Little Heart Stealers

These are the things I remember and love about my pet rats who have passed away:

Bob was a skulker, always lurking around the edges of the room and under the corners of the bed.  He always had a bit of a head tilt, and it gave him a comical, inquisitive look.  He was a strong rat, the first rat, he cowered in a lonely little corner of the cage for the first few nights alone until I brought home Merv.  That was an instant rattie friendship.

Mervy Rat was the sweetheart rat, a snifflebug, a dark brown darling of a pet.  He was small and fast and he loved to be cuddled.  He sneezed a lot and I called him Sneezles Rat because of it.  Merv was the ambassador: everyone loved him once they saw his sweet little brown eyes and how happy he was when you gave him a treat.  He made you understand that rats are just soft, cuddly, sweet pancakes sometimes. He had the biggest heart too. When I brought Willie Rat home, Bob tried to bully him, but Mervy literally stood in between them and protected Willie.

William Rat was the only albino I had.  His eyesight was pretty poor but he made up for it in intelligence and energy.  He was the escape rat, the one who squeezed right through the bars of the cage late one night and scampered under the bed.  He lived the longest of all my rats.

Freddy Rat was so handsome.  He was a hooded rat, which means he had a dark hood over his face and a white body.  Freddy was so tiny when we first got him, and then I fattened him up to a plump and roly-poly chunkster.  He was pretty lazy, Freddy was.  He didn’t scamper around as much, he preferred to curl up in a nook and watch his brothers bounce around the room.  He loved grapes, blueberries, and strawberries.  Really, he just loved food in general.

Charles and Fred

Fred on top, Charlie on the bottom.

Charlie Rat just passed away, and that’s what prompted this post.  I had to make the decision to put him down on Wednesday, and it killed me inside.  Charles was the cuddliest, snuggliest rattie I ever owned.  Everyone knows I love to read, and one of my favorite things to do was to take Charlie and Henry out of the cage and let them run around while I laid on my bed and read books.  Charlie would do a little sniffing around the room and then jump up on the bed and curl up on my shoulder.  He would groom himself or just lie quietly there while I read my books and occasionally rubbed his ears.  He was not a handsome rat, looking more like the sewer type, but his heart was all in his eyes when he looked at me.  Mervy let anyone pet him, he was a sweet little attention hog.  Charlie was my rat.  He loved me so much.  Maybe it was because I rescued him from a stupid pet store where they kept him in a terrible aquarium cage.  I’ll never forget the look of gratitude in his eyes when I picked him up from that cage and took him with me.  When I brought him home and let him run around my room for the first few times, he was weak and couldn’t jump very high at all.  Rats are great jumpers, like cats, but he had been cooped up in a tiny little cage for so long, his leg muscles were poorly developed.  But after enough of a good diet and steady love and time in my room to stretch his legs, he caught up to the other rats.  He had a poor first few months of life, my Charlie bear did, and then I brought him home and he lived the best life a rattie could want.  When I held him at the vet’s office on Wednesday, after they gave him the shot, I rubbed his ears and he looked up at me and bruxed one last time for me.  I think he did it to give me one last piece of his heart.

I love you, Charlie.  I miss you every day.

I miss all my ratties.

Fredster tedster

Handsome Fred

william

Willie snacks

Mervy

My Mervy

the little trio!

William, white-bellied Merv, and Bob: the original 3!

bobberton

Bob is silly

Bobbers

Bobbers

 

Hey Happy Birthday

Remember that time when I, in a move of unparalleled prescience, stated that I had the best friends in the entire world?  (Channing is rolling her eyes SOHARD right now at ‘prescience’, I can see it.)  Well, less than six hours after I made that statement here on my blog, my friends proved me right.

They threw me a surprise birthday party!!!!  I love birthdays, and parties, and people gathering to eat and drink and compliment me, so this was basically the best thing they could’ve done.  29 was a birthday I was not looking forward to celebrating, and now when I look back, I’ll have this touching, sweet, kind memory of how they all came together to be there for me.

Poor Channing.  Girl deserves a medal after putting up with my attempts to plan my own party.  In my defense, I am a planning type of person!  And even though she told me repeatedly to let her handle inviting people and etc., I didn’t want to make her do all the work for what I assumed was a simple birthday dinner.  I’m sorry, Channing!!!! *humble apologies, so many humble apologies*

My roommates get a medal too, while we’re handing them out, for keeping my always-early personality a few minutes behind.  As we came into the casino, we were about 10 minutes late and I was power-walking, and Jill and Erica had to slow me down so everyone could get into place.  When I walked in, the first people I saw were my brother and sister, and I had a split second of total confusion before everyone yelled surprise.  I couldn’t stop smiling all night long. And I led everyone in grace before the meal!

I think the reason this party touched me so much is because people took time out of their busy schedules to come and be there for me.  We’re all busy, and we all don’t have a lot of extra money, and we’ve all got so many different things going on in our lives, and my friends came, and brought me presents, and cake, and made me feel so loved and special.  Thanks, guys.  I love you all!

Here’s a few pictures from the party:

birthday    birthday4 birthday5birthday6 birthday3

 

29

I was going to write a blog post about turning twenty-nine today.  About becoming a stronger, tougher person over the last year, and how proud I am to know that I am not weak, not a coward… about how much it hurt to have my first birthday since age 22 that I didn’t wake up to a 12:01 AM happy birthday/inside joke/sweet nickname text from Danny and how much it frustrates and, yes, embarrasses me that it still (STILL) hurts me…  I might still write that post. I’m not sure. It depends on how much I need to just write the emotions out of me.

But for now, this is what I want to say, and it’s important, so pay attention: I’ve got the best friends in the entire world. I have sought and found the truth in faith, hope, and love. I’ve seen the sun rise over exotic shores and strange lands; I have realized my home is where my heart is.  I’ve cried tears of joy at weddings and sobbed my guts out at a funeral.

I have learned that you can desire something with your heart and soul and the very weight of your bones and still lose it, and when you do, the loss of it will not kill you.

I’ve felt that peculiar ache that comes from yearning: I’ve felt it when I was outside in bitter cold winter air and heard the wild cries of Canadian geese flying far away above me, felt it when I rocked babies to sleep and wouldn’t put them down even though my arms were shaking, felt it in the living silence of Eucharistic Adoration as I knelt in the dim light before my God.  I’ve dreamed too small, drank too much, written midnight poetry, called my mom crying over boys, held my girlfriends as they cried, made dinner for the homeless, talked desperate people off terrible ledges, given money to gas-station strangers and car rides to meth addicts.  I’ve looked for the beauty in commonplace scenes and discovered it in human souls.  I’ve got hockey, hipster glasses, and a future in books and beautiful words.

Listen: I’m 29.  I’m eating a slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese icing for lunch.  And I’m not going to gain an ounce from it.

Root Vegetables For The Win

Lately my mind has been full of inane thoughts.  My blog has been full of angst, frustration, tears, and too many parentheses.  Let’s change (most of) these things.

My visit to Michigan was wonderful.  I know I have mentioned this on my blog before but it bears repeating: I love my family and I am so grateful to have them.  This trip was exactly what I needed, despite the 24 hour stomach bug hitting Lucy, Jul, and Daniel while I was there.  I just hung out at their lovely new house, played with the kids every single hour of every day, and refreshed my soul with the wealth of love and hope they have.  (Digression: I am waxing poetical today because I watched Jeopardy last night, and one of the categories was Poets & Poetry.  Would you believe none of those three female contestants could complete Whittier’s famous couplet: “Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: it might have been”.  They clearly did not read Anne of Green Gables eight hundred times like me.)  Veronica brought over her laptop and we did finish the Newsroom.  (Awww, Charlie!!!!! *sob* I threw a pillow at Veronica for not warning me.)  Cathy, Matthew, and I went ice-skating and then to a lovely local Mexican restaurant.  Ice-skating always makes me feel better about life, and when followed up by a hissingly-hot platter of caramelized onions, peppers, tomatoes, and beef, wrapped in warm tortillas with oodles of sour cream and ‘guac’… Life was very good in that moment.  Thank you, Matthew and Catherine.

We were at Sunday Mass and Father Steve was giving a really good homily, talking about doing the will of God, and he said “and we say yes” and Lucy piped up in her little-girl voice: “No! We say no!!” and Veronica and I died laughing silently in the pew.

On the drive out, I scored a free coffee by complimenting the Ohio-turnpike-EZon/off-Dunkin-guy on the Pittsburgh Penguins pin on his shirt.  So, go me and my big blue eyes and hockey knowledge.  It was a Large coffee too!

On Tuesday, we visited baby Cecilia’s resting place, and said prayers for her and sang Away In A Manger (Leo’s choice) to her.  It was the best way to end my trip, remembering all the love and sorrow and faith we’ve experienced as a family.

WP_20150126_17_40_26_Pro WP_20150127_09_37_18_Pro WP_20150127_09_37_33_Pro WP_20150124_08_38_47_Pro WP_20150125_09_34_52_Pro

Non-Michigan related thoughts:

Am I the only person in the world who loves group texts?  Do I have a problem because I love group texts?  Am I overly social?  Do I talk too much?  I think I like group texts because I love words and typing and funny retorts and friendship.  You’re all silly for not loving group texts.

You know what’s a fun challenge on a boring Monday morning?  Driving to work in the snow.  I love it, and I am not being sarcastic.  I really enjoy winter and my ability to maneuver my Corolla around the unplowed hilly roads of NEPA.

Last night I went to Arena with Jill, Erica, and Kelsi, and I got a really good burger.  It was their California Spicy Pickle burger (said name made me giggle like a child when I ordered it) and it was delicious.  Sometimes I forget how tasty a really good, hot, juicy burger is.  And the onions were raw, which was a nice change from my normal method of ordering caramelized-onion-anything.  Seriously, let’s talk for a moment about the humble onion and how incredibly good it is in all its capacities.  Who doesn’t enjoy being all “yeah I’m going to caramelize these onions and then throw some mushrooms and peppers and deliciousness in there”?  Caramelize is just one of those pretty cooking words; it automatically makes me happy for whatever I’m about to eat (see my rhapsodic thoughts about the fajitas in the first paragraph).

Root vegetables for the win.

Last Night I Dreamed

Last night I dreamed I walked into Sunday morning Mass and Danny was sitting in my family’s regular pew. It wasn’t blurry or fragmented like almost all of my dreams are, it was crystal-clear and lucid as a waking thought. I was surprised to see him, but I slid into the pew and he smiled down at me as he took my hand. He had his hair, it wasn’t buzzed as it had been for the last three years we dated. And when he took my hand, I felt it. I’ve never had a great sensory memory; it’s been almost a year since we broke up and very often now I can’t remember the sound of his voice, the inflections he’d give certain words, or the feel of his arms around me. They’re fleeting, those touches, and have faded over time like a worn and weary watermark.  I’m almost always grateful for that. But this dream was so clear, and vividly in color. He held my hand without looking at me, and it was his hand, the feel of it was exactly as it had been for six and a half years, clasped within my own. I leaned over in the pew and whispered to him, “I haven’t been a whole person since the day we broke up.” And he whispered “Neither have I.” And there it was, just like that, the pieces of my heart falling into place. In the dream, I breathed a sigh of relief as they slid back to normal, back to where they belonged after so long. It was like when you solve a puzzle, and you hear that almost visceral click as those oddly-shaped pieces snap together. And everything was perfect, and I felt whole, and happy, and his smile was as bright as the gold tabernacle gleaming behind the altar.
It was a dream. A clear, colorful, sensory one, but a dream all the same, and I do not put faith in dreams. Danny is gone from my life. I don’t hope anymore that he will return. I’ve studiously stayed away from knowing any new details about him. It’s been a while.  For all I know, he could have a new girlfriend. If he does, I wish him all the happiness in the world. He won’t show up at church for me. He didn’t even when we were dating.

But all day long, behind the work and the conversation and even the sound of my own thoughts, deep inside my bones I have heard and felt that secret sound: the almost inaudible schhlickk of satisfaction as the puzzle piece clicked into place.

Wintertime News

Here’s some lighter blogging material, complete with Caps Lock and way too many parenthetical clauses:

I am going out to Michigan next week, from Friday the 23rd through Tuesday the 27th, and I cannot wait.  Even though the absolute best part of visiting MI is seeing my family: Jul, Daniel, the dynamic duo of Leo and Lucy, and now my sister Cathy as well, there’s also all the friends I’ve made over the years from that flat, windy state.  Especially Veronica.  (I only refer to her as my friend because I don’t like to swear on my blog.  And because I need to stay on her good side for the next two weeks.)  Veronica and I have a baffling, discourteous, constructed on an elaborate mountain of lies, friendship in which she is a jerk to me and I am a spotless victim.  Basically she’s awesome.  Anyway, she’s promised to bring her laptop over so we can watch the 3rd (and inconsolably final) season of The Newsroom.  YAY VERONICA I LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUU!  I watched the first two seasons with my ex-boyfriend, but wasn’t able to watch the third because I don’t have HBO.  Enter Vee, with her Superwoman cape firmly in place and a (few dozen) bottle(s) of wine, and I’m finally getting to ogle Jim Harper again.

 

WP_20150104_15_19_37_ProIt’s been too long since I blogged about how wonderful my pet rats are.  (I consider myself something of a rat apologist.) Charles is the dark rat in the pictures, and he’s my snugglebug.  His favorite thing to do once I let him out of the cage is to jump up on my bed next to me and curl up against my arm.  He knows if he stays there, I won’t be able to resist, and instead of putting laundry away or something, I’ll give him a good ear rub every time.  Charlie isn’t the most handsome rat but he’s definitely the cuddliest rat I’ve ever owned, even more than my Mervy.  Charlie loves sleeping, and is losing a little weight (and fur unfortunately) now that he’s older, but he still hops around my room with plenty of energy.
WP_20150113_2900Henry is the other rat, the younger one with the white and brown coloring.  He is ridiculously funny.  He does the silliest things like dragging around sheets of tissue paper that are three times as long as his own body, shredding holes in the hammocks in the cage, hopping from corner to corner of my room.  He plays Tag with me: he’ll run up to my hand, lick it, wait for me to tickle him and flip him over, run away for about 15 seconds, and then come back and lick me again.  My little Hen is the cutest rat ever.

 

I’ve been rewatching Arrested Development on Netflix and I laugh out loud every single episode.  I also just finished watching Sherlock as well, and it hooked me from the beginning.  I can’t wait for the next season? episode? whatever is coming.  #Sherlolly for life

 

Back when I worked at the elementary school (wow, 8 years ago already!?) we offered a yoga class for a while, that began right after classes ended for the day.  I did yoga for almost a year and loved it.  I haven’t done it since, just because of conflicting work schedules and other things taking up importance, but last night I finally felt the burn of high plank pose again.  Man, it’s been too long.  My friend Erica offered to introduce me to the delights of hot yoga at Melt in Edwardsville and to my surprise (being one of those annoying winter lovers through and through!) I really enjoyed it.  The room was about 95 degrees and I was sweating like a prize racehorse.  But it felt good, really really good, to stretch my body and move through the different yoga poses again.  I never felt faint or like I couldn’t breathe, it was my muscles that were the problem.  My arms were shaking by the end.  I can’t wait to go back.

 

And because this is the internet in 2015, I leave you with An Inspiring Quote that I discovered recently: “Goodness is diffusive of itself.” – Aquinas.  I like that.  I like to ponder that.  Goodness is beautiful.

 

 

2014: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

The lessons of this past year were many, and most of them were a struggle.  It’s been a year of upheaval and sorrow and loneliness.  Changes, so many changes both good and bad, like that of a bend in the road, a turn of the page, a fierce east wind that blew through my life with reckless disregard for my love of the familiar.  Two close relatives, my cousin Christin and my niece Cecilia, passed away within a span of a year.  I ended my six-year relationship in February.  I couldn’t pray.  I cried in a lot of different people’s arms, in an embarrassing amount of public places, very much at the drop of a hat.  But I also picked myself back up.  I remembered how to pray through daily Mass.  I healed, I laughed again, I took road trips, I dated a few guys, one for more than a month until he ended it.  I can’t say it was a good year, but here at the end I find myself in a place familiar after all: waiting for God, desiring to love Him, trying to make sense of these lessons.

Kindness
If there is anything this past year has taught me, it’s the intrinsic value of kindness.  My post about baby Cecilia’s death was the second most-read post on my blog ever, and so many people came up to me and said they read it and told me how sorry they were and that they were praying for my family.  Those kind and simple statements meant so much to me.  I can think of no better encomium than to be described as a kind person.  I went back to the foundation of who I am during 2014: the girl who reads, the girl who bakes, the girl who prays, writes, dances by herself, makes awful puns.  These are things that will never change about me.  In 2015, I just want to work on being kind.  At the end of next year, I want to be able to say that kindness is a quality that will never change about me.  Not my wit, it’s a fast & fleeting thing. Not my mind, which may one day fail me, nor my body, which will one day definitely fail me, but my heart.  And I want my heart to be kind.

Loneliness
The things I want are good things, strong and true things: love that lasts, marriage, children.  Wanting to know the future is a human trait, and although we know we can’t, we still yearn for it. I just want to know that my future holds more than this struggle, more than the selfishness of wanting what I do not have, the regrets of the past. I see my friends writing living epistles, reading their futures in the faces of their children, and my heart is lonely.

Bitterness & Regret
Yes, 2014 was the year I learned the truth about these things.  I never knew how bitterness and regret could grow so entwined inside me, slowly and insidiously.  It’s the memories, you see.  The sense of what was unfairly lost to me.  The simple joy of Red Barn.  Family.  Old and new friends.  Certain songs.  A future I’d imagined for years.  But how do you regret the past without feeling like you’re wishing it away?  Even if I wanted to, I can’t wish it had never happened.  How could I, when they and the people in them made me who I am today?  Salt and earth.  Regret and bitterness.  At times they have seemed to me like a snake eating its own tail, coiled around my heart.  Where did it begin?  Where does it end?

Forgiveness & Strength
It ends at forgiveness, that mighty sword.  It ends when the woman crushes the head of the snake with her heel, and what is her heel?  Her Fiat.  Her Yes, her humility, her obedience to the will of God.  Mary is our shining example, our beautiful strong mother, and where does she get her strength?  From all the things the world says we should despise.  Meekness is not weakness, it’s strength in the form of sacrifice.  To follow Jesus, I have to love others more than myself, and to love them, I need to forgive them, and to forgive them, I need to be strong, and to be strong, I need to be humble, because humility comes from stripping down to the essentials and strength is impossible without this foundation.  Such is the paradox of faith.

Love 
People have told me a lot of good things about myself over the course of 2014, trying to be kind and to help me figure myself out, but the one that keeps coming back to me right now was something my brother’s girlfriend said to me after the guy I was dating in October and November broke it off.  Christina was on the phone with me as I drove home from Phoenixville, and she said, “Rose, I know it hurts, because you have so much love within you and you want someone to see that.  Give it to your family and friends right now.  It’s not wasted.”  It seems like a simple enough statement but it really hit me then.  Nothing we do in love is wasted.  It might not seem like it is doing much, just the day-to-day routine of being a good sister, a loving daughter, a firm friend, but love is like grace: invisible, intangible in itself, but made clear by actions.  If I can, by the suffering and trials and roller coaster ride of this past year, figure out a little bit more about love, how to selflessly give it, and how to gratefully receive it, and how to grow in it, then 2014 will have proved itself beautiful.

 

What hold you, 2015?  A bend in the road, a turn of the page, a fresh west wind, alive with hope.  And my pet rats, of course.

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