Why I Want to Marry Him

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I promise this isn’t mushy. It’s just my version of a love letter.

People get married every day for the wrong reasons; I was one of them. Twelve years later I’m a different person, and this is a different relationship. So I think I’m doing this for all the right reasons. I wanted to share what real love looks like, that it’s far from a fairytale. We don’t always get along or agree. We’ve hurt each other. I’ve yelled; he hasn’t. Real, enduring love is what happens after the “falling” part.

So here’s why I want to marry him.

He keeps showing up for me. All my life that’s all I’ve ever wanted, for someone to show up when it matters. My life has been full of disappointment in this area, especially men. Until him, there were probably only a handful of men who had done this, mostly my Pop. But he shows up for me every damn day, whether I want it or not. Just the other week, I was deathly ill with a migraine. Usually I can manage, but not that day. I called and asked if he could come home. And he did. That may seem small, but to me it was huge. Knowing someone will show up for you and even pull your hair back while you vomit helps ease the burden of thinking you’re in this alone.

I’ve missed him so bad I’ve cried. Again, may seem small, but I don’t miss people much. I miss my animals terribly but people not so much. In a past life, I was a constant work traveler. I had relationships before this one and was gone all the time. Never missed those guys. In fact, I didn’t even call or text much (except to check on Honey). But with Justin, it was different. I was gone several times for over a week, and I missed him so bad I cried. I don’t miss the travel, but should my work situation change and I have to travel again, it will be hard. It’s different when you like who you come home to.

He’s not scared of me. I’ve had previous beaus say I’m intimidating. Maybe I am. I speak my mind and don’t take any shit. I have a backbone and an opinion. He’s heard it all. But he says he appreciates how passionate I am. He’s not scared to disagree with me or present the opposing view. In so many past relationships, the men were so timid. Justin is laid back and easy going, but he once said don’t mistake my kindness for weakness. I never have.

He doesn’t try to fix me. Men want to fix us. It’s in their nature to diagnose problem and solve it. Justin is well aware that I’m not perfect. He sometimes struggles with understanding depression, but he’s never attempted to make me happy or thought he was the remedy. The struggles that I go through, he can’t necessarily relate to, yet he doesn’t discount them. He’s glad I go to therapy (and doesn’t think it’s a big con like an ex did – really?). He knows if I want to talk I will. And that if I need to be “fixed” in any way then it’s up to me to do it.

I don’t see an end. I think in almost all of my past relationships, it was easy to see the end. Nothing before, not even marriage, seemed permanent. I never felt much loyalty to other partners. It was always finite. I could see the end, and it didn’t make me sad. It made me relieved. I don’t have those visions about Justin. I’ve never thought about what will happen next or daydreamed about what I’ll do when this is over. This will never be over; we don’t need an end.

I’m sure there are a million more reasons why I’m marrying him: he’s terribly funny, sings songs to the dogs, has the most spectacular eyelashes, is highly amusing to watch during a Longhorns or Cowboys game, never lies, can cook better than any chef (while also keeping the kitchen tidy), can build or fix anything, tells me I’m his everything all the time and rarely snores.

And when it comes down to it, we know the secret to a happy relationship: a king size bed and separate bathrooms!

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The Journey to Thankful

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Thankfulness is a journey. You don’t get there by sitting still. However, don’t be alarmed. This isn’t a post about how everything happens for a reason, and it will all be okay. If you know me then you know I think most of that is utter nonsense. And if I had to choose between being an optimist or a pessimist, I’d choose to be a realist. Because ultimately when things get out of control, and you are struggling, only you can dust yourself off and keep fighting.

I also understand that through time and reflection, I can now look back at times in my life that I thought were the absolute worst and be thankful. Because without those failures or disappointments I might not be who I am. And I like who I am, at least 67 percent of the time.

The not just broken, but shattered heart.

My heart had been broken before but more like little tiny cracks. I didn’t know the depths of true heart break until I ended a multi-year relationship with a man I had loved without restraint. But love is simply not enough to build a life together. If you think love is enough, you are wrong. There are so many other factors that determine if you can make it in the long run. It took years to heal from this. I acted out; I made bad choice; I put myself in bad situations. Anything to escape the utter hole I felt in my chest. I came out of it though. It led me to a more honest conversation with myself. I’m not completely perfect. I’m not completely healed. Some things simply can’t be removed from your heart. But I am unbelievably thankful for this hurt. It helped me, for the first time, realize that love wasn’t really about sacrifice or trying to shape yourself into what someone else was comfortable with. It gave me a healthy comparison to where I am now. And allowed me to be so very sure that I am where I need to be.

Not every opportunity will be the right fit. Learn what you can.

So I’ve had a variety of jobs: some good, some bad, some horrific, some just mind numbing. I’ve had every kind of boss you can think of: the crazy one, the arrogant one, the leader, the cheerleader, the friend, the idiot, the ghost. I’ve had some bad experiences. Everything from a boss telling me I was replaceable and fat to ones trying to get me to be unethical. One the other side, I’ve had bosses that appreciated me, believed in me and helped me be successful. There were a lot of tears shed and a huge cloud of self-doubt. But I took what I could learn from each of them and sorted it into things I should do and things I would never do. A lot of people dwell on bad experiences in the workplace. I could too. I’ve been sexually harassed, seen my opportunities and paycheck be less than that for a man and dealt with “mean girls” who thought the workplace was junior high. Don’t drag this baggage around. Just know that you can do better. And that you deserve better.

It’s so okay to let people go.

I’ve had to let a lot of people go in my life. It wasn’t always their fault, but a decision I needed to make to protect myself. I had a friend of almost 20 years who I loved dearly. She was family. But she changed. And with that change came a lot of anger focused on me and others I love. So I just let her go. I wish her the best, but she doesn’t get to hurt me ever again. It was so heartbreaking at the time. Now I can be thankful, thankful that I protected myself instead of trying to reconcile and take the abuse. There have been many more that aren’t part of my life anymore because I made the choice to say no. I chose to put myself first. No one else will protect you but you. If you let people mistreat you then you are facilitating that so just stop it. It will be hard. It will suck. You will cry. You will heal. Surround yourself with those that really want you to succeed and be happy. Practice some self love. I’m eternally grateful that I had the courage to cut the cord.

Being sick doesn’t mean you have to be a victim.

I’ve had my share of health problems. It’s not been easy. There have been times when I’ve had rows of prescriptions. There have been days of excruciating pain; days where I wanted to just give up. But I will NEVER be a victim. I will fight with every last breath to stay here on this earth for as long as I can. I’ve got work to do. I’ve got people to empower and stories to tell.

It’s easy to become a victim. It’s easy to be so absorbed with your ailments that you can’t see past hospital rooms and procedures. I’m not saying I never had a pity party. I did. I felt cheated, frustrated and just tired of it all. Again, I’m not saying I’ve always been uplifting or thought the glass was half full. I prefer to smash the glass off the table, and say there is no glass. There’s just me, standing up, maybe sometimes with a little help from the love I’m thankful to be surrounded by, and saying this is not the end of me. I’m much too scrappy for that.

It takes work to be thankful. It’s not something that’s natural. Even though you can’t be thankful in the moment (I never believed in a million years that a broken heart, an abusive boss or a cancer diagnosis would be on the list of thankful), time passing can certainly change your perspective. So when someone asks you what you are thankful for this week, don’t just say the normal, cliché answers, dig deeper to the ugly stuff that you never thought you’d be thankful for and realize what an absolute rock star you are for making it this far.

I want a marriage, not a wedding

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As my wedding day draws near, I’m asked often if I’m excited. And to be honest, no I’m not really very excited about the wedding. Not because I’m unsure or have cold feet. The wedding itself isn’t something I’ve focused on. In fact, most of it has just given me anxiety. To the point, where the wedding itself has become very minimal. We keep saying we should’ve just gotten married in Vegas last year! The wedding is just one tiny moment; the marriage, I hope will be a lifetime.

All this is in stark comparison to my first trip down the aisle. I planned that wedding meticulously for 18 months. I had a huge binder with every detail noted. It was a big wedding with all the ridiculousness that comes with such events. I focused so much on the perfection of that day, I saw nothing else. I was obsessed with being as tiny as possible so I was very “hangry.” I was equally obsessed with the flowers and cake and a million other things that had nothing to do with marriage. And when it was all over and the details weren’t there to absorb my attention, I was left with a marriage I didn’t want to be in. I know now that I did the best I could. I was just trying to live a conventional life and stay safe. But I’m anything but conventional.

Something big did change after the ceremony. I didn’t think it would, but I felt a shift in my heart. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe, that marriage was gripping my lungs and not letting go. I knew I never wanted to feel that trapped again.

This doesn’t feel like a trap though. I’m not sure if I’ll feel different once we say “I do.” I think maybe a little. We already feel like a we. He’s already well informed that I’m a crazy person (but I’m his crazy person). We have differences. We have intense discussions. I think that makes us stronger.

So in a few weeks, I won’t be walking down an aisle in white. I won’t be carrying a bouquet. There won’t be a celebration nor any other elements of a wedding. And I feel empowered by this because weddings are what little girl’s dream of, a magical day where they are the star. I never felt like the center of attention not even on that “perfect” wedding day. But I’m not a little girl. I’m a strong, fierce woman. I want a partner, not a prince. This is why I am focused on a marriage and have no desire for a wedding. However, I am excited about the honeymoon. And cake, there will definitely be cake.

Today, a poem

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I’m busy working on thoughts and ideas. Sometimes you have to walk away from what you are writing and come back to it. So today, a poem. I wrote this many years ago. It’s still one of my favorites. Never think that words aren’t powerful. They absolutely are. And don’t ever think that you can’t come back from something. You may just realize you have wings that work when you take that jump or leap.

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I have this picture
You in that old olive recliner
Me poised on the arm.
We’re mirrored
From the green Izod shirts
To the blonde strands of hair.
It sits in a frame.
It hangs in my heart.
I remember you young & tan
Before too many things
Sank into your skin.
When I had pigtails
And called you mommy.
Maybe time fades pictures, curls their edges.
I’ve taken a million steps away
From that moment
It’s still clear, it’s still happening
Whenever I close my eyes.

 

A Simple Message for All

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I think the simplest thing I can say is be hopeful.

Hope is hard to break. It’s what every survivor has running in her blood.

I cannot offer much, only the hope that kindness will prevail.

My promise is to keep being kind every day. Will you join me?

I believe there are wonderful things about humanity. Let’s focus on those.

And as in every moment of uncertainty that I have faced, I simply ask myself, “What would my mom do? What would she say to me?” I think the answer is she would tell me to keep being who I am and to keep trying to shine light where there may not be any. She would say to always be classy, to never act in anger or hate and to keep hope in my heart.

So I’ll keep shining my light, and I’ll keep doing everything I can to make sure she is proud of me.

This is a simple message, and it is mine to you.

How I Know I’m Not an A**hole

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Every once in a while I think a gut check is needed. I’ve been in a bad mood lately. Maybe it’s all the negativity in the air. And life is stressful. Lots going on then the holidays, which are often a time of sadness for me. I know I have a lot to look forward to and much to be thankful. That doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days; days when I’m pretty much winging it and holding on by a quickly fraying thread. So I decided to make this list to remind myself I’m not an a**hole, or at least not one most of the time.

  1. I pick up after my dogs. I understand that their waste belongs in a bag in the trash not on the ground for everyone to step in.
  2. I open doors for people, thank them when they do the same, say excuse me and respect people’s personal space. I do these things, not because I’m southern or a lady, but rather because it’s the behavior that was modeled by others. My mom and grandmothers were all very kind and considerate souls. Some of that apparently brushed off on me.
  3. I stop at stop signs and drive slowly through my neighborhood. I do this because I’m obeying traffic laws, and I’m never in a hurry. But I do look in disdain at the cars on the street not parked in the driveways or garages of million dollar homes. I side eye the yard signs that say, “Drive like your children live here.” Why? I’m driving through city streets right outside downtown Charlotte. This isn’t the suburbs. This is not a cul-de-sac.
  4. I don’t litter, and I pick up trash a lot in my neighborhood. Sometimes begrudgingly, thinking why does this not bother anyone else? But I care about the earth. It doesn’t deserve to be treated in the way that most humans treat it.
  5. I honestly try not to judge others. I may not understand why some people do the things they do. I may not agree with or like it. But I am not perfect, not even close so it’s not my place to judge others.
  6. When my temper gets the best of me and I become a bit snippy to those I love, I’m always able to calm down, reflect and apologize. Having this awareness and the ability to step back has saved me so many times.
  7. I don’t always have to be right. I mean, I am a lot, but being right isn’t a prize that you win. And if it was a prize, it’d be a very lonely one. I can admit when I’m wrong (even if it’s just a whisper).
  8. I will do about anything I can to help an animal. It’s easy to be loving and kind toward animals. They make my life better. If I can repay that in any way, I will.
  9. I do not chew loudly or make weird sounds. It’s fine if you do, but you may always be a table for one.
  10. I don’t put empty things back in the refrigerator. What kind of monster does that? Oh yeah, men.
  11. I stand up for my beliefs. I’m not a yes woman. I’m not a sheep. And maybe this does make me seem like an a**hole sometimes. But I think it makes me brave.
  12. I try, some days harder than others, to leave the world a bit better than the day before. This could mean that I do a lot of little things or nothing at all. No matter what’s going on in my life or my mood, I believe in being better. I do not have a poker face so it’s easy to see when I’m not having it; although my resting bitch face may make it harder to interpret. But I’m just a real person with real feelings. And I think it’s okay not to hide them.
  13. I make lists like these, which must mean there is more kindness in my heart than coldness.

So this is what I could come up with half an hour. Tell me, what are you doing in your life to make sure you’re not the a**hole?

 

What I Learned from Cats

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From the What I Learned Series

This is a companion piece to What I Learned from Dogs. As anyone knows dogs and cats are different. Each deserves their own story. Dogs usually crave attention and want to please; cats do what they want. I love both cats and dogs. I’d never choose a favorite, but I’d say I’m much more cat like.

The first pet that was really mine was my Kitka. She appeared one day in my yard. She was a little lady with a calico face and white feet. I didn’t know that I needed her, but she was so lovely; I couldn’t resist. This was the summer after my mom and brother’s deaths. I was feeling very alone in the world. And this little creature had a way of making me feel less lonely.

Not to say that Kitka was a sweetheart. She had an attitude. She was fearless. Most cats scurry when someone new comes along. Not Kitka. She wanted to know who you were and if possible to rummage through your handbag.

As a Maine Coon, she was a big girl. All her fur made her look bigger. More than once, I heard comments on her size. With a lot of fur, she needed to be brushed. She was not fond of this. It wasn’t unusual to return with a bloody finger. Once her fur got so matted, it required she be shaved. She was not a happy girl. Luckily, the fur grew back quickly.

Her Maine Coon traits also made her love water. She loved to sit in or drink from the sink. She was very social and chatty. And always up to something. After a move, I was home unpacking. She was nowhere to be found. I was calling her, offering treats. I was a wreck thinking she had gotten outside. I slumped down to the floor, tired and worried. And she just sauntered in and brushed up against me.

Kitka was an only kitty for a while. Eventually she had some siblings. She was, however, always the boss. The companionship and joy Kitka gave me are things I will never forget. She even welcomed Honey into our family.

Kitka taught me that not everything or everyone fit a stereotype. She wasn’t a typical cat. Her personality made her unique. Kitka also showed me the unconditional love that animals can give. She was in tune with my feelings and always glad to be by my side.

Losing her was beyond difficult. She got sick, and it happened quickly. I still think about her all the time and what a blessing she was.

My current cat Ellie is a tiny smoke gray sweetie. She isn’t as fearless as her sister, but she is certainly sweeter. Ellie never tries to bite or scratch. Well, there have been a few scratches in attempts to move her or place her in a cat carrier. Her chattiness is unrivaled. She expects her can food in the morning and has no notion of weekends or sleeping in.

The dogs don’t leave her alone all the time. She gladly pops them in the face with her little q-tip paw. Then they look at me, and I just say, “You’re in her personal space.” She is very graceful, hopping around on her cat tree or leaping onto shelves, which are not cat friendly. If there was ever a runway walker, it would be my Ellie.

Ellie has taught me about patience and kindness. She had been through a lot before she came to live with me. I rescued her when she was about a year old. I tend to try to adopt older animals, as everyone wants puppies and kittens. She was tiny but mighty. Her chirps and instant liking of me let me know she was the one.

Since then Ellie has been a loyal and loving cat. But I almost lost her. I was in Austin for the weekend. Justin was home, working on our first kitchen renovation. There was a lot of sanding. He left a window cracked. The next morning, there were little paw prints in the dust leading out the window. Justin and I had been together for less than a year, and to say I was upset is an understatement. Apparently, I may have said some things that weren’t nice. I really only remember using the word disappointed. I arrived home that afternoon.  It was rainy and cold. We searched the neighborhood and put up signs. We didn’t find her that day or the next. On Tuesday, we found her, outside on the back porch. She was cold but unscathed. Haven’t seen her try to make a run for it since.

But I learned a lot from that experience. Even though it was stressful and scary, I learned that Ellie would never really leave me. It’s hard to find anyone in the world who won’t leave you. It also taught me that even though I’ll never have human children, I am a mom. All the worry and fear I had in that moment was just as real as if I’d lost a child in a store.

All my cats have been unique and brought a lot of happiness into my life. Happiness was once hard to come by for me. Animals so many times made the difference. Even when the world has been inhospitable and screamed no at every turn, I have always been able to come home to a gentle purr and a fluffy friend.