My auburn-haired sweetie.

The smell of a dying fire swirled through the air as the sound of crickets filled the dark silent space. My left hip bone dug into the hard ground, it’s own layer of fat and the thick sleeping bag underneath providing a slim layer of comfort. Our first family camping experience would prove to be memorable, even if uncomfortable.

While my heart beat contentedly in my non-sleeping chest, full of love and gratitude, my body ached. My neck rested at an odd angle, perched atop a caramel-colored teddy bear named Frances. Pressed against my back was my sleeping preschooler, and tucked under my left arm was my sleeping toddler. Her auburn hair, badly in need of a trim, was pasted to her forehead and neck, and her hot breath hit my face with …

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Snapping the handmade afghan, a gift from our wedding, up in the air, bits of stale popcorn flew up like confetti. There were eight blankets spread on the living room floor, their smell a combination of dribbled milk, kettle corn, cracker crumbs, Labrador, house cat and…my family. Here is where we made our bed two nights ago. Here is where we hunkered down during a blizzard, the second in five days, only this time, the power didn’t stay on. The lights flickered, and then, just didn’t come back on. We’d all just settled down in the living room for a “popcorn picnic” and a movie. The four of us, ready to weather this storm together, but not before we enjoyed the luxuries of outlets that were alive. We were only several minutes into Chicken Little, when …

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Oh, Billy. Did you ever think your greatest legacy would be your daughter, instead of this song? Thank goodness.

“Hi. My name is Catherine. I am nine years old.”

I glanced nervously over at my big brother, his grin both mischievous and proud. “Keep going,” he mouthed. I held the crayon written paper up in my shaking hand.

“This is my favorite radio station. Can you please play Achy Breaky Heart? It’s my favorite song.”

The dee-jay’s booming laugh bounced off my ear through the beige phone. “Shouldn’t you be in bed little girl?”

I threw the phone to my brother, the spiraled cord catching right before it hit his hands, sending it bouncing to the orangeish-brown carpet and sliding right back to me.

“Um…I guess so.” I somehow found the nerve to keep talking.

“Well alright. But after it plays, you go …

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Daddy’s hands…have always been on a camera.

Blustery. It’s about the only word to describe the weather this morning. And it’s one of my dad’s favorite kinds of weather. Gray skies, crisp temperatures…perfect for driving the dirt roads and capturing raw Kansas beauty. Despite the teeth-rattling winds, we headed out this morning, Sony CyberShots in hand, and completely enjoyed a dad-daughter photo outing. My dad is no stranger to the lens, having served as Navy photographer back in the 60s, and then as a (mainly) commercial photographer for years after that. I spent many an afternoon with him in our at-home darkroom, waiting patiently for the magical images to appear on the page. If I close my eyes and focus, I can still smell the chemicals and hear the paper being swished in the pan.

But …

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I’ll always picture my brother in this jacket.

“I think we’re getting together on Sunday to visit the grave.” I had to pause for a moment after hearing my mom’s voice through the phone. Of course. The grave. The anniversary. How could I have forgotten? Well, I didn’t forget. I just wasn’t thinking about it at the time. All the time. Like I used to. Has it really taken me 13 years to reach this point? More than a decade for most of my thoughts during the months of September through October to not send me into a downward spiral? Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

Perhaps, it’s been rattling around in my mind, creeping around corners and ducking under tables when the lights are turned on. Whispering to me, instead of shouting. …

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I have a confession to make. I rather enjoy awkward silence. I find it delicious, much like a super dry wine or powerful wasabi. It’s not for everybody. So as you can imagine, I found myself not squirming uncomfortably at my 10-year reunion recently. Before the adult beverages started flowing, the conversation didn’t. But that’s ok (at least with me). By the end of the night, I think we all agreed a good time was had (either that, or those adult beverages convinced us otherwise). While I enjoyed seeing old friends, and reconnecting with those I hadn’t seen in a decade, I couldn’t help but make a few observations (that’s just the writer in me). So, if you’re considering whether or not to attend your next reunion, here are a a few reasons why you …

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