My best distance is the half marathon. I have qualified for and ran the Boston Half Marathon, which is how I earned my Boston Athletic Association medal. I don’t mind running half marathons. I do like to change up my race distances every now and again. The half marathon is not my favorite distance. The full marathon may be my most challenging, but is also my favorite.

As I have gotten older, and am approaching the Masters category in a few years, I still have a dream of Boston and getting my BQ. I am not going to kill myself for it. Yes, I can sit there and crunch the numbers and amp up my training, but what is more important to me at this point in my life than achieving my BQ is ensuring my health and safety to be able to run as long as possible throughout my life. Getting a BQ is not going to mean anything if I push it so hard that I sustain an injury that ends my running career. I have already overcome so much to be able to run marathons: a total of 10 broken bones, which includes breaking my spine in three places and spending time in a wheelchair, to 5 concussions, to a patella tear that almost did end my running career.

I am part of this magical community called runners in which we wave at each other as we pass on the trail, we help each other when we are struggling, and we line the streets to cheer for random strangers as they participate in their distance event and run pass. Yes, I am screaming for you, Random Citizen! You are not almost there, but you do look amazing, even if you are grimacing like a monkey humping a football because you are living your dream of running a marathon! That makes you look beautiful.

It doesn’t matter if you get a BQ or not. It does not matter if you come in first, middle or last. It doesn’t matter how many people have crossed that finish line before you, as long as you cross it. Many of us will never get our “15 minutes of fame.” But, you will get 1 second. That one second that your foot hits that finish line and clocks your time for completion, that one moment that you finish your marathon, whether it is your 1st, your 15th, or your 20th, that one moment YOU are the greatest athlete on the planet. That one-second is yours to own. You can say, “I did this.” “I ran a marathon.” Less than 1% of the world’s population can say that, folks.

Boston is every runner’s dream and it is always out there. For me, what is most important is not that I cross the finish line in Boston, but that I continue to keep crossing finish lines anywhere. We are all part of the same community. Boston is the oldest, most prestigious, and most beloved race. Even if you never achieve your BQ, that finish line belongs to all of us. It is the embodiment of all our hopes and dreams. If you never qualify for the bib, you can go spectate. You can still be part of the dream. Whether you are on the race course or part of the crowd, the magic that is Boston will course through your veins. A popular saying has been attributed to many, so it’s origin is uncertain states: “If you ever lose faith in humanity, go watch a marathon.” It’s true. Even if you never get your BQ, the magic of Boston can be experienced just by being there. Boston is every man’s dream.

As I approach medal # 14 this weekend, Boston is still my dream. Always was, always has been, and always will be. I chose one of the top ten fastest race courses in the country with a net elevation drop of 800 feet for my 14th race in an effort to qualify. Will I get my BQ? Probably not. But I will cross the finish line, and I will be able to train next year to cross a finish line somewhere else again. I will cross the start line. I will cross the finish line. I will run a good race.

Every April, whether we have achieved a BQ or not, the world watches with love and hope as people run the Boston Marathon. We are all running down a dream.

The Lead of Love

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This is the monthly Feline Friday post on Rewind Real Slow.

“We die containing the richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead.” – Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

About a week after Kitty’s first birthday, Kip walked into our lives. Literally. I had seen this scrappy little orange kitten running around the neighborhood. At the time in the late 90s, Kitty and I had housing, but it was in one of the most drug and crime ridden neighborhoods in a 60-mile radius. I was on my evening walk and saw this little orange kitten on the side of the road, obviously quite hurt. A car had hit him. I tried to find his owners, but no one seemed to claim him or even to care. Not wanting to be accused of cat napping, I talked to him, and he literally followed me home.

So small that he fit inside of a child’s shoebox, I took him to the animal hospital, where he remained for a week. He had a broken arm with permanent nerve damage resulting, as well as severe internal injuries to his side and kidneys. Even after a week in the hospital, he came home with tubing in his side that required me to keep moist and flush with fluids to remove toxins multiple times daily. Due to his size, I had thought he was only a few weeks old. According to dental analysis done by the veterinarian, he was actually 4 months old, his stature diminished by severe malnourishment and neglect.

I already had a Kitty at home, and I did not want to traumatize the orange treasure by renaming him and instituting an identity crisis. I was searching for something close to Kitty (as almost all cats will respond to kitty) that was not kitty; he needed unique nomenclature to fit his persona. I borrowed a name from one of my favorite movies and novels. Kip Quark Anderson had entered our lives.

What I did not realize at the time was how appropriate this name would be to his place and impact upon our lives. Kip was the apple, the joy, and the love of Kitty’s and my life. We had 14 wonderful, beautiful, glorious years together, many of them spent regulating his resulting chronic kidney condition, before he finally succumbed to pancreatitis a few years ago.

Kip was a happy go lucky, playful cat full of joy. He taught Kitty how to not be so uptight, how to relax, how to play. Everyone who met Kip loved him. Kip was leash trained and quite enjoyed walking on a leash, often emulating a dog. He was a frequent visitor to my preschool classroom, where he never failed to delight, entertain, and draw out even the most shy and precarious child in the class.

He handled his chronic health condition with grace and dignity. The nightmare-ish visions of having to “pill a cat” never happened with Kip. I would set his medication on his plate with his breakfast or dinner, and he would happily eat it the same as his food. Towards the end of his life, he was on 5 different medications daily, one of them by dropper, and he never squirmed or protested when it was time for his medications.

Kip kept both Kitty and I from losing our minds. Life was hard in the late 90s and early 2000s, as we faced bad relationships, and sometimes lived in the car. Kip’s attitude was always upbeat and helped to remind Kitty and I of the brighter side of life, that things do in fact, get better. Of all my kids, Kip is probably the one who most taught me how to adult and forced me to create a stability in my life and theirs that I had never experienced as a child. I made sure that he received all the medical care that he required and that I was home to give him his medications on time. I was even able to keep his medication on schedule during my early grad school years when I had a one-way 6-hour plus commute from Central New York to Boston for school.

I had spent my first three years of college as a physics major; The English Patient movie came out my freshman year of college. I was particularly drawn to the character of Kip, as his profession in the novel and movie was exactly what I was studying to do in college. In many ways, Kip the cat fit his namesake. He was proficient in diffusing many tense situations with his absolute love of life and easy-going personality.

What Kip taught me the most in his 14 short years on this planet was love. He taught Kitty too. He taught me that every experience, no matter how dark or dire, has a small sliver of hope. He taught me that every single person we meet in life changes us in ways we may not even see or understand. He lived a very full and very bright life that was nothing but a lead of love to everyone he met.

This month, for #FelineFriday, we honor the memory of Kip. At times in my life when I was trying to go too fast, when I was trying to accelerate at 100mph, Kip always reminded me to slow down and remember the important things. Each experience in our life changes us and stays with us forever. Kip not only led with love, but he has changed my life in ways that will have repercussions until my dying day. Even as I held him in my arms a few years ago, as he passed away, he still taught me in his final breaths, the meaning of love.

Cheers to the memory of Kip this month on Rewind Real Slow. If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.