My first foster failure

Two months ago, I overestimated myself.

Ian and I agreed to foster two neighborhood feral kittens until they were old enough to be spayed and neutered and adopted out, and I thought, “Oh sure, it’s too soon for us to get another cat so it won’t be a problem. I’ll find these siblings a nice home with some nice folks and everything will be fine.”

foster kittens

At first, we were only supposed to keep them for a week. Just to help out a neighbor who was overwhelmed with foster kittens. But then I went to Chicago for a week with Stella and Ian agreed to keep the kittens even longer.

That should’ve been my first clue.

Eventually they gained enough weight that they could be fixed, and then it was time to try to adopt them out. My neighbor and I brought them to a high-end pet supply store to talk to customers and hopefully find them homes with people who spend hundreds of dollars on pet food every month, and we found a man who wanted to bring home a kitten for his hyper dog to play with. I was skeptical, but the people who worked at the store knew him and said he was very good to his pets and would provide Rafi, the boy kitten, a great home.

I walked him out to his car with the kitten and wouldn’t let go of his car door. I gave him my phone number and pleaded with him to call me for any reason, and told him that he could bring the kitten back at any time—no questions asked.

That should’ve been my second clue.

I got home and cried all night, and Ian made me Moscow mules to drown my sadness. I knew it was a good thing that one of the kittens had gotten adopted out, but I felt in the back of my mind like I’d failed him somehow. I decided we were going to keep the girl kitten because I couldn’t bear going through that again. I wasn’t being rational.

That should’ve been my third clue.

But the next day the man called and said his dog had urinated in protest all over his house—twice—and he was bringing the kitten back. I was filled with relief.

That should’ve been the clue that smacked me in my delusional face.

Rafi and Stella

My neighbor asked if I wanted to hit the pet supply store again, but I declined. A friend/co-worker and his 16-year-old daughter were looking for a kitten, and he told me they’d adopt one. I knew they were good to their pets and would be good to the kitten, so I invited them to come visit me for the day and choose one.

I expected they’d pick the boy, since he’d previously been the more outgoing, friendly and not-scared-of-anything kitten, but while they were here Rafi hid almost the entire time. Instead it was Jane (who we’d nicknamed Scorpion Princess because of the way she folded her tail over her back when excited), historically skittish and unfriendly except with King Boo, who captured their attention. She played excitedly with my friend’s daughter and inspected their puppy (from afar) and showed no fear. It’s one of the few times I’ve actually seen an animal choose its owner. So while I knew I’d miss her, I knew she was going to the right place.

As soon as they left with her I cried, but then I saw King Boo grooming Rafi. And later, as the two of them wrestled and ran around the house, I realized I had gotten a kitten for my cat.

King Boo plays father-figure to Rafi

All of the guilt I’d felt with adopting them out was tied into how much King Boo loved having them around. We’d started calling him Papa Boo because of the way he’d supervise their play time, and then jump in to diffuse things and lick their fur back into place. The whole time we were fostering we joked that Jane was his girlfriend, but now that she’s gone he snuggles with Rafi just as much. They sleep together in the bed each night, they nap in my desk chair together every afternoon and they wrestle the shit out of each other at least five times a day.

Despite all of the attention he paid to me, I think I’d been trying to push Rafi away a bit because he was a male orange tabby and I didn’t want it to seem like I was trying to replace Gordo. But as the vet told me the other day when I took him in for shots and they knowingly chuckled at my first foster failure, you can never replace a pet. And not keeping Rafi because he is the same color as Gordo, even though he’d endeared himself to everyone in the family including Stella, wouldn’t be fair to him.

So here we are, a three-cat family again. I’m slightly annoyed with myself for thinking I could foster so easily, but then I see how happy King Boo is to have a cat friend again and I figure it’ll work out OK.

My world is always full of cats

It’s been almost two months since Gordo died. I’m still sad, but I think I’m done grieving in the every-minute-of-every-day sense. Little things around the house remind me of him all the time, but I’m able to smile at the memories now instead of feeling this immense sense of helpless loss. I still haven’t buried his remains, though. I need to do that before the beautiful tiger lily bulbs my friend brought me die, too.

We’re now fostering two seven-week-old orange tabby kittens at our house, which has been an interesting challenge. One of our neighbors runs a trap/neuter/release program in the neighborhood and ended up with six feral kittens that needed to be fostered and socialized, so we took two—and it seemed fitting to help out the orange ones. There’s a male and a female, even though only about 25 percent of all orange tabbies are females.

A little mid-day nap is always a good idea.

They were fairly wild when we first got them a week and a half ago, but now they’re definitely domesticated. King Boo has made friends with the little girl—he grooms her and plays with her and it’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. Stella loves them both, of course, but is partial to the little boy because he’s not afraid of her and lets her groom him. They both eat Stella’s food and Stella will eat theirs if I don’t watch her. She’s got this thing for wet cat food that I don’t understand, but that dog will do anything for just a spoonful.

Well these two became BFFs pretty quickly.

BK, of course, gives zero shits about the kittens. She’s allowing them to exist in her presence, and that’s all we can ask of her.

Our house has been a bit of a zoo lately, but it’s been fun. In a way it feels cathartic to foster these kittens. I can’t keep them for various reasons, but it’s nice to be able to help the little guys out for a while. And the fact that they resemble Gordo makes it a little bit more meaningful.

Maybe I’m reaching there, but it’s helping.

Day three

I’m not sure how long you’re supposed to grieve for a pet, but right now I feel like my grief is never going to end. I went out with friends last night and had a good time and I thought oh cool, maybe I’m feeling OK now. But then I woke up this morning and as soon as Ian and Stella left I started crying and I really haven’t stopped.

sunday snugglesI know, deep down, that it was the right thing to do. The right time. Gordo hadn’t eaten any food since at least Thursday, and he would barely eat the few cat treats I set in front of him Friday and Saturday. Sunday afternoon he laid with me on the couch for a bit, but I could tell he wasn’t very comfortable. That night I put him up in the bed and instead of curling up with me he just kind of sat there. I woke up later and he was gone, but then I woke up again and he’d gotten back up there and was laying next to me, but still not cuddling like he usually did. Monday morning, it became obvious it was time.

He could barely walk a few steps without falling over sideways. He still pawed at the shower glass to get in like he’d been doing for the past couple weeks, and he still drank some water from the tiles once he got in, but then he stayed in there for a while just sitting there. When he came out of the bathroom later that morning I put him on his heating pad, but I could tell things weren’t right. I spent the morning and early afternoon with him, and then we went to our 1:30 p.m. vet appointment and the vet agreed that it was time to let him go.

So we did.

And then we left the vet’s office with an empty cat carrier and came home to a house that now only has two cats. I saw a napkin on the table and realized that I didn’t have to worry about it getting shredded. I unwrapped a tampon and for the first time in years didn’t have that mouthy orange cat come running, meowing because he loves crinkly paper. I saw the Slanket I’d left on the couch and realized I won’t have to put it up anymore so it won’t get peed on. Amazon delivered a box of puppy training pads that afternoon, which I’d been using since Gordo hadn’t been able to get into the litter box for a few weeks. I saw the handful of medications I’d been putting in his food still sitting on the counter. They’re still sitting there.

I can’t bring myself to wash the blankets on the couch because his fur is still on them.

The last two nights I’ve gotten into bed and caught myself waiting for him to climb up on the small step-stool and then to the ottoman, both set up a year or so ago as makeshift stairs to help him climb up to the bed. I don’t know how long I’ll keep waking up and immediately feeling lonely because he’s not curled up with me.

I spent so much energy preparing for the actual end—knowing when it was time and would I make the decision or would I come home to find him already gone?—that I don’t think I fully considered what it would feel like without him here. One of my friends mentioned the “horrible dark feeling” of the loss and that’s exactly what it is. He was a part of my daily life for 16 years and now he’s gone and his absence is so, so loud.

The end.

this is how we sleptWe look for meaning in death, and it’s easy to understand why. It never feels like we’ve had enough time, so we look for signs to make peace with the end. Signs that it’s the right time, if we’re the ones making the decision. Signs that it was meant to be, if we’re not.

But the truth is that we never really do have enough time, and I don’t think there’s a way to feel confident that it’s perfect timing when a decision needs to be made (or it’s made for you). You just do your best with what you’ve got.

Gordo was my companion for 16 years. I was 19 when I got him—a lifetime ago. He was with me through changing jobs, boyfriends, homes. He licked Ian when we started dating and that meant we were going to get married. He comforted me when I was sad, and made biscuits on my shoelaces before I’d leave the house. Every night he got in the bed and requested I turn on my right side so he could curl up under my chin, my arm wrapped around him so he could fit his head in the palm of my hand. I used to not be able to sleep unless he was there.

Gordo was my friend. And now he’s gone.

What feels like spring

Birds chirping. Sun shining. Grass growing. Wind blowing.

Barenaked Ladies on repeat. The old stuff, though, starting with Gordon.

Thinking about packing up the space heater. Dreaming of working from patios, or without pants in the house.

Cats finding sunshine and not moving for hours. The dog gets in on this game now, too.

Walks in the morning and the evening. Waving to neighbors. Emails about crime ramping up again, as it does when the weather gets warm, and struggling with leaving the house because of it for a while.

The smell of leaving windows open all day. Hiking without jackets. Wishing I could find a field like that one at MTSU all those years ago, when I left the Mass Comm building after changing my major, and I felt completely content except for being alone.

Because now I’m not, and having someone to walk through fields with—metaphorically or no—makes every season’s change so much more welcome.

We’re getting there

Happy dogStella is the first dog I’ve ever had, so I’m not sure if she’s more or less protective than most. But she is a great watch-dog. I feel safer when she’s in the house with me, especially at night. She does this thing where she’s sitting on the floor by the couch with us and she thinks she hears something, but instead of a full-on bark she kind of puffs. Like “buff, buff!” It starts out strong but gets quieter, until she’s sure the danger has passed.

She’s getting good at recognizing Ian’s car and footsteps, and she rarely barks anymore when he comes home at night unless his arrival wakes her up from a nap.

I’ve been working on training her to walk on a loose leash, with varying degrees of success. She still pulls, but I’ve found that tying a half-hitch around her waist just above her legs—so that when she pulls it puts some pressure there—helps tone it down some. Wednesday night it snowed, though, and all bets were off. She wanted to plow her way through untouched snow all over the neighborhood yesterday morning, and who was I to stop her? I wanted to do the same thing.

UntitledIt’s funny how having a dog suddenly makes all outdoors adventures much more fun. I loved hiking before, but now that we have Stella it’s all I want to do on the weekends. And I’d never dream of going without her. Last year we got about the same amount of snow (8 inches) and we were all “Let’s throw the cats outside for a few minutes. Ok, back inside!” But this year? I woke up Thursday morning and the first thing I did was take Stella outside so we could explore our neighborhood covered in a puffy white blanket. Ian ran around in the backyard with her. The cats were still unimpressed.

Having a dog is still challenging at times, especially when all I want to do is lay around or play a video game and she wants me to watch her sit outside and eat sticks. Or let her inside, and then outside, and then inside again. And then outside. But for the most part, we’re past the “developing routines” stage and into a good rhythm. We’re at the beginning of the fun part, I think. Somewhere among house-breaking and obedience classes and hikes and bar-hopping I acquired this little sidekick, and I rarely want to go anywhere without her now.

Rattling around

I’ve got all this stuff rolling around in my head lately, but I can’t quite make sense of it. I can’t even see what it is, really. I feel like there’s this part of my mind that’s obscured, like I can only get a glimpse if I don’t look directly at it. I know it wants to find a way out of here, though, because I’ve been remembering my dreams lately. That generally happens only when my mind is full and can’t handle all the weird shit it produces on its own without some sort of intervention from my mouth or fingers to get it all out.

I always think I’m a great compartmentalizer until I start remembering my dreams. Then everything runs together and I realize that compartmentalization, for the most part, is bullshit. Everything is intertwined.

Anyway, I’m not really at the point in my dreams where I can tell what’s going on upstairs yet, but the dreams are coming fast and plentifully. I really need to keep a journal by my bed so that I can write down anything I remember as soon as I wake up. It all fades so quickly—I had an entire dream on the tip of my tongue this morning but as soon as I started recounting it, it escaped me. I could actually hear myself forgetting it as I spoke, and now all I remember is that I’d found a journal belonging to Carole King and unlocked the secret of who she wrote all of her sad songs about. The name was unfamiliar to me, but I don’t remember it now. I guess it doesn’t matter.

Maybe the dream was telling me that I need to get better about writing down my thoughts. Or maybe it was hinting that I shouldn’t write my thoughts down because one day someone unessential to my life will find them and share in my secrets undeservedly and then forget them, as though they don’t matter.

Maybe it was my subconscious telling me to write down my dreams.

How meta.

Making the most of the time we have left

Gordo is dying. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with him—he’s been poked and prodded and had enough blood drawn to make the Red Cross vampires jealous, but all of his blood work has come back normal. He’s in great health for a 15-year-old cat, the vet says. But he’s lost several pounds in the last few years, and two of those pounds were lost in the last three months.

In November he had some digestive issues, so I took him to see the vet (who is a wonderful cat-only vet that we love). She noticed that his thyroid could be felt through his throat and suggested some routine bloodwork. That all came back fine, and after a couple days on some medicine his issues cleared up and he seemed back to normal, though still thin.

Then the Sunday before Christmas, he had a seizure. We caught the whole thing on video, weirdly enough, because at the time it happened Ian and I were in the living room setting up our new Dropcam. We weren’t sure exactly what happened until we went back and watched the clip, and being able to save a clip of the episode and show the vet helped her diagnose the seizure.

But man, it was scary. We were futzing with the Dropcam when Gordo came running into the living room with a piece of paper in his mouth (he’s obsessed with crinkly paper), and Stella came in after him. He turned and swatted at her like he always does, and she reached up and popped him on the top of the head (she flails her paws when she thinks the cats want to play, though she usually doesn’t make contact). He hissed and walked away from her, and then circled around to the side of the coffee table to hop up on it. But his hind legs wouldn’t let him jump. He walked in a little circle near the couch and then fell down, his hind legs twitching but unable to support him.

We heard him meow and that’s when I noticed he was laying down on the ground, drooling, dazed and unable to move. My first thought was that Stella had done something to him (not on purpose, but she is larger than him) so I hollered for Ian to get her out of the room. I touched his back toes, and when he made no reaction I got really scared. He absolutely hates his feet being touched, so this was a bad sign. I petted his head for a while, sure that this was the end.

He stared straight ahead for what seemed like 10 minutes but was probably only 45 seconds, and then all of a sudden he snapped out of it. He looked up at me, confused but alert, and then slowly stood up. He limped around for a few seconds, and I decided to see if he would eat some treats (my idea of how sick my cats are always hinges on whether they will eat or drink readily). He did—in fact, he ate them like he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Then he limped around a bit more, but after about an hour he was back to normal. He jumped up on the table and then to the couch and laid on my lap, purring and content once again.

At the vet’s office the following Tuesday, she reviewed the clip I’d brought and determined that the way his body acted physically, combined with him seeming dazed and then snapping out of it, plus being ravenous after the whole ordeal, indicated that he’d had a seizure. But since it was only a one-time thing, she didn’t want to treat him with anti-seizure medication. She drew blood to do a full thyroid panel, which then came back negative again, and she noted we might not ever know what caused the seizure.

I asked her if the dog popping him on the head could have caused it, but she and her staff doubted it. For one, Stella would have had to hit him really hard to cause any kind of event, and she just tapped him. Our vet said if we wanted to really try to attribute it to the dog, maybe his adrenaline was going because she was near him and he doesn’t like her, and then when he had trouble jumping that increased his adrenaline again and he just got kind of overloaded. So I’m thankful that she doesn’t think Stella was the cause, at least not directly.

Ugh, and my heart broke watching the clip from the Dropcam. As soon as Gordo fell down, Stella knew something was wrong. The other cats ran away, but not Stella. Before he even started crying out, Stella ran to him and sniffed his back legs, and when he meowed she immediately looked up to Ian, who was standing near them but not aware of the situation unfolding yet. And then our first instinct was to move her away from him, even though she was the first responder, so to speak. That cat punches Stella in the face every chance he gets, and she still loves him.

Anyway, there isn’t really anything we can do for Gordo. He’s taking a glucosamine supplement because he’s old and has been acting a bit stiff lately anyway, and I’m feeding him wet food once or twice a day to help keep his weight up (which BK is loving since she gets in on this as well). We woke up New Year’s Day and found he had vomit on his ear, which could indicate he’d had another seizure overnight, but who knows. I stopped by the vet’s office and she said she wants proof of another seizure before treating him, and I completely agree.

People have been telling me for a while to start preparing myself emotionally for his death, and I don’t think I was ready to do that until he had the seizure. But now I’m ready. I’m done poking and prodding him—my goal now is to make sure he is happy and comfortable. So he’s going to get all the wet food he can eat, plus some sips of beer (his old favorite) and bites of pizza crusts (his new favorite).

I’ve known this cat for 15 years and can read him better than I can most people. He doesn’t do anything he doesn’t want to do, and when he’s ready to die he’ll die. My hope is that I won’t have to help him. For now, though, he’s still got some spark left. He’s still running around after balls of paper, having Wrestlemania with King Boo, and he’s still snuggling under my chin every night when I go to sleep.

Cats are funny in that they can be so attached to people yet still so independent and in tune with nature and their instincts. It’s like they straddle this line of a certain existence, as though they live in a sort of purgatory—caught between their true nature and the nature of humans. In the end, though, nature claims all of us, regardless of who or what we are. And we can’t fight that, no matter how hard we try.

2014 in review: What a great year

This was a year of big changes, but they were positive and exciting ones. We had a big 2013, too, with moving to Chattanooga and learning our way around a new city in the latter half of the year, and for the most part 2014 still felt very exploratory and adventurous.

But it also felt like we’re getting settled here. We’re making friends and getting invited to parties, we’ve got our favorite bars and restaurants pretty much hammered out, and we have a home that we hope to stay in for many years to come. We’ve gotten most of our things unpacked and we’re finally getting around to hanging things on the wall. I drive to Nashville every month for work, but my heart doesn’t feel weird when I drive through Murfreesboro anymore. 2014 was a year of starting to really feel at home in this city.


Blue House snow

We started the year out by closing on and moving into our cute little house in January, and then we got snowed in—twice (though the big one was in February). It was a pain to move twice in one year, but we love our house and where we’re located and don’t plan on having to move for a very, very long time. I write love letters to this house in my head all the time, which I think comes from years of waffling on whether to buy a house in Nashville and really learning what we wanted and didn’t want. So, hooray for being patient and getting it right.


Not too shabby for a first-timer, if I do say so myself.

March marks the first time I ever shot a gun. My in-laws took me to a gun range and taught me how to hold one, how to stand, and how to shoot. For most people this sounds simple and silly, but I grew up in a place where only bad people (and cops) had guns and have always had kind of a phobia of them. I decided that 2014 would be the year I got over that, and had a great first experience shooting in a totally empty range where I didn’t have to worry about noise around me or what a n00b I looked like.


It's been a fun morning. Bringing this girl back from Atlanta now.

April brought what was arguably a bigger change than buying a house—we adopted Stella! At six months old she was still very much a puppy, and the cats had no idea what to do about her. And, quite honestly, neither did we. She wore us out every day and we quickly realized we had to get her into obedience classes since we’d never trained a dog before.

But man, what a welcome addition she’s been to our family. She is the friendliest, funniest dog I’ve ever met. And she’s so good with the cats. Sure, she gets amped up sometimes and will try to chase or play with them, but King Boo keeps her in check and for the most part she’s very respectful of them. Gordo will seek her out just to punch her in the face and she just walks away like nothing happened.

We’ve been taking her to day camp once a week, and she’s become the star camper due to her sparkling personality and the way she can get even the shyest of wallflowers to come out of their shells and play. She runs all the dogs ragged, comes home covered in spit and dirt and collapses on the couch, happy as a clam. It’s the best $20 I spend every week.

I do still look forward to the days when she’s a bit calmer and I can sit in front of the TV for more than 15 minutes without having to get up to let her outside or back inside (or back outside again), but I’m trying to enjoy her puppy energy as much as I can. She certainly made me more active this year; she will never say no to a walk or a hike, no matter the weather outside.


Today was gorgeous

In May my mom and I visited Ireland, a trip we’d talked about taking for years. I kept meaning to blog about it after I got back, but I never could put into words how special it was for me. Not just getting to spend time with my mom, who I don’t get to see often enough, but being in a country our ancestors came from and seeing so much beautiful history preserved. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I definitely need to get back there to explore other parts of the country we didn’t make it to.


Look whose backpack came in the mail today

In June I finally bought a new camera—a Canon 70d—although I’m still working out how to use it and I’m not sure I’m actually happy with it. I probably should have kept saving for a few years and just made the jump into full-frame photography, so we’ll see if I keep this sucker around for as long as I did the last one.

We also bought Stella a backback in June and started taking her on hikes just about every weekend in the summer and fall. She gets so excited when she sees that thing, though at this point she’s gained some more weight and we’re going to need to buy her a new pack pretty soon.

June also marked the time when King Boo stopped kicking Stella’s ass every day and started laying next to her on the floor. It was the beginning of their friendship—which is ever-evolving and at times still volatile, but is a constant source of amusement around the house.


#100happydays Más béisbol

July was filled with fireworks (and learning Stella isn’t afraid of them but isn’t exactly a fan, either) and baseball—a very American month, I suppose. We had tickets to seven Lookouts baseball games last season and packed them all in during July and August.


5th Ave Apple Store. So cool. #100happydays

In August I visited New York City for the first time ever—alone. I was going for work but went up a few days early to explore the city. I lucked out and got perfect weather, so I traipsed all over the city looking for food and landmarks and I was not disappointed.


Twenty one pilots from afar #musicmidtown

In September Ian and I cheered on two of our friends who ran the Iron Man, and really enjoyed spectating a ridiculously difficult sporting/fitness event while drinking beer on the street outside.

The month also held our third visit to Music Midtown. Unfortunately they changed the lineup this year so that it featured newer, poppier acts instead of the 90s/rock vibe the festival has had in the past, and I think it will have been our last time at this festival—at least for a while.


La Perla

October was a great month. We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary with a trip to Puerto Rico, and I swear I find myself at least once a week wishing we were back there. After my friend and her husband helped me figure out how to get Internet on my phone (thanks for nothing, Verizon!), the trip was so relaxing. Ian and I travel so well together, and we don’t ever really need a schedule or plan to have a good time. We stumbled into so many great restaurants and bars there, and had a great time just chilling on the beach with some beers (even though the sea stole my sunglasses, that sonofabitch). Ian and I are coming up on 11 years together (holy crap), and I know I am lucky that I get to spend most of my time with someone so perfectly suited for me and my weirdness. He’s really my favorite person in the world.


Getting ready to hit the trail

November was kind of scary because Gordo got sick, and at the vet we realized he’d lost quite a bit of weight. Although he’s been losing it steadily over the past few years, it seems to be a more rapid loss lately and we’re really having to keep an eye on him.

But November was also a lot of fun—Ian and I continued to explore Chattanooga’s hiking trails and bars, and we hung out with new friends and old. My sister Emily came to visit, too, and we took advantage of the sunny (but cold) weather and did a photoshoot down by the river and took Stella for a hike.


These cookies look much better with striped kisses.

And here we are in December. We started out the month at a cabin in Gatlinburg, and though it rained it was a much-needed getaway. I baked a lot of Christmas cookies, and we were back in Murfreesboro and Mt. Juliet to celebrate Christmas with family.

Looking back on the year, it was a really, really good one. I traveled a lot, but we also had lots of friends and family come and stay with us for several weekends. It was a good mix of being at home with the family and getting out and exploring our city—and the world. Even though I know we worked hard for what we have, I feel really lucky to have had the opportunities that I did, the job that I do, and to be surrounded by the people that are in my life.

2015, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

How is it almost Christmas?

Somehow fall morphed into winter and now it’s mid-December and I’m scrambling to finish my Christmas shopping. Ian and I spent the past weekend in Gatlinburg at a cabin we’d also stayed in a couple years ago. I won a free weekend there because the owner liked the review I left so much, but we’d been waiting to cash in the trip. Even though it rained all day Saturday, the trip came at the perfect time. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed out and the weeks approaching the holidays always get me a little down, so it was a relief to just chill out—sans dog—in the woods for a couple days.

(I know those of you with kids are laughing at me right now.)

Gatlinburg was all gussied up for Christmas, and I guess that inspired me a bit because Monday night Ian and I went to Big Lots and bought an assload of lights to decorate the outside of our house with. Of course, the excitement was fleeting and overruled by laziness, and we still haven’t put them up. Mainly because it’s dark after work and we don’t feel like futzing around in the front yard in the dark and cold after working all day. As much as I keep telling myself I’ll work on putting them up at lunch the next day, I have a feeling they’ll end up going into the attic until next year when I don’t wait until right before Christmas to decide to decorate.

But I did decorate the inside of the house some. Our cats are psychos so we can’t have a tree, but each year I decorate our biggest bookshelf with those big colorful lights and a window in our living room with a strand of the small white ones. I also threw a strand of white lights under the TV this year and hung my little star lights under the kitchen cabinets.

I don’t really know how to describe the feeling I always get around Christmas—it’s kind of like feeling bummed out, but with nostalgia and gratitude mixed in. Having strands of lights and a candle that smells like a pine tree always helps, though. And this is our first Christmas in our new house, which is exciting and seems to be cutting down on some of my usual holiday blues. We’ll have lived here a year at the end of January, and I still sometimes get goosebumps when I pull in the driveway after being gone. I know it’s not great to be so attached to a material possession, but this is our house, where we’re continuing to build our little family and make memories, and I really love it.