1. Flush. In the United States we flush every time.
2. We learned how to live in winter. The youngest among us had never put on gloves, never suffered chapped skin, never really even felt cold beyond the occasional day in the 70s at home.
3. I love teaching. Probably most people think a vacation of six months would be a good thing, and there were definitely good things about it, but I learned that my job is very important to me. I missed my students and my classroom so much that I had to keep myself from thinking too much about either. I know that there are big challenges ahead at work, but I feel ready to be back in Room 23. This email from our friend Dave Carter kept me going.
4. I love my husband. I have been married to him almost half my life now, so I was aware that I love him, but being apart has reminded both of us how much we love and need each other. In those early weeks it was hard to feel connected because we were able to communicate so little, and I wrote a lot about him and about our history together; that helped. (Here's one of those posts.) Being back together as a family has been healing for all of us.
5. Emotions are funny things. It's always a good idea to carry tissues at all times. I never know when I'll be overwhelmed by a crying jag, even if I've been fine for a few days. Several people have encouraged me to accept the feelings as they come, and that has been helpful advice.
6. Friends matter so, so much. I can hardly find the words to express how much. I heard from hundreds of them and spent time with many as well. Each was a blessing. I learned that people are kind, in ways that take my breath away. I learned that love is the one thing that matters. And I learned that I am incredibly fortunate to have so many people who love me and who were there for me. Thank you, thank you to all of them.
7. Talking, writing, music, and laughter are healing.
8. At a time when I most needed God, I found it difficult to pray. But God was still near. I learned that when I can't hold on any more, God still holds on to me.
9. I was surprised to learn that I couldn't read for weeks after the earthquake. Regular blog-visitors have seen me come back as a reader, but it was terribly unsettling for me not to be able to focus on a book.
10. Everything can change in an instant, and you can't predict how you will react to that. Any cracks, both literal and figurative, will be exposed. Any weakness will come to the surface. I learned that I am weak and need other people desperately. This was an uncomfortable lesson.
11. I learned that all I have is today.
12. In the time I have left, long or short, I want to "Add to the Beauty."