I'll never forget watching the news one evening in February of this year. They were broadcasting from a dark Kyiv, just getting ready to wake up for the day as we were getting ready for bed. Suddenly sounds of bombs could be heard and sirens began to blare. "This is surreal," the newscaster said. "Kyiv is under attack."
My eyes filled with tears and I just muttered "dear God."
Skylar came over to the couch where I was sitting and grabbed my hand. We watched, in silence, crying, for the next two hours. Friends in Ukraine started messaging me, asking if I had seen the news and telling me they were scared. I had no idea what to say to them. I just kept responding, "I'm so sorry. I love you so much."
We finally went to bed. I woke up three hours later and grabbed for my phone to start scrolling twitter for updates. The attack was ongoing. Zelenskyy was already releasing videos, insisting he was staying and Ukraine would fight. More messages from friends. Videos of people in their apartments making Molotov cocktails they planned to throw at tanks if any showed up in their neighborhood. The rest of the world seemed to be in shock.
It was broadly predicted that Kyiv would fall within 72 hours. I tweeted at the time that anyone saying this knew nothing about the situation. This is a country that can't be defeated, full of people who will burn their own home to the ground before they ever let anyone take it. Russia couldn't win this war, and the longer it refused to realize that, the more pain and destruction we'd witness. This would be a horrific year, and we all needed to brace ourselves for that.
I hardly slept for the next two days, frantically wondering if there was anything I could do to help. On that Sunday evening, I tweeted out that I wanted to launch a humanitarian fundraiser. I had a large platform with a very active audience full of wonderful people who all felt helpless. Maybe my job could be to focus that angst and make something of it.
Within minutes, hundreds of people were responding to me and offering specific support, donations, and help. Skylar saw me fielding calls and texts as he was brushing his teeth—it was late. He looked at me for a moment and then said, "we're not going to bed, are we." Then he nodded, and put on a tea kettle.
A few days later he took my phone from me, noticing that I was severely sleep deprived and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I had decided to throw two large fundraiser events with live music, silent auctions, speakers, food, drinks, etc. All of this would happen within the next four days. I had scheduled about a dozen media interviews and was communicating with dozens of vendors.
"Go to bed," he said. "You can have your phone back in the morning."
I later found out he spent the rest of that evening contacting people at my job and telling them if they needed something from me, they should call him and he would decide whether I needed to hear it. He intervened with nearly all of the vendors and became the point person for them. He contacted all of the storytellers for our upcoming Strangerville Live shows that would take place in two weeks and he started working with them on their stories, knowing that I had no capacity to do this.
So much of this stupid website has become a sappy love letter to Skylar. You may get sick of that, or wonder if I'm overcompensating for something. I used to see people gush on social media about their significant other and I'd wonder if they were just trying to convince themselves things were better than they were.
I can't help myself. Every word of this is sincere.
I simply can't believe I found this unicorn man. I can't believe he's real. The biggest compliment I've ever received in my life is that someone this great loves me.
Years ago, my mom told me she had an idea one night to take hot chocolate and cookies around to some of their neighbors to thank them for being good neighbors. She told my dad she wanted to do this and she said the moment she finished the sentence, he said "I'll start making the hot chocolate."
"That's what I hope for you," she said to me. "That you'll find someone one day who, when you come up with an idea of something you want to do, immediately starts making the hot chocolate."
I found that person.
Maybe it's ironic—I don't know. I never really understand what "ironic" means, I think. But my mom was diagnosed with cancer this year. It was a terrifying diagnosis. She's undergone surgeries and chemo. It has all been very hard on her and on my family.
Skylar came home one day and I asked where he had been. "Your mom's first appointment with her oncologist was this morning," he told me. "I went with her."
I had no idea he had done this. But he's gone to every doctor's appointment with her throughout this year, sitting with her, advocating for her, holding her hand, and making sure she feels supported.
He started making the hot chocolate right away and it was for my mom.
I've needed that man a lot this year, and I've felt a little guilty about that. He's hardly had the time to be married to someone who is needy. Skylar graduated medical school in the spring, secured his dream residency, and then started working long hours for it. At this very moment, noon on a Saturday, he is asleep in the basement, having returned home from yet another 14-hour graveyard shift just this morning.
Amidst his exhaustion, the war, health problems for both of our mothers, he had to help me navigate a surprise career change. I didn't really see this coming, but ultimately I couldn't stay in the job I had had for nearly a decade. My job was always an odd fit for me culturally, but I was determined to be myself, even if it sometimes resulted in conflict. I regret nothing. Sometimes it was very hard. But the change was all ultimately a very good thing, even if outrageously stressful.
In 2022 I drove an electric car through Ireland. I slept in a hospital. I consulted a political action committee. I moderated a high-stakes fight. I made lunch bags for a tired spouse to take on 13-hour shifts. I trained a naughty puppy (not well). I took a giant leap of faith and quit my job. I became the main character on twitter, at least twice, and doubted myself a lot. I drove to a wedding for people I didn't know in a giant house off the beaten path. I started writing a newspaper column, and some people didn't like it. I held back tears during multiple media interviews. I signed an important letter atop a giant copy of The Book of Mormon and walked away laughing. I sat with Skylar as we received disappointing news from a doctor. I cried on Halloween and learned that some memories take a long time to process. I found peace at a 20-year high school reunion. I planted some more trees (someone needs to help me tell Skylar we are really running out of room for more trees).
I don't know what else to say about this year. I'm fortunate, and I know that. So it feels ungrateful to think of the past 12 months as traumatic. What right do I have to act like I've suffered from my comfortable home with a supportive spouse and family—safe, healthy, and financially stable? I don't know. Somehow it still feels traumatic in spite of everything.
I appreciate you for reading—for being here, and enjoying this space with me. It continues to be baffling to me that you want to be here, reading or listening to these ramblings, but it means that world to me that you do.
I started this website over fifteen years ago and its purpose was to write strange little stories about things I encountered. Fifteen years later, I guess it's still that, remarkably. A project that continually pushes me to find the humor in every-day occurrences and verbalize it with you. I think that's been good for me. It has certainly made me more grateful for those every-day occurrences that I might have otherwise failed to notice.
I love you all. And I hope 2023 Just Gets Stranger for you, but only in the best possible ways.