This marks the last Red Zone column for 2018.

That’s not to say that I won’t be penning a “What’s Next With the Cecils” update here or there, but for now, it’s time to bid adieu and thank you for reading my Wednesday columns.

As a gal who grew up in Tucson, I had mixed emotions about coming home. You see, I spent my life shedding the image of a small-town girl who grew up a relative nerd on the peripheral fringe of popularity. Coming back to Tucson after traipsing the globe from Los Angeles to New York and Hong Kong was never part of my plan — but it was always part of my husband Chuck’s.

Over decades, he talked about his love of Tucson, the Wildcats and his dream to coach student-athletes. I did my best to quell his passion for the desert and pack his goal of someday being the football coaching version of Lute Olson in our family’s treasure chest. I held the key tight with hope that he would forget. But he never did. Every time we’d unlock that chest for his next coaching gig, there was the emotional pull from the Wildcat ruby stone in his coaching crown to round out his storied football career.

While his stature on the football staff isn’t that of a coach, Chuck didn’t seem to mind his leap from the NFL to college. The move brought him back to a place of tradition and great memories and, most of all, quenched his thirst to help the Cats.

I could have never imagined it would be so blessed in Tucson. From my first football game — seeing so many welcoming faces, hearing their stories, feeling their hope for the program — Tucson and her warmth flooded me with the sense that we belong. We were home.

Now, we ponder our next steps. A friend of mine from high school, Sally Polson-Ridenhour, asked me last week if I missed living at the beach. The truth is that I miss my friends whenever we move. But I don’t miss the pace. Our life here feels charmed — not perfect by any sense, as we’re both a continual work in process, but settled.

My grandmother Dedee, who is buried here, used to say: “Peace lies in the heart, and your heart will know when it’s home.”

I’ve grown to appreciate her wisdom and the wonders of our town, from the smell of the desert after the rain, watching the javelina rummage through our cactus, to the everyday joys that people take for granted, like carpools, neighbors and your child’s happiness in her new school. It’s not always easy to be the new kid. We’ve found our sweet little spot, and if we leave it will be hard.

With each move, we find the positive in the comings and goings. We replant and trust that God has opened a door that we’re supposed to walk through with our heads held high.

We’re so grateful to have been embraced by so many of you — from the incredible administration at the UA to our wonderful neighbors, Tucson’s leaders, coaches, staff and the meaningful charities that have reignited our sense of serving and purpose, it really has been a beautiful year.

Thank you all for reading, thank you to the Star for giving me a whimsical voice in sports, thank you to the the diehard fans, friends and family who support the Wildcats, Chuck, and his place in UA history. But mainly thank you for continuing to hold the Cecil family in your hearts and prayers as we face the future. Bear down, friends.

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