Thursday, June 22, 2017

Small World.

Yesterday I visited a Walmart in Cumming, Georgia (where Joe lives). As I got out of my car and was heading to the entrance, I heard a man say, "What part of West Virginia are you from?"

"Huntington," of course I answered.

"That's where I'm from!" he said.

"Really?!?" I said.


He told me he graduated from Huntington High School. I told him I did too!

He asked me what I was doing in Georgia, and I explained about Joe. Then he asked me if I liked it here.

It was a really nice conversation.

I really think that there is nothing people from West Virginia like more than meeting other people from West Virginia. :)

Just a little bit of home away from home.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Different State, Same Anna.

This has all happened before, and now it's all happening again. 

Welcome, summer. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Love With No Place To Go.

I have so many wonderful things going on in my life now -- it's summertime, I'm getting married, I get to see Joe for most of the summer -- but, for some reason, I have been really down the past few weeks. I have been short with people. I have been sad. I have been really stressed. I haven't had any energy or been excited about anything.

I really couldn't figure out why.

And then it hit me.

It's grief. I'm still grieving.

I read this article, and it really helped me. Several key things that stood out are
  • Behavioral responses are widely varied and may include wanting to sleep with the departed companion’s toys or blankets, avoiding sleeping in the bed you shared with your pet, being unable to remove his possessions, continuing a routine as if your companion were still alive, a compulsion to memorialize your pet
  • Instead of remembering all we contributed in love and quality to our friend’s life, we focus on self-criticism and condemnation – the time we were too tired for one last walk, the time the demands of life left our sentient being with little attention, the time we went on a vacation or journey and could not bring our friend ... Even those who devoted all to their animal’s life and health can experience devastating guilt. We ruminate about our failures to be the perfect steward, conduct a harsh retrospective of our worthiness to have such a devoted companion and find ourselves lacking. 
  • You will mourn in proportion to the quality (not necessarily the length) and the significance of your relationship. Those whose animal friends were their only source of companionship may find it very difficult to move on. 
  • After your companion has died you may imagine another course of treatment, another day, an earlier intervention, would have changed the outcome. You would usually be wrong. Often our recollection of those final moments is hazy with grief and we may minimize or forget the reasons that led to this merciful conclusion.  You may feel your decision was premature or that you waited too long ... You may therefore assign the guilt for the loss to yourself instead of the illness or event which truly took the life of your pet.
  • The end of the animal’s life may seem like a final ending to your own and exacerbate clinical depression.
  • Choose to recall the entire movie of your life together and not just the snapshot of its ending. Death does not represent the totality of any relationship, but requires us to transform a physically present relationship to its spiritual counterpart.
I have been crying a lot, and nights are the hardest. I think the combination of being tired at the end of a long day and being alone cause the nights to be almost unbearable at times. 

I don't mean to keep talking about Snicks's loss all the time, but that's really almost all of what's on my mind right now. (Please see bullet point one.) I know things will get easier as time goes on, but I'm still right in the thick of grief right now. 

I saw something today on Facebook (shared by KLOVE) that spurred me to write this post. Everyone has experienced some sort of grief in life, and these words just hit me as being so, so true:

"Grief is just love with no place to go."

That's EXACTLY how I feel. I have so much love, but Snicks isn't here to receive it, so it has no place to go. 

I look at puppies and dogs (but not rabbits, I can't look at the rabbits) on the internet all the time (in fact, I feel like I've seen NOTHING on Facebook lately but lost/in need of adoption/about to be euthanized dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens, but maybe that's just because I'm extra sensitive right now), and I want to go adopt about 11 of them. But I know that now is not the time, and getting a new pet is a big decision that I have to prayerfully consider. I'm fortunate because Joe has a wonderful dog, Asha, with whom I get to spend the summer, so my love will have some place to go for awhile. 

Again, I wish this blog wasn't all sadness lately. I, too, miss the days of the funny student story posts. And the cute rabbit photos too. :) We'll get back there. We will. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I AM who I AM

My sweet little guy has now been gone almost two weeks. It hasn't gotten any easier, that I can say. His loss is constantly with me, and the enormity of it hits me like a wave at the most random times. I am always looking for him, talking to him, and trying to remember that he doesn't need me to feed him anymore.

I've had a hard time sitting in the living room, especially in the evening, because that's the place we used to mostly hang out together. I have turned one of my end tables into a little memorial for him right now. It's the end table closest to the place where his food was and the place he spent most of the last month of his life. I haven't been able to move -- let alone get rid of -- any of his personal items, and his food and water bowls are sitting on the towel exactly as they were the last time he used them. I just can't move anything right now.

The bowl on the left has Snicks's photo on it. It was created by my friend Cindy's husband, Eric, a very talented ceramic artist. The photo frame was sent to me by my good friend Sarah. The plate on the right was given to me as an end-of-the-year gift by a thoughtful student. The album in the back contains only photos of my sweet boy.

I have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of kindness and support that I've received from friends and family since his death. I received cards from my grandmother, my sisters, my parents and brothers, a sweet student named Emma, and Snicks's vet practice. My friend Sarah came to visit me at home, and other Sarah visited me at school. Several close friends sent texts and continue to check on me. Countless special people posted on Facebook. And Joe drove all the way here and back from Atlanta to spend a weekend with me so I wouldn't be alone. As I said in his memorial post, I just don't want anyone to forget about Snicks. He was so very special, and he's such a big part of my life, even though he is physically gone now. 

Right before Snicks died, I was mulling over a blog post on the constancy of God, and it seems even more pertinent now. I was thinking to myself about how people say the only thing that is certain is death and taxes, but I'm not even sure how true that is. I suppose you can count on the fact that you will die some day, but we certainly don't know when, and although we know we always have to pay taxes, those amounts change all the time.

It seems to me that the only thing that is really certain is God.

God never changes. No matter what is going on in your life, no matter what changes you are encountering (and I'm encountering a LOT lately), God is constant. God will not change based on what you've done, who you marry, and what kind of day He's had. God just is. As God said to Moses, "I AM who I AM" (Exodus 3:14). God also said, "I am the LORD, and I do not change" (Malachi 3:6).

I am not a scripture scholar, nor a theologian. I am just a person. Not a very smart one at that. I just know that I am a person who has a hard time with change -- even good change -- and who likes to know what will happen at any given time. The world doesn't offer us constancy, but God always does. He is who He is.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of Moses; the God of David; the God of Mary and Jesus is also the God of me. And of Baby Snickers. God doesn't just have Snicks now. Snicks always belonged to God. God just let me care for him for a time. God always loves me, and he always loves Snicks. He always loves you too. It's the only thing you can really count on. And that knowledge fills me with peace.

"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).

Yesterday I was looking through some photos I had sent Joe, and I came across this precious video of Baby S under a blanket. Praise God for finding something like this. 


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Snickers, the World's Greatest Rabbit

"Baby" Snickers ("Snicks") Lafferre died peacefully Wednesday, May 17 in the arms of his loving mother and the caring and wonderful staff of Animal Care Clinic. He was seven years, three months, and three days old at the time of his passing. Although several underlying medical conditions contributed to the death of Snickers, ultimately his body just wore out.

Snickers was born February 14, 2010 and was adopted by his mother on August 7, 2010, at almost six months of age. He was blessed by Father Jim Sobus at a special Mass for animals in October 2010. From his birth, Snicks was a very special rabbit. He never thumped. He never kicked or scratched anyone. He liked to be petted and cuddled. His mother always said he was a pacifist, and he was. Snickers's wonderful doctor, Dr. Ellis, once told his mother never to get another rabbit and expect it to be like Snickers, because Snickers was just a very strange rabbit.

Throughout his life, Snicks brought happiness to many people. He volunteered at many organizations for children, including Huntington Dance Theatre, the Huntington Museum of Art, a vacation bible school, and a local preschool. Snicks loved chocolate, bananas, apples, kale, broccoli, oats, chewing paper (especially gift bags), good manners, clean things, being organized, his mother, his Uncle Allie, naps, sleeping under the bed, being petted on the head, the Mountaineers, and Jane Austen. He very much disliked carrots, being brushed, taking medicine, his things being moved around, and leaving the house.

Baby Snickers was a good boy every day of his life. His mother used to tell him he was a very good rabbit, and then she realized he wasn't just a good rabbit. In fact, he was probably not a very good rabbit at all. What he was was just a good person. As Anna's friend Story once wrote, "She lives with a rabbit who is not really a rabbit, but a person who just happens to be trapped in a rabbit body. He understands her more than any other human, and even though he’s silent, he speaks a thousand truths." Story was right.

Every day that his mother ever lived alone, Snickers was there. No matter what time his mother got home, Snicks was faithfully there. He was the softest thing his mother ever touched, and that soft fur held his mother's tears when she was sad. He also helped his mother when she was scared, and he always made her feel like she was never alone. He had impeccable manners. He never hopped into the kitchen, even though his food was there. He would politely wait outside the kitchen door, until his mother was ready to give him his snack. He had been known to chew a cell phone charger, but only if his mother was stupid enough to leave it within his reach.

Although there are too many to list, some of Snicks's mother's favorite memories of him include:

  • The first night he was ever with his mother, she got up 10 times to make sure he was still breathing. 
  • Before Snicks's mommy realized how much he loved apples, she left a glass of cider on the floor. She came back to see Snicks's face squished in the glass, as he struggled to lick the juice.
  • Anna's brother Thomas once went to her apartment to feed Snicks while she was out of town, and Thomas called Anna to tell her he couldn't find Snicks. He had checked everywhere. All of a sudden Thomas said, "There he is!" Snicks was just hanging out in the middle of a room Thomas had already checked. That's when they all found out that Snicks was a ninja. 
  • Once, Anna accidentally left Snicks shut in a closet all day while she was at work, and when she got home and opened the door, Snicks just came hopping out, all casual. Anna checked and realized that Snickers hadn't used the bathroom all day because he knew he was only to go in his litterbox.
  • Snicks liked to sleep under the bed, and you could tell him it was bedtime, and he'd go. In the morning, Anna would open the bedroom door, and Snicks would come tearing out like a bat out of hell. Anna realized once that she could trick him into thinking it was morning because one night, she got up a few minutes after getting into bed to get water, and the second the door opened, Snickers came tearing out. Anna had to say, "No, Baby Snickers, it's not morning. Go back to bed." And he went back.
  • How Anna learned that Snicks could jump up on the couch was one evening, she was lying on the couch, and the next minute she had a bunny butt on her face. 
  • Once during the Christmas season, Anna was wrapping gifts. A piece of ribbon got stuck to Snicks's bottom, and he didn't realize it. So Anna watched and laughed as he dragged the ribbon around the room.
  • Snicks used to like to lie on heating vents, sucking up all the heat from the room. This would also cause him to turn into one giant ball of static, and he shocked his mommy often. 
  • Once, Anna was moving some things around in Snicks's room, making things nicer for him (she thought). Snicks started running around and around, until Anna moved everything back. Then he calmed down. 
  • If you were petting Snicks's head and stopped, he would nudge his head under your hand until you started again. 
  • Once, his mother was eating some small chocolates and left the wrappers on the floor by the couch she was lying on. When she reached down to get them and throw them away, they were gone. She found Snickers licking them behind a chair. 
  • Even though Anna didn't know that Snickers would never come home again, the day she took him to the vet for the last time, she gave him some oats and some chocolate right before they left the house. It makes her happy to know he got to eat his favorite treats in his final hour on Earth.  

Snickers's health began to decline back in July and August of 2016, but his mommy begged him to please not leave her alone. Anna and Snicks would go on to meet Joe, Anna's now-fiance, in September 2016, and Snicks got to know Joe. While on a trip in Georgia in April, Anna and Joe became engaged, and Anna returned home April 17 to tell Snicks the news. Exactly one month later, Snicks passed away. As always, that sweet boy kept his promise to his mother, and he didn't leave her alone. It is the belief of Anna and some of her friends and family members that Snickers waited to die -- and God waited to take him -- until he knew she wouldn't be alone. 

Even in death, Snicks was the best boy imaginable. He was gentle and well behaved, even at the doctor's office on the day that he passed away. In fact, he even chose to pass away on a day that was most convenient for his mother, as she was getting ready to leave town to chaperone a class trip and would be gone for two days. He waited until summer, since he knows how much his mother hates winter and how it makes her sad, and he waited until school was almost out of session, giving his mother time to grieve his loss privately. Anna knows she was not always the best mother to Snickers, but she sincerely hopes he knows how much he was loved.

Anna would like to ask that everyone remember Baby Snickers. She is scared people will forget him, and she really doesn't want that. Please ask Anna about Snickers from time to time. It will make her cry, but they will be happy tears that someone is taking the time to remember her little boy. If you would like to do something in Snicks's honor, Anna requests that you hug your pets extra tightly this evening. Additionally, you can donate to Animal Care Clinic in Snicks's memory. They do a lot of work for rescue groups in the area and can be reached at 304-525-7649. Anna would especially like to thank Dr. Ginger Ellis, Shayne, and Judi, who all cried with Anna as Snickers died, as well as the entire staff of Animal Care Clinic, who, throughout his life, provided Snickers with the best care his mother could have ever asked for.

Although Anna knows in her heart that God's timing is always perfect, she is seriously struggling with the profound loss of her sweet boy. She is trying very hard to rejoice for all of the time she got to spend with him. She knows it was a miracle that they found each other to begin with, and she knows God meant them for each other. She always told Baby Snickers he was God's favorite rabbit, and she knows he still is. As the art on Snicks's bedroom wall says, "Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."

In loving memory of Baby Snickers, February 14, 2010 - May 17, 2017.

Rest in peace, my sweet boy, in the arms of St. Francis of Assisi. Please know how much I miss you, and I will love you forever. Until we meet again ... Love, Mommy

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Something that Remembers the Words.

Joe had his moment, so it's back to books. :)

Well, really, Joe was present when this photo was taken, so I guess he kind of relates.

Over spring break, back in March, Joe and I took a trip with his parents to Copper Mountain, Colorado. It was lovely and a lot of fun, but I say all this to say -- on our last day, before we had to go to the airport, we walked around and had lunch in a lovely little town called Frisco. There was a local bookshop we wandered around in for a while (and I did what I always do in bookstores, which is look around at books I might want to rent from the library. I'm sorry local booksellers!), and when we were done, I realized this was on the outside of the front of the store:

Isn't this wonderful? This is exactly how I feel about stories.

Something that remembers the words all the way through without a single mistake.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Joe, You Made the Blog.

In this post, I commented that my life had changed in two very significant ways since August. I went on to explain one of them, but I never provided details on the other. In fact, things have gotten even more significant since I wrote that.

Let me explain.

The short version is ...


To the most wonderful man in the world.

And we are very private.

But the time has come for a blog post about my husband-to-be.

(Mostly because last weekend, the weekend he asked me to marry him, he said something like this: "Do you think I will make the blog now? I mean, you blog about books a lot. But not me." Touche. But I mean -- it's books. :) )

The thing is, I don't really know what to say. As I wrote in my Facebook post when I announced our engagement, Jane Austen wrote, "If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more." 

Mr. Knightley had it right.

When you have a love of this magnitude, simple words won't do.

And I'm a words person.

This is Joe Kraft (and me, duh).

He is my fiance (what?!), and I don't deserve him.

He is loyal. He is honest. He is open. He has a huge heart. He is hard working. He is giving. He does everything for me.

I have no idea why, but exactly a week ago today, in a beautiful spot on a beautiful night, Joe asked me to marry him.

I said, "Of course I will." (Really quickly before he changed his mind.)

And we are getting married.

I could say so much more. I have so much more in my heart. But there just aren't words for it. Or if there are, I don't know them. At least not right now.

I'm sure I will write a longer post in the future. There is more to say about being single, and waiting for God to send you the right person, and trusting God, but those posts will come.

Today, though, on the one week anniversary of our engagement, all I have is this:

"Love, true love, is magic. Not just any magic. The most powerful magic of all." 

(And, Story ... I think the clock started in Huntington again. Finally. It's 8:16.)