2016 Reading Challenge - August!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

It's no secret that all I did this summer was read, so I've read a lot of books this month. However, the book I chose specifically with the 2016 Reading Challenge in mind was

Death Wears a Beauty Mask and Other Stories by Mary Higgins Clark

for the theme

A book you've been meaning to read

I've written about my love of MHC before, but, in a nutshell, my grandmother reads all her books, my mom reads all her books, and I read all her books. I was pretty sure I'd read every book she's ever written, but I found out recently that she had this book of short stories I had never read. What?! Could it be?!

It was true. I found it at the library.

When I realized I had missed this book, I knew I had to read it for "A book you've been meaning to read" since I've pretty much been meaning to read all of MHC's books forever.

I really enjoyed it! The first short story, the titular Death Wears a Beauty Mask, is a traditional MHC murder mystery. However, not all the stories are. This book contains Stowaway, MHC's first published story, about a political prisoner attempting to escape his country, and When the Bough Breaks, a story about a family tragedy, among others.

This post is short but sweet -- I love MHC, and I enjoyed diving in to her short stories.

Now, to choose a theme for September. I'm kind of leaning toward "A book that was banned at some point" because that sounds so fun! We'll see!

Self-Help ... Books

Monday, August 8, 2016

As I mentioned before, all I've done this summer is read. (And take care of a sick rabbit.) I went to the library about once a week, got my stack of books, took them home, read them, rinse, and repeat.

It was wonderful.

I have always loved books. I love getting lost in a story, feeling that bittersweet anticipation as I get close to the final couple of pages, wanting to know how the story resolves itself, but also dreading it being over.

As I read, I folded down the corners of pages of the books that held quotes or passages that really spoke to me. (I am sorry fellow library patrons.) I was good about transferring them to my quote book at the beginning of the summer, but after awhile I just took pictures of the pages on my phone, intending to write them all down later. I recently realized I have well over 50 photos to go through, organize, and transcribe.

Late in the spring, I was reading a blog that mentioned a book (nonfiction) that I thought I might like to read. It wasn't available at the library at the time, so I put it on hold. I was anxious about waiting because I felt like I needed the wisdom that book would provide that minute. However, when I got off the hold list about three weeks later, a couple weeks into summer, I realized I wasn't as excited as I originally had been. The book lasted on my desk through two more trips to the library before I finally took it back, unread.

I couldn't understand it. Why would this book (which I'm sure is really good) have excited me so much one minute and then failed to even inspire me to crack the cover the next?

And then it hit me. I don't really have much of a need for self-help books, because I have self-help ... books.

Novels are my self-help.

Even novels that I end up not liking that much (of which there were only five, I think, this summer, and, no I won't post which are the ones), I end up turning down the corners of at least once. The words I find in novels, the inspiration and hope and wonder I find there, are what helps me. I find myself reading some sentences over and over. Maybe I'll go back to this particular nonfiction book at some point in the future, but I didn't need it this summer like I thought I did.

As an English teacher, words are my business. And I'm so glad of that because I find so much beauty in words. Have you ever thought about how books -- at least those written in English -- are the same 26 letters rearranged over and over again? How can just 26 letters impact our lives so much?

I decided I wanted to share the beauty I found this summer by compiling in a blog post some of the things I found and was inspired by. I hope you find something beautiful here as well. (And, yes, some of these are books I didn't actually like.)


I told myself to carry this moment as a talisman of a time in my life when I was both truly content and lucky enough to realize it. 

- The Royal We by Jessica Cocks and Heather Morgan

When I'm choosing something new, though, something just for myself, my favorite kind of character is a woman in a faraway place. India. Or Bangkok. Sometimes she leaves her husband. Sometimes she never had a husband because she knew, wisely, that married life would not be for her. I like when she has multiple lovers. I like when she wears hats to block her fair skin from the sun. I like when she travels and has adventures. I like descriptions of hotels and suitcases with stickers on them. I like descriptions of food and clothes and jewelry. A little romance but not too much. The story is period.  No cell phones. No social networking. No Internet at all. Ideally, it's set in the 1920s or 1940s. Maybe there's a war going on, but it's just a backdrop. No bloodshed. Some sex but nothing too graphic. No children. Children often ruin a story for me. ... I don't mind them in real life. I just don't want to read about them. Endings can be happy or sad, I don't care anymore as long as it's earned. She can settle down, maybe open a little business, or she can drown herself in the ocean. Finally, a nice-looking jacket is important. I don't care how good the insides are. I don't want to spend any length of time with an ugly object. I'm shallow, I guess. 

As she steps off the ferry, her phone rings. She doesn't recognize the number -- none of her friends use their phones as phones anymore. Still, she is glad for the diversion and she doesn't want to become the kind of person who thinks that good news can only come from calls one was already expecting and callers one already knows. 

Maybe she didn't have a plan of where she was going. Maybe she just took the first train and then the first bus and then the first boat and this is where she ended up. 

Someday, you do not know when, you will be driving down a road. And someday, you do not know when, he, or indeed she, will be there. You will be loved because for the first time in your life, you will truly not be alone. You will have chosen to not be alone. 

- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (thanks for the recommendation, Cindy)

You have to grow about eight hundred grapes to get just one bottle of wine. If that isn't an argument to finish the bottle, I don't know what is. 

- Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

She was firmly in Austenland now, she reminded herself, where hoping was allowed. Did Austen herself feel this way? Was she hopeful? Jane wondered if the unmarried writer had lived inside Austenland with close to Jane's own sensibility -- amused, horrified, but in very real danger of being swept away. 

- Austenland by Shannon Hale

Once numbness shuts down a damaged heart, a miracle is required to restart it. Things would prove rough for our heroine. Her only hope was Jane Austen. 

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

"I can't wait--," my mother begins, then stops to think. "You know what, if you're my only child who remains single until old age, I will proudly stand with you all the days of your life. If that's what you want." 

- Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani (thanks for the recommendation, Story)

"I mean, I'm always being told that I'm-- that I have-- that Jane Austen has given me--"
"A horribly warped view of the world?" Adam suggested. 
"A wonderfully warped view of the world," Kay corrected him.
"Oh, you know-- the usual stuff about happy endings and expecting to fall in love with the perfect hero."

- Dreaming of Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connelly

... both of them in a quiet state of chaos ... 

   "I am not an expert on love, Georgiana, but you are mistaken. If you held Mr. Wickham in regard, you would have felt foolish at your loss, but the romance would have been gone within six months. If you felt affection for him, you would again be foolish, but a year would resolve your loss. If I am correct, you felt one of these emotions rather than love. Am I not correct?"
   "Elizabeth, I can see one of these definitions fitting my situation, but then what is love?"
   "Real love, Georgiana, changes your life; your own needs no longer exist. If rejected, you never forget the person; as Fitzwilliam did, you might try to run away -- you try to find solace someplace else, but it cannot be. You might even choose another with whom to spend your life, but there is no love for it died and was replaced with regard or affection. I could not think of loving anyone but your brother; can you say the same thing about Mr. Wickham?"
   "I cannot, Elizabeth. I feel nothing for the man. I only feel my own shame at being taken in by him."
   "Then may we move on? You are not the person you were then ..."

- Darcy's Passions by Regina Jeffers

I still knew Charlotte, Emily, and Anne like no one should ever know anyone. I knew their shoe sizes and their height; I knew their stupid little secrets; I knew what they fought about and what they laughed about; I knew about the mole on Emily's right foot. Love always comes with scars, and this was mine: the knowledge that the friends I knew best were those I had never actually met. 

There was a painful silence, in which it occurred to me that I might never have a normal life. 

As I watched the two of them together, I imagined what it would be like if I were with him instead -- perhaps at a cocktail party in a black-and-white movie, telling women with long cigarette holders what a fine bridge player he was.

We entered a vast, bottomless silence. I scrambled for better conversation topics. This all would have been far less stressful in the movie version of our lives. The long silences would have been edited out. 

My lips twitched but no sound emerged. Somewhere in my mind, Samantha Whipple [character who is speaking's name] was being terribly witty. It was a shame no one could hear her. 

The purpose of literature is to teach you how to think, not how to be practical.

In the dark, I learned, silence has a way of killing you. 

"Are there any leading men in your life?"
"Several, but they're all fictional."

"Isn't there some truth in all fiction?"
"There's some fiction in all truth too."

Reading teaches you courage. The author is trying to convince you something fake is real. It's a ridiculous request, and it questions the sanity of the reader. The extent to which you believe the author depends on how willing you are to jump in headfirst. 

I find my therapy in math, just as you seem to have found yours in literature -- two disciplines that help make sense of the world. [Reminds me of Sarah and me.]

We seemed to be in Act V of a Shakespearian play that could either end in marriage or premature death.

- The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell (arguably the best book I read this summer, if the sheer amount of quotes didn't already show that to you)

I wanted to believe in happy endings again. I want to believe that I could trust a man. I wanted to believe there was a hero out there for me, worthy of the title of Darcy or Knightley, Wentworth or Tilney. 

Lots and lots of books. A refuge. A solace. Each one offering the possibility of a new beginning. 

Heartbreak is more common than happiness. No one wants to say that, but it's true. We're taught to believe not only that everyone deserves a happy ending, btu also that if we try hard enough, we will get one. That's simply not the case. Happy endings, lifelong loves, are the products of both effort and luck. We can control them, to some extent, and though our feelings always seem to have a life of their own, we can at least be open to love. But luck, the other component, well, there's nothing we can do about that one. Call it God's plan or predestination or divine intervention, but we're all at its mercy. And sometimes God doesn't seem very merciful. Jane taught me that. 

- Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo

I would self-medicate with fat, carbohydrates, and Jane Austen, my number one drug of choice, my constant companion through every breakup, every disappointment, every crisis. Men might come and go, but Jane Austen was always there. In sickness and health, for richer, for poorer, till death do us part.

Too much thinking never solved anything.

... I understand, as I have long understood through my own insatiable appetite for readings and rereadings of Jane Austen's six novels, why children want the same stories read to them a thousand times. There is comfort in the familiarity of it all, the knowledge that all will turn out well, that Elizabeth and Darcy will end up together in Pemberley, that Anne Elliot will pierce Captain Wentworth's soul, and that Mr. Elton will be stuck with his caro sposa for the rest of his life.

Just be where you are. That's the only way to get where you're supposed to go. 

- Confession of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Partial truth is falsehood's fiercest bodyguard. 

As the reader has perhaps noticed, great care has been taken with the punctuation used in this account. For me, as regards to literature, punctuation is what separates true greatness from the merely good -- and certainly from the false. 

- Love and Friendship by Whit Stillman

... hoping that all the magic in the world was somewhat connected. 

As humans we often let our egos rule our decisions. We let fear stop us from reaching our true potential. We forget about love. But the heart? It never forgets. No matter what happens, no matter how hard things get, it always remembers. 

- The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Watching her, I thought about secrets. One can grow accustomed to carrying unseeable scars, as if the tattoo one wears is inked in flesh tone over flesh tone; but nevertheless one is still covered in secret, painted with secret, stained by it. 

I hope that the epitaph of the human race when the world ends will be: Here perished a species which lived to tell stories. (Editorial comment: I feel like this might be the motto of my life.)

- Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

I never thought Marianne's devotion to Willoughby was prudent, and it wasn't, but I bet it was fun. 

For months I convinced myself that Josh's paltry version of love was all I could expect -- I wasn't worth something better. But I know there's more. I want the real thing. I can have that, can't I? Because I know it exists -- in books and in real life. 

My childhood wasn't easy. I buried myself in books. I guess I'm a recovering book addict.

- Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

You could really feel physically wounded if someone hurt your feelings badly enough. 

- Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (thanks for the recommendation, Phoebe)

When she was done, she regarded her dim reflection in the mirror, raising one pale hand to touch the silvery-looking glass with her fingertips. "Only one of us is real," she said quietly to that other Jane who sat gazing at her from the glass, "the other is but an illusion. The question is, which am I?"

I of all women would gladly trade a single moment of love for a lifetime of wondering what such a moment might have been.

- The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O'Rourke

I loved the anonymity of all it. Of a sidewalk full of strangers and endless possibilities. 

Only a sane person would realize how close he or she was to the edge. Not like my dad, who didn't know when he was teetering too close to that chasm, didn't seem to notice the change in velocity as he went tumbling into the abyss. But I knew. I knew how close we all were to that edge. And if I knew, then I was fine. Those were the basic rules of holding one's shit together, according to Tyler.

- All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Remember you're on our side now. You know: the grown-ups. 

It turned out that the only difference between children and adults was that children were prepared to put twice the energy into the project of not being sad. 

But before we sing slow for you, let's all take a moment to think of our true loves. It could be you're lucky enough to be sitting next to them right now. Or maybe they're far away, posted overseas. Maybe the two of you haven't even met yet, and you're holding the idea of each other. 

- Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleve


Sunday, August 7, 2016

On this day six years ago, I adopted the world's greatest rabbit, Snickers, when he was six months old. You can read the whole story here, but suffice it to say, he's been a gift from God for six years. I've loved every minute of our life together.

A life, I'm sad to say, I was afraid was about to come to an end very recently.

Many people know bits and pieces of this story, some more than others, and I have never meant to leave anyone out. The truth is, I don't usually make things like this -- sad things -- public, but I decided to with Snickers this time because we needed people's prayers.

Here is the story, from the beginning, in its entirety. A story that's not over yet, but a story that I'm hopeful will end better than we originally thought.

It all started at the beginning of July. I don't mean to be gross, but how I realized something was wrong with him initially was that the size and shape of his poo was wrong. This is really the best way you can tell something is wrong in rabbits. I had been out of town the first few days of July, and my brother Alex who was watching Snicks commented to me that he didn't think he was drinking enough and seemed out of sorts.

When I got back to town, I started doing the things the vet had told me to do in the past when his poo is weird. Namely, I cut back on the pellet food he receives and upped the greens. I also gave him a little pineapple juice, which some people use to help break up hair that gets caught in rabbits' intestines. (Rabbit trivia: they do not have the throw up reflex that cats do, so they cannot cough up hairballs. Their hairballs are broken up by the hay they eat and are prevented by frequent brushing, which Snickers hates.) It didn't seem to work. I also noticed that his nose was wet, which it shouldn't be, so I thought it was time to visit the vet. He usually goes every summer for a check up, so it was time anyways.

We have the BEST VET PRACTICE here in Huntington, and they have been seeing him and caring for him since he was six months old. They know him well, and they LOVE him. They treat us so well and have been there for us through some abscesses he had as well as the fleas he had last summer. (Incidentally, I think back to the fleas -- which I thought was the end of the world at the time -- and I laugh now because I'd take fleas any day over what we're dealing with now. At least with fleas there's a treatment and done, but I digress.)

The vet confirmed his nose wetness, but she also noticed that he was drooling a lot, which is unusual. The vet indicated that this was a sign that something may be wrong with his teeth. She tried to look in his mouth, but if there's one thing Snicks hates more than being brushed, it's having his mouth touched. I can't explain it.) Dr. Ellis then told me that she needed to refer me to a practice in Charleston who could provide more specialized care. At this time, I realized that this was no joke and something serious was going on. This was on Thursday, July 14.

On Monday, July 18, I took him to Charleston. Snicks has never been in the car that long before, nor is he used to being caged, so we were now dealing with stress on top of the sickness. He also does not like to leave home because he is a curmudgeon. (This is also probably a good time to mention that 6.5 years (which he will be on the 14th) is considered old in rabbits.) I was nervous to take him to a new doctor's office, too, because his Huntington people love him so much and they are so good, and I didn't want to take him somewhere where they didn't care about him like that.

I was worried needlessly, because I found Dr. Tackett to be very caring and wonderful. She examined him that day, and informed me that he was incredibly dehydrated and she was worried he was in GI Stasis. In case you don't know (and why would you?), GI Stasis is known as the "silent killer" in rabbits. It's life-threatening. Dr. Tackett tried to look in his mouth, and, although she was able to get a decent glimpse, he tried to fight her, too. She told me that she did not see anything that looked wrong in there, but that all rabbits' mouths are different, and she'd have to put him under anesthesia to get a better look. However, she said that anesthesia is very hard on rabbits, particularly old rabbits in bad health, and her immediate concern was the stasis and the dehydration. She also said that his drooling could be due to the fact that he wasn't feeling well and not a tooth thing. That day she gave him fluids under his skin ("subcutaneous," which I had never heard of before and is somewhat fascinating) and told me to take him to get fluids from his vet here for the next two days. I was also given something called Critical Care to feed him as well as pain medication to give him. She told me she'd call me later in the week to check on him.

Over the next two days, I took him back to Dr. Ellis for fluids. After a couple days of fluids and pain medicine, I noticed his poo was looking better, and Dr. Ellis noted she didn't see any drool.

YES! I thought things were done and great, and I told Dr. Tackett so when she called me later that week.

But ... (you knew that was coming)

But once the fluids wore off and the pain meds were gone, his poo got bad again, and I realized that was because he was completely refusing water. He would eat his greens fine, he would eat his hay, he was moving and going to the bathroom, but he would not drink water. I got lucky because, although he would not accept Critical Care in a syringe from me, he would eat it out of a bowl, which was a method suggested to be my his vet tech here in Huntington.

He just would not drink water.

I tried new bowls, I tried bottle feeding him, I tried bottled water, and water of different temperatures. No dice.

I called Dr. Tackett again and took him back to her. This was Friday the 29th. She weighed him and said he had not gained any weight, he was still dehydrated, and she was worried about him. This time, along with giving him  more fluids, she also took a blood sample and told me she'd call me with the results. She actually called me the next day with the results -- a Saturday afternoon, so nice -- which showed nothing. NOTHING. His blood was fine, except for an elevated kidney level of some sort, which she said was most likely being caused by the dehydration, not the other way around.

Now I should mention that neither Dr. Ellis, nor Dr. Tackett, nor the internet had ever heard of this particular problem before. There have been plenty of complains of rabbits who wouldn't eat or drink, or even rabbits who would drink but not eat, but no one had ever heard of a rabbit who would eat but not drink. It confounded everyone.

Dr. Tackett said that, at this point, the only thing left for her to do was put him under the dreaded anesthesia and check his teeth and tongue more intently. She said perhaps something was wrong with his tongue, which would explain why he wouldn't want to lap up water. If not, she was going to have to send me to a rabbit specialist. Who knew there was even such a thing? We scheduled his procedure for Wednesday the 3rd. This is incredibly scary because the vet had made it clear to me that anesthesia is so hard on them, and I was really, really afraid he wouldn't wake up. I told Dr. Tackett that it was just him and me, just the two of us, and I really needed him to be okay.

On Monday and Tuesday of this week, I took him to his vet practice here in town for fluids to prepare him for his procedures. It was so nice to see all the welcome faces of the people at Animal Care Clinic, who hugged me and told me to make sure to call them when I knew anything.

This past Wednesday, I left Huntington at 6:30 a.m. to drop Snicks off in Charleston by 7:30. Before we left, I took his little prayer bunny and put it in his cage with him. Luckily for me, Snicks is a HUGE fan of Pride and Prejudice and requested to listen to the audio book on the way to Charleston. :) But really, I make that sound a lot more lighthearted than the trip really was. When we arrived at the doctor, I opened up the car door, looked at him in the cage and said, "Remember you promised me you'd wake up. So you wake up."

I walked him in to the vet, which held a blue million people in the waiting room. Snickers is a bit of a novelty, which means people like to touch him, and I had this uncomfortable encounter with a fellow waiting room patron, which I don't want to recount here because I'm sure she meant well, but who made me feel worse. I finally got to check him in, and I was told I could call around 1 p.m. for an update on him. Then the receptionist came around and took him from me. I watched as she took him out of my sight, and then I went out to my car and cried. It was barely 8 a.m., I was exhausted, and I was about to travel back home without my beloved Baby Snickers.

I got home around 9, and planned to clean the house, including washing all of Snicks's many towels, before heading to school and working in my classroom. (The truth is, he has been peeing EVERYWHERE, probably as a result of his diminished kidney function. We're at the point where Snickers now has four bath towels, and I have one. Not one backup towel, ONE towel.) As I was vacuuming, I kept checking to be sure I wouldn't hit him with the vacuum, and then I'd remember he wasn't here. So sad.

I went to school where SO MANY PEOPLE were invested in how he was doing and cared so much to ask about him. It was so great to be at school that day, surrounded by my friends and colleagues who care, as opposed to being home alone, waiting. I also want to add that his Huntington vet's office wanted me to call them with updates, and I got several Facebook messages from the people there, too. They are so great!

I did call around 1 p.m. (okay, it was 1:01 p.m.), but the doctor's office told me that hadn't even gotten to take him back yet because they were so busy. However, he was next up, and the receptionist told me that Dr. Tackett said she'd call when he got out of surgery.

Finally, I got the call and heard what I'd been waiting to hear, which was -- he was awake. He woke up. Sadly, Dr. Tackett said that she didn't see anything in his mouth that really made her think it would cause him to not drink water. She said she noticed some irritation on one side of his tongue, but that it wasn't enough to make her definitively say that that was the cause. She filed his teeth down, gave him more fluids, and took a urine sample and told me she'd call me Friday with the results. We were back to a waiting game, but I felt like the day had been a success because he woke up.

I watched him closely, but he still wouldn't drink water. He was eating greens, eating hay, and using the bathroom (in fact, he was peeing still everywhere), but still no water. I decided to mix a little apple juice (organic, natch, only the best for my 4 lbs. old man, don't mind me, I'll be here eating Little Debbies myself) in his water. Dr. Tackett had suggested that people do this, but she usually doesn't like to recommend it because of the sugar he doesn't need. But she said I could try it, so I did.

He wouldn't drink it. It killed me.

The vet called me Friday afternoon for an update, so I told her the situation. She said his urinalysis didn't show anything wrong. She also told me that she called a specialist, who had no idea what could be wrong since she'd never seen this before. (In case you're keeping count, that's three very good, very baffled doctors and one abnormal rabbit.) She suggested that I put Snicks on a broad antibiotic in case he had some sort of kidney infection that wasn't showing up in his urine. Dr. Tackett said it had to be compounded, but, luckily, there is a pharmacy here in Huntington that could make it, so I didn't have to drive back to Charleston. I was told to give him this medicine for a month. I was also told that it might make his stools loose, which would be bad since he's already dehydrated, and, let's be honest, also bad because who wants to clean that up? She said if I notice that to call her and she'll prescribe something different. She also told me she was sorry that she couldn't figure out what was wrong and she really wanted to help him. She told me she knows how close we are. That made me feel good.

I got off the phone with her and sat down to continue reading my book, when I heard this trickling sound. Thinking it was Snicks peeing on the floor again, I got up to get the paper towels. I looked over ... AND I SAW HIM DRINKING THE JUICE MIXTURE.

I could not believe my eyes. I didn't move a muscle, not wanting to startle him. He took a second drink.

I called the vet's office back and told the receptionist that HE WAS DRINKING A BIT! She, however, did not seem as excited as I did, but she did tell me she'd go back and tell Dr. Tackett. I felt like Dr. Tackett would get it.

So, for the past 48 hours I've been making sure his bowl is full of the juice/water mixture, trying to make it a lot more water than juice. I'm using bottled water and not tap, just in case his senses are able to detect something different in our tap water that my taste buds can't sense. He's been drinking a bit, maybe not as much as I'd like to see, but it's something. I've been trying to play it cool around him, though, you know? :)

I picked up his prescription yesterday. I gave her my name, she checked the computer, and she was like, "Oh, is this for the bunny?" Indeed. I got a prescription that actually said "Lafferre, Snickers" on it. I mean really. I have to refrigerate it and everything! I also have to give it to him every 12 hours, so I'm trying to work that schedule out with going back to school this week. This prescription, I understand, is basically made to kill anything and everything that is bad inside his person. In fact, I looked it up online and read that this same drug is sometimes given to human victims of anthrax and certain types of plague. Yep.)

The truth is, he is usually a very good boy about using his litterbox, but there were times where he would fall asleep or otherwise have an accident. Or he'd hop out of his litterbox and his big feet would knock poo on the floor. It was irritating, I won't lie. But now, now when it happens, I just say, "It's okay Snicks, I got this." And I get the paper towels and the Resolve, and I clean it up. Because that stuff means that he's still here with me.

So that's where we are. Not back to 100%, still worried about the fact he's not drinking enough and maybe never will. I honestly don't know what will happen next. But, for now, he's alive, and he's safe. And for that, I am grateful.

Has this been exhausting? Yes. Expensive? Yes. In fact, I told myself that I wasn't going to add it up, because what good would that do and what purpose would it serve? The thing is, I assumed responsibility for Snickers's care years ago, and I've always seen him as a gift from God, and we're supposed to nurture and care for the gifts God has given us. It's not Snickers's fault he's not well, and he's only ever been a gentle and loyal friend. He's the oddest rabbit that God ever created (medical professionals back me up), but I do believe he's also God's favorite.

Happy adoption day, Baby Snickers. I love you. And a lot of other people do, too.

The Summer We Read Austen

Thursday, August 4, 2016

It all started with the novel The Summer We Read Gatsby*. 

But, by the time it was over, it would be more accurately called The Summer We Read Austen.

And read.

And read.

And read.

Don't misunderstand me, I read lots of other books this summer that weren't Austen or Austen-related. (In fact, in the next week or two I plan to devote an entire post to quotes and passages I enjoyed in all sorts of novels I read this summer; however, it'll take a while because I took pictures of all the pages with words I loved throughout the summer and am just now realizing just how many there are. It'll take a little while to organize it all!) But, for the majority of the summer, I was surrounded by Darcy and Elizabeth and Knightley and Emma and Wentworth and Anne.

And I loved every minute of it.

Truly, one of my biggest sources of entertainment this summer was to curl up with a glass of wine and my laptop in the evenings, and put a bunch of books I wanted on hold on my library account. (Getting crazy, I know!) One morning, as I was going to pick up my newest stack of 10, it occurred to me that every single one of those books was Austen-related. Imagine my surprise when my next stack of 10 also happened to be strictly Jane. And I wasn't the only one who noticed.

Librarian: "Oh I remember you from last week. I admire your commitment to Jane Austen."

Thanks. :)

I don't know what it is about her, guys. I know I've tried to explain it before, and I can't really, so I'm not going to try again. I think in a lot of ways I see her books in the same way I see old movies: they're like comfortable old friends who, when you visit, you know you'll learn something, hear something to give you hope, and you'll part happily.

This past Saturday afternoon, I was reading Dear Mr. Knighley (great book) when my phone rang. It was Snicks's Charleston doctor, who was calling to tell me his blood test results. His full story is for another day, but, basically, the doctor told me they could find nothing in his blood that would cause his current health problems and that her next step of action would be to put him under anesthesia, file his teeth down, explore his mouth, and take a urine sample. She had really not been wanting to put him under because anesthesia is really hard on rabbits, and Snicks's case is especially complicated because he is old, little, and in poor health. Our conversation made me sad and a little nervous, so did what I do best, and I turned back to my books. And I looked at the stack I had left, and I realized I had no more Austen books in the stack, and I just couldn't take Snickers to the doctor for surgery on Wednesday without Jane Austen. So I went online to my library account and put a few more on hold and went and picked them up Monday. I don't know. I just felt better.

Do you have things like this in your life? Comfort things? I hope you do. I bet you do.

And, as much as I am pumped to go back to school because I miss my students so much, it will be hard to abandon my whole-day reading habit I got into this summer. So I got a little something to take with me:

I like having it on my desk. I do very much like ridiculous things! And it goes with the Mame theme and the year theme, too, I think.

I don't know friends. I feel like there's a lot more I wanted to say here, but worrying about Snickers is taking up most of my brain energy right now. I'll trust you'll understand what I'm saying anyways.

And, lest you start to be afraid this is turning into a Jane Austen devotional blog (not that there's anything wrong with that!), it isn't. Expect upcoming posts on what I learned about myself through novels; God's favorite rabbit, Baby Snickers; and a new thought on living like Auntie Mame.

Thanks for sticking with me, friends.

*Incidentally, I got this book from the library shelf because I thought it looked good. Imagine my surprise when, moving my books to a new bookshelf I assembled this summer, I saw the exact same book on my shelf. Yep. I checked a book out of the library I already had at home. 

2016 Reading Challenge - July!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

As it is the last day of July (can. you. believe. it.), I wanted to share the book I chose for July for the 2016 Reading Challenge.

I read a blue million books in the month of July, indeed all summer long, and I plan a post or two in the next week or so about all the books I read, quotes I enjoyed, and what I learned.

But, officially, my pick for July's reading challenge theme was "A book published before you were born." I chose Persuasion by Jane Austen.

I read this book in a different manner than I have all the other months' books, in that I listened to it as an audio book. I am not an auditory learner; thus, I realized that it's easy for me to listen to an audiobook only if I've read the book before. I had read Persuasion before, obviously, and I enjoyed the experience of listening to it read to me.

Now is a great time for me to tell you about a really cool app called Overdrive. It allows you to "check out" audiobooks from your local library, download them to your phone, and listen to them. I used this app to get Persuasion and Emma. I'm currently waiting on my turn for Pride and Prejudice now.

Listening to Persuasion gave me good motivation to walk in the park as well as drive distances in my car that I might not have otherwise enjoyed. I listened to Persuasion as I drove to Charleston to the airport on my way to visit my friend Colleen, I listened in little bits as I drove around town, I listened on my drive from the Charleston airport to Morgantown to visit my family, and I listened as I walked around the park.

If you are a frequent walker in Ritter Park and also happen to be reading this blog post, then everything probably makes sense in your life now. By that I mean, I react to what I read, and I just can't help it. I LOVE Persuasion, I've read it and watched it so many times, that I found myself talking back to the novel in the car as well as reacting to various scenes with my face as I walked in the park. I am absolutely sure I looked like a crazy person, especially on the day I happened to be in the park as Anne Elliot opened her letter from Captain Wentworth:

"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."

You guys. Seriously. How are you NOT going to react to that. I know what my face must have looked like in the park that day, multiple times, actually, as I swiped the status bar left a couple times to hear it again and again.

I mean, this letter has its own page on Facebook.

I can only say, if you have not read Persuasion, please do so. And when you're done, read Captain Wentworth's Diary because it's also wonderful. If you have read Persuasion, read it again. And again. And again.

"I have loved none but you."


When a Young Lady is to be a Heroine

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Last night I went to bed with a new library book I hadn't started yet and the desire to throw Northanger Abbey a bone.

By that I mean, I usually watch one of my Jane Austen novel adaptations as I'm going to bed at night, but Northanger Abbey (and Mansfield Park) make the rotation only rarely because, well, they're just not as good as the others. (Sorry Jane, still your number 1 fan.) I put Northanger in the DVD player, laid down, and placed my unopened novel beside me. I started watching the first few minutes of the movie, winding down from my day before I picked up my book.

Near the beginning of the film, I heard a line I didn't remember hearing before, and I really liked it. The line was "For when a young lady is to be a heroine, something must and will happen to throw adventure in her way."

Great, right?

Because I know that films -- even great adaptations -- often change the words of the original author, I decided to do some research to see what Austen really said. It turns out, Jane Austen really wrote these words in Northanger Abbey, "But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way."

I decided I liked that even better! It made my heart feel good for so many reasons. I found a little meme with it on there, and I saved it to a Pinterest board.

Smiling, I opened my new novel.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this on the first page:

I literally laughed out loud.

Apparently it was really, really important that I discover that quote yesterday. What are the odds? I've decided I'm a young lady who is to be a heroine!

Oh, and the name of the novel I started?

Jane Austen Ruined My Life

I can't make this stuff up.

A Year of Living Auntie Mame - Day 3

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Yesterday was a really sunny day, and I had done all for Snicks's health that I could before his doctor's appointment in the late afternoon, so I took my books, my sunscreen, and myself to the pool for a couple of hours.

On the drive there I was listening to music, thinking about the nice birthday I had had, the good wishes and gifts I had received, and the fact that I was just a really fortunate person to be driving to the pool with a book on a sunny day, knowing the people I know.

And then.

You knew that was coming, right?


My brain started talking back to me.

I don't know about you, but a lot of the time my brain starts talking back to me, and it often says very unkind things.

Yesterday, my brain told me I'd better not get used to feeling happy and positive because it never lasts, and I know it. "Just wait," my brain said. "Just wait till early September when you're overwhelmed with teaching and coaching and graduate school. We'll see how Auntie Mame you feel then. Or how about in December when it gets dark at 5 p.m. and you're cold and haven't seen the sun in days. Are you really going to feel like life is a banquet then?"

And then my brain laughed at me. My brain is really not a nice person at all.

This happens to me a lot. And often, I don't know what to say back to myself. My brain likes to scare me into not enjoying the moment for fear of how bad I'm inevitably going to feel at some yet-to-be-determined time in the future.

And I hate it.

Yet, I allow it to happen a lot.

Instead of just enjoying the sunny drive to the pool, I allow my brain to scare me into spending the drive waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.

But yesterday, I realized that Auntie Mame's whole schtick is living in the moment. Enjoying life as it is in that moment, and dealing with hard times as they come, instead of spending life in a perpetual state of preparing for the worst. Because that is exhausting.

So I'm committing to doing that this year. I will not spend my year worrying about when the next bad thing will happen or when I'm going to start feeling bad again. Instead, I will enjoy the moment I'm in, as much as I can, so when things do get tough, I'll have some strength and grace to draw from.

Join me.

Living Auntie Mame

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Today is my 32nd birthday, which is weird for so many reasons. What does 32 feel like? I don't actually know because I feel the same as I did yesterday. 32 sounds so old; in my head I think I'm still 17.

I like things like birthdays because I like feeling like there's a special day on the calendar where I can hit reset if I need to. And right now, I really need to. I need to regroup and gather myself, and there's no better day to start again than a birthday. If my birthday is the start of a yoga class, I really need to set my intention for the year, just like I would on my mat.

I was giving this some thought the other day, and I realized exactly what I want my intention for this year to be. And that is -- I want to be Auntie Mame. I've talked about my desire for this on my blog before, but it's time to take it from a fun wish to reality. But I realize that I need accountability in order to make that happen. Because it's really easy to talk about being fun and free spirited like Mame until you're getting unkind emails from students' parents or an issue with a student comes up and I'm stressed to the max.

One of the teachers I take class from (Valerie) frequently starts class with a thought from a book she reads called A Year of Living Your Yoga. That title mixed with my Auntie Mame desire in my mind and gave me the idea of blogging A Year of Living Auntie Mame.  In a lot of ways, I feel like this is the six month check up of my 2016 theme.

To tell you the truth, I really don't even know what this means exactly, but I think I'm going to figure it out along the way. I can tell you that today is off to a good start because of the people who know and love me.

Allow me to explain.

As previously mentioned today is my birthday. I was fortunate enough to receive some really nice gifts from some really great friends and family. But after I assembled them in one group, I realized ... I am already a quirky weirdo, which, I believe, is the first step to being truly eccentric like Mame. 

Please look at this haul:

Let's start in the top left.

This shirt was a gift from my friend Sarah. I feel like this requires no explanation, as Sarah knows my heart and, therefore, knows champagne is my love language. :) I think this is my new life motto. Auntie Mame-approved.

Next is this great glitter fish wallflower from Colleen. The closest sea animal to a shark that Bath and Body Works sells, and, you know, glitter.

The next is this flat iron that I've been needing to get for about a year. My parents got me this after my mom did a lot of research on which was the best one. Watch out world, I'm coming with my beach waves.

Next is the Alfred Hitchcock artwork. I am a Hitchcock fan from way back, and if you are, too, then you are already geeking out about how cool this is. I just sat here, mouth open, for like three whole minutes after I opened it. My only dilemma is -- home or classroom? I don't know where Erin got this, but -- wow.

Let me tell you all about these two middle gifts here. My sister Emma got me some sea salt hair spray (best. ever.) and the newest Monkees CD. If you don't know about my history with The Monkees, I will have to tell you about it some other time because I don't have the space to do it justice here. Suffice it to say I'm their biggest fan. I'm actually listening to this CD as I type right now. It's as good as I hoped. :) Here's why Emma's gifts are so great: Emma asked me what I wanted for my birthday. In so many words I said "sea salt hair spray and the newest Monkees CD." Bam. Delivered. There's something to be said for someone who literally gets you exactly what you asked for.

I'm going to group the last two items together because I feel like they were the last two pieces of the puzzle I was waiting for in order to completely lose myself in the world of Jane Austen (I could link some previous blog posts here, but I don't have that kind of time. There are too many). I was teetering on the ledge a bit, but I've fully fallen now. The first thing, in case you can't tell, is one of those old-fashioned was seal letter sealer things. Some months back, upon viewing Pride and Prejudice or Emma or whatever for the blue millionth time, I texted Erin and was like you know what would be cool to have? One of those wax seal letter sealer things. She was like yeah I guess that would be cool. WELL HERE IT IS. Who even knew you could get one? I mean PLEASE LOOK AT THIS:

Is this not the coolest thing  YOU HAVE EVER SEEN EVER?! If I know your address, be prepared to receive a lot of mail from me in the near future. As I was practicing using this for the first time, I truly thought that Mr. Knightley may come and ask me to take a turn about the garden with him.

The book Say It Like Miss Austen is a gift from the woman who's been my second mom my entire life, Patrice. I've spent years saying things about Jane Austen, and now I can just say them like Jane Austen! For example, it's unkind to call someone a moron, but what if I said, "What a picture of intellectual poverty!" instead? I mean, I'm still saying you're an idiot, but I sound so fancy doing it!

I truly think that this may be the most eclectic mix of gifts ever given. But I feel like I've done something right in my life if my friends and family thing of me as a champagne drinking, glitter loving, wavy hair sporting, Alfred Hitchcock- and Monkees-obsessed person who lives 50% of her life in the world of Jane Austen.

If that's not enough, please note that I am currently writing this sitting in a donut-with-a-bite-taken-out pool inner tube that's not inflated because I don't have enough air. (Final gift from Erin.)

Auntie Mame - Day 1. We're off to the races.

2016 Reading Challenge - June!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

If you know me at all, you know it is no secret that I love (LOVE) Jane Austen. She is my soul sister, my spirit animal -- whatever else the kids are saying nowadays.

In fact, I'm currently lost in Austen (again (again)), and the reason is because of my 2016 Reading Challenge June theme, which is "Book that was published this year."

What?! You are probably thinking. How in the world did Anna relate Jane Austen to a book that was published this year? I'll admit, I pretty much try and relate everything to my girl Jane, but this time, the work was done for me. For this month's read, I chose Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld.

Eligible is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Before I tell you how I felt about the book, I should go ahead and just put out there that I'll pretty much love anything that relates to Elizabeth and Darcy in any way, shape, or form, no matter how precarious the connection.

With that being said, I really liked Eligible! Beware -- this book is a modern retelling, which means there is some profanity, a reality show, and some hate sex all thrown in. Jane teaches yoga, Elizabeth works for a magazine, and the whole thing takes place in Cincinnati. If that's not enough to peak your interest, there's nothing more I can say!

After I read it, I found out that Eligible is part of The Austen Project. Naturally, I am needing to get ahold of the other books that are part of this project as well!

So, Eligible launched me back into Austenland (as if I ever left), and since I read it, I've also discovered and devoured Mr. Darcy's Diary, Mr. Knightley's Diary, and Captain Wentworth's Diary, as well as watched a Jane Austen film adaptation on the daily.

In fact, all I've really been doing this summer is reading, and it's been amazing. I could finish all the challenge themes this summer, but I won't because the whole point is to read the whole year through. I've had a lot of extra time to read lately since I sprained my ankle and possibly tore some ligaments in my foot, but that's a different story for a different day.

The point is -- if you are obsessed with Jane Austen like I am and aren't capable of living your daily life without an Austen-related book or movie involved (truly), then you'll love Eligible.


To read the other posts in the 2016 Reading Challenge series, see January, February, March, April, and May

We (Still) Have To Stop

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I was planning to write this week about my summer obsession with going to the library and all the good books I've read.

But, like everyone else in the world, I've been preoccupied with the recent shooting that happened in Orlando. I have seen hundreds of Facebook posts and read numerous articles like everyone else (This probably the most moving and saddest one. Sob.). I had a conversation with my sister Erin tonight where she educated me on some reasons why most serial killers and mass shooters are males. (Let me know if you'd like her insights, and I'll forward you the texts ... she studied/is studying psychology at university, and she explains things in a way that lay people (I) can understand.) We mostly just talked about how badly it hurts to see our world in the state it's in.

I don't claim to have the answers or the solution, but I do think that that serious mental health care is needed. Erin and I are always wondering about the shape our world would be in if everyone got a yearly mental health checkup like we get a yearly physical exam. It just hurts us to see other people hurting so badly because you do not go and shoot a bunch of people unless you are hurting.

I really don't like political debates or yelling at people on the Internet, so this post is not intended to make any kind of political statement. I just think we all need to start being more compassionate toward each other. I've enjoyed the stories I've read about Chick-Fil-A opening up on a Sunday to make food to give away, and people waiting hours in a line to donate blood. That's so uplifting. It also  made me wonder if we could prevent these types of things by bringing people pizza on a random Wednesday or waiting in line to help someone just because we woke up that morning, you know?

Erin and I basically just concluded that we have to stop. And the more we talked about it, the more familiar it sounded, until I realized that I wrote on that very same topic in November of 2014. To be completely honest with you, I could not remember what horrific incident occurred in November 2014 that would have caused me to write on that issue. :/ Isn't that tragic? These shootings are becoming so common that they're almost expected. A quick Google search reminded me that there was a shooting on the campus of Florida State University, and I'm ashamed to say I had forgotten that ever happened.

I decided to repost my post from November 2014, titled We Have To Stop, today. As I reread it for the first time in a while, it made me sad that we are still hurting each other, and nothing has changed.

We Have To Stop
originally published November 25, 2014

There is something that I've been thinking about that I think we all need to internalize, no matter our religion, our race, our nationality, our socio-economic status, our political party, or anything else about us. And it's this --

We have to stop shooting each other. That can't be okay.

We have to stop threatening each other with any kind of violence.

We have to stop abusing and forgetting about the elderly members of our families and our communities.

We have to stop killing babies before they have the chance to be born.

We have to stop taking drugs and selling them to members of our communities, especially kids.

We have to stop abusing animals and leaving them abandoned to die.

We have to stop abusing our children. Those innocent faces are solely dependent on love from adults to survive.

We have to stop forgetting that there are hungry members of our communities that need our help.

We have to stop neglecting the homeless. Look at their faces, because they are children of God, just like we are.

We have to stop putting ourselves first, and others later. It's YOU first, then me.

We have to stop ignoring that there are real problems in our communities and instead do everything we can to help.

We have to stop forgetting that everyone has a bad day, and even if someone speaks to us in anger it's our choice to respond in love.

We have to stop being afraid of people who are different from us.

We have to stop putting other people down to make a point or bring ourselves up. Single moms, stay-at-home moms, working moms -- aren't you all moms? Doctors who put down lawyers to make a point about student loans and the ability to bring money in during one's career -- is that necessary?

We have to stop making our children think they are little gods. Children have to have rules and boundaries, and it will serve them better to be brought up with loving instruction and discipline.

We have to stop doing everything on party lines -- Republicans hate poor people and don't care children are starving, just like Democrats want everyone to get a free handout. Is this helping?

Imagine if everyone woke up this morning determined to put others first, respond in love, and do something to help. Put down the guns, put down the fists, put down the hate.

Guys, we HAVE to STOP. We have to stop. WE HAVE TO STOP.

"This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another." - 1 John 3:11

"Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

2016 Reading Challenge - May!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gotta say, there's nothing like finishing one's work right under the wire. And that's where I am today!

It's May 31, the last day of May (duh), and I am just now blogging about my May book for the 2016 Reading Challenge. The funny thing is, I actually read this book close to the beginning of the month, but I'm just now writing about it. 

For May, I decided to read a book under the category "A book that intimidates you." The book I chose was Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. 

Glennon is very well known because she writes the blog Momastery. I have known about her blog for years, but I didn't start reading it seriously until a couple of months ago. I don't agree with everything Glennon has to say, but I do appreciate her mottos of We Belong to Each Other, Love Wins, and We Can Do Hard Things. 

Carry On, Warrior is a collection of essays written by Glennon. The reason why this book intimidated me is because Glennon is so honest, and I knew her book would make me think a lot about parts of myself and pieces of my history that I don't always like to face. 

Whether you read Momastery or not, I recommend Carry On, Warrior. It is a very honest book, and Glennon really talks about some things that makes you realize that no one is perfect, and we're all struggling. In fact, I just looked at her Pinterest board, and I found that she pinned a quote which reads, "I thought I was alone who suffered. I went on top of the house, and found every house on fire." Beautiful. Actually, it's brutiful, as Glennon would say, and which I've written about here

Here's a weird fact about me reading the book. I checked it out of the library, and when I picked it up, the book was in pristine condition. It was released in 2014, and my county only has one copy, and I really, really think that I might be the only person who's ever checked this book out of the Cabell County public library system. I can confidently say I've never been the first person to check out a library book, so that was super weird for me. 

I am really, truly looking forward to reading more this summer. Now that the students are gone (sob), and we're wrapping up our few days of organizing our classrooms, I plan to make a list of books to check out of the library and then get to it. I am really excited!

A Mountain I'm Willing To Die On: A Love Letter to My Graduating Students

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I am just ending my least favorite day of the whole year, eighth grade graduation day. Because they graduated tonight, they weren't at school today, so today was my first day at school without them.

And it was awful.

It was quiet, it was lonely. It was too calm, it was too peaceful. I hated it.

Let me first day that I do dearly love my sixth and seventh grade students, and my (thousands of) tears over the loss of my eighth grade does in no way mean I don't love my other students, too.

But today is about my eighth grade.

I've written about these kids many, many, many times before, and I won't rehash it all here. If you know me, you know how much I love them, and if you don't know me, then you're probably not reading this blog. Haha.

I stood outside my door this morning, knowing no one was coming to homeroom, but hoping maybe I'd woken up in some alternate reality and my babies would come down the hall like they have every other day for two years. Of course, they didn't.

So I sat at my desk, holding my coffee, staring out into the virtual wasteland that is a classroom without students. Without students, I am just a person in a room.

Luckily, I did have the sixth and seventh grades today, but I teach those grades in the morning, so starting at about 11:23 (um, actually, exactly 11:23), I was no longer someone's "eighth grade Language Arts teacher" but someone's "former eighth grade Language Arts teacher." SOB.

I lived through the day, then went home around 3:30, knowing I had to be back at school around 6:20 in order to prepare for Mass and graduation at 7. Before I left my house, I packed three tissues. I grossly underestimated the number of tissues I'd need.

I started tearing up when my kids started showing up. (That's a lie -- I started crying on the bus back from our class trip to D.C. and haven't really stopped.) Remember, I hadn't seen them today, so I was seeing them for the first time tonight. We took some pictures with our priest and principal, and then it was time to line up for the processional.

I teared up as my student read the first reading. As they read the petitions. As they took up the gifts. But I really started crying when my student who is the valedictorian read her speech. I had to introduce her, and I'm not really sure how I made it through, but I did. Of course, I continued crying through the reception, just looking at my kids, together for the last time. I cried as I talked to their parents, as I talked to them, as I just stood there by myself.

The thing is -- I cry so much because I will miss them SO MUCH. They have been my homeroom for two years. For two years those are the faces I've seen every morning I've gone to school. For two years I've asked them if they wanted lunch every day. For two years those are the faces who've told me their stories and needed me to bail them out of whatever bizarre fix they'd found themselves in. Today, no one needed my help.

My friend Summer, who also teaches at Fatima, told me tonight that if you do a good job, then they're ready to move on without you. And she's right. They were believed to be a tough class, and in some ways, they were. But it's much, much tougher to be without them. My favorite thing about them is that each one of them is a misfit, but where they fit is together. As I've said before, they are a ragtag group of weirdos, but if there's anyone I should be with, it's a ragtag group of weirdos.

I realized the other day that it's okay to cry and it's okay that my heart hurts so much. It hit me that my students are really all I have. I have no husband, no children. My students are my world. I live and die by what is happening with them on a daily basis. The weird thing about love is that if your heart is hurting so much it's because you loved much. And I really do love these kids much. I had a moment with my friend Jessica, the kindergarten teacher, yesterday, during the eighth grade's last minutes at school. I was taking the eighth grade downstairs, while Jess was taking the kindergarteners upstairs. I said something like, "Oh excuse us!" And Jess sweetly said, "It's okay! My babies are just coming through!" And I said, "So are mine."

Driving home tonight was the loneliest ride of my life, I think. I had said goodbye to my precious children, and I was going home to be all by myself, with no one to talk to or share my memories with. As I started my car, it hit me that only two things would help. The first: I hit the "CD" button on my car, remembering what I had most recently put in the player. As the first notes of Bohemian Rhapsody started, I turned it up LOUD and sang (and cried) it out on my way home. My babies love this song, and, weirdly, last year's class did, too. (Incidentally, I learned that I live about 1.5 Bohemian Rhapsodys away from Fatima, which is what I plan on telling people from now on when they ask how far I live from where I work. I live 1.5 Bohemian Rhapsodys far.) The second thing: I'll watch The Sound of Music tonight. It's the only thing that helps when I'm sad, happy, sadhappy, or whatever weird mix of emotions I can't put a name to, like tonight.

The thing is, I teach English, and I love words, but I don't have the words to convey what's in my heart about these kids. I could write and rewrite all day long, and it would never be enough. They come from all backgrounds, and each have struggles, some much harder than I can even imagine. I have no fantasies that they'll remember everything I taught them, but I hope they remember that I loved them fiercely, and I loved them fully. I didn't always do the perfect thing with them, but defending them was a mountain I was willing to die on.

Will be forever.

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