The Ones came to visit - Little went to a STEM camp and Smallest stayed at my house. I went all out with the spoiling - candy, ice cream, endless quarters for those claw machines, cartoons - but made one fatal error.
"I don't know," I replied. "I've never seen or experienced one but there are people who believe they have and I don't know enough to claim they're incorrect." Pleased with myself, I was astounded when she burst into tears, fleeing from the house as if the gates of Hell were inside.
Frustrated after 30 minutes of trying to reason with a 7 year old at the end of my driveway at dusk, I called my mom. Then Smallest's mom. Then I picked her up and carried her inside to go to bed, disgusted with both of us.
A mother, I am not. And while I mourned that bitterly once, I'm pretty cool with it now.
As a proud aunt though, I do OK. Little gave the best closing speech at her group's presentation and I beamed while taking video on my phone.
Mom and I also took them to Great Wolf Lodge and King's Island. It was difficult. And exhausting.
I started reading infertility blogs before moving to academic ones and starting my own. So as I watched a colleague struggle, I became increasingly certain she was going through something reproductive-y. So I gently nudged until she talked to me about it, holding her hand and grabbing Kleenex and trying to remember all I'd read about being supportive and not judgmental at all.
Utterly convinced I was put in her path for a reason, I returned home one day after having lunch with her.
"I'm going to Colorado," I told Mom. So I shared some of the story - how she'd lost twins recently, how devastated and guilty she felt, overwhelmed at work and unable to have her husband make the trip. "So I'm going to book a ticket and a room and just show up. Then if she needs someone, I'm there. If not, I'll hang out and do work from out west for a week."
My colleague - and friend - was thrilled and we spent an intense, yet somehow wonderful, week just focused on doing things that made us happy - always getting dessert, driving in the mountains, wandering the botanical gardens and marveling at the flowers. Spending time in prayer and exchanging little gifts to add light and love to the world that seemed too dark to bear at times.
"You saved me," she said when we met just before Christmas. I demurred, of course, because she saved herself, but I reminder her that Friend saved me during my post-doc. Being present and reminding me to be kind to myself, to seek help when I needed it, that there were amazing, wonderful, loving, supportive people out there and that maybe I could grow into someone who could be someone's angel for a little while someday.
So I was. And it was the best thing I did in 2015 - feeling God's close proximity, spending time in peaceful prayer and graceful support.
"My dad died 3 years ago today," I told her while we were having dinner one night, having forgotten until Mom reminded me when we talked on the phone. And it was her turn to clutch my hand and fetch tissues.
So - when I wasn't beating All The People at Soda Crush (!) - I started interviewing back where I started my career in Industry. And while I didn't get the first job I wanted, I did get the second one that I wanted even more!
It's my dream job, honestly - I have a team (my very own team!) and we do super-cool stuff and talk about interesting projects that can really make a difference and it will be wonderful!
Almost immediately after being hired, I returned to Europe for a visit. And while in past trips to Europe, I'd fantasized about bringing along a suitably sexy man, I took Mom! Which was odd and delightful - we really had a wonderful time.
Mom has really made a home with me - she has a walking group, takes water Zumba, knits with the ladies at church, goes and sees shows and talks with her new friends. I'm so proud of her - this wasn't what either of us wanted - we'd much rather have her with Dad back in the house where Brother now lives - but we're happy together.
"They wanted 40 volunteers and they only have 8," she told me one morning. And I sighed - working at a kids' Halloween party didn't really interest me, but by the time we wandered through the field to find our car afterward, my cheeks ached from smiling.
The challenge with the new job is that it keeps me away from Mom a lot more - I'm at the office more, doing more at home, just ramping up and being more mentally engaged. So when she asks me to do something, I suck it up and offer candy to strangers.
For as well as we did in August with the anniversary of Dad going to Heaven, my parents' anniversary and Daddy's birthday hit us hard. We were sad.
The snow thrower that Dad bought me, brought to me and taught me how to use didn't start after its summer rest. And I wanted to curl up and cuddle it - it's precious to me, even if it doesn't really fit in the garage anymore with both Mom and my cars.
So we went north - drove around, relaxed by the fire and hung out. I took calls at 11PM and 4AM, creeping downstairs and starting the fire before muting the phone before I yawned. Work is intense but rewarding.
"I want to go home," Mom said a day before we were due to leave. "Dad would leave early so we're leaving now." So we threw stuff in bags, got in the car, dismissed my sweetheart of a dog-sitter and headed home.
I'm settling in at work - wrote my performance review and am pleased with my progress and path forward. It's a good feeling.
I write this from a hotel room in Florida - we spent Christmas with the Ones at the family home where Brother now lives. Then we drove south - which Mom loves and I strongly dislike - and while we stopped each night, I managed to worsen my back spasms until I needed Many Pills here in Tarpon Springs (we bought sponges - they're awesome). So I'm a bit drugged and was missing all of you so I thought I'd pop in and wish you a very Happy New Year!
I do have an Instagram account - it's my real name since Little One
pressured me to get one so I could like her photos - but I do use that
more frequently if anyone's interested. I hope you're all very well and
enjoy a wonderful 2016.